Category: politics

Ranked Choice Voting and Sour Grapes

Last year, you’ll recall Maine became the first state in the nation to experiment with ranked choice voting. Full disclaimer: I’m in complete favor of the approach. All the arguments against it that I’ve seen so far are nothing more than hot air spoken by people who either don’t fully understand the concept (and choose not to enlighten themselves) or seem to be doing their best to make other people unable to fully understand the concept.

To illustrate, I present to you Exhibit A: Bruce Poliquin, the Republican Congressman who lost his seat last year because of Ranked Choice Voting. He’s making the rounds now, decrying the format because it “robbed” him of the election. Oh wait. I mean, because it robbed the voters of the election.

In Poliquin’s account to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Election Laws, “on Election Day 2018, I won my second re-election by receiving 2,200 more votes than any of my three liberal opponents, one Democrat and two Independents.”

Poliquin, though, didn’t win.

That initial, first-round count on Election Night wasn’t the final word, because Maine voters in 2016 and again in June 2018 adopted ranked-choice voting. The process requires election officials to add in the second- or third-place choices of voters whose first pick came up short.

Poliquin said the backers of independents Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar essentially “got another bite of the apple” when their votes were redistributed between the two leaders in the race, as the law mandates.

In effect, he said, “those voters who cast their primary ballots for the two candidates who least represent” the values of the district “ended up choosing the rank-vote winner. Very misguided and unfair.”

To me, this is like a football team being upset because they were ahead at halftime, and yet the other team was allowed to come out and play in the second half. That team “got another bite of the apple” when their points were counted in the second half.

Ranked Choice Voting was decided by the voters. (Multiple times!) The rules were plain as day well in advance of the election. The election then ran according to those rules. And then suddenly when it didn’t go the way he wanted to, it’s a travesty?

Let’s try basketball, instead. Up until 1979, the NBA didn’t have 3 pointers. All shots counted for 2 points. In 1979, that rule changed. Suddenly, shots a certain distance from the basket counted for more points. That was the new rule of the game. If a team were to object to losing by a few points “because those three point shots shouldn’t count for three points,” what are you supposed to tell them?

The rules changed, buddy. Move on. It doesn’t make anyone’s vote more powerful than anyone else’s. It makes it so that you can vote for who you want to vote for and not have to worry that your vote is ultimately wasted in a political climate dominated by two parties. It makes it so independents can more effectively woo voters, who know they can vote for them without making it so the person they want least to be elected gets elected because that person’s opponents split the vote.

Poliquin’s out there trying to paint it like this was such chaos. Like the entire thing was a disaster, and Mainers are all up in arms about it. It’s true that I’ve talked to about three people (total) out of all of my friends who didn’t like it. But (though this may be hard to believe) I’ve got way more than three friends. It wasn’t chaos. It ran as expected. If you really wanted Poliquin elected, you maybe object because the person you wanted to win, didn’t.

Sour grapes, people. Ranked choice voting was wonderful. I hope the whole country follows suit.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Doctor Evil for President 2020

I think it’s high time we injected some class and substance into our political rhetoric. I’ve been disappointed in our current administration, and I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with someone we can all get behind. Someone who stands for something. Who will unite the country under one common goal. And that’s why I’ve chosen to officially endorse Dr. Evil for president.

True, he isn’t running yet. And true, he’s a fictional character, but I don’t think little things like “he doesn’t actually exist” should get in the way of a person’s dream of becoming president. I mean, I’m positive that he’d accept the nomination, if he were around to do so. He’s bent on global domination, and he’d probably do it for a million dollars. Maybe even less.

What does Dr. Evil have going for him? I’m glad you asked.

  1. He’s a family man. He’s spent years trying to understand how to relate to his son, Scott. But better yet, he knows there’s a line. A time and a place for family. I’m not worried Scott would suddenly pop up in some governmental position. Those would be reserved for true experts like Number Two and Frau Farbissina. Real go getters who stay on task. No need to worry about nepotism under Dr. Evil.
  2. He’s dealt with loss. Mini-Me passed away last year. While Dr. Evil didn’t make a public statement at the time (no doubt too overcome with grief to do so), I’m confident that brush with death has changed him for the better and made him understand the realities of normal people in a way our current president can never really comprehend.
  3. He learns from his mistakes. When things didn’t go his way, he was able to recognize it was time to try a different approach. For example, he once asked for a million dollar ransom when he had the world hostage. When he discovered (by listening to his aides) that he’d lowballed his estimate, he didn’t dig in and insist he was right. Instead, he acknowledged his error and increased the ransom instead. That ability to admit fault is something I haven’t seen in a president since 2016. It’s a key component to true leadership.
  4. He knows there’s a time and a place for cruel and unusual punishment, and he can recognize the best way to get that job done. Dr. Evil would never call for our southern border to be filled with snakes and alligators. Not even ill-tempered ones. He reserves those for elaborate schemes to defeat Austin Powers, not refugees fleeing for their lives. And if you’ve seen The Love Guru, I think we can all agree Austin Powers has earned a bit of cruel and unusual punishment.
  5. He loves animals. The constant way he cares for and attends to all of Mr. Bigglesworth’s needs makes me confident he has the compassion needed to actually care about some of the people who might not agree with him. That would be an infinite improvement over our current situation.
  6. He’s already had experience running government. True, it was as part of the Trump administration, but that at least means he has an idea what the job requires, and perhaps he’ll have learned from that experience

Actually, it seems like he’s already announced his candidacy. Zuckerberg was a strange choice, but I’m willing to run with it.

I’ll finish with a message direct from the candidate himself.

Dr. Evil 2020: It Can’t Be Any Worse than What We’ve Got Now.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Words Have Power: On Speech Acts and Presidential Phone Calls

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

If only. It’s a lovely sentiment to try to convey to kindergartners, but the true fact is that words have tremendous power in our society. We make promises and commitments. We tell lies that hurt other people. In many ways, we define our reality through the words we use to describe it. We label others, and the label we apply to them changes them in our eyes and the eyes of others.

Linguists describe some phrases as “speech acts.” Actions that happen because of certain words that are spoken by certain individuals. I can go up to a couple of people and say, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” and those words lack any power. I have no authority to do that. But give me that authority and the right ceremony, and suddenly those words pack a punch that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Some speech acts are direct. I can ask my son to take out the trash. I can promise to pay you back for lunch. In these cases, it’s obvious to all what’s being discussed and what actions those words are intended to effect. True, I can break my promise, or my son can decide not to take out the trash, but that’s a separate issue.

Some speech acts are indirect. When my son is walking by, I can say, “The trash sure is getting full.” If he’s paying attention, he’ll likely understand that statement is an indirect request for him to take the trash out. I might even follow it up with a statement like, “It sure would be nice if someone took this trash out.” In a like manner, if I meet up with some friends, and one of them has an order of french fries they’re munching on, I could say, “Wow, those sure do look good.” Maybe I’d add, “I sure am hungry.” At no point in time will I have come right out and said, “Please give me some of your fries,” but the implication is there for anyone to see, plain as day.

It’s true, sometimes indirect speech acts fall on deaf ears. My wife might make an observation about how dirty the kitchen is. She might have meant I should mop the floor. Maybe I understand she thinks I should declutter it. Indirect speech acts are only as effective as the understanding between the people communicating. But make no mistake: they’re just as powerful and intentional as direct speech acts, under the right circumstances.

Of course, indirect speech acts also open the door for plausible deniability. The person saying those things can say he was kidding. He can say it was a misunderstanding. He can say he meant something else. If, for example, a candidate for office were to stand up and publicly say, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” then the implication is clear to all who hear that. “Russia, hack into whatever servers you need to and find those emails.” But there’s enough space between the person making the request and the intended audience that you can argue it wasn’t a serious request. He never thought they’d actually pay attention.

Remove that amount of space, and the room for misinterpretation plummets. Have a phone call with the new Ukrainian President, for example, and say, “The United States has been very very good to Ukraine.  I would like you to do us a favor. I would like you to find out what happened with Crowdstrike and the DNC hack. That whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible. The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.” What are you left with?

When someone in authority reminds someone who’s been receiving help from them that they’ve been receiving a lot of help, and then immediately asks that person for “a favor,” what’s really happening? Asking for a favor is a direct speech act. The threat (that they’ll stop getting help if they turn down the favor) is an indirect speech act, but very present nonetheless. The effect that favor had on its audience is quite clear from the conversation.

Does this matter? You’ll have Republicans tell you it’s immaterial. You’ll have Democrats tell you it’s treasonous. But what you’ve got on your hands is a person who keeps pushing the boundaries further and further into territory no politician should be anywhere near, regardless of their affiliation. I would be just as upset if Hilary Clinton did this. I wish people on both sides of the aisle would agree.

Trump has a very casual relationship with words. They mean one thing when he wants them to, and the same exact statement means something else when he wants it to, despite the fact it was given at the same time and place. That might work as a businessman. It doesn’t work as President of the United States, and it’s time he’s reminded of that fact.

Will this give the Republicans the fodder they need to reelect Trump? I don’t know. I’d like to think it will disgust the rest of the country to the point that no one but die hard Republicans will vote for the man. Make a group more and more narrow, and suddenly it matters a whole lot less what that group thinks, when it’s time for elections. But we won’t really know what kind of an effect that’s had until next November. I highly doubt any Republican controlled Senate will boot Trump from office, no matter the circumstances.

But for today, I’m just thinking about speech acts and the power of words.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Debates Aren’t Debates

I sat down and watched some of the Democrat debate last night, but honestly I didn’t make it too far through it before I turned it off, since it was just aggravating me more than anything else. It didn’t work on so many levels, that I decided it warranted a blog post.

Allow me to elucidate.

For one thing, there are simply too many candidates for any real debate to work properly on the scale they’re trying to do it. Ideally, a debate would show me the merits and weaknesses of the different sides of the argument being debated. And there were certainly different sides being presented. Around healthcare, for example, there seemed to be different plans presented, as well as different ways to pay for those plans. Great! Except the entire thing stayed at a surface level, with no real arguments presented other than “that one will cost too much” and “that one doesn’t cover enough people.”

When there are ten people up on stage and all ten of them need to get air time, you end up with nothing more than a prolonged squabble. It’s all the worst parts of committee work, with none of the advantages. It wasn’t like that group of people were coming together with a goal of Coming Up With the Best Healthcare Plan. Rather, they were together to talk about why their own plan was the best and all the other plans stunk.

Which leads me to my second issue. Having a substantive conversation isn’t possible with that many people. I think you’d be able to pull it off with three people. Four is already stretching it. Ten is a joke. And to have twenty, split across two nights . . . Please. If they want to have so many different candidates, maybe they could arrange it in some sort of a March Madness Debate Challenge format, where they go head to head, and America gets to call in and vote for their favorite. (Honestly, the only drawback with that plan is how to restrict it so just registered Democrats get to vote, and limit it to one vote per person. While the thought of phone line voting makes me cringe, I don’t think it would be any worse that what they had going on up there last night, and I can think of many ways it would be better.)

Third, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the way debates are so tied into TV channels now. CNN designed the whole thing to catch eyeballs. It was set up like some sort of MMA or boxing match. I don’t think the questions were really designed to give us a good look at the different policies and thoughts being debated. They were designed to make as many confrontations as possible, with each candidate hoping to score some sound bites later on.

Meanwhile, all of this is going on while all I really care about is anyone but Trump becoming President. The only person I saw coming out as a winner last night was Trump. The more his opponents bicker and tear down each other, the less he has to do come next year. Ugh.

So count me out of the debates for now. All pomp, no substance. Once the field has been whittled down some, maybe I’ll give them another go.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Stop Playing Trump’s Game

Trump is a racist. He’s also sexist, elitist, and many other vile things. But he’s also very adept at picking pockets. A well-trained pick pocket is really a master of diverting attention. If he’s going to take your watch, he’ll make you worry about your wallet. If he’s going after your necklace, he’ll have you holding on tight to your watch. In that manner, the pick pocket will shift your attention from spot to spot on your body, and you’ll pride yourself on how well you held on to the things he made you think he was after, only to discover later on that he took every last item he was interested in.

Trump could give a master class in this. No matter how much I want to believe he’s nothing more than an oaf and a buffoon, he’s somehow become very adept at this to the point that I think he does it instinctively. Sure, he might seem like a cartoon sleepwalker, stumbling from obstacle to obstacle, with each one promising complete disaster, only to emerge from them all unscathed. But at this point, I don’t think that’s likely. I have to think some of it’s intentional and calculated.

The press helps in all of this, perhaps inadvertently at times. They’re turning more and more into a business of eyeballs and not actual facts, and so more of the reporting turns into a stream of editorials and side notes, each of which does nothing but further upset Trump’s opponents and convince his base that he’s persecuted. I feel like he’s doing enough terrible things that the inflammatory articles aren’t helping anything. Report the facts accurately and trust people to be smart enough to recognize just what sort of a person Trump is.

Yes, the things Trump tweeted are racist. Yes, it would be lovely to have the whole country recognize that without needing a map, a compass, a flashlight, and a bright blinking neon sign above his head. But all this energy talking about it isn’t really getting anything accomplished. It’s not solving any of the many problems he’s created. Even if at the end of the day, he admitted to being a racist, that wouldn’t get him out of office. All it’s doing is distracting us from the pockets he’s picking.

I worry that Democrats are approaching this next election cycle like it’s a grand opportunity to get their most liberal candidate elected. That surely anyone could win against Trump. But that’s what they thought about Clinton, and how did that work out for us all?

If it were up to me, I’d have the Democrats nominate someone a bit left of center. Someone who won’t alienate a good portion of independents. Who might even be attractive to the Republicans who are disgusted by Trump. That road makes it much more difficult for Trump to convince his base that Armageddon is coming and it’s just him between them and the Antichrist. He’ll throw everything he’s got at the next candidate. The ultimate goal needs to be Get Trump Out of Office.

If there are two Democrat nominees to choose from, one of which represents 80% of the party ideology but is expected to just barely squeak out a win against Trump, and another that only represents 40% or something like that, but has a much broader appeal to everyone in the nation?

Please take the one with broader appeal. Sure, there’s a chance the very liberal candidate would win, but to me, it’s not worth the risk of another 4 years of Trump.

Can the election just be over now?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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