Author Archives: Mike

Voting II – Can Ranked Choice Voting Save Democracies Around the World?

We tend to think of polarization and divisiveness as symptoms of the current administration in the U.S. and maybe they will just disappear with future elections; well that’s not going to happen.  This has been trending for over forty years and getting rid of Trump will not change this.  Putin’s efforts to undermine the institutions of democracies around the world exploits this vulnerability, but this only highlights how bad it can get. With or without Putin’s help polarization will bring an end to many democratic regimesContinue reading

Voting I: Ranked choice voting is the real thing

As published in Grinnell Herald Register on July 9, 2018

The Washington Post recently published an article entitled Give ranked choice voting a shot.  Believe me if we do we’ll never go back.  Ranked choice voting (RCV) is better by orders of magnitude.  The idea of ranking your choices in order of preference is really not that hard for voters to understand.

As a matter of clarification RCV is not the same thing as instant run-off voting (IRV) as implied in the article.  RCV is simply the format of the ballot allowing us to rank our choices whereas IRV is the algorithm most commonly used for sorting out the winner. Continue reading

Trump Can Really “Turn a Phrase”

Can you see anything wrong with the U-turn sign to the left?  How about the U-turn sign below?

At Monday’s joint press conference Trump said, “I don’t see any reason why it would be Russia.”  Of course this is a single statement taken out of context. To put his statement back into the context of his speech, he was saying,

“I don’t see any reason why Russia would tamper with our elections.” 

Facing harsh criticism Trump tried a U-turn to reverse this statement claiming a one-word omission, which when “put in proper context” reads,

“I don’t see any reason why Russia wouldn’t tamper with our elections.”

Perhaps you can now see how the U-turn sign doesn’t match the curvature of the road ahead.  He tried to sell the rather odd phraseology of his intended statement as a double negative but it turns out to be a nonsense negative.

Deception is a treacherous road to follow.

High crimes and misdemeanors

What are we talking here, “treason” and “jaywalking?”  Or did our founding fathers have something different in mind?  Well, Benjamin Franklin asserted that the power of impeachment and removal was necessary for those times when the Executive “rendered himself obnoxious.”  Does that remind us of anyone we know?  For most of us, we see these words and think that some kind of crime must be alleged before an impeachment trial can begin.  Sure, we call it a trial, but Congress is not a court of law.  It is a trial in the sense that there are facts and circumstances to be weighed, whether we are weighing criminality or obnoxiousness.  Continue reading

The Cult That Created Trump

Senator Bob Corker says there is a cult-like situation as it relates to the President while carefully avoiding the question we don’t dare to ask. You see —

Think about it: the Trump campaign was all about throwing stuff against the wall to see what stuck.  “Build the wall” stuck so it became a foundation stone.  “Mexico will pay for it” stuck making it the next brick.  The architect of the Trump platform has been the base, “his base” approving every step of the construction along the way.  Like so many cults we have seen in the past, Evangelicals wrap themselves in religion and cherry pick biblical verses that fit their own particular dogma.  Now Trump does not share their religious convictions nor for that matter, any convictions.  Haven’t we all seen his Presidential theme?

Trump just gives the cult a voice in exchange for the admiration he so desperately needs.  The cult doesn’t care that he doesn’t care as long as he is willing to say the things they’re embarrassed to say out loud. Continue reading

How to Steal an Election from the NRA

A call to action

My recent blog article created a stir when I said,

Do you or your group want to take out incumbents who haven’t supported responsible gun control legislation?  Register with their party and try to take them out in the primary first.” 

Just to be clear this is not about dirty tricks; it’s about using your vote where it will do the most good.  Plurality voting as used in most primary elections gives us ample opportunity to waste our votes.  If voting for your favorite candidate means wasting your vote on a certain looser, you may cast your vote instead for the lesser of evils that stand a chance of winning.  If your vote is not needed because your choice is sure to win anyway, you may not waste your time voting at all; you may have even done this in the last election.  There are voting methods that resolve these dilemmas on a simple ballot, but we have to make the most of the system we have.  Continue reading

Is an Unfavorable Balance of Trade Really Unfavorable?

You probably think an “unfavorable balance of trade” is a bad thing.  But would you feel the same way if it were called a “favorable balance of goods and services.”

The definition of “unfavorable balance of trade” is when the value of imports exceeds the value of exports meaning we receive more goods and services (real value) than we give.  Of course that also means we pay more money (virtual value) to other countries than we receive.  Many people worry that this as an unsustainable and temporary advantage.  Seen as a continuous drain of cash from the American economy, many of my conservative friends compare this to their household budgets and what happens when they consistently spend more than their income.  This analogy seems to make sense; it just doesn’t match the facts.  The American economy has seen tremendous growth since WWII and we have never once seen a favorable balance of trade in that period.  By that theory, after a seventy-year “drain of wealth”, we should be dead broke.  The largest trade deficits have occurred since the year 2,000 yet the nation’s wealth has more than doubled in that same period.  Whether you personally realized this growth probably depends on your income bracket.  But the fact remains we are not seeing a drain of wealth to other countries even as wealth is redistributed to the top here at home.  Continue reading

A Gun Solution We Can “Live” With

As published in the Grinnell Herald-Register on February 19, 2018

As we mourn the deaths of another 17 young people with their whole lives ahead of them, I have to ask what’s actually changed since February 11, 2013 when the Grinnell Herald-Register published my first article on the subject.  Well in the five years since Sandy Hook some of the states hardest hit like Connecticut and California have enacted progressive gun legislation but on the whole legislation in the US has only increased the risk to American citizens.  Iowa is a good example of a state where reckless legislation is likely to make matters worse while we remain convinced that what happened in Parkland (recently named the safest city in Florida) can’t happen here.  The NRA has since become (whether wittingly or unwittingly) entangled in a Russian plot to create divisiveness in our country. Continue reading

It’s Time for Grassley to Step Down as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee

First I have to apologize to my readers (all six of them) who subscribe to my blog “Dare to Ask” at topsawyer.com.  I must retract this passage from my article published last August, “Whether or not he (Senator Grassley) was answering me directly his answer at the Mount Ayr town hall this week shows that the Senate Judiciary Committee is now willing to share with us the 10 hours of potentially damning testimony from Glenn Simpson, a reversal from just a month ago.  Thank you Senator Grassley.” Continue reading

The Power of a Disruptive Caucus

This rather benign definition, “people with shared concerns” conceals a darker side.  It fails to tell us the secret within, “how a minority of a minority can subvert long-standing institutions suppressing the will of the majority.”  Today’s Republican Party bears little resemblance to the party I joined fifty years ago.  Certainly the Alt-Right movement must be the exact opposite; a parasitic caucus, it gains nourishment feeding off the guts of its unwitting host, the once proud Republican Party.  To understand this vulnerability you have to look at its history.  For most of the twentieth century the Republican Party has been comprised of a hodgepodge of divergent ideals few of which represented majority opinions on their own.  Only through this confederation where we agree to support each other has the party been able to push its agendas forward.  It’s been more culture-based than science-based and frankly quite “bossy”, telling us how we should live our lives has reached the point of annoyance.  Now you’re probably wondering why I’m still a Republican or if in fact I am still a Republican.  I guess you’ll have to read on. Continue reading