Thursday, March 21, 2019

A Random Electoral College fix

In the last few days I’ve seen a lot of … “discussion” over the Electoral College.  Some are demanding doing away with it, while others are shocked at the mere suggestion of doing such a thing.  My opinion is that the Electoral College is a flawed system.  My experience has been that many of the supporters of the college either flat out ignore these flaws, or take the nihilistic view that any attempt to fix these flaws would just create new flaws so why bother.

In this atmosphere, I’ve come up with an alternate plan to “fix” the Electoral College by making it random.  By this I mean that three months before the election, the various election officials will get together and pick five states at random.  So let’s say that in August of 2020 they select Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, New Mexico, and Florida.  And there would also be an alternate selection, say Ohio.  What would happen is those five states would decide who is President.  The other states would have elections for other offices, but they wouldn’t vote for President.  The people in the selected states would vote in November and their Electoral Votes would be decided as normal.  The point of the alternate, would be to cast a tie-breaking vote if needed.  Then in August of 2024, five other states would be selected.  Selected states would be held out of the pool for two elections, so the people in New Mexico might be selected again in 2032 to decide the Presidency.

Now, if you find that idea offensive because vast swaths of the country would have no voice in deciding who the President is, I would hope that you also oppose the Electoral College.  Because that is what happens.  Actually, what happens in reality is worse than in my system.  Most states already have their Electoral Votes locked in: we all know that California will go for the Democrat.  The Presidency is not decided by We The People of the United States, but by the people who live in a handful of swing states.  My system would at least change these swing states every election.

So what do you think?

Monday, January 7, 2019

An alternative to a border wall

There is a lot of hoopla over Trump’s border wall.  Personally, I don’t support it.  Even if Mexico was paying for it, I’d still say it was a waste of money.  Mainly because walls just drive people to find ways to go over, under, around, or through them.  I think even during the campaign there was a point where Trump admitted that ladders could be used to get over his wall.  Hell, a couple of weeks ago I saw a video on Facebook of some Mexican politician who climbed a section of the existing wall and just sat on top of it.  A wall is just an obstacle to be overcome. 

The other night I was thinking about this, and I wondered if there was a better solution.  What I came up with was barbed wire.  Now this isn’t the kind you see keeping cows in pastures, but the kind they used in World War 1.  They used a deep, mass thicket of wire.  (Here’s a YouTube video talking about it.) Putting up a twenty yard deep tangle of barbed wire would probably be cheaper and faster than building a wall.

The way the armies got through the wire in World War 1 were prolonged artillery barrages and tanks; two things people running through the desert don’t have.  Yes, people could use wire cutters, but if you make the thing dense and wide enough, there’s no way they could get through it without being discovered by drones or regular patrols.  Also, a bomb powerful enough to put a hole in a wall large enough for a person to slip through would do nothing to a tangle of barbed wire.

Now in World War 1 the wire was often used to funnel people into spots where they could be mowed down with machine guns.  And while there are some people who would be okay with that on the border, especially if they are serious with the “invasion” language they often use, I’d say don’t make a funnel, just have a solid defense. 

So, if a tangle of barbed wire would be cheaper, faster, more resilient, and more of a deterrent, why does Trump have his heart set on a wall?

Monday, December 3, 2018

How old does a coin need to be before you collect it?

When I was in high school and college, if I ever found a coin minted in 1976 – my birth year – I would keep it.  And if I found a Wheat Penny, or any coin minted during WWII, I’d be overjoyed.  But after college, my nascent coin collecting died down.  I know my first couple of years of State Quarters went to doing laundry. 

For the last couple of years I’ve had a retail job to pay the bills.  The worst aspect of it is having to stand behind a register for hours at a time dealing with customers.  But it has allowed me to see some old coins.  Now if I see a 1976 quarter, I treat it just like a regular quarter.  And if I see a Wheat Penny, I’ll probably set it aside, but only to give it out as change to an older customer or perhaps a kid.  Someone who might get a kick out of it.  Even coins that I happen to see are from the 1940’s don’t elicit a reaction. 

What prompted this post was that last week, just after starting my shift, I saw something odd in the nickels.  At first I thought it was a foreign coin which I collect as long as they’re from someplace exotic, meaning not Canada.  The reason I thought it was foreign was because it had a big “V” on the back of it.  But when I picked it up, I could read “United States of America.” Turning it over I saw that it was a 1912 Liberty Head Nickel.  A 106 year old coin?  That’s mine.  (Don’t worry, I didn’t steal it.  I traded it for a 1997 nickel.) 

This got me wondering.  When I was in my teens and earlier twenties, was I excited by a fifty year old coin because it was “super” old?  Like, does a coin have to be more than twice your current age to be worth collecting?  Because if I found a 1934 coin – making it 84 years old, or twice my current age – it would be cool, but I don’t know if I’d go gaga over it.  But a coin from the 1920’s or earlier, yeah.  I never thought about it before, but I wonder if anyone else has come up with a similar rule of thumb.


I have two side notes from this.  The first is that I also once found a 1934 $10 “Silver Certificate.” I had one of the managers set it aside – I only had like $5 in my wallet that day – and I exchanged a modern $10 bill for it the next day.  I wanted it just for the “Silver Certificate” not because it just so happens to be twice my current age.  (Actually, I think I found it last year, so it would have been more than twice my previous age.)

Anyway, the one thing I’m wondering is, “Who is spending these old coins?” I mean, my Liberty Head Nickel might be worth a couple of bucks if I cared enough to try to sell it, but I’d never spend it as … a nickel.  I almost wonder if it’s someone who hated their dad – perhaps he spent more time with his coin collection than at their ballgames – and so after he died they’re spending them just as a giant middle finger to him.  Fortunately, I don’t have any kids.  My nieces and nephews will get to fight over – or spend – my meager collection.