Post Electoral College

(This is a part two and won’t make much sense if you haven’t read part one, The Ghosts in the System.)

I saw a little of another style of training in practice today too, as the woman conducting the house floor proceedings politely laughed at one of the freshman Congressman debating a nonsense bills, when he didn’t remember the rules of procedure. That is a certain kind of professional development.*** I’m not sure what scared me more: his ignorance, her thinking she was helping, or the teenage boys sitting next to me with Elizabeth Warren’s latest book under their arms.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, the upperclassmen in our legislative bodies entertain the growing inexperienced division the way you’d entertain a small child in a garage full of dangerous stuff: by giving them some sawdust or something else harmless to play with on the floor.****

But as all parents eventually know, children who never get to touch the power tools never learn how not to cutoff someone’s arm. And one day Johnny-the-bad-influence is going to come over and say hey, don’t you guys ever play with these? And you can tell yourself you’ll be there in time to stop things before blood is shed, and maybe you can, but maybe you can’t–if your garage is packed, with a lot of two-year-olds, ALL of whom think Johnny’s leather jacket is the neatest. Thing they’ve ever cut through with a reciprocating saw. With an arm in it. So far.


Meanwhile, I’ll be running through the streets like Archimedes******

because I see now that all of our non-functioning systems work like this. My dry cleaners. The Catholic church. The self-checkout line at the Loiusville, Kentucky Wal-Mart. Corporate America. Early childhood education. Bad dentistry. Even the local government of Atlantic City.

Still running, am I now, because now I see that these are not unsolvable, endemic problems, as I have had thoughted! Eureka!

And leaping in unabashed joy, now, because now I see that we don’t have to magically pass laws that make being a corrupt jerk a crime, catch people in the act, prosecute them, and then cross our fingers and hope that their replacements don’t do the exact same thing. Really!


Here’s the solution:

People entering a system are supposed to absorb its ways. The traditions of the system are supposed to combine with the pre-existing knowledge of the entree. That’s how things get tastier. It’s a two-way filter: new members select the best parts of the old system, and the system selects the best parts of the new ideas. The nasty parts are supposed to be spit out, or fall off the plate, if you catch my corn muffin.

(Hart Senate Office Bldg FOODFIGHT! I would make a great debate coach. My team would know how to throw mashed potatoes from either side of the aisle.)

The key here is the amount of selective power on each side. If the system is powerful enough, you eat what’s on your plate, or you don’t eat, sonny.

And the kind of systems I’m talking about here are at the TOP of the food pyramid: there is nothing above them to make them better. It’s good that they’re up there–someone has to be–but anything that goes wrong up there is stuck.

(Remind me to post about the shape of this thought, please, it’s an important one.)

An ancient ecosystem like Congress is not something one can hope to modify easily (by passing a law especially); nether can one set out to somehow de-activate the greed of the shadow institution that has grown up around it; neither can one realistically expect to educate the entire American populace to elect more qualified representation. (I however, unrealistically expect to do this single-handedly.******)

But — cue gospel choir–there is one. one! one variable in this equation that is easy to adjust:


the amount of pre-existing knowledge of the members.

I know. I’m really excited too.

Which readjusts that balance of power in the right direction, knowledge being power, specifically the power to say, “No, that is dumb.”

Wait! There’s more: in any field, the one with more facts is the one with more integrity: we’re hard-wired not to do dumb things when we have been shown how much they hurt people. And in any field, the one with more understanding of the history (of anything!) is the one with more respect: we’re hard-wired not to thumb our noses at things when we have been shown why they are the way they are. So. So. Ready to turn that vicious circle the other way around? Here it is:



(Too difficult? Then send all the aides!)



Here are some templates you can use to write to your Congresspeople:

Dear Mr./Ms. A,

I wish you were more like Mr./Ms. B, the distinguished Senator/Representative from <B’s district or state>. How did he/she manage to _______________, ________________, and ________________? Do you know?

Your Constituent,


Dear Mr./Ms. B,

Can you please keep an eye on Mr./Ms. A, the distinguished Senator/Representative from <A’s district of state>? He/she is really trying, I think, but doesn’t know how to get things done/doesn’t know what to do/does nothing (circle one). In any case, I think he/she has a lot of potential, and I would appreciate anything you could do to help develop it. Thanks.

You Constituent,



(There’s no need to circle Senator or Representative. They can look them up.)


If you haven’t hung out with federal employees a lot, you really should try it. Washington, DC is a cesspool of vipers, but it’s also a buzzing hive of people trying to make everything in the world correct, as hard as they can. You really don’t know ethics until you’ve met some of these people. Large numbers of them are equipped with staggering moral brick walls, the kind you really don’t find anywhere else. Some people are pillars of their community; some people are Mount Rushmore.

It’s a special kind of integrity that comes from reasonable pride: the completely flipping inviolate kind. BECAUSE WE REPRESENT THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, THAT’S WHY. That’s what they say. So neat that still exists. A lot of it, too.


*Ok, 2.38 billion, taking inflation into account.

**I can’t believe I’m old enough now that so many things have been bugging me for years. But there it is.*******

***That noone appreciates or learns much from.

****Feel free if so motivated to review the list of bills enacted by the 114th Congress so far. Here’s a short excerpt:

*****I do that anyway.********

******Which means with one hand tied behind my back. Or both, and a loaner hand.

*******I guess I should just be happy that I’m figuring one or two of them out finally.*******

********But I miss my twenties, when nothing had been bugging me for years.

*********I like this footnote best because it makes Archimedes look like a 5-star general. Which he wasn’t.

Shoutout to NYLC.

And thank you for the gallery passes–you know who you are!

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