Archive for July, 2017


Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

So, I never met Chester. We had a lot of friends in common, for reasons that would take some explaining and probably aren’t worth going into here, and I am curious what he would have made of me if he had met me. But mostly, I feel a certain kinship to him, since we both have wrestled with some of the same demons. And thusly, I have written a song…


Godspeed and good luck, wherever you’re off to next.

Also available, Bunne’s remix: Chester, remixed by Bunne.

Politics, the two-party system, and donation farming

Friday, July 7th, 2017

So, one of the problems I see with the two party system is that it encourages dividing up the entire political landscape – a complex, multidimensional array including questions on the sliding scale of authoritarianism, capitalist vs. communist vs. socialist, nanny-state vs. libertarianism, rule of law vs. anarchy, change/growth vs. remaining the same, and a number of other sliders – on all of which probably the answer is somewhere in the middle – into single binary decisions.

Since some of these binary decisions end up being very hot-button emotional issues, it then allows for a undesirable no-or-little-progress tug of war in which both sides use the hot button issues to repeatedly ask for money, using emotional attacks like guilting that humans are not very good at resisting. In the meantime, because the opposing group feels very strongly in the opposing direction, little or no progress is made, so these hot button issues can be milked for donations for years at a time. One of my biggest criticisms of the Democrats is at this point, they aren’t even *trying* to have their candidates suggest new ideas. In the recent runoff election in Georgia, I was averaging four emails a day by the end begging me for more money – and I don’t live in Georgia – and not a single one discussed the ideas of the candidate, other than “He will stop Trump”. One of our biggest complaints about the Republicans in the Obama era was they seemed to have no ideas of their own, all they could do is try to throw monkey wrenches in the works – and now it seems that’s what the Democrats have become.

Now, the cynical bit of me thinks this is all on purpose, and it’s all because politics has become a business that is, just like so many others, all about money. And the current situation is *very* friendly to donation-farming. Send out those emails because it’s important to spend more than the other side – which is of course completely ignoring the fact that our election system is *not supposed to be for sale*. I mean, yes, more money means more ads to get ideas out to voters, but ultimately, isn’t the hope here that the best ideas will win, not the ideas with the most dollars behind them? And, if in fact the ideas with the most dollars behind them are always winning, shouldn’t we completely remove money from the election system altogether and perhaps even ban political ads because at that point it is clear that we are so externally programmable that we probably aren’t even voting what we think, but rather whatever’s been programmed into us most recently? On the other paw, if as I suspect political ads generally don’t sway that many voters, then isn’t this whole donation system basically just a racket to get money out of our pockets and into the pockets of the politician types who have in general already proven that they are not good with money? (I mean, look at our defense budget, and the defense budgets of the next five biggest competitors. Clearly we’re not good about deciding where to spend our resources if we’re busy making upgrades to our atomic bombs while children are starving to death and bridges are collapsing)

Part of what is interesting is if one looks at the emails from both sides, one sees the exact same emotional attacks used. They could almost be mad-libs – only the keywords change, the guilt and button pushing remain the same. And, we’re now in a situation where we’re *close to the noise margin* 50% left and right. This either means the ad targeters and marketing gurus are extremely good at their job and we’re all in a giant game of Risk between them, or it means that the election results we see are totally phony anyway (which is a bit tinfoil hat but only a bit – it’d be difficult to even honestly know) – or perhaps it means that humans genuinely are a even split between left and right. In any case, I suspect compressing every decision into a binary choice and two camps has led to a “representative” government that does a *miserable* job actually representing the views and values of the people. What’s really creepy is seeing how the tail has turned around and is now wagging the dog – brand loyalty is such that no matter what awful thing the people “on your side” – right or left do – many many many people on Facebook are up there defending it. It feels very “my country wrong or right” and I loathe it. I do think there’s a sizable chunk of $PRESIDENT supporters who would support $PRESIDENT if said $PRESIDENT started sending people to the gas chambers. It feels a lot like “Well, they’re a member of $POLITICAL_PARTY and I’m a member of $POLITICAL_PARTY so whatever they decide to do must be the good $POLITICAL_PARTY thing to do, no matter how awful, stupid, ill-advised, or historically poorly fated”.

Now, since I often go on about tracking the actual resources in play whenever we’re figuring out how to do resource allocation, one point I’d like to make here is you end up with enormous amounts of resources – at least man-hours (spent creating the ad content and watching the ad content both) totally burned up for no gain whenever you have a hot-button issue where people are 50-50 split. How many hundreds of thousands of man-hours have been wasted on abortion? How much church money which could have been spent at places like have instead been wasted trying to save those poor non-babies (even though as I point out in abortion, summarized being anti-abortion because you think it’s murder is the same as having a profound lack of faith in God). In real progress, in human happiness, the current system costs us *a lot*. Sometimes we would be far wiser to table a issue awaiting future data rather than continue a 50-50 fight that’s unresolvable. And I think we would do just that, except that these issues are huge moneymakers for Big Politic – which is probably far worse than Big Pharma, Big Oil, and Big Ag combined.

I want to see a end to donation farming.