Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Silver Linings on 2016 November 8

Silver linings:
  • The half of the country that feels despondent is largely based in factual reality, thoughtful, and lightly armed compared to the half that voted our next president in. Of the likeliest outcomes of this election, this may have been the outcome with the least immediate physical violence; over the next presidency, the methods of dissent and protest will hopefully be constructive while in the other likely scenario, the methods of dissent and protest would almost certainly have been destructive.
  • The structure of the economy is inadequate for the information age and has been trying to bottom out for at least most of my life. We may have just ripped off the Band-Aids we had on the economy and sped the process along. The bottoming out will be painful but possibly also necessary.
  • Relatedly, Obamacare was never a cure to the healthcare industry; Obamacare was a catalyst to alter the structure of the system in such a way as to prevent a return to the dreadful state American healthcare was in immediately prior to Obamacare. Like the bottoming out of the economy, the bottoming out of our healthcare system my be a necessary and painful experience. We may have sped this process along with this election as well.
  • Also relatedly, the news media and political machines proved themselves to be more responsive to the market economy than to the information economy. This election could be a belated wake-up call to two of the most important and influential institutions in American democracy: we, all of us, need reliable and trustworthy information even more than you need money.*
    *This one gets an asterisk because we've missed a lot of wake-up calls generally in my adult life; plenty occurred about this election before yesterday. Over the past several hours, I have seen a lot of coverage saying no one saw this coming, but I know at least Matt Taibbi, Amy Goodman, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, and Ann Coulter predicted last night's outcome.
  • The next presidency could be a series of learning moments for supporters and dissidents alike.
  • The internet giants have hopefully also learned from this election season. A fractious information environment with no weight attached to verifiable truth is good for the finances of advertising platforms and sales of marketable products but bad for everything else in the world. The lesson is roughly the same as the lesson that news media and political parties need to learn. I hope Google and Facebook et al. can figure out a more civically responsible business plan relatively quicker than our traditional institutions have been (un)able to.
  • While our next president's campaign promises are horrifying, he has, over the course of the campaign, verifiably lied at least 3 times as often as he has told the truth; perhaps his promises are as untrue as the rest of his statements.
  • The window of applicability has not passed on a fiction horror project with demagogic villains that I have had on the back-burner for a decade. I would rather the alternative be true, but if I ever finish the project, the messages might be usefully resonant.
Dark clouds on which I can't find a silver lining:
  • The surmountability of the fight against climate change seems to have reversed course.
  • People have been routinely categorized and dehumanized over the past year-and-a-half more publicly and extremely than I have previously seen in my lifetime.
  • The threats of violence, large-scale and small-, are ever-present in America and have likely increased throughout the campaign season with few (if any) signs of reducing.
  • The various hate groups in the United States have coalesced and elected a president through synergy with die-hard straight-ticket Republican voters.
  • A lot of Republican voters were duped by a non-Republican candidate running on the Republican ticket in a year in which a pair of two-term Republican governors ran on the libertarian ticket.
Good luck to us all.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Tired of Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump? What About Gary Johnson & Jill Stein?

A common theme this election cycle has been that Clinton and Trump are luck to be running against the other least-popular candidate to win a major party nomination. I keep wondering why we're still only considering these two party's candidates when there are two others on enough ballets to win the general election if we weren't married to the idea of only electing the Democratic nominee or the Republican nominee.

Particularly strange this time around is that the Republican nominee has never actually been a Republican while the Libertarian nominee and his running mate have both served as Republican governors of their respective states.

My curiosity got the best of me, so I nated the primary results without regard to party.

To start, I came up with a list of everyone that I could remember running for president this election cycle: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Martin O'Malley, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Gary Johnson, Jim Gilmore, Rick Santorum, Jill Stein, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, Vermin Supreme, Lincoln Chafee, Lawrence Lessig, Rick Perry, Scott Walker, and Jim Webb.

Then I divided each of these candidates by 1, 2, 3, or 4 to pair up their support, based on issue positions, with the remaining four candidates: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein.

If each candidate began with equal support and if that support transferred equally to the remaining candidates that share issue positions with the initial candidates, polling among the four remaining candidates would look like this:

I was not surprised that Johnson came out ahead of Trump, but I was surprised that he came out on top of Clinton as well.

Using Wikipedia's popular vote counts from the primaries, I then multiplied each candidate's popular vote count by their relative issue position factors to the remaining candidates.

In this case, Clinton and Stein benefit from splitting the Sanders supporters, and we can see that Johnson's positions are much more resonant than Trump's. Compare actual opinion polling (figure 3) to an approximation based on voters following issue positions (figure 2) and the corrosion of a political party duopoly is apparent.

What's particularly dissonant to me this time, though, is that the Libertarian candidate is much more of a Republican than the Republican candidate. Trump has nearly triple the support he should have disregarding party labels and Clinton has nearly one-and-a-half times the support she should. Johnson and Stein have roughly 1/9 and 2/15 the support they should have, respectively.

Recent news reports have claimed that 13% of Americans would prefer a meteor crash to a Trump or Clinton presidency (presumably that's the missing piece in the figure 3 pie). We already have better options in Johnson and Stein (at least better options than Trump or a meteor. Clinton's a real candidate who I would like to see debate Johnson and Stein without Trump or the meteor in the room).

Here's my appeal, and my call to action: if you are asked who you are voting for by a pollster, say Johnson. If he gets to 15% in a poll, he gets to attend the debates. Stein will likely not have enough support to get into the debates, so without Johnson, there will be no real conservative or real Republican in the debates, which is particularly unfortunate for the balance of power after 8 years of a Democratic White House.

One final note to Republican party loyalists: Johnson has to be a better top-of-the-ticket face for downticket races than Trump. #nevertrump, right?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Our Economic Era

Our current economic system is inappropriate for the era in which we are living due to two particular shortcomings: its inability to fairly price free-flowing information and it's insufficient pricing of ecological waste.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Modern Capitalism and Education

"The corruption of the meaning of words is a necessary consequence of an economy as skewed towards the elites as our broken economy is. . . . What happens to the liberal notion of advancement through education when the economy is skewed around a low-wage, low-skill service sector for the ‘proles’ and for the professionals, financial services, real estate and advertising – jobs that all require a fair degree of institutionalised lying? What happens is that advancement through education becomes itself a lie – except for the elites who enter the top jobs through the nexus of private schools and Oxbridge and go onto dominate the state apparatus, business sector and the media." -Michael Wayne, Open Democracy:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Why I'm tired of hearing about "body image"

The internet is full of positive body image literature. I recently ran across this one and it got me to thinking.

Why is this a women's-only issue?

To be clear, it's not a women's-only issue. It's just spun that way. The most of the body-pride crowd and many feminists argue the issue in a way that you'd think it's only women that are victimized by over-sexualization and physical perfection.

This is nonsense. Watch any modern romantic comedy or TV show aimed at women (Grey's Anatomy, for example) and you can see proof that women aren't alone when it comes to being sexualized, objectified, and held up to a standard of physical perfection.

It is common to hear women fawning over their favorite movie stars and musicians. Men are expected to keep their own thoughts on movie stars and musicians to themselves. "Do as I say, not as I do" is no way to rectify a problem.

In fact, I would argue that body image issues in the modern day are in some ways worse for men. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out: who would a man talk to if he has a body image issue?

The internet is full of positive body image resources for women, but they are few and far between for men.

Are you going to go talk to your buddies about it? Unlikely. For that matter, I don't think many women talk to their friends about it either. Too close for comfort, perhaps.

Would you talk to your girlfriend? Ah, here we go. Let me relay, from personal experience, how that conversation would go:

  •  Boyfriend--I need to lose weight. I look and feel like garbage.
  • Girlfriend--Oh, babe, don't be crazy! I love your little gut and love handles! They're cute!
Now imagine how that conversation would go if the roles were reversed. I don't think I need to type all the profanity and verbal threats that would ensure for you to get the gist of what would happen.

Why is it okay for men to feel like crap, but for women to be treated delicately?

In short, it's not.

If the answer for a man is "Eat better and exercise more" then that's the same answer for women, too. We're doing a great disservice by allowing people on the margins an "out" by rationalizing poor health choices. "Love your body" is great unless you are one of the people who has an actual weight problem and need to lose weight to be healthy. Healthy doesn't mean "thin" but it also doesn't mean "fat".

If you're fat, like me, you need to take off the kiddie gloves and own it: I hate exercise and I love food and I'll die sooner than necessary but that's worth it to me. I can respect that. But when you're living an unhealthy lifestyle and using positive body image propaganda to rationalize your poor choices and be in denial about your health, I can't respect that. You are fooling yourself and hurting yourself in the process. You don't need to talk to a doctor to know that's not a good thing.

Eat healthy and exercise and feel better, or continue your ways and own it. Pick one. But don't keep pissing on yourself and telling yourself it's raining. And don't expect to be treated with kiddie gloves on the sensitive issue of body image if you're not going to do the same for the men in your life. Believe it or not, a lot of us suffer from the same insecurities as you. The difference is that it's okay for women to talk about it and lean on one another, but we men are all stranded on our own islands feeling less-than.

If your goal is to be treated equally, the way to accomplish that is not by imposing a double-standard or demanding special treatment. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, the Golden Rule, and so forth. We all know these principles from the age of preschool, but we tend to lose sight of them when we get older.

"Treat others the way you want to be treated." It really is that simple.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

You mad, bro?

When did we slip into this vortex? If you listen to people talk in restaurants and bars or (gulp) read the comment sections on blogs, it seems like everyone is angry. Angry at the EPA for "destroying coal;" angry at the IRS for "committing unconstitutional acts of robbery;" angry at the media and it's "liberal bias" that hides the crimes of the Washington elite; and overlaying all that, people are mad at that "black Muslim socialist" that's the root of all this evil.


Everything is so extreme. People you don't like "surrender" if you win a point; someone with an alternative viewpoint "blasts" others; everything you don't like is "destroying" America and is "Anti-American;" disliked leaders are called "dictators" and "terrorists" just because their plan to get from A to B is different than your plan to get from A to B.

Why aren't people allowed to pick a middle road? The "extremification" of America is forcing moderate people to pick the left or right side, and it's pushing those already on the left or right way out onto the brink of insanity. You only need to watch C-SPAN or read Facebook comments on news stories to see that it's happened and it's happened in a big way.

America's new religion is anger. Angry all the time and at everything, persistently persistent in not listening to alternate viewpoints. "You're wrong and I hope you die at the hands of a wood chipper" is not a great attitude to have toward anyone or anything you deem to not be on your side of an issue.

I recently got into a Facebook battle with a guy I didn't know. I had commented on a mutual friend's post about the Affordable Care Act (which featured some very out of date and demonstrably inaccurate claims). Even though my post was even-handed and at its core was completely aligned with the viewpoint of this stranger, he took offense with one element of my analysis and implemented a scorched earth policy. He attacked my intelligence, age, experience, manhood, and national allegiance. The fact that we were on the same side of the issue was irrelevant to him. He was looking for a fight from the safety of his computer and he got one. I engaged him a little bit because, hey, I'm only human.

But after typing a long, point-by-point analysis of his attacks and why they are bogus and stupid, I realized there's no sense in this. Why spend time being angry and catty and rude? I took the high road and immediately felt better. No more aggravation, no more elevated heart rate, no more bad feelings. It was over more quickly than it had begun.

I'm sure it's too much to ask of people to remember that we are all human beings. Our views are different, but we should still be able to be civil and get along. Differences should be discussed politely and thoughtfully, not shouted out in a series of ad hominem bursts and strawmen. But with the ability to say anything you want at any time, what's to stop you from calling the president a "black Muslim faggot" or telling a stranger you hope he and his family are murdered in their home?

A little common decency would prevent it. Is that really too much to ask?