Friday, August 23, 2013

It's All Understood (especially when you don't understand)

"It's All Understood"
Everyone laughed at her joke 
As if they'd never even heard it before 
And maybe they were truly amused 
But every word that she spoke was a bore 
And maybe it's because they had seen 
The previews on the TV screen 
Well this part is good and that's well understood 
So you should laugh if you know what I mean 

But it's all relative 
Even if you don't understand 
Well it's all understood 
Especially when you don't understand 
Then it's all just because 
Even if we don't understand 
Then lets all just believe 

Everyone knows what went down 
Because the news was spread all over town 
And fact is only what you believe 
And fact and fiction work as a team 
It's almost always fiction in the end 
That content begins to bend 
When context is never the same 

And it's all relative 
Even if we don't understand 
And that's well understood 
Especially when we don't understand 
Then it's all just because 
Even if we don't understand 
Then lets all just believe 

I was reading a book 
Or maybe it was a magazine 
Suggestions on where to place faith 
Suggestions on what to believe 
But I read somewhere 
That you've got to beware 
You can't believe anything you read 
But the good Book is good 
And that's well understood 
So don't even question 
If you know what I mean 

But it's all relative 
Even if you don't understand 
Well it's all understood 
Especially when you don't understand 
And it's all just because 
Even if we don't understand 
Then lets all just believe 

But there you go once again 
You missed the point and then you point 
Your fingers at me 
And say that I said not to believe 
I believe 
I guess 
I guess it's all relative

Greenwald's Catch-22

I don’t want to argue the merits or demerits of the NSA ever, ever, ever again, and especially after any possible future terrorist attacks ( I GIVE UP ), but the above screen capture is still my favorite unintentionally funny headline from Glenn Greenwald on July 10th.  The reason is not that Snowden now resides in Russia but because of Greenwald's and Snowden's logic flaw... similar to Clevinger's logic flaw in dealing with the apparently crazy Yossarian in the WWII classic Catch-22:

“They’re trying to kill me,” Yossarian told him calmly.
"No one’s trying to kill you," Clevinger cried.
"Then why are they shooting at me?" Yossarian asked.
"They’re shooting at everyone," Clevinger answered. "They’re trying to kill everyone."
"And what difference does that make?”
― Joseph Heller, Catch 22 

[Edit 11/20/2015: this graphic is now mysteriously missing. :)   I think it might have been a screen capture that included one of the following graphics. I actually know which one but I want to see if it disappears again. :) The irony may well be lost now but I was thinking at the time that if you give the documents to everyone, then you gave them to China and Russia.  ]

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

3 = 6

I have so little time to write blog entries these days. But I have been reading quite a bit. So there is bad and there is good.

I just did a series of entries in my "Sandwich of Truth" blog on politics. They really belonged here but I chose to do them there because I have radical ideas, apparently, on surveillance and protection from terrorists. They have to be taken with a grain of salt, because I am making this stuff up from whole wheat, er cloth.

The fact that everyone on the left disagrees with me about Snowden is no biggie, well, at least personally, because tornadoes whiz by all the time around here and I really am oblivious to that danger as well. I still believe the chances that anyone would actually learn anything of substance from my phone calls and/or from my email, or my blog, for that matter, to be rather small indeed. And if they did, well, what? This blog should prove the point. So what! It does not matter if you know what I am thinking, as long as you don't hit me. We do need to stop the government from hitting us. I'll agree with that.

Life is full of risks. Spies have always been around and, by the way, you should absolutely watch the cold war spy television series "The Americans." It is really outstanding.

My series of blog entries was only tangentially about Snowden. The problem for me as a citizen is more profound than any single controversial topic, I think. I learned about the problem in my winter of discontent in the year 2000. This was the year I started a website called It was one of my claims to fame. I later sold it. This was the year of the Gore v. Bush decision by the Supreme Court which basically said my vote counted nothing, in no way... just nothing at all.

Now I wasn't taken aback by the electoral college system, which I already knew nullified my vote fairly well in a red state. What I learned was that any state could cheat, or be incompetent, or whatever, and cast all of its votes for whoever, despite a majority not being in favor of it. A majority did not matter in the least. What mattered was power.

The only power in this case was pretty much in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court was not chosen by me, not really. That was circular reasoning. If the Supreme Court decides who is the President and the President decides who is the Supreme Court, well, I for one, am lost spinning in the mist of paradox. I cannot see beyond it. I never was very comfortable with the Supreme Court deciding it had the power to interpret the Constitution in the first place.  Marbury v. Madison was the decision that defined the lines between the  executive and judicial branches. The court decided it was the "decider" of the Constitution, without any help from us. Thomas Jefferson, one of my heroes, disagreed. But hell, what did that matter? The court was all powerful here, deciding the limits of it's own power. Then later deciding the President.

Thomas said:

You seem to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps.... Their power [is] the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.

I agree with everything he just said... well except for that last part. He kinda wrote a bunch of stuff himself that was in the Constitution and he was overly proud of it. The Constitution making all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign sounds good in theory (especially in elementary school) but honestly, when it comes down to it in any disagreement, there is never equality or there would never be resolution. So that is a shambles of a system. This is common sense to me but, don't forget, I think radically.

I always placed my bet on democracy. I read about it early on. It is complicated and simple at the same time. The simple idea is that we would all get an equal vote and share equal power in deciding our future. The case where it gets complicated is in small groups. Let us say there are 2 people deciding. Do you see the problem with small groups? No majority is possible with two if they disagree.  Add another person and you have 3 and there will probably be a decision on a strictly "yes or no" question. If it is a multiple choice question, well, 3 doesn't really work well either.

In a small group of 2, I daresay the solution would be in power. How well can one choke off the oxygen. of the other, say? So the smaller a group is, the less chance of some kind of good decision  based on consensus. The larger the number of choices, the less also, chance of consensus. But we conveniently put up two presidential candidates to solve this problem. If you vote for a third party candidate, you vote against your views because your third party candidate has zero chance of winning and your vote is pulled from the other candidate who is closest to your way of thinking.

If you ask any right wing type worth their salt, they will tell you we are a republic, not a democracy. There are a couple of reasons they say this: A) it is essentially true, B) they are REPUBLICans not DEMOCRATs and they tend to think in simplistic terms. Many don't really understand the distinction, nor the form of our government because it is neither a republic nor a democracy. While all this stuff is really off the top of my head, with a direct quote from, say, Tom Jefferson,  I have thought a long time about this. And we are neither a republic nor a democracy. You can safely look that up as well.

So, small groups do worse than large groups, as I have just gone on and on about. We would hope that with universal education (right wing types don't like that idea either) we would make a good decision when deciding upon things in larger numbers. "You can fool some of the people some of the time..." etc.  In small groups, "some" of the people are all you have to fool. This makes sense. A couple of horrendously bad choices for the Supreme Court and you have just ruined the stew.

Maybe all would be well if the Supreme Court were chosen democratically. But, really, they have to be pretty smart folks and a citizen who doesn't understand the laws would be a detriment. So they are not chosen democratically. We let the President choose them which we choose democratically, right?

Well, no we don't. If that is not obvious to us after the 2000 election, we don't need to be voting anyway. There is the electoral college. Each state decides how their electoral votes will be apportioned "winner take all" or by representation of the actual vote. Most choose "winner take all." Each state can make it's own laws about who is allowed to vote. We have seen that recently as the Supreme Court struck down the central component of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This will definitely come into play in 2016 and maybe before.

The fact that everyone seems to think that it is some kind of game to elect the President should alone give one pause. Swing states come into play or go out of play, and the candidates planes fly around ignoring pretty much everyone (like we were from a flooded New Orleans housing development or something) excepting the few states that seem to matter. It is all a football game with people calling time out to ice the field goal kicker or something. It is not inspiring.

I can guess the will of the people would probably be better represented if a system of election just counted each person's vote as a single vote and elected a person most of us agree on; while I find it hard to believe in a system that has never said my state of Alabama is important to the election. It is straightforward to me. My vote doesn't count. Thinking otherwise would just be illogical. It is hard enough to get me to see reason that my one vote might count only if there was a tie. I is but  impossible to make me think that my vote will count when all of my vote, and possibly the votes of 49% counts for 0% of the electors who elect the President.

I used to fool myself into believing that it really did not matter because the electoral college would almost surely follow the national vote, just by reason or chance. I would never have guessed the vote could be for one person by half a million people and still come out wrong. Another way to put could be that everyone canceled everyone else's vote out and a half of a million people to zero would be the margin, yet we would go with the zero.  So it would be as if we get 10 people in a room who say, we should do this, but we go with that. 10 people times 50,000, in actuality.

This was actually pretty important to me:

There was a graphic with the following I encountered on Facebook.

9 = 72
8 = 56
7 = 42
6 = 30
5 = 20
3 = ?

I remember the progression, so I could remember the numbers by memory. The answer is 3. Before you attempt to do any heavy thinking using patterns, I have to ask:  has 3 ever equaled any other number that was not equal to 3? People think they are smart when they see the 4 is missing. 4 = 12 therefore 3 = 6. No, I'm sorry, you are not smart when 3 = 6, you are in a alternate universe. No matter how many false statements are asserted before the question of what 3 equals, the question has only one answer, IN THIS UNIVERSE.

Worse, when I explained it in every way I could think of, people said I should think outside of the box. I was not being creative. People made fun of me, they hounded me. I actually unfriended someone because of this dumb question. How idiotic could you be when someone has explained it to you and you still did not admit the possibility? I was dumbfounded. I see the series. I get the pattern, but 3 is not equal to 6. This is not worded as an intelligence test of what number comes next in the series, It does not create a hypothetical. "If" is not included in the wording to create some imaginary universe.

Why was this not funny to me? Why did I argue until I finally "unfriended" someone?  500,000 votes does not equal -1. It does not equal zero, but that is closer. And it does not equal 1 but is closer to 1 and that would be enough if there were a tie. Al Gore won by over 500,000 votes (using a one man, one vote system) but that was made equal to -1 or less.

If you can believe 3 = 6, well, you can believe anything.

Another way this can be stated is:

9 + 100,000 = 72
8 + 100,000 = 56
7 + 100,000 = 42
6 + 100,000 = 30
5 + 100,000 = 20
3 + 100,000 = x

I can think of two answers: x = 100,003 or x =  the twenty-fourth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet, or in Roman numerals it represents 10.

X does not equal 6. Have I gone too far in explaining?

The presidential race is not democratic. The Supreme Court is not democratic, or even representational. Further, 2 senators per state does not equal fair representation. 2 senators represent all the people in California, and 2 senators equal all the people in Wyoming. Further, gerrymandering makes the House of Representatives non-representational. Further, there are bribes, gifts, deals and to hell with it....

I was taught "direct democracy" (or everyone voting on each issue) was a bad idea because the masses might be moved over a short period of time and the masses would vote for things based on their emotions rather than thought. Really? That does not describe our system every election day? I don't know, maybe people focus more when it seems important. But contrast this, where everything would get a vote, to our current methodology where politicians play politics to keep bills from even getting to a vote, all in the name of being re-elected by fooling enough of the people enough of the time.

It is a simple fact that no general election day voting behavior has any influence on who will be President or who will be on the Supreme Court in a non-swing state. Well, you never know. You might just spit out the car window on the way to the polls and hit a butterfly's wings...