Monday, September 26, 2016

Dead Heat Election: Why So Close?

With the first 2016 Presidential debate tonight, the two virtually tied candidates will attempt to make a difference. Now the media and political wonks have been debating, pontificating, espousing, arguing, explaining, and blathering about why the two leading candidates are within the ‘margin of error’ of each other. But just because the ‘analysts’, ‘spokes-persons’, and ‘experts’ have their rationales and interpretations that doesn’t mean that any of them are correct or understand why the race is so close.

Is it possible that there are explanations that aren’t being presented by all those in the ‘know’?

Well, let’s see if there might be any rationales that are less dependent upon the those who are ‘there to help inform us’ about what’s happening.

An Informed Electorate:
The polls’ sampling of the public/voters measures their choice in a candidate that they are willing to indicate that they will vote for at the time of the polling. Now that tells us what their responses were, if they made a choice; but in itself doesn’t provide a why that choice. So a ‘dead-heat’ race is caused not by who they picked (except statistically) but by the ‘why’ they are divided equally.

Now if Jefferson’s “well-informed electorate” is as necessary to our democracy as he thought, and which I support, then might not the current poll results reflect upon the state of the electorate’s well-informed condition? What state of the ‘well-informed’ electorate would likely result in tied candidates? Logically any state that has the two candidates in equivalent “informed” states. Note: These need not be ‘well-informed’ states, just equivalent. A ‘tie’ may mean that voters are not informed at all about either candidate; that would most likely result in a tie. But ‘not informed at all’ can’t be precisely true because the public believes many things about each candidate; and thus they have an informed status other than ‘not informed’. Of course, the public is a statistical population and there will be some proportion of the public that may be close to a state of ‘not informed at all’. These voters would thus add some weight to an equal result when grouped with the rest of those polled.

For those voters that are ‘informed’, the salient question is how ‘well-informed’ are they? If they are informed primarily on who is the Democrat and who is the Republican, then all that is required for a tie is that half the peopled polled are Democrats and half are Republicans. So is that it? Is being ‘informed’ just having a team in the “big” game? Not sure that is what Jefferson meant.

What about the case where voters are a little more informed than just the candidate’s party? What if the public had a view of the ‘trustworthiness’ of each candidate? Well if the public perception was that both candidates were equally trustworthy then the voters would either be flipping the ‘trustworthy’ coin or they then go with another factor (like Party). Again we can easily see a tie resulting. Note: the equality of ‘trustworthiness’ doesn’t have to be favorable, it can be very unfavorable for each candidate as it is in the current circumstance.

So the problem with seeing a tie in the polls, is that it may indicate that the public is well-informed about each candidate, or that they are not well-informed about each candidate, or that the level and quality of well-informed on the two candidates is basically equal even if it turns out that the public is well-informed about one and not well-informed about the other.

Let’s hope that the public will be well-informed about the candidates; but more importantly that what they are well-informed about is factual, substantive, and salient to why a voter should choose a candidate. A tied situation may not be a good indication of whether the public is meeting a necessary condition for sustaining a democracy.

Testing The Null Hypothesis:
On the statistical side of a ‘tied’ poll, the basic conclusion is that there is ‘no difference’ between the two conditions: Which candidate you will vote for.  So if the public view of the candidates is that they are essentially the same, then you expect a tie. The statistics indicate that there results, no matter how much of a slight difference one candidate has, it is within the ‘margin of error’ so no difference.  This explanation requires only that what the voters know about the candidates is insufficient to create a difference.

This view of the two candidates being the ‘same’ does not seem to have much merit since it is difficult to see the two candidates’ “performing” and conclude that they are viewed the ‘same’.

This does raise the question about why the public doesn’t see a difference between the two candidates in terms of their Party’s views and ideologies, or stances on substantive issues, or campaigns’ solutions. Getting a tie when these facets of the election are considered either means that the population is divided equally independent of these factors, or that these factors are not different (or not relevant) to the voters’ decisions.

The tied results are telling us something, but I don’t know if we know what until there is more data that shows clear differences. If it’s just that one issue wins one group and another issue wins another group, then neither candidate/party has found a new and specific issue that is effective in moving one group from side A to side B.

The public is divided fairly evenly in part because there isn’t any position that makes a compelling difference to the majority of the voters, which may well mean that in fact the public doesn’t see any difference between the candidates in any manner that truly should matter in their choice.

It’s Not the Election, It’s the Dream:
The ‘dead-heat’ may be an indication of no inspirational, aspirational, or unifying message/vision engendered by the two campaigns. I don’t doubt that there are lots of die-hard supporters for one candidate/party/ideology or the other; but the current environment is not demonstrating a superior vision to the public. It’s not even clear that either campaign is offering a compelling vision that “changes voters’ minds”. If the messages, policies, and vision of a candidate result in an even split in the polls is that indicating that they are essentially equivalent that neither has a better idea, answer, solution, or method for handling the nation’s problems and issues than the other?

The public may be telling us that the two Parties are collectively out-of-touch. They are both seen as inferior choices with no vision that deals with the public’s issues, needs and dreams. We may well have a tie because the public is the forgotten dimension of the election.

Them Versus Us, Versus We:
The Democrats and Republicans are not the only groups. We know this but it isn’t clear that it isn’t the Republicans or Democrats that decide elections. They are already assumed to be statistically baked-in as going with the Party’s candidate. They are a given and don’t make a difference unless they don’t show up. There are other groups that determine the outcome of our elections. The Independents, those unaligned to a political party, are the major constituency that decides our elections. There are some other political parties that make some contribution to elections, but how decisive they are subject to the degree to which their votes can be garnered by the Democrat or Republican sides.

The Independents are of course not anywhere near as uniform and consistent in which Party they will vote for. There is a Republican-leaning sub-group, a Democratic-leaning sub-group, a more truly independent non-leaning sub-group, and a set of sub-groups that have other orientations including those who are less politically inclined and reliable as voters. This election will be more influenced by how successfully Independents are swayed to pick the next President. With tied polling results the question of is there a difference between the two candidates is seemingly indicating that regardless of the differences that are ‘talked’ about for Trump and Clinton, they are not resulting in the public treating them as being someone who matters in making a ‘difference’ to what the voters want in their choice for President.

Maybe the biggest factor in this election is or will be those voters who want to ‘smash’ the current political environment. The choice may be how to get rid of those politicians that have failed the public. Half the voters think it’s go with a non-politician and half think it’s go with a politician who has a lot of experience. A tie may just be a measure of how angry voters are with the present situation and who they are choosing to blame.

Why Are We Tied?:

We are tied because there is nothing that either side is presenting that makes a meaningful difference to the public. Flip a coin and come down on one or the other. What coin you flipped may be biased by some factor or other, but at the end of the day half the coins will come up heads and half tails. Do this with a large population and sample and unless there is something that makes a difference you are going to get a tie. If you choose the politician/non-politician coin, you still get 50-50. If you flip the Republican/Democrat coin you still get 50-50. Toss a man/woman coin and you get another tie. Even when you use a Trustworth-Clinton / Trustworth-Trump coin (no matter how low the trustworth level is) and we do not get a leader, we get a ‘dead-heat’. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Something To Consider: Testing Our Politicians

It’s not likely nor do I expect that the idea of testing our politicians across a number of psychological dimensions or on some mental and personality factors would be undertaken, I do see the great advantage to the nation in doing so. I am not proposing that this testing is any form of “qualification” for being allowed to run for office since there is no legal requirement for such to be elected, nor should there be. I propose that we test politicians only for the information that can be gleaned from the data. Such testing could provide insights into a candidate that may be importance to better understand the individuals that are striving for your vote.

I suspect that people are thinking that I am proposing an Intelligence test, however; I don’t think that an intelligence measure would be an overly meaningful indicator of a politician’s potential effectiveness or competency in office. After all, I suspect that we have had politicians who would have scored high in intelligence that performed just modestly to poorly, and we have had some who would have scored as basically average in intelligence who were excellent leaders. Of course, if a candidate couldn’t score above the level of a highly impaired intelligence rating there ought to be value in knowing that before one votes.

More important than intelligence, which one would hope all candidates would possess at a basic level, are various aspects of a person’s personality, social traits and behavioral attributes. These dimensions could inform a voter’s expectations of qualities that they are expecting in a candidate, or are not concerned that they possess or don’t possess.

Consider whether you would be comfortable in electing a candidate who didn’t have at least a normal level of empathy and compassion for others, or that couldn’t work well with anyone who challenged or disagreed with them. On the other side of the coin would you feel confident in voting for someone who exhibited highly sociopathic tendencies, that was prone to fits of rage and anger when frustrated, or if they had issues in distinguishing delusions from reality? The decision to vote for someone based on this information doesn’t tell you which way you should vote. You would still be making that decision based on all the issues and interests that are important to you. This additional information would just be more information that you can include in that decision. You may prefer a person who possess a higher degree of sociopathic tendencies than average; perhaps based on the view that such personality types do show up in successful individuals in organizations (not that all successful individuals must be sociopaths).

What about basic mental functions that indicates how normally a candidate’s brain is functioning? Shouldn’t you know if someone has a normal memory, is able to perform basic reasoning tasks, can comprehend information presented, or is able to make a decision without complete information and provide a reasoned explanation of how they arrived at their decision?

In obtaining this type of data about politicians, the public may gain a better understanding of what qualities and attributes have been associated with politicians that they have favored in the past. This data may also provide a means to better understanding aspects of our government. Are the officials in office typical of the general population, or do they differ in any unique ways? This information could also be useful and educational to politicians themselves by revealing facets of their make-up that may be contributing to the overall success or failure of government. Voters might learn that there is a connection between the people they have elected, the qualities that the politicians possess, and the results that they see. It may be that there is a “cause and effect” relationship between those you elect and what happens next.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Wrong Direction – What Is The Compass Again?

Americans have decided that they are not satisfied with how things are going, that the nation is going in the wrong direction. There are lots of reasons that are given: race relations, government, economy, jobs, crime/violence, immigration, National security, terrorism, guns, and maybe even taxes or healthcare. The order or priority of these reasons changes from time to time based on events in the news. So race relations spiked up with the police shootings of blacks, and the economy gives up a little ground as being the first place reason. But regardless of the ordering of reasons that people give the country is unsatisfied with the way things are going and are at only 17% satisfied.

Both Republican, Democratic and all the others Americans are unhappy. Being one of them, I can emphasize with the sentiment because I am not satisfied with the direction of the nation also. However, I haven’t been satisfied with the direction of the nation for decades, particularly with the political parties, the politicians, and many other facets of our society. So the current dissatisfaction level is not new to me, and it’s not new to the nation; we have been here before.  What then does it mean today and what rationale and logic would explain how we got here?

Race relations as an issue of concern and dissatisfaction has risen to a more salient and visible issue, so with the implied need to change the direction that the nation is going in, what would make the public happy? Change is required because: one, there can’t be change without something being different; two, the politicians are offering to make things better (which implies change); and three, there is something that the public thinks is wrong with how they see race relations affecting them. It’s this last one that is problematic. Why? Because I don’t for one second believe that everyone who is unhappy is unhappy for the same reasons, nor that the change that one politician would propose would suit everyone in the same way. If race relations were relatively stable over the last 20 years and have dropped of late then what restores the ‘status quo’ to where it was before and will that be sufficient? Recent events would suggest that there is not one-side to this and thus will require an approach that addresses underlying conditions. If those conditions can’t be agreed to then a solution is unlikely and thus the ‘change isn’t gonna come’.

On par with race is the government and the economy. Let’s take government first.
The dissatisfaction with the government has been a long-standing issue. There are those who are unsatisfied with government because it’s too big and some who thinks it too small. Government is rebuked because it’s too expensive and wasteful, and because it spends too little on critical national needs. Government is viewed as intrusive and abusive of citizens’ rights and lives, and it isn’t providing the necessary security and safety-net that citizens expect and deserve from their government. Yes, you’ve got it, the government is everyone’s “bad” guy. Of course this leads to a logical inconsistency; as they say, “You can have your cake and eat it to.”  But if government is bad and no one likes it, then who’s to blame? There is no element of the government that isn’t and wasn’t based on what the politicians that the “PUBLIC” elected caused to be the government. You can’t blame it only on the Republican or the Democratic party because both exist and have existed for decades (now you know why I am not satisfied with the direction of the nation) so the elected officials have collectively created the situation and conditions that the American people don’t find satisfying. Is this the “Establishment” concept that a large number of Americans are angry about and hate? These citizens are unhappy with the people who were elected in their states and for the presidency because they are politicians that don’t represent the people and don’t work for the people. 

Wait! They are angry with politician who were elected by the people who don’t want establishment types. Why then are they electing them over and over? You can’t have an establishment or an elite if you don’t elect them. It would seem that we have identified who some of the principle culprits are to blame for the government that we don’t like. That it’s the voters is an inconvenient thing to acknowledge so it probably won’t be viewed as how we expect and want our system of government to operate; we elect the government and we are responsible for what that gets us.

Now if you ask me do I think the government is well managed and effective; I will tell you, “No, I think that Congress and the Administration has failed significantly in how they have performed for decades.” But even here, there have been the occasional ‘blind squirrel finding a nut’ event so that not even our politicians have been 100% useless. This still doesn’t speak well for the voters who are so unhappy with things. If things are bad, then accept the responsibility and seek your elected officials on different terms than you have been using for decades.

The Economy is the more easily understood factor that Americans are unsatisfied about; but even here the reasoning and logic that is exhibited around the economy is disturbing. If the issue that is a more quantifiable area of America’s dissatisfaction than most, I wonder why it would be the case that we are more concerned and dissatisfied with the economy today than in the past without a reference to when in the past. Since the “great recession” in 2007-2009, the US economy has been improving which means that if the public is more dissatisfied today compared to when and why?  Would America be more satisfied if the economy were still in the shape it was in in 2008? 2010? 2012? 2014?

Now is the direction the economy is going in the wrong direction, or is it that we would prefer the economy to be farther along? So the direction is really the rate of change to a better and stronger economy?

I suspect that the issue of the economy being on the wrong track is more related to issues: jobs, trade agreements, financial stability, income inequality, and many other items. If this is correct, then the path forward needs to be solved around concrete issues and policies that can be acted upon. 

Unfortunately, here we are dependent upon the quality and talents of the elected officials that we vote into office. Again if we are dissatisfied with the results then we need to looks to those who we elected and put in charge. This is particularly a responsibility of Congress, since the President has less power to impact the economy than Congress. That Congress has been a spectacular failure in recognizing that they are the mechanism through which the government affects the economy comes as less of a surprise when one considers how willing the voters are to return members of Congress to their positions over and over.

If you don’t trust your politicians to do the job you want, then why are you voting for them? Isn’t that the “Wrong Direction” problem that we have in America? 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

“It’s Going to Be Rigged!” - An Interesting Perspective of America

The 2016 Election season is providing a remarkable window into the current American political environment. The view is particularly interesting in that it shines light onto the souls of the political parties. And what the public has seen isn’t necessarily a good thing for the parties, since as they say in politics: “There are two things you don’t want to see being made, sausage and legislation.”

There were accusations that the leaders of each party were trying to ‘rig’ the process. And there were efforts within each party that would support that there were those in the Parties’ committees that were operating along biased lines with preferences for or against one of the candidates. So surprisingly the public was reminded of something that it already knew but seem unable to integrate into their reasoning; that is, the public doesn’t trust politicians. But the fact that party leaders and functionaries were attempting to guide the primary processes doesn’t examine the most important aspects of those primaries and of the upcoming general election which is now being touted as “going to be rigged”.

Starting with the primaries, the ‘rigging’ claimed is closely associated with the parallel charge that the primaries were ‘unfair’. So the question is what was ‘rigged’ and ‘unfair’, and how did this rigging and unfairness get executed? The ‘rigging’ seems to vary by state, where each state’s Party committee define and control their primary processes. So some of the ‘rigging’ isn’t necessarily at a universal or national level but more local. Other efforts were directed at identifying weaknesses and vulnerabilities that could be used against one candidate.  So not only can’t the public trust politicians and the parties, but the politicians can’t trust the politicians and their own party.

This would all seem to be what Americans would expect of nations that are lead by an authoritarian, fascist, sectarian, oligarchy, or dictatorship style of government; however, Americans like to think that our nation is still a democratic system. So while citizens might find the parties’ interference as distasteful and unethical, does it allow them to actually ‘rig’ the primaries or the election?

In every state their respective primaries allowed the voters to choose their candidate. These voters were able to decide and choose which candidate that they wanted to support. Candidates won or lost a primary based on those votes. To ‘rig’ that process the only avenue that a party had was to convince the voter to choose their biased view over that of the voters’ own judgment. If the party voters think the process was ‘rigged’ then the voters were the individuals who ‘rigged’ the vote. The desires and intentions of the parties can try to persuade the voters to go with their preference, but the voters get to decide for themselves because that is not just Americans expect that is what they demand. In what primary were the voters denied their right to cast their vote for their choice?

There is another facet of the parties rigging their primaries, and of some nebulous entity or group that is ‘rigging’ the general election that requires some inspection. The leaders in each party were also elected by the voters, so the people who are claiming that the party is ‘rigging’ the process are people who the voters trusted and wanted representing them, and elected to office. If the system or the process is being ‘rigged’ it is being done by the people that the voters believed in. This is highly illogical, particularly since voters tend to reelect over and over the same individual. The voters have ‘rigged’ the system, as they choose both the candidates and the winning elected official. The states’ efforts to ensure that those who vote are legitimate and eligible voters would seem to make ‘rigging’ the election not just irrational but guaranteed to fail. The number of people that would be required to be involved would make ‘rigging’ the election impossible to execute and retain hidden; plus anyone competent person involved would be able to make the themselves enormously wealthy by blackmailing those involved.

The threat to the elections “being rigged” unsound, irrational, and unreasoned. The threat to the election is whether the voters are adequately informed and knowledgeable about the issues and problems facing the nation; and whether they understand the proposed policies and plans being contested, and the implications and the cost-benefits of those policies and plans. While there are a sizeable portion of the voter population that will make an emotional decision, America has to rely upon the judgment of those voters who will use intelligence, experience and vision to determine the winners of the next election. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

The “TRUST” Issue – A 2016 Election Dilemma

There is a perception of the Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates that neither is particularly trustworthy. This lack of trust is seen and spoken of as a major issue in the election, but since both are more or less equally distrusted one might ask if that renders the ‘Trust’ issue as irrelevant. The ‘Trust’-factor would be unimportant if it had the same and an equal effect on both contenders but that isn’t clearly the case. The polls may indicate that the distrust level may be nearly equivalent but the defining reason for distrust judgments are not specified in the poll and thus are objectively unknown. So what makes these candidates so untrusted compared to what the public expects?

Hold on! Who said that they are less trusted by the public than they ought to be? How trusted should a candidate for President be? I suppose one could look at past elections, if trust was polled. One might assume that on average half the voters would trust the ‘average’ candidate and half would not. On that basis Clinton and Trump are failing to meet the mark but perhaps not by an unreasonable degree as normal variations in such situations would rationally occur.

There is polling data on the ‘honesty and ethical standards’ that various professions have with the public. Firefighters, nurses, members of the military, and engineers are among the most highly trusted (ranging from 90% to 70% as high or highly trusted*). While on the other end of the ‘Trust’-spectrum; professions we don’t trust have Members of Congress with the highest levels of distrust** 64% (low or very-low trust ratings). Senators come in at 45% distrust levels, business executives at 32% and state governors at 31% untrusted. So on this comparative-basis, the presidential candidates are doing better than Members of Congress and only slightly less well than other occupations on the more untrusted than trusted side. So on the whole, our 2016 candidates are more or less consistent with where we would have expected them to be even absent their decision to run for president; that is, the majority of the public would not be predisposed to trust them.

Now this raises the question: “If most people didn’t trust them to start with, why would it matter that we don’t trust them now?”  If members of Congress and the Senate get elected over and over, and we don’t trust them; what is so extraordinary that most people don’t trust either candidate this time? Now there is an implication to the general distrust of our politicians that seems extremely important but I am going to leave that for a latter topic.

When we ‘Trust’ or don’t ‘Trust’ a candidate, what precisely does that mean? I am sure that I know what I mean, and that you know what you mean, and that we think we know what everyone else means but I of course know that that isn’t and can’t be true. Trust me.

If ‘Trust’-worthiness is important in how you decide to choose your candidate, or if not ‘your’ candidate at least who you pull the lever for, then having an understanding of what we mean when we say we ‘Trust’ or don’t ‘Trust’ is a reasonable expectation. I would say it’s a ‘necessary condition’ but that would presume that all voters make their choices based on an informed, reasoned, logical, and competent basis. That isn’t true, ‘Trust’ me, there are a significant number of voters who make their decisions on an emotional-basis. But back to the question of what do we mean to ‘Trust’ someone (or a candidate, if you have a lower standard for them then you have for others)? Objectively ‘Trust’ means to believe in the “integrity, ability, or character of a person”, to “have confidence or reliance” in them.  It means to have faith in and to depend upon someone to act according to your expectations regarding how they will act or perform. You may think that ‘Trust’ means something else completely but then how much a candidate is “Trusted” nor not would not make for a meaningful point of discussion.

It’s possible I suppose that the importance of “Trust” or lack-thereof in the 2016 elections is both an unreliable and very poor factor in making a voting decision without the ‘belief’ or ‘faith’ that you have imbued into you candidate being based on sound and reasoned knowledge. This raises the question of what does your judgment of ‘Trust’ indicate that a candidate will do? It would also require that what they will do is something that is desirable; after all, you can ‘trust’ a thief to steal from you but I doubt that that is what you want or that it would be in your best interest.

From my perspective, ‘Trust’ in the political arena may not be practical, meaningful, or desirable. The desire to be able to ‘Trust’ a candidate or eventually the elected individual may seem to be what you would want, but only if you knew what you expected to be done and accomplished by that individual. That would mean that you had to be competently informed about their plans, policies and the requirements that those plans and policies necessitated. If our political process actually dealt with issues and policies and plans that are being contested then we might be a basis for ‘Trust’, but if there is no competent and rigorous discussion and analysis of the “contest of ideas” then this election may be little more than another exercise in paying your preferred dealer for your addictive ‘political drug of choice’.

Note: * Based on poll data from Gallup.
            ** Distrust is being inferred from receiving Low or Very-Low trust rating.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Answer The Question: A New Political Debate Format

The 2016 Election looks to be even less a ‘contest of ideas’ than a ‘marketplace of fear’. While there are three debates scheduled (but not guaranteed) between the Presidential candidates we may see an embarrassing illustration of current American politics, even if they simply continue the disappointing experiences of the last several presidential elections. Under the prevailing methods and conditions these debates will likely be ineffective in providing any meaningful examination of national issues or policy; but under these conditions we can expect that they will likely manage to achieve a new low in modern American politics.

One of the causal factors that produces this sorry state and outlook is that current political debates are controlled and managed by the political parties to prevent the public from any substantive view of their respective candidates. This has allowed the parties to twist and contort the objectives of the debates to be opportunities for ‘yet another’ series of campaign sound-bite. This may be a disservice to the voters but that is not a concern of the parties.

To restore the intended purpose and value of American political debates or to actually improve the value of political debates there is a way for a candidate, party, news-media entity, or even other public/private organizations to uses a modern, innovative debate format that political parties can’t control except for the information that they provide which often is the very thing that they were trying to avoid. Today’s technology allows not just the politicians and parties to direct and control their messages but allows others to impose a political and public accountability to those seeking the voters’ decision to elect them.

The new debate format is designed to be unconstrained in time (when it occurs), space (how much support information can be provided beyond the basic answer’s statement), number (no fixed agreement by the parties is required), topics (subjects are not approved by candidates), or required coordination of schedules. In essence the new format allows for a topic to be examined and compared between candidates so that the public can get an answer to the questions asked and not an answer to a topic that the candidate wanted the question to be about. Additionally, this format provides for a simple and direct method for knowledgeable ‘experts’ to provide assessments on the content of an answer, including any political orientation that the subject-matter experts might have.

Since a scheduled debate isn’t required a candidate or party can’t say that their schedule and commitments don’t allow them to engage on the topics, because their ability to respond is under their own control; and if they can’t manage to provide a response, what does that indicate about their campaign’s/candidate’s understanding of an issue and competency in addressing it?

The debate format is a web-based methodology that presents issues, questions, answers, comparisons, assessments, and follow-ups and rebuttals. Each of these elements of the new methodology is asynchronous. An issue is identified and posted on the sponsoring web-site. Initial questions on the issue are sent to the campaigns and posted on the web-site with a “Responses Due By:” date. On the “Due By” date the answers are posted.

The responses can be evaluated by selected groups of individuals who have a designated “subject matter expertise” (SME) relevant to the topic under debate. This group would prepare any follow-up questions that were deemed appropriate to get a better understanding of the meaning, position and policy indicated in the response. The follow-up questions would be posted and sent to the campaigns to be answered by another Due By date. The campaigns would be informed that they can provide any rebuttal statements to their opponent’s answers that they would like to have incorporated into their answers on the issue.

The SMEs would incorporate the follow-up responses in their evaluations, including any rebuttal information, and provide their analysis and summary of the response on the issue. The assessments and summaries would be posted on the web-site’s pages for this issue.

This process can be repeated for each issue that is to be raised. This allows the debate to occur over weeks rather than constrained to just a few hours that can’t cover more than just a few issues.

Moving political debates on relevant national issues to the internet puts the information that a candidate or party is offering as their rationale for voters to choose their visions enables the voters to acquire answers to questions that are important to them. It also provides a channel where voters may see information about issues that they hadn’t paid much attention to heretofore. “An informed public” may not be just a necessary condition for a democracy but could actually become an attainable goal.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Making Things The Way They Were. A Physics Problem

The Brexit decision is being showcased as a premonition of the American election, and there is no doubt that there are factors and variables that come into play in both. But sharing some or all of the variables doesn’t mean that they are the same, or even close, with respect to how those factors create the end-resulting conditions of ‘reality’. In fact, in order for anyone to posit that the degree to which these factors and outcomes are the same would imply that the values of the variables are essentially the same.  This assumes that the two ‘equations’ comprising these factors are the same, or the expectation of a common outcome is even more ludicrous.  If there were just two or three factors of significance, then attempting to quantify and compare them and the resulting ‘reality’ would be a reasonable assessment of how similar are the two results? Even if there are dozens or hundreds of variables but only two or three that dominate the equation then the other factors don’t matter much anyway. So whether the Brexit situation and America’s 2016 political election are equivalent would depend upon an understanding of the factors that they share, the factors that they don’t share, and the overall culmination of what results from them.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to enumerate some of the factors that we hear are what Brexit and the American election share. The news and media (I do not equate the two as the same) have been presenting a couple of ‘reasons’, which I will re-term ‘factors’, that were substantive to the British voters in their decisions. The short-list would include:

Sovereignty:      The UK voters want to run their own nation without the influence and constraints of the other EU nations, and particularly the EU bureaucracy. The commonality of this sentiment with an American counterpart is at best crude or requires a significant bit of contortions. But hey, let’s see how far one might be able to ‘stretch’ rationality.  Perhaps this is akin to the “states versus federal” authority issue, or the “local” versus “a DC government department”, or it may just be the “Us versus Them” mentality that pervades our political parties or those seeking an ‘easy’ answer to all their problems. I think that there is an emotional context that applies between the UK and the US along these lines, but an emotional appeal isn’t an actual connection or comparable situation that would relate to the having the same origins, the same impacts, or producing or being addressed by some common approach to government or social environment. One big difference between the US and the UK is that the US is and has been a sovereign nation since its inception.  So regaining a ‘sovereign’ government and social approach is somewhat of a contradiction with the situation that Britain’s voters were seeking via exiting the EU. So the emotions may be more a shared factor but the logic and reality would be quite questionable. This means that it will be a factor in the US election but hopefully there is more than just the ‘feel-good’ act without any substantive purpose; because there are cause and effect consequences to an act regardless of whether you understood what they would be or not.

 “The Economy”: British voters were also motived by a slumping, stagnant and unequal economy. Yes, just like in the US (and in most/all other nations) the recovery from the last economic crisis that toppled the unstable and irrational financial monstrosities that we, them, and everyone else created and participated in; the UK voters were unhappy, unsatisfied and mostly angry about the economic reality that they are experiencing now and for several years. The economy in the US has been slow in recovering. The economy in the UK, and in the EU, and in the rest of the world has also been experiencing slow, no, or other degrees of recovery/non-recovery; but while they share some causal factors (like the financial mortgage-debt crisis), there are numerous other factors that they do not. The EU countries did not and do not operate in as cohesive a manner as their counterparts in the US do. [You have to accept for argument sake that our states are the counterparts to the EU nations, or it’s really hard to equate some of the economic factors involved in the UK/UE environment to the US’s economic environment.]

The UK voters it would appear think that they would be better off if they were not part of the EU because of either advantages in being ‘independently’ able to manage their economic relationships both internally and externally, or in not being subject to the actions and consequences of the other EU nations. Equating this to where the US is today would seem to be more of the UK wants to become like the US which has its own independent control over it economic decisions. So it would seem hard to argue that what UK voters want isn’t the same thing that US voters are seeking even though both are unhappy with the current economic climates in their respective countries.

It’s possible I suppose that there are more factors involved in any (or all) nation’s economic reality; but how likely is it that factors like Trade, Resources, Technology, Competition, Education, Infrastructure, Investment, or Taxes have any relationship to a country’s, a union’s, or the world’s economy? Oh, yeah! An economy is influenced by more than the style of government a nation follows, or even the ‘who’ provides the leadership of a government. So the Brexit decision and the US’s upcoming election not only won’t be, but can’t, address or resolve via as simple-minded an approach as the economy can be solely dealt with by who runs the government (sovereign, union, or pick-your-favorite-descriptor).

The economy may be voted on like the Brexit case, but are we sure that that was based on reason or on emotion? And regardless of what prompts the vote, the situational realities are not the same.

Jobs and Trade: Brexit is supposedly going to improve the job situation and the trade situation in the UK. Well, that’s a position that was argued by one side, but many people on the other side argued exactly the opposite. Which one was right? Well, both and neither. Leaving the EU will change things, so some will be good, and some will be bad, and some won’t change much at all; but what the end-result is only time, leadership, investment, trade, competition, technology, and you-know a few other things will tell.

There should also be a consideration, a recognition actually, that the concept of ‘returning’ jobs is premised that ‘restoring’ the jobs of before (of the past) is practical, reasoned and even desirable. The objective is a ‘nice to want’ concept and would appear to solve a part of a nation’s jobs problem; but the objective isn’t the same thing as a proof, nor is it necessarily beneficial. The jobs issue isn’t whether the US or the UK gets its old jobs back but whether it can create new, good and productive jobs that enable a superior and competitive economy. If your leaders focus on the wrong approaches and policies, then you are not likely to reach the desired goals; it’s sort of a ‘cause - effect’ thing.

Immigration: The Brits were motivated by immigration issues and concerns. Some of these related to jobs, to security, to social change, and to other diverse factors that evoked a Brexit-solution. Just as there are issues that share a name and a conceptual arena, there is little comparison between the UK’s and the US’s immigration realities. So this would call the equivalence of the two realities into question, except perhaps with respect to the level of fear evoked, or the anger, or name your emotional state.

Maybe one of the sub-issues around immigration is a key factor in both, that is meaningfully the same.
Borders: The “Protecting ‘Our’ Borders” theme differs not some much in sentiments as in realities. The UK’s borders are currently defined and operated within the context of the EU’s policies that allow (even promote) the ability to move between EU nations more or less unimpeded outside of the security processes that apply across the EU. The US’s borders are managed under US policies and processes, which is what Brexit would bring about in the UK (more or less). So the US’s view isn’t to have the control but to apply a different level and nature of control. Brexit voters want to stop ‘outside’ immigration that threatens jobs, security (see next), culture, or ???. The notion of being invaded by a huge number of illegal aliens doesn’t appear to be the motivating factor that the influx of people from Central and South America into the US is and has been for 30-plus years (or longer). The impetuous for immigration to the UK would include economic and social reasons that are also applicable to the US’s but the situations and origins of US’s illegal immigration problem not identical.  The solutions for each are certainly not the same either in terms of methods, costs, consequences and even goals.

Security: Are UK security concerns and US security concerns fundamentally the same. The goal is of course. In terms of issues/problems related to immigration, the UK and the US face different realities in many ways. The answer can thus have the goal of Security, but that is the goal it isn’t the policies or processes that will achieve the goal. Will Brexit improve the UK’s security? We can be certain that it either will or it won’t, but that outcome is not a forgone fact it is a to be determined result with all its corresponding consequences to the how it works and works out. In the US, the same laws of physics cause and effect will operate. What we do will begin the process that turns into effects that follow, but if you think you have an answer without a well-defined plan and approach is just more “wishful thinking” (which isn’t actual ‘thinking’ in the realm of reality).

Culture:  I don’t know how much a factor the “culture of the UK” was in their Brexit voting, but I am sure that it played some role for some voters. Anyone who thinks that the UK’s culture and the US’s culture are equivalent in voting for Brexit to the US’s election voting will have make the case that they are the same; unless it’s nothing more than a ‘Keep the UK for Britons’ equivalent to ‘Keep America for Americans’ another meaningless slogan that supports other objectives.

Government Leadership: “The Elites” versus “The Non-Elites”
Now here is an issue that seems to resonate in a significant group within both the UK’s and US’s populations. I emphasize with the public’s dissatisfaction, disgust, and frustration with the politicians. However once again not clear that the situations are the same for the UK and the US. It is true that the political leaders in both nations are elected by the public. They are elected from the different parties that put forth candidates in their elections. There are many more than the two dominant US parties in the UK; but those who win are elected by their voters. Now one might argue that if your government (US or UK or ??) is run by an elite-class of politicians that you choose them. If these elite politicians aren’t looking out for you, then why did you elect them exactly? If you didn’t or don’t like them, then why do you keep electing them over and over? Perhaps they weren’t ‘elite’ when you elected them, but become corrupted into an ‘elite’ once they got into power. If this is true, why would the next set of politicians that you elect not be subject to the same ‘elite’ corruption?

Wait! Is it that the ‘establishment’ politicians are ‘elite’ in regards to some other criteria? Are they folks who see themselves as ‘smart’ and represent a class of people who think they are better than everyone else, and deserve to govern? But why did you elect them?  Now personally, I take argument with many people (perhaps the vast majority) that think politicians are ‘smart’ or ‘elite’. If anything, I think that it is much more likely that we (and the British) have lowered our expectations, or requirements and our desires for individuals who might be considered some of the ‘best and brightest’ to serve as our representatives.  I sometimes contemplate whether I think the US was served better by individuals elected that were ‘just your average’ person or who were ‘a cut above’ the norm. I don’t see our American Founding Fathers as simple, average men that were just good folk like everyone else. I would contend that the issue isn’t whether a politician is a member of the ‘elite’/’establishment’/party or not but whether they present sound, reasoned, and productive policies that have some basis in achieving benefits for the nation and people.

A Physics Problem: Looking at the Brexit decision and viewing upcoming American election, there is a lesson to be learned from looking at these events as a physics problem. There is a problem and you are seeking a solution, an answer to your needs. To successfully solve the problem, you can’t choose what you want the answer to be unless all you want and expect is to express your opinion. If you actually want the world, the reality, to change into what you want then you need to do much more. You need to understand the problem, and this is not easy but it is unavoidable. You need to define what you want to happen and how that will end in some physical conditions and circumstances that achieve your goals. Oh yes, and you need to define your goals. I don’t mean just say: “I want” this or that to be, but to explain how the goal can be determined to have been reached.  You have to deal with all the things that exist where we are now, where we are to go, how we are going to get there, and when do we know that we are on track to reaching those goals. This is not the work of emotions. You don’t get there just because you are angry or afraid.

Now for the part of the physics lesson that you won’t like at all. You cannot go back to when things were the way you want them to be. You can’t go back there because you don’t or can’t control all the variables that would be required. You can’t go back there because you won’t accept the cost to do it, if you could even find a way. And here’s the killer, you can’t go back to then because it never was the way you ‘want’ it to be again.

So learn to deal with the laws of physic, cause and effect, and nothing stays the same. The key to our success as a nation (or any nation’s) is to do what Americans have done before, seek to do it better than we have done so far or that anyone else has done to date.