Category Archives: Politics

The Red and the Blue

Our representational government is frustrating, to say the least.

We have political leaders at the city, county, state and national levels, and the political affiliations of the levels above you may be quite different from your own leanings. Often it feels like one is not represented at all, and even disenfranchised, because mechanisms are in place to diminish a person’s concerns and voice. I feel sometimes like I’m at the center of a Matryoshka Doll, with different and indifferent political parties around me.

For example, if I’m Blue and in a state that has mostly Red politicians (for my Congressional district, Senators, and Governor), and I reach out to my Congressperson or Senator or Governor with matters of importance to me, I usually feel rather belittled by their quick party-line response. I know that’s how representation works, and I should keep trying to bring my concerns, but still. If I move to a Blue county or state, would I feel better? A little bit, perhaps.

And on a national level, we have a Red president that cares nothing for the concerns of the Blue voters who he mentions with vitriol. And who (even though impeached) has been kept in office by the quick dismissal of the Red Senate. And a presidential election process that gives rural, less-populated states more power to elect a president. And now the Supreme Court that has judged that states with laws that make all electors vote as a group are fine, because sadly it is constitutional.

Part of the problem is the extreme polarization in our country, fed by our fragmented media and news sources. Another part of the problem is the lobbyists and the money, the PACS and Super PACS, exacerbated by even more money. Another part of the problem is the widening income inequality in our country, which just worsens the problems. Another part of the problem is the pervasive racism that still remains in our institutions and politics. But what’s the solution?

And now we have the pandemic.

Further Reading:

https://www.pewresearch.org/topics/political-polarization/

Charts: America’s Political Divide, 1994–2017

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Separation of Powers

The notions of “Separation of Powers” and “Checks and Balances” are intended to work within our three-branched government to guard against an abuse of power or dereliction of duty by any branch in regard of their responsibilities, by giving oversight abilities to the other two. If instead two branches work in collusion or bad faith to guard against any rectification by the third, then this separation breaks down.

Specifically, the Senate under the current majority is approving federal judges just as fast as possible to alter the political makeup of the Judiciary for decades to come, since they have life-time appointments. You may ask why are so many seats vacant? Because the Senate quelled the approval of the previous president’s nominees, including one to the Supreme Court. Many more examples exist, unfortunately.

This built-in ability of checking and balancing seems that it’s just not working as well as it should. The conservative party as it exists today relentlessly speaks of “broken government” and then goes about to indeed break it, or to “drain the swamp” and fill positions with the swampiest candidates possible. Do we need a fourth branch of government to protect us from this dangerous predicament?

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_powers

Separation of Powers Metaphor

https://twitter.com/search?q=%22separation%20of%20powers%22

https://www.google.com/search?q=”separation+of+powers”&tbm=nws

https://www.google.com/search?q=”separation+of+powers”&tbm=isch

[*12.53]

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Crisis-Response and Covid-19

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) has written several articles recently on the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 on society. Their great-sounding motto is that the RSA “believes in a world where everyone is able to participate in creating a better future.” I’ve enjoyed several of their animated videos over time, with signature black and red colors and sped-up hand drawing illustrating a featured talk.

I’ve been meaning to read a few of their recent articles on Covid-19, but hadn’t until I spotted an interesting two-by-two matrix labeled Crisis-Response Measures. Actions or practices that are performed during and after a crisis are divided over four cells as to whether they are stopped or started in those two times. Thus we examine the actions or practices that are:

  • Jettisoned (Let Go): Stopped During Crisis, then Stopped Post-Crisis
  • Transitory (End): Started During Crisis, then Stopped Post-Crisis
  • Restarted: Stopped During Crisis, then Started Post-Crisis
  • Amplified: Started During Crisis, then Started Post-Crisis

When in the middle of a crisis, one often is so busy that there’s no time to think about what one should be or should not be doing, and to be in that situation is certainly poor planning. Plus we should try to determine what we should plan to be doing in the future, thus giving our planning a normative consideration. Just because we’ve been doing something before the crisis or began something because of it doesn’t mean we should continue.

Indeed, there may be few or even no reasons to go back to the old ways of doing things, and a crisis is a grand opportunity to change the bad and maybe find good new practices and institutions for maintaining them. Of course when good and bad are in great dispute you have a lot of difficulty in coming to a consensus of action. And being in the midst of a crisis is perhaps not the best of times to come to a meeting of the political minds.

Also, these charts don’t describe the actions that are transformations of old actions, only distinguishing them as being new or old. Anything started during the crisis is new (transitory and amplified) and anything stopped during the crisis is old (jettisoned and restarted). However, there are many great ideas in these essays and we certainly need to build bridges to a future that we can look forward to living in.

Further Reading:

https://www.thersa.org/

https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2020/04/change-covid19-response

https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2020/05/stabilisation-transition-bridges

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Scenario Thinking and Covid-19

Scenario Planning, Analysis, or Thinking is a technique for probing into possible futures when you are anticipating or overwhelmed by tumultuous challenges. One often starts by examining two factors that have both great Importance and Uncertainty and then considering two extremes of each. For their four different mixtures, you can posit causes, how to recover from bad outcomes, what actions would be favorable for all scenarios, etc. In other words, one can develop related stories about these different futures.

In these slides by authors Steven Weber and Arik Ben-Zvi, the two important and uncertain factors are Public Health and Economics, both affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and for their initial purposes independent of each other. For public health, the disease could kill far more than estimated (a secondary wave) or kill less (vanish like a miracle). For the economic impact, the toll could be sustained (a long term depression) or the recovery could be relatively quick (v-shaped). So the two factors and their extremes are

    • Economic recovery is slow (depression, recession), or fast (v-shaped)
    • Health and death toll is worse (than estimates), or better (yay)

The four scenarios that are named are basically

    • Economy good, Health good: Americans Win
    • Economy bad, Health good: Fractured USA
    • Economy good, Health bad: Resilient USA
    • Economy bad, Health bad: Coronavirus Wins

and the scenario stories are told with respect to January of 2021 at the next state of the union address. Each of these scenarios are quite detailed and then followed by Insights and Implications for all. Often Scenario Thinking is used for more distant future analysis, but this shows it can be used for a mere nine months as well.

Further Reading:

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6663482861041012737/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scenario_planning

Continue reading Scenario Thinking and Covid-19

The Eisenhower Matrix, Revisited

I don’t take responsibility at all.

There’s going to be a lot of death.

— Donald Trump, 45th President of the USA.

Above is the Eisenhower Matrix, but below detailed for the current president in this pandemic year.

Do First: Deny, diminish, blame. Say the coronavirus is a hoax, that it is under control and cases will go to zero, and that it will vanish with the spring. Blame previous administrations for all mistakes (bad tests that don’t exist, lack of Federal stockpiles), news media that are critical or ask probing questions (nasty, no-talent), and China. Pass on tests offered by WHO. Criticize states and medical professionals for asking for needed ventilators and PPE.

Eliminate: Eliminate pandemic response team created by Obama in 2017. Fire public servants for doing their jobs (Inspector Generals, civil servants, state department individuals). The PREDICT initiative for tracking potentially dangerous viruses was eliminated in September of 2019 when the funds ran out. In addition, eliminate (almost) everyone in the administration that might tell the president that he is wrong or making a bad decision. Just in: eliminate the top oversight IG for the 2 trillion dollar virus relief funds.

Delegate: Delegate critical decisions and coordination to unqualified individuals, such as VP Mike Pence and security-whatever Jared (“the federal stockpile is ours”) Kushner. Say the states need to find their own ventilators and PPE, and then use federal government to intercept their orders. Delegate everything that is difficult or might make this president look bad, so they can take the blame. (“I don’t know them.”)

Do Last: Take credit for doing a “great” job and having “great” ratings (and continuously throughout). Feel good if there are only 100 to 240 thousand American deaths. Expect a grateful nation to re-elect him for a second term. Take a bow (hopefully out)!

Further Reading:

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2018/07/07/the-eisenhower-matrix/

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The Interpersonal Circumplex

May I have your attention please. The following citizens have been declared unmutual: Number 6.”

— From the TV show The Prisoner

Here we have another diagram based on the work of Timothy Leary (the other being the Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness), a simple chart defined by two axes. The vertical axis is currently and commonly thought of as agency (as well as power, control, assertiveness, and dominance) and the horizontal axis as communion (as well as love, agreeableness, friendliness, and affiliation).

The diagram is usually shown with concentric circles centered on the intersection of the axes, inviting continuous twofold measurements and plotting for the factors of dominance and affiliation. Thus it allows comparisons for the different quantified interactions of individuals within a group, perhaps as a metric for social cohesion and its opposite, fragmentation.

It is quite similar to the scheme for CM/CR (Conflict Management and Conflict Resolution), except that the Interpersonal Circumplex (IC) is a tool for understanding psychological and sociological behavior and traits, and CM/CR is apparently more often used in the business and political world. The IC also has commonalities with Grid-Group Cultural Theory, a notion used in sociological studies.

I first ran across something very much like the IC in Anthony Stevens’s “Ariadne’s Clue,” being used as a model for mythological solidarity and divergence. However, Leary is not credited but instead the primate studies of Chance and Jolly (1970) are cited for their work in intimidation and attraction, or agonic and hedonic modes of attention and interaction.

I would think that the IC could be used effectively to analyze the sorry state of politics in these “United States”, as domination and affiliation play their tug-of-war for superiority. I see some interesting papers by Kenneth Locke (2013), and of course I’m also thinking of the political work of George Lakoff as well, but I don’t see any use of the circumflex for Lakoff’s work.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpersonal_circumplex

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Leary

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5045262/

https://psychology.wikia.org/wiki/Interpersonal_circumplex

John M. Oldham, Andrew E. Skodol, Donna S. Bender (eds.) / The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Personality Disorders

Christopher J. Hopwood, Abby L Mulay, Mark H Waugh (eds.) / The DSM-5 Alternative Model for Personality Disorders: Integrating Multiple …

Anthony Stevens / Ariadne’s Clue: a guide to the symbols of mankind (1998)

M. R. A. Chance and C. Jolly / Social Groups of Monkeys, Apes, and Men (1970)

Kenneth D. Locke / Circumplex Scales of Intergroup Goals: An Interpersonal Circle Model of Goals for Interactions Between Groups
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167213514280

Images of the Interpersonal Circumplex:
https://www.google.com/search?q=interpersonal+circumplex&client&tbm=isch

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2019/07/19/conflict-management-and-conflict-resolution/

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2019/08/19/grid-group-cultural-theory-v2/

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2019/02/07/the-eight-circuit-model-of-consciousness/

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The Fourth Estate

As the basic institutions and fabric of our democracy come under general attack from within our very own government, I am reminded of this fourfold, long ago enlarged from the original but variable threefold of the estates of the realm. The journalism of the free press still remains a very important part of our society and has long served us well, shining a disinfecting light on the misdeeds of powerful and corrupt elements of the wealthy class, and yes, even some of those in the leadership of religious institutions.

Of course, the very same powerful and corrupt want to attack the scrutiny of the media by childish name-calling and vilification: “enemy of the people”, “lame-stream media”, and other silly phrases that encourage glad-handing and back-slapping, winking and smirking. But these attacks are extremely serious in their intention to weaken and transform a press geared towards informing the ordinary individual, and substitute for it an instrument for propaganda and misinformation serving the puissant.

As newspapers and news magazines lose readers, and traditional television network news shows lose viewers, the internet has provided a multitude of new ways for the “common” individual to be mislead, to be encouraged to give into base and false narratives, and to appeal to tribal mentalities of “us versus them”. I can barely see how this disorder might ultimately benefit the wealthy, but how does this serve the “clergy” of religious organizations that speak of peace and brotherhood yet side with a destructive, hateful agenda?

Oh look, some are calling blogging and social media a “fifth estate”. Piffle!

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estates_of_the_realm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Estate

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_Estate

At first I wanted to put “Free Press” into the fourfold below, but choose “Free Lunch” instead because I didn’t want it to be too political. Oh, well.

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2018/07/11/free-four/

Also, this:

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2019/10/aaron-sorkin-mark-zuckerberg-facebook-open-letter

[*11.129]

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Capitalistic Values

Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!

― Ebenezer Scrooge (post ghosts) in “A Christmas Carol”, by Charles Dickens

I’ve been thinking about the fourfold shown above off and on for the past two years because the US federal government (consisting of the 115th Congress and the 45th President) are by majority members of the conservative “grand old” party. This government hasn’t done much except cater to the wealthy and powerful, undo environmental protections, estrange our world allies, and destroy our institutions.

Since socialism in any form is anathema to this administration, capitalism is king, and not capitalism with a conscious either. So I present to you four causes as means or four values as ends of capitalism. These values are principles that only a Scrooge could love!

For the efficient cause (left quadrant), instead of intentional actions I have chosen the value of Money. Finances, wealth, and currency are other synonyms. Money grants the bearer supreme choice in what they can obtain or choose to do. Laws try to restrict the choices that money can be used for or the circumstances where it can be used.

For the material cause (bottom quadrant), instead of substantive parts I have chosen the value of Property. Ownership and capital are related concepts. You really can’t use something to make something else unless you own it, so owning as much as possible is paramount!

For the final cause (right quadrant), instead of normative performance or function I have chosen the value of Power. Influence, capability, potential, authority, capacity are all related. To find out if power is an end in itself, ask the capitalist!

For the formal cause (upper quadrant), instead of necessary structure I have chosen the value of Mastery. Information, understanding, knowledge, or purview are options, but not as nicely nuanced as mastery. Power is nice but without mastery it’s aimless. Mastery is great but without power it’s useless.

As more and more wealth is acquired by fewer and fewer individuals, it may be time to rethink what our actions as a nation have given us on these last dark days of 2018. But a nice incremental change is coming next year and it is none too soon. Put that in your Christmas pipe and “smock” it!

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebenezer_Scrooge

Some might think that since I promote a fundamental physicalism (informed by fourfolds) that I endorse economic materialism or even a predatory capitalism “red in tooth and claw”. Physicalism is a metaphysical stance towards the natural world whereas economic materialism is usually thought to be one of the bad aspects of consumer culture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicalism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_materialism

A tip of the hat to Richard Neil Abbott for the Scrooge quote! Please check out his blog at

http://www.unchangingchange.com

[*9.192]

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The Eisenhower Matrix

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.

— Dwight Eisenhower, 34th President of the USA.

For your self improvement, here is a simple two by two matrix that can help you decide how to prioritize your “To Do” list. Sort everything into four groups, depending on whether it is important or not, and whether it is urgent or not:

  • Important & Urgent : Do First
  • Not Important & Urgent : Delegate
  • Important & Not Urgent : Do Later
  • Not Important & Not Urgent : Eliminate

Further Reading:

https://blog.trello.com/eisenhower-matrix-productivity-tool-trello-board?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=paid-content&utm_content=trello-blog-4&utm_campaign=trello_pocket_sponsor-content-h218

Other images of the Eisenhower Matrix:

https://www.google.com/search?q=eisenhower+matrix&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjon7_y9fbbAhUxwlkKHam9BEgQsAQIKw&biw=1398&bih=985

[*10.120]

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Political Fourfolds

sq_politicalToday I present an example of a political fourfold. Frequently they have two factors: first, between the personal and the economic, and second, between liberty and security, or freedom and control. The quadrants that result can have different labels, but the one above is essentially the Nolan Chart, consisting of Authoritarian, Conservatism, Libertarian, and Liberalism.

  • Libertarian (personal freedom, economic freedom)
  • Authoritarian (personal control, economic control)
  • Conservatism (personal control, economic freedom)
  • Liberalism (personal freedom, economic control)

But you can read this anytime! This is an important day in United States politics so I urge everyone that can to please get out and vote!

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nolan_Chart

Images of “Political Quadrants”:

https://www.google.com/search?q=political+quadrants&biw=1609&bih=888&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjBo7upp5nQAhXHwVQKHZXuB28QsAQIGg#imgrc=_

Notes:

Well that went poorly.

Another political or ideological fourfold is Anarchism, Radicalism, Conservatism, and Liberalism. This appears in Hayden White’s “Metahistory” but I’m unsure of its previous history.

[*3.172, *7.31, *9.172]

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