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5449002019_c15cd9cc3a_b_editI have awoken to an America that I do not recognize.

The 2016 election shows that what I thought I knew about national politics is wrong and I feel humbled.

Nearly all of the expert analyses of the election turned out flawed including my own amateur efforts.

What is frustrating about the failure of professional and academic analyses of this election is that the methods used to project outcomes are the same methods used to explain the outcomes.

That makes it hard to trust any analysis as to why Trump and the GOP succeeded against expectations; it also makes it hard to trust analyses of what Trump is doing and where our country is going.

A source of error in the projections was that the pollsters and the media did not accurately represent the portion of the electorate who made the difference and that turns out to be half of the voters.

That omission is important to reflect upon because the nearly 60 million people who elected Donald Trump are misread by those of us who were caught unawares on election night.

Trump supporter and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel provides a clue about that misreading;

“I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media always is taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously, but not literally.” [1]

Thiel’s distinction makes all the difference in how we interpret one another across the political divide.

For instance, I suspect that many on the left suppose that Trump cannot practically deliver on promises that he made in the campaign and conclude that this inconsistency will disillusion his supporters and weaken his base.

That conclusion follows only if Trump supporters interpret his Duck-Rabbit_illusionpromises literally and I have come to believe that Trump voters construct his meaning not all literally, but symbolically.

If there are multiple ways to make alternate meanings out of the same words, we must strive to comprehend all of those meanings together.

Unless the people on the opposite sides of the political divide become visible and clear to one another the prospects for national unity will continue to dim.

In the political struggle that fractures America, most of us are boxing with shadows.

I do have one data point to rely on in my account of this election because in August I attended a Trump rally in Everett, WA.

I wanted to find out personally what attraction this unconventional candidate held for his followers.

I want to tell my progressive colleagues and readers that Tump supporters are not bad people; not deplorable.

I talked with a dozen rally attendees and observed hundreds and for the most part, I liked them as individuals.

The rally was thousands large and had a festive atmosphere with families, kids dancing and no physical violence that I witnessed.

The campaign rhetoric was jarring to my ear and I had difficulty referencing what people told me.

They all said that the economy is failing, the military is in decline, billionaires are incorruptible and that America’s core values have been undermined.

None of it looks that way to me, but I did not argue, I listened and listening may be the most important part of dialog.

In academia and on the left of center we have not been listening to half of the electorate and we paid the price for that insensibility on election night.

candle-335965_960_720Perceiving the need to listen to people whose ideas we reject lights a path to a way forward for those of us who value dialog and the exchange of ideas as a means of growth.

The opportunity is to step up to the challenge of creating conversations between people who are not hearing and seeing one another.

This conversation is possible because we all have so much in common.

This conversation is hard because we generally disbelieve what the other side sees as true.

This conversation is necessary because finding our common ground is the one hope that we have to transcend our growing national chasm of ideologies.

To Trump supporters reading this I want to say that those of us who emphasize justice, equity and individual rights are not bad or deplorable either.

We are operating with caricatures of one another, you and I, and it is to our mutual interest to understand how those false images come about and to what purpose.

You know as well as I that election victories are temporary and the political pendulum will swing back in time, so what matters to the good of our nation is how we manage the change together.

I genuinely want to understand what you think and what you trust and what kind of world you aspire to.

flag-american-heart_editWhen enough of us recognize the reflections of ourselves in the human beings on the other side, the bridge building will begin.

I pledge to work towards producing opportunities for political reconciliation and human communication across our community.

I hope that you, dear reader, will join that effort in your own way to make America work together again.

 

Sources
[1] Roller, E. Peter Thiel Wants You to Take Trump Seriously, but Not Too Seriously. November 1, 2016.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/opinion/campaign-stops/peter-thiel-wants-you-to-take-trump-seriously-but-not-too-seriously.html

Image Acknowledgements

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https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5298/5449002019_c15cd9cc3a_b.jpg

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/Duck-Rabbit_illusion.jpg

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https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2014/05/02/12/41/candle-335965_960_720.jpg

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http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=85942&picture=flag-american-heart

voteAdept politicians pay attention to voting bocs, which are aggregations of citizens who share interests that influence their voting.  Religion, ethnicity, and age are common issue clusters around which voting blocs form.

A voting bloc that has been neglected in the 2016 Presidential campaign is dead people.

It is fair to say that the 2016 Presidential election is a grave decision for voters, but it is a quite different matter that dead people register to vote in significant numbers and many of them do vote.

It is true that electoral officials work to prevent dead people from voting because they have no voting rights; still many of them vote anyway.

Election officials attempt to limit dead people voting by comparing voter registration roles and voting records against the Death Master File maintained by the Social Security Administration.image-20150417-3241-dmi4mw_cropped

When dead people vote and are found out it is considered election fraud.

People who assist dead people with voting are charged with election fraud as was recently the case with an 88 year old Illinois woman, Audrey R. Cook.

Her husband of 66 years, Vic Cook, recently applied for absentee ballots to vote in the 2016 election but died before they could complete them together.

So Audrey went ahead and completed Vic’s for him and sent both ballots in.

Vic’s ballot was identified as a dead person voting and was nullified.

Audrey now faces potential election fraud charges.

375px-Dark_Rosaleen_Anarchy_1The case is complicated by the fact that both Vic and Audrey were Madison County election judges, as Audrey was when she filed the dead person vote.

I hope that the Illinois Attorney General will cut Audrey a break.

She is grieving a loss and to her Vic is not really gone, so it is comprehensible to me that she would assist him in casting his last vote, even from the grave.

Vic’s dead man vote will not count in the election, of course, but we should have compassion enough for people like Audrey who lose those they love to understand how they may continue to act as if they were among the living.


Conversations on topics such as in this post are common at Death Cafe Corvallis.  You are welcome to participate. Information at Death Cafe Corvallis.

 

Image Acknowledgements

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https://warasto.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/vote.jpg

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_rose_(symbolism)#/media/File:Dark_Rosaleen_Anarchy_1.svg

nc bc cc 10%Our national election occurs on Tuesday November 8 and I urge you to vote however your heart and mind lead you, but I also want to tell you who will be our next President and one significant reason why I believe that candidate will succeed.

The important point I want to demonstrate is far beyond a single election because the matter at issue is the future of American democracy.

In 2008 the Obama campaign produced an unprecedented combination of data analysis, social media and campaign outreach to win the Presidency.

The data analysis aspect used new techniques in what is commonly known as data-mining or big data analytics.

Both Democrats and Republicans have long kept databases of voters; you and I and every other eligible voter in the US is in these data-sets.

What Obama’s campaign innovated was a 100 item index that pulls from public and for-sale data sources such that every voter is categorized by education level, home ownership and value, permits and licenses, magazine subscriptions, charitable contributions and much more.General_election_polls_2016_Clinton_v_Trump

The campaign also buys data from companies such as Facebook to track which ads you click on and who your friends are.

The Democrat campaign knows more about you than you know about yourself in the sense that you may forget some of the details while their database, called “Catalyst,” does not.

The campaign technicians render all this data into a 1-5 scale that assigns probabilities to 2 behaviors for every voter: whether they will vote and who they will vote for.

What the campaign does with those ratings is the key to their electoral strategy because those individual profiles based in huge correlations of personal data are used to produce campaign tactics aimed specifically at you and voters like you; this tactic is called micro-targeting.

One way that micro-targeting is used was revealed when the Obama campaign recruited 2 million volunteers through Facebook and then provided each of them with instructions for door-to-door visits with specific individuals based on their ratings in Catalyst.

Another use of micro-targeting is to assign campaign ads to individual social media users. The political ads that you see on social media may well have been crafted uniquely for you, at least if they are from the Democrat campaigns.

Moreover the reactions of micro-targeted individuals are gathered and fed back to the database creating a dynamic loop that is capable of measuring large group responses based on tracking behaviors of individuals within the group.

After the 2008 election victory Obama directed the data analysts on his campaign to develop ways to use that technology for conducting White House policy efforts and called the resulting system “Legacy.”51i-UovOAYL._SY346_

This ultra-sophisticated use of data analysis to conduct a political campaign is studied in a fascinating book, Hacking the Electorate: How Campaigns Perceive Voters by Yale political scientist Eitan D. Hersh.

In addition to describing how political data-analysis and micro-targeting work, Hersh postulates that the sources of public data that campaigns draw from are likely to skew the data-set to preference some voter characteristics over others; for instance consider the data sources in which individuals are classified by race.

Why does any of this matter to you?

It matters because human beings have a peculiar relationship with our own thoughts in two ways.

The first is that it is hard for us to distinguish between our subjective feeling of certainty and the objective degree to which a claim about the world is certain.

For example, in this column I am claiming to know who will win the 2016 election.

In fact I cannot know that for certain because all sorts of events could occur to prevent that from happening, so I am really asserting a probability of an outcome based upon assumptions about the conditions.

LW268-MC-Escher-Hand-with-Reflecting-Sphere-1935Still, in my gut I feel totally certain about it despite being a skeptic about most things, and cannot convince my subjective sense to entertain more doubt.

The second peculiarity of human thought is while you and I know what we think and believe, we typically do not know where those thoughts and beliefs came from.

Try it yourself; consider some of the ideas (thoughts and beliefs) that you feel strongly about. Where did you get those ideas? Were you born with them? Were they taught to you? Did you inherit them? Did you discover them or make them up yourself?

If you are like most of us, then even the thoughts that you feel most certain about do not provide you with signs of their origins.

I am confident that you have reasons in favor of those ideas, but are those reasons actually the causes from which you formed the belief in the first place or are they premises that you developed to justify a belief that you already held?

Attend closely and I think that you will find that it is not easy to be sure about the workings of your own mind.

Why does this matter? Because there are interest groups who work hard to put ideas into your mind and once an idea is in your mind it is likely that you will experience it as certain and true, largely because it presents itself as your own idea.

To put it as clearly as I may: if I can get an idea into your mind and also get you to view it as your own idea, then I have succeeded at manipulating your mind.6914441342_605f947885_z

The manipulation of beliefs – the deliberate changing of people’s minds – is an ancient practice that we find today in advertisers, propagandists, magicians, preachers and teachers.

This mental manipulation is what the data-driven campaign is designed to do.

To be fair, politicians have sought to understand the public mind and put ideas into the minds of the people since at least ancient Greece.

Data-driven campaigning is not new, although the technological sophistication produces an unprecedented level of control over messaging.

That brings me to my prediction that Clinton will be elected President by a wide margin with the Democrats taking the Senate and making gains in the House.

That may not seem like a bold prediction to you because it has become common wisdom on the eve of the election, but I am basing my view on the uses by the Clinton campaign of whatever the Catalyst data-base has become.

One point to draw from this observation is that a candidate’s campaign foreshadows what their administration will be like.

Clinton’s campaign, like the Obama campaigns, are highly organized, disciplined and data-driven.

I view organization and discipline as positive attributes of an executive administration and they stand in stark contrast to the Trump campaign which spent more money on “Make America Great Again” hats than on data analysis.

However you evaluate these facts the reality of contemporary political dynamics calls for rigorous critical thinking about the messages that you receive and believe, if you care about your individual freedom as a thinker.

The future of the American political system is all about data and the more that you know about those processes, the better equipped you will be as a citizen and voter.

 

Image Acknowledgements

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http://apps.cytoscape.org/media/cytonca/screenshots/nc%20bc%20cc%2010%25.jpg

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https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00Y37Z5OW

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http://www.mcescher.com/gallery/italian-period/hand-with-reflecting-sphere/

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/75279887@N05/6914441342

Images are found via CC Search for Creative Commons licensed content.

Image result for democrat republican politicsI think it a fair observation that most Americans are not pleased with the 2016 Presidential contest, but it is also fair to challenge ourselves to describe what we would prefer.

What do you hope for the American political process to be?

The answer to that question lies in your presuppositions about human nature and the purpose of government.

Philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) produced an influential account of theImage result for locke concept of government and the basis of its validity in his “Second Treatise on Government.”

A key idea in that work is the assertion that the purpose of government is to protect the rights of life, liberty, and property of its citizens and to pursue the public good.

If this idea sounds familiar, then you may be thinking of the authors of the American Constitution and Declaration of Independence who closely followed Locke’s political philosophy.

So how does a government determine which actions will best protect the rights of its citizens?

Some people think that government should be minimal, allowing economic powers such as corporations to manage society.

Other people think that government should advance the pubic good even if that requires overriding the natural rights of some citizens.

A third view is promoted by an OSU graduate student, Sami Al-AbdRabbuh (Industrial Engineering) who is also is a candidate in the 2016 election for the Oregon State House of Representatives for District 16 – Corvallis and Philomath.

He argues that science should be the basis of governance; “Science is the act of learning in a way that is more impactful than just trial and error or following the trends of the polls. Public policy that’s informed by trial and error and perceptions isn’t going to do so much good.”

Al-AbdRabbuh believes that our current political system promotes decisions produced by emotion-laden perceptions generated by stories that competing politicians sell to the voters solely for the purpose of getting elected.

A rational society, he maintains, would develop public policy from rigorous data gained from the real-life experiences of the people in it.

His idea proposes that we use scientific method to determine and weigh the interests of individuals and produce analyses that distribute the promotion of those interests fairly across the population.

Al-AbdRabbuh champions science as a model for government because science is a successful means of neutralizing our social/cognitive biases which make it appear as if the experiences that individuals have in common are instead issues of opposition.

This is a good point that you can see played out in the current election.

If you systematically study individual people from different cultures you find that there is a significant commonalities among people regarding basic needs and values.

Given this evidence some people immediately focus on the fact that the cultures are different and so assume that the needs and values of individuals from them are also different.

When someone’s social/cognitive bias selects out the differences only, there is little hope for them to perceive the factual commonalities.

Al-AbdRabbuh believes that scientific method allows us to minimize these biases and bring the authentic lives of many different people into productive co-operation.

It is true that science is one of our most powerful problem-solving methodologies.
                       
It is also true that many people do not trust science and I agree that there are reasons to be suspicious of it.

Science does not have a built-in moral guide which is how we end up with social problems that are the products of science such as nuclear weapons and global pollution.

Now we face potential dilemmas with scientific advances in artificial intelligence and genetic engineering.

If government is required to regulate the excesses of science, how can science be trusted to guide public policy?

The answer to this concern is that the “science” at issue here is not an institution or interest group, but rather a form of thinking, the scientific method.Image result for scientific method

Scientific method is logical reasoning based in measurable evidence and testable claims.

The criterion of testability is essential to this concept of science because the method involves testing a claim against the ways in which it may turn out to be false.

Compare this to the major campaign claims in our national election; “We stand stronger together” and “I will make America great again.”

These are not testable claims; it is not clear what would count as measurable evidence for or against them.

In contrast to emotional story telling which is designed to persuade the electorate, Al-AbdRabbuh argues that we need governance based on reasoned analysis of evidence that comes from listening to the needs and values of individuals.Image result for platonic forms 

Such government would be based in a science of human relations.

In the 3rd century BCE Plato argued that our leaders should be philosophers and by that he meant they should be well practiced at logical and analytical thinking, which today is largely the domain of the sciences.

Al-AbdRabbuh points out that governance by scientific thinkers “is not an outrageous idea. Thomas Jefferson was an inventor and German leader Angela Merkle is quantum chemist.”

You may assess Al-AbdRabbuh’s platform and qualifications on their own merits at http://sami2016.com.

So far as I can tell he is the only candidate in the current election who is talking about the form of thinking that should guide public policy and for that reason he is worth listening to.

Image Acknowledgements

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/12480988943

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o-LETHAL-INJECTION-PRISON-facebookEveryone dies, but most of us never kill anyone. Americans are divided over whether it is moral to take a person’s life. On the matter of State executions 37% affirm that it is not acceptable to kill prisoners while 61% maintain that it is morally acceptable to kill prisoners. That moral divide has held rather constant over decades. Now it appears to be in transition.

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is a major Christian group with a powerful political lobby representing 45,000 churches. For 40 years the NAE has been a staunch proponent of State executions. The basic argument of the NAE has been that in order to be pro-life we must be willing to kill people.414388769_eee7427f32

“If no crime is considered serious enough to warrant capital punishment, then the gravity of the most atrocious crime is diminished accordingly.” (NAE, 1973)

In 2015 the NAE issued a new Resolution on Capital Punishment which for the first time recognizes differing views on State execution among Evangelicals.  The new resolution does not assert a stand for or against capital punishment.  Instead it recognizes that significant biblical and theological cases can be made both in favor of and in opposition to State execution.

“Evangelical Christians differ in their beliefs about capital punishment, often citing strong biblical and theological reasons either for the just character of the death penalty in extreme cases or for the sacredness of all life, including the lives of those who perpetrate serious crimes and yet have the potential for repentance and reformation. We affirm the conscientious commitment of both streams of Christian ethical thought” (NAE, 2015)

sunrise-182302_640This is a major shift away from the NAE’s long standing decree that robust support for State executions is the only legitimate position for Christians.

It is positive to witness a recognition of diversity of views on moral issues by a staunch conservative body.

When a long standing major proponent of a policy moderates it’s stance, the times are changing.

Sources
NAE Resolution on Capital Punishment, 1973
http://nae.net/capital-punishment/

NAE Resolution on Capital Punishment, 2015
http://nae.net/capital-punishment-2/

New NAE Resolution Recognizes Different Views on Death Penalty, 2015
http://nae.net/new-nae-resolution-recognizes-different-views-on-death-penalty/

The National Association of Evangelicals has changed its position on the death penalty, Washington Post, 2015
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/10/19/the-national-association-of-evangelicals-has-changed-its-position-on-the-death-penalty/

Image Acknowledgements
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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/24/ohio-inmates-death-penalty-lawsuit_n_6378368.html

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/drivebackintime/414388769

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https://pixabay.com/en/sunrise-lake-water-scenic-182302/

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