Saturday, March 12, 2016

Athol Fugard: 'The Play-Writing Process' And A Difference Between Actors and Musicians

This isn't a lecture, it is great that someone as renowned as Athol Fugard insisted it be something other than a lecture and that it involve other points of view other than his.   What came out of that is a discussion among Athol Fugard  Jez Butterworth and Rebecca Lenkiewicz about writing plays, how working on and seeing a play produced effects the work and the effect that collaboration as well as other experiences of the writer has on the play.   It reminded me of what the American playwright,  Madeleine George had to say about her experience of having her play, The Zero Hour, mounted in a production as part of the 13P experiment in playwrights taking charge and being the artistic directors of their own work.  Especially what Fugard said about having to be an actor and the director of his plays in the beginning of his career because he was the only one who was going to do them.  George's talking about how it was necessary for her to go through the same steps in order to really come to terms with her own play was something that musicians know from our everyday experience, the difference being that theater is always and inevitably a collaborative creation and what you come up with as "the play" is going to always be a joint creation.  I doubt that even many of the monologuists do their own costume, sets, lighting, etc. 

I had gone to look at various ways that artists had come up with to mount the performance of their work, short of coming up with a corporate company or school or something. In reading about it, 13P is interesting and I'm sure there are lots of things that can be learned from it but I don't think it would work with music because what you do to do music isn't the same thing as putting on a play.  But listening to the 13 playwrights and the several people who acted as executive staff for the project was really interesting. 

It does make me wonder why more actors, directors, etc. don't get together and "do" plays that they will never, otherwise get to perform.  How many times is there a production of any of the major works of the repertoire during any year or decade as compared to the number of good or even just ambitious actor who should have the experience of playing that role?   I've never heard of actors getting together to work on a reading performance or a chamber performance the way that musicians inevitably do, without any prospect of performing the piece in public.   I think that's one of the things you can generally tell, seeing an actor who has done some kind of performance of things in performance and those who just do movies or TV.   Maybe those wouldn't stink as much if the actors who do them had done more acting of things worth thinking about.

My reading of the "bad plays" attributed to Shakespeare has led me to reading a lot more plays, something I used to do a lot of.   I've read dozens of times more plays than I've ever seen, in person or on TV.   Have to say that I'm really enjoying it, a lot.

Hate Update:  I've known a fair few actors and a few directors and I never heard of them getting together to work on a play apart from a theatrical production.  I don't recall ever reading about actors getting together in the way that musicians get together to play chamber music or even 4-hand versions of symphonic work.  It must be a deeply secret practice among them or you're just doing what you always do, lying.

Hate Update 2:   Produce a description of actors getting together, outside of the context of a theatrical production or other performance to go through a play the way that musicians will study chamber music together, something published in a book or even a magazine, not some bogus claim that you sort of remember.

On The Hitlerian Manipulation of Violent Spectacle

I looked around a bit to see what people were saying about the fiasco in Chicago, the cancelled Trump appearance at the University of Illinois campus there.  Predictably, there was a strong reaction to the hate fest that the Trump campaign has come to symbolize, though I don't know why as pretty much all of the Republican campaigns I've read about are all about getting all the haters together to form a winning coalition.  That is what the Republican strategy has been for pretty much the last half century, since Nixon and others figured on taking in the segregationists who the Democrats finally said no to in 1964 and 65,   Since then Republican victories have come by widening the circle of hate to cover the reaction to the anti-war and womens' movements, environmentalism, the civil rights campaign for LGBT people.  That they were also able to gull a large number of blue-collar Democrats who, with some justification, felt disrespected and disregarded by the media-based and, to a lesser extent, political elite of the Democratic Party was a bonus paid through the conceit of people too stuck up and stupid to understand that's nothing that had to happen.

Let me note that somewhere, I don't remember where, someone mentioned that Hitler used to hire people to act as "opposition" provocateurs at his early events, knowing that they would probably benefit the Nazis, making them feel more solidarity, paranoia and producing a sense that they were oppressed underdogs.  If that's the case then this kind of thing will play right into his hands.

I don't think there was any need for anyone to go to the rally to oppose Trump, the spectacle of his supporters spouting hate, as their candidate spouts hate is probably enough to ensure his defeat in November.  You could say the same thing about the Cruz and Rubio campaigns.  Though he can hate with the worst of them, John Kasich's,  Nixonian campaign of preaching hate with a wink and a nod is rather too quaint for the hate machine that the Republican Party, its cabloid and hate-talk propaganda machines and pretty much everything about it has created.   The Republican hate machine is a robotic nightmare which could probably be turned into a killing machine given something like another major terror attack, something like the Reichstag fire in Nazi Germany which was the trifecta that Hitler turned into absolute power to terrorize the German people out of any kind of effective opposition.

This is what "more speech" has brought us to, the Republicans used "free speech" and "free press" slogans also provided to them by the elite wing of liberalism a half century ago.   In the wake of Trump's cancelled, obviously planned fiasco, his supporters are bawling and crying about how his "free speech" rights were shut down by the people who are the focus of the Republican hate campaign.   And, you know what, they got that from the preening process liberals, too.  The liberals who have been fretting and worrying that, somewhere, somehow, some liberal or other person is violating the free speech of neo-Nazis, skin-heads, the Phelps cult or some other peddlers of hate whose consequences would probably be least likely to impact the lives of those white-collar professional nags.   They as much as the Republicans who adopted their 1st amendment pose, have brought us to where we are today.  And, according to their nagging standard, it was the protesters who were wrong to oppose those who want, very much, to use government to harm and oppress them.  That kind of 18th century liberalism has never, really, cared much for the effects of their policies on the lives of minorities and poor folk, in general.  Though some of them maintain a pose of sentimentality about such stuff, they know who really matters to them*.

The other day a Republican troll at Media Matters hauled out John Stuart Mill to refute a point I made about how a free press permitted to lie and libel with impunity, in the age of corporate mass media, is more likely to guarantee fascism than democracy.   Really, John Stuart Mill whose ideas were entirely theoretical, there being no absolute free speech in his experience, certainly no corporate mass media free to lie and defame and inflame people against minority groups, liberals, etc.   Just like the largely fictitious "founders" who inform peoples' fantasies about such things, Mill didn't have the first clue as to how things work in today's media environment, their theories on that may as well be considered Jurassic era fossils, impressive and able to teach us some limited things about the past but which could never be revived to live in today's world.  

*  I will just mention that photo that's going around of the stalwart of liberalism on the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg riding in an elephant born palanquin with the man who did more to harm the poor, members of minorities and women in need of their rights, her buddy and fellow member of the Ivy League educated class, Antonin Scalia.  The sight says as much about what's wrong with that kind of "liberalism" as anything.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Samantha Bee Is Great And The Clowns Are The Adults Of Our Media

These people are so obviously, unambiguously insane liars and fronts for the gun industry that the fact that our "free press" isn't screaming that they are is just as unambiguous proof that they are enablers of insanity.  With the exception of a few comedians like Samantha Bee.  Comedy has been the substance of TV journalism for quite a while now.

I don't have TV anymore but luckily, her Full Frontal TV show has a Youtube channel.

(Dis)Comfort Viewing

I am worn out and sick.  Posting is going to be hit or miss till I get rid of this lingering cold.   I'm tempted to get all of the videos people have given me and try to vegetate until it's over.  I'll post a few videos I've liked listening to, recently.

Here's one by Tom Regnier, a lawyer, that applies the Rules of Evidence to the great and entertaining authorship question.  Well, I find it entertaining.   Some of what he says I'd never heard before, it might make it more comprehensible when reading about a trial or, heaven help us, there's another great and awful televised celebrity trial.  I understand that cable is going to rehash the O.J. trial and, what a coincidence, the L. A. police have introduced a knife allegedly dug up by a worker at Simpson's former residence, given to an L. A. cop who, for who knows what reason, kept it for twenty years and recently turned it in setting off, no doubt, a jillion online comments and tab-cabloid rehashings.  I can imagine, considering what the trial did for cabloid TV that they'd love to get another one.  Me, I thought it was proof positive that televised trials are a horrible idea.  I'd better stop before I start ranting.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


If you want to know what's wrong with #BernieOrBust, that will come when the "bust" part of that empty slogan kicks in. 

And it busts hardest on poor folks, members of minority groups, women (especially those who aren't affluent).   I doubt that the Ben or Jerry class will find it seriously impacts their lifestyle. 

I will support Bernie Sanders if he is the nominee of my party but I think his chance of becoming president is far smaller than the chance that Hillary Clinton will be president.  I don't believe the Berniebot talking point that the polls show he's more electable than she is, look at how right the polls were this week.   

If he is the nominee the hate the media unleashed on George McGovern will look like nothing.  The cabloid Republican echo chamber hadn't been invented yet and there were still broadcasting standards and equal time provisions in place.  That is what Bernie Sanders will be up against if he is the nominee, by November he will be as hated as Hillary Clinton has been made by the media in the wake of Reagan and the free-speech industry destroying the requirement that media serve the public instead of screwing it. 

Give People A Lottery Ticket For Voting And Other Ideas For Thwarting Voter Suppression

I don't usually listen to the Marketplace Morning Report that interrupts the pathetic excuse for "public broadcasting" the merely least bad broadcasting that is NPR.   But this morning they had on the great Mary Frances Berry to talk about her latest book,  Five Dollars And A Pork Chop Sandwich, about real and blatant voting fraud, not the imaginary stuff that Republicans have been using to suppress the votes of Black people, members of other minority groups, poor people and both the young and old.   Here, from the publisher's website:

Though voting rights are fundamental to American democracy, felon disfranchisement, voter identification laws, and hard-to-access polling locations with limited hours are a few of the ways voter turnout is suppressed. These methods of voter suppression are pernicious, but in Five Dollars and a Pork Chop Sandwich, Dr. Mary Frances Berry focuses on forms of corruption including vote buying, vote hauling, the abuse of absentee ballots, and other illegal practices by candidates and their middlemen, often in collusion with local election officials.

Vote buying—whether it’s for a few dollars, a beer, or a pack of cigarettes—is offered to individual citizens in order to ensure votes for a particular candidate, and Dr. Berry notes it occurs across party lines, with Republicans, Democrats, and independents all participating.

Dr. Berry shares the compelling story of Greg Malveaux, former director of Louisiana’s Vote Fraud Division, and how this “everyman” tried to clean up elections in a state notorious for corruption. Malveaux discovered virtually every type of electoral fraud during his tenure and saw firsthand how abuses occurred in local communities—from city councils to coroners’ offices. In spite of Sisyphean persistence, he found it virtually impossible to challenge the status quo. Dr. Berry reveals how this type of electoral abuse is rampant across the country and includes myriad examples from other states, including Illinois, Texas, Florida, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Voter manipulation is rarely exposed and may be perceived as relatively innocuous, however; Dr. Berry observes that in addition to undermining basic democracy, it also leads to a profound lack of accountability and a total disconnect between politicians and their constituents, and that those in poor and minority communities are the most vulnerable. While reforming campaign finance laws are undeniably important to our democracy, being attuned to issues of structural powerlessness and poverty, and to the cycles that perpetuate them, is no less crucial.

In Five Dollars and a Pork Chop Sandwich, Dr. Berry shares specific successful voting strategies that other countries have adopted and urges creativity in rewarding people for voting. She also underscores the continued importance of grassroots education, so that citizens see voting as desirable and empowering—as a tool to help create the kind of environment they deserve.

It being the great Mary Frances Berry who is saying this, I especially liked what she said about this kind of vote fraud on the cheap, buying the votes of people who, otherwise, get absolutely nothing out of the political process other than that.  Blaming the victims of this corruption instead of the system under which it flourishes is as unrealistic as it is wrong.  Why should they care enough about voting when what it produces so demonstrably doesn't work for them?  We have never fixed the most glaring problems of voter corruption after more than two centuries of it being a feature of our politics, if someone tries to the perfumed, soft-handed, product of our elite law schools can be counted on to sue and their colleagues on the Supreme Court will knock down any attempt to fix it.  That is where the stink you smell in our politics comes from, not those who are victimized by the legal industry. 

What got my attention and what I thought was worth thinking about was her idea that if you can't stop them you can beat them at their own game by making voting, itself, attractive, by the government Of the People being the one to entice people to vote.   I thought her idea of giving people who vote a lottery ticket, instead of being vulgar and corrupt was realistic.  Imagine if there were state lotteries in which you could get one ticket to win if you voted, they could fund them with proceeds of the gambling that goes on, anyway.  I will bet if people thought they could win one of a hundred ten-thousand dollar prizes in such a lottery it would make voting a lot more popular, if they thought they stood a chance of winning one million dollar prize - in addition - I'll bet the polls would be swamped. 

And that wasn't the only way in which Mary Frances Berry pointed out that voting could be encouraged.  In the few minutes she was allowed to plug her book she mentioned serving food and drink at polling places - maybe the way to combat the private interests who buy votes with such things is for government of, by and for The People beating them at their own game.  

Of course none of that fixes the problem of people who are fed lies by the media, but it is an idea for fixing what's wrong with voter discouragement.  The bet is that if more poor people, more members of minority groups, more young and old people voted enough of them would know who was going to serve their interests that the government would be more of, by and for them instead of the rich people who are the source of this corruption. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Footnote To This Morning's Post

I should note that Maine has one of the "biggest" Green parties in the country, the Maine Green Party boasts that Maine has the highest percentage of Greens of any state.  And they have actually won a few elections here (though they've lost many times more than they've won) and they do have the potential to act as spoilers in our elections.  If you were puzzled as to why I've spent time on this. 

And, for the record, if Bernie Sanders were to be the nominee, Greens wouldn't uniformly support him.  The Colorado Greens have released a statement in response to Oklahoma Greens  that includes this:

However, we do have stark differences in our platform from even the Sanders campaign. Because we are a global party as well, we are very concerned about our country's destabilization of peace around the world and perpetuation of wars for oil. We believe it's time to finally de-fund the military industrial complex and instead redirect those funds toward things like a guaranteed minimum income, jump-starting a green economy and providing free education from preschool through graduate school.

Instead, Sanders has voted over and over for continued funding of the Iraq war, even though he initially voted against its authorization, for increased funding every year of Israel's apartheid regime ... and in 2014, he even voted to gut "food stamps" by $8 billion, all decisions which punish the most vulnerable people on the planet. Additionally, after an auspicious start in 1963 with civil rights activism, Sanders has neither sponsored nor co-sponsored any civil rights-related legislation during his entire congressional career, missing the bus on racial justice completely.

Even just with these few issues, we find the prospect of Sanders as president just as untenable as a Hillary Clinton as president. We believe the American people, and the entire world, need something different. The Democratic Party has been the party where grassroots movements go to die, and we see the Green Party as the electoral tactic for these movements, when they choose to use that tool.

Bernie Sanders isn't pure enough for them, I doubt anyone who has a political record would be pure enough for those guys or their like on the preening, play-left.  When you're playing let's pretend you don't have to take, you know, things like the exigencies of actually governing and legislating into account. 

It also notes that the national Green party they are affiliated with will kick them out if they endorse anyone but the real, true, official, Green Party presidential candidate.  I don't know how many of those "national" Green parties there are in 2016, their organization has never been straight-forward and clear.   I've got no problem with the Green Party enforcing party discipline like that, that's the business of Greens, at least when they don't do what Greens in Maine did last Sunday.  But it's clear that Bernie Sanders would be attacked by some of the Greens.

After Three Decades It's Time To Face The Fact That The Green Party Is Going Nowhere

Every once in a while, since I started posting pieces, I've gone to look at what the Green Party is doing in the United States.  I mean other than running presidential and other candidates who have absolutely no chance of winning, not infrequently risking being spoilers who split the opposition to the Republicans.

I remember the first time I looked at the actual results they've produced after decades of existence and activity I was stunned at how ridiculously tiny the number of offices they held has been.  I will start by saying that what I said ten years ago can still be said today, the two terms as a state legislator in Maine by John Eder is still the highest office won and held by a Green in the United States.  And he was voted out of that seat ten years ago.  I understand there are two or three others who had an association with Greens elected to state legislatures but - from the little I can find out, they didn't remain with the Greens, becoming either independents or, I believe, joining the Democrats.  All other of the less than a thousand offices ever held by Greens has been on a local level.  And the number of those has decreased significantly.   Ten years ago I was able to quote a document  the most recent figures available to me when I wrote the piece, from  the official Green website which said:

Greens Continue Growth in 2002.

The Green Party had a successful Nov 5 election day and elected more Greens in 2002 than any previous year. With some results still coming in, we have elected at least 71 people this year and have a new officeholder count of 170. We achieved our main goal of electing someone to a state house - John Eder in Maine. We elected our first people in Texas and North Carolina. Tuesday's election was a defeat for the Democratic Party, but not for the progressive values that they hide from. Nonetheless, our government has moved to the right and our challenges are greater than ever. This country needs a political party that confronts those challenges directly and the Green Party is ready to stand up to the challenge.

Which seemed like incredibly skimpy results for a party "ready to stand up to the challenge" after more than two decades into its existence. By that time in its existence, the one and only third party which succeeded in taking control of the government, the Republicans in 1860, had governed the country for two decades.

To see how they've done in the past decade,  here is its list of office holders as of now.

There are currently at least 100 Greens holding elected office in the United States.  While the list is always changing, the most recent information available is listed below:

Alvin Clay
Justice of the Peace
Mississippi County, District 6
Elected: 2012

Kade Holliday
County Clerk
Craighead County, Arkansas
Elected: 2012

Roger Watkins
Craighead County, District 5
Elected: 2012


County Supervisor (1)
Dan Hamburg, Board of Supervisors, District 5, Mendocino County

Mayor (1)
Bruce Delgado, Mayor, Marina (Monterey County)

City Council (7)
Larry Bragman, Town Council, Fairfax (Marin County)
Renée Goddard, Town Council, Fairfax (Marin County)
John Reed, Town Council, Fairfax (Marin County)
Gayle Mclaughlin, City Council, Richmond (Contra Costa)
Deborah Heathersone, Town Council, Point Arena (Mendocino County)
Paul Pitino, Town Council, Arcata (Humboldt County)
John Keener, City Council, Pacifica (San Mateo County)

Community College Districts (3)
Vahe Peroomian, Board of Trustees, Glendale Community College District, Glendale (Los Angeles County)
Amy Martenson
, Board of Trustees, District 2, Napa Valley College, Napa (Napa County)
April Clary, Board of Trustees, Student Representative, Napa Valley College, Napa (Napa County)

School Districts (20)
Heather Bass, Board of Directors, Gilroy Unified School District, Gilroy, Santa Clara County
Dave Clark, Board of Directors, Cardiff School District (San Diego County)
Phyllis Greenleaf, Board of Trustees, Live Oak Elementary School District (Santa Cruz County)
Adriana Griffin, Red Bluff Union School District, Red Bluff (Tehama County) 
Jim C. Keller, Board of Trustees, Bonny Doon Union Elementary School District, Santa Cruz County
Brigitte Kubacki, Governing Boardmember, Green Point School, Blue Lake (Humboldt County)
Jose Lara, Vice President and Governing Board Member, El Rancho Unified School District, Pico Rivera (Los Angeles)
Kimberly Ann Peterson, Board of Trustees, Geyserville Unified School District (Sonoma County)
Karen Pickett, Board Member, Canyon Canyon Elementary School District (Contra Costa County)
Kathy Rallings, Board of Trustees, Carlsbad Unified School District, Carlsbad, San Diego County
Sean Reagan, Governing Boardmember, Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, Norwalk (Los Angeles County)
Curtis Robinson, Board of Trustees, Area 6, Marin County Board of Education (Marin County)
Christopher Sabec, Governing Boardmember, Lagunitas School District (Marin County)
Katherine Salinas, Governing Boardmember, Arcata School District, Arcata (Humboldt County)
Jeffrey Dean Schwartz, Governing Boardmember, Arcata School District, Arcata (Humboldt County)
Alex Shantz, Board of Trustees, St. Helena Unified School District, Napa County
Dana Silvernale, Governing Boardmember, North Humboldt Union High School (Humboldt County) 
Jim Smith, President, Canyon School Board, Canyon Township (Contra Costa County)
Logan Blair Smith, Little Shasta Elementary School District, Montague (Shasta County) 
Rama Zarcufsky, Governing Boardmember, Maple Creek School District (Humboldt County) 

Rent Stabilization Boards (2)
John Selawsky, Rent Stabilization Board, Berkeley (Alameda County)
Jesse Townley, Rent Stabilization Board, Berkeley (Alameda County)

Transit Districts (1)
Jeff Davis, Board of Directors, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties)

Fire Districts (5)
Karen Anderson, Board of Directors, Coastside Fire Protection District (San Mateo County)
Robert L. Campbell, Scotts Valley Fire District (Santa Cruz County)
William Lemos, Fire Protection District, Mendocino (Mendocino County
Russell Pace, Board of Directors, Willow Creek Fire District (Humboldt County)
John Abraham Powell, Board of Directors, Montecito Fire District, Montecito (Santa Barbara County)

Water Districts (5)
Larry Bragman, Board of Directors, Division 3, Marin Municipal Water District Board (Marin County)
James Harvey, Board of Directors, Montara Water and Sanitary District (San Mateo County)
Randy Marx, Board of Directors, Fair Oaks Water District, Division 4 (Sacramento County)
Jan Shriner, Board of Directors, Marina Coast Water District (Monterey County)
Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, Board of Directors, Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, Division 1 (Humboldt County)

Parks and Recreation Districts (2)
James Barone, Boardmember, Rollingwood-Wilart Recreation and Parks District (Contra Costa County)
William Hayes, Board of Directors, Mendocino Coast Park and Recreation District (Mendocino County)

Community Service Districts (5)
Illijana Asara, Board of Directors, Community Service District, Big Lagoon (Humboldt County)
Gerald Epperson, Board of Directors, Crocket Community Services Distrct, Contra Costa County
Joseph Gauder, Boardmember, Covelo Community Services District, Covelo (Mendocino County)
Crispin Littlehales, Boardmember, Covelo Community Services District, Covelo (Mendocino County)
George A. Wheeler, Board of Directors, Community Service District, McKinleyville (Humboldt County)

Other Districts (2)
Mathew Clark, Board of Directors, Granada Sanitary District (San Mateo County)
Nanette Corley, Director, Resort Improvement District, Whitehorn (Humboldt County)

Neighborhood Councils (7) Planning Groups (2) and Advisory Town Councils (1)
Sylvia Aroth, Outreach Officer, Venice Neighborhood Council, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County) 
Robin Doyno, At-Large Community Officer, Mar Vista Neighborhood Council, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County) 
Janine Jordan, District 4 Business Representative, Mid-Town North Hollywood Neighborhood Council, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County)
Jack Lindblad, At Large Community Stakeholder, North Hollywood Northeast Neighborhood Council, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County) 
Johanna A. Sanchez, Secretary, Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County) 
Johanna A. Sanchez, At-Large Director, Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County) 
Marisol Sanchez , Area 1 Seat, Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County) 
William Bretz, Crest/Dehesa/Harrison Canyon/Granite Hill Plannning Group (San Diego County)
Claudia White, Member, Descanso Community Planning Group (San Diego County)
Annette Keenberg, Town Council, Lake Los Angeles (Los Angeles County) 
Rama Zarcufsky, Governing Boardmember, Maple Creek School District (Humboldt County) 

Despite the claim that there are "at least 100" Greens holding office, their list has fewer than 70.   And that's it, that's all there is, after three decades and getting lots of attention at the national level.

They used to have a cumulative figure of all the Greens ever elected posted on their website.  I doubt it was because I wrote about how pathetic it was that after two decades of existence they hadn't broken into four figures that led them to take those things down.    I don't know what the current total of Greens ever elected would be but I would guess they still haven't broken the thousand count thirty years after first organizing.   They do, though, run alleged presidential candidates, still.   I recall the idea was they could get publicity by running them which would help build support, which they got plenty of in the disaster of 2000  when they pinned their hopes to Ralph Nader, a man who was so arrogant he couldn't even be bothered to join the party that nominated him.

In my state they've run people for offices who could have acted as spoilers, at one time their official website touted the 4th place finish of Pat LaMarche in Maine as some kind of great step forward, the same strategy that Marco Rubio apparently is running on, now.   Only he's actually won two primaries.  I think he's probably gotten more votes from more voters than the Greens have in their entire existence, though that's based on a guess since the Greens don't like to publicize things like that.   He definitely got more votes than the Green ticket of 2004 on which Pat LaMarche ran as Vice President.  Can you remember their presidential candidates name?  No, I can't either.

I knew people involved in the early organizing of the Maine Greens (well, one of the two Green parties - I'm not sure they've ever been able to get together under one name even today) and when I found out they were insisting on making decisions by consensus I knew they would go nowhere. Consensus decision making doesn't work in politics which doesn't pause and hesitate and wait patiently, politics requires action in real time not in stop time.  But, given the emotional disposition of many of those involved, where hurt feelings and stubborn, ego-driven digging in over absolute positions were an important issue, they probably couldn't have taken any other course.  Those have been the bane of small parties and groups on the alleged left for their entire history.  You have to quickly build a very large group under mature leadership to minimize the problems things like that cause for the group as a whole and if those become a problem for your group, it's better to give up instead of wasting three decades on something that will not succeed.  Anyone who has any real interest in gaining political office in order to make real change will not stick around such a group for long, anyone with any experience won't get involved with them to start with.

A decade ago I encouraged the Greens to keep trying, building from the local level and state level before trying to run candidates for federal office.   Well, I'm done with that.  They should realize that they failed as a party and they should pack it in.  Outdoing just about every other total failure of alleged "third parties" doesn't signify a single thing in real life.  They are not even learning from their experience of what works and what fails, miserably.   That is a sure sign of a political group that will never succeed.

Update:  I should add that the Greens, today, would have to stand as a runner-up to the old Socialist Party which elected two people to congress and had far more success in state and local offices.  And they pretty much got wrecked almost a century ago, from the left, by the Communists.  See The Long Detour by James Weinstein for details on that.

Hate Update:  Oh, I don't know, I seem to remember Duncan Black was pretty hot and bothered when the Greens with the financial backing of Republicans were running Carl Romanelli as a spoiler to put Rick Santorum back in the Senate, as mentioned above.

I expect that if he loses the nomination that Bernie Sanders will endorse Hillary Clinton, just as I believe if she looses she will endorse him.   If they aren't willing to support the choice of Democratic voters for the nomination of the Democratic Party they have no business asking the voters for that nomination.   What I reported on were not Democratic voters but those who changed their party affiliation on the Bernie or nothing basis, my state doesn't allow people who aren't party members to participate in caucuses but you can change your affiliation on the day of the caucus and many independents and some few Greens did just that, some of them saying that they would not vote for Hillary Clinton if she got the nomination.

Anyone who isn't worried about a scenario in which people get suckered into voting for Trump or Cruz on the basis of Hillary hatred, a constant feature on Duncan's blog, putting someone as bad if not worse than George W. Bush in office is a pudding-headed idiot or someone who is too young to remember what things were like eight years ago, or too comfortable in their personal circumstances to really care about that.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why I Hate The Caucus (non)System And Why The Saunders Campaign Was Almost Certainly A Big Loss For The Left

I have been participating in Democratic caucuses since the 1960s. first as an observer, then as a voter and I can tell you that I have gradually grown to hate caucuses, passionately.   They are anti-democratic, cumbersome, the rules change from time to time in the most annoying way - I'll get to the rules for the one in Maine yesterday which were the worst I've seen yet - and the results are not necessarily the results because the whole thing goes, not to delegates to the national convention but to the state convention which has its whole lists of downsides, as well.   I remember many years when a. we couldn't get enough delegates to send a full delegation, b. those who said they would go as a delegate or an alternate didn't end up carrying through.  The whole thing as a democratic process is a mound of frozen manure in late winter.

Turnout for caucuses is almost certain to be less than for a primary, certainly if, as has always happened in the past, there was no possibility for participation by those who could not, physically, be in the caucus location.   Maine's caucus for the first time anyone remembers, this time, used paper ballots as well as being physically able to stand up for your candidate.   For the first time there was a possibility to cast an absentee ballot, though most people who were familiar with caucuses didn't know that until they were there.   I am a fairly active democrat and read the news and I didn't know it.  The whole thing took twice as long as it usually does, especially as many of those who came either had never been to a caucus and had "heard how it's supposed to be done"  the several versions of that I heard are nothing like it was ever done before in my experience.  That it was gotten through without more complaints is due to the experience and practicality of the people running it - they thought this years process was nuts, too - and their putting a lid on those who wanted to grandstand and make it even longer.

I came prepared to not stand up for either of the candidates but was sorely tempted to by the annoying grandstanding and paranoia by a few of those on the Bernie Sanders side.  I was tempted to go stand with the Hillary Clinton people because they didn't do that.  Whereas the ones I heard said they would support any Democrat if Clinton lost the nomination, many of the Saunders people explicitly said they wouldn't.   And then there was the paranoia.  There were dark mutterings against "the powers that be" meaning either the person running the caucus ( he followed the rules as they were given to him ) or by the state committee who came up with the lame brained process.   No, I pointed out several times, all that showed was that someone on the committee came up with the idea and wore down any resistance out of sheer ego.   That's the nature of the thing and the petty side of committee politics.  I suspect that the people who held that view have never been on a committee that ever did anything. .

The news this morning said that a Democratic legislator is going to introduce a bill instituting a primary system in Maine, we had one for a couple of years matched with a caucus - which is a long, boring example of that kind of bureaucratic B.S. just mentioned but the law was repealed.   Instead of getting rid of the damned caucus they got rid of the primary that should have replaced it.  For some reason, my former legislator told me, some people in the state party wanted a traditional convention which a primary would have made moot.  Considering the fact that we've had few Democratic governors and the success in lower offices is spotty, that's not producing what the whole thing is for, election wins.

Ah, yes, winning elections.  If I had a dollar for every time someone discounted the importance of winning the election and putting Democrats in office over some lame-brained assertion of principle or pseudo-idealistic pose yesterday I'd be able to give quite a bundle to the candidate of my choice.  I won't say that it was the Bernie Sanders supporters who came up with just about all of that, well, yeah, I just did say that because, in fact, that's where most of it was said in my hearing.

I like Bernie Sanders a lot better than I like a lot of his supporters.  A number of those I heard yesterday weren't Democrats but were Greens who switched their affiliation for as long as Sanders remains in the race.  I heard some of them talk about how they expected to vote for Jill Stein in November.  To them I say go to hell. I was afraid of something like this happening when Sanders declared, I am afraid that in November I will wish he'd never done it but we will see.   If the wort happen it will do nothing to move the agenda of the left forward, if the Republicans win the presidency or retain the Senate it will bury that agenda deeper than it is now.

The Tragic Disintegration of Science

I haven't gone through all of the links yet but RMJ pointed out this article which documents the devastating failure under rigorous review of the psychological article of faith, "ego depletion".  After a description of the original experiment as done by Baumeister and Dianne Tice of Case Western Reserve University, Daniel Engbur says:

The authors called this effect “ego depletion” and said it revealed a fundamental fact about the human mind: We all have a limited supply of willpower, and it decreases with overuse. Eating a radish when you’re surrounded by fresh-baked cookies represents an epic feat of self-denial, and one that really wears you out. Willpower, argued Baumeister and Tice, draws down mental energy—it’s a muscle that can be exercised to exhaustion.

After the "self denial" experience, the original paper asserted to show that those who had used up their "will power" in eating radishes wouldn't be able to stick with a very difficult, allegedly impossible, and, I'll add, meaningless, task as long as those who hadn't used up their reserve of "will power" eating chocolate chip cookies.  It doesn't say so but there is an assumption that isn't universally true built into the experimental design, there are, actually, people who don't have a sweet tooth, even those who don't like chocolate chip cookies.  I'm kind of sick of the ubiquitous flavor, to tell you the truth. You don't have to prefer radishes to cookies, you can not want either of them and, so, not eating one or the other might not represent any kind of act of will.

Anyway, after that first study was published a huge number of subsequent studies all purporting to show the "ego depletion" phenomenon were studied.

Psychologists discovered that lots of different tasks could drain a person’s energy and leave them cognitively depleted. Poverty-stricken day laborers in rural India might wear themselves out simply by deciding whether to purchase a bar of soap. Dogs might waste their willpower by holding back from eating chow. White people might lose mental strength when they tried to talk about racial politics with a black scientist. In 2010, a group of researchers led by Martin Hagger put out a meta-analysis of the field—a study of published studies—to find out whether this sort of research could be trusted. Using data from 83 studies and 198 separate experiments, Hagger’s team confirmed the main result. “Ego depletion” seemed to be a real and reliable phenomenon.

Only, twenty years into the research juggernaut, there are problems with, not only the research it rests in, there is trouble with the basic idea, itself.

But that story is about to change. A paper now in press, and due to publish next month in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, describes a massive effort to reproduce the main effect that underlies this work. Comprising more than 2,000 subjects tested at two-dozen different labs on several continents, the study found exactly nothing. A zero-effect for ego depletion: No sign that the human will works as it’s been described, or that these hundreds of studies amount to very much at all.

For anyone who doesn't already realize it, this issue and many others in the field of psychology and social science has the potential to call most, perhaps all of that "science" into question.  If you can't trust the review process, the choices of those who do the research, review their colleagues and publish their data, you can't rely on any of it.

Baumeister’s theory of willpower, and his clever means of testing it, have been borne out again and again in empirical studies. The effect has been recreated in hundreds of different ways, and the underlying concept has been verified via meta-analysis. It’s not some crazy new idea, wobbling on a pile of flimsy data; it’s a sturdy edifice of knowledge, built over many years from solid bricks.

And yet, it now appears that ego depletion could be completely bogus, that its foundation might be made of rotted-out materials. That means an entire field of study—and significant portions of certain scientists’ careers—could be resting on a false premise. If something this well-established could fall apart, then what’s next? That’s not just worrying. It’s terrifying.

Considering how much power has been given to psychology by courts, by legislators, in the making of laws and regulations, their influence in education, in the media construction of the common consensus, yes, I would say discovering how unreliable, how open to the beliefs and expectations of researchers the entire thing is, finding out how unreliable it is is rather terrifying.  But not nearly as terrifying as what will, I am certain, to come from this, it will be entirely ignored because it, like the fact of global warming, is inconvenient to a deeply ingrained, deeply interested group.  This pseudo-science will continue to be dutifully reported on Morning Edition, in the New York Times, cited by columnists and pundits (the article points out that Baumeister and the NYT conservative "libertarian" columnist John Tierney have co-authored a book on the topic) and, worst of all, judges and politicians, school administrators and teachers.

And, as the article points out, the problems with the whole idea began to be noticed nine years ago.

Evan Carter was among the first to spot some weaknesses in the ego depletion literature. As a graduate student at the University of Miami, Carter set out to recreate the lemonade effect, first described in 2007, whereby the consumption of a sugary drink staves off the loss of willpower. “I was collecting as many subjects as I could, and we ended up having one of the largest samples in the ego-depletion literature,” Carter told me. But for all his efforts, he couldn’t make the study work. “I figured that I had gotten some bad intel on how to do these experiments,” he said.

Only, when he reviewed the meta-analysis of the literature, he found out that the whole thing was unreliable.

To figure out what went wrong, Carter reviewed the 2010 meta-analysis—the study using data from 83 studies and 198 experiments. The closer he looked at the paper, though, the less he believed in its conclusions. First, the meta-analysis included only published studies, which meant the data would be subject to a standard bias in favor of positive results. Second, it included studies with contradictory or counterintuitive measures of self-control. One study, for example, suggested that depleted subjects would give more money to charity while another said depleted subjects would spend less time helping a stranger. When he and his adviser, Michael McCullough, reanalyzed the 2010 paper’s data using state-of-the-art analytic methods, they found no effect. For a second paper published last year, Carter and McCullough completed a second meta-analysis that included different studies, including 48 experiments that had never been published. Again, they found “very little evidence” of a real effect.

I will probably write more on this after I've gone through more of the links.  This one by Michael Inzlicht is good because it honestly says how serious the discovered problems being discovered are and how basically they discredit the status of what is published as science.

Our problems are not small and they will not be remedied by small fixes. Our problems are systemic and they are at the core of how we conduct our science. My eyes were first opened to this possibility when I read Simmons, Nelson, and Simonsohn’s paper during what seems like a different, more innocent time. This paper details how small, seemingly innocuous, and previously encouraged data-analysis decisions could allow for anything to be presented as statistically significant. That is, flexibility in data collection and analysis could make even impossible effects seem possible and significant.

What is worse, Andrew Gelman made clear that a researcher need not actively p-hack their data to reach erroneous conclusions. It turns out such biases in data analyses might not be conscious, that researchers might not even be aware of how their data-contingent decisions are warping the conclusions they reach. This is flat-out scary: Even honest researchers with the highest of integrity might be reaching erroneous conclusions at an alarming rate.

And, as we are finding out, the problems with science aren't restricted to the social sciences which have always both claimed and been granted huge exemptions in the requirements of what it claims as having the status of reliable knowledge.

I strongly suspect that this has a lot to do with the elevation of science in both the popular and academic imagination as a better religion than religion.  And that it is directly related to the explosion in the rate at which scientists needing to publish research has expanded in the post-war period.  There was every professional reason to move papers into publication.  While the asserted nature of religion that is popularly held among those who are educated is an ahistorical and anti-religious ideological cartoon, they have, essentially, granted everything they critique about religion to the study of the material universe, what science is supposed to do.  If I were in the business of doing that kind of pop cultural analysis I'd probably claim that the medieval world elevated Christianity to that position, the renaissance elevated its imagined classical culture to replace it and, then, the enlightenment elevated science to that position.  Which I'd reject as being more than the crudest and most vulgar of characterizations of extremely complex historical epochs, but that's exactly what those folks do. Only none of those absolute authorities work when viewed that way.   It is dangerous to grant any of them anything like absolute reliability but I think that danger is at its highest when it is science.

Science as a profession is open to all of the worst features of a corrupt clergy, allowing the exigencies of professional interest, competitive publication, and faculty politics and comity to overtake the alleged ethical and professional standards and rule the actual practice of science probably was the venue through which psychology was allowed to be called "science" and allowed to practice appallingly lax methods and standards of review.  And scientists, from the start, have claimed a reliability of their product "knowledge" that most of religion never claimed, as it honestly called what it dealt in as "belief".  

Science makes predictions,  I'm no scientist but I will predict that if this process of reimposing rigor expands and continues large areas of biology will also fall under it, I think that natural selection and those claims made within biology based in it are potentially as vulnerable as psychology has been.  Indeed, since the 1960s under the influence of Hamilton, Wilson, and, popularly, Dawkins etc. the worst of the standards of psychology have been introduced directly into biology.  And a lot of the problems with that are already obvious, the problems with that have, as well, been being pointed out for the past forty years to little effect.  Maybe, now, it will get a more rigorous review.  It will, though, take at least a generation for that to disappear from the media where those who read that stuff in their college days are still true believers in it.  And it will take even longer for those who rely on the media to be let in on the bad news that their entire world view is based on junk science.   Max Planck's famous observation that scientific progress relied on the death of those who held old ideas would seem to be a reliable truth.

There are ironies galore in this, one of those being that an even higher level of rigorous, no, hostile review has already been applied to one aspect of human behavior, that is the one which is automatically rejected, every part of the critique under which huge swaths of psychology are falling has been done on the controlled research into psychic phenomena.  I think any fair reading of that research and review would show that its results are more reliably in line with the requirements of science than the large majority of claims presented by conventional psychology.   Most ironic, of all, is that many of the quasi-professional "skeptic" of that research are professors of psychology.   It makes you wonder how many of them have taught the bogus science as reliable to their students and presented such science in their professional publication.

This is a tragedy for legitimate science which is so important to our lives, to the life of the entire Earth.  That area in science which has to be protected from the scandal most of all is environmental science, especially the science around climate change.  I am, afraid, though, that the very financial and professional interest mentioned above will guarantee that it is made to pay a disproportionate price for the inevitable discrediting of science as people discover that it was not what they were sold. That is the tragedy of the disintegration of science, the hubris of so many scientists is the force that has powered that tragedy, it will take down those with integrity as well as those who are to blame.  At least that's my greatest fear. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

What Low Turnout?

I just got back from my town's Democratic caucus and can report that it was our heaviest turnout in the history of our town Democratic committee.  It topped our previous record in 2008 by about 25%.   There was general agreement that no matter who the nominee is that it's essential to elect a Democrat to the presidency and to have a Democratic congress. There were a few of the Bernie Sanders dead-enders but they were not more than a few in the large crowd.  I have to say that the people who spoke for both candidates said that they would work for whichever one wins the nomination.