On Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 9:44 PM, Raymond Lutz wrote:
Hi Mark:

On 8/30/2011 7:27 PM, Mark E. Smith wrote:
If you vote for someone who gambles their fortune away or cheats, and you didn't know beforehand that they would do it, you are not endorsing gambling or cheating. But if you know that the person is a habitual gambler or cheater and you vote for them anyway, then you are.

Not necessarily. You may not endorse gambling and cheating and still vote for the person if the other person is a worse gambler and cheater. You figure that by voting for the lesser of the two evils, you are reducing the tendency to gamble or cheat, and the net result is positive. In another scenario, you may know that the person cheats on his/her spouse, and even though that is a character trait you don't admire, he/her has so many admirable traits that is still a vote for the best representative. So I fundamentally reject the idea that voting for someone is an endorsement of mistakes or bad decisions they may make. And it is particularly true if they do something legal and common for leaders to engage in (unfortunately).
 
Again. you're being negative and saying that since the situation is hopeless, that's the best you can do. I believe we can do better. 
Quite the contrary. I do have the option to improve the situation, even if only a little bit, and I take it. That means I do not believe the situation is hopeless. You are the one who says the situation is hopeless, and you want a complete change and some sort of "new" and "better" democracy where there is no gambling or cheating or you want to stomp your feet and throw a tantrum. The sad result is your tantrum will do nothing to improve things, despite your desire to do so. This is not because I think the situation is hopeless. It is because I believe the tactic of encouraging everyone to not vote will not produce the desired result. You like a simple solution "stop voting and that will fix everything" and you say everyone else is hopeless if they don't think your approach will work.

Let's say you are in a battle. You have a few low caliber guns. You can shoot at the enemy but it doesn't do very much good. You each have one bullet per election, and only if you shoot all at once will it do much good. One approach is to try to get everyone shooting to have the best effect. You, on the other hand, say it is better not to shoot at all, and if we do that, the enemy will give up because they like us to shoot at them.

Honestly, it is the best thing they could possibly hope for! A movement to stop shooting so they can do whatever they want. You say it is hopeless, but everyone else sees that your approach is even more hopeless.



I do fault the students in the Berkeley prison experiment who abused other students. Not all students did it. Not everyone conformed to the majority or obeyed authority. Some people have a conscience and act on it. It is like the other experiment where people deny what their eyes tell them in order to conform to the majority opinion. Not everyone does. As one of those who do not follow the herd, I do fault people who deny what they know so that they can please authorities or be part of the crowd.

But what they found is that the poor treatment of other students was so rampant, that they had to shut down the experiment. This means to me that if you place an individual in a position of power, this screws with their head and they make bad decisions. Even if your protest works and you get a gleaming new democracy, it will not withstand the underlying psychological realities of human nature, and the system will be no better than the one we have, except that we have undermined the value of voting and we will likely never get democracy started again.
 
Rampant doesn't mean ubiquitous. Just because most people may be susceptible to peer pressure or mob psychology, doesn't mean that everyone is. If studies showed that more than 90% of people, upon finding a wallet with ID and a lot of money in it, would keep the money and throw away the wallet, would you feel that it was okay for you to do the same? Would you teach your children that it was okay for them to do the same? Do you teach your children that if all the other kids are driving while drunk, it is okay for them to do it? Not everyone is corrupt. We are all subject to temptation, but we don't all cope in the same way. Some just succumb while others do not. Some of us even come up with extremely clever ways to manage to avoid succumbing to temptation and becoming corrupt. For example, some people in power, rather than surrounding themselves with yes men or others who are corrupt, surround themselves with the most honorable and uncorrupt people they can find, to help them avoid temptation. Hugo Chavez, for example, appointed so many wise female elders to his administration to keep him honest, that he is jokingly referred to in Venezuela not as The Father of the Revolution, but as The Grandmother of the Revolution.
You're dreaming. Take a group of people and they, as a whole, will usually react about the same way. Sure, there are outliers in any probability distribution. But you can't bank on that.

 
Voting itself is not democracy. Stalin held elections, but nobody thought it was a democracy just because people could vote. The value of voting here has already been undermined because the votes don't have to be counted and the results can't be verified. Stalin himself said that isn't who votes but who counts the votes. In mistaking voting for democracy, you're making a fundamental mistake. There can be voting without democracy and there can be democracy without voting. The best combination, of course, is democracy with voting, but before voting can be a part of a functional democracy, you have to have a democratic system in which votes are actually counted, the results can be verified, and the popular will of the people as expressed through their votes is the final say and cannot be ignored or overruled.
But a democracy requires voting. If you undermine the essence of the system you promote, you can never have it.

 
People who won't vote in elections where their votes don't have to be counted, where the results aren't verifiable, and where the candidates, once elected, can't be held accountable, will be proud and happy to vote in elections where every vote must be counted, the results are verifiable, and the candidates can be held accountable. If a restaurant serves lousy food, they may not have many customers. If they get a new chef and they start serving good food, more people are likely to eat there. Voting isn't any different from anything else. When the quality is lousy, consumers aren't happy and products sit on the shelves. When the quality is good, lines form all the way around the block for a chance to get something that everyone wants. Right now the political parties spend billions of dollars to encourage people to use a lousy electoral system to vote for unpalatable candidates. If the quality of the electoral system and the candidates improved, they wouldn't have to spend a dime on advertising because everyone would want to vote.
That's why it is important that we fix those problems rather than encourage the insanity of not voting at all. Please.

You can see the work I did on election integrity here http://www.copswiki.org/Common/COPsRovReport
This is still an active project. If you really care about a working democracy, help to make corrections which are desperately needed and are required regardless of whether you get a gleaming new democracy or not. But our system is not completely defunct. With oversight, it can produce fair results.

 
 
Just because our system allows things to happen does not mean that people responsible for evil should not be held accountable. Our system allowed the BP oil spill to happen. Does that mean nobody should be held accountable? Wars based on lies are wars of aggression and crimes against humanity. Withdrawing from international law does not make them legal.
I agree completely. But just because you vote for someone does not mean you are complicit with their poor decisions. That's like the rationale that the sin of Adam is somehow handed down to all humans. I don't buy it.
 
If you allow people you know to be corrupt to make your decisions for you, simply because somebody else might be more corrupt, yes, you are complicit. If you have small children and you are only offered a choice of two possible babysitters, one of whom is a convicted child molester who has molested three children, and the other is a convicted child molester who has molested thirty children, you can't tell me that you are not complicit if you leave your kids with the first molester on the basis that he is less evil. If you can't find a babysitter who isn't a child molester, stay home.  Otherwise, don't try to tell me that you care about your children. It is the same with voting. If both candidates are war criminals and you oppose war crimes, don't vote. If you vote for a war criminal, don't tell me that it is justified because the other candidate is a worse war criminal. I don't vote for war criminals and I don't vote in elections where the only possible winner are war criminals. That's because I care about children, about human rights, and I'm opposed to war crimes. I'm not going to say, well, Ray votes for war criminals, so I should too. You have to live with yourself and I have to live with and answer to myself. I take responsibility for my actions and I won't let myself be influenced by people who don't, not even if they're the vast majority. I wasn't created to be an irresponsible blob, I was given a conscience and I show my appreciation for that gift by listening to it instead of listening to the herds of irresponsible blobs. 
 
Your belief that no matter what happens, people will twist the system and make things worse, is extremely negative and hopeless.
No, it is just reality. I don't think that a protest and a new gleaming democracy will be any better than the corrupt system we have. But that does not mean I'm going to give up and stop applying pressure in the other direction. If you know you may have a flat tire on a trip, you don't stop going on trips. You bring a spare, and then the "disaster" will not hurt your trip.
 
If you are deliberately ignorant of reality, and only allow yourself to see the reality that you want to see, you'll continue to believe that change for the better isn't possible and keep voting for the status quo. I have a friend who lives in Caracas and I've studied other countries where they managed to oust their oligarchies and establish true democracies, so that is the reality I know. 
Just the opposite. You have a sweet little solution that you think is the cure for all evils. I see it as a lost cause, something that is self-refuting, a doorway to insanity. It does NOT mean I "like the status quo" and all that crap. The trouble is, you think that if someone does not think your solution will work that automatically they are bent on preserving the current system. Not true.

Now, perhaps you can explain in gory detail, how exactly not voting will do anything productive. I see it like slapping ourselves in the face, but maybe if you try to explain that, you will see that you really haven't thought it through very far. (But don't do that on this list.)


If you believe that it is impossible to bring about social change for the good, you'll never try because you think it is impossible.

But I don't believe that. I DO Believe it is possible to bring about social change for the good. I don't think that voting does very much, but it is one small power that we have that I don't think we should flush down the toilet just because it isn't that powerful. I believe other methods are more productive, such as direct observation of public officials, and that's why I started CitizensOversight.org, to encourage people to apply that sort ofoversight.
 
That is a form of direct democracy. If voting worked in our system, you wouldn't need CitizensOversight because you could simply elect people who weren't corrupt and who would surround themselves with other people who weren't corrupt to help them avoid becoming corrupt.
Not true. Even if we had pure democracy, we would still need citizens' oversight. The psychological realities will not change, greed, sexual urges, corruption, etc will not disappear just because we have a system that is more like pure democracy. So I reject this notion and the rest of the explanation that is based on it.


The system adopted by the Zapatistas in Mexico requires that elected officials cannot act before polling their constituents to ask what their constituents want them to do. If they then act against the wishes of their constituents, they are immediately removed from office and replaced with people who will lead by obeying. Because the people have a voice in government, they call their government the good government, and the corrupt government of Mexico the bad government. Where there is direct democracy and transparency, you already have citizen oversight.
No, you still need oversight because they could still lie.

Where there is secrecy and corruption, attempts at citizen oversight are an exercise in futility because it is the government that holds the power, not the people.
I disagree.

Look up the definition of democracy in the dictionary. It means a form of government where power is vested in the hands of the people, or, as Lincoln put it, government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Government of, by, and for the corporations and the rich, including, at our local level, wealthy real estate developers, is not democracy. It is plutocracy or oligarchy.
Correct.


Voting for your choice of plutocrats and oligarchs is not democracy. It is plutocracy or oligarchy with symbolic elections to give people the illusion ofparticipation, as I explained in my previous post.
True, except that not voting does not do any good.

Just because plutocrats and oligarchs will let you vote for them, doesn't mean that they'll represent you once they're in office. 
Right again. But that does not mean not voting will do any good.


So you'll stick with the status quo because you think all other options are worse and that therefore it must be the best of all possible worlds.

No, that is not the result. Just because I don't throw in the towel does not mean I am giving up. It is just the opposite. You are the one that says nothing can be changed and you are advocating giving up. I say I don't like the status quo and I'm willing to use voting for whatever it is worth.
 
If it was worth anything, I'd vote also. But casting ballots that don't have to be counted, in elections where the results are not verifiable, for candidates who can't be held accountable while in office, is totally worthless.
That's not true. #1, the elections are not completely unverifiable. Not all ballots are counted, but if we overwhelm the system, it will still have an effect. So to say that there are some problems and therefore, the value of voting is == 0, is incorrect thinking.

You have a big board you want to put up on the wall. You have little tiny brads you can nail in. One nail will do nothing, the board will fall. Many brads fall to the floor. The board is not exactly the one we want, but it is slightly better than the other one. If we get enough people to vote in our direction, it is like putting enough brads in the board to hold it up. Each brad does almost nothing but when combined with many other, we can push the system in the right direction, however slowly. A person in the back that says "Don't put any brads in the board, and we will get our way" is insanity. It makes no sense, will do no good, and only makes you sound like an idiot.


Only votes which must be counted, can be verified, and are either a direct voice on issues or a vote for representatives who can be held directly accountable, are worthwhile. That's the kind of votes they have in Venezuela. After their revolution, once they had ousted their corrupt oligarchy, they drew up a Constitution that guaranteed it. Their revolution is now in its 12th year and hasn't been corrupted yet.

There is nothing wrong with having hopes, dreams, and visions for a better future.
That's why I have hope that we can build a better democracy, but I realize that due to the frailties of human nature, it will never be very pretty.
 
Well, they do other things in Venezuela. Instead of saturating their youth with porn, their schools teach social values and responsibility. So their human nature is very different from ours. In fact, it is more a question of nurture than of nature. When Hurricane Katrina hit Cuba, they successfully evacuated two million people. They already had the plans in place, they cared about people, even poor people, and they did it. When it hit New Orleans, no plans were in place, poor people weren't evacuated, and it was a disaster. It isn't a question of human nature, it is a question of whether or not the system teaches selfish values or social values.
Bullshirt. There is porn in Venezuela too. Our schools do not "saturate our youth with porn." You are grasping for straws now.


I don't advocate magical positivity, but when we've seen a small town in Peru stand up to the big world water barons and win, we know that it is not necessary for everything to be privatized and sold for the maximum possible profit. We know that people have a right to clean water and sometimes, if they are sufficiently determined, can defend that right. But not if they just say that things are as they are and cannot be any other way so we have no choice but to submit.
 
  --Mark
 
I'm all for that, and if we have a movement of that nature, then using a vote protest might help us. But I do not believe you can improve the underlying voting system, which is fundamental to all democratic systems, by promoting the notion that voting is worthless. If you do that and you are able to convince a big group that it is true, and let's say you clean up everything (I still don't know how the protest would result in that as an outcome, and I don't even think you know what you want) then you would have to do an about-face and convince everyone that they should now trust the voting system and their new govt.

In essence, you can't use a voting protest to protest that the voting system does not work, and then restart the same system when you are done. This is insanity at its level worst.
 
Germany banned voting machines and central tabulators because they count votes secretly in a way that is easily hacked and cannot be verified. Are you saying that it is impossible for Germany to have done what they did?
No, not at all. But they did not do that by not voting. They did it by insisting the facts and getting others to understand, to generate a movement. We are doing the same here. (Read my report on election systems).

I'm not saying that voting is always worthless,
Well, we are making progress then, because you've said that over and over. So I will chalk this up as progress.

just that uncounted votes are worthless, elections that are unverifiable are worthless, and elections for candidates who can't be held accountable are worthless.
Not exactly true. You are making mistakes of glossing over details. Uncounted votes are worthless, just as worthless as votes that are not cast, like yours. Unverifiable elections are not worthless, if they are overwhelmed, and there is always some measure of verifiability. Candidates can be held accountable at the next election, so that means they are held accountable. All these arguments hold no water at all. You are fooling yourself by using inexact logic.

In most democratic countries the votes do have to be counted and the results are verifiable. Are you saying that Canada, England, Ireland, and every other country that has verifiable elections can't do what they are already doing because human nature is evil? 
Not at all. But verifiability always has limits, and we are in the middle of making corrections to our system. If you want to help, then come on board and do the hard work. But I can say that in no cases you list, did these countries fix their system by encouraging people not to vote. It is a nonstarter, a ridiculous tactic that will only harm eventually establishing a better democracy.

 
Let me explain to you how a voting protest works. Suppose you vote and you find out after the election that your vote wasn't counted. You investigate and are told that there was a bug or glitch in the optical scanner or the central tabulator. So you assume it was fixed and won't happen again, and in the next election you vote and once more you find out after the election that your vote wasn't counted due to a bug or glitch in the optical scanner or the central tabulator. So you grumble a bit and the next election you vote again, and once again, after the election you learn that your vote wasn't counted and that once again it was supposedly due to a bug or glitch in the optical scanner or central tabulator, but that since our Constitution doesn't require that votes be counted, there is no reason for the Registrar's Office to spend the money to fix the bug or glitch, since your vote doesn't have to be counted anyway. Well, since it is your nature, you'll grumble a bit and keep voting in the next election and the next election, even if your vote is never counted. But in Ireland, since they had learned about the bugs and glitches in the voting machines when other countries like the US used them, when their government tried to introduce voting machines, the Irish refused to vote. They simply would not go to the polls. Their government had to warehouse and eventually scrap all the voting machines, despite the enormous amount of money they'd spent on them, because people wouldn't use them. That's how a voting protest works.
I don't buy it. I don't think not voting will work.

 
When people refuse to vote unless and until the voting system is worthwhile, meaning that votes have to be counted, the results are verifiable, and it is possible to vote for candidates who can be held accountable and actually be forced to represent their constituents instead of their big donors, the voting system will change because the government won't be able to get people to vote unless their demands are met. As long as people are so apathetic that they are willing to continue to vote in elections where their votes don't have to be counted, the results aren't verifiable, and the candidates can't be held accountable, nothing will change.
Incorrect. Things CAN change even if the system is not perfect, and even if voting is not the avenue to get change. Not voting is a completely incorrect approach. You think that because there were voting strikes that were coupled with other movements that the voting strike caused the movement, that is incorrect.

I suggest to you that you discontinue your campaign to get people to stop voting. We spend a great deal of time encouraging people to vote and engage in their democracy. Most of these people barely pay attention and getting them to vote is the first step out of netflix world of recorded films and into the world of reality. You, on the other hand, are undermining these attempts in an campaign that is based on incorrect logic and false premises. The net result of your voice maybe to undermine the shadow of a democracy that we do have. So, please, let's stop the campaign and work on fixing the system in other ways. True it is harder. You have to actually tell the system what is wrong and encourage them to change it. They don't always know what is the better way. Your campaign is completely negative and does not chart the course to the better way. It will not work because it only stops something that we eventually want to happen, and does not stop the bad stuff that we do not want to happen. It is a delusion you have constructed for yourself and I am holding you by your shoulders and trying to shake the senses into you. Snap out of it!

Please take some time to reflect on these things... Let's not process it further at this time. I've tried to shake sense into you and explain that it makes no sense, but it will be up to you to allow the possibility that your solution is incorrect and your thinking must change.

--Ray