4 Brief, Miscellaneous, Not-Depressing, Poli-Sci Musings

The title says it all, these are some thoughts regarding politics I’ve wanted to share, but didn’t have enough content on their own to be standalone blog entries.

A Poli-Sci Experiment Inspired by Twitch Plays Pokemon

I never partook in the activity while it was ongoing, but the embedded documentary really captured my imagination nonetheless. I now believe that Twitch Plays Pokemon was an interesting microcosm for the struggle of humanity, trying to overcome various hurdles as a collective. The white noise in the chat submitting unhelpful inputs, the trolls deliberately trying to sabotage progress, those are like the uninformed people in real life who lead society astray and are easily swayed to vote against their own best interests. I find it to be a comforting thought that if everyone has a completely equal voice, we can succeed against whatever challenges await us. The problem in real life is we live in a top heavy system where some people’s input is weighted more heavily than others because of their money and influence.

Taking these thoughts to their logical conclusion, what would really interest me is if they did a follow up “Twitch Plays” event with multiple streams of the same game going at once, perhaps using Pokemon Yellow or Pokemon Gold, to represent different forms of government. So, like the original event, there would be an anarchy mode, where everyone’s suggested moves are input to the game in at real time. Then, also like in the original event, there would be a direct democracy mode, where a ten second ballot is taken before each in-game move is input, with the computer tallying everyone’s suggestions and going with the most popular. Then a demarchy mode where control randomly bounces around to individual participants for a predetermined window of about 10-30 seconds at a time. Then maybe even a representative democracy mode where players can submit themselves as “candidates” and the candidate with the most votes after a five minute “election” period is given sole control of the game for say, 3-10 minutes but then is forbidden from “running” and getting control again. The idea with this particular mode would be to determine whether the long stretch in power is ultimately a benefit or hindrance to the game’s progression, since one “election cycle” can either do great good or great harm in such a time.

Then we would see which system beats the game the fastest and/or catches the most pokemon and/or inspires the most interesting “meta lore” behind the run. (Essentially, judging the ability of each structure to solve problems and accrue a rich “culture” among its “citizens.”) I would like to try this idea with a simple adventure game, as well as a soceity-building simulation of some kind (think Sim City, one of the Civilization games, or Age of Empires.) And maybe even try it with a general IQ test or something like Brain Age on the Nintendo DS. I know the results would be academically useless if done as a large-scale social event, but it could yield some interesting observations on human nature nonetheless.

It’s not quite as well remembered but I felt the same sense of communal pride with the reddit community which collectively managed to create a playable version of Community‘s Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne from the “Digital Estate Planning” episode. It’s awesome to think there are people out there who are so dedicated about a shared interest that they can pull that off with pure grassroots organization, without even the profit motive as an incentive. I’d like to see more of that in the world.

Alignment Chart for Politicians

There’s this anecdote from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 which really grabbed my attention. A group of Vietnam War veterans were protesting the Republican National Convention and the protesters tried to address the onlookers via megaphones to speak their piece. The cops were hesitant to violently disperse them as is their usual response, because the demonstrators were all crippled, maimed war heroes with their wives/girlfriends pushing their wheelchairs. It wouldn’t have looked good on camera, basically, and could have become a watershed moment for anti-war sentiment if broadcast on the news.

So, instead of forceful suppression, the powers that be had helicopters fly overhead so no one could hear what the protesters were saying. It was ice cold, but ruthlessly efficient as is Nixon’s MO. I was thinking of that in contrast to Trump’s heavy-handed actions in DC: tear-gassing the protesters in Lafayette Square, followed by the tone deaf bible photo. I don’t have any Earth shattering conclusion to this observation, except that Trump is stupid evil and Nixon was brilliant evil.

You’re free to disagree, and I welcome alternatives in the comments.

George McGovern Interview

Here’s a wonderful interview of George McGovern I had not seen before. Found this looking (once again) for those damned 1972 primary debates on Face the Nation to no avail. Some highlights:

-McGovern refused to campaign on his distinguished war record. This is a fact I actually never even thought about, and that was not mentioned in the fantastic book The 18 Day Running Mate I read last year.

-His fawning over Abraham Lincoln is adorable, and kinda reminiscent of my own incessant hero worship of McGovern himself 😛

-Its SO REFRESHING to see a politician have the courage to admit our military budget is obscenely over-bloated. It’s so frustrating how many politicians and media figures today are neocons and chicken hawks who dare to question your patriotism/masculinity/integrity should you raise the point as a layperson. Here is a goddamned war hero saying the money could be better spent elsewhere…like single payer or basic income, two other things he also campaigned on in ’72

-Apparently the context for this interview is for his then-new book about Abe Lincoln. I like how George says he wrote it primarily to learn more. I also enjoy writing about things just to get my own ideas straight in my head if nothing else.

-He cites a quote “A good orator is a good person speaking well.” Unfortunately, I think I have to disagree on that definition. I think Reagan, Hitler and even Trump in his own way are “good orators” at least in the sense where “good” means effective. Ideally George’s definition should be true, but unfortunately there are a lot of charismatic evil men out there.

-He calls Lincoln the best writer who ever served in the white house. I don’t know enough to say whether I agree or not, though Lincoln is undeniably up there for sure. I think FDR and even Nixon himself were also very eloquent and effective in that craft. Jefferson is certainly in that company, too.

-He talks about Lincolns depression and segues into his daughter Terry’s struggles with the same thing. I was talking about beautiful father-daughter relationships the other day, and I cant believe this one slipped my mind. To me, there is nothing more heart-rending than listening to George talk about his beloved daughter and her troubles. I can think of no one less deserving of having to lose a child than George, and I would highly recommend reading his book, Terry, My Daughter’s Life and Death Struggle with Alcoholism.

-He calls Lincoln’s greatest achievement the preservation of the union, in stark contrast to my words on the matter recently. I’d say we should have let the South go. It would have been tough but ultimately we would have been a lot better off and would probably have a more European style government now, at least in the North. Barring that, the South should have gone through a thorough “denazification” with its racist confederate ideology completely destroyed, but Johnson botched the entire Reconstruction process.

-He reaffirms one of my fave points he made in the ’97 debate with William F Buckley, and something I strongly agree with: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH CONSERVATIVES. We need conservatives in government, the extremists on both sides who seem to want to eradicate all liberals or all conservatives are themselves the issue. He even cites his own personal friendship with Goldwater (the grandfather of modern Conservatism) and shares that Goldwater was open to working with him to slash the military budget.

-Going off that, he makes another great point, and something I’ve been saying since last year–the real problem is the neoconservatives. The expansionist warmongers, people like Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, the Bush family, etc. Along with social conservatives (religion and racial based) and supply side economics (aka Neoliberalism) I’d say neoconservatism is probably the worst ideology in America today.

-He goes a little too easy on LBJ for his part in escalating the Vietnam War, perhaps due to personal friendship and not wanting to speak ill of the dead. He claims that Johnston didn’t start the war and didn’t know how to get out. The truth is Kennedy was already planning on getting us out and then Johnson, once in power, greatly escalated the US involvement. McGovern claims Johnson just couldn’t admit the war was wrong–it’d be humiliating. And the interviewer interjects to suggest both LBJ and now Obama were scared to leave these long, costly wars due to fear of being seen as losing the war and being soft. It all comes down to fragile/toxic masculinity, why men (and some women leaders afraid to be seen as “soft” too) do a lot of the stupid things they do. That, and the golden rule of politics: perception/optics are everything.

-He admits he doesn’t know much about “high finance” as he calls it, but says he would have voted against the bank bailout of 07/08.

-“Religion in my opinion has to stand for social justice” He goes on to say the problem with most religious denominations today is too much emphasis on personal salvation rather than fixing the problems of the world. “I’d like to hear a sermon on peace. I’d like to hear a sermon on social justice. I’d like to hear a sermon on the rights of women. I’d like to hear sermons that help us build a better society on Earth.

-The interviewer ends things by saying “I’ve never met a finer human being than George McGovern” words that Hunter S Thompson and several others who’ve interviewed and worked with him (including Bob Dole) have said as well.

One of my favorite images in politics. George naturally accruing attention for himself and Humphrey desperately trying to force it back on him. That’s the ’72 primary in a nutshell.

One of My All-Time Favorite Debates in American History

This is a debate between Barry Goldwater, the father of modern conservatism, and Norman Thomas, the leader of the Socialist Party and successor of Eugene Debs.

The most striking thing, to me, is that Goldwater, a then-unprecedented rightwing hardliner, admits that government has a place in regulating society to an extent and acknowledges that government had to step in to end the Gilded Age policies. When you really go back and look at history, it’s pretty crazy just how far to the right we’ve come and how much more extreme and dogmatic the rhetoric is today. There used to be a sense of balance in the policies of the Fifth Party System politicians. They would often openly admit their ideology wasn’t infallible and that both right and left have a place in the world. Compare that to the rhetoric of today where we’ve got people on the right (and, disturbingly even a few in what passes for the “left”) who go around chest thumping about how government is evil, we need to destroy all regulations, labor unions are evil and the labor rights people fought and died for are unnecessary. (Or if they were necessary, companies gave them to us out of the goodness of their heart…and then never felt the need to give us anything ever again.)

It would be nice to go back to a time where men discussed ideas intelligently and respectfully. Now it’s all “you disagree? You’re a racist, sexist, homophobe, transphobe brainwashed by Russian propaganda!!” / “you think Government has a place in the world? You’re a soy-boy, commie-snowflake, lib-tard cuck who loves Hillary Clinton!!”

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