Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Today I watch a poet do her thing

they’re always doing things, unhinged but right

always she’s that I think are doing

things that matter but don’t, you know – they are crazy

ranting and raving making us white guys

feel shitty about the way we burned lands, bridges

and –


mostly people

tinging them lightly with whitely fire

we were just playing, as our teachers taught us

we pledged just like them to the flag

for which it stands, you all stood.

only when we set the world on fire

we got medals not moabs, nothing dire.

and so I am still here and here and here and here.

marching everyone else has to do

mostly to almost claim the existence I get for free.

Read Full Post »

For one thing, the smartest people do not necessarily make the best political choices. William F. Buckley once famously declared that he would rather give control of our government to “the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.” Bruce Charlton, a professor of theoretical medicine at the University of Buckingham, recently coined the term “clever sillies” to describe people who hold wacky political views seemingly because of—rather than despite—their high intelligence. Conservative writer John Derbyshire has also observed that political naivety exists at both extremes of the IQ distribution, not just the lower one. The reason is that brilliant people can sometimes be so consumed by abstract philosophy that they forget common sense.

Read the full article here.


It’s the “Bell Curve” argument all over again.

There’s no way to really answer this.  It’s clever writing and fun with stats, but it’s a bogus argument.  a) impossible to really categorize political beliefs in such binary way b) there are so many behavioral factors involved in your belief system that it’s hard to draw a cause strong enough to justify the distinctions here.

Fun read but fairly useless.

Unless it’s true.

I’ll leave the last words to the article author:

The bottom line is that a political debate will never be resolved by measuring the IQs of groups on each side of the issue. Even if certain positions tend to be held by less intelligent people, there will usually be plenty of sharp thinkers who take the same side. Rather than focus on the intellectual deficiencies, real or imagined, of certain politicians and their supporters, people should strive to find the best and brightest spokesmen for the opposing side.

There is a certain devilish fun to contemplating the intelligence of liberals and conservatives, but it should have no effect on how we think about issues. Political debates would be better without it.

Read Full Post »

When I sit down to make sense of the world I often start with this question:

If beings from another galaxy were to show up on our planet on an anthropological mission, what would they think about all of this? What would they conclude?  How is it all connected? What patterns would they find?

All of This right now refers to these very diverse situations on my mind:

Modern Day Pirates

It’s amazing we don’t have more modern day pirates.  It appears relatively easy to take a non military ship.  And, as far as I can tell, we have no well-crafted strategies for recovering ships and crew.  Certainly our lack of strategies is a result of the fact that the US has basically commanded the seas for most of the last century.  We haven’t been tested and lack the response behavior.  Beyond the lack of strategies on our side, it’s very unclear what the pirates have to gain that they couldn’t gain from less risky efforts.  A very strange situation.

False Populism

Are the people really sufficiently suffering to not just demand change via signage create it?  I propose we’ve mostly lost the behaviors over the last 2 generations to implement change.  While the 60s generation marched, sat in, yelled, voted, engaged… later generations built chat rooms, IM, blogs and Twitter.  We rant online.  We don’t look each other in the eye as much.  And when we do, we talk politely…. and then fire up our iPhones to twitter our outrage.  Our online behaviors are very disconnected from meaningful real world context.  The conversations we have online rarely have direct consequences – in stark contrast to having a face to face debate, or showing up to the local public hearing, or meeting in our communities.  Yes, the last national election was a nice break from the norm – people actually used online conversation to get out into the world – but for the most part that was a short lived activity.

Perhaps it’s just a result of the news cycle.  We move on to the next news story before we’ve fully grokked the last set of events.  I don’t buy that the news cycle prevents us from focusing.  I really think that we are living more and more disconnected lives in the world while we think we’re more connected than ever online.  In a world full of status updates, text messages, dropped cell phone calls, bad web ex meetings, as a generation we’ve lost the ability to hold a long, thoughtful conversation.  We don’t read – we scan.  We don’t debate – we tweet.  We don’t listen – we mult task.

Is this “bad” or “good”?  That’s the wrong question.  Does it get us what we want in the world? Does it help us lead the lives we want? If not, what will?  Perhaps marching on our leaders and community organization and old town councils aren’t the mechanisms to drive change anymore.  What is? what comes next?

Newspapers and Journalism in Crisis

So is journalism really in trouble? is it just the papers? is it the print medium? is it the news business model? is it advertising?

Is finding someone to blame going to change what’s going on?

For me, the biggest question that probably will illuminate various reasons for chaos for the news business is: For organizations and businesses where recognizing and analyzing what’s going on in the world is their business, why were they so slow in recognizing their own crisis and coming up with course corrections?  Ironic, to say the least.

I don’t think the print medium is going away.  The existing business models are already gone, it’s just on fumes right now.

Golf as a One Man Brand

TV ratings for golf are 20-50% controlled by Tiger Woods.  I imagine other business numbers like new players, club sales, tee times, Nike clothing sales are equally affected.  This is truly an amazing thing.  What’s more amazing is how in 12 years, PGA and golf in general has not found a way to diversify.  Though it’s ok for now, in 10-15 years if golf hasn’t found a new format or a new set of interesting golfers, it’s going be in serious trouble.

What does it need to do?  Really simple – start getting people from the real world.  Most of the “golf brand” is not at all what the average person is.  Watch the coverage of the Masters.  As beautiful as it all is – it isn’t aspirational at all to most people.  It’s actually off putting, especially now.  Rich, mostly white, people at a country club all making millions.  None of it looks attainable.  It’s an argument golf has faced before… but they don’t seem to listen.

Boxing in modern times

It’s just plane strange if not downright boring.  The modern sport just doesn’t really fit in the mainstream culture like it used to.  The sport has few exciting athletes – in terms of personality and wider cultural presence.  The media surrounding boxing is dreadfully boring with the same old same old announcers and approaches to coverage.  A few years ago when The Contender started as a reality show, I thought there was some promise in reaching a new audience with a more raw, more down to earth viewing experience.

That didn’t last and the sport didn’t really commit to it.

Beyond the media, the sport itself doesn’t really work with a modern audience.  Refs stop fights too early to get the big prize knock outs and most managers keep their great boxers out of big matches.  So why bother to watch?  2 guys punching each other without the purpose of knocking the other one out really undermines the sport.  I’m not saying boxing is good or bad or making any moral judgment.  The idea of fighting is to beat someone up.  When that’s no longer the objective, what’s the big payoff?  When does the audience getting its money worth?  A tactical boxing match is highly boring for non-expert viewers.

UFC and IFC and other mixed martial arts have filled this gap and they are running away with the audience, and many times the athletes.

Also, the idea of overly priced tickets and PPV events doesn’t work in a recession.  Last night’s match card didn’t draw much of a live audience.  I say if boxing returned to smaller gyms and more intimate coverage of lesser known, but more charming athletes they’d have a shot to be relevant.

Celebrity, Method Acting and the Paparazzi

One day soon this celebrity obsession thing is going to fall to pieces in the media.  I know, I know, I certainly buy enough US Weekly’s and have run many entertainment portals and sites – who am I to say something like this?  For a long time I’ve thought this whole “let’s watch everything celebrities do” would get terribly boring.  Celebrities generally lead unremarkable lives, certainly not lives anyone would actually want.

Ok, so occasionally there’s an interesting story or some really bizarre behavior.  I’m pretty certain the behavior of celebrities is conditioned by us and the media and is not a distinct feature of the celebrity. So, if it’s the bizarro behavior we like, you really can just annoy anyone in your neighborhood enough and they too will punch you in the face.  You can now put it on YouTube and get famous.

Point is… methinks TMZ and US Weekly probably won’t have a market on this forever. At least that’s my hope.  Move on.

Stock Market Index Tells You Nothing

The current  behavior of the stock market indices provides no insight into what’s happening in the world.  News outlets and investors wish it did.  In fact, I challenge you to figure out what most economists and “leading thinkers” actually think by reading news articles and economic reports that talk about the DJI or SP500.

Probability of Life in The Universe

I just read an article in the May issue of Discovery Magazine about how the universe has a higher probability of life formation than we thought.  Why can’t we let go of this desire to prove our existence is inevitable (either as something so rare it must be divine, or something so probable of course we’re here)?  Folks, let it go.  There’s simply know way to know how likely life was or is in the universe.  Even if we find life elsewhere… 2 out of infinity is still undefined.

Bigger question: why do we care whether it’s likely or not?

Alright, enough, time for some Rockband or something.

Aliens from another planet – if you are reading this and can understand – please do tell us what you figure out, because we certainly can’t make sense out of all this.

Read Full Post »

Data once was a signature, a number on a driver’s license or even a newspaper subscription. Now it is much more but less of what you are used to accounting for. Digital information is today recorded by all manner of sensors you are not aware of and don’t see the consequences of. The new reality is data ‘Reality Mining’.

From phones, GPS units, RFID tags in office ID badges, texting, scans of your car through toll booths, credit card activity at ATMs, stores, gas stations, phone call tower identity, sensors are capturing your behavior in a digital form. Coupled with arguably suspect ‘secure’ anything digital including health information, income statements and Web surfing time, place and duration, the data organization and mining has birthed the emerging field of “collective intelligence”. Welcome.

All that digital information is going to servers and reformatted in data bases are as viral as anything you and a person with a lot of letters after their name can even imagine. And we are adolescents in this development.

A thick web refers to what our ubiquitous use of the web has brought us worldwide; data, tetra-terabytes of it daily. Collective intelligence practitioners acknowledge that their tools will create a sci-fi future on a level Big Brother on cocaine could not have dreamed of. In fact that is, the ‘thing’ about what is going on; we have no idea how we, our families, company, city, nation are going to be impacted as this approach to information finds every nook and cranny of everyone’s life. Stopping it is not an option.

Collective intelligence will make it possible, not probable, for insurance companies, employers, pharmaceutical companies to use data to covertly identify people with an identified gene, profile, affliction, etc., and deny them insurance coverage, employment or bank loans. They can also use it to snuff out an epidemic just as covertly. I wonder where the value of this will be positioned? The government through their budgeting selections can assist law enforcement agencies to identify opposition member’s behavior by tracking scanning, tracing public and private social networks (our old friend the Patriot Act has morphed while we worried about our 401K and “the wars”).

“Pernicious” means exceedingly harmful. Pernicious implies irreparable harm done through evil or insidious corrupting or undermining <the claim is that pornography has a pernicious effect on society>

Now, today, we have and are using the capability to assess a person’s behavior with reality mining of data and then interpret that profile without monitoring him or her directly, talking to him or her, or “knowing’ them. Does Kroger care if you are in a bad mood when you scan your value card? Is the East TX toll reader interested in your reasons for being there mid afternoon? Does Macy’s want you to buy only brand X and not brand Y at the same price? They all care about your behavior, not your feelings and emotions, and intentions and, and, and…

It is a mashup! People and organizations interacting with one another through multimedia digital means will never be less than it is today; it will always be more. Those interactions dynamically leave traces of that ‘behavior’. This allows scientists, the Mafia or over zealous investigative reporters, for example, and anyone with the technology access to the databases to study and learn about the behavior of those traced without the knowledge or consent of the people and groups being scanned. Techniques like that are thought to infringe on the individuals and groups being traced for commercial benefit of those that have that technology over the individuals, groups of individuals and commercial entities that don’t have that technology.

What’s more, if you or your group doesn’t want to be scanned, traced or digitally followed, you have little to say in the matter. Take the instance of “opting out” that’s put forth as a counter measure today for not being a target for spyware, spam and behavioral marketing… “Opting out” is another way some companies validate a cautious web user. For some it means that a different level of secrecy is needed for those that understand counter-control methods. If you want to be removed from lists you have the following troubles (WHICH ARE ALSO TRUE OF REALITY MINING AND COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE EFFORTS);

  1. You don’t know where your data is; multiple servers, entities, in the “cloud”
  2. Once in the web, your data is not a ‘thing’ it is a “byt-pat”, a partial byte sequence and a partial pattern
  3. You don’t know who owns it legally
  4. You can’t catch up to it and kill it
  5. Your intimidation by technology is being used against you
  6. You have no counter-control outside the boarders of your country
  7. Your hope is that it isn’t true of you and your data
  8. Arguments favoring scanning and autonomous tracing are wrapped in virtuous rationales

a. fighting disease: SARS, flu, etc

b. fighting terrorists: real and imagined

c. helping the sick and elderly

d. child safety: fear reduction

The reality of reality mining is that your data collected by all of these methods are like a thought you had last night when watching TV: you can’t get at it now, you can’t know exactly where it is located in your head, and once you get it back after going through some mental gymnastics it is not the same as it was when you first had it.

Every day privacy becomes more of a myth than it was even last weekend during the USC game when the water company could tell – they have the data – when the half time occurred due to a drop in the water levels in an eight minute period. We expect that the water will be there and it was. We expect that no one was watching but what “watching” means is changing. It is changing really fast and in ways no one at MIT, Bureau of the Budget and Management or the Justice Department can predict or control. The steaks for success are high. Kroger is working on it.

Are you ready for a wild ride on a roller coaster in the dark without handrails? That is what’s coming here.

Read Full Post »

No matter how you slice this election, old school political media plans just got schooled.

The Obama campaign altered national campaigning in a major way during this election.  Forget whether he wins or loses or whether you are this political part or that one, the fact is fundraising and political marketing is forever different.

Some key insights:

  • Logos will no longer be just stars or flags or letter marks – campaigns will spend the money on a real logo
  • The candidate’s name will be backseat to the key word or phrase
  • Media plans will have digital/online as the center piece
  • Real time editing of video (live + highlight) is essential
  • New creative every day is required
  • Network TV can be bought, cheaply
  • Video game advertising will grow in importance
  • YouTube (and other online video sources) are more important than they seem
  • Spamming is effective
  • Robocalls are less effective than humans
  • Cell phones should be issued to all campaigners (or pay for their data plan)
  • The network effect can raise a lot of money
  • HD TV requires good looking people
  • Nothing can be hidden, everyone is an investigative journalist. Plan for exposure.
  • Campaigns will never be shorter than 13 months
  • Polls get press
  • dotcoms generate real traffic
  • programming is a required skill of some of the campaign staff

I can’t wait to see the final tally on campaign spending and the break out by media type.  Also, the voter turn out and correlation to media should be fairly interesting.

Again, stand where you want on the issues, the media plans and marketing campaigns involved are bigger than the biggest brands on earth.

I see a lot of RFPs, IOs and agency plans in my line of work.  None of them come close to the brand integration of the campaigns, and Obama’s in particular.  None of these RFPs have near the coverage or depth or scope of these campaigns.

The coordination required to pull of these campaigns is beyond what you can imagine, even if you work in advertising.  And to be raising the budget as you need it makes it more impressive.. or maybe that’s what makes it possible at all.

Welcome to the digital, on demand age.  It’s here.

Read Full Post »

When was the last time you used a counterfactual statement? (for definition and examples check here.)

Most likely you dropped one within the last 24 hours.  Counterfactual history litters our sports, finance, media/technology, political and intellectual discourse constantly nowadays.

In Sports:

  • “If Michael Phelps didn’t win 8 golds, …”
  • “If LT played during the preason, the Chargers would be….”
  • ….

In finance:

  • “If Greenspan had lowered rates, …”
  • “If the banks were more regulated, then we would have avoided…”
  • ….

In media:

  • “If Microsoft had bought Yahoo!, then…”
  • “If there were no election cylce, SNL would be…”
  • ….

In politics

  • “If McCain picked Romney, the polls would…”
  • “If the economy didn’t tank, Obama would not…”
  • “If we never went into Iraq, …”
  • “If we left Saddam in power, we’d all…”
  • ….

Our own intellectual discourse:

  • “If I hadn’t have quit my job, we would…”
  • “If I were 5 minutes later, everything would be…”
  • “If you would have looked the door, the burglar would have found another way in…”

This is the basis of all punditry.  Why?  That’s a damn good question.  Why is our discourse so focused on counterfactuals? What value to they provide us?  Is it just “exhaust” as we try to evaluate consequences of real facts (things that did happen!)?  Do they help us organize events so we can better recognize future situations?  Do they actually have logical value beyond discussion? (multiple worlds theory…)

These types of statements are completely unfalsifiable.  They are hypothetical with no way to test them.  The only way would could test these is to be in the exact situations again (or be able to experimentally repeat them).  The problem is – there’s absolutely no way to do this.  We cannot go back, we cannot recreate the exact circumstances.

How often do you use a counterfactual?

My take is that counterfactuals offer very little explanatory value and little behavior modification value.  They are simply fillers as we process what did happen.  (now, can I prove this?)

Hmmm… i’m going to work up an experiment.

Read Full Post »

Things are complicated out there. You may or may not be aware that your nervous system filters out the massive amount of data that your senses are exposed to. As a matter of conservation of energy (real and metaphorical) you are attending to very little of your environment based on your history and the current value you have for some segment of it.

Let me frame this for your consideration…

Due to our complexity as humans, when things are not there, we sometimes see things. (No, it is not the 60’s.) What’s more, when things are there in front of us and available for our experience, we don’t see them.

Two Experiments to consider…

1. In a recent paper in Science, Whitson and Galinsky (2008) found when individuals are unable to gain a sense of control objectively they will gain it perceptually through illusory pattern perception meaning they will identify “stuff” among a stimuli in their environment that don’t really exist. They are not hallucinating in the usual sense of the word. They are generating information to provide continuity linking what they can just as is sensory data is generated in sensory deprivation experiments.

Whitson, et.al, empirically found that people generate pattern perceptions to make sense of the events in their environment when they experience lack of control of the environmental events they are experiencing.

Now, consider what that means…

  • It means we don’t see the flaws in people we are connected to or that we see the flaws where none exist
  • it means that we see a conspiracy from a new boss when we don’t yet exist to the new boss
  • it means we identify objects in random noise images where there are none
  • it means we see mechanistic cause and effect relationships where no links exist
  • it means we see correlations in economic markets in companies we like
  • it means we don’t see how our behavior is like the behavior of someone we don’t like
  • it means we can’t tell why people like us or dislike us when they do
  • it means that we can’t see the flaws in our children as they lie dead with a needle in their arm
  • it means that we can be more than one kind of person every day of our lives
  • it means that people not like us are suspicious and people like us are allies

Staggering, isn’t it!

Examples of superstitious behavior in the modern world are countless – sports super heroes involved in astrology, learned rituals so complex that someone once referred to a baseball player as “his own seventh inning stretch” due to the time he took to address each pitch. Religion, prayer, sacrificial rituals, appeasements, holidays, traditions, incantations, etc. all come from making relationships where none exist.   Gasuntheit!

When you are uncertain about your environment and don’t perceive you have control, know what is going on, etc., it is disconcerting. In terms of how we learn, not perceiving you have control is an aversive stimulus equal to shock, rejection, pain, or other punishers. Faced with uncertainty, lack of control, people look for patterns [ah, the value of search] in their environments to re-establish control. When it is not there empirically, we try to establish it perceptually with vision playing the lead role.

With the dearth of information and conflicting data sets it is a constant challenge to understand what is related and what isn’t. In an election year the conspiracies exist for those that most not understanding why their candidate is losing since they see the relationships between them and the agenda as a citizen. The media, the polls, the moderators, the economy, the Jews, the youth, the women…etc. are all plotting to undo the trailing candidate.

2. The following video  is based on research by Simons and Chabris from Indiana University. It is very interesting for several reasons, all of which you’ll see if you FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS OF THE PRESENTER EXACTLY.

After you see it spend some time thinking how that affects what your life is like, how research is done and how the world works. After all that, come back write or respond with what you think the implications are of the research.


The lesson here isn’t simple. If we were to want a society free from magical thoughts, then we need expand the tolerance for people to live in ambiguity in some areas, educate people on how feelings and emotions are the exhaust of perceived contingencies and how the environment comes to control behavior via consequences.

J. A. Whitson, A. D. Galinsky (2008). Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception Science, 322 (5898), 115-117 DOI: 10.1126/science.1159845

Read Full Post »

We know that behavior is not simple but there are simple behavioral components that keep getting ignored. Relative to what we all experience in life like conflicts in the Dan Ariely remarks below and in a previous blog on this site.… we recognize his statements on habits, good and bad, etc.  Yet there is a second component that comes to be more easily considered as well.  Follow along…

Dan Ariely: ….(on the October Bailout, politicians, Wall Street, etc.)

The second thing is that nothing has changed much in the short term living of people. In some sense, this is smaller than the effect of the increasing gas prices.

Greer: Yeah.

Ariely: What is happening? Basically the thing is we are creatures of habit, if you think about it. The best predictor of what we will do tomorrow is what we did today. That is it. Habits are good and bad. They are good because they help us save energy. We don’t have to think about it. We don’t have to contemplate every cup of coffee if it is worth it or not. As a consequence, we get into habits.

When we lose 50 or 500 interactive habits all at once via an earthquake, hurricane, family death, financial threats, loneliness, fall from grace, rejection…etc. (you get the idea) we have nothing to replace those ‘habits’ that are the products of conditioning shaped by consequences over years. We don’t have any behavior to replace those lost dynamic relationships with… literally!. We have to figure it out all over again. Sometimes it is too much to handle.

Take the following stories bunched together from Associated Press just today…10/7/08

Tuesday, October 7th 2008, 11:31 AM

AP/The Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A deputy coroner confirmed Tuesday that Hope Orwick stabbed her two children to death and then shot herself.

Deputy Jefferson County Coroner Bob Jones said Emily Orwick, 9, and Lindsey Orwick, 8, were stabbed multiple times, though he could not say how many. He said Hope Orwick, 35, shot herself in the head.


Louisville Metro Police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley said a family member stopped by the house just before 7:30 p.m. EDT Monday and found the bodies.

Jones said he hasn’t been able to pinpoint when the girls died, and police were trying to determine a motive for the killings.

Crisis counselors will be available at the girls’ elementary school Wednesday, said Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman Lauren Roberts, who would not say which school they attended. Public schools in Louisville were closed Tuesday for parent-teacher conferences.


Along the quiet, well-kept southwest Jefferson County street where the family lived, children played in their yards Tuesday. All was quiet at the family’s modest, ranch-style house, where there were no signs of activity.

Two chaplains were at the scene Monday night, and Smiley said 15 or so family members gathered there. Police talked to relatives to see if they could help explain what may have led to the deaths.

Neighbor Mechelle Rockey, 48, told The Courier-Journal that she has lived across the street from the family for about six months. She said the two girls often played outside.

Contingencies around us control our behavior. We give them other ‘causes’ but as you can see it is contingencies that have all the power, be you the Pope, the President or the paparazzi… all the people above lost what they saw as options on what to do. Ariely and the others represent the loss (of behavior) on how to cope, what strategies to use, what methods to embrace, etc. They lost their behavior.

What contingencies control your behavior and generates your ‘habits’ that define who you are and what you’d do in your crisis?

Read Full Post »

One thing that’s definitely different about this election than all those before is the amount of data we all have access to.

Here are some of the more clever and interesting resources for the data junkies out there:

If I have more time, i’ll round up all the local and regional info.  Some of the resources above have that.  Most states and major cities have extensive websites with voter guides and historical data.

No excuse for not knowing the facts.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »