Utopia - Part 4

And now for the most topical utopia post so far: elections. It’s no secret the US election process is so messed up that it can barely reach “suboptimal” at even the best of times. Clearly a utopia can’t use the US system as a model. I shall instead take the best ideas I’ve heard and mash them together with a couple thoughts of my own.

Ideally, there should be no political parties. None of this group identification shortcut crap that shuts out candidates who don’t toe the party line exactly. They can, instead, represent their actual constituents.

Every candidate for office should run campaigns based on actual issues of interest to the public. Prior to election season (which shouldn’t last as long as an actual season), public comments and questions are submitted to a qualified news outlet (remember those from Part 2?), and are consolidated into a single questionnaire for candidates to fill out.

These questionnaires can pull double duty in an “I Side With” kind of way, allowing voters to see which candidates most closely represent their views once the election is underway.

Zero money changes hands as part of an election. Every candidate gets a few infomercials on qualified news outlets to explain policy positions; an equal amount of time across the board. And these must be factual - the independent fact-checkers get their review before the ads are allowed to air. Political advertising of any other kind is prohibited.

Candidates are encouraged to have blogs and participate in social media. In fact, I think that’s where the debates should go. Put the debates online, where everyone can participate in real-time chat; candidates, media, fact-checkers, and the public. The Google town hall with Obama earlier this year might make a decent template for these events.

Votes should be cast by ranked order of preference. This gets you a clear winner no matter how many candidates there are. In case you’re unfamiliar with the idea, here’s basically how it works. When you vote, you don’t just check one box; you order the entire slate of candidates from most preferred to least.

Vote counting starts with everyone’s most preferred candidate. If one of the candidates has a clear majority, that’s the winner. If no candidate has a clear majority, the candidate with the least amount of votes is removed, and all votes for that candidate switched to the next most preferred candidate. Repeat this procedure until one candidate gets a clear majority.

This kind of a system doesn't work well with human vote counters, so would have to be done by machine. Voting machines should be commodity-hardware, open source solutions. Any closed-source solution is capable of being subverted to the will of the controller. Only an open-source solution, where everyone can examine the source code for flaws, is trustworthy enough for a task as important as voting.

One assumption I haven't stated yet is that everyone gets to vote. Participatory systems work best when people actually participate. Online registration would be the easiest to implement since the entire population has internet access (Part 2 again).

I'm sure I've overlooked something. Feel free to let me know what I've missed.


Naming Political Parties

The political parties in the US are some of the worst-named ever.  They have no real descriptive power.  We should rename them for what they actually represent.  Let’s give some of them more descriptive names that actually show what they stand for:

Republican Party = Corporate Theocracy Party
Short, sweet, to the point, and far more accurate than anything that’s come out of their mouths in the last few decades.

Democratic Party = Moderate Conservative Party
Had the Republicans not been taken over by the wingnuts, their policies would look pretty much exactly like what the Democrats espouse today.

Libertarian Party = Randian Robber Baron Party
Let’s just quit mincing words, alright?  The whole damn lot of them are living in this fantasy world in which the “magic of the market” will somehow fix everything that’s wrong with the universe.  None of them have a good enough grasp of history to realize that we’ve been down that road before, and it resulted in monopolies, price fixing, and indentured servitude in the form of the “company store”.

It occurs to me that the Republicans could also be called the “Bronze Age Regressive Party”, but I think the one above is a little more accurate.  I also think the Randian Robber Baron Party’s name is a bit too long, but don’t really have anything better to replace it with.

Anyone else have better names?

My Producer/Consumer Ratio

There’s a reason I don’t write very often.  It’s because I consume too much.  That probably requires a bit of explanation.

I subscribe to a metric assload of blogs.  There are well over a hundred articles that hit my Reader feed daily.  I’m always several days behind.  Quite frequently, the most recent article I’ve read is already 2-3 days old, and that’s after I’ve made a concerted effort to try to catch up.

By the time I’ve read something that I want to write about, there are already several bloggers who’ve already said everything I was thinking, and better than I could.  And even when I do have something to say that hasn’t been said yet, I always want to catch up on my reading first.  By which time I’ve let what I wanted to say get shoved out of my brain.  I need to quit doing that.

It doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to open one more tab to a Google doc in which I can take notes as I read.  The notes themselves would be more than sufficient to remind me what I wanted to say.  And their existence alone would remind me that I wanted to write something.  And I’m pretty sure that writing more would please the one person I know for certain actually reads this thing.  (Hi Rachel!)

Since pausing to take notes will almost certainly slow down my reading, putting me even further behind than I already am, I’m probably going to have to stop reading quite so many blogs.  The trick, of course, will be figuring out which ones to drop.  But I can tackle that once I start paying attention to which feeds I’m skimming rather than reading.

Also, some of my thoughts might be too brief for full blog posts, so I’ll probably start posting more of them on G+.  If you want the tiny ones, follow me there.

Does this count as a promise that I’m going to post more?  No, because I don’t believe in making promises I might not be able to keep.  Is it a promise that I’ll make more of an effort with no guarantees?  Yeah, we can probably call it that.  Only time will tell how well that effort will convert to post counts.


National Coming Out Day

Today is national coming out day.  Or international coming out day, I'm not entirely certain.  At any rate, I figured I should post something for it.

I find the model in this video attractive.  If he asked me, I would have sex with him.*  What makes that a significant statement is that I have identified as straight my entire life.  Am I all of a sudden not?  Maybe, but maybe not.  He is, after all, rather feminine in appearance.

I grew up rather sheltered and repressed, a logical consequence of being born into a fairly devout Christian family.  As a result, I had no idea that it was even possible to be attracted to someone of the same gender.  Gay people weren’t mythical bogeymen; they weren’t even a concept in my worldview.

The existence of gay people became very real to me when my brother came out.  At first, it made me uncomfortable.  But when I finally became an atheist, I also became an equal rights supporter.  It was not an easy road for me; it took a lot of conscious effort to finally reject the poisonous religion I’d grown up with.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay.  I might even be a little bit gay myself, if you count a self-assessed score of 1 on the Kinsey scale.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t let something as small as a penis stop me from being attracted to someone.

Besides, I like the penis.  I find it kind of fascinating.  It’s really a remarkable little piece of biological engineering.  Sometimes I want to play with someone else’s just so I can examine it up close and experiment with it.  I never got to do that when I was younger, and I feel like I missed out on something.

But that’s not the only reason.  I also want to play gay just to spite the self-righteous religious bigots.  “Oh look, fundamentalists are preaching about the evils of being gay again.  Want to give each other blowjobs?”  It’s kind of like a drinking game, only with sperm instead of booze.

Maybe I’m a bit gayer than I’ve been self-identifying.  Maybe I’m overreacting to the repression of my youth.  Maybe this is my version of a mid-life crisis.  Maybe I’m coming to the conclusion that gender, at least for me, isn’t as relevant to physical attraction as I’ve always thought it was.  Or maybe I just haven’t been laid recently enough.  Perhaps it’s a combination of things.  I really don’t know.

I’m also not sure that it actually matters.  If I don’t care what gender my sexual partners are (or aren’t, as the case may be), why should anyone else?  They’re not the ones having the sex, after all.

* I am not mis-gendering him; he does self-identify as male.


Utopia - Part 3

In the last installment, I talked about providing reliable information to the population.  This time I’m going to go over what prepares the population to use that information: education.  A proper education is a necessity in a modern society.  The more educated a society is, the better off it will be.

To ensure a proper education for everyone, there should be a single national curriculum.  That curriculum should be designed by recognized experts in the appropriate fields, and it should be reviewed annually.  Education must keep pace with scientific development in order for people to be capable of meaningful contributions to their communities and the world at large.

Education should focus more on critical thinking skills and less on rote memorization of facts that can easily become outdated.  While every student needs to learn the same skills before they finish school, students should be allowed to progress in each subject at their own pace.  We shouldn’t hold back children who learn faster than others any more than we should force children to learn faster than they are able.

Education should also be free.  Its benefit to society as a whole far outweighs the cost of providing it.  And I don’t mean just primary education, either.  When I say education, I mean all education, including community colleges, technical and trade schools, vocational schools, and universities.  “I can’t afford it” is the most tragic reason I can think of for people to fail to realize their potential.