Life is Over

I turn 60 today. All I’ve wanted for the last 5 years is to work on PeopleCount full time, with a competent partner. We could have it launched in 6 months.

I’ve tried tons of other things, including working on it alone, paying for offshore people and teams, paying for remote help nearby. They don’t work.

I keep slipping into the depths of depression. Unlike most people, the truth for me is that “reality” is an illusion. So the depression, the hopelessness, the attraction of death are all illusions. They’re not as easy to let go of as switching off a TV, but they’re still illusions.

And of course, I keep hauling my ass into work and plugging my brain into projects that promise to make much, much less difference. I keep paying my bills and doing chores and pretend like my little life and family and possessions and job matter. It’s all illusion…

People tell me to “enjoy a drink”, “take your family out for dinner”. Please stop. I don’t give a rats ass about those things. I want to stay healthy mainly to work on PeopleCount, but also to avoid suffering. Other than that, I don’t care what I eat. I don’t want to sit and chat about trivial crap and pretend that I care about your petty concerns. I easily care about them, but only at the expense of the future.

Compared to the future PeopleCount offers us, the future we’re drifting into is shit.

“I” have all sorts of petty concerns. So many people have made me promises and not kept them. So many people have replied to my letters and requests with silence. Why? For a host of tiny, personal reasons, the echoes of stupid non-thoughts, irresponsible notions that cross their minds and control their actions.

People guard their money, their connections, their time as if they’re doing something worthwhile with it. The result is the world you see around you. Enjoy.

At times I want to say: If you give a damn about me, read my blog, put your email address on PeopleCount’s announcement list, add a supportive comment on the Facebook page, and make a donation.

But I don’t care about me. Do those things if you care about your life, the lives of others, the future of the next generations, or if you give a damn about the planet.

You’re welcome to do it for any reason you want. For instance, if you want me not to think you’re a complete idiot. That’s the reality I live in these years. People are stupid and blind, preoccupied with their own survival and their petty concerns.

A few of you are not. Of my 685 “friends” on Facebook and the 1004 connections on LinkedIn, about 6 have donated to PeopleCount and about a dozen seem to supportive.

I’ve written about 370 blog entries. The people who care about me read them. I’ll bet fewer than a dozen people have read more than one. I could put it into more dramatic terms, but fuck that. I’m not interested in entertaining you with drama.

Currently, our political mess is the result of a system of politics where the parties compete for power. PeopleCount is a system that will make politics be a system in which we design our future together. We CAN solve our problems. We CAN reverse climate change and build a prosperous and healthy world. But the chances of accomplishing it without PeopleCount are very, very slim. With PeopleCount, it’s virtually guaranteed.

 

Support Accountability and PeopleCount

This is your chance to say you want members of Congress to be accountable

I’m putting together a confidential list of voters who believe they would use PeopleCount once it’s completed. This list will be shown to a few potential sponsors. Please send me a short letter saying that you plan to use PeopleCount, and optionally a few words about who you are, a short bio. Please start with your name and the city in which you live. If you want to just have your initials show, just list them.  So, something like:

R Strauss, Mountain View, CA, computer software engineer, I would love to use PeopleCount.

Please send your email to Rand@PeopleCount.org

Reminder: What’s PeopleCount?

On PeopleCount, you’ll hold them accountable, with others. You’ll:

  • Vote on issues
  • See how others in your district, state and the country vote (the vote counts)
  • Say on which issues you want short monthly reports from your representatives
  • Grade the reports on how well they’re doing their job representing their voters
  • See their average grades

This will let you, easily and quickly:

  • Get the information you want from your politicians
  • Quickly tell them what you want
  • Know what you can expect from them
  • Let politicians connect to voters at low cost, making money less important in politics
  • Allow good people to run effective campaigns without becoming professional politicians
  • Make Congress accountable to voters

Thanks much,
-Rand

PeopleCount is very different from Surveys

PeopleCount is not a new way of polling. It has nothing to do with surveys. The data collected is even different. A bright friend of mine confused for years on this. Let’s clear it up.

Yes, on PeopleCount, one thing you’ll do is answer multiple-choice questions. This is similar to answering a survey, but only on the surface. There are many other significant parts of PeopleCount.

Surveys ask a random sample of people what they think about an issue.

PeopleCount will not survey random people. On PeopleCount, citizens who care will make their desires known. Who cares what the others think? If you don’t care about something, I assure you, your politicians don’t care.

Should the Federal Reserve exist? Or should we have a national bank? Most people don’t care because they don’t know the issues involved. Who cares what they think while they’re uninformed?

Pollsters try to make a survey that won’t influence voters.

A question should not be biased. But the goal of PeopleCount is to influence citizens to be responsible and informed citizens. Since surveys ask random people, surveys don’t make you responsible. Knowing your vote matters does.

On many questions, I add interesting answers rarely seen in the media. Probably the members of Congress considered some of them, but they don’t publicize them. Why? They think you’re uninformed and uninterested. And they’re right- our opinion means nothing right now. Why should we be learn about issues?

That’s where PeopleCount is different. These are real issues. Most of us understand real solutions about real issues. PeopleCount’s promise: We make your opinions matter. A real issue that matters- you can understand that. And you get to vote on it, then hold your politicians accountable.

Surveying doesn’t let the answers change the questions.

A survey is a single set of questions that are answered once. Occasionally they’re answered yearly by different people. When they have their answer, they report it and are done.

PeopleCount will add questions and/or answers as an issue evolves. If people mostly favor two answers, maybe we’ll then split those into five which involve more tradeoffs. You can say how desirable each one is. Maybe a compromise is the best solution.

Surveys report what interrupted, surprised, uninformed people thought once

I hate when pollsters call. A few years ago I answered most of them, but then I got busy. In fact, fewer and fewer people are accepting their calls and that’s leading to less accuracy.

They refuse to tell me how many questions there are. I’ve asked them to send me the questions and they say no. Or, “Will you please call me back in two hours?” They say no. I’ve asked for a five-minute break so I can look up something and they say no.

PeopleCount lets you answer whenever you want. You can skip a question and come back later. You can talk to your friends first. Or answer a question and later change it. You can do whatever you want to express yourself well. If Congress is set to vote on it, so there’s a deadline, we’ll tell you. We empower you.

Surveys open up NO communication between people and politicians

Most surveys are national, so they tell your representative nothing about your district and your senators nothing about your state. Partly, this is because they’re expensive. It takes 1-3,000 answers to have some accuracy. To do that in 435 districts is expensive. They can guess that your district will be the same, but do you believe them? You’ll believe a vote.

Survey results are hidden from you

To find survey results, you have to search for them- they don’t even send you a link to them in gratitude for your participation! PeopleCount is designed to be your dashboard to an issue. It’ll have results right there as well as links to information about an issue and reports from your politicians. Being organized and searchable, you’ll easily find what you need.

It’ll show you the results for your district and state so you know what your representatives should be pulling for. It’ll show you the results for the country, so you can set your expectations.

PeopleCount and surveys are complete different

The bottom line: Polls are for people who want to know people’s simple thoughts and opinions. They’re a private, often commercial tool for making money, winning elections and manipulating voters.

PeopleCount is different. PeopleCount is for you to guide your government and hold it accountable. Plus to communicate with your fellow citizens so we can all steer government together. Answering questions is just part of the communication. But it’s not polling.

What We Don’t Know that We Don’t Know about Politics and Accountability

There’s a modern adage:

We know what we know, and we know what we don’t know. But there’s a third category, what we don’t know that we don’t know.

What we don’t know that we don’t know

The third category are things in our blind spots. Often when I’m surprised, I suddenly realize there were important things I didn’t consider. Some of them were in the second category., but some are in the third.

Today, I’ve been extending some PeopleCount software. When I program, I know the software will do roughly what I want. And I know that I don’t know the quality of untested software.

The output of today’s work are files that initialize the database. There are about 25 issues, 100 questions and 1000 answers. This means there are about 500,000 “tallies”, for each answer, there is one tally per district. When I loaded them into the database, the connection timed out! That was in my blind spot. I didn’t know that I needed to be careful about the size of “insert” statements. (It was easy to work around- instead of having one insert statement inserting 500,000 rows, I made 10 of them, each inserting about 50,000.)

To say this a little more clearly, this third category is areas that we’re not even aware of.

What we’re blind to in politics – in Britain

The same thing happens in politics. Just look at Brexit. When Britain’s decision to leave the EU was announced, those who voted to leave were happy. But then the reports began to surface about what leaving actually meant. And two central leaders of the Brexit movement decided to bow out. Those voting to leave didn’t know that no one had thought it through and that their leaders weren’t capable of leading them.

What we’re blind to in politics – in the US

There’s a joke going around. The British and the American peoples are competing to see which are the most stupid about politics. The Brits feel pretty stupid after Brexit. But the Americans hold the Trump card.

We know Donald Trump is a sociopath and narcissist. We don’t yet know what’s in his tax returns. Nor how serious is the child-rape charge. (My guess is that respectable Republicans are hoping he goes to jail on the rape charge before taking office and Pence becomes president…)

The Republican party inflamed and enraged their members for years. They ignored their own corruption and lack of accountability and blamed everything on the Democrats. But they didn’t realize they had prepared their base to be taken over by someone even less scrupulous.

There’s plenty in that third category for partisans

Republicans think they hate Hillary Clinton. What they don’t know that they don’t know is that their hatred of her has been built for many years by Republican lies. While they think they’re standing up against evil, they don’t realize they’re being distracted from the real evil- the Republican Congress isn’t serving them.

There’s plenty for Democrats, too. Most were blind to the DNC’s bias against Bernie Sanders. Without the hack, we would have presumed that Clinton’s rise to the top of the nomination pool was a natural one. Some think had this come to light sooner, we would have a different candidate standing before us. The question remains- what secrets remain?

Where no one besides me seems to look

Most people deal with what they see as, “the way things are.” Some react against it, whether by protest-voting for Trump (or no one), or by wanting new campaign-reform laws, or just by complaining. But this is just dealing with what we know.

What we’re unaware of, what we’re blind to, is that our system can’t work. Put another way, our system is working. Given its rules, the results we’re having these days, divisiveness, congressional gridlock, anger and disunity are exactly what our system produces. As I’ve said before, real political accountability is in our blind spot. We don’t know about it, and we unaware that it’s something we don’t know.

Be part of the solution. Add your email address to our announcement list.

PS: A fair number of others are looking at some other blind spots…

Is America Racist?

America seems to me to be racist.  One dictionary definition:
The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and thatparticular race is superior to others.

I ran across this NY Times article which discusses how Trump is faring in the polls especially among white voters with and without a college degree.

That media even talks about the election relative to people of different races is strong evidence that we’re racist. Even stronger is that different races have different mix of political stands.

Does race account for differences?

The definition has two parts. First, the belief that race accounts for differences in human character. When you look at polls and the differences between what different racial groups want, it seems to actually be true, that race does give these groups a different mix of characteristic.

The problem is, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you recognize race and think it means something, it’ll change how you identify yourself and what choices you make. So racism accounts for the differences existing as well as that we look for them.

Do we think one race is superior?

The other part of the definition is that one race is superior to another. But humans compare everything. So if you think races are different, your brain is probably making better/worse judgements about all the ways they’re different.

And we humans tend to justify what we think. So we figure if whites or men are, on average, more wealthy, or more prone to be Executives, our minds tend to justify those differences and attribute it to race.

Is it bad to be racist?

In a sense, no. We are like we are.

But I say it’s bad to accept our level of racism. We’re America. We want to be moral and great. The only way to do that is to accept ourselves for how we are and make goals for how we want to be, and strive for them.

So I accept that I have my current level of racism. And I accept that it’s a character flaw. It’s fine to have a character flaw. But to be a good person, I should work to notice when it’s making me behave poorly, and fix that.

It’s bad to be great.

I think it’s a sin to think we’re great. It makes us think we’re good enough. It makes us complacent and entitled. Clearly we’re not good enough to have a thriving economy- many or our people are impoverished, poor, unemployed, even hungry. Clearly we’re not good enough in international relations- we destabilized the Middle East and have enemies that base their hatred of us on our past actions. Clearly we’re not good enough about racism because we are still so race-conscious. Sure, America may be great in some ways. But to think we’re great is a sin of pride.

If we really do want to be great, we should sent some benchmarks, some measures of what great is. We shouldn’t argue about whether we’re great. We should measure ourselves and improve until we achieve them.

Is Representative Democracy Needed Because We’re Lazy?

Someone on Quora asked:

Is representative democracy just a sign of laziness?

Back when it was first implemented it was a way for people (a big % of which were ignorant) to have smarter people to decide the future of the country.

I once asked my father “why don’t we have referendums for everything?”

“I can’t read every law, I have other things to do. That’s why we pay taxes”

There is wisdom in the crowd

It has been proven that a dedicated crowd can make better decisions than individuals. It’s called “the wisdom of the crowd.” Sure, a random crowd (a Trump rally) can make horrible decisions, too. But a crowd studying a topic and applying a host of different perspectives can make excellent decisions reliably.

We have a little of this in government, but the dynamics of personalities and power plays (including conflicts of interest) often interferes with it, so bureaucracies often fail.

Yet US representatives are out of touch

Currently, the US representative democracy is failing because it’s not representative. It doesn’t actually work to elect representatives with opinions and positions. Perhaps shortly after an election, an elected representative knows what her voters prefer on a few issues. But on most issues she doesn’t. And on most other issues she’s out of touch if the base changes its views. The representative, busy fighting for a position, is out of touch with many of the voters who are constantly gaining new knowledge and reinterpreting what’s best.

This can be evidenced with the current battle over gun control. According to a June 20 CNN/ORC poll, 90% of Americans support background checks. However, this measure, along with other gun law propositions, continues to fail. In the wake of the Orlando shooting tragedy, the public is highly in favor of some kind of resolution. Our representatives, however, are too entangled in politics. Each party refuses to budge on even the slightest adjustments to their propositions. Compromise has been near impossible. And when you factor in the influence of gun lobbyists like the NRA, it seems the general public’s opinion holds no weight.

Making one’s voice heard vs Making a decision

What’s needed is a way for the general public to participate in government to make their voice heard. The American people need a way to share their concerns directly with politicians. But they still need guardrails when it comes to making official decisions. As we’ve seen with Brexit, and now Regrexit, many voters make decisions based on emotions or campaign messages without much research. There are many Leave voters who now regret their decision after taking the time to understand the implications of what they’ve chosen. Referendums may be an opportunity for Americans to take an active role in shaping policy. However, we still need our representative democracy.

The US is currently in the midst of a passionate election year in which many voters are basing their votes on rhetoric and speeches. It’s not commonplace for the average American voter to research policies, candidate voting records, and campaign financing. All of this information is available. It’s just that most of us are too busy to read it, or we’re just plain uninterested.

Because we’re unwilling to dedicate the necessary amount of research to making informed decisions, we still need other people to do the heavy lifting for us. The 2016 election season’s record voter turnout has shown that Americans are more passionate now than ever about making our voices heard. But the quality of our decision making is worrisome. We aren’t taking the time to educate themselves.

To answer the original question: Sometimes we’re lazy. Other times we’re busy. Yes we absolutely need representative democracy.

PS: Some disagree about me being honorable

In the first through third posts, I wrote about the story of my life, what I’d write next, and who I’d want my character to be. Courageous and honorable.

I told my wife a bit about it, and that I’d want the character to be honorable. She said something about how I’m not. Ouch. That hurt.

But that’s what she sees. To me, I’m up to something much bigger than me. I’m not practiced at being up to something big. I’m not good at networking or being social. I’m lousy at sales and marketing. I’m not good at product management. So it’s not really surprising that I’m failing.

And I use my word, my promises, to help drive me forward. I give my word like throwing a hat over a fence, to make me climb over the fence and get it. I thought PeopleCount would easily launch by April. June was a sure bet. I didn’t foresee the first developer wasting 6 weeks and then quitting without a word. Then it took three weeks to decide on the next team. And then they added weeks to it and did less than minimal. So they, too, had taken two months and delivered very little. Then I worked with another two guys and they delivered nothing for a week. And so I’m working alongside this other small team. And it’s going slow, but we’re getting it done. But it has been almost six months instead of 2-3.

My wife took my forecast of June as a promise. I knew that. So I promised June.

And I promised I’d deliver PeopleCount to hundreds of people. No one else on the planet is capable of it. Really. Many people could be. Some have the money to be. Some are deeply committed to the results that PeopleCount can produce. Some are bright enough. Some are honest enough. But none have committed, except me. So it’s all up to me…

But my wife thinks the sacrifice of the money we’ve put into it is too large. Much too large. She agrees with my father that if no one else has invested real money in it, it’s not worth investing in. It’s a fool’s errand. To her, I’m delusional. And she thinks (and it may be true), that others think I’m delusional, too.

And she thinks I’m risking the well-being of our family. And that our family should come first. And between that and breaking the promise of June 7th, I’m not being honorable. That’s her judgement.

If there’s anything harder than doing something impossible and big. If there’s anything harder than doing something largely alone that a well-financed team should be working on, it’s doing it largely alone with the disapproval of one’s family. And without their respect. (I’m pretty sure it’s not respectful to tell someone that he’s delusional…)

Incidentally, I’m not delusional. I don’t think PeopleCount will work out. I’m committed that I either make it work, or at least I make a big splash trying, to get the idea into the culture. It certainly CAN work. In fact, a number of people have said that with a real team and a million dollars in funding, they’re convinced we’d have a high probability of success.

But this is all from people who can’t afford to donate…  Well, except for one who said his millions are already committed to something else…

Ok. I’ll get back to work… And I say that I’ve struggled to be honorable. And I’ll continue striving for that.

Why Members of Congress are not Politically Accountable to Citizens

Do you want to know why American political officials are not accountable to The People? It’s because they can’t be. It is because YOU and I are not holding them accountable. It is because YOU and I don’t effectively participate. Specifically, we don’t participate in accountability.

Our politicians are trying

Most, or all, or our members of Congress went into politics to make a difference in representing people well. When they got there, they couldn’t. They had brains (most of them) and voices and intentions. They had notions of what constituents wants. But others had other notions. And they couldn’t go back to the People and ask them what they really want.

The winners of our elections got to Washington and there was no national conversation about what to do. Instead, there were parties fighting for power, and partisan sides to either join with or fight with. There were lots of lobbyists representing all sorts of special interests. Lots of people want to meet with them and have them do stuff. But not you and me. We’re at home, mostly working and looking for work, taking care of ourselves and our families and our houses and jobs.

When our members of Congress got to Washington, all the best advisors told them they had to either work for two years (six for senators) and then quit, or they would have to spend hours fundraising every single day. They are told there’s really no other choice. They had to meet with lobbyists and go to fundraising events and make lots of phone calls asking for money. If they don’t, they are told they won’t have enough money to run an effective campaign next time.

And the results are the results we see

So that’s what they do. They try to keep in touch with us and what we want, but they can’t do that very effectively. Mostly, they guess. They read reports and polls and letters to editors, too. And then they either guess or go with their gut.

And the results is the state of Congress today. America is an oligarchy, not a democracy. There’s no correlation between the bills that are passed and what the people want. There’s a high correlation between the bills that are passed and what the wealthiest special interests want.

You and I are not represented

You and I aren’t in Washington. We have no way of holding politicians accountable. Our politicians are mostly trying hard to do their jobs well. If we want them to do better, we’re going to have to make a better system. We’re going to have to make a way for us to participate.

Currently, we have no way to effectively participate. Many of us have tried and it doesn’t work. Those who are most dedicated work for causes. Or we go to political party meetings. Or we write letters to senators and representatives or to the media and nothing changes.

To make accountable politicians, you and I must participate in accountability

If we want accountable politicians, we’re going to have to make a way to participate in them being accountable.

If we want accountable government, we have to make some sort of accountability system.

That’s why PeopleCount has designed one.  But we, too, need your participation. 

Partnership in Creating Political Accountability

I’m happy. Last week I found a VP Marketing. Let’s call him FM. (I don’t want to announce him until we have the paperwork finished, and that’ll take a couple of weeks.)

He’s great. We seem to see eye-to-eye on everything. He takes my ideas, puts them into an organization and glues them together brilliantly. Plus he pushes back at times, or to the side.

And there are a bunch of areas where I have good ideas for marketing, but have not been executing well. He’s taking those over, seems to have skill in those areas and knows some great vendors.

We came up with an incredibly cool idea the other day. I came up with it, but he did the pushing. And the great thing is that maybe he can say the same thing- that he came up with it and I did the pushing. We came up with it. I love that…  That’s partnership- not just working together, but together creating a future we love.

Partnership: Working Together to Create a Future we Lovev

And I’ve had this other good idea. But I didn’t quite know how to fit it in, or if we should. He really liked it! And he agrees- not in the first release. I think we found a great way to fit it into the plan.

We’re putting it all into a road map so we can plan it out well, and then study it to see its ramifications for the architecture. He doesn’t just want to push ahead, he wants to do it well. I love that.

And we’ll do the market testing as well as marketing and development. 

PLUS he lives about a mile from me! Already, we met three times in person while he waited for his daughter to finish a class.

Bringing on a partner takes legal work. So now I’m finding a lawyer, and directing him how to reorganize the company. Plus I’m working to guide the product developers and today I was handling the eventual cloud deployment. And I spent most of the day on reaching out to customers.

It was a long day. But the highlight was the daily meeting with FM.

Please Join in our Partnership

Please join us in this partnership. I’m putting my nest-egg on the line for you. Chip in $2 and put your name on our announcement list.

You’ll love the next post. Someone acknowledged me for focusing on accountability!

How I found a way to Fix Democracy

This is about how I came up with a way to fix democracy, to fix the main problems of American politics.

I’m writing this as a rebuttal to Joshua Tauberer’s blog in which he not only says that democracy can’t be fixed, he says:

If there was an idea that could ‘fix’ democracy, it would have been thought-up already.

You could have been one of the people that informed Gandhi that non-violent civil disobedience wouldn’t work. When he proposed it, they had no words for it. He committed to freeing India when it was a ludicrous, impossible idea.

Tens of thousands of people are working… Foundations and venture capitalists have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on making government and policy-making better, and many tens of millions of that just on use of technology.

It’s naive to thinking something isn’t solvable if it hasn’t been solved yet. And each one of us is different and has had a different path. So let’s look at me and mine:

What Happened that I found a way to Fix Democracy?

IQ-wise, apparently I’m in the top 3/1000. I have a math background in which I became adept at proofs. I’m trained as a problem-solver and computer scientist. I spent four years studying ego and attachment and achieving enlightenment.

Besides a 30-year career in computer science, I’ve had the equivalent of a full year of post-graduate study in applied context, the nature of assumptions, cultural myths, and possibility. I’ve had lots of exercises and homework involving looking at how these shape my thoughts, my personality, my strengths and weaknesses. I practiced ways of living freely, outside their limits.

In courses and with experienced experts I’ve stretched my notions of what’s possible for myself and my life. While about 2 million people have taken at least one of these courses, I estimate Iess than fifty thousand people have taken all these.

How the Idea to Fix Democracy Arose

It was in one of these courses that I saw my resignation about politics as something I accidentally picked up. While I had reasons for it, I saw that all the reasons were true only with the cultural context. So I gave up my resignation and began studying politics.

The basic idea arose after 6 months of inquiries probably no one else has done. After I came up with it, I didn’t believe it. I’ve taken it apart and put it together many times. I’ve shared it with many people, listened closely to their feedback and questions and answered them.

It’s not a magical solution. There will be challenges. I can’t do it alone, though I’ve done a lot of planning and design. And I’ve done some interesting marketing. There’ll be alliances with all sorts of groups and industries, the type of planning few startups seem to do.

The website is only part of the solution. The other part is the marketing, motivating people to come, rewarding people for participating, and creating new mythology to support it. I have rough designs of it, but it’ll take marketing professionals.

When I do the math, it looks reasonable that no one came up with this before. When I talked to many of the founders of other efforts in this space, I heard no one with a similar plan or vision, no one seemed to have done anything like the work I’ve done to get here.

I’ve heard many people say journey has been extraordinary, as a matter of fact, not as praise. While I’m bright, IQ wise, I have plenty of weaknesses. I’m pretty sociable and liked, but I live a bit as a recluse. I never developed much of a network, and that has slowed me down.

In the next article, I’ll tell you, from my perspective, why it’s reasonable that you and thousands of others didn’t think of this already, and why you find it hard to understand.