Card: "Does Democracy Really Work?"

Another very interesting article from Orson Scott Card, about the becoming-more-famous book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations, by James Surowiecki.

Card says, summarizing from the book:

Crowds are wisest when these conditions are met:

1. Diversity of opinion. ("Each person should have some private information, even if it's just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts.")

2. Independence. ("People's opinions are not determined by the opinions of those around them.")

3. Decentralization. ("People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge.")

4. Aggregation. ("Some mechanism exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision.")

And then, arguably, turns to using the book, and those concepts, to show the it really was the best thing that George Bush was elected, that the Iraq war was a success (even decries "the CIA's intransigent rejection of President Bush's war plan in Iraq") and why the Democrats are such miserable, elitist, two-faced failures.

But it's so easy to see how selective and self-serving the rhetoric is.

Think just a bit about the four points above, and you see that:

1) We have little "Diversity of opinion": There's the right-wingers, the left-wingers and the poor slobs in the middle who got the sales pitch of the millenium. And in the Neocon world, everyone's "on message" or they visit the woodshed til they get on message; quite scary really - but terribly sucessful, if measured in the acquisition, expansion and use of power.

2. We have little Independence: People's opinions were determined by the opinions of those around them; both in the sales pitch and in the endless hand-wringing about "electability".

3. Decentralization. "People are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge."? Huh? We have a virtually homogenized culture - and a presidential election is the epitome of that.

4. Aggregation: Sure, we've got voting, but among the many indications of fraud, various flavors of disenfranchising activities, the utter lack of any way to verify much of the voting (e-voting and others), ignoring the non "battleground" states, low percentage turnout... we're left with rather little to crow about.

But back to the title for a moment: "Does Democracy Really Work?"

It can - but like anything else, it can fail too. It can be twisted, and we're seeing an awful lot of that lately.


"What if Bush has been right about Iraq all along?"


Maybe you're like me and have opposed the Iraq war since before the shooting started -- not to the point of joining any peace protests, but at least letting people know where you stood...

But after watching Sunday's election in Iraq and seeing the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people, you have to be asking yourself: What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?...

It all sounds so reasonable doesn't it? I mean, maybe we just missed something right? We're not perfect and Bush really isn't the devil, huh?


The end does not, ever, justify the means. The Bush administration betrayed and continues to betray the fundamental things this country stands for. From lying about the reasons for the war in the first place, to torturing people during, to holding people for years with no accusation and no access to any form of legal counsel. It's all horribly, tragically un-American and just plain wrong.
For now, though, I think we have to cut the president some slack about a timetable for his exit strategy.

If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance.

Maybe I'd have to vote Republican in 2008.

Ah, yes - I see the point now; seems to me like just another of the "but we're being oh so reasonable" right-wing attacks on the middle.

Sun Tzsu said the best way to win a battle is to not have to fight it. If you can get the left and middle to keep fighting themselves, you can keep focusing on your agenda of remaking the world in the image of right, eh?


Self-Esteem and Encouragement

Orson Scott Card has a great article on self-esteem in education - a bit harsh, but maybe it needs to be; most of it does indeed ring true.

Homework stress

Mixed Media by Scott Willis and Jack Ohman, 2005/02/01.

"Adults better Web surfers than teens"

By K. Oanh Ha, Mercury News

...Teens ages 13 to 17 were able to complete assigned tasks on the Web 55 percent of the time, compared with 66 percent for adults... The teens were hampered by poor reading and research skills and were more prone to leave a site after encountering difficulties...

Interesting - seems to fly in the face of common wisdom, but it actually does make sense, in the full context.

"What's wrong with these kids today?!"

Very interesting post by Kevin's father, containing this nugget:
When asked whether people should be allowed to express unpopular views, 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals said yes. Only 83 percent of students did.
Here's why: Because everyone keeps telling them they're wrong.