[EM] Reform isn't whiny, but whining about reform suggestions is whiny.

MIKE OSSIPOFF nkklrp at hotmail.com
Thu Jun 23 19:25:38 PDT 2005

Ok, Abd ul isn't the correct abbreviation of that name. It was always 
represented to me as a complete given-name, and so I had no reason to 
believe otherwise.

The full given-name is too long for convenience.

I will abbreviate the name "A.U.R."

A.U.R. says:

Essentially, he takes it all personally.

I comment:

Oh, excuse me for taking it personally when A.U.R. says that what I said was 
whiny, when I was only telling James how the poll could be done better, and 
suggesting that we differently order the alternatives in the poll. If it had 
been about something that someone else had said, then of course I shouldn't 
take it personally.

A.U.R. continues:

And, at the same time, he's
quite free with his hostile criticism of others.

I comment:

...when they say ridiculous things, especially about something that I've 

A.U.R. continues:

It is a guaranteed formula
for trouble. Do unto others as you intensely dislike that they do unto 

I comment:

Want to know a formula for continued misconduct? Don't say anything about 

A.U.R. continues:

So, Mr. Ossipoff was talking about election methods in his usual manner:

>FBC isn't complicated:
>It's been recently claimed here that FBC is too complicated for voters to 
>understand, or to understand the value of. That's absurd.

Which is, of course, provocative. So far, though, he has only called the
*claim* absurd. Though it is not an absurd claim. Someone familiar with
election methods is not in a position, particularly, to judge what will be
too complicated or not. A newcomer, for example, might have a better idea.
However, this claim was not mine.

I comment:

"You have no need to vote someone over your favaorite, and there is no 
possible benefit from doing so."

...is not complicated. If you think that's complicated, then you forgot to 
tell us in what way it is complicated.

No one uses the full precise wording of a criterion when talking to the 
public. But it's available for anyone who wants the precision.

A.U.R. continues:

>[material deleted which consisted of apparently reasonable but overstated 
>argument probably aimed at a straw man.]
>[material deleted which consisted of the kind of reasonable argument that 
>should *not* be a problem.]

Those statements made by A.U.R. without any substantiation don't mean 
anything. They only express A.U.R.'s unsupported opinion.
I'd said:

>Reform isn't whiny:

A.U.R. says:

I'd agree, though when I saw this I wondered what in the world Mr. Ossipoff
was talking about. And then:

I comment:

So, A.U.R. wondered, and then he found out, as he tells below:

I'd said:

>Abd ul said that it was whiny of me to suggest that it would be better if 
>James ordered the alternatives in his poll so as to list first the ones 
>that are favorite to someone, alternatives claimed by someone to be the 
>best for one or more kinds of electorate.

A.U.R. replies:

Now, my first reaction was quite simple. "Huh? I didn't say that!"

I comment:

No one said that A.U.R. said that all reform proposals are whiny. But he did 
say that a particular reform proposal was whiny. That proposal was nothing 
other than a suggestion for how things could be done better, a calmly and 
politely expressed reform suggestion. Of course it was also a suggestion 
that we re-order or reduce the alternatives in the current poll, something 
that I wanted to mention to James before doing on my own. Regardless of 
whether the rule for wikis is that anyone can do anything to it, I felt that 
it would be  more polite and consisderate to mention the suggested 
modifications to James. Not only is reform not whiny, but consideration 
isn't whinly either.

Though A.U.R. hadn't said that all reform proposals are whiny, I said that 
they are not, to correct his claim that my reform suggestion was whiny. For 
mine to be whiny, there would have had to be some specific quality of it 
that made it whiny when reform proposals in general are not whiny.

A.U.R. continues:

it might surprise Mr. Ossipoff for him to learn that I generally presume
that there is some truth behind what people write. So I searched my mail
records. And I found what I had actually said. Mr. Ossipoff was not quoting
me. I did not say that Mr. Ossipoff was whiny. Rather, I said something
that he took personally. As they say, if the shoe fits, wear it.

I comment:

A.U.R. hadn't said that I was whiny. I didn't say that A.U.R. said that I 
was whiny. I said, correctly, that A.U.R. had said that something that I had 
said was whiny.

And now A.U.R. is gstting all whiny because I corrected that statement of 
his. Dishonestly whiny even to the point of trying to back out of it by 
denying that he said it.

A.U.R. continues:

In this
case, it is possible that the shoe didn't fit, but he wore it anyway.

I comment:

Not quite sure what that means. In what sense did I "wear" what A.U.R. said, 
when I stated that what he said about my statement was incorrect?

A.U.R. is making a stupid, juvenile, whiny issue about an incorrect 
statement that he's too dishonest to own-up to,

When I corrected his mis-statement that shouls have been the end of it, but 
A.U.R. needed to try to deny it, and to make an idiotic childish issue about 

A.U.R. says:

It turns out that I did use the word "whiny." Here is what I wrote:

>We are accustomed to complaining about things we don't like. Certainly 
>that's not always unreasonable, but when we can actually make the change 
>ourselves, it does become a little ... whiny? ... to complain about it.

I comment:

No, it doesn't, if we're considerate enough to mention a proposed change to 
someone else's poll, instead of just mofifying it without telling or asking 

If I had said something to or about A.U.R., then one might understand his 
use of namecalling. But to butt into a discussion that doesn't involve him, 
and carelessly slinging characterization is undesirable behavior on a 
mailing list. Yes, A.U.R., you didn't say it about me, but only about 
something that I had said. And then he makes it worse by whining because he 
was called on it, and trying to whine his way out of it.

A.U.R. continues, quoting himself:

>The state of nature is, in matters like this, disarray. Complaining about 
>the state of nature is like complaining about being born.

I'm sorry to say this, but that's idiocy. The order and number of the 
alternatives in James' ballot is not immutabale like the laws of nature. 
It's easily modifiable, and I was suggesting a modification.

A.U.R. continues:

I was not thinking of Mr. Ossipoff when I wrote this. Rather, someone had
suggested that the poll on the wiki would be better if ordered differently.
(From Mr. Ossipoff's comment above, I'd assume that it was, in fact, him.
Whether I noticed that it was him or not, the identity of the one making
the suggestion was not important to me. And I was not calling one making
such a suggestion, Ossipoff or not, "whiny." Rather, I was searching for a
word to describe the condition of a person who appears to be suggesting
that others do what he could do for himself.

I comment:

Excuse me, A.U.R., but you are an idiot. I carefully explained that I wasn't 
asking James to do what I could do for myself. Because it was James' poll, I 
chose the considerate course of mentioning the proposed ballot-modification 
to James, rather than inconsiderately modifying it without asking or telling 

I'd said:

>Abd ul said that it was unnecessary for me to say that, because I could 
>have just moved my favorite alternative(s) to an earlier place in the list.

A.U.R. says:

And, again, I did not say that. I said something *different*. I made a
general comment about wikis and how users can take responsibility for pages
on wikis. It's actually a pretty standard comment.

I comment:

Actually no, that's incorrect. A.U.R. suggested that it was whiny to suggest 
a different ballot-order, because anyone could modify it on their own. That 
wasn't a general comment about wikis. It was a specific comment about that 
particular suggested ballot-modification.

>That's a stupid statement, for several reasons:

Note that Mr. Ossipoff has imagined that I said something

I comment:

You said it, idiot. Check the archives.

A.U.R. continues:

>1. Several people had already voted. Unless  they're going tro re-vote, 
>moving MMPOpt up in the ballot wouldn't have any effect on those people's 
>votes, unless I likewise modified their votes.

That might seem reasonable, but either the poll can be fixed or it cannot.
If it cannot, then what can we say about the utility of useless suggestions?

I have looked at the poll page, but I don't recall it in sufficient detail
to know for sure what the situation is. But if sequence is the only
problem, an editor could indeed change the sequence without changing
anyone's vote, by keeping the votes and categories together.

>2. Saying that anyone can move their favorite up in the ballot is a pretty 
>silly solution, because say I felt that MMPOpt should be listed first, but 
>someone else felt that tCondorcet//Approval should be listed first.?

This particular argument has already been addressed. If it matters to the
reader sufficiently that he or she is motivated to change it, then he or
she is free to change it. If someone else doesn't like it, that someone
else can change it back or to something new. If a tussle develops, a
reversion war, there are ways to find consensus. In this case, an obvious
solution would be to have more than one poll. You do it your way, I do it
mine, and voters can vote in either or both. Or neither. Or start their
own. Yes, it could get absurd, but it appears that it rarely turns out that

>  Being able to move one's favorite to 1st place doesn't avoid the question 
>of how the alternatives should be ordered. That should be obvious, and must 
>be obvious to most everyone.

Because it is so obvious, Mr. Ossipoff should reasonably assume that it is
also obvious to me and to everyone else. It is. It is a reasonable
question, and it can and perhaps should be discussed on its own. However,
if we discuss every possible question, we won't get to the answers.

It's like parliamentary procedure. There are quite sophisticated rules, but
in many meetings which nominally use the rules, there are procedural
shortcuts. A person may make a motion which is seconded, and, the chair
sensing that the motion may well not be opposed, may say, "Without
objection, all those in favor, say Aye." Anyone who wants to object is free
to object and then more formal procedure will ensue. The point is that
formal process may not be necessary. It is not necessary to discuss 

Wiki procedure is generally for users to make things the way they want
them. Pages on the wiki are explicitly public domain and editing is
specifically invited. If opposition to a change is expected, it may
reasonable to discuss it first, but it is not required.

>3. It's James' poll, and James' ballot. It's far from obvious that I have a 
>right to change James' ballot without bring the matter up with James. Hey, 
>guess what, that's what I was doing, when I suggested the improvements.

I suppose that to a wiki newbie it might not be obvious. It's also obvious
that Mr. Ossipoff has the right to bring it up with the original author.
However, on a wiki, pages *don't* belong to the original author. If an
original author does not want them changed, there are ways to effect that.
The simplest is to request it on the page. But the default assumption on
wikis is that change is *invited*.

>4. I also said that there were too many alternatives in the poll, making it 
>more difficult to vote, causing people to neglect alternatives far down the 
>ballot, and reducing the turnout.
>So, does Abd ul think that I should reduct the number of alternatives on 
>James' ballot, rather than "whine" that it would be better to not have so 

Hmmm.... if there were no votes for some options deemed superfluous, it
would be acceptable to eliminate them. However, if there were votes, it
would indeed be rude. However, complaining about what someone else has done
when the deed cannot be rectified would be ... whiny? Yes. Right word.

>5. It's a bit bizarre to encounter someone who thinks that it's whiny to 
>suggest a bestter way that something could be done.

Depends, doesn't it? Depends on whether the person is whining or not. If my
child is given something, and she says that there is something wrong with
it, usually this would be called "whining." Was Mr. Ossipoff whining?
Again, I was not writing about him; apparently, though, he took it to refer
to himself. Indeed, I wrote further, in my post:

>(This is not intended to criticize any individual, but to point out 
>something that I think important in considering political organization. The 
>usual problem is the non-existence of a desirable organization, and 
>complaining about that is tantamount to complaining about the state of 
>nature. Not terribly functional, unless it leads to organizing action. 
>Which it usually doesn't.)

Now, Mr. Ossipoff thinks that I stupidly criticized his suggestion, which
he thinks was merely helpful and intended to, perhaps, improve future polls
(though his wording would indicate that he was indeed trying to get others
to confirm to his superior understanding). Now, what I wrote was *also* a
suggestion. It would appear that he considers the proper response to
suggestions to be thoughtful consideration, and certainly not rude
criticism. Yet he did not respond to my suggestion in this way. Indeed, he
seems to have seriously attempted to escalate the slight that he perceived
into a full-blown flame war, for example, by gratuitously trolling for
offense regarding Islamic law. Why? How does this serve him? These are
questions which are only of passing interest for me, but I do

>Abd ul said that it was whiny of me to suggest that it would be better if 
>James ordered the alternatives

This, on the face of it, is not a suggestion for the general improvement of
polls, but for something for James to do. "James, you should...." When, if
Mr. Ossipoff thinks that a poll could be better ordered, he *can* order it
himself, or he can create his own poll ordered according to his own lights,
or he can, indeed, discuss the question of order, for the general
enlightenment of all. But his own memory was that he was making a
suggestion to James.

>  Abd ul's ignorant and backward reaction

ooooo, really got me there!

>  to a suggestion for improvement probably explains why there are still 
>countries with legal systems so badly in need of reform.

Really? What exactly was my reaction? It was "If you think it is broken,
fix it!!" Not, "Complain until someone else fixes it!" No, the problem is
certain countries is that the vast majority of people sit around and
complain about the system, when they could fix it themselves. Come to
think, that's true here in the U.S.A. I'm beginning to think that if two or
three people who see the problem clearly started to work on it, it could be
fixed in fairly short order.

If anyone knows where these people are, I'd appreciate the information. I'd
like to help them if I can. Yes, I think I have an idea, but surely someone
else has done more work on it, someone else has a better idea. Of course,
if there is no better idea, then perhaps we need a few people to help *me*.
What I can say is this: I can't tell the difference between those two
alternatives. I can only work with what I have.

>  Countries, for instance, where the legal system calls for stoning to 
>death women whose only crime was to be a rape victim. Abd ul wouldn't 
>object to that.

(Mr. Ossipoff is demonstrating his ignorance, not only about Islamic law,
but also about me. Not that I think he cares, but if he were to google me
carefully enough, he'd find much more than "objection" to the situation
he's referring to. Which is not about Islamic law but about entrenched
ignorance and ... yes, stupidity. His comment is roughly the equivalent of
someone claiming that the U.S. legal system calls for the lynching of
blacks whose only crime was to have whistled at a white woman. And there
have been such lynchings -- though they were illegal -- whereas I'm not
aware of any examples *in recorded history* of what he claims is called for
actually being done, legally or otherwise.)

Oh, one more thing. "Abd ul" means "Servant of the." By breaking the
ul-Rahman into two and then eliminating the noun, Mr. Ossipoff has
committed, to be sure, a very common error. There is nobody named Abdul,
except in the imagination of those who assume that names in other languages
follow English rules. I deliberately put the space after Abd, because Abd
is quite reasonable as a shortening of the name. It is the substantive
noun. My wife calls me that, and I don't mind if others do as well.
(However, I can't speak for others whose names begin with Abd, they might
not like it.)

>(Having said that, I emphasize that the U.S. isn't morally in a postion to 
>intervene anywhere. That should only be done by a more democratic U.N.)

Which we could have in a very short time. But only if a few people, at
least, wake up. One is definitely not enough. Two, maybe. Three, I'd say
it's all over, the remainder will be details. (People *do* wake up from
time to time. But the world is seductive, staying awake long enough to get
real change done seems to be really difficult.)

>Of course we all on EM welcome newcomers. And that includes newcomers who 
>bring with them and express strong opinions that they already have. But 
>there will sometimes be an arrogant newbie like Abd ul, who needs to do 
>more listening and less asserting.

Well, partial agreement. I *always* need to do more listening. As to less
asserting, I found long ago that the fastest way to learn something was to
ignorantly declare what I think about it. It's quite efficient. *If* I
listen to the responses. If I don't, horribly inefficient, indeed. Now, Mr.
Ossipoff, you gave some excellent advice about listening. Sometime when you
have a few spare moments, think about it, you could profit from it yourself.

I intend to set a filter for Mr. Ossipoff, I'd rather not expose myself
routinely to the temptation to comment again on his writing, I don't really
have the time to spare. But not immediately. I'll read whatever he writes
in response, if anything. Ma

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