[EM] FBC isn't complicated. PT isn't dangerous. Reform isn't whiny.

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Tue Jun 21 20:47:21 PDT 2005

Warning: this post is not about election methods but about events 
transpiring on this list, and specifically about the behavior of Mr. 
Ossipoff. It does contain some discussion of the electorama wiki and wikis 
in general. Almost nothing about election methods.

It's likely that this is that last time we will see a post of mine that 
begins like:
At 09:14 PM 6/21/2005, MIKE OSSIPOFF wrote:

But the sequence of events here is interesting to me, because it shows so 
clearly what happens with Mr. Ossipoff. He's not the only person to react 
in the way that he has, it's quite common, but he's particularly prone to 
it. Essentially, he takes it all personally. And, at the same time, he's 
quite free with his hostile criticism of others. It is a guaranteed formula 
for trouble. Do unto others as you intensely dislike that they do unto you....

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.

>[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.]

>Reform isn't whiny:

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

>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.

Now, my first reaction was quite simple. "Huh? I didn't say that!" However, 
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. In this 
case, it is possible that the shoe didn't fit, but he wore it anyway.

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

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.

>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.

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.

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

Note that Mr. Ossipoff has imagined that I said something, and then calls 
it stupid. Rather than describing this behavior with a perjorative term, 
I'll just say that it is what it is.

>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 everything.

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 many?

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. Maybe I'll be surprised.

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