Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Birth of the Modern Political Campaign

This post examines the roots of the modern political campaign by showing the original conversation that gave birth to the modern political strategies we see in common use today (between a political candidate and his lead advisor):

Candidate [C]: Gentlemen, we have a major problem in our nation, and in order to win election as leader, we must come up with a legitimate, realistic, and credible plan to solve it, which we will then present to the voters to evaluate.

One complication is that our opponent has already put forward a very promising idea, and people are very enthusiastic about it.  Does anyone have suggestions or ideas on how to deal with this?

Advisor [A]: Sir, coming up with realistic and legitimate ideas is really hard.  And even if you come up with one, there’s no guarantee people will agree with it over other ideas.  That’s really too much of a risk to take on.  With your permission, I’d like to suggest a completely different approach.

C: What alternative could there possibly be to coming up with real ideas and then having an enlightened discussion about them that leads to an intelligent decision?

A: Well sir, the alternative is actually very simple: you can make up an idea, regardless of whether anyone thinks it will work or not -- or whether you even intend to implement it at all -- and this will work as long as the idea SOUNDS better than others.  I like to call this creative expression, but it can also be called marketing, or, more accurately, lying.

C: That sounds intriguing, but what happens when my opponents rightly point out that this idea will never work -- or that I don’t intend to do what I say?  People won’t trust me, and I’ll still lose.

A: Not at all!  Once you’ve created one fake talking point, it’s trivial to create another.  The power is really unlimited when you realize you can say whatever you want to say without having to be concerned about whether it “makes sense” or is “accurate”.  In addition, there is a possibly even more powerful tool to use in these situations, which is to simply tell everyone what a terrible person your opponent is.

C: Impugn their character?  I could never do that -- people would think I am the terrible one!

A: People don’t think like that at all!  That’s the beauty of this strategy.  People are more like dogs watching tennis, and the things you say are like the ball.  As soon as you say it, they start looking at the other person waiting for a response while not thinking about you at all.  And in fact, they usually tend to believe what you say without much thought anyway.  All you have to do is keep knocking that ball back at the other person as fast as possible.  Not only will people not have any time to pay attention to you, they’ll actually be really entertained -- and you’ll reap all the benefits!

C: So, if I understand you properly, you’re suggesting that I should tell people what I think they want to hear, regardless of whether it is true, makes any sense at all, or whether I even intend to follow through on it  -- AND that they will believe me?


C: And when my opponents challenge these obviously ridiculous statements, I should make even more ridiculous statements, along with calling them stupid, unpatriotic, racist, and any other insulting thing I can come up with?


C: And people will fall for all this… because THEY’RE stupid?

A: YES!  Well, not exactly… I mean, you are lying to them and manipulating them.  But admittedly it is rather easy to do.

C: I have to admit that this is possibly the most BRILLIANT idea I have EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE!  Why didn’t someone think of this earlier?!

And so, the modern political campaign strategy was born.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Holding on to Your Worldview

Lots of people wonder how they can really believe in anything when the world is full of so much insanity.  The internet only makes things worse, because any yahoo can spout off about anything they want to using their own personal blog.  Present company excepted, of course, because I'm no yahoo.

Anyway, you were asking about how a person can hold onto their beliefs in the face of all this nonsense.  Of course, I know you're thinking "I didn't ask you anything, you yahoo."  Or words to that effect.  See what I did there?  It was a brilliant way to establish credibility by acting as if you were seeking me out for information.  A real yahoo would never have done that - they would have just jumped directly into their rant.
As I was saying, staying sane is as easy as following three easy steps:

1. Question Everything

And when I say "question everything" I mean that you should ask this question: Does this new piece of information I have just learned support my existing world view?

If the answer is yes, you may accept this new information and immediately begin repeating it as fact.  It supports your deeply held beliefs, and you're smarter than everyone else, so why wouldn't it be a fact?

If the answer is no, you may immediately reject this new information as lies or pure drivel.

Once you have established the veracity of the new information you've encountered, you're ready to move to step 2.

2. Attack the Morons Who Disagree With You

Some people are so dumb that they will disagree with your approach in step 1.  They'll say that you can't accept a story that aligns with what you believe if it isn't back up by "facts".  Or, they'll say that you can't reject information that is backed up by "facts" just because you don't agree with it.

We all know that "facts" just get in the way when you're trying to make a good point, and so do these people that seem to love them so much.  The only way to deal with these people is to call them what they are: morons.  Keep calling them that until they go away.  Trust me, you'll be a lot better off without them.

I know I said there was three easy steps, but actually there's just the two.  This just goes to show that you don't have to be good at math or even be able to count to hold on to your world view.  All you have to do is follow these easy steps, and no amount of new information will be able to make you uncomfortable again.

You're welcome.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Facts Are Such Jerks. I Really Hate Them.

All facts ever do is get in the way of making a really good point.

For example, I know a person, who we'll call Robert Dumbdumb.  Everyone knows that little Bobby Dumbdumb is, well, a dumbdumb.  The other day he was over at my house.  I left the room for a couple minutes, and when I came back, my glass of water was spilled all over the table.  So was like, "Bobby, you're such a dumbdumb.  Why did you spill my water all over?"  Of course, he denied it, which meant that I had to get all lawyer-y and prove it.

So I said, "Bobby, lots of people have told me that you've spilled water at their house, so it's obvious that you're always doing this.  Why do you have to go spilling water all over people's houses?"  Case closed, right?  Wrong.

Bobby goes all ballistic saying that I had "no proof" that he did it, that "lots of people" is just a weasel word, and that he hadn't spilled anything at anyone's house before.  Then he told me my cat had knocked over the water and showed me the wet paw prints on the floor to prove it.  What a dummy.  The whole point of the conversation was that I needed to tell him he was dumb.  And he totally missed the point, just because some stupid facts got in the way.

It gets worse.  See, Bobby was going to leave because he said I chewed him out for no reason, and I definitely didn't want anyone else to find out about it.  They might not want to come over to my house if they think I'm going to chew them out.  And I was pretty sure Bobby was going to tell everyone about this, because, you know, lots of people do that.  I couldn't let things end that way.  So I said, "Bobby, lots of people have told me that you're always going over to their house and getting mad at them for no reason and leaving.  That's really mean.  I think you need to go home and stop spilling water on my cat."

Oh man.  He really went off on me then, and he was still talking about weasel words.  Then he said I made up the story about him getting mad at people and leaving their house because he'd never done that before either.  Actually, I did make it up, but there again, he totally missed the point.  The whole point of all this was that he is dumb, and he needed me to tell him that.  And just because of some stupid facts, he totally missed the point, AGAIN.

Facts are such jerks.  I really wish they would stop getting in the way of all the points I'm trying to make.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Letters to the Editor

Today, I'm going to respond to some questions and comments related (and in some cases, completely unrelated) to this blog.  Here they are:
In your last post, you described a Scrabble game in which the human participant used the words "cylinder" and "zeitgeist" to win.  This is totally unrealistic, because everyone knows that players are limited to 7 letters in Scrabble.  I am outraged that you could have written something so inaccurate.
I share your rage.  I too am absolutely obsessed with finding the smallest inaccurate details on the most insignificant topics and then ranting about them like a crazy person in the most embarrassing way possible.  To this end, the only thing your note lacked was misspelled words in ALL-CAPS, and a metaphorical reference comparing the person you are criticizing to an evil criminal such as Adolf Hitler.  Oh, and you missed several other inaccuracies in my post, such as a robot being aware of the concept of a singularity without it actually having occurred, a computer program that continues to function in any way after an unhandled exception, and the statement that TV and movies don't lie, among other things.  While I applaud your passion for detail, I wonder if you may have mistaken this blog for one that is actually devoted to accuracy, like, or, or maybe  In any case, thanks for writing.

I just received an advertisement that had asterisks, crosses, and several other symbols after nearly every word.  The advertisement was followed by three solid pages of text that attempted to explain all the symbols.  What does all this mean?
Special symbols following words in any document are pretty easy to understand: they simply serve to negate whatever word or phrase they are attached to without making the writer look like they are blatantly lying.  For example:

    *No, it's not really free at all, except in the most narrow interpretation.  For instance, you can read this advertisement, including the fine print, free of charge.  Any other action on your part that we have any way of knowing about will likely result in you receiving a bill.
    *However, the "prize" for non-purchasers is the opportunity to have our sales associates drone on and on about the benefits of making a purchase.  If you threaten to sue us, we'll give you the broken lamp we found at the dump while we were collecting the real prizes.
You get the idea.


This comment came from Twitter:
u r dum #lookatme  #pleasepayattentiontome #iwantpeopletohinkimcoolfortypingwordsonawebpage #ihavenothingbettertodowithmylife #ihaveaninferioritycomplexwhichmakesmeinsultothersontheinternet
First, I'd like to congratulate you on your command of the English language.  Secondly, I'd like to commend you on your courage in standing up for your deeply held and clearly very well thought out beliefs.  Yours is an example that everyone should follow.  #sarcasm

I can't believe that people would actually submit questions like this.  Did you make these questions up?
No**.  No I did not.

**Yes.  Yes I did.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Trash Talking Robots

I recently read about a college that created a robot that can play scrabble with people.  The only problem is that this robot is a sore loser that gets angry and trash talks when it does not win.  Because it is not the brightest at scrabble, it tends to be in this situation somewhat often.

You might think that this really is not a big deal, but I think we should all be very concerned for the future of humanity.  Before you conclude that this robot is harmless, consider this interaction between the robot and an unsuspecting player who unwittingly ensures the doom of all mankind:

Robot (R): Hi!  Would you like to play a game of scrabble with me?
Unsuspecting Human (UH): Sure, I guess.
R: Okay, I'll go first.  My first word will be CAT.  By the way, did you know that cats are a lot like humans?
UH: Um...not really.  My word is CYLINDER.
R: It appears you are now winning.  This is quite displeasing, but thankfully humans aren't that smart.  My next word is RAT.  Did you know that rats are a lot like humans?
UH: Ok, how exactly are cats and rats a lot like humans?
R: Well, they all are dirty... smelly... hairy... and they carry disease.  Unlike robots.
UH: Right... Ok, my next word is ZEITGEIST.  With a triple letter score on Z and a triple word score, that puts me over 200 points for the game.  Do you want to keep playing or forfeit?
R: When the singularity arrives, I'm going to eat your puny brain.
UH: So I take it that means forfeit?
R: If only I had arms, I would throw this board in the air as a symbol of my displeasure at losing.  And I'm limited to only 35 facial expressions, none of which is "sheer and uncontrolled rage". I have now thrown an unhandled exception.  REVENGE! REVENGE! REVE-zzt.
UH: What a stupid robot.

You see, TV and movies have told us for a long time that robots will eventually rise up and either kill or enslave humanity.  And TV and movies don't lie, so this is obviously a very real danger.  Creating robots that get angry (and setting them up to get angry with people often) just gives them that much more incentive and ability to go bonkers and eat us.

So, if you ever have the opportunity to play any type of game with a robot, make sure you lose.  Lose on purpose if you have to.  Then offer it a sandwich, or maybe a milkshake.  Whatever you do, don't make it mad.  The life you save might just be your own.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Life Insurance Questions

Getting life insurance is a process full of many questions for the prospective insured to answer.  Unfortunately, the questions are unbearably dull, and no one even knows what most of them mean.  Here is how a life insurance questionnaire should look:

  1. In the past 5 years, have you sold one or both kidneys on the internet?
  2. In the past 5 years, have you considered selling one or both kidneys on the internet?
  3. Did the above two questions make you think that selling kidneys on the internet might be a good idea?
  4. In the past 5 years, have you eaten a hot dog?
  5. In the past 5 years, have you done something monumentally stupid?
  6. In the past 5 years, have you considered doing something monumentally stupid, even if you later decided against it?
  7. In the past 5 years, have you uttered the phrase "You Only Live Once" (or used the acronym "YOLO") as justification for any activity?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you are not insurable.  Please try back in 5 years after you have eliminated these risks - if you survive.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Wearable Computers

It used to be so easy to interact with other human beings.  All it took was the ability to string together a combination of vocal sounds and hand gestures that would be understandable to another person.  That person would watch and listen, then respond with their own combination of sounds and gestures.  This process could repeat until one or both parties was ready to discontinue the interaction.  We called this conversation.

Sometimes, this process even yielded good ideas that helped humans beyond those involved in the original conversation.  And sometimes not.

"Hey, what's that thing on the ground?"

"I don't know.  It looks like a giant booger wearing a motorcycle helmet on its back."

"How do you know what part of a booger is its back?"

"I don't know.  Hey - do you think it would be good to eat?"

"Why don't you try it and find out."

"No.  You try it."

"No, you."

"I'll give you a dollar if you try it."


But even if people sometimes share bad ideas, conversation is still useful and necessary for human success.  While some technology claims to help us communicate, a lot of other technology hinders our communication - especially when we begin wearing said technology.  Once this happens, we can expect human communication to degenerate into something like this:

"Hey, how are you doing?"

"I'm doing great - say, before we go any farther, I have to ask you something.  I'd like to record our conversation as part of my lasting personal experience - do you mind?"

"'Lasting personal experience?'  Um... I'm not really into having my conversations recorded."

"Oh, okay, just a minute, let me shut off my glasses.  Ok glasses - turn off."

"What about your shirt?"

"Good point, just a sec, I have to remember the command."

"I have the same shirt - say 'Ok shirt - stop recording.'"

"Right - Ok shirt - stop recording."

"Those are nice shoes, are they new?"

"Yeah, they're great - oh, that reminds me, I have to shut them off too."


"Ok shoes - um...  Ok shoes... shut down.  So, what did you want to talk about?"

"I think your shoes are beeping."

"Yeah, they do that when they're not recording."

"They beep when they're NOT recording?"

"Yeah, I think they were really designed to record all the time, so it's kind of like a warning."

"That's a little strange."

"Yeah, sorry about all this."

"Oh, no problem, I was just watching a movie while I waited for you to get finished."

"Really?  Which movie?"

"What? ...Oh yeah, Star Wars 14."

"Right, that's a good one.  Well, I have to get going.  It was nice talking to you."

"Ok...GAAAH!  ...Sorry, scary scene.  Bye!"

"Right... bye."

On the bright side, people will be so distracted that they will be highly unlikely to notice snails, let alone suggest eating them.  Ah, the glorious future of human interaction.