Friday, January 16, 2015

Learning to pick your fights

If there is one thing I have learned in life...'s to learn to pick your fights. I never go into an argument I know I'm going to lose. Concede early and concede graciously.

I used to play the Japanese game of Go a fair bit. When you start playing you want to play to a conclusion and until there are no moves left. Soon you learn that this is not in the spirit of the game. At some point you will realise that you are playing undefendable stones that have no relevance, This shows no respect for yourself or your opponent.  the The mark of a good player is to learn to recognise the outcome early and bow out graciously. Also, to give you opponent the opportunity to do the same, without condescension or malice.

Player 1:"I think the game has gone stale but I think you might take it by a few stones"

to which the correct response is something like

Player 2:"No, you would definitely have won the battle in this corner, my defeat was inevitable by 10 stones."

Two experienced players will know that there is only a five stone advantage to Player 1 but both exit the game with elegance and neither looses face.

So, play for the joy of playing. With experience you will recognise when to concede and when to procede. And if your opponent is more experienced than you, listen carefully to what he says, he might be saving you face and time. And when the joy goes out of the game, end it. There will be other games.

Go appeals to the philosopher in any man and Chess to the merchant in him. - Trevannion (Shibumi)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Put some fun into politics

Politics isn't much fun is it...

Oh I know we can have a bit of a giggle at the politicians who aren't the sharpest knives in the block and every now and again a belly laugh at on who does something outrageous but there really isn't enough fun being had. We need less dour gloompeddling and and more chaos. I like chaos. Chaos is a state of possibilities. The road to order is just a restriction of those possibilities.

We are in a 4 1/2 month drag to the next general election. It's really difficult to get engaged. There's a new series of I'm a Celebrities Failing in Uninteresting Ways starting every week.  My prediction is that just over two thirds of the people who can vote will. No one will have a clear majority so some deals will be done in order to form a government. The government will not represent the majority of the populace. And all the promises in the manifestos will be forgotten in the first 3 months when the clear intent will be seen too late. They will dick around for 5 years tinkering here and there and things will be a bit better or a bit worse, depending on how you choose to measure it, than when they started. Then we'll do the same thing all over again and we'll wonder why nothing changes.

It's not all doom and gloom though. I think it can be fixed.

Do away with general elections and introduce some random churn instead.

Every week the names of three MPs will be selected at random. We could use something like the lottery machines. 

They will be put on two weeks notice. 

One seat will be decided by the traditional democratic method of a by election as a nod to democracy.

Another will be decided games designed to see who is best at strategy and thinking. I suggest a GCSE maths paper, chess, Brain of Britain, go, World of Warcraft and It's a Knockout. The overall  winner gets the seat. 

The last seat would be decided by a random selection from the constituency. Drawing a salary and not turning up would be an option, just as it is for MPs now.

That should eventually give us a good churn rate and a good mix of skills. The turnover would be the equivalent of new government every 4 years.

Deciding who gets to talk and for how long should be on merit. In order to draw their salary each month MPs would be required to submit forecasts of a bunch of indicators 3 months ahead. Off hand I suggest GDP, borrowing requirement, cost of a trolley of shopping, house price index, Number 10 hospitality bill, A&E average waiting times. To introduce a bit of chaos they would also have lottery tickets and a win would count towards their score. Depending on the aggregate score MPs would be given allocated a time to speak and introduce suggestions for new legislation. The person who did worse would have to wear a pink ballerina outfit for the month and the other MPs would be allowed to refer to him as the honourable poohead. The person who had statistically speaking tracked the trends best over a year would be made prime minister at the end of the year and would be able to wear casual clothes on Tuesdays and Fridays. He would select his cabinet from the 100 next top scorers using the time honoured method of eeny meeny miney mo on parliament green.

House of commons debating could be replaced with the rules of something like Just a Minute. An MP is given a set time, depending on their predictive skill in the areas above to speak on a current affairs topic and in that time everyone listens, in silence. Interruptions not in the rules of hesitation, deviation and repetition would be penalised by having to sit in silence in a dunces cap for 30 minutes. A successful challenge would mean that you got to talk on the same topic. Until everyone got fed up and no one wanted to say anything else. Then there would be a division but instead of ayes and noes each MP would post on facebook what he thought it was about and the one with the most likes would be taken away by the civil servants and drafted into a law.

There would also be set phrases that had to be used in the correct context. These would be changed weekly by randomly selecting phrases posted on social media. I've just done a random scan through a couple of pages my twitter feed (really) here's some we might expect to see:

rabid, non-objective, sensationalist
self-serving buffoons
just blocked the fat tub of lard
voluntary deradicalisation programme

Failure to work in the required phrase means you have to get the next round in in the bar.

There would still have to be a speaker to keep order. I suggest the job is allocated a bit like jury service and instead of order papers to waive the speaker has a supersoaker filled with ink for minor infractions and taser which he can use if things get really out if hand.

The house of lords would be abolished completely. New laws would be posted on twitter and hashtag campaigns would decide which ones were enacted. For every law passed twitter would be allowed to revoke one. Bonus revocations would be awarded every time an MP was caught with their hands in the till.

See, all it takes are some well established gameshow formats, social media and we could put everything right. I'd pay my taxes to watch that.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Grim Day Yesterday

So here's the thing...
Yesterday a whole bunch of people were killed in Paris because of some ink marks on bits of paper. The killers feel justified and righteous because there these ink marks made fun of their beliefs.
It seems there is a bunch of people who are happy to live in old testament times. This is the state that IS, Taliban and Boko Haram are promoting on the African and Asian continents and as brutal as they are the time when the European and North American continents could act as world police dealing out justice abroad is well and truly over as witnessed by the results, or lack of them in the catalogue of recent African and Asian exploits. Imposing our values on other countries is not going to work any more unless we are prepared to admit our aim is to wrest sovereignty from them and become an imperial powers again. That time is past. The crusades were 700 years ago and we live in a different world now.
So what is to be done if they try to export old testament beliefs to more civilised countries? Go into  full Christian patriot mode and start a holy war? That is what some keyboard warriors would like to see I am sure. My opinion is that we should unleash the full force of the justice system on them. Becoming as brutalised as they are can never be the answer.
I have no idea how many 'terrorists' the UK is harbouring. I have seen numbers that say 700. Given that more than half of these are gobby kids who have no intention to take up arms we are left with a few hundred in a population of 64 million.  
I don't feel terrorised.
So let's take a deep breath, stand back and look at ourselves. Try and stay civilised people. And think for yourselves. Being carried along with the mob is not your only option.