Tag: Satire

The Unsettled Status Of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

Windrush War Memorial Brixton

In a chaotic attempt to demonstrate how easy it is for European Union Citizens to obtain Settled Status, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson may find himself in a dawn removal, by the Home Office, from Number Ten. An unnamed Sauce at the Home Office explaining that Alexander might well have genealogical evidence of ancestry back to Prince Paul of Württemberg but he lacks basic records for the last thirty years living in the United Kingdom.

Home Office officials were concerned that Alexander had changed his name to Boris and dropped the de Pfeffel completely. Lacking a notarised Deed Poll document with the name change raises concerns that the name Boris Johnson may well be a, “Flag of convenience raised by some specie of Privateer,” Tallulah Brockman Bankhead said, and that, “raises concerns about the validity of the residence of Mister de Pfeffel Johnson,” and that, “the lack of an initial capital letter in de Pfeffel Johnson suggests it may well not be an English Name at all.”

The Spokesman for the Home Office, Tallulah Brockman Bankhead, stated with some degree of insouciance that none of these matters were definite cause to refuse Settled Status but the fact that Mister de Pfeffel Johnson lives in temporary accommodation does cause some worry among the Visa and Immigration Service Preferred Outsourcing Suppliers: Carpathia. Carpathia were unavailable for comment when contacted via their Tortuga based call centre due to high traffic volumes although Carpathia did confirm that a number of collisions with vehicles had occurred.

A Birth Certificate issued in New York might well prove to be as elusive as any of the other documents required to establish Settled Status. Given an employment record that includes at least more than one dismissal for making up facts, turning in copy late, and a series of adverse decisions in the Higher Courts, Mister de Pfeffel Johnson is not expected to proffer any believable Long Form Birth Certificate in time to avoid removal from his Downing Street Address. Former member of the Democratic State Committee of Pennsylvania and Birth Certificate Expert, Philip J. Berg, who brought action that alleged, “that Obama was born in Mombasa, Kenya,” was unavailable to answer questions. The Visa and Immigration Service cannot simply take on trust that the Long Form Birth Certificate is not subject to any kind of controversy. The chequered family background of international itinerance and peripatetic habit being one of the many alarm bells ringing at the Department.

The habit of Mister de Pfeffel Johnson of seeking Focus Group approval for public statements has proven difficult for much of the Application Process. Rumours of a Ghost Writer for the Settled Status Application Forms were dismissed as being, “as likely as being locked in a disused fridge” and of significant questions being the result of consultation not reality, such as his alleged marriage to a sixty one year old Molly Sugden at the age of nineteen. It is unlikely that the Late Molly Sugden would have been able to accommodate a bigamous marriage with an Old Etonian forty-two years her junior.

Following the Historical Method of Mister de Pfeffel Johnson the Home Office will be relying on the etymology of Pfeffel in making a determination. Unfortunately for Mister de Pfeffel Johnson, the name Pfeffel derives from the German pfaffe or “pope”. Given the recent misunderstanding about Privy Council Advice to the Monarch – who has her own Church – this determination may well be formatively adverse.

Concerns have been raised over 150,000 outstanding cases, as employers cite ‘ongoing issue’ of communicating with staff about visa changes, which might delay a complete determination of Mister de Pfeffel Johnson’s employment status and hence his entitlement status. With Mister de Pfeffel Johnson being in an occupation that probably requires an Exceptional Talent Visa, it is uncertain if his future employment can be maintained under present regulations. His sense of entitlement is undoubtable but remains undetermined. Home Secretary Pretty Patella was unavailable for comment, which is probably for the best.

On grounds of income it is unclear if Mister de Pfeffel Johnson would be eligible for a Teir One Investor Visa – particularly since his Brexit project has already cost £66Bn according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Which dwarfs any ostensible income from innovative Jams tomorrow or the £2m-£10m investment in the United Kingdom that the Visa usually requires. Chancellor of the Exchequer Savage Javelin was unavailable for comment, which is, again, probably for the best.

Unlike Damian Wawrzyniak, Celebrity and Royal Chef, or Magdalena Lyubomirova Filipova-Rivers, South Oxfordshire District Councillor, Mister de Pfeffel Johnson is unlikely to suffer from a hostile environment for anything. Like Dexter Bristol, Mister de Pfeffel Johnson will manage to die of natural causes but that will, likely, be uncomplicated by Coroners questioning the role of the Home Office into his demise. Mister de Pfeffel Johnson has, like many people in the richest postcodes, a life expectancy of eighty seven years. Exactly the same lifespan as the Late Molly Sugden.

Picture: African and Caribbean Memorial, initially unveiled 2014, unveiled at the 2017 Windrush Day (22nd June) Commemoration and Celebration.
Nubian Jak Community Trust and Madstone Limited.

 


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Choice Architecture of a Democratic Politics – Hubert Huzzah


A lot has been written in recent years about the value of Behavioural Economics in nudging the Electorate to do make good choices. A lot less has been achieved in the area of nudging politicians. Politicians are pivotal in society and nudging them will have far greater impact on society than piecemeal and dissipated nudging of Citizens. Indeed the nudging of politicians is not only the most rational and efficient way to achieve positive outcomes for society but also ensure that both politicians and Electorate are of one mind when it comes to being “all in it together”.

The Choice Architecture of Parliament has, for centuries, favoured unaccountable and poor decision-making in isolation from the actual needs and wants of the Electorate. Indeed, women only acquired the right to vote in 1918, voting only became one person one vote in 1948 and the franchise has only been extended to 18 year olds since 1969, in the United Kingdom. Democratic participation has never been the primary aim of Parliament, for reasons that can be understood through a consideration of Behavioural Economics: Parliament is about the allocation and distribution of Power.

Reducing the tyranny of choice.

The sheer number of choices available to politicians is a tyranny.

From expenses for underpants to abstaining from critical votes, the sheer amount of time and energy devoted to Politicians’ choices diminishes political utility. The Electorate can become the Choice Architects of Parliament by democratically limiting alternatives and providing decision support tools.

Traditionally, Parliament has excluded the Electorate from many Parliamentary processes. Indeed with around thirty-five million eligible voters, Parliament can only function by being efficient. The true scale of the tyranny of choice can be expressed, mathematically, and this gives the Choice Architects of Parliament powerful tools to determine how efficient Politicians are being. The exclusion of the Electorate from some Parliamentary processes and admission into others can end the moral hazard and confirmation biases inherent in a closed decision-making group.

Queueing theory has its origins in research by Agner Krarup Erlang when he created models to describe the Copenhagen telephone exchange and has provided such important results as the Queueing Rule Of Thumb, which can be used to determine how many Politicians are required and if a Politician is efficiently making choices. This reduction of the tyranny of choices only begins the radical reform of Parliament by transforming Politicians into fit for purpose Decision Makers whose optimisation of resources for the Electorate is a Public Good. Identifying which Politicians are failing the Electorate in aggregate becomes a simple task of a well designed Randomised Control Trial.

Defaults

A large body of research has shown that, paribus ceteris, Politician are people and choose options that are presented as a default.

The Choice Architects of Parliament will create the defaults of deselection and prosecution for Politicians cause harm to the Electorate. The Precautionary Principle, applied to Legislators will ensure the best choices are available to Parliament at all times.

Historically, the defaults presented to Politicians have been those defaults prepared by Think Tanks, Lobbyists, Consultants and the Civil Service. While there is nothing undemocratic about seeking the advice of Experts, the pool of expertise has diminished in recent years until it has, largely, become an unnecessary barrier to efficiency and a source of largesse for rewarding anchoring biases and bandwagon effects. Fundamentally the Choice Architects of Parliament will minimise the framing effect of these expert consultations which can result in failure by default as the direct outcome of the Dunning-Kruger Effect discovered in a range of notionally independent Think Tanks, Lobbyists and Consultants.

In contrast to genuinely principle based policies, Politicians have come to rely on the self-assembly policies, for which consultations provides defaults and instructions, in the same way that people value furniture that they have assembled themselves. Research has shown that people value a book shelf more if they assemble it themselves than if it is already assembled. The Political Pareidolia of Consultation Defaults will be ended by the Choice Architects of Parliament by evidence based defaults for Politicians.

A simple and enduring evidence based default for Politicians is to be recalled from office should they choose a default purely because it is a default. In evidence based policy, default policies can be randomised in order to ensure that Politicians are not simply choosing the first option on the list. Research at the Department of Work and Pensions has demonstrated that Claimants understand and appreciate the value of sanctions in making good choices and there is no evidence that Politicians are not the same as Claimants. The Sanction Regime will be the Primary Default for Politicians in Policy Formation and no secret will be made of that; because, then, Politicians can make the right and informed choice and, importantly, feed back those choices to Think Tanks, Lobbyists, Consultants and the Civil Service with appropriate behaviours.

Choice over time

Choices where outcomes manifest in the future are influenced by several biases.

Politicians tend to be myopic, preferring present opinion poll or ideological outcomes at the expense of future concrete outcomes for the Electorate. This leads over exploitation of present day resources at the expense of the future. Political projections about the future tend to be inaccurate with uncertainty promoting overestimation of the likelihood of positive outcomes for vanity projects.

The Choice Architects of Parliament have several ways to structure choice architecture to compensate for or reduce these ideological and opinion poll biases. Where Politicians have an uncertain future, they are motivated to overestimate the likelihood of salient or desirable outcomes and the resulting poor choices cascade outwards into the Electorate with consequences that are, generally, unforseen by the Politician. By making all Political Choices by a politician contribute to the future wellbeing of the Politician, Policy will be driven to improve.

The default Sanction Regime is only functionally effective if the Sanctions escalate over time. The current Sanction Regime for Politicians consists of not being elected at the next General Election. There are rare occasions when a Politician resigns inducing a by-election. This is not a Sanction in the same way as a General Election as it is controlled by the Politician. Similarly, being Suspended from the House is a Sanction under the control of the Speaker.

Partitioning options and attributes

The ways in which options and attributes are grouped influence the choices that are made. 

Option partitioning requires division of a budget into categories. The attributes of a category are clumped or divided according to Government Department and Ideology. Politicians have a tendency to claim resources are scarce and allocated equally across categories. By itemising ideologically acceptable attributes and aggregating ideologically undesirable attributes, Politicians managed consumption by managing the number of attributes into types of categorizations.

The Choice Architects of Parliament will undertake a root and branch review of ideological choices and manage Political expectations by recalling Politicians where their ideological categories do not match those of the Electorate. The choice tools available to Politicians will cease to be limited to those provided by Lobbyists and Think Tanks.

Indeed each Individual Lobbyist and Think Tank will cease to be treated as an attribute of Political Life in Parliament and become a Category within the Register of Members’ Interests. Similarly, each Elector will become a Category for each “Elected Representative”. This will ensure that Politicians allocate the scare resources of their time equally across Electorate and Special Interests. The consumption of Lobbying can, therefore, be managed by the Choice Architects of Parliament.

Avoiding attribute overload

Politicians would optimally consider all of a Policy’s attributes when deciding between options. Cognitive constraints, result in weighing attributes in the same way as choices. As a result, The Choice Architects of Parliament will choose to limit the number of attributes of a policy, weighing the cognitive effort required to consider multiple attributes against the value of improved Governance. In order to ensuring cognitive attribute overload does not occur, the number of Politicians will be increased by reducing the size of Constituencies. Thus Politicians will be both more accountable and less prone to attribute overload.

This presents challenges if Politicians ideologically commit to different attributes to the Electorate and so the Choice Architects of Parliament provide tools for sorting, informing and recalling Politicians. The principal means of avoiding attribute overload will become the Political Capability Assessment. Rather than belabouring the difficulties of partitioning attributes and categories, Politicians will be periodically assessed for their suitability by Political Activity Practitioners selected from the General Electorate.

Translating attributes

The presentation of information about attributes reduces the cognitive effort associated with representation and so reduces the failure of Politicians to do as the Electorate instructs. The Choice Architects of Parliament will accomplished this by increasing evaluability and comparability of attributes. The Choice Architects of Parliament will convert commonly used metrics into metrics Politicians are assumed to care about. Such as “Expenses per Majority” and “Lobbyists per Day”. Non-linear metrics will be transformed into linear metrics and evaluative labels will be added to numerical metrics, explicitly calculating consequences such as “Swing to deselection” and “probability of prison”.

The Choice Architects of Parliament

For too long, Politicians have avoided the reality of their situation. In particular, the finances of Parliamentary Politicians has been allowed to drift along making poor choices with poor consequences for Constituents.With the advent of Behavioural Economics it has become clear that something must be done to curb the poor choices of politicians.

Imagine how much easier it would be for a Minister to refrain from sending an aide out to purchase sex aids if all purchases of goods or services by all Politicians were restricted to the use of a Parliamentary Credit Card. By having a Parliamentary Credit Card updating a database in real time, Politicians can make good purchasing decisions and demonstrate their accountability in real time. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority would transform from being a bureaucratic nightmare into being a modern and efficient Politicians’ Financial Services Organisation.

Paperwork would be eliminated as transactions would automatically register and enter the public domain through the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority Website. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority showing approval or rejection of expense items giving feedback to the Electorate in real time. Rejected items could be annotated quickly to ensure Politicians understand the consequences of their choices.

Politicians have always been accused of using the ambiguity of Parliamentary and Constituency Homes as a source of income. The difficulty of maintaining two dwellings is a common one that can result in suboptimal resource allocation. The resulting problem of spare rooms has been solved for a range of Benefits Claimants by adjusting the level of support available. The same principle, applied to Politicians, has a simple and elegant solution which helps them to avoid attribute overload – both in their own accommodation and in policy formation.

By housing Politicians in the Tower Blocks in and around the precincts of Parliament, the suboptimal resource allocation of resources to accommodation vanishes and Politicians are motivated to ensure the highest standards for accommodation within the constraints provided by the Tenant Management Organisation. By ensuring the Tenant Management Organisation is responsible for providing Tower Block Housing within Local Authority constraints, Politicians can both choose to relieve themselves of poor choices about maintenance and provide a pathfinder for excellence in housing choices over time.

While expenses and housing are major concerns, the single most important behaviour Politicians engage in is voting in Parliament. Poor voting decisions have serious, long-term outcomes that adversely affect the Electorate. Politicians who have expectations that decisions made in the first year of office will not have an effect in the fifth year of office experience no loss aversion. By following the Precautionary Principle, Politician who make poor voting decisions would have their term of office shortened thus bringing the date of their next election forwards. Sufficient poor voting decisions would trigger an early General Election. This ensures Party Whips are given the opportunity to avoid loss though an early election with motivation to ensure Politicians make good decisions at all stages of a Parliament.

The danger of applying a time tariff to voting decisions is that Politicians will attempt to game the system with poor decisions. In order to ensure Politicians are as motivated as their Party to make good decisions, Randomised Control Trials will be run against each and every vote in Parliament. Politicians are randomly matched against a representative sample of voters from their Constituency and their actual vote. Politicians who are so selected will be obliged to discuss their decision-making during a Political Capability Assessment.

In order to ensure that the Political Capability Assessment is fair and realistic, the Political Activity Practitioners will be selected from the General Electorate and Expertise will be excluded in order to ensure avoidance of The Political Pareidolia of Consultation Defaults. In line with the practices of the Work Capability Assessment process, there will be a rejection rate for all assessments. The rejection rate will be evidenced based on the number of people who voted against the Politician at the last election. The ordeal of appealing against the Political Capability Assessment will focus Politicians on making better decisions and becomes a necessary part of political life.

The Choice Architects of Parliament are in their early days and have little, if any, concrete proposals developed to the state of implementation. Randomised Control Trials have a role to play in the selection and election of Politicians prior to any Parliament. Not only are Politicians going to be more efficient and effective at making decisions they will be making better decisions. The kind of decisions that they can be responsible for. Because they will be held to be responsible and that means there will be consequences for all they do.

 Independent Standards Authority MP costs. Interactive map.

Article by Hubert Huzzah.

 Picture: George Grosz and John Heartfield: “Jederman sein eigner Fussball”, 1919.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Conservative’s slippery slope and Allport’s scale of prejudice

Gordon Allport studied the psychological and social processes that create a society’s progression from prejudice and discrimination to genocide. In his research of how the Holocaust happened, he describes sociopolitical processes that foster increasing social prejudice and discrimination and he demonstrated how the unthinkable becomes acceptable: it happens incrementally, because of a steady erosion of our moral and rational boundaries, and propaganda-driven changes in our attitudes towards others that advances culturally, by almost inscrutable degrees.

The process always begins with political scapegoating of a social group and with ideologies that identify that group as an enemy or a social burden in some way. A history of devaluation of the group that becomes the target, authoritarian culture, and the passivity of internal and external witnesses (bystanders) all contribute to the probability that violence against that group will develop, and ultimately, if the process is allowed to continue evolving, genocide.

Economic recession, uncertainty and authoritarian or totalitarian political systems contribute to shaping the social conditions that seem to trigger Allport’s escalating scale of prejudice.

The Conservatives are authoritarians, they manufactured an economic recession, as did the previous Conservative administrations. Though the sheer pace and blatancy of Cameron’s austerity programme  – a front for the theft and redistribution of public wealth to Tory-supporting private bank accounts – is unprecedented, even for Conservatives.

And prejudice towards vulnerable minority groups is almost a cardinal Conservative trait. The media is being used by the right-wing as an outlet for blatant political propaganda, and much of it is manifested as a pathological persuasion to hate others.

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The Conservative party has said that they are “controlling immigration” by clamping down on benefits tourism and health tourism – so that we only welcome those who want to “work hard and contribute to our society”, cutting net immigration from outside the EU to levels not seen since the late 1990s – to “ease pressure on the schools and hospitals that all hardworking people rely on”, and introducing a new citizen test with “British values at its heart”.  Such policies pander to public nationalism and normalise political fascism.

David Cameron is asking for our views on immigration. I didn’t bother responding to the highy selective, deliberately poorly designed, directed and loaded survey.

As someone who has designed sociological and psychological surveys, I know that rule number one for conducting genuine research is that we do not use loaded or leading questions. And I can’t abide the distraction and diversionary tactics – “finger pointing” politics at its very worst: scapegoating and bullying towards politically exploited minority groups, those least able to speak up for themselves.

We know that it is Tory polices that have damaged our Country, and not migrants, or sick and disabled people, or the poorest citizens. So I sent the following qualitative response to David Cameron:

“I’ve always felt the Tories don’t belong here, they have stolen all of our money, jobs, best houses, they’re scrounging off the hard-working taxpayer, and are draining our publicly funded public services – the welfare state, social security; legal aid, social housing, and they are bleeding the NHS dry. We can’t afford Conservatives, they contribute absolutely nothing to society, and cost ordinary people pretty much everything. They are also known criminals and terrorists, so they should be immediately deported back to the feudal era, where they  belong and never allowed back to civilised, democratic society again”.

Well, it is said that in satire, irony is militant. I pointed back and found the truth.

We are obliged to critique, in every  way we can, the constant subliminal drip of Tory bullying, imperialist white supremacist, social Darwinist, patriarchal political culture, because it is normalised by political narrative, a complicit mass media, and rendered opaque, presented tacitly as unproblematic “common sense”. 

It isn’t common sense. It’s nasty, manipulative right-wing prejudice, scapegoating and diversion. For those of you who welcome the political permission to exercise your own racism, it’s worth bearing in mind that prejudice tends to “multi-task”.

Once a social group is targeted for outgrouping and discrimination, others quickly follow, as Pastor Martin Niemöller famously observed very well, in his famous statement about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

 

  Related 

When the oppressed are oppressive too

UK becomes the first country to face a UN inquiry into disability rights violations

Techniques of neutralisation – a framework of prejudice

UKIP: Parochialism, Prejudice and Patriotic Ultranationalism.

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Art courtesy of Robert Livingstone


I don’t make any money from my work. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated, and helps to keep my articles free and accessible to all – thank you. 

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