Crony Connect

“Crony Connect allows you to identify politically-connected individuals, using data from Companies House, the Electoral Commission and the MP’s Register of Financial Interests.

How does it work? When you enter the name of an individual, Crony Connect looks for any companies linked to that individual in the Companies House database. Then it searches for the individual and any of their associated companies in the donations and financial interests databases.”

Crony Connect

I tried Michael Gove, 1967 and August and it had two entries. One indicated he was affiliated with the Henry Jackson Society, which probably doesn’t add much to what you might know of his politics. But, it’s interesting none-the-less.

I like how projects like these try to make information more accessible and present it in different ways. It also shows the problems in how information is organized. For example, Michael Gove should have one authority record, and all variants should point to the authority record, rather than multiple listings based on whether his middle name is included or not.

Crony Connect reminded me of TheyRule.net, which was a Flash site from 2001 that described itself in this way:

“They Rule is a website that allows you to create maps of the interlocking directories of the top 100 companies in the US in 2001. The data is static, so it is fast becoming out of date, as companies merge and disappear and directors shift boards.”

But, the site provided a visual representation of interlocking corporate boards that showed how information and power is shared in a visual way. I found it fascinating. But, it also shows how quickly this information changes, so there needs to be a dynamic way to generate and present this information that makes these kinds of relationships clear. Because it is when they are not clear that corruption flourishes.

Crony Connect is an interesting attempt along these lines. I found the search mechanism, particularly the need to include birth year and month, a bad user experience. But, I liked the spirit of the thing.

Principles of Democratic Structuring

“Once the movement [grows to the point of needing structure and/or] no longer clings tenaciously to the ideology of “structurelessness,” it is free to develop those forms of organization best suited to its healthy functioning. This does not mean that we should go to the other extreme and blindly imitate the traditional forms of organization. But neither should we blindly reject them all. Some of the traditional techniques will prove useful, albeit not perfect; some will give us insights into what we should and should not do to obtain certain ends with minimal costs to the individuals in the movement. Mostly, we will have to experiment with different kinds of structuring and develop a variety of techniques to use for different situations. The Lot System is one such idea which has emerged from the movement. It is not applicable to all situations, but is useful in some. Other ideas for structuring are needed. But before we can proceed to experiment intelligently, we must accept the idea that there is nothing inherently bad about structure itself — only its excess use.

While engaging in this trial-and-error process, there are some principles we can keep in mind that are essential to democratic structuring and are also politically effective:

1) Delegation of specific authority to specific individuals for specific tasks by democratic procedures. Letting people assume jobs or tasks only by default means they are not dependably done. If people are selected to do a task, preferably after expressing an interest or willingness to do it, they have made a commitment which cannot so easily be ignored.

2) Requiring all those to whom authority has been delegated to be responsible to those who selected them. This is how the group has control over people in positions of authority. Individuals may exercise power, but it is the group that has ultimate say over how the power is exercised.

3) Distribution of authority among as many people as is reasonably possible. This prevents monopoly of power and requires those in positions of authority to consult with many others in the process of exercising it. It also gives many people the opportunity to have responsibility for specific tasks and thereby to learn different skills.

4) Rotation of tasks among individuals. Responsibilities which are held too long by one person, formally or informally, come to be seen as that person’s “property” and are not easily relinquished or controlled by the group. Conversely, if tasks are rotated too frequently the individual does not have time to learn her job well and acquire the sense of satisfaction of doing a good job.

5) Allocation of tasks along rational criteria. Selecting someone for a position because they are liked by the group or giving them hard work because they are disliked serves neither the group nor the person in the long run. Ability, interest, and responsibility have got to be the major concerns in such selection. People should be given an opportunity to learn skills they do not have, but this is best done through some sort of “apprenticeship” program rather than the “sink or swim” method. Having a responsibility one can’t handle well is demoralizing. Conversely, being blacklisted from doing what one can do well does not encourage one to develop one’s skills. Women have been punished for being competent throughout most of human history; the movement does not need to repeat this process.

6) Diffusion of information to everyone as frequently as possible. Information is power. Access to information enhances one’s power. When an informal network spreads new ideas and information among themselves outside the group, they are already engaged in the process of forming an opinion — without the group participating. The more one knows about how things work and what is happening, the more politically effective one can be.

7) Equal access to resources needed by the group. This is not always perfectly possible, but should be striven for. A member who maintains a monopoly over a needed resource (like a printing press owned by a husband, or a darkroom) can unduly influence the use of that resource. Skills and information are also resources. Members’ skills can be equitably available only when members are willing to teach what they know to others.

When these principles are applied, they insure that whatever structures are developed by different movement groups will be controlled by and responsible to the group. The group of people in positions of authority will be diffuse, flexible, open, and temporary. They will not be in such an easy position to institutionalize their power because ultimate decisions will be made by the group at large. The group will have the power to determine who shall exercise authority within it.

-Jo Freeman (aka Joreen), “The Tyranny of Structurenessless.” jofreeman.com. May 1970.

The Iron Law of Institutions

“The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution ‘fail’ while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to ‘succeed’ if that requires them to lose power within the institution.

This is true for all human institutions, from elementary schools up to the United States of America. If history shows anything, it’s that this cannot be changed. What can be done, sometimes, is to force the people running institutions to align their own interests with those of the institution itself and its members.”

-Jonathan Schwarz, “Democrats And The Iron Law Of Institutions.” tinyrevolution.com. September 5, 2007.

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

“I always want to say to people who want to be rich and famous: ‘try being rich first.’ See if that doesn’t cover most of it. There’s not much downside to being rich, other than paying taxes and having your relatives ask you for money. But when you become famous, you end up with a 24-hour job…”

-Bill Murray quoted in Tim Ferris, “11 Reasons Not to Become Famous (or “A Few Lessons Learned Since 2007”)“. tim.blog. February 2, 2020.

Lest you think suddenly becoming rich is going to “cover most of it”, try reading this Reddit chestnut, “You just won a 656 Million Dollar Lottery. What do you do now?” Still want to be rich?

The same applies to power. People tend to be preoccupied with attaining fame, riches or power. All of them are soul destroying if you achieve them in any significant measure.

The End of the Internal Combustion Engine & Real Time Energy Production is Nigh

“We present a wide range of testing results on an excellent moderate-energy-density lithium-ion pouch cell chemistry to serve as benchmarks for academics and companies developing advanced lithium-ion and other “beyond lithium-ion” cell chemistries to (hopefully) exceed. These results are far superior to those that have been used by researchers modelling cell failure mechanisms and assuch, these results are more representative of modern Li-ion cells and should be adopted by modellers. Up to three years of testing has been completed for some of the tests. Tests include long-term charge-discharge cycling at 20, 40 and 55°C, long-term storage at 20, 40and 55°C, and high precision coulometry at 40°C. Several different electrolytes are considered in this LiNi0.5Mn0.3Co0.2O2 / graphite chemistry, including those that can promote fast charging. The reasons for cell performance degradation and impedance growth are examined using several methods. We conclude that cells of this type should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) and last at least two decades in grid energy storage…

…Single crystal NMC532 / graphite cells with exceptional lifetime have been developed. Storage and cycle testing up to 3 years in duration has been presented at 20, 40 and 55°C. The lifetime of these cells far exceeds that of other NMC / graphite cells reported in the literature and which have been used for lifetime modelling. It is suggested that lifetime models for NMC532 / graphite cells consider the data presented here.

Rochelle Weber, et al. “A Wide Range of Testing Results on an Excellent Lithium-Ion CellChemistry to be used as Benchmarks for New Battery Technologies.” Journal of the Electrochemical Society. 166(13) A3031-A3044 (2019)

Batteries that can last two decades will not only change the automotive industry, but the energy industry as well. More general discussion is available on CleanTechnica.

Power of the Powerless, Vaclav Havel (1978)

“Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them. As the repository of something suprapersonal and objective, it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves. It is a very pragmatic but, at the same time, an apparently dignified way of legitimizing what is above, below, and on either side. It is directed toward people and toward God. It is a veil behind which human beings can hide their own fallen existence, their trivialization, and their adaptation to the status quo.”

—Vaclav Havel, “Power of the Powerless.”

Champagne Taste, Kool-Aid Money

“…all who want to get rich manage to do so. That scandalizes people who have dreamed of having money, and who do not have any. They looked at the mountain; but it just waited for them. Money, like every other advantage, demands fidelity above all else. Many people imagine that they want money simply because they must. But money eludes thoses who pursue it simply out of need. People who have made their fortune have done so by striving to dominate something.”

—Emile-Auguste Chartier, “The Ambitious,” in Alain on Happiness. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 1973.

The Bible puts in more succinctly:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

—Matthew 6:24

And there is the classic Reddit post, regarding winning the lottery. Long story short, winning the lottery will also significantly increase your chances of being a victim of homicide (particularly by a family member), having a drug overdose, going bankrupt, being kidnapped, being convicted of drunk driving, and being a defendant in a civil law suit or in felony criminal proceedings.

All of this suggests that the pursuit of power, fame and money beyond certain minimum thresholds is self-destructive, or at the very least requires hyper-vigilance to the point that it consumes a lot of time and energy. Better to develop Kool-Aid taste and get by with less.