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Video explaining the 8 points of Italian referendum which just failed.

In what is called another instance of anti-establishment politics, Italians rejected a constitutional referendum.

What exactly did they vote on? Honestly, I still don’t really understand, beyond that the proposed changes would shift the balance of power toward Italy’s national government and towards what we in the US would call the executive branch. Here’s a cute cartoon video explaining the 8 main points. (warning: cute cartoon videos are a sign that someone is selling you something. still, they bee cute. check it out.)

Perhaps more importantly, the referendum was viewed as a symbolic popular vote of no confidence in the Italian PM Matteo Renzi, since he insisted on the changes, and promised to resign if the measure failed. Fail it did, and Renzi has now resigned, with the resulting election potentially positioning anti-EU populist parties for further gains. Lacking any knowledge of Italian politics, I can say no more.

bonus video (BBC – contains state sponsored agenda, but still good reporting)

Austrian Election: The importance of runoff elections or preference voting !!!

In a pretty big sigh of relief for many, Austria’s nationalist Freedom party was defeated. The winner is Austria’s Green party.

Note that these things do not mean the same thing in Austria as they do in the US. The Austrian Green party includes some conservatives in addition to the traditional “green” themes, and the Austrian Freedom party have in current times emphasized the anti-immigrant issue and draw their strength from German nationalists. Both parties are stand in contrast to the two “mainstream” parties in Austria, which just as elsewhere in the western world, have become very unpopular.

Now for the really important thing here. The Freedom party’s candidate actually won the most votes the first round general election, in which all the parties competed together. It was only by virtue of Austria’s runoff election system (similar to France’s), that the Green candidate won — after the choices were narrowed to the top 2 places from the first round general election.

In this way, a runoff election system, just like an preference voting system (aka RCV), avoids the spoiler effect. It allows the public, knowing there will be a runoff election, to not have to face the false constraint of “lesser evil” logic in the general election. This way, Austrians have a pretty good idea of where their voters stand, and very importantly in this case, they avoided the nationalist candidate. Their electoral system was able to process a common real-world case where a party with a plurality is strongly opposed by the majority.

We desperately need something similar in the US. And in fact the purpose of my blog is to promote this very thing. Proportional Representation, and Ranked Choice Voting are the systems I favor.

By themselves, preference voting or runoff voting systems are not a cure for political problems of today (using the Austria example, the nationalist candidate still got 47% in the runoff), but they are a necessary condition for the tool of democracy to even try to tackle difficult issues. The two-party trap the US has due to its winner-take-all-by-state system is an unhelpful handicap.

The miserable quality of our presidential election in the US just now is a motivating factor that can open to discussion of all this.,_2016

Update/Clarification: Today’s runoff election was a repeat of the original runoff election in May (the first-round general election was in April). The repeat was due to the results of the May election being challenged for voting irregularities. The result was the same. This aspect of the story is not relevant to the point I’m making above, which is that the US could’ve benefited from a runoff election system or a preference voting system, as well as proportional representation.

Russel Brand on UK “Snooper’s Charter” law

Straight outta the land of Orwell, Russel Brand shares his take on the situation. (warning: limey propaganda)

PropOrNot, FakeNews, Harding

Today’s NC has some alleged “dirt” PropOrNot. This project, which WAPO enthusiastically promoted, came up with a blacklist of 200 non-mainstream US news websites and blogs etc etc, I think Ben Norton and Glenn Greenwald cover the story for future reference when we’re looking back on this in a year or whenever.

The “dirt” consists of links to internet promoters of Ukrainian right-wingers (or, to be really specific, promoters of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, in which the right-wingers on both sides are the most enthusiastic in their desire to fight regardless of consequences). Specifically a guy named Harding, who popped up when I was covering the Russia-Ukraine situation 2 years ago. I will return to him in a few paragraphs.

We will recall that at that time, the White House generally repeated press releases of the Ukrainian government, which, during the conflict, was dominated by an assortment of right wingers. The whole thing is so embarrassing, and the subject so hopelessly polluted by ideologically driven press from both sides, that I decided to stop talking about it. For the record it is and was my position that the Ukrainian right wingers were in the wrong in that conflict. I now believe that any involvement by the US was an innocent mistake (I previously attributed it to incompetence, malice, substance abuse, or most potently, uncritical acceptance of departmental talking points).

But in a couple of ways it is instructive too, since I learned a lot about the kinds of audiences you get on the internet. Most people, of course, are “regurgitators” who simply repeat the talking points of their camp (type I). Their defining characteristic is they never publish anything you won’t find in a “major” media outlet. More interesting are the “active” types who go above and beyond in some way. Among those, the most motivated (on both sides, here meaning Ukr vs Rus) are right wingers (type II). And the crazier the right-winger, the more determined and methodical they are, and this actually makes them effective researchers, within the confines of their ideological limits. (I.e., they research only things that support their point of view). This results in an unexpected asymmetry, where the primary sources are dug up by the right-wingers, and the left-wingers then consume those !!!

But also, if you put out something new, anything new, these guys will be all over it before anyone else. And so if someone notices that PropOrNot’s first twitter followers were Ukrainian right-wingers, that is a side effect of that. (By the way I think Twitter is singlehandedly responsible for making the human race dumber.)

Harding himself, I remember his photo with the motorcycle from a blog with which I briefly interacted. I had him pegged as a type I (regurgitator) actually, meaning he mostly recycled press releases. Perhaps he evolved.

That’s actually the other interesting thing. People evolve, most commonly from type I (regurgitators), to type II (conspiracy theorists, typ. right-wing), and then if they don’t get stuck at that level, into something else with positive value. What happens is the regurgitator realizes that their side’s newspaper/TV is lying to them, about some detail they consider important but most people do not (in my case, it was the justification of the Iraq War). They already know the opposing newspaper/TV is lying. So then they go to conspiracy theory, sometimes left-wing but more often right wing, and sometimes a blend too, such as libertarians maybe (not all of whom are right-wingers, but again they seem to dominate). After some years, they realize that most media targeted to the conspiracy theory crowd is also full of it. And so the search for truth goes on. I think this all is actually a positive development path, on the whole. The world would function much better if even the most naiive among us understood that media (whether mainstream or independent) is generally published, at least in part, with a cynical manipulative purpose. That is no worse than knowing that your business partners are trying to profit from doing business with you. And I actually think that most people do get this, and the “powers that be” object a lot less than you think they might. (witness the success of the Murdoch empire).

So as for PropOrNot and FakeNews… due to the WAPO’s sheer stupidity in adopting this boat-anchor of a talking point, it will help a lot of people take the first step in their journey. The second step, where most people explore right-wing conspiracy theories for a time, is a potentially dangerous one. When one is hungry for a new truth, having rejected the old truth, there is vulnerability to various charlatans. After the first time, you learn though. Remember, there are further steps beyond type II. You want to move people forward through this progression, not backward.

If any “serious” people are reading this, I want to take the opportunity to repeat, that it is quite easy for mainstream news to win audiences back from this. One has to simply acknowledge the things reported in the past which happened not to be true, but do it like someone was going to check your work.

re: Jill Stein, recount

Stein is getting lots of heat for the recount. Why? If the elections went down without flaws, the recount would help legitimize it.

It’s easy to see why Team Trump opposes it, but why did the Democrat party not support it? Why would independents from any corner oppose it? I have a feeling there’ a chance that a true manual recount (if even possible) would reveal manipulation by both D’s and R’s, but of course we’ll never know, because a full audit isn’t in the cards.

As an engineer/computer guy, it is a mystery to me why we even have purely electronic voting machines. For anything even remotely important, you must have a paper trail. Buy a car or a house without a receipt? Don’t think so. And anonymity isn’t the answer. With modern cryptography, we have the technology to make anonymous receipts for counting purposes that don’t reaveal how a particular person voted.

Here’s a perspective on the recount [black agenda report]. Fake news, mind you.

musical interlude CLXXXV

Erm. Time to wind down the serious subject matter.

I realize stringband covers are a genre that’s beat to death, but I need a transition, both in and out. Soon after I started the interludes, I decided I would try to make them flow both forward and backwards, since you read blogs backwards, though I wasn’t entirely consistent about that goal. Lets see where it goes.

This one works surprisingly well as a minor-key jam:

bonus: cali dreamin  :-)


Thanksgiving, Wisconsin Recount, Fake News doodah

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Back in NYC:

  • Perhaps a 100 feet of the Union Square subway station’s walls are covered, floor-to-ceiling, in post-it notes reacting to the election. Couple of performers taking advantage of the lingering crowd w/ a boombox and some mediocre rapping, echoing thru that part of the station as a background. The beats from the backing track give the scene some energy, the feeling is positive, rather than somber. On the actual sticky notes, plenty of sarcastic humor, generally not the PC-U stereotype some websites would have you believe. Then again, this is NYC, not the west coast, so less sunshine up your ass, and less giving a crap as well.
  • Silly looking shoes are in this year, it seems (not pictured).
  • And so are black Suburban’s with tinted windows. Or is it just me? The Chevy dealerships around here must be having a great year.

On to the news.

  • Wisconsin Recount
    • A good thing, I say. Can’t see any scenario where it could hurt — if any kind of vote-counting shenanigans are revealed by this, no matter in who’s favor, that would be crucially important.
    • Also, Interesting that Jill Stein is requesting it. Does Team Clinton not have the guts? At least we’ll have fewer remarks for a few weeks about the better candidate being a “spoiler”.
    • I will entertain the obvious thought experiment, though: Had Clinton won, would the recount be resisted or ridiculed more vigorously by the MSM?
  • McCarthy Washington Post vs Fake News / Russian Propaganda
    • Dumb move. Simultaneously pick a fight with the independent media of the libertarians, conspiracy theory types, progressives, anti-war, finance tabloids, pro-free-speech techies, further-leftists – all at once!
    • And, yes, websites which obsess about free speech and entertain controversial stories rejected by MSM do provide a place for fringe groups that I wish would disappear. Meaning ultra-nationalists, white supremacists, etc, are able to express their 1st Amendment rights. Readers of independent media will be exposed to the full range of what is out there, they have to acknowledge the existence of this and make decisions for themselves. At present, the libertarians etc are far, far more numerous than the ultra-right crazies. Pushing them all into the same corner together is… unwise. I realize repeating that won’t help.
    • And yes, RT is primarily about russian PR. Shocker. Yet they also provided a voice to Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, for example, when other media outlets were shutting them out. Welcome to the present.
    • This is also related to the loss of control by the MSM to FaceBook and Youtube. However, a business person would approach that situation differently — a business driven strategy here would involve making deals or developing a market segmentation / branding strategy to attract the various sub-populations of news consumers who have a distaste for the standard flavor. Instead it’s another doubling down on the name-calling. Seems the ideologues are calling the shots. If this keeps up long enough, all their talented creative staff and management will defect (meaning, find better work outside traditional media), and the brain-drain process will steer the transformation of the MSM into a genuinely McCarthyist form, rather than a more graceful downsizing and symbiosis with FB/Google which would be the better alternative (for everyone in the US, if you think about the consequences).
    • In one way, it is kindof a genius story. WaPo retakes the lead here, using the Trump method — say something dumb enough and you get to drive the news cycle. I’m not sure if this represents an intentional form of learning… stay tuned.