Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Come to the party? I want to start the Best Evidence Party.

May 8, 2019

After spending 3 hours researching the parties vying for positions in the Oz elections, I find we need another party.  I want to start it.

Why?

Because in the Senate vote, a valid vote must nominate at least 6 parties (above the line vote) or 12 individuals.  There is a huge list of parties, but in my State there are only 5 parties for which I could consider voting – and that is only because I include the far left to balance out the media support for the far right, and also include special interest parties with limited ranges of policies.

Few parties base any of their policies on best advice from the majority of acknowledged international experts – and that’s not a uniquely Australian problem:  I remember hearing of a senior USA economist being happy because he got their government to shift from something like the 17th worst option to the 14th.  Most of those that claim they have based policies on evidence rely on cherry-picked, biased reviews of serious research, seriously flawed research, accumulated anecdotes, their memories of what they learned in high school, or their imaginations. This annoys me.

The vast majority of minor parties show policies which are swayed more by the mass media than by serious study of the complexity of global environmental, trade, economic, and legal systems.  Their policies are usually based more on the religion and customs of their upbringing rather than on serious study of the wide range of predictable cultural and interpersonal differences which make up the range of our citizens’ needs.  This annoys me.

It is time for a party where the overarching policy is “to weigh all proposed legislation in the balance of the best available evidence.”

I feel that a small range of formal policies is better: explaining the approach is better than arguing details of cases, when every scientist knows that we must shift our understanding when further evidence conflicts with what we thought was the case.

I would suggest that its policies would include things like

  • Have the National Broadcaster allocate time to disagreeing speakers, documentaries, etc, on topics where expert evidence is available in proportion to the depth of evidence on their side.  If only one in a hundred internationally accredited experts agree with a view, it should get a hundredth of the time, not equal time.
  • Our Members of Parliament will not promise to reflect the opinions of the electorate.  They will promise to do their best to weigh the evidence, including details not generally known in the electorate, and to consider advice from the wisest advisors available.  This will be the basis of their voting in Parliament.
  • Where research is cited concerning a view we are asked to support, our party will consider advice from experts including experts in the mathematics of statistical analysis:  in a “scientific” culture where a peer-reviewed publication includes a claim that we should see a correlation of 0.1 as “significant”, peer-reviewed publication does not equal depth of evidence.
  • Where reliable evidence is not available, our party would give weight to ideas of responsibilities which have been seen in the best societies and many religions.  Ideas such as: the responsibility of the government to take action to ensure reasonable quality of life for the citizens (Not necessarily paid employment: should the education system be for “a job” or “to learn what you need to be able to learn what you need to have a good life”?); the responsibility of the  top 20% to support the disadvantaged; the responsibility of each to contribute to the well-being of all others in the population; and our responsibility to limit our consumption as required to ensure the chance for following generations to have a reasonable quality of life (We might agree that non-renewable resources should be recycled as far as possible, for example, and argue that one-off or mining profits must not be spent on recurrent expenditure or tax cuts.)

Its focus would not be science, but its approach would often be scientific.  Its considerations would include the long-term consequences of actions, thinking in terms of hundreds of years.  It would attract people who might also consider the Pirate Party or the Science Party, but want a different (or smaller) range of policies.

In Australia, an official “Party” needs 500 voters who are not members of another political party, and a written Constitution.

Would you like to join this party?  Would you like to help draft its constitution?

https://www.aec.gov.au/Parties_and_Representatives/party_registration/overview.htm

 

 

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What if Trump was literally being honest for once?

July 10, 2017

President Trump tweeted “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..” Consider the literal meaning (assume prescriptivist semantics apply) : Putin and Trump get an “impenetrable” unit protecting their election hacking etc from detection and publicity.

What if he is telling the truth this time? If hacking is being guarded, rather than guarded against?

When political activism is triggered by falsehoods, what do we do?

November 6, 2016
I was curious about the alleged blasphemy which had been reported as triggering violent protest in Indonesia – none of our local news services cited the inflammatory words.
A bit of googling found several sites saying that it was because a Christian Governor had had electoral opponents citing the Koran to say Islamic believers should not vote for a non-Muslim, and he had responded that the voters were being misled by the use of the Koran verse. More digging found:

According to sites including the Sydney Morning Herald, some Islamic groups had urged voters not to re-elect Ahok, citing verse 51 from the fifth sura or chapter of the Koran, al-Ma’ida, which some interpret as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim. It is often translated as:

“5:51 O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends: They are but friends to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.”

Others say the scripture should be understood in its context – making allies a time of war – and not interpreted literally – its context excludes those who respect the ways and beliefs of Islam. e.g. http://www.answering-christianity.com/sami_zaatri/friends.htm and http://seekershub.org/ans-blog/2009/09/07/friendship-with-non-muslims-explaining-verse-551/

I wondered whether it was extreme sensitivity to allegations of anti-Muslim bias which led the newspaper and TV  reports I came across to avoid dealing with the misinterpretation of sacred words as a basis for violence. If so, it is a pity – much of the world’s politics is shaped by invincible ignorance or deliberate lies, and we really need some mechanism for dealing with that.

This is a serious topic which has not been addressed by our parties’ policies.  It is time we wrote to our representatives and called for legislative action to protect the ignorant from falsehoods in the political arena as well as in the commercial world.  Maybe even time to picket or pillory those who are caught out misleading the public.  If they should have known better, if they could have checked with reputable experts, if they chose to speak from ignorance while acting as demagogues – they are as culpable as if they had lied.

In this case it is worse than usual, as the protests could be used by those already nervously aware of the Koran’s approach to those who are not of the Christian or Jewish faiths (why not to be an active atheist or pagan in Indonesia or Dubai…) to fear that Muslims could be led to vote for radical candidates purely on the basis of their faith, and thus destabilise our political system.

Australian Poverty Line

October 17, 2016

Recent reports of 3 million Australians below poverty line (where defined as below 50% of median income) – currently $426.30 per week for a single person – have started some public response. One person commented online that increasing welfare wouldn’t help, as it would drive up the average income and thus leave them still below par – another voter who does not know the difference between mean and median. Depressing that they can vote…

My immediate thought was different: have a major depression, and weaken Unions so more workers join the 32% of below-current- poverty-line whose main income is paid employment. Then the dole will be above that definition of poverty, while the executives stay on salaries giving over the poverty level weekly income per executive hour!

To compare with cost of basic needs: The March 2016 Henderson poverty line for a single person, including housing, is $425.61 for a single not in work, $524.89 for a single in the workforce. (The Henderson poverty lines are based on a benchmark income of $62.70 for the December quarter 1973 established by the Henderson poverty inquiry. The benchmark income was the disposable income required to support the basic needs of a family of two adults and two dependent children. Poverty lines for other types of family are derived from the benchmark using a set of equivalence scales. )

Australia’s Newstart Allowance (single person over 22  unemployment benefit) currently is at best about $335 per week, including rent assistance, and the Government is proposing to cut the Energy Supplement from it – about $8 per week. That is why I keep calling for those on welfare to have the right to surrender 90% of their income for guaranteed, supervised basic living provided by the Government.

What future for the average intelligence student? The problem with education “for employment”

July 10, 2016

Both our major political parties are talking about education to fit students for jobs in “the new economy.”  At the same time  Our Coalition Government wants to give Company Tax reductions to large businesses.  However, for large companies,  increased company profits invested in expansion tend to lead to job losses.

Not just from offshore subcontracting of labour to exploited workers with no leave entitlements, OH&S rights,  or superannuation. Consider  http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36376966

It includes a quote from a former McDonald’s senior staffer : “It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who is inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging French fries.”

The main item in the article is that 60 000 (probably OH&S nightmare) jobs have gone because Chinese factories invested in technology not humans – even at their pay rates the robots are cheaper.

These job losses are not just the semi-literate jobs.  Consider the rise in expert systems, even self-reprogramming learning systems: the first white-collar job robots are already here, even doing work for lawyers: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2016/05/16/meet-ross-the-newly-hired-legal-robot/

The students know about this.  They know that machine intelligence researchers are even starting to find ways to program the machines for creativity.
(see John Gero on Creativity emergence and evolution in design concepts and framework
and  https://www.jwtintelligence.com/2016/06/cannes-2016-creativity-and-machine-learning/  )

So why should the less bright and less creative struggle to learn the basics, if they are told education is “to get a job” and they know they are headed for love on the dole?   (Read Greenwood’s book, or at least a detailed review, if you haven’t come across a film or play adaptation yet )

It is time for the meme of “education to be fit for work” to die.  Move to “education to get tools to make more fun and happiness, or dodge trouble.”  Start classes in “Learning something new without a teacher’s help, and demonstrating it to others,” “Comparing and testing health benefit claims,”  “Bullshit detection,” “website reliability testing,” “effective complaints,” “Dealing with Bureaucracy 1:  Completing a basic tax return so you don’t pay your refund to an accountant,” and  “Dealing with Bureaucracy 2:  Complying with Dole paperwork requirements.”

Of course, you may end up with a lot of activists trying to improve the Nation because they realise that the  current socio-economic system is the source of much unhappiness.  They may even realise that money is just another social construct – and not a good one – and demand a world run on social obligation instead.
Would that be so bad?

Cruz Iowa “big victory”?

February 7, 2016

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/02/02/ted-cruzs-interminably-long-iowa-victory-speech-annotated/  said “Ted Cruz won a big victory Monday night at the Iowa caucuses.”   Most Australian media had American talking heads referring to a clear victory and Donald Trump coming second, with little talk of Rubio.

From http://www.iowacaucus.biz/, Marco Rubio took 23.1 per cent, Mr Trump 24.3 per cent and Mr Cruz 27.7 per cent of the vote.

Less than a 5% difference?  In polling terms, that’s experimental error.  In USA political terms, at the start of the long chain of preliminaries in  other – less farm-based – States, this is neck-and-neck.

I think the media have not done a good job of reporting here.  We have the right to feel insulted, and the responsibility to wonder about their hidden agendas.

 

I

How to reduce crystal meth use in Australia (and elsewhere) in the longer term.

December 8, 2015

Our Noble Leaders have started talking about “Australia’s Ice pandemic”.

I don’t think that word means what they think it means. I believe the internationally accepted definition of a pandemic  is : ‘an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of  people’.  (Last, J. A Dictionary of Epidemiology (4th Edition) Oxford University Press 2001)

Not crossing international boundaries.   I think they could call it an epidemic – but not a very big one.

Then they talk about stopping it by “talking to young people about risks” and by law enforcement action.  Not about changing the education system from “learn this stuff to get a job” to “learn this stuff to find and make fun and beauty you couldn’t understand without it, and so you will never be bored even if locked in an empty room.”  Not about making risky activities like adult-sized versions of adventure playgrounds available in all suburbs.  Not about social support (guaranteed shelter, food, health care, and safety needs in exchange for the dole cheque?)  for the desperate.  Even though these would mean that people would (like the rats in enriched cages) be less inclined to seek escape through crystal meth, alcohol, and other drugs.

I expect that the right-wing parties in Oz won’t  talk that way, not for the next 20 years.  After all, we know the source of their “Scientific” theories on how the world works.  They don’t care about accuracy, and not just in abusing the word “pandemic.”  For example our Federal Government’s Minister for resources and energy pronounces “nuclear” as “newcewlar.”   Rational action to reduce the risk of youth turning to drugs?   5 years after the Republicans give it the OK they’ll consider it.  Sigh.

Marriage Equality: should the elderly and otherwise infertile couples be allowed to marry?

July 2, 2015

I think it is time that anyone who uses the argument that “Children have a right to a father and a mother so same-sex marriage should not be allowed”  should no longer be heard in the discussion unless they answer “Yes” to the  following four questions.

Firstly, the logical extension of this is the forced removal of children from single parents of either gender, including the bereaved partners of ex-servicemen, and their adoption by heterosexual couples.  That would be entertaining.  Do they agree with this forced removal?

Secondly, because the argument ignores the statistics which show that the children raised by same-sex couples tend to be – if different at all – better balanced and happier than those raised by heterosexual couples.  (This may be because they are so much more likely to  be truly wanted children, and the parents therefore usually seek out role models to show both genders at their best.)  Have they  evidence  (not hearsay or anecdote, actual peer-reviewed research) to contradict this?

Thirdly, because this emphasis on children assumes that marriage is solely to produce offspring.  Do they intend to legislate against the marriage of the elderly and otherwise infertile heterosexual couples?

Do they intend to legislate against the adoption of children by single parents and LGBTI couples?

 

What I wrote and what they printed 09 Nov 14

November 9, 2014

Mind you, I didn’t mind all their changes.  A few were good.  Guess which ones I would accept …

What I wrote:

Is terrorism the right word?

In response to the abuse of Muslim people and vandalism of places seen as mosques:

In my time, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians have oppressed and killed people for having the wrong religion – or the wrong branch of a religion.  Israeli soldiers stood by while Christians came and slaughtered mostly Moslem refugees in a refugee camp. The USA will not accept a non-Christian president, and say that atheists cannot be trusted. Should they be abused and their holy places vandalised?

Every belief system has extremists who (often from deep belief) attempt to force their beliefs on others.  Most religion have aspects of the holy texts and related traditions which evil can use to lead others to horrible action. Catholics and Protestants burned each other at the stake, remember.  Every religion also has people who use only the parts of the creed which lead to tolerance and the best human actions.

I think we could adopt the word “daeshi” to mean “bigot who imposes their views on others.”  (It helps that the Islamic extremists hate the word.) I think that the current “anti-terrorism” actions should be reworded to be “anti-daeshi”, thus making the offence one of promoting the denial of freedom of belief for those one disagrees with, not one of planning violence.  (Yes, a limitation – with criminal penalty – on freedom of religion and cultural tradition.)

Similarly, I think that members of any sect which oppresses others when in power, or which state that they will do so, should be denied refugee status unless they abjure the part of their creed which denies others equal rights regardless of religious belief.

What they printed:

changes in red

Every religion has its oppressors and bigots.

In response to the abuse of Muslim people and vandalism of places seen as mosques, in my time Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians have oppressed and killed people for having the wrong religion – or the wrong branch of a particular religion.

NP Israeli soldiers stood by while Christians came and slaughtered mostly Moslem refugees in a refugee camp.

NP The USA will not accept a non-Christian president, and say that atheists cannot be trusted. Should they be abused and their holy places vandalised?

Every belief system has extremists who (deleted: often from deep belief) attempt to force their beliefs on others.

NP Most religions have aspects of the (was “their”) holy texts and related traditions that (was “which” ) evil can use to lead others to horrible actions.

NP Catholics and Protestants burned each other at the stake, remember.

NP Every religion also has people who use only the parts of the creed which lead to tolerance and the best human actions.

Deleted all of para: I think we could adopt the word “daeshi” to mean “bigot who imposes their views on others.”  (It helps that the Islamic extremists hate the word.) I think that the current “anti-terrorism” actions should be reworded to be “anti-daeshi”, thus making the offence one of promoting the denial of  freedom of belief for those one disagrees with, not one of planning violence.  (Yes, a limitation – with criminal penalty – on freedom of religion and cultural tradition.)

Deleted:  Similarly, I think that) members of any sect who oppress (was:  which oppresses) others when in power (deleted: , or which state that they will do so) ,  should be denied refugee status unless they abjure the part of their creed which denies others equal rights regardless of religious belief.

 

This example free for use in discussion of style, Newspaper editing,  and the politics of free speech.

A quote that got me wondering – and where I went from there.

October 14, 2014

The quote:

I decided to track down the source of an often quoted bit of “Children of Dune” by Frank Herbert:
When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.
 “Quand je suis le plus faible, je vous demande la liberté parce que tel est votre principe; mais quand je suis le plus fort, je vous l’ôte, parce que tel est le mien.”
Conversation avec Augustin Cochin.
but in French Wikipedia it says
Pierre Pierrard explique que cette phrase a été mise dans la bouche de Louis Veuillot par Montalembert sous la forme « Quand les libéraux sont au pouvoir, nous leur demandons la liberté, parce que c’est leur principe, et, quand nous sommes au pouvoir, nous la leur refusons, parce que c’est le nôtre.»  et citée le 3 juin 1876 à l’Assemblée nationale par Jules Ferry.  Elle a depuis, sous des formes changeantes, été constamment r.épétée bien que dès le 6 juin suivant Veuillot eût protesté et affirmé que cette phrase n’était pas de lui.
– that is, he probably didn’t say it.  But people in 1876 thought it was worth having him say it.

 Where I went from there

 Many countries have signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees

the term “refugees” applies to any person who:

“Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

I know that most –isms and religions have some extreme adherents, who honestly believe that the rest of the world should  follow their beliefs.  Some of these form groups devoted to achieving this.   Some of these groups believe that failing to follow their beliefs makes one less than human, and that non-believers should not have equal rights with believers – for instance,  it may be that atheists, agnostics, and miscellaneous pagans cannot get employment documents.  Some go further and believe that force should be used to make some others comply – for example, live peacefully with “People of the book” but use threat of death to convert everyone else.   Some go further still, and wish to kill  even those who hold to  a  different interpretation of their holy books while  following the same version of the divine, or whatever other social belief is important to them.

Being a devout agnostic, I am deeply aware of these groups. I have met people who assume that I am worse than untrustworthy because I don’t claim to have a god I believe in, even though those who lie about their beliefs or ignore their religions’ rules are much less trustworthy (Seen the statistics on child abuse?)  I avoid going to certain countries because  I don’t want to have to lie about beliefs in order to travel safely.  I worry about their spread.  Especially the extremists who believe that abortion clinics should be bombed, and that no non-christian should ever be President,

 I suggest that all members of the United Nations publicly state the following: 

We will only give refuge to those who commit to reciprocal tolerance of others’ belief and lack of belief,  and to recognition of all human rights.

The extreme case

Where people are  of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed,  unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be treated as they would treat others.    If their group generally  say that those who convert from their belief should be killed, they  must not be given refugee status unless they renounce that aspect of the belief, and if they later recant the death penalty should, logically, apply.  If they deny others’ evidence equal weight before the law, their evidence should so be discounted in the country of refuge.   If they would tax unbelievers more heavily than their own, they shall be taxed heavily in the country of refuge.

The moderate case – or is it?

Where people are  of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed,  unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be  denied refugee status.  If they are refugees from another such group of differing belief – well, that is fair exchange of oppression.

The interaction of this with overseas oppression

Where a government oppresses others in such a way as to make people become refugees, that government should not generally be assisted if another oppressive group attempts their overthrow.  Intervention should only be on a humanitarian basis. Refugees should not be sent back to an oppressive regime, as they have renounced the oppressive culture and will therefore be liable to greater risk.

If a self-proclaimed government attempts to invade other nations and enforces oppressive beliefs,  that requires immediate and forceful response from the United Nations – Peace Makers, not Peace Keepers.  The attempted invasion  is not just a war, it is a denial of human rights extending across borders, which is a much more serious and urgent matter.  If we stand idly waiting for someone else to fix it, we encourage all extreme belief groups to try their hand at the same game.

And that, I would pay higher tax to avoid.  I would travel to be a “grumpy old pensioner” on the battlefront, to embarrass the invaders until they stop that so that my grandchildren will be safe.   (Besides, it beats relying on the social system in old age, now that the illiberal and small-hearted are running the county.