I don’t understand why the reaction to National’s super announcement is even a thing.

National recently announced an election policy of raising the age eligibility to NZ Superannuation to 67. 

Labour’s immediate response was to say that they’ll keep at 65:

 

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Here’s the thing. It’s not like National’s policy is pulling the rug out from the under the feet of people here expecting the retire in a couple of years. National’s policy doesn’t take effect for another twenty years.

Twenty years. That’s so far in the future that for most people it doesn’t really warrant serious consideration, in terms of what career decisions they make or where they buy their house.

The discussion has been framed as a baby boomers vs millenials thing – but this policy really doesn’t affect baby boomers. Baby boomers will be well into their 80s by the time this policy takes effect.

This really affects generation X – people who are about 40 now – or the children who were born to baby boomers who were about 30. (These generational categories are awfully grey, but assume that baby boomers were born 1945-1955).

Perhaps this policy is just clever politicking by National. They harness the baby boomer resentment by announcing a change to the pension, while not actually doing anything.

If anything – it’s Labour that fumbled this one – allowing National to frame the political divide, while Labour is firmly in a reactionary position.

Select quotes from Donald Trump’s inaugaural speech

Source of quotes: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/20/donald-trumps-full-inauguration-speech-transcript-annotated/

Identifying enemies

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. … The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.

January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

I mean, that’s quite serious rhetoric.

Classic ‘fall from grace’ imagery

America will start winning again,

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

 

The US military is depleted? What world does Donald Trump live on?

…and I will never ever let you down.

Did Donald Trump just rick roll us?

Strong, worrying isolationist tones

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

it’s going to be only America first, America first.

An isolationist attitude is not going to help solve global problems. I think freetrade + paying for carbon is the answer.

Misc.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.

I actually quite like this.

An uneasy shared interest – The Trump Regime and the Anti-Free Trade Left.

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In the early 2000’s the anarchistic left held anti-globalisation and anti-free trade as one its core issues.

You had events like the 1999 Seattle WTO protests.

More recently the attention has been on the TPPA – the left generally opposing it.

Commentators have pointed out that perhaps the only issue that Donald Trump has been consistent on, is his isolationist stance.

In the 2016 US Election, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton said they oppose the TPPA, though in the case of Hillary, I can’t help but wonder if this is a political compromise on her part. Bernie Sanders also opposed the TPPA. 

I don’t really understand why people oppose the TPPA. The main argument I’ve seen is that it gives corporations the power to sue governments if they pass legislation that contravenes the treaty. However, my understanding is that this would only allow corporations to sue if the countries government is passing legislation that in contravention to the trade agreement. I’m not sure that the trade agreement is anti-environment and anti-workers-rights itself.

Given that TPPA also takes place in the a context of governments trying to make progress on climate change (Barack Obama supports the TPPA, and is clearly for making progress on climate change) – I don’t think there’s a conspiracy that makes the TPPA a fundamentally anti-environment conspiracy.

So the question I have for those on the anti-globalisation left – that Donald Trump says he’s going to rip up NAFTA and opposes the TPPA – is that in itself a good thing for the world?

Ironies of American democracy – The Greatest Democracy and the Most Freedom

Meta note:

This post has almost no research at all. I did read the wikipedia pages about separation of church in state in the US and in New Zealand
It’s more an intuitive impresion. Is that an acceptable thing in this post-truth society?
It would be good to do some research and put a bit more detail into my claims.

A lot of Americans have the idea that America has the greatest democracy in the world, the most freedom, and that other countries are jealous of this freedom.

Let’s be fair to Americans and acknowledge that at some point, this might have been true. The American democracy is one of the worlds oldest democracies after all.

Democracy

There are glaring issues in American democracy:

  • Rampant gerrymandering.
  • It’s a first past the post system. Proportional representation is common throughout the rest of the world.
  • There appears to political dynasties: eg. The Kennedys, The Bushes, The Clintons.

Freedom

The US has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.

Religious freedom

The separation of church and state is often touted tenant of American democracy, and makes up a part of its constitution – in the first amendment.

New Zealand by contrast, doesn’t have a so explicitly defined separation of church and state; and parliament starts with a Christian prayer.

However, religion isn’t a particularly big factor in New Zealand politics. By contrast, in the US almost all representatives profess to be Christian or Jewish, presumably because there is a considerable political cost if they don’t.

Religion also appears to play a large part in public policy – for example you see the debate about whether creationism should be taught in schools, and abstinence only education.

Law

In New Zealand, abortions aren’t technically legal. They’re not legal except in the case where the mother’s health will suffer. This loophole allows any woman to get an abortion, almost all doctors happy to say that a woman having a baby that she doesn’t want, regardless of reason, would be a detriment to her health.

In the US on the otherhand Roe v Wade establishes the legal right for women to have abortions, but then you see states putting up all sorts of barriers that make it far harder to get an abortion in the certain parts of the US, than it is in New Zealand.

An interesting follow up to my Wikileaks post.

A month ago, just after the election of Donald Trump, I wrote a post entitled ‘Is Wikileaks in cahoots with Russia‘ where I suggested that Wikileaks appeared to have an obvious political agenda.

I’ve since unfollowed them on Facebook – but I did check in on them today – and have a look at this Wikileaks Facebook post:

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A pretty interesting change in narrative in the comments section since I last checked.

If you’re not already aware – there’s also a theory going around that Wikileaks has been compromised, that that Julian Assange is no longer alive/at the embassy.

The future is meta news.

In the wake of the Donald Trump presidency, there’s been a sudden new ‘fake news’ narrative appearing in social and media discourse.

The discourse arising tends to point at two things:

  • Individual people exist in echo chambers, and seek to consume and share content that fits their worldview, without regard for truth.
  • At the same time – there is also a general distrust in mainstream outlets, and the fake news dog whistle is actually used to criticise the mainstream media – by suggesting that it’s the mainstream media that is reporting things wrong.
    One only needs to look at the responses to @WashingtonPost’s Twitter account to see examples of this.
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    Caveat: It’s hard to tell if accounts like this aren’t troll bot accounts.

While I don’t think that the mainstream media is out and out producing lies or fully factually incorrect content, I think it is fair to say that the media has a vested interest in producing certain kinds of content, and it does seem that a lot of what we see on the media now is more opinion or ‘analysis’ – which isn’t something that needs to withstand basic fact checking.

Recently, I’ve taken an interest in watching RT (Russia Today – a Russian state run media outlet). It’s interesting to see the difference in what RT says about particular issues, as opposed to say Fox News.

For example, let’s look at Allepo:

Fox News

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The Fox News narrative mentions deaths caused by rebels and government forces.

RT

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The RT article  mentions ‘liberation’ and no mention of civilian casualties by government forces.

So we have two problems:

  • People are just going to share whatever suits them.
  • The media have their own agendas which influences the content they produce.

Now we have a problem – how do we decide what content to consume?

Also – we’re not just concerned about the actual truth of the matter – but we also need to know what other people are thinking or reading.

The answer: meta-news. 

Instead of reading news from your favourite news site, whether that’s RT, Fox News, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Washington Post – you read a factual, algorithmic aggregate of all news websites.

How this would work, is that some kind of web crawler will read and view news content as it released, and analyse the frequency of certain words, the general meaning etc. It then presents that story  with a breakdown of the various narratives being presented, who’s presenting them etc. For example, on the subject of Aleppo, as well as giving the facts of what happened (and who’s reporting what facts), it would report which outlets are using the term ‘liberate’ and which are focused on civilian deaths by government forces etc.

The tool could be also be used to report sentiment on social media. For example, as the story breaks, it can report ‘users on twitter are saying …’. Further investigation can show that ‘Users that say this about x subject, are saying such and such about y subject’.

This tool isn’t a solution to finding the actual truth about a matter, that still depends on journalists publishing the truth. It does however, reveal a different kind of truth, and is reliable at that (if you trust the algorithm) – the what the world is saying about certain subjects. Perhaps that’s a way of breaking free of our echo chambers.

Is Wikileaks in cahoots with Russia?

I consider myself a fairly objective and level headed person, and I’m cautious about subscribing to conspiratorial ‘seek out evidence that confirms your existing world view’ type thinking.

With that said – this post does do exactly that.

There is an already existing narrative that Wikileaks is working with either or both Russia and/or Trump’s campaign to get Trump elected.

We can see this with a list of Google’s search suggestions:

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Wikileaks deny that they’re partisan in their leaks.

This CBS news article summarises the recent Wikileaks Reddit AMA, where the Wikileaks staff were asked about colluding with the Trump campaign and Russia.

Q. Many people have suggested that WikiLeaks was brazenly partisan in this election and colluded with Team Trump (and by extension, Russia). Just today a top Russian ally to Putin is quoted as saying Russia did not interfere in the election but “maybe helped a bit with WikiLeaks”.1

A. The allegations that we have colluded with Trump, or any other candidate for that matter, or with Russia, are just groundless and false. We receive information anonymously, through an anonymous submission platform. We do not need to know the identity of the source, neither do we want to know it.

Q. Why do you only seem to have information on Democrats?

If you were as Noble as you say you would believe in government accountability at all levels, not just for one party.

A.  To date, we have not received information on Donald Trump’s campaign, or other campaigns. If it were to be submitted now we would happily publish it.

Wikileaks are making the argument that they’re simply publishing what leaked information they have, and that they only have information leaked from the Democratic party. Nothing partisan here.

But I think their Facebook page demonstrates posts that go beyond non-partisan leaking of the information that they purport to be doing.

The first thing you’ll notice that almost all of their posts in the months of November and December are to do with the Clintons or the Democrats.

A lot of their of their posts are neutral email dumps:

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Or they’re linking to articles that discuss the leaked emails:

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But here already, there’s a narrative being pushed. Is it really within the scope of Wikileaks to tell us what we should think of the emails?

Wikileaks also posts links to content that is plain opinon – for example:

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This has nothing to do with leaked data at all – but Wikileaks do appear to be publishing one particular narrative.

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This posts has nothing to do with leaking  data – it’s reporting on how Americans feel. Given that you can find polls that suggest ~50% of Americans don’t believe climate change is caused by humans, or that ~40% of Americans believe the Earth is only 10,000 years old, this isn’t a particularly noteworthy report. It looks like a disingenuous ploy to push a narrative.

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This is commenting on politics. Why did Wikileaks feel the need to publish this?

It seems like an out and out partisan statement, that you’d expect from a Fox News pundit or a republican. It’s also not factually true- PRISM started in 2007 for example, before Obama was elected.

Now perhaps – there genuinely is some conspiracy by the Democratic political establishment, and Wikileaks is doing the honorable thing by exposing it. But that’s a different story.

I think it’s fair to say that Wikileaks has a axe to grind for the Democratic party – it’s not just a matter of neutrally exposing leaked data.

The comments on Wikileaks have also been interesting:

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There are a lot of ‘Thank you Wikileaks’ type comments. Given that there’s evidence that a lot of the support for Trump on social media is apparently bots, it’s plausible that the same thing is happening here too. But I don’t know enough about how we analyse whether an account is a bot or not, but it’s something to consider.

Wikileaks’ role in the 2016 Election does flip the script a little. From Wikileaks being the hero of the radical left or anarchists, it’s all of a sudden being cheered for by the radical right.

As a final note, here’s an John Pilger asking Julian Assange just about this – here it is: