i can haz electoral reform?

The government has no soul, heart nor morality. No respect for the environment. No respect for Canadians. No respect for first nations whom they consider as simpletons. The worst and most cynical government in or history. How did they get elected three times?

– comment in response to Northern Gateway

Is the Conservative Party and the federal government listening to itself? It thinks the economy, jobs and money are the most important things for the country. If that’s all my country is about – if money is the be all and end all – I’m not sure I want to be part of it anymore. Jobs and profit are tools to achieve something higher, like a more equal, happier, healthier society made up of individuals and communities filling their lives with meaning and worth. GDP growth is not a legitimate end goal. This government fails to see the bigger picture, fails to be driven and guided by higher values and principles. We CANNOT allow the Conservative Party to form a fourth government. It would be the final nail in the coffin for the country.

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The experience of being in a faith community was transformative for me; just as significant was the sense that I finally had answers to all of life’s questions.  The world, once so complex and confusing, was suddenly simple and easy to navigate.  Had a question?  The Bible had an answer.  The end.

– Liz Lin, Confessions of a Former Neofundamentalist

This was exactly how I felt when I was introduced to economics as an academic discipline in my last two years of high school. The world suddenly made sense! It was life changing and I felt enlightened. Everything in life could be explained by an equation or a graph. Decisions boiled down to the first order condition – or, even more simply, a cost-benefit analysis.

I became a Christian when I was a sophomore in high school, after years of wrestling with questions of religion and spirituality.  The experience of being in a faith community was transformative for me; just as significant was the sense that I finally had answers to all of life’s questions.  The world, once so complex and confusing, was suddenly simple and easy to navigate.  Had a question?  The Bible had an answer.  The end. – See more at: http://thesaltcollective.org/confessions-former-neofundamentalist/#sthash.CoIZWvrV.dpuf
I became a Christian when I was a sophomore in high school, after years of wrestling with questions of religion and spirituality.  The experience of being in a faith community was transformative for me; just as significant was the sense that I finally had answers to all of life’s questions.  The world, once so complex and confusing, was suddenly simple and easy to navigate.  Had a question?  The Bible had an answer.  The end. – See more at: http://thesaltcollective.org/confessions-former-neofundamentalist/#sthash.CoIZWvrV.dpuf
I became a Christian when I was a sophomore in high school, after years of wrestling with questions of religion and spirituality.  The experience of being in a faith community was transformative for me; just as significant was the sense that I finally had answers to all of life’s questions.  The world, once so complex and confusing, was suddenly simple and easy to navigate.  Had a question?  The Bible had an answer.  The end. – See more at: http://thesaltcollective.org/confessions-former-neofundamentalist/#sthash.CoIZWvrV.dpuf

the bias of investigative journalism

In the US, left-wing political pundits and reporters often defend themselves from conservative critics by pointing out that facts, not their reporting, have a liberal bias. (Here liberal is used in the North American sense of non-conservative or the more contentious ‘progressive’ rather than the European sense of right-wing.)

Investigative journalism is a scarce resource these days. I value it increasingly highly, but have only just noticed that this may be due to the fact that I almost always agree with the results of the investigation. Why is that?

Does investigative journalism have a progressive bias?

“Yes,” I’d argue. The status quo seems to be inherently corrupt and ripe for public scrutiny. The entire idea of progressivism is to progress, surely – to self-improve from what we currently have and are. So long as the status quo can be criticised it can, and often is, glossed over and protected by the powers that be from such criticism. Hence, the object of conservatism – business as usual – lends itself to the critical eye of investigative journalists. And they will always find something damning.

vote swap and plurality rule in a representative democracy

I’m putting this online on the very off-chance someone will read this (1st challenge), have an idea of how to form it into a thesis question (2nd challenge) and leave me a comment (3rd challenge):

I’m interested in electoral systems and voting rules in general. As you probably know, the plurality rule in a multi-district country can produce some interesting results that may not be desired in a representative democracy – for example, a false majority or a Condorcet loser.

These results have been observed in the past three decades in Canadian provincial and federal elections. In response, citizen initiatives have sprung up: not only referenda for electoral reform, but also grassroots voter initiatives with the aim of preventing false majorities.

I’m particularly interested in a strategy of vote swapping, which goes beyond strategic voting. The idea is to strategically pair up with a voter in another district and swap votes with them, and the strategic pairing means one of the two votes will count towards voting someone into parliament. Compare this to sincere voting, where both votes may be wasted, and strategic voting, where you are not voting for your most preferred candidate/party.

How it works is that a swing district voter (Voter A) whose first choice is not in the top two of her own district is paired up with a non-swing district voter (Voter B) whose first choice is in the top two of that swing district. Voter A agrees to vote for B’s first choice if B votes for A’s first choice.

Vote swapping is a citizens’ initiative that has appeared in the 2011 and 2008 Canadian federal elections as a second-best response to the undesired results of first-past-the-post, in the absence of electoral reform. One of the volunteer organisations, called Pair Vote, pairs people up online. In last year’s federal elections, there were over 7500 voters registered and a recorded 3500 votes swapped, not including unrecorded swaps and swaps done over different channels. Proponents argue it has been a game changer in deciding some districts.

The strategy contains elements of gerrymandering, as voters who feel their vote doesn’t count because of the first-past-the-post system alter, in a sense, their district.

This phenomenon appears to be a practice of non-binding commitments and trust.

Another interesting question is under what circumstances voters would prefer vote swap to strategic voting. In other words, is vote swap a Pareto optimal strategy? Possibly, if certain rules and assumptions are made: at a minimum, the exclusion of Conservative voters, and that non-Conservative voters have a general preference of ABC (Anything But Conservative).

nazis raus

“Still no sex with Nazis”

Today Hamburg played host to what was being touted as the largest neo-Nazi gathering in Germany. They had an approved route in Wandsbek and 1000 people were expected to attend. The City decided to officially counter with an all-day family-friendly event in front of the Rathaus under the name “Hamburg bekennt Farbe!” (Hamburg acknowledges colour)

I had a morbid curiosity to see a group of actual, real-life neo-Nazis since I’ve seen never recognised one on the street, so my friends and I joined the alternative blockade in Wandsbek, which was more grassroots and leftist.

Far away and barely visible

Wandsbeker Chausee was blocked off. Police cars lined the streets. It was very quiet and we wondered why nothing was happening until someone yelled, “The Nazis are here!” We followed some punks to a parallel street, where a little group with fascist-coloured balloons and flags were 100 m away, separated from us by a police barricade and a handful of vehicles. No loudspeakers, no chanting, no movement – nothing! Disappointed by the lack of action, we left for the Rathaus, where there was a bouncy castle.

Why the lack of action? According to Financial Times Deutschland, the train carrying 500 more neo-Nazis was three hours late. Hah! Cue witty joke about Mussolini making the trains run on time :D Later in the afternoon there were violent riots – not sure from whom, but FTD makes it sound like the left. On my way home I spotted two police officers on horseback – German Mounties, if you will – but none of the fires.

socialism & atheism

socialism is not only a problem of labour, or the so-called ‘fourth estate’, but is in the first instance a problem of atheism, of the contemporary embodiment of atheism, the problem of the Tower of Babel, constructed expressly without God, not for the attainment of heaven from earth, but for the abasement of heaven to earth

Dostoyevsky – The Brothers Karamazov