Thursday, February 25, 2021

New Australian online news bill passes

 After amending the bill to address facebook's concerns, the online news bill that I mentioned earlier, has passed. The amendment appears to impact facebook's ability to reject working with any random organization claiming to be "news". 

Unfortunately, this is all I can write at this time. I've been having horrific internet problems over the past week, and am currently tethered to my new cell. As you may know from previous posts, I live on disability, and have little money to spare. My cell is new, bought only on the 4th of this month. It's also a very cheap plan, 1GB of data; but with 2GB bonus for signing up to chatr; but that runs out after a few months. So I am not used to typing on the phone (hence the tether) and do not want to use my limited data. As such, I'll have to address this in detail later; likely after the first deals are worked out between facebook and australian media companies, and after I see how such deals impact posted links. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Covid is the 9th deadliest pandemic in human history

According to Covid has now passed 2,500,000 deaths. The Wikipedia/John Hopkins number is still about 12,000 deaths away from this number, but is gaining about 5K-10K deaths a day. I've used the worldmeters number for one reason and one reason only: I wanted to get this post out sooner rather than later (for a reason that I make clear at the end of this post). The more trusted Hopkins number will pass this mark in a day or two.

You may have seen this table before, as I've been posting and updating it on twitter. I wanted to address that table in a more full context on the blog, where I can explain things that are difficult to explain in 280 characters. 

As you may know, I built this with data from this Wikipedia page. You will note that the page includes a share of population lost, but, that I've not included that data in my table. Why? Simply, I want to work with uniform figures. As such I'd need all 10 of the pandemics listed to include world, and not local, population shares. Additionally, that brings up a good point; not all of these pandemics were worldwide. The Plague (in particular, the black death) was, more or less, worldwide. The Spanish Flu was as well. As is AIDS. There's a reason I bring them up. 

They are terrifying. AIDS? Spanish Flu? The freaking Plague!?

Covid can, in a way, be added to the list. 

The whole "point" of the table, all this time, was never to "compare deaths". It was to compare the psychological impact that Covid will have, on us (humans), vs the way previous pandemics (like SARS) had. 

In that respect, I feel this table does a somewhat good job of explaining exactly where Covid is going to end up in our collective memory. One important datapoint that is not on the table is the case fatality rate. That means, if you get sick, what are the chances you will die. Covid seems to have a rate of around 1% to 2%. The Asian Flu, which had a similar death toll as the Hong Kong Flu, had, as far as I can tell, a rate of closer to 0.3%. AIDS is difficult to quantify as it kills slowly. Spanish Flu seems to have had a rate somewhere around 4%. The Plague's rate is much closer to 33% from what I can find. 

I said when all of this started that we are very lucky that Covid seems to kill so "few" people. I still maintain that a 2% death rate is better than a 33% death rate. I also said that we are very lucky that Covid seems to spread poorly; and while I can't find exact figures, it would seem a good 2/3rds of the world was impacted by Plague, and  maintain that under 125 Million cases is better than 5.5 billion. Had this been "it", "the" "one", we could have lost 3 billion people in the past year. 

That this could happen - a pandemic happen in the modern era that kills 3 billion - is far less likely. In fact that - the idea that a massive pandemic killing 3 billion people is now less likely - has been the entire point of this exercise. 


Covid is the 9th deadliest pandemic in human history.

Look at how it compares to past world pandemics, it is 9th. Look at how many people it infected. How many it killed. Look how we reacted to it. Both in countries with lockdowns, and those without. And look what happened in those without, and how many more people died VS how much less money was lost from the economy. Do you want to be the one literally putting a price on lives? I certainly don't. 

This is going to stay with us. Humans. Around the world. In our collective psyche. Sure, it will impact those of us in the more globalized part of the world more - IE, the impact in much of Africa, and parts of Asia - but this impact is going to stick around much longer than, for example, the Asian Flu did.

Weather or not we reach Spanish Flu levels of impact are unclear. Covid didn't kill anywhere near as many as the Spanish Flu, but, the Spanish Flu came in the context of the end of WW1 and all the various chaos that this causes. The world of 2021 is far more stable than the world of 1919, there is simply less to focus on, except Covid. 

On a side-note, this is the 1000th post on this blog! I find it fitting that our 1000th post focuses so heavily on numbers and what they mean. It's also an important milestone! As such I should remind people that we have a patreon, that I've started streaming gaming on twitch (where I am always happy to answer questions about politics) and that I have a twitter where I shout my opinions into the void. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Australia Vs Facebook - the heart of the matter.

This article by the CBC addresses the story. In it, they suggest teaming up to take down big tech may be the best way to do it. Canada is considering an Australian style law, and calls for regulation are increasing. The whole idea is to take down the control big tech has over the world. More and more ad revenue goes to them, and Google's deal with News Corp shows that such deals can indeed be reached. In fact, some are looking at making a "Digital Stability Board" that would help co-ordinate relationships between world governments and global big tech. 

But, let me tell you something about all of this that the media has ignored. The "thing" they want to stop and control, is you posting links to stories. They don't want you to do what I just did above. They want to stop you from being able to do so on facebook. 

But... after I summed up the entire article, is there any reason for you to go read it? Or will you simply stay here and give blogpost, and thus google, the view. The argument governments are presenting are not without merit, but they are approaching this from the wrong prospective. 

These laws are being written to purposefully obfuscate that their intention is stopping people, like you and me, from using facebook and google (and, probably later, twitter too) in ways that make people not need to read newspapers. 

This is a much larger issue, and one that the public needs to be educated on an involved in. We should not be telling facebook that they must stop people from posting links, we must tell the people that the law does that, and not depend on facebook to explain that to people. 

Regardless, the australian law is currently very poorly written. It would, for example, remove my control to moderate comments on this very blogpost (if I, or the CBC, were Australian) Why? How? Section 52S of this draft bill spells it out. This would allow news outlets like newsmax and oann to delete any factual content that disputes their biased reporting. It would also, by implication, mean that Facebook/Twitter would not be allowed to declare fake news content as fradulent. They'd be forced to abide by whatever deal they come up with, and, (looking at what happens when facebook is, as is current, refusing to deal with anyone) force them to make deals with everyone. 

This is big, and this is important, and neither the government, the media, nor facebook are terribly concerned in telling you how all of this would impact you

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

2021 is shaping up to be a good year for elections

 Just a quick note that this year will be a busy one for elections. Here are some of the elections I currently plan on following:

March 5th - Newfoundland
March 13th - Western Australia
March 14th - Baden and Rhineland (German provincial)
March 17th - Netherlands
March 23rd - Israel
April 4th - Bulgaria
May 6th - England, Local (county)
May 22nd - Palestine
June 6th - Saxony
June 6th - Mexico
September 13th - Norway
September 19th - Russia
September 25th - Iceland
September 26th - Germany
September 26th - Berlin, Mecklenburg, Thuringia

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Update - Israel Polling

This is a short update. The Candidate deadline for the Israeli election has passed. The Joint List, originally having 4 parties, now has 3. Ra'am has left. Ta'al, however, (lead by Tibi), will remain in the alliance. Ra'am is skirting the underside of the threshold; appears unable to make it, but, in some polls, does. Additionally, Gesher has joined with Likud, this means Likud will have a muslim on their candidate list for perhaps the first time, ever. The last note of interest is that Otzma, a party as far right as FdI/AfD, is part of the 'Religious Zionist' alliance, which is polling above the threshold. 

Polls show the following:

29 - bibi
17 - lapid
15 - haredi
13 - sa'ar
11 - bennett
9 - arabs
7 - lieberman
6 - avoda
5 - otzma
4 - left 
4 - gantz

Labor is now on the board. Both Gantz and the Left are skirting the threshold, and one (or both) may not make it in the end. 

61 seats are needed for a majority. The Haredi parties already back Bibi and will likely continue to do so. This gives him 44 seats. He would need 17 more for a majority. Lapid will not sit with him (unless he is as foolish as Gantz, which seems extraordinarily unlikely) meaning at least two other parties are needed. Otzma could well sit with Bibi, which would mean Bibi only needs 12 more seats. After leaving Likud, I can't see Sa'ar willing to sit with Bibi. Bennett may do so, and with a few more seats (the election is still over a month away, things can change) this would be a majority, if perhaps a bit unstable.

Sa'ar and Bennett have a combined 24 seats. If they tried to build a 'centrist' alliance with Lapid, they'd have 41. Such an alliance would likely include Lieberman and Labor, for a total of 52. They would need 9 more seats; the Left and Gantz could provide these seats, presuming they can boost their standing before the election. This, however, would be a massive and unwieldy alliance. 

As such, the polls currently favor Bibi's chances at re-election. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Italy's new Government

 Late last week, Italy got a new government, and its a doozey. All parties, but one, are either in it, or support it. 

M5S will provide 4 members to the new cabinet, while Lega (aka, the League) provides 3. FI provides 3, while the Democrats also provide 3. IV and LeU each provide 1. They will be joined by 9 independent technocrats. 

Let me explain why this is outstanding. M5S is a populist left party. the Democrats are progressive. FI is mainstream Conservative. IV is social democratic. LeU includes the Communist Party, and the League sits in the "Trump" notch mentioned in yesterday's post.

Only FdI, the firmly Nationalist party, sits outside the government. 

This is not the first "grand coalition" in Italy, far from it. Such government sat for a week in 1993, from a full year from summer 1946 to summer 1947, 2 years from summer 1976 to spring 1978, and then a little over 2 years from the autumn of 2011 to the winter of 2014. 

I do not know how long this government will sit for, but I find it interesting the League was willing to particulate, while FdI would be the only party to not do so. 

So, what does this all mean? For starters, it means Italy will (hopefully) have a stable government for the next year or two. It also means that FdI support will likely increase. There are always some voters who simply dislike the government, no matter what that government is. The FdI will benefit from that. From what I can tell, the party is currently strong in the south, this will likely help bolster it in the north. On the flip side, there are also some voters who simply like whatever government is in power. This will help boost Lega in the south. 

I can see this weakening FI and seeing that support go to the League and FdI. Simply by sitting in the government, the League appears more moderate, and FI voters may simply head there. FI, who has been in opposition since the last election, may also bleed anti-government voters. 

By the next election we could see Lega, FdI, and PD all at about 15%-25% support; while M5S could drop a few pints and settle between 15% and 10%. This would only help solidify a potential future Lega-FdI-FI government. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

A note on how far the "Far Right" is

 A quick, somewhat organizational note on the "far right".

As I see it, the right-wing, like the left-wing, comes in many flavours. Here in Canada, the Conservatives are home to moderates like Michael Chong, hardliners like Leslyn Lewis, and more 'standard' mainstream conservatives like Michelle Rempel. I am not going to focus on them. Instead, I'm focusing on those who are to the right of them. 

Folk like Donald Trump. In fact, Trump is where I will start. I consider Trump to be the first 'step' into the "far right" category. Trump is one notch "over" from where the general national consensus mainstream "overton window" ends. Trump, however, would still fit into the overton window of many on the right; just as Leslyn Lewis would not fit into it for those on the left. 

Trump and Trump-like parties, are thus the "mild" variant of the far-right. Derek Sloan would fit in here, for example, as would Maxime Bernier. When I say a party is "like Trump", I am not saying they would support a coup, or that they are guilty of nepotism; rather, I am saying that in terms of policy, they fit into that "one notch over" slot, just right of the 'mainstream' right-wing parties. 

The next notch over contains parties like the AfD. Parties don't like this notch very much, as it is a bit "scary". France's FN was firmly here, but is trying to move over to the Trump notch. AfD itself is constantly trying to move there, or, at least, portray itself as moving there. One party that seems to be here is Italy's FdI, which I will be speaking more about in another post. 

This notch is firmly nationalist, and one historical party I could point to as existing in this space is the DNVP. This is the only party that sat in coalition with Hitler. The party was not NAZI, but, was willing to work with them if needed. The "Danger" from parties in this notch is less what they would do on their own, and more what they could enable.

The final notch is the NAZI notch. Greece's Golden Dawn fit in here. These parties tend to be militant, and forceful. They will use violence to get what they want, and are quite willing to use death to further their own aims. 

There is little to say about this spot within the far right beyond the fact it poses a great threat to democracy and freedom. Since the end of WW2, parties in the AfD notch have been quite fearful of working with parties in this notch, for good reason. 

This post will hopefully help bring some context into our upcoming discussion on Italy's new government. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Newfoundland Election Disaster

 I've been holding off on making a post about this, but, I think it is time. 

Lets quickly go over events. 

On January 15th, Andrew Furey, Premier, called an election. 

On February 8th, 11 new Covid case were reported, the largest spike in nearly a year. By the 10th, daily new cases reached 50. 

Since then, the handling of the situation has been disastrous to say the least. First, voting was cancelled in 18 ridings (put off to a later date) but results would not be announced until that later date. This is, to my knowledge, unpresented in Canada. We have had many delayed elections before, usually in only one or two ridings; but results are always announced on time. 

This is when I learned something; apparently, people not being allowed to vote in NL is not unusual. While I've not found specific instances, I've read reports of people unable to vote in past elections due to, for example, car ferries not operating. 

How this could be allowed to occur ever is mind boggling. How it could occur more than once is offensively outrageous. I learned this at about the same time I learned some polling stations in ridings that were due to vote on-time, would be closed. 

Finally, 12 hours before the opening of polls, it was announced that no in-person voting would occur. Instead, the election becomes a mail-in one, with a deadline of March 1st. 

We've covered numerous elections during this pandemic, but never have I seen one handled so poorly. Even worse is that NL's financial situation is just as disastrous as its electoral planning. There is some talk the province may need to declare bankruptcy. 

Why is NL nearly bankrupt? Simply; voters kept voting for governments that liked to spend all that oil money. Once the oil money dried up, everything collapsed. Covid simply pushed forward the crisis to now. This Macleans article has an excellent graphic showing the problem. 

I am really not quite sure what else to say about this fiasco. 

Regardless. I'll let you know of the election results, either on March 1st, or, whenever we have them.