Posts Tagged ‘you are the problem’

I realise I haven’t yet done a breakdown of the US election, and given the quakes hitting New Zealand, this is probably a welcome distraction.

If the US ran its elections like any other country that votes on their President, Hillary Clinton would have won. This is the fifth time this has ever happened, and the President-elect had some oddly prescient feelings about the electoral college about four years ago. Of course now he’s totally respecting the result of the election because he won the most electoral votes and isn’t the United States’ system of government great?

This is not quite the nightmare scenario, as with a close result, Donald Trump effectively has no mandate, is the most unpopular President at the time of his election ever, with close to 60% unfavourables, and looks poised to screw things up massively in a way that could hand Democrats the mid-term elections in 2 years and possibly even the Presidency in 4.

The Electoral College is an interesting system that made a lot of sense in the in the era of America’s founding, back when the most practical way to send a message was to put a chap on a horse and have them ride to a recipient. In those days, there was little practical difference between simply having riders bring totals, and appointing riders to go to Washington DC and simply vote for whoever won their district or state.

While small states get an outsized share of the electoral college votes compared to their population, it’s not actually small states specifically that the Electoral College is biased towards. Why? Well because some of those small states already have very strong opinions on which party should control the federal government, and are considered “blue” or “red” states because they have recently supported Democratic or Republican candidates. Other states, however, have softer opinions or decide in ways that aren’t wholly contingent upon political party, and these states are called “purple” or “swing” states. As they typically decide the election, most campaign resources are spent on swing states, and US citizens who live in states like California or Texas or New York, despite having large electoral votes to distribute, effectively don’t count because everyone knows which way their votes are going to go in terms of the presidency. This generally takes the decision-making power on electing the president away from the northeast and west of the country, and giving the northern southern states a hugely disproportionate importance.

Now, in the age of phones and the internet, there’s no real positive reason to maintain an electoral college unless of course you live in a swing state. There have been attempts in the past to abolish the electoral college, but it’s rather hard to amend the US constitution, which mandates the electoral college choose the President. (whoops! Maybe it should have just mandated that a fair election be held and then left to Congress and the Supreme Court to decide what a fair election was)

A lot of Hillary supporters have been understandably upset with this result. Some have pointed out, with some reasonable basis, that the electors ought to vote for the person who won the popular vote. While I agree in principle, in practice electors are hardcore party faithful, and so-called “faithless electors” have never swung a US Presidential race in the past, so I can’t see it happening now. If you really want to stop this happening in the future, however, there’s a more practical way than an amendment. The states individually can simply pass a measure signing them up to the NPVIC, which is basically an agreement that once there are enough electoral votes signed up to the agreement to guarantee they all determine the President, then all the states who signed will instruct their electors to vote for the popular vote winner. Because the constitution and existing case law says that states get to determine how their electors vote, it’s a perfectly legal end-run around needing an amendment to abolish the Electoral College.

Other Hillary supporters have been less constructive, to whit, this Sesame Street-style garbage bin grouch masquerading as a journalist, who argues that Sanders caused Hillary to lose, drawing an analogy with Nader in the race between Bush and Gore. This again goes to how poor a system the electoral college is, as it results in 59 opportunities for near-ties that are likely to be decided through court battles, gerrymandering, and voter disenfranchisement rather than legitimate campaigning. It is also worth noting that it is Clinton’s responsibility to earn people’s votes, a fact that Gil Troy does not seem to get.

Back to Time’s “article.” Firstly, the analogy to Nader is a poor comparison, because if you ask anyone but the US Supreme Court, Gore actually won the 2000 election, and even if you do believe the Supreme Court was correct to halt the recounts, (in which case you don’t really believe in democracy, so why are you reading about election results?) not only were there multiple third party candidates in the race, each of which earned more votes than the margin between Bush and Gore, but there were also more registered Democrats that voted for Bush than the 560 vote margin as well.

But even ignoring that, Gore suffered from the same problem that John Kerry, who actually lost to Bush, and Hillary Clinton both suffer from. And that is that he wasn’t particularly good at connecting to voters. In Gore’s case he was able to squeak out a bare win in the electoral college, had the vote been counted fairly, and in Clinton’s she managed to hang on to the popular vote, but all three candidates were not good picks. (and this is an excellent argument against primaries, btw. It would actually be much better to use a voting system that allows people to pick between multiple Democrats and multiple Republicans without a spoiler effect) Gore was a technocrat who’s much better at making people think than making them feel, which makes him a great part of a leadership team, and arguably very good at governing, but a terrible Presidential candidate. Obama got things right in 2008 when he showed that you can make the public both think and feel, when he captured the progressive spirit of the US and won in a landslide. The Democrats unfortunately didn’t learn the lesson of 2012, where his support eroded significantly after it was revealed that Obama wasn’t a progressive, he just knew how to campaign like one.

Hillary didn’t campaign like Obama, she tried to pick up moderate Republicans, and effectively kicked the actual left aside. That done, it was actually suprising that many of the most progressive demographics worked out well for Clinton, (the BBC has an excellent article covering the demographics of the 2016 presidential race, the only thing it’s missing is a split of the “independent” vote, ie. people who weren’t registered as Democrats or Republicans, as I imagine they probably showed for Republicans and not Democrats a lot more than in 2008 or 2012) if not necessarily as well as they did for Obama. For that to happen, some of the new voters Sanders brought in to the fold must have come over, however she likely bled a huge amount of soft support from people who viewed her as emblematic of corruption, as a phony career politician, from people who dislike the idea of political dynasties, and of course from sexists and even racists who don’t like her strong ties to voters of colour.

Clinton’s vaunted electoral college “advantage” didn’t show up because the advantage was actually contingent on her popular vote performance being four to five percent above Trump’s like it was when his campaign was imploding, when it was instead bare fractions of a percent above his vote in the general election.

Arguably Sanders was less successful in bringing his supporters over with him when he endorsed Clinton than previous primary losers have been, but this is due to a fundamental misunderstanding much of the US establishment has had about both the Trump and Sanders campaigns. They were populist campaigns about two different visions of how to make the United States work for the working classes again. Sanders had a bold vision with further progress on healthcare, education, opposing pro-corporate trade deals, ending Wall Street fraud and misconduct, and fair taxation that refocuses on the wealthy instead of the middle class, who bear a disproportionate burden in terms of total taxation in the US, and of course, reforming the campaign rules so that candidates like him would stand a real chance again in future races, amending the constitution to get money out of politics. Clinton could never have kept all of Sanders voters no matter how he tried to bring them over without adopting those policies, and even then, some of them wouldn’t have trusted her to carry them out anyway. We saw this in action when she came out as against the TPP- her previous stance had poisoned the well for her in taking a populist position on trade, so all it did was limit the damage against her for that issue.

The one area where Clinton’s supporters are correct in apportioning a share of her blame is in directing their ire at James Comey for turning some additional emails uncovered in an investigation of Anthony Wiener into a political football against Ms Clinton. The re-appearance of email-related stories close to the election absolutely would have hurt her in some crucial states, although we can’t know by how much. I personally suspect she probably may have lost the Electoral College anyway, but we can’t know for sure. Ironically, this issue of emails is also a great counter-punch to Time’s stupid think-piece of pro-estabilshment propaganda: Sanders ran such a kind, issues-based campaign in the Primary that he deliberately refused to discuss her emails, because he actually wanted to talk about issues that mattered to the US people. If he managed to “hurt” Clinton in that primary enough to lose her the election, despite running such a positive campaign, she was obviously too fragile a candidate to ever be a serious contender for the Presidency. Any candidate that is hurt by more democracy doesn’t deserve to win anyway.

What a weird race for US President this has turned out to be. Most of us (bar some enthusiastic elites for Clinton) are looking at these two candidates and holding our noses if we have any preference. As I mentioned earlier, I am reluctantly cheering from the sidelines for Ms. Clinton, largely because Trump is an authoritarian, and I judge that a bigger danger than Clinton being an establishment candidate.

It’s hard to be enthusiastic about the US joining New Zealand in breaking the final glass ceiling when the person doing it only seems to be likely to make it because she’s running against the worst candidate ever.

For those of you who are interested but not following along, here’s a breakdown, with conclusions or rough probabilities for each front-loaded:

Trump: Not paying income Tax

Probability of being real: 90%+

Donald Trump has steadfastly refused to release his taxes during the campaign, a move that is unprecedented in recent Presidential history. He released an abridged version of his financials instead, which defeats the point of releasing taxes, which is to have a financial transperancy which can then be verified and confirmed officially.

Donald maintains this is due to an active audit of his company, however eminently qualified people have stated that an audit does not prevent him from releasing his tax returns, and when he tried to claim other business-owners would minimise tax similar to the way he is accused of, Warren Buffet, a Hillary Clinton donator, released his own taxes (showing he paid more than he had to) and confirmed he was under audit at the time, suffering no problems with the IRS, further disputing Trump’s protestations about not releasing his taxes.

Donald also claims that if he did avoid income tax, (he won’t confirm still) that it would make him smart, which not only is an argument whose logical conclusion is that the US shouldn’t have any public infrastructure at all, but it also backs up speculation that Donald views his supporters as “marks” who he doesn’t respect.

We also have a leaked tax return that shows he registered a paper loss of US$1 billion in a single year, which he could realistically have carried forward for several years. Doesn’t look like a particularly savvy business man to even be able to inflate his losses up to $1 billion.

There’s also reasonable speculation that Donald over-reports how wealthy he is and that he’s not even a billionaire any more, and that most of his wealth is from his inheritance. Given the level of narcissism he exhibits, this is actually more likely to be a reason he wouldn’t release his tax returns.

Clinton: Anthony Wiener email probe

Probability of any new emails coming out that actually impact Clinton: 5-10%

Much fanfare was given to the FBI “reopening” the case of Hillary Clinton’s emails, which is suprising given that’s actually not what’s happening.

Rather, a separate case about Anthony Wiener allegedly exchanging sexual pictures with an under-aged girl is being investigated, and there is a set of emails (and it’s a relatively large set, despite early incorrect reports that it was just 3 emails) that nobody has read yet that may or may not be relevant to that case, that happen to reside on a computer belonging to the Clinton campaign, because Anthony’s ex-wife Huma Abedin is a prominent member of Clinton’s staff.

Ironically, the real story here is that James Comey is probably breaking the law1 in making such an announcement so close to the election, especially given the confusing wording in his letter to congress that implied any of this somehow being related to Hillary Clinton or her private email server. While there are, potentially, emails that relate to Hillary Clinton or her campaign in this set, they were neither to nor from Clinton, and they may even be duplicates of emails already reviewed by the earlier probe.

Backing up the perspective that James Comey is out to make a political point, he held a press conference inappropriately to announce his conclusions to the original investigation, when his only role was to sign off a report to the DoJ recommending no prosecution, as it’s ultimately their call whether or not to go ahead, which paints a picture of a man wanting to increase his public profile.

There is no evidence that any of these emails could negatively impact Clinton, however it is an outside possibility given how many embarrassing revelations have been in the Podesta leak.

Trump: Sexual assault and rape allegations

Probability of at least one instance being real: All but confirmed.

With at least eleven women coming forward now, with them independently telling consistent stories that paint a pattern of sexual assault, it’s not only looking credible that at least one allegation is true, it’s looking very likely that all or most of the harassment happened as described. Trump is the Right’s own Cosby moment, and they’re handling it a lot less gracefully than the African-American community did.

Trump claims the women coming forward are liars who are just out for fame. There are a couple of good reasons to doubt this claim. Firstly, none of the victims came forward until after the Billy Bush tape was leaked to the public. This is consistent with their stories of feeling intimidated and dis-empowered by his sexual assaults, and is exactly what you would expect in this sort of case. Were they some sort of hatchet job from the Clintons, it might have made sense to bring them out earlier in the campaign. While one set of allegations could plausibly be politically motivated, it would be astoundingly difficult to get women from so many different backgrounds, some of them with real conservative credentials, and coach them to consistently lie with similar stories. At least some of these women are definitely telling the truth. (whether or not the allegations ever end up being tested in court)

Adding to the credibility of these allegations, there was also a prior allegation by an (alleged) victim of child rape and sex trafficking, which did not go to trial due to minor technical errors in the filing. The details in that allegation contain some incidental facts about Mr. Trump that check out, (including naming a friend of Trump’s who has already been convicted for similar behaviour as a co-offender) so Donald’s assertion that those allegations are also a lie would require it to be a very well-researched one. There’s also the fact that she had a witness willing to testify to the events, and while coaching up a witness to corroborate a single story is a more credible claim, taken together with the other 11 allegations which represent the profile of a sexual predator, and the creepy treatment of his daughter Ivanka, such a crime would not be out of character for Donald.

Clinton has, demonstrating her feminist credentials, decided not to politicise the rape allegations without the consent of the victim, who hasn’t come forward because she is still protected by anonymity.

Clinton: Unethical use of the Clinton Foundation?

Did Clinton behave unethically? Confirmed2.

Let me state at the outset that the Clinton Foundation, unlike her opponent’s “charitable” foundation, actually did real charity work, and there is no question of funds being misappropriated.

The issue here is rather a question of corruption and the appearance of corruption, and whether it is appropriate for a candidate to “house” their staff in a charitable organisation, as Podesta wikileaks have made it quite clear that the Clinton Foundation was viewed by those running it as primarily a political vehicle, not a charitable cause.

We can tell by the behaviour of those donating to the foundation that many of its prominent donors viewed it this way too, as they did not donate to other charities dedicated to reducing global poverty, which is behaviour you would reasonably expect from wealthy heads of state and similar. Instead it seems that her donors, at least, perceived that the Clinton Foundation provided them enhanced access to Hillary Clinton, and the Podesta leaks paint of picture suggesting the same thing.

Is there concrete proof that Clinton used her influence inappropriately as a result? (ie. can we prove she engaged in “pay-to-play” politics?) No, not yet. I suspect there never will be, as that’s not how things are done in Washington and Clinton is too careful for that, and most of the Sec State’s influence is through advice to the President, which is largely verbal.

But this absolutely does meet the “appearance of corruption” test which is the standard all cabinet offices should be judged by regarding corruption. If this scandal had come out while Ms. Clinton was still Secretary of State, my opinion would have been that she should have resigned as a result. It is a definite black mark on her candidacy, and were she running against a normal Republican, you would expect something like this to lose her the race. I am continually surprised that this isn’t where the Trump campaign is hitting her, as he’s essentially conceding to Hillary that she gets to keep much of her soft support. He is spending too much time on emails and Bill Clinton’s behaviour, and not enough on Hillary’s conduct regarding the Clinton Foundation.

Then there’s also the murky ethical issue of whether it’s appropriate to provide “jobs for the boys” in your charitable foundation when you’re not yet campaigning for president. I have heard mention that campaign activities prior to a certain time period are illegal, but couldn’t find a reference for that myself, so take that with a grain of salt for now.

Trump: Colluding with Russia?

Probability of Trump actively colluding with Russia: 5-20%

Probability of Trump being unduly influenced by Russia: 90%+

Previously there was no evidence that Trump was in any way colluding with Russian interests, but a recent story came out with some interesting evidence here!

Before that story, all we could say was that Russian interests held a lot of Mr. Trump’s debts, which would have opened him to unprecedented influence by a foreign state.

While arguably a warming of relations with Russia would be a very good thing for the US, essentially being a neighbour to Russia, that shouldn’t be achieved by electing a puppet-president who might ostensibly simply do what his debtors tell him to.

Slate has an interesting article suggesting collusion with Russian interests through a dark server sending private mail to the firm Alfabank, The Intercept also has a counter-piece with some evidence that the server in question was probably just sending out low volumes of spam, so I don’t rate it very high probability at this stage that there’s any secret collusion with Russia going on.

In short, you should be concerned about Trump and Russia, but more because he’s a loser who’s in debt to Russians, and less because of media and Clinton campaign stories about cyber security to deflect from their own Wikileaks issues, but if you’re a Clinton supporter, you should probably be asking her to be a bit less aggressive towards Russia.

Clinton: Coordinating with Super PACs?

It has been confirmed, at least if you believe that Wikileaks is a reliable source2, which I do, that the Clinton Campaign is illegally co-ordinating with Super PACs. This is not only a violation of campaign finance law, it’s also a pretty worrying mistake for a candidate who thinks that the Citizens United decision (which allows Super PACs to exist) should be remedied by constitutional amendment that she can’t even abide by the current law under that decision. If she does repeal Citizens United, I’m not sure how Hillary Clinton would run a successful re-election campaign, so I’m pretty pessimistic about her likelihood of successfully doing this in the first four years.

Incidentally, repealing Citizens United by constitutional amendment is basically the very least the US could do to clean up its elections. That would basically just reset the donation playing field back to the 1990s. There is still the issue of undue influence of large donors, gerrymandering of congressional districts, the unrepresentative and disproportional nature of plurality voting to determine the house, the electoral college distorting the winner for the presidency to the point that the “wrong” candidate has won in the past3, and two-party domination. Neither main-party candidate is proposing anything that will put a serious dent in this problem.

Trump: An actual authoritarian?

Yes. Political scientists have been commenting for media throughout the campaign that Trump bears many of the classic signs of being an authoritarian candidate, and that isn’t just something that happens in less-developed countries, it’s about a candidate, usually right-wing, exploiting a populist mood among an electorate.

That does not necessarily mean he’s the next Hitler, but it does mean that if elected, he will likely start doing things like discarding the idea of separation of powers, of judicial independence, of freedom of speech and association, of relatively open immigration policies, jailing his political opponents and threatening his personal enemies, using his office to enrich himself, etc…

These democratic rights are very difficult to claw back once they’ve been systematically violated or even repealed, as has been demonstrated with the US backing out of its conviction against torturing detainees and the Obama administration’s refusal to even hold non-judicial inquiries into the matter, let alone prosecutions, despite torture actually being illegal.

Clinton: Illegal private email server?

As I mentioned earlier, James Comey, a Republican, concluded that Hillary had taken no illegal action in using a private email server. It wasn’t secure practice and it certainly wasn’t entirely ethical to do so, but it’s less a scandal and more an issue of the law needing to require public officials to use public emails only for official business.

The main bulk of this is a non-issue and the kind of thing that, for anyone who wasn’t in a cabinet position, would be resolved by a simple meeting with your supervisor or maybe an official warning.

The one place where Republicans may have a point is that she was potentially not sufficiently informed to take the appropriate care regarding confidential emails, but there is no public evidence to date that suggests this caused any intelligence leaks or that any information that was classified at the time was handled through the private server. Much of the “classified material” was due to retroactive classification.

Trump: Racial profiling to deny housing to black people?

Yep, he got taken to court for it and lost, and the case was regional one in New York, not part of some national-level investigation like he claims.

Clinton: Benghazi?

No. This is categorically not a thing, and anyone talking about it is essentially just redistributing hot air. In fact, if anything, the real “scandal” here is that the policies supported by the very people who are outraged by Benghazi likely caused it, ie. the US’ entire approach to terrorism causes blow-back and exacerbates the problem. (which, ironically, is one of the few areas Trump has been correct in critiquing Hillary’s judgement. Of course his “solutions” seem to be even more of the same with a side-dish of extra war crimes, so…)

Trump: Misappropriating charity money

This is a massive yes.

While the Clinton Foundation is the one really knock-out scandal out there for Clinton, it not only pales in comparison to Trump’s other scandals, it actually also pales in comparison to Trump’s scandals regarding his own foundation, which is likely a vehicle for tax evasion, has been used to pay legal settlements owed by Mr. Trump personally, has engaged in self-dealing, and he has a poor record in donating to his own foundation to the point that he’s now actually stopped donating since about 2010, when normally a family foundation like this is funded in large part by its namesake. Oh, and it’s been ordered to stop soliciting donations. (Trump’s lack of donations to his own foundation also fuel the case made by speculation that he’s not as rich as he says he is)

Clinton: Advocating fixing foreign elections?

This one’s a little tricky. Clinton has, back in 2006, made some comments about Palestine that are relevant to free elections. However, whether she was advocating election-rigging hangs on how you determine the meaning of the word “determine” in context:

I do not think we should have pushed for an election in the Palestinian territories. I think that was a big mistake, and if we were going to push for an election, then we should have made sure that we did something to determine who was going to win.

You can either take this to mean they should have ensured that Fatah, their preferred partners, won the election, as many seem to be doing, or if you’re a bit more charitable, you can take this to mean that Clinton wanted to have information about who the likely winner was, ie. polling, before advocating for an election, and then only advocate elections if Fatah would win. (see definitions 1 & 2 of determine here)

On the balance I’m willing to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt that it’s the less objectionable option for now, (it’s still pretty objectionable anyway…) not that the US in general and people Clinton holds in esteem in particular haven’t done things just as bad as election-rigging in the past.

Now, this is definitely hypocrisy from Clinton, who supports democracy at home and derides Trump for undermining it, but it’s orthodox hypocrisy in foreign policy, where most nations believe in realpolitik4 for foreign policy, and she wouldn’t have been viewed as a contender for Sec State if she wasn’t willing to undermine democracy in developing nations. This is a legitimate criticism of US foreign policy, but it’s not on the same level in my opinion as Trump’s authoritarianism, as Clinton is essentially stopping democratic values from spreading, while Trump is effectively advocating to get rid of it at home too.

Trump: Trump University

It’s a scam, and again, it fuels the case that he’s not as rich as he says, because genuinely successful people do not risk this kind of exposure to lawsuits.

Trump: Bad at business

This one is also true. Donald Trump’s entire image is one of being a winner who’s great at business and is with only the most attractive women. While the occasional bankruptcy isn’t proof that someone is objectively bad at business, serial bankruptcies are a different story,  and he has business failures beyond his bankruptcies. There’s also been allegations of him engaging in unreasonable management practices.

The sad thing is that there are also probably newsworthy Trump scandals I’ve missed evaluating here, because the man is just that odious. (I mean, the man just recently used a racially-charged insult and kicked out one of his African-American supporters from one of his rallies because he assumed he was a protestor) But this should cover the main ones people may have heard mentioned in election coverage and give you some idea if you’ve been cruising through this terrifying roller coaster because it’s all happening overseas.


For those of you who haven’t been following things, (and you could be forgiven for having been busy on boxing day, much the way Valve could be forgiven) a technical hiccough has exposed private information of some steam customers.

This may not be 100% confirmed yet, but apparently valve pushed an update to its caching on its store pages that didn’t work as intended, and exposed other people’s emails, their usernames, their steam wallet balances, (think prepaid cash balance, although it can also be the proceeds from selling digital goods such as steam trading cards) and the last two digits of their credit cards. We don’t know the exact timeframe, but potentially everyone who accessed any steam store pages and saw anyone else’s info has had this information exposed. Fortunately, nobody had the ability to charge anyone else’s account during the time as far as I know.

This exposure occured for roughly an hour, after which Valve managed to get someone on-site and shut down external access to the problematic pages, until they could rectify the breach. (Store pages are now accessible with no adverse consequences as of my drafting of this post) This is a relatively impressive turnaround for a public holiday and is to be commended, not attacked. Only the most basic services should be using real staff on public holidays, and Steam is not a basic service.

As a former employee of an organisation that has struggled with both public perceptions and privacy breaches, I can tell you that there are some basic steps that need to be taken as soon as Valve can get people back into work:

  1. Firstly, own up publicly to what information was exposed, apologise to all customers, even those unaffected, and offer to allow people to close their accounts and have their personal information deleted. The first part of this is the basic necessity. You HAVE to apologise if you’ve screwed up, full stop. It also helps if no excuses are made until after the unreserved apology is delivered. But allowing people to express their distrust in you by leaving your service, and deleting their information if they do so, shows you really mean your apology and are accepting the consequences of your mistake.
  2. If possible, generate a list of customers whose accounts were accessed during the timeframe the breach occured, and warn all of them their privacy may have been breached by email. Valve should also recommend that they be aware of potential phishing attempts, take any necessary steps to ensure their credit card remains secure, and change their steam passwords, and any other passwords that match their steam passwords. While in the short term actively notifying people of the breach who haven’t learned of it might seem bad PR, in the medium and long term it means customers know that Valve is willing to be accountable when mistakes are made, and that they will place their customers needs ahead of their own PR.
  3. Valve should put ALL employees through privacy training immediately, so they are aware of the consequences of for instance accidentally disclosing an email address or a partial credit card number. This is both a practical (Valve will be under extra scrutiny now, and human security breaches will be much more serious) and a PR requirement.
  4. Valve should take immediate policy steps to ensure this same breach cannot occur again. For instance, they may want to institute a policy that no software patches or website changes that could impact security or privacy are to be pushed near holidays.
  5. In the medium term, Valve needs to upgrade its privacy security policies and systems. Valve serves some of its private information directly over insecure protocols- this needs to stop. If valve wants to offer Steam pages over the web, it should secure them if the web pages offer private information, or it should only serve account information through its client in secure packets, or on seperate, secured pages. (similar to how purchases are currently handled) The worst privacy breach that should be possible using secure software is that someone unintended views your account name. There are also some really basic information security steps that can be taken, such as:
    1. turning off auto-complete for any external addresses in all email clients,
    2. stocktaking access to private and/or confidential information and ensuring all access granted is either necessary or authorised, practical, and secure,
    3. disabling insecure methods of file-sharing, such as email attachments, without a second employee authorising them,
    4. implement quality-checking on any existing and new safeguards, at least in the short term.
  6. In the longer term, ensure customer data is secure from external access, hackers, and properly anonymised to internal employees.

Valve has a lot of work to do. A lot of this work is better done before any privacy issues occur, but they’re in for a lot of learning about why prevention is better than cure. I’m pretty sorry to all of the employees who weren’t responsible but are about to be affected.

Becoming an MP joins the long list of things Colin Craig is confident he can do, including:

  • Assisting all new mothers to remove their shoes and make their way securely to the kitchen.
  • Ending the plague of gay marriage upon all of our houses.
  • Overturning scientific abominations such as the teaching of evolution in classrooms.
  • An excellent karaoke rendition of the song “Roar” by Katy Perry.
  • Removing the redundant “h” from the placename “Whanganui”.
  • Removing the redundant “s” from the pronoun “she”.
  • Merging the North and South islands into a single landmass through the power of prayer1.
  • Making our country a laughingstock.

This is yet another reason why electorates are the obvious weakness of MMP and we should transition to an open list system as soon as we can convince enough of the country via referendum. That a small community can (potentially) elect a credulous bigot and disgrace such as Colin Craig with a bare fraction of the vote we require for a single list seat is ridiculous, and the rate at which we keep adding electorates makes things even worse. Local representation is not necessarily better representation.


Well, that’s not really fair to donkeys, but you get the picture.

What’s become clear to anyone who viewed Lockwood Smith under rage-tinted glasses at the fact that National was in government, is that we actually had it pretty good under the former speaker.

The current speaker doesn’t really give a shite about fair debate, is quite happy to shield corrupt ministers under flimsy justifications, and has done literally nothing to improve the standard of debate in Parliament.

You know what would be nice? Having an actual experienced debate moderator as speaker, and letting MPs stay as MPs instead. Either elect the speaker directly, (risky, potentially just as prone to politicisation) or have them independently appointed on a periodic basis, say by a random pool of electors pulled in from each electorate in a situation similar to Jury Duty.

Can you imagine a having a speaker who wasn’t accountable to his or her party when the Prime Minister tries to abuse the debating chamber? Can you imagine having someone who would support engaging the public with parliament, instead of a petty tyrant who wants to ban tweeting about him?

I know I can.

Idiot/Savant over at No Right Turn points out that labour want to be able to advertise on election day. (story) Labour’s general secretary whines that other countries allow it, name-calls the provision banning election-day advertising as “puritanical”, and cites the number of people making last-minute decisions about their vote as a justification.

Actually, this is a good reason to push back advertising even further from election day in favour of other modes of political campaigning. I’d like to see billboard advertising, TV/radio ads, and print/web ads banned a week before, while still allowing the broadcasting of debates, speeches, or other in-person political modes of engagement. That would provide us a much “realer” picture of the campaign, and take the advantage away from big-money parties- then we can have our full shut-off on election day, and drive the sorts of grassroots political engagement that people think they get from electorates.

The Labour Party should be ashamed that one of their own senior members suggested the idea. The time off from the campaign on election day is critical, and to be honest, relieving. It is not puritanical or mean-spirited, it is a chance for everyone who is tired of politics to take a breath of fresh air, make sure they’ve made their final decision, and go and vote.

Queen of Thorns smacks around Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer on her blog, excoriating (in her appropriately confrontational style) him for trying to edge out small brothels. This is part of a larger trend in councils around New Zealand.

While I am okay with regulation on brothels that essentially encourages them to be good neighbours, (I’d support that sort of regulation on anyone- noise control, height limits, avoidance of public nudity, etc…) “regulation” here is usually a code word for trying to keep sex work out of sight and out of mind, so that hypocrites who get off on the idea of buying women (and you can usually assume anyone trying to disappear sex workers is doing so because they use a “higher class” of sex worker that’s more discrete) can safely ignore sex work when they’re not paying for it. Brothels run into legal opposition from councils wherever they operate- if they’re in the city, they’re hit by zoning laws. If they’re in residential areas, we’re hit with moral panic about whether they’re close to schools, (who cares? They’re not going to be propositioning children, and it’s not going to attract pedophiles to the school, because pedophiles aren’t attracted to adults) and Councillors try to shut them down with operating hour restrictions that cut their business to shreds, and other onerous regulation.

And the really stupid part? Right from the scoop story:

A past High Court case with the former Auckland City Council ruled that SOOBs are legally permitted to operate in residential areas and that council’s bylaws cannot be overly restrictive.

Auckland’s councils can’t restrict these small brothels to mixed-zoning areas like they want to, because there’s already judicial precedent, and you’d just be wasting your council’s money defending a provision that has already been struck down previously. The courts will ultimately shoot down these attempts to open up a legal loophole, because it’s been clearly established that prostitution is legal.

I’m going to propose a few radical ideas, instead: It’s okay for people (all people) to have sex, and we shouldn’t try to turn sex workers (who are overwhelmingly women) into villains because their clients (who are overwhelmingly men) either can’t get enough sex elsewhere, or they get off on buying sex. We should get out of their way and let these people do their work, which unlike being a politician, is actually honest in the vast majority of cases. That even if we don’t like people being in this industry and want to support them out of it if they want out, perhaps we should also support their right to work, to work when they can find work, to operate in areas that allow their clients to be discrete if they so wish.

That “upstanding community men” not only buy the services of sex workers, they are in fact the people the most likely to do so, because they are in positions of power. (And the people most likely to engage in rape or sexual abuse, whether of adults or minors)  That people will cheat if they’re unhappy in their relationships. That people will buy sex (or at least pornography) if they’re addicted to it and can’t manage to pick up partners in normal social situations.

And perhaps, just perhaps, that if we had a more positive attitude to sex, especially to women having sex, if we were better at diagnosing unhealthy relationships, if we talked more, and if we taught more people to function in relationships more effectively, and if women had equal employment opportunities, sex work would become less necessary, and actually be restricted to people who want to be career sex workers.

Public editor of the New York Times, Arthur Brisbane, asks their readership if:

…New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.

and is then surprised and claims he was misunderstood when its readers essentially answer with a chorus of “yes, you moron” replies, and comments hopeful that this would result in a paper that actually reported the facts as facts and opinion as opinion. He went as far as to call this process being a “truth vigilante”.

Journalists must aggressively seek to ascertain and report the truth. It needs to be not just a profession, but more than that, a calling, to tell the truth about the powerful and what they’re saying. When someone makes a claim, it’s okay to fact-check it, and okay to tell us whether you found anything, or even if you couldn’t find anything. We like to know these things. You don’t need to hand us your conclusions, (that’s for the editorial pages) but please, for the sake of journalism, hand us all your evidence, and put your fact-checking next to the statements that are being fact-checked, so casual readers don’t miss them.

A “truth vigilante” would be someone who runs around punching anyone who lies to them. A person who aggressively challenges the claims of the rich and powerful is a “journalist”, especially if they admit it when they are corrected after going either too far, or not far enough. Here’s hoping the New York Times will listen to the thousands of people around the world that are speaking truth to power, and start catering to the vast market for actual journalism that we’re all so thirsty for, because they really did understand what they read the first time, and they know what they want.