mfioretti: democracy*

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  1. Political scientists refer to the use of random selection to form a representative mini-public as sortition. In the past decade, around the world, in places like Canada, Iceland, Belgium and Australia, many governmental experiments with the use of sortition dealing with public policy matters have been implemented. Such juries have established municipal budgets in Australia, proposed constitutional amendments in Ireland, reviewed referendum initiatives in Oregon, and tackled thorny technology policies in Denmark. While most of the recent implementations have been in the public sphere, this democratic tool is a perfect fit for co-ops as well.

    Very few members will keep on top of their co-op's issues year after year, but most members would be willing to focus on their co-op governance matters for a small amount of time, with modest compensation, knowing other regular members will do likewise in turn. In the context of a modern co-op, a representative sample of members (perhaps 12-24 members) could be randomly selected to, for example, act as a sort of nominating or hiring committee to select a board of directors, or evaluate (and if warranted, fire) management.

    It doesn't make sense to select ongoing boards of trustees directly by lot, because the commitment level needed and investment of time is so great. But short duration representative juries that select the board members are an excellent way to assure ultimate authority and regular oversight by the ordinary members as a whole. To maximize the willingness of ordinary members to participate, these juries would be of short duration (only a few meetings) and their members would be compensated in some manner (a discount, catered meals during meetings, or direct payments). Relying on pure volunteerism for this task is dangerous as self-selection bias can allow unrepresentative special interests to dominate.

    Let's take a hypothetical example of a cooperative whose members all want to have a balanced board that reflects the diversity of the membership. They all want a board that includes a member with a legal background, one with budget and bookkeeping experience, and one with lots of media skills. Suppose plenty of candidates meeting these criteria decide to run for the board in an election. Because of the problem of voter coordination, regardless of whether a block plurality, ranked-choice preferential, or other voting method is used, it could easily happen that the mix on the board that gets elected ends up failing to meet most of these criteria that all of the members believe are important. The board may turn out to be all white males without any media or bookkeeping experience.

    The way that some co-ops try to overcome this problem is by having a nomination committee select a favored “slate.” For this to work, the election itself must be nominal or token, and it is the selection of the nominating committee that is the point of democratic challenge. With the jury model, a large representative nominating committee can be selected by lot. This randomly selected mini-public could interview potential board members and seek to come to a consensus about the best mix of people to form a balanced board. The election could be dispensed with or maintained, either merely pro forma or to give the membership a veto option.

    The key here is to escape the straitjacket assumption that democracy means elections. Elections are one tool that may be used by a democracy, but other superior tools such as sortition need to be in our toolbox as well. To learn more about sortition and democracy, visit website of the Australia-based NewDemocracy Foundation based in Australia, and those interested in the potential of using sortition in New England can feel free to contact me via terrybour@gmail.com.
    http://www.coopwatercooler.com/discussions//4m79q1m88fwktufew30pyeg3k4i9zh
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2018-04-03)
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  2. “If everyone was to behave like us then the world would be a better place — we would be able to get rid of guilt, inequality, competition, greed and anger.”“If we all ate less and were less materialistic the world would be a better place.” “Only by changing ourselves can we change the world, by our living example.”

    This is the one foundational belief system of every intentional community that all members can agree on. This was also the justification that the hippies used for practically everything. The theory goes like this: Instead of acting in the world, all you have to do is become a peaceful, non-violent person — a model human, and others will follow your model. This is how you change the world, by focusing entirely upon yourself.

    The results of this experiment are, generations later, clear — changing yourself became a vast industry of self-help books and courses, dietary, fitness and personal “spiritual” planning regimes — a form of obsessive self-focusing and self-policing, which, it turns out, corporations are very happy to encourage.

    The Final Test of the Blank Slate: Children

    There is one other final and hard-to-face factor that is an unintended consequences of Utopian alternative parenting experiments. There is a reason that the average life of a Utopian project is the time to takes to settle and begin to raise children.

    Children are the authoritative test of the theory that humans are born a blank slate and that all behavior is conditioned “by society” — of Rousseau’s potent idea that man is “born free but is everywhere in chains.” Children of Utopians should behave very differently than “old world” children, because they have been brought as blank slates into an egalitarian environment, and have been raised with positivist behavioral conditioning.

    But the children of Utopians fail every test: they are selfish, they grab and steal, they fight, and love competitive sports, they bully and they lie — just like all other children. Lying, it turns out, is a necessary developmental stage in learning. These naturally dishonest, violent creatures disprove the theory of human mind as a blank slate upon which images of perfection can be drawn.

    As the behaviorist J. B. Skinner (creator of Walden Two) realized, you can’t pass what you’ve learned on through your DNA so any achievements in equality achieved have to be repeated from scratch. Utopian behavioral engineering is an ongoing struggle against something that Utopians deny even exists — human nature. Not only are Utopian parents horrified by the little dictators that they have spawned, they find that they themselves have horrible anti-Utopian cravings to put their children above all the others. The maternal bond and the need for privacy also seem to be pan-cultural. Children brought up communally suffer neglect, as other adults find ways of refusing to care for children that are not their own. The lack of childcare and of constancy in who is “mother and father” leads to kids not being taken care of at all, falling between the cracks, leading to abuse and damaged children. People care a lot more for their own kids than they do for other kids as an obligation. One frequently hears Utopians complaining that someone else’s children are ruining everything.

    As for mothers — we discovered after the 1970s that “free love” communes turn into coercive systems in which women are forced to sleep with men they don’t want to. They also lead to male dominated harems. John Humphrey Noyes, the father of “perfectionism” and “complex marriage” fathered 58 children in his commune in the 1850s. Another Utopian collective in Holland was so radical that it’s male leader removed the age of consent and slept with his own daughters and those of other parents. While, the Friedrich’s Hoff Commune, led by Viennese performance art guru, Otto Muehl, collapsed with Muehl being given a “seven year prison sentence for widespread sexual abuse of minors.” Variations on this sickening story have been repeated with convicted sex offender and cult leader William Kamm and Warren Jeffs with his “50 brides.” When a charismatic leader takes control and demands that others de-condition themselves, exploitation is tolerated and then becomes the norm. All of this is done, with the coercive Utopian alibi that all capitalist and patriarchal behaviors and boundaries must be swept away. Auroville, which attempts to be government-free, and money-free, has been plagued with growing reports of the crimes of Sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and murder.

    No matter how much Utopian communities try to get rid of the idea of sexual ownership — the female desire to chose a mate may be a constant for our species. It does however ensure the continuation of competitive behaviors, which leads us once again to hierarchies. To get rid of this, female choice would have to be stopped, a process that we associate with cultures that are oppressive.

    The Shakers who were celibate and only adopted children became extinct after their adopted children refused to adopt the rules of Shakerism. The Harmony Society died out because it refused to reproduce. And the experiment in Fourierirsm known as Brook Farm ended after with many child related problems, one of which being when the children refused to be placed at the bottom of the Fourierist redistribution hierarchy and were forced to clean the toilets.

    So many intentional communities create trouble for themselves by trying to replace the nuclear and extended family structure with other forms of mating and child rearing, only to find that mothers and children simply want to leave.

    Intentions Are Not Enough

    One of the great mistakes we make in interpersonal behavior, is to judge people by their intentions and not by the real outcome of those intentions. To let them off with saying “we meant well.” The same is true for wider society and the many and repeated failures of applying Utopian ideas to reality are nearly always excused by the same means — people say “but we meant well” or “it’s still a good idea, it just hasn’t worked in practice yet.”

    It could be that the greatest failing of intentional communities is contained within this very formulation. A community that is based upon declaring intentions is apt to be fearful of outcomes that would disprove those good intentions and invalidate them. So, the burying of facts about failure (moral, practical, political) would appear to be one of the secret tasks of those who live by intentions alone, who, rather than trying to address problems as they arise would rather bury the results, hide the outcomes and continue as if good intentions were all that was required. It is precisely this denial of outcomes that leads intentional communities to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Good intentions are clearly not enough but we shall undoubtedly continue to witness the communities of those who live by the constant re-affirmation of good intentions alone, continuing to fail and to bury the evidence of their failure in order to “keep on believing.” A result of this is that intentional communities will not learn from their mistakes, and will keep on springing up, not as a force that will gather momentum or lead to progress as we move through history, but as a ceaseless eruption of the same good intentions beset by the same systemic problems and doomed by internal contradictions to fail, all over again.
    https://areomagazine.com/2018/03/08/why-utopian-communities-fail
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  3. Where the extraordinary economic, ecological and geopolitical challenges of our time would call for a battle of ideas and for competing world views, the electoral debate is solidly buried in the sands of insignificance. The sad truth is that China's long-term planning increasingly appears as a captivating alternative to Europe's petty bickering.

    The outcome of this political abdication is a contradictory mix of apathy and extremism.

    As the Irish poet W. B. Yeats sung in 1919, these appear to be times when:

    "The best lack all conviction, while the worst

    Are full of passionate intensity"

    Apathy and extremism are the bitter fruits of a failing economy and a political system that has renounced any vision or passion for the future. Ultimately, Italian elections will mean almost nothing. And this is precisely the problem.
    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opin...ropean-democracy-180216185914053.html
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2018-02-20)
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  4. Highlighting the U.S.’s long history in meddling in other countries’ elections is not “whataboutism,” but rather a highly germane point to understanding the context for the allegations of Russian meddling in Election 2016, Caitlin Johnstone observes.

    By Caitlin Johnstone

    There is still no clear proof that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 U.S. election in any meaningful way. Which is weird, because Russia and every other country on earth would be perfectly justified in doing so.

    Former CIA Director James Woolsey admitting on national television that the United States routinely meddles in other countries’ elections.

    Like every single hotly publicized Russiagate “bombshell” that has broken since this nonsense began, Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian social media trolls was paraded around as proof of something hugely significant (an “act of war” in this case), but on closer examination turns out to be empty.

    The always excellent Moon of Alabama recently made a solid argument that has also been advanced by Russiagate skeptics like TYT’s Michael Tracey and Max Blumenthal of The Real News, pointing out that there is in fact no evidence that the troll farming operation was an attempt to manipulate the U.S. election, nor indeed that it had any ties to the Russian government at all, nor indeed that it was anything other than a crafty Russian civilian’s money making scheme.
    https://consortiumnews.com/2018/02/20...y-other-countries-retaliating-in-kind
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  5. The key to democracy is not in the winning and taking power, it is in the counting, the losing, and the acceptance of that result. At the moment the way electronic voting is attempting to solve these problems means it is becoming less and less understandable for the general population, making the outcome of an election more and more disputable.
    https://scotland.openrightsgroup.org/...ource=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
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  6. When Facebook first came to Cambodia, many hoped it would help to usher in a new period of free speech, amplifying voices that countered the narrative of the government-friendly traditional press. Instead, the opposite has happened. Prime Minister Hun Sen is now using the platform to promote his message while jailing his critics, and his staff is doing its best to exploit Facebook’s own rules to shut down criticism — all through a direct relationship with the company’s staff.

    In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen has held power since 1998, a reign characterized by systematic looting, political patronage and violent suppression of human rights; when opposition parties used Facebook to organize a strong showing in the 2013 elections, Hun Sen turned to the tool to consolidate his slipping hold on power.

    In this he was greatly aided by Fresh News, a Facebook-based political tabloid that is analogous to far-right partisan US news sources like Breitbart; which acted as a literal stenographer for Sen, transcribing his remarks in "scoops" that vilify opposition figures and dissidents without evidence. Sen and Fresh News successfully forced an opposition leader into exile in France, and mined Facebook for the identities of political opponents, who were targeted for raids and arrests.

    The Cambodian government has cultivated a deep expertise in Facebook's baroque acceptable conduct rules, and they use this expertise to paint opposition speech as in violation of Facebook's policies, using the company's anti-abuse systems to purge their rivals from the platform.

    Offline, the government has targeted the independent press with raids and arrests, shutting down most of the media it does not control, making Facebook -- where the government is able to silence people with its rules-lawyering -- the only place for independent analysis and criticism of the state.

    Then, last October, Facebook used Cambodia in an experiment to de-emphasize news sources in peoples' feeds -- a change it will now roll out worldwide -- and hid those remaining independent reporters from the nation's view.

    Opposition figures have worked with independent researchers to show that the government is buying Facebook likes from clickfarms in the Philippines and India, racking up thousands of likes for Khmer-language posts in territories where Khmer isn't spoken. They reported these abuses to Facebook, hoping to get government posts downranked, but Facebook executives gave them the runaround or refused to talk to them. No action was taken on these violations of Facebook's rules.

    Among other things, the situation in Cambodia is a cautionary tale on the risks of "anti-abuse" policies, which are often disproportionately useful to trolls who devote long hours and careful study to staying on the right side of the lines that companies draw up, and scour systems for people they taunt into violations of these rules, getting the platforms to terminate them.

    When ordinary Facebook users find a post objectionable, they click a link on the post to report it. Then a Facebook employee judges whether it violates the platform’s rules and should be taken down. In practice, it’s a clunky process that involves no direct communication or chance for appeal, and the decisions made by Facebook can seem mysterious and arbitrary.

    But for the Cambodian government, that process has been streamlined by Facebook.

    Duong said every couple of months, his team would email an employee they work with at Facebook to request a set of accounts be taken down, either based on language they used or because their accounts did not appear to be registered to their real names, a practice Facebook’s rules forbid. Facebook often complies, he said.

    Clare Wareing, a spokesperson for Facebook, said the company removes “credible threats, hate speech, and impersonation profiles when we’re made aware of them.” Facebook says it only takes down material that violates its policies.
    https://www.buzzfeed.com/meghara/face...racy?utm_term=.or3XYz3wNX#.wpJgoz5Lvg
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  7. Here’s how this golden age of speech actually works: In the 21st century, the capacity to spread ideas and reach an audience is no longer limited by access to expensive, centralized broadcasting infrastructure. It’s limited instead by one’s ability to garner and distribute attention. And right now, the flow of the world’s attention is structured, to a vast and overwhelming degree, by just a few digital platforms: Facebook, Google (which owns YouTube), and, to a lesser extent, Twitter.

    These companies—which love to hold themselves up as monuments of free expression—have attained a scale unlike anything the world has ever seen; they’ve come to dominate media


    Not to put too fine a point on it, but all of this invalidates much of what we think about free speech—conceptually, legally, and ethically.

    The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself.

    What’s more, all this online speech is no longer public in any traditional sense. Sure, Facebook and Twitter sometimes feel like places where masses of people experience things together simultaneously. But in reality, posts are targeted and delivered privately, screen by screen by screen.
    https://www.wired.com/story/free-speech-issue-tech-turmoil-new-censorship
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  8. every idea that’s referenced utilizes the concept of voting.

    If we’re coming up with wild ideas for social coordination, voting seems like an awfully familiar solution. Let’s start with a blank sheet of paper…

    What does a governance system look like that doesn’t require voting at all?

    voting wasn't designed for scale
    https://medium.com/@nayafia/the-problem-with-voting-8cff39f771e8
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  9. In a largely automated platform like Facebook, what matters most is not the political beliefs of the employees but the structures, algorithms and incentives they set up, as well as what oversight, if any, they employ to guard against deception, misinformation and illegitimate meddling. And the unfortunate truth is that by design, business model and algorithm, Facebook has made it easy for it to be weaponized to spread misinformation and fraudulent content. Sadly, this business model is also lucrative, especially during elections. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, called the 2016 election “a big deal in terms of ad spend” for the company, and it was. No wonder there has been increasing scrutiny of the platform.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/29/opinion/mark-zuckerberg-facebook.html
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  10. Though Facebook will occasionally talk about the transparency of governments and corporations, what it really wants to advance is the transparency of individuals – or what it has called, at various moments, “radical transparency” or “ultimate transparency”. The theory holds that the sunshine of sharing our intimate details will disinfect the moral mess of our lives. With the looming threat that our embarrassing information will be broadcast, we’ll behave better. And perhaps the ubiquity of incriminating photos and damning revelations will prod us to become more tolerant of one another’s sins. “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” Zuckerberg has said. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

    The point is that Facebook has a strong, paternalistic view on what’s best for you, and it’s trying to transport you there. “To get people to this point where there’s more openness – that’s a big challenge. But I think we’ll do it,” Zuckerberg has said. He has reason to believe that he will achieve that goal. With its size, Facebook has amassed outsized powers. “In a lot of ways Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,” Zuckerberg has said. “We have this large community of people, and more than other technology companies we’re really setting policies.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...oks-war-on-free-will?CMP=share_btn_tw
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