23 February 2015

            Weird Oscar: 
  It's the Voting System!








It was a weird and highly controversial Oscar to the best picture this year: Birdman, a technical exercise telling a surrealistic story without emotion, beat Boyhood, which is unique and exactly the opposite.
The explanation, once again, is in the voting system!

For many decades the Oscars were voted by simple plurality rule, which was just a lottery and deprived Chaplin’s or Hitchcock’s pictures, for instance, from winning the Oscar. After a number of blatant disappointments with the winners, the Academy of Motion Pictures changed the voting rules for the Best Picture award a few years ago. Up to ten movies could be nominated in order to increase variety. Then, the members of the Academy vote among the nominees by “plurality or preferential system”, as it is kind of confusedly called in the Oscar rules.

The consequence is that movies that are not the first preference of many people have taken advantage. I've found this very good explanation of this year's result, written anonymously by somebody else in Vox.com, which I copy with minor editing. The numbers of votes are imaginary (because the Academy kept them secret), but highly plausible.

From Vox CLICK
(slightly edited by this Blog)
In Best Picture, with its 5 to 10 choices, Academy members are asked to rank as many nominees as they want to. [See above the ballot with ranks for “first choice”, “second choice”, and so on]. The accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers who count the ballots then use the instant-runoff method [single-transferable vote, in electoral studies vocabulary]. One film must eventually receive 50 percent of the [first-place] vote plus one. That means that if all 6,124 Academy members vote, the winner of Best Picture will receive at least 3,063 [first-placevotes.
If no film has 3,063 [first-placevotes or more, then the film with the fewest votes is removed from the running. The second-place choices on those ballots are instead counted as first-place votes. And then the lowest film is dropped, and this goes on until one film receives 3,063 votes.
Let's take a look at how this would work (and assume that all Academy members voted, for simplicity's sake):

Round 1: Boyhood, 2,000 [first-placevotes; Birdman, 1,600 votes; The Imitation Game, 1,000 votes; The Theory of Everything, 600 votes; The Grand Budapest Hotel, 300 votes; Whiplash, 300 votes; American Sniper, 200; Selma, 124.
Selma is in last place here, so it drops out. Let's imagine every single one of its 124 voters had Grand Budapest in second.
Round 2: Boyhood, 2,000 votes; Birdman, 1,600 votes; The Imitation Game, 1,000 votes; The Theory of Everything, 600 votes; The Grand Budapest Hotel, 424 votes; Whiplash, 300 votes; American Sniper, 200.
Now, American Sniper drops out. Let's imagine its votes are evenly divided between Imitation Game and Theory of Everything (the two films most likely to benefit from garnering lower-place votes on ballots).
Round 3: Boyhood, 2,000 votes; Birdman, 1,600 votes; The Imitation Game, 1,100 votes; The Theory of Everything, 700 votes; The Grand Budapest Hotel, 424 votes; Whiplash, 300 votes.
Out goes Whiplash. We'll toss all 300 of its votes to Imitation Game.
Round 4: Boyhood, 2,000 votes; Birdman, 1,600 votes; The Imitation Game, 1,400 votes; The Theory of Everything, 700 votes; The Grand Budapest Hotel, 424 votes.
[Eventually many votes from voters who preferred discarded movies would be transferred to Birdman, which would overtake Boyhood in the counting and win, even if Birdman had a lower number of first-place votes than Boyhood].
The important thing is that this lengthy, drawn-out process tends to reward films that are in second or third place on many people's ballots, not divisive films that are maybe in first on some and dead last on others'.
And the voting rules also could point to why movies about movies — like Birdman [and The Artist and Argo in previous years]seem to gain unique benefit from the new system. After all, Hollywood tends to look kindly upon itself, and whatever shame may have existed in the past about choosing a movie about movies as your one and only vote is quite likely eased by getting to rank that movie second or third.

COMMENTS

Rob Richie said...

Birdman won with plurality voting rules for Best Director and with RCV for Best Picture. How can you say its success is due to "bland" result from the voting system? And the voting system is not "weird" -- it's of course preferential voting (IRV, RCV), and used widely.

Compare that the truly boring nominations for the Emmys and the fact that the Grammys needs  a special committee to fix  what comes out of Grammy voters.

I suppose non-bland results would be an analogous result to a candidate winning who would never win in a 1-on-1 race. But do you really want that to happen in a movie field that could have as many as 10 choices? Is it "weird" to want Best Picture to be  a more reflective outcome?

We have a blog at OscarVotes123.com. 
Rob 

Rob Richie 
Executive Director, 
FairVote 
Takoma Park, MD


Response from Blog:

At the end, it's about movies: one may prefer more experimental, innovative movies (such as Boyhood) to more "reflective" ones, including movies about movies. 
Voting rules are not equally valid for everything: for politics, consensus, yes indeed; but for arts...?


Hannu Nurmi said..

Dear Josep,
Weird, indeed, but common as Richie points out. Gideon Doron called it 'perverse' already in 1970's. To no avail, it seems.
Best,
Hannu

Hannu Nurmi
University of Turku, Finland


Javier Ruperez said...

Y la irresistible tendencia de premiar historias sobre ellos.
Asi les va: la gente se queda en casa viendo House of Cards.
Y si van al cine lo que les atrae es American Sniper.
E la nave va!
JR
Washington, DC

13 February 2015

Politics in Film

Meanwhile the Oscars arrive next Sunday,
you can review how politics has been addressed,
documented, explained in the history of movies.

Politics in Film: An Anthology 
Key clips of 40 best political films 
making a worldwide political history

1. DICTATORS RULE - 26'
2. FIGHTS FOR FREEDOM - 40'
3. RISE AND DECLINE OF DEMOCRACY - 36'

  http://www.josepcolomer.com/#!film/cos4
The site also contains a few shorts on political subjects and other matters (about 3’ each)

26 January 2015

The new party system in Greece
                             
                                       Click on it for larger size







COMMENTS

Guillem Lopez-Casanovas said...
bravo  Ben vist!
Records  Et veig en forma!
G
Professor of Economics
Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Rein Taagepera said...
This makes it tough for government formation.
I vaguely recall that Greek law requires majority cabinets.
It' hilarious to find Communists on the anti-international side.
Rein

20 January 2015

The Emperor Addresses the Capitol
In the Roman imperial city of Washington, full of temples and monuments to the Caesars of the glorious past, the Emperor-President, with all pomp and ceremony addresses the Senate (and the House). In a moment of patriotic union, the members of Congress unanimously applaud, bow and revere.
From The Washington Post:
“The pomp and scale that surrounds Washington is a skeleton of the past. That’s not meant to refer solely to the architecture, the fake-it-till-you-make-it pretensions of a young country written in marble. It refers to much of the pageantry that we still embrace, beyond modern utility or necessity. It refers, to be direct, to the State of the Union address.
“In 1789, it was perhaps useful to remind the president of the importance of keeping Congress (then numbering fewer than 100 people) up to speed on what was happening in the nation on the whole…. President Woodrow Wilson began the idea of giving those updates in a speech, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt made the State of the Union a spectacle. And once a spectacle is begun in Washington, it’s got inertia.
“We have the speech because it is Tradition, and that Tradition reflects the Importance of the Office. So Obama walks onto the House floor, passing through an effusive crowd of legislators as they imagine themselves making that same walk, and the Great Spectacle of Washington is upheld.”
(January 19, 2015, by Philip Bump)
A moment of Unanimity
Democrat President Obama, Democrat President of the Senate Biden, Republican Speaker of the House Boehner. 

Republican President Bush, Republican President of the Senate Cheney, Democrat Speaker of the House Pelosi.

FURTHER READING:
On the Monarchical Origins of Presidentialism - CLICK

COMMENTS
If you have any influence in such matters, please see what you can do about introducing togas to the spectacle :)
Jennifer Draut
Fairfax, VA, USA

There is, indeed, a continuity from monarchy to the president of the US, as in other presidential government systems as well (France for example), especially the president’s role as the nation’s representative. However, I am not so sure about what you call the “Roman imperial city of Washington, full of temples and monuments to the Caesars of the glorious past”. Many ‘founding fathers' (as well as the so-called Latin American ‘liberators’), when thinking about establishing a new body politic, discussed both 17th and 18th century theorists (Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau etc.) and antique models. In the latter case they normally referred to the Greek and Roman polities or republics, not the Roman empire or Roman emperors. While the original capitol in Rome has both a monarchical and republican tradition, modern capitols, especially in the Americas (EEUU, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico), refer to republics. Jefferson, for instance, insisted placing in the capitol the parliament, not the president. Something similar is true, by the way, for obeliscs, which have monarchical references and can be somewhat tricky symbols: the obelisc of Buenos Aires is on the ‘Plaza de la República’!
Christian Hausser
Universidad de Talca, Chile

08 January 2015

Pour Wolinski et les autres...


Georges Wolinski's self-portrait 
when he was awarded the Legion d'Honneur


COMMENTS

Jp Ma, Li dedicaré un breu enregistrament al gran Wolinski a la ràdio. Amb els assassinats de Charlie Hebdo cal pensar que hi manca una teoria de jocs... bruts. Maquiavel ja va començar-la.
Salvador
Barcelona

I like your most recent blog post. I hadn't seen Wolinski's self-portrait before...it is charming.
Jennifer
Washington, DC

muy buen blog!
q pena lo q ha pasado
Pedro Gete
Washington, DC

23 December 2014

Maurice Duverger
1917-2014
One of the very first books in political science that I read, when I was college student, was Maurice Duverger’s Institutions politiques et droit constitutionnel (Presses Universitaires de France-PUF, 1970), although the book, in French, was not in any course recommendation list. With that book I discovered and was very impressed about the possibility to analyze the political systems of different countries by classifying and comparing their institutions in what looked like something very close to what a social science should be. About thirty years later I published a book which was intended to be titled Political Institutions and Social Choice, in homage to Duverger and also to mark the different influences in political studies from law and from economics at different periods (although the title was slightly ‘edited’ by the publisher); Duverger was one of the most cited authors in the book (together with Lijphart, Linz and Riker): CLICK
     I first met Duverger in person in 1988 when he was invited to give the inaugural lecture of the academic year at the Political Science program (directed by Josep M. Valles) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, where I was teaching. To celebrate the occasion, I published an article in the local newspaper, Diari de Barcelona, with the title “Founding Father of Political Science”, next to the announcement of the event, which he waved at the beginning of his lecture. I met him again when I was a visiting professor at the Institute d’Etudes Politiques, aka SciencesPo, in Paris, some years later, in 1996. Duverger was doubtless the most worldwide famous and influential French political scientist, but he had never been well accommodated to SciencesPo’s people and was working in a small research institute more or less custom-made for him. Then he discovered to me two books edited by him on the basis of previously organized conferences with outstanding selections of historians and political scientists, again in French and never translated, which would also be extremely influential in my work: Les régimes semi-présidentiels (PUF 1986), which placed the French case in a broad comparative perspective, and Le Concept d’Empire (PUF 1980), on a largely overlooked subject which became the first reference cited in my booklet Great Empires, Small Nations: CLICK.
    Finally, I dared to write an article with the subtitle ”Duverger’s Laws Upside Down”, where I held that it’s the parties that choose electoral systems rather than the other way around: CLICKFrom the very first paragraph of the article I mentioned, however, that this line of causality makes sense precisely because, according to Duverger’s laws, the electoral systems have strong influence on the configuration of party systems, and it’s on this basis that party leaders and other politicians can anticipate the consequences of their choices of institutional rules. I also observed that Duverger has noticed this double line of interaction, although briefly, as when he mentioned that “the first effect of proportionality is to maintain an already existing multiplicity”. This was hinted at not only in the chapter of his book Political Parties, which has been the basic Duverger’s reference for English-speakers, but especially in his previous article in French, L’influènce des systèmes électoraux sur la vie politique (Cahiers de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 16, Paris: Armand Colin, 1950), which contains a very rich amount of information, analyses and suggestions (and which I made to translate into Spanish in a selection of “ten basic texts of political science”: CLICK).
   Maurice Duverger was one of the greatest names in 20th century political science, as well as a close “participating observer” in constitutional and political matters in France and in the European Parliament. This video of him talking on TV about the revolt of 1968 shows an example of the latter side of his activity: CLICK


COMMENTS

Some videos with Duverger
Best regards
Annie Laurent

Universite de Lille 2

Vidéos avec Maurice Duverger
• Sur l’élection du Président de la République (1965) CLICK
• Sur le projet de loi anti casseurs(24 avril 1970) CLICK
• Emission d’Apostrophe «Avez-vous le sens de l’Etat». Commentaires de Duverger sur son livre: Lettre aux socialistes (28 mai 1976) CLICK
• A propos de son livre : L’autre côté des choses (4 avril 1977: explication sur son passage à l’extrême droite –Doriot) CLICK
• Sur l’absentéisme  des députés, dénoncé par le FN (12 octobre 1987)  CLICK
• Sur la personnalité de Montesquieu  CLICK



Josep Mª, Ben fet perquè els obituaris de Duverger que surten per aquí fan pemna. De tota manera el popularitzava don Manuel Jiménez de Parga que es pènsava que era molt progre fer.ho. Tambés els comunistes dels anys 60. Bon Nadal. Abraçades, Salvador Giner


21 December 2014

As published in the daily El Pais:
Descend, efficient Europe

"Intervene. O descend as a dove or
a furious papa or a mild engineer, but descend."
W. H. Auden, Spain (1937)

In order to understand the current political instability and uncertainty in several European countries, we should realize that after six or seven years of economic crisis the European Union is stronger and more efficient than ever. The Union has more member-states and more candidates than before; the euro has not only not broken down, against many odds, but has expanded to new countries; the Commission now controls the states’ fiscal policy and takes the initiative to lead investments on infrastructure for growth; the banking union moves forward and the European Central Bank is more active than expected just a couple of years ago; even the common foreign policy is taking steps forward.
    Many reactions against "a closer union", as put by the founding Treaty of Rome, are of traditionalist type, in defense of state powers that have already ceased working. Many citizens of the oldest and most successful large national states, that is, Great Britain and France, seem to retain the pride and memory of historic achievements and support parties that yearn the past, respectively the UK Independence Party and the National Front. At the same time, the southern periphery risks being left behind the increasing continental integration, so in Italy, Greece and Spain many disappointed people resort to protest-parties that blame the euro, the troika and globalization, as Cinque Stelle, Syriza and Podemos. At the same time, in some territories emerge the illusion of separation from large states that have lost power in order to start a new journey, as in Scotland and Catalonia. What all these disparate movements have in common is that they would like to restore state and nation, economic and political sovereignty. Fortunately, thanks to modern means of communication and transport, as well as the European institutions, sovereignties have ceased to exist.
    The great nineteenth century English constitutionalist, Walter Bagehot, analyzed comparable processes during the building of the American Union, namely the United States of America. The states are no longer sovereign –he noted—but they attract the loyalty of the people and are "prerequisites" to run the whole system. They are, as the current European states, "dignified parts" that people still voluntarily obey because they retain "historical and theatrical" elements in their political ceremonies, including parties and elections for recruitment of personnel. But the "efficient" parts, which, in fact, work and rule, are in the nascent Union, which he recognized as "new and unattractive" yet. This also happens in today's Europe, where state democracies support the selection of rulers for the Union, but it’s the latter that makes many relevant decisions and that governs, in part, indirectly through state and local governments. Indeed, as also noted Bagehot, the Union concedes certain subordinate powers to the states, while it takes some ceremonial, dignifying elements for itself, but only as a supplement to the main design. (…)
    Emerging from the crisis requires adopting the efficient model of the European Union also at state level. First of all, state rulers and representatives should share and participate in public policies developed in Brussels and Frankfurt. Second, partisan confrontation should be replaced with super-majority coalition governments, following the example of the Union itself, as well as of Germany and other countries in the heart of the continent, in order to make European consensus policies implemented at state level. This has been the way in Greece, where conservatives and socialists govern together and seek the reinstatement of the country to the European economic dynamics, as well as in Italy, where, after two years of governments of competent and independent experts, the center-left and the center-right also govern together and regain electoral support. Rather than states dignified with traditional rites, the solution is the European model of consensus and efficiency. Although perhaps it is, as the American Union at the time was, still "new and unattractive", the European Union works and rules.
See longer version in Spanish, in El Pais: CLICK

***
The Surrealist Political History of Europe
3' minute video: CLICK on the map:

11 December 2014

The Year 2014

in a 3 minute video
United States gridlock, German Europe, Dual Ukraine, Spain's shipwreck, Bolivarian revolution...

CLICK

Happier New Year!


COMMENTS

Rein Taagepera said...
Fabulous!
Rein
University of California, Irvine

Jack Santucci said...
I enjoyed your 2014 video. Quite wry.
Georgetown

Blanca Heredia said...
Está buenísimo...felicidades!
Cide, Mexico city

Jorge Dezcallar said...
Muy bueno tu video! Me he reído con él, que buena falta nos hace.
Jorge
Ambassador of Spain, Majorca

Angel Gil-Ordonez said...
Increíble!
BRILLIANT!!
♪♪ I want to be in AMERICAAAA...♪♪
Angel
Washington

28 November 2014

How Global Institutions Rule the World
Josep M. Colomer

"In this thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Josep Colomer demonstrates that effective institutions of global governance exist. A single world government is neither possible nor desirable. But it is also unnecessary. Instead, a number of effective institutions already carry out essential functions of world governance. Moreover, in spite of worries about "democratic deficits", those institutions are able to meet the essential requirements of an effective democracy: representation, competence, consensus, and accountability."                                                                         Martin Wolf, Chief Economist, Financial Times
“What is democracy if national governments must bow to specialized global agencies? Colomer superbly demonstrates that we already face faceless dispersed regulation that is even stranger than a unified 'world government' would be. And he offers intriguing insights into what this means for the world's democratic institutions.”                                                                                             Rein Taagepera, research professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine, and recipient of the Johan Skytte Prize.


Preface
Does world government actually exist? 
Are the current global institutions efficient in making decisions? 
Can they be compatible with basic democratic principles?

1.
Introduction: World Government Is Here
The world is governed by global institutions dealing with security, finance, development, trade, communications, environment, crimes against humanity; institutional design is crucial for efficient and democratic global government.


Part i: Who Rules

2.
Network Goods Are Served by Simple Bureaus
Great powers, neutral countries, and small gatherings of scientists and technicians efficiently provide global standards for time, measures, and communication networks.

3.
Unanimity Rule Failed to Make the World More Secure
The League of Nations, by making decisions by unanimity, was a big failure, and the United States could not have done anything about it.

4.
A Great-Powers’ Directorate Has Averted the Third World War
The United Nations, by giving veto power to five great powers, has been able, in spite of many failures, to prevent a new major global conflict and to foster multilateral cooperation.

5.
Weights and Coalitions for Finance and Development
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, by using complex institutional formulas such as weighted votes and qualified majorities, have been able to create policy consensus and adapt to periods of both depression and growth.

6.
Equal Vote Does Not Favor Global Trade
The World Trade Organization, which intends to make decisions on equal vote for every country, has been paralyzed for decades and has not been able to promote any new world trade agreement.

7.
The World’s Self-Appointed Steering Committee
The Group of Eight has established a new world’s directorate that deals with boundless agendas and implements its decisions through states, regional unions, and international organizations.


Part II: How They Rule

8.
Domestic Politics Does not Make Policy
State-based political systems and partisan governments are losing capability to make policy decisions; in many countries, broad multiparty coalitions or nonpartisan, technical experts implement the directives of international organizations.

9.
Global Representation Requires Rotation of Countries
The principle of equal vote for every country is both undemocratic and ineffective, while rotation of countries can induce broad international cooperation.

10.
Effective Decisions Are Made by Means of Weighted Votes
The allocation of weighted votes to different countries 
and the formation of multi-country coalitions
can facilitate decision-making in global councils and boards.

11.
Expert Rulers Replace Politicians and Diplomats
International and global organizations rely on independent bodies of nonelected experts to make decisions on major issues; many officials are recruited with criteria of political independence, technical expertise, and honest behavior.

12.
Policy Consensus Is Built with More Ideas Than Votes
Global institutions make policy by consensual knowledge, by nonobjection compromises, and by ascertaining the sense of the meeting, rather than by voting.

13.
Nonelectoral Accountability Is Based on Performance and Values
Heads, high officers, and staff of global institutions are made accountable through transparent information, evaluation of performance, ethic standards, and sanctions.


Conclusion

14. 
Can Global Democracy Exist?
Democracy is a form of government based on social consent; 
it can be operationalized with different institutional formulas, 
including the people’s assembly in small cities, party elections in states, and accountable institutions at the global level.


READ Chapter 1:  CLICK

BUY the book:  CLICK

13 November 2014

Homage to Looks and Brains:
Hedy Lamarr
(1914-2000)
Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr, whose centennial is celebrated these days, was claimed to be “the most beautiful woman in the world”. She starred in more than thirty movies, but she turned down some, including Casablanca and Gaslight, basically because she didn’t read scripts as she was busy with her engineering inventions. The most outstanding one was the frequency-hopped spread spectrum, initially conceived to prevent American torpedoes from being intercepted by the Germans during the Second World War. Her basic idea of randomly changing radio frequencies supports nowadays all wireless communications, including remote controls, global positions systems (gps), cell phones and many other crucial devices. In her natal Austria, as well as in Germany and Switzerland, the birthday on Hedy Lamarr, November 9, is celebrated as the Inventor’s Day.

Among her best comedies:
·   H.M. Pulham, Esq. (by King Vidor)
·   Come Live with Me (with James Stewart)
·   Dishonored Lady (probably her best).

And with political intrigue:
·   Algiers (an inspiration for Casablanca, with Charles Boyer)
·   The Conspirators (a replica of Casablanca, with supporting actor Paul Heinreid as main star)
·   Comrade X (about spies in the Soviet Union, with Clark Gable).

Watch 4' video about her life voyage: 
CLICK:

COMMENTS

Bernard Grofman said...
Josep, Thanks for the Hedy Lamarr tribute. She certainly deserves it, and I will see if I can find one of her classics to watch online. 
Hope all is well with you. 
Bernie
University of California, Irvine

Salvador Giner said...
Please send Miss Hedy Lamarr to me as a PhD candidate. Most welcome. 
For more info, watch Blazing Saddles, the immortal movie.
SG
Barcelona