How Eurovision Voting correlates to Geopolitics: Case of Poland and Israel

Analysis of Eurovision 2016 data shows how Jury voting by country often mirrors their country’s establishment political positions and how the divergence in the Televoting mirrors the growing divide between the establishment and population in these countries.

June 3, 2016

Introduction

In Analysis and Initial Conclusion from the Eurovision 2016 Voting for Russia and Ukraine” it was shown how despite Russia comfortably winning the overall Televote (popular vote) in Eurovision 2016,  Jury (Establishment Elites) Bloc voting by an anti-Russian coalition of 17 of the 42 countries, giving zero points to Russia while 132 to Ukraine meant that the latter came out ahead in the sum of the two (Jury + Televotes).

A further point was made that the popular voting in these same 17 countries actually gave a slight edge to Russia (149-148).  In particular the popular votes among many countries was in contrast to how the estbalishment from the same countries voted.

Summary tables of the overall rankings and the Ukraine vs Russia voting by country split by Jury and Televotes are given below.

Voting patterns for Russia vs Ukraine (Yellow is more to Ukraine; Blue is more to Russia)

The Case of Poland and Israel

While the Ukrainian victory over Russia was wildly celebrated in the Western establishment by (among other apparent music afficianados), NATO, a look at the voting patterns for two other countries, Poland and Israel, illustrates the same points as above: how Jury voting in Eurovision mirrors the political view of their respective Establshments and how different they are from the popular vote.

Here’s a summary table.


As one can see, Poland got a total of only 7 (!) points from juries of all 42 countries (placing it 25th out of 26 finalists) while racking up 222 points in popular voting (3rd out of 26).

Israel on the the other hand got 122 votes from Juries (8th overall) while only 11 in popular voting (22nd overall).

Analysis

The new Polish Government is more right-wing than its precedessors and in addition to ramping up its anti-Russian rhetoric – which is of course welcome by the EU elites – it has ALSO been hostile to the EU’s pan-European agenda, taking on a more anti-EU, nationalist tone.  The EU bureacracy has retaliated not just with the usual harsh rhetoric about “threat to freedoms” but has taken an unprecented step of warning Poland that it could be stripped of voting rights within the EU

Thus Poland’s new Government has few friends among the EU elites while of course continuing to alienate the Russians.  The result is that though the Polish entry was overall quite popular among the people, who perhaps were listening more to the music than thinking about sending a message, Poland was shut out in the establisment voting on all sides.

The reverse can be seen in the case of Israel.  By and large,  Israel is unpopular among the European populace either because of its policies towards the Palestinians or a latent anti-semitism.  Or perhaps the music was just bad.  In either case the Israeli entry hardly got any popular votes.

But the EU elites of course are by and large staunch defenders of Israel which is reflected in the voting.

The stark contrast between the voting of the German elites versus its population is once again interesting to note given the growing internal turmoil in Germany between its establishment and population.  In the case of Russia, the German jury gave 0 to Russia and the second highest score (10) to Ukraine while the German televoters gave the maximum (12) to Russia.  In the case of Israel, the German jury gave its maximum (12) to Israel while its population gave 0.

Conclusion

The Eurovision is a kitchy, cultural affair with little relevance to actual good music.  However it serves as an unintended glimpse into both how political preferences of the elites from different countries is reflected in their voting; and also how divergent they often are from how the televoting public which mirrors the disenchantement of the public from ther leaders in many of these countries.

 

 

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Jason Calacanis’s Contradictory Views on Aggressive Journalism

May 27, 2016

Jason Calacanis, a well-known Silicon Valley enterpreneur and blogger, in a very frank, lengthy and informative interview on January 28, 2016 with Wall Steet Journal investigative reporter John Carreyrou who broke the story about flaws in Theranos technology and operations, commends the latter stating near the tail end of the interview (starting 1:26:32 – transcript by ear below with emphasis added)

I don’t think with you or your tenacity to stay on this story any of the journalists here in Silicon Valley who I can tell you are bought and sold [..] Lot of them won’t take on these big projects. It has to come from New York journalists. It has to come from the East Coast because the East Coast people don’t have a horse in the race.   They don’t have friendships to maintain, they don’t have spouses or cousins or brothers or friends or people they go on vacation with on private jets and go to you know islands. You know these journalists are very tied into the ecosystem here. And they are bought and sold largely. They don’t want to risk somebody not giving a keynote at their conference.  They don’t want to risk knocking over the apple cart.   I know this because, listen, I am a Brooklyn kid who lives here and I can tell you,  I feel the pressure. Like when I wrote bad stuff about Zuckerberg and Facebook and how they were screwing with people’s privacy, just in my blog, and like how I thought it was ridiculous and bad.  You know I had people try to, somebody try to literally scuttle my career and told me essentially  ‘You’ll never work in this town again. Stop beating up Zuckerberg.’   That’s the kind of pressure journalists out here are under. They are not really journalists.  They are more like content creating PR extensions in this town. The East Coast, you know, the bulldogs, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, 60 Minutes, Frontline, Propublica – like you need to have this aggressive East Coast, Northeast approach to taking on these giants.  Because it’s not going to happen here.  And I applaud you for doing this. I think it’s tremendous the work you’re doing. [..] I know you’re doing it not for the money because let’s face it you’re making a fraction of what you would get paid working on the PR. Put it this way, the PR person is literally making 5 times what you make.  And David Boeis is making 500 times as much as you make defending the other side of this. And so people who are attacking you about this I think are pointing the target at the wrong place.

So after this brave and revealing commentary, it’s astonishing for Calacalis now to be celebrating Gawker‘s plight on being found liable for $140m for invasion of privacy, with individual journalists also being targeted in lawsuits funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel – who acknowledged a 10-year long plan to target and bankrupt Gawker’s for their irreverent attitude to him and his friends in Silicon Valley, an attitide as Calacanis makes clear above, they are used to from the compliant press back in the Valley.

As Nick Denton, the founder and proprietor of Gawker, in a open letter to Peter Thiel makes the same point as he lists the many investigative reports that Gawker, a “small New York media company” put out, while acknowledging they “overstepped the line” a few times “into snark” among the millions of posts, to offset the “fawning coverage of tech luminaries”.  The kind of fawning coverage that led to Elizabeth Holmes to be valued $4.5 billion and being written as the next-Steve Jobs without putting out a single product in public.

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How Maxim Trudolyubov Lets Ideology Trump Facts

A look at how an supposed Editor and researcher gets basic facts wrong in his frantic desire to smear Russians on the pages of the New York Times.

May 27, 2016

Introduction

Maxim Trudolyubov is an editor-at-large for the Russian business daily Vedemosti, and more importantly for the Western establishment, a part of the small rabid anti-Kremlin community who dreams of Russia taking its rightful place of becoming THE key client-state of the US Government as many of the European countries are.

His latest is “The Sore Losers of Russia” published in the New York Times whose only questions for its op-Ed are “Piece Against Russia? How many inches do you want?”

He leads with the Eurovision 2016 contest and starts with 

Actually the FACTS are these: 

1. The result was determined by the SUM of the Televoting by the various countries AND the points from the Jury from those countries.  So Trudolyubov basically gets this fact wrong.

2. Regarding “The Audiences were sending a message to Russia [by voting against it]“:   Perhaps there were many who voted against Russia because they believed – thanks to their media’s propaganda – that the Crimean people were taken kicking and screaming against their wishes into the deep, dark, cold embrace of the Russians (as opposed to the FACT that an overwhelming number of Crimeans have always wanted to be, voted in the referendum, and as Western polls show still are, for union with Russia.  See here and here). 

But here’s the actual FACT: Russia won the popular vote via Televoting.

So how did they lose the overall?  Well a Jury – a proxy for the elites – from 17 countries where anti-Russia propaganda is the shrillest – Bloc voted to give zero points to Russia and 132 points to Ukraine (6 gave the maximum 12).  The Televoting from the same 17 was 149-148 for Russia vs Ukraine.

A summary of the voting between Ukraine and Russia is below.  The details are laid out in “Analysis and Initial Conclusion from the Eurovision 2016 Voting for Russia and Ukraine“.

Voting patterns for Russia vs Ukraine (Yellow is more to Ukraine; Blue is more to Russia)


Why Does This Matter?

Evidently to Trudolyubov, who leads with the Eurovision farce, the Russian reaction to Eurovision is symptomatic of the larger whole.

And indeed it is.  Whereas for him, the twisted “facts” he believes are true display how Russians don’t like losing and see enemies everywhere, the reality of the actual facts show clearly 

(a) the agenda of the European elites who bloc voted to deny Russia any points and;

(b) the defiance of the televoters from these countries who collectively –  despite many of them no doubt voting against Russia because of what they heard from their media –  STILL managed to vote Russia the winner.  In Germany where the elites voted 10 (second highest) to Ukraine and 0 to Russia, the televoters voted 12 (maximum) to Russia and 6 to Ukraine.

So the FACTS that the Eurovision broke its own rules about not having political songs which Ukraine’s entry by the signer’s own admission post-victory clearly was; stated a victory for Russia would be disastrous; placed Ukraine’s entry in a more favorable time slot; had the elites Bloc vote against Russia; and then having achieved a Ukrainian victory gleefully crowing about it with NATO (!) doing a profile of the winner, is all evidence of something alright.

It is indeed evidence of the absolute desire to deny Russia victory by any means even in a stupid kitschy competition like the Eurovision.   This is not to humiliate the Kremlin – who did not comment – but the Russian people for whom Eurovision mattered, and who were indeed outraged.

What’s interesting is that for those of Trudolyubov’s ilk, all the above actual FACTS – all of which he either got totally wrong or conveniently omitted – are evidence of the “paranoia” of the Kremlin and Russians.

Meanwhile a few days ago Putin – who is a known hockey fan – attended the Hockey World Championship final in Moscow between Canada and Finland, two countries from the Western Bloc.  He did not attend the semifinals where Russia beat the United States 7-2.

In the final, Canada beat Finland 2-0 and Putin came down to the ice, heartily congratulated Canada (whose leadership has been strongly anti-Russia) and Finland and had this to say among other comments.


Yeah, what a sore loser!

Conclusion 

Trudolyubov used the Russian reaction to Eurovision as lead-in to his “evidence” of Russian’s being “sore losers” even though the “facts” he uses to come to such a conclusion are wrong and the real facts show Russians had much reason to be aggrieved.

Given Trudolyubov has proved ignorant of the facts and basic researching abilities, the question should be asked as to how he achieved seemingly exalted postions as an Editor and Fellow of the Wilson Institute.

Or perhaps facts, researching abilities are not the chief qualities looked for.  It certainly is not to get to write in the New York Times op-ed section against Russia.

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The Thiel/Gawker Saga Highlights Role of Money in Legal System

What Billionaire Thiel’s bankrolling of $10m to try and bring down Gawker in a case he was not involved in says about the legal system.

May 26, 2016

Introduction

The revelation that the lawsuit pursued by Terry Bollea aka Hulk Hogan against Gawker for invasion of privacy – for which Bollea won a staggering $140 million dollar judgement –  was funded behind the scenes by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, based on his own conviction that Gawker deserved to be put out of business, has generated a lot of commentary.

It appears from first glance, that many of the Silicon Valley enterprenuerial class (see for example Marc Andeersen’s Tweet)  who have suffered from Gawker‘s irreverent – and according to them scurrilous – takedowns have reacted with approval and delight at Gawker‘s plight.

On the other side have been staunch free-speech advocates like lawyer-turned-journalist Glenn Greenwald (despite himself being employed by an outlet funded by a Silicon Valley Billionaire) as well as many in the liberal media who are troubled by the slippery slope implications of such “litigation finance” against media outlets.

This commentary is however about a bigger point, viz. the role of money in buying “Justice”, a theme only referred to in passing in the New York Times article about Thiel’s involvement in various suits against organizations that he believes are detrimental to society:


Rich and Powerful Can Buy “Justice”

The free-speech debate has overshadowed the deeper issue as to why Peter Thiel’s deep pockets were needed by Bollea to win the award.  Thiel himself said:


So there is the casual acceptance of the reality of the American Legal System: that serious “resources” that not even “mere” multi-millionaires like Bollea can afford, are needed to buy – what Thiel and others who despise Gawker would call –  “Justice”.

What this has confirmed to all but the most naive is that just as in politics and healthcare, in the legal system the rich and powerful have access to the best resources to influence the outcome in their favor.

It has long been known that the legal system is biased against the poor, but the Gawker case reinforces the fact that the rich and powerful can utilize the legal system not only to escape serious penalties versus those with less power,  but also to coerce and stifle what they regard as poisons in building a better society.  This desire to socially engineer humanity to their liking is a pattern of thinking that informs the behavior of billionaires across the establishment political spectrum from George Soros to the Koch Brothers.

Conclusion

Peter Thiel’s use of his deep pockets to try and bring down Gawker, shows that the Rule-of-Law – which supposedly is a foundational element of why the US is superior to other countries – is more like other countries the US criticizes,  where the influence of the powerful on the legal system is just more easily observable.

 

 

 

 

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Theranos: When Start-Up Hyperbole crosses over to the Big Lie

How the typical Silicon Valley start-up hyperbole necessary to secure various rounds of funding morphed into an operation to keep the illusion going just a bit longer till reality finally caught up to it.

May 19, 2016

Introduction

In a bombshell article today by the relentless John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal, revealing “Theranos Voids Two Years of Edison Blood-Test Results”  gave a fuller picture of what was happening with Theranos than it’s own muted press release of March 31, 2015 vaguely stating the following. 

Carreyrou was the investigative journalist who first revealed to a wide audience substantiated doubts about the accuracy, reliability and usability of Theranos’ ultra-secretive proprietary technology – code named Edison – that was being touted as a key to “revolutionize” blood testing by being able to analyze hundreds of tests from a single drop of blood. 

This was done in a series of articles from October 15, 2015 after a nearly 10 months long investigation. (Kevin Loria writing for Business Insider on April 25, 2015 cited scientists who expressed doubts about Theranos’s claims but did not have the kind of access to insiders as Carreyrou did.)

Theranos’ same day response to Carreyrou was, especially in retrospect, very revealing.  

Instead of clarifying the report, Theranos and CEO/Founder Elizabeth Holmes launched a full on attack on Carreyrou in their response (still on-line as of date), CNBC appearance on October 16th and a Wall Street Journal Tech conference on October 21st doubling down on calling his work false and the insiders who spoke “very confused”.

This defiance continued in spite of further revelations from Carreyrou and others who picked up the story, all through the end of 2015, only stopping when news that the FDA, CMS and even the SEC was looking into Theranos.   Holmes, a prolific tweeter till then, made her last Tweet and “like” on December 17th.  

Theranos was actually aware of Carreyrou’s investigation.  As revealed earlier this month, a year ago in May 2015, Theranos sent a team of lawyers over to the Wall Street Journal offices in New York headed by a most feared litigator, David Boies – who controversially serves both as counsel to Theranos and as a Director, which some argue sets up a conflict of loyalties  – to essentially threaten the paper and journalist into silence.  (Indeed this tactic might have worked to mute some of the deeper questions, for example, as to why a key scientist at Theranos, Ian Gibbons, who had worked for 8 years on the core technology killed himself in 2013 while telling his wife despondently that “Nothing was working”, a point simply mentioned in Carreyrou’s original article without any commentary as to the linkage between his work and his suicide.)

So in May 2015, Theranos legally threatens the Wall Street Journal to no avail.  In June, it stops Edison testing (voluntarily it said later).  Between June and October 15, Holmes was feted both in a series of PR articles as well as in conferences in which she continued talking about the technology.  She met Biden, Clinton and other luminaries and carried on merrily. 

On the Theranos website the last self-congratulatory PR post on October 12, 2015, 3 days before Carreyrou put his first stake through the blood-sucking (or was it suck-at-bloodwork) company, states “Washington Post: This is what I was put on earth to do: Elizabeth Holmes and the importance of passion“.

In hindsight, it was truly astounding that Holmes could have that much bravado. Edison testing had stopped in June and her public denials anything was wrong all through the end of 2015 defies belief.  While the President and COO, Sunny Balwani – a mysterious figure whose photo is never published (Navy SEALS have less anonymity) – was offered up as the fall guy when he “resigned” in a press release on May 11, 2016. (though he’s still listed as COO on Theranos’s site even now), it is inconceivable that Holmes did not know that the various problems.  And what about the Board?  What did they know and when?

One explanation is that the Executive Leadership got caught up, Madoff-like, in the Big Lie.  They might have been hoping that Edison and the lab could get fixed before anyone found out so that they could then claim it was always this way.  Edison had always worked.  So the original lie would not be a lie anymore.

These actions don’t just remind one of how children think when they furiously try to undo a mistake before Mommy and Daddy find out, but the scale and context of it – healthcare and not another stupid tech toy – and the sheer brazeness and foolhardiness of doubling down on the lie even when exposed and threatening those who who exposed it is more akin to sociopathy than standard human guilt response (though given the presence of Henry Kissinger as an advisor on the Board, perhaps understandable.)

The Role of the Media in Propagating the Big Lie

The media played a huge role in hyping up Holmes as the next-Steve Jobs. A damning chronological list of media fawning shows that no media – including the Wall Street Journal who in a September 2013 article by a senior editor, Joseph Rago referred to Holmes as a “Chemical and Electrical Engineer” though she was neither  – escapes blame.

The technology media has come in for some criticism  for building up Theranos without any critical evaluation of its technology.   Roger Parloff of Fortune who was part of the Theranos PR effort hagiographically covering Holmes in a June 2014 article titled “This CEO is out for Blood” and who subsequently, post-Carreyrou penned an article on December 17, 2015 (coincidentally the same day Holmes stopped tweeting), titled “How Theranos Misled Me“, essentially confessing he didn’t have the technical chops to ask the right questions or understand the answers and basically took Holmes at her word.

So the media excuse seems to be “We told our readers the technology was secret, so how could we know it wasn’t as good as Theranos told us it was?”

A clue for the lack of more critical thinking here might be in another famous hagiographical article in the New Yorker in December 2014 by Ken Auletta

In it, Holmes gave the following answer when pressed to explain how Edison worked.

A chemistry is performed so that a chemical reaction occurs and generates a signal from the chemical interaction with the sample, which is translated into a result…

This meaningless statement, that Auletta himself called “comically vague” was apparently one of the reasons why Carreyrou started to look at Theranos a month later.

The statement above is not just “comically vague” but it seems to show the person has no clue as to what they are talking about.  Even if she wanted to be vague she could have talked about “microfluidics” or “lab-on-a-chip” both buzzwords for technologies that must be involved, but her response sounds like something clever a high-school student (the only degree Holmes possesses) would blutter out when stumped for an answer in a chemistry pop quiz.  It’s technically true right?

What’s astounding is that Theranos in an official response to Carreyrou’s continued hammer blows about the unproven nature and doubts about various aspects of the technology, including the pre-analytics stage did not do much better:


Oh that’s it!  Wow -surely the scientific community will be convinced now. And so pithy and universally acceptable.  

Here’s a basic pitch:

 “I am making a teleporting device.  It works like this.

Step 1. Go into the Podtainer(TM). 

Step 2. Set the location 

Step 3. Teleport.   

Transport made Simple (TM).  Now fund me $700 million.” 

See?  Even simpler than the instructions in this Monty Python sketch on easy ways to rid the world of all known diseases and also, learn to play the flute.

The same New Yorker article has two very revealing anecdotes.  One is from her former Stanford University professor Channing Robertson – and later Theranos Director and employee  – who spoke elsewhere of teaching her like “teaching Beethoven music or Einstein science.” (For this incredibly ignorant hyperbole from a famed Professor Emeritus, Roberston – who should know better – deserves to be paraded around in a Game-of-Thrones-like-shaming). He talks about how when Holmes told him that she was going to intern in Singapore’s Genome Institute and he said she would need to know Mandarin, and she said she knew it, he was blown away.

A couple of questions come to mind: one is why knowing Mandarin should be regarded as a hallmark of genius? While not easy for English speakers to learn, to make Mandarin expertise out to be some sort of awe inspiring knock-myself-on-the-head-with-a-mallet feat like composing one of the most famous Western symphonies in existence when essentially deaf (Beethoven) or upending the world of Physics multiple times in a single year and human understanding of the Universe as an encore (Einstein) seems not just ridiculous, but a bit colonial.

The more interesting question though is why a research institution in Singapore which should be well known as a destination where English is freely spoken and is the lingua franca of academia, require Mandarin? A simple click shows a web page for the Genome Institute only available in English. And a call to the Institute shows that what’s needed is English proficiency.

And then there is a tale told by her father about how Holmes was accepted on the spot into the Mandarin college summer program at Stanford while still in high school, and thus apparently not eligible, by wowing the admission officer while on the phone.

Well yeah call the Stanford program.  High school students perfectly eligible to apply.

What’s fascinating here is not the triviality of these clearly tall tales – why is Mandarin proficiency relevant? – but that despite them being so trivial, they were highlighted as evidence of genius. And if that was not pathetic enough, they seem to have been what can kindly be called exaggerations to begin with. And yet not only did reporters not follow up with these fairly easily verifiable, non-technical claims, they repeated it in print as true giving Holmes the confidence that the media would eat anything out of her hands.

So Is Lying Big Necessary for a Successful Start-Up?

We all lie, exaggerate our accomplishments.  When faced with questions about a task with a deadline we will say we are close to finishing when we are not, hoping some coffee and a late night will do the trick or even hoping a deux ex machina event will happen.  It’s part of the human condition.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Marketing, Sales and PR are careers in more polished versions of lying: either making promises that are not yet true – but will be by the time the sale is done: Promise! – or more simply by not revealing the full picture.   Engineers who are sticklers for details usually don’t make good sales people precisely because they like to be precise about things. 

Copyright Scott Adams

In start-ups the pressures that are there even in an established company – with established products and revenue sources – is magnified to crushing levels.   Start-ups are dreams and visions requiring money to be realized.  Founders can see it, taste it, they have the drive, but they need the money.  And more money, just a bit more and we can turn the corner.  In this situation the hyperbole that accompanies any product – witness the much parodied solemn, measured British tones of Apple’s Jony Ives touting how the latest iPhone is the most amazing yet – crosses into a whole new territory.

All things being equal – that is to say the idea seems promising; the market analysis sound etc – the huge edge for a start-up is the investors’ absolute confidence in the founder’s iron self-belief, extreme resilience against adversity and ability to convince others against all odds that their vision can be productized. In Presence, author Amy Cuddy reveals that various real-world tests revealed these as key attributes that investors looked for in deciding whether to fund a start-up.

But at what point does self-belief become megalomania, resilience become delusional and ability to convince become the audacity to Lie Big?

It appears Theranos would be a good case study to explore that question.

Conclusion

Except for Carreyrou who is deservedly likely to add to his 2 Pulitzers, few come out of this looking good. 

1. Theranos appears to have been running a Mickey Mouse operation at its labs – even the ones using industry standard machines are having to correct many reports to avoid being shutdown by the CMS.

2. Holmes either willfully misrepresented the state of the core technology, or was shockingly ignorant of the true state of affairs.  Her attacks on Carreyrou for exposing what she must have known at the time was true, or incompetently unaware was true, was childish at best, criminal at worst. Either way it does not inspire confidence in her as a CEO. In a publicly traded company she’d be long gone.

3. The high powered Washington Insider Board seem to have given advice in the only relevant area they were experts in: when you lie, Lie Big and when they find out, threaten, attack back. And keep shuffling the deck to obfuscate, confuse and buy time. Good governance, medical expertise, not so much.

4. The VCs who funded Theranos; the Walgreen Executive team who approved the deal to offer Theranos testing at their Arizona locations (fired for an unrelated bad decision); the Cleveland Clinic who announced a partnership with them, apparently did little due diligence apart from looking at others who had invested and the big names on the Board.

5. The ENTIRE media including Carreyrou’s paper had indulged in the Holmes lovefest, essentially buying her PR as fact and hyping her as the next coming of Steve Jobs with little research to verify her claims.

6. The Harvard Medical School who made Holmes a Fellow; Pepperdyne who gave her an honorary doctorate; and the increasingly farcical TED talks – see TODD talks from Late Night with John Oliver – all legitimized an unproven high school graduate’s academic credentials.  (The corruption of academia by money is another story by itself).

Finally, one group does come out looking good: scientists and technologists who have been skeptical about Theranos’s claims from the beginning.  Science works best when done openly and collaboratively, with peer reviews and informed debates.  The scientific process cannot be substituted by secrecy about details, hype about the vision, and threats to those who question.

And the Theranos saga is a good opportunity to reinforce that point.

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Analysis and Initial Conclusions from the Eurovision 2016 Voting for Russia and Ukraine

A look at how though Russia was the popular choice overall, 17 Russophobic Establishment Juries Bloc-voted to give Russia 0 (zero!) points while giving 132 to Ukraine in Eurovision 2016 – while people from the same countries were split 149-148 to Russia – simply to deny Russia a victory in overall points (popular plus jury).

May 15, 2016

Background

On May 14, 2016, Ukraine was announced as a winner of the Eurovision 2016 beating Australia to second place and Russia to third.   This pronouncement was greeted with undisguised glee and gloating from Western Governments, Military Organizations, Human Rights(sic) groups and Media, showing that this was more than a music contest.  It was something else.

The winning entry from Ukraine, 1944, sung by a Ukrainian singer Jamala of mixed Crimean Tartar heritage, had attracted controversy since the song while about Josef Stalin’s wartime deportations of Crimean Tartars, was clearly timed to make refrerence to the events of 2014 and what the West refers to as the “Russian annexation of Crimea” and by Russia and the overwhelming majority of Crimeans themselves (but only around 30% of Crimean tartars at the time of the referendum) – in line with historical voting, the 2014 referendum, and Western polling in 2015 – as the “Crimean reunification with Russia”. 

[Ed: added on May 18th. In Crimean Tartars support Russia, the author cites both respected Russian and Western polls from 2015 that show a majority of Crimean Tartars in Crimea supporting Russian governance.]

While Eurovision rules prevent songs that are political in nature, the song was admitted over Russian protests, since it was ostensibly of events from long ago.

Prior to the final there was campaigning by Western media organizations that a Russian victory would be “disastrous.” 

Since winning the award, the singer herself confirmed it was meant to refer also to current political events.

 The following is the initial analysis of voting patterns for just Russia and Ukraine from the Eurovision data downloaded from the source.

Assumptions

  1.  Source data is accurate.
  2.  The rankings are by total votes obtained by adding the total votes by the Juries and Televotes across the 42 countries that voted for the 26 Finalist countries.
  3. The Juries serve as a proxy for the Elite/Establishment opinions from their country i.e. part of the groupthink of their Governments and Media organizations.
  4. The televotes were actual non-doctored votes and serve as a fair proxy for the people at large who are not part of the Establishment.

3 and 4 are clearly approximations.  While many Jury members are part of the Establishment groupthink in their countries and others must be careful not to step too far outside the Establishment view which is not a good career move, some do vote on the merits.  In turn people who vote freely are still influenced a great deal by their Establishments, as much as they try to focus on what music appeals to them rather from from whence it originated and what kind of “message” they may be sending.

Basic Results

The charts below summarizes the rankings of the 26 countries who were in the final.  The first is a straightforward ranking by total points (Jury + Televotes).

  1. Australia finished a comfortable first in Jury voting, beating the second place Ukraine by almost 110 points points which comfortably beat 3rd place France and 4th Malta.  Russia was tied with Belgium at 5th with 130 points, 80 points behind Ukraine.
  2. Russia won the popular vote, just 40 ahead of second place Ukraine which was 100 ahead of third place Poland which was 30 ahead of 4th place Australia.
  3. Australia benefited hugely from the Jury – a 129 point favorable differential – the MOST FAVORABLE of the 26 nations.  Russia lost because of a 231 negative differential – the MOST UNFAVORABLE – of the 26 nations.  It must be noted that Ukraine also got less Jury points than its popular score coming in at third in most unfavorable at point differential.

(Also, Poland which had the second most unfavorable differential (at 215 points) got an astoundingly low 7 points from the collective Juries as compared to that given by Televoting.

Meanwhile joining Australia in the top three most favorable differentials were Malta and Israel.  Israel actually tops the list of ratios between Jury and Televoting, scoring over 1100%, ie they received 11 times as many Jury points as popular vote, in contrast to Russia which received 36%, ie a third as many Jury voted as televotes.

An analysis of these countries will be covered in a future blog)

Russia vs Ukraine Analysis By Specific Country

The table below is sorted by the difference between what the elites scored Ukraine vs what they scored Russia.  The yellow color signifies points advantage to Ukraine and dark blue, to Russia.  The *’s indicate where despite the point advantage to one or the other, some scoring was given to indicate a sympathy to both sides (or perhaps a real appreciation of the music).   **’s are next to countries which decided to give zeros to both and their points elsewhere.

The results are quite revealing.

Voting patterns for Russia vs Ukraine (Yellow is more to Ukraine; Blue is more to Russia)

As one can see, the Elites who are most  Russophobic gave the maximum (12) or next to maximum (10) to Ukraine and the minimum (0) to Russia.  The Bloc voting pattern should be clear to anyone who thinks this was anything about the music.

The ones on the list above the row where Ukraine is, are made up the key European powers that underwrite the Kiev regime, like the UK and Germany who desperately needed Ukraine to win for a variety of reasons from trying to buy popularity for the regime for a bit longer to thumbing the Russians in the eye ; those like the Poles, Lithuanians and Georgians who hate the Russians (more than the Ukrainians whom they also despise but that can wait till after ); Israeli and Australian elites who coordinate their views with the Arm-Twister-In-Chief (the lead underwriter of the Kiev adventure); the desperate current Serbian leadership who must prove their loyalty to the West by any means to be accepted into the club; outright Western satrapies like Slovenia and Macedonia; East European countries with historical ties to Russia like Latvia and Moldova who are playing a balancing act without upsetting the West, and notionally neutral nations like Hungary, Finland who want to stay out of the whole mess (and awarded goose eggs to both).

Below the row where Ukraine is are countries like Ireland who know from historical experience that the European core is rotten but they need to live with it unfortunately (zero to both as well); to France which has a slight shade of de Gaullish defiance left (a passive-aggressive 1-0 to Russia), to the former USSR states who scored for both Russia and Ukraine, but the bigger country more; to the countries which have had historically warm relations with Russia like the Central Europeans; and Greece which is going through the wringer by the EU elites and tries to thumb its nose at them at every opportunity (I may be your slave in deed but not in spirit!).

Sweden and Iceland are two surprises that gave points to Russia and none to Ukraine, especially given the shrill Russophobic rhetoric by the Swedes.  Perhaps their Juries were actually judging the music.

The popular votes for the countries with Russophobic elites are mostly damning.

Despite the shrill propaganda against the Russians by their Govermments and Media, the German people defiantly voted for Russia over Ukraine, giving Russia the maximum(12), 6 points over Ukraine, reflecting in large part the disconnect between the Establishment and the populace.  This is true in the UK as well.  Serbia also had a large difference between how the people voted – a maximum 12 to Russia –  versus the elites.  As one can see most countries’ voters preferred the Russian entry over the Ukrainian one, and even when reverse it was close. 

Altogether the juries of a solid anti-Russian bloc made it 132-0 for Ukraine. Adding Serbia, it made it 144-1. Meanwhile the popular vote was 149-148 in favor of Russia for the same countries.

Meanwhile the Russian and Ukrainian juries have each other 0, while the Televoting was quite generous (12 from Ukraine and 10 from Russia) showing that the people did not let politics get in the way of voting.

Conclusion

Looking at the results (as well as the voting patterns for other countries), it should be fairly clear that the Juries from the core Western/West leaning and anti-Russian Eastern European  (with Sweden and Iceland being surprising exceptions) voted as a bloc to both pump Ukraine up and deny Russia any points.  It resembled Gymnastics scoring during the Cold War, a mentality very much alive among Western elites.

A key goal for the Bloc to make Ukraine win was not just for its populace to feel good and feel less antipathy to their deeply unpopular Government, but will also allow Jamala to become another  propaganda symbol against Russia. Expect the same machinery that promotes Pussy Riot and other anti-Russian figures, to organize her tours of various Western countries and breathless coverage from media organziations to stress “Crimean Tartar repression”. (At the same time of course with little or no mention about the repression of ethnic Russian minorities in Ukraine or the Baltics.)

The victory engineered by the Bloc, will also will allow Kiev to host it next year as Eurovision rules dictate, and make the whole a spectacle to promote Ukraine.  The underwriters of Ukraine Inc. are hoping it will be a successful IPO.

Meanwhile it is revealing that despite the rhetoric from the elites and anti-Russian propaganda, many people voted for the Russians leading them to win the popular vote.  One can only imagine the scale of the Russian victory if the elites had not resorted to scaremongering.

The original goal of Eurovision, to heal divisions after an internecine war, died a bit over the weekend.  Next year will almost surely kill it.

 

 

 

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What Mark Suster Missed In His Blog Post Defending uBeam

Commentary on Mark Suster’s blog of early hours of May 13th defending uBeam and its founder Meredith Perry, concluding with some gratuitous but well intentioned advice for him and Meredith Perry.

March 13, 2016

Introduction

Mark Suster, the lead and most visible investor in the embattled previously hyped wireless charging start-up uBeam, wrote a very straightforward, contrite yet resolute blog post entitled “What is it Like to Wake Up and Have the Press Ready to Torpedo Your Business?”  

In it he describes the reactions of the uBeam staff to the recent negative press coverage doubting Ubeam’s claims of being able to productize it’s secretive ultrasonic wireless technology, a criticism which has been building over the past few months following the first investigative reports in October 2015 doubting the secretive microfluidics and lab-on-chip technology behind another hyped start-up (Theranos), and given impetus by a series of blog posts titled “Lies, Damn Lies and Start-Up PR” by an ex-VP of acoustics Paul Reynolds and one of the key original technologists at uBeam, criticizing the hype and claims.

Suster while claiming that the technology is far more advanced than naysayers believe, candidly admits not just the product may not ship in the timeframes announced earlier and at least some of the key challenges that outside engineers as well as Reynolds state still exist, but the possibility of failure (while resolutely backing the founder and CEO Meredith Perry).

If for any reason we fall short of expectations we have set in the market, I will be the first person in line to admit it and then to immediately fund Meredith’s next company.

 The piece is well written, admitting some of the hype and “hubris” while pointing out (perhaps for the first time in public) that uBeam is more than its much hyped CEO but a team of qualified engineers with PhDs and experience.  

He also does away with the strawman uBeam defense that its proposed technology does not violate physics and admits the key question as its critics contend is the commercial viability of such a product.   It appears the first time, uBeam seems to have knowledged the difference between what’s scientifically possible versus what is commercially viable (includes the engineering, costs, regulatory, safety aspects versus the alternatives).

So What Did He Miss?

There is an aphorism:

When I got a Bachelor’s, I thought I knew everything. When I got my Masters, I found I didn’t know some things. As I got my PhD, I realized I knew nothing.

When uBeam – and specifically its CEO Meredith Perry who has a Bachelor’s  – rode the hype based on a publicly stated vision and a relatively simple science proof of concept in 2011, one can’t blame the same clueless press who compared her to the next Elon Musk without any visible product or near-to-ship prototype, to cover their asses in the wake of the unfortunately timed Theranos scandal by suddenly amplifying the doubts expressed over the last six months by engineers outside and now by an ex-insider.  Those who live by PR often die by it.

Perry –  who personally got all the praise and the publicity meeting with Presidents and celebrities, and the chance to pontificate about how engineers and experts were too jaded to “think different” and all one needed to innovate was vision, drive and Google, engineering and scientific expertise in the particular field be damned – can perhaps be excused as an over enthusiastic “nerd” (Suster’s word) who just graduated with a Bachelors in an unrelated field who suddenly got a public opportunity to brain dump all her thoughts to an adoring audience. 

Fair enough, Perry did not know better. But where was the presumably more experienced Suster? Did he counsel Perry to tone it down without dampening her drive and cult like self-belief that makes it possible for mountaineers to climb Everest without an oxygen mask? Did he heed the warnings of engineers like Paul Reynolds to not let hype get ahead of the product (as indeed Suster confirms Reynolds on several occasions did)? Was he a sound mentor to Perry?

When Perry started throwing around quotes from Gandhi and Einstein, to defend herself against technical criticism, did Suster explain the absurdity of such defensiveness or the context of these unique contributers to humanity?

Mohandas Gandhi struggled for years from his 30s, developing and implementing his concept of non-violence and bringing it back to a vast, colonized, fracticious subcontinent of over 300 million and helped inspire and largely unite this disparate mass of people to seek independence and awaken the conscience of the colonizing Empire, while subject to violence, hardship, jail, giving his life soon after independence was achieved.  (The movie gives some of the story.)

Albert Einstein in 1905 – the Annus Mirabilis – at 26, the same age as Perry is now, wrote four papers any of which would be a Physicists career defining moment: on Brownian motion, the Nobel Prize winning Photoelectric effect – which contributed to Quantum Mechanics (whose principal theories and implications ironically Einstein rejected) – the mind bending Special Theory of Relativity and the Mass-Energy equivalence.  He followed this up in 1915 with the universe bending General Theory of Relativity, one of the two great paradigm shifts (along with Quantum Mechanics) in the physical understanding our universe in human history.  Along the way he also made fundamental contributions to thermodynamics, optics, philosophy, mathematics. 

Basically these are giants in the history of humankind whose contribution to humanity can only be appreciated with deeper historical and technical knowledge.  They are not punchlines to use against technical critics to prove the efficacy of what even in the best case would just be a cool invention. (And try defending your point of view in academia with “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win“).

So Perry with the exuberance and resilience of youth, and the arrogance of a fairly intelligent, driven person whose sudden public fame, wealth and access seemed to self-affirm her hubris can be excused. Where was the wise counseling and mentorship from Suster? 

Affect on the Team

Suster makes a point to dwell on the  demoralizing effect that the negative press had on the team.  Fair enough. 

But did he dwell on how the personality cult around Perry on the hype up might have demotivated the team?  When Perry disparaged engineers and experts, when the press made out Perry to be uBeam’s inventor, where was the thought or mention of the team and personalities that was doing all the heavy lifting?

While Steve Jobs got a lot of the hype – it must be stressed after Apple shipped or demo-ed working products – it was as a  product visionary and one who created entire markets, not as a key technologist like Steve Wozniak in the early Apple or designers like Jonathan Ives or supply chain management experts like Tim Cook who were integral to the whole.  Even as Jobs reaped much of the fawning praise the presence of the team was not far behind. Plus Jobs had earned cult like status within his team let alone outside.

With uBeam it publicly appeared that Perry was single handedly inventing everything from the complex hardware to software to algorithms with flunkies with doctorates just putting finishing touches on the product (whereas it was more likely the reverse).

Indeed from Paul Reynold’s posts it appears some of that lack of respect seemed to have pissed him off and contributed to his departure.  Was Suster as concerned with the morale of the team then?

The Feminist Icon in STEM

Suster alludes to Perry’s gender and her being “communicative, outspoken, young and blonde” and not a “shy, pimply, awkward male engineer” a reason for what he terms “personal attacks”.

No doubt there are many sexists in Technology and outside who are eager to attack women.  Perry herself did not shy away from being defined as a woman appearing in, for example, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen conference and the like.  Or having hagiographical articles by a Women 2.0 editor which actually began like an Onion parody 

A lot of the cringe-worthy adulation like the above – Become a Billionaire! No experience needed! Just need to know how to use Google! And Think Differently! Apply Now! –  cane about precisely because in a field with a dearth of, and potentially hostile to, women, Perry was an inspiration and someone to emulate.

But what exactly was there for women to emulate?  Being an enterpreneur? Sure.  But no, it didn’t stop there: it was made out that she was someone for women in STEM to emulate. Indeed she herself described herself as a “scientist”.

To be fair, Perry does actually have a Bachelor’s degree in Astrobiology, though one would normally associate a scientist as being one with a PhD.  And of course as she herself candidly admits,  wireless technology is not her basic field and she did not know anything about it prior to her vision of using ultrasound for wireless charging.

So the message to women in STEM from those like Perry seemed to be to not worry about getting Bachelor’s degrees let alone advanced degrees in a particular field of expertise relevant to a future career (or indeed in the case of Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, another women-in-STEM inspiration, a college degree at all), but have a vision, be dogged and hire sheep like Scientists, Technologists, Engineers with PhDs and experience – all ironically male it appears for uBeam and Theranos –  to constantly prod them out of their unimaginative stupor to produce the idea in the visionary founder’s head.

Indeed what Perry (and Holmes) represent is symptomatic of an anti-intellectualism where advanced degrees and fundamental research instead of being seen as a progressive way to deeply understand and investigate issues in a systematic manner under the guidance of experienced mentors and peer reviews and communication, leading to the creation of new ideas, are seen as impediments to true progress.

The Theranos Comparison

Suster briefly mentions Theranos in the context of Ubeam not making “fraudulent claims [like Theranos]” and disawoving a comparison.

In a strict sense he is right: the questions  surrounding Theranos are of a different magnitude than the one around Ubeam as a recent Fortune article made clear.

Yet at the same time he is being disingenuous because the same woman-in-STEM hype that propelled Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos with no publicly proven technology under doubts and criticisms from scientists in the field, also propelled Perry.   The two were hagiographically mentioned in the same breath, one as the next-Steve-Jobs and the other as the next-Elon-Musk.   They were hyped in large part not just for their articulate, driven personalities, their absolute self-belief and confidence, but photogenic looks and relative rarity as women among a bunch of generic white male enterpreneurs all promising “disruptive” and “democratizing” technology.  And not only did they not shy away from outlandish comparisons of proven inventors (in the case of Holmes even to “Beethoven [and] Einstein“) but seemed to cherish and amp up the fawning coverage.

And it was not enough they were working on cool technology. No, they had to talk about humanity and how they would save lives and the Planet. Even uBeam got into the healthcare saving-humanity hype by stating that their technology would eliminate “bacteria spreading through electrical outlets” (presumably the number one threat in hospitals).

While Suster is right that many start-ups don’t succeed, it’s hard not to argue that the largely self created hype around both Theranos and UBeam with secretive, unproven technologies with huge scientific challenges to overcome, did not set them up for colossal expectations. It’s like a Poker game. No one remembers the hands that folded early or the bluffs with small bets that lost; when the stakes get to millions and billions, that’s when everyone gathers around the table to see whether you show or fold. Except in this case eventually even a bluff will have to be exposed.

And expect the same buzz on the way down as on the way up except it’s gushing praise one way and abject scorn the other. 

Conclusion

While Suster’s post is to be commended there are a few lessons here:

  1. He needs to be much more of a mentor to Perry, balancing her natural zeal, drive and ambition with the way she portrays herself or is allowed to be hagiographically portrayed in the wider press.
  2.  

  3. While everybody understands marketing hype is part of the start-up game to attract funds on one hand and talent on the other – use of the words “disruptive”, “revolutionary” are de riguer to get attention – widely broadcasting it in public before a working product is available borders on the unethical and just puts pressure with little upside except stoke the vanity of the founder. For a masterclass in how to launch a revolutionary product see the now iconic launch of the first iPhone in 2007 by Steve Jobs which was a secret until first revealed to the world with a working hands-on demo.
  4.  

  5. For Perry: acknowledge your team, let them speak if they need to. Share the spotlight. Don’t treat them like a bunch of losers who didn’t have the imagination till you showed them the light (even if that’s how you feel). There’s no upside to that. (Don’t confuse entrepreneurial intelligence or being rich to technical or philosophical intelligence).
  6.  

  7. Be wary of fawning reporters and press. The same guys who built you up will tear you down to save their asses before moving onto the next thing. There is zero integrity in much of the tech press (or perhaps even the wider one) most of whom are interested in getting clicks. It’s like Hollywood. Though unlike in Hollywood where PR is very much of the product and can cover up subpar acting talent, here the ultimate decider as Suster says is the marketplace. That’s your ultimate judge.
  8.  

  9. Stop seeking self-affirmation from other enterpreneurs and slogans. Listen if anything to your (constructive) critics. Think of it as close to a peer review as possible (a normal part of a PhD or academia where heated debates and sharp challenges are seen as part of the process to strengthen ideas and not as ad hominem attacks to bring down a person (eg the Bohr-Einstein debates.)

In either case, I think whatever technology uBeam has and will develop probably will have use, in the worst case in niche areas, in the eventual best case in the grand vision touted of being everywhere, with the most realistic goal of somewhere more towards the niche, with the possibility of spin off technologies. Somebody had to make the attempt. Failure as the famous Michael Jordan ad implies (original here and modified HiDef here) is often a necessary path to Success.

Good Luck!

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