Politics and High School Elections | The Nationalistic Tech War | History’s Cycles

MARCH 8, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE



“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

“We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.”

– Malcolm Gladwell




Populist! You’re Gonna Be Populist: “Team Populism” may sound like campaigners for Bernie Sanders 2020; instead it’s a global network of academics who performed a scientific study of the causes and consequences of populism. Scholars generally agree that a central characteristic of populism is the use of a rhetoric that frames politics as a struggle between the virtuous will of the common people and an evil conspiring elite. The Guardian commissioned the team, who analyzed 720 speeches given by 140 government leaders in 40 countries over the past 20 years. Each leader was “scored” based on the extent to which he or she used populist rhetoric in their speeches. The result is the Global Populism Database, described as the most up-to-date, comprehensive and reliable database of populist discourse in the world.

The team used the data to analyze what happens when populists come to power. It’s an important undertaking because the number of populist leaders globally has doubled over the past two decades, and the use of populist rhetoric on both the left and the right has surged. The most surprising finding was that populists across the political spectrum tend to narrow the gap between rich and poor. The impact on inequality appears largely driven by leftwing Latin American populist presidents, such as Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. But it was also true, although to a lesser extent, for centrist and rightwing populists.

On the down side, the study found that governments run by populist leaders are correlated with declines in the quality of elections, a loosening of constraints on executive power, and a sometimes dramatic fall in press freedom. One word of warning: inequality data was only available up to 2016, so the research could not take into account recent developments in Venezuela, Nicaragua and the US.




Cardinal Sinned: A criminal court in Lyon, France has found a prominent Catholic official guilty of covering up accusations of deprivation or sexual abuse of Boy Scouts by a priest in his diocese. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 68, was accused of continuing to allow Father Bernard Preynat contact with children long after allegations of abuse had surfaced. Preynat, who reportedly acknowledged abusing Boy Scouts in the 1970s and 1980s, is currently under indictment and awaiting trial. The Lyon court also sentenced Barbarin to a six-month suspended prison sentence in the high profile case. The ruling was shocking, because neither the prosecution nor the victims had sought a prison sentence for the Cardinal, and because the statute of limitations had run on some of the crimes. Barbarin said he would offer his resignation to Pope Francis; meanwhile his lawyer said they would appeal the court’s guilty verdict. (NPR)

Come On Berl-In: Considering the atrocities the Nazis waged against Jews in WWII it’s no wonder many Jews refused to visit Germany for decades after the Holocaust. But in the last ten years an estimated 10,000 Israelis have moved to Berlin, and they’re making their mark culturally. Several high-end Israeli restaurants have opened in Germany’s capital city, including Layla, opened last fall by Tel Aviv celebrity chef Meir Adoni. The director of Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater is Israeli, as is the conductor of Berlin’s state opera. Many Israelis who moved to Berlin are like food designer Itay Novik: gay, or politically liberal, or freelancers in artistic and creative fields, who feel at home in the avant-garde, anything-goes city. Although much of Novik’s mother’s family was killed in the Holocaust, he has now lived in Berlin for eight years; it’s where he found his life partner. “It’s a city where people don’t interfere in your life,” Novik says. (NPR)

Went Out With A Whimper, Thankfully: Three improvised explosives were found Tuesday near major London transport hubs. The devices were sent in small packages to buildings at or near Heathrow Airport, London City Airport and Waterloo train station. One of the packages burst into flames when staff opened it, but no one suffered injuries. At least two of the packages had Irish stamps. (CNN)




The Nationalistic Tech War: When Congress passed the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, it specifically banned US government agencies from contracting with Chinese telecom manufacturer Huawei, claiming the company was a national security risk because its products could be used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans. Huawei has denied the allegation and said it’s a privately owned company with no interest in spying. Huawei took its displeasure over the ban to a Texas federal court Wednesday, filing a lawsuit against the US for violating the Constitution’s due process and bill of attainder clauses. A Bill of Attainder is a legislative act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without a trial. A Hofstra University constitutional law professor suggests Huawei’s claims may not succeed, given that “doing business with the U.S. government doesn’t seem to be a fundamental right, and there are reasonable grounds for Congress to act against Huawei.” (NPR) China warns US of ‘all necessary measures’ to protect Huawei: Foreign minister suggests recent actions against Chinese firms are ‘deliberate political suppression’(Guardian)




Pardon Me, Trump?: When President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified under oath before a congressional committee at the end of February, he stated he’d never asked for nor would he accept a pardon from the president. Later Lanny Davis, one of the lawyers currently representing Cohen said that Cohen had told his attorney to “explore” a potential pardon with Trump’s legal team last year. At first blush the two statements appear to contradict each other, and Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s lawyers, seized on the latest development from Cohen, accusing him of lying before Congress yet again. However, Davis said he and Cohen stand by the testimony because it was referring to the time period after Cohen left his joint defense agreement with Trump. “We stand by his public testimony before Oversight Committee as referring to post-JDA time frame statement,” Davis said. “He authorized me after July 2 to say he would never accept a pardon if offered and I did.” Cohen’s lawyer at the time of the JDA was Stephen Ryan. (CNBC) Additional read: Paul Manafort, Former Trump Campaign Chairman, Sentenced To Just Under 4 Years(NPR) And ‘”Scathing indictment’: Paul Manafort sentencing draws accusations of privilege: Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez says justice system ‘broken’ as lawyers compare jail time to that of low-level offenders.” (Guardian) One of the most loaded words in 2018-2019 is privilege. At West Point one is likely to hear this phrase a hundred times before they graduate: “you have the privilege to serve your country and lead its sons and daughters.”

The Power of the Judiciary:




How New Things Becomes Bad: History moves and cycles and countercycles. Plastics was all the rage and now we find that plastics easily can contaminate water and the environment. Social networks were the new thing and we are only now beginning to realize just how bad they can be: enabling foreign states to influence elections, eroding privacy, and spreading disinformation. The proliferation of plastic items was a boon to convenience. But the flipside is massive environmental damage that could get even worse. Is This the End of Recycling?: Americans are consuming more and more stuff. Now that other countries won’t take our papers and plastics, they’re ending up in the trash. (The Atlantic) and Recycling Is Broken (Earther).

Is It Too Late For Facebook?:

Weekend Reads:




“It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.”

– Arnold Joseph Toynbee

“There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.” – Susan B. Anthony

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