The Gun Issue | The Political Twilight Zone | Immigration or Emigration?

APRIL 23, 2019  /   SUBSCRIBE


“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”

“Adversity is the only balance to weigh friends.”

– Plutarch



The Political Twilight Zone Where Actors and Influencers Become State Leaders: Never let it be said Ukrainian people don’t have a sense of humor. They just overwhelmingly elected a comedian to be president. The campaign was fun, but henceforth 41-year old Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s new job is no laughing matter. After inauguration in early June he won’t just be playing the fictional Ukrainian president he played in the television comedy Servant of the People. He’ll be doing it for real, and without a team of scriptwriters to make sure he comes out on top in the end.

Incumbent challenger Petro Poroshenko conceded defeat almost immediately after polls closed Sunday. Saying he was respecting the will of the Ukrainian people, he still couldn’t resist repeating something he’d emphasized throughout his campaign: a Zelenskiy victory was a win for Russian president Vladimir Putin. “You may just look at the celebrations in the Kremlin on the occasion of the elections. They believe that with a new inexperienced Ukrainian president, Ukraine could be quickly returned to Russia’s orbit of influence,” Poroshenko wrote on Twitter.

In truth, Ukraine’s relationship with Russia is of major concern to the international community. Beginning with its annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014, Russia has continually aided and financed a separatist movement in the east that to date has left more than 13,000 dead. Western diplomats have urged Zelenskiy’s team not to make the “strategic mistake” of opening talks directly with the separatists, warning this would legitimize the Russian narrative that it is an internal conflict. For now Zelenskiy is just basking in the glow of election triumph. Sunday night, when exit poll results flashed on a giant screen behind him, Zelenskiy jumped up and down on stage, kissed his wife, high-fived his team, and yelled exuberantly to reporters and TV cameras cramming his headquarters a message meant for post-soviet countries: “Look at us, anything is possible.” Additional read: Is acting hazardous? On the risks of immersing oneself in a role (Aeon)



Spain: A Shrinking Country: Over the past eight years, 80 percent of Spanish municipalities have experienced population decrease – a figure that rises to 90 percent for towns and villages which have fewer than 1,000 inhabitants. 42 million people, 90 percent of the population, live in the 1,500 towns and cities that occupy 30 percent of the land. The other 10 percent, 4.6 million people, occupy the remaining 70 percent of the country. With only 50 inhabitants, Sayatón, just an hour from Madrid, is a 500-year-old rural town that, like so many others, is slowly fading from the map. The issue is playing a role in this month’s general election.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has promised to fill the gaps with opportunities as his socialist party vies with its conservative rival, the People’s party (PP), to woo rural voters. The PP has been dominate for decades, but it’s countryside vote could be split by a proliferation of rightwing parties, which could then result in the socialist party winning more seats. One of Sayaton’s citizens says the government could do more to halt depopulation by introducing tax breaks and incentivizing civil servants, doctors and teachers to move to rural areas to live and work. “I just want them to guarantee basic services – education and health – at the very least in the bigger towns,” she said. (Guardian)

Romania’s Emigration Problem: Romania’s accession to the EU in 2007 provided huge opportunities for talented young Romanians to travel, study and work in western Europe, drawn by higher salaries and more favorable employment chances. An estimated 3.4 million Romanians exited the country in the decade after 2007, leaving a gigantic gap in the labor market. Some 43,000 doctors and thousands of nurses went elsewhere, leaving hospitals and clinics dangerously understaffed. The country’s medical crisis is a small part of momentous outflows of people from central and eastern European countries since gaining EU membership, and while politicians in the region often play on fears of immigration to win support, a recent survey demonstrates that more than 50 percent of Romanians are more concerned about the impact of emigration on the country. The US-based Population Reference Bureau forecasts that Romania’s population will fall by 22 percent by 2050, the steepest projected global decline, due to a combination of emigration, high mortality and low birth rates. Neighboring Bulgaria has a similarly worrying forecast. (Guardian)

Australia Bounces Between Immigraiton or Emigration: Australia’s policy for decades has been to welcome skilled foreigners, a stance that has helped fuel its economic growth and transform it from a nation once closed to nonwhite immigrants into a multicultural society. The policy has been so successful it is considered a model for how immigration, properly managed, can strengthen a country. Now, however, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has unveiled a plan, in the works for months, to cut immigration. He presented the move as a reaction to crowding in the nation’s largest cities, which has caused congested commutes and costlier housing. “This plan is about protecting the quality of life of Australians right across our country,” Morrison said. Australia is just the latest nation to join the global backlash against immigration that has upended politics in the US, Britain and much of Europe. (NYT)

Additional World News:



NRA Propaganda Comes At A Cost…To The NRA: Leadership in the National Rifle Association focuses on external threats to gin up donations. But recent donation letters sent out by its top executive, Wayne LaPierre, are so full of hyperbolic warnings that they sound desperate. The NRA has moved so far away from its avowed core mission of gun education, safety, and training that it is spending 90 percent of its budget on “dire warning” messaging.

Truth is, there is something dire going on at the NRA. An analysis of federal tax forms, charity records, contracts, corporate filings, and internal communications reveal that a small group of NRA executives, contractors, and vendors has extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget, through gratuitous payments, sweetheart deals, and opaque financial arrangements. A senior NRA employee’s memos describe a workplace steeped in secrecy, self-dealing and greed, with leaders who’ve encouraged disastrous business ventures and questionable partnerships, and have marginalized those who object. (The Trace)

Additional Reads on Guns:



Smart Guns, Dumb Planning: There are smartphones, smart cars and smart homes. There are motherboards in vacuum cleaners, microwaves and doorbells. So why can’t someone come up with a smart gun? Actually the idea’s been around since the 1990s — to come up with a gun that only the owner could shoot, cutting way down on accidental firings, thefts or sales on the black market. All it would take were some large R&D investments and a couple of generations of product development. And according to a Johns Hopkins study almost half of US gun owners would consider buying a smart gun. So Smith & Wesson set out to develop such personalized weapons, and it darn near drove them out of business. The company is still bruised today, and thanks to New Jersey and the NRA we could be farther away from smart guns now than two decades ago. (Bloomberg) Additional read: A Family Craft With a Deadly Toll: Illegal Gun Making (NYT, $)




“Silence at the proper season is wisdom, and better than any speech.”

“Courage stands halfway between cowardice and rashness, one of which is a lack, the other an excess of courage. ”

– Plutarch

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Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: