It’s Game Over Man
November 8, 2019
“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”
– Truman Capote
Vote Or Die, Try And Try
Contrary to popular opinion America is not the most democratic country in the world. Democracy is a system of government where power is vested in the people, who can exercise it directly, or choose representatives to exercise power on their behalf, by means of regularly-held free elections in which the majority of eligible voters determines who’s chosen. The operative words here are “eligible” and “majority.”
The US actually trails other democracies in voter turnout; only about 55 percent of eligible Americans voted in the 2016 elections. As for its ranking among other western democracies, the US is far down the list, alongside countries like Kosovo and Romania. And the majority vote in the 2016 election actually went to Hillary Clinton, yet Donald Trump became president, thanks to the antiquated Electoral College system.
Election law is set by partisan state lawmakers, and mostly administered by secretaries of state who are partisan officials. These determine who is “eligible” to vote. Rather than encouraging universal participation in the process, states with Republican-controlled legislatures have enacted laws and put in place processes deliberately making it hard for minority communities in America to exercise their democratic right. Redrawing voting district boundaries, suppressing eligibility and purging voter rolls are tactics used to gain and retain power by those less likely to be supported by minorities.
As for the Electoral College system, which allows states to appoint “independent electors” who cast the actual votes for the presidency — it was a cobbled-together compromise diluting the popular vote, reached by delegates to the 1787 constitutional convention who simply couldn’t agree on anything else.
Some Inconvenient Homework
- Italy’s education minister Lorenzo Fioramonti said Tuesday that starting in 2020 all public schools will require children in every grade to study climate change and sustainability. Fioramonti said this move will put Italy at the forefront of environmental education worldwide.
- The education minister is a member of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which considers environmental concerns intrinsic to its identity. He has already been targeted by conservatives for backing taxes on sugar and plastics and for having encouraged students to skip classes and take part in climate protests last September. (NYT)
- Why Is Australia Trying to Shut Down Climate Activism? (NYT, $)
I Can’t Hear You
- David Owen’s new book Volume Control describes our current age as a “deafening one.” According to Owen, the loud noises we live with on a daily basis are harming the complicated, delicate instruments that are our ears.
- “When we talk about age-related hearing loss, the assumption is that this is something that happens to old people,” Owen says. “It is something that happens to old people … [but it’s] caused by things that we do when we’re young.”
- Owen warns that even small household appliances like food processors and hair dryers can generate noise at levels that can lead to permanent damage. He recommends that people carry ear plugs around with them, and not be embarrassed to use them. (NPR)
It’s Game Over Man: Videos Games are the New Opium
- The Chinese government believes video game addiction is to blame for a rise in nearsightedness and poor academic performance throughout society, and it’s released new rules aimed at curbing that behavior.
- The regulations, announced Tuesday, ban users younger than 18 from playing games between 10 pm and 8 am, or for longer than 90 minutes on weekdays. Users are also banned from playing video games more than three hours on weekends and holidays.
- President Xi Jinping is adamant about pushing large technology companies to help spread cultural values advanced by the ruling Communist Party. Video games have become a popular target, with state-run media likening some games to “poison,” and the government blocking sales of some titles for being too violent. (NYT)
The Wrong Kind Of Following
- Wednesday the US Justice Department accused Saudi Arabia of using Twitter employees to illegally spy on social media users. Saudis once embraced Twitter as a platform for free expression in a country where the government controlled traditional media.
- But over the past year, Twitter has suspended Saudi accounts and attempted to curb Saudi government -orchestrated disinformation campaigns. These latest US allegations underscore the extent to which Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues to crack down on dissent in the kingdom.
- It has just been one year since Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered on what US intelligence believes were MbS’s orders. Although the crown prince has loosened some social restrictions in the kingdom, women’s rights activists and Saudi religious clerics are still being arrested, put on trial, and in some cases, tortured. (WSJ)
- Trump’s Twitter War Room Aims Its Punches at Decorated Colonel (NYT, $)
- Hurricane Tweet That Angered Trump Wasn’t About Trump, Forecasters Say (NYT, $)
- Macron warns of Nato ‘brain death’ as US turns its back on allies (Guardian)
- Ukraine crisis put on ice by Trump staff busy working out how to buy Greenland (Guardian)
- Russia Raids a Renowned Physics Institute, and Theories Abound (NYT, $)
- Gunmen in Burkina Faso Attack Canadian Mining Company Convoy, Killing 37: The ambush, which also wounded 60 people, was the third deadly attack on the Semafo mining company in 15 months. (NYT, $)
On The Wrong Side Of The White Picket Fence
- Tuesday’s elections highlighted the problem Republicans are having with suburban voters who have turned on President Trump. In Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky many voters in historically Republican districts came out to support Democrats, in part due to antipathy toward Trump.
- Democratic candidates flipped six legislative seats in the Virginia suburbs of Norfolk, Richmond and Washington DC. The gains helped the Dems take control of both legislative chambers and the governorship for the first time in a generation.
- Democrats made historic wins in suburbs around Philadelphia, defeating the last GOPs on the five-seat Delaware County Council and taking control of the board of commissioners in Bucks County for the first time since the 1980s.
- In the Kentucky governor’s race, Democrats carried the home counties of Louisville and Lexington by nearly three times the margin they ran up in the 2015 governor’s race. Democrat Andy Beshear beat out Republican Matt Bevin despite a trip by the president on Monday to stump for Bevin. (NYT)
Trump Wanted To Be Innocent Bar None, But Got Barr & None
- White House sources have said that somewhere around September 25, when the administration released a rough transcript of President Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump wanted Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference publicly declaring that no laws were broken during the call.
- The administration’s transcript, incomplete though it was, showed Trump had urged Zelensky to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for millions in military aid and a visit to Washington. Even though Barr ultimately declined to do Trump’s bidding, he and the president remain on good terms.
- However, as the impeachment investigation continues to turn up damning evidence of Trump’s attempts at a quid pro quo, the Justice Department is starting to distance itself somewhat from the White House. (WaPo)
- Don’t Let Trump Make You Numb to What’s Unacceptable (NYT, $)
- How Mike Pence’s Office Meddled in Foreign Aid to Reroute Money to Favored Christian Groups (ProPublica)
- Why I Haven’t Gone Back to SCOTUS Since Kavanaugh (Slate)
- Trump team seeks to ‘modernize’ national parks, with wifi and Amazon deliveries (Guardian)
- Appeals court rejects Trump’s attempt to withhold tax returns from local prosecutors, setting stage for Supreme Court fight (WaPo, $)
How To Not Get Workplace Burnou-Eh Whatever
- Time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders has some pointers for saving yourself from work place burnout. She says these small changes can go a long way.
- First, know how much sleep you really need to stay alert all day. The recommended amount is seven to nine hours, but it could be six to ten depending on your own needs.
- Second, avoid foods that make you feel tired or too full. Try eating lighter, healthier foods that increase your energy level, or even eat smaller, more frequent meals. If you find yourself becoming more negative at certain times of the day, you may just need to eat something around those times.
- Finally, even five minutes of outdoor exercise can have meaningful psychological impact. And if you can do 20-30 minutes of outdoor exercise at a time, you can really improve your overall mental health. Saunders says when something stressful happens to her, she goes for a brief walk or a run around the block as soon as possible to get the negative energy out of her body. (NYT)
- Faking it: could I go from being an introvert to an extrovert in one week? (Guardian)
- There’s A Promising New Vaccine For One Of The World’s Top Health Threats (NPR)
- What Happens After A Whale Dies? (NPR)
- It’s Time to Take Down the Mona Lisa: Leonardo’s painting is a security hazard, an educational obstacle and not even a satisfying bucket-list item. It’s time the Louvre moved it out of the way. (NYT, $)
- Instead of a Generational Culture War, Let’s Fight the Rich: “Ok billionaire” is a better rallying cry than “ok boomer.” (NYT, $)
- Think you’re anonymous online? A third of popular websites are ‘fingerprinting’ you: Our latest privacy experiment tested sites for an invisible form of online tracking that you can’t easily avoid. (WaPo, $)
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee
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