“Like Trump, Meciar first rose to power by sidelining rivals in his own party and staging a flurry of media stunts that left his opponents paralyzed and divided.”
To any fair-minded observer, President Trump’s authoritarian instincts, Twitter outbursts and divisive rhetoric should be greatly concerning. Americans might take comfort in the fact that the United States is not the first country to elect and live under such a leader. I would know.
Two and a half years after the fall of communism in 1989, the ruthless and charismatic Vladimir Meciar was elected as prime minister in my home country of Slovakia after a brief previous stint in the office. His larger-than-life personality and bombastic rhetoric filled much of the media space, often with lies and conspiracies. His opponents, many of them former dissidents from the old era, lacked the rhetorical skills, charisma and political acumen to compete.
Meciar’s demise was precipitated by the emergence of an effective opposition that coalesced around the questions that mattered the most: rule of law and Slovakia’s place among European democracies. Like Trump, Meciar first rose to power by sidelining rivals in his own party and staging a flurry of media stunts that left his opponents paralyzed and divided. At the time, Slovakia had a vast array of small, mostly center-right, parties, which differed in the emphasis they placed on economic reforms, family values and environmental protection. Meciar’s power was the greatest when the opposition was divided and mired in debates over irrelevant minutiae.
Growing up in Slovakia during that time, I would know too.
“You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.”
Well.. a press conference for the ages from the orange one today.
I won with news conferences and probably speeches. I certainly didn’t win by people listening to you people. That’s for sure. But I’m having a good time. Tomorrow, they will say, “Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.” I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But — but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.
And this line, coming out directly from the mouth of THE PRESIDENT of THE UNITED STATES himself, simply stunning:
You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.
Let’s start the impeachment process already.
Full transcript here.
Kiki Smith 1993-94
“Cyberwarfare will be front and center in our lives in the same way that nuclear warfare was during the cold war.”
Cyberwarfare will be front and center in our lives in the same way that nuclear warfare was during the cold war. Crypto will be the equivalent of bomb shelters and we will all be learning about private keys, how to use them, and how to manage them. A company will make crypto mainstream via an easy to use interface and it will become the next big thing.
Very likely scenario indeed.
“A constant supply of news that make us afraid with little to instill trust in one another and in our institutions has always been the best press demagogues can hope for.”
The story that we tell about ourselves is the most important story of all. Journalists and intellectuals who almost exclusively focus on what goes wrong risks us losing our faith in one another, and that faith is the essential foundation without which our ideal of a free and democratic society is impossible. A constant supply of news that make us afraid with little to instill trust in one another and in our institutions has always been the best press demagogues can hope for.
Freedom is impossible without faith in free people, and if we are not aware of our history and produce and demand only the information on what goes wrong, we risk to lose faith in one another.
It might seem that Central Europe, once home to Nazis and Stalinists, is slipping back into totalitarianism. It’s not that simple. People are not voting for the far right because of their fascism. They vote for these parties because they are looking for an alternative to a mainstream that has failed them. Twenty-seven years after the fall of Communism and 12 years after joining the European Union, the promised Western standards of living are nowhere in sight. The post-Communist economic dream has disappointed many. It took 15 years just for living standards to return to where they were before 1989. Poverty is soaring. In Hungary, 35 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
To prevent the entrenchment of the far right, Central Europe desperately needs a new progressive force with a vision for how to respond to people’s needs. Progressives should have a plan to fend off economic hardship and insecurity to stop people’s legitimate concerns being transferred into bigotry, xenophobia and hatred. If this alternative does not emerge, the consequences will be disastrous.
“Stacked up, the Stasi’s complete files reached 125 miles. They weighed fifty tons per mile; in total, 62,500 tons.”
The Stasi complex on Normannenstrasse in the Lichtenberg district consisted of 41 brown concrete buildings. In addition, the Stasi possessed 1,181 safe houses, 305 vacation homes, 98 sports facilities, and 18,000 apartments for meetings with spies. The Stasi had a budget of 4 billion East German marks. It had 97,000 full-time employees—after the army, it was East Germany’s largest employer. There were 2,171 mail readers, 1,486 phone tappers, and another 8,426 people who monitored phone conversations and radio broadcasts. In addition, there were about 110,000 active unofficial collaborators and perhaps ten times that many occasional informants. The Stasi kept files on 6 million people. There were 39 separate departments—even a department to spy on other Stasi members. A master file with a single card for each Stasi employee, collaborator, and object of surveillance stretches for more than a mile—the cards for people named Müller alone reach a hundred yards. Stacked up, the Stasi’s complete files reached 125 miles. They weighed fifty tons per mile; in total, 62,500 tons.
No Loss of Face, Earl’s Court, London
Photo: Frank Habicht
Photo: Jean-Philippe Charbonnier
“This struggle of the human female toward sex equality will end in a new sex order, with the female as superior.”
Nikola Tesla in Colliers magazine, January 1926:
It is clear to any trained observer, and even to the sociologically untrained, that a new attitude toward sex discrimination has come over the world through the centuries, receiving an abrupt stimulus just before and after the World War.
This struggle of the human female toward sex equality will end in a new sex order, with the female as superior. The modern woman, who anticipates in merely superficial phenomena the advancement of her sex, is but a surface symptom of something deeper and more potent fermenting in the bosom of the race.
It is not in the shallow physical imitation of men that women will assert first their equality and later their superiority, but in the awakening of the intellect of women.
Through countless generations, from the very beginning, the social subservience of women resulted naturally in the partial atrophy or at least the hereditary suspension of mental qualities which we now know the female sex to be endowed with no less than men. But the female mind has demonstrated a capacity for all the mental acquirements and achievements of men, and as generations ensue that capacity will be expanded; the average woman will be as well educated as the average man, and then better educated, for the dormant faculties of her brain will be stimulated to an activity that will be all the more intense and powerful because of centuries of repose. Woman will ignore precedent and startle civilization with their progress.
“The current system of airport security all over the world represents an overreaction to the September 11, 2001, hijackings.”
Robert J. Gordon:
The current system of airport security all over the world represents an overreaction to the September 11, 2001, hijackings. There was only one weakness in the U.S. airline security system on September 11, and this was that the cockpit doors were flimsy. Within days, they were replaced by completely secure doors that nobody could break through. Although the security issue was completely solved within a week, fourteen years later billions of dollars per year of passenger time continues to be wasted in unnecessary additional security precautions. The pre-2001 security system, based on a quick walk through an X-ray machine to check for guns and metal weapons, would be enough.
“The eurozone is economically moribund, persists with policies that have demonstrably failed, is indifferent to democracy, is run by and for a small, self-perpetuating elite, and is slowing dying.”
The euro brought to fruition the idea of ever-closer union, a plan that dates back to the early 1950s. Lots of things considered good ideas back then are no longer considered quite so clever: system-built high-rise flats as the answer to slum housing; nuclear power to meet energy needs. Put ever-closer union in the same category as the Birmingham inner-city ring road: it seemed a good idea at the time.
A different Europe is needed, but it is stretching credibility to imagine that the Europe of Greece and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership can easily morph into America with the nice people in charge. The eurozone is economically moribund, persists with policies that have demonstrably failed, is indifferent to democracy, is run by and for a small, self-perpetuating elite, and is slowing dying. The wrong comparison is being made. This is not the US without the electric chair; it is the USSR without the gulag.
Photo: Quentin de Briey
One should remember that the only objective for the Lottery, anywhere in the world, is not to make you rich. Contrary to their advertisements, the objective is not to show you a good time. Wasting your money is never a good time. The lottery’s only objective is to maximize the funds you pay for educational activities. The lottery does this by taking all of the proceeds, then first diverting nearly 45% of it towards educational benefits, and also towards store commissions and advertisements designed to trick you into spending more into the system. Say you played 292 million times with hypothetically a $1 ticket, and then won exactly one time. In this case your reward would not be anywhere close to $292m. The funnel would start at a gross level of just 55% of $292m (or a loss of $131m on your ticket purchases since 45% was skimmed straight away to the government). And then your net amount would still be less than this 55% gross payout, since this reward is again taxed as income. There is nothing sexy about this arrangement; it extorts a non-tax deductible dollar from you and many others, who could least afford it. And each time putting offering 55 cents into a community savings jar, until one day that amassed jar is given to basically just one person at random (but not before the government comes back to tax that jar as “income”). The whole scheme is an educational tax for those who instead could use a free education in probability theory.
A loser’s lottery [StatisticalIdeas]
“Donald J. Trump’s vision for the future of our nation is as deeply disturbing as it is profoundly un-American.”
Boston Globe editorial board:
Donald J. Trump’s vision for the future of our nation is as deeply disturbing as it is profoundly un-American.
It is easy to find historical antecedents. The rise of demagogic strongmen is an all too common phenomenon on our small planet. And what marks each of those dark episodes is a failure to fathom where a leader’s vision leads, to carry rhetoric to its logical conclusion. The satirical front page of this section attempts to do just that, to envision what America looks like with Trump in the White House.
It is an exercise in taking a man at his word. And his vision of America promises to be as appalling in real life as it is in black and white on the page. It is a vision that demands an active and engaged opposition. It requires an opposition as focused on denying Trump the White House as the candidate is flippant and reckless about securing it.
The GOP must stop Trump [BostonGlobe]