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Archive for January, 2016

The man who made America: Reason, religion and the brilliant mind of John Locke

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Locke’s Two Treatises of Government appeared in December of 1689. It began with a full-throated refutation of the hereditary, divine right of kings, and a scathing dismissal of Scriptural justifications for such power, such as claims by kings to be descended from Adam. The second essay outlined a civil society in which all men were created equal. This cohered with Locke’s theory of selfhood and the mind. What could all those blank slates be but equal at birth? Nearly simultaneously, he sent out his letter on toleration, that divisive subject that had long simmered in Western religious and legal circles. Hiding behind anonymity, Locke argued that civil interests included life, liberty, health, and possessions, but not the salvation of souls. Since belief emerged from the full persuasion of the mind, error could be challenged by reason only. Force was useless. Dissenters, Locke proposed, should be treated like odd fellows who did their hair up in a silly manner.

Read more from this excerpt at Salon

Excerpted from “Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind”

Donald Trump Is…

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Is Donald Trump truly one of a kind—a sui generis sensation in U.S. politics? As Americans try to make sense of the businessman-turned-Republican presidential frontrunner and how he’s come to dominate the polls and the airwaves in the 2016 cycle, Politico Magazine decided to consult the archives: Is there a historical figure the Donald resembles—a model who can help explain his rise? We asked some of the smartest historians we know to name the closest antecedent to Trump from the annals of American history

My life as a pro-Putin propagandist in Russia’s secret ‘troll factory’

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

As Russia’s “troll factory” is taken to court by Lyudmila Savchuk, the former employee tells how she was ordered to blog about ‘great Putin’ and ‘bad opposition’ to the Kremlin

5 things that the president of Nigeria can do to get his country back on track

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

1. Carefully clean house. Buhari’s reform agenda probably faces its greatest threat from corrupt, old-school politicians within his own All Progressives Congress (APC) party. Buhari should neutralize some of the APC’s shadiest figures, who could emerge as “veto players,” as described in Carl LeVan’s recent book. Admittedly, housecleaning carries political risks for Buhari…

2. Pare down the parastatals. Buhari has an opportunity to realize immediate savings by eliminating or merging some of Nigeria’s more than 500 federal parastatals and boards. Parastatals are government-operated companies or commercial agencies. Pundits allege that past presidents used parastatal appointments to cultivate national political allies and provincial cronies.

3. Tame the white elephants. Buhari’s apparent determination to revive two “white elephant” economic sectors — domestic oil refineries and steel mills — worry industry experts. Nigeria is replete with these kinds of investment projects where state-owned enterprises are funded for long periods even if they incur huge losses. For decades, Nigerian leaders have thrown good money after bad at these projects because, as Robinson and Torvik argue, white elephant projects yield short-term political gains…

4. Rein in subnational debt. As Buhari tries to put Nigeria’s public finances back in order, the balance sheets of the country’s 36 states are sinking deeper into the red. In a decentralized federal system like Nigeria’s, state budgets typically affect the lives of ordinary citizens more than federal spending does. Since taking office, Buhari has already bailed out 27 cash-strapped states to the tune of $2.1 billion. States’ borrowing trends are risky and need to be addressed, according to a recent report by the African Development Bank.
5. Legislate for the long run. Nigeria will need to feel the “Buhari Effect” (the sense, evident in a recent New York Times article, that there is a new sheriff in town) long after the president’s tenure is over. The best way for him to protect his legacy is to partner with the National Assembly to enact legislation enshrining key reforms. With few other politicians like him on the horizon, Buhari should put his legacy in writing.

Full text from WaPo

BBC News Former Nigeria governor James Ibori jailed for 13 years

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Nigeria: Pain and Promise (PBS)

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

PBS NewsHour’s unprecedented look inside Africa’s richest and most populous country. The four part “Nigeria: Pain and Promise” series with Special Correspondent Nick Schifrin explores the country’s ongoing battle with Boko Haram, economic promise, corruption and treatment of gay Nigerians.

Part One: The Halliburton Case and Corruption in Nigeria

Here are all six parts on YouTube:

Documentary about Muhammdu Buhari

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

This British documentary is decidedly anti-Buhari. Up to you to sift through the propaganda and separate fact from flub…

BBC Parliament Year-End Review

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

BBC Parliament TV looked back at some major events in the British Parliament since September 2015 in their program “Westminster in Review” hosted by Keith Mcdougall.?Topics included:

  • the debate on the United Kingdom’s future membership in the European Union (EU)
  • combating ISIS* in Syria
  • the election of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
  • the use of a robot in Parliament and debate on the hedgehog being a national symbol.

Video compilation of the Parliament’s last quarter of 2015

TR Speech: Who is a Progressive? April 1912

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

“In his recent speech at Philadelphia President Taft stated that he was a Progressive, and this raises the question as to what a Progressive is. More is involved than any man’s say-so as to himself.

A well-meaning man may vaguely think of himself as a Progressive without having even the faintest conception of what a Progressive is. Both vision and intensity of conviction must go to the make-up of any man who is to lead the forward movement, and mildly good intentions are utterly useless as substitutes.”

TR throws down the gauntlet. Take that Taft.

Then goes on…, “We of to-day who stand for the Progressive movement here in the United States are not wedded to any particular kind of machinery, save solely as means to the end desired. Our aim is to secure the real and not the nominal rule of the people. With this purpose in view, we propose to do away with whatever in our government tends to secure to privilege, and to the great sinister special interests, a rampart from behind which they can beat back the forces that strive for social and industrial justice, and frustrate the will of the people.”

Full text here

How an 1830s Children’s Magazine Taught Hard Truths About Slavery

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

From 1836 to 1839, the American Anti-Slavery Society published The Slave’s Friend, a juvenile periodical edited by abolitionist Lewis Tappan. Each issue, specially sized to fit small hands, was 16 pages in length and featured a mix of stories, news items, and poems meant to gently but firmly tell white children about the evils of slavery. The New York Public Library’s digital collection offers a small collection of scans of the magazine’s 1837 issues.