Thanks to the power of Twitter, everyday I learn about an awful lot of things. Here’s some of the best.
- Dave Merrill’s and Lauren Leatherby’s maps of land use of the United States for Bloomberg are excellent. Come for the cow pastures and timberland, stay for the Rhode Island as a unit of measurement.
- The United States is a major outlier in the frequency of prayer for its GDP says Dahlia Lahmy in Pew Research’s FactTank. But interestingly, we’re almost exactly where you would expect us to be when you plot the percent expressing how important religion is to income inequality (more of the latter tends to mean more saying the former). So, a lot of prayer without conviction?
- You might’ve heard the phrase “first-past-the-post” to describe a voting system where a geographical district elects one the person with the most votes. Where did that come from? Michael Balmaan takes a look at an 1884 compromise in Britain that transformed an obscure term for a type of unscrupulous sports betting into an institutional nightmare.
- High staff turnover in your congressperson’s office might be a sign of trouble (or someone being a bad boss), according to the free market think thank R Street’s Casey Burgat for The Washington Post‘s PostEverything section.
- “I didn’t know there was a progressive security policy,” said the late Michael Hastings in 2012; but he might’ve well said “foreign policy” because over half a decade later, with the Democratic Party shifting leftwards, The New Republic‘s Sarah Jones goes searching for the latter and finds the new generation of left politicians wanting. As RI’s liberal Senator Whitehouse is being primaried largely due to his support for interventionist wars, it’s worth pondering over why foreign policy hasn’t been important for progressives since the Iraq War used to make headlines and what a progressive foreign policy should look like.
- Is the sci-fi & fantasy geek in your life a better romantic partner than the reader who consumes romances? Tom Jacobs highlights a study that says “yes” for Pacific Standard. As always, apply the usual skepticism to reported scientific findings. Readers of the classics will be comforted to know that they’re less likely to believe disagreement is destructive.
- Ace Ratcliff looks at the disturbing lack of ADA-compliance in science fiction. Some of our utopian visions could stand to be a little more ideal.
Fixes for Elections Junkies:
- Zimbabwe’s first post-Mugabe presidential election has been held, and the opposition MDC has claimed victory for their candidate Nelson Chamisa; but the ruling Zanu-PDF has not confirmed that current President Emerson Mnangagwa is out (they have until August 4th to announce the results) — leading to fears of vote-rigging.
- Forcing the dissolution of the opposition party has worked wonders for the world’s longest-serving head of government, Cambodia’s Hun Sen. His party gained 46 seats to now have 114/125 seats in the National Assembly.
- Keep an eye on the Swedish General Election on September 9th. The main major parties have taken a dive, largely due to the rise of the nationalist Swedish Democrats – but there’s some movement trending towards the agrarian Center Party and the left-wing Left Party. Coalition formation could be difficult if the SD take enough seats that it’s impossible to maintain the cordon sanitaire and have a majority in the Riksdag without seeking coalition partners from the other wing.
- Tristin Hopper dissects all the issues Alberta would face were it try to abandon Canada for The National Post, and dubs such separatism as “the dumbest political movement in Canada today”.
- Thailand has the UK to extradite former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin have been involved in every party that has won an election in Thailand since 2001; a series of military coups and crises have put the less popular Democrat Party in power within a few years, starting in 2005. The current government is a military junta.
- Joan Baez covers Josh Ritter’s “Silver Blade” – the video for it is by Laura Hiliard
- Lindsay Ellis does a deep dive on why the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast missed the point entirely and responded to bad faith criticisms with its own clumsy gestures towards progressivism.