Archive for ‘Politics’

June 28, 2022

Democratic Backsliding in the U.S.

Democratic backsliding

Democratic backsliding has been ongoing in the U.S. since the late 2010s. The V-Dem Institute’s electoral democracy index score for the United States peaked in 2015 and declined sharply after 2016, for which year it was also downgraded to ‘flawed democracy’ by the Economist Intelligence Unit in its annual ‘Democracy Index’ report. Both V-Dem and Freedom House downgraded the United States in 2018.

Iranian–German sociologist Behrouz Alikhani cites the government following the interests of global corporations rather than citizens and loosening of campaign finance laws, especially the ‘Citizens United’ decision, to enable the wealthy greater influence in politics. Political scientist Wendy Brown argued in 2006 that the United States was de-democratizing because of neoliberalism and neoconservatism. In a 2021 book, historian Karen J. Greenberg argued that policies adopted during the war on terror enabled later democratic backsliding under the Trump administration.

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May 23, 2022

Socialist Fraternal Kiss

My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love

The socialist fraternal kiss was a special form of greeting between socialist leaders. The act demonstrated the special connection that exists between socialist countries, consisting of an embrace, along with a series of three kisses on alternate cheeks. In rare cases, when the two leaders considered themselves exceptionally close, the kisses were given on the mouth rather than on the cheeks.

The fraternal kiss became famous via Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev, who were photographed exercising the ritual. The photograph became widespread and it was subsequently reproduced into a graffiti painting on the Berlin Wall named ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.’

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April 27, 2022

Edge Sorting

Edge sorting

Edge sorting is a technique used in advantage gambling where a player determines whether a face-down playing card is likely to be low or high at casino table games by observing, learning, and exploiting subtle unintentional differences on the backs of the cards being dealt.

Applied by poker player Phil Ivey and subsequently challenged in court by the casino in which he did so, the UK High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court ruled that the technique, which requires the player to trick the dealer into rotating specific, high-value cards, is cheating in civil law, and that a casino was justified in refusing payment of winnings. This ruling would not be applicable if the player simply took advantage of an observed error or anomaly in the deck for which he was not responsible.

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March 21, 2022

Show Trial

Moscow trials

show trial is a public trial in which the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal the presentation of both the accusation and the verdict to the public so they will serve as both an impressive example and a warning to other would-be dissidents or transgressors.

Show trials tend to be retributive rather than corrective and they are also conducted for propagandistic purposes. When aimed at individuals on the basis of protected classes or characteristics, such trials are examples of political persecution. The term was first recorded in 1928.

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March 6, 2022

Kremlinology

Alexander Zinoviev

Kremlinology is the study and analysis of the politics and policies of the Soviet Union while Sovietology is the study of politics and policies of both the Soviet Union and former Communist states more generally. These two terms were synonymous until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In popular culture, the term is sometimes used to mean any attempt to understand a secretive organization or process, such as plans for upcoming products or events, by interpreting indirect clues.

During the Cold War, lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to ‘read between the lines’ and to use the tiniest tidbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for parades in Red Square, the choice of capital or small initial letters in phrases such as ‘First Secretary,’ the arrangement of articles on the pages of the party newspaper Pravda and other subtle signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics.

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February 14, 2022

Dixie Mafia

Pete Halat

The Dixie Mafia is a criminal organization composed mainly of white Southerners and based in Biloxi, Mississippi, operating primarily throughout the Southern United States since at least the 1970s. The group used each member’s talents in various crime categories to help move stolen merchandise, illegal alcohol, and illegal drugs.

Unlike members of the American Mafia, the members of the Dixie Mafia were not connected by family or country of origin. They were loosely connected individuals of many nationalities with a common goal – to make money and wield control over illegal moneymaking operations by any means, including influence peddling, bribery of public officials, and murder.

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January 7, 2022

Birds Aren’t Real

Conspiracy theory

Birds Aren’t Real is a satirical conspiracy theory which posits that birds are actually drones operated by the U.S. government to spy on American citizens. In 2018, journalist Rachel Roberts described Birds Aren’t Real as ‘a joke that thousands of people are in on.’

The movement argues that all birds in the United States were exterminated by the government between 1959 and 1971 and replaced by drones (the specifics of these theories as reported in news articles are not always consistent, not unlike actual conspiracy theories). They claim that birds sit on power lines to recharge themselves, and that bird poop on cars is a tracking method.

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January 5, 2022

Italian Sounding

Denominazione di origine controllata

Italian Sounding is a marketing phenomenon consisting of words and images, color combinations (the Italian tricolor) and geographical references for brands that are evocative of Italy to promote and market products – especially but not exclusively agri-food – that are not actually Made in Italy.

The phenomenon is described by the Office of the Ministry of Economic Development (MISE) called ‘Directorate General for the Protection of Industrial Property – Italian Patent and Trademark Office’ (DGTPI-UIBM).

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December 28, 2021

DAO

The DAO

decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), sometimes called a decentralized autonomous corporation (DAC), is an organization represented by rules encoded as a computer program that is transparent, controlled by the organization members and not influenced by a central government.

A DAO’s financial transaction record and program rules are maintained on a blockchain. The precise legal status of this type of business organization is unclear.

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October 22, 2021

Locksport

Lock picking

Locksport is the sport or recreation of defeating locking systems. Its enthusiasts learn including lock picking, lock bumping, and a variety of other skills traditionally known only to locksmiths and other security professionals.

Lock picking has existed for as long as locks have, and recreational lock picking has as well. King Louis XVI of France (1754–1793) was a keen designer, picker and manipulator of locks.

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October 19, 2021

Rhinoceros Party

Rhinoceros Party

The Rhinoceros Party is a Canadian federal-level satirical political party founded by Canadian political figure and entertainer François ‘Yo’ Gourd and led by Sébastien Côrriveau.

It was a registered political party in Canada from the 1960s. Operating within the tradition of political satire, the Rhinoceros Party’s basic credo, their so-called primal promise, was ‘a promise to keep none of our promises.’ They then promised outlandishly impossible schemes designed to amuse and entertain the voting public.

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September 28, 2021

Neopronoun

Non-binary gender

Neopronouns are a category of neologistic English third-person personal pronouns beyond she, he, they, one, and it. Neopronouns are preferred by some non-binary individuals who feel that they reflect their gender identity more accurately than any conventional pronoun.

Neopronouns may be words created to serve as pronouns such as ‘ze/hir’ or ‘noun-self’ pronouns where existing words are turned into personal pronouns such as fae/faeself.’ Some neopronouns allude to they/them, such as ‘ey/em’, a form of Spivak pronoun.

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