Archive for ‘World’

February 21, 2017

Vatnik

vatnik

Vatnik (Russian: ‘cotton-padded jacket’), a derivative of and often shortened to ‘vata’ (Russian: ‘batting’), is a derogatory social slang neologisms in Russian and Ukrainian languages, and an internet meme used in reference to individuals with pro-Russian jingoist and chauvinist views. In the original meaning, ‘vatnik’ (also ‘telogreika’) is a cheap cotton-padded jacket.

The meme was created by Anton Chadskiy under the pseudonym ‘Jedem das Seine.’ His associated picture of an anthropomorphic square-shaped quilted jacket similar to the cartoon character ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ was first posted on Russian social network ‘VK’ September 9, 2011. The meme went viral in 2012, but became much more widespread in society after the Russian military intervention in Ukraine started in 2014. Chadskiy, claiming he feared political persecution, left Russia in late 2014.

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February 20, 2017

Troll Army

pepe

The ‘web brigades,’ also known in English media as the ‘troll army,’ are state-sponsored anonymous Internet political commentators and trolls linked to the Russian government.

Participants report that they are organized into teams and groups of commentators that participate in Russian and international political blogs and Internet forums using sockpuppets (fraudulent accounts) and large-scale orchestrated trolling (harassment) and disinformation campaigns to promote pro-Putin and pro-Russian propaganda. It has also been found that Wikipedia articles were targeted by Russian internet propaganda activities.

January 18, 2017

Mahjong

mahjong tiles

Mahjong is a four player game that originated in China during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Three-player variations of the game can be found in South Korea and Japan. The game and its regional variants are widely played throughout Eastern and South Eastern Asia and have a small following in Western countries.

Similar to the Western card game rummy (though played with small tiles instead of playing cards), Mahjong is a game of skill, strategy, calculation, and luck. It is not known when the conversion from cards to tiles took place precisely but it most likely occurred in the middle of the 19th century. Traditionally, Mahjong tiles were made of bone, often backed with bamboo. Bone tiles are still available but most modern sets are constructed from various plastics such as bakelite, celluloid, and more recently nylon.

December 20, 2016

Post-truth Politics

fake news

brexit

Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post-truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it of ‘secondary’ importance.

While this has been described as a contemporary problem, there is a possibility that it has long been a part of political life, but was less notable before the advent of the Internet. In the novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ George Orwell cast a world in which the state is daily changing historic records to fit its propaganda goals of the day. Orwell is said to have based much of his criticism of this on Soviet Russian practices.

December 15, 2016

Kompromat

wikileaks

fancy bear

Kompromat is the Russian term for compromising materials about a politician or other public figure. Such materials can be used to create negative publicity, for blackmail, or for ensuring loyalty. Kompromat can be acquired from various security services, or outright forged, and then publicized by paying off a journalist. Widespread use of kompromat has been one of the characteristic features of politics in Russia and other post-Soviet states.

One recent development has been the creation of specialized kompromat websites, most famously compromat.ru, which will, for a fee of several hundred dollars, publish any piece of kompromat on anyone. Such websites are occasionally temporarily blocked by Russian ISPs and their owners harassed by government agencies. The possibility that the email accounts of senior Republican Party leaders have been hacked by Russian intelligence services worries some observers that President Donald Trump and members of his administration will be vulnerable to manipulation by the Russian government.

December 14, 2016

Fancy Bear

spear-phishing

pawn storm

Fancy Bear is a cyber espionage group that cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has linked to the GRU, a Russian military intelligence agency. Likely operating since the mid-2000s, Fancy Bear’s methods are consistent with the capabilities of nation-state actors. The threat group is known to target government, military, and security organizations, especially NATO-aligned and Transcaucasian states (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan).

Fancy Bear is thought to be responsible for cyber attacks on the German parliament, the French television station ‘TV5Monde,’ the White House, NATO, and the Democratic National Committee. It’s behavior has been classified as an ‘advanced persistent threat.’ They employ zero-day (previously unknown) vulnerabilities and use spear phishing (forged websites and emails) and malware to compromise targets.

December 13, 2016

Whataboutism

And you are lynching Negroes

Whataboutism is a term describing a propaganda technique used by the Soviet Union in its dealings with the Western world during the Cold War. When criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union, the response would be ‘What about…’ followed by the naming of an event in the Western world.

It represents a case of ‘tu quoque’ (Latin: ‘you also’) or the ‘appeal to hypocrisy,’ a logical fallacy which attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with that position, without directly refuting or disproving the opponent’s initial argument.

December 7, 2016

Deregulation

baby bells

airline deregulation

Deregulation is the process of removing or reducing state regulations (rules and laws, etc.), typically in the economic sphere. It is the undoing or repeal of governmental controls on the economy. It became common in advanced industrial economies in the 1970s and 1980s, as a result of new trends in economic thinking about the inefficiencies of government regulation, and the risk that regulatory agencies would be controlled by the regulated industry to its benefit, and thereby hurt consumers and the wider economy.

The stated rationale for deregulation is often that fewer and simpler regulations will lead to a raised level of competitiveness, therefore higher productivity, more efficiency and lower prices overall. Opposition to deregulation may usually involve apprehension regarding environmental pollution and environmental quality standards (such as the removal of regulations on hazardous materials), financial uncertainty, and constraining monopolies.

November 20, 2016

Sanctuary City

sanctuary city by Mikey Burton

Sanctuary city‘ is an unofficial and sometimes pejorative term for a city that has deprioritized the enforcement of national immigration laws. Some so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ have adopted regulations prohibiting police or municipal employees from inquiring about a person’s immigration status. Others decline to prosecute immigrants if they have committed no crime other than entering illegally. The designation has no precise legal meaning and is viewed negatively by some and positively by others. Toronto has been a declared sanctuary city since 2014. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to cut all federal funding for sanctuary cities on his first day in office.

Local governments in a few cities in the US began designating themselves as sanctuary cities during the 1980s. However, the term is often used incorrectly to describe trust acts or community policing policies that limit entanglement between local police and federal immigration authorities. The policy was first initiated in 1979 in Los Angeles, to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees. The internal policy, ‘Special Order 40,’ states: ‘Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. Officers shall not arrest nor book persons for violation of title 8, section 1325 of the United States Immigration code (Illegal Entry).’

November 16, 2016

May You Live In Interesting Times

interesting times

crisis

‘May you live in interesting times’ is an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. While seemingly a blessing, the expression is always used ironically, with the clear implication that ‘uninteresting times,’ of peace and tranquillity, are more life-enhancing than interesting ones, which from historical perspective usually include disorder and conflict.

Despite being so common in English as to be known as ‘the Chinese curse,’ the saying is apocryphal, and no actual Chinese source has ever been produced. The nearest related Chinese expression is usually translated as ‘Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a human in a chaotic (warring) period.’ The expression originates from a 1627 short story collection, ‘Stories to Awaken the World.’

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November 12, 2016

Populism

trump sanders by Tom Bachtell

Populism is a political ideology that holds that virtuous citizens are mistreated by a small circle of elites, who can be overthrown if the people recognize the danger and work together. Populism depicts elites as trampling on the rights, values, and voice of the legitimate people.

Populist movements are found in many democratic nations. According to Cas Mudde, a Dutch political scientist who focuses on political extremism and populism in Europe: ‘Many observers have noted that populism is inherent to representative democracy; after all, do populists not juxtapose ‘the pure people’ against ‘the corrupt elite?”

October 17, 2016

Pussy

pussy-bow

pussy-riot

The word pussy is a noun, an adjective, and in rare uses a verb in the English language. It has several meanings, including use as slang, as euphemism, and as vulgarity. Common meanings of the noun include ‘cat,’ ‘coward or weakling,’ and ‘the human vulva or vagina.’ Because of its multiple senses including both innocent and vulgar connotations, ‘pussy’ is often the subject of double entendre, including the late-19th-century vaudeville act the Barrison Sisters, who performed the notorious routine ‘Do You Want To See My Pussy?’ in which they raised their skirts to reveal live kittens.

The etymology of the word is not entirely clear. Several different senses of the word have different histories or origins. The feline variant comes from the Modern English word ‘puss,’ a conventional name or term of address for a pet cat in several Germanic languages, including Dutch (‘poes’) and Middle Low German (pūse). The word puss is attested in English as early as 1533. Earlier etymology is uncertain, but similar words exist in other European languages, including Lithuanian (puižė) and Irish (puisín) as traditional calls to attract a cat.

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