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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
 
 
Tuesday 31st of December 2019
 
Afternoon,
Africa

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Macro Thoughts

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30-DEC-2019 :: The Decade is Drawing to a Close.
Africa


The Decade is drawing to a close.
Rumi pronounced that  "We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering
stars like dust."
And the Mevlana as he was wont to do intuited the Truth
We now know that Nearly half of the atoms that make up our bodies may
have formed beyond the Milky Way and travelled to the solar system on
intergalactic winds driven by giant exploding stars, astronomers
claim. The dramatic conclusion emerges from computer simulations that
reveal how galaxies grow over aeons by absorbing huge amounts of
material that is blasted out of neighbouring galaxies when stars
explode at the end of their lives.
“Science is very useful for finding our place in the universe,” said
Daniel Anglés-Alcázar, an astronomer at Northwestern University in
Evanston, Illinois. “In some sense we are extragalactic visitors or
immigrants in what we think of as our galaxy.”
“Our origins are much less local than we thought,” said
Faucher-Giguère. “This study gives us a sense of how things around us
are connected to distant objects in the sky.”
However Don DeLillo brings us right back to Earth pronouncing  We're
the last billionth of a second in the evolution of matter.
The World has been spinning at a dizzying speed and whilst it is only
the end of the decade, it somehow feels like the "Fin de Siècle"
Changes which are actually taking place at these junctures tend to
acquire extra (sometimes mystical) layers of meaning. it certainly
feels like a decade of "semiotic arousal" when everything, it seemed,
was a sign, a harbinger of some future radical disjuncture or
cataclysmic upheaval.
On one side we have Economists who opine ''We have never had it so
good'' that mankind has entered a Golden Age a miraculous moment of
Prosperity, reducing poverty and longevity. On the other side we have
a 16 year old Greta Tintin Eleonora Ernman Thunberg announcing
‘How dare you?’: and that ‘You have stolen my dreams and my childhood
with your empty words’
Millions of People are on the streets from Latin America to Europe,
from India to just about everywhere. It feels like a very binary
moment. Predicting the Future is now in fact more complex than the
computer simulations which revealed how galaxies grew over aeons.
Dominic Cummings [Boris Johnson's Advisor] captured this best in a
Blog captioned ''The Hollow Men''
Our world is based on extremely complex, nonlinear, interdependent
networks (physical, mental, social). Properties emerge from feedback
between vast numbers of interactions: for example, the war of ant
colonies, the immune system’s defences, market prices, and abstract
thoughts all emerge from the interaction of millions of individual
agents. Interdependence, feedback, and nonlinearity mean that systems
are fragile and vulnerable to nonlinear shocks: ‘big things come from
small beginnings’ and problems cascade, ‘they come not single spies /
But in battalions’. Prediction is extremely hard even for small
timescales. Effective action and (even loose) control are very hard
and most endeavours fail.
Interestingly he concluded thus
They think they are prepared to ‘run the country’ but many cannot run
their own diaries. Politics therefore suffers from a surfeit of
narcissists.
Therefore, the above is my long winded Caveat Emptor.
The best investments over the past decade have been as follows
Bitcoin: +8,990,000%
Netflix: +4,177%
Amazon: +1,787%
Mastercard: +1,126%
Apple: +966%
Visa: +824%
Starbucks: +800%
Bitcoin in fact returned +88% in 2019. As You know I am a Naysayer
now. The level of hocus pocus analysis around Bitcoin is now just too
much and I am inclined to the view that Bitcoin will likely prove to
be an ''intelligence'' level Operation and probably of the Jeffrey
Epstein sort. Bitcoin was last at $7,300 and of course it is the
epitomy of non linearity so I would like to be short probably closer
to $10,000 looking for a an eventual capitulation below a $1,000,00
I remain very bullish Netflix and think its price got impaired this
year by a bunch of Johnny come Latelys. In my view Disney will succeed
but the others will fall by the wayside. Netflix is at $329.09. I put
out a supreme conviction ''Buy'' Alert on 23-SEP-2019 at $270.75 and
am reiterating that Buy call targeting $500.00 in 2020 a +51.975%
uplift.
As You are aware the World continues to surf on a rising tide of Free
or nearly free money which has lifted US Stock Indices to all time
highs, surged Bond prices and made SSA sovereign Bonds the best
performing bonds world wide in 2019. We are in the 9th Innings of this
expansion. However, Trump wants to win an election. Xi needs a Truce
in the Trade War before the Chinese Economy runs away from him and
over the cliff edge. So I appreciate we are at te Fag End of this
Party but the Punchbowl just got refilled. Enjoy it a little longer
but how much longer is the $64,000 question and remember the
unravelling will be non-linear and exponential.

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S&P 500 Software Index returned some 470%, led by the renaissance of Microsoft Bloomberg Commodity Energy index dropped 71%. So $100 in a long software/short energy trade would have turned into $1,971 by decade's end @markets @johnauthers
Africa


S&P 500 Software Index returned some 470%, led by the renaissance of
Microsoft Corp.  Bloomberg Commodity Energy index dropped 71%. So $100
in a long software/short energy trade would have turned into $1,971 by
decade’s end, with dividends reinvested, and $1,783 on a price-only
basis.

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24 JUN 19 :: Wizard of Oz World.
Africa


We are in ‘’nose-bleed’’ territory. This is ‘’Voodoo Economics’’ and
just because we have not rea- ched the point when the curtain was
lifted in the Wizard of Oz and the Wizard revealed to be ‘’an ordinary
conman from Omaha who has been using elaborate magic tricks and props
to make himself seem “great and powerful”’’ should not lull us into a
false sense of security.

Home Thoughts

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On The Road The Star January 7th 2013
Africa


My Christmas holiday ritual is to jump into a car and take the family
down to the Coast. The Nairobi-Mombasa road arrows 'into immensities
and is 'impossible-to- believe.' It retains a near mystical hold on my
imagination and connects me to my childhood and beyond. Dad used to
once own an Alfa Romeo [of which there were only three then in the
country] and my pilgrimage along that road started then, when we used
to come from Mombasa. Now, of course, we set off from Nairobi but the
road still has its hold. The landmarks still reach out to me. This
time we were swarmed by doves near Emali which was breathtaking. There
is still the eerie and deserted very Oscar Niemeyer building which
might have been a petrol station with a restaurant. We stopped at
Makindu which is like being teleported to Amritsar and on New Years
day was packed to the rafters. We always stop at Mackinnon road where
there is a shrine which houses the tomb of Seyyid Baghali, a Punjabi
foreman at the time of the building of the railway who was renowned
for his strength.

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The Mystic of Mackinnon Road - @SonyaKassam
Africa


Mackinnon Road train station lies along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway
near Mariakani town. The most outstanding landmark here is the
Mackinnon Road Mosque that was built as a result of the tomb of Seyyid
Baghali, who was a foreman at the time of building the railway fabled
for his tremendous strength and according to many, charmed lifestyle.
Travellers, regardless of religion or colour have been making stop
overs at the shrine long before independence and are pulling up at the
sight to this day.
Legend has it that Baghali was a saint whose family tree traced back
to the Holy Prophet, a fact that he tried to conceal from the public
to no avail. For when he got tired of carrying stones, his ‘laden
karai’ (vessel) would float above his head to the consternation of
many.
By 1940s, when the grave was still covered in bushes, travellers would
stop there and ask for boons and generally attribute their safety
during their journey to the holy man buried at the tomb. The news
spread, a legend started and a reputation of the place grew.
People later claimed that Baghali would communicate with man-eaters
(lions) who were terrorising the Indian workers and order them to
relocate saving the lives of his colleagues.

The Mystic of Mackinnon Road

veiled by bougainvillea within sacred alabastrine walls
travellers pause, seek fragrant blessings for onward journeys

the iron snake tracks through unforgiving terrains
yet you walk as though treading on rose petals
stone laden karai floats over you in reverence, a halo?
the python consents to your prayers
even the man-eaters daren’t cross perimeters

forgive my impertinence
my persistence, my obstinance
O Mystic of Mackinnon Road, I discovered

a secret divine within the Lunatic Line’s shrine…
those who dare transcend the limits of possibility
remain indifferent to accusations of insanity

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September 1, 1939 W. H. Auden -
Africa


I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

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OCTOBER 30, 2014 BY DOMINIC CUMMINGS The Hollow Men II: Some reflections on Westminster and Whitehall dysfunction
Africa


Mistah Kurtz—he dead.
A penny for the Old Guy
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion…
… Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow…’
The Hollow Men, T.S. Eliot.

‘You’re a mutant virus, I’m the immune system and it’s my job to expel
you from the organism.’ DfE official re Gove’s team.
1. Complexity makes prediction hard.
Our world is based on extremely complex, nonlinear, interdependent
networks (physical, mental, social). Properties emerge from feedback
between vast numbers of interactions: for example, the war of ant
colonies, the immune system’s defences, market prices, and abstract
thoughts all emerge from the interaction of millions of individual
agents. Interdependence, feedback, and nonlinearity mean that systems
are fragile and vulnerable to nonlinear shocks: ‘big things come from
small beginnings’ and problems cascade, ‘they come not single spies /
But in battalions’. Prediction is extremely hard even for small
timescales. Effective action and (even loose) control are very hard
and most endeavours fail.
Blofeld: Kronsteen, you are sure this plan is foolproof?
Kronsteen: Yes it is, because I have anticipated every possible
variation of counter-move.

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"That feels SO good!" A black-backed jackal nibbles at the ear of its mate. Nicky Firer Via @WildWingsSafari @africageo
Africa


"That feels SO good!" A black-backed jackal nibbles at the ear of its
mate, probably helping to dislodge ticks and alleviate the irritation
of other skin parasites.

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The more closed a given system, the greater it will be affected by entropy - the natural inclination towards disorder and loss of energy. @man_integrated
Africa


This is especially true of human systems.
*Political movements
*Social organizations
*Religions
*Twitter cults of ideas
Re-cognate, or die.

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Lardo, anchovies picos and ox tongue carpaccio.Source: Sabor @luxury
Africa


Sabor, London

Spanish chef Nieves Barragan has developed a following in London for
her authentic and unfussy cooking, showcasing great produce. “I eat
there a lot,” says Chris Galvin of Galvin La Chapelle in London. “I
love the variety of specials while there are always the seasonal
classics, the staff, deep flavors and deliciousness, coupled with the
drinks and buzz always make me feel happy to be alive.”

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Frantzen, Stockholm A dish from the Stockholm restaurant, Frantzen. @luxury
Africa


This contemporary restaurant in Stockholm is the pick of two great
chefs. Elena Arzak, of Arzak in San Sebastián says: “Great creativity,
respect for the product. Björn Frantzén makes you really dream.” Mark
Birchall, whose Moor Hall in northern England holds the title of top
U.K. restaurant, says:  “Every single dish was exquisite but
particularly memorable was an amazing fish course; Alfonsino from
Norway, sea urchin XO, yuzu kosho beurre blanc with sea-buckthorn
oil.”

Political Reflections

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27-MAY-2019 :: In one fell swoop, President Xi Jinping was President for Life. President Xi is on a Pedestal
Law & Politics


In China, however, there is only one decider who was pronounced as
much by Xinhua in a historical announcement in March 2018.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China “propo- sed to
remove the expression that ‘the president and vice-president of the
people’s republic of China shall serve no more than two consecutive
terms’ from the country’s constitution.”
In one fell swoop, President Xi Jinping was president for life.
President Jinping is on a Pedestal and is faced with the Strong Man
Conundrum. The Political Brand will not permit a retreat let alone a
Surrende

中共中央政治局召开专题民主生活会。会议指出:#习近平 总书记高瞻远瞩、统揽全局、运筹帷幄、指挥若定,展现了人民 #领袖
深切的为民情怀。@TomWangNYT
https://twitter.com/TomWangNYT/status/1210652661474680832?s=20

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The Field Guide to Tyranny @NewYorker @adamgopnik
Law & Politics


Dictatorship has, in one sense, been the default condition of
humanity. The basic governmental setup since the dawn of civilization
could be summarized, simply, as taking orders from the boss. Big
chiefs, almost invariably male, tell their underlings what to do, and
they do it, or they are killed. Sometimes this is costumed in communal
decision-making, by a band of local bosses or wise men, but even the
most collegial department must have a chairman: a capo di tutti capi
respects the other capi, as kings in England were made to respect the
lords, but the capo is still the capo and the king is still the king.
Although the arrangement can be dressed up in impressive clothing and
nice sets—triumphal Roman arches or the fountains of Versailles—the
basic facts don’t alter. Dropped down at random in history, we are all
as likely as not to be members of the Soprano crew, waiting outside
Satriale’s Pork Store.

Only in the presence of an alternative—the various movements for
shared self-government that descend from the Enlightenment—has any
other arrangement really been imagined. As the counter-reaction to
Enlightenment liberalism swept through the early decades of the
twentieth century, dictators, properly so called, had to adopt rituals
that were different from those of the kings and the emperors who
preceded them. The absence of a plausible inherited myth and the need
to create monuments and ceremonies that were both popular and
intimidating led to new public styles of leadership. All these
converged in a single cult style among dictators.

That, more or less, is the thesis of Frank Dikötter’s new book, “How
to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century”
(Bloomsbury). Dikötter—who, given his subject, has a wonderfully
suggestive, Nabokovian name—is a Dutch-born professor of history at
the University of Hong Kong; he has previously written about the
history of China under Mao, debunking, at scholarly length and with a
kind of testy impatience, the myth of Mao as an essentially benevolent
leader. “How to Be a Dictator” takes off from a conviction, no doubt
born of his Mao studies, that a tragic amnesia about what ideologues
in power are like has taken hold of too many minds amid the current
“crisis of liberalism.” And so he attempts a sort of anatomy of
authoritarianism, large and small, from Mao to Papa Doc Duvalier.

Each dictator’s life is offered with neat, mordant compression.
Dikötter’s originality is that he counts crimes against civilization
alongside crimes against humanity. Stalin is indicted for having more
than 1.5 million people interrogated, tortured, and, in many cases,
executed. (“At the campaign’s height in 1937 and 1938 the execution
rate was roughly a thousand per day,” Dikötter writes.) But Stalin is
also held responsible for a nightmarish cultural degradation that
occurred at the same time—the insistence on replacing art with
political instruction, and with the cult of the Leader, whose name was
stamped on every possible surface. As one German historian notes, you
could praise Stalin “during a meeting in the Stalin House of Culture
of the Stalin Factory on Stalin Square in the city of Stalinsk.” This
black comedy of egotism could be found even among neo-Stalinist
dictators of far later date. In 1985, Nicolae Ceauşescu, Romania’s
Communist leader, ordered up such television programs as “The Nicolae
Ceauşescu Era” and “Science During the Nicolae Ceauşescu Epoch.” By
law, his portrait was featured at the beginning of every textbook.

Dikötter’s broader point is that this manner spread to the most
improbable corners of the world. His most interesting chapters, in
some ways, are on the “tin-pot” dictators—like Duvalier, in Haiti, and
Mengistu, in Ethiopia—who, ravaging poverty-stricken countries, still
conform to the terrible type. The reason his subjects exhibit a single
style is in part mutual influence and hybridization (North Korean
artists made Mengistu a hundred-and-sixty-foot-tall monument in
Ethiopia), and in part common need. All share one ugliness because all
bend to one effect: not charm but intimidation, and not persuasion but
fear.

The elements come together in almost every case to make one standard
biography. There’s the rise, which is usually assisted by
self-deluding opportunists who believe that they can restrain the
ascendant authoritarian figure; old Bolsheviks like Grigory Zinoviev,
countering Trotsky, played just as significant a role in Stalin’s
ascent, largely through abstention, as the respectable conservative
Franz von Papen did in Hitler’s. (“We can control him” is the
perpetual motto of the soon-to-be-killed collaborator.) Next there is
the attainment of power, and the increasingly frantic purging,
followed by a cult of personality made all the more ludicrous by the
passage of time, because it is capable only of inflation, not
variation. Along with that comes some re-identification with figures
from the national past. The exploitation of the imaginary Aryan
history, bestrode by Valhallan gods, became central to the Hitler
cult. In the same way, Dikötter shows, Duvalier took up the animism of
Haitian vodou and presented himself as the avatar of the cemetery
spirit Baron Samedi.

Then comes the isolation of the dictator within his palace—friendless
and paranoid—and the pruning of his circle to an ever more sycophantic
few. The dictator, rather than exulting in his triumph, withdraws into
fearful seclusion. Finally, after all the death and brutality imposed,
the dictator’s power, and often his life, ends with remarkable
suddenness. You can watch video footage of Ceauşescu, in Bucharest,
1989, confidently addressing an assembled audience and realizing in a
single moment that the crowd has turned. “Comrades! Quiet down!” the
dictator cries out, while his wife shrilly shouts, “Silence!” The
firing squad was only a few days away. Mussolini was ejected just as
abruptly, and Hitler would have been, too, if he hadn’t killed himself
first. Stalin seemed to make it to a natural end, but, as that
terrific movie “The Death of Stalin” shows, he probably died sooner
than he otherwise would have, because his flunkies were too terrified
to do anything when they found him unconscious in a pool of his own
piss.

Still, Dikötter’s portrait of his dictators perhaps underemphasizes a
key point about such men: that, horribly grotesque in most areas, they
tend to be good in one, and their skill at the one thing makes their
frightened followers overrate their skill at all things, like children
of a drunken father who take a small act of Christmas charity as proof
of enormous instinctive generosity. Compare Dikötter’s account of
Hitler’s rise with John Lukacs’s account, and one recalls how Lukacs,
without softening the portrait one bit, recognized that Hitler did
some things extremely well. Hitler’s occasional moments of shrewdness
and even statesmanship—in seeing that Stalin would trust him not to
invade Russia, or that France was not prepared to fight—made his
followers more convinced than ever of his genius.

The difference between charismatic leadership and the cult of
personality—different points in the trajectory of the dictator—is that
the charismatic leader must show himself and the object of the cult of
personality increasingly can’t show himself. The space between the
truth and the image becomes too great to sustain. Mao, like God, could
be credibly omniscient only by being unpredictably seen. Imposing an
element of mystery is essential. And so most of the subjects here
rarely made public appearances at the height of their cults. Stalin
and Hitler both remained hidden for much of the war; to show
themselves was to show less than their audiences wanted.

During the Cultural Revolution, Mao’s image was everywhere, but, when
preparing to greet Richard Nixon, he made much of the imagery
disappear. “All signs of the Chairman were removed from window
displays,” Dikötter writes. “Thousands of statues were dismantled,
discreetly sent off for recycling.” The king or the emperor has his
glory channelled into the national religion or ritual; the dictator,
rising with a revolution against the old order, is in some sense an
iconoclast, and has to be more enigmatic. Months went by in which
nobody saw Mussolini; Stalin refused to take part in his own victory
parade after the Second World War, leaving the task to his top
general, Georgy Zhukov; Duvalier holed up in his palace, then suddenly
appeared shopping in little Port-au-Prince boutiques. Sometimes there,
sometimes not, now you see him, now you don’t—less the hero of a
thousand faces than the overseer with a million eyes. You never know
when you’ll see Big Brother—or when he’ll see you.

The really significant historical question is how the modern
authoritarian’s cult of personality differs from the monarch’s or the
emperor’s. Roman emperors, after all, were actually deified. It
matters that the twentieth-century cult of political personality rose
in the context of the broader twentieth-century cult of celebrity.
Though Chaplin was retrospectively rueful, it was not a crazy
notion—and he would use it to fantastic comic effect in “The Great
Dictator,” still the best satiric study of dictator style ever
created. Fandom and fanaticism made their historical appearance hand
in hand. (Even today, Donald Trump likes dictators not only because he
likes authoritarians but also because they present themselves, in ways
he understands, as kitsch celebrities, with entourages and prepackaged
“looks.”)

Dikötter makes a case that there has been a dictator style, stretching
across the planet. Is there also a dictator sound—a specific way that
they use language? “The Ogre does what ogres can, / Deeds quite
impossible for Man,” Auden wrote in 1968, after the Soviet tanks
rolled into Prague. “But one prize is beyond his reach, / The Ogre
cannot master Speech.” The idea that language was the last bulwark
against lunacy was central, in the middle of the last century, to
minds like Camus and Orwell. Lucidity is a test of integrity, as
Orwell insisted in “Politics and the English Language.” Tyrants can’t
talk sense.

But what if, dreadful idea, the reverse is true—what if language is
exactly what the ogres have mastered, and bad people tend to have a
better command of language than good ones, who are often tongue-tied
in the face of the world’s complexities? What if the tragedies of
tyranny were, in the first instance, tragedies of eloquence
misapplied—of language used for evil ends, but used well? For
centuries, students learned Latin by memorizing the writing of the
great Roman tyrant and republic-ending ogre Julius Caesar. They did it
exactly because Caesar’s style was so clear, efficiently sorting out
Druids and Picts, always focussed on the main point.

The worst dictators tend to be the most enthusiastic readers and
writers. Hitler died with more than sixteen thousand books in his
private libraries; Stalin wrote a book that was printed in the tens of
millions, and though that is easier to do when you run the publisher,
own all the bookstores, and edit all the book reviews (only Jeff Bezos
could hope to do that now), still, he did his own writing. Mussolini
co-authored three plays while ruling Italy and was the honorary
president of the International Mark Twain Society, writing a greeting
to the readers of his favorite author while installed as Duce. Lenin
and Trotsky, whatever else they may have done, both wrote more vividly
and at greater length than did, say, Clement Attlee or Tommy
Douglas—social-democratic politicians who did great good in the world
and left few catchy slogans behind. “Political power grows out of the
barrel of a gun” and “The revolution is not a dinner party,” Mao’s
apologias for mass killing, may not be admirable sentiments, but they
are memorable aphorisms—far more memorable than the contrasting truth
that some political power grows out of the barrels of some guns some
of the time, depending on what you mean by “power” and “political,”
and whom you’re pointing the gun at.

This contrarian hypothesis is nicely put in Daniel Kalder’s “The
Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other
Catastrophes of Literacy” (Henry Holt). In many ways the literary
companion to Dikötter’s book, “The Infernal Library” is the work of a
non-academic scholar with a staggering appetite for reading. The same
dictators fill both books, but Kalder’s focus is on their words more
than their acts. He has worked through a reading list that would leave
most people heading desperately for an exit, and an easier subject.
Anyone can read “Mein Kampf” who has the stomach for the maunderings
of a self-pitying, failed Austrian watercolorist. But Kalder has
actually made his way through the philosophy of António de Oliveira
Salazar, for decades the semi-fascist quasi-dictator of Portugal, and
gives his 1939 tome, “Doctrine and Action,” a fair review. We may have
heard that Stalin’s “Foundations of Leninism” was printed in the
millions, but Kalder has read it, and with a certain kind of
devil’s-due respect: “He is clear and succinct, and good at
summarizing complex ideas for a middlebrow audience: the Bill Bryson
of dialectical materialism, minus the gags.”

Kalder’s point is the disquieting one that the worst tyrants of the
past century were hardly the brutal less-than-literates of our
imagination. (Hitler, twenty and poor in Vienna, put down “writer” as
his occupation on an official document. He wasn’t, but it was what he
dreamed of being.) Their power did not grow out of the barrel of a
gun. It grew out of their ability to form sentences saying that power
grew out of the barrel of a gun, when in fact it was growing out of
the pages of a book. Mao was even more effective as an advocate than
as a general. The trouble with these tyrants’ language was what they
used it for.

Kalder proposes Lenin as the originator of the modern totalitarian
style in prose, adopting Marx’s splenetic polemical tone for the
purposes of Communist revolution. Kalder’s Lenin is a useful
corrective to the more benign version of Lenin that still crops up
from time to time—partly owing, it must be said, to Edmund Wilson’s
1940 book, “To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting
of History.” Wilson’s Lenin may have been insufficiently sensitive to
civil liberties, but he was fundamentally humane and philosophical, a
first-rate intellect caught in a first-rate crisis. His flaw was a
lack of patience with his own deeply felt humanism, self-censoring
even his love of Beethoven in pursuit of the public good. (Following
Wilson, Tom Stoppard, in his great 1974 comedy “Travesties,” showed
Lenin listening longingly to the “Appassionata” Sonata.) Vladimir
Nabokov, who knew better, regularly tried to disabuse Wilson of this
belief. “What you now see as a change for the worse (‘Stalinism’) in
the regime is really a change for the better in knowledge on your
part,” he wrote to Wilson in 1948. “Any changes that took place
between November 1919 and now have been changes in the decor which
more or less screens an unchanging black abyss of oppression and
terror.”

Kalder shares that view. After reading Lenin’s “The State and
Revolution,” he writes, “It’s impossible to be surprised that the USSR
turned out so badly.” Already in 1905, we learn from Kalder, Lenin is
dismissive of the very notion of “freedom” within an exploitative
society, writing, “The freedom of the bourgeois writer, artist, or
actress is simply masked (or hypocritically masked) dependence on the
money-bag, on corruption, on prostitution.” It’s significant that the
“actress” comes in for Lenin’s disapproval; John Stuart Mill and
Harriet Taylor, in “The Subjection of Women,” from 1869, had singled
out actresses as a cynosure of liberal feminism, since they were the
one kind of woman artist whose equality, or superiority, to men was on
public display. (Taylor’s daughter Helen, who also worked on the book,
was herself an actress.) Demoralizing actresses as mere prostitutes is
therefore an essential part of the Marxist attack on bourgeois
feminism.

Stalin, in Kalder’s account, not only succeeds Lenin as an author but
surpasses him. Against the Trotskyite view of Stalin as a Georgian
bandit chief, Kalder argues that Stalin was actually a big thinker and
a good writer, capable of popularizing Marx in ways Lenin could not.
He was a devoted craftsman of prose, too, as his much marked
manuscripts attest. “Because Stalin’s primary means of interacting
with the physical world was through paper, it is not surprising that
he continued to demonstrate a superstitious awe for the power of the
written word,” Kalder observes. “He was still fascinated by books, by
novels and plays, and by the arts generally.” Some writers even sought
out Stalin for literary advice. The amazing thing is that they got it:
one prominent playwright, Alexander Afinogenov, started sending his
plays directly to Stalin for a first read, and, despite the burdens of
ruling a totalitarian empire, Stalin would get back to him with notes.
If you want to know what a country with an editor at its head looks
like, there it is.

Stalin, Kalder concludes, “was a naïve romantic, at least insofar as
he believed in the transformative power of literature.” He recognized
that words shape ideas, and ideas shape souls. In 1932, he cheerfully
summoned forty of the leading writers of the Soviet Union to come to
dinner, exhorting them with language one might expect from a faculty
dean making a case for the humanities: “Our tanks are worthless if the
souls who must steer them are made of clay. . . . And that is why I
raise my glass to you, writers, to the engineers of the human soul.”
Of the writers who were in that room, Stalin had eleven murdered
before the decade was over. Editorial rigor could achieve no more.

After spending time with Stalin, one finds Hitler and Mussolini, taken
as authors, almost anticlimactic. Yet Kalder spots something that is
hard to articulate but worth brooding on. When Stalin addressed
workers who made tractors, he was actually interested in tractors:
they were a means toward a more productive Russia. The better
life—based on efficient, electrified, and modernized farms—was
visible, however many lives you had to take to get there. By contrast,
Hitler and Mussolini were apocalyptic pessimists. Their work expends
far more energy on the melodrama of decline and decadence, on visions
of Jews giving syphilis to Aryan maidens and on the Roman ruins, than
on a positive future. (Part of what drew Hitler to the Wagnerian œuvre
was the imagery of downfall.) Kalder has read Mussolini’s memoir,
written after his deposition, and is struck by the Italian dictator’s
self-pitying conviction that the price of power is complete
self-enclosure: “If I had any friends now would be the time for them
to sympathize, literally to ‘suffer with’ me. But since I have none my
misfortunes remain within the closed circle of my own life.” It is
significant that his bleak estrangement is what he most wants to
register. It really is all about him. This taste for despair was part
of both men’s romanticism, and, in Hitler’s case, directly responsible
for the horrific last months of a war already lost. He wanted the
world to burn. Germany hadn’t deserved him.

Kalder’s analysis suggests another signal difference. The Soviet
Union, and left totalitarianism in general, is a culture of the
written word; the Third Reich, and right authoritarianism in general,
is a culture of the spoken word. Wanting the prestige of authorship
but discovering that writing is hard work, Hitler dictated most of
“Mein Kampf” to the eager Rudolf Hess. Hitler was always unhappy with
the slowness of reading and writing, compared with the vivid
electricity of his rallies. Where the Marxist heritage, being
theory-minded and principle-bound, involves the primacy of the text,
right-wing despotism, being romantic and charismatic, is buoyed by the
shared spell cast between an orator and his mob. One depends on a set
of abstract rules; the other on a sequence of mutual bewitchments.

Where does the double tour of dictator style leave us? Dikötter, in
“How to Be a Dictator,” seems uncertain whether he is writing an
epitaph or a prologue to a new edition. On the one hand, he deprecates
the continuities between the twentieth-century cults and the more
improvisatory autocrats of our day. “Even a modicum of historical
perspective indicates that today dictatorship is on the decline,” he
maintains. But he sees ominous signs in Erdoğan’s rise, in Turkey, and
notes that, in China, Xi Jinping has become consistently idolized by a
“propaganda machine.” In 2017, Dikötter points out, “the party organ
gave him seven titles, from Creative Leader, Core of the Party and
Servant Pursuing Happiness for the People, to Leader of a Great
Country and Architect of Modernisation in the New Era.” Meanwhile, he
observes, as “the regime makes a concerted effort to obliterate a
fledgling civil society, lawyers, human rights activists, journalists
and religious leaders are confined, exiled and imprisoned in the
thousands.”

Thousands are better than millions, certainly—though historically
thousands have a way of leading to millions. If there is little
comfort in numbers, there is even less in words. Auden’s noble
picture, in which the poets fight the mute ogre, can’t survive the
shock of history. The ogres, it turns out, are part of literary
culture and always have been—they speak and write books and read other
people’s books. If by protecting the integrity of language we mean
upholding the belief that literary culture, or even just plain
truth-telling, is in itself a bulwark, the facts don’t bear out the
hypothesis. Literary culture is no remedy for totalitarianism. Ogres
gonna ogre. Rhetoric is as liquid and useful for the worst as it is
for the best. The humanities, unfortunately, belong to humanity.

Perhaps the most depressing reflection sparked by both books is on the
supine nature of otherwise intelligent observers in the face of the
coarse brutalities of dictatorships. Kalder writes, as many have
before, about Mao’s successful courtship of Western writers and
leaders, who kept the Maoist myth alive as his cult descended into
barbaric absurdity. He also writes of finding, in a small Scottish
town, a contemporary English translation of Stalin’s “Speech at a
Conference of Harvester-Combine Operators,” delivered in December of
1935, including interpolated parentheticals of audience response:
“Loud and prolonged cheers and applause. Cries of ‘Long live our
beloved Stalin!’ ” The marvel is that the pamphlet had been translated
into English within days after the speech was given. “Then,” Kalder
observes, “berserk cultists spirited it across the waves, and read it,
and found value in it, in a society where nobody was being starved to
death, shot in the head or interned in a slave labor camp.” The
capacity for self-delusion on the part of cosseted utopians about the
actuality of utopia remains the most incomprehensible element of the
story of the twentieth century, and its least welcome gift to the
twenty-first. ♦

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The 2010s were The End of Normal @nytimes @michikokakutani
Law & Politics


TWO OF THE MOST WIDELY QUOTED and shared poems in the closing years of
this decade were William Butler Yeats’s “The Second Coming” (“Things
fall apart; the centre cannot hold”), and W.H. Auden’s “September 1,
1939” (“Waves of anger and fear / Circulate over the bright / And
darkened lands of the earth”). Yeats’s poem, written just after World
War I, spoke of a time when “The best lack all conviction, while the
worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” Auden’s poem, written in
the wake of Germany’s invasion of Poland, described a world lying “in
stupor,” as democracy was threatened and “the enlightenment driven
away.”
Apocalypse is not yet upon our world as the 2010s draw to an end, but
there are portents of disorder. The hopes nourished during the opening
years of the decade — hopes that America was on a progressive path
toward growing equality and freedom, hopes that technology held
answers to some of our most pressing problems — have given way, with
what feels like head-swiveling speed, to a dark and divisive new era.
Fear and distrust are ascendant now. At home, hate-crime violence
reached a 16-year high in 2018, the F.B.I. reported. Abroad, there
were big geopolitical shifts. With the rise of nationalist movements
and a backlash against globalization on both sides of the Atlantic,
the liberal post-World War II order — based on economic integration
and international institutions — began to unravel, and since 2017, the
United States has not only abdicated its role as a stabilizing leader
on the global stage, but is also sowing unpredictability and chaos
abroad.
A 2019 Freedom House report, which recorded global declines in
political rights and civil liberties over the last 13 years, found
that “challenges to American democracy are testing the stability of
its constitutional system and threatening to undermine political
rights and civil liberties worldwide.”
If Lin-Manuel Miranda’s dazzling 2015 musical “Hamilton,” about the
founders’ Enlightenment vision of the United States, embodied the
hopes and diversity of America during the Obama years, dystopian
fables and horror-driven films and television series — including
“Black Mirror” (2016), a rebooted “Twilight Zone” (2019), “Joker”
(2019), “Get Out” (2017), “Watchmen” (2019), “The Handmaid’s Tale”
(2017) and “Westworld” (2016) — spoke to the darkening mood in the
second half of the decade, as drug overdose deaths in America rose to
nearly half a million by the decade’s end, life expectancy fell in the
United States and Britain, and many of us started to realize that our
data (tracking everything we viewed, bought and searched for online)
was being sold and commodified, and that algorithms were shaping our
lives in untold ways. In what was likely the hottest decade on record,
scientists warned that climate change was swiftly approaching a “point
of no return”; we learned that glaciers were melting at record speed
at the top of the world; and fires ravaged California and Australia
and threatened the very future of the Amazon rainforest.
Many of these troubling developments didn’t happen overnight. Even
today’s poisonous political partisanship has been brewing for decades
— dating back at least to Newt Gingrich’s insurgency — but President
Trump has blown any idea of “normal” to smithereens, brazenly
trampling constitutional rules, America’s founding ideals and
virtually every norm of common decency and civil discourse.
The biggest casualty of the decade was trust. According to a Pew
survey earlier this year, only 17 percent of Americans trust the
government to do what is right “most of the time" or “just about
always.” America’s reputation tumbled even further on the world stage:
A 2018 Pew survey of 25 countries found that 70 percent of respondents
said they lack confidence that the American president would make the
right foreign policy moves. Between the end of President Barack
Obama’s second term and late 2018, positive views of America fell 27
percentage points in Germany, 26 points in Canada, and 25 points in
France. As with many things, Donald Trump is both a symptom and a
radical accelerant of the decline in trust. While exploiting the anger
at the establishment that snowballed around the world in response to
the 2008 financial crisis, Mr. Trump has also cruelly amplified
existing divisions and resentments in America, fueling suspicion of
immigrants and minorities and injecting white nationalist views into
the mainstream, in efforts to gin up his base.
Mr. Trump’s improbable rise benefited from a perfect storm of larger
economic, social and demographic changes, and the profoundly
disruptive effects of new technology. His ascent also coincided with
the rising anxieties and sense of dislocation produced by such
tectonic shifts. Around the world, liberal democracy is facing grave
new challenges, authoritarianism is on the rise and science is being
questioned by “post-fact” politicians. Echoes of Mr. Trump’s nativist
populism can be found in Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain’s
recent electoral victory and the Brexit referendum of 2016, and in the
ascent of the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil. Democracy
is under threat in Hungary and Poland. Once fringe right-wing parties
with openly racist agendas are rebranding themselves in Sweden and
Belgium. And far-right groups in Germany and Spain are now the
third-largest parties in those nations’ parliaments.
AT THE SAME TIME, Donald Trump remains a uniquely American phenomenon.
Although the United States was founded on the Enlightenment values of
reason, liberty and progress, there has long been another strain of
thinking at work beneath the surface — what Philip Roth called “the
indigenous American berserk,” and the historian Richard Hofstadter
famously described as “the paranoid style.”
It’s an outlook characterized by a sense of “heated exaggeration,
suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy,” Hofstadter wrote in his
1964 essay, and focused on perceived threats to “a nation, a culture,
a way of life.” Its language is apocalyptic (Mr. Trump’s “American
carnage” is a perfect example); its point of view, extremist. It
regards its opponents as evil and ubiquitous, while portraying itself,
in Hofstadter’s words, as “manning the barricades of civilization.”
The “paranoid style,” Hofstadter observed, tends to occur in “episodic
waves.” The modern right wing, he wrote, feels dispossessed: “America
has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are
determined to try to repossess it.” In their view, “the old American
virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and
intellectuals,” and national independence has been “destroyed by
treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely
outsiders and foreigners but major statesmen seated at the very
centers of American power.”
One well-known eruption of the “paranoid style” occurred in the 1950s
with the anti-Communist hysteria led by Joseph McCarthy. It would
surface again in the 1960s with the emergence on the national stage of
George C. Wallace, who ran a presidential campaign fueled by racism
and white working-class rage.
In his 2018 book “The Soul of America,” the historian Jon Meacham also
wrote about the cycles of hope and fear in American history,
emphasizing the role that presidents play in setting a tone for the
country and defining — or undermining — its founding ideals. He wrote
about presidents who have worked to unify the country and appeal to
what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature,” and
those who have courted discord and division.
Lincoln was followed in office by his vice president Andrew Johnson, a
champion of white supremacy who pardoned more than 7,000 Confederates
and opposed the 14th Amendment. Johnson was impeached in 1868: And
while he was not convicted in the Senate, the historian Brenda
Wineapple argues, the House’s decision to impeach him implied “the
glimmering hope of a better time coming, a better government, a fairer
and more just one” down the road in the years to come.
MR. MEACHAM NOTES that “extremism, racism, nativism, and isolationism,
driven by fear of the unknown, tend to spike in periods of economic
and social stress.” Periods, that is, like our own, when change of
every sort is blowing across the globe.
The event that turned people’s sense of dislocation and
disillusionment into populist anger on both the right (the Tea Party)
and the left (Occupy Wall Street and, later, Bernie Sanders’s
candidacy) was the 2008 financial crisis. Trust in government had been
in sharp decline in previous decades — driven by Watergate and Vietnam
in the 1970s, and more recently by the invasion of Iraq and the
failure to find weapons of mass destruction there, and by frustration
with worsening partisan gridlock in Washington. But the lingering
fallout of the 2008 crash — growing income inequality, declining
social mobility and dwindling job security — ignited rage against the
elites and the status quo.
While the banks were bailed out and the fortunate 1 percent soon made
back its losses (and more), working- and middle-class voters struggled
to make up lost ground. Many students realized they were looking at
jobs in the gig economy and years of crippling debt, while workers in
the manufacturing sector found themselves downsized or out of work. As
a candidate, Mr. Trump sold himself as the champion of such voters —
whom he called “the forgotten men and women” — and he promised to
“drain the swamp” in Washington. But once in office, he enlarged the
swamp, hiring some 281 lobbyists, and set about cutting taxes for
corporations and the very rich.
He also began a war on the institutions that were the very pillars of
the government he now headed. In early 2017, Mr. Trump’s then adviser
and strategist Steve Bannon vowed that the administration would wage a
tireless battle for the “deconstruction of the administrative state
and the administration has done so ever since — nihilistically trying
to undermine public faith in the efficacy, the professionalism, even
the mission of the institutions that are crucial for guarding our
national security, negotiating with foreign governments and ensuring
the safety of our environment and workplaces. Mr. Trump also launched
chilling attacks on those he reviled — from the F.B.I. to the
judiciary — for having failed to put loyalty to him ahead of loyalty
to the Constitution.
This is familiar behavior among authoritarians and would-be dictators,
who resent constitutional checks and balances, and who want to make
themselves the sole arbiters of truth and reality. A reporter said
that in 2016 when she asked Mr. Trump why he continually assailed the
press, he replied: “I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so
when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.” It
was fitting, then, that in January 2017, the month of his
inauguration, George Orwell’s classic novel “1984” shot to the top of
best-seller lists. The nearly 70-year-old novel suddenly felt
unbearably timely with its depiction of a world in which the truth is
whatever Big Brother says it is.
One of the terrible ironies of Mr. Trump’s presidency is that his
administration’s dysfunction — little to no policymaking process on
many issues, impulsive decision-making, contempt for expertise and
plunging morale at beleaguered agencies — creates a toxic feedback
loop that further undermines public trust in the government and lends
momentum to his desire to eviscerate the “deep state.” The conflicts
of interest that swirl around Mr. Trump and his cronies further
increase the public’s perception of corruption and unfairness.
MEANWHILE, TECTONIC SHIFTS were occurring in technology: Not just
game-changing developments in artificial intelligence, genetic
research and space exploration, but also new platforms, apps and
gadgets that almost immediately altered people’s daily habits,
including Instagram (2010), Snapchat (2011), the iPad (2010), Uber
(2009), and digital assistants Siri (2011) and Alexa (2014). In these
years, we also developed a growing appreciation of technology’s dark
side: Gamergate, N.S.A. surveillance, Russian attacks on our
elections, the fear that you might not only lose your job to a
stranger on the other side of the planet, but also to robots in your
hometown.
In the 2010s, we also became addicted to podcasts, and binge-watching
became a thing. In fact, immersion or escape into compelling fictional
worlds seemed to be one strategy people were embracing to cope with
political outrage fatigue. Perhaps this also explains why nostalgia
became so popular in the 2010s with reboots and returns of old
television shows like “Mad About You,” “Twin Peaks,” “The X-Files,”
“Dynasty,” “Lost in Space,” “Roseanne,” “Will & Grace,” “Gilmore
Girls” and “The Odd Couple” — a phenomenon that’s both a reflection of
the retro-mania catalyzed by the endless availability of old content
on the web and a longing for older, saner times.
With his calls to “Make America Great Again,” Mr. Trump appealed to a
different sort of nostalgia — for an era when white men were in charge
and women, African Americans, Hispanics and immigrants knew their
place.
At the same time, Mr. Trump and his campaign revived the culture wars
of the 1960s and ’70s, and politicized everything from football and
Starbucks coffee cups (criticized by some evangelicals for being too
secular and part of the “war on Christmas”) to plastic straws and
windmills. It might have been funny if we were living in a satirical
novel, not in the real world with a former reality TV star as
president.
In his insightful forthcoming book, “Why We’re Polarized,” Ezra Klein
observes that “our partisan identities have merged with our racial,
religious, geographic, ideological, and cultural identities.” This is
coming at a moment when the nation’s demographics are rapidly changing
census statistics project that America will become “minority white”
in 2045 — and putting more emphasis than ever on questions of
identity. Our political identities have become so crucial to us, Mr.
Klein writes, that “we will justify almost anything or anyone so long
as it helps our side, and the result is a politics devoid of
guardrails, standards, persuasion, or accountability.”
It’s a measure of just how partisan our politics has become that most
Republicans now reflexively support Mr. Trump — despite broken
promises, ballooning deficits, and tariffs that have hurt Americans,
never mind the astonishing volume of lies he emits. Many Trump
supporters inhabit a soundproofed echo chamber: A 2017 study,
published in the Columbia Journalism Review, found that pro-Trump
audiences got most of their information from an insulated media
system, anchored around Breitbart News, that reinforced “the shared
worldview of readers” and shielded “them from journalism that
challenged it.”
No surprise, then, that the president’s hard-core supporters
stubbornly repeat the lies and conspiracy theories that cycle through
his Twitter feed, connecting him with Russian trolls, white
nationalists and random crackpots, or that Mr. Trump’s assertions and
fictional narratives are amplified further by Republican politicians
and the right-wing media noise machine.
Social media, which came into its own in the 2010s, accelerated the
filter bubble effect further, as algorithms designed to maximize user
“engagement” (and therefore maximize ad revenues) fed people
customized data and ads that tended to reinforce their existing
beliefs and interests. This is why Republicans and Democrats,
conservatives and liberals, increasingly have trouble even agreeing
upon shared facts — a development that has undermined trust between
different groups, fueled incivility and sped up the niche-ification of
culture that began years ago with the advent of cable television and
the internet.
In addition, platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have
enabled politicians (as well as advertisers, Russian agents and
alt-right conspiracy theorists) to circumvent gatekeepers like the
mainstream media and reach out directly to voters. “Influencers”
replaced experts, scientists and scholars; memes and misinformation
started to displace facts. As the news cycle spun faster and faster,
our brains struggled to cope with the flood of data and distraction
that endlessly spilled from our phones. And in an era of data overload
and short attention spans, it’s not the most reliable, trustworthy
material that goes viral — it’s the loudest voices, the angriest, most
outrageous posts that get clicked and shared.
Without reliable information, citizens cannot make informed decisions
about the issues of the day, and we cannot hold politicians to
account. Without commonly agreed upon facts, we cannot have reasoned
debates with other voters and instead become susceptible to the
fear-mongering of demagogues. When politicians constantly lie,
overwhelming and exhausting us while insinuating that everyone is
dishonest and corrupt, the danger is that we grow so weary and cynical
that we withdraw from civic engagement. And if we fail to engage in
the political process — or reflexively support the individual from
“our” party while reflexively dismissing the views of others — then we
are abdicating common sense and our responsibility as citizens.
In his wise and astonishingly prescient “Farewell Address,” from 1796,
George Washington spoke of the dangers he saw the young new nation
facing in the future. He warned against “the insidious wiles of
foreign influence,” “the impostures of pretended patriotism,” and,
most insistently, of “the baneful effects of the spirit of party” —
imploring his fellow citizens not to let partisan or geographic
differences plant seeds of mistrust among those who “ought to be bound
together by fraternal affection.”
Every portion of the country, he wrote, should remember: “You have in
a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and
liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts
of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.” Citizens, he urged,
must indignantly frown “upon the first dawning of every attempt to
alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the
sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”

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Revelation 6:12-13: When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood
Law & Politics


Revelation 6:12-13: When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and
behold, there was a great earth- quake, and the sun became black as
sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky
fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken
by a gale.

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30-SEP-2019 :: The End is Nigh
Law & Politics


the feedback loop and the risks of die back where we enter a phase of
‘’cascading system collapse’’

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Australia: Thousands trapped on beach as fires approach @dwnews
Law & Politics


More than 4,000 people were trapped on a beach by advancing fires in
southeast Australia on Tuesday as devastating blazes encircled the
seaside town of Mallacoota, where sea or airborne evacuation was being
planned.
"Mallacoota is under attack, it is pitch black and very scary,"
Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said. "We
have 4,000 people on the beach and nearby who are protected by our
firefighters."

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies


Euro 1.1204
Dollar Index 96.706
Japan Yen 108.70
Swiss Franc 0.9679
Pound 1.3114
Aussie 0.7005
India Rupee 71.289
South Korea Won 1156.165
Brazil Real 4.0199
Egypt Pound 16.0407
South Africa Rand 14.1206

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AlShabaab officially claims responsibility for Saturday's deadly #ExControlAttack in #Mogadishu, regrets civilian deaths @MoradNews
Africa


The group's spox says their main target was the Turkish convoy and
vows to keep targeting "Turkish invaders" in #Somalia. #Turkey

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Among sub-Saharan African stock markets, Kenya's proved the best performer over the past decade @business @adengat
Africa


Among sub-Saharan African stock markets, Kenya’s proved the best
performer over the past decade, joined only by South Africa in
producing dollar-based gains since 2010 as currency depreciation
ravaged returns for investors.
Nairobi’s benchmark gauge climbed 74% since the decade opened, with
Johannesburg’s benchmark up just short of 9%.
The Zambian and Nigerian stock markets have retreated almost 50%. MSCI
Inc.’s gauge of developing country stocks has gained 13%, while its
frontier-markets index has advanced 12%.
Aside from the weak showing from equity benchmarks, the period was
characterized by a dwindling number of listed companies on the
region’s major exchanges, from Lagos to Johannesburg.
Nigeria has the fewest number of listed companies since 2004, while in
South Africa the tally hasn’t been this low in 16 years.
“Traditionally, private equity firms have been exiting through the
stock exchanges,” Karim Hajji, president of the African Securities
Exchanges Association, said in a phone interview.
“But in recent years we have witnessed a different trend, where
private equity firms are selling to other private equity funds or they
are making straight sales to industries that are in the same sector.”

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Uganda plans to borrow nearly $2 bln to fund 2020/21 budget @ReutersAfrica
Africa


Uganda said it plans to borrow 6.9 trillion shillings ($1.89 billion)
from external lenders in the 2020/2021 (July-June) fiscal year to
partly finance its budget, which could come under pressure as veteran
leader Yoweri Museveni seeks re-election.
Public spending typically surges in election periods in Uganda, which
has some times triggered pressure on consumer prices and the local
currency.
The paper said economic growth in 2020/2021 would be 6.2%, driven by
higher productivity in manufacturing and agriculture and “public and
private sector investment as well as regional and domestic trade.”
Uganda’s mounting public debt has been fuelling concern. The
International Monetary Fund has urged authorities to rein in
borrowing.
Some opposition critics have also accused government of front-loading
debt before an expected windfall from oil sales. Uganda hopes to
commence crude oil production in 2022.
This month, the government said it was planning to borrow 600 million
euros ($661 million) from international banks to plug a hole in its
2019/2020 budget after domestic revenue collections fell short by 9%.

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
 
 
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December 2019
 
 
 
 
 
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