The Saudi Spat with Canada - Messy

Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador, froze trade with the country and will reportedly dump its Canadian investments. The kingdom’s ire was raised by a series of tweets from Canada’s foreign minister, in which she called for the release of Saudi human-rights activists. The Saudi government insisted that only a full Canadian climbdown would “fix its big mistake”.

- The Economist, Espresso 8.11.18

Kind of continuing from last week’s theme about authoritarianism, the Saudis are demonstrating how liberalization requires harsh stances to be taken to prevent a slippery slope away from government control. [1]


Protest in the 21st Century - Harder

The Soviet Communist dictatorship, like any other system, seeks to preserve its own existence. To do this it is forced to stamp out any spark of dissidence which appears, either on its own territory or beyond its borders.

— Viktor Suvorov, Inside the Soviet Army

I study Statistics and Machine Learning. Most of the time it’s really exciting to be so close to the frontier, but sometimes it’s terrifying because you understand how (relatively) easy it will be for totalitarian regimes to apply really powerful open-source software to do things like track their entire populations and automatically predict who might act out.


Remembering - Looking Forward

I’m in Germany this week and the Airbnb we’re staying at in Berlin overlooks the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. I was born in this country (in a little town called Wremen at the base of the Jutland Peninsula right on the North Sea) and while not a dual citizen, have always felt a connection to this place.

With that being said, I think it’s important to acknowledge the genocide the Nazis perpetrated here during the late 1930s/1940s.

~17 Million people died.

~6 million of them Jews.

I think it’s important to give space to the stories of those who died - either in concentration camps as a persecuted minority or as those fighting the tyranny against their fellow citizens.


Storytelling and Hope - Everywhere in Life

“And I believe we have no choice but to move forward, that those of us who believe in democracy and civil rights and a common humanity have a better story to tell. And I believe this not just based on sentiment. I believe it based on hard evidence: the fact that the world’s most prosperous and successful societies, the ones with the highest living standards and the highest levels of satisfaction among their people, happen to be those which have most closely approximated the liberal, progressive ideal that we talk about and have nurtured the talents and contributions of all their citizens.”

- Former President Barack Obama during his lecture on the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday


Success Bias Reply - Maybe the Opposite

Interesting post on society’s tendency to focus on successes rather than failures. Quite right about how failures don’t really constitute sexy television or YouTube videos. I’m not entirely sure that the advancement of the likes of YouTube and Facebook (and whatever else there is nowadays) would see an increase in that particular observation… Sure, more people would search for clips of “successes.” I do think, however, that just as many would be likely to be exposed to failures and disasters and the like through channels like YouTube. You mention people are more likely to watch successes than to watch weekly or daily videos, but I think YouTube trends show just the opposite. ‘LastWeekTonight,’ the British parrot John Oliver’s YouTube channel, has, at present, 6,308,392 subscribers. His most recent video, which, by the way, isn’t really his usual weekly coverage of a global event or topic of interest, but rather a collection of funny graphics he never got to use, has garnered 1.7 million views within just four days of release. I can only remember this particular channel off the top of my head, but I’m aware that there are plenty of others like ‘LastWeekTonight.’ And goodness knows John Oliver doesn’t sugar coat anything he covers, which range from government surveillance to floods.