By: Philosophy 24/7
Some countries like Hungary, Turkey, and Poland have greatly eroded their democratic institutions in recent years.
Others like the US, India, Israel, and South Africa, are following similar strategies.
Democracy’s success in the late 20th century set the stage for some of the problems it’s now facing. As the only game in town, those who are interested in eroding it have to come from within, often pitching themselves as the only ones who can save it. They’re attacking some of the institutions that keep democracy in check, such as the courts, the opposition party, and the free media.
A lot of the limitations on autocratic takeover are unwritten rules that can be taken advantage of to seize authority without actually breaking any laws. It’s very difficult to write laws for everything into a constitutional document, but the more a government relies on these unwritten rules to keep power in check, the more vulnerable they are.
Some things liberal democracies can do to weaken the risk of autocratic takeover:
- Preferential Voting (Ranked Voting) to empower the centrists and weaken the radicals of each party
- Revive the discourse on opposition rights and reduce any winner take all situations.
- Campaign finance reform.
- Empowering and entrenching the fourth branch institutions, things like anti corruption bodies, electoral commissions. Non partisan offices that seek to protect democracy.
Podcast: Soy, Almond, Oat Milks: Are They Udder Bull?
By: Science Vs.
In terms of environmental impact, dairy milk is the worst compared to all other types.
Globally, dairy cows graze an area the size of Brazil.
On average, it takes 9 times more land to produce dairy milk compare to the others.
Almond milk requires a lot of water, and most of Americans almonds are produced in California where there’s already a lot of water pressure. It can take 4 times as much water as the other non-dairy types.
Rice milk production emits the most greenhouse gasses in the form of methane. Flooded rice paddies are filled with methane-creating bacteria. Also fertilizer runoff can be a big problem with rice.
Soy and oat milk both require more land than the other non-dairy types. Also a lot of Soy milk is grown near or in the Amazon.
There is no clear winner among the four non-dairy types. But they’re all very low impact compared to dairy.
If everyone in the world switched from dairy to soy, it would save half a billion hectares of land, a billion tons of greenhouse gases, and the same amount of water as if everyone in the world stopped having showers or baths for a year.
Podcast: Fasting Diets: What’s the Skinny?
By: Science Vs
After not eating for a period of time your body runs out of sugars to burn and starts burning more fat for energy. An example in the episode was someone who was burning around 50% fat in normal circumstances went up to 70% after fasting.
To study how much fat is being burned they use a machine that analyzes your breath and the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide that you exhale. Fat that’s been burned exits the body through exhaling.
People on fasting diets tend to lose weight. A 5 week study that controlled for calories eaten seems to indicate this isn’t a result of fasting, but that people on these diets tend to eat less calories.
Studies of worms and mice indicate that fasting increases the rate at which cells consume and recycle themselves (called autophagy) and can increase longevity. Studies in humans are mixed and much less conclusive.
Studies in mice indicate that fasting can starve cancer cells (many types of cancer aggressively consume sugar for energy) and make them more susceptible to normal cancer treatments. Studies in humans for this are ongoing.
Podcast: The Space Race | Starting Gun
By: American History Tellers
Werner Von Braun was a key part of the Nazi V-2 Rocket Program. Near the end of WW2 he and his team were deliberately captured by the Americans and settled in Huntsville Alabama to prevent their knowledge from going to the Soviets.
The thought was that rockets combined with atomic weapons would give the host nation an insurmountable lead in the years to come.
Von Braun’s potential degree of involvement with pretty horrific war crimes under Nazi rule was ignored and deliberately glossed over. Supposedly he just wanted to build rockets to get to space.
Because of his German background he wasn’t fully trusted by American politicians and military figures.
This led to his projects not being allowed to put a satellite into orbit, and allowed the Soviets to take the lead with Sputnik. This created a huge fear in America about ceding space to the Soviets.
Podcast: The incredible shrinking city
For decades, Memphis annexed wealthy suburbs around the city as a way to increase their tax revenue.
After studying the effects of this, they found that these suburbs required more public money than they were generating, essentially being subsidized by the poorer neighborhoods in the center of the city.
Memphis is now undergoing an effort to de-annex some of these suburbs.
Podcast: The Age of Jackson – Manifest Destiny
By: American History Tellers
After the Mexican War of Independence in 1821, the United States considered the territories of Texas and California up for grabs even though they were considered by the Mexican government as part of Mexico.
American settlers began settling both territories.
The Wilmot Proviso was an attempt to ban slavery in the newly acquired lands from the war with Mexico, although it’s intent wasn’t for moral reasons, but to ensure that poor whites wouldn’t compete with slavery for jobs and opportunities.
Part of the Compromise of 1850 was the Fugitive Slave Act which required Northerners to report and assist with the tracking down of escaped slaves, which further solidified anti slavery sentiment.
During the European revolutions of 1848 there were groups that supported the existing governments rather than side with the liberal revolutions.
The presidential election of 1848 is considered the first modern election where all states electors voted on the same day. It also saw three main political parties, including the Free Soil party which was founded on the eradication of slavery but also split the Democratic party vote.
There seem to be quite a bit of parallels between the arguments made for the wars and subsequent annexation of Texas/California by the United States and the arguments made for the wars and annexation of Crimea/Ukraine by the Russian Federation in 2014. Both seem to be making the statement of “Citizens of our country who live in the territory claimed by a different country want to be a part of our country, and we’re just honoring their wishes and protecting them from threats from the other country”
Podcast: Denmark’s paternity leave problem
Denmark has a child leave policy where the family is given one year of paid leave to split any way they want between the mother and father. While many companies there will offer fairly generous policies of several months, after that the government will subsidize pay at a percentage of normal pay.
They’re finding that the mothers take a majority of this time. There seem to be two main reasons for this: cultural and economic.
Culturally it’s viewed as a woman’s job to raise a child and care for the house – men don’t want to ask their bosses for leave or have to deal with their coworkers ridicule. The act of getting their partner pregnant causes them to have to bake a failure cake for their coworkers as a indication they have made a mistake.
Economically men make more income than women, so it makes sense for the women to use the leave policy.
However, this perpetuates the cycle that women are going to be taking a lot of leave for child care and men aren’t, which significantly contributes to the gender pay gap. Employers are less likely to want to hire women in their 20s and 30s assuming they’re going to take at least two years off on leave.
Iceland has addressed this problem by making a policy of obligatory 4 months of leave for each parent. The hope is that this reduces the hiring/pay discrimination against potential mothers by treating both genders equally with the obligation of child care and leave.