Reading on Sunday 12 February

Yesterday I found myself writing about aphorisms.  As if by magic, up popped my Facebook memories showing that in 2013 I posted: 

Chi entra come Papa esce Cardinale takes on whole new meaning today!

Roughly translated it means “he who enters as Pope, leaves as a Cardinal”.  It is the best kind of aphorism.  It reads as if it is about a specific set of circumstances (a papal election) but holds a more universal truth (that the frontrunner very often isn’t the one who gets the job).  

When I posted it in Feb 2013 I meant it as an ironic comment (Pope Benedict had literally entered as Pope and left as a Cardinal) but it has far wider relevance (*cough* recent Tory leadership election *cough*).

Thinking some more about Jason Brennan’s book Against Democracy.  I think that his conception of democracy is very much a symptom of the “electoral fundamentalism” in American society.  When combined with a two-party, winner takes all election style where the only thing that matters is “the score”, it is unsurprising that political partisans (a really telling descriptive word, conjuring up images of guerilla fighters) are, to use Brennan’s phrasing, hooligans.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

Haven’t worked my way through it (I don’t read quite that fast!) but this is an interesting looking reading list on the authoritarian turns in US politics.

Not much in the news recently about Ukraine and it has looked as if this would become yet another frozen conflict in the post-Soviet sphere.  This, by the Atlantic Council, indicates that things have been heating up.  The analysis of cause is good but I question their last line that seems to suggest that Russia could end this conflict if it wanted to.  They could certainly withdraw support from the separatists around Donbas but this wouldn’t end the conflict, merely give the Ukrainian forces a massive advantage.

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