The often disturbing spectacle of the rise of Donald Trump as a leading Republican contendor in the presidential race prompts many emotional and analytical responses: about the long decline of America as a superpower since 1945, about the dysfunctional features of party politics and American politics in particular, and about the chasm between quality information on one side and public policy and (especially) public opinion on the other.

Many interpret the Trump phenomenon in terms of disaffected voters, as this passage from The Economist describes:

The reason evangelicals vote for Mr Trump has little to do with faith or specifics of policy. It is more a question of attitude. A study by the RAND Corporation, a think-tank, has found that the most reliable way to tell whether a Republican voter was going to support Mr Trump was whether he agreed with the statement: “People like me don’t have any say about what government does.” Trump voters feel voiceless, and whatever attributes Mr Trump lacks, he has a voice. He lends it to them, to express their grievances and their aspirations for greatness, and they love it.

All this at a time when people are prosperous and governments are making easy choices, at least compared with what is likely in coming decades because of our criminal unwillingness to stop burning fossil fuels.

We had better hope that worsening global conditions eventually have a rallying effect, rather than prompting a scramble of every state, region, and ideology for itself.

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There were large expanses of the globe where spying, or even a pretence of it, seemed an unproductive activity because they were strategically irrelevant. When a question was raised in London about running some double agents out of Canada, the responsible MI5 officer — Cyril Mills, of the well-known British circus-owning family — demurred. Even the Abwehr, he said, could see that nothing of much importance was happening in Canada. [Abwehr chief] Canaris disagreed. On 9 November 1942 a U-boat landed his man Wener Janowsky on the Gaspe peninsula. Following his subsequent arrest he was found to be carrying a Quebec driving license taken from a Canadian PoW captured at Dieppe, but with an Ontario personal identification and address. Most of the $5,000 in Canadian currency with which Janowsky was supplied was time-expired — a mistake which prompted his capture after he used it to pay a New Carlisle hotel bill. He had already roused the proprietor’s suspicions by smoking German cigarettes and taking a bath at mid-morning. Among the possessions appropriated by the Canadian police were a Wehrmacht travel pro forma and diary, a .25 automatic pistol, radio, knuckle-duster, five US$20 gold pieces, a microfilm copy of coding instructions and a copy of Mary Poppins as a code crib. Janowsky was a thirty-eight-year-old former French Foreign Legionnaire who had a wife living in Canada, and knew the country. But no Allied secret service, even on a bad day, would have dispatched an event into the field — at the cost of a substantial investment of Nazi resources, including the U-boat — so absurdly ill-equipped. Janowsky was fortunate to survive the war in British captivity.

Hastings, Max. The Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939–1945. p. 466–7 (hardcover)

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Mirvish Village 2/2

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Nada Khalifa and Banafsheh Beizaei

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Reclined in blue

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Orange and blue

April 11, 2016

in Photo of the day

Orange and blue

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Having finally finished grading the second set of late essay assignments, I am now calculating the participation grades for my tutorials in the fall and winter term.

The profile of attendance across time isn’t as flat as one might like, but doesn’t look too dismal:

Fall and winter 2015-16 tutorial attendance

On Wednesday, I am invigilating the final exam, which we are then meant to mark in a week.

I desperately need to be working on my PhD proposal and research ethics protocol, but I also need to apply for a TA position or some other kind of summer job, just to contain the rate at which my PhD savings are being depleted by food and rent.

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Mirvish Village 1/2

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My friend Rosie organized a Massey expedition to the former-brickworks-turned-community-space in the Don Valley.

It was a nice break from grading (and hourly email complaints for students demanding essay and participation grades).

I’m still recuperating a bit from the divestment setback, along with a string of other recent minor misfortunes, so getting out into Toronto’s remnants of green space was a good idea.

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Neal and Erika

April 9, 2016

in Photo of the day

Neal and Erika

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