Uganda, Goebbels, Theresa May, Containment, Economics, Mapping


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Strange Passions: Ugandan Stamps

Blanche Girouard | The Oldie | 9th February 2017

Philatelist John Griffith-Jones explains his fascination with the first Ugandan postage stamps, produced on a typewriter in 1895 by a young British missionary called Ernest Millar. “The Church Missionary Society was the only organisation with a network across the country, and Millar was the only missionary with a typewriter. So it fell to him to design, and make, the first stamps. In the centre, he put a figure to show how much each stamp was worth in cowrie shells, the currency at the time” (920 words)

Typing For Goebbels

Karen Liebreich | London Review Of Books | 8th February 2017

Remembering Brunhilde Pomsel, secretary to Josef Goebbels, who has died aged 106. “I found it easy to imagine her checking the spelling of Zyklon B without further thought. When I asked whether she regretted anything she did, she said: ‘Why should I? I was just typing’. Later she added that perhaps she should have been more thoughtful. But the five years she spent in a Russian labour camp were ‘very unfair’. If anything, she regretted having stayed at her post to the bitter end” (1,020 words)

The May Doctrine

Jason Cowley | New Statesman | 8th February 2017

Well-balanced profile of Britain’s first “post-Thatcherite” prime minister, Theresa May. She is “not an ideologue but she aspires to be a consensus-breaker”. She accepts the social liberalism of the past two decades, but rejects neoliberal scepticism about the value of government itself. “The key thing about her is her belief in the efficacy and, so to speak, compensatory function of the state — the important positive functions, you might even say the moral functions, of the state” (6,200 words)

Containing Trump

Jonathan Rauch | Atlantic | 8th February 2017

If President Trump proves authoritarian enough or reckless enough to threaten America’s core democratic institutions and practices, how best to limit the damage? The formal institutions are well enough protected by an infrastructure of official and unofficial watchdogs skilled in tracking and challenging executive power. The bigger worry is that Trump will degrade the “civil norms” of American democracy, which are also vital to a liberal society but much more vulnerable to attack (3,400 words)

Make Economics A Science

Editorial Board | Bloomberg View | 6th February 2017

Economics pretends to be a science, but falls far short of scientific methods. Practitioners build elegant mathematical models founded on unrealistic assumptions. “There’s a line between simplification and gross distortion, and modern macroeconomics has crossed it.” A real science of economics would “rely on experiments, data and replication to test theories and understand how people and companies really behave”. And, as real scientists, “economists might finally start getting some respect” (550 words)

Here Be Dragons

Lois Parshley | VQR | 1st February 2017

On humanity’s long struggle to map the unmapped and the unmappable. “The project of mapping the Earth properly is to some extent complete.” But we have surveyed closely only one-quarter of the sky and less than one-fifth of the ocean floor. “If you could somehow drain the seas, scientists predict you’d see not sea monsters but a few volcanoes sprouting from an immense, flat floor, which is hundreds of thousands of hills covered by millennia of falling sediment” (5,880 words)

Video of the day: The Making Of The Happy Song

What to expect:

Musician collaborates with psychologists to produce a song calculated to make babies happy (3’30”)

Thought for the day

There is no finer revenge than that which others inflict on your enemy
Cesar Pavese

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