Very busy week, not many links; sorry about that!
Tsikhanouskaya was not a career politician; she was the daughter of a truck driver, a mother of two who had set aside a career as an English teacher in order to help her deaf son learn to speak. An improbable series of events had propelled her to challenge President Alexander Lukashenka, the last dictator in Europe, for the leadership of Belarus.
A few months before, Tsikhanouskaya’s husband, a journalist named Siarhei Tsikhanouski, had declared his own candidacy against Lukashenka, whom he had relentlessly derided as an incompetent autocrat, a “cockroach” who was despoiling the country. For years, Lukashenka had regularly staged Presidential elections, and each time claimed an easy victory. This time, though, there was a strong popular reaction, inspired in part by Siarhei’s reports. He was arrested and thrown into a “punishment cell,” a dank concrete box without a window. Hundreds of others had already been imprisoned for questioning the regime.
With Siarhei in jail, Tsikhanouskaya decided to run herself. At first, she was reluctant. When I met her recently, she radiated earnest charm: her face is broad, framed by straight brown hair, her voice plain and strong. “I am accidental,” she told me. “I am not building my career, I am not settling scores, I do not know the language of politics, I do not like this business. I am doing this for the Belarusian people, and for my husband. They jailed him for nothing.”
Tsikhanouskaya’s platform consisted of only three demands: freedom for political prisoners; a new constitution that reduced the powers of the Presidency; and fresh elections. But her speeches were galvanizing. “State officials have failed to understand that it’s not individual candidates but the people who threaten their power,” she told a boisterous crowd in Minsk. “And the people are fed up with living in humiliation and fear.”
Lukashenka declined to debate Tsikhanouskaya, and evidently didn’t consider her enough of a risk to have her arrested. “Our constitution was not written for a woman, and our society isn’t ready to vote for a woman,” he told a gathering at a tractor factory in May. “The President will be a man, I am more than sure.” But, with surprising speed, Belarusians took her side against the regime. The opposition adopted a white-and-red flag—a symbol of Belarus’s brief first attempt at independence, in 1918—which Lukashenka has since banned. They also began wearing white ribbons, as a signal of support. Tsikhanouskaya’s rallies drew enormous crowds.
Gift cards (covered previously in this space) are a form of privately issued money. The U.S. has prior experience with widespread circulation of privately issued money during the free banking era, where “wildcat banks” issued bank notes backed by deposits of precious metals and the general creditworthiness of the bank.
These bank notes were not equal to each other; they traded at discounts to their face value which floated with sentiment about the issuing bank. Newspapers published daily reports of what going market rates were, so businesses could accept them with less risk, and there was a specialized economy of moneychangers in areas where many competing bank notes circulated.
My colleague Sebastian Bensusan at Stripe had a chat with me about gift card marketplaces, a field in which he has substantial professional experience. I was previously aware they existed, but had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went.
Gift cards are, gloriously, privately issued bank notes backed by the full faith and credit of Chipotle.
The undrafted rookie has carved out a role for himself amid the Lakers’ many future Hall of Famers. What a journey it’s been from Newark, Arkansas, to Los Angeles.
Twenty years ago we had the origin of modern humans all figured out. By “modern humans,” I mean Homo sapiens with those signature high cranial vaults, gracile builds and dynamic cultures. The qualification modern is essential because the human lineage goes back millions of years, and before the expansion of H. sapiens 60,000 years ago, other human populations coexisted alongside our forebears, from Neanderthals in Europe to assorted Homo erectus populations in East Asia. But we knew these were “evolutionary dead ends,” branches diverging off from the trunk of human ancestry that led up to us, and dying off as our ancestors expanded inexorably, with their advanced technology and superior intellect. The part about advanced technology and superior intellect wasn’t always said out loud, but it was clearly implied by scholars like physical anthropologist Richard Klein of Stanford, who took a dim view of whether Neanderthals even had the ability to speak in his 2004 book The Dawn of Human Culture. We still saw our cousins as upright apes, forgotten prologues to the real human story.
Today almost everything we had figured out then is wrong.
Here is Eric Zemmour's 10-min video (announcing his candidacy for President of France).
It's the most effective piece of propaganda I've seen in a long time.
Why? Usually a speech like this -- asserting there is a French national culture worth saving that's being “replaced," in part by immigration -- sets my vestigial liberal hackles on edge. This one doesn't. Maybe because it's been cleansed of Zemmour’s previous outrageous assertions. Maybe because it’s about another country — a smaller country that’s long felt threatened by outside cultures (especially ours) with an immigrant-assimilation problem much larger than ours. Maybe because, unlike ours, France’s national identity doesn’t include an openness to migration and outside cultures. Japan wants to stay Japan, and everyone says ‘OK.’ If France wants to stay France . . . .
But the main reason, I think, is that Zemmour’s speech edits out an especially grating part of "replacement theory" -- namely the part that blames "replacement" on some sort of elite conspiracy. Yes, he condemns the
powerful, the elites, the right mindset, the journalists, the politicians, the professors, the sociologists, the union bosses, and the religious authorities
but not for cooking up the"replacement” — rather for denying its reality. ("They told you it's all a ploy, it's all fake.")
People can be victims of impersonal forces (demographic change, increasing returns to skills etc.). They can be victims of well-intended but misguided policies. They can be victims of failed colonial wars or differential birth rates — and they might still see themselves as victims, or at least as having a large, legitimate beef. I’ve never understood why there always have to be, in addition, actual human “elite” villains conspiring behind closed doors. This isn’t a TV show.
I dare you to find better clarinet music, let alone from a busker. (I admit this is slightly misleading; it turns out Ketchens has played for four U.S. presidents, but her performance as part of a street band is a huge delight.)
The U.S. vaccination program campaign has profoundly altered the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing nearly 1.1 million deaths.
This is fun.
When conservatively accounting for the number of employees working within 15 ft of a window with blinds, optimizing daylight and views in U.S. offices has the potential to generate $352B ($240B–$464B), or 1.7% of the 2018 U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), in additional productivity.