Daily Archives: February 14, 2019

How Trump’s Economic Chickens Are Finally Coming Home To Roost

By Steve Denning – Assisted by the least qualified White House staff in history, Trump has continued to breach conventional wisdom and practice. Yet Liberal analysts have watched with dismay as polls have showed stable support from Trump’s base, no matter how outrageous the behavior. Surely, they said, the economic reality of what Trump is up to must eventually kick in.

Now a trifecta of bad economic news for his base raises the question whether that time has finally arrived:

The comfort offered by Trump’s fictions is too seductive to be undermined by facts. To Trump’s base, the beautiful myth of “the Wall” is, and remains, more attractive than the real world.

In this way, “the Wall” has become a code-name for the racist, anti-immigrant isolationist policies of Trump’s presidency and a symbol of multiple toxic policies,

There’s a catch with the use of fictions in politics. “The chief disability of propaganda,” wrote Hannah Arendt in her classic book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, “is that it cannot fulfill the longing of the masses for a completely consistent, comprehensible, and predictable world without seriously conflicting with common sense.”

For a time, common sense can be held at bay and prevented from intruding into the cocoon of reassuring fiction. Yet the deliberate distortion of reality is also the cause of propaganda’s inevitable downfall. It is the inexorable collision with reality that eventually ruins the cocoon. It’s not a matter of whether. It’s only a question of when. more>

Updates from Adobe

The Art of the Unnatural
By Brendan Seibel – When he was a kid, Jason DeMarte enjoyed visiting natural history museums to see the dioramas filled with taxidermy wildlife and carefully positioned plants.

As an adult, he determined that those scenes are intended more to capture the imagination than to document reality. And while the diorama designers’ motives may be pure, there is a darker side.

DeMarte saw a correlation between the museums’ “perfect, pristine snippets of nature” and product photography of the sort he’d done for Toys ’R’ Us to pay the bills while earning an MFA in photography. That experience of creating flawless images of merchandise exemplified photography’s role in cultivating consumer desire for false perfection through manipulation and good lighting.

“I started thinking about nature in a different way, as a commodity, as a way of packaging, promoting, and selling a commodifiable object,” DeMarte says.

The disconnect between manufactured perceptions of nature and the imperfect reality has been DeMarte’s artistic focus ever since. His work is a commentary on the artifice underpinning our concept of the world, as well as our constant desire for something “better.” more>

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Updates from ITU

Monitoring our changing planet
By Houlin Zhao – The Earth is a fragile planet with finite resources to sustain the world’s growing population. As we work together to build a sustainable global economy, spaceborne remote sensors are poised to play an increasingly important role in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Indeed, ITU Member States and the global community now see the potential for using Earth observations and geospatial information as fundamental inputs for achieving the SDGs. Remote sensing provides critical information across a wide range of applications, including air quality, disaster management, public health, agriculture, water availability, coastal zone management, and the health of the Earth’s ecosystems.

For example, spaceborne sensing data is used to assess the impact of natural disasters and to be better prepared for hazardous events around the globe. Data from spaceborne remote sensors is also increasingly used to guide efforts to minimize the damage that urban growth has on the environment.

These are just a few examples of how remote sensing measurements — and the science they enable — provide a great service to humanity. This edition of the ITU News Magazine provides more such examples and a wealth of insight into how ITU’s work helps realize the social and economic benefits of Earth observation from space. more (pdf)>

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Democracy splutters—good governance under pressure

Amid political polarization and declining democratic standards, can OECD and EU countries sustain the good governance challenges such as globalization, social inequality and climate breakdown demand?
By Christof Schiller – Eroding standards of democracy and growing political polarization are severely hampering the implementation of sustainable reforms. This is one of the main findings in the Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI) 2018 study by the Bertelsmann Foundation.

SGI is an international monitoring tool, which sheds light on the future viability of all 41 countries in the OECD and the European Union. On the basis of 140 indicators, we assess democratic standards, the quality of governance and reforms in the areas of economics, social affairs and the environment. More than 100 international experts are involved in our cross-national survey.

The most recent study highlights how waning standards of democracy and growing political polarisation hamper sustainable reform. Governments in countries including the United States, Hungary and Turkey are deliberately stoking social tensions rather than seeking consensus.

The report shows that the quality of democracy in many western industrial nations is waning, with democratic standards declining in 26 of the countries surveyed, compared with similar data from four years earlier. ‘Even within the OECD and the EU, the model of liberal democracy is subject to growing pressure—in some countries this means that even central democratic and constitutional standards such as media freedoms are already severely damaged or undermined,’ it finds.

Compounding this worrying trend, the study’s authors identify a simultaneous decline in the adequacy of governance, with many countries losing ground on key measures of good governance. more>