Apr 162019
 

The Guardian has a highly informative article on “political beauty”, a German political performance art collective. After Björn Höcke’s infamous “memorial of shame” speech, Political Beauty built a replica of the Berlin Holocaust memorial on a plot next to the right-wingers house. They also said that they would observe the man as part of their installation. The whole thing was controversial at the time, which was arguably the point. Now it has emerged that a state prosecutor has been investigating Political Beauty over allegations of forming a criminal organisation. By strange coincidence, the same prosecutor has also donated a small sum of money to the AfD. After the public outcry that followed this revelation, the higher-ups have ordered that the investigation would be dropped. But it is still worrying that people who rose through the ranks of the judiciary show sympathy for the most extreme elements within the AfD.

And there is more: Colleagues at the WZB have published a working paper that looks into the conduct of MPs for the AfD in state parliaments. Höcke and friends felt that this violated their rights and sued. Thankfully, a court has dismissed their claims, deciding that the study is perfectly within the limits of academic freedom and freedom of speech. Which reminds me of another case from a couple of years ago: The NPD sued colleague Steffen Kailitz, an expert witness in the trial against them, for making public statements on their ideology. The judge who granted them a temporary injunction (later overturned) was Jens Maier, now an MP for the AfD.

German police forces from four eastern states have raided a large number of properties linked to network of right-wing extremists. They are investigating some 50 alleged crimes including instances of assault and illegal possession of weapons.

And finally, to provide some comic relief: Nigel Farage has unveiled the manifesto of his new Brexit party. Politics Joe has turned this into another video work of art, which cannot be unseen once you have watched it 👇

(I'm Gonna Tell) 500 Lies – Nigel Farage's Brexit Party manifesto anthem

Apr 062019
 

More on the AfD’s donation scandal(s): media report that the ultimate source of the illicit donations to Alice Weidel is a German billionaire dynasty. The family also donated to the Swiss SVP. You will not be surprised to hear that they have pan-European global interests, moved to Switzerland, became dual nationals, and divide their time between London & Zurich. When you are a member of the global elite with lots of money, it just makes sense to support populist, nationalist, anti-migration parties for the lolz.

I always suspected that old Hobbes (the philosopher, not the cartoon character) was a party pooper. I’m just surprised that this was so literally true.

Dealing with packages in R can be somewhat painful, at least for me. Here is pak, a package that claims to make installing more packages less of a hassle, once you’ve managed to install it.

With less than two months to go until the EP elections, it is time to stir up some social media moral panic. And there is good reason for that. Here is an interesting piece by someone who claims to be involved in the development of youtube’s recommendation engine. Shock, surprise: apparently he helped create a monster that has learned that the average youtube viewer wants to see more, more, more anti-media content. Judging by my own recommendations, the monster delivers.

Staying with this theme, here is a post on social-media marketing your research. I read it twice to make extra sure that is indeed satire. YOU WILL BE SHOCKED. And now click on that darn link to demonstrate that the trick works.

Look Ma, no Brexit link!

Mar 262019
 

The co-leader of the right-wing populist “Alternative for Germany” finally admits that the received assistance from a Swiss media agency (in German). The price tag? About €90,000. Find the juicy details here (in German) or read my short summary of the many AfD scandals.

Sarah Wagenknecht was one of the main obstacles to a closer co-operation amongst Germany’s left-wing parties. Now that she is stepping down, there is speculation about a “red-red-green” (rather: “green-red-red”) coalition in Berlin. The main problem with that? The Green’s gains are (largely) the SPD’s losses.

Here is an interesting Politbarometer poll from mid-March 2019: 73% of Germans are sorry to see UK leave the EU, but 72% think further negotiations are pointless and will still lead to no deal. 83% believe Brexit will cause major problems for UK, vs 50% in EU.

Feb 202019
 

An important part of my job is dealing with stuff that is both unpleasant and weird (no, I’m not talking about teaching evaluations). Much of what goes on in far-right politics these days used to be called “the lunatic fringe” but has stealthily moved into the political mainstream. The “manosphere”, a network of unabashedly anti-feminist (or rather anti-female) sites and online communities is fringe even by these standards. But that may change: the HuffPost has an interesting piece about the role of the UK anti-feminist movement within the wider far-right.

Speaking of fringe: I’m old enough to remember that the “Patrioten für Deutschland” (Patriots for Germany) stood in national elections in the late 1980s. They demanded a “new Renaissance” (sounded alright then) and had a manifesto that was manifestly bonkers. The party was part of the “global LaRouche movement”. Apparently their successor party still exists, and they are still deeply rooted within the mad-hatter sector of the political spectrum. And they continue to be guided by one Helga Zepp-LaRouche, wife of Lyndon LaRouche. The latter has died (“how was he still around???”), but his toxic legacy lives on.

Politico predicts “big wins” for the “right wing” in the upcoming EP elections, complete with a picture of Salvini and Le Pen smiling like newlyweds at the reception. Once you read the article, you realise that they actually predict losses for the Socialists/Social Democrats, good times for ALDE, and a mixed bag for Salvini, Le Pen and their ilk. But it is still an interesting article.

What is survivorship bias? Glad you asked, because this is my excuse for linking to yet another wonderful xkcd cartoon

survivorship_bias.png

Look Mom, no Brexit links this week!

Feb 072019
 

Back in 2001, the British General Election Study contained a (presumably open-ended) question asking Britons to name the “ most important problem facing the country”. A whopping 0.4 per cent of the sample came up with something along the lines of “Britain’s relationship with Europe”. So much for the eternal struggle going all the way back to Napoleon. Or Boudica. Or whatever. Here is the tweet containing this nugget of information:

Germany’s AfD, which may or may not face surveillance by the secret service in the near future and is always good for a joke, is suing said agency. They are objecting not to the fact that the service is building a case against them but rather to the decision to make this fact public. Here is the full story: https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-far-right-afd-files-lawsuit-against-spy-agency/a-47400383

If you can bear to hear or read even more about the current occupant of the White House, this is a particularly scathing assessment of his presidency. Read it and weep.

Jan 272019
 

It is a warm but grey and gloomy weekend in Germany, so here are three links I enjoyed:

In case you were wondering whether Trump is a) evil, b) senile or c) a master strategist: here is a piece arguing that c) is unlikely, though a) and b) could easily be true at the same time.

This is surprisingly accurate: academic life told through Wallace & Gromit gifs

When I needed to maximise a two-variable function over a given range of input values, I found this brief tutorial helpful.

Bonus: a pic of Gromit:

Jan 182019
 

An Economist study finds that the quality of democracy is highest in Australia, Canada, and Scandinavia. No big surprise here. Time to move?

You may have heard that a prominent member of the AfD was physically attacked in Bremen, which the AfD managed to put all over social media. The police say the initial account of the story does not match CCTV from the scene.

Another police officer in Hesse has come under scrutiny over ties to right-wing extremist networks: he is accused of leaking police information to two Neo Nazis. Worrying, to say the least.

Pankaj Mishra thinks that Brexit reflects everything British upper-middle and upper classes have inflicted on the large parts of Asia and Africa. A scathing and not implausible reading of modern history.

Oct 132018
 

Probably it’s never been away. Equally probably, I’m overgeneralising from personal experience (can you see what I’m doing here?): within less than 48 hours:

 

 

 

Image credit: Elisa Riva via Pixabay

Jun 182018
 

I know that definitions are so 1996, but here are some that bear repeating:

Migrant
“A person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national” (UN Convention on the rights of Migrants)
Refugee
“someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence” (UNHCR)
Asylum seeker
someone who applies “to be recognized as a refugee and receive legal protection and material assistance (UNHCR)

In short, asylum seekers are refugees who apply for formal recognition. If this status is granted, they may or may not become migrants. Words matter. Having said that, here are some links: