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The Art of Sham Elections
Why did Vladimir Putin, firmly entrenched in power, extend suffrage to all citizens and conduct an election that could have cost him his job? The answer has more to do with hanging on to power than losing it.
Why did Vladimir Putin, who was firmly entrenched in power, extend suffrage to all citizens and conduct an election that could have possibly cost him his job? Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, author of The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is always Good Politics, has offered an answer for this question -- and it has more to do with hanging on to power than losing it.
What's the Big Idea?
According to Bueno de Mesquita a dictator or autocrat can conduct a rigged election, not to confer legitimacy or choose the right person to govern the country’s affairs but to cultivate loyalty. Bueno de Mesquita argues that a ruler will let sham elections run in their country so that they can communicate to the politicians around them that they are expendable should they stray from the desired agenda. If the ruler has predetermined the outcome of the election, he can easily rig people in and out at his leisure. Moreover, Bueno de Mesquita’s argues in his book that some multiparty systems are a function of the ruler’s desire to hang on to power as well. A state with one-party dominance will happily allow for a multitude of other political parties that challenge their rule so long as they fragment the vote to the point where the ruling party dominates indefinitely.
Eurasian foreign policy expert Ivan Krestev offered an interesting take. He noted that a common argument that democracy's advocates push to forecast the end of authoritarian rule, such as Putin's, is “that such rulers unavoidably put their electoral authoritarian regimes at risk. ‘If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall,’ Anton Chekhov once reportedly advised his fellow playwrights, ‘then in the following one it should be fired.’ Political scientists contend that if authoritarians adopt elections and other democratic institutions—even in a limited, manipulative way—at some point these institutions will ‘fire.’ The presence of democratic institutions, even if they are perverted ones, will eventually bite authoritarian regimes where it hurts.” Perhaps it would be best for Putin to remind himself of Bueno de Mesquita’s rules for holding on to power.
Watch the video here:
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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Physicist Frank Wilczek proposes new methods of searching for extraterrestrial life.
- Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek thinks we are not searching for aliens correctly.
- Instead of sending out and listening for signals, he proposes two new methods of looking for extraterrestrials.
- Spotting anomalies in planet temperature and atmosphere could yield clues of alien life, says the physicist.
1. Atmosphere chemistry<p>Like we found out with our own effect on the Earth's atmosphere, making a <a href="https://ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/facts/hole_SH.html" target="_blank">hole in the ozone layer</a>, the gases around a planet can be impacted by its inhabitants. "Atmospheres are especially significant in the search for alien life," <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/looking-for-signs-of-alien-technology-11581605907" target="_blank">writes Wilczek</a> "because they might be affected by biological processes, the way that photosynthesis on Earth produces nearly all of our planet's atmospheric oxygen."</p><p>But while astrobiology can provide invaluable clues, so can looking for the signs of alien technology, which can also be manifested in the atmosphere. An advanced alien civilization might be colonizing other planets, turning their atmospheres to resemble the home planets. This makes sense considering our own plans to terraform other planets like Mars to allow us to breathe there. Elon Musk even <a href="https://www.space.com/elon-musk-serious-nuke-mars-terraforming.html" target="_blank">wants to nuke the red planet.</a></p>
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2. Planet temperatures<p>Wilczek also floats another idea - what if an alien civilization created a greenhouse effect to raise the temperature of a planet? For example, if extraterrestrials were currently researching Earth, they would likely notice the increased levels of carbon dioxide that are <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases" target="_blank">heating up</a> our atmosphere. Similarly, we can looks for such signs around the exoplanets.</p><p>An advanced civilization might also be heating up planets to raise their temperatures to uncover resources and make them more habitable. Unfreezing water might be one great reason to turn up the thermostat. </p><p>Unusually high temperatures can also be caused by alien manufacturing and the use of artificial energy sources like nuclear fission or fusion, suggests the scientist. Structures like the hypothetical <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/this-mind-bending-scale-predicts-the-power-of-advanced-civilizations" target="_self">Dyson spheres</a>, which could be used to harvest energy from stars, can be particularly noticeable. </p>
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As patients approached death, many had dreams and visions of deceased loved ones.
One of the most devastating elements of the coronavirus pandemic has been the inability to personally care for loved ones who have fallen ill.
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.