Covid-19 Metrics • Hope in History • Class Matters

Hello! This is the newsletter of the Foreign Influence Podcast, in which we provide links and additional commentary. Let’s dive right in. 🏊‍♂️

Coronavirus Watch

The pandemic continues, though an increasing number of countries are beginning to open back up as case and death numbers plateau or fall. Of course, that’s almost exclusively due to drastic social distancing measures, so the trick becomes managing whatever outbreaks pop up. Some countries have robust systems of monitoring, testing, tracing, and isolation in place. Other’s don’t. By accident and/or incompetence, the world is going to run a natural experiment to see which system works best…


It appears from his USA TODAY op-ed that Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is comfortable with doubling down on his previous statements that addressing the covid-19 pandemic in the United States is not worth the economic damage caused by the various lockdowns being put in place.

It’s easy to dismiss him as yet another conservative ghoul. (Sorry, but just about every take that’s either directly or indirectly okay with higher death rates comes from Republicans and/or libertarians).

However, I happen to agree that a balance will eventually have to be struck between coronavirus mitigation and economic activity.

(And to be…


After the Super Tuesday results, centrists in the Democratic Party are rightly celebrating their electoral victories. Mainstream elements consolidated around Joe Biden, and he handily won 10 out of 14 states to move ahead in the party delegate and popular vote counts. The contest isn’t over, of course. Sanders could mount a comeback over the next two weeks. But should the centrist faction ultimately take the day, it’s likely to be cold comfort for most Americans.

Centrist Democrats and the Republicans turned off by Pres. Trump all seem to pine for some “good ol’ days” that simply weren’t. Biden is…


So I stayed off social media for a couple of days because it was very difficult to watch the US begin to go through a collective freakout over the coronavirus. Watching a people being forced to confront their (inevitable) mortality is not a pretty sight. And of course, none of this is helped by our current polarized political and media environment.

I hate to feed the polarization beast and talk politics in what should be a medical and apolitical conversation, but it seems unavoidable. On the one hand, we have a president who engaged in his own freakout over how…


As we approach the final tallies of the spectacularly inept Iowa caucuses, I think it’s fair to say that — despite all of the time, expense, and effort — it ultimately tells us very little.

The tie between Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg shows that the party is still fairly balanced between its progressive and centrist factions.

This is true even if you add the results of the other leading candidates together. Looking at the final vote tallies, Sanders and Warren together got 46.8%. Buttigieg, Biden, and Klobuchar together got 50.9%. (I don’t know how to classify Yang.) In the…


ENOUGH. With the shooting down of a US drone by Iran, the Trump administration needs to take steps now to de-escalate this situation.

Parts of this administration — most stridently National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — have made it obvious that they want war with Iran and no other option. And that alone should make us suspicious of any event that pushes us further in that direction.

Going to war would be a stupid mistake on par with our the disastrous decision to invade Iraq. It’s no surprise that it’s the same people promoting…


Can it even be called “news,” the fact that the news media and journalism are having a tough time? We’re familiar with the long-term trends that have made the practice of journalism an ever more difficult endeavor. Audiences and advertising dollars are harder to come by, at least in their traditional forms. Governments and people in positions of power always seem ready to take steps against journalists and reporters. Even so, the past year or two have been particularly tough in Asia, with these trends intensifying in worrying ways.

On the business side of journalism, the consistent growth of digital…


Riding in a taxi today in Singapore, the cabbie brought up Pres. Trump and asked me what I thought. Before I could answer he told me that he liked him, and I got the sense he didn’t know what to think of all he was hearing about the Trump administration lately. He wasn’t unusual. In previous conversations with cabbies (there’s always time to talk in taxis), they compared him favorably relatively new, and controversial (at least internationally), Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. …


So, it appears that Singapore is being considered as the next stop for K.T. McFarland. She could take over the job of ambassador here. McFarland is currently a deputy national security adviser within the Trump administration, but her continuing in that role has been in doubt since Michael Flynn was fired as national security adviser.

From what I know of her public statements, she could face some challenges here. Or alternatively, she might have an enlightening time. Let me explain.

One of her public themes appears to be that “radical Islamic terrorism” represents an existential threat to Western civilization. I…


Trump administration press secretary Sean Spicer has, rightfully, been criticized for a briefing he provided on Saturday in which he made a number of false claims regarding the attendance at Pres. Trump’s inauguration. On Monday, at a regular press conference, he tried to spin some of these claims — for example, arguing that he was really talking about total viewing audience. But what has ultimately gotten the most attention was not Spicer’s performance, but how it was later defended. …

Bill Poorman

Journalist, writer, co-host of the Foreign Influence Podcast, Foreign Influence Dispatch

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