Category Archives: Politics: International

The E-Road to Damascus

Take the “Where’s Damacus” test.

I was off by 52 miles to the NNE.

(Spotted via TPM.)

Posted in Politics: International | 1 Comment

Revolutions Occur In Periods of Rising Expectations

More evidence for Crane Brinton’s thesis that revolutions tend to occur in periods of rising (but frustrated) expectations.

Juan Cole: Biggest Demonstrations in Egyptian History: Millions Demand President Morsi Step Down.

Previously: Guy Fawkes Day Musings (November 5, 2007).

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Italian Election Corrective

There have been astonishing volumes of nonsense written about the Italian election. If you believed the MSM, ranging from NPR on over, you would believe the world was about to end, the barbarians were at the gates. It seems the Italian electorate has acted so terribly irresponsibly, by failing to vote for the austerity regime demanded by banks and currently tearing apart Greece. And the people they voted for – quelle horreur — they have no political experience. They could do anything!

How refreshing, therefore, to see a corrective: Invia i Pagliacci! Ci Devono Essere Pagliacci! [extended play]. Worth a look if you can stand to escape from the standard narrative now dominating.

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North Korea Finds New Way to Be Inscrutable

This is way weirder than the fiction I’ve been reading lately:

Kim Jong-un Appears With Disney Characters on North Korean TV:

North Korean state-run television on Monday showed footage of costumed versions of Tigger, Minnie Mouse and other Disney characters prancing in front of the leader, Kim Jong-un, and an entourage of clapping generals.

The footage also showed Mr. Kim in a black Mao suit watching as Mickey Mouse conducted a group of young women playing violins in skimpy black dresses. At times, scenes from the animated Disney movies “Dumbo” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” were projected on a multipanel screen behind the entertainers; an article in the state-run press said unnamed foreign songs were on the bill.

The appearance of the characters from the United States, North Korea’s mortal enemy, was remarkable fare on tightly controlled North Korean television, which usually shows more somber and overtly political programs. A Disney spokeswoman, Zenia Mucha, had no comment Monday beyond a statement: “This was not licensed or authorized by the Walt Disney Company.”

This seems more like Dada than late failed autarcho-Communism. What gives?

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The Soft Power of Whitney Houston

Juan Cole:

Houston’s death was front page news in many Arab dailies, and elicited an outpouring of grief from her fans. Arabic newspapers said that the suddenness of her death magnified the shock. Her passing was also commemorated in Arabic on Twitter and Facebook.

Yemeni political activist and dissident Hind Aleryani ( @Dory_Eryani ) tweeted, “When I was a teenager in my room in #Yemen wondering what’s love, #WhitneyHouston was the voice that introduced Love 2 me #IWillAlwaysLoveYou.”

This recollection is a powerful reminder of the reach of American popular culture, and its influence in shaping ideas about, e.g., romantic love in the global South, including the Arab world.

The tragedy was marked in Beirut, the center of Arab pop music. …

Egyptian director Khalid Hagar went political, expressing his grief that Whitney is no longer with us, but Egypt’s military dictators still live. “We will always love you, Whitney, and we will always hate them.” Houston thus stands, for this supporter of the Arab Spring, for beauty and potential cut short.

Houston’s meteoric career made her part of what Joseph Nye has called American “soft power.” The love of world publics for American popular culture translates into favorable views of the US among many people who otherwise would be tempted by anti-Americanism. Nye cautions that the militarism and torture of the past decade threaten that soft power, creating a negative image of the US in the place of the one creative artists often project to the world.

Arab World Mourns Whitney Houston | Informed Comment.

Posted in Kultcha, Politics: International | Leave a comment

Non-Violence May Be the Dominant Strategy

Naked Capitalism Blog — which I would currently rank as the most essential reading in blogdom — reports on a study arguing that resistance movements that adopt non-violent methods are substantially more likely to prevail against authoritarian regimes than those movements that turn to violence:

Erica Chenoweth has developed a dataset and analyzed the historical record. Below the fold are slides summarizing the results of her study of 323
 non-violent and violent campaigns 
from
 1900-2006. (There are twenty slides, so anybody with a slow connection may prefer to download a zipped file of the original PDF).

I do wonder if the movements that turned to violence may have known something about the regime, so that there might be some self-selection bias. But then who can know that much about a regime when starting a mass opposition movement?

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics: International | 4 Comments

Today’s Bizzaro Polling Experience

This was my strangest polling experience yet. First, the call was to my office rather than to my home. I don’t think I’ve ever been called with a poll at work before.

Then there was how it went (this is a very close paraphrase, probably not verbatim):

- Hello, says the nice voice, I am calling from Harris Interactive and was wondering if you could answer some questions about China and its relation to the US.

- How long will this take? I ask nervously, looking at the pile of exams.

- It could take as long as 15-20 minutes depending on your answers, says the voice.

- Oh, OK, I say, thinking the exams will have to wait. China is important. Too much giving in to scary mercantilism out there.

- To begin, what is your job title?

- Professor

- Let me look that one up … wait a minute… well, that’s all the questions we have for you today, thank you very much.

How about that?

Posted in Politics: International, The Media | 2 Comments