Month: October 2016 (Page 1 of 3)

My once rejected article which is still “under edit”, is already being proved right

You know when idiot editors meddle or reject your hypothesis, which then gets proved right? Yes. Just happened.

 

My once rejected article which is still “under edit”, is already being proved right. How frustrating is that?

 

I wrote an article on British Grand Strategy post Brexit on October 14th. I submitted it to a UK journal, which I obviously cannot name here.

There is this para which raised a few eyebrows.

The European Union, is a political construct, and as long as it stays, harsh though it may sound, it might tend to look at United Kingdom post Brexit as a rival source of competition. UK has unleashed, or at least inspired a lot of national socialist and populist forces within EU, and the survival of EU depends on dominating and defeating these forces and that cannot be done, unless UK either compromises with EU on single market or capitulates to a more powerful EU. Already there is extreme friction with regards to an European security force led by none other than Germany, which understandably leaves UK shaken as it leads to a separate division and bureaucratization of European security command alongside NATO, not to mention the nightmarish idea of a potential joint military force across a narrow sea, of which UK is not a part of. With regards to that, what then should therefore be the British strategy? Would she join forces with Russia, another great power (albeit a rogue one) which might feel threatened by the same development? Should Britain then try to persuade United States that a single economic and military union in Europe is actually a hegemonic idea which is not desirable and one that both US and UK should oppose, because frankly no one knows how this union might act in future? Or should it covertly instigate separatist conservative anti-centralisation forces across the continent?

This is not a a fortunate or necessary development, however, nor is it desirable and is being advocated here. It is just a plausible scenario that falls within the realms of statistical possibility and therefore must be taken into account in any such analysis.

Here’s a reviewer comment I received on my overall post. One sentence from it.

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Reforming democracy, or Could the U.S. be saved?

Nigel Gould-Davies, professor at Mahidol University and Associate Fellow at the Chatham House for Asia and Russia & Eurasia, has asked an intriguing question of his students and shared it on Twitter. If a democracy is dysfunctional, should it be radically reformed, even in ways that are anti-democratic?

The question proposes theoretical changes including outlaws on “unhelpful” criticism, policy by committee, and intelligence tests for voters.

Being that Gould-Davies is a professor in Thailand, the recent constitutional referendum there that approved the junta-written constitution adds underlying connotations. But there are deeply troubling questions about democracy emerging around the world, even (maybe especially) in Western countries where radical populists, who espouse their own anti-democratic values, are having influence. With an election coming up in one week in the United States, it may be the right time to consider the questions, at least theoretically.

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Hillary’s election causes Republicans to spiral into unhinged temper tantrum

Open threats of insurrection and “Second Amendment remedies” pile up along with non-violent legislative obstruction

The combination of Donald Trump’s anti-democratic strongman attitudes and long-running hate for Hillary Clinton has brought out the worst in the Republican Party.

Seeing an imminent defeat in the presidential race and the possibility of losing their majority in the Senate as well, Republicans have threatened violence and obstruction.

First we have former one-term Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, who wrote that if Trump loses he’s going to “grab his musket.” Coming, as it is, after Trump publicly refused to accept the election results and has warned for weeks about the election being “rigged,” it raises the very real threat that Trump’s supporters, many of whom buy into the idea that guns should be used to attack the government if they disagree with the government, won’t accept the results of the election and that B-list Tea Party influencers like Walsh will egg them on.
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Already these kinds of messages about picking up your arms are common among the conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, whom Trump listens to. Other Republican nominees for high office before Trump have also used such threatening language. Failed 2010 Republican Senate candidate for Nevada Sharron Angle said the Second Amendment (which protects gun rights) is “to defend ourselves.

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“Then they decided to kill me”: Shahed Kayes on his campaign against illegal sand mining in Bangladesh

The population of Bangladesh has increased by 60% since 1990. Its capital Dhaka is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, expected to have a population the size of Shanghai’s current population within the next decade. This unstoppable growth is fueling an explosion in construction. Bangladesh isn’t alone. Countries throughout South Asia and South East Asia are growing at breakneck pace as well as urbanizing.

Dhaka traffic near Gulistan Crossing. Photo by Flickr user Twentyfour Students.

Dhaka traffic near Gulistan Crossing. Photo by Flickr user Twentyfour Students.

All of this construction needs massive amounts of concrete. And concrete needs sand. But where does the sand come from? Shahed Kayes is founder of the Subornogram Foundation, which established schools for poor and marginalized families like the fisherfolk who live on islands in the Meghna River. There, he found sand mining companies dredging sands from close to the islands, causing the islands to erode and disappear. When he began to protest the practice, getting Bangladesh to pass laws against it in 2012, he was met with threats–and nearly killed.

Shahed Kayes teaching a class.

Shahed Kayes teaching a class. Screen capture from AdvocacyNet.org video.

I met him in Gwangju, South Korea this summer, where he is working towards promoting democracy at the May 18 Memorial Foundation and studying at Chonnnam University, and then interviewed him. Following is an edited transcript and audio. The audio also includes conversation about South Korea’s historic democracy movement and the Gwangju Uprising of 1980, which was the impetus for the creation of the May 18 Memorial Foundation.

Here’s the audio:

Here’s the text:
Mitchell Blatt: Many people do not think of how much sand is used in the world. But when it comes to building towers or anything that uses concrete, it involves a lot of sand [also for glass, and expansion of landmass in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, and China’s east coast]. Can you give an introduction as to why sand mining is important?

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The broad impact of Chinese hukou on education restrictions

Children of white collar workers, college graduates denied education along with migrant laborers

Mr. Li digs the tunnels for Beijing’s subway system, but Beijing won’t let his daughter attend school. Mr. Li is one of the over 8 million people living in Beijing without a Beijing residence permit.

On October 12, they were among a group of parents of children without Beijing residence (hukou) who gathered outside a courtroom to support a fellow parent who had sued over access to education. News of the court date was censored after spreading online.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the hukou system has regulated where Chinese citizens can live and work and allowed for the government to have a great level of control over the economy and labor. While the system has been relaxed since the pre-reform days of a control economy, it still impacts access to public services, including education.

It’s not just temporary migrant workers, who provide much of the labor needed to build cities and keep them functioning, who are discriminated against. Some who have lived in Beijing for decades, including white collar workers and graduates of top universities, cannot enroll their children in local schools.

This could be a growing problem as the economy becomes more and more service-oriented and the population more and growing share of the population obtaining higher education and moving to cities to work.

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Duterte’s embrace of China is the latest fruit of Duterte’s irrationality

Paul Mirengoff at the conservative blog Powerline has an article up blaming President Obama for Filipinian president Rodrigo Duterte aligning his country with China.

There’s a tendency among conservatives and Republicans to blame things on Obama, as he is a Democrat, and conservative critics of Obama have also been making a case that Obama hasn’t been strong enough backing up his words on some issues. There is a case to be made. But even the most hardcore Republican Obama critic would have a hard time making the case here.

Duterte, like candidate Trump, is a very unconventional politician and a tyrant. Since taking office he has waged an extrajudicial war on alleged drug users, killing over 2,000 with no due process, including many who aren’t drug users. He has praised Hitler, saying that if Hitler killed 3 million Jews, he would kill 3 million drug addicts. He called Obama a son of a whore.

Now he has unilaterally decided to tell America to go to hell because he wants to align himself with the totalitarian forces of the world, even as China is asserting claim to islands claimed by the Philippines, even as the Philippines just won a case against China in the UN Law of the Sea court. Duterte said:

America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow. And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.

If Trump wins maybe the U.S. could join the gang and get back in good graces with the Philippines.

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On evaluating claims of sexual assault against presidential candidates

A pornstar who claims that Donald Trump has offered to pay her $10,000 to go to return to his hotel room is just the latest of nearly a dozen women who have come forward this month accusing Trump of sexual improprieties.

Trump, naturally, denies all charges. At the same time, Trump has been hyping the affairs and allegations of sexual assault against Bill Clinton. This week a former Arkansas reporter came forward to allege the former president sexually assaulted her three times while he was governor of Arkansas in 1980. In a climate where stories of sexual assault or rape are fiercely scrutinized, how is one to evaluate the veracity of these claims?

The standards for evaluating claims of crimes having been committed are, of course, different inside and outside a courtroom. No one is asking the voters to throw Donald Trump in prison for sexual assault—or for violating sanctions on Cuba, or for self-dealing with his foundation, or for defrauding investors and consumers. If he is guilty of any of those crimes, it is up to investigators and prosecutors to pursue and for the accused to be able to defend themselves in court. What the voters are tasked with, however, is to decide whom they think is most qualified to be the next president of the United States of America. For that, there is no requirement of proving someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is a choice each voter can make on their own.

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My latest long essay for Quillette

Not a traditional subject for a light weekend reading. I apologise.

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Psstt…it’s called “Bandwagoning”

Here’s what explains Manila’s Pivot to Beijing.

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Here’s my article.

And here’s more on “Bandwagoning and Balancing” and Alliance Formations, in International Relations.

Trump supporters revive Nazi era smear of press

As Donald Trump has crashed in the polls following terrible debate performances and revelations about possible sexual assault, he has made his attacks on the press even more aggressively than before. Now he is calling the press part of a global conspiracy along with bankers and Hillary Clinton that is “rigging” the election.

His supporters make angry chants at reporters. It’s part of a strategy he has long honed. Trump points out the press at rallies and criticizes them. He calls them the “dishonest press” and calls individual journalists “bimbos” and “sleazes.”

Trump’s angry supporters have picked up the charges in their own way, invoking a Nazi-era slur. Trump supporters on Twitter are tweeting “#Lugenpresse.” According to the Economist, “Lügenpresse (‘liars’ press’), a loaded term once used by the Nazis, is a common chant at [Alternative for Germany] party rallies.”

The word has gained traction in Europe by right-wing critics of refugee policy. It won 2015 “non-word of the year.”

Reuters:

“Luegenpresse”, first used in Germany by critics of the free press during World War One, earned the dubious “Unwort des Jahres” (Non-Word of the Year) honor in the eyes of a panel of experts out of 730 terms submitted by 1,250 contributors.

“‘Luegenpresse’ is a word contaminated by the Nazis,” said Nina Janich, a professor at the Technical University Darmstadt and head of the six-member jury that selects such terms each year from the submissions.

Some tweets by Trump supporters on Twitter:

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