Pakistan

by Henry on March 15, 2007

I haven’t seen much coverage in either US newspapers or the blogosphere of the developing crisis in Pakistan. Not knowing very much more than what I read in the newspapers, I’m not able to contribute much myself. But I do want to point to this “FT article”:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/d11108b0-d29b-11db-a7c0-000b5df10621.html which provides what seems to me to be an excellent overview of the politics.

Not since September 12 2001 has Pervez Musharraf found himself under such pressure. … Five and a half years later, as blowback from the war in Afghanistan pushes anti-American sentiment in Pakistan to new levels, the political cost to Gen Musharraf of being seen as a puppet of the administration of President George W. Bush is becoming unsustainable. This week, Gen Musharraf revealed his own mounting unpopularity when he provoked nationwide protests by unceremoniously suspending the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The top judge, Iftikhar Chaudhary, is understood to have alarmed Gen Musharraf by taking an independent stand on a number of controversial cases and potentially jeopardising the general’s re-election plans. By accepting, in particular, that there should be an investigation into suspected “disappearances” of terror suspects, Mr Chaudhary seems to have overstepped the mark. … judge – who claims to have been roughed up and stripped of his mobile phone, car and passport – has become the rallying point for all the disaffected of Gen Musharraf’s Pakistan. … “It’s a whirlpool right now,” says Taffazul Rizvi, a US-trained Pakistani lawyer. “It’s an emerging situation, which can take down anyone, including Musharraf.” … Gen Musharraf’s political weakness will, in time, inevitably undermine his relations with the US, his chief patron, and prompt Washington to look for ways to bolster the credibility of its ally, possibly by encouraging the general to co-opt one or other of the two exiled political leaders in a broad coalition. … Diplomats in Islamabad worry it may be too late for such political fixes. Religious radicalism is spreading so rapidly that there is little time left to save Pakistan’s moderate political parties and institutions such as the Supreme Court that are central to the functioning of any future democracy.

Those more knowledgeable than myself should feel free to add to/contradict/etc in comments.

Cringe and whinge

by Henry on March 15, 2007

I came across James Fallows’ 1991 piece on _The Economist_ (to which my subscription has just lapsed), “The Economics of the Colonial Cringe”:http://jamesfallows.com/test/1991/10/16/the-economics-of-the-colonial-cringe-about-the-economist-magazine-washington-post-1991/, and thought it pretty interesting. On the one hand, this seems a little dated:

In functional terms, The Economist is more like the Wall Street Journal than like any other American publication. In each there’s a kind of war going on between the news articles and the editorial pages. The news articles are not overly biased and try to convey the complex reality of, well, the news. Meanwhile, the editorials and “leaders” push a consistent line, often at odds with the facts reported on the news pages of the same issue.

If there’s any marked difference these days between the line touted in the editorial pages line and the perspective of the news articles, I can’t detect it. The _WSJ_ seems to still have a firewall between the two (although in fairness its editorial pages are also far loopier than those of the _Economist_).

On the other, this still seems bang on the mark.

The other ugly English trait promoting The Economist’s success in America is the Oxford Union argumentative style. At its epitome, it involves a stance so cocksure of its rightness and superiority that it would be a shame to freight it with mere fact. American debate contests involve grinding, yearlong concentration on one doughy issue, like arms control. The forte of Oxford-style debate is to be able to sound certain and convincing about a topic pulled out of the air a few minutes before, such as “Resolved: That women are not the fairer sex.” (The BBC radio shows “My Word” and “My Music,” carried on National Public Radio, give a sample of the desired impromptu glibness.) Economist leaders and the covers that trumpet their message offer Americans a blast of this style. Michael Kinsley, who once worked at The Economist, wrote that the standard Economist leader gives you the feeling that the writer started out knowing that three steps must be taken immediately — and then tried to think what the steps should be.

The Great Global Warming Swindle swindle

by Chris Bertram on March 15, 2007

UK viewers were treated the other night to a superficially impressive global-warming denialist documentary: “The Great Global Warming Swindle”:http://www.channel4.com/science/microsites/G/great_global_warming_swindle/index.html . The programme was the work of “Martin Durkin”:http://tinyurl.com/38n6np who has previous form for dodgy science documentaries. “Medialens”:http://www.medialens.org/alerts/07/0313pure_propaganda_the.php has a reasonably comprehensive account of the film’s reception and also gives an idea of the contents. See also “George Monbiot”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2032575,00.html in the Guardian and “Steve Connor”:http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/climate_change/article2355956.ece in the Independent. Central to the film was the testimony of the MIT oceanographer Carl Wunsch. Wunsch’s own account of how his material was edited and presented so as to give a misleading account of his actual views is “here”:http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article2359057.ece .

How about my gift?

by John Quiggin on March 15, 2007

For quite a few people, the prospect of seeing my beardless chin (or whatever lurks under there) has been enough to open wallets and maybe hearts. But for the more theoretically inclined, my appeal has served as the basis of some interesting discussions about reciprocity and charitable giving. The general view, it seems to me, is that accepting a gift entails an obligation to reciprocate.

So, having given the best gift of all for blog audiences, a new or at least barely-used topic for discussion, I’m now calling for my reciprocal gift. Click here and donate before the beard comes off on Saturday.

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