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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Double Standards Brigade Goes to Egypt

UPDATE 8:45am 2/2/11: NYT: US policy is stuck one step behind popular movement for democracy

Update 5pm: Joe Biden, oops I mean Hosni Mubarak, says he will not run for re-election in Egypt

UPDATE 8:45AM: much heavier heavyweights with similar criticisms of Double Standards (see end of post)

I want to thank all the major world leaders who have worked so hard during the past few days to confirm my own personal thesis that…

Posted in Democracy and freedom, In the news | Tagged | 22 Comments

Davos Man meets Girl

UPDATE 12:40 pm: Readers point us to an example of a “girl-focused” campaign gone badly awry. The Girl Store markets school supplies in an extremely creepy and objectifying video that asks you to “Buy a girl before someone else does.” Sign a petition against this campaign here.

In the new issue of the e-journal Contestations, Rosalind Eybens asks, What is Happening to Donor Support for Women’s Rights?:

Recent years have seen a

Posted in Women and gender | 10 Comments

Hillary opts for lame “transition” jargon on Egypt

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced today a new US government position on Egypt, calling for a ‘transition to a democratic regime.’ This was also the old US government position on Egypt.

As this blog has pointed out, the “transition” word is a much-used device to appear to be in favor of democracy while in fact taking no position whatsoever. The democracy scholar Thomas Carothers is one who first pointed out the emptiness…

Posted in Democracy and freedom, Language | 14 Comments

Poetry of the Arab Revolt

Many sources have been quoting the Tunisian poet Abul-Qasim al-Shabi (died 1934).

One of his most famous poems was “To the Tyrants of the World

Hey you, the unfair tyrants…

…You kept walking while you were deforming the charm of existence and growing seeds of sadness in their land

Wait, don’t let the spring, the clearness of the sky and the shine of the morning light fool you…

Because the darkness, the thunder rumble

Posted in Democracy and freedom, Language | Tagged | 6 Comments

Please let the World Bank know that something might be happening in Arab countries

UPDATE: heard from @worldbank, see below

On the Bank web site:

The Development News is a summary of current news collected by the World Bank and published each business day.

The Development News on Friday January 28, 2011 mentions violence or political conflict in the following countries: Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Haiti

Number of references to any news happening in any Arab country:


The lead story yesterday:

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Posted in In the news | Tagged | 10 Comments

Arab masses 9519; Davos elite 435

Scoreboard update 3pm EST, 1/28/11: Arab masses 11778; Davos elite 257

Posted in Democracy and freedom, Human rights, In the news | 5 Comments

The parable of uneven growth

You’re in a multi-lane tunnel, all lanes in the same direction, and you’re caught in a serious traffic jam.  After a while, the cars in the other lane begin to move. Do you feel better or worse?

Though it may sound like a description of New York traffic after last night’s snow storm, this is in fact NYU Economics Professor Debraj Ray’s analogy (adapted from Albert Hirschman’s early work on economic development) about the response…

Posted in Academic research | 12 Comments

Skeptics and thermostats

UPDATE 12:50PM: Please assume I’m an idiot (see end of post)

Many have suffered from being in a building where there was a centralized thermostat for the whole building (or the whole floor), with the predictable result that some rooms are way too hot or way too cold. (Sounds like a metaphor, watch for it…)

Things were even more extreme in the former Soviet Union, where there were centralized heating plants for a whole city, and the hot…

Posted in Big ideas, Economics principles | 26 Comments

Cool maps: Measuring growth from outer space

For many of the world’s poorest countries, figures measuring economic growth are unreliable, and in some cases they don’t exist at all.  In an NBER working paper, Brown University professors J. Vernon Henderson, Adam Storeygard, and David N. Weil came up with an interesting proxy for GDP growth: the amount of light that can be seen from outer space.

Of course, the light intensities pictured in this world map reflect both income and population density. The…

Posted in Academic research, Data and statistics, Maps | 20 Comments

Don’t forget the Congolese who helped tell the Congo story

When Western  journalists report from the front lines in Africa, the reader may not be aware how much these reporters depend on Africans as sources, guides, translators, fixers, and intermediaries.

The curtain has just parted a bit to see one of these locals, a Congolese hero who helped get the story of the Congo out to the rest of the world (quoting CPJ):

Pastor Marrion P’Udongo has been called the “Oskar Schindler” of Congo…In

Posted in Field notes, In the news | Tagged | 2 Comments