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Category Archives: Language

Er, Yes, Madam, Muslims do want liberty

There is a common view that Muslims don’t share the values of liberty and democracy, as expounded by, say, to take a random example, Michele Bachmann from a few years ago.

Do recent events vindicate those who had already argued there was a universal hunger for liberty? One of them was Michael Novak, who says today in a Wall Street Journal oped  (gated, sorry) today:

{There was} the slumbering yet restless desire for liberty

Also posted in Democracy and freedom, Human rights, In the news, Stereotypes | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

On Sustainable Sustainability: A UN Prose Poem

UPDATE 2: Another proposal received from Unconfirmed Sources: Politicians supporting UN funding will be required to incorporate all of the text below into one of their own speeches to their own voters.

UPDATE: Just got a new proposal from the Center for Unacceptable Common Sense: Anyone funding UN should internalize the effect of their funding on creation of UN prose. First proposed tax on you: you are required to read all 1000+ words below and recite…

Also posted in Aid policies and approaches | Tagged , , | 13 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…

Also posted in Democracy and freedom | 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

Also posted in Democracy and freedom | Tagged | 6 Comments

Aid is not just complicated; it’s complex

One of the points that we try to make on this blog is that aid, planned from an ultra high level and driven to alleviate just the symptoms of poverty, doesn’t realistically address the complex problems of international development. We understand that our own economies are complex and require complex allocation mechanisms (i.e. markets; see also “failure of the U.S.S.R.”) but this thinking doesn’t hold when it comes to helping the poor. So consequently we…

Also posted in Aid policies and approaches | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments

Living in Emergency

by Pierluigi Musarò, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Bologna at Forli, and a visiting scholar at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge

A few months ago I organized a conference in Bologna on the topic of humanitarian emergencies and communication. I invited the communication manager of one of Italy’s most famous and most influential NGOs, called Emergency. He accepted but told me, “You should know that we do not deal with…

Also posted in Organizational behavior | 10 Comments

Our Afr*c* P*rn problem gets worse after we try to make it better

UPDATE 9/10/10 1:30 PM: Barbara Streisand and anti-Muslim bigotry (see end of post)

Yes, after that post that admitted our P*rn problem and tried to get out of it, the problem has gotten even worse, like rapidly. The original post Famine Afr*c* stereotype p*rn shows no letup has now climbed from 4th to 3rd most popular post of all time.

Number 1 popular post of all time – African leaders advise Bono on

10 Comments

Africa: land of wildebeest and child soldiers

UPDATE: response to criticisms at end of this post.

(Apologies to the great blog Wronging Rights for stealing one of their headline templates.)

Big attention grabber in the NYT with this picture splashed all over the front page.

The usual mixed emotions: (1) compassion and sorrow for these and other children caught up in horrific wars, (2) alarm at exploitation of the child soldier stereotype for Africa.

Very crude data that I checked…

Also posted in In the news | 17 Comments

Why the World Bank supports tyrants: the Gerund Defense

World Bank Ethiopia country director Ken Ohashi has a letter in the New York Review of Books responding to Helen Epstein’s charge that the Bank is supporting tyranny (which we also blogged). Ken’s letter defends World Bank aid to Ethiopia:

There are concerns about the overall governance of the country, efficiency and fairness of resource use, the risk of dependence on aid, and protection of basic human rights, as Ms. Epstein points out.

Also posted in Aid policies and approaches, Democracy and freedom, Organizational behavior | Tagged , , , | 35 Comments

When you might want a skeptic…

UPDATE 3:41pm June 7: see end of post.

I am a passenger in a car with my friend Owen driving…we’re chatting.

Me: did you see that sign? I think we better turn around.

Owen: why are you always so negative!?

Me: but the sign said…

Owen: if people listen to you skeptics, there’ll be no more funding for roads.

Me: I just think this time that…

Owen: why are you so negative when us drivers work

Also posted in Meta | 42 Comments