The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Category: Uncategorized

The atrocity that will not be televised

by fpman

Fresh reports in from Nigeria, via allAfrica.com:

Boko Haram Killing ‘Wives’ to Prevent Marraige to ‘Unbelievers’

The reason why this will not be televised — or in other words widely known:

1. This is happening in Africa, not in the Middle East.

2. This is happening to Africans, not Westerners.

3. The Islamic State has just killed Western tourists in Tunisia in the meantime, and that would divert the attention on any day.

4. Wives of Boko Haram’s Islamist combatants are perceived at first sight by unsuspecting readers as part of the enemy, or, psychologically speaking, as part of an “outgroup.”

Two quotes from the article should make clear why this is as terrible a human tragedy as can be.

The Islamist fighters apparently told “their” wives before they killed them:

“We will not spare anyone of you because if unbelievers marry you, when we get to heaven, there is no way we can meet again.”

And the context to all of this shows that in all likelihood most of the women concerned have never really consented to being married to them in the first place.

“The insurgents had decided to flee to the nearby town of Gwoza (after fleeing the town of Bama earlier on, in the course of their retreat) before the troops’ arrival but they first decided to kill their wives so that nobody would remarry them.

Boko Haram forcibly married scores of women in Bama after seizing it in September. Nigeria’s military announced the recapture of the town on Monday.”

In other words, many or most of the women concerned were just given to their future killers as property, and before they were killed, they were offered the “consolation” that they could be with their killers forever and ever, thanks to being saved from the alternative.

Gaffe

by fpman

The official narrative of what you see below is that VP Joe Biden was “comforting (newly installed Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s wife) Stephanie Carter after she slipped and fell on ice outside the White House earlier in the day” — while her husband was being sworn into office, that is. Just a bit of shawl chivalry, if that rings a bell.

 

There is not too much in the way of scientific commentary to be offered related to this.

What constitutes a gaffe is, to state the obvious, socially constructed — a matter of intersubjective consensus between observers. You be the observer, watch the video.

Greece and the financial world

by fpman

An interesting interview with the current Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, an academic turned practitioner who is now playing a game of chicken with the financial world and with EUrope, in the eye of some observers.

Where the interview becomes of special interest for this blog is where Varoufakis discusses the reasons why he moved with his family to Texas (to teach at the University of Texas), in 2011. Quote:

“At the time I was helping some journalists with their investigations into various banking scandals. One night, I received a phone call and a stranger asked me whether my son had already come home. The caller then described the route my son had taken and said: if you want him to come home safely in the future, then stop investigating the banking business. That was another reason why we moved to Texas.”

If the game-of-chicken framework of interpretation is correct, Varoufakis apparently has some extra motivation to stare down the approaching opponent, resolute and firm.

Of course, in a game of chicken that is not necessarily a good thing in the end.

This is (not?) Russia today

by fpman

Alexei Navalny is a strong and stubborn critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has also been working to expose corruption in state-owned enterprises such as Transneft. To no significant effect. Not much happened in follow-up to his revealing of documents concerning possible corruption related to Transneft except he eventually came under accusations of embezzling money from two companies himself. He was accused of having done so together with his brother, Oleg Navalny, who was sentenced by a Russian court related to this on December 30, just a couple of days ago (Alexei was handed a suspended sentence). Oleg will now be sent for three and a half years to a penal labor camp. There was a protest against this in freezing conditions by some people in Moscow yesterday. Never the most frightening thing from any regime’s prespective, given the unfriendly weather. Yet Russian police intervened to arrest about a hundred of the protesters.

Not a nice story.

The amount of coverage it received under the “Russian politics” section on “RT”, i.e. formerly “Russia Today,” the international news television channel sponsored by the Russian state? You can check that yourself. Don’t try too hard. I’ll include here a selection of RT’s headlines I found there myself:

1) Attempts to isolate Russia have been thwarted – senator. The head of Russia’s Upper House Foreign Relations Committee has said that coordinated efforts of all branches of power prevented attempts to isolate the country and exercise “political and economic blackmail” over Moscow.

2) ‘US military hardware will cause more bloodshed in Ukraine’ – Russian official. The possible relocation of US hardware from Afghanistan to Ukraine suggested by President Obama will only lead to more casualties, a senior Russian lawmaker has stated.

3) State Duma chief suggests trying US for WWII nuke attacks. The Russian Lower House speaker wants to instigate an international investigation into the 1945 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US military – a possible crime against humanity with no statute of limitation.

4) ‘Stop blaming everything on Russia’: Heirs to 1917 revolutionary-era emigrants appeal to EU. Over 100 descendants of the Russian nobility residing outside the country have addressed European nations with a call to stop irrationally alienating Russia and give an unbiased appraisal to the current Ukrainian crisis.

5) France shows its weakness by scrapping Mistral deal – Rogozin. France’s refusal to deliver the Mistral amphibious ships to Russia, can’t be considered force-majeure, but confirms its geopolitical weakness, says he Russian Deputy PM in charge of the defense industry.

The above are 5 out of 12 of the regular news stories RT was running today in its Russian Politics section. Representatives of the Russian state are the chief source for four of those stories (with the exception of the pro-Russia lobby group) and for all seven of the rest. For 11 out of 12 in total. The chief messages transmitted from those chief (state) sources behind the 4 selected reports highlighted are: “don’t give weapons to Ukraine” (message to the US), “give weapons to Russia” (message to France), “the US killed people” (in Hiroshima and Nagasaki), “stop blaming/start liking Russia” (message to everyone). These are not really reports about domestic Russian politics – this is Russian foreign policy rather, including public diplomacy.

Besides this, RT also has a sub-section under “Russian politics” called “Official word.” Apparently this focuses even more on what Russian state leaders say, with headlines such as “Putin: ‘Supporting Russophobia in Ukraine will result in catastrophe’”; “Russia overestimated EU’s independence from US – Lavrov to French media”; and “‘Landmark in Russian history’: President Vladimir Putin’s New Year address.”

No news story on the Navalny case. No mention of it even as, say, a triumph of the Russian state over corruption.

From the site that uses the following two words as its main slogan: “QUESTION MORE.”

RTcover(They decided to question less on this occasion.)

I beg your pardon

by fpman

So I beg your pardon because this is just a modest post, without additional research, mostly drawing attention to a link to an article about Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe (D).

The Governor is soon finishing his second term in office and before leaving he is interested in pardoning a few people. What makes this an issue, some would say a controversial issue, is that his son, Kyle Beebe, is among those he put on the list of prospective beneficiaries. Son Kyle was sentenced for the possession of two ounces of marijuana back in 2003 and admits in his pardon request to have been involved in “selling” marijuana. But with marijuana’s legalization becoming more popular these days, this is not likely to be seen as a mortal sin by most – controversy comes mostly from the general dilemmas of pardoning family members.

These dilemmas are certainly acute in the case of another prospective beneficiary. Governor Beebe is also apparently interested in pardoning a certain Michael E. Jackson, a convicted sex offender, who is also a known longtime friend of the Beebe family. By now new documents have emerged related to Jackson’s case, however, which even the Governor’s office now wants to examine before there is a final decision.

The article ends with a good summary of prominent examples of others who made similar decisions in the past in U.S. politics, including Mike Beebe’s fellow Arkansas native Bill Clinton:

“In the final hours of his presidency, Bill Clinton pardoned his half-brother, Roger, for a 1980s drug conviction.

In 2011, on his final night in office, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the prison sentence of the son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, Esteban Nunez, who had pleaded guilty to participating in the killing of a college student. Over the objections of prosecutors, Schwarzenegger cut Nunez’s prison term from 16 years to seven years.”

Gordon Brown and the prospect of Scottish independence

by fpman

The Scottish independence referendum is set to be held on September 18, less then a week from now. With the “yes” campaign in the lead, many from the other side are now making a desperate attempt to convince prospective supporters of independence to change their mind, and to keep current opposers from doing the same.

Such was the address by former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown to a group of activists in Glasgow, the day before yesterday. One of his central arguments focused on the benefits of the National Health Service (NHS). It seems that key groups of voters in Scotland, for example many elderly women, fear that these would be lost (or unsustainable) in independent Scotland, even as the Scottish National Party, for its part, promises to save the system from privatization through independence. We are tuning into this after Brown made some very personal remarks related to the subject. Quoting him:

“When I lost the sight of my eye and faced the prospect of going blind, my sight was saved by the NHS.

When my daughter died it was as the result of not being able, not being able, to do anything to save her life and my respect for the NHS grew as a result of the experience that Sarah and I had.”

Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah have lost their ten days old baby daughter, Jennifer Jane, in 2002. She was born prematurely and died of a brain haemorrhage. The couple since have two children, John Macaulay and James Fraser, but it took a long time for Gordon Brown to recover from the loss. This interview with him might well convey how much. At one point there he says: “I couldn’t listen to music for six months,” which for some reason I find particularly revealing of the pain he must have felt.

That he is now speaking of his daughter’s death in the context of the independence referendum may not be the best way to make the case for “no” but it certainly means a lot to him.

Teh faceplant

by fpman

I am in such a rush to bring this photo (below) to the attention of The Patrimony’s followers I am not even going to correct the title above.

Obama_OvalOfficeThe faceplant – photo: Lawrence Jackson (source)

So this is a pic from the White House Flickr page (taken in June this year, published today). One source summarizes what we need to know about it thus:

“When a retiring Secret Service agent and his wife were invited to speak with Barack Obama in the Oval Office, the couple’s young son was offered the chance to go face-to-face with the world’s most powerful man. Instead …”

The context, provided to you straight from our Situation Room: US President Barack Obama has a history of popular photos with kids (see for example this story + photo combo, too). And the US Secret Service has a recent history of rather uncomfortable scandals.

Sometimes, if you add up one and one, it’s less than two – but may still be more than one. Call it the halo effect, if you’re the scientific type.