Writing intermittently on life, politics, and society


Language is our Tool

Meta-Culture has released the following paper in response to the Delhi Policy Group and Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue publication: Conflict Resolution: Learning lessons from dialogue processes in India. The paper highlights the need for clear terminology and an understanding of distinct conflict resolution modalities in order to draw lessons relevant to policymakers and practitioners.

Article here


World Development Report

Peeped the World Bank’s World Development Report for 2011. It’s being considered a significant development by people I know in the humanitarian field because the report seems to indicate a move from “just infrastructure and capacity building” to addressing the deleterious effects of violent conflict on development the field has long called attention to. Better writers have expressed some of my thinking on the report, so I’ll spare you my iffy prose.

I hope to  talk to the bosses about the organisation’s current role in assisting state actors with building the kinds of coalitions, mentioned in the report, required to bridge problems of low trust between societal groups and between the state and society. I think that’s a place where they’re keen on increasing the organisation’s presence.


So, I’ve been in India for about three weeks or so. Many of my initial impressions can be found here. I’ve been too busy, with work and the unenviable task of getting set up – more on that later, to follow much in the way of politics, things were less hectic in the office today and I managed to catch news of David Cameron’s speech on immigration.

It’s interesting that it comes just as his government is receiving a drubbing on the plans for the NHS – I’ve been given to understand they want to introduce some of the worst elements of the worst system of healthcare in the developed world. I’m definitely giving this speech the side-eye. It doesn’t appear to be much more than Cameron wagging his fingers at immigrants and the Labour party for the kind of social breakdown that Con-Dem policies will likely produce.

Anyway, I was supposed to be talking about India. Yes, setting up here has been a real hassle. What has fascinated me most is the feeling that I managed to get more done, in less time, with low language proficiency, in Japan than in India, a country with about 200 years of experience with the British, and where everyone I’ve had to deal with has spoken English.

That being said I think the biggest hassles (phone, internet, apartment, foreign residents registry) are out of the way and my apartment is slowly transforming into a somewhere that isn’t just a place to sleep. With any luck I’ll be able to make friends and get a life. Perhaps that will mitigate my intermittent feelings of loneliness and longing for my lost love.

As for work, the Director has been very ill so that has caused quite a bit of upheaval in the office. The second and third mates have been going flat out, but it’s been all hands on deck for the last couple of weeks. All in all I’m excited to be here. My understanding is that the Indian context is still hostile to the concept of conflict resolution, but my organisation is getting a lot more interest now than in the past. Western peacebuilding organisations appear excited about what we’re doing and I’m looking forward to building new networks and partnerships, as well as the challenge of developing my programmes. Fell deeds await.

And next to emerge from the clown car…

Nick Baumann at Mother Jones writes about the latest GOP panty-sniffing exercise. It seems limited government means government limited to policing women – and other undesirables:

Under a GOP-backed bill expected to sail through the House of Representatives, the Internal Revenue Service would be forced to police how Americans have paid for their abortions. To ensure that taxpayers complied with the law, IRS agents would have to investigate whether certain terminated pregnancies were the result of rape or incest. And one tax expert says that the measure could even lead to questions on tax forms: Have you had an abortion? Did you keep your receipt?

….The proposed law, also known as H.R. 3, extends the reach of the Hyde Amendment—which bans federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at stake—into many parts of the federal tax code. In some cases, the law would forbid using tax benefits—like credits or deductions—to pay for abortions or health insurance that covers abortion. If an American who used such a benefit were to be audited, Barthold said, the burden of proof would lie with the taxpayer to provide documentation, for example, that her abortion fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.


Hey, remember when it was government tyranny to have IRS agents enforce healthcare reform?

While we’re drawing parallels

As I’m too busy (read: lazy) to do much posting, and I love a bit of snark, I thought to share a post from commenter El Cid over at Balloon Juice on the latest news from Winconsin. Parallels between Scott Walker and authoritarians like the recently ousted Hosni Mubarak are not new, but I think El Cid provides us the opportunity to make a particularly good one, that is sure to curl the lips of you dirty effing blame-america-first hippies:

That Hugo Chavez sure is an evil authoritarian for getting the parliament to give him emergency decree powers.

He’s a terrible enemy of democracy, and the US needs to keep funneling money to fund the opposition to make sure this awful authoritarianism doesn’t spread to other countries in the hemisphere.

He was given this power by his lockstep ruling bloc of the national assembly, who act simply as his toadies so that Chavez can carry out his radical goals unfettered. And now he will have 18 months to lock in whatever laws he and his preferred legislature want so as to keep the next legislature from undoing these fait accompli.

Chavez used the pathetic excuse of massive floods displacing almost 150,000 people to ram through acts such as providing housing to flood victims. As a dangerous precedent, before even getting his new powers, he used the excuse of the most severe drought in a century to forcibly regulate hydro-electric power generation and use.

Critics say that next will come measures designed to disempower and gut the opposition in the legislature, whose numbers don’t make a majority but are a rivaling minority. After all, Chavez cynically pushed this through before the next assembly session, when the minority opposition will have up to 40% of seats.

The assembly passed sections allowing the Supreme Court to review the decrees and the citizens to revoke any decree via referendum if 5% of voters petition it.

In this country we would simply never accept such authoritarian measures used to push through executive acts in a rushed manner so as to disempower the minority opposition to oppose them.

Here, in a country which appreciates the principles of democracy, our leaders would never use the mere majority of the legislature to ram through laws giving the executive vast powers or to weaken opposition forces throughout a state or nation. No one would even think it possible for one of our leaders tocompletely ignore the objections of a minority holding up to 4 out of every 10 seats.

Our politicians would wisely reserve the use of emergency powers for responses to minor budget deficit issues, and would apply them to such common-sense purposes as removing rights to collective bargaining, or to remove elected officials by executive order, or to immediately award profitable taxpayer-funded contracts to hand-chosen private interests without a fair and open bidding process.

America needs to act, and act quickly, before Chavez’ manipulative authoritarianism can spread to any other nation with leaders hungry to grab such concentrated power.

It’s been a while

Goodness me! It’s hard to believe that the last time I posted here was just over two weeks ago. I’ve been busy working on a few things for my friend, which I hope will soon  go up on his excellent blogs, Loco’s Patronus and Loco in Yokohama. I’ve also been occupied with preparations to take up a gig in India. It’s been a real roller-coaster getting to this point. I may write about it some time at the other vanity project when I’m in a better place. I still haven’t the mouth with which to tell the tale.

Three-ring circus

I haven’t the heart these days to write much about politics. I’m trying to preserve what little joy and hope remains in me. I may find welcome respite when I take up a new job in March after a really tough year and a bit of underemployment (woo, yay!). That being said I have found it fascinating that contrary to “jobs jobs jobs” the focus of the US House of Reps. has been on making sure women know their place. Quelle surprise!