What I’m reading this week: 5 February 2016

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And we’re off! The 1st of February was the Iowa caucus, and now I can honestly say we’ve started off well and truly into the presidential election season. I am not very excited to spend nine months discussing it, but then again, there are so many other things to discuss, which is why I read so many different things.

First off an article about the Iowa Caucus from NPR’s Jessica Taylor, once again in handy list form: Iowa Caucus Results: 6 Things That Explain How It Happened. I can’t add much to my commentary, that you can find here.

Published before the Iowa caucus, Ryan Lizza wrote a very thorough and mildly horrifying article for The New Yorker, On the Road with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz (titled on the site as ‘The Duel’). Both of them are high-energy, low-information campaigners, though Cruz sometimes pretends to be a wonk. Trump is attracting very ‘angry’ supporters, and sometimes I wonder if that anger is misplaced. I don’t really have to wonder; whenever things are going roughly, people tend to look for blame outside themselves.

Rand Paul is an interesting character. Interesting is not always a good thing. He is the face of the Libertarian faction of the Republican party. If only we had multiple parties in this country! Perhaps we could actually get things done. But I digress. I had noticed, but didn’t know why the Libertarian party was so overwhelmingly male. Jeet Heer at the New Republic wrote an article about this observation in Why Are Libertarians Mostly Dudes? These two particular lines caught my eye:

To a significant degree, libertarianism is a philosophy that exalts a world where white men enjoyed enormous freedom, but other groups were even more marginalized than they are now. How surprising is it, then, that politicians like Paul, who voice libertarian ideas, have a fan base that is overwhelmingly made up of white men?

Staying with women for a bit, a sobering article from the Swedish version of MetroHär får du våldta din fru – världens mest kvinnofientliga lagar (‘Here’s where you can rape your wife-the world’s most anti-women laws’). Forgive my Swedish translations; I haven’t been studying Swedish for very long. A new report from Equality Now showed 44 laws that are actively hostile towards women. India and Singapore still allow marital rape. 

And to leave off a little less sad, a little bit of grammar funnies from Le Monde. French is a remarkable fossil of a language, and I love it desperately! I am a French teacher, and teaching the sometimes arcane laws is sometimes a pain. There has been some panic about the accent known as the circonflexe, which looks like this: î. There has been some work by the Académie Française to simplify the language to aid in its apprehension (no pun intended), including–shockingly–getting rid of the dinosaur circonflexe! Much dithering and protest followed (seriously!). Le Monde‘s article by Samuel Laurent, Non, l’accent circonflexe ne va pas disparaître (‘No, the circonflexe isn’t going to disappear’) assuages us worried grammarians. Never fear, French will retain its quirky accents!

With that, until next time. – SDM

Picture by Nick Leonard

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On the Iowa Caucus

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I would be remiss if I didn’t at least discuss some numbers and make some sort of commentary on yesterday’s caucus, but to be frank, the results were not too surprising.

Ted Cruz winning on the Republican side is not testament to his ground game or his policies being more popular than anyone in his party. It is purely because he is a preacher’s son and Iowa’s Republicans are mostly evangelical Christians who are socially conservative. (Huckabee, the other evangelical social Conservative, dropped out of the race.)

I hardly want to think about Donald Trump moving on, but he did get second place. So he will continue on to New Hampshire. Will he win enough delegates? How will he do on Super Tuesday? I hardly want to think about him any more but apparently he’ll be hanging on like a particularly nasty cold.

I am not going to pretend that I wasn’t more interested in the race on the Democratic side. The fact that almost all media has touted Clinton’s hilariously marginal ‘win’ as a victory for her is…worrisome. What a dynasty America has become. I have to be neutral, as a teacher, but when speaking to other teachers I honestly admit that I don’t like the idea of another Clinton in office. That admission seems to make people think that I am a Republican, and I am hardly one to disabuse them of that notion.

And finally, The Independent describes a crazy tradition of a coin-toss to determine county delegates. Hillary Clinton won six of those county wide delegates, though she only ended up with two more delegates than Sanders. Hardly a stellar victory. I don’t think people are convinced by Clinton yet.

We shall see. Le jeu commence as they would say in France. The game is on. – SDM

Photo by crazysixdownunder

What I’m reading this week: 29 January 2016

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I try to read articles from all around the world. Admittedly, I usually browse them between classes or at lunch. I get a lot of my news from National Public Radio; I try to avoid watching television for news. Yes, I read mostly left-wing publications. So without further ado, what I’m reading/perusing this week around. I hope to make this a weekly thing, if I can remember. Definitely fort-nightly, at least.

How Iowa Hijacked Our Democracy by Jeff Greenfield : I never knew why we picked Iowa of all places to kick off the grand democratic game of the US presidential election. I hadn’t realised that it’s a fairly young institution (1972). Iowa isn’t a great representative state, although it is an honest place, seemingly. There’s also an alarmingly low turnout rate, although there’s an alarmingly low turn out rate in the US elections, generally.

After reading such a negative look at Iowa, I thought, well what can we do, really? Thankfully, I found some ideas in a handy list form from Danielle Kurtzleben at NPR: No Way To Pick A President? Here Are 6 Other Ways To Do It. There were some really good ideas; my favourite was the rotating regional primary, wherein regions of states would vote together.

Continuing on my American politics read, I am a new subscriber to The New Yorker. When I lived in London, a friend would give me her old copies and I’d read them on the Tube during my commute. I was tired of getting that reminder that I had read half my monthly allotment so I just went in for an educator’s subscription. Hot tip: if you are a school teacher, just call The New Yorker direct at 1.800.825.2510 and you’ll get the discount!

I read two articles from The New Yorker, one about Bernie Sanders and one about Flint, Michigan. I really do like Bernie Sanders over Hilary Clinton, but it’s way too early for me to make that heavy of a decision! The article, Bernie Sanders and the Realists by John Cassidy was a very pithy look at Sanders’s actual chances, and how idealism works in such a cynical environment as the US political system.

And then I read The Contempt That Poisoned Flint’s Water by Amy Davidson and just got angry. How is this sort of blatant and utter corruption even still a thing in America? I should be less naive, I know, but it was disheartening nonetheless. Sometimes, I feel as though America is still a developing nation sometimes, no matter how sophisticated we pretend to be.

Onto world news, then. From Europe, I read Der Spiegel from Germany; The Guardian from the UK (along with the BBC and The Independent, though I don’t like the latter that much); Le MondeLe Figaro, and Le Libération from France and a few newspapers from Sweden and Spain when they pop up on my Twitter feed. I also read Al-Jazeera English when I remember I have the app!

In Der Spiegel, an article about the new refugee identity cards caught my eye; it was an article about how this new identity card would create a faster and more secure way of identifying asylum seekers and getting the help they need. [Article’s title: ‘Asylpolitik: Bundesrat billigt Flüchtlingsausweis’]

From The Guardian’s Simon Parkin, an article about Daesh and its mastery of pop culture: ‘ How Isis hijacked pop culture, from Hollywood to video games‘. It was a fascinating (and long!) read about how Daesh and many other organisations use pop culture in order to entice, indoctrinate and recruit new members.

Le Monde had an article about the proposed changes to Paris’s neighbourhoods, called arrondisements. Redistricting isn’t a super sexy thing, I know, but changing a century’s old system for voting purposes (seriously!) is something that is strikingly similar to American gerrymandering. Paris’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, says that putting together the first four arrondisements would create a larger, more fair voting bloc. To what end, I have no idea, as I am not a Parisienne, but it will be interesting to watch. [The article: ‘Tout comprendre aux vingt arrondissements de Paris’]

And finally, from Le Libération, I read an article by Jean-Manuel Escarnot about two brothers from Toulouse, former Catholics, who have become rappers/singers for Daesh; it’s entitled Les frères Clain, rappeurs catholiques devenus voix de l’Etat islamique. Like The Guardian article above, it shows how sophisticated Daesh is in reaching its audience, using voices from around the world to carry its message to the most ears possible. There is also a fifteen minute documentary about the brothers at Arte Radio that you can listen to here (it is in French).

Until next time. – SDM

Picture by Angelo DeSantis from Berkeley, US