What I’m reading this week: 26 February 2016

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This week I’ve been terribly busy with work, where I’ve had three football (soccer) matches this week and oral exams. Of course this means my reading has been done in the morning during planning/at lunch.

I’ve been worried politically about two things: Donald Trump and the Brexit; of course I’ve been reading about other things. But, to the things I’m worried about first. Donald Trump’s rise is not only of national importance, but internationally as well. Libération has a story about Trump from , entitled Trump, du cauchemar à la réalité (Trump, from nightmare to reality – article is in French) if that tells you what most French people feel about him. I always enjoy reading articles about America from the perspective of other nations.

Election season seems interminable here in the United States, especially so since President Obama is on his second and final term. This means the race is wide open, and so has begun in 2014. NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben writes an article about the laws governing how short elections can be. The length of campaigns goes from Japan’s paltry twelve days, to the USA’s ridiculous 877 days. I don’t mind Britain’s 139 days, or nineteen weeks, though some Brits might disagree with me.

Heading back to the European Union for a moment. Many countries in the EU have much stricter laws governing speech. Stricter laws cropping up after terrorist attacks are being too widely applied, according to civil rights groups. Spain and France are some of the worst offenders of this ‘strengthening’ of laws, according to an article by Raphael Minder at The New York Times. Whilst I don’t mind some of the restrictions against freedom of speech, like Germany and France banning Holocaust deniers, there are moments when it goes too far. Freedom of speech is definitely a complicated thing.

The refugee crisis has brought out some of the worst in human nature. The Swedish Metro‘s Evelina Pålsson wrote an article about some refugees paying for contracts to rent flats (sometimes up to 70.000 SEK or 8200 USD) and being locked out of their flats. I’m not sure why people are so awful, but this is a reminder that there are people in the world that will take advantage of the desperation of the worst-off among us.

And my last worry is the Brexit; there will be much arguing and debate before the 23rd June referendum. The BBC shares an article about an important facet of the argument: the economy. Most arguments for staying in the EU revolve around it, and many British companies wrote a letter to say that ‘an EU exit would deter investment in the UK.’ What the voters believe is not up to them. We shall wait and see, of course.

Until next week. – SDM

Photo by Stefan Schweihofer

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What I’m reading this week: 12 February 2016

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I read a lot of strange things this week, and sort of last week. It’s been very busy chez moi, and also busy in the world of news. I stayed abroad this week (in news, not literally); mostly, to get another perspective on all of our political madness. That does not mean, however, that I have forgotten about New Hampshire. Of course I haven’t.

First off, New Hampshire. The New Yorker once more has some amazing reporting. I really do not regret getting my teacher’s subscription.  My first article from the magazine is John Cassidy’s Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump Ride the Populist Wave. Interesting look at the idea that, whilst Sanders and Trump are running two very different campaigns, their ideas are very much based on the anger and disillusionment of their supporters. Sanders supporters are angry because America isn’t as equal as it should be, and Trump supporters are angry (in my opinion and observation) because they have to share more of their pie with people they don’t think deserve it. Otherwise, my thoughts on New Hampshire can be found here.

I knew in my heart that the American primary was pretty interesting to the rest of the world, mostly because it is so much bombast and takes so long. So the next two articles are from the Swedish and German perspectives. I am a novice Swedish speaker, and Metro is easy enough (and probably a tabloid) for me to undestand. Göran Greider wrote a short article about Bernie Sanders and how socialism has become less of a frightening word in American politics, entitled Varför är alla rädda för Bernie Sanders? (Why is Everyone Afraid of Bernie Sanders?) Though not optimistic about his chances, Greider writes:

Nej, Bernie Sanders blir nog inte amerikansk president. Men hans kampanj är den politiska väckelserörelse som skakar liv i ett förstelnat och allt mer ojämlikt USA. Alla som sitter på för mycket makt är rädda för honom.

[No, Bernie Sanders won’t be the next American president. But his campaign is the political revival that is shaking apart the ossified and and increasingly unequal United States. All who have too much power are frightened of him.]

Please excuse my questionable translation.

From Der Spiegel: Politik, a FAQ about the American primary system for Germans. Our democracy is a bit of a carnival for anyone who doesn’t live inside of the circus tent, so the questions might seem funny, like ‘What is Super Tuesday?’ and ‘Why do Americans even have primaries?’ but there were also questions that some Americans can’t even answer, like ‘What are Super-delegates?’ and ‘What are Super-PACs?’ If you understand German or have German relatives who want to understand our system, send them to Veit Medick and Marc Pitzke’s Endlich verständlich: So funktionieren die US-Vorwahlen (‘Finally understandable: Here’s how the US Primary System Works’).

From Bill Moyer, via The Nation, an article by Ari Berman about the GOP’s fight to stop the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The VRA is usually a bi-partisan, completely normal vote, but the Supreme Court’s gutting of it has caused some 21 states to enact very strict voter identification laws (I happen to live in a state with fairly strict laws, which chafes a bit). Ted Cruz has taken up the completely bogus mantle of fighting voter fraud. Do not be fooled: restricting access to voting is a violation of one’s civil rights.

Moving on to France. I have lived in France three times: six months in Lyon, a year in Nancy and a year in Paris. Being a woman of colour there who speaks fluent French (but is not French) is always an eye-opening experience; I’m sure I will write about it more in future. So Annette Lévy-Willard’s post «Pour être Français il faut être blanc aux yeux bleus» (‘To be French, one must be white with blue eyes’) was another reminder that racism exists everywhere, even in countries I might prefer over my current home. This blog post was a review of the documentary Les Francais, c’est les autres (The French are other people). I certainly wish I could find a legal copy of it to show my students.

February is Black History Month, so I thought I’d end this week’s article list on two fascinating articles dealing with Blackness, Black identity and the future of Africa post-post-colonialism.

The first is from Identities.Mic, discussing the hashtag #HistoricPOC going viral on Twitter. The post, entitled #HistoricPOC Is the Powerful Illustration of Black History Month Everyone Needs to See has some great pictures and more links to follow.

And finally, I leave you with Le Monde’s article about the sudden rush of money to African technology start-ups, Samir Abdelkrim’s Les robinets du financement s’ouvrent pour les start-up africaines (The financial taps open for African start-ups). A rather dry look at how capital is coming into west African countries to help them on the path to becoming networked.

Until next time. – SDM

Illustration from E. Benjamin Andrews History of the United States, 1912.

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