Monthly Archives: March 2012

Weekend Reading

Here’s another dose of reading for anyone who is interested, in its usual disorder:

Paintballing with Hezbollah.

On Sealand and free information: The Death of a Data Haven.

The Euro Crisis: the Merkel Line, the Monti Line, and the Left.

A Tale of Two Cities: On student protests in Columbus, Ohio and Montreal, Quebec.

The Enduring Popularity of the Suntan.

I have mixed feelings about this effort to domesticate a wild species of fox in one human lifetime, which is in danger of ending prematurely.

The Foreign Language of Mad Men.

Reflections on police from someone who visited Zucotti Park the day before protesters attempted to retake it.

And further discussion from someone who visited Frank Ogawa Plaza the day after police took it.

Reflections on the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Readings culled from Aaron Bady’s long series of Sunday Readings:

Trayvon Martin, White America, and the Return of Dred Scott.

Martin was killed because white people are afraid of black people.

Laurie Penny reflects on race, class, and the Million Hoodie March.

The third British empire: the offshore financial empire.

A homeless woman is arrested at a hospital for trespassing, then dies in jail.

I haven’t read/watched The Hunger Games, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share:

Changes in the Colombian student movement.

Gandalf saves The Hobbit Pub.

One man is planning to walk down every street in New York’s five boroughs.

An abortion clinic’s landlord turns the tables on protesters. Of course the protesters escalated.

On what fact checking means in America today:

Increasingly, for American readers, there are no mistakes, only covert ideologies. And out of necessity, TV networks, newspapers, and some magazines have bought into this mentality wholesale, serving up laborious platters of “fair and balanced” to consumers who lack the will and perhaps also the capacity to engage in any critical analysis of the information they are fed. They compete with one another on the terrain of “accuracy” and “neutrality.” And it is because the U.S. media is so obsessed with its own so-called objectivity that predatory checking — an offshoot of the traditional checking in newsrooms and magazines — has dominated the discourse. Checking is no longer just a link in the editorial sausage machine; it is an integral part of the public political discourse and a fixture in American popular culture. An army of professional and citizen fact-checkers have taken the process out of the newsroom and into the open.

This new wave of checkers — what the Times public editor famously called “vigilantes” — are different from the editors and aspiring writers at newspapers and magazines who silently bulletproof the stories their magazines publish (Peter Canby, the New Yorker’s head of fact checking, has acknowledged that “checkers are distinguished only by their mistakes.”)  The vigilantes work with a very different goal. They’re guerrillas; they live to pounce, to catch their enemies at their most vulnerable moments, and to parade their heads around on a stick, declaring smugly: untruth!

Middle class occupation protests in the U.S. and Israel.

The U.S. Student Association enters the era of the Occupy movement.

Why the MPAA doesn’t want your kid to see Bully.

Harvard students speak out about the media’s bad job reporting their detainment in Palestine.

From the new Journal of Occupied Studies, some thoughts on OWS:

“On the People’s Mic” by Ryan Ruby

“Uncritical Faculties” by Eric Lohman

“They Are Not Afraid” by Jeremy Varon:

It should come as no surprise, then, that OWS’s most significant (if still intangible) “gain” has been the recent retooling of the Obama campaign to stress issues of equity and shared sacrifice (however tepid that message and the reforms it suggests). In this second echo, OWS’s peculiar, tripartite character comes in to view: to pressure ostensibly progressive leaders and institutions to fight more aggressively on behalf of their professed beliefs; to argue the implication even of the liberal establishment within corporate dominance; and to charge that the entire political system is so procedurally dysfunctional and clogged with corporate power that the institutions of representative democracy are not adequate for realizing true solutions to the current crisis. Put otherwise, and now in spatial terms, a radical utopian kernel seeking potentially revolutionary change in the form of direct democracy is surrounded by a more strategic skepticism regarding possibilities even for meaningful change within the framework of existing institutions; both these impulses, likely at the fringe of the American mainstream, at once animate and receive succor from an ambient, common-sense populism that desires, through reform politics, the partial righting of basic social wrongs.

How was this breakthrough in political discourse possible? It was achieved on the back of another breakthrough, which I’ll call simply a shift in people’s level of seriousness, with potentially far-reaching consequences. At the core of OWS’s early success is the acceptance in individuals and communities of the need for resistance, a heightened sense of personal responsibility to participate in struggle, and a stubborn faith that one can transform this society, despite the very condition of hopelessness at the center of the OWS complaint. That conviction has expressed itself in a variety of forms. Perhaps above all, countless thousands of people are willing today, in ways they were not just a year ago, to make sacrifices, to take risks, and even go to jail to take and hold this park or bridge or campus encampment, to walk down this street, to protest in this lobby of this bank, at this foreclosure hearing. It’s a profound breakthrough — this readiness to assume risk on a large scale — produced by a social alchemy no one fully understands.

The History of Peace and Conflict with the LRA

As Invisible Children and Resolve continue the push to support the US advisers in their collaborative mission to apprehend Josephy Kony, there continues to be a lot of discussion about the perceived militarism of the campaign.  One of the primary focuses of the Kony 2012 campaign is, of course, to capture Kony. If the multinational effort to apprehend Kony is successful, it will have lasting impacts on peace and security in the region as well as bolster the fragile framework of international justice. If it is unsuccessful, it has the potential to be damning for the people on the ground. The more peaceful the resolution to this conflict, the better. But it’s worth discussing why this is the option that many of us are talking about right now.

Historically, both peaceful negotiations with the LRA and armed operations against the LRA have led to instances of violence against nearby civilians. This is due to the rebels’ horrific tactics but also to inconsistency in the Ugandan government’s stance. The usual pattern is that the LRA would drag out peace talks while they regrouped, and then the Ugandan government would grow tired of peace talks and launch a failed attack, thus driving the now regrouped LRA to lash out at civilians, leading to perhaps another set of negotiations. For example:

The Growing LRA Problem: From Operation North to Peace Talks to Massacres

A monument to LRA victims in Lira town.

The LRA grew out of the Alice Lakwena’s Holy Spirit Movement, but incorporated other northern rebel groups in the aftermath of current President Yoweri Museveni’s rise to power. In the ensuing years, the LRA became more and more of a problem for the government, which reacted in two ways. Betty Bigombe was appointed as a government minister to deal with the insurgency in 1988, and she encouraged defections and established a dialog with the LRA. Meanwhile, the Ugandan military (NRA) launched Operation North, which included arbitrary arrests of alleged collaborators and attacks against LRA positions. In 1992, Bigombe set about creating Arrow Groups, village militias to defend against the LRA, but the rebels reacted with brutal attacks against civilians to discourage collaboration with the government.

In 1993, Bigombe decided to reach out to the LRA to begin the process of a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Talks began that November, with the LRA searching for blanket amnesty in return for disarming. During the peace talks, Gulu was incredibly peaceful and NRA leaders began taking part – but relations deteriorated as military leaders asked for surrender while LRA wanted integration.

LRA placed the talks on hold and NRA leaders grew more impatient, and in February of 1994 President Museveni suddenly announced in Gulu that the LRA had seven days to surrender. Attacks resumed almost immediately, and the LRA began to perceive the Acholi civilians as collaborators, leading to the rise of civilian casualties. Soon the LRA began establishing bases in Sudan, where they rearmed and stepped up attacks in northern Uganda, including the Atiak massacre. This was also the beginning of widespread use of abductions both as a tactic and for recruitment.

Civil War Expands: Displacement, Invasion, and Retaliation

The IDP camp in Kitgum, credit K. Burns, USAID.

In response to massacres like the one at Atiak and the high-profile abduction of the Aboke girls, the Ugandan government enacted a dubious plan to address the crisis in Northern Uganda – by corralling civilians into displacement camps.  The camps were ostensibly to protect civilians but in reality had little protection and scarce food, water, and sanitation.

The government of Sudan supported the LRA, in part as retribution for Uganda’s support of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), the rebel movement that would later help win independence for South Sudan. With this support, Kony and the LRA unleashed more violence against Ugandan civilians in the north while maintaining bases in southern Sudan, where they also attacked civilians on behalf of the government there. After the 1998 embassy bombings and even more after 9/11, the U.S. pressured Sudan for assistance in counter-terrorism efforts that also led to an agreement allowing the Ugandan military, now the Ugandan People’s Defense Force, to launch an attack across the border into southern Sudan.

The Ugandan military had just withdrawn from the DRC, where soldiers had looted the country’s resources and killed numbers of civilians during the Second Congo War. Many of these returned soldiers were sent to Sudan to take part in Operation Iron Fist. The results were disastrous: the LRA fled the attacks and slipped back into Uganda, carrying out reprisal killings at IDP camps across the region.

In the mid-2000s, the two sides were brought together for infrequent negotiations.  The Ugandan parliament passed an amnesty law that allowed some LRA to return home and a ceasefire zone was established, but talks ended when chief negotiator for the LRA Sam Kolo surrendered to the government. It was also during this time that the ICC investigated the LRA for mass atrocity crimes, eventually issuing indictments for the LRA leadership. Meanwhile, most rebel fighters migrated westward to the Garamba National Forest in northeastern DRC, where they settled as a new set of peace talks began in Juba, Sudan.

Leaving Uganda: The Juba Peace Talks, Operation Lightning Thunder, and the Christmas Massacres

From 2006 to 2008 the Juba Peace Talks [PDF] sputtered forwards with marginal ceasefires and the movement of the LRA to assembly areas for negotiations. While the LRA were gathered in the DRC, where they received food aid from Caritas (with support from several European governments) to keep them from raiding villages for supplies, however there were allegations that they secretly sold some of the food for arms. The two sides agreed to five main agenda items that they worked on when they weren’t threatening to leave the talks:

  1. Cessation of Hostilities included a series of short-term ceasefires, allowing northern Uganda to begin its recovery while negotiations continued.
  2. Comprehensive Solutions, which included issues of the national government’s institutional mistreatment of northerners and the resettlement and rehabilitation of IDPs.
  3. Accountability and Reconciliation was one of the biggest issues that forced the talks to be put on hold several times. Eventually, they agreed on a hybrid system that included a truth-telling mechanism and reparations for victims along with the creation of a human rights branch in the High Court of Uganda and the removal of the LRA from Ugandan terrorist lists. The issue of the ICC was somewhat vague, but both sides seemed willing to accept an end to the conflict in exchange for withdrawing warrants.
  4. Permanent Ceasefire was signed in early 2008,  assigning a battalion of SPLA soldiers as ceasefire monitors once the final peace agreement was signed.
  5. Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration required the Ugandan government to address the ICC issue and allow LRA fighters to reintegrate into the national army. Those not willing to join the army agreed to disarm, and child soldiers would be supported through reintegration and educational programs.

In 2007 there was progress on the issue of accountability and reconciliation, but this progress was tainted by rumors that Vincent Otti, Kony’s second-in-command, had been executed after a power struggle within the LRA. Despite this, the two sides reached agreement on accountability in terms of alternative forms of justice, but the question remained of whether the ICC would drop its warrants in exchange for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Kony refused to sign the final agreement until the indictments were lifted, and Uganda refused to apply to try war criminals under complementarity until after the LRA disarmed. The talks collapsed in April of 2008, with several failed attempts to reconvene throughout the summer, along with reports of LRA attacks in rural South Sudan and the DRC.

It was against this backdrop that the UPDF launched Operation Lightning Thunder, an attack coordinated with the DRC and South Sudan with intelligence and logistics support from the U.S., in December of 2008. The attack routed the rebels, who anticipated the attack, but failed to lead to the capture of any leaders and freed a minimal number of abductees. In response, the LRA set in motion what has been dubbed the Christmas massacres. In a coordinated attack across several towns and villages in the DRC, the LRA massacred hundreds of civilians and abducted around 100 more.

Since then, the Ugandan force was kicked out of the Congo in early 2009 due to international disputes, and the ill-equipped Congolese military has continued the charge against the LRA there.  The UPDF halved its LRA-hunting force in order to step up its presence in Somalia as a part of the peacekeeping force there, AMISOM, and the forces that remain on Kony’s tracks are ill-equipped for a manhunt.  The LRA, according to the LRA Crisis Tracker, have shifted further west and north to ungoverned spaces in CAR and DRC.

LRA attacks and sightings in 2012, to date. via LRA Crisis Tracker.

More recently, the US sent military advisers to the region in October of last year, and the African Union has nominally stepped in to create a multinational, Ugandan-led force. The hunt for Kony seems to be active in CAR, DRC, and South Sudan with some US advisers based in Uganda while others work in the field (reportedly setting up a base in Obo, CAR).  Civil society groups both locally and in the US have called on the forces to ensure the protection of civilians from retaliatory attacks and have put forth efforts to encourage LRA combatants to disarm and come home. As Paul Ronan points out, however, Uganda’s Amnesty Act is set to expire this year, which could have dire consequences for the effort to convince rebels to return.

The Way Forwards

The multilateral deployment continues its hunt for Kony.  As Patrick Wegner explains, the mission has had some success in reducing the amount of attacks carried out by the LRA in late 2011 (although this could be an LRA tactic since attacks dropped after a meeting between LRA commanders supposedly occured), but has accomplished little so far as capturing Kony and has failed to protect civilians in remote parts of the DRC.

The history I just bulldozed through shows that a military plan is not foolproof. But it also shows why many remain skeptical of a peaceful solution. Historically, the Ugandan government has alternated between negotiations and military incursions, and the LRA have used peaceful time periods to rearm and regroup. When the Juba Peace Talks fell through, the LRA had rearmed and the Ugandan government had given up on waiting for Kony. We are currently seeing lower hostilities committed by the LRA, but they may be regrouping once again.

Ever since the peace talks failed, groups like Resolve have looked at the option of a military apprehension of Kony that can effectively end the LRA. As Resolve recently stated, they are not opposed to a peaceful resolution. Indeed, if the LRA and relevant governments can reach a peaceful and legitimate agreement that addresses grievances of victims and leads to an end to the conflict, it would be a huge step towards pacifying the area and rehabilitating abductees, and it would avoid putting abducted soldiers and innocent civilians in danger. But if disingenuous, negotiations could lead to an impatient military attacking a rearmed rebel group again.

Civil Rights in Mad Men and Beyond

The only black character that has been on Mad Men for more than two episodes is Carla, the Draper housekeeper. That might change this season.

If you didn’t see the season premiere of Mad Men this week, you should know one thing: racism and civil rights have intruded upon Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The show has referenced racism a few times, with Paul and Sheila going to the South to register voters, but it has never been a prominent theme like women’s role in the workplace has. It seems, however, that the fifth season could feature race quite a bit, especially if the office hires a person of color. As Tanner Colby points out, most seasons have included a major historical event (Kennedy’s election, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Kennedy’s assassination), and if this season spans about two years it could include Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

In this first episode of the season, race is treated as a problem that nobody wants to fix.  The opening scene of the premiere features a few executives at Young & Rubicam water bomb a Civil Rights protest going on outside their office,* which gets them in the papers. From there, the partners at SCDP decide to take the opportunity to rub salt on Y&R’s wounds by placing an ad in the paper declaring themselves “an equal-opportunity employer.” The boys at Y&R fire back, sending a resume and an African artifact through the door while a number of black applicants sit in the lobby.

While the premiere spends a lot of time showing how SCDP employees struggle with their home lives (with two new children, two new homes, and a new wife), the issue of race is tossed back and forth between SCDP and Y&R throughout the episode, with each agency trying to stick the other with the Civil Rights problem.

During the time in which Mad Men is set, the Civil Rights movement was often treated in the same way.  Politically, both Democrats and Republicans voted against civil rights reforms in Congress, despite Presidents of both parties putting forth piecemeal plans for reform.  Kennedy denounced the Freedom Riders for provoking violence and criticized SNCC for inciting harassment as well.  It would take James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi and Bull Connor’s crackdown in Birmingham to force his hand.

The biggest victories for blacks, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, arguably only came about because Johnson realized that black votes were important. By and large, the rights of America’s blacks were hot potato’d until politicians realized that black votes, not black people, were something to attract and protect.  One of the boys at Y&R shouted for the protesters to get a job, then pranked SCDP into accepting resumes – neither agency actually wanted to address the problem, but in the end one had to. Most politicians during the time didn’t want to deal with the “problem” of civil rights, but were forced to. I’m definitely not an expert on civil rights history, but I think this was a recurring theme until the movement grew enough to demand attention.


* Fun fact: Young & Rubicam was actually the first ad agency to hire a black adman, Roy Eaton, and that was in 1955.

Weekend Reading

As I get back into groove of blogging, I think it’s just about time for some weekend reading, don’t you?

Malcolm Harris writes a brilliant piece at The New Inquiry on Occupy Wall Street as a generational crisis.

Angus Johnston supplements the argument by breaking down critiques of college privilege.

The American Right is all culture war, all the time - from contraception to foreign policy to education.

In 80 years, 93% of seed varieties went extinct.

The adjunct problem is every professor’s problem.

How to talk to young black boys about Trayvon Martin.

Barbara Ehrenreich argues that we need to rediscover poverty.

The nation’s richest have benefited the most from the recovery, which isn’t how things happened after the Great Depression.

Investment Banking Sucks Everywhere, Including Canada.

Canada’s most recent scandal appeals to our immature sense of humor.

An al Qaeda media strategist wrote that Fox sucks, CNN is better, and MSNBC shouldn’t have fired Olbermann, in the greatest act of trolling ever.

Meritocracy and Measurement Myths.

The U.S. continues to keep secrets, punish whistle blowers, and kill citizens ten years after the War on Terror.

On Hearts and Minds in the War in Afghanistan:

It’s hard to spot the end of a war that had no coherent mission and no measurable progress from the beginning, but I’d say this is looking quite a bit like the endpoint. There appears to be little left for the US military to do but turn everything over to the sparse, corrupt, and weak Afghan government and then pull up stakes in the middle of the night and disappear. It’s eerie how we were just talking about the Fall of Saigon a week ago; we may be re-enacting something similar in the near future.

Will anyone even notice? Have the GOP candidates – or any candidate for Congress, for that matter – devoted anything but token attention and interest to Afghanistan? No, they’re all breathlessly laying out plans to start a war with Iran, taking care to stand behind the podium to hide their erections. The war nobody paid attention to, fought for reasons Afghans didn’t understand and toward ends that Americans couldn’t define, will finally get the full attention of the political system…when the candidates decide that it will be a convenient excuse to call Obama a quitter, pansy, cheese-eating surrender monkey, and betrayer of the American way.

A changing of the flag triggers debate over nation and religion in Tunisia.

The Invention of the Savage: Colonial Exhibitions and the Staging of the Arab Spring.

Republicans won’t be talking about the real reason gas prices are going up.

Some Occupy protesters are having their bail set based on whether or not they will submit to iris scan photographs.

Mike Daisey has something in common with Greg Mortenson and Tom MacMaster, but also with Jimmy McNulty of The Wire.

Rep. Darrell Issa thinks that banks couldn’t help engaging in foreclosure fraud.

Some notes on the coup in Mali that happened on Wednesday:

An in-depth report on the failed “grand bargain” debt ceiling talks reveals the change in negotiations last summer.

Sady Doyle identifies with Sarah Palin after watching Game Change, and reflects on how she is portrayed:

Politically minded reviewers have called the Palin character “narcissistic.” You can find support for that theory in the real-life Sarah Palin, certainly. But I don’t think you can find it in this movie. This Palin isn’t self-aggrandizing; she’s needy. She bases her self-concept entirely on how other people react to her. When she watches Tina Fey portray her on Saturday Night Live, she’s mortified; when she sees people criticizing her on the news, she breaks down. When it gets really bad, she can’t speak, or look anyone in the eye; she just folds in on herself and stops functioning. And when she’s trying to stave off a breakdown, she’s stuck in a petty rage that no doubt feels like strength; she hates the world that hates her, because that’s her only way to convince herself that they’re wrong, that she still has worth.

But when she’s with her supporters, or when she receives praise, or when she’s with people who actually do like her, such as her family — which is rare, due to the campaign; the movie barely touches on this, what it means for her to be separated from her new baby, or what it means that her son has recently deployed to Iraq, but it’s an ever-present part of the subtext — she’s an entirely different person. You can see her sucking it in, like oxygen; becoming more centered, and charming, and confident, and functional.

At one point, after her debate with Biden, the movie shows her watching late coverage, and landing on Pat Buchanan praising her for being “attractive” and “personable.” She can’t look away. It’s the first nice thing she’s heard about herself in months, and she takes it in with terrible hunger. She looks at Pat fucking Buchanan like a starving person looking at a plate full of cheeseburgers.

A report on fuel smuggling from Nigeria to Togo, Benin and the rest of West Africa.

Military STD posters from WWI and WWII.

An effort to understand the al Shabaab/al Qaeda merger.

Did George Zimmerman abuse 911 calls?

How not to study gender in the Middle East.

George Clooney got arrested, but he isn’t helping Sudan.

State legislators want the government out of your business, unless your business is ladybusiness.

Going the full Cantor - on Israel’s special place as a US ally.

ICC Neutrality Keeps Not Existing

In December of 2003 the International Criminal Court opened its first situation, the civil war in northern Uganda, at the referral of the Ugandan government. From the beginning, the Court opened itself to criticisms with President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda with Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-O’Campo’s joint press release on the referral. Critics challenged that the ICC was being used as a tool by Museveni and that the Court would not approach the situation from a balanced perspective.  Indeed, the ICC has only issued five indictments for LRA leaders to date, despite evidence of egregious human rights abuses by the Ugandan army against civilians in the region.

Since this biased introduction to the world stage, the ICC has tried to navigate between government assistance in access on the ground and the desire for judicial fairness. While there was marginal success in some situations, the ICC has more recently continued its record of only investigating one side of the conflict, most recently in Libya.

Last month, in a piece questioning the “Libyan model” and whether it should be used in Syria, Vijay Prashad outlined some of the missteps concerning biased justice in Libya. The ICC made huge strides in getting American and Chinese support for the UNSC resolution authorizing NATO assistance in the Libyan Civil War, but has since faded into memory by not being proactive to try those it has indicted and by refusing to step forward in investigating rebels or NATO forces.

Prashad also points to two damning reports on the transitional government’s abuses. Amnesty International has outlined the problems of torture and abuse in detention facilities in post-war Libya, along with discrimination against women, foreigners, and black Libyans. This was followed by a report by the Independent Civil Society Fact-Finding Mission to Libya (PDF) which stated that it was concerned by revenge attacks and intimidation against alleged Qaddafi loyalists, including the potentially extrajudicial killing of Muammar Qaddafi, allegations of executions of detained loyalists, instances of abuse and torture in detention facilities, and the possibility of civilian targeting by NATO.

Some of these allegations have existed since before the war was even over, and the ICC has taken virtually no action to investigate the other side of the civil war. The ICC continues its course of using its allies’ assistance to investigate and indict the other side while turning a blind eye to abuses committed by its allies.  The ICC has been able to issue indictments on all sides in Sudan and Kenya, but this record is dwarfed by the overwhelming situations in which the Court benefits from its silence.  From Uganda to Libya, the ICC has yet to prove that it can truly move beyond victor’s justice.

Weekend Reading

I’ve been on Spring Break and away from a properly functioning computer, so I apologize for this shorter edition of the usual weekend reading.

The problem with talking about abstract jobs.

It looks like the 1% had a fantastic 2010!

The science of altruism, and how bankers aren’t as good as ants.

People Who Think Carl Weathers in Joseph Kony.

Rush Limbaugh doesn’t want men to be forced to think about women and contraceptives.

The Deep Roots of the Birth Control Debate: The Confederates wanted to control women as much as they wanted to control slaves.

Where do African prints come from? Not Africa.

The most insane letter written by a child to a weatherman.

Of course Disney’s first black princess represents watermelon.

A video of what the hula hoop sees.

Three different crises in higher education affordability.

Historicizing the conservative think tank, with regards to the Koch-Cato debate.

The difficulties of academic commuting.

Gay marriage and birth control in the same debate.

Take the birth control battle over the counter.

And the GOP’s birth control McCarthyism.

Weekend Reading: #KONY2012 Edition

A tinge of humor before you read fifty articles about atrocities and development.

Earlier this week, I put together a post on Invisible Children’s new campaign and video, Kony 2012.  It’s gotten a huge amount of readership, which this humble blogger is very proud and thankful for.  Since the whole of the internet joined in what turned out to be a huge debate over both the issue of LRA disarmament specifically and Invisible Children as a whole, I began gathering links to anything I thought was worth reading. The list has gotten a bit bigger than I expected, so I’m re-writing everything here in what I hope to be a more digestible format as an early edition of the weekly reading feature.

Reporting

  • “Stop Kony, yes. But don’t stop asking questions,” by Musa Okwonga at The Independent.
  • UN Dispatch has a two-sided post on sensationalist vs. savior.
  • The Wired’s Danger Room gives a quick look of Kony 2012.
  • A blog post at the Washington Post covers the debate.
  • Michael Dreibert gives a succinct history of the conflict.
  • The Guardian has a long live-feed of updates on the debate.
  • NPR asks if the campaign will actually work.
  • The Guardian has an article including an interview with Jacob Acaye, one of the children featured in IC’s original video, as well as criticisms from Victor Ochen, who runs a great youth rehabilitation center in Lira.
  • The Monitor, an independent newspaper in Uganda, has this report that includes support from the UPDF but a criticism from former Gulu Mayor Norbert Mao – who has worked with IC in the past.
  • The New York Times’ Room for Debate features a number of important voices on the Kony 2012 campaign.

Critiques

There are a number of critical takes on both the Kony 2012 campaign and on IC itself as an organization:

Kings of War has a critique on the military side of the campaign.  African Arguements has a piece up by Angelo Izama about the video’s misrepresentations. A guest post at FP by Michael Wilkerson criticizes the video’s apparent inaccuracies; Wilkerson also wrote about it at The Guardian.  Elizabeth Dickinson writes about the moral conflict of the campaign as well as comparisons to the Darfur advocacy campaign.  Global Voices has a collection of Ugandan criticisms of the Kony 2012 campaign. And here’s another look at the backlash of the campaign. Max Fisher at The Atlantic has a good article criticizing the video as well. An FP article explains that the danger of troops being withdrawn might be unfounded. Adam Branch at the Makarere Institute for Social Research thinks IC is a symptom of US actions and doesn’t affect things on the ground. Timothy Burke questions the goal of Kony 2012’s direct action.

TMS Ruge wrote specifically about how the narrative denies agency to Ugandans. Africa is a Country has a post lambasting IC co-founder Jason Russell and Kony 2012’s white savior narrative.  Amanda and Kate from Wronging Rights wrote a piece at The Atlantic – also they made a drinking game.  Teju Cole tweeted a short burst of criticism against American sentimentality. There’s also a fun, satirical interactive map.  This article in the CS Monitor touches on the need to reach out to African groups. Alex de Waal argues that elevating Kony to “make him famous” isn’t the right way forwards. There is also an article on Kony in the real world.

In Defense

Resolve, Invisible Children, and Enough released a letter to President Obama (pdf) that is a blueprint for the way forward.  Invisible Children also released a response to critiques directly responding to many of the critiques. Paul Ronan, Resolve’s Director of Advocacy, posted this from South Sudan, where he has been doing research in the field.  Anneke van Woudenberg wrote a recent piece for Human Rights Watch explaining the need for action. Senator Chris Coons wrote that we should work together to capture Kony. Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey responds to financial critiques in this new video.

And a critique of the Visible Children blog in defense of Invisible Children was posted on Facebook by an IC staffer working on the Crisis Tracker. Bridgette Bugay offers a response to criticisms at the LSE blog. Sarah Margon, a former staffer for Senator Russ Feingold (who spearheaded the bill that was passed in 2010) has this defense to offer. Jared White, a development worker at IC’s Uganda office, wrote about the benefits of IC’s three track system.  James Pearson criticizes the video, but give his support to the mission of Kony 2012. A former IC roadie wrote a half-defense at Dave Algoso’s blog.

Things to Think About

Daniel Solomon gives some views on the way forward.  Kings of War’s original post on the topic covered the dangers of “crowdsourcing intervention.”  Shanley Knox does some reflecting on interacting in Uganda as a savior versus a partner.    This World We Live In offers a warning against hubris. Dave Algoso touches on the differences between simplification and distortion in advocacy. Think Africa Press has a piece on Uganda’s military and a survivor’s story that’s important to consider. The Washington Post interviewed Glenna Gordon, the photographer who caught the filmmakers posing with soldiers in 2008.

Siena Anstis provides a number of ways to learn more about the crisis. Hayes Brown looks at whether or not the UN could harness the momentum, while Give Well has an argument for concentrating on malaria, which could actually be stopped if more people paid attention. Mafoya Dossoumon argues that we should hold African leaders more accountable, which is a great point. Daniel Solomon also has a piece on seeing advocacy as discursive, and how that changes the approach. Here is a look at the video’s impact on documentaries. And Aaron Bady put together a list on the “Genre of Raising Awareness of Someone Else’s Suffering .

A Week Later: More Links

Catching Joseph Kony

This Monday, Invisible Children released its newest film – the thirty minute Kony 2012. I’ve been involved with IC since early 2007, and my relationship with them is almost always in flux – ranging from being inspired and truly believing in the work to being a critic of the trendy oversimplification. After helping Resolve and the Enough Project gain support for the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act in 2010, IC has embarked on a new mission of trying to effectively end the war in 2012, with this video as a part of the broader campaign.  The video is centered on Jason Russell, one of the founders of Invisible Children, explaining Joseph Kony, the war criminal in charge of the LRA, to his son.  The take-away from the video is that the goal of the next two months is to teach people who Kony is, thus leading to more change and ultimately his capture.

Through most of Monday evening Facebook and Twitter were slowly ramping up in my world. I have met scores of people in my work on the issue, and many of my friends are on the staff at IC, so the hubbub was expected.  By Tuesday afternoon, some staff members were tweeting that, in the first 24 hours, the video had been viewed 800,000 times. Late Tuesday evening, the campaign took up six of the top ten trending topics on Twitter, and “Kony” and “#KONY2012″ accounted for 3-4% of all tweets.

The last 24 hours (checked at 7:45am, MST today) of Twitter traffic, from trendistic.

Like many who are aware of the crisis in central-east Africa, I would love to see Joseph Kony brought to justice as soon as possible. Kony is the leader of a highly centralized rebel group comprised of abducted fighters – some of them children. Kony is among the first criminals indicted by the International Criminal Court, and his arrest would go a long ways towards ending the Lord’s Resistance Army as we know it and reinforcing an essential international institution like the Court.

“]As I mentioned, I’ve been a supporter of varying tenacity, and I have disagreed with Invisible Children here and there over the years. I support many of their programs on the ground in the region – granting scholarships for students to attend rebuild schools, teaching displaced people employment skills, and building a radio warning system among them – and am one of the many that first got involved in human rights and activism through their work here in the States. I’ve always felt that there is a huge disconnect between the great work being done in the region and the simplistic, sexy, and purely PR work Stateside, which is a shame. I’m not as much of a critic as others, but I do have a few qualms with the current campaign that’s launching right now.

Invisible Children continues to oversimplify the message of how to get rid of Kony. I understand that advocacy groups need to take really complex problems and boil them down so that it can be disseminated among supporters. As the movement grows, however, the leaders should be better educating their followers.  Being involved for five years, I have yet to see IC expand on its very simplistic history of the war, which is critical to understanding how best to approach ending it.

Something needs to be said about the narrative that IC creates, but I’ll leave that to everyone else.  IC has been running programs in northern Uganda for several years – ineptly at first but more recently they operate like any other aid organization there. Meanwhile, their PR campaigns in the States aim to address the LRA, who left Uganda – which has been in relative peace and experiencing slow recovery – in 2006. The videos blur the lines between the countries, and simplify everything to Kony roaming Africa abducting kids. That’s not to mention that there is no evidence of the 30,000 children figure endlessly repeated by IC and other NGOs, and no discussion of how to define abduction (which is important, since some are forced to help transport supplies before being set free, while others are forced to kill their own family members before being conscripted for life). The story IC creates will drive policy, and it needs to ensure that we have a dialog about the peace-justice debate, the accountability of the Ugandan military, and ways to move forwards without losing momentum.

IC’s campaign for the next two months is heavy on awareness. We supporters are to tell all of our friends and put posters everywhere, and then write messages to 20 cultural leaders (who control public discourse) and 12 political leaders (who are involved with real change). This build up is to April 20th, when we’re supposed to plaster our cities in Kony 2012 posters to “make him famous.” There is footage of “Kony 2012″ – to make him as popular as possible – a sort of Public Enemy #1.

When I first got involved with IC, I attended an event that included learning about displacement camps in northern Uganda – an eye-opening experience that really pushed me to start a student organization in college. This year’s big event is to put up posters. This is all in the name of garnering more name recognition for Kony to make him (in)famous, but when you get the most bipartisan congressional support for any Africa-related bill in history and you claim hundreds of thousands of youth support you, you’ve gotten the word out. Claiming that nobody knows about Kony (the video says “99% of people” have never heard of him), is absurd. There is enough attention that we can move from awareness to action now. It’s time to pursue real change – front and center. E-mailing the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should not just be a side-note to hanging up flags and tweeting at Oprah, who is probably sick of IC distracting her from her work in South Africa anyways.

As Daniel Solomon notes (and you should definitely read his post), if people are tweeting at me to watch the video and aren’t reading the ICG report to learn more, then a vital part of the campaign has missed the mark. Mark Kersten also calls out the campaign in a post you should read, and here’s a critique of “crowd-sourced intervention.”

After six years of building a massive youth-led base in America – including raising millions of dollars in record time and directing masses of young people – we have passed the deadline for moving forwards. In the film, IC tells us the Kony 2012 campaign expires at the end of the year – a movement has an expiration date alright, and it’s important to freshen up the whole IC movement.

Update: The list of related links has moved to a new post, as it continues to grow.

Fighting with Fashion

Last week, Dan Drezner tweeted about the mid-range cruise missile, the Seersucker. It quickly generated a conversation about less-than-intimidating weapons names, but I immediately embarked on a quest to find as many fashion-forward weapons, munitions, and operations as I could. That is the sole reason for this blog post – and so I present you with these trend-setting factoids (pardon the Wikipedia links):

  • The USS Moccasin, an early 20th Century submarine, was later given the

    This submarine is available at Target for $13.95

    more boring name of A-4. It was preceded by the Civil War-era Moccasin tug boat.

  • The British love their argyle – with a 17th Century, WWI-era, and current version of the HMS Argyll.
  • There’s a British patrol ship named the HMS Blazer, which is pretty trendy.
  • While not specific to clothing, I can’t help but assume that Ethan Allen class submarines are filled with wood furniture (the store was also named after the Revolutionary War hero).
  • The UR-100 is a Russian ICBM that NATO likes to refer to as the SS-19 Stiletto.
  • The R-12 is apparently a less sexy Russian missile, since NATO calls it the SS-4 Sandal. It was one of the stylish missiles involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

The most terrifying sandal to ever reach the Caribbean.

  • Both of these are nothing compared to the super-secret Galosh missile.
  • A British mission in the Pacific Theater during WWII was called Operation Zipper.
  • The Mohawk was a plane used for reconnaissance in Korea and Vietnam, and a divergence into the hair category for aircraft nomenclature (but it did stand alongside several other Native American tribes, I admit).
  • The Airspeed Oxford flew throughout WWII.
  • Allied Operation Bolero was the troop buildup in Britain during WWII.
  • WWII Operation Raincoat was an Allied attack in Italy.
  • The German counter-offensive in North Africa was called Operation Capri.
  • The short-lived X-3 Stiletto was an early Cold War-era jet.
  • Operation Coronetwould have been the largest amphibious assault in history, landing on Japan in WWII – but it was never crowned.

    Let's just be honest, bow ties - and Robert Downey, Jr. - should be the names of weapons.

  • A U.S. operation in Vietnam was code-named Operation Bolo, which just reminds me of the official neckwear of the state of Arizona.
  • There is also a bomber, the B-18 Bolo, which is reminiscent of neckwear.
  • Supposedly, there is a classified program to develop unmanned reconnaissance aircraft called Senior Prom, which is so high school.
  • Australian involvement in the Gulf War was codenamed Operation Damask.

Weekend Reading

Got some time? Do some reading:

Welcome to the Kickstarter page for the Greek government, whose motto is “release the Kraken!”

History is being used as a weapon in Tucson, Arizona and in Silwan, East Jerusalem.

The long shadow of the Vietnam War on America.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross does a preliminary evaluation of the intervention in Libya.

From Safe Zones to Where? A look at why we shouldn’t support safe zones in Syria.

I was a warehouse wage slave.

A new report that over 500 people have been killed by law enforcement using Tasers since 2001. This story is replete with really chilling accounts of unarmed people being shocked for little to no reason, for example:

Pikes did not resist arrest, and he was handcuffed while lying on the ground, according to Nugent’s police report of the incident. It was only after Pikes refused Nugent’s command to stand up that the officer applied the first Taser shock in the middle of his back, Nugent wrote.

Several more Taser shocks followed quickly, Nugent stated, because Pikes kept falling down and refusing to get back up. Grocery shoppers who witnessed the incident later told Pikes’ family that he had pleaded with Nugent: “Please, you all got me. Please don’t Tase me again.”

[Coroner] Williams said police records showed Nugent administered nine Taser shocks to Pikes over a 14-minute period. The last two jolts, delivered as police pulled Pikes from a patrol car at the police station, elicited no reaction because the suspect was unconscious…

The Biblical view that abortion is murder is younger than the Happy Meal.

Rich people are more likely to steal candy from a baby, among other transgressions.

The hilarious live-tweeting of a food coop meeting.

A plea to Presidential candidates: Skip the Auto Plant.

The Death March of the Moderates in the Senate.

Geology and the lexicon of democratic transitions.

On transvaginal ultrasounds and consent:

We should definitely stop calling a coercive penetration of a woman’s vagina irrespective of its necessity what it actually is—a sexual assault—because anti-choicers who don’t give a shit about women might mendaciously try to make hay with it.

Oh, and also because women and other people with uteri are too stupid to understand the difference between: A. Potentially medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds mandated by laymen who want to try to persuade women not to terminate an unwanted pregnancy; and B. Medically necessary transvaginal ultrasounds recommended by a trained medical professional who want to help women terminate an unwanted pregnancy in the safest and most effective way.

Gee, sorry if I scared you and your silly ladybrains by treating you as if you have agency and the capacity to understand the concept of consent!

“Why strike? Why march? Why occupy?” A preview of what’s happening in California- and why.

Floral X-Rays are super pretty, that is all.

From UC Davis: Neoliberal Universities, Banks, and the Professors Who Love Them.

From Civil War to Civil Rights.

The seven worst international aid ideas.

A new look at how to watch the Star Wars saga.

On Brazilian action movies and Colonel Nascimento’s War.

Statfor is a Joke and so is Wikileaks for Taking it Seriously.

The “right” and “left” are arbitrary in the climate debate.

A political story with legs – on Mitt Romney and his roof-tied dog, Seamus.

According to police that think it’s pertinent to spy on Muslim communities, these are locations requiring further examination.

On Privatization and Brutalizing Campuses; or Why Chancellors Say Stuff Like That:

…The brick-and-mortar campus languishes while Chancellor Birgeneau and Dean Edley chart a new agenda for the university by turning to for-profit online education and corporate tech parks as models for the future “space” of UC-Berkeley. And this is a transformative course: both the online UC and UC-Zhangjiang Tech Park jettison the arts, humanities and social sciences almost from before the very beginning. In the case of the online university, this streamlining comes as a result of a curriculum that only offers courses lending themselves to online format, typically ones that rely upon rote memorization. Biotech research initiatives that may turn into degree-granting programs focus on securing agreements with multinational corporations and Chinese national labs, but defer consideration of the programs’ educational mission until after research plans are well under way. As a result, both programs fit education to available technology and available funding (or funding that is promised to be available).

It should not surprise us, therefore, that plans to corporatize and technologize the university have been coupled with an accompanying disinvestment from and disinterest in the current space of the university. As a result, the coincidence of police brutality on the Berkeley campus and the chancellor’s trip abroad points to more than a series of logistical missteps on the part of an administration physically distanced from the university campus. It stems from a deep, structural lack of concern for the future of the current UC-Berkeley, both the campus itself and the students it serves.

It should not, therefore, surprise us too much that while police are paid to beat students in the name of “health and safety,” the university can’t even pay people to pick up trash on campus anymore.

When asked, for example, about what students might miss out on when they “go to class” at the computer screen in their bedrooms instead of on an actual campus, Dean Edley opined,  “What you won’t get? There won’t be beer bashes, yeah.” That’s right: college campuses are only good for keggers. If you shared my initial response to this statement – an inclination to forgive what must have been a misguided and altogether regrettable slip of the tongue – Edley has reiterated and defended his views on multiple occasions. And Dean Edley’s disregard for the current university is matched only by that of UC President Mark Yudoff who confided to the New York Times that “being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery.”

These are not just examples of administrative rhetoric at its most hyperbolic, or of “down-to-earth” men speaking off the cuff. This is who they are. The language we use to describe our world reflects our understanding of its contours, and of how we want to shape that world’s future. And so, to sum up: in Dean Edley’s words, the university campus is value-less ground; in President Yudoff’s, it’s a dead wasteland. These are precisely the sorts of imaginative de-populations of the university that underwrite Chancellor Birgeneau’s ability to describe UC-Berkeley students as “intruders” and then send in riot police to forcibly remove them. In the interests of “hygiene and safety,” administrative regulations aggressively and violently champion the banal, and in so doing, they actively foster the exact campus atmosphere which allows them to dismiss university culture as value-less – and so move towards privatizing it. The space of the university campus is not only good for nothing; the space must be rigorously protected so that it becomes good for nothing.

A short note on the impact of the NYPD’s decision to spy on Muslim students.

Africa’s Dirty Wars, a review of William Reno’s Warfare in Independent Africa.

Mining in the DRC: Bad Business and Backroom Deals and Has Due Diligence Helped?

Hiring hit men online is a real thing, apparently. Although it’s a little different from Horrible Bosses.

Jeremy Lin has overcome the stereotype threat.

And of course the excitement about Lin has to do with race, but it’s not all smiles.

How Twitter Helped a US Mom in Central Asia Find a Cancer Doc for Her Son.

When you’re talking about Boko Haram and al Shabaab’s foreign fighters, how do you define foreign?

David Frum and Ta-Nehisi Coates write about Andrew Breitbart.

Julian Assange and Europe’s Last Dictator.

Sexism in the video game community shouldn’t be acceptable:

If sexual harassment is such an intrinsic part of your community that it can’t be taken out without “turning it into something that it’s not,” then just as a rule of thumb, it probably should be turned into something that it’s not.

If your community can’t introduce a baseline of respect for another human being without being destroyed, then your community should probably be burned to the ground and have salt spread on the ashes so that it’ll never come back.

An Asian-American guy ended up on TIME’s Latino voter cover story.

Witchcraft and the British media.