Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Liar lied, clones clapped*

Friday, May 6th, 2022



in the 1970s
someone I know said:
“there are three types of haramis:
maha haramis
nasli haramis”

great bastards
genealogical bastards)

we’re dealing with the last category

same can be said about liars
great liars
genealogical liars

dozen years back
Father lied
vehemently thwarted peace
fanatically pursued war
destroyed a country
killed thousands
imposed embargo
still taking its toll

the Genealogical Liar
lies everyday
but today was a special day
Great Lying Day
once in a year day
reserved for the
Tribal Chief of the Global Village
to inform the Union
(and the World)
as to how much
He has screwed the both

no exaggeration

He presides over
the most Barbaric Country
this earth has ever known

and He Himself?
He is a Planet F—–
in the true sense

He lied for an hour
His cronies
most of them corrupt asses
after every few minutes
(their un-worked hands)
about 76 times
lifted their asses
in standing ovation
about half of the times
38 times!
(the longest respite
in rising and applauding
was when the Liar was scaring
about the current “threat”
and his WMD
“weapons of mass destruction”)

worried about AIDS in Africa
didn’t bother to mention
His nation’s pharmaceutical companies
and its greed for profits and patents

talked about bringing
“corporate criminals to record”
didn’t say who would run the country
if Pres and VP
are in jail

Afghanistan’s liberation
didn’t say how many he killed
turned refugees, etc.

North Korea’s danger
avoided to point out
what the world thinks
as to who is the greatest threat to the world

US’ greatness
homeless and prisoners were missing

health care
patients’ choice
(treatment – if money
death – if penniless)

“secure [?] Israel, democratic Palestine”
He wants security for the Thief!

then Moral Master said:
“ours is a “culture that values life”
then He threatened Iraq with war
and warned North Korea

of course Godji was mentioned too
and “faith based initiative”

on and on he lied

Liar lied
Clones clapped

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

(was written on January 28, 2003)

Speaking truth to power- investigating the illegal U.S. military occupation of the Hawaiian islands

Friday, May 6th, 2022

Speaking Truth To Power is an investigation into the ongoing illegal U.S. military occupation of The Hawaiian Islands. Our investigation views Hawaiian history and international law through an academic and legal lens. Interview subjects include academic professors, instructors, and legislators.

VIDEO/Hawaaian Kingdom Academia/Youtube

History: Sindh before the Arabs arrived

Friday, May 6th, 2022


The ruins of Alor, once a capital of the Buddhist kingdom; (right) Lambrick’s map shows kingdom of Sindh circa 642 AD PHOTO/Dr. Muhammad Ali Shaikh

There are many facets of Sindh’s history that are shrouded in mystery. One such aspect is the era before the advent of Arab rule in 711, when the region was under Buddhist and Brahmin rule.

The limited scholarship that has been carried out on the subject portrays Sindh as a highly developed and prosperous society back then. Dutch scholar J. E. van Lohuizen-De Leeuw, in her 1981 essay ‘The Pre-Muslim Antiquities of Sind’, from the book Sind Through the Centuries, states: “Sind [sic] appears to have been a rich country in those days, materially rich due to its flourishing trade and culturally rich on account of its diversified religious patterns.”

An effort has been made here to draw a picture of Sindh during the interesting times of the 7th and early 8th century CE when, in a span of just 60 years, Sindh went through three great dynastic transitions, from Buddhist to Brahmin rule and then the Muslim conquest.

The Buddhist Rai Dynasty

The dawn of the seventh century saw the Buddhist Rai dynasty ruling Sindh for several generations. The region’s peace was stirred in 626 CE during the rule of Rai Seharas, when, “All of a sudden, an army of the king of Nimruz invaded his [Seharas’] country, entering Makran,” reads The Chachnama, the oldest multi-genre chronicle on the era. It was translated into English from Farsi by Mirza Kaleech Beg in 1900, under the title The Chachnama: An Ancient History of Sind.

Though Sindh’s army repulsed the attack, it lost its king in the battle. He was succeeded by his son Sahasi II, who ruled Sindh from 626 to 652 CE, according to Dr N.A. Baloch in his article ‘The Historical Sind Era’, published in Sind Through the Centuries.

It was around 642 CE when a Chinese pilgrim, Hsuan Tsang, visited Sindh and “found innumerable stupas” and “several hundred Sangharama occupied by about ten thousand monks,” states British historian John Keay in India: A History. Although Buddhism was the most dominant religion in Sindh, Hinduism had a presence too, with about “thirty Hindu temples.”

Speaking about people, the Chinese pilgrim observed that they “as whole were hardy and impulsive and their kingdom … was famed for its cereal production, its livestock and its export of salt,” Keay quotes him.

The Earliest Portrait of a ‘Sindhi’

One of the most important relics from the Buddhist era was discovered from among the remains of a stupa near Mirpurkhas. About 18 centuries old, it is a plaque containing a man’s portrait, which most of the scholars believe was either that of the builder or donor of the temple. Thus, it is held by H.T. Lambrick, in his 1973 book Sindh Before the Muslim Conquest, as “the earliest known portrait of an individual inhabitant of Sindh: perhaps a prominent merchant of the second or third century AD [CE].”

Describing the portrait, Lambrick states: “The figure wears a waist cloth, a necklace and an elaborate headdress which may have been a wig. It was painted; the complexion was wheat-coloured, with black eyes, eyebrows and moustache. One hand holds a small lotus flower, the other is placed carefully on a fold of waistcloth, which we may suppose did duty as a purse.”

The Brahmin ‘Soft Coup’

During the closing years of Buddhist king Sahasi II’s 28-year-long rule, most of the affairs of state were entrusted to his most loyal Brahmin minister Chach. Chach originally came from a humble background, but earned the admiration and confidence of the king on account of his sheer merit, talent and hard work.

“Having the entire support and confidence of the king, his [Chach’s] personal authority over Sindh and its dependencies was absolute,” notes Lambrick.

Another person that enjoyed the confidence of the king was his young queen, Suhandi. “Sahasi [was] entirely under influence of his wife, who was evidently a woman of strong mind as well as of strong passions,” observes Lambrick.

An incident brought Chach and Suhandi closer to each other. Once, Chach wanted to see the king regarding an urgent state business. The king was resting in his palace with his queen. He granted audience to Chach in the presence of the queen, who “fell desperately in love with the handsome Brahmin,” writes Lambrick. Initially, Chach resisted Suhandi’s romantic overtures, citing his religious and moral limitations, but eventually he succumbed to the queen’s persuasions.

Dawn for more

Chavismo revisited

Thursday, May 5th, 2022


Revolutionary leader and President of Venzuela (1954-2013) (2002-2013) ART/Hugo Gonzalez

Some waves start with a ripple, some start with a bang. Twenty years ago, what would become Latin America’s Pink Tide exploded onto the world stage in a pair of extraordinary events.

In April 2002, opponents of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, elected in 1998 on a vague leftist platform to found the nation anew after over a decade of mounting crises, staged a coup and took power with the breathless backing of the U.S. government. Within 72 hours, the coup failed, the conspirators fled, and Chávez returned with a renewed impulse to transform Venezuela and the region. Six months later, Brazilians elected as president Workers’ Party founder Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The former union leader’s policies aimed at reducing inequality following a decade of neoliberal rule heralded a new era of leftist governance in Brazil. Other nations would soon follow.

This volume of the NACLA Report takes both moments—Venezuela’s April coup and Brazil’s October elections—as springboards to revisit what each meant, and wrought, for Venezuela, Brazil, the Americas, and the larger Left. Two decades on, each nation again stands at a crossroads. In Brazil, against the backdrop of Jair Bolsonaro’s reactionary rule, Lula seems poised to return to office. Meanwhile in Venezuela, Chavismo nominally remains in power under Chávez’s successor Nicolás Maduro. But it is as a full-fledged authoritarian government, having bested an insurrectionary opposition, weathered crippling U.S. sanctions, and undergone a staggering humanitarian crisis while sacrificing much of the promise that Chavismo once represented for millions. How did we get here?

While Brazil will be the focus of our summer issue, here we tackle this question for Venezuela. It is in many ways an impossible task. The passions flared by the mere mention of Venezuela in political and even academic discussions often make efforts at debate or engagement moot from the outset. We wade into that terrain knowingly, aiming not to provide a definitive or univocal account of Chavismo, but rather to offer a range of interpretations that speak both to its promise and its pitfalls. The voices herein represent a wide spectrum of views, most of them Venezuelans, all of them longtime activists, analysts, and first-hand participants in the movements that have defined Chavismo since it first came to office.

In an anchoring essay, I offer an account that stresses contingency and contradiction over telos and consistency as key framings to make sense of what Chavismo was and what it has become. Interviews with Venezuelan activists and researchers exploring the evolution of Chavismo’s social missions, the opposition’s quest for power, leftist youth movements, extractivist policy, women’s and LGBTQI struggles, mass migration, and more provide on-the-ground perspectives on the country’s past, present, and possible futures. A series of reflections assess the coup’s lingering effects for media framings, leftist solidarity, and prospects for breaking the country’s political impasse.

Taken together, this issue offers a resource for readers seeking to dive deep into the contradictions of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution in its full dimensions. It makes for often bleak reading, as befits a movement and a time that raised so many expectations of sweeping transformation, elicited such fierce resistance, and ultimately succumbed to massive pressures, both external and of its own making.

Read the full table of contents. And don’t miss this issue’s web exclusive content!

The North American Congress on Latin America for more

The split-body problem

Thursday, May 5th, 2022


From Monsters and Marvels by Ambroise Paré. IMAGE/the Wellcome Collection

If you split yourself down the middle to become two people, would you survive the process? And, if you did, would your other half be your child, your clone or your sibling? Would this create two instances of the same you, existing simultaneously in two places at the same time; or would it create two entirely new people, causing you to suddenly cease to exist? While such thought experiments raise baffling questions about personal identity, there is a more fundamental problem I want to consider: would splitting in two be an instance of reproduction or an entirely different kind of process?

When we think about how organisms reproduce, we don’t tend to think of splitting bodies. We think of sex. We tend to think of animals such as panda bears, leopards, ravens or any other large multicellular organisms having sex, becoming pregnant (or laying fertilised eggs), and giving birth. It isn’t surprising that this is how we think new organisms come into existence. Sexual reproduction is, after all, the form of reproduction that nature has selected for creatures like us. But sex is not the way most reproduction takes places.

Most forms of life on this planet create other living beings through asexual processes – and there are many ways this can happen (as we’ll see). Some of the most common forms are similar to the thought experiment above: a body splits in two. Nearly all prokaryotic microbes, such as bacteria, reproduce through various forms of this process, such as binary fission (when a body separates into two new bodies). However, it’s not always clear what kinds of relation result from fission, as in the thought experiment above.

As a philosopher of biology, some of my research considers what counts as a biological individual, and how biological individuals are connected to each other. It seems to me that our concept of reproduction often distorts how we think about organisms coming into existence. This isn’t surprising: it’s a concept developed by 18th-century naturalists who knew very little about the fission processes we can observe today. What needs to be done to align our concept of biological reproduction with the fission processes seen throughout so much of life? Where do we start?

To think about this, we first need to figure out how we understand reproduction itself. This may seem like a theoretical exercise, but a lot is at stake in how we define the concept. Our ability to identify species, aliens and even the branches on the tree of life hinges on the concept.

Composed of reproductive links between organisms, much of the tree of life rests on our understanding of reproduction. How we think about vertical lines of descent (between parents and offspring across generations) can have massive implications for our evolutionary models. Say an organism survives reproductive fission and has 40 offspring. All those offspring – 40 bodies that split off over time – are one generation away from their parent. However, if you think an organism doesn’t survive fission, then the organisms born after 40 splits are 40 generations removed from the first organism to break into two. Thus, whether two organisms are understood as being just a few generations apart or (potentially) millions of generations apart hinges on how you understand reproductive fission.

Astrobiologists are also heavily invested in how reproduction is defined. If we’re ever going to find life outside Earth, they will need to know how to tell the living from the non-living. One of the more prominent theories about how to do this is by determining whether an extraterrestrial candidate can reproduce or pass on its genes. According to this theory, a capacity to reproduce could be one of the defining characteristics of life. Reproduction is also central to the way we define species. The German-born evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr ’s biological species concept – the most common concept used to define a species – treats them as interbreeding (or potentially interbreeding) populations. Updating how we think about reproduction, then, creates a series of difficult identity problems that challenge the foundations of many of our ideas about life.

It’s perhaps surprising then that the concept of biological reproduction, which underpins our ability to define species, the search for alien life and the concept of evolution, emerged only around the mid-18th century. The work of the French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon and the French philosopher Pierre-Louis Maupertuis marks the beginning of the idea that we think of as ‘reproduction’ today. Prior to their work, organisms were believed to form through generation, not reproduction. The French biologist François Jacob’s The Logic of Life (1970) nicely illustrates the importance of the historical shift between these concepts.

Aeon for more

The long ides of march of Aldo Moro

Thursday, May 5th, 2022


“Italy Accuses US Envoy Steve Pieczenik of Aldo Moro Murder” PHOTO/I B Times/Duck Duck Go

How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted o’er,
In states unborn, and accents yet unknown.

— William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

“Beware the Ides of March”—or even the day after. On the morning of 16 March 1978 in Rome’s central via Fani, the Red Brigades (BR) kidnapped Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, head of the Christian Democratic Party (DC), killing five agents of his entourage. The fifty-five days of his detention in a secret “people’s prison” and eventual assassination by his captors on 9 May 1978 marked the climax of over thirty years of internal and external opposition to post-fascist Italy’s chartering its own political and economic course by “parallel convergences.” It is worth revisiting this long and twisted story as an early template for the bad faith with which the US Empire deals with the world today. It is not a story for conspiracy-phobes.

The plot of all plots: whodunnit?

Moro himself coined the phrase, “parallel convergences,” hinting at dark forces behind the facade of the legitimate state. The executors of Moro’s death are not in doubt. The BR condemned him to death on 29 April 1978 for “advancing counterrevolutionary programs in the service of bourgeois imperialism,” shooting eleven bullets into his body curled up in the trunk of a red Renault on 9 May. Moro’s phrase “parallel convergences” challenged translators at the time. Today, we understand it, in part, as the network of economic international elites, whose interest state intelligence structures serve—the CIA first among peers. I asked Douglas Valentine, author of The Phoenix Program and exhaustive histories of CIA, DEA, FBI, what the phrase meant as Moro used it. Valentine said, “A CIA/military intelligence guy I knew well, Col. Tully Acampora, told me that JFK’s station chief in Rome starting mid-1963, Bill Harvey, was sent there to help . . . General Giovanni di Lorenzo, head of Italy’s military intelligence and security services, subvert the government of Leftist Prime Minister, Aldo Moro.”

“Leftist”? Aldo Moro had toyed with the idea of joining the Socialist Party, but he was a devout Catholic and chose the DC instead. He was, however, interested in national sovereignty, the relief of emigration from the underdeveloped South, and an autonomous energy policy of trade with the Middle East. Only a year before the arrival in Rome of CIA station chief, Bill Harvey, the Mafia murdered Italian Energy Minister, Enrico Mattei, a close associate of Moro’s, after Mattei’s fruitful overtures for fair trade with oil-rich, Third World countries. Behind the Mafia lurked the “Seven Sisters,” as Mattei dubbed the cartel of the American oil companies—and the services of the CIA together with Italian secret services. The Italian director, Francesco Rosi, made a film about this dramatic event, titled, The Mattei Affair. The journalist who helped him with research disappeared, presumed killed by the Mafia.

Cold War: Italy’s “Stability” Must Be Secured

Italy’s vassalage to the US in the Cold War mattered tremendously—more than Americans know. One of the earliest directives by the then-recently established US National Security Council made no bones about Washington’s intentions should the Italian Communist Party win the parliamentary elections in 1948. The US, the directive punctuated, would intervene “even at the cost of a civil war.”

Throughout the Cold War, the US considered Italy a front-line state. The “iron curtain” ran vertically north south from Poland’s Stettin on the Baltic Sea to Italy’s Trieste on the northeast tip of the Adriatic Sea. Italy’s eastern neighbor was communist Yugoslavia (until 1948 allied with Moscow) and further south, across a narrow stretch of sea, communist Albania, also allied with Moscow until 1961. Indeed, as NATO and American military bases grew to dot Italy over the decades, their missiles pointed east, at Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

Furthermore, Italy’s central Mediterranean location, especially Sicily’s, provided the US with a key asset location for control of the Middle East. US policymakers were determined to preserve this essential geopolitical asset in their sphere of influence. As they saw it, one thing only threatened American hegemony in Italy: the vastly popular and respected Italian Communist Party (PCI), the largest communist party in Western Europe, which had been one of the two “hero” parties of the Resistance against the Nazi-fascist occupation in WW II from 8 September 1943 to 25 April 1945. In 1948, the PCI, allied with all left parties as the Popular Front, would almost certainly have won the parliamentary elections without the funding of a red-scare campaign by the CIA and the fomented fatal incidents and violent clashes at party rallies that seemed to sound the thunder of a coming civil war. Intimidated, the people voted a majority to the he DC, 48% of the vote; close behind came the Popular Front with 30% of the vote. “Without the CIA. The Communist Party . . . would surely have won the elections in 1948,” writes Jack Devine, former CIA chief-of-station in Rome, in his book, Good Hunting.

In the early 1950s, Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles and Ambassador to Italy, Claire Boothe Luce, insisted that the PCI be outlawed. All Italian political parties, from extreme right to left, refused. They, justifiably pointed out that, because the PCI had been one of the main forces of the Resistance, there would be civil war in Italy if such a measure were enacted. For the Americans, communists in power endangered the security of NATO and the policy of control of the Middle East. When in 1953 William Colby became director of the CIA in Italy his task was to direct clandestine political actions to contain the influence of the PCI. As he wrote in his memoirs, “My task was to prevent that Italy fall in communist hands at the next elections.” Keeping the PCI out of the executive was made a condition, agreed upon by President Harry Truman and Prime Minister Alcide de Gasperi (DC), for the distribution of funds through the Marshall Plan for post-war reconstruction of Italy. Still in the 50s, a secret accord, “Plan Demagnetize,” stipulated a close collaboration between the intelligence services of the US and Italy’s to set back the influence of communism on Italian society.

In the Pre-Dawn of the Cold War: Mustering Their Mafia and Fascist Battalions

This communist threat had been identified and organized against as early as the allied landing in Sicily, in July of 1943. The OSS (predecessor to the CIA), founded in 1941 with 13,000 agents by OSS chief “Wild Bill” Donovan, had assigned the “Italian Section” to James Jesus Angleton, who came from a masonic family and would head the CIA’s Israeli desk by 1950. Angleton recruited a “Mafia Circle”—so denominated in CIA documents—to help with the allied landing in Italy. The circle was made up of Mafiosi (including Michele Sindona, who would become notorious for the crack-up of the Franklin National Bank in 1979) suggested by the gangster, Lucky Luciano, whom American naval intelligence approached in prison in Clinton, New York. The “Mafia Circle,” however, was not dissolved after the Allies’ smooth landing; it widened. The circle rushed to liberate other Mafiosi long imprisoned by Mussolini’s regime. Officials of the American occupation put the “ liberated “Mafiosi in important positions of administrative, police, and military power throughout Sicily to function as an anti-communist network of collaborators. As mayors, for example, the appointees would eventually exert regional influence on the elections and policies of senators and deputies in the parliament in Rome throughout the life of the first Republic—and close ties with the Interior Ministry and its secret services.

Counterpunch for more

Regime change?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022


The evolution and weaponization of the world dollar

The centerpiece of shock and awe of the West’s economic response to Russia’s invasion and bombardment of Ukraine was the freezing of Russia’s central bank assets. In the March 7 edition of his Global Money Dispatch newsletter, the Credit Suisse investment strategist Zoltan Pozsar writes that the G7 seizure of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves marks a regime change in the global monetary system. Pozsar pronounces this new regime Bretton Woods III. He anticipates that Asian sovereigns, fearing that their dollar- and euro-denominated foreign reserves are at risk of expropriation in the event of future foreign policy disputes, will park their surplus funds outside of the reach of Western financial authorities. For Pozsar, this heralds the rise of “commodity-backed currencies in the East” and spells the denouement of dollar hegemony.

In a follow-up piece published on March 31, Pozsar speculates that recent developments will drive China to replace the West as the buyer of last resort of Russian oil. As a result, oil tankers will have to be rerouted from the quicker East-West route via the Suez to a longer passage (one requiring ship transfers) from Russia to China. Geopolitics will shape the reorganization of real infrastructure networks, slowing down supply chains and increasing the cost of credit. Pozsar predicts that this rearrangement of global commodity and money flows presage a new world economic order, one in which China will replace the US as the monetary hegemon. The petrodollar, he envisages, will be replaced by the petro-yuan. 

Pozsar’s analysis—as well as Adam Tooze’s response to it—appreciates the asymmetry in the world economy: between advanced economies that dominate global finance, and developing countries that produce the majority (about sixty percent) of world GDP. Asia may be the center of gravity of world manufacturing, but European and North American firms still command the bulk of the profits embedded in global supply chains. This tension in the global economy is unlikely to resolve anytime soon, but it has become increasingly fractious. The weaponization of trade policy by the previous Republican administration has only been reinforced by the current Democratic one. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s recent speech advocating “the friend-shoring of supply chains”—wherein the US strengthens trade ties with those it shares strategic interests and “core values,” while severing the rest—captures the new mood. (In her speech, Yellen also calls for revitalizing Bretton Woods based on her view that the dollar-based economic order “benefits us all.”)

Understanding this emergent world economic order requires complementing Hyun Song Shin’s famous “matrix of balance sheets” approach to financial globalization, with a lens that sees the global dollar system as a matrix of monetary, military, and legal dominance. We are witnessing the waxing of a new chapter in this system—if we are in a new era called Bretton Woods III, it is the most weaponized form of the global dollar system yet. 

Bretton Woods I

From 1952 to 1973, Bretton Woods I enforced the subjugation of other currencies to the dollar. Getting gold required converting other currencies, say pound sterling or french franc, into dollars, which were alone convertible into gold. Dollar dominance thus hinged upon a stable exchange rate between dollars and gold. This meant limiting the supply of dollars—easily printable compared to producing gold, a scarce commodity. A rising demand for dollars in the late 1960s made maintaining a fixed parity between dollars and gold increasingly difficult. In August 1971, fearing a dollar crash, President Nixon delinked the greenback from gold. No longer could holders of dollars go up to a bank window and exchange them for gold. De facto, the international monetary order known as Bretton Woods was over.

Nixon’s decision to remove the dollar from its gold peg was coupled with the threat of trade sanctions unless the Europeans appreciated their currencies, making US exports cheaper and more attractive to the world market. To his G-10 foreign counterparts, Nixon’s Treasury Secretary John Connally infamously declared: the dollar “is our currency, but it’s your problem.” The United States’ abandonment of its management of the world dollar made for more than a decade of economic disorder marked by high inflation and unemployment.

Phenomenal World for more

First-ever recording of dying human brain reveals dreaming-like activity

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022


Researchers have recorded the activity of a dying human brain for the first time, and detected activity associated with dreaming and memory recall PHOTO/Depositphotos

“My whole life flashed before my eyes” is a phrase we often hear regarding near-death experiences – and there just might be some truth to it. Scientists have recorded the activity of a dying human brain for the first time ever, revealing brain wave patterns related to processes like dreaming and memory recall.

The study wasn’t specifically designed to measure the brain’s activity around the time of death – it was just a matter of happenstance. The researchers were continuously monitoring the brain waves of an 87-year-old epilepsy patient using EEG, to watch for seizures. However, during the treatment the patient suddenly had a heart attack and died.

As such, the researchers managed to record 15 minutes of brain activity around the time of death. They focused in on the 30 seconds either side of when the heart stopped beating, and detected increased activity in types of brain waves known as gamma oscillations. These are involved in processes such as dreaming, meditation and memory retrieval, giving a glimpse into what a person may be experiencing during their final moments.

“Through generating oscillations involved in memory retrieval, the brain may be playing a last recall of important life events just before we die, similar to the ones reported in near-death experiences,” said Dr. Ajmal Zemmar, lead author of the study. “These findings challenge our understanding of when exactly life ends and generate important subsequent questions, such as those related to the timing of organ donation.”

New Atlas for more

Kristof’s moralistic journalism was often full of holes

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022


New York Times columnist and two-time Pulitzer Prize–winner Nicholas Kristof has ended a four-decade career of globe-trotting and covering poverty, war and strife. He is choosing to return to his native Oregon, where he grew up on a farm, with an eye toward running for governor as a Democrat (New York Times, 10/14/21).

In his formal announcement, he vowed to tackle “unaffordable housing, weak mental health support and inadequate education” (Oregonian, 10/27/21). In his last column (New York Times, 10/28/21), Kristof cited the bravery of pro-democracy activists he has covered the world over as inspiration to address the social problems he sees festering in his home state: “I’m bucking the journalistic impulse to stay on the sidelines because my heart aches at what classmates have endured,” he said. He has decided to rise above the supposed disinterest of journalism, he wrote: “It feels like the right moment to move from covering problems to trying to fix them.”

It’s indisputable that Kristof stands out in the world of opinion journalism; few with his position have fused commentary with on-the-ground reporting and outright activism. Columnists aren’t expected to do reporting, and the title can be seen as a late-career relief from having to go places and interview regular people. Some at the Times are expected to be more like public intellectuals, like Paul Krugman, commenting on the news rather than uncovering news in the field. Or it’s a chance to advocate for a pet political cause without having to put real energy into doing anything about it. But there is no doubt Kristof feels strongly about injustice, as demonstrated by the 2006 Pulitzer he won writing about the conflict in Darfur.

And yet his moral compass has sometimes led him astray. Maybe he thinks he can rise above the fray and balance budgets, battle the corporate interests, and grapple with the state’s out-of-control police and fascist street mobilizing. But his journalistic record leaves something to ponder.

‘A full-on re-evaluation’

Newsweek (5/21/14) cited a column by Nicholas Kristof (New York Times, 1/3/09) that presented a false sex-trafficking narrative.

The most glaring and memorable example of this comes from one of Kristof’s pet issues: battling sex trafficking in Southeast Asia. When it was exposed  that Cambodian activist Somaly Mam, whom Kristof not only lauded but used as a source, had fabricated much of her life story (Newsweek, 5/21/14), it threw his reporting, advocacy and commentary on the subject into question.

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting for more

Hidden in plain sight – private cartels in Africa

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022


Across the world the extent of corporate collusion raises a range of fundamental questions relating to the manipulation of markets and capture of the policy agenda by private companies. Little is known about the extent of such collusion in so-called developing countries, in Africa in particular. Based on recent research for ROAPE, Thando Vilakazi argues that the form and extent of collusion across much of the continent points to limitations of conventional ‘governance fixes’, namely competition law, to address private cartels in Africa.

There is a growing body of evidence that collusion between competitors in the global economy has led to significant economic harm to consumers, with prices typically between 15% and 25% higher than would pertain under competition. A lot less is known about the extent of and harm arising from collusion in so-called developing countries, in Africa in particular. There are indications that there is widespread domestic and cross-border collusion in, for example, southern and East Africa. The related social harm is likely to be very significant given high barriers to entry and concentration in key industries, meaning that competitive constraints are lower and the likelihood of collusion is higher. Our own research points to high mark-ups from cartels in the cement and fertilizer industries in southern and East Africa, involving arrangements that have extended beyond national borders.

The extent of corporate collusion raises a range of fundamental questions relating to the manipulation of markets and capture of the policy agenda by private companies. In the transition from generally state-led economies to liberalisation our case studies point to deeper concerns about widespread cartel conduct. This has to do with the fact that private companies, including large transnational corporations in these industries, have deliberately misrepresented their conduct, manipulated markets, and influenced the policy agenda to reinforce their market power. This includes lobbying for regulatory barriers which limit entry as part of industrial policies which favour established businesses.

Review of African Political Economy for more