What Trump doesn’t know about Iran


For Trump, one advantage of Soleimani’s assassination is that the Iranians will be more cautious about launching limited attacks on the US and its allies, though this isn’t to say that they will cease altogether. Iran cannot permanently de-escalate as long as sanctions continue. The intensity and length of the crisis means that accid­ents are likely to happen, as demonstrat­ed by what appears to have been the un­intentional shooting down of a Ukrain­ian passenger plane. At the same time, Trump and his administration are peculiarly ill-equipped to judge the likely outcome of any escalation of the conflict, or predict how the Iranians are likely to respond. This makes blundering into war a more than usually likely outcome. Iran has drawn the greater profit from the crisis so far, since Soleimani’s death goes some way to re-energising the nationalist and religious credentials of the regime: Trump’s policy of ‘maximum pressure’ and economic sanct­ions is now less likely to force Tehran to negotiate what would amount in effect to a capitulation. In Iraq, it is too early to say whether the demand for revolutionary reform expressed in mass street protests will be marginalised or capsized by the crisis, but it will certainly be weakened, perhaps permanently.

The complete article

Patrick Cockburn — LRB

Little Women Goes to War


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Even before it opened, the film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel had taken on heavy sociological and political significance.  Amy Pascal, the movie’s producer, had tweeted that men were not attending screenings of the Greta Gerwig–directed movie due to “unconscious bias” against women. Another Hollywood feminist VIP, Melissa Silverstein, jumped in: “I think it’s total, fully conscious sexism and shameful. The female story is just as universal as the male story.” The media were off and running: “Little Women has a Little Man problem,” Vanity Fair announced. “Men Are Dismissing Little Women: What a Surprise,” was the snarky title of a New York Times column.

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Kay S. Hymowitz — City Journal

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Iran’s Deadly Puppet Master


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An old profile of Suleimani.

The prominence the soft-spoken Suleimani has achieved is especially striking given his origins. Born into poverty in the mountains of eastern Iran, he displayed remarkable tenacity at an early age. When his father was unable to pay a debt, the 13-year-old Suleimani worked to pay it off himself. He spent his free time lifting weights and attending sermons given by a protégé of Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was enamored with the Iranian revolution as a young man. In 1979, at only 22, Suleimani began his ascent through the Iranian military, reportedly receiving just six weeks of tactical training before seeing combat for the first time in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. But he is truly a child of the Iran-Iraq War, which began the next year.  He emerged from the bloody conflict a hero for the missions he led across Iraq’s border—but more important, he emerged as a confident, proven leader.

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Stanley McChrystal — Foreign Policy

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10 songs that shaped the decade: from Sia to Stormzy


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The end of the year needs some recap. Here is a list of 10 songs.

2016

Then comes 2016, or, in the Chinese Calendar, the Year of the Lesser Pundit. In a world where Brexit was an absurdity, and Trump’s election an impossibility, the people elected to feel otherwise. The news of Britain’s decision to exit the EU caused shockwaves worldwide. Aware that the 52-48 outcome had caused a serious rift in UK politics, and that the 48 were not going to go quietly into the night, an enterprising Australian singer attempted to sum up the spirit of Bremainers everywhere: ‘Don’t give up, I won’t give up, | Don’t give up, no no no.’

The complete article

David Butterfield — Spectator

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The Fake Indian Princess Who Conned Marlon Brando into Marriage


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THE YEAR WAS 1957. He was the king of Hollywood, having won an Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954). She was a rising star with blue blood, an Indian princess, having played the survivor of a plane crash in The Mountain, starring Spencer Tracy. Together, they made a beautiful couple, with the world seemingly at their feet. That was until Marlon Brando realised that Anna Kashfi, the woman he had married, was actually Joan O’Callaghan, a Welsh butcher’s assistant who owed her exotic looks to her Anglo-Indian ancestry rather than a royal lineage. By 1959, they were divorced.

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Kaveree Bamzai — Open

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Chaos Will Set You Free


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Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto

Credits roll. Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto—a novel about two women who make a film about the 1901 Balangiga Massacre, grappling with the uneven legacy of the Philippine-American War—ends on the note of an infernal karaoke. At the stroke of midnight, we find the protagonists, Magsalin and Chiara, looking on as Magsalin’s three uncles warble over a melodramatic backing track, their voices sweetened by the microphone reverb. The tune is by Elvis, whose baduy hip swinging, macho tremolo, and matchless popularity across the archipelago have made him an honorary Filipino if there ever was one. Only this time, the uncles have swerved the obvious belters like “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock,” picking instead the baroque-country anomaly “Suspicious Minds.” The song’s lyrics—We’re caught in a trap / I can’t walk out / because I love you too much, baby—become Insurrecto’s own refrain, capturing the deranging, recursive relationship between colonized and colonizer.

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Alex Quicho — The New Inquiry

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The Downside of Solar Energy


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The solar economy continues its dramatic growth, with over a half-terawatt already installed around the world generating clean electricity. But what happens to photovoltaic (PV) modules at the end of their useful life? With lifespans measured in decades, PV-waste disposal may seem to be an issue for the distant future. Yet, the industry ships millions of tons every year, and that number will continue to rise as the industry grows. Total e-waste—including computers, televisions, and mobile phones—is around 45 million metric tons annually.

The complete article

Dustin Mulvaney & Morgan D. Bazilian — Scientific American

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