America doesn’t care about mass death. We accommodate, rather than fight.

If large, deep holes opened up on highways across America and every day carloads of people drove into the holes and crashed, would we sit and watch as a nation?

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Would pundits debate the rights of drivers to continue driving on the highways and and the liberty to fall into the holes, killing themselves and their passengers? Or would you expect a mass uprising to demand government fill the holes and stop the driving until the highways were safe?

As the COVID daily death tallies come in — 2000, 3000, more — I’ve been thinking about America’s relationship to mass death. …


I had a gift card and wanted to read fiction. That’s all I knew. So I went to my favorite local book store to buy a book. After drifting around a bit, I asked someone who worked there for a recommendation and he pointed me to The Death of Vivek Oji.

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I find Nigeria confusing and interesting and weird. I’ve tried to understand the country better by reading some Nigerian novelists and essayists. So, sure, a highly-rated novel by a Nigerian author sounds good.

So, I read it. It’s a pretty easy and quick read. I won’t spoil it by discussing in too much detail. It’s about Nigeria; really about a community of hybrid/expats in Nigeria. It’s about other things as well, as you’ll see if you read it. Overall, it was fine. I didn’t love it, but it went down pretty easy and offered some insight into Nigeria, which was my deeper motive. …


Forty eight percent of [INGOs] may not survive the next two years

After decades of growth, the international non-governmental organization (INGO) has reached a turning point. The model of a Northern-funded, Northern-led organization operating programs around the world is under pressure and attack from many directions. The question now is whether INGOs can — or should — be reformed for a role in a rapidly changing world.

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BOND UK with a grim headline

Today, international NGOs are facing growing competition, both within the sector and from sources outside the sector. At the same time, INGOs face looming political challenges, economic headwinds, and ethical questions. Can INGOs change and still remain viable? …


Maybe I’m overthinking it, but a lot of people seem to be missing a key message in yesterday’s Nobel Peace Prize award for the World Food Program. The Nobel Committee makes it pretty clear in the first sentence: “The need for international solidarity and multilateral cooperation is more conspicuous than ever.”

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The prize is for the life-saving work of the WFP, but it’s equally an vindication of the UN system and international cooperation more broadly. …


I’ve admired Branko Milanovic for years, initially because he was one of the very few economists doing useful work on economic inequality. This is before Piketty and others have broken into the mainstream. His work has been critically important and is constantly referenced by those of us who have an interest — or concern — about economic inequality.

I follow him on twitter and diligently read his blog. It’s usually interesting even when it’s on topics that I don’t care much about. …


In the summer of 1988, I was an academic counselor at a summer program for “at-risk” high school students. It was at UMass Amherst and we stayed in the dorms. Most of the kids were from Lynn, Massachusetts and had never really been out of their neighborhoods. The idea was to get them out of their contexts, give them a fun summer experience, but with strong academic support that would help them in life — and maybe to college.

Back then, Lynn was a tough town with a bad reputation. The kids were low-income, most were African American, but there was a mix of races and background. Many first-generation immigrants; Vietnamese, Dominican, Haitian. There was one kid who stood out to me. He was a high school sophomore and small and skinny, but with a deep baritone voice that you could hear from a distance. Lawrence. You always knew when Lawrence was around, he was loud. He was a trouble maker, but not malicious. He was cantankerous and proud. But he didn’t break the rules like other kids — didn’t sneak out or smoke. …


I like to have opinions of about things. But I don’t always know where to put them. And sometimes I forget them. So, here we go.

Fauda

Ugggh, I can’t get away from my Israel/jewish theme. It was being promoted by Netflix, and I have a hard time resisting. Anyway, 3 seasons later, I’m mad at myself. Because as a tv series, it’s not bad. Not great, but not terrible. But as politics and propaganda, it’s absolute garbage.

The first season is probably the best and most sensitively scripted and plotted. They’re all about a crack Israeli counter-terrorism team that goes in, sometimes undercover to break up terrorist groups and assassinate their leaders (mainly Hamas, but ISIS in season 2). The show pretends to portray the Palestinians in some kind of sensitivity and, in fairness, the characters do come across as human and with understandable motivations. But their character history, cultural and historical context never merit more than a sketch. …


Postscript update:

I seem to have a knack for reading jerky male writers who have #MeToo problems. I find out afterwards, of course — although I supposed I could do a bit of research. I thnk I should stick with women writers for a while. Anyway, here’s Colum McCann:

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Carry on.

I read 13 ways of looking on the recommendation of a friend. It’s good. It’s fine. It’s lovely and beautiful. Whatever.


This week, the IMF released a new working paper. The brand-new head of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, made a point of highlighting the paper in an event and a blog.

It’s important because it’s the first time a major policy-making institution has recognized the economic significance of unpaid work and the economic potential of reducing and rebalancing unpaid work undertaken by women. “Reducing and redistributing unpaid work is a macro-critical issue.” Since “macro” issues are the remit of the IMF, this represents an important, new recognition. The main reason that they see unpaid work as “macro-critical” is that unpaid work impedes female labor force participation and allocates resources (women’s labor) inefficiently. …


My Promised Land

First, and probably foremost, it’s a good read. And that’s saying a lot. Second, it’s got lots of history, commentary and insight into Israel’s society and context that is new and interesting (at least to me). Third, I think I’d like and agree with Shavit on most questions — he’s liberal, not overly religious, curious, a journalist. Which makes me inclined to trust and appreciate his point of view and that trust makes the reading a bit easier — especially in the treacherous terrain of Israel. …

About

gawain

I'm a human person, working in policy & advocacy on global poverty, development, and relief. Comments and written pieces are personal.

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