Third Culture Queen vol. 7

Commentary on today's crises of grand strategy and modern thought

The French president really pulled out all the stops this weekend.

In doing so, Macron created a lot of news so I’m testing out sending out multiple editions a week!

To mix things up, I’ve flipped the format I was using, so we’re leading today with Modern Thought before diving into the regional dramas of our crazy world.

I’ll keep the upfront commentary short-and-sweet today – happy reading!

(Watch it. It’s great.)


Modern Thought

  • I Gooped Myself (The Atlantic)

    Fundamental to Goop’s sales philosophy is the idea that the female body is a matter of opinion, and that “asking questions” is the best way to resist a medical establishment determined to tell women how to feel. The biggest question I had while using Goop’s products was a little different: How had a celebrity convinced so many women who can afford all the designer dresses and diamond jewelry they want that their problems, health or otherwise, can be solved by buying even more stuff?

    Such is the life cycle of American stuff. The things that fall under the banner of “trying something new” often end up in junk drawers or the backs of closets, given away to friends or donated to Goodwill a few years down the line. Clutter is the country’s way of life, and buying the most luxurious version of a thing you don’t really need doesn’t make it more useful.

  • Pose Is Needed Ode to Legacy for Black + Latinx LGBTQ (Hyperallergic)

    Each episode ends with a quote from a queer elder of color whose legacy has paved the way for existing queer communities. In one episode, poet, filmmaker, and activist Marlon Riggs reminds us with urgency that “[i]t is necessary to constantly remind ourselves we are not an abomination.” We are reminded that for Blanca, Pray Tell, and countless HIV-positive people during the rise of the AIDS crisis, being cared for by members of their community is what kept them from being completely dehumanized (in campaigns led by powerful politicians and the medical-industrial complex) because of their diagnosis.

    For Black trans women like Candy, Angel, Lulu, Blanca, and Elektra who created balls to uplift themselves and their community, the threat of violence and social isolation posed by being outed keeps them from experiencing mainstream success equal to that of the queer men of ballroom in the mainstream. 

    Equally as central to its authenticity and success as Pose’s cast, is that these stories are written and directed by people who have lived through these experiences. The magic of the show truly comes from the willingness of queer and trans people like Steven Canals, Janet Mock, Billy Porter, Indya Moore, MJ Rodriguez, and Our Lady J to share their lived experiences, filling in some of the history of this community which was thought lost or erased.

  • SFPD chief apologizes for ‘past actions’ against trans community (SF Examiner)

    More than five decades after officers clashed with members of the transgender community during the Compton’s Cafeteria riot in the Tenderloin, Police Chief Bill Scott apologized Monday for the department’s history.

    “We the members of the San Francisco Police Department are here to reflect and apologize for our past actions against the LGBTQ community,” Scott said during a meeting with LGBTQ community members at Glide Memorial.

    “We want to listen to you and want to truly hear you,” the chief added. “We will atone for our past.”

    Aria Sa’id, executive director of the Compton’s Transgender Cultural District, said she wasn’t moved by the apology.

    “I think there needs to be more than just an apology.,” Sa’id told the San Francisco Examiner.

    Fifty years after the riot, Sa’id said the ways in which police discriminate against transgender people, and other people in the LGBTQ spectrum, have changed.

    With high portions of San Francisco’s homeless community and impoverished Tenderloin neighbors being gay, queer or transgender, Sa’id said homeless sweeps homeless are in fact an action against the LGBTQ community.

    “We’re often criminalized for being poor in the Tenderloin,” Sa’id said. “The mayor has increased patrols. There has to be more than an apology.”

  • The Internet Has Made Dupes – and Cynic – of Us (Wired)

    “At some point, the typical response to this onslaught of falsehood is to say, lol, nothing matters. But when so many of us are reaching this point, it really does matter…. The internet is increasingly a low-trust society—one where an assumption of pervasive fraud is simply built into the way many things function.”

  • The New American Homeless (The New Republic)

    If the term “working homeless” has not yet entered our national vocabulary, there is reason to expect that it soon will. Hidden within the world of homelessness has always been a subset of individuals, usually single parents, with jobs; what’s different now is the sheer extent of this phenomenon. For a widening swath of the nearly seven million American workers living below the poverty line, a combination of skyrocketing rents, stagnant wages, and a lack of tenant protections has proved all but insurmountable. Theirs, increasingly, is the face of homelessness in the United States: people whose paychecks are no longer enough to keep a roof over their heads.

    Strikingly, this crisis of housing insecurity is erupting in America’s richest, most rapidly developing cities. Unlike earlier periods of widespread homelessness and displacement, such as during the recession of 2008, what we’re witnessing today is an emergency born less of poverty than prosperity—occurring not despite but precisely because of the economic boom.

    Once upon a time, mass homelessness did not exist in the United States. The population of people without stable living situations periodically surged, but these waves were temporary, subsiding as the economy improved. The phenomenon we now know as homelessness—pervasive, unremarkable, seemingly intractable—arose only in the 1980s. What had been anomalous suddenly became “the common misery of millions,” observed the writer and activist Jonathan Kozol in his 1988 book Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America. Set in a towering New York shelter that Kozol likened to an urban refugee camp, the book sought to excavate the causes of this great displacement. Kozol refused the dominant explanations, all of which emphasized some mix of individual and group pathology: teenage pregnancy, mental illness, drugs, a “culture of poverty.” He offered a different view. In 1970, the United States had a surplus of 300,000 affordable rental homes; under President Reagan, federal spending on low-income housing plummeted from $32 billion to $7 billion. (“We’re getting out of the housing business. Period,” said a top HUD official at the time.) Affordable units evaporated, and with them many of the legal safeguards allowing poor tenants to stay in the relative few that remained. Kozol condensed his findings into a single italicized sentence: The cause of homelessness,” he wrote, “is lack of housing.”

  • The N.R.A. Has Trump. But It Has Lost Allies in Congress. (NYT)

    In other words, legislators who moved away from the N.R.A. did better electorally than legislators who moved toward it.

    This pattern was driven by Democrats: Just 9 percent of those downgraded lost re-election, while 59 percent of those upgraded lost.

    Republicans were more likely to lose re-election if they were downgraded, though most of them still won: 28 percent of downgraded Republicans lost, compared with 11 percent of those upgraded. And The Times found no cases in which a Republican who broke from the N.R.A. was replaced with someone the group rated better.

    More candidates have begun running against the N.R.A. from the get-go.

    The trend is particularly striking in the total number of A’s and F’s the N.R.A. assigns to congressional candidates. In 2008, the group assigned 447 A ratings to House and Senate candidates, and only 174 F ratings. But in 2018, only 351 candidates received A’s, and 416 received F’s.

    It was the first time in at least 10 years that F’s exceeded A’s.

  • What Andrew Luck Means (Deadspin)

    Try to think of another sport that has to deal with players not wanting to play it. This is only happening to the NFL, and all of the rule tweaks and happy penalty flag barrages they’ve concocted have not and will not curtail that exodus. That’s why scouts ask players all kinds of deranged shit at the combine, like If you were a jellybean, what flavor of jellybean would you be? or If you could murder a man and get away with it, wouldn’t you? All the 40 times and vertical jumps get their usual undue amount of attention. But what scouts REALLY want to learn about prospects when they come to the combine in Indianapolis—how fitting a locale at the moment—is, Are you too smart and rational to keep playing this game?

American Empire (“The Greater United States”)

  • Case for Restraint: Draw Curtain on American Empire (World Politics Review)

    Such a prudent grand strategy should find a receptive audience at home. Citing recent polling data, the authors identify a new cohort of millennial voters more skeptical than their elders of American primacy and U.S. global leadership, whom they christen “generation restraint.” “These generational attitude shifts are harbingers not of isolationism,” they explain, “but of a more prudent internationalism.” The result should be a “more restrained foreign policy focused on peace, free trade and shared international leadership.”

    These are important findings. They suggest that younger Americans are willing to release the scepter of primacy and to contemplate a world in which decisions are made collectively. They also suggest a domestic audience skeptical of so-called American exceptionalism after decades of war and repeated violations of American ideals. This younger, more liberal cohort recognizes that pragmatic international cooperation is essential in tackling the global agenda. (Related: National Interest)

  • New, modernized GPS ground system said to be on track (C4ISRNET)

    But OCX has a rocky past. The $6.2 billion program is five years behind schedule and cost $2.5 billion more than expected, according to a Government Accountability Office report. In 2016, the massive cost growth of the program triggered a Nunn-McCurdy unit cost breach, which requires a program to be shut down unless the Department of Defense intervenes and approves a new cost estimate.

  • Trump-Abe trade deal helps U.S. farmers and staves off auto tariffs (Japan Times)

    “If you say ‘win-win,’ it’s a capital letter ‘Win’ for the U.S. and a small-letter ‘win’ for Japan,” said Ichiro Fujisaki, a former Japanese ambassador to the U.S. The deal would put the U.S. back in line with its rivals for Japan’s agricultural market in terms of tariffs, a position Washington would already enjoy had Trump not rejected an earlier multilateral trade deal.

    “In Japan’s case, it’s a small win plus nonnegative assurance that no unilateral measures will be taken by the U.S., like on limiting car importations or some relations with security issues,” Fujisaki said. While Japan kept the threat of tariffs at bay, it didn’t get a removal of existing auto tariffs in exchange for its farm concessions, nor a public promise not to impose higher car levies.

    The countries have reached consensus on “core elements” and were aiming to sign a deal during United Nations meetings in September, Abe said. The prime minister said that agricultural product purchases were a possibility, adding that crop pests had resulted in the need for “emergency support” to enable the private sector to buy American corn.

    While the proposed deal may provide Trump with a fillip as he heads into his re-election campaign facing rising tensions with China, the initial reaction in Japan was mixed. Some officials in Tokyo have said the country shouldn’t give up its leverage over U.S. farmers without substantial concessions, and Japanese trade agreements generally require the Diet’s approval.

    “As I expected, Japan gave ground on agriculture and didn’t win anything on autos,” former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, an opponent of Abe’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said on Twitter. “This kind of obsequious diplomacy makes Abe happy, and hurts the people.”

  • Why the CIA doesn't spy on the UAE (Reuters)

    The CIA’s hands-off practice - which hasn’t been previously reported in the media - puts the UAE on an extremely short list of other countries where the agency takes a similar approach, former intelligence officials said. They include the four other members of an intelligence coalition called “The Five Eyes”: Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Canada.

    CIA spies gather human intelligence on almost every other nation where the United States has significant interests, including some key allies, according to four former CIA officials.

    The closest contrast to the UAE may be Saudi Arabia - another influential U.S. ally in the Middle East that produces oil and buys U.S. weapons. Unlike the UAE, Saudi Arabia is often targeted by the CIA, according to two former CIA officials and a former intelligence officer for a Gulf nation. Saudi intelligence agents have caught several CIA agents trying to recruit Saudi officials as informants, the sources said.

    Robert Baer, a former CIA agent and author, called the lack of human intelligence on the UAE “a failure” when told about it by Reuters. U.S. policymakers, he said, need the best available information on the internal politics and family feuds of Middle Eastern monarchies. The UAE is involved in conflicts in Libya and Yemen, has recently built military bases in the Horn of Africa, is strengthening ties with Russia and China, and is generally the kind of country on which the U.S. typically spies.

    Some national security experts, however, continue to see enough alignment between U.S. and UAE interests to explain the continued lack of spying.

    “Their enemies are our enemies,” said Norman Roule, a retired CIA official, referring to Iran and al-Qaeda. “Abu Dhabi’s actions have contributed to the war on terror, particularly against al-Queda in Yemen.” (Related: Axios)

China & the Indo-Pacific

  • Hong Kong is Fighting Back a Mandarin Language Invasion (Ozy)

    At the moment, the odds appear stacked against the efforts to save Cantonese from the Mandarin invasion. Both Beijing and the administration in Hong Kong are pushing Mandarin as part of a policy to bind the territory more closely with the mainland. “The Chinese government is trying to promote Mandarin as the national identity, and saying that if you can’t speak fluent Mandarin, you are not even Chinese,” says Chan Lok-hang.

    An influx of Mandarin-speaking migrants and tourists to the territory is making that language increasingly a part of day-to-day life in Hong Kong. China’s already massive economy is still growing fast, and more of Hong Kong’s chief sectors — finance, trade and tourism — are dependent on its giant neighbor, making Mandarin necessary for those seeking jobs in a modern economy.

    The language activists aren’t giving up, though. Far from it. At the moment, Cantonese is mostly a spoken language. The Words.hk dictionary is envisaged as a tool to help turn Cantonese — like English or Mandarin — into a language also used in education and literature. “Cantonese is not like English,” says Lau. “We don’t have big companies, or publishers who are willing to put in resources to build dictionaries. We want to build something comparable to the Oxford Dictionary for English.”

    SLH isn’t waiting for the dictionary to come together. Through their Cantonese writing competition, they’re trying to make sure children and students feel empowered to use their mother tongue. “We want to promote Cantonese writing,” says Chan Lok-hang.

  • Indonesia names Borneo site of capital city to replace Jakarta (The Guardian)

    The $33 billion relocation aims to ease the pressure on Jakarta by moving its administrative functions about 1,000km to Kalimantan, which is the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo (which is also shared with Malaysia and Brunei.) Jakarta will continue to be a commercial and financial centre, and the majority of its nearly 10 million residents are likely to stay.

    If parliament approves, construction on the new capital would begin next year on a plot of 40,000 hectares. By around 2024, the government expects to start moving some of its 1.5 million civil servants to the new bureaucratic centre.

    Widodo has stressed that relocation – which was first mooted decades ago – will put the capital in the centre of Indonesia’s archipelago of 17,000 islands, and address inequality.

    “The location is very strategic – it’s in the centre of Indonesia and close to urban areas,” the president said in a televised speech. “The burden Jakarta is holding right now is too heavy as the centre of governance, business, finance, trade and services,” he explained.

  • How global military spending hit a record high (CNBC)

    Increases from the world’s two biggest military spenders — the United States (41%) and China (14%) — played a major role in pushing 2018′s spending to new heights. For more than two decades, China’s investment in its military has helped push up global spending. Countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region have taken notice and upped their spending as China has become more assertive with upgraded military capabilities.

    The U.S. “war on terror” helped push up global spending levels after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. However, that spending began to taper off around 2011 as the U.S. faced internal budget pressures and war fatigue. But in 2018, the U.S. increased spending again as the national security focus shifted from terrorism to the rise of China and resurgence of Russia. (Related: Defense News)

  • South Korea Launches Military Exercise for Islets Also Claimed by Japan (NYT)

    The drill involved an unannounced number of navy and coast guard ships, air force planes and army and marine troops and took place around Dokdo, a set of largely uninhabitable volcanic outcroppings off the east coast of South Korea. The country has administered Dokdo, keeping a contingent of armed coast guard officials there since the 1950s.

    But the rocks are also claimed by Japan, which calls them Takeshima. Japan has criticized the biannual military exercises by South Korea for raising tensions and aggravating bilateral ties. The dispute over the islets remains one of the most contentious unresolved issues from Japan’s often brutal colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula from 1910 until its World War II defeat in 1945. The islets are surrounded by rich fishing grounds.

    Japan accuses South Korea of occupying the islets illegally and has stepped up its campaign to highlight its territorial claim in recent decades. To South Koreans, Japan’s territorial claim epitomizes its early 20th-century aggression and what they consider its refusal to atone for its colonial occupation of Korea.

    Russian and Chinese military planes flew together near the islets in an unprecedented joint training mission last month, forcing South Korean fighter jets to fire warning shots to drive away a Russian plane flying too closely to the islets. At the time, Japan protested the South Korean move.

  • Thailand aims to be SE Asia's middleman in trading power (Business Times)

    Thailand already has existing grid interconnection with Laos and Malaysia. Since last year, Malaysia has been buying 100 megawatts from Laos through Thailand, and is looking to increase the volume to 300 megawatts, Mr Wattanapong said. As well, border towns in Cambodia and Myanmar have been buying small amounts of electricity from Thailand, but infrastructure upgrades are needed to reach the scale comparable to connections with Laos and Malaysia, he said.

    Thailand could earn additional revenue from transmitting electricity across its power lines, address occasional capacity oversupply, and make better use of its existing infrastructure and power plants. Using its grid more efficiently, the cost in Thailand would be cheaper over the long-term. (Related: Bloomberg)

Europe, Russia & Central Asia

  • Belarus, Weary Of Russia Union, Looks To US for Crude (Radio Free Europe)

    The interest in U.S. crude comes as Moscow voices greater interest in pursuing a union with Belarus, a project that has remained dormant for the past 20 years but that the Kremlin wants to revive.

    The state-owned Belarusian Oil Company, which is affiliated with the refiner Belneftekhim Concern, has hired David Gencarelli to lobby the U.S. government for sanctions relief so the country can buy crude.

    Belarus buying oil from a Kremlin foe “is a political message aimed at Russia,” said Michael Carpenter, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense, who now is a senior director at the Penn Biden Center at the University of Pennsylvania.“This is a hard slap in Putin’s face.”

    Russia, the world's second-largest oil producer, has kept Belarus within its sphere of influence by offering the nation cheap energy and loans that have propped up its outdated economy for decades. (Related: Foreign Policy)

  • EU drafts plan to take on Trump and U.S. tech companies (Politico)

    In a separate measure, the leaked plans would arm the EU with new tools to slap unilateral tariffs on American goods.

    The EU would use a so-called draft “Enforcement Regulation” if the Trump administration succeeds in its efforts to grind the World Trade Organization (WTO) to a halt.

    Trump’s policy has been to starve the WTO of the judges it needs to operate the main global trade arbitration court. If the Trump administration succeeds, and the EU counter-attacks as described in the leaked plan, global commerce would effectively be thrust back into the law of the jungle.

    EU officials are also worried about China’s heavy public subsidies.

    The document seeks more stringent measures to block Chinese companies from taking part in tenders in Europe to penalize them for the level of subsidies that they receive from the government in Beijing. (Related: Axios)

  • Macron sticks the landing (Axios)

    The G7 summit began with a sense of impending doom and included a twist in the form of a surprise guest, but ended with smiles and a delicate breakthrough — President Trump may now be on course to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (Related: France 24)

    Driving the news: French President Emmanuel Macron, the host, revealed during a joint press conference with Trump today that he has been working to broker such a meeting. That explained his decision to invite Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Biarritz, a move that raised eyebrows around the world yesterday. (Related: Bloomberg)

    The big picture: Trump has long wanted to meet Rouhani, but Iranian officials have rejected the idea on grounds that the U.S. is waging "economic warfare" against them.

    • Macron said he told Zarif yesterday that a deal can be made if Iran agrees to a meeting. He touted Rouhani’s statement today that he would be willing to meet with an “individual" if it was in Iran’s interest. (Related: Reuters)

    What to watch: One possible venue for a Trump-Rouhani meeting could be next month's UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

    • Trump, Rouhani, Macron are all expected to attend.

  • Ukraine and EU allies oppose Trump over Russia’s return to G7 (Irish Times)

    Ukraine leans heavily on US support in its five-year conflict with Russia but its new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, took to Facebook to denounce Mr Trump’s idea.

    “Since March 2014, when Russia’s membership of the G8 was suspended, nothing has changed,” he wrote, noting that Crimea was still occupied and the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine was still gripped by fighting that has claimed more than 13,000 lives and displaced 1.6 million people.

    “The return of occupied Crimea, the end of military action in Donbas and the liberation of more than 100 political prisoners and Ukrainian sailors that are held by the Kremlin, would be a real, serious signal to the world that Russia is again ready to take its place . . . in high diplomacy,” he added. (Related: Axios)

The Global South

  • Sudan Needs $8 billion in foreign aid to rebuild, new PM says (JPost)

    Sudan needs $8 billion in foreign aid over the next two years to cover its import bill and help rebuild its ravaged economy after months of political turmoil, its new prime minister said on Saturday. 

    Abdalla Hamdok, sworn in three days earlier in to head a transitional ruling body after the ousting of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir, said up to another $2 billion of foreign reserves deposits were needed in the next three months to halt a fall in the currency.

    The economist who has worked for the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa, said he had started talks with the IMF and the World Bank to discuss restructuring Sudan's crippling debt and had approached friendly nations and funding bodies about the aid.

Random (interesting) links!