Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Go Read This Blog!!!

Posted by Gerald on July 9, 2007

There is an excellent post on the Scholars and Rogues blog about the attitudes in the west about globalization and protectionism and the realities of Africa written from an African’s perspective.

Probably even more than the other things, this is about unwanted Western paternalism. 

You can find it here.

Go read it, it is excellent.


Posted in Africa, America, economics, globalization, inequality, International, protectionism, South Africa | Leave a Comment »

Jogging is Right-Wing

Posted by Gerald on July 7, 2007

You really couldn’t make this stuff up. 

The left-wing press in France has attacked newly elected President Nicolas Sarkozy – for jogging.  He is evidently an avid runner and has been frequently photographed out in his sweats.

The French left has decreed that his jogging is a “right-wing” conspiracy because jogging is about “individualism” and similar “conservative values.”  Of course, they probably also do not care for the NYPD sweat shirt the avowedly America-friendly Sarkozy frequently wears while jogging.

“Western Civilization, in its best sense, was born with the promenade.”

The British press is having fun with this, on the “look at the crazy French” front.

I would like to thank the French left for giving me an ideological excuse for sitting around on my fat butt.

I suppose the proper way to maintain a thin physique is to smoke a lot and suffer from ennui.

Posted in France, International, news, politics | Leave a Comment »

Good News for the Nativist Crowd!

Posted by Gerald on June 15, 2007

Would you like to guess how many Iraqi refugees the US has clasped to its bosom in the merry, merry month of May?

1000 you say?

Why, no.

100 you say?

Guess again.

10 at least, you say?

Lower, Bob!

That’s right!  We, in our graciousness, have let in exactly One (1) Iraqi refugee!

You ask what liberal, lefty, anti-American rag published this story?  That would be those well-known anti-Establishment types at the Wall Street Journal (read it here.)

Never mind the rumbling, that’s just the moral high ground continuing to collapse around us.  As for that sulfur smell… well, I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Posted in immigration, International, Iraq War, news, politics | Leave a Comment »

Idi Amin and Steve Biko

Posted by Gerald on June 15, 2007

I just finished watching The Last King of Scotland.  Like many other people, and even film critics, I was very impressed by Forest Whitaker’s portrayal of Idi Amin and I thought it was a good film.  One thing bothered me, though.

I generally do not care for criticism of a film for not being a different film.  For example, criticizing the Pirates of the Caribbean films for not being very dramatic or historically accurate.  They were never meant to be.  I do have a problem like this with The Last King of Scotland and it reminded me of a similar problem I had with another biographical file set in Africa – Cry Freedom.

In both films we have a story concerning a significant figure in Africa, in The Last King of Scotland it is the dictator Idi Amin of Uganda and in Cry Freedom it is the anti-apartheid activist and founder of the Black Consciousness movement Steve Biko.  In both cases we see fantastic performances, in the first case Forest Whitaker’s and in Cry Freedom the brilliant performance of Denzel Washington.  In each case, it is the African-American actor and the African character that dominates the screen.

My complaint about both films is that neither of them is actually about the African character.

The Last King of Scotland is actually the story of Nicholas Garrigan (ably portrayed by James McAvoy), a Scottish doctor who winds up as Amin’s personal physician.  He begins by being charmed then winds up horrified as he discovers who Amin really is and then winds up escaping Uganda, to go tell the world the truth about Amin (note this), aboard the airplane that evacuated the non-Israeli hotages aboard Air France Flight 139 before the Israeli commando raid at Entebbe airport.  Garrigan is a fictional character loosely based on a man named Bob Astles.

Cry Freedom is actually the story of a white journalist named Donald Woods (ably portrayed by Kevin Kline), who meets Steve Biko, becomes more radical through his acquaintance.  He finally earns the official displeasure of the South African government, especially due to his reporting after Biko’s death while in police custody.  The last part of the film chronicle’s how Woods and his family escaped from South Africa so he could write a book to tell the world the truth about Biko (coincidence?).

While both films are fine, both seem to assume that a story about Africa has to be told through the eyes of a white guy.  In each case a brilliant performance by an African-American actor is given second place to a capable performance by a white actor.  This is a common Hollywood trope, to give the film a “familiar” character through who the audience explores an “foreign” or “exotic” situation (see Dances With Wolves).  This makes some rather racist assumptions about what constitutes a “familiar” viewpoint, though.  It also isn’t necessary for a film to be successful (see The Last Emperor or Gandhi.)  Both films are laudable enough, but both would have been better if they had told the African’s story from the African’s viewpoint.

Which gets me to my last problem with The Last King of Scotland.  It contained a fascinating portrait of Amin, but there isn’t much of a portrait of Uganda.  There are images of poverty and of violence, but there is no real examination of why there is poverty or why there was violence.  The last part bothers me more here.  The rise of Amin, like that of any brutal dictator, is the result of specific circumstances.  It is the tragedy of Africa that this story isn’t completely unique, but it is still a disservice to Uganda to treat it and it’s history as an interchangeable backdrop.

Of course, this could be just because I teach African history and I’m overly sensitive, but I don’t think so.

Posted in Africa, film, International, Movies, opinion, reviews | 5 Comments »

Good News, If It Works

Posted by Gerald on June 12, 2007

Sudan has agreed to a peacekeeping force in Darfur.  Things in this region often do not work out as hoped, but at least this is a step in the right direction.

To help make this work, we need to see that the force is properly funded.  Please support Amnesty International’s work to do just that.

Posted in Africa, Amnesty International, Human Rights, International, politics, taking action | Leave a Comment »

Another Cost of this War

Posted by Gerald on June 12, 2007

According to a recent study, US War Veterans have twice the suicide rate of the general population.

The bodies just keep piling up…

Posted in International, Iraq War | Leave a Comment »

The Wrong News

Posted by Gerald on June 11, 2007

Here is a very interesting report about a recent study on TV news from the Project for Excellence in Journalism.  While Iraq has been the big story in the news media here in the US, a majority of the coverage has been about the domestic political wrangling over the war, not about conditions or events in Iraq itself.  Of what is coming out of Iraq, most stories are about Americans there, not about the conditions of the Iraqi people.  Not shocking, but at least here is some hard data.  Interestingly, the White-House-Press-Office-at-Fox-News devoted less coverage to the war and more to Anna Nicole Smith now that their neo-con viewers aren’t likeing the news about the war no more.

Where can we find a better mix of stories according to the PEJ?  Online news sources.

Posted in International, Iraq War, journalism, politics, Television | Leave a Comment »

Moves against the IMF

Posted by Gerald on June 11, 2007

Vladimir Putin is calling for a reorganization of the international financial system.  Like Hugo Chávez’s call for the creation of a “Banco del Sur” I think this has to be seen as being primarily motivated by a desire to lessen American economic influence.

Whether either of these proposals can or will work is a different question.

Posted in Diplomacy, International, opinion, politics, Russia, South America | 2 Comments »

Warm Winds for Africa

Posted by Gerald on June 10, 2007

Once again, the G8 leaders have met.  Once again, they took the opportunity to make pious speeches about the economic and humanitarian problems in Africa.  Once again, they have basically done nothing.

Africa really has all the hot air being blown at it that it needs.  Enough speeches and sound-bites! 

Posted in Africa, Diplomacy, International, opinion, politics | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Gerald on June 9, 2007

From “The Economist”

In the WTF category we have Vladimir Putin’s suggestion at the G8 Summit to position a joint US-Russian anti-missile installation in Azerbaijan.

Posted in Diplomacy, International, politics, Russia | Leave a Comment »