Nominal Democracy: Prospects for Global Governance (Professor Keohane at the LSE)

Last night, I went to the LSE, got lost in their baffling campus, and packed into the lecture theatre to hear Professor Robert Keohane lecture. Not going to lie, I marked the date in my calendar because I vaguely recognised the name from a first-year assigned reading or something similar. Having checked Google Scholar, I was right. Professor Keohane is one of the leading figures in neoliberal institutionalism, although I can’t find him in my reading lists. Anyway, eminent IR bloke, certainly.

I was wary of the subject – last year, our Spanish university inflicted what felt like an eight-year (40 minute) lecture on us from this guy natter on about his pet version of this idea. Again, I was wrong – it was a very interesting, coherent talk – I’ll update this sentence with a link to the podcast if you’d rather listen to it, but I’d like to try and summarise it for you, partly just to commit it to memory a bit better than usual.

Continue reading

26th of October: Cleanout

Bit of a long one (finally cleared out my Pocket queue), and I’m not really in the mood, so I’ma get straight into it.

Song of the week is from the album Eric Clapton and B.B. King did – listened to it quite a bit this weekend and quite enjoyed wondering whether B.B. found Clapton’s constant guitar-wankery tiresome.

  • A lot on IS(IS/IL). Some bold proposals for countering them. An indictment of the “official” Syrian opposition. A reminder of ISIS’ precarious financial situation. A look at the symbolic meaning of the battle for Kobane. Surreal feature on the Americans in Irbil. Quite funny puncturing of IS’s mythology.
  • Similar to the post I wrote a while back about the UK’s report about Russia as a threat, the US have done one on China.
  • Interesting look at the last “fighting season” in Afghanistan before ISAF leaves.
  • I’m sharing this with a massive caveat. It’s a piece on strategy and tactics and military technology used in Israel’s latest assault on Gaza. It fails to even mention the fact that these highly-advanced techniques, fascinating as they are, were used on civilian populations etc. until, in passing, the end, which strikes me as problematic.
  • Wry look at the constructivism of Kissinger’s latest book.
  • Krugman comes out in defence of Obama – don’t agree with all of it but think he’s generally on point
  • Rebuttal of the “Russia was humiliated in the 1990s” argument
  • A favourable review of Owen Jones’ (rubbish-sounding) book – and a complete dismantling of his lazy use of numbers. Fair and balanced, me.
  • This is a bit heart-breaking, on the sort of necessities headteachers are having to fund for their pupils out of school budgets.
  • Aaron Bastani has a good critique of the TUC and their march the other week.
  • Excellent dismantling of the Conservatives’ economic narrative
  • Africa isn’t a country – Sudan is really far from Ebola
  • Paul Farmer writes on Ebola
  • This is a good analysis of the reaction to Renée Zellwegger’s appearance at [show] this week, though I must confess I was shocked by it too – time and ageing are terrifying.
  • Good piece on Roxane Gay and the unconventional model of black femininity she represents
  • Excessive gendering of schoolkids seems daft
  • Important on how damaging the stiff upper lip is
  • I got irritated at the BBC not mentioning any of the evil dictatoring Duvalier did when he died – this is good on the subject
  • Heartbreaking TNC interview with the mother of Jordan Davis
  • Daniel Drezner raises some interesting concerns about the future of the global economy
  • Are there any shades of grey to paedophilia?
  • Jay Ulfelder* reminds us that inertia is an under-studied factor in politics
  • Difficult-to-read interview with some of the girls who escaped the Boko Haram kidnappers. So much heartbreaking detail.
  • Speaking of hard-to-read, I did not expect this piece to be the punch in the gut it was, but it’s horrible. Still interesting on the cheap use of death as a plot device.
  • This piece pours cold water on Google’s self-driving cars, which is annoying because I’m hoping they’ll become a thing before I have to learn to drive myself around
  • Couple of good pieces on Gamergate (ugh) from Charlie Brooker and Gawker.
  • This is funny, on fictional characters who could have done with an abortion, though neglects to mention Kim from Scrubs, among others.
  • Spent about half an hour reading all of Hamilton Nolan’s fitness columns at Gawker. This one, on how to squat, is funny and also quite useful, but I could say the same about any – check out the archive.
  • Strange tale of an accidental nature reserve in Bucharest.
  • Clive Martin does one of his weird travel pieces in London (it’s in two parts)
  • Only a few days till 1989 drops – this profile/interview with Taylor Swift is quite lovely, if only for the detail that her motivation song is Kendrick’s Backseat Freestyle, the crudest song on that album.
  • Weirdly compelling on a man making a big bet on a game of Day-Z

*whose name I realised on my dissertation presentation this week I’ve been consistently spelling wrong, so sorry Jay!

October 19th: Breaking of the Fellowship

I’m well organised, me – writing this some four hours before midnight (instead of ironing, reading, practicing for a big presentation, and doing homework, admittedly). That said, it is a busy weekend (comparatively), so I’ll whizz through it.

Song of the week is, I’m afraid, going to be a bit of S Club 7. I encountered them again, God knows how, the other day, and have been listening to this one on loop since then.

This is my final article for NATO Council of Canada – I’ve got a post coming up reflecting on the experience and gathering all my work – and it’s the second half of last week’s on the British campaign against IS.

  • Speaking of which, two interesting articles on British involvement on the other side of the conflict – one a reminder of the experience of British Muslim radicalisation in the 1990s, and a strangely moving list (with biographies were available) on the British citizens who have died fighting in Syria.

  • An examination, which may or may not be out of date by the time you read this, of the impact Kobane’s fall (it may hold on yet) would have on Turkey and the region.

  • Interesting look inside the process culminating in Obama’s strategy against ISIS

  • Analysis of the NATO Rapid Response Force

  • Dan Drezner on different models of authoritarianism

  • Periodic reminder that Fukuyama is probably better than his article everyone got assigned in first year.

  • Very interesting explanation of how media concentration and bias in Brazil affects politics

  • You may have seen furious condemnation of the NUS’ decision not to condemn ISIS recently*. Turns out it’s more complicated, and less interesting than that – this is coming from someone with 0 patience for student politics.

  • This is horrific, horrific stuff, on how laws meant to protect children are used to victimize mothers

  • Vox have been very good on affirmative consent

  • Interesting look at the issues of calling yourself a male feminist – sympathise with a lot of the points

  • Bleak account of what would happen if America got struck by a load of nuclear explosions

  • This is very funny but also on point (it’s also a couple of months old) on the admiration people had for the Maine hermit

  • Good piece on the rolling horror that is #gamergate
  • Two good articles on the weird morality of Shadow of Mordor**

  • Finally, not sure whether this is excruciating or adorable but Taylor Swift on Graham Norton is worth watching (there’s another clip)

That’s all! Have a good week

*generally from the Cohens of the world tbh – he wrote an awful column last week but I can’t be bothered Kanye-eyerolling it.

**otherwise known as the game that will bring to an end my run of good luck as concerns “wow my laptop can run this”

12th of October: Scheduling Conflict

Seriously considering shifting this post to another day at this point. I want to sleep but I feel a misplaced sense of loyalty to you all so here I am.

As ever, you can subscribe to get this sent to your inboxes instead of having to go ALL THE WAY to click on the link at this link.

Didn’t have a particular “song of the week” in mind and my usual “look at lastfm for the week” trick failed because I think the gym playlist has started feeding into it, so at the moment it’s just Chaka Khan, Nicki, and Taylor, which I mean, amazing, but nothing I haven’t shared. So, because I was listening to it on the nightbus just now and because there are a couple of great lyrics and no (AFAIK) overtly problematic ones, have a bit of Yeezy.

EDIT: JFC I sort of thought the last verse was from another song. Turns out the single worst lyric in a Kanye song (arguably) was in the song I called unproblematic. Good job me. Content warning for racism tbh.

This week’s article was the first of two parts of my (last!) piece for NATO Council of Canada, on the British contribution to the war on IS(IS). And now allons-y.

  • Again with the IS(IS). Good John Bew piece, including a critique of current British foreign policy. Two really interesting and absolutely-worth-reading close looks at IS(IS) (sick of writing that out) – one on the apocalyptic ideology they are increasingly expressing, and one on the brilliant Georgian general providing their most impressive tactical victories.

  • Solid argument for humanitarian engagement within a realist/self-interested politics.

  • Rather lovely, if terrifying piece on the movement from ENORMOUS TERRIFYING protests in Brazil in 2013 to a presidential run-off between the same two parties as ever in 2014 (pt.)

  • This, on the Ebola dog, starts out funny and then punches you in the gut so watch out

  • Roxane Gay, who is unambiguously having a moment, dissects that as an idea and is brilliant

  • This is a bit horrific. Response to a seemingly appalling troll-piece on sexual assault that 100% stands on its own merit.

  • Kind of annoyed that my erstwhile Madrid drinking partner is now writing things of this calibre, but this, on donating to charity in the face of corruption, is wonderful

  • Elon Musk, of privatising space travel-trips to Mars-excitement fame, did an interview, which is quite delightful to read. This article takes a look at the gene science of his statements.

  • Sick and tired of Owen Jones, his retweeting of praise, and his generic blandness. So seeing this 500-word dismissal of his book was A++ stuff, readers. Speaking of which, also sick of Greenwald + co so, similarly, this was fun.

  • See if you can detect the enormous, almost audible, sigh in this critique of the Sun’s awful “no more skinny” campaign

  • The other day I hit a brick wall on the dissertation so spent two or three hours reading Ask Polly columns – that one in particular is lovely. Time well spint – decided I might be happy someday.

  • As promised, some Bridget Jones thinking.

  • Hadly Freeman excellent as ever on the “wake up call” twitter thing

And that’s it! Have a lovely week everyone x

October 5th: Exit Polls

Longest ever break, that – we just skipped, I think, two weeks? I very nearly missed today, not through lack of internet so much as wanting to play more Far Cry 2. Couldn’t even write it at 4 in the morning like I used to as I was up at the crack of dawn to trek (quick and empty bus almost directly from home) to queue up (there was no queue) at the Brazilian embassy all day (I was out in 15 minutes). So that was exciting – certainly the most significant election I’ve ever voted in.

Anyway, I have now settled into the flat, but not into the rhythms of actually studying. My Pocket queue has gotten absurd, as whenever I do read it’s for tedious university stuff, so we’ll see how much there is to share every week, but for now, I’ll stay with the same system. Meanwhile, there’s a veritable glut of links to be getting on with this week, so I’ll get straight (says he, 165 words in) to it!

Weekly-ish reminder that if you’d rather receive this direct to your inbox instead of hassling ALL THE WAY to click the link yourselves, you can subscribe here

Song of the week is hardly a secret, but I’ve listened to it about seven times in the past 24 hours. We watched Bridget Jones again this week* and then it came on at a house party and jumped into my gym playlist – it’s Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman”.


First up, a couple of my NATO Council pieces dropped out of the system while I was away. This was supposed to come before the piece on India’s submarines (as evidenced by the transitional bits all over it), on Brazil’s own programme, while this, when I wrote it, was a reasonably topical look at France finally deciding to suspend the sale of the Mistral-class warships to Russia.

  • Naturally, it’s an ISIS-heavy list. The problem is, I’ve read so much on ISIS these past weeks that it’s all blurred into one. If it’s made it into the list, I think it’s good, and there are some that have stuck in my mind, like this overall look at Middle-East politics by Andrew Bacevich or this meditation on how hysteria has developed over ISIS, or this anatomy of mission creep. Otherwise, it’s just one, two, three, four, five pieces on ISIS that are all worth reading if you’re interested but broadly indistinct.
  • Lovely, bittersweet piece on how Odessa and its residents have been affected by the past year’s events in Ukraine
  • On a similar topic, I’ve not liked much leftist writing on Ukraine, as most of it seems about as sophisticated as the rant I got off the hippie who drove me to Madrid, but even though I don’t agree 100%, this is a really good critique of the West’s role in the crisis (without degenerating into The Nation-esque apologetics)
  • Also, good rebuttal of abusing recent events to fit them into a ‘clash of civilizations’ framework
  • A few good pieces on today’s presidential election in Brazil – one impressed by Marina Silva, one less so (Pt.), and a profile of Dilma Rousseff.
  • Sad profile of some of the campaigning mothers who have lost children to police violence in Brazil
  • In more positive news, this recognition of a quilombo community’s right to its land in Rio is a very interesting and encouraging sign – more context on the quilombos’ campaign here
  • Again, a bit late but this is quite good on what would have happened to the respective militaries had Scotland left the union – does nothing to dispel my belief that we could have reannexed them if necessary
  • Encouraging reminder that sometimes international climate efforts work – the ozone got better
  • Corrective to the idea of China as a “lonely diva”
  • A reflection on R2P
  • You can always count on Jay Ulfeldler for some well-sourced optimism – this on the “end” of the era of democratisation is good
  • Examination of what happened when Britain de facto secretly decriminalised cannabis (nothing good)
  • Mostly obvious stuff but some quite interesting bits and pieces from an informal experiment replicating Tinder
  • Powerful column on street harrassment**
  • 100% here for writers taking Kim Kardashian seriously
  • Two plane articles. One which will make you never want to fly EasyJet again because you know how the other half live. One, long, horrifying, dripping with tension, which will make you never want to fly again because you know that, basically, humans weren’t meant to fly.
  • Good response to a column on the “death of masculinity” in television (I didn’t read the original because I don’t like to waste free clicks on paywalled sites on hatereads, but this response stands alone).
  • Oliver Burkeman turns his guns on empathy
  • This is lovely on being a Sikh woman in business
  • As if #gamergate (ugh) wasn’t already enough of a nasty, sad, pathetic “movement”, it’s chief British supporters are the terrible Milo Yiannopoulos, and James bloody Delingpole, who is once again shown to be a troll by the devious trick of comparing his articles with each other. All it needs is for Toby Young to lend his support and it’d be a collection of the worst humans.
  • Finally, I loved this two-part examination of alliances in The Lord of the Rings films and its attempt to draw real-world lessons from the Battle of Helm’s Deep***.




  • * Which reminds me – I watched it with a friend who loathes the series, while I really like it, but I was wondering – are they explicitly, textually anti-feminist? Not the character of Bridget herself, which is where most criticism pointlessly goes, but the intention – I mostly noticed the negative portrayal of the ambitious lawyer lady, as well as the straw-feminist that is her sweary mate. IDK. Still love the films.**though it is a baffling haircut

    ***One minor quibble though – I’m pretty sure the elven reinforcements in The Two Towers come from Lothlorien not Rivendell, which mildly undercuts her point about overcoming isolationism. *adjusts spectacles*