Don’t try to understand ’em. Just rope, throw and brand ’em.

I spent most of yesterday with “Copacabana” stuck in my head. It’s been replaced by “Rawhide” today. I haven’t heard either song played in months. In honor of the latter, here’s a round up (get it?) of my Saturday morning reading and some interesting stories from the past week.

First, from the Economist, my go-to source for international happenings:

  • China’s state-backed banks have followed a unique path, but they may be headed in the same direction as banks elsewhere. I would add that the same could be said about China’s economy and politics too.
  • The idea that climate change leads to violent conflict may not be as well-established as we think. While the article looks at causation, I’d also like to challenge this idea from a practical stand point: if climate change does lead to conflict, so what? Would knowing that help us resolve the conflict? At best, it could create greater incentive for addressing global warming. At worst, it could distract us from the more immediate causes of a conflict — i.e. the ones we can do something about in the short term.
  • There’s a series of reports on anti-corruption efforts in developing countries: Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria’s anti-corruption crusader; corruption and crime threaten Mozambique’s rise; political motivations behind corruption prosecution in South Africa; and since there’s corruption on other continents too, Brazil has a new anti-corruption law. Inexplicably, none of these articles mention the World Cup.
  • On the magazine’s brand-new blog about Africa, an election observer describes the Somaliland elections, stating “This is Somalia, after all” but then wondering “Could this really be Somalia?” before finally deciding “This is still Somalia.”
  • And in the good ol’ US of A, an Oklahoma legislator wants to ban consideration of sharia law in local courts (which no one has proposed) and might undermine key components of the legal system in the process. Let’s call that “judiciating from the state house.”

Next, from Kenya’s Daily Nation:

  • Related to the story from Oklahoma: misplaced fears about sharia law are leading some Kenyan Christians (who make up 80% of the country) to reject the proposed constitution.
  • Along the same lines, Higher Education minister William Ruto plays the imperialism card in saying the US is trying to impose the new constitution on Kenyans. I think that might backfire, as I’d be willing to bet that Barack Obama has broader appeal in Kenya than any single Kenyan politician. Maybe Ruto should stick to playing the ethnicity card and the anti-gay card.
  • Kenya’s MPs want to give themselves a pay raise. Kenyans are not happy with it. I can’t find the source, but I remember one article stated that the proposal would make them the highest paid legislators in the world.
  • Mugabe decides to try the first step in the Dead Aid plan: cutting off aid. Think it will lead to a magical increase in access to capital markets, FDI, and trade?

And finally, from other blogs:Proceeds from this shirt benefit my image

  • Wronging Rights has suggestions for International Justice Day gifts. My favorite is pictured on the right.
  • Jenna Magee describes the difficult decisions Palestinians face when deciding who to cheer for in the World Cup.
  • Thomas Barnett contemplates Malaysia’s “Young Imam” competition show, described in the WSJ.
  • Africa is a Country and Aid Thoughts both take issue with a horrendously bad portrayal of Africa in Time. The article wins my Award for Metaphors That Should Never Be Made with the phrase: “unleashed a hurricane of rape”.
  • Chris Blattman gets mistaken for being Chinese while running in Monrovia. He interprets it as a sign of the increasing Chinese influence in the country. But maybe he just needs a haircut?
  • Bill Easterly makes a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference when discussing solutions vs. problem-solving systems. I made one earlier in the week when discussing stuff I carry around. His is better.
  • And last, XKCD illustrates how “finding what works” might lead to sub-optimal solutions.

As a bonus for reading (or at least scrolling) this far down, the Blues Brothers offer us a lesson in adapting program services to the beneficiaries, paying attention to local context, and responding to rude accountability.