The Afghan Files

DISTRUST

A history of torture: how We never do it, but They always do (meanwhile the movie The Report, which probably does more to publicise the CIA’s horrific torture program than any amount of political journalism over the last two decades, is dismissed as just another White Saviour story).

Stop romanticising the military — it offers no more meaning or sense than the lives young men want to escape from. Foreign Affairs has a long read on how the war in Afghanistan — now in sight of 20 years old — turned into a debacle. Plus, the Chinese tyranny’s overwhelming surveillance was exactly what blinded it to the spread of coronavirus.

And in a nice demonstration of how the right is losing ideological coherence, anti-immigration British Tories say they want Australia’s immigration system. Except they haven’t realised it led to high immigration here (haven’t they visited Sydney and tried to drive there lately?).

IDENTITY

Getting a handle on the Love and Thoms decision — why, contra various hysterical commentators, the High Court was cautious and consistent in its decision.

“Seventy-five years after the end of the Nazi dictatorship, right-wing terror exists in Germany again”: how big is Germany’s right-wing terrorist problem? The latest German terrorist’s links to Trump supporters and their favourite conspiracy theory (meanwhile, Germany is cracking down on hate speech).

Methodological note for dictators: what tyrants have in common. Some Indians see a “fascist alliance” between Narendra Modi and Trump. Finally, on the internet and navigating crowds of non-existent people.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

A World Bank paper shows up to one-sixth of aid to the poorest countries is siphoned off by elites to tax havens. But did the World Bank try to block the paper? Speaking ofAfter a sex scandal claims a politician, France’s political class are coming after social media anonymity. Can you guess what proportion of young adults live at home in Europe?

China’s massive chemical industry is exacting a monstrous death toll, and while Beijing failed to handle the coronavirus outbreak effectively, too many Western journalists were peddling its preferred line of crying “racism”.

INFRASTRUCTURE

American cities are beginning to experiment with free public transit. Autonomous vehicles are easily fooled with 2D images (yeah, I’ve got a thing about self-driving cars, and I won’t stop until I’ve evened out the relentless hype of these stupid things over the past couple of years).

Stalkerware doesn’t just send stalkers information from a target’s phone; it sprays it all over the internet (who would have guessed?). The Swedes are considering the end of cash and a state-banked e-currency.

There’s no fuel security crisis in Australia, and it would be bizarre if we tried to adhere to international rules on fuel storage.

And Japan is tightening the conditions under which it allows the export of coal-fired power.

ENTERTAINMENT THIS WEEK

Parasite’s Oscar win has unleashed an army of dolts attacking subtitles (if you’re silly enough to prefer dubbing, please enjoy this). In other film news, exploring the last days of legendary — and legendarily hit-and-miss — director John Boorman.

I always preferred Margaret Mahy, but meet the Russian Dr Seuss. Hilary Mantel’s epic conclusion to her Thomas Cromwell trilogy is out (spoiler — it’s not a happy ending) and the reviews are starting to come in (I don’t know, but maybe beheading for bad policy decisions isn’t necessarily completely a bad idea?).

On the subject of famous British women, being a female celebrity is a health hazard in the UK — is it different here?

The latest in the ever-proliferating taxonomy of online scammers: YouTube’s desire to overtake Twitch as the key platform for gaming streaming has led to scammers dominating its most viewed gaming videos.

FINALLY…

There’s a lesson in this video for policymakers everywhere.

Peter Fray

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