Thursday, September 29, 2022
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A historical soap reveals a lot about modern Thai politics

IN SWELTERING heat at Ayutthaya Historical Park north of Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, a bevy of beautifully clad ladies strut ostentatiously in their silky traditional costumes, known as chut thai. They are among thousands who visit daily to have their pictures taken amid the scenic ruins of the old city of Ayutthaya, destroyed by Burmese invaders in 1767. Many of the tourists are not really there for the remains. Ayutthaya is the setting of a television series called Buppesannivas or “Love Destiny”, which has broken audience records in Thailand and stirred the nation into a frenzy of sartorial nostalgia. It is a time-travel love story about a woman in contemporary Thailand who is reincarnated in ancient Ayutthaya. In front of an old royal temple, Wat Chaiwatthanaram, half a dozen women dressed in the protagonist’s iconic pink chut thai wait their turn for a professional photo shoot. Most visitors are Thai, but there also many foreigners—the soap is also being screened elsewhere in the region, including Vietnam, Laos, China and Russia. Citizens were encouraged to attend in traditional wear and take part in retro-themed activities such as garland-making. Mr Prayuth’s efforts to harness Thai culture to his own political ends are sometimes more blatant. Mr Prayuth has appeared in selfies with the cast in traditional wear (see picture).

Poor people die younger in the U.S. That skews American politics.

The 2017 U.S. Census Bureau’s Official Poverty Measures reports that within the country, 40 million people — more than one in every eight Americans — live in poverty. Put that together with the fact that in the U.S., about 2.6 million people die every year — and most of those deaths are associated with poverty. That changes U.S. politics. What we discovered was that before respondents with poor health died, they were 56 percent less politically active than their peers who survived because of better health. More broadly, we found that low socioeconomic status was directly linked to bad health, which in turn led to premature death. Millions of impoverished Americans die young Political participation of the poor is overall lower because of poverty, bad health and many other factors, but millions of impoverished Americans across the country also die prematurely. Add to this negative trend the fact that mortality among the poor increases during middle age — which is when citizens generally get more involved in politics. There are political consequences to premature mortality among the poor But as poor Americans die prematurely, they also erase from the statistics the adversities that cause their premature deaths in the first place. In terms of health, the U.S. has the highest infant mortality rate among developed countries as well as the lowest life expectancy overall. As a result, political participation in the U.S. is more skewed toward the rich than in countries with lower inequality (such as Australia, Canada, Germany, the Scandinavian nations or Japan), where fewer people die prematurely because their governments provide better health care for the poor.

Ovechkin, Babchenko and the Politics of Russian Hockey

Image On Tuesday, the day after the exciting first game of the Stanley Cup finals — a 6-4 victory for the plucky Las Vegas Golden Knights over the veteran Washington Capitals, led by the Russian star Alex Ovechkin — the news came from Ukraine that a Russian journalist who had fled Moscow last year after receiving death threats had been shot in the back and killed while returning home with groceries. Here she is.” Babchenko harbored no illusions about Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, initiator of the first Chechen war, but under President Vladimir Putin, Babchenko’s opposition to the regime and its supporters hardened. He promised to return to Moscow eventually “in a NATO tank.” I am a hockey fan, with a particular interest in Russian hockey and its complex fate in the wake of the Soviet collapse, and I had spent the morning after the first game of the Stanley Cup finals reading up on the Washington Capitals. And then the news came that Babchenko had been killed. As officials proceeded to claim at a news conference attended by Babchenko, they had learned that a former Ukrainian fighter had been hired to assassinate Babchenko. Though announcing his death wasn’t, maybe, the best way of going about catching his would-be assassin — from now on, news of another Kremlin opponent killed is going to be treated with justified skepticism. But he is the president of Russia. And in some cases he may be ordering them, too. So where does this leave the Stanley Cup finals? Ovechkin is well within the mainstream of Russian political life, and furthermore he has to go back there eventually; most Russian hockey players return to Russia after their playing careers are over in the West.

The Politics of Seeing Within the Global City

For the first time, the majority of people worldwide lived in cities. The global city is a metropolis whose primary relation is to other global cities, not to the nation where it is located. There is no symbolic form for dispossession in the global city. There is no location that can be occupied to stop the spread of the global city. Today, the monuments are barricaded, a substitute target for those who protest the global city. Stand in Columbus Circle in New York City and the contradiction between the colonial monument and the sky-dwelling global city comes into sharp appearance. A different kind of monument is being created for the global city. If the super-talls and The Vessel seek to make a definitive statement of the global city’s rise to power, decolonization is the question of how to resist it. In visual work, decolonize your medium. Protesting the monuments makes that exclusion visible.

Here’s why markets are worried about Italian politics — again

Italy’s politicians didn’t get a three-day weekend, but instead stayed active and helped spark selling for stocks and other riskier assets. Investors on Tuesday are worried about the potential for another Italian election within a few months. In particular, they’re worried a win for populist parties could lead to the euro zone’s third-biggest economy leaving the shared currency — which would represent quite a shakeup to Europe’s status quo. That election looks to be in the cards, as an attempt to form a caretaker government led by International Monetary Fund veteran Carlo Cottarelli faces resistance. Cottarelli was put into that role on Monday by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who had essentially blocked a coalition government of two big antiestablishment parties — the 5 Star Movement and the League. “It won’t be an election,” Salvini said Sunday, according to a Wall Street Journal report. “Even an Italian populist government’s failed attempt to ditch the euro would bring a halt to not only the ‘euroboom,’ but also the process of U.S. monetary normalization, with the market reaction comparable to the eurozone debt crisis,” Oxford Economics analysts Jamie Thomson and Nicola Nobile said in a recent note. Other analysts suggest fears about a “Quitaly” or “Italexit” scenario may be overblown. “According to the European Commission’s Eurobarometer survey, support for the euro in Italy has never been below 58%, and most recently was 59%, with only 31% opposed.” Check out: 4 ways the ECB is preventing an Italian rerun of the euro crisis — for now But Gittler still sounds bearish on the unit: “Nonetheless, currencies have to price in risk, and Italian politics is the big risk nowadays. Italian bond moves are largely isolated, but contagion risks are mounting.” How are markets moving?

Stephanie Miner Diagnoses What’s Wrong with New York Politics

“When I think about what motivates me to be in government, it’s making change and impacting public policy,” Miner said on a recent episode of the Max & Murphy podcast from Gotham Gazette and City Limits, adding her contention that “real people are suffering” because of poor public policy in transit, affordable housing, and infrastructure across the state. Miner, a Democrat who was term-limited out of office as mayor of the state’s fifth biggest city at the end of last year, has for months explored the possibility of challenging Governor Andrew Cuomo in this year’s gubernatorial primary election. Her resume also includes the fact that she was the first woman to be elected mayor of Syracuse and her time as the chair of the state Democratic Party, a position she earned in part because of support from Cuomo, who she subsequently had a major falling out with. “For me backroom dealings and politics as usual is not serving anybody,” she said on the podcast. Some of those accused, including another former top aide and several major donors to Cuomo, are set to stand trial beginning in June. “I think elected officials are more interested in serving the needs and desires of vested special interests who give big campaign contributions,” Miner said. Solving these problems is especially difficult in a “brittle” system that discourages a considered and forward-thinking discussion of issues, Miner said. But there’s a fundamental change in leadership need, she said -- New York needs people in power who are collaborative, who listen, who consider alternative viewpoints. You’re always going to know why I disagree with you, and what those grounds are, and that was not something that was tolerated in Andrew Cuomo’s world,” she said. People are hungry for change.” [LISTEN: Max & Murphy Podcast: Former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner] Sponsored

Two’s a Party

On a recent episode of The Gist, Mike Pesca spoke with Sam Rosenfeld, author of The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era, about the evolution of political parties in the U.S. Their conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, is reprinted below. Schattschneider and his ilk were tasked by the American Political Science Association in the late 1940s to form this committee on political parties to study the party system in the United States and offer prescriptions for how to make it better. The era that I’m talking, with the Roosevelt Democrats, was this so different from how the parties were organized since the Civil War, when there were Republicans and Democrats and when the Republicans essentially took the place of the Whigs? The 19th century is called by a lot of historians and political scientists the “party period” in American history, where political parties absolutely structured and defined American politics and policymaking in a way they never have ever since. I’m enough of a determinist to say that there were underlying changes in society that were making less and less tenable party formations that didn’t have to do with policy and ideology. At the same time, there’s nothing inevitable about the combinations of issue positions that we call liberalism and conservatism looking the way they ended up doing. Being against abortion and being against the welfare state, we call that conservatism, but in a lot of countries, they don’t. That last point is really important because a case can be made that the actual accomplishments under an ideologically sorted party system aren’t that bad. We’ve created a system that perfectly tells you who to blame. I don’t want to make enemies.

Mayor’s methods questioned by intertwining politics in authority business

But several on City Council are viewing the latest attempt by the mayor and some members of his administration as intermingling the two. Campana’s latest endeavor is to lease the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary authorities’ assets — city-owned infrastructure, treatment plants and the like — and get the authority to make payments over the life of the lease to cover city expenses, fully fund pensions and eliminate certain onerous business taxes. But some on council said he needs a majority vote to make any lease deal happen — and they don’t like the way the mayor has been operating behind the scenes. “It is clear the mayor has apparently attempted to stack the authority to get the votes he needs to move this idea forward,” said City Councilwoman Liz Miele, chairwoman of council’s finance committee. The mayor needs to remain independent, she said, and not impose his political whims and not try to influence those who sit on the board and vote. “The question is the concept of the authority to protect the asset from politics and protect the municipality so the authority can take on more debt,” Miele said. “Unfortunately, it appears politics is clouding some on the authority who have a fiduciary responsibility to ratepayers.” Councilman Derek Slaughter said council’s responsibility is to be the “watchdog” for taxpayers. Now, with all of the discussion of a lease in the middle of the year, the stormwater issue is on the backburner and that is not good, Katz said. Campana has acknowledged his role is to appoint and to reappoint authority board members. But council said the lack of communication, on display for those who attended a special meeting where the change in chairmanships took place, and the tone of the meeting, is not the atmosphere they want to make deals under.

Rising angst around global politics doesn’t move gold like it used to

The recent drop in gold prices to their lowest level of the year may have come as a surprise for some, especially given that geopolitical risks have intensified since the start of the year, but the yellow metal still lacks a good reason to break free from the tight trading range it’s held for months. After news broke Thursday that President Donald Trump cancelled a planned nuclear summit with North Korea, gold prices GCM8, -0.25% settled at a one-and-a-half-week high of $1,304.40 an ounce. “The fear was whether President Trump would increase the likelihood of making them worse.” Earlier this year, that helped to raise gold’s appeal to investors, who have historically flocked to the metal in uncertain times as a hedge against potential financial losses. But investors have grown accustomed to a world of “violence, political turmoil, and uncertainty,” says Brian Larose, senior technical analyst at ICAP Technical Analysis, a unit of the world’s largest interdealer broker. He points out that while there were concerns that Trump would start a war by pulling out of the Iran deal or moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, it appears that “other than increased tension, the world is safe from war for the moment,” adds Moy, “This progress could still be reversed, like the North Korean summit, but so far the president has beaten some expectations.” As geopolitical concerns appear to ease, investors have turned their attention to riskier assets, such as stocks, and gold prices fell to the lowest levels of the year. They’ve “taken a big bite out of gold’s appeal,” says Larose. “Much of the protection from fiat currency has moved to the cryptosphere.” Of course, the dollar’s rise has played a large part in the retreat for metal, which is traded in greenbacks. U.S. Treasury yields have rallied, with the 10-year yield TMUBMUSD10Y, -1.66% up roughly 52 basis points (0.52 of a percentage point) this year so far. The dollar index touched its highest level of the year on Friday and on May 18, the 10-year yield hit a nearly seven-year high. “While there is strong correlation, it is not perfect, and when gold has a mind of its own, that can be an opportunity for investors.” Expectations for further interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve have helped to strengthen the dollar, as well as contribute to gold’s decline.

Facebook and Instagram launch US political ad labeling and archive

Instead, it’s now launching its previously announced “paid for by” labels on political and issue ads on Facebook and Instagram in the U.S. and its publicly searchable archive of all these politics-related ads that run in the U.S. That includes ads run by news publishers or others that promote articles with political content. The labeling won’t just apply to candidate and election ads, but those dealing with political issues such as “abortion, guns, immigration or foreign policy.” Clicking through the labels that appear at the top of these News Feed ads will lead to the archive, which isn’t backdated and will only include ads from early May 2018 and after. It also will display the ad’s budget, and the number of people who saw it, plus aggregated, anonymized data on their age, gender and location. Any advertiser that wants to run political ads must now go through Facebook’s authorization process that requires them to reveal their identity and location, and advertisers will only have a week’s grace period starting today before those unauthorized will have their ads paused. The reviewers and AI will analyze these ads’ images, text and the outside websites to which they point to look for political content. Their buyer will then be required to go through the authorization process before they can buy more. As part of work with Facebook’s new commission investigating social media’s impact on elections, it plans to provide a database available via a forthcoming API that will let watchdog groups, academics and researchers review how ads are being used. Simply listing those organizations in the Paid For By labels or archive won’t necessarily give users a lot of information about who the people behind the money are unless they’re willing to go digging across the internet themselves. An example of a “Paid for by” label on an Instagram ad For example, the notorious conservative political donors the Koch brothers funnel cash through a PAC called Prosperity Action to fund Republican candidates like Paul Ryan. But Harbath described on the call how even though all the monitoring of political ads will cost more than the revenue the company earns from them, Facebook felt it necessary to “make sure people have a way to express themselves and engage in political discourse in a transparent way.” Self-policing in this manner could reduce the urgency of calls to pass the Honest Ads Act that was unveiled last year to bring online advertising disclosures in line with those for television, though Congress has yet to hold a hearing about.