World update: December 9-10 2017



Taliban fighters killed three Afghan soldiers on Saturday in an attack on a checkpoint in Ghazni province.


The first stage of voting took place on Saturday in regional elections in India’s Gujarat state. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has campaigned heavily to ensure that his Bharatiya Janata Party retains the majority in the state legislature. Gujarat is of course Modi’s own province and the site of some of his most famous crimes against humanity. But polling shows that the BJP is likely to retain its majority only at a significantly reduced level. Results won’t be known until after the second round next weekend.


Though the battle in Marawi is over, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is going to ask his legislature to extend his state of emergency on Mindanao island for another year. Duterte will cite threats from Maoist, Islamist, and separatist groups on the island to justify his request, and he may also note that as a would-be dictator this whole extended martial law thing is really pretty convenient for him.


Chinese diplomat Li Kexin apparently said last week that if the United States sends any naval warships to Taiwan, Beijing will exercise the Anti-Secession Law, which authorizes an invasion of Taiwan. This guy is a diplomat! Wild! As you might imagine, Li’s remarks have not been well-received in Taiwan.



Thousands of people marched in Kiev on Sunday in support of arrested (at least at last check) anti-corruption figure Mikheil Saakashvili. The demonstration was largely peaceful, but some of the protesters were reportedly calling for President Petro Poroshenko’s impeachment. It’s still not clear just how much support Saakashvili really has, or now widespread the anti-Poroshenko sentiment has become.


New Czech Prime Minister-designate Andrej Babiš is warning the European Union not to push his government too hard over migration and asylum issues lest it empower extremists instead. I have to say, this new worldwide trend among right wing parties that we have to let them all completely adopt extremist positions lest we empower actual extremists is an interesting one. At some point somebody should ask what the difference is between right wing parties that act like extremists and extremist right-wing parties.


Speaking of which, France’s Republican Party named a new leader on Sunday, and it’s former Secretary of State for European Affairs Laurent Wauquiez. Wauquiez’s platform was notable for being virtually indistinguishable from something you might see coming from the National Front, who are actual fascists. And while I know the fact that “centrist” Emmanuel Macron has turned out to basically be a conservative means the Republicans have had to move further right to stake out some new ground for themselves, but if you’re going to copy the fascists’ ideas then, I’m sorry to say, you’ve pretty much become the fascists.

Meanwhile, Corsican nationalists now control the island’s new regional assembly, after walking away with the second round of voting on Sunday. For now at least you can expect they’ll only be after more autonomy from France, rather than outright independence. Another independence movement is pretty much the last thing Europe needs right now.


Brexit talks are heading to their next big dispute, over the nature of the free trade agreement Britain might negotiate with the EU. London wants what Brexit Secretary David Davis is called “Canada plus plus plus,” indicating a deal far closer than the agreement the EU made with Canada in 2014. Brussels has been insisting that such a deal would be impossible, because it will anger all their other trade partners.

You may already know this, but I did not: apparently there’s a movement to disestablish the Anglican Church when Queen Elizabeth dies:

Prince Charles’s accession to the throne could trigger a national debate about the relationship between the Church of England and the state, providing a “opportune moment” to make the case for disestablishment, according to the National Secular Society.


Debate about whether an established, privileged “state church” is appropriate in an increasingly multi-faith and secular society is seen by many as off limits while the Queen remains monarch.


But a report to be published on Monday by the society says Charles’s coronation is likely to throw up pressing questions about the institutional links between church, monarchy and parliament.

I don’t know if this movement is unique to Charles’s potential coronation–if Elizabeth were to outlive him, say, or pass him over in favor of William, I’m not sure if the same push would happen. Charles in particular has fed into this movement by suggesting that, if/when he becomes king, he’d like to be called “Defender of Faith” rather than “Defender of the Faith.” Britain and Iran are the only two countries on the planet whose legislature includes religious leaders by right, so it’s not exactly a very large or prestigious club to be in, but a drive to disestablish might be hampered by the simple fact that most British citizens don’t really seem to care that much about the issue.



Venezuela’s opposition parties boycotted Sunday’s mayoral elections, so I guess the fact that Nicolás Maduro’s Socialists swept almost all of them should come as no surprise. These are the last nationwide elections in Venezuela until next year’s presidential election, in which I assume the opposition will actually participate though I might be jumping the gun on that. After all, boycotting most elections and constantly losing has worked so well for them so far, it would be strange to adopt a different tactic.


Honduras’s opposition parties have formally moved from demanding a recount in the November 26 presidential election to demanding that the election results be annulled and new elections held. A “computer problem” whose discovery just so happened to dramatically shift the vote count in favor of incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández is at the heart of concerns about the results. A partial recount is underway, in part because the Organization of American States insisted upon it, and how the OAS responds to the results of the recount will presumably have some influence on what happens next.


Obviously the big story of the weekend was the New York Times accounting of a typical day in the life of America’s very, very normal president:

For other presidents, every day is a test of how to lead a country, not just a faction, balancing competing interests. For Mr. Trump, every day is an hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation. He still relitigates last year’s election, convinced that the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, into Russia’s interference is a plot to delegitimize him. Color-coded maps highlighting the counties he won were hung on the White House walls.


Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals. People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.

I have nothing to add here except to remind you all that this person can literally end your life and the lives of billions of other people with a single command. What a time to be alive.

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