The Definitive ‘Kony 2012′ Drinking Game

Yesterday a momentous new work of filmmaking was released to the public. We’re speaking, of course, of Invisible Children’s Kony 2012.

The internets are busily debating the merits of the video and accompanying advocacy campaign, but one important question remains unanswered: What should I drink while I watch it?

Tragically, we watched the thing stone-cold-sober, but to spare you a similar fate, we’ve assembled the following drinking game.

To play, you will need: eight (8) pickleback shots; one (1) Brandy Alexander; one (1) bowl Feuerzangenbowle; one (1) six-pack of Tusker Lager; one (1) jar green Play-Doh; one (1) bottle of Zima; one dozen (12) chocolate chip cookies; one (1) My Little PonyTM cocktail made of equal parts Malibu rum and Sunkist orange soda (generally used for statutorily raping 14 year olds); three (3) bottles of wine, one (1) brick wall.

  • Footage that makes you concerned that you are watching the wrong video because all you see is a bunch of white people doing hipster shit like undergoing vimeo’d Caesareans and making home movies of their children that involve actual special effects - slam a shot of pickleback, brace yourself for what comes next.
  • Nonspecific use of “Africa” or “African” instead of precise location or actual nationality – pound a Tusker.
  • Interviews with vulnerable Ugandan children about past trauma that make you think “Good lord, no IRB would ever allow any of this” – snootily sip a Brandy Alexander, try to have an opinion about homonationalism while you do so.
  • Recognition that Ugandans, other Africans have agency, do not need white college students to save them through the innovative use of bracelets – eat one gooey, delicious chocolate chip cookie (Psych! You never get to eat a cookie!)
  • Appearance of Adolf Hitler – down some Feuerzangenbowle, consider growing a moustache.
  • Statement that all that’s needed to solve the problem of the LRA is for enough Americans to “know” and “care” about Kony – slam head against brick wall, consider just giving up entirely.
  • Assumption that girls are only good for sex slave-ing, play no other role in the violence – drink a My Little PonyTM, feel kind of icky about it.
  • Exasperated Prendergast hair flip – drink one Zima, consider washing your own headsuit.
  • Assertion that “no one” cared about Joseph Kony for decades until white college students took up the cause – drink half a bottle of wine, wonder why all those Ugandans he was attacking and kidnapping during that period were unaware of him.
  • Statement that Africans are “invisible” if they aren’t a cause célèbre among middle-class white people – finish bottle of wine, cry.
  • Scene in which preschooler quickly understands entire Invisible Children policy platform, which is presented as a good thing – eat enough Play-Doh to make you feel kind of queasy.
  • Three-point action platform consisting of (1) signing a “pledge,” (2) sending money for an “action kit” that contains some bracelets, stickers and posters, and (3) sending more money so that IC will have that money – imagine what the results could have been if these genuinely brilliant marketers turned their attentions to a cause that is actually within the U.S. government’s direct control, like the Dream Act, cry so hard that you can do a shot of your own tears.

 

[Note: This photo of team not-so-invisible-children posing with the SPLA originally appeared on our blog in 2009, and was taken by photographer Glenna Gordon on the Sudan-Congo border in April 2008. If you're using it in your posts about Kony 2012, you should be crediting her.]

What to Get for the Couple Who Has Everything: A Registry for the Deby/Hilal wedding

According to the Sudan Tribune, Idriss Deby (of Being-President-of-Chad fame) is engaged to marry the daughter of Darfur strongman Musa Hilal (of Being-A-Big-Janjaweed fame). Word is Deby paid a brideprice amounting to a whopping $26 million US.

Given the history of the region, including Chad’s involvement in the Darfur conflict, this development obviously raises some important questions.  Chief among them: What to buy the happy couple as  a wedding gift?

Fear not, readers, we’re on it.  Our annotated Deby/Hilal wedding registry is here:

  1. A Battle Tank

    Brought to our attention by CBlatts’s attempt to find “the most expensive thing on Amazon,” the JL421 Badonkadonk (no, really) apparently has a bitchin’ sound system.

  2. A Relaxman Relaxation Capsule

    To relax in after a rough day rocking out in the battle tank, obviously.

  3. Some uranium ore

    Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wishes he were getting married so he could register for this too.

  4. A Le Creuset casserole dishSelf-explanatory. It’s a wedding.

Yes, Internet, We Are As Upset As You Are About the NYT’s Sahar Gul Piece

We’ve been blogging for four years now, and we can’t remember a time when so many readers have contacted us about the same thing.

For those of you who don’t have a Google News Alert set up for “torture” or “horrific abuses inflicted upon vulnerable children, golden retrievers, and baby bunnies”, Sahar Gul is the young Afghan girl (reports of her age differ, but at most she is 15 years old) whose husband and in-laws burned and beat her for her refusal to engage in sex work. Graham Bowley is the New York Times reporter who, in his own words, “wouldn’t be turned away” by hospital workers who told him that the abused girl was too traumatized to speak with him.

And yes, “reporter barges into tortured child’s hospital room, demands previously-reported-in-multiple-media-outlets details of atrocities inflicted upon her, then publishes self-congratulatory report about doing so” is exactly the sort of thing that makes us clutch our Advil bottles and bang our heads against the wall. (It’s important to take prophylactic anti-inflammatories before incurring self-inflicted head wounds, by the way.)

But the online reaction to Bowley’s post detailing his pursuit of the story has already hit most of the points we would have made. Dan’s response over at “Finding My Tribe” sums up our feelings exactly. Even the (generally nutballs) NYTimes commenters seem to agree:

“But I realized that despite the delicacy of the situation, I should have pushed past ‘no.’” Thank you, Mr. Bowley, for making me want to throw up.

- NYT Commenter “AH”

So we thought instead of (just) adding some more outrage coals to the fire, we’d take this opportunity to talk about professional responsibility and retraumatization. There’s a reason the UNICEF guidelines for interviewing children specify that interviewers must “avoid questions, attitudes or comments … that reactivate a child’s pain and grief from traumatic events.”

The risk of retraumatizing someone you’re trying to help is an issue we’ve both grappled with in our work representing asylum applicants. You try to balance the need for convincing detail with the harm inflicted on the client, but that necessarily entails asking people questions that no one should ever have to answer, like “and what were you tied to during the second gang rape?” Questions like that have the potential to do all kinds of terrible things, like triggering painful flashbacks, or causing physical distress, so the decision to ask them needs to be weighed very, very carefully. If they have the potential to save the victim’s life through a successful asylum case, then they are probably worth it. Probably.

Here, however,  it’s hard to know why Bowley needed to interview Sahar Gul at all – he himself notes that the AP had already done so. So he was balancing the harm of re-traumatizing a tortured child who did not want to be interviewed against…what, exactly? His desire not to be scooped by the AP during his first week in Kabul? We can see why that might be a concern for the reporter, but why should Sahar Gul give a toss?

If you would prefer that the paper of record not engage in such behavior, we suggest that you email the New York Times Public Editor at public@nytimes.com. If you like, use this script:

Dear Public Editor,

I recently read your reporter Graham Bowley’s description of his attempts to interview Sahar Gul, an Afghan girl in her early teens who was the victim of horrific abuse at the hands of her husband and in-laws. Bowley states with apparent pride that he “pushed past ‘no,’” and interviewed her after hospital workers informed him that she did not wish to speak to reporters, and was too psychologically fragile to repeat her story.

It’s difficult to formulate a response to this story that does not begin with the words “what the…” As Bowley notes in his article, Gul had already been interviewed by other news organizations. Her story had been told, and was already available to the press and public. Bowley was not adding substantial new information through his reporting (the mango juice does not count). Rather, he appears to have returned to the hospital to soothe the burns to his ego from getting scooped by the AP.

How is it possible that this was not only acceptable journalistic behavior for a Times employee, but that Bowley and his editors saw fit to crow over it by publishing a blog post about the reporter’s heroic success in overcoming the resistance of a traumatized child?

Once again: what the …?

Sincerely,

[Your name here]

And, if you’re looking for more information on the issues discussed in this post, the DART center has a great info sheet on interviewing trauma survivors of all ages, and Jina Moore takes on the particular issues with reporting on rape here.

Welcome to the New Regime

New Year, New Blog… New World?  Check us out, we’ve gotten so fancy!

(And by “fancy,” we mean “we have a WordPress blog hosted on a real URL, like normal people.”)

Feeds should have transferred automatically, but please update your links elsewhere.  We think we’ve ironed out most of the kinks in the transition, but appreciate your patience as we address the problems that we’ve almost certainly overlooked.

Happy New Year!

 

OMG, WTF ICC?

So this one really threw us for a loop.

TIME claims to have obtained an internal ICC memo showing that the Court is “compiling evidence of possible recent war crimes in southern Sudan, allegedly directed by Sudanese Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein.” Apparently, in addition to the Prosecutor’s request for a warrant for Hussein in connection with attacks on civilians in Darfur, “the ICC is separately building a case that Hussein may be behind the killing of civilians over the past year in Kordofan, Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile state and South Sudan.”

Internets, help us figure out what’s going on here. How can the ICC be investigating these events?

To review: There are three paths to an ICC case. The first is a referral of a situation by an involved state. The second is Security Council authorization. The third is that the Office of the Prosecutor can initiate its own investigation, but only into alleged events either (1) occurring on the territory of a state that’s accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction, or (2) perpetrated by a national of a state that’s accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Sudan is not a member of the ICC, and President al-Bashir is not exactly besties with Moreno-Ocampo, so we think it’s unlikely Khartoum referred this situation to the Prosecutor.  The newly independent South Sudan has not signed up to the ICC yet, so they probably didn’t do it either. (Although there is a mechanism through which a non-signatory state can accept jurisdiction of the court over specific crimes occurring on its territory. In the case of South Sudan, this would likely only be possible for crimes occuring since July 9, 2011, when they assumed sovereign authority.)

The Security Council didn’t refer these events to the ICC either. While Security Council resolution 1593 expressly requested that the ICC take up the issue of Darfur, that referral was limited to events taking place in Darfur since 2002.  None of the new areas supposedly included in the memo are located in Darfur.  So, no jurisdiction there.

And as far as we can tell, the Prosecutor should also have been estopped from initiating his own investigation because of Sudan’s and South Sudan’s non-membership.

So, uh, what gives?  Did the TIME reporter get an Enough Project report and mistakenly conclude it was an internal ICC memo?  Or is there some other reason why the ICC, a court of limited jurisdiction and limited resources, would be spending the latter on an investigation that is clearly outside of the former?

Help us, Kevin Jon Heller, you’re our only hope!

Yet Another Contender for Worst Idea Ever

So, one downside of being Prominent Internet Curmudgeons is that we’re now unable to maintain blissful ignorance of any stupid advocacy or development project, because someone ALWAYS emails us. (But seriously, keeps those tips coming; we love you guys.)

Today, the emailer in question is alert reader Elliott Prasse-Freeman, who directs our attention to Fonderie 47, an organization that buys AK-47s at above-market-prices in conflict zones and turns them into extremely expensive accessories, all in the name of helping Africa.

Apparently, the logic is that this will increase the price of AK-47s, thereby decreasing their pervasive presence in conflict zones. To which we respond: Holy economic fallacy, Batman. Where on earth do people get the idea that purchasing a good will lead to a reduction in its sale? (We’re looking at you, Nick “I’ma buy some womens to stop the scourge of sex slavery” Kristof.)

As tipster Elliott explains in his 4-Lucky-Charms-red-balloon-winning email to us:

“[T]he intervention is premised on two assumptions: (1) that gun dealers are supply constrained (in AK-47s) AND (2) that there are no perfect (or adequate) substitutes for AK-47s. If they don’t BOTH hold, then things get perhaps disastrously worse.

Consider: if the first assumption doesn’t hold, then the demand effect makes the gun dealer richer, and the supply of AKs stays constant to the level demanded in Africa. That’s bad. So, if we relax that assumption and assume that AKs are inelastic, then the demand effect is captured in price, and the gun dealer also gets richer, but the supply effect may actually remove AKs. That’s good.

But here we have to introduce assumption two, and wonder what happens if it doesn’t hold (and it probably doesn’t, because there are LOTS of guns in the world): assuming the gun dealer was capital constrained before AKs went up in price (b/c really, what gun dealer isn’t?), the now-richer gun dealer is able to expand his operations and provide the AK-48 (or some equivalent) to his grateful and desperate customers.”

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

*Picture of AK-47 from Wikipedia.

Live from the Great Lakes Policy Forum Conference on Congo Advocacy

Morning internets!  We’re on a field trip to the Great Lakes Policy Forum Conference on Congo Advocacy today.

We’re live-blogging live, but the conference policy of “on the record but not for attribution” means that we are apparently only allowed to tell you what is being said, not who is saying it.  So, to set the scene:

We have three panelists and one moderator, making up a total of three distinguished gentlemen and one distinguished lady who is a friend of the blog and is named Laura Seay.* Three of them are wearing suits!  One moderator is wearing a tie! And Tom from A View from the Cave is sitting behind us, which is awfully exciting.

*Laura has given us permission to attribute her statements, so this is not as much of a flagrant rule violation as you probably thought it was. Fooled you!

9:45: Not-to-be-identified-speaker-in-spiffy-yellow-tie notes that international advocacy around Congo is not a new phenomenon. Mark Twain FTW!

9:49: Broad theme for this panel is “how is the narrative of the Congo conveyed in Washington?” (Somehow we think the answer to that question is going to be “not that well, actually.”)

9:52: Oooh! A map!

9:53: Focus on eastern DRC means “we have ignored the rest of the country altogether.”

9:54: Your interest has been captured by eastern DRC, so those are the stories you tell. You think you are doing something good for the Congo, but you’re not. You’re arguably doing something for this region, but ignoring the rest. The result has been terrible.

9:56: Shout out to a great moment in “WTF Congo Advocacy” history – Secretary Clinton’s video cameras for rape victims initiative. Whatever happened with that, anyway?

9:57: No one asks about the Congolese government when something bad happens. When women get raped, we send NGOs, and students from good law schools to run clinics on how to prosecute people that no one has the power to arrest.

9:58: First reference to Dr. Mukwege. Who thinks we’ll get to ten mentions by 11:30?

10:01: What is lacking in the advocacy in this town is the courage to tell the truth. You’re thinking of your next job, and what people will think of you.

10:02: Explanation of who Edward Morrell was is probably not necessary – suspect 100% of this audience has read “King Leopold’s Ghost.”

10:03: Oooh, burn. Report saying that 48 women are raped every hour is “most ridiculous thing I’ve heard.” If you take a holistic view of all rape in a country, then the U.S. is in serious trouble too. Maybe we need to build a Panzi hospital here.

10:06: Exciting Panelist #2! (Suit, no tie. Have we mentioned these panelists are snappy dressers?)

10:09: External intervention is preventing Congolese from dealing with internal problems. U.S. should “stop the support of strong men in Africa.”

10:10: Panelist says that one of the things activists should do is to tell President Obama not to give Kagame immunity in U.S. courts, (as the State Dept. recently requested). Um, good luck with that. Guess we need to do another installment of “LOL International Law.”

10:14: Panelist expresses frustration that IBM and Apple get a hard time about conflict minerals, but mining companies get a free pass.

10:15: Emphasis on need to include the Congolese diaspora in the discussion.

10:17: It’s Laura time! She gives a shout-out to the people at Search for Common Ground who organized this event after seeing a blog post on Texasinafrica where she suggested something like this happen. Yay blogging, blogging FTW.

10:18: When she started her research in the Congo, no one was talking about the Congo, or about conflict minerals. Then celebrities and activists from Nick Kristof to Lucy Liu started visiting the HEAL Africa Hospital and Panzi hospital for advocacy and photo-ops. Then, several years ago, the focus shifted to conflict minerals.

10:20: Someone is yapping all through Laura’s remarks. Shush!

10:21: Laura, like most academics, is not a fan of the conflict-mineral narrative. There is insufficient evidence on more or less all points – how much of the world’s coltan is in Congo, whether cutting off revenue will cause armed groups to stop fighting, etc. More importantly, however, this is a narrative that was developed in Washington, and without the involvement of Congolese people. If we had involved local voices earlier, we might have recognized the potential harms of policies which have ended up putting thousands of people out of work – and might have also recognized how difficult supply-chain monitoring actually is.

10:23: Hooray, it’s personal anecdote time! Aw, Laura had a “delightful chat” with a bishop who asked her to be a “voice” for the Congolese, and now it’s a teachable moment about how we should listen DIRECTLY to Congolese voices and stop claiming to speak for them.

10:27: Hmm, apparently part of the panel thinks the conference is “off the record and not for attribution.” Not what the announcement says, suckers!

10:31: Money quote: “If it’s about U.S. consumers, please don’t call it a Congo strategy.”

10:33: Panelist wonders “when will we hold the mining companies responsible for what they have done,” in the same way that Holocaust survivors have held companies involved with the Nazis responsible through the courts for their involvement in the Holocaust.

10:35: Rachel Strohm has left the building. The room somehow seems dimmer.

10:36: Laura: Congo needs stronger institutions and rule of law. Period.

10:36: Apparently Congo is not a howling wilderness, there are sectors where things work. Laura suggests that we look at places in Congo that are pretty well governed, like Lubumbashi and Butembo, to draw lessons from them about how they collect revenue and get their institutions to work. More generally, security sector reform is a necessary precondition. The country needs to have all of its territory under its control. We need the FARDC to mean something.

10:38: Security sector reform needs to happen throughout the country, not just in the east.

10:39: Oh my my, “It should not be just one organization picking the witnesses for a congressional hearing on these issues.” And the SEC is having a roundtable on conflict minerals, and there should be Congolese voices at that table.

10:41: The floor is now open for questions. Oh sweet Jesus…

10:54: Some questions collected from the audience thus far:

  1. How should we deal with the lack of a willing partner in Kinshasa to undertake security sector reform?
  2. Is Kagame Hitler reincarnated?
  3. Will Dodd-Frank’s transparency requirements help with pursuing accountability for mining companies?
  4. Who is Kabila’s REAL father?
  5. Is the war in Congo Bill Clinton’s fault?
  6. Does “ICC” stand for “Injustice Colonial Court”?
  7. What are other African countries doing for Congo? We can say that the problems came from the West, but what are we doing to move forward from there, as Africans?

10:58 Panelist response: If you are an advocacy organization and you are caught between wanting to discuss the role of Rwanda in the conflict in Congo, and your sympathy for the Rwandan genocide, then you are compromised.

10:59 “The DRC actually has gone through security sector reform before, in the 60s.” Good point.

11:03: Internet is glitching out and there are no muffins. Oh the humanity…

11:05: Panelist discusses civilian review boards that oversee police in the U.S. Says wants an equivalent “civil society review board” for security sector reform in Congo.

11:06: Laura points out the African Union’s “tradition of not holding leaders accountable for their behavior” (see, e.g., Libya, Côte d’Ivoire), argues that accountability has to come from citizens of African states.

11:06: Laura says the blame game needs to stop in order to move forward. “No one is going to say that Belgian colonization was good for the Congolese people.” Um, didn’t Newt Gingrich say that in his PhD dissertation?

11:08: Another panelist pushes back. Blame is important, because opposite of blame is impunity.

11:09: Laura says she’s not pro-impunity, she just wants to focus on options that will allow “the woman who has been raped to safely return to her community,” rather than just allowing blame to dominate the conversation.

11:13: Floor is open again. Ruh-roh.

11:15: Love of god, why are there no muffins at this event?

11:17: Have we mentioned we’d really go for a muffin about now?

11:18: Question from the peanut gallery: Is the U.S. only interested in the rape story? Without it, would Congo drop off the foreign policy agenda entirely?

11:25: Panelist: for the love of god, don’t call your congressional reps and tell them you want them to “be more engaged”. That’s how you get Africom!

11:27: All we’re saying is, we were promised muffins.

11:30: Laura on how we can use democratic and diplomatic levers. There are opportunities, and we’ve missed a big one in the lead-up to the 2011 elections. Kabila is not that interested in SSR, but he is interested in reelection. We missed a big opportunity to support the elections in a way that promoted security sector reform. However, 40% of the DRC’s budget comes from foreign donors, so there are still opportunities there to put pressure on Kabila for SSR.

11:31: Laura raises a troubling concern: “What’s going to happen when Kabila wins with 25 or 30% of the vote?”

11:34: Laura notes that there are a broad variety of Congolese civil society organizations, covering all possible issues. They are smart, and motivated. However, they aren’t necessarily covering the “hot” issues, like rape or conflict minerals, so no one listens to them.

11:36: Another panelist takes up the same point. The NGO-partnership model mutes the conversation. “If I’m partnered with Enough, and I come to DC, then I am going to say what they want me to say, because my livelihood depends on it.” And everyone else gets ignored.

11:41: Question from the audience: if the U.S. doesn’t have interests in Congo, then why, according to Professor Erlinder, was the plan to invade formed in Virginia? (Panelists look bemused.)

11:44: Laura, responding to a question about what are the true root causes of the war in the Congo, asks “which one?” She notes that “the DRC wars are entangled, but they’re distinct.” She emphasizes, however, that state fragility contributes to all of it and that questions over land rights and citizenship continue to cause conflict.

11:48: Another panelist following up on Laura’s remarks: Conflict in the Congo is “overdetermined.” Ha!

11:52: Wow, audience NOT happy with Laura’s remarks about the need to resolve the citizenship status of Congolese of Rwandese origin in the Kivus. She said that there would not be peace until their status was clarified, and the room erupted in shouts of “no! no!” from Congolese audience members.

11:57: Ugh, we are SERIOUSLY due for a post on head of state immunity. Sorry, team “hold Kagame accountable in the U.S. courts”, no dice.

11:58: It’s over. Muffin time!

In Which CBlatts Accuses Us of Not Being Bloggers Anymore

Last week our favorite mommy blogger, Chris Blattman, took a break from posting the latest in baby gifts and engagement shoots to designate us a successor.

To which we reply (one week later, because, you know, people have sh*t to do):  Just because sometimes people maybe don’t post as often as they’d like to doesn’t mean they’re not still serious about blogging.

But while we’re on the subject…

Personally, we’ve been enjoying Chris’s regular updates about nannies, travel with infants, and how to get a baby to stop crying by bouncing on a yoga ball with her.  However, for those of you who miss the days before he curtailed his aid blogging to focus on such worldly pursuits as fatherhood, we’ve found a successor!  A little-known New York Times columnist named Nicholas Kristof has been filing some really fascinating dispatches from the developing world.

So, next time you’re jonesing for some real AidBlatting, but a post about little Amara’s first regression just isn’t doing the trick, head on over to On the Ground. (Gee, we wonder what a mention there can do for an economist’s career?)

It’s a… Country!

In 5 minutes (midnight, July 9th, local time in Juba), the newly independent South Sudan will join the family of nations.

So let’s all say a big hello and also refrain from involving them in any international conflicts for a bit (looking at you, not-South Sudan). And, in case you’re wondering what to buy your loved ones (or, say, your favorite atrocity humor bloggers) to celebrate South Sudan Day, may we recommend one of these: