Monday, March 24, 2014

a little 'urban disorder' among friends

This article, from the Cameroon Tribune, unfortunately demonstrates the insanity and inanity of most writing about System D.

As a symptom of persistent "urban disorder," the newspaper in the Cameroonian capital presents this scenario: "It's 10 am and the weather is bright. Pauline Mangne, 27, a Yaounde inhabitant who works as a housemaid, was seen buying some food items in a small market or 'petit marcher.'"

The article continues: "A market normally is constructed and well planned in any city. But that is not the case in Yaounde. These unplanned markets are found mostly in main junctions, entrance into some schools and institutions of higher learning, financial institutions and beside motor parks. The items that are commonly sold in these markets are vegetables, fruits, palm nuts and maize among other perishable foods." Martine Messina, a roadside merchant who journeys from her farm to the city and back every day, told the paper, "Anything I harvest in the farm I come and sell in Yaounde." She insisted that it was the only way for her family to survive.

It's astonishing to read articles that assert that a farmer selling produce at the side of the road is pernicious. Just what is so disgraceful about a farmers market?

No matter where you go in Africa and Asia and South and Central America, city-built markets don't work for small-scale merchants and farmers. The obvious conclusion: the planners who keep planning these unsuccessful markets are wrong. And the folks who sell at the side of the road are right. Let's hear it for a little 'urban disorder' among friends.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

are street vendors terrorists?

Is this man part of a terrorist network? A retired Tunisian military man sure thinks so. Mokhtar Ben Nasser, a retired colonel and former spokesperson for the Tunisian military, is the sole source for this International Business Times article asking the question.

“There is a confirmed relationship between smuggling and terrorism,” Ben Nasser told the paper, arguing that militants offer the smugglers protection, sometimes in the form of extortion, in addition to demand for their supplies, while smugglers provide food, equipment, untraceable cash and knowledge of unguarded routes in the country’s interior and across borders. “Militants and smugglers have shared interests."
But, at a conference at Stanford ten days ago, a respected security analyst came to the exact opposite conclusion. I asked Niklas Swanström, head of the Institute for Security and Development Policy, who spends a lot of time in criminal havens like North Korea, Tajikistan, and Dagestan and is an expert in transnational crime, about this exact issue.
He insisted that most smugglers and informal wholesalers and retailers don't need or want to work with terrorists. He said that, by their nature, terrorist organizations are slow and cumbersome -- more worried about ideology and furtive spycraft than rapid action. Smugglers, by contrast, have little use for ideology. They simply need to move their goods -- and getting in bed with terrorist networks doesn't make good business sense.