Friday, February 29, 2008

Bush - good for Africa

Saudi Arabia is modernizing

Fatwa of the day- via Angry Arab;

So the Muftititi of Saudi Arabia... was asked about whether it is permissible to bring flowers to patients in hospitals. He ruled against it and the official fatwawawa said: "It is not part of the guidance of Muslims over the centuries to present flowers, real or artificial, to patients in hospitals or elsewhere but this is a habit imported from the lands of infidelity carried over by those with weak faith who are influenced by them. In reality, these flowers don't benefit the patient, but are mere imitation and impersonation of infidels, no more...."

Israel warns Gaza of Holocaust

Israel's deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio: "The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they will bring upon themselves a bigger 'shoah' because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."

The word "shoah" is rarely used in Israel beyond discussions of the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews but government spokesmen said Vilnai had employed the word only to mean "disaster".

-Israel warns Gaza of "shoah"

Top Israeli rabbis advocate genocide
All civilians living in Gaza are collectively guilty for Kassam attacks on Sderot, former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu has written in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Eliyahu ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings.

The letter, published in Olam Katan [Small World], a weekly pamphlet to be distributed in synagogues nationwide this Friday, cited the biblical story of the Shechem massacre (Genesis 34) and Maimonides' commentary (Laws of Kings 9, 14) on the story as proof texts for his legal decision.

According to Jewish war ethics, wrote Eliyahu, an entire city holds collective responsibility for the immoral behavior of individuals. In Gaza, the entire populace is responsible because they do nothing to stop the firing of Kassam rockets.

The former chief rabbi also said it was forbidden to risk the lives of Jews in Sderot or the lives of IDF soldiers for fear of injuring or killing Palestinian noncombatants living in Gaza.

Eliyahu could not be reached for an interview. However, Eliyahu's son, Shmuel Eliyahu, who is chief rabbi of Safed, said his father opposed a ground troop incursion into Gaza that would endanger IDF soldiers. Rather, he advocated carpet bombing the general area from which the Kassams were launched, regardless of the price in Palestinian life.

"If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand," said Shmuel Eliyahu. "And if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop."

In the letter, Eliyahu quoted from Psalms. "I will pursue my enemies and apprehend them and I will not desist until I have eradicated them."

Cut Gaza's power?
by Daniel Pipes
In a Jerusalem Post piece six years ago, Preventing war: Israel's options I called for shutting off utilities to the Palestinian Authority as well as a host of other measures, such as permitting no transportation in the PA of people or goods beyond basic necessities, implementing the death penalty against murderers, and razing villages from which attacks are launched.

Explainer of the Day- $100 a barrel of oil

How did we get there

Management Book Recommendation- Why Women Mean Business

Why Women Mean Business

Clinton could fined in cattle

Clinton faces Kenya cattle fine over Obama photo
Wajir elders resolved to file an official complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, dropping earlier plans to hold a protest after Friday prayers.

They said they would also convene a traditional Somali court to investigate the matter. It can impose fines that are payable in cattle, goats or camels.

"We will go ahead with this case whether Senator Clinton or Democratic party leaders turn up or not," said Mohamed Ibrahim, a member of the clan that hosted Obama during his trip. "But this whole thing can be avoided if only an apology is made."

The Ad Wars

Another Ethanol Fact of the Day

A typical ethanol factory producing 50m gallons of biofuels a year needs about 500 gallons of water a minute. Most of that goes into the boiling and cooling process, which is similar to making beer. Some water is lost through evaporation in the cooling tower and in waste discharge. All this is putting a heavy burden on aquifers in some corn-growing areas.

-Ethanol and water

Boys use hippocampus, girls use cerebral cortex

Sax comes off as a true believer and describes his conversion experience like this: In 2000, one of his patients, a 12-year-old boy, came to his medical office. For several years before then, the boy had been withdrawn, uninspired and on multiple medications, but he had recently made a big turnaround, which his parents credited to having enrolled him in an all-boys school. Upon hearing this, Sax said to the boy’s mother, “With all due respect, I regard single-sex education as an antiquated relic of the Victorian Era.” To which he says she replied, “With all due respect, Dr. Sax, you have no idea what you’re talking about.” After visiting a handful of single-sex schools, Sax threw himself into studying neurological differences between males and females, eventually focusing on how to protect boys from a syndrome he calls “failure to launch,” which Sax often characterizes as caring more about getting a Kilimanjaro in Halo 3 than performing well in high school or taking a girl on a date. Among his early proposals was that boys should start kindergarten at age 6, a year later than girls, in order to ease the “sense of scholastic incompetence” that so many boys feel early on because they tend to develop later. Several friends quickly convinced Sax that American families would never go for this. So Sax started thinking it might be better for boys and girls to be in different classrooms.

Sax’s official foray into single-sex public-school advocacy started in early 2002, when, he says, he applied for “a 501(c)(3) with the pretentious and improbable name of the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education.” In its first few years, N.A.S.S.P.E. didn’t see much action. Then, in 2004, he was invited to give a seminar in Foley. His appearance there led to a workshop in Wilcox County, Ala., and over the next few years, Sax says, “things started to mushroom.” Sax estimates that, at present, 300 of the 360 single-sex public school programs in the country “are coming at this from a neuroscience basis.” Either he or one of N.A.S.S.P.E.’s board members has been in touch with about half the programs.

David Chadwell, one of Sax’s disciples and the coordinator of Single- Gender Initiatives at the South Carolina Department of Education, explained to me the ways that teachers should teach to gender differences. For boys, he said: “You need to get them up and moving. That’s based on the nervous system, that’s based on eyes, that’s based upon volume and the use of volume with the boys.” Chadwell, like Sax, says that differences in eyesight, hearing and the nervous system all should influence how you instruct boys. “You need to engage boys’ energy, use it, rather than trying to say, No, no, no. So instead of having boys raise their hands, you’re going to have boys literally stand up. You’re going to do physical representation of number lines. Relay races. Ball tosses during discussion.” For the girls, Chadwell prescribes a focus on “the connections girls have (a) with the content, (b) with each other and (c) with the teacher. If you try to stop girls from talking to one another, that’s not successful. So you do a lot of meeting in circles, where every girl can share something from her own life that relates to the content in class.”

While Sax rejects the notion that he is a gender essentialist — according to Sax’s own definition, “a gender essentialist is a derogatory term that arose in the 1970s to define someone who is an idiot, or a Republican, or both, who does not understand that gender is socially constructed” — he does say that “human nature is gendered to the core” and that “all that happens when you take a toy gun away from your son and give him a doll instead is that you tell him, ‘I don’t like the person that you are and I wish you were more like your sister, Emily.’ ” He opens “Why Gender Matters” with two cautionary tales: one about a boy who starts kindergarten at age 5, is given a diagnosis of A.D.H.D. and depression and ends up on a three-drug cocktail of Adderall, Wellbutrin and clonidine; the other about a girl who transforms “from chubby wallflower to outgoing socialite” in middle school, seems to have it all — friends, academic success — and then shocks her parents by overdosing on Vicodin and Xanax. The two anecdotes are capsule versions of the boys’ and girls’ crises, and depending on one’s point of view, Sax effectively either addresses or exploits these parental concerns. After presenting the Adderall-doped grammar-school boy and the suicidal middle-school girl, Sax offers a possible cause of these sad stories. “The neglect of gender in education and child-rearing has done real harm.” These tragedies “might have been averted if the parents had known enough about gender differences to recognize what was really happening in their child’s life.”

Among the differences Sax notes between boys and girls: Baby boys prefer to stare at mobiles; baby girls at faces. Boys solve maze puzzles using the hippocampus; girls use the cerebral cortex. Boys covet risk; girls shy away. Boys perform better under moderate stress; girls perform worse. Many academics and progressives tend to find Sax’s views stereotyped and infuriating, yet Sax does not seem to mind. Sax told me that in 2005, he delivered a lecture at a conference at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. When the next speaker, Michael Younger, of Cambridge University, took the lectern, Sax says Younger threw down his speech and said, “I’m going to depart from my prepared remarks because I’m so annoyed by the sexist rubbish I just heard from Dr. Sax. Dr. Sax is trying to tell us that boys draw action and girls draw stasis. He might as well have said: ‘Boys are active, girls are passive. Boys should go out and have jobs, girls should stay home and have babies.’ ” While Sax, a gadfly, enjoys telling this story, Younger calls it “a fiction,” though he does concede “that certain aspects of Sax’s work suggest an essentialism about boys and girls which is not borne out by reality as exposed in our own research.”

A deluge of data has emerged in recent years detailing how boys and girls have different developmental trajectories and different brains. Sax has made a role for himself popularizing this work, though it’s not yet clear what the research means or whether there are implications for single-sex education. For instance, among neuroscientists, motor skills are often used as proxies for assessing cognitive skills and social and emotional control in younger children. As Martha Denckla, director of the Developmental Cognitive Neurology Clinic at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland, explained to me: “Looking at normal motor development in boys and girls — the ability to balance, to hop, to use your feet, to use your fingers and your hands — as a group, 5-year-old girls look almost completely the same as 6-year-old boys. The same is also true for anything having to do with speed of output: for example, how quickly you answer a question. Maybe you know the answer, but you just can’t prepare your mouth to form the words.” The gender gap in motor development shrinks through grammar and middle schools, Denckla says, disappearing once everyone has gone through puberty, around age 15. Yet Denckla doesn’t see any need for single-sex public education; she thinks mixed-grade K-1, 1-2 and 2-3 classrooms are a better way to deal with the developmental differences among school-age kids.

Scans of boys’ and girls’ brains over time also show they develop differently. Analyzing data from the largest pediatric neuro-imaging study to date — 829 scans from 387 subjects ages 3 to 27 — researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health found that total cerebral volume peaks at 10.5 years in girls, four years earlier than in boys. Cortical and subcortical gray-matter trajectories peak one to two years earlier in girls as well. This may sound very significant, but researchers claim it means nothing for educators, or at least nothing yet. “Differences in brain size between males and females should not be interpreted as implying any sort of functional advantage or disadvantage,” the N.I.M.H. paper concludes. Not one to be deterred, Sax invited Jay Giedd, chief of brain imaging at the Child Psychiatry Branch at N.I.M.H., to give the keynote address at his N.A.S.S.P.E. conference in 2007. Giedd spoke for 90 minutes, but made no comments on schooling at all.

One reason for this, Giedd says, is that when it comes to education, gender is a pretty crude tool for sorting minds. Giedd puts the research on brain differences in perspective by using the analogy of height. “On both the brain imaging and the psychological testing, the biggest differences we see between boys and girls are about one standard deviation. Height differences between boys and girls are two standard deviations.” Giedd suggests a thought experiment: Imagine trying to assign a population of students to the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms based solely on height. As boys tend to be taller than girls, one would assign the tallest 50 percent of the students to the boys’ locker room and the shortest 50 percent of the students to the girls’ locker room. What would happen? While you’d end up with a better-than-random sort, the results would be abysmal, with unacceptably large percentages of students in the wrong place. Giedd suggests the same is true when educators use gender alone to assign educational experiences for kids. Yes, you’ll get more students who favor cooperative learning in the girls’ room, and more students who enjoy competitive learning in the boys’, but you won’t do very well. Says Giedd, “There are just too many exceptions to the rule.”

Despite a lack of empirical evidence, a cottage industry has emerged working the “boys and girls are essentially different, so we should educate them differently” angle. Several advocates like Sax have been quite successful commercially, including Michael Gurian, a family therapist, who published the best-selling “The Wonder of Boys” in 1996, a work he has since followed up with 15 more, including “Boys and Girls Learn Differently!” Through the Gurian Institute, he provides trainings to teachers, “showing the PET scans, showing the Spect scans” (a Spect scan is a nuclear imaging test that shows how blood flows through tissue), “teaching how the male and female brain are different,” Gurian told me. Like Sax, Gurian speaks authoritatively, yet both have been criticized for cherry-picking studies to serve their views. For instance, Sax initially built his argument that girls hear better than boys on two papers published in 1959 and 1963 by a psychologist named John Corso. Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has spent a fair amount of energy examining the original research behind Sax’s claims. In Corso’s 1959 study, for example, Corso didn’t look at children; he looked at adults. And he found only between one-quarter and one-half of a standard deviation in male and female hearing thresholds. What this means, Liberman says, is that if you choose a man and a woman at random, the chances are about 6 in 10 that the woman’s hearing will be more sensitive and about 4 in 10 that the man’s hearing will be more sensitive. Sax uses several other hearing studies to make his case that a teacher who is audible to boys will sound too loud to girls. But Liberman says that if you really look at this research, it shows that girls’ and boys’ hearing is much more similar than different. What’s more, the sample sizes in those studies are far too small to make meaningful conclusions about gender differences in the classroom. The “disproportion between the reported facts and Sax’s interpretation is spectacular,” Liberman wrote on his blog, Language Log. “Dr. Sax isn’t summarizing scientific research; he’s making a political argument,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “The political conclusion comes first, and the scientific evidence — often unrepresentative or misrepresented — is selected to support it.”

One of Sax’s core arguments is that trying to teach a 5-year-old boy to read is as developmentally fraught as trying to teach a 3 1/2-year-old girl and that such an exercise often leads to a kid hating school. This argument resonates with many teachers and parents, who long for the days when kindergarten meant learning how to stand in line for recess, not needing to complete phonics homework. Yet public schools are beholden to state standards, and those standards require kindergartners to learn to read. As a result, even leaders of single-sex public schools, like Jabali Sawicki, the principal of the all-boys Excellence Charter School in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, are using some of what Sax has to offer while quietly refuting other claims.

-Teaching to the Testosterone

Will Malaysia ever become a democracy?

Where Bandits rule- Vladivostok

Econ Talk of the Day

Leijonhufvud Says Fed's Power `Limited' in Credit Crisis

The Making of Dani Rodrik- the economist

I remember well what settled it for me. One day in the library, I picked up copies of the flagship publications of the two disciplines--the American Political Science Review and the American Economic Review--and put them side by side. One was written in English, the other in Greek. I thought that if I did a PhD in economics, I would be able to read both journals, but that if I did a PhD in political science, it would be goodbye economics. That was my epiphany. (I should add that many political science programs now provide solid technical training that no longer leaves the AER beyond reach--but that was not true at the time.)

-Why I became an economist

Business Creativity Blog


Richard Branson beats Jesus

He's a multi-millionaire maverick entrepreneur, part-time daredevil and now Britain's Richard Branson has beaten Jesus Christ in a survey to find the top role model for children.

The Virgin Group boss has been placed second in a poll of Britons asked who their children should look up to. Jesus came in third and a family member topped the list.


William F. Buckley Is Not Dead

Colbert discusses William F. Buckley

Why Did William F. Buckley Jr. Talk Like That?
Q&A on William F. Buckley
Q: What is the most surprising discovery you’ve made while working on this biography of William F. Buckley Jr.? —Joyce Huyett Turner

A: There were two. First, he would rather talk about almost anything other than politics — literature, music, sailing, music. He once told me, “I only talk about politics when someone pays me to do it.” Second, I never heard him make a personally disparaging remark about anyone, even adversaries like Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. and Gore Vidal. He might describe something they did or the style in which they did it, but never in an insulting or even critical way. He had a large sense of the human comedy.

Sesquipedalian Spark of Right

The Buckley effect

Mr Buckley famously said that the purpose of the National Review was to stand “athwart history, yelling ‘Stop’”. But in fact he did more than just stand athwart. He helped to drive the crazies out of the movement. He persuaded a disparate band of enthusiasts—free-marketers and social conservatives, anti-communists and American traditionalists—to band together against the liberal-collectivist foe. And he attracted a brilliant group of intellectuals to the conservative cause, including, for a while, such unlikely people as Garry Wills and Joan Didion, both (now) liberal writers.

What made Mr Buckley such a weather-changer? Money helped: his father was a multimillionaire and the young Buckley tapped both his personal wealth and his family's connections to finance his new magazine. But the young man also brought a rare collection of qualities to his self-appointed task.

The first was an appetite for bomb throwing. Just as radical artists like nothing better than baiting the bourgeoisie, Mr Buckley was at his happiest baiting the liberal establishment. His first book, “God and Man at Yale”, which he published shortly after graduating, took aim not just at his alma mater but at the academic elite in general.

The book turned him into a national sensation, with students queuing around the block to buy it and grandees such as McGeorge Bundy denouncing its author as a “twisted and ignorant young man”. It also linked two of the themes that were to drive forward the rise of the conservative movement—opposition to Keynesian economics (the man part of the book's title) and dislike of secular intellectuals (the God part).

Mr Buckley's second quality was his patrician style. He was a leading adornment of the establishment he liked to excoriate. He sailed his own boat and holidayed in St Tropez and St Moritz. He liked to hang out with such liberal luminaries as J.K. Galbraith (in the local book store in Gstaad, where they both went skiing, they would battle to get their books the best spot in the window). His wife, Patricia, was one of New York's leading socialites. Mr Buckley managed to be every liberal's favourite conservative as well as every conservative's favourite conservative.

Mr Buckley put both qualities on display in his television appearances. As the host of “Firing Line” from 1966 to 1999 he pioneered a type of televised political mud-wrestling that has since become tedious but was once regarded as ground-breaking. His style was all his own—he spoke in languid sentences, adorned with erudite allusions and polysyllabic flourishes, in an accent that had a touch of English-aristo. But he was not above raw populism. He was infamous for using the word “queer” on television (during a debate with Gore Vidal).

This belies the third thing that made him important—an inner core of seriousness. Mr Buckley was in it for more than the champagne. He was a committed Catholic, as were many of those around him at the Review. He felt that modern liberalism was corroding the foundation of Western civilisation, no less. For him, first things always came first.

Remembering the Mentor
Buckley’s greatest talent was friendship. The historian George Nash once postulated that he wrote more personal letters than any other American, and that is entirely believable. He showered affection on his friends, and he had an endless stream of them, old and young. He took me sailing, invited me to concerts and included me at dinners with the great and the good.

He asked my opinion about things, as he did with all his young associates, and he worked hard on polishing my writing. My short editorials would come back covered with his red ink, and if I’d written one especially badly there might be an exasperated comment, “Come on, David!”

His second great talent was leadership. As a young man, he had corralled the famously disputatious band of elders who made up the editorial board of National Review. He changed the personality of modern conservatism, created a national movement and expelled the crackpots from it.

If you were a terrorist,...

"Sooner or later we're going to see a Cessna programmed to fly into a building," said Rear Adm. Chris Parry, who formed the Ministry of Defense's Development, Concepts and Doctrine Center in 2005. He said small, remotely piloted planes or even converted model aircraft were "ideal weapons" for terrorists because they are easy to build and could evade radar.

Experts warn of robotic terrorism

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lincoln-Douglas debates

Allen C. Guelzo on The Daily Show - Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858

The Book-
Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America

"Hussein" Obama

Rove: Don't "Hussein" Obama

Theistic Evolution

The most controversial part of his speech came, however, when he began to challenge each religious perspective of evolution in an attempt to demonstrate the ability to simultaneously appreciate God and science. To begin, Collins made a surprisingly strong scientific case for the existence of evolution. Showing a chart of the chromosomes of humans and chimpanzees, he made it visually clear that the only difference was the very long human chromosome two, compared to that of the chimpanzee. Each chromosome has a very specific sequence at the tip called a telomere; Collins showed that the human chromosome two has a telomere embedded in the middle, evidence that somewhere in the evolutionary process, there had been a fusion. So how can we reconcile faith with this undeniable evolution? Atheism, Collins argued, “takes a position of knowledge we don’t really have.” If we admit that we know such a tiny amount about the world, how can we know for sure that God doesn’t exist? Creationism, on the other hand, should be thought of as St. Augustine explained it: “we shouldn’t insist on a particular interpretation because if we find out it is wrong, then we fall with it.” Believing the Bible’s creation story literally then, according to Collins, is incorrect. When questioned later about the existence of Adam and Eve, he even hesitatingly offered the view that perhaps they were more representative of something that happened across species, since our genetic gene pool suggests that we are actually descended from a group of 10,000 people in Africa.

Collins’ attack on Intelligent Design was one of the most thought provoking, calling it “interesting but ultimately flawed.” One of his main critiques was with the theory of “irreducible complexity,” which argues that cerain structures cannot have evolved piece by piece because a removal of any part of the structure causes the functioning of the entire structure to collapse. Implicit in the theory is the belief that such “irreducibly complex” systems could not have evolved sequentially but must have been created as a unit, a challenge to evolution. To counter this argument, Collins cited renowned proponent of intelligent design William Dembski’s example of the bacterial flagellum, which is made of a number of proteins; if one B2 protein is knocked out, the whole stops working. And yet, he claimed, evolution works in steps, and it is possible that each of the proteins in the flagellum is descended from a different form in other organisms. If the exact mechanism of this evolution seems a little vague, Dembski justified his own position in an interview with The Stanford Review, “[advocates of the evolution of the flagellum] imagine possible precursors to the flagellum (such as the type-III secretory system), but neither specify how many intermediate systems with different functions would have had to intervene in evolving from one to the other, nor do they quantify the number of genetic changes that would have been needed, nor do they show that such changes would have provided selective advantage, as required by Darwinian theory.”

Ultimately, Collins offered his own way to reconcile faith and science: Theistic Evolution. In this vein, God created the universe 13.7 billion years ago with its “parameters tuned to allow the development of complexity over time,” meaning that God planned to include evolution, including the evolution of human beings. After evolution had “prepared a sufficiently advanced ‘house’” in the human being (the human brain), God gifted humanity with the knowledge of free will, good and evil, and a soul. God used DNA as an information molecule; thus DNA is the language of God.

There is an obvious way to reconcile the two, Collins shows, through a rejection of extremes, and an embrace of “harmony in the middle.” Appealing as this may sound, it remains to be seen whether believers in the Bible as the Word of God can reject the idea of Adam and Eve in lieu of a mutated chimpanzee who, one day, received the extraordinary gift of human intelligence.

-The Language of God: Francis Collins Speaks at Stanford

Jeffrey Lang on evolution in Islam

Assorted on India

Percy S Mistry: Let us not repeat post-1997
There is a germ of truth in criticism of the current financial crises in the US and UK. But it is obscured by layers of exaggeration and misrepresentation to make the point that 'sophisticated' financial markets are inherently dangerous, and to imply that India has avoided a similar fate by opting for primitivism instead. These outrageous portrayals by critics of reform opportunistically assailing �market fundamentalism� for the problems it creates through episodic market failures run the risk of throwing the baby out with the bath water. If heeded, propagandists for the Indian middle-path, who are genetically inclined toward advocating heterodox intermediate regimes, risk doing serious damage to India and its financial system.

What has happened as a result of unsustainable policies (simultaneous budget and current account deficits, and loose monetary and fiscal policies) in the US is that a huge liquidity bubble of $7-10 trillion has caused massive inflation in global prices for all asset classes: property, stocks, commodities, etc. The process of unwinding has now begun, with large declines in valuations of US property. How will unwinding proceed in other asset markets and especially emerging markets like India�s? That is a question that we will be preoccupied with as 2008 unfolds. But it should not be a question that deflects us from the urgency of continued financial reform. India needs to take its rightful place quickly in the world of financial service exports. It can provide financial services more efficiently than most other countries. It would be a waste of talent and opportunity not to exploit that comparative/competitive advantage.

But, to do so, India must have an open capital account, with capable and efficient markets, world-class institutions and responsive regulators, not overbearing ones wedded to antediluvian modes of command-and-control, without making the effort to be more modern about risk management, and thus more inclined toward intelligent and subtle interventions. State ownership in countries like India (which is not Singapore) is inherently and structurally unconducive to efficiency, innovation, competitiveness, or probity. For that reason it needs to withdraw from finance. Keeping all this in mind, the agenda for continued reform is large and complex; nothing should be permitted to deflect us from the goal of achieving it � certainly not obdurate and obtuse analysis of what the 2007 crisis does and does not teach us!

Dr. Zareer Masani asks if India's economic boom can be sustained
- and whether the rural poor will benefit. (Podcast available for limited time)

India, service delivery and aid

Stiglitz interview on the real cost of Iraq War

The economist Joseph Stiglitz on what the Iraq war has really cost (podcast will not be available for long- so download now)

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict
by Joseph E. Stiglitz , Linda J. Bilmes

Iraq’s 100-Year Mortgage
March 19 marks the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The American death toll—nearly 4,000 soldiers in Iraq and almost 500 in Afghanistan—is well known. Much less attention has been paid to the enormous number of troops who have survived and returned home with serious injuries. Here, the numbers are truly staggering. More than 70,000 have been wounded in combat, injured in accidents, or airlifted out of the region for emergency medical care. More than a third of the 750,000 troops discharged from the military so far have required treatment at medical facilities, including at least 100,000 with mental health conditions and 52,000 with post-traumatic stress disorder. According to a recent U.S. Army estimate, as many as 20 percent of returning soldiers have suffered mild brain injuries, such as concussions. More than 20,000 troops have survived amputations, severe burns, or head, spinal, and other serious injuries.

These numbers are largely due to the extraordinary advances in battlefield medicine in recent years. Far more soldiers are surviving even grievous injuries than in previous conflicts. The ratio of wounded in combat to killed in Iraq is 7 to 1; in Vietnam, it was 2.6 to 1, and in World War II, 2 to 1. If all injuries are included, such as those from road accidents or debilitating illnesses, Iraq has produced 15 wounded for every single fatality. This higher survival rate is, of course, welcome news, but it leaves the United States with a legacy of providing medical care and paying disability benefits to an enormous number of veterans and their dependents for many decades to come. During the past six years, more than 1.6 million troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Even in the most optimistic scenario, assuming that the majority of U.S. troops are withdrawn by the end of 2009, the cost of providing for Iraq War veterans will match what we have spent waging the war: approximately $500 billion. If U.S. forces remain deployed at a higher level, the cost of caring for veterans will eventually exceed $700 billion.

When we think about the costs of war, we tend to focus on the here and now. But in what is already the second-most expensive conflict in U.S. history, after World War II, the costs of Iraq will persist long after the last shot is fired. Benefits were still being paid to World War I veterans until January 2007, when the last veteran receiving compensation died, nearly 90 years after the war ended. The United States pays more than $12 billion each year in disability benefits to Vietnam veterans, a figure that continues to climb, 35 years after the U.S. pullout. If these past wars are any guide, Americans will undoubtedly be paying for Iraq for at least the next 50 years.

Your Macroeconomics Briefing for the Day

That '70s Show by ALLAN H. MELTZER
Is the Federal Reserve an independent monetary authority or a handmaiden beholden to political and market players? Has it reverted to its mistaken behavior in the 1970s? Recent actions and public commitments, including Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's testimony to Congress yesterday -- where he warned of a steeper decline and suggested that more rate cuts lie ahead -- leave little doubt on both counts.

An independent central bank is supposed to maintain the value of the currency and prevent inflation. In the 1970s and again now, Federal Reserve officials repeatedly promised themselves and each other that they would lower inflation. But as soon as the unemployment rate ticked up a bit, the promises were forgotten.

People soon recognized that avoiding possible recession overwhelmed any concern about inflation. Many concluded that inflation would increase over time and that the Fed would do little more than talk. Prices and wages fell very little in recessions. The result was inflation and stagnant growth: stagflation.

It's beginning to happen again. Unlike the response of wages and prices in the low inflation 1990s, expectations of rising inflation now delay or stop price and wage adjustment, inhibiting growth.

"Does Stabilizing Inflation Contribute to Stabilizing Economic Activity?"

The Importance of Economic Education and Financial Literacy
- Mishkin
The Federal Reserve's mission of conducting monetary policy and maintaining a stable financial system depends upon the participation and support of an educated public. Accomplishing this mission involves trade-offs and tough decisions. As the Fed pursues the monetary policy objectives that have been set out for us by Congress--to pursue price stability, maximum employment, and moderate long-term interest rates--it is essential that the public understand our objectives and our actions. Educating the public about the reasoning behind our decisions helps build confidence in our economic system--another critical factor in keeping our economy running smoothly

Not (Yet) a 'Minsky Moment'

Will East Asia suffer the US slowdown?

Roubini: FHLB Lending ‘Reckless’

Fed Critiques: Too Timid or Too Aggressive?

Ofheo vs. Case-Shiller: A Primer

Your friendly neighbourhood inflation

More bad news on inflation, and yet Bernanke signals faster money growth

More on the Inflation Debate

Bernanke's tightrope act

Bernstein Blames `Too Much Math' for Subprime Crisis

Peter Morici Says U.S. Economy In a `Lot of Trouble'

Chertkow Sees Dollar Falling Below $1.55 Versus Euro

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Ideas for Drug traffickers

Using submarines- one can have 250 million dollars worth of drug

Self-Fulfilling in Hollywood

My former colleague at the London Business School, Olav Sorenson (now at the University of Toronto), together with his colleague David Waguespack, examined distributors in the US film industry. Distributors have certain pre-conceived ideas about what films will be a success at the box office – for instance, the number of stars in the film, the actors’ prior successes, previous experience of the production team, etc.

When Sorenson and Waguespack analysed data on over 5000 movies, they discovered that these distributors seemed correct in their beliefs; films that corresponded to their prior beliefs indeed reaped more revenues at the box office.

Yet, then Sorenson and Waguespack did a clever thing; they also analysed the scarce resources that these distributors assigned to their films, such as budget, promotion efforts, number of screens on opening day, favourable timing in the year (e.g. around Christmas many more people go to the cinema). What they found was striking: The reason why those films that the executives had high hopes for beforehand indeed did become successes could 100 percent be explained by the fact that the distributors in their subsequent allocation of resources very significantly favoured them.

When Sorenson and Waguespack, in their statistical analysis, corrected for the fact that distributors assigned so much of their scarce resources to those films, it turned out that the executives' assessments were completely wrong; those films usually did comparatively worse at the box office! The only reason why the films that they beforehand had thought would become successes indeed did reap "profits" is because they assigned more resources to them. Yet, they would have been better off assigning the scarce resources to the other movies. The executives' prior beliefs were false; they just seemed correct afterwards due to their own, self-confirming actions.

via Freek Vermeulen's blog -an Associate Professor of Strategic & International Management at the London Business School.

Martin Wolf's new book- Fixing Global Finance

I have just completed a book, to be called Fixing Global Finance, which deals with many of these issues. (It is to be published by Johns Hopkins University Press in the US and Yale University Press in the UK and should appear this summer. So now you have my plug!)

I am certainly closer to the Rodrik-Subramanian position now than five years ago. But I remain of the view that free capital flows have some desirable consequences, including a degree of autonomy vis a vis the overweening or predatory state and a stimulus to institutional development.

The big question, however, is: what is to be done? I do not agree with the idea of handing over exchange-rate issues to the World Trade Organisation. That would grossly overload it, so risking its destruction. Nor do I think the IMF can do much about “global imbalances” either. But it would be desirable if the IMF staff were at least allowed to declare openly and clearly that particular countries have grossly undervalued exchange rates or that their intervention policies are indefensible. This would be the power of moral suasion.

Apart from this I have three comments.

First, this is a matter for individual countries to decide. Capital account liberalisation should neither be forced on countries nor should they be prevented by others. Outside advisers, including official advisers, should analyse the pros and cons against the particular circumstance of the country concerned and offer advice on the feasibility of the set of policies proposed.

Second, capital inflows are not a substitute for an adequate level of domestic savings. Promoting the latter is an important policy priority (though not to the excessive levels now seen in China).

Third, countries should normally discourage domestic borrowing in foreign currency, unless they adopt the foreign currency for domestic monetary use. Otherwise, countries should restrict capital inflow to direct investment, portfolio equity and domestic-currency-denominated lending. The fact that the US borrows in dollars makes the consequences of the crisis smaller and the ease of dealing with it far greater.

This last point is a central argument of my book. (Of course, I know others have made the same point, notably Morris Goldstein and Philip Turner.)

Watch a talk of him on the topic

The Making of Dani Rodrik, political scientist

So within two months of arriving at Harvard, I set my sights on political science, which seemed like a lot more fun. The test was going to be survival in Harvey Mansfield's political philosophy course--required of all concentrators.

At the time, Harvey Mansfield and Michael Walzer alternated as the instructors of this course. Aside from obvious differences in political orientation, these two also differed greatly in their grading policy. One of the first things that Mansfield did on the first day of class was to write down on the board the grade averages in the course over the last few years. The see-saw pattern was obvious: you didn't need to run a regression to know that the Mansfield dummy was negative and statistically significant. Mansfield looked at the class and smiled. We nervously smiled back.

In fact, Mansfield was soon to become (or perhaps was already, I do not remember) the Chair of the department. So he extended his Quixotic fight against grade inflation throughout the Gov department. When graduating students complained that their low grade average--relative to concentrators in other departments--was hurting their graduate school placement, the result was that we all got a letter from Mansfield inserted in our file explaining that the Gov department was different, and that grades really meant something here.

But I persevered as a Gov concentrator. I did take a minor in economics thanks to my father's prodding. (My father still had hopes that I would go to business school and do something useful in life.) I stayed with Gov because the rest of the program was so fantastic and stimulating. The courses I took with Stanley Hoffman, Joel Migdal, Joe Nye, James Q. Wilson, Sidney Verba were mind expanding. I am, I think, a far better economist for having studied political science early on.

Not so related;
Saving Christmas from the economists.

There will be Floods

Indeed, there are more than 100 antiquated earthen berms across the country in danger of collapsing. What happened in Nevada is a harbinger of a much larger problem nationwide.

In Texas City, Tex., for instance, levees protect 50,000 residents and $6 billion worth of property, including almost 5 percent of the nation’s oil-refining capacity. Imagine the consequences, in this day of $100-a-barrel oil, if those defenses fail.

Even more vulnerable are the 1,100 miles of levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, north of San Francisco. Cobbled together 150 years ago to provide farmland, they are now part of an intricate, fragile system that supplies fresh water to California, the eighth-largest economy in the world.

On a recent visit, I noticed that the water had risen nearly to the top of the levee on one side, while the land had subsided at least 30 feet below on the other side. The water pressure against the decrepit berm was palpable. Should the levee crack, be overtopped by a storm or liquefied by an earthquake, saltwater will surge inland, destroying lives, perhaps flooding Sacramento and paralyzing California.

A year ago the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which builds and maintains many of these levees, admitted that 122 are at risk of failure. California, with 37 at-risk levees, and Washington State, with 19, are the worst off. But the list includes levees near Albuquerque, Detroit, Hartford, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Omaha and Washington....

But water is an inexorable force that, sooner or later, will assert itself. This is a lesson others have taken to heart. In 1953, a hurricane in the North Sea breached dikes and flooded the Netherlands, setting off a period of national soul-searching. Realizing that they had suffered from poor engineering and communication, the Dutch spent billions of dollars to create a world-class flood control system and are now armed for a once-in-10,000-year event.

The United States isn’t even prepared for a once-in-100-year event. In light of climate change, we need to emulate the Netherlands and make flood protection a national priority.

-There Will Be Floods

American kids getting older younger

In a study last year, 55 percent of 6- to 9-year-old girls said they used lip gloss or lipstick, and nearly two-thirds said they used nail polish, according to Experian, a market research company based in New York. In 2003, 49 percent of 6- to 9-year-old girls said they used lip gloss or lipstick.

Youth market analysts say this is part of a trend called KGOY, “kids getting older younger,” and cultural observers describe a tandem phenomenon, more-indulgent parents.

The end of a miracle in UK?

Axel Leijonhufvud, the Swedish-born economist, once made an insightful observation about inflation targeting. It worked better in practice than it did in theory, he said. I feel the same about the UK economy. Given what we have long known - about the country's relatively low productivity growth rate and the erosion of its scientific and engineering excellence - the British economy should clearly not have performed quite as well as it did for the past 15 years. Economic theory would suggest that this was not possible.

In the next few years, I expect the UK economic miracle to be exposed for what it was: an overlong joyride on the back of an overlong asset price bubble. The UK economy is about to undergo a downturn at least as large as that of the US - maybe even worse, because of an even more inflated housing market and because the financial sector constitutes a larger share of gross domestic product.

According to my calculations, UK residential property prices are about 30 per cent above their trend in real terms. If the trend has not changed in the past few years, that would suggest that inflation-adjusted prices could fall by up to 40 per cent from peak to trough.

Of course, it is possible that the trend has changed, that cool Britannia has attracted so many foreign buyers that the trend line may have shifted higher forever. But foreign buyers can leave just as quickly as they arrive and their presence is related to the health of the financial sector. My guess is that the half-century-old trend line is still approximately right.

Moreover, the trend is consistent with several other indicators, such as the ratio of house prices to rents achieved, which in the UK has recently been about two-thirds above its long-term average. Whatever explanations one might come up with in defence of higher house prices, they cannot conceivably explain why house prices should be out of line with rents forever.

A house price crash would take time to unfold. Assuming a constant inflation rate of 2 per cent a year, nominal house prices would have to go down by about an unprecedented 25 per cent if the decline stretched over six years. Remember: the first stages of a housing downturn consist of denial followed by anger. A fall in actual prices is a relatively late-stage phenomenon of a housing crash.

-Britain can no longer depend on being cool

The Chilean Democratic Model

Globalization, Development and Democracy: The Chilean Democratic Model
Manuel Castells

Podcast for the Bureaucrat

How Institutions Can Innovate--Creativity in the Public Sector
Michael R. Peevey
President of the California Public Utilities Commission

In case you didn't see the Oscars

Best Documentary: When Harry Water-Boarded Sally

Memo to the President Elect

Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership
by Madeleine Albright

Chapter 1: A mandate to lead
memorandum (personal and confidential)
To: The President Elect
From: Madeleine K. Albright
Date: Election Night, 2008

Congratulations on your success. Well done! You have won a great victory. But with that victory comes the responsibility to lead a divided nation in a world riven by conflict and inequity, wounded by hate, bewildered by change, and made anxious by the renewed specter of nuclear Armageddon.

In days to come, leaders you’ve never heard of, from countries you can barely locate, will assure you of their friendship and offer you assistance. My advice is to accept, for you will need help.

We Americans like to think of ourselves as exemplars of generosity and virtue, but to many people in many places, we are selfish, imperious, and violent. The voters will want you to transform this perception while also protecting us, defeating our enemies, and securing our economic future — in other words, to do as promised during your campaign.

The president of the United States has been compared to the ruler of the universe, a helmsman on a great sailing ship, the Mikado’s Grand Poo-bah, a lonely figure immersed in “splendid misery” (Jefferson’s description), and “the personal embodiment [of the] ... dignity and majesty of the American people” (William Howard Taft’s).

Students of the office have identified an array of presidential roles: commander in chief, master diplomat, national spokesperson, head administrator, top legislator, party leader, patron of the arts, congratulator of athletic teams, and surrogate parent. Your political advisors will want you to focus on activities that will keep your poll numbers high and get you reelected. I urge you to concentrate on duties that will restore our country’s reputation and keep us safe.

On January 20, 2009, you will place your hand on the Bible and, prompted by Chief Justice Roberts, swear in front of three hundred million Americans and six billion people worldwide to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Following George Washington’s example, you will add a heartfelt “so help me God.” The oath completed, you will become the world’s most powerful person. It will no longer be happenstance when you enter a room and the band strikes up “Hail to the Chief.” You have attained our nation’s highest office; the question, not yet answered, is whether you have what it takes to excel in the job.


Eight years ago, as the second millennium drew to a close, the outlook for America could not have been brighter. The world was at peace, the global economy healthy, and the position of the United States unparalleled. The platform on which George W. Bush ran for president in 2000 referred to the era as “a remarkable time in the life of our country.” Colin Powell, the incoming secretary of state, told Congress, “We will need to work well together because we have a great challenge before us. But it is not a challenge of survival. It is a challenge of leadership. For it is not a dark and dangerous ideological foe we confront, but the overwhelming power of millions of people who have tasted freedom. It is our own incredible success that we face.”

Like any inheritance, incredible success can be invested productively or not. Tragically, America’s political capital has been squandered. When comparing notes with former cabinet members — Democrat and Republican alike — I have seen people shake their heads in disbelief at the manner in which presidential power has been misused. The consensus question: What could they have been thinking? From day one, the wrong people were in top positions. The decision-making process was distorted or bypassed. Ideological conformity was valued over professionalism, and falsehoods were allowed to masquerade as truth. Principles that are central to America’s identity were labeled obsolete, and historic errors were made without accountability. Important national security tools, including diplomacy, were set aside. I had hoped that President Bush would salvage his administration during its final years, but the gains made were both belated and marginal. Sad to say, you will enter office with respect for American leadership lower than it has been in the memory of any living person.

As a child in Europe, I hid in bomb shelters while Nazi planes flew overhead. Listening to the radio, I exulted at the voice of Churchill and the wondrous news that American troops were crossing the Atlantic. I was seven years old when Allied forces hit the beaches at Normandy and later repelled Hitler’s army at the Battle of the Bulge. By the time the war was won I was eight, anxious to discover what peace might be like, and already in love with Americans in uniform.

To Abraham Lincoln, the United States was “the last best hope of Earth.” To me, it will always be the land of opportunity. I could not imagine wanting to live anywhere else, nor conceive what the twentieth century would have been like without my adopted country. That is why it is so disturbing to learn of reports that most people in most countries now believe that America “provokes more conflicts than it prevents” and that we have a “mainly negative” influence in the world.

The tragic blunder of Iraq stands out, but there have been others — neglect of our allies, overreliance on the military, allowing the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to be the face of America. Yes, we have an excuse: the world is different now, but that is all the more reason to be mindful of proven strengths. The terrorist outrage of 9/11 was shocking, but we have lived for decades with the knowledge that death could arrive from across the sea. The attacks were cause for grief and anger, and for reassessing our institutions and strategies; they were not good reason for panic or for abandoning our principles when we needed them most.

After 9/11, the Bush administration started well but soon forgot who our country’s most serious enemies were. Many Americans were convinced that we had invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. Thus a majority felt that confronting Hussein would strike a blow against Al Qaeda. Many agreed with the president that the world could be divided neatly into those aligned with the United States and those cheering on the terrorists. Many admired the president’s certainty even as we came to have doubts about what he seemed most certain about.

I am an optimist who worries a lot. The reasons for worry surround us, some hidden, others visible daily on CNN, Fox News, and Al-Jazeera. The turbulence and vitriol may seem overwhelming. The poison of hate is in the air. Still, my overriding message to you as you prepare to assume the presidency is to have confidence in who we are and what we believe, for, even in my lifetime, we have faced graver risks, kept our nerve, and overcome.

We might assume that a memo such as this, if written half a century ago, would have painted a picture of a safe and strong America. After all, Osama bin Laden was, at that time, still an infant. Al Qaeda did not exist, and international terrorism was not a major concern. The United States was the unchallenged leader of the free world. The globe, itself, was less complicated and slower paced. Yet in the 1950s, George Kennan wrote that “Our national consciousness is dominated at present by a sense of insecurity.” Walter Lippmann worried that “We are living in an age of disorder and upheaval. Though the United States has grown powerful and rich, we know in our hearts that we have become ... insecure and anxious .... For we are not sure whether our responsibilities are not greater than our wisdom.” Even my favorite college text concluded gloomily that “Only the most stubborn and obtuse would venture optimistic predictions for the future ... men everywhere are gripped by fear ... man’s technical knowledge and capacity have outstripped his moral capacity.”

This foreboding was traceable not to human failures but to human ingenuity. The advance from the conventional to the nuclear bomb was of a magnitude greater than any since the first short-tempered man picked up a piece of wood and used it as a club. From Hiroshima on, the possibility of immediate, collective extinction became a part of our lives. We worried that the knowledge and means to build nuclear weapons would spread rapidly; some felt it a sign from God that the end of the world was at hand.

We were anxious, as well, that the American dream was not living up to its billing. While a comic book Superman fought for “truth, justice and the American way,” our international adversaries labeled us as greedy and racist. We didn’t wholly disagree. “The superiority of our way of life,” the political theorist Hans Morgenthau wrote fifty years ago, “is no longer as obvious either to us or to the rest of the world as it used to be. To hundreds of millions of people, the communist way of life appears to be more attractive than ours....”

You want to be an Executive Coach

Books on executive coaching

Reports Watch

Europe in a Globalised World
Chapter 1
The European Economy: Macroeconomic Outlook and Policy
Chapter 2
How much real dollar depreciation is needed to correct global imbalances?
Chapter 3
The effect of globalisation on Western European jobs: curse or blessing?
Chapter 4
Industrial policy
Chapter 5
Global warming: The neglected supply side

Hedge Funds: Regulators and Market Participants Are Taking Steps to Strengthen Market Discipline, but Continued Attention Is Needed

Since the 1998 near collapse of Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM), a large hedge fund--a pooled investment vehicle that is privately managed and often engages in active trading of various types of securities and commodity futures and options--the number of hedge funds has grown, and they have attracted investments from institutional investors such as pension plans. Hedge funds generally are recognized as important sources of liquidity and as holders and managers of risks in the capital markets. Although the market impacts of recent hedge fund near collapses were less severe than that of LTCM, they recalled concerns about risks associated with hedge funds and they highlighted the continuing relevance of questions raised over LTCM. This report (1) describes how federal financial regulators oversee hedge fund-related activities under their existing authorities; (2) examines what measures investors, creditors, and counterparties have taken to impose market discipline on hedge funds; and (3) explores the potential for systemic risk from hedge fund-related activities and describes actions regulators have taken to address this risk. In conducting this study, GAO reviewed regulators' policy documents and examinations and industry reports and interviewed regulatory and industry officials, and academics. Regulators only provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO has incorporated into the report as appropriate.

Under the existing regulatory structure, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission can provide direct oversight of registered hedge fund advisers, and along with federal bank regulators, they monitor hedge fund-related activities conducted at their regulated entities. Since LTCM's near collapse, regulators generally have increased reviews--by such means as targeted examinations--of systems and policies of their regulated entities to mitigate counterparty credit risks, including those involving hedge funds. Although some examinations found that banks generally have strengthened practices for managing risk exposures to hedge funds, regulators recommended that they enhance firmwide risk management systems and practices, including expanded stress testing. Regulated entities have the responsibility to practice prudent risk management standards, but prudent standards do not guarantee prudent practices. As such, it will be important for regulators to show continued vigilance in overseeing hedge fund-related activities. According to market participants, hedge fund advisers have improved disclosures and transparency about their operations since LTCM as a result of industry guidance issued and pressure from investors and creditors and counterparties (such as prime brokers). But market participants also suggested that not all investors have the capacity to analyze the information they receive from hedge funds. Regulators and market participants said that creditors and counterparties have generally conducted more due diligence and tightened their credit standards for hedge funds. However, several factors may limit the effectiveness of market discipline or illustrate failures to properly exercise it. For example, because most large hedge funds use multiple prime brokers as service providers, no one broker may have all the data necessary to assess the total leverage of a hedge fund client. Further, if the risk controls of creditors and counterparties are inadequate, their actions may not prevent hedge funds from taking excessive risk. These factors can contribute to conditions that create systemic risk if breakdowns in market discipline and risk controls are sufficiently severe that losses by hedge funds in turn cause significant losses at key intermediaries or in financial markets. Financial regulators and industry participants remain concerned about the adequacy of counterparty credit risk management at major financial institutions because it is a key factor in controlling the potential for hedge funds to become a source of systemic risk. Regulators have used risk-focused and principles-based approaches to better understand the potential for systemic risk and respond more effectively to financial shocks that threaten to affect the financial system. For instance, regulators have collaborated to examine some hedge fund activities across regulated entities. The President's Working Group has taken steps such as issuing guidance and forming two private sector groups to develop best practices to enhance market discipline. GAO views these as positive steps, but it is too soon to evaluate their effectiveness.

Conditional Cash Transfer Program- a Primer

Conditional Cash Transfer Program (from World Bank)
Called Conditional Cash Transfer, it is a big success in Brazil, Bangladesh and Mexico where it is helping thousands of families. In this podcast Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs of the Big Apple, Conceptión Gándara of Opportunidades, Mexico and our very own Laura Rawlings of the World Bank discuss the program.

William F. Buckley Is Dead

Tributes to William F. Buckley, Conservative Icon

Niall Ferguson on Amartya Sen's comments

Dear Sir,

I cannot let Amartya Sen's otherwise enjoyable piece (Imperial Illusions, December 31) pass without a protest at his misuse of me as a straw man. Professor Sen may find Empire "rather didactic". He may even be justified in calling it "a guarded but enthusiastic celebration of British imperialism." But it is a complete misrepresentation to imply, as he does, that I have argued anywhere that "Americans [should] be inspired by ... early British rule in India". On the contrary, the first chapter of my book Empire pulls no punches in its account of Clive's role. Indeed, Professor Sen's account and my account of the era of Company rule have a strikingly large amount in common, though for some reason he does not acknowledge it.

Throughout Empire, I make it clear that I am on the side of Adam Smith, not Robert Clive. The British Empire (as opposed to "imperialism", a term of abuse) was only benign in so far as it promoted free trade, free migration and free capital mobility. It did not do those things until the mid-nineteenth century. Only then is it possible to speak of a "liberal empire." Only that empire offers any lessons for present-day America.

I quite agree, and have said myself, that any assessment of the costs and benefits of British rule in India needs to make the counterfactual(s) explicit. No one claims India would have stood still if there had been no 1757. With all due respect, however, Professor Sen's counterfactual of "Meiji India" lacks plausibility. Though I have often heard it argued, the notion seems to me utterly far-fetched that India could have adopted the Japanese route to economic and political modernization. (One might as well say, to take a European example, that Russia could have adopted the English route if only Peter the Great had read John Locke). Japan and India had scarcely anything in common. The proper comparison is surely between Mughal India and Qing China, which (with a few exceptions) was not subject to direct European rule, or between Mughal India and Ottoman Turkey. Do I need to point out that their economic performance was, if anything, worse than that of India in the period of British direct rule (1857-1947)? As for the Bengal famine of 1943, cited by Professor Sen as evidence of British misrule, he omits to mention that this was a direct result of the attack on Burma by that paragon of non-imperial modernization ... Japan.

Professor Sen is an exceedingly distinguished economist. But if there were such a thing as a Nobel Prize for history, I am afraid he would not win it.


Niall Ferguson
Harvard University

via Chapaty Mystery

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Decline in Home Prices

Levy Says U.S. Inflation to Decline as Spending Slows

This and That

The Falling Dollar Through the Eyes of John Maynard Keynes

Is monetary policy still a potent weapon against recession?

Wonks vs. hacks

The Audacity of Data

Not the time to emphasise Scotland’s fealty

Democracy, public expenditures, and the poor

Understatement is not a virtue- India

Avoiding the Portuguese Trap

A Capitalist Jolt for Charity

U.S. Among Countries Investigating Tax Evasion

The Politics of Trade in Ohio

How's Canada's Economy doing

Video Summary of Canada Article IV Consultation

Podcast for the Day

Indonesia's President Suharto, his rise and fall

The Laffer Curve- Part 2


Solomon Islands - study to support the development of a national skills training plan

Realizing Azerbaijan's comparative advantages in agriculture

Investing in oil in the Middle East and North Africa : institutions, incentives and the national oil companies

East Asian FTAs in services

Analyzing health equity using household survey data : a guide to techniques and their implementation

The effectiveness of policies to control a human influenza pandemic : a literature review

Automating financial management systems -- it's not just the hardware

Yogurt or cucumber?

A Note on Competitiveness and Structural Transformation in Pakistan

Story of Argentina

Argentina: An Economic Chronicle

India: The Past and Its Future

Lecture of the Day - Raghuram Rajan on India and its challenges and opportunities

How much progress on the fiscal deficit?
Why is service delivery particularly poor in India?

Rodrik vs Easterly on Financial Globalization

Dani Rodrik and Arvind Subramanian;

Financial globalisation has not generated increased investment or higher growth in emerging markets. Countries that have grown most rapidly have been those that rely least on capital inflows. Nor has financial globalisation led to better smoothing of consumption or reduced volatility. If you want to make an evidence-based case for financial globalisation today, you are forced to resort to indirect and speculative arguments.

It is time for a new model of financial globalisation, one that recognises that more is not necessarily better. As long as the world economy remains politically divided among different sovereign and regulatory authorities, global finance is condemned to suffer deformations far worse than those of domestic finance. Depending on context, the appropriate role of policy will be as often to stem the tide of capital flows as to encourage them. Policymakers who view their challenges exclusively from the latter perspective will get it badly wrong.

Easterly responds;

To say that there are crises because of international capital flows is not very meaningful; it is like saying there are recessions because of GDP. Dani and Arvind do not adequately address two big issues on capital flows:
(1) what are the benefits of capital flows? Usually, a voluntary movement of capital signifies a reallocation from a low-return investment to a high-return investment. This raises the rate of return to investment overall, which is usually considered to be a good thing.
(2) To what extent are international capital flow crises the symptom or the disease? They are oftentimes the symptom, so trying to control them to treat macroeconomic imbalances is like treating fevers with ice-baths. Better to confront the underlying imbalances, as Dani and Arvind sensibly recommend in the second half of their column.

What's happening in Morocco?

Morocco gets tough on Islamists

Jihadists in Jails Win Leverage Over Their Keepers
Morocco Outlaws Party

Should this photo cause a stir?

Obama Photo Causes Stir

New York Fact of the Day

A shop selling used books in New York City has turned to an unconventional group of individuals to help find rare collectibles: the homeless. The Strand Bookstore pays the homeless handsomely for their troubles.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Iran Fact of Day

Homosexual relationships are banned in Iran, but the country allows sex change operations and hundreds of men have elected for surgery to change their lives.

Sex changes have been legal in Iran since Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution, passed a fatwa - a religious edict - authorising them for "diagnosed transsexuals" 25 years ago.

Today, Iran carries out more sex change operations than any other nation in the world except for Thailand.

The government even provides up to half the cost for those needing financial assistance and a sex change is recognised on your birth certificate.

"Islam has a cure for people suffering from this problem. If they want to change their gender, the path is open," says Hojatol Islam Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia, the religious cleric responsible for gender reassignment.

He says an operation is no more a sin than "changing wheat to flour to bread".

Yet homosexuality is still punishable by death.

"The discussion is fundamentally separate from a discussion regarding homosexuals. Absolutely not related. Homosexuals are doing something unnatural and against religion," says Kariminia. "It is clearly stated in our Islamic law that such behaviour is not allowed because it disrupts the social order.

-Iran's 'diagnosed transsexuals'

Should I read the following book

Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis
by Graham T. Allison , Philip Zelikow

The Immigrant Doctor is a Criminal?

That's according Lancet;

Rich countries are poaching so many African health workers that the practice should be viewed as a crime, a team of international disease experts say in the British medical journal The Lancet. More than 13,000 doctors trained in sub-Saharan Africa are now practicing in Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia, leaving behind colleagues with impossible caseloads. African nurses and pharmacists are also sought after by clinics and drug store chains offering better pay and legal assistance with immigration, said the experts, who include the heads of several pharmacy and medicine schools in Africa. “The resulting dilapidation of health infrastructure contributes to a measurable and foreseeable public health crisis,” the article said. “The practice should therefore be viewed as an international crime.”

Econ Talk- a must listen

Sowell on Economic Facts and Fallacies

Save a Survey

To Whom It May Concern:

The President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2009 budget eliminates funding for the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). This data source, which became fully operational in 2003, is an annual survey that provides the only available information on how Americans use their time. In the view of many social scientists, it is the most important new data initiative begun by the U.S government in at least 35 years. The size of the ATUS sample was already reduced by 35 percent beginning in 2004. That was truly unfortunate, but elimination of the survey would be a far more serious loss.

The ATUS provides essential information on how Americans spend their time, including time spent caring for children, cleaning the house, working for pay, and caring for sick adults. Put simply, the ATUS is needed to expand our horizons beyond merely charting where dollars go, to charting where time goes too. Statistics on spending, jobs, incomes, and so on are undeniably important. But anyone who wants to understand the changing lives of American families, to monitor the well-being of the American population, to measure national output, productivity and other outcomes that are essential to sound economic policy-making, or to make informed social policy decisions also needs information on how our population spends its time.

Although the ATUS is a relatively new survey, it has already proven to be an invaluable component of the statistical infrastructure, giving us a unique window on ourselves and our society. Moreover, the power of the ATUS has grown as more years of data have accumulated. Every other advanced nation in the world collects time use data. If the ATUS is eliminated, American businesses, families, policymakers and researchers will lose out on critical information that can improve the quality of our lives.

We urge you to add $6.0 million to the Fiscal Year 2009 BLS budget to collect ATUS data from the full sample originally planned for the survey or, at the least, to allocate the $4.3 million needed to preserve the program in its current form.

Katharine G. Abraham
, Suzanne Bianchi,Daniel S. Hamermesh, Alan B. Krueger

via Real Time Economics

Frozen at Grand Central

via 2BlowHards

Pakistani Film in India

Pakistani film on Islam in a rare India screening

History of Evil

Mockumentary about Evil in western civilization from Ancient Greece to present day.

Cool and Funny Blog

laughing squid

A muder most foul

The couple's 2 1/2-year-old son Blake, who was found home alone, gave investigators their first clues to his mother's disappearance when he said, "Mommy's crying. Mommy broke the table. Mommy's in the rug," and later, "Daddy's mad."

-Sentencing Set for Ex-Cop in Murder Case

Religion in America

Michael Lindsay, assistant director of the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life at Rice University, echoed that view. “Religion is the single most important factor that drives American belief attitudes and behaviors,” said Mr. Lindsay, who had read the Pew report. “It is a powerful indicator of where America will end up on politics, culture, family life. If you want to understand America, you have to understand religion in America.”

-Americans Change Faiths at Rising Rate, Report Finds