on Iceland

I feel terrible for laughing but... Iceland. First they go bankrupt & now they set their island on fire. Anyone smell insurance scam? … [Read more...]

David Frum on bailouts

David Frum explains bailouts: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has accused the Obama administration, Sen. Chris Dodd, and, by implication, most other Democrats of plotting for permanent bailouts of the financial system.  He’s right. But Democrats can rightly point out that McConnell, every other member of Congress, and, indeed, just about every American citizen, want the same thing. ... A bailout, of course, is what happens when the government keeps an explicit or implicit promise to stop an institution from failing or a financial instrument from loosing its value.  And these guarantees are very common: many widely owned products—savings accounts, certificates of deposit, pensions, retail brokerage accounts, and … [Read more...]

the end of the “Third World”

World Bank president Robert Zoellick states the obvious. But the economic crash only highlighted this geo-economic shift, it did not precipitate it. "If 1989 saw the end of the 'Second World' with Communism's demise, then 2009 saw the end of what was known as the 'Third World'. We are now in a new, fast-evolving multi-polar world economy in which some developing countries are emerging as economic powers, others are moving towards becoming additional poles of growth, and some are struggling to attain their potential within this new system - where North and South, East and West, are now points on a compass, not … [Read more...]

ASEAN trade barriers fall, but will political barriers follow?

The new regional free trade agreement across ASEAN-China is off to a strong start: To date, about 99 percent of tariffs have been removed, with exemptions awarded to rice, tobacco and alcohol, along with scores of other sensitive items. Customs procedures are being harmonized and common standards applied. The regional economic integration across ASEAN has many observers comparing it to the EU. ASEAN countries have vast disparities developmentally, culturally, economically, and politically. Signatories will be absorbed at staggered dates, with the least developed countries like Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Burma to sign on 2015. Many investors are optimistic about tapping the potential high growth this particular FTA will bring, … [Read more...]

The New Idealist Social Network

The New Idealist Social Network, from the kid who co-founded Facebook and got Barrack Obama into the White House: a new social venture for connecting volunteers with their causes, Jumo. Whether the non-profit sector is ready to embrace a new social networking platform remains to be seen, especially given these organizations’ often-limited staff time and lack of familiarity with cutting edge technology. And there’s competition—Ning, for instance, allows non-profits to build their own branded social networking websites using pre-fabricated tools. But the most formidable rivals are [Chris] Hughes’ old friends at Facebook, which already offers the application Causes, on which users can donate money and promote non-profits to friends. … [Read more...]

triangulating information

Nobody has the time for lengthy research into every aspect of an issue. We all rely on public representatives in politics, in the media, whose job it is to delve into the gritty details and summarise the pertinent points for us. I usually do this by reading opposing views on a topic. But headlines are increasingly hijacked by rabid partisan politics and monied interests (especially given the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning corporate spending limits). The news is like an entertainment industry anymore (eg talk show radio). It's insidiously not limited to their viewership, diverting the national attention and precious energy away from constructive dialogue, which the country so badly needs. Being outside the country probably makes … [Read more...]

Thailand’s state of emergency

Sociologist Dr Pasuk Phongpaichit was quoted in the Bangkok Post saying that the gap between the richest and poorest families in Thailand is 13 times, higher than any other country in the ASEAN region, a record I didn't realise Thailand held. For about four weeks now, the Red Shirts (the disenfranchised poor or The National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in 2006) have been marching from the provinces into Bangkok and are agitating for fresh elections. They're still gathering strength and they've hardened their negotiating stance. Below are some links for keeping up with what's happening: Here's a good collection of stills, maps and footage of the carnage this past … [Read more...]

Wikileaks: the new journalism? the new threat to national security?

I just saw the Apache airstrike footage that recently exploded around the web, thanks to Wikileaks, a non-profit organization that serves as  a repository for sensitive, classified or otherwise secret information from often anonymous tipsters. While the video seems to reveal nothing newly horrific about the nature of war (those more familiar with military procedures and war crimes have been editorialising - rightly so - on that point eg Roger McShane of the Economist), it's more the nature in which this story was broken that interests me. The tapes being classified, no traditional journalism organisations, including Reuters, has been able for three years to bring it to the public. Wikileaks did, and it is increasingly presenting a special … [Read more...]