The Politics of the Economic Crisis

July 31, 2012 by

A useful summary of the situation as of today. But of what? What is this? We have been through many answers starting with credit squeeze, then a real estate bubble that burst, toxic assets, credit swaps, hedge funds, derivatives—bets with the money of other people, yours and mine—all finance and banking. A psychologism was added at an early stage, that of greed. Small savings banks wanted to be in it, the pattern was contagious and spread from Wall Street to the Euro zone. Bailout vs. Stimulus, Wall Street vs. Main Street.

American Warships take a Toll in the Persian Gulf

July 31, 2012 by

The American foreign policy position towards Iran risks further turmoil in the Middle East unless a middle path can be found. If not, any uni or multilateral military actions by the U.S. or its allies will devolve into an unsustainable situation. The best defence is a good offense, as the common used saying goes. An already tense scenario in the Persian Gulf took a most unfortunate turn when the USNS Rappahannock, a U.S. Navy supply ship, fired at United Arab Emirates with several Indian nationals on board. Killing one and injuring three others. All four were from Tamil Nadu.

UN Monitoring Group Report on Somalia and Eritrea

July 30, 2012 by

The approved 330 page report of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea has been released. It is my understanding that it does not differ significantly from at least two previously leaked versions of the report. The coordinator of the report was Canadian national Matt Bryden. He does not intend to coordinate the next report. Based on the earlier leaked reports, the international press focused on two issues: massive corruption in the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the fact that Eritrea has significantly reduced its support for al-Shabaab.

A One-State Solution is the only way Forward for Israel and Palestine

July 30, 2012 by

How should the world react when a supposedly democratic state can’t acknowledge a 40-year-old occupation? When US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel during a visit this weekend, he was playing into this mass delusion, and mouthing the official position of the American Zionist lobby. It is a fallacy that runs right through Israel, self-described as the Middle East’s only democracy, where a recent government-backed report by retired Supreme Court judge Edmond Levy found that its decades-long occupation of Palestinian land wasn’t an occupation at all.

Romney in Blighty: How Mitt the Twit Talks

July 30, 2012 by

Mitt Romney is now going about the business of inflating Israeli expectations as being their most staunch of friends. He had just been in London for the Olympics opening ceremony. He saw fit, on his visit to Blighty, to comment on the inadequacy of security preparations and for that matter preparations in general. “It’s hard to know just how well it will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting.” To be fair to the dizzy eyed politician (let’s adopt the vernacular – a “wazzock”), this may constitute fair comment – at least in part. London 2012 has not gone well for the security establishment, and the military has had to be called in not merely to fill a security gap, but empty seats.

How Far is the ECB Prepared to Go to Save the Euro?

July 29, 2012 by

Re-reading Mr Draghi’s market-moving remarks last Thursday, one gains a sense that the European Central Bank chief recognizes that the ECB has a banking run on its hand. Most market participants have understandably focused on Mr. Draghi’s pledge that the ECB was “ready to do whatever it takes” to preserve the single currency. “Believe me, it will be enough,” he told a conference in London. We prefer to focus on other aspects of the speech. It is particularly salient that Mr. Draghi highlights the fatal flaw of the euro zone noted by Professor Peter Garber some 14 years ago: As long as there was no perceived probability of euro exit by any euro nation, the established transfer system coupling private markets with European system of Central Bank support (Target 2, ELA, ECB repos) would function like any other monetary system in a single nation state.

After Libya, the Focus turns to Syria

July 29, 2012 by

In 1995, I had a rare opportunity to spend some time in Syria, where the Damascus Trade Fair was taking place. A normally secretive Arab country had opened its doors to a select group of Western journalists, businessmen and officials. The event was aimed at showing glimpses of a rich mix of civilizations going as far back as between 9000 and 11000 B.C., described as a Hidden Pearl of the Orient. Syria today has Muslims, Shia and Sunni; Assyrian-Syriac Christians, ethnic Kurds and Turkmen in the north; Druze in the south. People of all ethnic and religious groups live in Aleppo, the country’s most populated city. For centuries, Aleppo was the largest urban center in Greater Syria and the third largest in the Ottoman empire, after Constantinople and Cairo.

Self-Immolations Speak of Israel’s Economic Pains

July 28, 2012 by

In the past weeks, the streets of Tel Aviv have been witness to desperate people setting themselves on fire in protest against the growing social and economic inequalities and the rising cost of living in Israel. Almost one year after 400,000 Israelis filled Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard in protest at the increasing economic difficulties, a wave of civil unrest and upsurges is again encompassing the country. The latest victim of the protests was 57-year-old Moshe Silman, a disabled war veteran who sustained severe injuries after setting himself ablaze at a bus stop near Tel Aviv on July 14.

Let the Muddle Begin: Opening the London Olympics

July 28, 2012 by

It has begun. Oscar-winning Danny Boyle is one of the artistic gatekeepers who was commissioned to deal with the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, and was given £27m to do it. There was Mary Poppins, the Red Arrows, there was the Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, decked in yellow jersey in front of the Olympic bell. There was historical context thrown in, idiosyncratic twists and turns. If people find hope and happiness in such saccharine nonsense, well and good. There was certainly some bafflement to be had.

Review: Daniel Espinosa’s Easy Money

July 27, 2012 by

Easy Money is a gripping, intense, truly unnerving gangster movie with a heart or two, but heart in the mouth terror is always around the corner. The movie never let up with the fear and the violence—the hallmark of a fine thriller. And the English title was well chosen- it lays the irony on with a trowel. Not only is the cocaine/money central to this film not easily gotten, it vanishes- seized by the cops after the gang wars. And the living is not easy either—big score or no big score, just about everybody dies. Espinosa’s Easy Money has two interacting themes- the brief rise and long fall of a feral handsome cold young business school poser who believes falsely that he can join a group of gangsters and beat them at their own game with his business school smarts.

UN Monitoring Group in Somalia and the Quest of Wrongdoing

July 26, 2012 by

In surveying the political crisis facing the Somali people, one is often at a great loss, whether to attribute it to the follies of their leaders, or to the cruelty and the immorality of external forces. There are interwoven strings of conspiracy theories prevalent in Somali culture that hold colonialists as culprits for what ails Somalia (despite modern evidence that Somali governance is in shambles). A prevalent theory that is often bantered about goes like this: by and large, the Somali modern state is a scheme constructed by Western imperialists and their allies to quench their own egotistical needs.

Palestinian Refugees in Syria face a Bleak Future

July 25, 2012 by

“The flames are quickly approaching Yarmouk (as) someone is trying to drag the Palestinians into the fire,” reported Palestinian commentator Rashad Abu Shawar. Yarmouk is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. Its inhabitants make up nearly a quarter of Syria’s entire refugee population of nearly 500,000. Despite the persistence of memory and the insistence on their right of return to Palestine, the Palestinian community in Syria is, on the whole, like any other ordinary community. Of course, ‘ordinariness’ is not always a term that suits misfortunate Palestinian refugees in Arab countries.

Review: Iara Lee’s Cultures of Resistance

July 25, 2012 by

When we think of “resistance,” what mostly comes to mind is guerrilla warfare: Vietnamese closing in on the besieged French at Dien Bien Phu; Angolans ambushing Portuguese troops outside of Luanda; Salvadorans waging a war of attrition against their military oligarchy. But resistance doesn’t always involve roadside bombs or military operations. Sometimes it is sprayed on a Teheran wall, or rapped in a hip-hop song in Gaza. It can be a poem in Medellin, Colombia—arguably one of the most dangerous cities in the world—or come from a guitar shaped like an AK-47. In short, there are few boundaries or strictures when it comes to the imagination and creativity that people bring to the act of defiance.

Social Blindspot: Why Risk Models Need to Change

July 25, 2012 by

The risk landscape is undoubtedly shifting. PwC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers), invoking Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s recent book, posit that ‘Black Swans’ are increasingly ‘turning grey’. By this, they mean that previously catalytic and unforeseen events are becoming more regular; betraying an increased level of uncertainty faced by the global community in the face of growing connectivity and dependency. Their approach is to expand existing ERM (Enterprise Risk Management) frameworks ‘by innovating around them, adding tools and techniques such as scenario modelling, predictive indicators and ‘reverse stress-testing’.

Ethnic Strife in Burma: A History of Violence

July 25, 2012 by

For Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a month of peace and calmness. That is hardly the case for the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The ethnic rift between them and the ethnic Buddhists since June has spiraled out of control, leaving scores of Rohingya Muslims dead and homeless. Many have crossed the border into Bangladesh. Amnesty International’s Benjamin Zawacki said the latest violence has been “primarily one-sided, with Muslims generally and Rohingya specifically the targets and victims.” Branded by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities of the world, Rohingya’s live in the Rakhine State, located in west of Myanmar.

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