Saturday, September 29

Benefits system 'skewed against couples with children'

More contradictions galore in the welfare society. It is proven that being married is better than being single, married couples provide a better level of life than unmarried couples, a married family is better at raising a kid than an unmarried couple or single parent. Sew for example here, here, here, here, here and here. And so on and so forth.

So if that is indeed the case, then how do you explain this?

Couples with children must work four times harder to stay above the poverty line than a single mother because of the way benefits are weighed towards lone parents

or this?

The research, published next week in the Economic Affairs journal, follows another IEA report showing that couples need to bring in twice the national average income before staying together has a financial advantage. It found parents who earned less than £50,000 a year would be better off splitting up. By living apart a couple with two children under 11 could be £9,000 a year better off.

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Private schools may lose charity tax-break

As they should. See my previous post on this. Just because they are providing education does not mean that they deserve to be called as a charity. Now if they were providing education on a free basis and require government funding or actual charity or are really making a charitable contribution then yes, I can see them being called as a charity and getting tax exceptions. But when all they are doing is to run a business, with hiking their fees, etc. etc. then its a business and not a charity at all.

So this news is welcome. I quote:

Under legislation coming into force in the new year, all charities must justify their existence by proving to the Charity Commission that they make a contribution to the community.

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Affirmative Action - the contradictions galore

I read this very long article in the New York Times on how UCLA and Berkeley are going after the issue of Black Affirmative Action. So far so good. You already know my views (and here) on affirmative action so you will know that I am viscerally opposed to any form of discrimination which cannot be just, fair and equitable to all citizens.

Be that as it may, once you read the article, I had few thoughts on this.

1. Did you notice that now Asians are now lumped in with the Whites? Specially in America? And there was absolutely no mention of this fact at all. Now I wonder why would that be?

2. If I had to write this same article on the basis of say an Vietnamese, or say a Chinese, would it have the same impact? Nope.

3. I didn't realise being an Asian was a race. What race is that then?

4. I further wonder if there is a further classification? They are all African Americans, yes? But in my experience, if I go to Africa and call all Africans as Africans, they will either look at me as if I am an idiot or shoot me (or something in the middle). So how do they distinguish between an Egyptian, Somali, Nigerian and South African or Kenyan?

5. Do you further distinguish between their further ancestry? How about a Kenyan Asian African American? Or an Afrikaner South African American? Or perhaps a English Dutch Boer Afrikaner South African American? Or perhaps a Spanish English Dutch Boer Afrikaner South African American?

At end of the day, see what happened after they put in all those efforts, and I quote,

Looking at the numbers, it’s hard not to conclude that race was a factor in this year’s admissions decisions. The average SAT score for admitted African-American students fell 45 points this year, to 1,738. For Asian, Latino and white students, the averages were much more stable.

So basically after all that exercise, the fact remains that the scores were lower!, in other words? back to the original proposition that to get them educated, you have to drop the scores. So how is that just, fair and equitable?

The Indian Diaspora is coming into its own

In 2003, my Hindustan Times editor asked me to write about the growing importance of the Indian Diaspora when the first Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Overseas Indian Day) was held. My finding at that time was the concept of the Indian diaspora was not really established as strongly as we have evidence and research on say the Irish diaspora, the Jewish diaspora, the Armenian diaspora, etc.

As it so happens, wikipedia does not even have an entry for Indian diaspora. This is more because of the fact that the country is relatively new and other identify characteristics such as Hinduism, Buddhism never made such a big link with the home nation versus the diaspora. Diaspora Indians are called as Non Resident Indians.

For a long period of time, these NRI's were considered to be almost as traitors, who abandoned the mother country while they took off to pastures anew for filthy lucre. A very simplistic view because Indians have been emigrating for donkey's years and there have been diaspora populations in countries ranging from Guyana to Fiji, Russia to Australia.

Be that as it may, given the changes in economic direction, when profit and earnings are no longer swear words, and better communications, the link between the Indian diaspora and the mother country is very strong. The Pravasi Bhartiya Divas is an attempt to turn the tide and recognise the benefits of the Indian diaspora to India.

One of the aspects that was kicked off at the first occasion was to announce and then allow dual citizenships. Previously, India did not allow dual citizenships but now given this political change, it has meant that the political factors in India are now impacting the diaspora and vice versa. There are strong political links between the large populations in the Caribbean, USA, UK, etc. and India. And given the stonkingly great growth in India, everybody wants to pile on top of this bludgeoning relationship.

A recent research paper in Political Geography addresses some facets of this fascinating area. I quote some bits from the conclusion:

The empirical case-study presented a content analysis of the discourses surrounding recent changes to India's package of dual citizenship provisions. Set against the international trend (at least, pre-9/11) toward a proliferation in dual citizenship arrangements between countries, India's 2003 Dual Citizenship (Amendment) Bill signalled a change in conditions of membership, if not rights of membership. Reading India's changing dual citizenship legislation alongside background briefing reports, political speeches, and the discourse surrounding a new annual festival, we examined the basis on which parts of the overseas population are constructed as insiders, and other parts as outsiders, and traced the structure of diaspora membership to India's engagement with colonial and post-independence times and spaces. Membership revolved around professional success through participation in global networks that connect to India, the adoption of an ecumenical Hinduism, and an embrace of multicultural incorporation. Underpinning these constructs is independence and partition as key historical moments. Pre-independence emigrants are seen as temporally distant, belonging to the ‘old’ India of British subjugation. In contrast, post-independence emigrants are seen as part of the ‘new’ India, defined by their emigration for independent economic aspirations and their ability to negotiate cultural practises in de-territorialized networks.

The more general conclusion is that the current criteria defining the ‘ideal’ NRI can be seen as a reflection of how India wants to be perceived in the world: the past is re-imagined to affirm a desired future. Overall, the discourses of diasporic membership amplify the contradictions of, and tensions between cultural nationalism and religious nationalism that pervade ongoing debates about Indianness. While our focus has been on how the Indian state constructs membership in a diaspora, we have not considered how these meanings are received, resisted, and modified by communities and power structures utilising tropes of gender, religion and ethnicity (see for example, Das Gupta, 1997), nor have we examined in depth the role of private (business) actors in circulating discourses of diaspora (for example, FICCI). Here, the growth of transnational private spheres will have significant impacts upon what forms of diaspora are possible for states and overseas populations, and the social fields they seek to re-imagine. For Corbridge and Harriss (2000), the convergence of interests of the state and private sector in any “consensual” version of nation is undermined both by political decentralisation and neoliberalism. Further work might examine the intersections between these actors, noting the role of generational transmission of values and (extended) family contexts, for example. While adding the example of South Africa to the literature on state led diasporas, we recognise the value in exploring how the contingencies of other cases – including Eastern Africa, Fiji, and Malaysia – will shed further light on how experiences of migration, return migration, and colonialism have intersected in different ways.


Jen Dickinson and Adrian J. Bailey, (Re)membering diaspora: Uneven geographies of Indian dual citizenship, Political Geography, Volume 26, Issue 7, September 2007, Pages 757-774.
Abstract: Although the concept of diaspora is sometimes regarded as oppositional to the interests of existing political regimes, we argue that it can become a site where the negotiation of new terms of membership embraces the transnational and de-territorialized networks of overseas populations. Drawing on work on transnational governance, we explore the uneven geographies that accompany India's recent discussions of its dual citizenship provisions. Constructions of diaspora membership are revealed by mapping the discourses contained within the Dual Citizenship legislation of 2003, the 2003 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Overseas India Day) campaign, and the 2001 report of the Diaspora Committee onto the case of South Africa. The results suggest that the construction of diaspora membership focuses on professional success, ecumenical Hinduism, and multicultural incorporation. We also trace how diaspora membership betrays a continuing anxiety over the terms of Indianness. The results remind us that diasporic times and spaces mediate transnational governance.
Keywords: Diaspora; Transnationalism; Citizenship; State; South Africa; India; Governmentality; Membership

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If History is 'progress' as E.H. Carr suggests, how do you explain the 'progress' in warfare over the last centuries.

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E.H. Carr, in his seminal book, What is History?[1] mentions the concept, that History is a process, a river kind of structure which has a direction with an increasing magnitude. This process is directional, has certain value judgements relating to a “good” or “bad” direction, and has a magnitude in terms of ever expanding nature. In this essay, we first explore Carr’s concept of history as progress, then we go deeper into the value judgement aspect. Next we consider briefly the history of warfare over the past 200 years and finally we link the concept of progress in history with the progress in warfare.

History as Progress

Carr mentions that the ancient Greeks, such as Herodotus and Lucretius did not have a view on history, which was rather indifferent to any particular sense of significance of the past or any interest in the future. Virgil was perhaps the exception, who referred to the return to a golden age. This reference to a golden age means that they are ascribing some value judgements to the past and the present, a concept to which we will return later on. Jewish and Christian writers and historians then described a goal oriented nature of history, thus denoting meaning and purpose to it. Moving onwards, Carr mentions Gibbon, who writes “the pleasing conclusion that every age of the world has increased, and still increases, the real wealth, the happiness, the knowledge, and perhaps the virtue, of the human race”. In the early and middle part of the last century, the idea, that History is a vast, ever increasingly glowing process, changed direction and moved into “negative” territory with strong depressing prognostications of the current state and expected future of the world. Francis Fukuyama[2] is one of the more famous proponents of the idea, that history (admittedly in a limited sense of political developments) has finally reached its nadir of development and the utopian regime of liberal democracies is the best one can achieve.

This concept of history reaching an end, as Fukuyama mentions, or the Marxist proposition that the classless society is the end of political development, is not supported by Carr. The content and objective of history can only be judged on the basis of the present, only when we experience it. Calling it the end or even the beginning is inappropriate and leaves out a vast swathe of future happenings. This is not to say, that history evolves, a point which Carr makes emphatically. He makes a distinction between progress and evolution, saying that evolution is biological and is much more long term in nature and has to be considered separate from progress.

History does resemble evolution in the way that it progresses in fits and starts, has dead ends, deviates into unexpected directions and sometimes even reverses its direction. Carr mentions his time, the middle of last century, as a time when human beings were passing through a turning point. His time was a time of war, killing, dislocation and weakening of various authorities. While saying that, he ends the chapter with, “A society which has lost belief in its capacity to progress in the future will quickly cease to concern itself with its progress in the past….. our view of history reflects our view of society”.

Dimensions of Progress

As history is supposed to have both direction as well as magnitude with value judgements involved, the question arises as to how we measure this direction and magnitude. We can measure this, based on almost every branch of knowledge, from physics to chemistry, anthropology, biology, economics, sociology, mathematics etc. As an example, Fermat’s last theorem was originally propounded in the late 17th century, but its solution has exercised the minds of mathematicians ever since. Only in the past 20-30 years have recent advances given us partial solutions to the problem. This example of Fermat’s Last Theorem gives a way to measure the direction and magnitude of mathematical history particularly, but can be extended to cover overall history. We have a situation where a problem was noted, a hole in the wall of human knowledge was identified, and there were three centuries of trial and error, in which miniscule sub-bricks were laid to bridge the gap. This illustrates the direction and magnitude of human activity, which when we look back to, shows the annals of this particular part of history.

Similar examples can be taken from other fields of study, for example we have a better understanding of the physical world with the discovery of more sub-atomic particles, we can gaze deeper into space, we know more about the cretaceous era and we know more about plate tectonics. All these examples are illustrations of how knowledge has accumulated, acquiring a direction to continuously expand beyond the boundaries of scientific knowledge, gaining ever increasing magnitude. It is also generally accepted that this direction and magnitude is “good” or beneficial to human civilisation. While disagreements may occur, such as “globalisation versus localisation” or “capitalism versus communism”, humans usually agree on the goodness of the end result of knowledge development and may disagree on the means to achieve them.

However, the above mentioned examples do not explain the special case of war. Out of all the branches of knowledge, perhaps the study and practice of war is the only field where, while there are growth, direction and magnitude aspects, the goal of knowledge in this area is considered to be “bad”. To understand the concept of progress within war, we need to explore the various facets of warfare as we understand it.

The Architecture of War

clip_image004Adopting the Luttwak[3] framework (see figure) and adding the missing elements, will provide a good framework for discussing the process relating to war. It should be noted that this framework is limited, since it really does not consider peripheral factors such as the philosophy, psychological factors, manufacturing aspects etc. of war. Relying on The Encyclopaedia of Military History[4], we can track the progress on various levels

The Era of Napoleon 1800-1850

During this phase, weapons based on gunpowder, such as the bayoneted flintlock musket and smooth bore cannon, merged with suitable tactics and doctrine. Tactics evolved through the guidance of Napoleon, who applied the concept of manoeuvre with frontal and flank attacks at the same time, backed by massed artillery attacks supporting the attacking divisions and protection for exposed flanks being provided by mobile cavalry. Light infantry again gained importance with more flexible tactics, given a far more autonomous basis of operations, especially when deployed in the French infantry column structure.

The British conceived their own reply to this, in the form of two person deep ambushes, using special muskets. Military organisation improved with the creation of the division as a formation containing infantry, cavalry and artillery capable of carrying out independent operations, backed up with a good logistics train. Moving up the framework, progress happened on the theater and grand strategy level with some of the major military thinkers emerging such as Napoleon, Jomini, Clausewitz, Mahan and others.

The Emergence of the Professional 1850-1900

Moltke, Grant, Lee, Mahan and Schlieffen were the premier military minds, who pushed for the creation of professional armies with general staffs. There were rapid developments in steam power engines, rail-roads, the telegraph, breech loading artillery and better shot casting methods. All this meant that the previous strategy of full frontal assault was ruled out, and dispersal and consequent manoeuvring took place as tactical strategies. Trench warfare emerged as a way to fortify positions and cavalry disappeared, as the propensity and capability to do physical damage increased. Naval warfare changed with the introduction of armour plate, torpedoes, mines and changes in naval fleet engagements.

World War I 1900-1925

A step change in the grand strategy level occurred, from the concept of ‘a nation in arms’ to ‘a nation at war’ or total war. For the first time, political and economic considerations were at a higher level than purely military aspects. Tactical strategy was much obviated by the rapid advance in weapons technology such as the machine gun, tank, poison gas, motorised transport, and even psychological operations such as institutionalised propaganda. Clemenceau, Foch, Joffre, Pershing, Haig, Allenby, Hindenburg, Ludendorff, Falkenhayn, Nicholas, Bruislov, Trotsky, Attaturk, Oyama, Togo, Pilsudski were noted as strategic military thinkers, and the increase in good thinkers from various countries is an example of how the entire world got caught up in war. Another development was the rise in disarmament and arms control frameworks with many peace and disarmament conferences being held as institutionalised international events with a peace counterpoint.

World War II 1925-1945

Military technology accelerated dramatically and this period ended with the rise of the nuclear age. Missile technology improved in the form of bazookas and rocket propelled grenades, to full fledged ballistic missiles such as the V-1 and V2 rockets. Artillery improved as well, the concept of tank destroyers and tank squadrons was seen with one of the world’s largest tank battles fought on the steppes of Russia. Electronics came into their own with radar, asdic and radio communications significantly changing communications, enemy identification and other tactical problems. Various segments of the armed forces such as land, sea and air operations came ever closer together in integrated formations. The political and economic framework of the nation was even more closely linked in the concept of total war and nation at war. For the first time, the theater aspect of the Luttwak framework was seen clearly such as the Mediterranean, the North African, the Pacific theater, etc... Dupuy mentions the pooling effects of the allied armed forces and how it was integrated to a considerably larger degree than previously implemented. This also had a rather significant impact on the logistics train with sea logistic trains, floating repair platforms, underwater fuel pipelines etc. coming to the fore.

Another significant change happened when the politicians and civil leaders took control over the strategic military operations of the war. Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Chaing Kai-Shek and Hitler were some of the great civilian leaders of the time. Military leaders such as MacArthur, Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley, Wavell, Manstein, Tojo, Yamamoto, Model, Rundstedt, Kesselring, Patton, Rommel, Zhukov, Nimitz, Arnold etc stood out as brilliant military commanders, despite the fact that some did face defeat. Strategic objectives grew bigger in scope; wars were aimed at capture of strategic material and viewed on a grand global if not on a continental scale. Airpower was shown to have an equal if not greater impact than the land and sea arms. Siege warfare was finally put to rest.

Strategic plans assumed greater ramifications; mistakes could have severe implications and two examples of strategic surprise, Pearl Harbour and Singapore spring to mind. Tactical nature of warfare changed with armoured column manoeuvres and breakthrough tactics. Fast moving re-supply columns following on the armoured breakthrough helped to create a sustained effort. Amphibious warfare improved with specialised vehicles and ships like the LST and LSI. On the sea front, carrier battle groups came to typify the concept of projecting power while, battleships soon went to the dustbin of military history. Submarines, which were heavily used in WWI, were further extended in WW2 with corresponding developments in anti-submarine warfare. Strategic bombardment took off with commensurate impact on civilian populations and close air support doctrine was implemented in several ways, with command assigned to the ground forces or independently. Paratroops were created as a separate and discreet way of leapfrogging enemy positions and capturing strategic positions. Peacekeeping and disarmament initiatives saw the rise of the League of Nations as the first worldwide institution.

The Nuclear Superpower Age 1945 - 1990

Political and military strategy was driven by the confrontation between superpowers and given its own terminology, ‘the Cold War’. Space opened up as the fourth dimension, weapon systems and military satellites proliferated along with manned space flight. Electronic communications rapidly developed, thereby shortening the command and control framework, reducing time to transmit ideas and react to events. Colonialism withdrew with its attendant military problems and unrest in vast swathes of the world. International organisations steadily strengthened and expanded their role into humanitarian and development roles. Arms control and disarmament initiatives were launched and accepted as treaties.

Nuclear weapons changed the concept of warfare. For the first time, a weapon became a strategy in itself and became the instrument of the potential total destruction of the human race. This also had an impact on how limited wars are fought, the concept of deterrence was born and peripheral wars were the outlet to superpower confrontation. Military alliances became entrenched in the form of the Warsaw Pact and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Truman, Churchill, Eisenhower, de Gaulle, Kennedy, Kurushev, Mao, Nehru, Tito, Nasser, Ho and others were recognised as statesmen, leading military geniuses such as MacArthur, Ridgeway, and Giap. Missile technology significantly improved as did chemical and biological warfare weapons and doctrine. Helicopters were used for a multiplicity of roles, such as air cavalry, but showed vulnerability to small arms fire. Special Forces were implemented as an elite force for special missions. The perennial battle between armoured tanks and anti tank weapons continued and developed on both sides. Nuclear energy changed the equation in the sea sector. Submarines, capital ships and carriers became nuclear powered and even more powerful with better missiles, communications, targeting systems, and planes.

The Post Cold War period 1990 onwards

With the collapse of the USSR, the world moved into a unipolar arena. Initially, the peace dividend meant that armed forces were cut back significantly; peace was breaking out all over the world. Thatcher and Reagan strode the world with their win over the USSR. Gorbachev became famous for his transformation of the world, Yeltsin implemented the fundamentals of democracy and capitalism in Russia, and nuclear weapons and missiles stockpiles were reduced. On the other hand, more countries became nuclear powers, while some countries gave up on their nuclear weapon programmes. For the greater part of the period, comparative peace reigned, with the exception of minor wars around the world. The United Nations became more involved in peace enforcement and peace keeping duties, which gave rise to many changes in tactics. Military operations became inextricably linked to humanitarian assistance, in-discriminate use of military power was constrained. The Gulf War showed the value of air power combined with a revolutionary increase in electronic measures.

For the first time, non-state actors became targets for state militaries, as racial and nationalistic conflicts broke out in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Religious based fundamentalism started rising. The end of the century saw a serious upsurge in terrorism around the globe, this gave rise to asymmetric warfare that negated most of the technological superiority that the USA and the other western powers had. Airpower was used in Kosovo, Afghanistan and currently in Iraq with devastating effect, but tactics were rapidly changed with the realisation that ground troops will still be required in certain cases.

There was further development in military equipment technology with better protection in armour and missile equipment. Electronic development gave a huge boost to all military equipment within the land, sea, air and space sectors. Man got further divorced from the actual battlefield with remotely piloted vehicles on the ground, air and sea. Military planners realised that human intelligence is also as important as electronic intelligence. Electronic Intelligence, since the 1970’s, was considered to be the end all and be all of intelligence. The previous distinction between war and terrorism has blurred.

We have been discussing the physical and particular war methodology and its developments over the past 200 odd years. What we have not explored are two aspects, first is how to measure progress from a quantitative point of view and second is to try to explain why progress would occur in such a “bad” human endeavour.

How to measure progress in war?

We use some common factors to measure how war has progressed in the past 200 years. First by physical measures such as range, weight, vehicle armour plating, personal safety, increase in enemy identification, range and accuracy of projectiles and reduction in error rates, which are all indications that progress has happened. With the increase in communications technology, better surveillance, better planning techniques and computer power, armies are now better at achieving objectives as compared to 200 years past, when it was much more hit and miss. The effectiveness of the armed forces should also be compared with regard to the efficiency levels achieved during the attainment of these objectives.

While it is true that there has been a steady increase in the number of civilians killed in armed conflicts in the post war period, war has become more efficient, with relatively small numbers of uniformed casualties taken for attainment of objectives. In recent wars, with improved accuracy of munitions and careful target planning and acquisition, the relative number of civilian and military casualties has fallen. The ability to project power has increased as well. Previously power projection was limited many times by geography, but now geography is not the limiting factor, due to the presence of carrier battle groups or amphibious vehicles. As we saw, based on relatively clear measures and based on the history, progress has happened. The question now is why?

Potential Reasons for Progress in War

Waltz[5] proposes a structure for understanding the causes of war. According to Waltz, war is caused by the nature of man, the nature and structure of the state and the international system / structure of different states. There are other models and causal explanations ranging from Huntington’s clash of civilisation theory[6] to Wallerstein’s world system’s concept[7]. The reasons for war may be multifarious, seen from a secular or a religious perspective (for example, see Fr. Juan Carlos Iscara treatise[8] or the Quran[9]), but it is pretty well accepted, that war as a human activity was always there and is here to stay.

The main concern as one understands the essay question is, since Carr defined progress as something which is noble, good and praiseworthy, why would one see war (which is considered to be bad, pandering to baser instincts and condemnable) as showing signs of progress? This is where Carr’s viewpoint diverges from the others. Thinking of war as “bad” is a value judgement. On the other hand, we have already explained that war is considered to be a natural human activity. The fact that it is “bad” does not vitiate against human ingenuity or human knowledge development. For example, biological research has given rise to very needed medical knowledge, which extends human life, but at the same time allowed the misuse in form of biological weapons. As such, scientific and human knowledge is value-neutral. A plant to make pharmaceuticals can be used to make biological weapons as well. Both can be defined as progress, a “good” progressive step and a “bad” progressive step. As one would recall, Carr did mention that progress / history is not unidirectional, it stops, stutters, changes direction and magnitude just like the river image on the first page. For example, while nuclear weapons are capable of destroying the entire world, man is smart enough to know that this would lead to his own extinction and has hedged the use of nuclear weapons in, with arms control, disarmament, morals, command and control systems to name a few.

A further aspect which has not been considered is the professional aspect of the military. As Huntington[10] explains, over the past 200 years, the western military has moved from an aristocrat or mercenaries lead force, to a professional military officer corps. This meant that the selection and promotion of officers was done on the basis of their knowledge and skills. If an officer aimed at promotion (as one would expect), the officer had to show abilities in comparison with his fellow officers and hence had to analyse, develop, design and implement processes, techniques, tactics and strategy, which rendered the military more effective and efficient than previously known. Given this competition and the natural characteristic of professionals, to continuously increase their knowledge and skills, progress in war has steadily increased.

Man has been steadily evolving his knowledge across all human activities and most importantly, has the capacity to learn. This learning is what distinguishes humankind from other life-forms. We are able to learn by communication and build up on our knowledge base. Unlike other species, who mostly adapt to changing circumstances through evolution, mankind adapts by learning, by experimentation, by lateral thinking and theorising.

Given that war as a human activity has such huge implications in terms of casualties and emotions; it is inconceivable that human beings will not increase their knowledge of war. People learn from previous mistakes and mistakes in war, due to their very high cost, have an added impetus in trying to find ways to avoid repeating them. In addition, it has to be noted that most of the technical progress, like better casting and optimisation techniques, or more aerodynamic or stealthy materials are usually constructed in laboratories, far away from the trenches. The value chain is usually so long and with dual civilian military use, that the incremental impact of new developments is small and not startling. Our human civilisation places a high value on knowledge development. When this is linked up with questions of individual safety, the country’s political infrastructure, international relations or civilisation factors, progress in warfare is not only surprising but to be expected.

[1] Carr, E. H, 1961, What is History?, Palgrave, Hampshire

[2] Fukuyama, Francis, 1992, The End of History and the Last Man, Penguin Books, London

[3] Luttwak, Edward N., 1989, Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, Harvard University Press, Harvard, 2nd Edition.

[4] Dupuy RE and Dupuy TN, 1977, The Encyclopaedia of Military History, Macdonald and Company (Publishers) Limited, London

[5] Kenneth N. Waltz, Man, the State and War: A Theoretical Analysis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959),

[6] Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Making of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).

[7] Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World Economy in the Sixteenth Century (New York: Academic Press, 1974).

[8], snapshot taken on 30 March, 2003.

[9], sura 2:190, 193, 216, 22:39 snapshot taken on 30 March, 2003

[10] Huntington, S.P, 1957, The Soldier and State, The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Another Japanese textbook controversy

I talked before about the controversy in Greece over its textbook. Now another controversy has blown up in Japan over the textbooks talking about the happenings in Okinawa during the fag end of the World War II.

Suicide Cliff Monument, Okinawa

I quote:

In March, Japan's Education Ministry ordered publishers of secondary school history textbooks to delete references to coercion by Japanese troops. "There are divergent views of whether or not the suicides were ordered by the army and no proof to say either way," a ministry official told the Stars and Stripes, the US military's daily newspaper.

One passage in a textbook was changed from: "Japanese forces made [residents] commit mass suicide and kill one another using hand grenades that [the Japanese forces] had distributed." To: "Using hand grenades that Japanese forces had distributed, mass suicide and the killing of one another took place."

More than 100,000 signatures have been collected against the directive and Hirokazu Nakaima, the island's governor and a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is taking part in today's demonstration, an embarrassing snub to the central government. School children will tell the protesters why they will not use the censored textbooks and witnesses of the battle will recount their stories.

Not good, but just goes to show how little history has to do with facts and all to do with perceptions. A fascinating book on Historiography by EH Carr, What is History tells us how history is constructed. So when people think of history as facts, well, that's just one view.

I think I wrote an essay on it for my Master of Research Course in 2003, if I manage to find it, I will dig it out and post it for posterity (thereby boring the entire internet with it, rather than just my professor!).

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Internet Cafe's as your home

What a fascinating story from the Guardian! Poor casual labourers who cannot afford their homes, work on casual labour work for the day, then head towards an Internet cafe, and for a comparatively miniscule payment (£8-9), get dinner, drinks, a wash, occupy a reclining chair, Internet access and a night's stay. Not bad, but interesting social evolution of the underclass. Long article but worthwhile reading.

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Hindu and Muslim Rage boys playing cricket

India won the Twenty20 World Cup Cricket Final against Pakistan. It was a very interesting cricket match and kept us on tenterhooks till the last over. And the entire country and all expatriate Indians erupted in joy! So far so good.

But well, let us not forget that when we have morons in our midst, they will emerge somehow anyway even in the presence of happiness and joy.

Riots broke out in Rajouri, Kurnol, and other places in Kashmir, Assam, Uttarkhand, Uttar Pradesh. All because somebody wanted to celebrate, somebody did not like it, somebody thought celebrations were too loud, somebody thought some people were celebrating wrongly, or what have you. And they rioted.

I think each and every one of these people (both Hindu's and Muslim rioters) have been hit by one or more of Yuvraj Singh's monstrously huge sixers.

Uncivilised barbarians, should be locked up!

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Paying cash for dinner in highest inflation Zimbabwe

Makes a good case for carrying a card, eh? I do not suppose they worry about coin change?


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Friday, September 28

The OECD wakes up in 2007

The OECD has an interesting history. Typical of the Anglo Saxon Western World just after the World War II, it was for the western economies and countries. So in 2007, the same institutional contradictions that you see in the United Nations, World Bank, IMF, etc. are also shown up in the OECD.

The OECD brings together the governments of countries committed to democracy and the market economy from around the world to:
• Support sustainable economic growth
• Boost employment
• Raise living standards
• Maintain financial stability
• Assist other countries' economic development
• Contribute to growth in world trade

All very fine and good but all this without the presence of the huge economically big and important countries of Chile, Baltic , Israel, Russia, Slovenia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa. See the current list and think about the contribution that these countries are making to global growth. Can you imagine excluding the BRIC countries?

So they finally decided to wake up in May 2007 and I quote:

16/05/2007 - OECD countries agreed to invite Chile, Estonia, Israel, Russia and Slovenia to open discussions for membership of the Organisation and offered enhanced engagement, with a view to possible membership, to Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa. Extract from the Council Resolution on Enlargement and Enhanced Engagement (adopted by Council at Ministerial level on 16 May 2007)

Well, I suppose better late than never but tut tut!

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Fixing the Augean Stables of Afghan Judicial System

The whole edifice of civilisation rests on many pillars. One of the most important is the judicial system. There is nothing more uncivilized than having a judicial system which is delayed, wrong, biased or inconsistent in various shapes and sizes.

While in the short run, defeating the Taliban is important, in the long run, a functioning government owned and run judicial system will be the key in measuring if our true war has been successful.

Looking at the progress so far and the current situation, I am not very hopeful. I saw this research paper which goes into more detail on this issue. Matteo Tondini talks about the Rebuilding the System of Justice in Afghanistan: A Preliminary Assessment in the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, Volume 1, Issue 3 November 2007 , pages 333 - 354.

This preliminary evaluation describes the role of international assistance in the reconstruction of the Afghan judicial system. It focuses on how international policy has both sought to develop and impose externally designed central administrative models and legal codes and also to pragmatically adapt to existing, highly decentralized, practices shaped by the Islamic tradition. The research conducted suggests that international policy in this area has done little to reinforce the central administrative control of the centre. First, regional power structures have been pragmatically accepted, as highlighted in the bypassing of a transitional justice phase, in an attempt to maintain a fragile political stability. Second, the fragmented nature of the Afghan justice system has been reinforced by the lack of coordination between the relevant international actors, which have generated a bundle of projects in the area, each advancing independently.

Some extracts from the paper:

I hear from a lot of people that if a case goes to the (government) court, then the person with the most money will win that case. We trust our system because sharia law is more respectable for us than government law.
Afghan Tribal Group Leader Kabul Province, April 2006 (Martin 2006)

First, that these international initiatives, viewed over the sphere of judicial reform as a whole, highlight that there has been a substantial departure from the logic of merely reproducing Western administrative organizational models and trusting in their worldwide efficacy.
Second, the paper stresses that the diverse range of approaches are treading an uneasy balance between Western international legal norms, seen as crucial to building institutional capacity at both the national and provincial levels, and ensuring Afghan 'ownership' of the reconstruction process, through respect for local expectations in terms of the legitimization and operation of legal norms. The complex balance of the 'light footprint' approach to international institutional assistance to post-conflict statebuilding (Chesterman 2002) makes it particularly important for international actors to develop a clear and coherent reconstruction strategy for the justice sector.

the legal system still admits both Islamic and secular offences and penalties, together with an Islamic family law which can be easily considered to contradict the international human rights treaties signed by Afghanistan and the 2004 Constitution. There remains a clear contradiction in the founding principles of the justice system, which is the result of two complementary efforts: strengthening domestic institutional capacity through the introduction of Western legal norms and international human rights protections and the need to restore legitimacy to the central authorities by adapting the justice system to Afghan rural and Islamic traditions and conventions. These compromises are partly a reflection of the short-term approach taken to the development of the sector. This evaluation has highlighted limits from the external side of the international actors, shaped by the lack of funds, a lack of coordination and, a fortiori, the lack of the establishment of clear priorities.
In the long term, legal reform will depend on political transformation and the emergence of an Afghan political leadership capable of establishing an unambiguous legal framework, harmonizing the system and overcoming the problem of conflicting legal principles and rules. In this regard, a modernization process implies the drawing-up up of a 'social compact' (Mani 2005: 33) between all the relevant stakeholders, to avoid the creation of a 'political enclave' in Kabul, more responsive to international authorities than to society as a whole (Goodhand 2004: 76). Nevertheless such a transition often requires time, because it cannot bypass or set aside people's knowledge of and support for new rules and the new legal order introduced. International institutions can merely contribute to this process, assisting local actors by more forcefully introducing international accountability and human rights standards. This does not mean that such standards will apply immediately to Afghan society, anymore than they would do in any transitional society. They will represent 'one among a number of factors that are balanced but which are not necessarily complementary' (Newman 2002: 47).

Perhaps primarily as a result of external exigencies, international statebuilders' attempts to stabilize the Afghan judicial system have resulted in international policy frameworks which have shifted from an orientation focused on pre-established organizational models (as seen in the Balkans and East Timor) towards a mixed operational concept based on pragmatic political compromises and the formal involvement of national authorities in the reconstruction process. This could be seen as a valuable step forward in learning lessons in justice sector reform and makes further evaluative work essential. In the end, it does not seem really important whether this change of approach represents a learning experience from the limitation of previous experiences of statebuilding in the justice sector or is merely a practical response to the uncertainties over international policy goals and a lack of international political commitment in a still war-torn country. What, however, is necessary to note is that this pragmatic strategy can only succeed if it does not fall into a political vacuum. In this respect, the international community must ensure that the 'light footprint approach' used in the Afghan statebuilding process is not an ineffectual one.

Basically, what it tells me that there is huge amount of typical international bumbling going on, corruption and insecurity are sky-high, and the international community are being more compromising than what is good.

Let me remind you how Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban started his journey. He rose to power not because he wanted to rule, or against foreign ownership, or because of some ideology. He rose up because justice was not available. If the international community is unable to provide this basic need, we will soon see the return of the Taliban along with their brutal legal code. And we then cannot complain because we had a chance (right now) and we blew it.

Another chapter in the glorious saga of Zimbabwean Economics

So when nobody wants to invest in your country because the inflation rate is around 7000%, there is no raw material, no sales, no power, and your workers are constantly hungry, what do you do to shelter and motivate the existing investments and firms? Simple, you nationalise them, by kicking out all the foreign owned firms and giving those firms to your comrades to further rape, pillage, rob and plunder.

Just like they did with the white owned commercial farms. What happened? The white farmers were kicked or chased off or left for pastures anew. The farms were given over to the fellow thugs or poor farmers. They had no seed, no irrigation, no tools, no money, no market, no nothing. With the result? the breadbasket of Africa now needs food aid.

This was the funniest quote, "We cannot continue to have a skewed economic environment where our people are not able to fully participate,” Paul Mangwana, the indigenisation and economic empowerment minister. Watch and learn how to completely drive a country into the toilet.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Transparency is good for both Sovereign Wealth Funds AND for European Governments

JoaquĆ­n Almunia, the EU’s commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, said that, “We have good reasons to ask these funds to declare what kind of assets they want to invest in, what criteria they apply to decide their investments, and what the distribution of their investments is”.

I agree, very good thing to ask for transparency indeed.

erm, why? since when were government investments in industry clear and transparent? Let me see, if you take a small sample of the large countries, say Germany, France, UK and Italy, they have large investments (many time controlling interests) in so many private firms.

How transparent is that? Look at the how Germany and France squabbled over EADS and nearly drove the company into a tailspin (pun intended). And they dont have any problems in having an Indian on the board (specially ironic when almost the entire European intelligensia got upset about an Indian purchasing an European crown jewel!!!). Also remember that France considers a Yogurt manufacturer (Danone) to be strategic!

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, my dear Sir. When people say, "do as I say" and "forget what I do", they become objects of derision. Let us start inside the EU first, there is no harm in sovereign wealth fund investments. And I am all for transparency but when asking for transparency, public sector investments should be included as well.

You could start with making the ancient company law regimes a bit more modern!

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

If Capitalism is so bad, how come the number of poor in China dropped by 230million?

Now this is impressive by any count. China has managed to drop its poverty rate from 31% in 1978 to 2.5%, 250 million in 1978 to 20 million today. The power of capitalism to do good is frequently overlooked and overpowered in the mass, shrieks and groans of the doom and gloomers.

Old Moses's rallying cry is apt, "Let my people go!!!!", the dead hand of central planning and the dead hand of the state has to be removed!

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Food prices still heading north, WARNING!!!!

Further to my warnings of food prices becoming too high, the recent wheat prices are spiking very high as oil price rose above $81 per barrel.

  • Wheat stocks for the five largest global exporters are forecast to fall to a 34-year low of 25m tonnes.
  • Strong US weekly export sales of 1.7m tonnes pushed corn prices up with CBOT December corn 7 cents higher at $3.82.
  • Soyabeans soared through the $10 a bushel level with the CBOT November contract up 25 cents to $10.15¾ a bushel after strong weekly US export sales of 745,600 tonnes.
You might well ask, what has the price of oil have to do with wheat prices? Well, they are all interlinked, my friend.

More oil price, more attractive corn and other farm oil products become, so you move more agricultural production to make agri-oil, which leaves less space and money for normal foodgrain production, which reduces the supply, and demand remaining the "normal" which in turn increase the prices.

This rise in food prices in turn is starting to impact inflation all over the world because food prices are generally a very large component of the inflation measuring basket. I quote

Germany's annual inflation rate leapt to 2.7 per cent in September, up from 2 per cent in August on a harmonised European basis according to the country's statistical office. An acceleration had been expected because of statistical effects and energy costs, but the scale of food price rises surprised analysts. North Rhine Westphalia reported a 37.5 per cent rise in the
price of -butter in the year to September, for instance.

I would very strongly suggest that the supranational bodies take note of this, specially the EU, UN, FAO, etc. And that too urgently. Stop faffing around with Iran, leave them alone and get to grips with something that is far more urgent. Specially read some of the stories at the FAO site, they are horribly scary!

UPDATE: China is also aiming at inflation which is rising mainly because of food prices as reported. And all this is the CPI, not PPI!. That link is a good one, relates to a report by somebody inside the government!

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

People who want a permanent security council seat are out of their tiny minds

So tell me something truthfully. Just what benefit does permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council bring to you and me? Or to your country? The way I see it, it has something to do with prestige. But you can take that prestige, add £2.30 to it and buy a cup of coffee. That's about it.

If you are a permanent member, you have to worry about external pressure. You step into diplomatic messes like the UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband did when he supported South Africa. You are expected to be the policeman of the world. You spend more money on strange things. Your government gets distracted with silly things around the world. You dont get to concentrate on your own work, citizens and life. So what's the big deal? Why? There doesnt seem to be any benefits and you end up with only costs. Sod it, if Germany wants to become a permanent member of the UNSC, they can have the British Seat.

I am sure I am going to hear howls of protest, but until and unless I get a very clear, precise and detailed definition of how the UK is benefiting from a UNSC Permanent Seat, my opinion that the permanent seat is only for some foreign office mandarins stands. It is of absolutely no benefit to the country at all!.

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Socialised medicine is good for the country, jobs, economy and business

You know the crack about socialised medicine? Well that was because Mr. Rudy Giuliani from NY 9/11 fame came over here and mumbled something about how happy he was that he had his medical problem in USA rather than the UK. If he was here, then his chances of survival would be lower compared to the USA. That's a fair point.

Another fair point is that long term medical care is available to all 58 million Britishers unlike the 50 odd million who only get emergency care and are not covered under insurance! But the other aspect which Mr. Giuliani forgets and should be able to see if he just peeks out of his front door is the fact that every Detroit car is loaded with almost $1,500 of Healthcare liabilities.

Which is the reason why the recent GM strike happened. Which is why GM is hiring more outside USA than inside, employment is actually falling in GM within USA. The system of solely asking employers to pick up all healthcare costs of existing and retired employees means that employers go to ridiculous lengths to avoid these costs, up to and including moving production outside, legal vehicle arbitrage, and so on and so forth.

And because there is no national health system, you need to pay for insurance with your own money which is vastly inefficient and very expensive. With the result? The bankrupt company employees are severely punished either by bad health or good health with bad pensions (as they have to dip into their savings!). More importantly, the growth of jobs with no healthcare coverage is growing at a stonking rate.

This impacts the poor and low income and low skilled disproportionately Companies wouldn't mind paying benefits to high payers as the incremental cost of benefits is vastly lower than the increased value added of higher skilled and high pay employees. So what happens? lower end manufacturing and service jobs move outside the country. If service jobs are required in country, then they are increasingly without healthcare.

Dont take my word for it, see what Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel is warning about. I quote:

Mr Barrett said failure to curb the $2,000bn annual healthcare
bill would compromise the global competitiveness of the US economy. “Healthcare
is the Achilles heel of the US in terms of competitiveness,” said Mr Barrett in
an interview with the Financial Times. He said healthcare costs for US companies
were so high that it was cheaper for some to hire new employees in a low-cost
country than to pay for healthcare benefits for American workers and their

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Thursday, September 27

Corruption requires somebody to pay and somebody to demand

We keep on thinking that the third world is corrupt and all. Yes Sir, it sure is. But remember what I said here, you need somebody to pay the bribes, and as Transparency International says:

“Despite some gains, corruption remains an enormous drain on resources sorely needed for education, health and infrastructure,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International. “Low scoring countries need to take these results seriously and act now to strengthen accountability in public institutions. But action from top scoring countries is just as important, particularly in cracking down on corrupt activity in the private sector.”

But corruption by high-level public officials in poor countries has an international dimension that implicates the CPI’s top scorers. Bribe money often stems from multinationals based in the world’s richest countries. It can no longer be acceptable for these companies to regard bribery in export markets as a legitimate business strategy.

Akere Muna, Vice Chair of Transparency International, pointed to the recovery of stolen assets as another area ripe for enhanced action by developed nations, noting, “Criticism by rich countries of corruption in poor ones has little credibility while their financial institutions sit on wealth stolen from the world’s poorest people.”

Now, why is the United Kingdom only 12th in the list? point to the fact that our legal system has challenges, we support corrupt companies such as BAE and worse, our politicians do not wish to make a stand either. And India/China are at 72, USA is at 20, Israel at 30, etc. etc. See the table here

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The EU's sugar policy is also a total mess

I talked about the EU's fisheries policy being a mess, its regulatory impact analysis regime being totally unfit for purpose and now as it turns out, its sugar policy sucks. The FT reported:

Relations between the European Union and its former colonies soured further on Wednesday after Brussels was accused of “coercion” for planning to scrap a 30-year-old deal on sugar imports while talks continue on its replacement.

The European Commission said scrapping the measure by October 2009 was vital to ensure duty- and quota-free access for all 70-plus African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries when new EU trade rules came into effect.

The preferential access regime was ruled illegal by the World Trade Organisation, and a waiver granted in Geneva expires at the end of the year.

The EU is also struggling to remove 6m tonnes of domestic production by 2010, when the cut takes full effect, to bring European prices closer to world levels.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this is what the pathetic EU subsidies have done to the 70 odd ACP countries (mostly African and Caribbean). It has made them dependent upon feeding on the public trough and left them indolent. Rest of the sugar producing countries managed to become more efficient and produce sugar with less effort and less cost. So now the situation is that the EU is struggling to reconcile its finances, its commitments to its previous colonies and its commitments to the WTO. I love it, couldn't have happened to a better organisation. Again, violate the laws of economics at your peril, you ignorant twits!

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Northern Rock - shutting the door after the horse has bolted

In the old days, you and I will get together, plonk some money into the cooperative building society as our deposits. Then Mr. X will come to ask for a mortgage and the building society will give him our deposit money. X will repay the money back to the building society at the mortgage rate and the society will give us a savings interest rate which is lower than the mortgage rate obviously. Now, sometimes it would happen that there wouldn't be sufficient deposits coming in from individuals so the society can approach other banks to give some money to the society. The society does not want to turn away borrowers, after all. And in the fullness of time, the lending from the other banks will be covered by other deposits and repayments, and life was good, simple, easy, low risk and fun.

Ok, so the basic problem with Northern Rock was that it was funding its mortgage lending through the wholesale markets rather than mainly through its deposit base. And when the market understood that there was far too much exposure to the wholesale markets compared to the deposit base, the market said, your business is too risky and we cannot lend our depositors money to you as we are not sure you can repay it back. In other words, there was a liquidity problem!

Now this is something that the Financial Services Authority is supposed to track and warn financial institutions if they are going to go off. Well, we know what happened, it all went potty and nobody knows who was responsible for this gruesome mess.

Guess what the FT is reporting now? I quote:

The Financial Services Authority has sent a comprehensive one-off liquidity questionnaire to all banks and building societies asking for details of how they plan to fund future mortgage commitments.
The spreadsheet is designed to pinpoint future problems among mortgage lenders – particularly if the capital markets in effect remain closed for the foreseeable future.
The FSA has asked lenders to give details of their current pipeline of home loans commitments to the end of the year, as well as how much funding they have from the capital markets.It also asks how often the lenders have monitored their liquidity position.
It also wants to know what management actions have been considered as well as what contingency planning is in place. In addition, it also asks lenders what other sources of funding they have.

All very good and nice to know. But very curiously, why NOW? what was it doing before when the credit crisis was in full flow? Or even before when the signals were flashing high and spreads were widening even further than normal?

Reliance cuts jobs in grocery chain in UP , India after idiot politicians protest

Here we go, typical moron behaviour which I have already alluded to. I would expect that the chief minister of one of the poorest states in India would want more jobs, more efficient farming and better economics all around? Oh! no, we do not want that. Besides the grotesquely stupid Uma Bharati protested, now it was the chance of the current Chief Minister, Mayawati, herself accused of serious corruption, who has closed 20 grocery chain stores.

So Reliance, the company which is busy generating jobs and money for farmers and people in other states said, ok, no worries, you can live with corrupt, moronic, idiot and stupid leaders, we are outies.

Pity the poor farmer and pity the poor unemployed youth who would have had a chance to break their poverty and unemployment status's.

Read and Weep!

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BAE again in the crosshairs of a corruption probe

BAE has been in the news and there is something about arms and Defence companies which just leads them to corruption. And not only that, they lead others into corruption as well!. Disgusting! And now they are in the cross-hairs relating to a £28 million military radar system sale to Tanzania. Both the British Serious Fraud Office and the Tanzanian Prevention of Corruption Bureau are on the case.

Have you seen where Tanzania is on the map? Look at its neighbours, most of them wont be able to fly a kite, forget about armed aerial or missile attack. what the heck do they need that huge expensive radar system for? I will tell you why, because they paid 30% of the contract value to an agent who brokered the deal.

Thieves, corrupt maggots, may the fleas of 1000 camels infest your armpits!

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Doing Business has just gotten better across the world

Very good news for many countries, they are listening to their people and others, and making it easier to do business. I was quite impressed by Egypt, which has made the biggest jump in rankings! It moved from 165th to 126th. And as the World Bank reports, it made starting a business simpler, slashing the minimum capital requirements, halving the startup time and costs. So you have better entrepreneurship help!. And there is nothing like getting entrepreneurs to kick off work. Make it easy for them and jobs, investment and better growth will follow.

See the example:

Starting a business is not easy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It takes 13 procedures and 155 days—and it costs five times the annual income per capita. The situation is even worse for women: they need the consent of a husband. And if you are a single woman, a judge decides whether you can become a businesswoman. The result: Only 18 percent of small businesses are run by women in the DRC. Next door, in Rwanda, which has no such regulations, women
run more than 41 percent of small businesses.

See here for a great overview:

But not all were good. Venezuela, the great people's socialist wonderland fell to 172nd from 164th last year. But President Chavez is a ninny anyway and he is now the proud possessor of the title of being runner-up to the Democratic Republic of Congo for doing business in!.

India is mixed, it improved a bit but its still ranked 120th compared to 83 for China. In India, the time to obtain a business licence ranges from 159 days in Bhubaneshwar to 522 in Ranchi, compared to everything done and dusted and up and running in TWO days in Australia. I dont think the Australians are moaning are they?

Looking at the United Kingdom rankings, I am afraid the news is not that good either. Well, they are definitely better than India, but the competition for the UK is not against the Indians but against Singapore, New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong and Denmark. The UK is ranked 6th in terms of ease of doing business. The only place we hit the top is the ease of getting credit, but in all the other factors, we were rather bad. And some of them are really stupid (we can fix them very easily!)

We are 54th in terms of dealing with licences, 21st in terms of hiring workers, 19th on registering property, and 24th in terms of enforcing contracts, just to pick some of the most egarious aspects. Truly bureacracy gone wild, and these factors are gobsmacking. Why on earth are we 19th on the list of registering property? the land of the Domesday Book? And 24th in terms of enforcing contracts? the country which gave modern law to the world? Horribly Bizarre!. And the UK is getting worse if you look at the yearly progress instead of improving!

Read and Learn!

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

The Fisheries policy of the EU sucks!

Well, I can be blunt about it. This is yet another example of how and why's of the disgusting way the EU makes public policy. Europe's impact analysis is not good at all, to put it bluntly as I did here.

And now the FT is reporting that:

Europe’s fishing policy is “poor”, with its waters among the most over-fished and the industry among the least profitable in the world, according to an internal European Commission study.

The report by outside experts, obtained by the Financial Times, says overcapacity, failure to stand up to special interests and a “command and control” system in Brussels have left fish stocks in many areas on the brink of collapse.

“The fisheries subject to the common fisheries policy suffer a much higher rate of over-fishing than occurs on average worldwide,” says the report, prepared by a US and European expert. About 80 per cent of EU stocks are over-fished, compared with 25 per cent worldwide.

Again, my question is, who was incompetent enough to let this happen and why is it still happening? We want a better manager than the current lot. I like my fish and chips, but if we let our fisheries be managed by those bunch of hoo-haa's in Brussels, then very soon I will be eating tofu carved into fish rather than fish itself!

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A blinding insight from the Mozambique's Roman Catholic archbishop

Somebody stab me, I cant take this any more. He says:

Mozambique's Roman Catholic archbishop has accused European condom manufacturers of deliberately infecting their products with HIV "in order to finish quickly the African people".
The archbishop of Maputo, Francisco Chimoio, told the BBC that he had specific information about a plot to kill off Africans. "I know that there are two countries in Europe ... making condoms with the virus, on purpose," he alleged. But he refused to name the countries.
He added: "They want to finish with the African people. This is the programme. They want to colonise until up to now. If we are not careful we will finish in one century's time."

a D' oh moment. What a stupid man, and this is coming from their objections against abortion.

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Some pointed questions at the purveyors of silly politics in India

The Indian Supreme Court has asked some pointed questions to the Government:

Does the inclusion of a larger number of castes in the backward class list by the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) indicate deterioration of their social status? Does a caste which gets designated as backward and becomes eligible for quota benefits ever sheds the tag? Referring to the swelling number of castes in the backward list, the Bench said, "This means for 60 years, people who were disadvantaged continue to be backward. If this is so, then what is the meaning of the arrangements for social advancement of backward community for all these years?"

As I have said before, when a government robs Peter to pay Paul, it can always count on the support of Paul. Similarly, these affirmative action mechanisms are against equality and perpetuate these discriminatory policies.


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France to cut 22,921 jobs in public sector next year

As a firm believer in small government, this news is great!, When was the last time you heard about a government actually downsizing? But now you have, and the amusing thing is, that this is reported from the Official Chinese News Channel!

Also see this report on France's budget.

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Debates over Greek History

History is very important for nation building, specially when we are talking about independence. I have just finished an essay on 1857 which will be published this weekend where you will see how different people see the same event differently.

Here is an example of the fight over Greek History. The conservatives said that a textbook underplayed the suffering of the Greeks during the 1919 - 1922 war with Turkey where Greece was comprehensively trounced by the Great Kemal Ataturk and his army. The textbook also rephrased the role of the Church during the Ottoman Occupation. Interestingly enough, here is a view from Turkey.

If you are interested in textbook controversies, check out the Japanese cases, the Californian Hindu case, the interminable and yawn inducing evolution/ID textbook case.


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Focus on the important stuff in technology

I have pontificated ignorantly before about how tech people do not focus on the important stuff and talk jargon. From the business side, it is very frustrating to hear jargon. I do not really care about whether it is written in Java or iguana juice, I do not really want to know about whether it is agile or limping like an arthritic millipede. I have a problem and I need to resolve it.

Here is a great example of a software developer talking about the same topic, know why you are coding, not what you are coding.

Here's a tip, when talking to the business, explain your work in terms of cost, usability, time, alleviating MY pain and removing my problems. I know it is difficult to talk in a different language, but between me making an effort to understand technology and you understanding the business, we will get to a place where bonus's are plentiful! :)

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And Skin Whitening syndrome in Arab Lands!

I talked about Chinese women wanting to be white before and now this blogger talks about Arabs wanting the same. How strange!

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

Wednesday, September 26

The Swedes are at it again with their pokes at religion

We had the cartoon issue before in Sweden, but now we have a Swedish artist showing Christ as a rather well endowed dog and more than 50% of respondents to a poll saying that Islamic head scarves ought to be banned at workplaces and in schools. The report also mentions that there seems to be a hardening of positions against immigration with more than 1 in 3 agreeing that "many foreigners come to Sweden to take advantage of social welfare".

Not good!

Iranian Professors question Professor Lee Bollinger

I have already expressed my distaste for the way Professor Lee Bollinger treated President Ahmadinejad of Iran. But reacting to this behaviour, seven Iranian University Chancellors have publicly asked Professor Bollinger for answers to ten questions. While I am nowhere close to Professor Bollinger, these are my thoughts on the questions.

(Do recall that these chancellors did not make any comments on the points that Professor Bollinger raised, which in turn is a rather damning indictment on them, the spectacularly stupid and moronic "we have no gays in Iran" notwithstanding!


1- Why did the US media put you under so much pressure to prevent Mr. Ahmadinejad from delivering his speech at Columbia University? And why have American TV networks been broadcasting hours of news reports insulting our president while refusing to allow him the opportunity to respond? Is this not against the principle of freedom of speech?

I do agree to some bits of this, the US government and media are a bit chary of foreign media so free speech is not really totally free speech. See my comment on how the USA and UK reacted to Al Jazeera all the way back to 2003. But on the other hand, this is a qualitative and value judgement question and it is very difficult to give a good answer. What is "much pressure" ? Also he had both his speeches broadcast. I am not sure what opportunity was stopped? This idea that the media is very biased is quite wrong and has been discussed here.

2- Why, in 1953, did the US administration overthrow the Iran's national government under Dr Mohammad Mosaddegh and go on to support the Shah's dictatorship?

Now this is absolutely criminal and I have to agree with the Iranians. There was no reason for the Americans and British to go mucking around with Iran and overthrow his government despite his attractions to socialism/communism (take your pick). You do not muck around with foreign governments to this extent. As for supporting the Shah's dictatorship (leaving aside the fact that Iran is no angel), this is also something that is very negative on part of the USA. As the Indians pointed out today, "so explain why USA can support General Musharraf of Pakistan but hate the Burmese Generals?" very inconsistent behaviour indeed and certainly nothing praiseworthy. Yes, I know the reasons but they were short term and the benefit of those short term reasons were not justified by the long term damage on American morals and principles.

3- Why did the US support the blood-thirsty dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 Iraqi-imposed war on Iran, considering his reckless use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers defending their land and even against his own people?

Again, no real objection. USA, Europe and others did support Saddam Hussein. All for trying to punish Iran. Not good and not fair.

4- Why is the US putting pressure on the government elected by the majority of Palestinians in Gaza instead of officially recognizing it? And why does it oppose Iran 's proposal to resolve the 60-year-old Palestinian issue through a general referendum?

Now this is a stupid question. The reason why USA is not recognising the Hamas government is because it is nominated as a terrorist organisation. It simply has to renounce violence and engage in negotiations for it to get recognised. Now this is a grey area about when you switch from a terrorist group to a resistance group to a political party, but surely the Iranian Chancellors understand why? Second, what general referendum? who? how? and what will be the results? This is such a vaccous and stupid suggestion that the mind boggles. Think about carrying out a referendum on Kashmir 60 years after partition. Can you imagine the murder, mayhem and wars that will break out? Multiply that with 10 and you will get the idea in the Middle East if it runs a referendum.

5- Why has the US military failed to find Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden even with all its advanced equipment? How do you justify the old friendship between the Bush and Bin Laden families and their cooperation on oil deals? How can you justify the Bush administration's efforts to disrupt investigations concerning the September 11 attacks?

Another frankly stupid question. If advanced equipment was indeed the sole criteria for finding culprits and solving crime, then the USA would be a crime free state!!. Also, family friendships are now wrong? Hmmm, crimes by association are not a crime even in Shia Islamic law, so why are they raising this? And finally, the disruption of the 9/11 attacks is in their minds and is a conspiracy theory question. End of story.

6- Why does the US administration support the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) despite the fact that the group has officially and openly accepted the responsibility for numerous deadly bombings and massacres in Iran and Iraq? Why does the US refuse to allow Iran's current government to act against the MKO's main base in Iraq?

Now this is indeed a very good question. For all its vices and faults, Iran is an independent country, and has some semblance of democracy. USA support of the rebel group Khalq is, in my opinion, wrong. Mind you, the Germans are supporting the Iranian Kurds!

7- Was the US invasion of Iraq based on international consensus and did international institutions support it? What was the real purpose behind the invasion which has claimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives? Where are the weapons of mass destruction that the US claimed were being stockpiled in Iraq?

Hmmm, this is another ignorant question, if the Chancellors do not know that the war was legal, then they arent reading their newspapers or they do not understand or know the British or American Legal Systems. Second, asking for a real purpose right before asking for the evidence of weapons of mass destruction means that this was a rhetorical question.

8- Why do America's closest allies in the Middle East come from extremely undemocratic governments with absolutist monarchical regimes?

Very good question. Why indeed? See my comment on answer #2

9- Why did the US oppose the plan for a Middle East free of unconventional weapons in the recent session of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors despite the fact the move won the support of all members other than Israel?

Again, a very good question but there are two parts to the answer. The first is the NPT (which I have already commented upon here) and second is domestic politics relating to support for Israel. So it is impossible for USA to go against Israel or go for the original deal which promised that the nuclear powers will work towards eventual total disarmament.

10- Why is the US displeased with Iran's agreement with the IAEA and why does it openly oppose any progress in talks between Iran and the agency to resolve the nuclear issue under international law?

Again, this is a rhetorical question, not very sure why they have raised it. Iran IS against IAEA law. Which part of that did the chancellors not know? And if they did not know, then they do not know IAEA law!

There you go, my few pence on this rather interesting debate. Quite interesting to see how people see the world, no? While Professor Bollinger was very factual but rude, these Iranian Chancellors are very emotional, sometimes very wrong and sometimes having zingers of questions but very polite. I think they could have phrased the questions differently and had a bigger impact but due to many questions being wrongly phrased, this entire letter will be ignored.

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