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Absurd on-screen

i was watching ICE AGE 3 the other day and some furry creatures suddenly fell into a pit of bubbling tar. Thats not the absurd bit, that kind of stuff probably took place all the time in prehistoric times. They probably had a mother of a public awareness campaign to stop it.

Even the floating bubbles were not that absurd. While the non physcs academia/ professional (i.e. the layman) may not find the concept of a bubble of gas lighter than air emanating from such a pit absurd, what he will find absurd (provided he is not stoned out of his mind) is the presence of a heavier than air squirrel with sharp claws floating a few feet off the ground inside said bubble.

I was not stoned out of my mind at that moment. So i noticed this. This blatant insult to all human knowledge physical. This violent thrust at the very guts of Isaac Newton himself. This, this... i cannot continue, i am spluttering too much.

Well not really. I am familiar with cartoon-esque absurdities you know, i grew up from 2 feet tall watching woody and road runner achieve mass feats of practical impossibility over and over again. But at that moment, as everyone around me crashed around laughing, i felt strangely disconnected.

Humans have a fascination with the fantastic. Yet they try and remove almost every element of it they possbly can from their daily lives. Instead, they reserve their hours of recreation to dreams of impossibility; helping to spawn and maintain a whole stand-alone industry.

Links 21/08/09 - Playstations, Mervyn Silva and happy Sri Lankans

The case for Small Software, A paradigm shift (or a structural change) in software business models brought on by Apple's App Store..

Playstation 3 cuts prices Purely of interest from a business perspective. Its largely irrelevant to us Sri Lankans from a consumers persepective cos of the lack of opportunity for cough*piracy*cough and other various reasons.

More international discourse on Sri Lanka, devolution and reconciliation

Happy Sri Lankans; polls show we are a happy nation, so stop worrying. Thanks to DeaneJ for the pointer

End of America; Pick you apocalypse Pick and choose how you think Amercia will end. Heads up to Freakonomics for the pointer. Im going for obesity myself.

Five Thirty Eight; Ambiguous Afghan Elections and we wonder why no one on twitter is screaming 'free Afghanistan'? it may have something to do with who's winning.

Mervyn Silva talks (mostly crap) on hotseat, really, do you need to me to add anything else to this? go watch the video.

The Economist; Tigers not for nothing; And no not the human variety for a change. A review on why the Asian economies are leaping (relatively) like tigers; post crisis.

First we begged for money, now we're gloating a bit. How Sri Lanka ended up with way mopre foreign reserves than expected.

Brazil is rising and asserting itself; a great lesson on the importance of leadership for a successful economy. We can also see the Economist try its hand at giving some self-righteous (and slightly vomit inducing) advocacy at the end.

Media Ethics Epic Fail

 Flattering art by The Puppeteer

'The Media and the Government is Bigger than you or me' is a ridiculously defeatist statement. A budding journalist once told me this. Are they all this brainwashed? What is our worth as human beings if we continuously bow down to the way things are and never question accepted norms and their irrationality?

Some of you out there may be system puppets, dancing on the strings of 'everything they tell you'; but I believe most people, when mentally able, are free thinkers; capable of removing themselves from the bog of the present and looking at humanity's historical footprint.

The world has always been doing only one thing; consolidating. And what have they been consolidating? Power. Democracy as a concept is insanely awesome. Democracy as a practice is a shit pile. Yes, even in the US of A. its home.

Media ethics, at a fundamental level, ties itself down to the side of the government. The truth will not be told if a country's 'defence' is compromised. The truth will always bow down to the primal human instinct of consolidation. The truth will always be biased to power and not to the people. That would be fine if in reality the people were in power, but the modern nature of democracy largely makes that impossible. Therefore This fundamental media ethic mostly serves the purpose of the subversiveness of governments.

The truth will not be told if the media deems it sensitive to taste (the WTF ethic). Like images of human flesh blown into pieces and blood splattered walls are 'sensitive'. In other words, the media imagines the public to be wussies. The war reporter has balls, because he's a foreign correspondent, but they'll be strung up beneath the butt hole of Great A'tuin if the average Joe can take it.

Saying; 'a few people died..' is less impactful than showing the full brunt of war; the dying and screaming and horribly deformed children etc. The public may start feeling slightly differently about the war if such was the case. But screw public opinion; this is a democracy. The public can't think. The masses are asses.

The media reserves the right to decide what fantasy is and what it’s not. If they percieve that some neo radical thinker will create turmoil by messing up the norms and by endangering the interests of their stakeholders, this ethic gives them room to deem it 'fantasy' and call the guy who said the world was a ball an ignoramus.

The media shall not invade privacy, even though it may conflict strongly with freedom of expression.

The overriding absurdity should be plainly obvious to anyone reading these sets of ethics. On what moral background do they base concepts like 'sensitivity', 'taste', 'privacy' and 'public interest'? Is the media the apostle of God to know what is Right for its Fellow Man?

Nope. The concepts that Media Ethics are based on are subjective beyond belief. For example, something that is 'sensitive' for an American voter will be exactly what the father of the suffering kid with no leg and a ripped off midsection breathing his last breaths in Iraq will want them to see. Confronted with this 'dilemma', the media takes a side; objectivity goes into the dustbin.

These are the core values of the media. Every journalist gets them drilled into their brains when they train. From such subjective and hazy guidelines, can an objective truth ever arise? Can the 'media' in its current form ever not fail epically or otherwise? The media and journalism isn’t about truth. Its ethics have let it make the truth anything it wants it to be. The danger of media ethics is that it leaves ample room for non ethical activity.


Moving on to Better Things

And on to what the morphology (yes, do look it up) of the media is; it is that branch of journalism that is governed by this set of easily adaptable ethics. It is like a fill in the blanks bible (and there aint no saints out there to save you), it is that industry that sells 'truth' influenced by external interest making it nothing much more than propaganda and advertising.

The media needs a makeover, it is good to see new media coming in ever more strongly to take its place. I hope this is the beginning of a change for the better. The old establishment media is failing as an industry. Its myopic view of itself as the pinnacle of integrity cannot last much longer. It must change and yeild to a new wave of creative destruction* hitting it (and its set of wtf ethics). Or die and let the world move on to better things.

*A good paper on creative destruction from an industry point of view is Theodore Levitt's Marketing Myopia (a very interesting read no matter what your background). Also check out the work of Joseph Schumpeter.

The Truth About Kavindi

A mail I recieved from a credible source claiming to be written by Kavindi's best friend's mom. I'll leave it upto you to judge its authenticity.

Dear All,

I am the best friend of Mrs. Sandhya Kumari Jayawardene, the mother of Anuththara Kavindi Jayawardene, the 14-year old girl who is said to have hung herself with her school tie on 22nd July 2009 . Kavindi's mother and I are best friends since August 2000 and Kavindi was a dear friend of my daughter, who was two years younger to her. I have known Kavindi quite closely since she was in Montessori with my daughter.

Her father is a professional/graduate Accountant and her mother too was in the accountancy field before she gave up her job upon marriage. Her mother is from Kegalle, an innocent, down-to-earth, virtuous woman who was a devout Buddhist. Kavindi was an only child, extraordinarily beautiful and was very shy. She was a studious girl whose report cards received from school always described her as a "Siyalu Dena Samaga Sahayogayen Kriya Karana, Vineetha, Keekaru, Sisuwiyeki". Anyone can take a look at her school books and report cards and see if she seems a disturbed or disobedient girl.

Kavindi’s mother was the kind of woman who even went to the extent of having a Bodhi Poojawa for my daughter who was a non-Buddhist, when she was sitting for her 5th Grade Scholarship exam, thinking of someone else’s child as her own.

It is so saddening to hear that Kavindi's name has been tarnished by the school making her look like a girl who was into porn, boyfriends and similar stuff whereas in actual sense she was a girl who did not even collect pictures of movie stars, cricketers or any such thing that a teenager of today would do but was always getting good grades at school and excelling in studies.

In fact, Kavindi was the pillar of strength to her mother during their family ordeal of Kavindi’s father going through a kidney transplant about two years ago. Athula, her father was not the “STRICT” father as depicted in the media. He in fact would return home and keep Kavindi on his lap and ask her what happened at school or joke with her about things on TV. Even after Kavindi attained age and showed all signs of a beautiful young lady, Athula petted her like a little girl.

She was very close to her mother, and till her death Kavindi's world and after school activities involved playing with her little cousins next door and helping her mother with housework. She even knew how to cook, something only a handful of 14-year-olds today would know.

She encouraged her mother to do home-gardening and have plenty of vegetables grown in their 15 perch house and land, and loved seeing the produce being consumed. She was never into Facebook, computer games, hip electronic gadgets or any such thing. I was always in and out of their house as Sandhya was one of the few persons (apart from my own Mother) that I would trust to leave my daughter with whenever I had to leave my daughter with someone.

During the past 8 years, my daughter spent most of her holidays at their home where I would drop her off in the mornings and pick her up at evening and stay on for at least 1-2 hours chatting with my best friend. Whenever I called my daughter in between, Kavindi would talk to me too, and relate what they had been playing during the day and tell of their plans for evening play and I would often find Sandhya feeding both my daughter and hers, if I happen to call during lunch time. Kavindi played hide and seek, dolls, imaginary house, Lego and similar games with her mother, my daughter and her little cousins from next door and was innocent and unspoiled and a far cry from what is being told about her now.

It is sad to learn from her classmates that a Prefect from her school actually dragged her by her tie upon confronting her for having a mobile phone in her school bag (which did not even belong to her) and taken her to the Section Head's office and also made her kneel in public and humiliated her by showing her to others. This fact would now be denied by school authorities for obvious reasons but for a child who has never been reprimanded in her entire life for indiscipline just cannot bear such humiliation, harassment and public embarrassment.

The school authorities should also appoint Counsellors in schools who are qualified enough to handle these kind of situations instead of having Teachers and mere school girls (Prefect Bullies) handling situations involving human emotions.

Even when her body was discovered hanging in the toilet, the teachers or authorities of the school had not even loosened her tie around the neck or given appropriate first aid to revive her.

The only thing this school can do now is to tarnish her good name and make her look like a "bad girl" who committed suicide, thereby deviating the attention of the public to the fact that the girl was suspected, embarrassed in public, emotionally abused and mishandled by Prefects and Teachers who were not capable of understanding emotions of a 14-year old and never thought of repercussions of misjudgement, harshness, cruelty and public humiliation. She had in fact begged that it is okay to tell about the incident to her mother but never to tell her father because he was a kidney patient whom Kavindi always feared would die if he faces sadness.

Kavindi was the type of girl who was so shy that she would even nudge me and her mother in embarrassment if we ever spoke out in public in protest for small injustices such as being over-charged at stores or such similar small incidents and tell “aney randu karanna epa ammey, nikam innako ammey, etc…” and blush in embarrassment. She is the type of girl who encouraged and loved the fact that her mother was among the very few mothers at her school who only wore a simple ‘Osariya’ whenever she had to visit Kavindi’s school. She never even allowed her mother’s Saree blouses to have a deep-cut neckline and would protest against any body part of her mother being shown in public. It is this virtuous charactered Kavindi who today is being portrayed as the girl who would watch porn or pose nude for her boyfriend and allow to be photographed or filmed.

Since the Police have found out that Kavindi is not the owner of the mobile in question, there were no porn in the mobile, there were no nude photos or sms directed to Kavindi, then why isn’t the school issuing a statement about the true owners of the mobile phone or the actual contents of the mobile?

Why isn't the school ascertaining the fact that the mobile did not belong to Kavindi but to the other three students of the same school/class who had pooled and bought the mobile then slipped it into innocent and shy Kavindi's school bag when the Prefects came along, checking for mobiles in their classroom?

Why isn't the school talking about the two girls who subsequent to Kavindi's hanging body being found tried to commit suicide, one by stabbing herself with a bottle and the other by consuming some toilet detergent, when they realized what they had done to their classmate Kavindi and their guilty consciousness took the better of them?

Today, a majority of Sri Lankans know Kavindi as the “girl who watched porn on her mobile and committed suicide in shame”, or "the girl who had her nude pictures in her mobile", or "the girl who was mentally ill or depressed", or "the girl whose parents were too strict" and such ghastly impressions.

At present, my best friend is a woman who hears her only child’s voice echoing around the house, sees her face every where, a broken woman with no hope for the future and a woman who wishes she died with Kavindi. She is a well-read but simple housewife whose world was woven around her only child. She is still that devout Buddhist who forgives the media for tarnishing her precious daughter’s name, forgives the people who did not provide timely first aid to her daughter when they found her hanging, forgives the prefects who manhandled her daughter, forgives the three girls who slipped the phone in Kavindi's school bag and pushed her to death in shame, but the fact remains, Sandhya's soul died along with her only child.

My only appeal to you is, despite misleading information by the media and complete silence maintained by the relevant school, to think logically about Kavindi's name unduly tarnished along with her parents reputation.

Please also pass this on to everyone you know.

Thank you,

Sri Lanka Media Epic Fail


The mainstream media of Sri Lanka has failed to do its job; again and again and again. Absurdity after absurdity of the government’s actions have passed repeatedly into the public limelight only to be cast aside by the media by the means of ridiculous well-quoted statements from top government officials.

Take Dayan Jayathileke for instance. He was reduced from hero to zero when he was quoted in the media implying that the government was realistically considering implementing the 13th amendment. This to the man who according to government propaganda 'rescued us from unanimous defeat' at the hands of the Western pro-human rights anti-Sri Lankan coalition at the UN.

Where is the media outcry? if not against the sacking of DJ, at least against the implications of the actions taken by the government to the very initiation of the 13th amendment; an integral part of our constitution. The upholding of which is the duty of any free media framework in a country.

Other Epic fails include the lack of initiative in the investigating and reporting of all the dead bodies turning up everywhere even after the war, not that I think dead bodies being found while the war was on is any less justifiable, but the war is over now, and there should at least be a more rational base to justify the revelation of the goings on behind such atrocious activities to the general public. Even to a media prepared to convolute the already very bendable set of 'ethics' it is governed by.

Other epic fails include the complete lack of interest in questioning intelligently the apparent lack of power of the Sri Lankan judiciary (which is also an epic fail of its own but I’ll write about that later), the exorbitant and skewed taxing system and questionable economic policies (economic and financial critical analysis is almost unheard of except for a bit on LBO), the questions on the justification behind the implementation behind seemingly irrational laws (do i need to go into porno and mobile phones? its been well harped about in the blogosphere) and the apparent disregard to intimidation and coercion in undemocratic provincial council elections (like Jaffna for instance). And nobody even gives a rat’s behind about discussing the age old 'problem' of the executive presidency.

The media is a meek dog that barks only when the government wants it to. It is the government’s smokescreen, a tyrannical propaganda machine. Perhaps I wax too lyrical maybe? What; am I a paranoid conspiracy theorist then?

Dialog creates mobile history, again.

Press Ad
Dialog Telekom, still the market leader in a heavily contested Sri Lankan telco market, made 'history' yesterday by becoming the first mobile operator to penetrate the freshly liberated North/ East markets.

"Killinochchi and Mullaittivu were commissioned at around 11am yesterday morning followed by Mankulum, Pooneryne, Elephant Pass and Thunukkai" said a statement released by Dr. Hans Wijayasuriya, long standing CEO of Dialog Telekom.

The North Eastern markets offer big opportunities to telco providers with the prowess to invest. Its rlatively high income levels will mean almost instantaneously high revenue inflows, together with the opportunity for early entrants to consolidate power in a potentially very lucrative market. However, this will depend on regulation and other non regulatory barriers created by the government.

Airtel meanwhile, is sticking by its promise to invest some $200mn in its Sri Lankan business. Although its original timeline of 18 months to 2 years will be extended somewhat.

Both Dialog and Airtel are said to be interested in purchasing Tigo which is said to be put on the market by its parent company Millicom. Such a consolidation will essentially divide the telco market among its three largest players; Dialog, Airtel and SLT mobitel. All three have the capacity to provide a three pronged service platform of Internet, TV and Telecommunications.

Hutch, the other small player aside from Tigo, will be left with a small share of the pre-paid mobile market and will most probably be absorbed by a larger player if the sale of Tigo happens. Such consolidation is a sign of heavily contested and competitive markets, and happens when smaller firms find it increasingly unable to cope with the price squeezing and heavy competition that happens when big players fight each other head on in maturing markets.

The North East markets will provide a fresh spurt of growth to the comms industry, perhaps a good time to purchase some stock.

The Fail Whale, Clinton and Crises; Links 07/08/09

Council of Foreign Relations - Crisis guide to the economy. (Also check out the other crisis guides)

Bill Clinton to the Rescue! by Oliver Wills

Adamsmith. org; The Recession pdf

Beetroot Juice Futewuh! Boosts stamina better than excercise

Chuck Palahniuk - Guts; Read this if you can stomach it; 25 people fainted on the book tour!

Cos it wouldn't be complete without a story on KP

Economist: When the smiles die, the SL government and promises of devolution

Wall St Journal Asia; When twitter died

The Pope is a Racist

According to Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar.

On globalization and outsourcing he says

You might think that the Pope would hail this as a great development for humanity. Instead he has parroted the bogus claims of the white labour aristocracy.

His encyclical says, “the so-called outsourcing of production can weaken the company’s sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders---namely the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment, and broader society---in favour of the shareholders, who are not tied to a specific geographical area and who therefore enjoy extraordinary mobility.”

The racial implications of this leave me dumbstruck. The Pope has posed the issue as one of stakeholders versus shareholders. But are white stakeholders the only ones that matter? When IBM shifts 80,000 jobs to India, 80,000 Indian stakeholders replace American ones. Are the rights of 80,000 Indian stakeholders any less than those of the American ones they replace? When Chinese suppliers outbid American ones in supplying hardware to IBM, are the Chinese lesser stakeholders than the Americans they replace?

The Pope’s moral blunders on outsourcing (August 02, 2009)

The outsoucing debate has spread far and wide and been repeated over and over. But it hasnt curbed the wave of globalization that triggered it into somewhat of an unstoppable force. Needless to say, the pope's comments sparked intense outrage in the intellectual class of India, the worlds leading supplier of outsourcing services in the most advanced sectors.

The comments made by the pope appear somewhat misguided as he may have been only looking at the whole affair from one point of view. Whereas in business and economics there is nearly always an opposing view point. A benefit to one may be a disbenefit to another. The only way you'd be against such a thing is if you were indeed biased in some way. But that way lies the road to politics. And the Pope being theoretically in support of one united world, has come under fire for apparently 'racist' remarks.

But it took an economist to figure it out. And hey, you don't need to be an economist to get to the top of the vatican they tell me, so perhaps the pope deserves the benefit of the doubt. Another thing you don't need to be an economist to become is president.

The Hot Waitress Index

The hotter the waitresses, the weaker the economy. In flush times, there is a robust market for hotness. Selling everything from condos to premium vodka is enhanced by proximity to pretty young people (of both sexes) who get paid for providing this service. That leaves more-punishing work, like waiting tables, to those with less striking genetic gifts...

just added to kottke.org 's expanding list of odd economic indicators. Unfortunately, most our waiters being of the teenage boy variety, using that index here will get you trouble from all sorts of places. I wonder if we can come up with our own customized Sri Lankan economic indicators? like

The Kasippu index; the better off the economy, the lesser the consumption of illicit liquor.

The Bus Traffic index; The better off people are, the lesser demand for buses, the lesser amount of buses on the roads. Divisions based on routes included.

This also leads up to

The polite tuk tuk driver index; the better off the economy, the more people use tuk tuks, the lesser incentive for drivers to be polite.

The Street Food and Drink basket volume index; the better off the economy, higher the tendency for people to go out; translating into higher sales of street food items like vadai, acchaaru, king coconut, faluda, lime juice etc.

Anything else?

Change.. or opression?

There has been an influx of new rules and regulations, mostly seemingly meaningless, imposed upon the general public.

Take new motor traffic regulations. Some of the stuff I’ve heard belies all logic, like the imposition of restrictions on modifications. Let’s not even go near the banning of cell phones in schools which is obviously a badly thought out knee jerk reaction that bears almost no consequence on the actual issue. Even the 'porno rules' strike me as absurd, seeing as only a few locally visited smut sites have been removed.

But what the purpose these outcries are serving, intentionally or not, is to divert the public's attention away from the important issues. Like the political situation; is there any serious reform going to happen? What of the pro devolution and anti executive presidency lobby? It’s turned into a pro-porno one. And let’s not even talk about economic development; we can leave that in the expert hands of the government's mathematicians

What about all the dead bodies turning up, again? Sure we may say that it is a good thing because most of them are apparent gangsters. but do we seriously think that this is an idealistically motivated killing spree? I think it’s just about control. Whoever is instigating these killings, and I’m not accusing anyone, is aiming at consolidating power. The drug industry fills the coffers of a lot of people and, on a completely unrelated note, rumour has it that Potta Naufer is driven by the police to his home every night to enjoy his mothers meals.

Meanwhile, no one in power is going to stop sending their kids to school without phones; neither are they going to stop jerking off to the internet, doing drugs, dealing drugs, driving souped up cars without seatbelts and engaging in other general abuses of power.

links - 31/07/09 - Discrimination Cannibis and Powerpoint

When Islamophobia Isn’t Funny - Loonwatch on rising right wing extremism and violence against Muslims in the West

Cannibis and mental health; correlation vs causation - ElectEcon The post links to a study (unfortunately not free). Apparently the 'main finding is that using cannabis increases the likelihood of mental health problems, with current use having a larger effect than past use'. Like that ever stopped anybody :)

The USA/China Relationship: Obama’s Conflict of Interest - Chicagoboyz The US needs more money, unfortunately printing it will scare off their creditors and spark inflation. So they're left with one more option; more debt. But convincing the likes of China to take more risk on US bonds is another issue altogether.

How Wars, Plagues, and Urban Disease Propelled Europe’s Rise to Riches - Economist's View Discussion on how the Europeans got rich and broke out of the cycle of diminishing returns that theoretically overtakes most economies. The result is a take on the teachings of Malthus; who generally stated that the richer a society gets, the more its population will increase, its rate of increase eventually overtaking the rise in wealth, eventually resulting in said society falling back into some form of self destruction.

Personally, i think colonial rule and the exploitation of 'free' foreign resources should have had a more (or just as) important role to play in Europeans getting rich. But i can't be arsed to go look for concrete evidence right now.

What Scientology doesn't tell you - ever wondered about that light sheen sometimes apparent on Tom Cruise's face? Thanks to Brad DeLong for the pointer.

Will PowerPoint be blamed for the financial crisis? is what Freakonomics is asking now.

The War Drug and the SL Soldier

Pic from TIME

Army of Dude links to this interesting article on soldiers who return home after war; namely Iraq. In the US, statistics have shown that war vets are 148% more likely to die in auto accidents than normal people are. Soldiers in the US take to motorbikes and bar fights to relieve adrenaline overloads. What of Sri Lankan soldiers though?

Being used to the adrenaline rush of war, and being around a climate of constant danger and uncertainty, conditions a soldier to thrive in such environments. Finding himself devoid of the excitement of battle denies him an outlet to this energy, sometimes resulting in disastrous effects to the soldier and society.

Deserters are a different story, although the crime waves influenced by army deserters over the past few years in Sri Lankan can probably be attributed to their disposition, one must also remember that usually crime is the only option available for an army deserter to make a living. (The Sri Lankan military recently pardoned all deserters btw.)

I live near an air force base where the soldiers are veterans who have been out of combat for a couple of years. Maybe this is a military strategy to ensure a more effective and long winded demobilization of the force, although i wondered why it was at the expense of the experienced and the battle hardened being kept away from the war during its peak; maybe my reasoning was off.

Anyways, new measures by the government to expand the military and maintain it as some form of peacekeeping force may contribute to calming the 'crotch rockets' of the Sri Lankan boys. Or who knows what would have happened if close to 200k battle high warriors started walking the streets looking for cheap thrills.

The LTTE's new blog

Makes this shocking accusation

By establishing a civil administration with its military personnel, under the guise of reconstruction and development the Government is attempting to change the demography of Tamil homelands in favour of the majority Sinhala population.
Like you mean, replace all the Tamils in there with Sinhalese? Or ensure that the 300,000 soldiers we have in the army settle down and marry into the Tamil population there and keep their crotch rockets firing long enough to out-reproduce the Tamils? Or are they planning vast re-movements of the population, moving in people from the South to dilute the concentration of Tamils in one place?

This has a more chilling note;
The Sri Lankan Government is also moving forward with schemes that will disable the socio-economic infrastructure of the Tamil people from being self reliant as one that would be controlled and made dependent on Sri Lanka’s South.
What he's trying to say perhaps, is that the government is trying to proactively restrict economic development in the North. By presumably denying opportunities for the North to prosper socio-economically in its own right through strong industries like tourism, trade and manufacturing.

This is unlikely because if the government were to do this, it would cripple and hold back the whole nation. The North-Eastern areas offer tremendous resources and capability for serious development.

If he is implying that the government, through the imposition of ownership rights and discriminatory laws, will deny the North-Eastern population ownership, property, entreprenurial and cultural rights then this gets more serious. But aside from being completely impractical if the goal is actual development, there is absolutely no evidence that this is going to happen.

KP seems all excited about his new venture

In this advanced cyber era I soon realised that it was possible (sharing of opinions) through a blog posting. This is why have I chosen to out to you using this method.
But he can at least make sense. And have credible statements to back up his claims.

Great Links 28/07/09

KPs new blog. and why he simply had to be abroad at the time... thanks ICT4peace.

Chinese worker commits suicide after iPhone prototype goes missing creeepy..

What will the IMF rescue?

The IMF has just approved the long awaited loan and also agreed to release some 300 million of it immediately.

But what of the conditions? Earlier, reports indicated that the IMF was looking for concrete policy reforms in order to release the money. We are all aware of the Government's apparent dislike of IMF interference or 'conditions' but in this case it would seem that they have caved to a certain extent.

Or have they?

The main opposers of the loan were the USA, Britain and France. The concerns raised were mainly the lack of confidence in the Government's ability to carry out feasible reconstruction and ensure long term growth and also the human rights violation aspect of the post war era.

As for the human rights aspect of it, to my mind, they are fine ones to talk. Repeatedly, there have been atrocious abuses on human rights by these very governments that have been brushed aside as 'necessary' to 'secure democracy' etc. To me, the whole human rights issue is pure farce. It is merely a sign of power brokering going on behind the scenes. Of who our powerful allies are and of whom those allies are up against. In this respect, Sri Lanka is just a pawn.

As for the doubts in the government's ability to reconstruct the nation and then assure a robust economy with long term growth prospects, i have to admit i share some of those views as well. The type of structural reforms required for such a measure like the liberation of markets, devolution of power, social reform etc with an intelligent vision with relevance to the future seems out of reach to a government used to bullishly hugging power and having its own way all the time.

But as we wait and see, all we see coming out of the bigwigs in the state in terms of what is going to happen are short term things like repairing the balance of payments etc. These are merely operational changes and will not really improve the chances of our economy to break out of its 'third world' or 'developing' status. For that to happen, like i've been harping on this blog for ages, a vision is needed. It sounds corny when i say 'vision' like that i know, but isn't that how all the more 'developed' nations got to where they are today? If we continue to pay scant heed to events further than the next general election we will be stumbling in the dark as a nation forever.

The loan amount approved was $2.6 billion. $600mn more than what we originally asked for. Which is great. There is also the promised aid from China, India and i think Iran that is yet to materialize. Shit, i hope at least some of it will see the light of day in terms of actual benefit to the public.

On the bright side, we can probably expect a stock market rally again today, and this one may last for a while yet. Holders of high beta shares like JKH and others could probably make a good short term killing.

July 23

Shadows. That’s all that remain from the riots of 83. at least to me. almost twenty five years now I’ve been a resident in this island and this is the first year in living memory that i do not recall a single person bring up the riots of '83 on or before the anniversary of that fateful day.

Except for Mr Cerno over here. As a matter of fact, i only remembered that black July was a couple of day’s away cos of his post.

Last year, there was uproar on the 23rd of July. From recollections of various people who were old enough to experience it to teachings of 'lessons' to be learned from the whole scenario, the blogosphere was full of it.

And this year? Not a hum. What’s up with that?

Prabhakaran always brought up the July riots to instill angst in the hearts of his troops. To motivate them to more death and destruction. And what did the rest of us do? We brought on the riots and painted them as we would paint a mistake; A grave wrong done to the Tamil people which we could never stop regretting.

Now the terrorist has died. I will not say our regret has died but merely the action of reinforcing it. And with that act we slowly lose the significance of the evil that led to the violent breakouts, allowing it to change into something unrecongizable and perhaps manifest itself in some other form of hate in later years. At least, thats a melodramatics take on it.

They say when you lose; don't lose the lesson. But how about when you win? What lessons can we take home from this war? Proof of the superiority of the Sinhalese race? Lessons of how you crush a rebellion by waging complex guerilla warfare? Or proof of how bad leadership, political imbalance, extreme corruption, plain stupidity and a wanton disregard for justice and equality can lead to the ostracizing of a minority and re-emerge in the form of a devastating conflict?

The key lessons IMO still lie in times, places and incidents during and before the beginning of the war. It's all too easy to forget the dirt under the carpet just because the couch is now clean and the TV is on.

The Americans still remember the day of Pearl Harbor to remind them of the fateful day they were compelled to enter the second world war, but they conveniently forget the day on which Hiroshima and Nagasaki were nuked.

They remember their victories and harms inflicted upon themselves only, but they deem insignificant their wrongs against others.

Just like in a decade from now, we'll probably remember the 19th of May* as having more significance than July 23.

if we ever remember anything at all that is, we Sri Lankans are a forgetful bunch.

Indie profitable

I read this article in the New York Times about the changing face of the music industry.

Whenever we think of the internet and the music industry, we think about illegal downloads. In fact, the internet has been the bane of the establishment since its inception. Metallica and Napster anyone?

But now, as CD sales drop and digital music sales increase through stores like I tunes etc, artistes have long realized the significance of this distribution channel. They have moved from selling physical CDs, to touring to finally realizing that the internet could be the next big stopping point for revenue.

But what’s taking place now is the emergence of a whole new business model based on the ease and connectivity of the internet. Bands will essentially become companies of their own. They will raise funds as funds are raised for a business, mostly through venture capital.

They will consult with consultants and outsource operations like tour organizing, publicity etc. and they will have a bigger share in the profits, with increased rights on musical inventory and intellectual property of their own work. Maybe the-Artist-formerly-known-as-Prince picked the wrong decade to get famous in.

If this trend takes hold we will see the emergence of more and more indie bands. They will receive more exposure and the music industry will become more competitive as a result and the influence of big record labels will reduce, bringing on a whole new market and industry through creative destruction.

Economics in recession

Not economies in recession, economics; the science that its proponets are calling 'dismal' to the 'uninitiated'. A series of articles published by The Economist has brought the discussion of the death of modern economic theory to blogs and armchairs.

to quote

OF ALL the economic bubbles that have been pricked, few have burst more spectacularly than the reputation of economics itself. A few years ago, the dismal science was being acclaimed as a way of explaining ever more forms of human behaviour, from drug-dealing to sumo-wrestling. Wall Street ransacked the best universities for game theorists and options modellers. And on the public stage, economists were seen as far more trustworthy than politicians. John McCain joked that Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, was so indispensable that if he died, the president should “prop him up and put a pair of dark glasses on him.”

In the wake of the biggest economic calamity in 80 years that reputation has taken a beating. In the public mind an arrogant profession has been humbled. Though economists are still at the centre of the policy debate—think of Ben Bernanke or Larry Summers in America or Mervyn King in Britain—their pronouncements are viewed with more scepticism than before. The profession itself is suffering from guilt and rancour. In a recent lecture, Paul Krugman, winner of the Nobel prize in economics in 2008, argued that much of the past 30 years of macroeconomics was “spectacularly useless at best, and positively harmful at worst.” Barry Eichengreen, a prominent American economic historian, says the crisis has “cast into doubt much of what we thought we knew about economics.”
And in defence

In its crudest form—the idea that economics as a whole is discredited—the current backlash has gone far too far. If ignorance allowed investors and politicians to exaggerate the virtues of economics, it now blinds them to its benefits. Economics is less a slavish creed than a prism through which to understand the world. It is a broad canon, stretching from theories to explain how prices are determined to how economies grow. Much of that body of knowledge has no link to the financial crisis and remains as useful as ever.
A broad cannon, a prism to look at the world... Yes well, it's hardly a specific science is it? if there was a problem with economics that led to the current crisis, it was the complete trust in certain branches of economic theory, in complete ignorance of other similarly viable economic barnches of theory.

This 'dismal science' primarily studies human behavior, and there is nothing more complex and unpredictable. Psychology is also a science that studies human behavior; on a much more micro level. And it still can't figure out the complexity of our needs and wants.

Economics relies on certain broad based assumptions to carry out analyses and theorize on a macro level. I.e. on the overall impact to the world from the behavior of its people, and this is a complex task. It's something that is impossible for one person to fully grasp or understand, leading to many different viewpoints, theories, models and schools of thought on how the world works.

Nobody understands how the world works. Nobody knows the full consequences of largescale financial decisions for example. Least of all the economists themselves.

The world messed up. Again. And now it looking for something to blame. They've put the blame already on the banks, rich CEOs, rating agencies, governments and even China. This is just normal human behavior IMO.

Opression, Fundamentalism and Sri Lankan Tamils

So whats the relationship? Does oppression necessarily result in fundamentalism? This is a theme explored in a book i'm reading right now. As per the authors and evidence put forward there is a clear correlation between the rising of fundamentalist groups and the opression of those classes of a society.

This is plainly obvious generally, one has just got to look at numerous examples all over the world like the Uighurs, the Iraquis, Hezbollah, Christian fundamentalists in the US and not to put too fine a point on it; the LTTE.

Tamils in Sri Lanka are still, if not opressed, a very restricted group in terms of movement in society. Take their representation in the government and public sector for instance, this has spiralled down at an alarming rate since the de-nationalization of the Tamil language since 1956; an act seen by many Tamils as aimed at disowning the Tamil speaking population from Sri Lanka.

Now there is only scant representation of Tamil youth in Sri Lankan governance and none of it can be called particularly strong. Older and more powerful tamil politicians are few and far between.

Language is a major issue here. Its almost impossible to get anything done at most public services if you cannot communicate in Sinhalese or perhaps English. This arguably, is one of the first issues that needs to be addressed, along with the issue of the devolution_of power. (TEDx Colombo will be hosting a talk by Dr. Rohan Samarajiva on language policy for the future, this weekend.)

More power to provincial governments will give them incentive to serve the local population. In turn giving more power to voters in deciding who they want to take office. These are but some of the changes brought on by the 13th ammendment and its many modifications aimed at promoting diversity rather than supressing it; which has seemed to be the general overall trend of politics since independence from the Brits.

Barriers to devolution like strong vested interest in the Executive Presidency continue to bar progress. the EP is almost a tyrannical representation of everything wrong with the current system of governance to some; above the law, all powerful, unquestionable. It throws the concept of a government that 'serves the public' right out the kitchen window.

Change is needed, and it is needed now. Opression at this point will only create outlet to more fundamentalism and resentment among the unfairly treated. The LTTE is down, but not completely out. They still have support from the diaspora who burn from the wounds suffered a long time ago.

If the government avoids making serious long term policy changes to secure equality and yeilds to the easy way out and decides to rule the country with an iron fist-like approach by supressing dissent; perhaps it wouldn't not that far fetched to imagine a re-emeregence of the LTTE or some other similar group in the next few decades, if they manage to raise enough grassroots level support from a group of people that feels 'left out' of Sri Lankan society.

Mercantilism for Firefighting Sri Lanka?

A mercantilist or neo mercantilist stance is what helped economies like China, India, Japan etc to rise to be the economic powerhouses they are today. it was also the cause behind most of the greatest empires ever seen on earth, and is the root of American industrial power.

It involves a bit of protectionism of course; no doubt angering most liberal thinkers on matters concernig the economy, but mostly this will involve a genuinely cooperative relationship between business and government.

We are talking about reduced red tape and corruption. The whole structure of the government should be geared to help business. Its more than just a set of policy actions; its a mindset of its own.

Right now the government is strapped for cash. 90% of current government revenue is also spent on servicing our debt. that is, our existing debt.

This is resulting in the crippling of business funds for certain essential industries like Tea and Coconut, which rely on reinvestment of the revenue they bring in to develop their industries, having a severe effect on the long term profitability of these businesses.

The government is absorbing cash fom any and every avenue they have access to and this is having disturbing and distorting effects on the economy. The recent stock market bull run has also now slowed as foreign investors begin to sell to cash in on their profits.

Draconian laws and pointless regulation cripple industry and business on many fronts and these will have to be eliminated. Most importantly the mentality of public servants must be changed and the public sector itself must be put through a restructuring process.

Special instances should be managed outside the normal vertical rigid structure of government. for example, this is how Malaysia coped through the Asian Crisis.

Right now all the government seems to be doing is fire fighting away; thats quite understandable seeuing as we just emerged from conflict. heres hoping we find out some concrete and practical vision like a Mahinda Chinthanaya for the economy soon.

The Effects of Stimulants

Government stimulants seem to be working in China, car sales have been boosted 48% as of June. With GM getting a good share of the profits. China seems to be on the rise again, at least as per some optimists. Stimulants are a main element of Keynesian economics and are credited to have brough about the end of the Great Depression.

The Holocaust in Gaza and Brainwashed Jews

Courtesy; Tehran Times

What is the world doing about Israeli war crimes in Gaza?

Last December Israel launched a massive assault on Palastine comlpetely out of proportion to attacks from Hamas, the Palastinian instigator.

Over 1300 palastinians died including more than 300 hundred children, while 13 Israelis died; only one of them was a civillian.

5300 Palastinians were injured; mutilated and amputated. It was reported that 80% of them were victims of burning phosphorous bombs.

Over 20,00 buildings were partially burnt or damaged and the UN reports that around 50,000 people are now homeless.

The Israeli assault targeted everything from shopping centers, schools, media organizations, public buildings, religious buildings, medical centers to private homes. farms were targeted along with their animals and hundreds of acres of food crops were completely destroyed.

Even though they were given exact coordinates to UN buildings they must have got the wrong message as to what to do with them because they went ahead and bombed UN schools repeatedly; killing about 45 women and children in the process.

Bodies of children were found with several bullet holes in them, indicating that they had ben shot at repeatedly in a ground offensive obviously only meant to target 'dangerous militants'

They used interntionally banned weapons like phosporous bombs, DIME and depleted uranium.

They've done all that and are still escaping persecution. What is the global community, that so easily clamped down on the Sri Lankan government's shoulders during and after the last stages of its war against the LTTE, doing about the indiscriminate Israeli massacres in the Middle East?

Is the Israeli lobby really powerful enough to have the whole of the US under its thumb?

How can a nation supposedly nursing the wounds of a holocaust upon its own self instigate such a cruel slaughter of another people so easily?

Is there a philosophy driving this? Sort of a superiority complex embedded into Israeli education that justifies the killing of other innocent human beings to it's people?

Hitler drove the Germans to merciless assault through his Fascist teachings of Aryan superiority, what's similar seed has been planted in the Jewish system?

Tailgating fairytales

Where is the Sri Lankan economy heading?

Recently HSBC economist Prakriti Sofat created a stir in the local media by saying that the Sri Lankan economy would grow by four percent this year. The stir was created by the beautiful and intelligent Ms. Sofat herself just as much as what she had to say on the economy i suspect but lets leave the idle goss out and focus on the question here; is the economy actually heading for good times?

Exports are down, in all the major sectors as demand from major trading partners is still low (Sunday Leader; Exports down 28%). most of the optimism stems from hopes that the US recession will ease up. but this may take a while yet, and other major markets like Europe will only do better once the US recovers. Demand is strong from other markets like the Middle East and tea is pretty much the only major export product that is doing well as a result.

Consumer spending is down as loosening monentary policy is not being translated into consumer markets as banks are spooked by a 9% industry wide non performing loan rate (Sunday Leader; n.p.ls rise), and also due to the oligopolistic nature of the sector; interest rates are still too high. This discourages spending and limits borrowings for businesses, especially the small to medium scale businesses, which provide most of the employment in the country.

Government spending on development projects should be up, except that the government doesn't have any money to spend. Most forecasts are also betting on the IMF loan coming in, and previous optimism that we'd have enough capital inflows to make it unneccessary is likely to fall flat as foreign investment looks at all the other factors reducing the attractiveness of the market, like the lack of foreign inflows for instance, leading to a catch 22 situation.

In addition, penny wise pound foolish fiscal policies like the absurd taxes for petrol users help only in stunting the spending power of the wealthier sections of the population. Fiscal policy needs to be loosened for growth, and equally distributed to prevent distortions. Wherever money is spent its going to boost the economy, and its better off being spent in the market than being mismanaged by the government.

Inefficiency and corruption is another factor that will hold us back; state servants took away 53% percent of taxes as wages last year and we can bet our bottom rupee that there are more efficient ways to be spending our tax money. The creation of new ministries and the expansion of the cabinet doesn't exactly create a favourable impression of the governments plans for reengeneering and modernizing the state sector.

On the upside our trade deficit is taking a dive (Sunday Leader; Exports down 28%) but only because demand for imports have drastically reduced especially cars and electrical appliances. Foreign remittances are still as strong as last year and have helped balance the BOP.

So optimistic outlook? I don't mean to be a cyinc but yes ok. Though we still need a lot of things to fall into place and go our way. It is easy to be cast under the 'peace delusion' and assume that economic prosperity will come along just because the war is over. But the tough times are only beginning. Remember, we had all the chances to make it in the decades preceeding the war, but we lost our way.

Im still hoping for a clear vision or mission statement coming from the government devoid of any pre election crowd pleasing cheese talk. A serious long term plan, say for the next 30 or so years would be great to see being talked about, at least for a start.

Great Links - 03/07/09

Sri Lanka's Public Sector: Scamming the public. From LBO - Sunk tax revenues, corrupt and inefficient state organzations, who needs Sakvithi with a public sector like this?

Freakonomics, Why Skinny Stays in the Picture - Muscular men get more sex. I.e. they are more attactive to females. Therefore nature should favour muscular men, and scrawny men would vanish over the course of time. Right? not so right. find out why.

Real Struggle in Iran - What really went down, a fresh perspective. And why most of the big media and twitter warriors would consider hari kiri, if conjecture were a crime to be ashamed of, and if they were Japanese. Thanks to Aufidius for the heads up.

Karl Marx, The Future Results of British Rule in India - Marx's predictions of the outcomes of British rule in India. Well worth a read..Thanks to Brad De Long for the pointer.

Economix - Aaaargh-onomics - The economics of Pirates, nuff said.

Fortune, Dumbest Moments in Business, mid-year edition - And Its still just the middle of the year...

Moragoda WTF

Milinda Moragoda, accused of corruption and mishandling in many corporate scandals leading from Pramuka Bank to the recent Ceylinco and SLIC brouhahas, crossed over to the government (in an effort to escape these allegations?) a while ago.

Today he was appointed the Minister of Justice and Law Reform before the president.

This must herald a new age of disintegration in the Sri Lankan judiciary system, esp the corporate governance area of it. Law reform in his eyes surely must mean the sale of public assets at dirt cheap prices to private interest and surely must facilitate the deterioration of public resources to even greater levels.

Mahinda Rajapakse promised that right after combating the terrorists; he would focus on eradicating corruption. Nice move Mr. President, no irony here at all. Another corrupt minister in an already unnecessarily huge cabinet is just what we need to make this land prosper.

Where have all the women gone?

Freakonomics points to a study which researched why the Chinese save so much. Of all the more obvious answers that subsequent commenters on the post came up with (like economic prosperity, social values of thrift etc) they link it it to China's one child policy;


China’s “one child” policy, which created a huge surplus of men in the country, has driven up the cost of getting married, as more and more men compete for fewer and fewer women. To keep up, families with sons have been holding off on spending to save up wealth that boosts their children’s marriage prospects.
This leads one to wonder why there are fewer women in China in the first place, and research studies have attributed this to hepatitis B (but later dispoved by the same author), sex relative wage rates and sex selective abortion as a practice.

Also as it turns out, or as i just found out, Ben Bernanke has been saying the increasing rates of saving in other countries caused the US housing collapse. He claims that increasing savings in other nations along with liberalization and the removal of capital flow barriers created a disconnect between US long term lending rates and Fed Monetary policy.

A credible argument, but it still doesn't explain how they could just let it happen, and the myriad other inconsistencies in the actions of the fed over the few years leading to the crisis.

From China's savings to Missing women to the Global Financial crisis; This is why i like Freakonomics.

Germany: Taxing less, Spending more

Germany; Stimulating spending; Courtesy Yah

Germany just announced a plan to cut taxes in order to stimulate their economy. The worlds third largest economy is in a small patch of quicksand right now. It has already hit recession and forcasts are that it will contract around 3% more this year.

Exports are not doing too well as demand for German products fall along with global spending power. Germany was the world's largest exporter of goods last year. Unemployment is set to increase as the current boom in German employment tops off. This will consequently increase government expenditure in terms of social benefits and welfare.

Reducing taxes at a time like this is a controversial decision. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor has come under fire because the new policy will lose the government around 15 billion Euros and risk reducing GDP by a further 6% this year.

That is quite a significant amount for a massive economy like Germany. Also with the new tax breaks, the giovernment will be funding a budget deficit. Though Keynesian economic theory states that funding a deficit by reducing taxes can be good for an economy in trouble, as it stimulates inflation, the long term outlook is grim because the any additional cash people recieve will probably be saved instead of spent.

Still, it's a start. As money is saved this will increase the amount of cash in the economy and stimulate capital investment, which will in turn provide jobs and then create a less uncertain environment and aggregate demand will increase as a consequnece of this. But that takes a long time to happen. And Germany may go through some tough times before it gets to more solid ground.

Meanwhile, though markets are changing and demand for some German exports such as Automobiles, electronics, machinery, foodstuffs etc may be effected by changing market trends or if there is a major change in the geo-political landscape. This seems unlikely in the near future. Though competition like Chinese exports could have posed a threat, they would only do so if not for the tightly bound Eurozone regulations, which Germany is extremely particular about. So any threat to their main exports right now, seems minimal; ensuring a strong core economy into the near future at least.

no Humming in China

GM has been on the verge of selling their Hummer brand to the Chinese Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery company. Thats quite a mouthful. I wonder why Chinese companies have such weird names. But i digress.

But GM's plans of downsizing and rightsizing itself while it shelters itself under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy may suffer a setback because it seems like the Chinese government is about to block the deal.

China has about 100 car manufaturers and the government does not want yet another one entering the market at a time when they are trying to aim for stability and cut competition in order to try and build a global giant capable of taking on the big ones.

Also, it seems the strategy is to focus on building a robust market based on fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles, something a Hummer definitely is not (Hummers on average do a bout 15 miles per gallon, thats around 5 or so km's per litre).

China has also got a lot of stick in recent years about its pollution. And mass producing a brand like Hummer won't exactly help them in cleaning up this aspect of their image.

Hummer is estimated to be worth around $500million. GM is eager to unload its lossmaking units and have cleared the sale of Hummer, being in debt of about $172 Billion. Thats roughly twice the GDP of Sri Lanka.

The Chinese however have not completely overruled the deal. So we might yet see an iconic former US military vehicle being owned and manufactured by one of its key global rivals.

read more here and here.

Sri Lankans are Encouraged to be Poor

Image courtesy Artismyhustle

Sri Lankans are Encouraged to be Poor - Dr. Sarath Amunugama.

Since the advent of independence, most governments have focused on concepts like 'nationalism', 'national pride' etc as a method of winning elections. Their policies have alienated segmentsof the population, created huge inefficiencies in the public sector, fostered corruption, and have let self defeating and 'rolling' economic policies (like printing of money to fund budget deficits) to prosper.

Many people wonder why we never turned out to be like Singapore, i think its because of our outlook. We as a nation have no long term plan for success. There is no long term vision. Governments have always seeked to tear down the achievements of previous governments in an effort to appear superior.

I read that Sri Lankans are encouraged to be poor. A cuture of glorifying poverty is popularized by the political machine. And if you think about it, you realize that its true. Most of the teledramas you see on TV with a few exceptions, deal with the lives of poor people. The daily struggle to make ends meet, the problems associated with giving your daughter away in marriage etc being their central concern. Most protagonists in such cases are lower middle class, humble, hardworking individuals committed to a life of doing the same job day in and day out until they drop.

In Italy for e.g. people love wealth. They aspire to it. Even the current scandal surrounding Silvio Burlusconi doesn't prevent Italians from admiring him for his wealth and power, the Americans live and die by the Dream, the Japanese slave for lifelong success. We are what we aspire to; and a culture where being rich is glorified drives the masses to improve themselves and drive the country economically.

The government prints money to give subsidies to appease the people. They print money to cover budget deficits. They drive up inflation and make the public even poorer. Therefore a culture of glorifying poverty definitely helps keep us in check.


The Iranian Revolution - BBC

The supreme leader of Iran has accused the UK and US of meddling in its internal affairs. They just kicked out the BBC correspondent to Iran although they have allowed the BBC office to remain open. Is there credibility to their claims?

Economic Hitmen

Back in the fifties a similar incident happened in Iran. The US friendly Shah was overthrown by a Mohammed Mossadegh who then proceeded to kick out the oil companies and nationalize Iran's oil industry. Subsequently, Mossadegh was overthrown by a coup that saw the reinstatement of the Shah of Iran and the re-commencement of Big oil company operations, providing a cheaper and a more secure source of oil to the Western nations.

John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman, claims it was the CIA who instigated this coup at the request of the UK whose Oil firms suffered the most at the hands of Mossadegh's nationalization. A CIA operative by the name of Kermit Roosevelt (the grandson of President Teddy) used a few million dollars to bribe the right people and with the support of the international media pulled off the first of what was to become a regular US tactic to further their empire building strategies henceforth.

The Shah was in power until Iran went back into revolt in the late 70s with a religious upheaval brought upon by the rise of the Ayatollahs. And this has continued to the present day. There has been a lot of baseless effort at tarnishing Iran's reputation through the whole nuclear power scenario and there could have been build up on this for an attempt at the overthrowing of the existing power base of Iran to install a government more friendly to the West.


The government of Iran claims that it had detected the movement of several British secret agents during the weeks and months preceding the election. Media reports on the goings on inside Iran are full of speculation and drive uncertainty, mostly using unverified and non-credible reports to support their theories. Although, there has been evidence of tampering by the admission of the Guardian Council itself which admitted that more than 100% of the voter base has voted in about 50 cities of Iran.

But this is apparently a normal occurence because there is no legislation preventing people from voting twice in different constituencies. Its absurd, but hey, if it's true then its perfectly possible that more than 100% could have been voted in.

The Venzuelan Connection

Another similar incident which echoes to the current 'riots' in Iran happened in Venezuela not a decade ago. Hugo Chavez was overthrown by a elitist uprising that spurred protesters to eventually invade and claim the presidential palace. 

The rioters against the President were met by rioters for the President. There was a shooting  incident, and Chavez was accused of opening fire on the people protesting against him. This was then used to catalyze more opposition against him when several chiefs of the army denounced him on the media (which had taken the lead in painting him black for a long time by then), which subsequently led to the overthrowing of the presidential  palace guard and the taking over of the country with a rich businessman at the helm.

Ultimately as it turned out, the army itself had instigated the shooting and reports that the president had abdicated were falsified (his signature was forged and he was kidnapped). There was a major uproar and hundreds of thousands of people stormed the presidential palace, overwhelmed the army and succeeded in reinstating the president - War on Democracy


It's interesting to speculate on world affairs based on controversy and what are generally regarded as crackpot conspicay theories by the genral public who live and die by what is seen and heard in the mainstream media, but its more than just idle indulgence. There is more than meets the eye most of the time. The order of power and the lines of command are mere illusions. The world operates on a whole different spectrum from where it pretends to.

It's going to be interesting to see what happens in Iran now. It seems that most candidates are withdrawing their claims while reports from the media increasingly stress on the 'violent' crackdowns of the government. Perhaps an effort at dragging this as far as possible? Protests are still to spread outside of Tehran so we can't really say that the majority is behind the opposition. Until this whole issue clears up and some perspective can be gained, the story of what is really going on in Iran will not be known.

Sri Lanka: The state of play

The hot seat

On Saturday i was coming into Colombo from Wattala to attend a wedding with a few friends. There was a major traffic jam and we were consequently stuck on the road for quite some time. The reason being of course that His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka was on his way to receive some rare (read: probably obscure) honor for his efforts for providing us with freedom.

There are talks of new taxes being imposed. Apparently there is also a seatbelt fine. You get fined if you don't wear your seatbelt. From what i heard its somewhere like 2000 rupees per offense and repeat offenders get to go directly to the courts. Sri Lankans are notorious for not wearing seatbelts so this should net the government a handy sum if imposed and acted upon.

Im curious, is it cos i don't know of these things or is there really no mechanism that lets the public be aware of the rationale behind new legislation and policy stances? Ideally there should be reasearch studies out about frequencies and causes of road accidents to support the seatbelt tax. What i think happened was that some smart alec minister came up with a good 'suggestion' to find some fast cash without the public getting too pissed off. I mean hey, we can all keep our seatbelts on if we don't want to pay yeah. And most of the voter base doesn't really own cars anyway.

The Military

The army is expanding. I heard from the Armchair Warrior Grapevine that this is necessary to secure the area. More soldiers are apparently required to secure an area than to fight it. Maybe i can see the sense in that. Seeing as the LTTE seem to be regrouping now, but still it doesn't look like the taxes are going to subside becuse of this. Also, for the suparlative and the trivia fan, the Sri Lankan military apparently will be the 10th largest in the world if the expansion is carried out.

This also ties into the IDP issue; the government is insistent on holding them for at least 2 to 3 years while international pressure, for what its worth, keeps insisting they let them go. Reports of opressive paramilitary activities at IDP camps abounded and were pretty morbid. But living conditions have now improved according to the IDMC. The government insists it needs to 'weed out' possible tiger cadres hiding within around 300,000 IDPs in vaious camps in the North East and they have just released about 2000 people who have been camped for about two years now.

Our GDP may sink. As defense ependiture reduces the contribution of government expenditure. Although development may pick it up. I read in the Times that there is a 50 million dollar resort of a number of boutique hotels coming up. Hopefully more development will happen and help us with our forex problems which brings us to,

The Economy

Economy wise we seem to have reached a firmer footing. According to this LBO article our balance of payments crisis which was formed by the CBs soft peg is somewhat over. It happened when they sold what dollars they had to buy back rupees to keep up the rupee exchange rates, perhaps helping temper the cost of war imports. What they also did though, was to print more rupees at the same time, defeating the purpose of the peg. Thereby needing even more dollars to fund the thing and avoid a major currency collapse.

I guess they were gambling it all on the war being over, and it's paid off. There has been some foreign inflow and the government has even pulled of a US bond sale which was oversubscribed by about a 100%. Assertions that the need for that IMF loan have lessened seem a bit credible now. There is investment coming in and development projects in line for the liberated territories especially. Although i am not clear as to how much corruption and inefficiency will stunt it.

Industry seems to be suffering with a lot of jobs being lost in the recent spate of downsizing that hit the garment field and other industries. Foreign remittances are also on the decline and many workers are having to return home.

There are signs that fuel prices may be on the rise, with LIOC lobbying for a price increase, the government has insisted it is not planning on raising prices but that is a regular government tactic to calm the people before they go ahead and increase the prices overnight. As was seen in the past.

Interest rates need to be lowered. There is a reluctance by most banks to do this, the current environment still being favourable for high interest rates, but lending has frozen somewhat and domestic demand needs to be stimulated. There are already efforts to get this underway.

What next?

Overall, I feel the outlook is lukewarm. Im not by nature an optimist. But i'm not too pessimistic about our future either. The end of the war is widely speculated to stimulate interest in investments especially in the North East and this will have spillover effects on the rest of the country as well.

If i am a little skeptical, it is with regard to the country's leadership and direction, will they handle the redevelopment efficiently? And also the environment of suppression of free expression that is prevailing right now is a cause for concern. We need a more independent media capable of pulling up those in charge without fear of repercussions. Someone needs to monitor the monitors afterall.

Iran, Its Election and the International Media

A member of the Iranian soccer team protests in Seoul - NY Daily News.

This media hallabaloo about Iran seems to be based on nothing but cheap conjecture. No facts were uncovered about actual malpractice occuring with regard to the elections. Accusations were made that there was a shortage of ballot papers, 'pressurizing' of voters to vote for Ahmedinejad and candidate's representatives not being allowed to gain access to events at polling stations.

But none of this atually deals with the final count that emerged, the actual problem. Which showed president Ahmedinajad winning the election by a massive margin. Where are the errors pointed out in the actual counting mechanism? none of the protesters could actualy point out what sort of rigging had taken place. There was just a general consensus among them that some sort of rigging had to have taken place. On the surface, as any sane minded person would deduce, they just appear to be acting like sore losers.

Most of the protests were carried out in Tehran, which has a population of 14 million people. Iran itself has 70 million people in it. So how can the conviction of such a small fraction of a population be made to seem like the general consensus of the whole of its population? It just doesnt make sense.

And thats what these types of news stories are made for. To try and convey shallow messages in an attempt to shake up the basket a bit. They are aimed at the sort of people who just glance at the news and do not check their facts. This was simply a badly organized negative PR campaign against the Iranian leadership carried out by the Western media, if we want to get conspiratorial about it. Or rather, as i see it, it was just an opportunity to 'make some news' and all objectivity was lost as the media got blinded by a preconception that Iran's current leadership is essentially 'evil'.

Polls have shown that Ahmedinejad has secured major victories even in areas thought to be Mousavi strongholds and the margin by which he won (60%) is far too large to have been rigged.

Also, on a side note. Iran only has 35% internet penetration and 60% of its population is based in urban areas. Deduce of this what you will, but how can twitter updates from such a narrow margin of the population signify broad based protests sufficint enought to spark talk of the 'next Iranian revolution'?

the government of Iran does not appear to be completely innocent in this though. Apparently there has been some supression of protest activity and a cut down of media broadcasts from within. Though this may be standard government action to prevent things getting out of hand, as we have seen happen over here in SL, it is still enough to cause widespread speculation and concern about what is really happening inside.

Watch this Al-Jazeera take on it, its an interesting one.

Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2009

The Theme: “Dawning of a new Era … Opportunities and Challenges”

The When: 30th June to 2nd July

The Where: Oak Room, Cinnamon Grand Hotel

To quote the official release by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, which is organizing it;
"The war has hampered the country on many fronts for decades and much of the economic and human resources of the country have been wasted on the war. This has, over the years, pushed one of the most promising nations in the world to an abyss of despair and gloom. Although under- investment in education, infrastructure and health has held back progress of the country, the ending of such a dismal era would naturally invigorate the spirits of its people."
Factors arising from the recession in the global economy such as declines noted in global trade as more protectionist measureas are adopted by countries, the slowdown of developed economies and a credit sqeeze leading to reduced foreign borrowings and reserves are stated as posing challenges from the international arena.

I think that the end of the war, if taken advantage of, can create a mini economic boom in Sri Lanka that could allow us to ride out some of the bumpier repercussions of the global crisis such as reduction in export revenue, foreign inflows of currency and remittances. Also, the emergence of market confidence and animal spirits will help drive productivity and growth and attract investment, at least thats a viable hope.

But there needs to be a concentrated effort from the business community together with the government to enable this to happen. Innovative policy instruments should be put in place and removals of bariers like red tape, corruption and non tariff barriers should be ensured. Also collective development of various sectors is needed to enable complementary growth.

As per the official release, the Summit

"..will discuss important matters on topics relating to the economy, banking & financial sector, agriculture, dairy, fisheries & tourism, employment, need for English and ICT as business languages and the importance of governance & accountability, both in the private and public sector".

...pay special emphasis to key challenges confronting the country, which includes post war reconstruction and resettlement, developing the northern and eastern regions, promoting balanced growth and macroeconomic management.

...will explore how challenges could be converted into opportunities and opportunities turned into time-bound action plans. The challenges and opportunities, both external and internal, would require cohesive effort from all stakeholders and the program for the summit has been designed to generate fresh ideas, a consensus view and a clear vision for the development of Sri Lanka."
It costs roughly Rs14,000 for individual participation and they do not provide free passes for students, i checked. So unless someone is willing to generously sponsor me, live updates and blog posts on the outcomes of the summit seems somewhat of a hazy reality. Also, if you're foreign, It costs you $200 which at today's rate comes to roughly 23k and i think that is without taxes.

Im not sure if there is any mechanism in place for the conclusions and ideas ensuing to be released to the public. Ideally they should have organized some sort of a live feed like a twitter/blogging platform and enabled recordings on YouTube etc. The Chamber of Commerce needs to get with the times.

The list of panelists include individuals from the government, international and regional financial/ research sector, local business leaders etc and looks promising. Hopefully, findings and conclusions made will have a concrete nature and would not be afraid to suggest radical change.

Also, the areas of concern seem to be largely related to the immediate future. But thats alright. Hopefully, this will help shape the government's future policy framework for the economy when they get down to it. What I'd really like to see is some serious governmental communications as to what their long term vision for the economy is. Flowery talk and metaphorical allusions to Singapore/Hong Kong etc notwithstanding.