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; 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.