Jeffrey Sachs, the global development poster-boy has an op-ed piece in this morning's Miami Herald praising both Lula and FHC in providing the leadership necessary to help Brazil weather the crises of 1999 and 2002:
The biggest hidden story in international development these days may be Brazil's economic takeoff. Two years ago, Brazil's economy was left for dead, and the election of Worker Party candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as president was widely expected to trigger financial collapse.
Instead, Lula has governed with remarkable prudence, and Brazil is poised for rapid growth... Market projections for Brazil's growth are around 4 percent for 2004.
Now I'm a fan of both FHC and Lula (and Jeff Sachs, for that matter), and think they have done very credible jobs at steering the Brazilian ship of state. But 4% is not "rapid" growth, not in terms of getting the Brazilian economy developing at a sufficiently fast enough rate to substantially benefit the 180-odd million people, and to provide an economy competitive enough to keep up with the bugaboo of growth-oriented Latin America, China.
In the context of the global downturn of the past couple of years, 4% GDP growth expected in 2004 is a strong showing [see appendix], and one of the strongest in the region (Argentina and Venezuela bouncing back form their crises throws the numbers off...). That number is nearly twice the growth expected in either the euro area or Japan, but these are all straw men. If Brazil wants to encourage foreign investment, it has to be seen as attractive as compared to the US and China.
Brazil still faces huge challenges. Macroeconomic stability must be consolidated, and the political consensus in favor of universal education, outward-oriented trade, health for all and a science-and-technology-oriented economy must be strengthened. Brazil also must pay more attention to environmental management, especially in the Amazon region, to ensure long-term, sustainable economic development.
These are great challenges, indeed. But Brazil seems to be in the mood to meet them.
An additional opportunity, which I'm surprised Sachs did not point out, is the intergration of the poorest into the formal economy. This is a topic on which a lot of policy research is currently being done in the region, bringing benefits to those who need it most.
Two ways in which the poorest can be (and to some extent are) provided access to the formal economy is through titling of informal property rights (the reanimation of so-called "dead capital" in favelas and slums, championed by Hernando de Soto) and the development of microcredit and microfinance opportunities for entreprenuers.
The four accomplishments from FHC's administration (erroneously cited as being from 1992, not 1994) highlighted by Sachs are:
"Brazil firmly embraced human rights."
"Brazil is finally accepting the global knowledge economy." (i.e., education)
"Brazil is competing in world markets rather than protecting national markets." (as opposed to ISI)
"Brazil is focusing on its people's health and productivity."
In this last one, the point man in FHC's administration on health was José Serra. Serra was (and is) very vocal in getting access to medicines to fight AIDS, and was the negotiator who brokered the first (that I know of) agreement with pharmaceutical companies to provide discounted prices on those medicines in the late 90s. Poor, star-crossed José Serra. It must stick in his craw a bit that his greatest accomplishment is now seen as further proof that Brazil is going in the right direction by having chosen his opponent in the last election...
Best: The presenter, "Paul Parsifal" ("has read tarot cards professionally for seven years"!), only moonlights in tarot readings and esoterica used to divine the future for the benefit of his clients. During the day, he's an Institutional Investment Counsellor.
Before you ask: Web Tarot. The were doing the Celtic Cross spread.
This site does not endorse a specific belief, but reserves the right to make fun of all...
What was surprising is that it was named not in the best foreign language catergory (in which it would have been a strong contender to win, against the odds-on favorite, The Barbarian Invasions). Rather, City of God (we're writing in English here, we'll stick to the English name) has been nominated for the cinematography, directing, film editing, and writing (adapted screenplay) awards ("gongs", which is the much cooler brit way to put it). In directing and film editing, it's competing against both of this year's Oscar juggernauts, Return of the King and Master and Commander. In the adapted screenplay catergory, it's competing against a veritable plethora of good nominees, including the unstoppable force that is ROTK.
The Oscars have treated Latin American cinema poorly. In the almost fifty years of the foreign language film award, only two films from the hemisphere have won (and Orfeu Negro was nominated from France, not Brazil. Argentina's 1985 La Historia Oficial is the other winner).
With such other strong recent candidates as O Que É Isso, Companheiro? (Foreign Film, 1998), Amores Perros (Foreign Film, 2001), El Crimen de Padre Amaro (Foreign Film, 2003), and Y tu mamá también (Original Screenplay, 2003) all missing the brass ring, in order to highlight the quality of Latin American cinematography, it might have made sense to suggest City of God for a relatively minor catergory (quick: who won last year?) in which it would have been a strong contender, rather than larger catergories in which it will be a soon-forgotten also-ran (Far from Heaven, anyone?).
Since this site has now completely devolved to doing movie reviews for web traffic, let me put in a plug for Ônibus 174 (Bus 174), a documentary I saw over Christmas.
As someone who rode the 175 and 177 on occasion, the graphic nature of this documentary is amazing, and it really hits home. The film, using TV footage and interviews with the principals involved almost exclusively, recreates the events surrounding the hijacking (for lack of a better word) of a public bus in July, 2000, in Rio de Janeiro, and the social and institutional failures that the filmmaker feels led to the fiasco.
There are plenty of platitudes about reality TV, cinema verité, and OJ's white bronco that can be indulged in to describe this movie, and it recommends itself solely as a study of the intersection of law & order issues and public scrutiny that governments face both in the first world and especially in the third world, where the economic pressure to resort to illegality (be it active or passive) is overwhelming for many.
But what's really amazing about the film is the ability of the director to take all this footage that was shot with no interest in documentary or cinematographic value (just to be able to get it on TV) and weave it into a story that is visually compelling and leaves you on the edge of your seat. A finer peice of found art I'm not sure I've ever seen.
26 January 2004
Now also with a Mopar 5.7 Liter 345 Hemi Magnum V8 Engine
posted by mike d
In our never ending search to bring you the best in information technology, sparing no cost to us, due torre now supports comments. Be kind: we're idiots.
In addition, due torre now also has it's own XML feed. I'm not sure what it means, either.
I saw the documentary Power Trip Friday night at Visions (run by members of the SAIS mafia here in Washington, DC). While short on production values, it was long on background on the recent revolution in Georgia, a country that, ideosyncratic friends of ours notwithstanding, I know nothing about.
The documentary itself is about the (ultimately unsuccesful) attempt by AES to run Telasi (that's the old AES site), the newly-privatized Georgian electricity distribution company. The film portrays AES's attempt to inform customers about how electricity markets work in a more-or-less straighforward manner (AES was honest, but too brusque, in my opinion), and highlights how AES's efforts to run a profitable business were undermined by the favoritism of the government-controlled national dispatch center towards politically connected customers, even if they were in arrears of millions of lari. The movie implies that this corruption reached all the way to the top, to (now former) Pres. Eduard Shevardnadze, and that the ensuing electricty crises were the casue of the attempts by your average Georgian to steal electricity from Telasi (which they did extensively).
The presentation was interesting because afterwards we were able to have a little Q&A with both the director of the flick (who ends up being a good friend of one of the managers at AES-Telasi, around whom the film is based) and Dennis Bakke, who at the time was head of AES, and was one of several power company heads forced out in the Enron debacle of 2001.
Bakke's presence and his responses were interesting. The guy's well-off, even after being asked to resign and the collapse of the stock market, so any criticism of him has to include the caveat that he has been very successful.
But the impression I got from his comments, and that is reinforced by those who work at AES, is that while he is a visionary, in many ways his ideas were impractical, if not foolhardy. AES lost $200 million invested in Georgia, and was not likely to recoup that investment any time soon. Even for a company like AES (with $30 billion in assets), that's a significant loss to take on a minor (at it's peak, AES owned 120-something companies around the world- this was just one of them) stake. And this was not the only risky investment of this type AES made (in 2002, AES had a net loss of $3.5 billion).
AES got a lot of buzz in the late 1990s for their unusual business practices, one of which was the idea that the purpose of a business was not to make money, but to serve (from Business Week, and also mentioned in the movie: "The company tries to make work fun. AES also lives by the creed that social responsibility should come ahead of profits, a mission the Securities & Exchange Commission required the company to state clearly in its risk statement when AES went public in 1991.") Bakke, from a strong Roman Catholic background (he has several brothers who are in the clergy), has made no secret that he admires and tried to adopt Mother Theresa's work ethic. While that's very admirable, in this case it didn't seem very successful.
Which is where this article on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from the Economist [free link this time] comes in. The article looks at some recent research and suggests that CSR isn't efficient, because, at the bottom line, it's managers spending shareholder' money, and not fulfilling the traditional mandate of the firm: to maximize shareholder value*. Quoth the Economist: "So there is a dilemma. Profit-maximising CSR does not silence the critics, which was the initial aim; CSR that is not profit-maximising might silence the critics but is, in fact, unethical."
The article goes on to highlight the "1% Solution" (or as they call it, the Integrated Philanthropy Model) offered by Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com. This proposes that rather than erratic commitments to CSR on an ad hoc basis, if companies give a constant, incremental, share of their resources to philanthropy, the benefits to society as a whole will be better. Certainly a one percent commitment is easier to manage than a $200 million vision...
*This is in the case of pure coporate philanthropy, not marketing disguised as philanthropy, a lá Starbucks. -----
To get back to the movie, and away from my tangents: it's only playing at Visions through Thursday, so get you ass over there. It's also (oddly enough) on HBO Latin America Wednesday, so those of you (all three of you) who read this for the LatAm content can catch it, too. After that, check for it at local film festivals...
And I know I veered off topic there, confused several items and theories on corporate responsibility (which J-Bra will no doubt bitch-slap me for). I just saw some of that dread synergy in the movie and the article...
So sad about the federal workers, having to go in on a snow day. This never happened when DC had an incompetent mayor! But what with the streets plowed and Metro running as normally as it ever is, well, what excuse do you have? Ha ha! We're drinking hot cocoa right now!
That may be the case, but at least now when I come back from lunch reeking of brandy, I can just tell my boss I was rescued by a Saint-Bernard...
Strides in politics, trade hailed in Latin America
posted by mike d
NAFTA paying off, U.S. official says
They get his title wrong, they mis-quote him at points (Mexico has three or four major parties, not the two -PAN y PRI- implied by the article), and they skip over whatever his comments were about Intellectual Property Rights and portfolio flows*, which are some of the major issues in which the current conventional (or "received", if you prefer) wisdom in the region is being questioned; but overall I agree with the assesment of this (on due torre unnamed) State Department official.
The money quote is: "The political liberalization we've seen there would not have been possible without economic modernization and that, in turn, would not have been possible without NAFTA." Often times critiques of the trade agreements in the region ignore what is pushed as one of the major benefits of trade pacts- the "democracy dividend." This is the pressure to keep pact members democratic, a pressure made explicit in the Mercosur framework.
The two most well-known cases of this dividend are the establishment of multi-party politics in Mexico, and the continuation of democracy in Paraguay in the late 1990s, despite the machination of Gen. Oviedo: his assassination of VP Argana and subsequent failed run for president from Brasília last year.
Given the weakness of the USG's case for an FTAA by 2005, it's surprising that the democracy dividend isn't pushed more as a goal of the treaty, especially given recent events in Bolivia.
*sorry, that's a subscription link to the Economist, which had a great survey of global capital in the same issue -----
Of course I'm totally unbiased in linking to this. We report, you decide...
WaPo: Cheney No Longer Happy to Be Creepy in the Shadows, Now Wants to Be Creepy in the Limelight
posted by mike d
(Tentative alternative title: "Why Oh Why Can't We Have A Better Press Corps? Part Duh.")
The hometown-newspaper-masquerading-as-the-national-newspaper Washington Post has a front-page article this morning on Cheney's recent appearances from his undisclosed location, two weeks before February second. Whether he's seen his shadow or not has not been confirmed as of press time.
What's mind-boggling is that the media blitz (in as much as Dick Cheney can have a media blitz) is designed to give Cheney a softer image with the public (at least, according to reporters, that is).
Who is fooling who? Whatever his merits as a chief of staff, defense secretary, éminence grise, or even Vice President (and as an administrative hatchet man, it's much better to have him with you than against you), Dick Cheney is not the man to put a friendly face on an administration that's already been questioned on what it does (especially what Cheney does) in the shadows. If you want swing voters to consider reelecting the president, put easy-on-the-eyes Colin out there, not an elder-statesman George Costanza.
Much more telling are the quotes form the White House itself:
Officials say that after the Democratic nominee is chosen, Cheney will make frequent appearances in targeted television markets that Bush cannot hit.
A Cheney aide said that with Bush's core supporters, 'taking a few unearned hits in the press over time can intensify their loyalty, and that is not a political negative.'
So the real reason to get Cheney out there is to have him say the things Bush can't to reassure the right wing that the administration is more conservative than compassionate. Although I'd be surprised to see Cheney back an anti-gay Marriage Amendment on PAX TV any time soon, that seems to be the idea behind getting Cheney out of his foxhole. And yet the Post, drooling over itself at getting an exclusive interview with the Veep, unquestioningly swallows the cover story.
Despite what you think about this fisking of the WaPo, I have notsold out for top dollar. Mostly cuz they won't pay me...
As a transition from previous posts about Mexico that were just about immigration, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at chilango (and elsewhere in the country) developments of the past week. A quick look then, at the week in cross-border issues, political realignment, and doughnuts, all from a perspective north of the Rio Bravo del Norte.
Immigrants Old and New: The Mexican response to Bush's immigration proposal has been muted, if positive. The most common complaint (and one reflected by Democrats in the US) is that the proposal does not go far enough in addressing the underlying casues of illegal immigration, and is a one-off benefit for those already in the US. There are also concerns that citizenship opportunities for undocumented Mexican immigrants in the US are not addressed. However, this is tempered by the realization that, after 28 months of silence on the issue of immigration reform, this is better than nothing from the White House.
Additionally, with the spotlight back on the bracero program of the 1960s, several former braceros back in Mexico have been protesting that the never received the funds promised them from the Fondo Campesino, an indigenous support fund, for work done in the US.
Election Strategies: This week also saw the announcement of the electoral strategies of the major political parties in the coming year. This year's elections are at the state level in states such as Chihuahua, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Chiapas, and others.
Following on it's losses in last year's Congressional elections, the ruling right-ish party PAN has moved to ally itself with the left-wing PRD (the third largest party in the country) in the upcoming gubernatorial elections several of these states (with the possibility of further state-level alliances, according to the PRD leader). This marriage of convenience pits both against who they see as the real enemy: the dictadorzuelos and state-level caudillos who are members of the PRI, the old ruling party.
The PAN-PRD alliance is something worth discussing, and, if I have time over the weekend, I'll see if I can't get my movable thoughts down on movable type...
Hmmm... doughnut: Finally, Krispy Kreme doughnuts opened it's first store in the non-English-speaking world this week, with a new store in Interlomas, outside Mexico City. According to their press release, the company looks to open 20 stores in Mexico over the next six years.
If you can get a Krispy Kreme doughnut in Mexico City, there's no reason why they can't return the favor and give us a good taco al pastor joint in Washington, DC.
Most likely no one will read this till Monday, but if you get to it before then, buen fin de semana...
Blogpost on Dean's now-infamous howl ("Maybe the National Association of Wolf Howlers has been offering generous donations to the first candidate to shriek in public.")
Blogpost with a great reinterpretation behind the odd push for the Moon and Mars.
An article ("Tolstoy and the Beltway" -it looks like it should rhyme so much, but then you say it in your head, and it doesn't at all) about the now-forgotten (when was the last time you thought about it?) Prez Committe on Bioethics.
Easterbrook is a prolific writer (see the NFL column he puts out weekly in addition to all this other stuff), and it's almost always good (although he does veer off onto pendantic tangents). I'd like to write at his level
Fawn. Fawn. Fawn. Fawn.... gimme a break.
Asleep at the wheel (or grasping the obvious) at the Washington Post
posted by mike d
So the Washington Post, which I normally follow like the Brezhnev-era Pravda, had bizarre captions to standard looking campaign fotos this morning. Either the foto editor was massively hungover (if so, bully for him- wish I was having that much fun), or insipid to the point of incoherence...:
Joseph I. Lieberman is a master at picking out faces in the crowd.
Howard Dean's gesture falls between a point to heaven and a No. 1 sign.
Wesley K. Clark knows the handshake can be a powerful campaign tool.
Sen. John F. Kerry is a smooth greeter who often touches the crowd.
"Often touches the crowd"?!? That just sounds creepy. But my favorite:
Dennis J. Kucinich's cadence was set to music in a techno-mix video.
Techno-mix video??? That sounds like my grandfather trying to define MTV...
I refuse to answer the question: "So, do you actually do any work?"
posted by mike d
Steven Roach's column on Davos at the Morgan Stanley website is a great read. I wanted to "highlight" it, but ended up getting a solid third of it down...:
I knew something unusual was in the air when I first entered the Congress Centre, the hub of the World Economic Forum. Prominently positioned just before the security screening stations were signs emblazoned with the shocking message, “Ties Forbidden.” This is unheard of in formal European conference circles — to say nothing of the special ambience of Davos. Borrowing a page straight out of the final days of America’s dot-com mania, the World Economic Forum had reinvented the rules. The intellectual debate was quick to follow suit.
...As always, the crowd at Davos personified the market sentiment of the moment — there is a growing sense of conviction that this is the start of something big and lasting.
Not surprisingly, my view ran very much against the grain of the hopes and dreams of this year’s crowd at Davos. In the opening economics session, I had the audacity to make the argument that imbalances matter. A one-engine world, in my view, is utterly incapable of providing a sustainable growth dynamic for a $36 trillion global economy....
The Davos consensus was quick to agree. With the entire world perceived to be on a de facto dollar standard, America’s rapid build-up of external dollar-denominated debt was not perceived to be a problem....One participant characterized this arrangement as “a massive Asian export subsidy program.” Another cited the artificially depressed US interest rates that fall out of this arrangement as a foreign subsidy to the spendthrift American consumer. Either way, no one could conceive of any circumstances that would cause Asian investors — private or official — to change their mind on the funding of America’s massive external imbalance.
However, the best Davos story (besides my boy Vahid sneaking himself in to the meeting in New York, that is) involves an email written by a journalist (Laurie Garrett) who was at Davos last year.
The email reads as such a good "insider's view" of Davos (read it- it's quick. i recommend printing it out and take it to the john...); such a good view, in fact, that it was forwarded by one of her friends to another friend, to another friend, etc etc, and wound up on a popular website. Of course, Ms Garrett was aghast that her privacy was betrayed, and an interesting discussion of the implications of the perfect instant transfer of information on privacy was started.
A post touching on economic issues, world summits, and IT implications for privacy rights should be good penance after two posts on cartoons...
I was lucky enough to catch two episodes of the Simpsons tonight, and both were classics. The first was Dancin' Homer, which ended with almost a Zen koan highlighting my point earlier about stories people like to hear:
And that's the story. Homer is amazed that everyone was hanging on his every word. The bar denizens beg Homer to tell it again, and he agrees. ``I wonder why stories of degradation and humiliation make you more popular.'' Moe responds, ``I dunno. They just do.''
Yesterday was the anniversary of the founding of the Mui Leal e Heróica Cidade de São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro [Very Loyal and Heroic City of Saint Sebastian of the River of January], better known as Rio. Stephen George, one of my colleagues at Southern Exposure has a great post about O Globo's celebration of the day with a listing of all the flogs (foto+blog=flog. needless to say, the term is more popular in portuguese) that cover Rio. If you're looking for a good way to waste some time:
But everyone keeps talking about how the Iowa caucus actually has 17 different counts, and that every campaign stretching back to Estes Kefauver can declare victory based on one of the votes tonight (check Kausfiles for all the relevant links and a good, hit-the-ground-running summary of the issues concerned.
Most commentators point out that the "important" vote is the "second" vote, or the (really) the first vote caucasers make when they get to the caucus (before "unviable" candidates are winnowed out). But the last time people tried to count this, in 1988, it was a fiasco. So no one is even going to try to count 'em this year.
Why disastrous? For one thing, it "was really hard to count" the non-viable groups "before they switched" to other candidates, as a counter told Saletan. But there were other screw-ups--caucuses that were simply left unattended by the media's badly-trained operatives. The press consortium actually abandoned Count #2 in 1988 with 30 percent of the caucuses left to be done (and you didn't hear much on-air mention of that embarrassing fact either). This year nobody is going to make Opotowsky's error by even trying to count vote #2.
I understand there's something like half an hour between the "pre-viable" count and the next count.
Someone is going to get a lot of money convincing George Soros to give them $1,000,000 to buy a bunch of blackberrys (*involuntary shudder*) to hand out to a bunch of poli-sci undergrads, and pay them $100 each to go two at a time to every single one of the caucus points in Iowa, and beam in the results. Every campaign would give their eyeteeth for that data.
So in a hairbrained response to an interesting opportunity, I wrote down some ideas on travel:
If you're going to buy one book to travel somewhere with, the Lonely Planet guide is normally your best bet. The only exceptions to this are: NYC, where you want something from Time Out; and Italy, where, near as I can tell, nothing suffices.
Travel writing (like sports writing) can be divided into two fields: "play by play" and "color commentary". The first is all the sundry things like exchange rates and electricity currents that we need to know in order to be able to go somewhere. The second helps us get at why we go somewhere (a history of Tango in Argentina, or of coffee in Ethiopia). Too often, travelogues mix these two, to the detriment of both.
If I can offend Tolstoy, I'd like to steal his famous witticism and apply it to travel stories: All the happy ones are alike, and boring (how many times can we listen to someone's bland platitudes about their mystical experience at the ashram?). All the sad ones are sad in their own way, and infinitely more interesting (the four hour flight from Rio to La Paz that turned into a 22-hour ordeal is my personal best).
Travel, like fashion and celebrity, follows trends. Over the past couple of years, popular spots have been Morocco, Eastern Europe, Brazil, and India. The puffy hat of the moment (if you'll pardon the expression) is Vietnam. Next? A case can be made for Argentina, southern Mexico, or even Turkey (despite the bombings).
Everyone likes to have the messy details of travel taken care of for them. Everyone likes surprises. There's a market out there for package deals that say: "Pay $250 and show up at JFK, and we'll take you someplace warm for a 3-day weekend."
Travel writing needs to be able to give a weekly (daily?) list of what’s coming that week, in terms of travel deals, holidays and festivals that cannot be missed, and what’s new in travel biz (where to go and where not to go, based on changes in weather or “hard news”). Currently, it really can't.
To answer Choire’s two questions: The easiest way to pick up a hooker in Venezuela is to look on the beach in front of the expensive hotels: the hookers are the ones bathing topless, fishing for gringos. In Morocco, the hashish finds you: walk out the door and soon enough someone will whisper “shisha” at you.
It was very tempting to just rip this list, which I got via Miz Jackie, but I'll just recommend you go read it yourself...
O Brasil deverá receber este ano US$ 21,5 bilhões em investimentos privados, entre recursos para o setor produtivo e para a aplicação em ativos financeiros. Esse total representa um crescimento de 106,7% sobre os US$ 10,4 bilhões obtidos pelo país em 2003 e é mais da metade (55%) do fluxo de US$ 39 bilhões que deve chegar à América Latina em 2004.
A estimativa foi divulgada ontem em Washington pelo Instituto de Finanças Internacionais (IIF, na sigla em inglês), que reúne os maiores bancos do mundo.Da fatia que os investidores programaram para o Brasil, US$ 11 bilhões serão na forma de investimentos diretos, destinados ao setor produtivo, com um crescimento de 37,5% sobre o ano anterior. Os US$ 10,5 bilhões restantes virão pelo mercado financeiro - compra de ações e títulos, por exemplo.
Brasil should receive $21.5 billion this year in private investment in funds for the productive sector [sic] and in stocks [that is: in both FDI and portfolio funds]. This total represents a growth of 106.7% over the $10.4 billion obtained by the country in 2003 and is more than half (55%) of $39 billion that is expected to flow to Latin America in 2004.
The estimate was released yesterday in Washington by the Institute of International Finance (IIF), that comprises the largest banks in the world. From the amount investors expect for Brasil, $11 billion will be in the form of direct investment in the productive sector, which is a growth of 37.5% over the year before. The remaining $10.5 billion will come from the financial markets- in the purchase of stocks and bonds, for example.
$21 billion is a lot. I'm guessing that's 30% (at least) more than we'll invest in Mexico this year. It'd be interesting to see where these numbers come from. But it's 5pm on Friday... so unless you want to do the work for me, i'll check it out over the weekend...
The editors at O Globo can't help mentioning in the headline that this number compares to the $150 million expected to be invested in Argentina this year. heh heh...
Proportional Representation in the US
posted by mike d
The Volokh Conspiracy is full of legal minds much sharper than mine. Discussing the Constitution and what it has to say on the Primary system (cf Iowa, Tuesday), Jacob Levy sez:
The Constitution does not mandate single-member districts. California, for instance, would be free to have a single at-large district for the state, and to allocate its eight hundred and thirty or so U.S. House seats by PR or STV in a single statewide election. In that case, the state party would gain tremendous power through its ability to determine a party list. Similarly, states are free to experiment with such things in their state legislative elections.
I'm thinking out loud here, but for everyone (sane or otherwise) who complains about the limitations of the two-party system in the US, isn't this another avenue to opening up the system to other parties? I mean, if an independent had won in California (or say, Minnesota), would they have had enough momentum to change their national representation ot a PR system? this would have driven the national levels of both parties nuts...
The usual exchange rate of the Iraqi Dinar used to be around 2000 for one us dollar, today it is 1200. But at the same time this 40% rising in the value of the Iraqi Dinar was not accompanied with any change in the prices of food, transportation and other basic supplies and products.
He also links to a Reuters story about the valuation of the dinar:
Demand for the dinar has been boosted by a surge in currency smuggling which has seen hundreds of millions of dinars taken to Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and the other Arab states, traders said.
"There is strong demand from neighbouring countries. They think the dinar is undervalued compared to the dollar and they expect the dinar to rise in the medium and long term," said Mohammad Hassan al-Jashmae, who runs a currency exchange firm.
The market seems to see a more optimistic outcome to the US intervention than we do. it'll be interesting to see if it bears out...
NB: the Dinars with Saddam on the front as of today are no longer legal tender. Jim's life savings have been destroyed...
High Plains Drifter
posted by mike d
A great review of the new translation of Don Quixote (by the same woman who translates Gabriel García Márquez's stuff into English). Definitely on my to-read list:
Don Quixote is considered (in Edith Grossman's words) the "first—and probably the greatest—novel" in the European tradition in part because it makes this claim to represent "ordinary life" a central and profound aspect of the plot. Cervantes's fiction is a sort of birth announcement—droll and yet decisive—for realism itself. It betokens a new human attitude. By showing Quixote driven mad by the involuted, highly stylized, comically implausible heroic romances of the later Middle Ages, fantastic tomes such as the fourteenth-century Amadís of Gaul and the fifteenth-century Palmerín of England, Cervantes was not just spoofing an out-of-date literary mode; he was also marking the obsolescence of the philosophical world view it embodied. Don Quixote is far more, one soon realizes, than just a comic assault on some fanciful old stories: in its deepest aspect it is a metaphysical statement—a revolutionary affirmation of that secular and humanistic point of view we associate with modernity itself.
There's also has an interesting discussion at the end on how Miguel Cervantes' view of Islam is much more informed than our own, and how it comes through in the novel.
And Edith Grossman- translator of Miguel Cervantes, GGM, Mario Vargas Llosa. Millions have read her work. No one knows her name...
Dale Robbin Hersh
posted by mike d
As a follow up, we present the best picture I could quickly find of the offending American Airlines Pilot. Turns out there was film in the camera...:
Sooner, rather than later, Germany will have an all-volunteer, professional army that is designed for rapid global deployment, trained for peacekeeping, and intended for anti-terror and nation-building missions.
This is the shoe that's been waiting to drop since the end of the Cold War. Germany will no longer tie its defense resources to territorial defense, weekend warriors, draftees with nine-month terms of service, and forces structured to stop the Sovs at the Fulda Gap.
In and of itself, this long-expected but oft-delayed change would have serious implications for the architecture of European security. Another process, and another political declaration increase its significance.
The process he refers to is the shifting of American forces in Europe to the east (makes sense: it's cheaper and closer to any likely future action- Balkans, Ukraine/Belarus, eastern Med). The declaration si Schröder's declaration that .de defence policy will be run from Berlin (and not, say, Brussels or Washington).
It happened very quietly, but as of Jan 1, 2004, Turkey is a full participant in the Socrates/Erasmus Europe-wide educational cooperation and exchange programmes. Turkish students can now go study anywhere in Europe for up to a year, much as European students have been doing for years. European students, of course, can now go hang out in Istanbul. Will it become the new Prague?
This is the kind of subtle tectonic shift that will eventually make Turkey's entry into the EU inevitable, and I applaud heartily.
As near as I can tell, the Erasmus program has had a very strong (and positive) influencial effect on the Europeans who grew up with it. (Easiest way to explain to Italians what I was doing in Bologna: "Sono eurasmus.") By making a positive Turkish presence palatable, it will acclimate Europeans to working with Turkey*, and give the country better odds of aceeding to the EU (I don't know if it's as inevitable as Stefan thinks, but the odds surely are better)
*I first wrote that as "workey with Turkey" which I may use from now on, to the embarrassment of everyone I know...
Incidentally, Stefan is a SAISer ('95 or something, from the looks of it), who I came across through his writing on MemeFirst with Felix Salmon who knows a lot more about bond markets than I do...
In the days to come, any administration official who says that a Moon base could support a Mars mission is revealing himself or herself to be a total science illiterate. When you hear, 'A Moon base could support a Mars mission,' substitute the words, 'I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about.'
Establishing an extended human presence on the moon could vastly reduce the costs of further space exploration, making possible ever more ambitious missions. Lifting heavy spacecraft and fuel out of the Earth's gravity is expensive.
Piloto americano faz gesto obsceno e é detido no aeroporto de Guarulhos SP TV
SÃO PAULO - Um piloto da American Airlines, que comandava um vôo vindo de Miami (Estados Unidos), foi detido nesta manhã no Aeroporto Internacional de Guarulhos, na Grande São Paulo. Segundo a Polícia Federal, o piloto fez um gesto obsceno no momento em que era fotografado, durante o procedimento de identificação. Ele ainda teria desacatado os policiais.
A tripulação do avião também não aceitou passar pelos procedimentos de identificação, de acordo com a PF, e não foi autorizada a entrar no Brasil. O piloto e os tripulantes estão em uma sala do aeroporto. No total, 12 pessoas estão detidas. Eles devem voltar para os Estados Unidos ainda nesta quarta-feira.
An American Airlines pilot in command of a flight from Miami [to São Paulo] was detained this morning at Garulhos International Airport, in the São Paulo metro area. According to the Federal Police, the pilot made an obscene gesture while he was being photographed, during the identification procedure. He had been ignoring the police [officers].
The flight crew refused to undergo the identification procedures, according to the Federal Police, and were not authorized to enter Brazil. The pilot and the crew are in a room at the airport. Twelve people are detained in total. They should be returned to the US this Wednesday [today].
Words fail me.
The question is: "Do you think that the Brazilians actually have film in those cameras?"
"A Manual for a LONG TIME"
posted by Jim
Following Mike's post on the "Manual for Victory," I wonder if Mr. Perle and Mr. Frum have proposed a timeframe in which all this should take place? Granted, I have not read the book, but such policy changes would require decades, not to mention BILLIONS of DOLLARS.
Have the authors not considered:
France's policy disagreements with the United States over the past two years are far outweighed by both the annals of history AND economic considerations?
The global financial and socio-economic costs of waging a TRIPLE WAR (while occupying two other countries)?
That even the Israelis think Palestine should be a separate state?
The UN allows for participation of all member countries to compromise on issues, rather than be ruled by one country?
Of course, many of these books are written to get a rise of out people, and it looks like the authors are succeeding, just to sell copies. I just don't think I'll be spending anytime soon.
posted by mike d
After the interview on 60 Minutes and leaks about it beforehand, there's lots of talk about Paul O'Neill's new book. Brad DeLong (who worked in Clinton's Treasury Department, so you can claim he's biased) has a series of excerpts (thats the most recent of his excerpts- look at the day or two before this one, as well). If like me you're too cheap to read the book, it makes for good highlight reading....
"A Manual For Victory"
posted by mike d
So the Economist and some bloggers have noticed a new book put out by Richard Perle and David Frum, former Bushies and hardcore neocons, called "An end to evil: How to win the war on terror." The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting list of some of the things Perle & Frum propose:
France is really more an enemy than an ally of the US and that European nations must be forced to choose between Paris and Washington
Muslims living in the US must be given special scrutiny by US law enforcement and other Americans
The US must overthrow the regimes in Iran and Syria, and impose a blockade on North Korea
Palestinians must not be allowed to have a state
All Americans must carry a government issued identity card
The US must explicitly reject the jurisdiction of the United Nations Charter.
The Economist colors the shades of some of these "ideas" a little better, but ultimately takes the same view that it's best to "take a breath" before thinking about what Perle & Frum want us to do. But I'd recommend a stiff shot. I mean, we have a significant number of dissagreements with them, but is France really an enemy of the United States? All Muslims in the US must be monitored? How about those that, say, work for our police and fire departments? And the Secret Service? Should we fire them?
I would like to think that this will make some people step back and wonder what exactly we're trying to do, and how exactly we're trying to do it, but we haven't been asking those questions from the beginning...
When the European Coal and Steel Union (the precursor to today's EU) was begun way back in 1957, the idea was that economic integration was supposed to tie European economies together in such a way that it would be extremely unadvantageous to continue to make war on each other, as they had been for the previous 90 years. The premise is simple, and in its most basic form, a good one: economic integration "spills over" to political harmony.
How ironic, then, that the current level of infighting over EU-level economics marks one of the biggest dangers to continued said European political harmony we have seen in quite some time? The EU Commission (the de facto EU government) will now call the EU Council of Ministers (the heads of the various member-states) before the EU Court of Justice to contend that the CoM's suspension of the European Stability and Growth Pact (the agreement binding EU economies under various spending limits) is, in fact, illegal.
While the Commission is probably technically in the right, the higher levels of the EU have historically been very hesitant to assert themselves over the members states (here represented, more or less, by the CoM) because of a fear of backlash against decreasing national sovereignty under the EU "superstate." Now, it would appear, the Commission is trying to put the smack down on national politicians who have broken EU-rules merely to stimulate their individual economies.
So watch this battle -- it could set an interesting precedent that could affect the EU's power for years.
12 January 2004
posted by mike d
Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing in the WP has a great "quick summary of the lookahead stories" for Bush's trip mañana to Monterrey for the "Extraordinary" Summit of the Americas:
• Chris Marquis, New York Times: The United States is increasingly facing resentment over security and trade policies from Latin American countries.
And the grand old man of Latin America beat reporting, Andres Oppenheimer, points out who will be missing from that meeting, making it in many ways toothless: finance ministers.
Doubts About Bush Immigration Plan
posted by mike d
A quick follow-up to my previous post on the Bush administration's announced proposal to allow illegal immigrants in the US to register as temporary workers shows that the proposal has been received with some skepticism.
Observers both in the US and in Mexico have viewed the proposal as much more of a Public Relations maneuver by Bush than a serious legislative initiative. The best comment I've seen so far described the concept as being "under-baked", that is, "it doesn't yet approach half-baked."
An editorial in Mexico's El Universal reflect the Mexican position as voiced by President Fox: "It is a very interesting program. We are going to wait for details." However, El Universal's immediate response was in ways more pessimistic:
Habrá que tomarle la palabra y analizar si la reforma propuesta hoy responde efectivamente a las necesidades de millones de mexicanos que actualmente se encuentran generando riqueza para la vecina nación o si sólo es un instrumento de lucha político-electoral con objeto de conquistar al voto latino en las elecciones de fin de año, lo que sería muy decepcionante.
[Roughly: (It remains to be seen) if today's proposed reforms respond effectively to the necessities of million of Mexicans that are currently generating wealth for (our) neighboring country, or if it is only a weapon in the political-electoral fight with the object of conquering the Latin vote in this year's elections, which would be very disappointing.]
(As a quick aside: El Universal quotes a figure of 10 million illegal immigrants in the US, while estadounidense sources tend to go with about 8 million. Needless to say, the exact number is most likely somewhere in between -I would guess closer to 8 than 10- but most observers agree that about half of those -that is, 4 to 5 million- are of Mexican origin, with next largest group coming from Central America)
From north of the Rio Bravo del Norte, an article stuffed in yesterday's Washington Post describes both conservative Republican and Democratic concerns with the outlined plan. Conservatives question a proposal that "seems to reward illegal behavior"; Democrats will likely push a bill by their senate leader Tom Daschle and a moderate Republican that would allow temporary workers some sort of faster track to applying for permanent resident status.
Telling is the fact that the conservative quoted above is Tom ("the Hammer") DeLay, leader of the Republicans in the House and close ally to Bush (they're both form Texas). DeLay's "heartfelt reservations" indicate that the White House likely didn't consult with him prior to the announcement; that says that despite the announcement and a presidential speech, the administration is not going to make any legislative moves any time soon.
From inside the beltway, then, and taken in context of other half-baked plans such as the plan to go to Mars, pending some walk to back up the administrations' talk, the temporary worker proposal looks more like election-year fodder to make the President look compassionate and in-touch with the needs of (non-Cuban) Latino voters, and less like a serious proposal.
It's great to think that a (nominally) independent country can decide to close up shop and decide that (even symbolic) sovereignty is too much to handle. I can't think of any other country that has decided "Oh, we can't go it alone, let's surrender to someone else, and let them run the show." At least, not willingly.
09 January 2004
Headquarters of the Cult of Alfonso Calalang
posted by mike d
Modern technology is a powerful thing. For example, one of the features of this website is that it'll (sometimes) be able to tell us how people got here. In particular, google searches that turn up our site are noted (Google owns Blogger). So it was my pleasure to find out that if you search google for "ex-governors of central bank of the philippines", due torre come up second (slightly less inexplicably, the Thai Board of Investment comes first...).
If you've seen the various "googlebombs" for Bush ("miserable failure" and "unelectable"), then you've seen what was a funny thought at first get overplayed by desperate, over-their-heads democrats (I write that as one myself).
Much better now is this Moe Lane* idea: "From now on, Senator Joseph Lieberman will only be spoken of here by me as the Ninja, mostly because a less Ninja-like person is hard to contemplate."
also, Howard Dean's only other film credit (besides 'K Street') is, oddly enough, for a movie called Ninja III. (even odds it's not him, but let me dream a little...)
*i don't know who he is either, i just got it via Crooked Timber, and am giving credit where credit's due...
before you ask: googlebomb.
and yes, i am a sheep, following whatever the Internationale tells me. Why?
07 January 2004
Braceros Back in Action
posted by mike d
As the newest member of Southern Exposure, and Minister Without Portfolio over there, I thought I'd talk about the new Bush administration proposal to document illegal immigrants:
The New York Times and the Washington Post both have front page articles unveiling Bush's new temporary worker plan to document illegal immigrants.
If you listen quietly, you can hear Vincente Fox dancing with joy.
Despite the crash course in lax monetary policy Brazilians had taken in the 80s-90s, I was surprised to find they'd all turned into macroeconomists. Needless to say, turns out the reason for Antônio Palocci's popularity is even more depressing; nine out of ten visitors to the website are checking out information on the Receita, the Brasilian equivalent of the US IRS.
above and beyond that depressing discovery, some of the data on Alexa is interesting, as a snapshot of how different countries/cultures/societies use the web...
Management by Baseball
posted by mike d
I came across this via blogger, and it reads as a really interesting site, that should provide (me, at least) with insight both into baseball and management consulting:
...the buttons on the end of sleeves of men's suits. They don't button. The majority of suit coats did button before 1905, but slowly because of toher clothes worn, coats evolved to not have sleeves that buttoned. But in the buyer's eye, blazers and coats without buttons 'looked funny' and tailors put them on even when not needed to feed the customers' need. And because suits have non-functioning sleeve buttons when the next generation gorws up, the presumption becomes tacit, invisible, usually unquestioned. It's not just material culture that's affected.
From the depths of the first Monday morning of the New Year, two changes worth noting:
A second blogger is joining duetorre! Das ist wunderbar! (Being the Garisenda to my Asinelli, if you will). Details are still being worked out, but suffice to say that when asked for an introduction, the second gunman- er, blogger shot back: "just say i know a lot of stuff."
In what will no doubt result in the disgrace of the organization and virtual strife throughout the hemisphere, I've been invited to join the Southern Exposure crowd in blogging over at Living In Latin America. I'm not sure how that will relate to what I write here (I imagine the more libelous stuff will get posted here), but it's an opportunity to bounce ideas of heads much smarter than mine.
That first post at Living In Latin America is a bit of a puff piece on New Year's in Rio; rather than plunge into the pool that is 2004, I like to tip-toe in...