Posted on 03-12-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut
  • Obama donors are feeling left out as they lose some of the traditional access perks of fund raisers.  Fits with a populist theme of the campaign, but am not sure why giving freebies to donors that soothe their ego as opposed to rewriting legislation to suit their needs is all that bad.  A string of unhappy donors could bite the Obama campaign fund raising machine in the butt in 2012.
  • Yglesias highlights the continuing struggles and hypocrisy of main stream media in dealing with Internet based rivals. It is bad enough that Rupert Murdoch whines that Google and blogs like this one (well maybe not this one) who link to his sites are parasites, but now they complain when the sites do the actual journalistic legwork.  While complaining about the websites being ideologically slanted, the same main stream media rallied around Fox as a legitimate news operation.  This Jon Stewart video link in a  previous blog post is worth watching.
  • Daniel Gross thinks the markets overreacted to the Dubai debt crisis last week.  Maybe someone can recommend an expert from the Chicago school to explain to him how our efficient markets are composed of rational actors instead of a bunch of traumatized lemmings.
  • China tries to rescue the story of Mulan from the Disney interpretation.  Must be galling to see the “definitive” interpretation of a historic/legendary icon be a foreign version with the Disney formula of communicative animals and a klutzy dragon. Reminds me of the controversy in India about Peter Brook’s version of the Mahābhārat.

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    Posted on 03-12-2009
    Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

    A decade later Malaysians cannot be blamed for wondering if they are in a time warp.  Ten years after opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim was convicted in a controversial and lurid trial for sodomy, the Malaysian government is back at it.  The charge yet again is sodomy.  However, as Anil Netto points out the political environment in Malaysia has changed.  Mahathir Mohamad no longer reigns supreme.  Malaysian politics is more fractured and as a result more democratic.  The ruling party suffered unprecedented losses in national and provincial elections last year and while it still holds on to power the facade of invincibility is gone.

    The Malaysian government is playing a tricky game here and risks creating a political martyr.  The 1999 trial was widely criticized (former Vice President Al Gore called it a joke) and resulted in widespread sympathy for Anwar.  With its control over the media weakened the Malaysian government will find it much harder to control the domestic narrative during this trial, particularly if the evidence is seen as tainted or coerced.  Whatever the result of the trial, Malaysia appears to be the latest ASEAN country headed into turbulent headwinds.

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    Posted on 03-12-2009
    Filed Under (Environment) by Rashtrakut

    Suketu Mehta with a passionate column on how 25 years after the Bhopal gas disaster legal immunity from corporate structures, government apathy and the unspoken fact of a lower value assigned to deaths in certain places have contributed to the continuing environmental and human catastrophe in the area.  Some of the charges against Union Carbide fit into the caricatured stereotype of  the evil multi-national that will have superior safety standards in the West but will ignore them in the third world.  The Indian government also fully lives up to its stereotypes of incompetence and bureaucratic apathy.

    Bhopal also presents the delicate balance between a company’s legal and moral obligations.  Right now the legalists are winning.  So while the activists complain, the Indian government dithers, Dow claims legal immunity the contamination in the area continues, people still fall sick and die and as usual nothing gets done.  The dead in Bhopal are currently the collateral damage to India’s aspirations for the future for which future profits will not be endangered.

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    Posted on 03-12-2009
    Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

    An interesting read from Time on how a legal loophole allows the United States to maintain nuclear weapons in Europe which in a nightmare scenario could allow Dutch, Belgian, Italian and German pilots to engage in nuclear war.  These bombs are not militarily necessary and are politically unpopular in the host countries.  However, they are justified on political grounds to bind the NATO allies together and even more ludicrously (particularly since one of the problems with NATO is the defense spending cuts by the Europeans after the Cold War) to prevent a nuclear arms race on the continent.  It is also the type of legal parsing that hurts American credibility when it tries to prevent other countries from acquiring the bomb.

    Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons was a difficult task to begin with before additional complications were added into the picture.  The NPT’s arbitrary time line dividing nuclear and non-nuclear powers does not help (and was a big reason why India refused to sign the treaty in the first place).  Then you have the tacit understanding that Israel has nuclear weapons but will never be criticized for it because they are deemed essential for its survival.  Countries like Japan are widely believed to have the knowledge necessary to produce nuclear weapons on a moments notice (which is what some observers believe Iran is really after).  And then the Bush administration muddled the picture further with talk of developing tactical nuclear devices.

    It is not hard to see why conspiracy theorists come to the conclusion that non-proliferation is really designed to divide the world into permanent nuclear haves and have-nots with special rules applied to countries in American favor.

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