Friday, 21 December 2007

Out and about

Went out with someone tonight - Hidden in a nondescript Japanese restaurant without any signs directing to it, Angel's Share offers some of the best cocktails in the city. The menu is extensive and drinks offer complex flavors, well-blended, delicate and not overpowering. The decor is quaint and romantic and the service is great. The rules are awesome too: no groups of more than 4 people, no loud conversation and no shouting, no standing, single guys trying to pick up women is seriously taboo. Try something from the seasonal menu.

Same song in Spanish

Junto a ti, al pasar las horas oh mi amor
Hay un rumor de fuentes de cristal
Que, en el jardi­n, parecen hablar
En voz baja a las rosas

(With you, the hours pass oh my love
There is a rumor of crystal fountains
That, in the garden, appear to speak
In a low voice to the roses)

Wednesday, 19 December 2007


(The balcony of my room in Paris, looking out onto the street)

There is something so inherently romantic about this city and I want to be back. My favorite French song, Aranjuez Mon Amour, it's darkness notwithstanding, gives me an insatiable desire to make love along a bank of the Seine whenever I listen to it. haha just kidding, but not really :)

Aranjuez Mon Amour

Mon amour, sur l'eau des fontaines, mon amour
Ou le vent les amènent, mon amour
Le soir tombé, qu'on voit flotté
Des pétales de roses

Mon amour et des murs se gercent mon amour
Au soleil au vent à l'averse et aux années qui vont passant
Depuis le matin de mai qu'ils sont venus
Et quand chantant, soudain ils ont écrit sur les murs du bout de leur fusil
De bien étranges choses

Mon amour, le rosier suit les traces, mon amour
Sur le mur et enlace, mon amour
Leurs noms gravés et chaque été
D'un beau rouge sont les roses

Mon amour, sèche les fontaines, mon amour
Au soleil au vent de la plaine et aux années qui vont passant
Depuis le matin de mai qu'il sont venus
La fleur au cœur, les pieds nus, le pas lent
Et les yeux éclairés d'un étrange sourire

Et sur ce mur lorsque le soir descend
On croirait voir des taches de sang
Ce ne sont que des roses !
Aranjuez, mon amour

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


I've been watching a lot of old films lately. Michelangelo Antonioni's L'avventura from 1960 was one of the best. I found it a refreshing insight into how seemingly simple life was two generations ago, yet how complex relationships could become. It tells the story of a wealthy, stlyish, oversexed man, frustrated by a lack of satisfaction from past relationships (Gabriele Ferzetti), trying to develop and cement something new with an irritatingly complex and unresponsive woman, Anna.

Ferzetti is unbelievably magnetic. He's not the best looking, but women are drawn to his powerful virility. When Anna disappears after throwing a tantrum while on an island vacation, he falls in love with her much simpler, and undeniably more beautiful, best friend (Monica Vitti). Monica Vitti - see picture - is absolutely gorgeous in that very 60s-vogue-blonde, black and white chic kind of way. Their love, guilt-filled at first, turns her into the complex kind of woman that Ferzetti was troubled by in the first place.

The film is a character study, a film lovers' film. It pioneered the use of long takes and empty frames. Existential themes from post-second world war thought, such as the feeling of 'modern alienation', are central but not overpowering. I came away from watching this with a feeling that life is inherently uncertain, yet, is fully predetermined. I felt that, as people, it's really hard for us to grasp the big picture.

Wikipedia says L'avventura won the Prix le Premier Regard at Cannes in 1960. You should check it out.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Hot stocks

The only way I can bankroll an extravagant lifestyle is through good investments.

The world markets tumbled today. I was really happy. Not because I was short, but because I believe I have been presented with a great buying opportunity.

The Indian markets have been up 5 weeks straight. Today, they traded down 3.5%. INP, barclay's India fund was down 12.5%. Notice a disparity? I deepened my India position.

The Russian market has been down for the last several days. Yet, Russia has the second-highest PEG ratio in the emerging world. RSX, the Russia fund, is a good investment and will provide exposure to the benefits of revenue accruing from rising oil prices. I bought RSX.

The Singapore market was down almost 3% today. It has the highest PEG ratio in the world, and is probably the most under-valued of the Asian markets. Additionally, Singapore may help diversify away some risk associated with big (potentially overhyped and overheated) countries like China and India, where I already have investments. I bought ESW.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Was the experience of European colonialism generally negative for the Middle East?

The answer to this question is an unequivocal yes. The actions of colonial powers in the interwar periods resulted in the kind of social and political strife that continues to this day in the Middle East. Britain and France’s poorly thought-out division of the former Ottoman Arab territories and their ill-conceived imperial ruling practices generated long-lasting communal tension and political instability. Historical examples of the British mandates of Iraq and Palestine and the French mandates of Syria and Lebanon will be used in support of this statement. At the end of the interwar period and nearing independence, none of these 'countries' had experienced communal unity, sustained peace, or (with the exception of Lebanon) functioning representative political systems. Each mandate state constituted a quasi-imperial-possession, conflicting internally.

Division of Ottoman Territories:

When the Ottomans joined the central powers during World War I, the allied powers planned a partition of the Ottoman territories in the event of victory. The Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 was an initial plan for the division of Ottoman territories between France, Britain and Russia. Sykes-Picot had major implications for Arab-West relations and made European governance particularly unattractive to the Arabs. As they were discussing the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, the British, through High Commissioner Henry McMahon’s correspondence, promised the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein ibn Ali, that a revolt against the Ottoman empire in its Arab territories would be rewarded by the creation of a unified Arab state between Egypt and Persia. It was this double-sided game that led Husein’s son Faisal to fight the Ottoman Empire in Syria with the inspiration of T.E. Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia.

At the end of the war, Britain had over a million troops in the Middle East and Prime Minister David Lloyd George had grand imperial plans to replace the Ottoman Empire in the region (Fromkin, pg. 385). Moreover, the Middle East was Britain’s lifeline to India. In a correspondence between the foreign department of the government of India to the British India office it was stated, “what we want is not a united Arabia, but a weak and disunited Arabia, split up into little principalities so far as possible under our suzerainty – but incapable of coordinated action against us, forming a buffer against the powers of the West.” (Fromkin, pg. 106) At the end of the war, when it became known that Britain and France had their own territorial ambitions for the Middle East, a sentiment of betrayal and antagonism for Western rule took hold in the Arab lands.

The British Mandate of Iraq:

When the Ottomans surrendered in 1918, Britain was in possession of the provinces of Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul in Mesopotamia. As Cleveland remarks on pg. 201 of A History of the Modern Middle East, “these provinces did not constitute a political community in any sense of the term. They were among the most ethnically and religiously diverse Arab regions of the Ottoman Empire, and their amalgamation into a single country posed exceptionally difficult obstacles to nation building.” The Ottoman system of rule in the provinces had been very decentralized and concentrated mostly in the major cities. The countryside was granted a high degree of autonomy and was governed by tribal confederations.

Britain’s main goals for the mandate were to protect imperial links to India and Iraqi and Iranian oil interests. Little or no consideration was given to the development of Iraq itself. “Decisions were made with little knowledge of, or concern for, the lands and peoples about which and whom the decisions were being made.” (Fromkin, pg. 399) Mandatory rule had three important negative consequences in Iraq: the exploitation of oil resources without local benefit, the preeminence of a single sectarian group, the development of the military as a political actor that would continue right up to 2003.

After Britain tried to impose a direct form of governance in Iraq, tribal uprisings in the Euphrates in June 1920 resulted in the death of some 10,000 Iraqi tribesmen and 450 British soldiers. In an attempt to realize their goals for the state without having to engage in a costly system of direct rule, Britain made Faisal, Sharif Hussein’s son, the king. Faisal was a foreigner with no real ties to Iraq. Under his rule, Iraqi oil fields were brought into full imperial exploitation. The cash-strapped Iraqi government became compelled to sign a 75-year concession with the firm that eventually became the Iraq Petroleum Company. The concession allowed Iraq to receive modest royalties by volume, but excluded the nation from corporate ownership. The fact that Iraq’s most vital natural resource fell into the hands of outsiders at the this time remained a point of contention long after the mandatory system had ended.

Despite this, Faisal proved to be an effective administrator, balancing the voices of the people of Iraq and British pressure. But his untimely death in 1939 essentially removed the monarchy from the forefront of Iraqi domestic politics and government fell into the hands of former Sunni-Arab Ottoman officers from the Istanbul War College. The officers perpetuated the old Ottoman system of rule by the notables and the top-heavy social order. Their infighting led to a high degree of political instability and governments lasted no more than a few months at a time.

In response to the political bickering of the Ottoman era politicians, the most prominent opposition came from younger military officers. These officers were also mostly Sunni and adhered to nationalist and pan-Arabist ideologies. Cleveland discusses the example of general Bakr Sidqi who “protected the national interest by engaging in a systematic massacre of members of the Assyrian Christian community.” (Cleveland, Pg. 206) The army led 6 coups from 1936 to 1941, a pattern that would continue into the future. The British in effect created a state where civilian politicians and the military were distinct actors. Moreover, the unchecked rise of the Sunni officers in a nation where they were not the majority laid the foundations for the current sectarian conflicts in Iraq.

In 1940, a loose alliance of patriotic officers known as the Four Colonels attempted to free Iraqi foreign policy from British sway. Given the impressive German military and the precarious situation of the British army, they attempted to assert full independence from Britain. They staged a coup in 1941 and brought Rashid Ali al-Gaylani to the premiership. Within 3 months of his appointment, Britain and Iraq entered into conflict due to Rashid Ali’s pro-axis orientation and the denial of expansion of a supply base in Basra. Britain marched its troops from Palestine across Transjordan and by the end of May 1941, the Rashid Ali revolt was defeated. A pro-British ruling coalition of Nuri al Said and the Hashemite regent prince Abd al-Ilah was established, which ruled in an authoritarian manner until 1958.

Ultimately, after the interwar period the British left Iraq without control of its major natural resource and potential source of wealth, political instability marked by Sunni military involvement and finally a pro-British authoritarian leadership that would not benefit the Iraqi people at all. In fact, the young officers who staged a “revolution” in 1958 claimed that they were only carrying out the unfinished business of 1941.

The French Mandate of Syria:

With the withdrawal of British support, French forces drove Faisal from Damascus in 1920 and assumed control with a large military unit and a complex hierarchy of French civilian administrators. France’s interests in Syria were largely to protect investments in railways, commercial exchange, and port facilities that its corporations had undertaken towards the end of Ottoman rule. Politically, France also sought to balance Britain’s power in the region, and to add to its North African possessions to truly assert itself as a Mediterranean power. The French form of rule in Syria developed a system that did not truly allow a representative form of government to take root and incorporated divide and rule policies. At the end of the interwar period, Syria was left without institutions of self-government and no territorial unity. Syria inherited an assurance of political instability from French colonialism.

France initially imposed a top-down ruling system in Syria. Decisions came from the high commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, headquartered in Beirut. Assumption of political and administrative responsibility by the local population was discouraged. “Instead of encouraging the formation of indigenous administrative institutions to prepare Syria for independence, the French created conditions that would prolong their rule.” (Cleveland, pg. 213)

Moreover, the French encouraged religious, ethnic, and geographical differences between Syrians, fragmenting the population and sowing the seeds for sectarian conflict. The French divided Aleppo and Damascus into separate states, then divided the Alawite and Druze minorities into separate geographical units stressing their distinct regional-compactness. The Druze and the Alawites were effectively turned into a political afterthought. Syrian domestic politics became the realm of the elite class of urban Sunni Muslims who had held power during Ottoman times. Post-independence instability can be in part traced to the French disintegration of Syrian cultural identities during this period.

In 1925, anti-French sentiments finally culminated in a revolt. After the governor tried to restructure Druze political relationships and landholding structures, the entire state of Jabal Druze went into revolt. The uprising succeeded in driving the French from the province. The success of the rebels led some of the political leaders of the cities of Homs and Damascus to support them. This led to a nationwide resistance movement. On October 18th, 1925 the French bombarded Damascus for 48 hours and killed as many as 1,400 people. Some 6,000 Syrians died by the end of the revolt in 1927.

After the revolt, the French decentralized their rule of Syria to an extent. However, instead of allowing a truly representative body to be created, they allowed the Ottoman-era Sunni elite to continue to dominate politics. The dominant political entity to emerge was the National Bloc. The party framed itself in popular anti-French ideals, but presented themselves to the French as necessary intermediaries to control the nation’s hostile population. Their goals, however, were to perpetuate the existing socio-economic and political relationships responsible for their wealth and power. The French imposed a constitution on Syria. “Neither the political leaders nor the population at large gained a stake in the preservation of the French-imposed parliamentary system.” Moreover, France’s power to veto any legislation that was passed turned Syrian politics into a joke.

In 1936, after Leon Blum’s leftist coalition came to power, Syria nearly achieved a degree of semi-independence. It was offered a treaty to potentially decentralize rule further. However after the coalition lost power in 1938, the high commissioner suspended the Syrian constitution, dissolved parliament, reestablished autonomy of the Alawite and Druze regions, and to add insult to injury, ceded Alexandretta to Turkey (a region that Syrians strongly viewed as part of their territory). After twenty years of French colonialism, Syria had no independence, no institutions of self-government, and no territorial unity.

The French Mandate of Lebanon:

France viewed itself as the self-proclaimed protector of the Maronite Catholics of Mount Lebanon and had a moral duty to continue its religious and educational activities in the region. However, France made the mistake of adding territories that would transform the character of Lebanon and create a deep sectarian divide.

The final state of Greater Lebanon was realized with the adding of the coastal cities of Tripoli, Tyre, Sidon, Beirut and the fertile Biqa valley to the Ottoman administrative unit of Mount Lebanon. With the exception of Beirut, Muslims dominated the rest of these territories. Territorial tampering diluted the Maronite population to about 30% of the new state. In the former Ottoman Arab territories, like Lebanon, individuals were principally affiliated to their religious identities. This resulted in the development of two distinct sectarian opinions of what Lebanon was.

The Maronites viewed Lebanon as a distinctive Christian homeland and wanted to build their state as a Franco-Mediterranean society, the character of which was European, not Arabic. However, the Muslims who involuntarily became part of Lebanon, had different expectations. They saw Lebanon as being part of the greater Arab and Muslim worlds. As Cleveland writes, “The nature of the existing political culture and the geographical distribution of the various religious communities posed problems for the creation of a cohesive national system of government.” (pg. 220)

In 1926, surprisingly early for mandate states, a constitution for Lebanon was approved that allowed for one chamber of deputies, elected on the basis of religious representation. The president was elected by the chamber and had the right to appoint the Prime Minister and appoint the cabinet. After eleven years of the highest posts being dominated by the Maronites, Emile Edde appointed the Sunni Muslim Khayr-al-Din al-Ahdab as his prime minister in 1937. This established a confessional political precedent that would continue into the 1980s.

Lebanon, a Frankenstein amalgamation of peoples, was strangely the first of the mandate states to truly have a functioning government. While the political system had a unique way of reconciling the Maronite and Muslim beliefs, the way the state had been created continued to foster a sectarian divide. Moreover, the Shia, a significant minority, was locked out of political progress. The French legacy of ethno-religious tension would manifest itself in one of the most brutal civil wars of the 20th century and the development of the Lebanese Shia Militia, Hezbollah.

The British Mandate of Palestine:

The mandate state of Palestine was a small strip of Southern Syria, about as big as the American state of Massachusetts. The origins of the Palestine mandate predate the post-war settlement to the rise of political Zionism. A belief developed in the English cabinet that Jewish groups in the United States and Russia had the ability to influence those nations’ attitudes towards entering the war. Chaim Weizmann, a prominent intellectual and Zionist spokesman in London, maintained the question of institutionalized Jewish immigration to Palestine before the British government and helped convince the cabinet that fostering Zionism was in the nation’s imperial interests. The culmination of the Zionist efforts was the Balfour declaration. Written by Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a prominent banker and Zionist, the declaration informed him that the cabinet had a approved “the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People.” Along with the Skyes-Picot agreement, the Balfour declaration became another element of the post-war grand plan for the Ottoman Arab territories that the Arabs themselves had no say in. Ilan Pappe writes in The Modern Middle East, “In Palestine an outside national movement employed colonialism with the aspiration of reidentifying the country as a Jewish homeland whatever the price.” (pg. 20)

The British capture of Jerusalem in 1917 detached Palestine from Ottoman Administration. In 1922, the newly created League of Nations gave formal sanction to the British Mandate of Palestine, and alarmingly made Hebrew one of the official languages. By the end of the interwar period, a lack of a representative national government and unchecked Zionist immigration resulted in a conflict between the Arabs and Jews that has yet to be reconciled.
The British government appointed Herbert Samuel, a Jew and ardent Zionist, as high commissioner to Palestine. While Zionism was officially supported, Britain attempted to play a balancing act between Zionist and Arab interests. They proposed a constitution in 1922 calling for a council of elected Muslim, Christian and Jewish representatives. When the plan was rejected by the Arabs, the British offered them an advisory council consisting of 10 Arab and 2 Jewish representative nominated by the high commissioner. This plan was rejected as well because the Palestinians did not want to accept the Balfour declaration as official policy. As a result, decisive power remained in the hands of the high commissioner and his officials alone. Therefore, Palestine never realized any representative form of national government incorporating both Arabs and Jews. The two communities became progressively more cut off from each other and developed their own forms of government. A wedge was driven between the Jewish and Arab communities.

Zionist immigration and land acquisition constituted the core of the communal differences between the Arabs and Jews. The Zionist objective was to build up the Jewish population through unrestricted immigration. Crops were needed to sustain the increasing Jewish population, whereby came the policy of land acquisition. Moreover, upon acquiring land, Jews tended to dismiss the Arabs tenants. Communal tensions most prominently manifested themselves as the Wailing Wall disturbances of 1929 and the Great Revolt of 1936-39, both caused by dislocation caused by immigration and land transfers. After the disturbances of 1929, a royal investigation discerned that the main source of tension was the widespread fear that continued Zionist immigration would result in a Jewish-dominated Palestine. Despite the recommendations of the investigators to end the practice, the “Black Letter” of 1931 allowed Jewish immigration to continue unimpeded.

During the Great Revolt, the 1937 Peel commission report was published, calling for termination of the mandate and partition of Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. Arab violence was renewed at the announcement and the British district commissioner for Galilee was murdered in October. The ensuing revolts saw Palestinian rebels capture large swathes of land. The Jews fought against the rebels in a pseudo-civil war and engaged in retaliatory terrorist attacks against the Arab population. Britain brutally crushed the rebels with an overwhelming force of 20,000 troops. In March 1939, 3000 Arabs, 2000 Jews and 600 British had lost their lives. Convinced that they needed to restructure their policies towards the mandate, Britain announced a white paper the same year that unequivocally stated that it was not “part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State.” Jewish immigration was restricted to 15,000 a year for the next five years at the height of the Nazi massacres.

In effect the British had accomplished nothing during the interwar years in Palestine. They had created a state with no representative national government and communal tension that had turned into violence. Despite the curtailment of Jewish immigration in 1939, the Arabs still did not have an independent state. Moreover, the reversal of Zionist policies cut off a crucial lifeline of escape for Jews from Nazi Germany. Thus, none of the parties involved benefited from British policies.


European colonialism was negative for these Mandate states in different ways during the interwar period. While Britain and France realized their geopolitical goals, the populations of the states they had taken over from the Ottoman Empire suffered. Iraq suffered from political instability, natural resource exploitation, the rise of the military forces as political players, and was left with a pro-British authoritarian dictatorship. Syria suffered from ethno-religious fragmentation, the lack of a representative form of government, and most tangibly, loss of territory. Lebanon suffered from being created without any foresight, leading to the eventual disenfranchisement of the Muslim majority in a Maronite Catholic-dominated state. Finally, Palestine suffered from Zionist immigration indoctrinated by the Balfour Declaration, resultant violent communal tension, and the lack of any sort of cooperative representative government system. Towards the start of the Second World War, British policies succeeded in alienating both Arab and Jewish populations.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Marc Jacobs - Cameltoe

Recently Marc Jacobs had a costume party, he dressed up as a cameltoe. What a guy.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Having to grow up

After two years of college, I still have no idea what I want to truly do. I think I want to wander about life like Herman Hesse's Siddharta, embrace my humanity, and eventually achieve enlightenment in the most unexpected of ways. Maybe I want to live like Jack Kerouac - write interesting things that were never appreciated and die young of liver cirrhosis. 2007 is the 50th anniversary of the publishing of On the Road. Kerouac originally typed the book as one long paragraph on rolls of paper that were taped together to form a long scroll. Maybe that means something.

"What is our personal calling? ...Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don't all have the courage to confront our dream.
...We are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible. We grow with this idea, and as the years accumulate, so too do the layers of prejudice, fear, and guilt. There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible."

-Paulo Coelho (introduction to The Alchemist)

On a lighter and much funnier note, if you've ever been into Indian guys, check out video:
(I must admit that most of what he says is unfortunately true; a lot of us are frighteningly disgusting)

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

I actually wear this shirt

It's growing on me. Made a couple of friends some. the black rectangle - some offensive graffiti on that wall (this was in a brooklyn warehouse basement). I finished my cover letter and applied for a job, I feel like such a sell out. Which reminds me, check out the leveraged sell out, even though I hate his guts, he is probably the funniest man ever.

Also, it's probably a good thing that the girl that borrowed my glasses sat. night never returned them. I look and feel normal again.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Sunday Sun - upscale Cheap Monday

This stuff is soooo cool. If you want to impress me, buy me something from them. :)

Friday, 7 December 2007

“Global warming is a problem caused by the rich and paid for by the poor”

(A recent presentation - some of the ideas are rather new and interesting, but believe me they were the fruits of lack-of-sleep-induced hallucination. I'm really not that smart).

The distribution of the causes and effects of greenhouse gases vary across states and populations within states. China, due to its heavy reliance on coal, recently overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest source of such pollution. The reality of the world is such that some countries pollute more than others. But, the consequences of pollution are not geographically constrained; one nation’s pollution may contribute to a climatological disaster in another. Within states, some individuals are more likely to pollute than others. However, all individuals suffer the resultant negative externality. First, this essay will examine the income variation of the causes and effects of pollution within states. Second, it will explore the distributional inequity of global pollution generation.

The prompting statement acknowledges global warming as a problem and assigns its blame to the rich and its consequences to the poor. This essay will break down the terms “rich” and “poor” into two levels of analysis in a global context. "Rich" and "poor" are adjectives that apply to states themselves and to the populations within individual states. Firstly, this essay finds that it is valid to place the blame for global warming on the rich at the intra-state level, while all suffer the consequences. Secondly, this essay finds that the blame for global warming at the inter-state level can be placed on industrial economies and un-industrial economies with well-endowed natural resources, while poor countries suffer disproportionally.

First, I present some background about global warming. "Global warming" is a term referring to the increase of Earth’s near-surface average air and ocean temperatures. Scientific consensus identifies global warming as a real phenomenon caused by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, released by human activity. Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, are so named because they trap solar radiation inducing a greenhouse effect, causing the Earth to warm up. Sources of greenhouse gases include the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, which lead to higher CO2 concentration levels, livestock and rice farming, which generate atmospheric methane, specialized fertilizer use, causing nitrous oxide emission, and the use of CFCs in refrigeration systems (Wikipedia: Greenhouse Gases). Environmental problems caused by global warming include, but are not limited to, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, more intense hurricanes, and disruption of natural habitats, which may result in the extinction of various plant and animal species.

For simplicity’s sake, the outlook examining intra-state pollution distribution will assume an economy without international trade and countries that do not feel the effects of pollution emanating from others. In this simple world, emission of greenhouse gas results in a negative externality within the country. Let us assume that a single product, automobiles, is produced in this economy. First, the production of automobiles relies on heavy industrial machinery that results in a release of considerable pollution into the atmosphere. The social cost of the pollution and its implications for global warming are not accounted for in the private cost of the automobile. The difference between the marginal private and social costs is referred to as the externality. The consumption of automobiles, i.e. driving them, also produces external costs for society in the form of CO2 emissions. Economic agents, not involved in the private market transaction between automobile producers and drivers, involuntarily incur a social cost. Additionally, the polluters themselves suffer reduced air quality as well. Therefore, the externality model shows that the sources of pollution are limited, while the effects are not discriminatory and suffered by all.

The primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions are power stations, industrial processes, transportation fuels and agricultural byproducts. Widespread use of power and transport fuels is mostly concentrated among the affluent in most states. 1.6 billion people in the world did not have access to electricity in 2002, 50% in South Asia and 35% in India alone (IEA World Energy Outlook 2002). The case of rich countries, like the U.S., is no different. Paul, Ballew, chief economist of J.D. Power & Associates stated in 1996, “about 15 million new cars were sold in the U.S. last year. Probably 10 million of them are sold to the top 30 percent households,” (Edmondson and Du 1996). Therefore, the fact that the poor do not have easy access to products that generate high levels of carbon emissions (like electricity or automobiles), largely preclude them from being major forces of global warming.

Similarly, industrial processes and agricultural byproduct usage are concentrated among large, affluent corporate entities. The top five corporate air polluters in the US, according to the University of Massachusetts political economy research institute’s Toxic 100 survey, have an average current market capitalization of 217.4 billion dollars. A company with a market capitalization of 10 billion is generally considered as “large cap” by investors. Agribusiness is another leading source of pollution. A report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization found pollution from industrialized livestock production to be one of the top three contributors to climate change (FAO 2002).

While this evidence points toward a pollution cause-effect distribution where the affluent pollute and all of society collectively suffers the consequences, the poor also engage in polluting activities that lead to negative externalities. Some poor individuals in developing countries, despite having enough to eat and enjoying good health, may still be resource poor. Such individuals may pursue measures to extend their natural resource base as a means to improve their livelihood. A relevant example of this activity is the conversion of forestland into farmland, which has occurred at a rapid pace in the case of the Amazon in recent years (Reardon and Vosti 1995). Deforestation, along with carbon-dioxide emissions is a leading cause of global warming. Therefore, placing all the blame of global warming-causing pollution on the affluent sector within a country is erroneous. However, the combined magnitudes of greenhouse gas emissions emanating from power plants, industrial processes, transportation fuels, agricultural byproducts (incl. livestock) and fossil fuel retrieval outweigh those from land use by approximately seven and a half times (Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research 3.2 Fast Track Project 2000).

The second issue of concern for this essay is whether rich countries contribute to global warming to a greater extent than poor countries. To successfully address this, prior assumptions that international trade does not exist and that the effects of global warming emanating from one country are not felt by others must be taken as invalid. Now, the existence of international trade and a world where the consequences of global warming-causing environmental degradation are felt by all peoples are assumed. (Sigman (2002) finds that pollution effects can affect non-source nations.)

The world today consists of economies at various degrees of industrialization and per capita income. For the purposes of the essay, the existence of only three categories will be assumed – post-industrial, industrialized/industrializing, and unindustrialized economies. A post-industrial economy is taken to be one that has passed the industrial phase and enjoys a well-educated population and high per capita income and maintains strict regulations on pollution. Industrial/industrializing economies will be taken as having a wide range of per-capita income levels, strong labor force and capital endowments, and weak restrictions on pollution. Un-industrial economies will be taken to have low per capita income levels, weak restrictions on pollution, and can be divided into economies that are resource-rich and resource-poor.

A comparative advantage model of international trade involving these four types of economies will now be observed. The principle of comparative advantage, developed by Ricardo in 1817, states that when countries trade, specialization will occur in the product of lowest opportunity cost. The post-industrial economy will specialize in services, information, and research. The industrial economy will specialize in capital and labor-intensive goods. The resource-endowed un-industrial economy will specialize in the primary sector – agriculture, fishing, forestry, mining etc. Finally, resource-poor un-industrial economies tend to import heavily, with domestic production primarily geared toward subsistence. Given these specialization structures, environmentally intensive forms of production become concentrated in industrial and well-endowed un-industrial economies. Moreover, the fact that these economies generally have less stringent pollution restrictions than pos-industrial economies will encourage the relocation of polluting industries (Copeland and Taylor 2004). This phenomenon has been termed the “pollution haven effect”. Therefore, highly polluting industrial activity along with environmentally intensive primary production is concentrated in these countries. Grossman and Krueger (1993) develop an environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) – an inverse U-shaped relationship between a country’s per capita income and its environment. This means that very poor economies are generally incapable of polluting, while relatively poor, middle-income, and relatively economies disproportionately pollute. Again, very economies characterized by very high incomes tend not to pollute because of stringent regulations and specialization away from polluting industries.

However, these simplistic models make numerous assumptions that cannot be relied on to exist in the real world. Firstly, comparative advantage assumes perfect competition and, full employment, perfect resource mobility and constant opportunity cost of production between goods. Secondly, the EKC assumes also assumes full employment and nonpositive profits in each industry. Moreover the model assumes that firms choose the emissions intensity that minimizes production costs – often times it is impossible to gauge this measure exactly. Moreover, while the EKC may hold for environmental quality in general, effects may be different when studying greenhouse gases specifically.

But, these assumptions are necessary to make analysis more manageable and evidence shows that they do not have a significant effect on the results. Indeed, industrial economies such as the United States, Japan and Russia and the United Kingdom rank among the worst polluters on a per capita basis. Similarly, resource-endowed economies centered on primary production also rank highly on the list – Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia (World Resources Institute 2003). As most of these states have neither very low nor very high per capita incomes, the EKC appears to hold empirically.

In a global context, it can be said that poor countries suffer the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions to the greatest extent. This is largely a consequence of the inability of poor countries to effectively deal with catastrophes stemming from global warming. The externality theory demonstrates that pollution from consumption and production results in an undesirable cost to society. The consequences of global warming include, but are not limited to, rising sea levels, increased scarcity of water in dry areas and flooding in wet areas, extreme weather conditions, more forceful hurricanes, disappearance of ecosystems, and the spread of tropical diseases. Rich countries have the infrastructure to deal with these consequences without widespread suffering – levies will be built to mitigate rising sea levels, vaccinations are readily available etc. However, increased incidence of droughts in Africa or flooding in South Asia, disease epidemics in the developing world or another devastating hurricane in the Caribbean will lead to an immeasurable amount of suffering. Therefore, poor countries suffer the consequences of global warming to the greatest extent, simply by virtue of the fact that they are not adequately equipped to deal with them.

In conclusion, this essay identifies affluent economic agents as the primary sources of global warming within individual countries. Secondly, this essay finds that worldwide contributions to global warming come most from industrial economies and un-industrial economies with well-endowed natural resources. Finally, this essay stipulates that poor countries will suffer the most due to global warming because of their inability to deal with the resulting climatological consequences.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Rianne ten Haken

Rianne ten Haken for dsquared fall 06. Right up there on my favorite supermodel list.

Dying fashion trends alive and well?

She resuscitated two dying trends in one fell swoop - the 70s flare pants and the double-breasted jacket with shoulderpads. She also looks like an 80s and 90s runway fembot. But she pulls it off really well. Its all about what you can look good in. (photo courtesy: Sartorialist). On a side note, apparently chocolate heightens feelings of affection. I have been eating a lot lately and you should too. Spread the love, eat chocolate!!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007


Apparently someone likes to take candids while im teaching at the Zoolander center for kids who cant read good and want to learn how to do other stuff too. lol

I made the shirt

hahahahah it came out terribly and the cross-eyes are photoshopped so they look weird, but hilarious nonetheless

Monday, 3 December 2007

Economic Development in Bangladesh: A Case of Opposing Factors

The case of economic development in Bangladesh is one of puzzling dilemmas. Bangladesh came into existence in 1971 after fighting a bloody war of separation from Pakistan with the military support of neighboring India. Immediately after independence, the Bangladeshi economy was in dire straits. In the following 37 years, the international community poured billions of dollars of aid into the country. USAID alone provided more than $5 billion in development assistance since 1971. However, while Bangladesh has made commendable progress in certain areas, in spite of international aid flows, it remains one of the world’s least developed countries. This essay will discuss two opposing phenomena that have been salient to Bangladesh’s contemporary development situation. First, it will observe the negative effects of corruption, which have effectively stifled the benefits of international aid inflows. Second, it will discuss the significant positive effects that microfinance institutions have had on development and poverty reduction.

Prior to discussing these effects, this essay will present an overview of the current circumstances of the Bangladeshi economy, emphasizing both the shortcomings and the achievements. Bangladesh’s 2005 purchasing power parity GDP per capita was $2,130, ranking 144th in the world (IMF). However, more than half of the population, approximately 70 million people, lives on less than one dollar per day ($365 per year), highlighting an extremely high degree of inequality. About 3 million children receive no schooling and the adult literacy rates place among the lowest in the world. Maternal and child mortality is tremendously high, as only 27% of all mothers receive adequate pre-natal care. Gender discrimination is widespread, particularly affecting women in rural, low-income households. Bangladesh also suffers from particularly severe environmental degradation and resource depletion.

Yet, Bangladesh has experienced some positive development achievements as well. Over the last 10 years, the economy has grown at an average rate of 5% annually. The nation is now nearly self-sufficient in rice production, has eradicated polio and reduced the fertility rate by 50% (USAid 2005). During the 1990s, the infant mortality rate was halved and life expectancy rose to 61 years from 56. The development of microfinance institutions, such as the Grameen Bank, has contributed to the reduction of moderate poverty by 17% and extreme poverty by 13% between 1991 and 1999. The nation’s economy, while having several drawbacks, is not in as dire a condition as suggested by some.

Historically, Bangladesh’s principal impediments to development has been, corruption, poor governance, and lack of rule of law. According to surveys conducted by Transparency International, Business International, Political Risk Services and the World Economic Forum, Bangladesh consistently ranks as one of the most corrupt nations in the world (Transparency International). The World Bank attributes an estimated 2-3% GDP loss to corruption each year. The discrepancy between the international aid inflows and the amount actually received by development programs has also been stark. According to Chowdhury (2005), only 25% of aid has ever reached the poor.

Corruption can be loosely defined as the transfer of resources aimed at public ends into private hands. A few individuals with access to public resources, thus, accrue large amounts of wealth at the expense of the poor. In Bangladesh, corporate and bureaucratic tax evasion and bureaucratic theft are the most common sources of high-level corruption. On a lower level, theft of items from public facilities, such as medications from clinics, has also been a major contributing factor. Additionally, public employees, such as teachers and doctors, have high rates of absenteeism and prefer to provide their services privately (Transparency International). Theory states that corruption can have a detrimental effect on economic growth and development. To illustrate this effect, first consider the following fiscal budget deficit equation:

D = g – t – Ya

Here, the deficit is defined as government spending (g), less tax revenue (t) and international aid (Ya). The assumption is made that government revenue comes from only two sources: tax revenue and international aid.

In the case of corruption (c), this becomes:

D = g – (t + Ya ) + c

The equation demonstrates that corruption detracts from the tax revenue and international aid. The result is a reduction in useful funds available for the government to spend. Now, corruption (c) will be implemented into the simple equation (built for Rao 2007), explaining the long-run growth rates of per capita income, per capita capital stock, and human capital:

g^(t+Ya-c) * s^(a-t) * q^[1-(a-t)]

Here, g remains government spending, while s represents savings and q represents investment in human capital. As we can see in the exponent of g, corruption exerts a negative effect on growth rates in three vital economic areas.

As the poor have been suffering the ills of corruption, they have also been experiencing the widespread benefits of microfinance. Bangladesh has been home to some of the pioneering institutions in microfinance, such as the Grameen bank. In fact, in 2006, the bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, jointly shared the Nobel Peace Prize. Microfinance is a term referring to the provision of financial services, such as credit and insurance, on a very small scale to poor individuals. Microfinance institutions’ strategies such as collateral-free group-based lending and mobilization of savings have helped attract a broad usage base, while mitigating loan default risk. Additionally, such institutions have offered specialized support for women, whose traditional, gender-specific roles do not facilitate financial activity.

Ftom a theoretical standpoint, Microcredit allows the poor to consume beyond their means and to take entrepreneurial initiatives, positively affecting economic growth. Given Bangladesh’s high propensity for suffering severe seasonal flooding and other devastating environmental issues, microinsurance secures the property of poor individuals, which is often not valuable enough to be insured by mainstream commercial financial services. From a macroeconomic perspective, microinsurace presents a safeguard against large losses of GDP in the event of an environmental disaster. To further the microfinance initiative, governments and donor programs have provided substantial funding. In 1996, the World Bank provided the PKSF, an intermediary for wholesaling microfinance, a loan of $115 million. Due to the market (non-state) operation of microfinance institutions, higher levels of oversight and accountability form a barrier against corruption.

Empirically, microfinance has had a very important impact on poverty reduction in Bangladesh. Between 1991 and 1999, data on consumption and the consumption poverty line demonstrate that moderate poverty declined by 17% and extreme poverty by 13%. Microfinance was found to account for about 40% of the overall reduction of moderate poverty and even more in the case of extreme poverty. On an aggregate basis, microfinance was proven to reduce moderate poverty by 1.0% and extreme poverty by 1.3% annually (Khandker 2005).

In conclusion, Bangladesh is both one of world’s most corrupt nations and one of its pioneers in the provision of microfinancial services. Looking to the future, sustained development necessitates the revamping of government institutions to counteract widespread corruption. A campaign against corruption must stem from improving the democratic system of governance and rule of law, increased public accountability for officials, and eradication of the “status quo of cronyism and patronage that determine social benefits and power relations” (USAid 2005). Bangladesh can look to Hong Kong and Singapore’s effective anti-corruption bureaus as examples. Safeguards for press freedom and a non-politicized civil society are crucial for improving public accountability. For enhancing the democratic system, the example of Thailand’s voter education program may be observed.

While anti-corruption programs, if effectively implemented, will leave more funds at the disposal of the government, the allocation of these funds towards particular areas of concern is important. Greater investments in education and healthcare are needed, particularly targeting women. While NGOs and microfinance institutions have had a positive impact in this regard, the government must take a leadership role. Education and treatment spending must be channeled toward dealing with the growing incidence of HIV/AIDS. Finally, Bangladesh must thwart its rapid environmental degradation by investing in cleaner technology and protecting its remaining natural resources.

Saturday, 1 December 2007


Does that look like a straight-A oxford student? I think so.
Quite literally, I will be publishing my first book towards the end of summer, it will be titled something along the lines of "general essays on economic development"
Maybe one day I'll be a good enough writer to impress gorgeous older women that can cook irrespective of my physical appearance, much like Salman Rushdie.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Random Security Checks + They say food is the way to a man's heart; I have evidence to say that chocolate is the way to a woman's heart

So I just got into New York, and between Heathrow and JFK I managed to be randomly selected for 'additional screening' 5 times - that was at every security check. Now, I found it entertaining and smiled all through it at how funny racial profiling can be.
I was thinking, "do I look like a terrorist to you?"
What could I possibly do, yell across a trading pit "hey Osama buy 50,000 Google, it's got great fundamentals!"?
Or better yet, in the words of Vidur Kapur, "Beg Al-Qaeda to let one Hindu in so I can be their fashion police. Lose the white turban, Osama!!... Labor day is over!!!"


After our last two champagne/bellini/cocktails + fondant sessions, I thought I would post the recipe for my chocolate fondant. I essentially got it from tasting Gordon Ramsey's at London Bar. He garnished his with sea salt though, which tastes about as disgusting as it sounds.

What you need:
300g 85% cocoa chocolate - essentially three regular sized blocks. Get Valrhona, its the best (it's a bit pricey though, but if you use Cadbury's, I will personally bitchslap you)
200g Butter, or butter substitute
250g Sugar, get unrefined sugar
6 eggs, use only 2 yolks, it's less rich, but you'll feel less guilty the morning after
1/4 cup flour
Secret ingredients: lime, blackcurrant concentrate, famous grouse

-Preheat oven to 250*F, or 170something*C
-Melt the chocolate with the butter over water
-Beat the eggs with sugar and add flour
-Fold in the chocolate butter stuff
-Mix it well
-Add juice of half a lime
-Add some blackcurrant concentrate depending on how you feel
-Pour the mix into muffin tray w/individual cups - make sure you grease them
-Add 1-2 shots of famous grouse to each individual cup
-Put the tray in the oven for about 8-10 mins
The goal is to watch until the outside is just about solid
The inside will remain liquid
If you can pull off the inside/outside textural difference well, you'll come off as as sophisticated. If done poorly, no one will eat it and you will be laughed at.
(I don't know how you can screw up with taste if the main ingredients are chocolate, butter, and sugar)
From past experience, I posit that chocolate (well-done of course) is the way to a woman's heart. One of my major vices is chocolate as well, so ladies take note :)
Btw If you're wondering what my other vices are, well, lets just say they wouldn't make for polite conversation

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Padma and I doing a little cooking

what else looks good together besides all that food?

Is the nature of leadership in Israel and Turkey basically the same as in the democracies of Europe?

Often, the leaderships of Turkey and Israel are compared to those of Europe. Prior to introducing the topic, the question itself begs two other important questions that will set the context of this essay. First, what do the terms “leadership” and “democracy” imply? In democratic systems, the idea of the executive is so intertwined with the overall system of governance that one is unable to differentiate between the two. Second, one must question what we mean by “Europe”. Democratic leadership variation, while existing among all states part of the European continent, is particularly pronounced between members and non-members of the EU.

If we are to compare the governments of Turkey and Israel to those of the liberal democracies of the EU, they fall short in several respects. This essay will demonstrate that these shortcomings are primarily the result of the ubiquitous exclusion of minorities from the political realm. Furthermore, specific to Israel is the lack of reconcilement of the ethnic Jewish state and the western liberal constitution. Specific to Turkey is the intervention by military leaders in politics to restore the secular Ataturkian ideal. In comparison to non-EU member states, this essay will show that, in some respects, Israel and Turkey have better-developed democratic systems.

The concept of leadership in a democracy is intertwined with all aspects of government. Aspects of leadership cannot be fully compared unless systems of governance themselves are compared. To qualify this statement, I will present a three-tiered conceptual definition to build up the idea of democracy, providing points of comparison between EU member states, Israel and Turkey, and EU non-member states. At an initial level, I will first explain the role of the electorate in democracy. At a secondary level, I will present the idea of a parliamentary system. Finally, at a tertiary level, I will explain the concept of liberal democracy.

At its most basic level, democracy is a political system for establishing leadership through free and fair elections. In the prevailing definition, representative democracy bestows the responsibilities of leadership on the candidate who wins a majority of the electorate’s votes. Inherently, voting rights are extended to all citizens of eligible age. As will later be put forth, Israel and Turkey exclude significant portions of their citizenry from the political process. Thus, leadership in those countries cannot be discussed without highlighting this fact.

In parliamentary and senate democracies present in all EU member states, Turkey and Israel, leadership is divided into two levels incorporating a system of checks and balances. A parliamentary democracy is one where popularly elected parliamentary representatives appoint executive leadership. Leadership is subject to the constraints of an elected legislative body. In a senate democracy, the electorate selects the executive, who also remains subject to the constraints of elected representatives. Additionally, elected representatives in both systems have their own legislative power, subject to constraints of executive leadership. Therefore, in such a system, leadership is divided between an executive and popularly elected representatives, each with degrees of law-making power subject to the other’s approval. Thus, again, comparison of executive rule alone, and not the entire political process, would exclude an entire level of leadership.

Finally, in a liberal democracy, leadership at both the executive and representative levels is subject to the rule of law. A constitution, as is present in Turkey, Israel and all EU states, establishes constraints on the degree to which the will of the majority can be exercised at the expense of minority rights. The nature of constitutional liberal democracy does not allow for the separation of leadership from government itself. Comparing leadership alone would ignore this fact.

Having established definitions for democracy and areas of comparison between countries, the statement “democracies in Europe” must be questioned. The question implies that leadership in all democracies in Europe is essentially the same. Empirical research abounds to prove the contrary. European democracies vary in a great number of ways. Within the EU, compound polities such as Germany, Spain, Belgium and Italy and simple polities like Britain, France and Greece can be differentiated on an authority diffusion basis (Schmidt 2004). More important to the context of this essay, is that political competition, leadership constraints and minority rights vary to a great deal between EU member and non-member states. EU member states generally provide good examples of the classical democratic definitions previously provided. Political comparison to EU member states, thus, can be taken as a proxy for comparison to the ideal definitions of representative, parliamentary and liberal democratic systems. Most EU non-member states in Europe can be said have been under totalitarian communist rule, and either remain under authoritarian rule or are imperfectly functioning democracies. Unsurprisingly, the distribution of these states has a strong geographical bias towards Eastern Europe. While there are formerly communist countries now part of the EU, the political prerequisites for membership impose a certain degree of democratic uniformity. Therefore, such Eastern European states that have become members of the EU also significantly differ in political processes from those that have not. Then, the use of the term “Europe” for comparison is unwarranted. This essay will compare Turkey and Israel’s democratic leaderships to EU member states and EU non-member states separately.

Prior to making comparisons, the democratic characteristics of Turkey and Israel must be elaborated in light of the definitions that were previously made. Subsequent comparisons to EU-member states will qualify the usage of the adjective “imperfect”. Turkey can be said to imperfectly adhere to prior representative, parliamentary, and liberal definitions. Universal suffrage was established in 1933 for individuals at least 18 years of age. 550 members of the unicameral National Grand Assembly are elected to four-year terms, and have the constitutional authority to elect a prime minister through a vote of confidence. The largely ceremonial head of state is also appointed by the parliament. Executive power rests with the prime minister, while legislate power is exercised by the National Grand Assembly.

According to our definitions, Israel can also be referred to as an imperfect example of a representative, parliamentary, liberal democracy. While no explicit constitution exists, the Basic Laws of Israel serve as a proxy. Membership to the 120-member unicameral parliament, the Knesset, is determined every four years by elections. Universal suffrage is, in theory, the right of all citizens. The parliament elects a member supported by a majority to exercise executive power as the Prime Minister. As is the case in Turkey, the elected president is largely a ceremonial role.

In some ways, Israel and Turkey’s democratic leadership can be thought of as similar to that of the EU member states. Representative, parliamentary, and liberal systems all exist to degrees. However, in comparison to EU states, Turkey and Israel’s democracies have substantial shortcomings in the areas of full electorate participation and minority rights protection. Additionally, the military in Turkey has had a historical habit of intervening in politics at the expense of the democratic establishment. Turkey’s democratic shortcomings are, among a host of other issues, used to support the argument that it should not become a member of the European Union.

In Western European democracies, citizenship is the only prerequisite for full participation within the social and political framework of the state. The granting of equal opportunity to all citizens is the underlying principle of the system. Leadership at both the executive and representative levels is elected without the exclusion of any citizens on any basis. Israel and Turkey have both been unable to reconcile their ethno-nationalist identities with their democratic responsibilities. Both states have systematic measures excluding ethnic minorities from exercising power in the political realm. In Israel, being Jewish, above holding citizenship, is the basic requirement for the enjoyment of full membership within the system. The Arab minority in Israel, which makes up approximately 20% of the state’s population, is largely underrepresented in political leadership. Of the 120-member Israeli Knesset, only 12 members are Arab, or a representation figure of 10%. Therefore, Israeli Arabs have access to leadership benefits only to an extent of half their population figure. Moreover, the access of Arabs to political representation is also unequal. The Druze are afforded much greater privileges than other Arab groups due to their historical military intervention in support of Israeli Jews. Among the Arab leadership in the Knesset the Druze are considerably overrepresented. Majalli Wahabi of Druze descent, the current deputy speaker of the Knesset, briefly became Israel’s acting President in February 2007. No other member of non-Druze Arab descent has even held either position.

Similarly, in Turkey, exclusion of the Kurdish minorities from representation in the political leadership has been systematic and indoctrinated. Like Israel, Turkey came into being in its present form in the aftermath of the First World War. Following the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, Ataturk, father of the Turkish nation, established the state on a Turkish ethno-nationalist basis. As a result, being Turkish, rather than simply being a citizen, is the yardstick measure for access to full benefits of political participation. Like the Arab minority in Israel, the Kurdish population in Turkey constitutes an estimated 20% of the total population¬¬. In the National Grand Assembly of 550, Kurdish representation numbers 24. At a rate of 4.36%, Kurds are five times underrepresented in the leadership and no Kurd has ever been a head of state. Historical armed conflicts with Kurdish populations and current military tensions with the PKK in the Kurdish autonomous region of Northern Iraq have heightened anti-Kurdish sentiment. Social attitudes serve as evidence that this precedent of underrepresentation is unlikely to change.

In their constitutions, Western European democracies set forth the rights of minorities and constrain the extent to which the will of the majority may be exercised. Checks on the power of the majority are legally binding at both representative and executive levels of leadership. Inalienable individual rights for all citizens, including minorities, are established in the constitution and cannot be denied by any majority-elected leadership. Constitution and legislation in Israel and Turkey are significantly different from Western Europe in this vein. In fact, a constitutional amendment in Israel denies the extension of equal rights to minorities. The 1985 amendment to the Knesset Basic Law designates Israel as the state of the Jewish people only, to the exclusion of all other state parties. Lists, or political parties, that do not recognize the preeminence of the Jewish people in the Israeli state risk being outlawed if they seek representation in the Knesset, the legislature of Israel. As stated by Rouhana and Ghanem, Israel “excludes ethno-national groups who do not belong to the dominant ethnic group from the national goals of the state and offers the dominant group preferential treatment anchored in the state’s legal system.”

In Turkish legislation, the recognition of distinct minority groups itself is prohibited. The Southern Kurdish minority have been historically termed “mountain Turks” in legislation. The words “Kurd” and “Kurdistan” were banned and replaced by Dagli Türkler, `mountain Kurd' and Dogu, 'the East' (Hassanpour). The use of the Kurdish language was banned in schools, official settings and non-music broadcasts through Article 26 of the 1982 Constitution. The ban was repealed in 2002 as Turkey embarked on reforms targeting future EU ascension. Therefore, granting of a distinct identity for the Kurds is blatantly non-existent and was actively suppressed by the Turkish legal and political systems.

In Western European democracy, an existential separation between military and the leadership exists. In such countries, the military exists to serve the government. This is not the case in Turkey, where military leadership has historically been as salient to politics as democratically elected leadership. Unlike Western European armed forces, the Turkish military owes allegiance to the Ataturk and his ideals for a secular democratic state in the abstract. Ataturk, himself a military officer, insisted on the development of secularism to counter, what he believed were, anti-modern strains in Islam that impeded development (Kinross 1964). Since the establishment of democracy in Turkey, the military has acted as the custodian of secularism often at the expense of democracy. Since 1960, the military has toppled four elected governments. Additionally, the threat of military involvement has lead to entrenchment of a secular ruling elite, to the exclusion of more devout, and often poorer, Muslims. The recent presidential approval of Abdullah Gul, an observant Mulsim, has once again stirred up democratic tensions in Turkey. Military disapproval without intervention in this scenario posits a potential change in precedent.

Prior to comparing Israel and Turkey to non-EU member states, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland must be excluded from the discussion. These three countries, while not part of EU, exhibit the similar democratic characteristics that EU member states do, rendering comparison redundant. Non-EU member states in Eastern Europe include Belarus, Moldova, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Albania, Ukraine and Russia. In many ways, Turkey and Israel adhere closer to the previously established levels of democratic leadership than these states. The Russian constitution lacks the checks constitutional checks and balances on leadership and bestows the president with the power to issue decrees that subsequently become law. As a result, the Russian parliament remains relatively weak. Additionally, elections are competitive essentially only for places in parliament and President Putin has been increasingly criticized as being undemocratic. Leadership in Israel and Turkey experiences a healthy degree of leadership turnover, and as the rise of the Turkish conservative AKP shows, elections have seminal impact on policy. Belarus is another example of an Eastern European country that has compares unfavorably to Turkey and Israel in democratic leadership. President Lukasheko has continually tampered with the nation’s democratic process. His 1996 amendment to the 1994 constitution diminished executive constraint and afforded him the power to remove members of parliament. Parliamentary and presidential elections in 2000 and 2001 respectively have been marred by corruption and, according to human rights watch, were not free.

In conclusion, this essay compares the democratic leadership of Turkey and Israel to that of European democracies. Comparison to EU member states can serve as proxy for comparison to the given definitions of democracy themselves as EU membership prerequisites impose such a high degree of democracy. In comparison to these states, Turkey and Israel both experience shortcomings, stemming from lack of minority representation in politics and exclusion of minority rights from legislation. Therefore, this essay states that the use of the term “imperfect”, with respect to Israel and Turkey’s democracies, is warranted. There is no indication that this systematic mistreatment of minority groups will end in the foreseeable future. Additionally, the military in Turkey has historically maintained a high degree of intervention in civilian politics to preserve secularism at the expense of democracy. For having such democratic shortcomings, among other reasons, Turkey’s ascension to the EU is hotly contested. In comparison with Eastern European non-EU states, Turkey and Israel have democracies that more closely adhere to the definitions. While some may be argue that the examples presented are not of ‘democracies’ in the conventional sense, all the Eastern European states mentioned have embarked on democratization drives and have implemented versions of electoral representation, parliament, and liberalism. Ultimately, it is concluded that the leadership of Turkey and Israel is neither the same as EU member states nor non-member states.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Hall in Oxford can be so nice

My lovely friends and I, plus a bit of wine.

Does the granting of economic freedom result in greater political freedom and increased protection of human rights?

an old presentation revived and turned into an essay in my spare time


The issue of economic freedom is one that is far more controversial than political freedom. To many, the facets of economic freedom do not constitute ‘rights’ in the same way that civil and political rights do (for the purpose of this proposal, I will use the term ‘political freedoms’ to encompass civil and political rights). That is, for example, the right to free speech is fundamentally different from the right to choose your occupation. Proponents of the central allocation of resources often say that economic freedoms are inherently harmful, and that the government should control individual actions in the market. Oppositely, those who believe in laissez-faire believe that the individual should be allowed to conduct his or herself in the market in whichever way he/she perceives best. In the world today, there are no examples of absolute laissez-faire or complete central allocation. Rather, governments vary in their degrees of market intervention. This essay presents a proposal to investigate a quantitative relationship between the economic and political aspects of ‘freedom’. To accomplish this, statistical analysis using measures of economic and political freedom will be employed. Economic freedom will be judged using the "economic freedom index" in Gwartney et. al (2000), while the civil and political rights aspects constituting political freedom will be measured using Freedomhouse’s "freedom in the world" survey rating scores.

Literature on the puzzle:

20th Century economists, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ludvig von Mises have written at length about the idea that “liberties in the political and economic spectrum are complementary and mutually dependent.” In Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman addressed the dual role of free economic arrangements in the promotion of a free society in promoting both political freedom and ‘total freedom’ (as he calls it). Using the example of post Second World War “control of arrangements order” in Britain, he shows how free economic pursuit makes up an integral part of our notion of essential personal liberties. The order indoctrinated by the Labour party made centralized allocation of individuals to occupations the law. Even though, this does not constitute a violation of any international human rights covenants, I am sure most, if not all, of us would feel this that is a grave violation of personal liberties. Therefore, the notion of our right to economic freedom is so natural and so ingrained in our beliefs of liberty that we can hardly separate it from what we call ‘freedom’. Friedrich Hayek stated, “liberty of the individual can only be obtained when the latter is free to exploit his productive capacities…without the interference of state.”
His work also addresses how economic freedom can be viewed as a means to the end of political freedom: “competitive capitalism promotes political freedom because it separates from economic power from political power and in this way enables one to offset the other.” Peitsinis Charilaos of the Institut Hayek articulates this in a slightly clearer manner: economic freedom allows the individual to earn independently of the state, and thus allows him to question, express dissent, and even combat this institution. History provides ample evidence for this argument, as there has never truly been a society that has sustained a high degree of political freedom, without also having a great degree of economic freedom as well. Examples ranging from the golden ages of Greece and Rome to the United States’ tremendous prosperity in the 1990s solidify this argument.
However, it would be foolish not to observe the rather recent instances where a high degree of economic freedom was not associated with political freedom, total freedom or the provision of human rights. Notorious examples include the repressive regimes of Russia under the Tzars, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and Spain, and possibly today’s Sudan. Similarly, the astounding economic prosperity of China after it pursued economic freedom has not be associated with proportional increases in political freedom and in the provision of human rights.

Thus, History provides us with the following three outcomes for an association between political and economic freedom: 1) for political freedom to be sustained at length, economic freedom must also exist, political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom (totalitarian socialism), 2) economic freedom can exist without political freedom, 3) both exist.

Possible outcomes from historical evidence:

1) Neither political nor economic freedoms exist. > totalitarian socialism
2) Economic freedom exists only. > fascism
3) Both exist. > capitalist liberalism

Operationalization of Economic and Political Freedom:

For quantifying economic freedom we will use the ‘economic freedom index’ developed in 2000 and 2001 by James Gwartney and Robert Lawson in The Concept and Measurement of Economic Freedom, while the former author was the chief economist of the joint economic committee of the U.S. congress. I believe that this is the best existing measure for economic freedom because it is multifaceted unlike most others, which are limited to indicators such as the black market premium on foreign exchange. Nevertheless, this measure is not free from criticism. It is deeply rooted in modern libertarian ideology and assumes that the principal role of government should be limited to the enforcement of property rights and contract obligations, provision of a stable monetary system, freedom of floating exchange, and the limited provision of essential public goods like law enforcement and national defense. Therefore, the scope of this measure is limited and can be subject to dispute as suggested by Carlsson et. al in Economic Freedom and Growth: Decomposing the Effects.

Quantitatively, Gwartney et. al’s index consists of seven categories measured on a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 is the highest degree of freedom.

These seven categories, whose detail is beyond the scope of this presentation include:

1) The size of government
2) Economic structure and the use of market
3) Monetary policy and price stability
4) Freedom to use alternative currencies
5) Legal structure and security of private ownership
6) International exchange – freedom to trade with foreigners
7) Freedom to exchange in capital markets

Measuring Political Freedom:

For measuring political freedom we will use the freedomhouse freedom in the world survey ratings. This measure has been covered rather extensively so I won’t go into as much detail on its intricacies. The methodology of the survey is grounded in basic standards of political and civil liberties derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The authors of the survey claim that it “does not maintain an culture-bound view of freedom”, however the U.N.’s definitions of political freedom are essentially rooted in Western Liberalism. So, even this measure is not free from bias.

Quantitatively, 192 nations and 14 territories are given a rating from 1 to 7, with 1 indicating the highest degree of freedom, and 7 the least. Countries are also classified as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free by the survey.

Ho: Economic freedom has no association with political freedom
Ha: Economic freedom has a significant association with political freedom

For actually using these measures to conduct statistical tests for association, there are several approaches. But for our purposes, I will detail the simplest and most straightforward one: linear regression. Variables in political science rarely follow a non-linear relationship; therefore, a regression will be suitable. I will run a regression with political freedom as the dependent variable (Y), as measured by Freedom House, and economic freedom as the independent variable (X). Once the test is conducted, we will derive a coefficient for the correlation between the two variables. We will then conduct significance tests to test the probability of finding an association with the magnitude, as large or as small, as we did.

Subsequently, we can disaggregate the effects of economic freedom on political freedom for more policy relevant results. We can run multiple regression analysis using each of the seven categories of economic freedom to find their individual correlations with political freedom. Another possible test would be to disaggregate both the effects of economic freedom and political freedom, ala Cherif, and find the correlations between each individual measure that we use for economic and political freedoms.


I have presented a proposal that I believe will be very significant for studying associations between economic freedom and political freedom, by which I generally mean civil and political rights. From historical evidence and theory I have reason to believe that the two occur simultaneously in a large number of instances, with a minority of cases of economic freedom without political freedom. However, I do not want to overemphasize or overestimate the consequences of the study. Finding a strong positive association between the two does not mean that the granting of economic freedom results political freedom. We have seen that the IMF and World Bank’s structural adjustment agreements advocating liberalization have not necessarily helped poor countries. But, what I hope this study will establish is that the two freedoms are complementary and complexly interrelated. For a truly free society to exist, both forms must simultaneously occur.

Rue Des Mauvais Garcons

I was in Paris this weekend and I ran into this street. It means "street of the bad boys". you know how we roll. :p

Monday, 26 November 2007

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Yor T's ain't ballin' Henry Holland

Soo, Henry Holland has become quite popular for his "innovate wordplay" in bold 80s-esque style on t-shirts. My friend was on HH's runway for London fashion week this year and he would vouch to say that I could be better designer than Henry Holland. I think that his rhymes are pretty cheesy and his t-shirts are overpriced for what they are. In response, here are my designs, which will soon be on my own t-shirts in lots of different colors. To add insult to injury, I'll give these away for free, so if you want one, ask in a couple of weeks.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Agyness Deyn

I like indie style

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

US government defines democracy?!

Apparently the US government publishes documents defining democracy. I find sections titled "Government of the People", "Human Rights...", "Democratic Ethics...", "Elections", and "Rule of Law" just slightly oxymoronic. Propaganda? You be the judge.


Over the past thirty years, the pace of China’s growth and development has been unrelenting. While figures of the country’s rate of GDP growth over the period vary, evidence points to a statistic between 9.3% and 9.4% annually (Holz 2005, Fisher 2005, Malik 2005). Per capita GDP growth has reached over 8.1% annually and HDI measures of life expectancy and literacy have also improved dramatically during this period. Life expectancy now stands at 70 years of age, while primary education enrollment statistics are comparable to those of developed countries. Poverty incidence was as high as 31% in 1978; that number now stands at 2.8% as 250 million people have been lifted out of poverty (Malik 2005). Industrial productivity has experienced tremendous growth as well. In 2004, China’s manufacturing sector output reached $3.4 trillion, adjusted for purchasing power parity, compared to just $1.5 trillion in the U.S. “China’s factories produced just 200 room air conditioners in 1978; today, they produce 48 million. Back then, they turned out just 11 billion meters of cloth; last year, 35.4 billion meters (over 3 times as much)… There are 28 billion square feet of floor space under construction in China, compared with just 5 billion in the U.S. Five of the world’s largest shopping centers are now located in China,” (Fisher 2005).

These figures support, what Fisher (2005) presents as the “Big China view”. However, China’s economy today is not without its drawbacks and in many areas continues to fall short of developed countries. Fisher (2005) sheds light on how “little” China is in comparison to the U.S.:
• “U.S. productivity in agriculture is 33 times that of China; productivity in U.S. industry is five times that of China.
• The U.S. has 19,497 airports; China, just 126.
• We have 150,000 miles of petroleum pipelines; they have less than 10,000.
• We have 481 cars per 1,000 people; they have seven.
• We have much, much higher levels of [higher] education, technology …”

From a development perspective, the last thirty years have also resulted in increasing domestic inequality in various spheres. China’s Gini coefficient is now as high as 0.45, the threshold considered indicative of potential social unrest. Geographical inequality is also high – the urban HDI stands at 0.81, while the rural figure is only 0.67. Most striking is the fact that public health coverage in rural areas has dropped from 90% to 10% between 1979 and 2002. Unsurprisingly, Shanghai’s HDI is now equal to that of Portugal, while Tibet’s is lower than that of Gabon (Malik 2005).

There are those that tout China’s strength and laud its progress over the last thirty years. Yet, there are others that hold more sobering views, highlighting China’s increasing inequities. China has been described, at opposite extremes, as both “the next superpower” (Murray 1998) and being “on the brink” (Henderson 1999). But, it remains undeniable that, on an aggregate level, Chinese economic circumstances are dramatically better now than they were thirty years ago. Further, I make the unsupported, but not ludicrous statement, that one would find it a virtually impossible task to locate a government in a poor country that finds the last thirty years of Chinese growth and development undesirous. Thus, the question begs itself, how did they achieve it?

Two words: Deng Xiaoping.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Back once again with the ill behavya

My hair is (almost) all gone...again. Stylish? I dunno. Does it make me look tough? Hell Yea. Strange and new? yeah probably.

My room - Pretending to be Artsy

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Cuba Libre

Inspiration from Zeta Bar in Sidney.

This works best with 10 cane rum. But, if you're a broke college student, use any cheap Caribbean light rum.

Mix 1.25 ltrs. diet coke and juice from 5 limes
Place in large container, cover, and freeze
Use a melon-baller to scoop coke-lime ice out of container
Cut two thin slices of lime and place in a tumbler
Add ball of coke-lime ice to tumbler
Add approx. 2 shots of 10 cane rum. If you're hardcore, double that
Fill to 3/4 height with soda water
Add a few drops of lime juice and stir
Garnish with a sprig of mint

This drink is a nice substitute for the pedestrian rum and coke. It is best had on the beach, paired with gold and brown aviators and an oversize orange Hermes towel stolen from a very unlucky friend.

(picture from story on this very drink)

Saturday, 17 November 2007

In Oxford

Notice the revival of the patterned pocket-watch waistcoat by the gentleman on the right. What really makes his outfit is a jovial grin and a healthy punch for the sake of bravado.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Can democracy yield benefits for the Middle East? Is Western democracy compatible with Middle Eastern soicety?

In an earlier post I presented the argument that civil society, as a channel of political activism, had been effectively repressed by undemocratic governments in the Middle East. After some thought, I feel that I may have come across as paternalistic. I have always thought that democracy, in the form that it takes in Western-centric political philosophy, is both normatively and positively the paramount system of governance. I am sure that that perspective came through what should have been an unbiased critique. But now, I wonder, is democracy the best form of government for the contemporary Middle Eastern context? Moreover, even if civil society was able to upset the power structure, would a Western-style democracy be established?

Let us first define what we mean by "democracy". Democracy, in the simplest sense, is rule by the people. In the Western manifestation, it implies rule through abstract representatives elected at various geographical levels - eg. city, state and national. I believe that democracy, and abstract representation, must be differentiated. In this post, I argue that democracy, not in the Western sense, is the best solution for the social economic and political problems of the region.

In today’s Middle East, the static undemocratic regime is largely the ubiquitous political structure. During the post-colonial period, the two salient features of the Middle Eastern state have become longevity and authoritarianism. Collectively, Middle Eastern states form a highly undemocratic bloc. In 2000, on a scale of 10 to -10, with -10 being the lowest possible score, all members of the region received negative Polity IV rating evaluations. Based on measures of executive recruitment, competitiveness of political participation, and chief executive constraint, individual country scores ranged from -2 in the cases of Jordan and Yemen, to -10 in the cases of Qatar and Saudi Arabia (Noland 2005).

Unsurprisingly, the distribution of both power and wealth is extremely inequitable in the region. The reason being that the region's economy primarily revolves around rent-seeking. The vast majority of natural resources are controlled by the state. In oil-producing countries, petroleum exports account for almost half of GDP. Resource control results in state governments acquiring fabulous wealth. For example, 90% of the Saudi monarchy's revenue is gained from oil exports. In those states that are not oil-producers, such as Syria, wealth is still accrued to the state through aid from regional and external actors following geopolitical strategies. Economic prosperity is exclusive to members of the ruling elite, those involved with the oil industry, and those co-opted by these two entities. More often than not, individuals outside these categories suffer from abject poverty. Moreover, in an unrepresentative form of government, the incumbents have no interest in altering the existing establishment. These factors, among other reasons, have resulted in the term "resource curse" being applied to the entire region. Thus, I believe that the region can benefit from a representative government that will extend the rewards of oil-wealth to all citizens.

However, will a representative form of government flourish in the Middle East? In this context, I believe that a Western form of democracy is not a viable solution to issues of governance and socioeconomic inequity. Middle Eastern kinship structures are not conducive to abstract voting patterns. Israel, perhaps the only semblance of a democracy in the region (albeit doubtlessly flawed), provides an example as to why this is the case. Research shows that the nation's Bedouin tribes are unwilling to allow someone outside their own kinship structures to represent their interests. The same may be extended to Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. As a result, voter turnout is, as a whole, very low in the region. Moreover, in Egypt, voting, even in the case of civil society organizations, never yields more than 10-15% turnout. Evidence abounds to support my claim that a Western democracy cannot be implemented in the Middle East.

In conclusion, I believe that representative government and not Western democracy is needed in the region. However, questions such as whether representatives will become co-opted into the socioeconomic elite and give up on supporting popular interests, persist. But I believe, a kinship-based confessional representation structure, a la the Afghan jirga convention (, could prove to be most effective.

In short, the US implementation of Western democracy in Iraq is a futile endeavor.