I’m in Kiev on a business trip. Kiev is great, actually. It’s sunny, it’s green, it’s full of beautiful women. It may actually have more beautiful women here than Moscow, and Moscow has a lot of beautiful women.Yesterday I went to a conference by Concorde Capital, a local brokerage. In the day-time, fund managers ran around from meeting to meeting with local managers who want their capital.
Then in the night-time we were all taken to a club called Tsar, where we were greeted by ten women wearing only body-paint and a few feathers. They winked and gave us shots of evil-smelling liquor. Then we went into the main room, where more scantily-clad women were dancing on podiums. more »April 17, 2007 at 6:48 am | More on Europe and Central Asia |
(1) “Who speaks for the Army?” (2) “If everyone may speak, what is the impact?” and (3) “What controls, if any, should the Army impose on soldiers?”
April 16, 2007 at 12:34 am | More on Conflict and security, Influence and networks | 1 Comment
Military blogs written by those in muddy boots… are a combat multiplier in the information domain… Commanders at every level must boldly accept risk in order to support the rewards and warfighting advantage sthat soldier-authors bring to the information battlespace.
“In his email of April 14, Wolfowitz draws our attention to his ‘significant facts.’ The ‘significant facts’ he omits are:
1) The Board was willing to accept his recusal but had to back down because apparently after subsequent advice from his attorney he had a change of heart and refused to recuse himself on “professional relationship” with his girlfriend. So his offer of recusal was a farce (and the Board saw it as such).
2) Contrary to his assertion that he was only looking after the interests of the Bank, the documents make it abundantly clear that he was only interested in safeguarding Riza’s interests. It was he who devised the package (with Ms. Riza’s help?) rather than HR.
3) Contrary to what he says, he was actively involved in devising the package for Riza, overruling the considerably less generous (and more reasonable) package proposed by HR. He cleverly directs Coll to give Riza an option between the two packages. One has to be stupid to elect to choose the vastly inferior package.
4) He was clearly both negotiating for Riza and turning around and acting like the ‘decider’.
If this is not corruption, I don’t know what is.”
Background here.April 16, 2007 at 12:26 am | More on Economics and development |
This weekend’s light reading: Principles of Emergency Planning and Management, by one David Alexander of the University of Massachussetts. Amid chapters covering such recondite matters as emergency cartography, how many people can be carried lying down by a range of transport helicopters and what a triage tag looks like (this), there’s an intriguing section about myths and misassumptions about disasters, often perpetuated by the news media. For example:
April 15, 2007 at 4:57 pm | More on Conflict and security, Cooperation and coherence, Influence and networks | 1 Comment
Myth – When disaster strikes, panic is a common reaction.
Reality – Most people behave rationally in disaster. Although panic is not to be ruled out entirely, it is of such limited importance that some leading disaster sociologists regard is as insignificant or unlikely.
Myth – Looting is a common and serious problem after disasters.
Reality – The phenomenon of looting is rare and limited in scope. It mainly occurs when there are strong preconditions (i.e. a disaster is hardly necessary to start it off), as when a community is already deeply divided.
Myth – Disasters usually give rise to spontaneous manifestations of antisocial behaviour.
Reality – Generally, they are characterized by great social solidarity, generosity and self-sacrifice, perhaps even heroism.
As I write this, insipid pop music is being blared out from speakers about 100 metres from my flat. There’s a big stage being constructed there, with expensive lights and monitors, and a giant pile of white balloons.
This is democracy, Russian-style.
Up the road, a slightly less-well-funded protest by the ‘Other Russia’ movement, which is what passes for an opposition movement in Putin’s Russia, is underway. About 4,000 protestors, led by the unlikely figure of chess champion Garry Kasparov, are marching for the right to hold free elections, while around 9,000 cops, riot cops and soldiers circle them and go in to drag out the ring-leaders.
Actually, looks like Kasparov just got arrested. Best thing that ever happened to his campaign.
Whenever the opposition holds a rally, the Kremlin always tries to trump it, to show how happy the people are and how little they give a crap about the opposition (which is basically true). Last December, the Other Russia held a rally attended by about 3000 people. The next day, the Kremlin-funded youth group Nashi held a rally attended by about 150,000 students, all of them dressed as Santa Claus, clutching sacks of goodies to give out to WWII veterans. You can read an account of that surreal weekend here.
This time, the Kremlin seems content to put on a rock show on Tverskaya, right outside my flat, the swines.April 14, 2007 at 9:36 am | More on Europe and Central Asia |
The failure of HMS Cornwall to foresee such an event and be in a position to protect her people; the cowardice—there is no other word for it—of the boarding party (including two officers) once captured; their kissing the Iranian’s backsides in return for their release; and perhaps most un-British, their selling their disgraceful stories to the British press for money on their return — all this departs from Royal Navy traditions in ways that would have appalled the tars who fought at Trafalgar.
So far, so similar to most of the coverage this week. But wait; a solution is at hand!
April 13, 2007 at 12:32 pm | More on Conflict and security, Influence and networks, Middle East and North Africa |
In 1756, at the beginning of the Seven Year’s War, the French took the island of Minorca in the Mediterranean from the British. Admiral Byng was sent out from London to relieve the island’s garrison, then under siege. He arrived, fought a mismanaged battle with the attending French squadron, then retired to Gibraltar. Deprived of naval support, the garrison surrendered. Byng was court-martialed for his failure, found guilty, and shot.
The capital charge was “not doing his utmost” in the presence of the enemy. In other words, Byng was executed not for what he did, but for what he did not do. Nothing could have done more to spur initiative in the navy. As Voltaire famously wrote, “Sometimes the British shoot an admiral to encourage the others”.
ForeignPolicy.com is running a list of predictions that didn’t come true, including free atomic energy for all, global cooling, Japan ruling the world, another 9/11, and too many people on earth. What actually happened on the last of these, they ask?
Birthrates leveled off, food production drastically expanded, and technology improved. The 6.5 billion people alive today are far more than most imagined could possibly be supported a few decades ago. Limited resources and widespread poverty remain challenges for billions, but in nothing like the apocalyptic form that the alarmists predicted. The United Nations now predicts that the world’s population will level off at 9 billion by 2300.
Well, birthrates may have levelled off relatively, but global population certainly ain’t level just yet. (Might be an idea to check those figures, too – the UN’s prediction is actually 9 billion people by 2045, not 2300.) But more generally, here are a few reasons why reports of Malthus’s demise – well, his reputation’s demise, at any rate – may be premature:April 13, 2007 at 9:00 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Economics and development |
It looks pretty bad for Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. The Guardian reports the reaction yesterday when he tried to address Bank staff in their headquarters atrium:
Attempting to address around 200 World Bank employees gathered in the atrium of the bank’s plush Washington headquarters yesterday afternoon, Mr Wolfowitz quickly left after a knot of staff began chanting “resign, resign” while others also hissed and booed.
One staff member who was in the atrium said: “To see the bank’s president being heckled by his own staff was amazing. He looked shocked, very shocked, by the reaction and the anger.”
And the FT has a strongly worded editorial calling on him to resign too:
What then do we see here? The answer is: an apparent violation of Bank rules; favouritism that borders on nepotism; and a possible cover-up. It is true Mr Wolfowitz and Ms Riza were put in a difficult position. Even so, what has come out would be bad in any institution. In an institution that spear-heads the cause of good governance in the developing world, it is lethal.
The World Bank has moved from being a self-proclaimed exemplar of best practice in corporate governance to an example of shoddiness. As long as Mr Wolfowitz stays, this can be neither repaired nor forgotten, be it outside the Bank or inside it. In the interests of the Bank itself, he should resign. If he does not, the board must ask him to go.
One day to go until the Bank’s spring meetings. The drama…April 13, 2007 at 8:20 am | More on Economics and development | 1 Comment
I’m glad the government is finally realizing how badly it has played the Iran hostage crisis. It reacted in a typical New Labour way, just like Tony Blair reacted to Diana’s death – get them out there, talking to the press about how difficult the experience was for the poor fellows. There was no sense that this was a major national embarrassment, that they’d given up without any sort of resistance, that it made us look weak to the rest of the world. There was no sense of the Stoicism once associated with British military strength. Instead it was all touchy-feely sentimentalism. I’m not saying I wouldn’t crumple like a box of corn flakes at the first hint of torture, but if I was a soldier, I wouldn’t then sell the story of how I crumpled to the international media.
This is an example of how the rest of the world sees the episode. It’s an opinion piece by Yulia Latinya, a leading Russian journalist (as well as classicist) who hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio:April 11, 2007 at 12:04 pm | More on Conflict and security, Middle East and North Africa | 1 Comment
I’m writing a book at the moment about social anxiety. It’s an emotional disorder that makes you terrified of being negatively judged or humiliated by others. It was only officially recognized by the DSM Manual of clinical disorders in 1980, but since then, psychologists have come to think it could affect between 6 and 12% of the population in the US, making it the most common anxiety disorder and the third most common mental illness (after depression and alcoholism) in the West.
My book is looking at the cultural determinants of the illness. One of the questions I ask is, why is it so prevalent in the West, particularly in the US, and why does it hardly appear in east Asian communities, where studies suggest it affects just 0.5% of the population?April 10, 2007 at 12:24 pm | More on Influence and networks |
Let that be a lesson. Even before Britain’s politicians had finished saying sorry last Sunday for depriving millions of their liberty, the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Britons found themselves deprived of their liberty by the Iranian government. When will Tony Blair ever learn that, in international relations, nice guys finish last?
In the New English Review, another British ex-pat, John Derbyshire thinks the cowardly sailors are to blame.
I certainly think that those British captives who have let themselves be put forward on Iranian TV, that woman wearing a headscarf, and the young man apologizing to the Iranian gangster-rulers, should be court-martialed for dereliction of duty when they get back to Blighty, with shooting definitely an option.
This stuff plays well with the American right – who are busy building British weakness into their ‘how-we-woz-betrayed-in-Iraq’ narrative. Mario Loyola:
April 3, 2007 at 10:37 am | More on Middle East and North Africa |
The most tragic aspect of this whole drama is the window it has opened into the tortured psyche of our British allies. True enough, Britain is given to bouts of world-weary fatalism—a similar once hit Britain after World War II, and swept Churchill out of office. Still, I could never have guessed the extent to which Britain has accepted the loss of its national power. Our greatest ally, this people who have done so much to spread modernity, to protect and advance human civilization, to better the human condition, seem to have come under the spell of some mixture and pessimism and self-hatred.
Roula Khalaf has a great piece leading today’s FT about a new rehabilitation program underway in Saudi Arabia for former jihadis. One beneficiary of the program is Abu Suleiman (not his real name), a 33 year old who works in equity research. “But,” says Khalaf, “he has a secret: for the past year the Saudi authorities have been paying his family $800 a month while they work on re-educating him not to be a jihadi”. Khalaf continues:
The de-radicalisation programme uses a mix of heavy religious and psychological education on the “good belief in Islam” to rehabilitate militants. Chosen candidates are plucked from the Saudi prison system, where they enjoy few rights and are sometimes tortured. They are subjected to six to 10 weeks of de-brainwashing in a programme involving 100 official clerics and 30 professionals, including psychologists. Their families are paid a monthly stipend of up to $1,500 to forestall any al-Qaeda networks from paying relatives to keep them on side. Prisoners deemed worthy of graduation are then sometimes assisted in finding jobs and even wives. “They settle down when they marry,” says Abdulrahman al-Hadlaq, chairman of the rehabilitation committee.
What’s interesting about the Saudi approach is that it focuses on social networks rather than on ideology – a point made emphatically by David Kilcullen, an Australian counter-insurgency specialist on secondment to the US State Department, in a New Yorker article by George Packer last December.April 2, 2007 at 2:05 pm | More on Conflict and security, Influence and networks |
Well, that’s what Jenny McCartney argues in the Sunday Telegraph, anyway. McCartney argues that although stabbings of the kind that have dominated headlines in recent weeks remain extremely rare, there’s still no getting around the fact that “our children lead those of all the industrialised nations, by some distance, in teenage pregnancy, early and unprotected sex, smoking and drinking”, with obesity rapidly emerging as an additional concern.
But, she continues, beyond a shared emphasis on the importance of parental responsibility, Labour and Conservative policy on what to do about all this diverges sharply. Where the Conservatives “appear keen to return direct responsibility for bringing up children to parents, the extended family and the wider community of responsible adults, such as teachers”, Labour has developed proposals for a much more statist approach: a new, computerised ‘Children’s Index’.April 1, 2007 at 9:02 pm | More on Cooperation and coherence |
Harvard Law professor, Charles J. Ogletree Jr. on his former protege:
March 31, 2007 at 2:02 pm | More on Influence and networks, North America |
“He can enter your space and organize your thoughts without necessarily revealing his own concerns and conflicts.”
- Rapidly distinguish between information that is useful in making decisions and that which is not pertinent
- Avoid the natural temptation to delay their decisions until more information makes the situation clearer, at the risk of losing initiative
- Avoid the pitfall of thinking that once the mission is underway, more information will clarify the tactical picture
- Feel the battlefield tempo, discern patterns among the chaos, and make critically important decisions in seconds
The leader will also have developed: “strength of character; experience and intuition through repetitive skills training; an understanding of the value of self-study; and proper understanding of a command climate that promotes adaptability, accepts change and encourages innovation.”
So how does Vandergriff think its done? more »March 31, 2007 at 12:55 pm | More on Influence and networks |