Sunday, August 22, 2010

On the second anniversary of the Kandhamal massacre

You may recollect that it is two years since the massacres took place in Orissa, India.

Though the official figures do not add up, they do provide a picture of how little has been done in terms of justice (the picture is similar in terms of actual help to the victims):

Number of complaints lodged: 3232
Number of cases actually registered by the police: 831

Cases committed to so-called "fast track courts": 193
Number of cases actually being tried in court at present: 95

Number of cases which have been closed: 91

Number of persons convicted 176
Life imprisonment sentences 5

Persons arrested so far 794
Persons acquitted 653 Sphere: Related Content

What you can do today to defend freedom of thought

What you can do today is to spend a few minutes to understand the Defamation of Religions Resolution at the UN.

Then say NO to the Resolution, and say YES to the right to freedom of thought.

What's it all about?

In the United Nations, the Defamation of Religions Resolution will be voted on again this year. Its supporters claim that it protects freedom. In reality it does the exact opposite. It gives governments the power to determine which views can and can’t be expressed in their country, and it gives the state the right to punish those who express ‘unacceptable’ views.

In effect, the bill makes it legal for governments to oppose and persecute free thought.

Incredibly, many countries have backed this annual resolution in the past, but some are now changing their minds, so that it has decreasing support. This year, there is a real possibility the Resolution could be defeated. And you can help. That is why you are urged to sign the petition above.

For a quick view of the background, see:

For a much fuller explanation, see:

So HOW do you say "NO" to this Resolution?

Simple: write to your government (address it to your country's Head of State, with copies to the Foreign Minister and the Home Minister) and give the reasons why you believe that your government should oppose the Resolution.

There are also several internet campaigns against the Resolution, some from religiouis bodies, and some from secular, atheistic, agnostic and humanitarian bodies. Sign on to whichever most appeals to you.

In any case, do get behind the campaign to defeat the most pernicious attack on free thought in the whole of recorded history. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Reflections on World Humanitarianism Day (19 August)

My friend Iqbal Alimohamed has published a moving and well-crafted piece reflecting on World Humanitarian Day: D:\Documents and Settings\t850632\Local Settings\Temp\alimohamed190810 htm.html

Basically, Iqbal sets forth the usual view that humanitarianism consists of two aspects: volunteering and philanthropy.

Naturally I agree with his view.

However, in addition to volunteerism and philanthropy, my view is that humanitarianism today demands the even more important matter of working for a humanitarian world system (rather than elitist world system as we currently have).

By the way, in my view, a humanitarian world system necessarily also involves ecological responsibility (rather than the sort of ecological irresponsibility which is structured into our current world system). Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The key to making sense out of the contradictory trends in the global economy

The Financial Times reports today that, on the one hand, that there has been a sharp upturn in use of shipping containers (which should indicate a sharp upturn in trade, and in traffic of goods

On the other hand, today's FT also reaports that oil prices have been pushed below $75 due to massive stockpiles of crude oil and refined products - actually the most massive since weekly records began in 1990

The key is that most of the "trade" is speculative!

Real consumers are keeping a tight fist on consumption, not only in the West but also in the East (about the only place where real consumption appears to have risen in the last 12 months appears to be Malaysia - perhaps there is a secret there worht discovering, but I haven't got around to it yet).

In any case, the people putting money around are speculators - and as there is too much money in the world anyway, with central banks ready to print plenty more at the slightest provocation, this game will last some time yet.

But the denoument of the 2008 crisis has only been put off, even if it looks now as if it will come in the form of much more serious government bankruptcies than in the form in which it initially appeared it was going to come: of (slightly) less serious bankruptcies of banks, or indeed the (much) less serious bankruptcies of non-financial companies. Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Guptara Garamagaram (which, being interpreted, means "HOT"!)

This series has been published for several months now in The International Indian magazine (Dubai).

The latest instalment, "Governance: Swiss versus Indian", is available at: Sphere: Related Content

Friday, August 13, 2010

Should you invest in unlisted companies ("penny stocks")?

In today's FT, I see that is offering small businesses the chance to sidestep banks and borrow directly from individual savers, using an online marketplace

Is it a good idea to sidestep banks and so on, and to invest directly in small companies?

From the perspective of FundingCircle, yes. They should make a lot of money out of it.

From the perspective of an investor, the matter is more doubtful.

I maintain that you should invest:
- either in listed companies (where the system is doing at least some due diligence for you)

- or in those small companies regarding which you can do the due diligence yourself - i.e. you can visit the factory or office and judge the mood as well as the state of affairs for yourself, look the proprietor(s) or manager(s) in the eye and ask questions, and so on.

In fact, at present, my preference is definitely for the second option.

No one knows how the rules will change, and therefore how the profit/ loss for listed companies will change following the impact of current legislative changes, as well as the impact of global changes which may start as early as November this year. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, August 12, 2010

the U.S. continues to tilt at windmills

Actually, to be precise, the right wing in the USA continues to tilt at windmills, while the left wing continues to sing in praise of public expenditures, deficits and debts cannot be sustained.

But neither wing seems interested in recognising reality.

Here is one example of right wing cant, that I received recently: "the US trade deficit widen(ed) at the quickest pace since October 2008. The shortfall jumped almost $50 billion from May to June, an 18.8% increase, as US exports declined across the board and imports rose to just over $200 billion....Even before the (Troubled Asset Relief Program) and the expansion of the Fed's balance sheet, total US public and private debt as a percentage of GDP...stood at 290 percent...". SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION PROPOSED?: "Congressional Republicans want to cancel the across-the-board increase (1.4%, proposed for apparently overpaid federal workers) in 2011, which would save $2.2 billion".

Even if it is universally agreed that federal workers are overpaid, and that the increase ought not to be granted, will a saving of $2.2 billion address a public debt that has been going up at an average of 4.12 billion PER DAY since September 28, 2007? (that's according to the US National Debt Clock:

Perhaps you argue that it is better to save SOMETHING rather than nothing?

True. But if saving only 2.2 billion is going to take legislative time, and you have the option of using that time to save let's say 25 billion instead, wouldn't that be a better use of the time?

So what ought the US to do?

There is only way to bring public debt and the balance of payments under control: reduce expenditure and consumption, while increasing savings as well as exports (i.e.manufacturing, not only services).

The reduction may be helped by legislative measures such as those proposed.

However, the increase in savings will only happen as individuals and households change their lifestyles, and as laws, rules, regulations, custom and culture also changes to enable and support a "savings-oriented lifestyle" for Americans.

However, any increase in manufacturing is not going to happen (in spite of gimmicks such as Obama's recent government support for Ford exports) as long as the current WTO rules continue to tilt the entire field against the USA and in favour of China and other "cheap" countries which are prepared to turn a blind eye to human and environmental considerations.

On the other hand, if the WTO rules were amended to create a genuinely level global playing field, there would be a chance for everyone to show what they are really worth, without benefiting from the tilt in the playing field.

My advice to Americans: please stop titlting at windmills! Change instead the tilt against you in the global trade rules! Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

US philanthropy suffers only a 3.6% drop inspite of worst financial crisis since the Great Depression

The GivingUSA report for the calendar year 2009 shows that, in spite of this being the worst year since the Great Depression, with unemployment at massive levels and discretionary spending at a low, America's giving to philanthropic causes declined only 3.6% (or 3.2% when adjusted for inflation.

And this is not the steepest drop in giving, in real terms: in 1974, for example, giving fell by 5.5 percent.

It is absolutely astonishing that Americans gave away more than $300 billion during such a tough year.

This is the first decline in giving (in current dollars) since 1987, and only the second since Giving USA began publishing annual reports in 1956.

In other words, as American prosper, they give away more and more, and when they stop prospering, they still continue to give as much as they can. In 1974, giving
averaged $1,323 per household (including non-donors) which was 1.8% of GDP whereas, in 2009, it averaged $1,940 per household (including non-donors) or 2.1% of GDP.

It is fascinating that 75% of the giving is by individuals, whereas only 4% is by companies, while 13% is by foundations, and 8% is from bequests.

Even more fascinating: while corporate giving rose 5.5 percent, charitable bequests fell 23.9 percent in 2009 and foundation grantmaking fell by 8.9 percent. However, individual giving fell only 0.4 percent.

Well, you can argue against America all you like (and some of its government's policies have been and are horrible and immoral).

But you can't argue against the fact that America produces the most generous people in the world. Sphere: Related Content