Monday, November 29, 2010


The topic of Philosophy popped in to a discussion I had with a devout Muslim work mate of mine today:

"Darwin, Freud and Marx represent the triangle of destruction," he said sternly and solemnly.

"Destruction!?" I said, slightly shocked, "With Nietzsche I think you have a fourth."


"Yeah, you know, God is dead? He is one of my favourites." I recapitulated facetiously.

"Ohh, Neitzsche. Yeah, he was lucky I was not alive, I would have hung him." He pronounced.

 I laughed,"Yep, I think we've completed your square."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Cred: James Haskins

Monday, November 22, 2010

A five star Hajj

The following is a guest post by JLD.

How fascinating to see the degree of opulence that this year has become possible during the pilgrimage of The Hajj, a momentous occasion for all Muslims who are fortunate enough to get there: to Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

It is to be the great leveller of occasions in the spiritual life of millions of devotees of Islam, evident in the same white attire that is worn by all pilgrims. And all are to participate in the rituals in similar fashion, while walking, praying, stoning the symbols of evil, and other aspects that have rich spiritual meaning.

What is interesting to the observer is the introduction of the glamorous accommodations provided by the enormous new Fairmont Hotel Makkah Clock Royal Tower, pictured above. Their least expensive room is currently a thousand dollars per night, while the most exclusive of suites is a mere $4,000 --- per night, yes. The pilgrims are, apparently, segregating themselves according to wealth. Some Africans, for example, many of whom can afford only the fare to get there, are often found asleep on the ground, their prayer mats providing perhaps some meagre protection and comfort, whereas those pilgrims of wealthy (Arab?) nations, perhaps, who partake of the luxury and accept the Fairmont's steep tarriffs --- are no doubt the primary consumers.

Hmmm... what does this suggest to the world about the commitment to a commonality among the pilgrims during this---for most---once-in-a-lifetime experience? How about supporting those pilgrims less fortunate by providing basic, comfortable, convenient living arrangements at no cost --- and truly share the wealth?

JGK: [Can anyone else see any symbolism in the Fairmont casting a pointed shadow over the Grand Mosque at certain times of the day? The word penetration comes to mind...]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A look into the lives of Senegalese Chinese


Aside from the added aura of doom courtesy of the Al Jazeera presenter (who's name seems unnaturally guttural), I think it's quite an honest presentation of the troubles of Chinese entrepreneurs in Senegal.

There are many countries in the world that have an imported entrepreneurial/capitalist class. In Kenya, for example, Indians have made up a very large portion of business owners since the 80's. Invariably, socio-political economic tensions ensue.

Nothing escapes the damn late cptlst mrktplce

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Deals Done

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to push his cabinet to freeze most construction on West Bank settlements for 90 days--in exchange for a $3 billion package from the United States in security incentives and fighter jets--so that peace talks could continue.

- Harpers Weekly

Friday, November 12, 2010

Youtube of the week - RSAnimate

This channel is fantastic. Internationally renowned thinkers, writers and philosophers speak as an amazing white-board artist animates their ideas with a marker. Check it out! I'm addicted.

Here is Ken Robinson's talk on the failures of our current education paradigm:

There are plenty more at!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

About Joel G.K.

My name is Joel, I am currently working on an education reform PPP project as an English language advisor. I've kept my name abbreviated so as to protect myself from trouble arising from some of the more crass remarks I've made about some powerful organizations here that could affect me directly. I hope you don't mind.

While international economics and politics aren't a part of my job as an advisor, my mind invariably wanders off in that direction on a daily basis. This blog is my musing. Ultimately, I want to know why poverty persists, why the whole world isn't 'developed', what actions can be taken to improve the lives of the poor and how I can help to inspire a transformation in a status quo that has failed to address these problems on a systemic level. I'm also easily distracted and curious about many other things, as you may find out. This blog should ultimately labour to tease out some coherence from certain pockets of global affairs. I hope your curiosity is piqued :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We should not spend any money on fighting climate change

If we live in a world with limited budgets we face tradeoffs in choosing to spend our limited resources on one thing over another.

If you had 100 dollars to spend (representing our pooled OECD disposable income) on either climate change, war, or poverty and each required 40 dollars to have any effect, which would you choose to spend money on?

Well, consider this:

1. Climate change poses an existential threat to the human race ... in 50 years. 

2. War poses an existential threat to several million people today.

3. Poverty poses an existential threat to 1/4 of the human race today. 

Changed your mind yet?

Bonus for choosing to fight poverty or war: you'll probably end up fighting against global warming too. Neither war nor poverty is good for the environment. I don't mean to say that poor people are inherently ignorant of environmentalism, and I recognize the biggest co2 producers are largely OECD, but it is clear which countries are growing economically, and degrading environmentally, the fastest today.

Of course the choices are not strictly discrete, but poverty and war are some of the worst offenders when it comes to climate change. If you are a humanitarian and are focused on fighting climate change, think about the millions of people trying to lift themselves out of poverty who have little regard for the environment. Undoubtedly, it is extremely difficult to lift oneself out of poverty without destroying a bit of the environment (have we ever seen a nation succeed?) so herein lies the challange:

The progress of nations; a selection from . Notice the slopes.

How can we develop without destroying the various resource cycles that allow us to continue to satiate our appetite for 'wealth' (which we cant seem to get over). How can we maintain our resources to ensure the well being of future generations while raising the living standards of the bottom two billion?

The climate change is invariably a problem of war, poverty and development, but war, poverty and development are more pressing and not (necessarily) a problem of climate change.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Got front page google for 'superbear'!

Search 'superbear' in google and I'm in 8th place!

A huge jump from last week... I was on the third page.

If only the person who is hoarding the domain would give it up!

How much aid goes to dictators?

This much:

Consult Freedom House for more on what it means to be free, and Bill Easterly on what it means to give to a dictator.


Monday, November 8, 2010

CDG get points for the CDI

Yep, you guessed it, it's the 2010 Commitment to Development Index. Go ahead. See where your favourite country stacks up. 

The report has a fantastic breakdown of each rich country's strengths and weaknesses in supporting development through aid, trade, investment, migration, security, environment and technology. Point for comprehensive development indices!

Think Sweden might be a shining beacon of development assistance? Well, you would be right, as it scored highest overall. However, not surprisingly, in the technology category it scored solidly below average. Here's why: 

  • Low tax subsidy rate to businesses for R&D (rank: 20)
  • Offers patent-like proprietary rights to developers of data compilations, including those assembled from data in the public domain 
  • Large share of government R&D expenditure on defense (1.0%; rank: 17)  
  • Pushes to incorporate into bilateral free trade agreements "TRIPS-Plus" measures that restrict the flow of innovations to developing countries

While I can't get on board criticizing their subsidy policy regarding R&D (seems to be working!), their adherence to TRIPS-Plus is downright boneheaded. This policy program restricts WTO members to a prohibitive intellectual property rights regime and continues to do real damage to development.

(Also look how poorly Canada scores for environment! Why? Ahem:   1. High greenhouse gas emissions rate per capita (21.7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent; rank: 21)  and  2. Poor compliance with mandatory reporting requirements under multilateral environmental agreements relating to biodiversity (rank: 18))

Point for fun-time graphs, and one for pretty country report graphics too!

CDG: 3, Tea Party: 0 (?)

Hyman Minsky

Hyman Minsky.

That is all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stats Class

The first line from Theory of Moral Sentiments:

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it." - Adam Smith

 That Mr. Smith is so frequently used to prop up an entirely antithetical notion of self regulating markets, i.e. the notion that self-serving actions are the most efficient and most beneficial for society, is more than a little bit disconcerting.

 Proponents of rational choice theory (where actions for the good of others are seen as irrational if they result in no personal benefit), free-marketeers, and anyone who has quoted Mr. Smith while defending the notion of an unfettered marketplace should go back and read the first line of his slightly less famous, but no less groundshaking, book The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

 Is it any coincedence that the third hit on google for 'moral sentiments' is Adam Smith on