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Archive for May, 2005

Globalization and Its Discontents

Thursday, May 26th, 2005
Author
Joseph E. Stiglitz

Globalization and its Discontents

I picked up Joseph Stiglitz book in the same purchase I got Naomi Klien’s No Logo and Peter Singer’s One World. Obviously there is an interest in globalization in that recipe. I’ve been reading The Economist [economist.com] for some years and been mildly informed on globalization and the backlash against it evident in the protests against the IMF, World Bank, G7/G8, WTO and other multinational bodies associated with it. I didn’t really develop an interest in globalization until I read The Best Democracy Money can Buy by Greg Palast.

Palast’s book wet my appetite but Stiglitz, who was President Clinton’s economic adviser before joining the World Bank, really lays on the blame. He places most of the blame for the Asian Financial Crisis, the Russian collapse, and Argentina’s Defaulting, on the IMF. More specifically he claims that a shift away from the Keynesian ideas that the IMF and World Bank were founded on is to blame. What caused the shift? The introduction of Thatcherism and Ragantonian ideals, the ousting of experienced economist and the promotion of free market fundamentalist at the IMF.

To support his accusations Stiglitz roams around the globe from one crisis to another pointing out the faults in the blind, ideological, one-size-fits-all prescriptions the IMF doled out to country after country in the past 25 years. Time and again the IMF’s blind belief in the Market becomes a vehicle for greed and capitalist hegemony. To back up the point that the IMF refused to learn from it’s mistakes and the experience of others Stiglitz points out several countries that refused to follow the IMF plan, and shows that while their development has not been as smooth as could be desired and they have not developed as fast as the IMF says they could, they have avoided the painful problems of many of the IMFs poster child countries: Thailand, Argentina, Russia. And stand better today than many of the countries who followed the IMF plans.

I found the section of the Asian Financial Crisis the most poignant because shortly after I finished the book I traveled to Bangkok, the epicenter of the crisis. The problems that began in Bangkok when Thailand opened it’s market to ‘hot money‘ [wikipedia.org] are always recalled as something that happened ‘over night.’ How true those statements are really became apparent when I was in Bangkok. The skyline is filled with half completed skyscrapers and rusting cranes that have sat empty since 1997. Many construction sights literal closed the doors one night and never opened them again, putting hundreds of workers on the street over night.

After nearly a decade Bangkok is just beginning to recover from it’s nightmare. If Stiglitz is to be believed the IMF leadership, which shares a large part of the blame because it pushed questionable policies faster than was advisable and without tailoring them for local conditions, has not learned its lesson. Stiglitz acknowledges that the goals of the IMF, the goals of Globalization, are not inherently bad, and need not lead to the problems that we have seen. Rather it is the way the IMF uses it’s political power and money to force these ideas on countries that are not ready for them that has lead to so much suffering and poverty.

Globalization is not a new movement, it is the as old as civilization. It is the force that sent caravans down the Silk Road and the wind that launched the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria across the Atlantic. The goal now should be to move forward in a way that does not destroy entire societies so that a few rich people can get richer. Modern globalization was sold to the world as a way to bring the worlds poor into a better world. It has, to a large extent, made many of their lives worse while being hijacked to make the rich richer.

Have you seen my keys.. no really!

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

I seem to have misplaced my keys — somewhere in Vietnam. Yes; Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City to be more precise. I jaunted off for a weekend in Ho Chi Minh City. Not as romantic as spending the weekend in Paris I guess. But then I’m in Singapore now, not London. I’ll try to write more about Vietnam when I get a chance to go through the photos I took. Thought I don’t expect too many good ones.

Anyway back to my keys. I had them when I was in Vietnam, but not when I got back. I suspect they were actually lost on the plane. They were in the outside pocket of my duffle bag, which in retrospect might not have been the best place to put them. There was nothing really important on the key chain. The key to the flat here in Singapore for which there are a number of spares. The key to my desk at work, which there should be a spare ‘on file’ with the office manger and a strange old-style key I found in London.

I found the strange key in Leicester Square on my first trip to London, which was actually only a single day/night. Carolyn and I were on the way to Paris and we had a stopover in London. While wondering around I found this key in the cobblestones around Leicester Square. The key was like an old clock key. I have absolutely no use for the key but I though it was cool. Sucks that I lost it.

the other thing that sucks to lose is the metal chain and lobster clasp that was attached to the key ring. Very hard to find this kind of key chain with no leather on it. Oh well. Maybe I should call Singapore Airlines and see if it fell out in the cargo hold.

fish tank

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

IMG_1473

Various pictures from my Marine Reef Tank. Taken in Spring 2004 when it was in my apartment in DC and I was just playing around with my new toy — My digital camera.

N.B. the following has a lot of undefined terms in it that require some expertise in either marine biology or tropical fish/coral keeping. I was going to define some of the terms but it would take too long and I did not find any good web pages to link to for explanations. Wikipedia failed me on this one…

The tank itself is quite old, nearly 12 years. It’s moved several times, from my place to my parents’ basement when I went back to college after working in the fish store for two years. Then to My apartment in DC and most recently to my bosses’ house for him to take care of and learn ‘art of reef tank maintenance’. The sad fact is he is doing a better job of it than I was, because he pays better attention to it. Keeping a salt water reef tank is really not as hard as all the rumors would have you believe. It just takes diligence. A few weeks of neglect in a healthy tank is not too hard to recover from but if you go on too long it starts to reach a point where you have to fight to bring it back. My tank has reached that point several times. But despite my failures as the lord of the tank there are several inhabitants that have been residents of my tank for quite a while; the ‘old man of the tank,’ (the gray and black fish with the blue spots,) has been in the tank 6+ years. There is also a starfish older than that and a frogspawn coral that is about the same age. The frogspawn is the one featured in most of the pictures of coral in this set. It’s a light brown and green member of the Euphyllidae family of corals. The green color makes it look quite nice under the ultraviolet light of the actinic blue power compact lights on the tank.