A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘globalization

[LINK] “Letter from Iran: diplomacy trumps hostility?”

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At Open Democracy, Linda Briskman argues that the negotiated end to sanctions is a plus for Iran, and the world.

People living in sanctions-supporting countries have failed to acknowledge the humanity of Iranians, thanks to a largely biased western media. There are few who would know that sanctions exceed economic hardship and include shortages of life-saving medicines. In spite of the fact that food and drugs are exempt from sanctions under international agreements, the situation reveals otherwise, with the universal right to health severely compromised. Foreign banks have hesitated to conduct business even when knowing that financial transactions were for medical imports. The shortage of vital imported medications, including for cancer sufferers and children with haemophilia, has been a source of anguish for patients and their families.

There have been detrimental effects on Iran’s youth. A priority for Iran in entering nuclear negotiations, says President Rouhani, is to create an environment conducive to doing business and to address the government’s concern about youth unemployment.

The signing of the accord and the eventual loosening of the shackles of sanctions is a remarkable exercise in peace-building through negotiation and diplomacy. The next stage is building trust to create an enduring legacy for the process that has begun.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 28, 2015 at 7:29 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO announces the impending opening of Toronto’s first cat café.
  • Centauri Dreams shares sharper images of Ceres from New Horizons.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes the discovery of very distant Neptune-mass planet OGLE-2005-BLG-169b.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the latest from the Donbas.
  • Far Outliers notes the spike in surrenders on Okinawa in June 1945.
  • Geocurrents maps the relatively balanced oil-based economic development of Colombia.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the use of the smartphone by refugees.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer observes the surprising casualty-heavy intensity of Russia’s war in the Donbas.
  • Torontoist explains the import of the City of Toronto’s budget surplus.
  • Towleroad notes how a fugitive priest is defending his rape of an altar boy.
  • Window on Eurasia notes one moment when Russia could have prevented the fall in oil prices.

[LINK] “Why the Rich Love Burning Man”

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The radical online magazine Jacobin features an article by Keith A. Spencer critical of the extent to which the rich apparently now dominate the Burning Man festival. Thoughts?

Burning Man grew from unpretentious origins: a group of artists and hippies came together to burn an effigy at Baker Beach in San Francisco, and in 1990 set out to have the same festival in a place where the cops wouldn’t hassle them about unlicensed pyrotechnics. The search led them to the Black Rock Desert.

Burning Man is very much a descendent of the counterculture San Francisco of yesteryear, and possesses the same sort of libertine, nudity-positive spirit. Some of the early organizers of the festival professed particular admiration for the Situationists, the group of French leftists whose manifestos and graffitied slogans like “Never Work” became icons of the May 1968 upsurge in France.

[. . .]

Participation sounds egalitarian, but it leads to some interesting contradictions. The most elaborate camps and spectacles tend to be brought by the rich because they have the time, the money, or both, to do so. Wealthier attendees often pay laborers to build and plan their own massive (and often exclusive) camps. If you scan San Francisco’s Craigslist in the month of August, you’ll start to see ads for part-time service labor gigs to plump the metaphorical pillows of wealthy Burners.

The rich also hire sherpas to guide them around the festival and wait on them at the camp. Some burners derogatorily refer to these rich person camps as “turnkey camps.”

Silicon Valley’s adoration of Burning Man goes back a long way, and tech workers have always been fans of the festival. But it hasn’t always been the provenance of billionaires — in the early days, it was a free festival with a cluster of pitched tents, weird art, and explosives; but as the years went on, more exclusive, turnkey camps appeared and increased in step with the ticket price — which went from $35 in 1994 to $390 in 2015 (about sixteen times the rate of inflation).

Black Rock City has had its own FAA-licensed airport since 2000, and it’s been getting much busier. These days you can even get from San Carlos in Silicon Valley to the festival for $1500. In 2012, Mark Zuckerberg flew into Burning Man on a private helicopter, staying for just one day, to eat and serve artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 27, 2015 at 7:52 pm

[LINK] “In China, a ghost town points to shifting fortunes”

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The Washington Post‘s Simon Denyer looks at the Chinese rust belt. Northeastern China is in a bad state.

Giant skyscrapers tower unfinished and abandoned around a lake that forms the centerpiece of this new town. The wind blows through the empty hulk of what was supposed to be a multistory hotel and restaurant complex. A salesman insists that people have moved into one of the few housing complexes to be completed around the shore, but as dusk falls, only a handful of lights blink on. He offers to throw in a free car with every apartment purchased.

This is Shenfu New Town in the northeastern province of Liao­ning, built to handle the overflow from the once-booming industrial cities of Shenyang and Fushun.

“Build it and they will come,” the saying goes. But here, in China’s industrial heartland, people are leaving instead of coming.

For much of the past decade, this was China’s fastest-growing region, the home of the heavy industry that powered the nation’s rise and rode on the coattails of a construction boom unparalleled in history.

Today, China’s economy is undergoing a painful transition that has left heavy industry reeling and set investors’ nerves jangling. The stock market is crashing, and fears of an economic slowdown are spreading. In the real economy, nowhere is the brunt of that slowdown and the pain of that transition being felt as sharply as here in the northeast.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 26, 2015 at 7:37 pm

[LINK] “Russia Faces Reality With Prediction of Deeper Economic Slump”

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Bloomberg’s Anna Andrianova and Olga Tanas report on Russia’s economic misery. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that one reason given for Russia’s interventions into Ukraine was to prevent the country suffering economic losses via Ukrainian integration with the European Union.

While insisting the worst of its recession was over, [the Russian government] cut its economic forecasts for this year and next amid the renewed plunge in energy prices and persistent sanctions over Ukraine. Economists said the revisions fell short of their estimates predicting an even deeper contraction.

Gross domestic product in the world’s largest energy exporter will fall 3.3 percent in 2015, down from an earlier projection of a 2.8 percent decline, Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, according to the Interfax news service. After hitting a “fragile bottom” in July, the economy will rebound by as much as 2 percent in 2016, from an earlier estimate of 2.3 percent growth, he said.

The earlier forecast “was from some other reality,” Olga Lapshina, head of research at Bank Saint-Petersburg PJSC, said by phone. “The Economy Ministry always tries to find something positive, even in the worst situation. They often have more a positive forecast than the market average.”

Mired in its first recession in six years, Russia is battling a new wave of oil-price weakness that’s sent the ruble to its lowest level against the dollar in seven months. Adding to the pain, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that U.S. and European sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine will stay in place for a “very long” time. Ulyukayev said penalties will remain through 2018.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 26, 2015 at 7:33 pm

[LINK] “How Silver Wrecked China”

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Bloomberg View’s Stephen Mihm gives his readers a useful history lesson, looking at how US silver policy in the 1930s may have plunged China into Communism.

The Great Depression was a global crisis — almost. Every significant economy was devastated, with one notable exception: China. The reason was simple. In 1929, the U.S. and every other major nation pegged their currencies to gold. As the economic historian Barry Eichengreen has described, adherence to this standard punished countries by imposing “golden fetters” that led to crippling deflation. The fixed exchange rates of the gold standard helped transmit the monetary shocks around the world.

China, alone among the world’s major economies, operated under a silver standard in which the currency was pegged to a specific weight of that metal. This had the effect of allowing its currency to depreciate, and largely shielded it from the worst effects of the Great Depression. The economic historian Ramon Myers concluded that “China simply did not experience any national economic depression as the world depression deepened.”

As the Depression worsened in the early 1930s, the world’s biggest economies came off the gold standard, allowing them to expand their money supplies and stimulate demand. As plenty of scholars have observed, countries that did so recovered more quickly. The U.S. took the plunge in 1933, during the first year of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency.

That was the first blow to the Chinese economy, ruining the competitive advantage it possessed when all other countries remained on the gold standard. As its currency began to appreciate, making its goods more expensive in world markets, its balance of payments turned negative, and imports exceeded exports. The worst was yet to come.

In the U.S., Senator Key Pittman of Nevada was hatching a plan that would prove the undoing of China. Pittman, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, professed to be concerned that China was stuck with a silver currency that had limited purchasing power in global markets. If Pittman could drive up the price of silver, he proclaimed, China would see its purchasing power increase, enabling it to purchase more goods from the U.S.. Both countries would benefit.

China did not.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 26, 2015 at 7:30 pm

[LINK] “A weak loonie was supposed to boost manufacturing. Here’s why it hasn’t”

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Sunny Freeman of the Toronto Star reports on the reasons why a lower Canadian dollar has not helped manufacture and technology exports.

While it traditionally takes 18 months for currency changes to trickle down, it may take two years or longer this time, he said. Manufacturers are grappling with a unique set of structural challenges formed during a long period of a high dollar.

Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has acknowledged that old economic models have not accurately predicted export levels in the post-2008 world.

“We’ve lost share of the U.S. market,” he told a New York business crowd in December.

“It’s not because we do a bad job, but simply because companies that were there before are no longer present, and the model doesn’t know that.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 21, 2015 at 10:17 pm


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