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Sunday, June 05, 2011


One of my birthday presents was a new shoulder bag, to replace the one that I've been taking to work for the last 11 years.

In the process of transferring my few worldly possessions, I came across a bundle of 'cuttings' that I'd ripped out of Guardian Weekly's over the years. For my sake more than yours, I thought I'd record them for posterity here (though the format may not be less perishable...)

Some of them are little snippets, some of the entire articles, and some are references to books which looked interesting (at the time, at least).

Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa - Dambisa Moyo
The Gods that Failed: How Blind Faith in Markets Has Cost Us Our Future - Larry Elliott & Dan Atkinson
The Thrift Book: Live Well and Spend Less - India Knight
The New Cold War: How the Kremlin Menaces Russia and the West - Edward Lucas
The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power - Tariq Ali
Bad Samaritans: Guilty Secrets of Rich Nations and the Thread to Global Prosperity - Ha-Joon Chang
The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation - Philip Shenon
Torture Team: Deception, Cruelty And The Compromise Of Law - Philippe Sands
Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes - Daniel Everett
A Most Wanted Man - John le Carré
The Age of Assassins: The Rise and Rise of Vladimir Putin - Yuri Felshtinsky & Vladimir Pribylovsky
'If you are wondering how a total of $8.2bn could be paid in bonuses over two years the the great minds whose company went bankrupt, what can I tell you? This may be close to the heart of the problem. Through history, great fortunes have been made by people directly taking risks on their own account. Today, great fortunes are made by employees, doing nothing other than their jobs: jobs which, in the case of bankers, involve taking on risks, usually with other people's borrowed money. To make more money, and earn more bonuses (usually 60% of an investment banker's pay), it's simple: you just take on more risk. The upside is the upside, and the downside - well, it increasingly seems that for the bankers themselves, certainly in the case of Lehman New York, there isn't one. This undermines the whole principle of "moral hazard", which was the idea behind letting Lehman go under in the first place - the need for companies to face the consequences of their decisions. This principle collapses if the individuals involved don't face any consequences.'

(from the same article)
'Having fully indulged their greed on the way up, and created the risks, the bankers are now fully indulging their fear on the way down, and allowing the system to seize up. But it wasn't just the banks. We did this to ourselves, because we were greedy and stupid. It's not just bankers who have been indulging in greed, short-termism and fantasy economics. In addition to its stretched mortgage borrowing, Britain has half of all European credit-card debt. We grew obsessed with the price of our hoses, felt richer than we should, borrowed money we didn't have, and now that the downturn has happened - as it was bound to do - we want someone else to blame. Bankers are to blame, but we're to blame too. That's just as well, because we're the ones who are going to have to pay.'
'William Morris commented: "I have never been in any rich man's house which would not have looked the better for having a bonfire made outside of it of nine-tenths of all that it held."'
'On 9 October 1967, Che Guevara faced a shaking sergeant Mario Teran, ordered to murder him by the Bolivian president and CIA, and declared: "Shoot, coward, you're only going to kill a man." This final act of heroic defiance marked the defeat of multiple attempts to spread the Cuban revolution to the rest of Latin America.

'But 40 years later, the long-retired executioner, now a reviled old man, had his sight restored by Cuban doctors, an operation paid for by revolutionary Venezuela in the radicalised Bolivia of Evo Morales....'
'He (Greenspan) suggested his trust in the responsibility of banks had been misplaced: "Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders' equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief."'
'Strange things have happened during this crisis, not the least of which is that the IMF was last week praising in developed countries all the things it normally excoriates in developing nations. The one-size-fits-all model of development is just one of the many sacred cows to have been slain over the last 14 months'
'A famous economist, Hyman Minsky, foretold that unregulated finance capitalism inevitably ends in a meltdown and slump. The world is facing a Minsky moment.'
'For 30 years, greedy, callow, ignorant financiers, supported by no less callow politicians from all parties, have proclaimed the wonders of financial innovation. The price tag for their behaviour is an economic calamity. We should never have bought such snake oil. The consolation in these dark times is that we never will again.' (My comment scrawled alongside: ' Don't you believe it!')
'The full scale of the persecution of Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul became apparent last week when the UN refugee agency said about 13,000 had been hounded from their homes this month, more than half of the city's Christians.'
From Notes & Queries, in answer to "What is the difference between a cult and a religion?": 'A cult abuses its members, a religion abuses non-members.'
'What Washington's finest do abroad, they would not dare try at home: in the US, the head of the Federal Reserve has called for more public spending. The Washington consensus, as the IMF's policies of high rates, low public spending and open markets is sometimes termed, has been widely discredited. This prescription was doled out in Asia in the 90s - and the side-effects were so bad that states have rushed to pay back their loans and so cut the strings binding them to Washington.'
'... the greatest form of luxury would be the relief of not living with so much.'
Well-read get ahead
Reading to young children stimulates their development and gives them a head start when they reach school, researchers who have reviewed studies on the effects of reading found. Professor Barry Zuckerman, of the department of paediatrics at Boston University school of medicine, said that children who were read to from an earlier age had better language development and tended to have better language scores later in life. Getting children to grip pages with their thumb and forefinger improved their motor skills.

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