Yemen, Unfriendly Skies, China Grey Swan and Japan, Into a Shell, Economic Fault Lines, Saying What You Think, On Guard For Thee

News that two bombs originating in Yemen addressed to synagogues in Chicago reminded us that Yemen was also the training ground for the man that had hoped to blow up a plane heading for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

This week the United Nations released its Human Development Index with the news that Yemen's neighbour Oman was the world's most improved country over the past 40 years.

What's that all about?

The fact is that different countries at different times are able to adjust and prosper in a world of constant change, and some aren't.

An article on Yemen, a PDF of the UN's report,  what the Yemen originated bombs tells us about flying, thinking about China and Japan and coping with change, worries about America's ability to adjust, the fault lines in the global economy, more QE2, free speech in the Netherlands, and Canada blocks a foreign investment.

Steven Metz warns against getting drawn into a third war to seek out and destroy Al Qaeda. Been there, done that.

Don't Mess With Yemen   Not so long ago, few Americans, very much including policy wonks and military officers, knew anything about Yemen. 

Omani Facts.

Oman At A Glance In just 38 years infant mortality has dropped 90%.

The United Nations Human Development Index.

Pdf below, 'UN Human Development 2010 Report'

The Economist on the new realities of flying skies that sometimes ain't so friendly.

No Quick Fixes  JUST as mist often cloaks its spiky mountain peaks, Yemen tends to fade from outsiders’ view until an alarming event there commands sudden interest. The foiling of al-Qaeda’s Halloween plot to sneak two parcel bombs onto aircraft bound for America is just such an attention-grabber.


Turbulence BOSSES in the aviation industry and their government counterparts have had a tricky relationship since September 11th 2001. Knee-jerk reactions from politicians have caused headaches aplenty. By chance, both groups met in Frankfurt at this year’s AVSEC, a conference on aviation security, just after news of the Yemeni-launched parcel bombs broke.

Comments by us two days ago stating that China and Japan in the mid to late 19th century were classic cases of two countries that did not, China, and Japan, that did, adapt to the great challenge of technological change in the global economy at that time led to requests for books that described the history best.

Here are two of my favorites.

Richard Storry, A Modern History of Japan


John King Fairbank The Great Chinese Revolution

How convenient then that analyst Vitaliy Katsenelson offers his assessment of the early 21st century challenges facing these same two countries.

Pdf below, 'China Japan Presentation -- Vitaliy Katsenelson'

In this vein of whether a specific country's political institutions are up to the task of adapting to the change brought about by the global economy's winners and loser, a few articles that raise this question regarding the United States of America. While Canada's future does not entirely depend on it, it is worth keeping an eye on.

Phillip Stephens worries about a new era of isolationism and protectionism.

Angry America Raises the Barricades  Angry at Barack Obama, angry at the world, America has turned its back on the president who promised to change everything. Now it may turn its back on globalisation.

Margaret Wente warns about political dysfunction. The politics of 'no, no, no, no. no, no.'

Just Another Vote for Dysfunctional Poplarisation  My colleague Jeffrey Simpson is right: There is no Tea Party in Canada, and likely never will be.

Ross Douthat's makes the same case while looking for an exit.

Does America Need a Majority?  John Judis waxes pessimistic about the whipsawing of political power and its consequences.

George Will on what the Democrats have discovered about the United States.

A Recoil Against Liberalism  Unwilling to delay until tomorrow mistakes that could be made immediately, Democrats used 2010 to begin losing 2012.

Roger Cohen on the contradictions of America's heroic individualism.

American Dreamland  Watching Representative John Boehner, the likely House speaker-to-be, lose it as he celebrated the crushing Republican victory in mid-term elections was one of those weird experiences that are riveting even as they make you want to avert your eyes.

The pressures that build up in the global economy are not unlike pressures that build up under the earth's crust. In this insightful 30-minute interview Raghuram Rajan's discusses his book ‘Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy'.

Rajan on 'Fault Lines' Raghuram Rajan's book ‘Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy’ has been awarded the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year 2010.

Andy Xie's worries that QE2 is setting the stage for a nasty market meltdown.

To Hell Through QE  The world seems full of smoke ahead of a world currency war. The weapon of choice is quantitative easing (QE). If you print a trillion, I'll print a trillion. No change in exchange rate after a trillion? Let's do it again, QE2. If you listen to people like Geithner, the end of the world is quite near. Rich people everywhere, not just the Chinese, are buying gold for peace of mind. When the currency values vanish in a QE melee, the rich at least have the gold to stay rich.

On QE2, the Koreans don't like it much, nor the Brazilians, nor the Chinese, nor the Australians, nor the ...

Fresh Fears of a Currency War Looming Large  The $600-billion injection plan of the U.S. Federal Reserve has sparked complaints from fellow G20 nations, with only five days left before the critical G20 Seoul Summit.

The Economist tries to make sense of it.

Down the Slipway EVEN before the Federal Reserve unveiled its second round of quantitative easing (QE) on November 3rd, critics had already denounced it as ineffectual or an invitation to inflation. It cannot be both and it may not be either.


Geert Wilders talks like a bigot, acts like a bigot, and is called out for being a bigot. 

But he has the right to say what he thinks, the people that threaten him with violence for saying what he thinks should be arrested and put in jail, and we should ask ourselves why do so many people think he is right?

The Wall Street Journal argues that his trial is a farce and a disgrace to the Netherlands.  Thanks to David of London for sending this in.

The Lost Case Against Geert Wilders  When even the prosecution calls for a defendant's acquittal and the trial judges have been disqualified for the appearance of bias, maybe it's time to drop the charges. Rather than a retrial, a dismissal would be the best outcome in the case of Geert Wilders, the Dutch lawmaker accused of insulting and inciting hatred against Muslims. 

And this one too. Speaking out. 

The Crooked Judges of Amsterdam 

Meanwhile, it seems that China would prefer if some countries would boycott the Noble Peace Prize ceremony.

China Urges Europeans to Snub Nobel Ceremony  China is pressing European governments to boycott the ceremony awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, warning that the award interferes in China’s internal affairs and that Mr. Liu is a criminal, Western diplomats said on Thursday.

News that the Canadian government will block BHP Billiton's $40 billion takeover of Potash Corporation has encouraged the normally level headed Michael Bliss to warn against 1930's-style protectionism. It is the second time in 25 years that a foreign takeover has been blocked.

Still the case against it.

Economic Chauvinism in 2010? Barking Mad!  Canada is being revisited with an ominous recurrence of neo-protectionist economic nationalism.

And Waiting for Superman...... 

UN Human Development 2010 Report.pdf10.92 MB
China Japan Presentation -- Vitaliy Katsenelson.pdf2.37 MB
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Twin Virtues: Inequality of Outcomes & Equality of Opportunity©

Twin Virtues

Ultimately, the most successful societies find the balance between the twin virtues of inequality of outcomes and equality of opportunity.

The new politics must marry the twin virtues of unequal outcomes and equality of opportunity.

When too few get too much everybody loses.

Feminism is about women living their lives on their own terms, marshalling the resources of the society to make that possible, and men embracing this as vital to a successful society and their own liberation.

Can it be that striving for equality of opportunity however imperfect the process not only benefits the individual but also creates benefits for the society that are unintended but wonderful?

Economics must be a 'moral enterprise' as much as politics claims to be. Economic outcomes need to be framed in terms of right and wrong not just efficiency if only because these often align in surprising ways that are good for society and the economy.

My vision of Canada is that any Canadian child from a family of limited circumstance can expect to have a chance at lifetime of unlimited opportunities.

Free trade is a wonderful thing. Time and time again economists have proven that free trade creates enormous wealth for each country 'on the whole'. Historians have shown that free trade is usually associated with rising political, social and cultural liberty. The perennial problem is that free trade always creates tremendous disruption for thousands even millions of individuals often concentrated in one geography, and where the state is idle, not investing in best in class instruments of social justice, free trade can be a permanent ticket out of the middle class, down, not up.

Tax policy should be founded on the principle of generating steady tax revenues sufficient to maximise environmentally sustainable economic growth in order to fund fair government.

Public policy should be designed to decrease inequality before the law and increase equality of opportunity.

Capitalism is not the problem; the problem is what we do with capitalism.

Content is always more difficult to argue than conspiracy.

Let the state regulate and the market operate (most things).

Welfare strategies are best designed as a hand up, not as a hand out.

Political debate should not be fact free fighting.

Explanation lasts longer than eloquence.

Always favour empowerment over dependency.

The most enduring public figures are embraced for the causes they fought for and not the concept of themselves they hoped others would remember them by.

Find your voice and don't be the echo of somebody else.

It is possible to operate on two different levels: the practical, cautious and conservative; and the realm of ideas, open, free, and radical.