Beware of economics geeks bearing gifts

by Daniel on January 23, 2006

Henry gave me the heads-up on this extraordinary story from Institutional Investor (it is worth watching the interstitial ad in order to read the story as it really is dynamite). It’s an account of the dog’s breakfast that was the Harvard Institute for International Development’s mission to Russia. I learned a few things I didn’t know from it – particularly, it was interesting the extent to which Jeffrey Sachs, who suffered quite a lot of damage to his reputation through being the titular head of HIID at the time it all blew up, wasn’t actually in charge, and to which Andrei Shleifer and his wife were involved in the whole thing to an extent which it is rather implausible to dismiss as the work of a head-in-the-clouds academic who didn’t realise that there might be a conflict of interest. It adds quite a lot to David Warsh’s excellent coverage of the same story, and indeed to the cacophony of fuck-all which has been our beloved mainstream media’s coverage of what is quite visibly one of the most interesting and scandalous tales of the 1990s (I’m linking to Warsh’s own story on the II story because it contains a few quotes that are in the paper version but not the online one, but it is well worth poking around in the Economic Principals archives for other stories on this subject).
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Stealing your best lines

by Ted on January 23, 2006

A long excerpt from Osama bin Ladin’s complete letter to America (UPDATE: Please note, as per comments, that this is a letter from 2002.) Between the call to Islam, the condemnation of homosexuality, gambling, financial interest, alcohol, the separation of church and state, and the liberation of women, does anyone else feel like they’ve heard this before? It’s practically Howard Dean’s stump speech, isn’t it?

Between the part about how Clinton was let off too easily for immoral acts committed in the Oval office, and the part about how America “brought (the world) AIDS as a Satanic American Invention”, I’m surprised he doesn’t already have a diary at Daily Kos. Is Osama really out of the anti-Bush mainstream with this?

Um, yeah. He really, really is.

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Murakami’s Underground

by Belle Waring on January 23, 2006

I read Haruki Murakami’s Underground last week; it is a book about the 1995 sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway. I have been a big fan of his fiction for a long time, but this was my first foray into his non-fiction. It is a fascinating book, consisting of interviews both with the sarin victims and with members of Aum Shinrikyo, the cult whose members carried out the attack. The latter were interesting but struck me as very similar to tales of what motivates cult members in the US–alienated loners with a certain cast of mind I would call quasi-philosophical were initally drawn in by the promise of a totalizing explanation for the world, and then a meager diet, little sleep, forced labor and indoctrination did the rest. By quasi-philosophical, I mean something like this, from Murakami’s interview with cult member Hirokuyi Kano: [click to continue…]