Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away …

by John Q on October 27, 2008

This story about the IMF rescue package for Ukraine (second of many to come, after Iceland) quotes Timothy Ash, head of emerging-market research at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London as saying

`The money is only half of the issue, conditionality is key. We hope the fund is maintaining its push for a more flexible exchange rate, far- reaching reforms in the banking sector and more privatization.”

Mr Ash, just returned from a six-week holiday on Mars, was reading from his prepared boilerplate script and had yet not been advised of the recent nationalisation of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

(found in today’s AFR)

Information and elections

by Henry Farrell on October 27, 2008

Reading Maria’s post below reminded me that I’ve meant to write a brief post about two ways in which there is much more information available about the current US elections than previously. The first is the availability of high quality polling information and analysis thereof. Here, somewhat rightwing sites (“Real Clear Politics”: ), who-the-hell-knows sites (“Pollster”: ) and definitely leftwing sites (“538”: ) provide much _much_ better information (or so it seems to me) than was available to the average politically obsessed punter four years ago, especially through the aggregation of state-level and national polls. And the fact that they lean in different directions and have different models/means of aggregating poll numbers means that you can more easily discount for ideological wishful thinking of the one or the other side than you could previously. This does, at least to some extent, help guard against the kinds of selectivity based on cherry-picked polls that lead many people (including me) to think that John Kerry was going to win in 2004. Second – there is much better information available to an _international audience._ In particular, there is a lot more good televisual content available via YouTube and the various TV stations’ own websites than there was four years ago. I suspect (but can’t prove of course) that this makes people in different countries feel more directly connected to the current US election than they have to previous ones – they’re able to observe it in a more visceral way, see speeches that would never get reported on their national TV stations etc. I don’t know whether either of these is having a broader political effect – but I do know that they are making US politics more fun for a wider swathe of people across the globe than they were previously.

Malicious SQL injection blues?

by John Holbo on October 27, 2008

Someone left a comment to my Blues Verification post, saying that when they visited the page in question their A-V software terminated the connection upon detection of a “HTML:Iframe-gen” virus, which, a quick Google informs me, might mean some sort of malicious SQL injection thingy. Does anyone know about such stuff? I certainly would feel bad about sending lots of readers off to some compromised site to get infected with malware.

Liberté, egalité, celebrité

by Maria on October 27, 2008

Now I know what it’s like to be blonde. Today I wore my / Obama t-shirt around the 5th arrondissement of Paris. The reaction was extraordinary. Talk about turning heads. I hesitate to blog about this because for many Americans, the excitement Obama inspires in the rest of the world is a disqualification for the US presidency. But honestly, it would do your heart good to experience first hand the joy and enthusiasm and just plain old-fashioned hope people express when Obama is mentioned.

After too many years of Americans being unpopular abroad, now everyone wants to talk to them and wish them well. My first suitor was a Moroccan builder who flagged me down in the street. He wanted to know if I was American and could vote for Obama. I’m not, so we both fervently shared our hopes about the US election.

Later, in a bookstore, a young woman working there wished me the cheeriest hello I’ve ever received in a Parisian shop. I told her I’m not American and don’t have a vote there, but figured wearing a shirt was one way to say what I think. She said she wished you could get them in France. She asked what date the election was, and talked excitedly about how wonderful it is to see so many Americans walking around the 5th wearing ‘hope’ buttons.

I know there are many in the US who think the support of ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ is something you can do without. But much of what animated the French in opposition to Bush is their almost fan-boy type love for what they see as truly American; an open-hearted curiosity about the rest of the world, and the sometimes naïve desire to make it a better place. Often in France, you get the sense of an old, old culture made weary and cynical by its long experience. Today, on a beautiful autumn day in Paris, America’s hope made an old city feel young again.