From FT: Asia keeps the west’s betrayed faith

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5cfd7324-762b-11de-9e59-00144feabdc0.html

Interesting analysis on how Asia has faith in western economic theories, but none in their management practices.

Moreover, we’re improving trade with all kinds of FTAs being signed between ASEAN and other asian countries – whereas the US Congress has actually let a number of intra-americas FTAs die.

I just hope that the emulation of the west that is fast becoming the norm in Asia stays limited to the better aspects of society rather than the deplorable ones.

Sphinx search for MySQL and Django

Just to put it out there, but David Cramer – who developed the spectacular django-sphinx project – omits a crucial piece of information needed to install Sphinx into your Django models. So if you find that everything works perfectly well, but your search results are 0 in number – this is what you should do!

You have to add ‘djangosphinx’ into INSTALLED_APPS in settings.py, in the main django directory.

Link,

http://www.davidcramer.net/code/django/433/setting-up-django-and-sphinx-full-text-search-django-sphinx.html

Be nice to the countries that lend you money!

A quote from Gao Xiqing, the man who runs the China investment corporation (and manages $200 Billion in funds for their sovereign fund). Here’s something I came across in the Atlantic monthly – his explanation of the financial derivatives debacle..

If you look at every one of these [derivative] products, they make sense. But in aggregate, they are bullshit. They are crap. They serve to cheat people.

I was predicting this many years ago. In 1999 or 2000, I gave a talk to the State Council [China’s main ruling body], with Premier Zhu Rongji. They wanted me to explain about capital markets and how they worked. These were all ministers and mostly not from a financial background. So I wondered, How do I explain derivatives?, and I used the model of mirrors.

First of all, you have this book to sell. [He picks up a leather-bound book.] This is worth something, because of all the labor and so on you put in it. But then someone says, “I don’t have to sell the book itself! I have a mirror, and I can sell the mirror image of the book!” Okay. That’s a stock certificate. And then someone else says, “I have another mirror—I can sell a mirror image of that mirror.” Derivatives. That’s fine too, for a while. Then you have 10,000 mirrors, and the image is almost perfect. People start to believe that these mirrors are almost the real thing. But at some point, the image is interrupted. And all the rest will go.

When I told the State Council about the mirrors, they all started laughing. “How can you sell a mirror image! Won’t there be distortion?” But this is what happened with the American economy, and it will be a long and painful process to come down.

Well explained indeed. I’ve always felt that the measure of how smart someone really is stems from the lucidity of their explanations of a complex topic to an uninformed audience.

India’s $1.5 trillion in secret swiss bank accounts myth – refuted?!

So, what exactly are we talking about?

The other day, someone pointed me to an article about how a small section of the Indian population has stashed away close to $1.5 trillion(!) in secret swiss bank accounts. Curious that I am, I promptly went ahead and searched for this amazing piece of information on the web, and found –

Dishonest industrialists, scandalous politicians and corrupt IAS, IRS, IPS officers have deposited in foreign banks in their illegal personal accounts a sum of about $ 1500 billion, which have been misappropriated by them. This amount is about 13 times larger than the country’s foreign debt. With this amount 45 crore poor people can get Rs 1,00,000 each. This huge amount has been appropriated from the people of India by exploiting and betraying them.

Sources for this available here [Link to a Google search]

Click “Read More” or scroll down for more!

Findings

Turns out, this information was taken from a chain email that was forwarded to a bunch of people by an (as yet) unknown source – and promptly taken up by the smaller sections of the Indian web media, and certain bloggers who ought to have known better. This became mainstream news, people! Almost ALL of them started making moral judgments about the extent of corruption in the country too! :)

I was rather intrigued when I saw that there were Actual figures posted on these websites. Given the high levels of secrecy which swiss bankers are known for, this seemed rather surprising!

Black money in Swiss banks — Swiss Banking Association report, 2006 details bank deposits in the territory of Switzerland by nationals of following countries:

India—- $1456 billion
Russia—$ 470 billion
UK——-$390 billion
Ukraine- $100 billion
China—–$ 96 billion

Source

and

Depositors money in Swiss banks — Swiss Banking Association report, 2008 details bank deposits in the territory of Switzerland by nationals of following countries:

Top 5
India—- $1891 billion
Russia—– $610 billion
China—— $213 billion
UK——– $210 billion
Ukraine ———– $140 billion
Rest of the world —-$300 billion

Source

The organization mentioned – the Swiss Banking Association – fortunately, does exist. And so do their annual reports – available for download, publicly. Their latest report is available on their front page.

I used google custom site search to query words like “1456 billion” and “India”. Since the german name for India is “Indien”, I also tried that, as well as other words I thought might be pertinent.

Finally?

Zilch. Nada. Nix.

The URL I used was this . Feel free to try it out yourself!

I downloaded most of their reports and gave it a brief glance as well, to no avail. There were absolutely no mentions of any country’s deposits, save some tables and charts which highlight their growth, tax treaty information and sovereign wealth fund information. In fact, in the german versions of the 2006 report – there are only some 5 mentions of the word “Indien”. The latest report features “India” some 8-10 mentions times, and thats pretty much it.

Does anyone have any pointers on whether this information actually exists – perhaps I’m missing something?

Seriously though. The web media needs to REALLY do some research before they start proliferating information that is so clearly false. This is rather harmless as misinformation campaigns go, but this sort of collective ineptness in validating your sources (which I thought was one of the cardinal rules of main stream journalism) – highlights just how far this medium has to go before it can be accepted as an authentic source of information.

On Shashi Tharoor’s article on the Mumbai Terror attacks

Mr. Tharoor’s article is here

And I quote,

.. But this time the terrorists may have gone too far. The murderers of Mumbai made special efforts to single out American and British nationals among their hostages, and they killed the Israelis running Mumbai’s Jewish center. This was clearly not just an attack on India; they were taking on the “Jews and crusaders” of al-Qaeda lore. If it turns out that the massacre in Mumbai was planned in or directed from Pakistani territory, the consequences for Pakistan are bound to be severe..

He considers the terrorists having “gone too far” only when they targeted foreign nationals? Really? Is this sentiment echoed by everyone now? Agreeably, the states who were targeted are powerful militarily and dominate geo-political debates with firm voices – but can India afford to have its own commentators not bring the government to task at its inefficacy?

For once, now more than ever, lets not consider the deaths of thousands of people in terrorist attacks over the last decade as having been unimportant. After all, it should not take attacks on other countries on Indian soil to make statements such as the one Mr. Tharoor made above. Things had gone far enough when the Parliament attacks occurred in 2001 – and further with the multiple blasts across India earlier this year. If anything, these attacks are the clarion call that should affect all decision making authorities in India and the world – and incite them to gear up and deal with the scourge of terrorism.

Of course, this is easier said than done. I’m sure I’m not alone on the internet echoing what must now sound like a broken record of demands. Yet, I still haven’t come across a single article or a policy paper that lucidly highlights the challenges that the government faces in order to get its act together.

Political analysts have pointed out time and again about the dangers of ignorance, mis-management and corruption at various levels of the Indian state apparatus. Pertinent as these points are, it is my opinion that the situation is quite salvageable without having to design or wait for a panacea that will rid us of all problems. What we really need is an extensive code for the political class, and complete autonomy to a national body to oversee their activities – something on the lines of the election commission perhaps – which contains the cabinet secretary, the prime minister, the chief justice and the speakers of both houses of parliament. Additionally, the chief election officer and the central vigilance commissioner can offer their services to it.

Too often do you hear of ineffective policing or law making because a certain politician lacks the personal integrity or resolve to push things to completion. Bureaucrats, as much as the media loves to revile them – serve an important purpose of keeping the state machinery flowing as their political heads change. They are, however, rendered powerless in situations such as these where a politician’s will can close doors to necessary resources that are direly needed. I refer to the above as being issues not during an emergency but in times of calm, when politicians need to see reason and put their heads together and work with, rather than against each other. Are you listening, Raj Thackeray and Mamta Bannerjee?

Such an oversight committee would have the power to bring them to task, as well as be the supreme authority to keep any politician in the country in check. As we move on with the creation of a new federal intelligence agency, lay the roadmap for better inter-agency coordination, create committees to analyze what went wrong, fire scapegoat politicians, and generally “shake up the establishment” – let us also concentrate some of those resources into determining why the political leadership is so fragile and unresponsive – and take measures to address it.

After all, if elected leaders are supposed to watch over the well being of the people who elect them – then Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Movies – past, present and future

My attempts at creating a list of movies I want to see. Comments welcome on additional ideas! You know that feeling when someone tells you of an *awesome* movie thats highly recommended that you forget about the next day – and then rack your brain to remember what it was?

This post is intended to help alleviate that!

Updates: (I realized I’ve seen a bunch of these already, but keeping them here for completeness’s sake!)

Maria – full of grace
City of Angels
Cinema Paradiso
Before Sunset (*)
Before Sunrise (*)
Shine
Ondskan
Stardust Memories
Romance and Cigarettes
Cha no aji
The Honeymoon Killers
Mies vailla menneisyyttä
The Wind Will Carry Us

Movies

“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) Stanley Kubrick
“The 400 Blows” (1959) Francois Truffaut
“8 1/2” (1963) Federico Fellini
“Aguirre, the Wrath of God” (1972) Werner Herzog
“Alien” (1979) Ridley Scott
“All About Eve” (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
“Annie Hall” (1977) Woody Allen
“Apocalypse Now” (1979) Francis Ford Coppola*
“Bambi” (1942) Disney
“The Battleship Potemkin” (1925) Sergei Eisenstein
“The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946) William Wyler
“The Big Red One” (1980) Samuel Fuller
“The Bicycle Thief” (1949) Vittorio De Sica
“The Big Sleep” (1946) Howard Hawks
“Blade Runner” (1982) Ridley Scott
“Blowup” (1966) Michelangelo Antonioni
“Blue Velvet” (1986) David Lynch
“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) Arthur Penn
“Breathless” (1959 Jean-Luc Godard
“Bringing Up Baby” (1938) Howard Hawks
“Carrie” (1975) Brian DePalma
“Casablanca” (1942) Michael Curtiz
“Un Chien Andalou” (1928) Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali
“Children of Paradise” / “Les Enfants du Paradis” (1945) Marcel Carne
“Chinatown” (1974) Roman Polanski
“Citizen Kane” (1941) Orson Welles
“A Clockwork Orange” (1971) Stanley Kubrick
“The Crying Game” (1992) Neil Jordan
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951) Robert Wise
“Days of Heaven” (1978) Terence Malick
“Dirty Harry” (1971) Don Siegel
“The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972) Luis Bunuel
“Do the Right Thing” (1989 Spike Lee
“La Dolce Vita” (1960) Federico Fellini
“Double Indemnity” (1944) Billy Wilder
“Dr. Strangelove” (1964) Stanley Kubrick
“Duck Soup” (1933) Leo McCarey
“E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) Steven Spielberg
“Easy Rider” (1969) Dennis Hopper
“The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) Irvin Kershner
“The Exorcist” (1973) William Friedkin
“Fargo” (1995) Joel & Ethan Coen
“Fight Club” (1999) David Fincher
“Frankenstein” (1931) James Whale
“The General” (1927) Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman
“The Godfather,” “The Godfather, Part II” (1972, 1974) Francis Ford Coppola
“Gone With the Wind” (1939) Victor Fleming
“GoodFellas” (1990) Martin Scorsese
“The Graduate” (1967) Mike Nichols
“Halloween” (1978) John Carpenter
“A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) Richard Lester
“Intolerance” (1916) D.W. Griffith
“It’s a Gift” (1934) Norman Z. McLeod
“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) Frank Capra
“Jaws” (1975) Steven Spielberg
“The Lady Eve” (1941) Preston Sturges
“Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) David Lean
“M” (1931) Fritz Lang
“Mad Max 2” / “The Road Warrior” (1981) George Miller
“The Maltese Falcon” (1941) John Huston
“The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) John Frankenheimer
“Metropolis” (1926) Fritz Lang
“Modern Times” (1936) Charles Chaplin
“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975) Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam
“Nashville” (1975) Robert Altman
“The Night of the Hunter” (1955) Charles Laughton
“Night of the Living Dead” (1968) George Romero
“North by Northwest” (1959) Alfred Hitchcock
“Nosferatu” (1922) F.W. Murnau
“On the Waterfront” (1954) Elia Kazan
“Once Upon a Time in the West” (1968) Sergio Leone
“Out of the Past” (1947) Jacques Tournier
“Persona” (1966) Ingmar Bergman
“Pink Flamingos” (1972) John Waters
“Psycho” (1960) Alfred Hitchcock
“Pulp Fiction” (1994) Quentin Tarantino
“Rashomon” (1950) Akira Kurosawa
“Rear Window” (1954) Alfred Hitchcock
“Rebel Without a Cause” (1955) Nicholas Ray
“Red River” (1948) Howard Hawks
“Repulsion” (1965) Roman Polanski
“The Rules of the Game” (1939) Jean Renoir
“Scarface” (1932) Howard Hawks
“The Scarlet Empress” (1934) Josef von Sternberg
“Schindler’s List” (1993) Steven Spielberg
“The Searchers” (1956) John Ford
“The Seven Samurai” (1954) Akira Kurosawa
“Singin’ in the Rain” (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
“Some Like It Hot” (1959) Billy Wilder
“A Star Is Born” (1954) George Cukor
“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) Elia Kazan
“Sunset Boulevard” (1950) Billy Wilder
“Taxi Driver” (1976) Martin Scorsese
“The Third Man” (1949) Carol Reed
“Tokyo Story” (1953) Yasujiro Ozu
“Touch of Evil” (1958) Orson Welles
“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948) John Huston
“Trouble in Paradise” (1932) Ernst Lubitsch
“Vertigo” (1958) Alfred Hitchcock
“West Side Story” (1961) Jerome Robbins/Robert Wise
“The Wild Bunch” (1969) Sam Peckinpah
“The Wizard of Oz” (1939) Victor Fleming

To migrate or not to migrate?

I’ve been thinking about whether I should migrate old blog (2001-2007) entries to this site’s new avatar. On one hand, they speak volumes about what I was thinking about at that point and are fun (mostly only to me) to look back upon. And that is the flip side as well – you tend to reflect on how crazy/stupid you were from your 2008 persona.

Hmm.

Oh well, there’s always the Wayback machine to keep log of stuff :)