Sunday, August 31, 2008

Joseph Stalin is relentless

The story is from Saturday's Daily Mirror,
The Sri Lanka Teachers’ Union warned yesterday that it would go for a massive trade union action by bringing all teachers together.

Charging the government had hoodwinked the union and the general public by stating that it had resolved the salary anomalies, the Sri Lanka Teachers Union President, Joseph Stalin told a news conference under the government’s proposal a teacher would only get a salary increment ranging from Rs. 105 to Rs. 200. [..]

Mr. Stalin said the trade union action of refraining from GCE A/L paper marking had been successful during the past 10 days.

The Union charged the government was provoking the parents and the general public to unleash violence on the teachers. “The government is doing this as it is helpless without being able to resolve the salary crisis,” Mr. Stalin said. [link]
Responding to the charges, The secretary to the Ministry of Education, Winston Churchill said, "Stalin is a pig, but I like him". Ok, not really. But for what it's worth, Sri Lanka's tourism secretary is called George Micheal. I love this country.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sri Lankan PMCs in Iraq

David Blacker has an interview with a Private Military Contractor, who's Sri Lankan-based company operates in Iraq. Interesting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Who needs Cricket?

Via Hilal's blog, here's a very entertaining video of making something out of a washed out cricket match. It's 13 minutes, but well worth it. The Direct link to the video is here. Also see this crickinfo post, which kind of narrates what went on.

Hilal also runs this 'Aney Yako' video series of cricket goof ups.

Right to Information in Sri Lanka

Finally, a Sri Lankan judge makes an excellent proposal. From LBO:
A top Sri Lankan judge has called for laws such as a freedom of information act to enable people greater access to information to create an 'informed public' that is essential for a democratic society.

Justice Saleem Marsoof, President's Counsel and Judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka said most democracies now have legislation providing a mechanism through which the public can have access to information.

These include the Freedom of Information Acts of the United States and the United Kingdom and the Right to Information Act of India.[link]
The Right to Information Act(RTI) is one of the best things that happened to Indian democracy. The act allows ordinary citizens, journalist, civil society organizations to request for and obtain information from any public authority within thirty days.

There are of course many shortcomings in implementation. As my favorite Delhi-based think tank, Center for Civil Society, pointed out in their Duty to Publish reports a couple of years ago, there was low compliance levels for the act at state and municipal levels. But some compliance is better than nothing, a RTI act would definitely be a step in the right direction.

Legislation along the lines of RTI is something the peace-obsessed Colombo civil society should push for. It doesn't seem too unfeasible and definitely improves governance.

In related notes, Amit Varma, one of my favorite sources for Indian affairs, has written quite a bit about the RTI, including this piece for the Mint.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

American Imperialism?

The Mises blog points me to this interactive map showing American troop levels. Apparently, Sri Lanka has 7 troops and U.S. pretty much has a presence in everywhere, execept for like 7 countries. Must confess though, I haven't seen a single U.S. troop in Colombo. Go see the map here, no endorsements.

What Desi's are wearing to the Democrat National Convention

For the background, see this and especially this.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Marxism in Sri Lanka, RIP

The museum of Communism in Prague.
The entrance is through McDonald's. (A pic by udijw)

The Rajapakse Administration won, despite some irregularities, a genuine victory over the UNP in the recent provincial council elections. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the last election is how poorly, the Marxist-Nationalist JVP did in the polls. Here's a bit of a summary from the Island editorial on the JVPs plight:
[..]a huge crisis is staring the JVP in the face. Its ignominious defeat has strengthened the hands of its breakaway group. Dissident JVP MP and leader of the National Freedom Front Wimal Weerawansa said yesterday afternoon that he was willing to join forces with the JVP if the present leadership of the party changed. He has pointed out that the JVP vote has dropped in Anuradhapura from 50,000 at the 2006 LG polls to 19,000 at 2008 PC polls within two years. In 2006, it polled 19,500 in Polonnaruwa, 38,000 in Ratnapura and 36,500 in Kegalle but on Saturday it managed to secure only 7,000, 9,700 and 9,000 in those three districts respectively. The breakaway of Weerawansa and others has, inter alia, manifestly taken its toll on the JVP.

The pathetic performance of the JVP where the postal votes are concerned is proof that the JVP lacks following among the public servants in spite of its campaign to obtain a 5,000-rupee pay hike for them. More importantly, the JVP's vote has shrunk despite an increase in the number of young voters.

The indications are that, faction ridden and enervated, the JVP is reaching the end of the road in electoral politics. Another disastrous split is inevitable sooner or later. The JVP must be ruing the day it parted company with the SLFP, which helped it gain benefits disproportionate to its real strength which has now been exposed. [link] (emphasis mine)
and it's worth emphasizing. JVP is no longer, or fast unbecoming the youth party. That's a cause for celebration. Marxism is alive and (somewhat) well in the local universities, but since only less than 2% of the population (pdf source) ever gets to enjoy Sri Lanka's "free" education, and the rest of the 98% has found other ways of acquiring higher education, that's no longer a deciding factor.

True enough, in recent times, portraits of Lenin, Marx and other communist symbols were little more than decorations for the JVP, while most of it's popularity came from it's Nationalist and anti-LTTE rhetoric. But great many JVPers (and I've met some) are Fabian Socialists, thinking of the nationalist rhetoric as a vehicle for some sort of socialist society in the future. And it's agenda, however nationalist, has always contained a very definitive left-wing economic agenda.

Nationalism and anti-LTTEism is alive and kicking in Sri Lanka, but the movement has a different symbol and a leader in Mahinda Rajapakse's coalition. Separating the nationalist lobby from the socialist baggage of the JVP, if and when the party is sufficiently pushed off from the political discourse is definitely a step in the right direction and a happy outcome of this election which will help put Marxist and other leftover socialist thinking to the dustbin of history, where it truly belongs.

Related -- Museum of Communism, the website.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why we should listen to economists

Scot Adams makes the case. (yes, he's the guy who created Dilbert, but he majored in economics in college and nowadays runs a stellar blog). Scott writes,
If a weather expert tells you what the weather will be on a specific day next year, you can safely ignore him. If he tells you a hurricane is heading your way, it's a good idea to get out of the way, even if the storm ends up turning. That's playing the odds.

Likewise, if an economist tries to tell you where the stock market will be in a year, you can safely ignore that. But if he tells you a gas tax holiday is an unambiguously bad idea, that's worth listening to, especially if economists on both sides of the aisle agree.

If you think it is okay to ignore economists because they are so often wrong, you're looking at the wrong questions. Economists are generally wrong with complicated models but right about concepts. For example, they know that additional domestic drilling won't make much of a dent in the energy problem. And they know that free trade is generally good for all economies. (You can argue with my examples, but the point is that some things are generally known by economists while not being understood by the general public.) [link]
There's much more in his blog. Scott is also funding a survey of what some 500 economists think about some economic policies of the two candidates running for the American presidency. The results will be interesting.

As Scott finds in his survey, most economists are moderate Democrats. But also the kind who likes things like free trade, and in general freer markets than your average democrat. Jagdish Bhagwati, perhaps the one of the world's most staunchest free trade economists is a registered democrat and an Obama supporter from the start, although he disagreed with Obama's populist NAFTA bashing.

My general observation is that if you have a liberal/cosmopolitan upbringing and eventually learn economics, you tend to be more sympathetic to policy proposals and ideas of classical liberalism (i.e. support more individual freedom and freer markets) or as Scott says in the current American political language, be more socially liberal and economically conservative.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Boobs on Bikes

Apparently, theere's a Boobs on Bikes Parade in Auckland, New Zealand. Some kiwi conservatives wants to stop that on legal grounds. But here's what the judge had to say,
It is topless people, men and women, in a public place, which is perfectly legal under our Bill of Rights and under New Zealand law. Mr McCoskrie [director of Family First] keeps harping on that it is pornography. They are breasts; they're not a big deal.
This is probably what The Sri Lankan cultural conservatives say when they want to reconcile the porn ban with the Sigiriya paintings. They are just boobs -- no big deal.

More at reason.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Porn, Dogs, Federalism and other stuff I would have blogged about

I am in London stuck in a 12 hour transit, catching up on some reading I've missed during the last couple of weeks. There's a bunch of people I know in the city, but the immigration chaps won't let me go out, because, I'm um, Sri Lankan. In any case, now that I'm coming home, regular programing on this blog would commence, I think.

What follows is some stuff I probably would have blogged about had I stayed home the last few weeks.

  • Just before I left the country, His Excellency (no doubt under the influence of the JHU, the all-monk party in government) banned Internet porn in Sri Lanka. Now they seem to have some adult password, for people who still want to watch porn, going against our Buddhist morals. Or something like that. There's a new satirical blog on the issue. Very entertaining.

  • Zimbabwe, which has the world's highest inflation, has a new currency -- gasoline coupons. More at the Beacon, Independent Institutes's revitalized blog which is latest addition to my 'regular reads' list. (initial pointer via Tyler Cowen)

  • Here's a great video on School Choice from Yes, Prime Minister. British Comedy at it's best. (HT: Club for Growth)

  • The Mint has an article on privatizing dogs as a solution for the problem of stray dogs in India. That is, basically all dogs should be owned by someone and stray dogs should be put on sale by the municipalities to be purchased by anyone including animal rights activists. I agree in principle, although I don't see this happening. That's not a reason for not discussing it though. First step in changing things is spreading ideas.

  • and finally via Amit Varma links to these two very interesting pieces on the Kashmiri Secessionist tendencies. This by Swaminathan Aiyar for TOI and Vir Sanghavi for Hindustan Times. The situation in Kashmir, in my opinion, weakens the case of the Sri Lankan federalists as a solution for the conflict here. For every example of successful integration with greater regional autonomy, there are counter examples. Nation building is indeed a complex science. It's rather fitting then, that I was in Quebec for the last two weeks. More on that later.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


I'm in Canada for something. Will be travelling from Toronto to Montreal to Quebec City. Blogging will be uncertain for another couple of weeks..