Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dambisa Moyo and "Dead Aid"

Yes, not secret that I am not a fan of Bono (neither his music nor work on aid effectiveness). But I fear the arrival of "Dead Aid" isn't going to help stimulate the debate in a good way.

The author, Dambisa Moyo, makes some good points in the interviews I have read and heard. And she's right to call on African countries to innovate during the financial crisis. But it isn't so black and white and while her critique needs to be considered very carefully in any effort to improve aid effectiveness, calling for an end to aid in Africa in "five years" is just irresponsible. Some aid keeps people alive. That doesn't mean the points are not valid, but I worry that Moyo's conclusions will only polarize.

While I appreciate her plug for, that's only one solution that needs to be used and it isn't enough, which I trust even Kiva would admit (though I do hope they get more donations as a result of her work!). Kiva cannot reach some of the poorest people as a result of poor infrastructure and bad or non-existent governance. So, we have to demand that aid changes, not demand that it stops completely. Even Moyo admits, "it is not to say there are not some good aid projects on the ground", in this interview.

And she's wrong when she claims there is "nobody" who feels sorry the poor in China. I feel sorry for the 300 million Chinese people who live in substandard conditions and a lot of others do as well. We just don't here about them as much due to many factors beyond the topic of this post.

More and more, I find myself agreeing with Paul Collier. Here's his review of Moyo's book.
I think that African societies need international help to overcome these problems; it is just that the help they need is not predominantly money. Aid is not a very potent instrument for enhancing either security or accountability. Our obsession with it has detracted from the more important ways in which we can promote development: peacekeeping, security guarantees, trade privileges, and governance.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Anastasia Baburova

The Economist has long fought with Russia and its politicians. But this Why did Anastasia Baburova die? caught my eye today. As one who adores Russia, this alarmed and chilled me. I have seen the fascism in Russia during my two years in Vladimir and Astrakhan. While young thugs are chilling in any country, the complicity of authorities is different in Russia's case.

Russia's 'Open Season' of Murder Continues.

This doesn't happen in the same way in the rest of Europe.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Political Implications of the Cognitive Surplus

Via Zopa, where I think the old lady and I will invest, I realized I have a cognitive surplus.

Yikes! A Whole New Internet?

From Do We Need a New Internet? This sounds like a movie plot. Wake up Neo!
Conficker remains a ticking time bomb. It now has the power to lash together those infected computers into a vast supercomputer called a botnet that can be controlled clandestinely by its creators. What comes next remains a puzzle. Conficker could be used as the world’s most powerful spam engine, perhaps to distribute software programs to trick computer users into purchasing fake antivirus protection. Or much worse. It might also be used to shut off entire sections of the Internet. But whatever happens, Conficker has demonstrated that the Internet remains highly vulnerable to a concerted attack.

“If you’re looking for a digital Pearl Harbor, we now have the Japanese ships streaming toward us on the horizon,” Rick Wesson, the chief executive of Support Intelligence, a computer consulting firm, said recently.
I think anonymity on the Internet has a purpose, so I can't say the total loss of anonymity comes free of costs. But on the whole, I think most are willing to give up the right to hide for the peace of mind that comes not working about conficker and Mr. Smith.

Monday, February 02, 2009

"...first environmental activist group that 'the capitalists' DO like"

I am not ashamed to say I got there via The Economist. Carrotmob is thought-inducing and entertaining, somewhat cheeky, which always helps when pondering new ideas. Not sure what will induce all the other liquor stores in the video to change their light bulbs now, but know that I am thinking of it in a slightly different way, even if I don't find this anything like being INSPIR(RED) by Bono.

"Army Worms" Sounded Bad Enough

As if this story couldn't get any more horror movie-ish..."Pests that have ravaged crops in Liberia and sparked a national emergency, while threatening other countries in West Africa, are not army worms and remain unidentified, the ministry of agriculture said on Monday."