I am not a great fan of Jeffrey Sachs, the former Harvard development economist now Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, whose main claim to fame is having administered shock liberalization to the Bolivian and Russian economies in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively. Though his prescriptions did put an end to Bolivia’s hyperinflation, neither Bolivia nor Russia is a paragon of economic dynamism, and the main beneficiaries of his Russian experiment were the soon-to-be oligarchs who snapped up state-owned companies at a fraction of their real value. Nevertheless, Sachs, writing in yesterday’s Financial Times, has neatly identified the culprit in the U.S. fiscal sequester, which went into effect at noon today. It is not the Tea Party, nor even the House Republican leadership, but Obama himself, counterintuitive as that may appear. [click to continue…]
After watching from the sidelines for nearly two years, many of the world’s political and opinion leaders are now calling for the West to supply arms to the Syrian rebels. British Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken of a “strategic imperative” to act, at least in part to prevent extreme jihadist groups from eclipsing more moderate factions. Foreign Affairs has published an article by Michael Bröning with the Orwellian subtitle “Arms for Peace,” which similarly argues that the moderate rebel contingent is the only party to the conflict that does not have a reliable supply of arms and money from the outside, since the Russians continue to supply the Assad regime and most of the Qatari and Saudi funds go to more radical groups.
Although no Western power has yet – officially, at least – supplied arms to the rebels, the idea seems to be gaining currency in both Western and Arab capitals, especially in the wake of the December conference in Marrakech, which declared the Syrian National Coalition “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.” For those who remember the U.N. declaration declaring the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, this too has an Orwellian tint. With the death toll in the conflict standing at an estimated 60,000 it is tempting to conclude that it is time for some kind of intervention: supplying arms at a minimum, but potentially declaring a no-fly zone over portions of the country to protect rebel-held territory from aerial attacks. But it would be a terrible mistake. [click to continue…]
The official visits to Paris during the first week of July by three African heads of state raised more questions than answers about the Africa policy of François Hollande, the newly-elected French President. On July 2 it was President Alpha Conde of Guinea, on July 5 Ali Bongo, President of Gabon, and on July 6 President Macky Sall of Senegal. Presidents Conde and Sall came to power through elections generally recognized as free and fair, but the 2009 elections that brought Bongo to power, succeeding his late father Omar Bongo, who had served as Gabon’s President for 42 years, were widely thought to have been rigged.
This series of visits came as something of a surprise, François Hollande having promised to put an end to “Françafrique,” the web of political, economic, and military links between France and its former African colonies, links that maintained France’s sphere of influence and allowed it to continue to think of itself as a world power. In the words of former President François Mitterrand, “Without Africa, there will be no history of France in the 21st century.” Françafrique, though it came to have a negative connotation, had already been official French policy since the founding of the Fifth Republic by Charles de Gaulle. [click to continue…]
Curt Schilling is a hero to Boston sports fans. In 2004, at the relatively advanced age of 38, he valiantly pitched and won two critical post-season games while suffering from an ankle injury so severe that his sock was soaked with blood, propelling the Red Sox to its first World Series championship in 86 years. But Schilling’s career outside of baseball, especially since his retirement in 2008, has been less than stellar.
In 2006 Schilling founded a company, Green Monster Games – subsequently renamed 38 Studios – to develop and market MMORPGs – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games – for which he has a longstanding passion. Earlier this week, barely three months after release of its first product, 38 Studios laid off all of its 400-odd employees and closed its doors for good. How and why this happened is a cautionary tale for those who think it a proper function of government to provide financing to private companies. [click to continue…]