Daily Archives: April 17, 2013

The Thatcher legacy
The past week in Britain has been a reminder of the bitterness of the politics of the 1980s as a vehement debate has broken out about the legacy of Margaret Thatcher since her death last week. For Conservatives, she remains a hero who rescued the British economy and helped to win the Cold War. But for the left, she was a villain who provoked social division and wrecked Britain’s relations with the European Union. Chris Giles, economics editor, and Philip Stephens, chief political commentator, join Gideon Rachman to attempt to arrive at a more nuanced verdict on the Iron Lady’s legacy — for Britain and the world.

Esther Bintliff

Want to make your own mind up over Reinhart-Rogoff? Here are links to the original working papers that gave us the mother of all economic dust-ups, the responses of the two sets of authors, and some great secondary sources.

PRIMARY sources:

The working paper by Carmen M Reinhart and Kenneth S Rogoff, published in January 2010:

The critique of the Reinhart-Rogoff research, by Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash and Robert Pollin, published on April 15 2013:

Reinhart and Rogoff respond:

Ash and Pollin respond to the response:

And a selection of SECONDARY sources:

Here’s the post by Rortybomb blogger Mike Konczal that brought the critique to the attention of the masses. Konczal notes that the episode is “good evidence for why you should release your data online, so it can be properly vetted.”

Over at Slate, Matthew Yglesias asked:

FT Alphaville’s Cardiff Garcia and Joseph Cotterill shared their thoughts on the debate:

Paul Krugman has been busy:

 Read more

John Paul Rathbone

Supporters of Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles protest in front of riot police in Caracas on April 15, 2013 (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Supporters of Henrique Capriles protest on April 15 (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

“I will continue governing the country with its people. Street government.” So tweeted Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday night as Venezuela’s president-elect sought to strengthen his hold on the country amid deadly street clashes, a teetering economy and an angry opposition that has disputed his narrow election victory.

It’s a febrile atmosphere: seven people died in riots overnight, 60 were injured and 170 arrested. Back in Europe, fresh from a recent trip to Caracas, many have asked me: is this country nuts?

One way to imagine yourself into the Venezuelan mindset is to picture yourself in an old fashioned American automobile – a yank tank – cruising along one of the rain-stained concrete flyovers that define Caracas’ cityscape. Towering sky-scrapers, built during the 1970s oil boom and now thick with grime, flit by on either side. You have a full tank of gas (it cost just $3 to fill up). It’s tropical hot, and the car’s air-conditioning is broken and unfixable because the spare parts needed to repair it are imported and thus unobtainable due to currency restrictions. No matter: the windows are open. Other cars are jouncing along at high speed in the adjacent lanes. The atmosphere is exhilarating – although you are just making a regular trip to the airport, a half hour drive down to the coast, and your suitcase is in the back.

When I made that trip on the Friday before the election, our way was momentarily blocked by an accident. Think of what follows as just another regular day in Caracas. To avoid the traffic back-up, a white SUV with blue tinted windows was bucking over the concrete lane divider, and then started heading backwards against the traffic towards a slipway a couple of hundred metres behind. Further on, we passed a turning to Ciudad Caribe, a “socialist new town” where earlier that week two police had accidentally shot a child. A furious mob subsequently lynched one of the police officers.

Later, checking in at the airport, I was pulled aside for a routine security check. A bored young soldier rummaged through my suitcase. He found a DVD set of a hit Colombian soap opera I was watching: “Pablo Escobar, Father of Evil”. The badges on his olive green tunic proclaimed him a member of Venezuela’s “National Boliviarian Guard – anti-drugs unit.” His interest perked up, although not for the reasons I expected.

“You know, for me, Pablo Escobar was one of the greatest of men, ever,” he said fingering the DVDs covetously. Read more

Esther Bintliff

The Boston aftermath

♦ Police in Boston said they had found fragments of nylon bags, shrapnel and the remnants of a pressure cooker at the site of Monday’s bombing, report Geoff Dyer and Robert Wright. Time’s Swampland blog put together a short history of pressure cooker bombs.

♦ Within hours of the attack, some US media outlets were discussing the possible involvement of a 20-year-old man seen running – along with almost everyone else who could – from the scene. He was later declared to be only a witness, but not before his apartment had been searched. So why was he singled out? Probably because he’s Saudi, says Amy Davidson.

♦ “There’s not much to say about Monday’s Boston Marathon attack because there is virtually no known evidence regarding who did it or why,” writes Glenn Greenwald. “There are, however, several points to be made about some of the widespread reactions to this incident.

♦ David Kenner muses on the difference between the Muslim Brotherhood’s official response to the bombs, and the message posted by a senior Brotherhood leader, Essam el-Erian, on his facebook page. El-Erian condemned the attack — but also linked it to the French war in Mali, the destruction in Syria and Iraq.

Elsewhere

♦ A senior Chinese auditor told Simon Rabinovitch that local government debt is “out of control” and could spark a bigger financial crisis than the US housing market crash. But don’t worry – there won’t be any sudden collapse in China’s financial system, says Jamil Anderlini in today’s Global Insight column – it’ll be slow.

On the theme of accountancy in China, Simon Rabinovitch and Adam Jones looked at how homegrown auditors are eroding the influence of established western firms in China.

♦ India’s first major theme park opens on Thursdsay. Among its rides is “a gigantic six-armed animatronic Hindu god, standing astride a trio of curly-horned fire-breathing rams”. Yes you should go – but in the meantime, read James Crabtree’s report.

♦ The 2013 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography has been awarded to five photographers from the Associated Press – Rodrigo Abd, Manu Brabo, Narciso Contreras, Khalil Hamra and Muhammed Muheisen – for their “compelling coverage of the civil war in Syria, producing memorable images under extreme hazard.” You can see the images on the Pulitzer website (warning: some are graphic).

♦ InsideClimate News may be the leanest news start-up ever to be presented with a Pulitzer, says Brian Stelter – and they don’t even have a newsroom. Read more

Ferdinando Giugliano

An elderly man plays his accordion at the old town market in Warsaw, Poland, on June 24, 2012 (CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/GettyImages)

(Photo by Christof Stache/AFP/Getty)

The former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato once compared the powers of Italy’s president to an accordion. Just as the box-shaped musical instrument can expand and contract, the same is true for the influence of Italy’s head of state: what the president can or cannot do largely depends on the strength of the political parties.

On Thursday, Italy’s 949 MPs and 58 representatives from the 20 regions will convene to elect the successor to President Giorgio Napolitano. Amato himself is a candidate, alongside former prime minister Romano Prodi, former European commissioner Emma Bonino, and others.

The political stalemate following February’s inconclusive election means that the new president will have to be picked on the basis of a last-minute deal between the centre-left, (the largest alliance in Parliament) and at least one of the other three significant forces – the centre-right coalition of the People of Liberty and the Northern League, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement and Mario Monti’s Civic Choice. There are no clear favourites for the job. Yet, this election will matter a great deal for Italy and for those who are interested in a solution to its political crisis.

For decades, the President’s job was seen as largely ceremonial. True, the President is the head of the judiciary and of the armed forces. But he doesn’t have anything like the kind of executive powers held by the French or American presidents (though he can veto any law if he believes it is against the constitution). Read more