Janus’ Musings

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Does Osama bin Laden Still Matter

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Time magazine asks this question in a recent issue…well I don’t think so – I don’t think he ever mattered. He was nothing more than a small time smuggler (of opium etc) who had some wealth that he was willing to spend on causes he thought would make him the next Imam of Islam. He has visions of grandeur – nothing else. He got lucky once (9/11) and was never been able to repeat anything like that ever. I don’t think he will ever, either.

His vision of pan-Arabia Islam with him as the Caliph did not materialize. The Muslim world did not stand up together when America invaded Iraq – quite simply most of Muslim world are engaged in their own battle – to stay in power…

Written by janusmusings

July 7, 2008 at 11:45 pm

Posted in Asia, India

Tagged with , ,

The Geo-politics of $130 oil

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Stratfor which always has brilliant analysis of politics, geo-politics and history has a post on the geo-politics of $130 oil:

The big losers are countries that not only have to import oil but
also are heavily industrialized relative to their economy. Countries in
which service makes up a larger sector than manufacturing obviously use
less oil for critical economic functions than do countries that are
heavily manufacturing-oriented. Certainly, consumers in countries such
as the United States are hurt by rising prices. And these countries’
economies might slow. But higher oil prices simply do not have the same
impact that they do on countries that both are primarily
manufacturing-oriented and have a consumer base driving cars.

East Asia has been most affected by the combination of sustained
high oil prices and disruptions in the food supply. Japan, which
imports all of its oil and remains heavily industrialized (along with
South Korea), is obviously affected. But the most immediately affected
is China, where shortages of diesel fuel have been reported. China’s
miracle — rapid industrialization — has now met its Achilles’ heel:
high energy prices.

Now the we know who the losers are, it’s time to see the winners – and unsurprisingly the answer is the countries of the Arabian Peninsla and Russia helping the rise of Russia.

The Chinese dilemma is present throughout Asia. But just as Asia is the
big loser because of long-term high oil prices coupled with food
disruptions, Russia is the big winner. Russia is an exporter of natural
gas and oil. It also could be a massive exporter of grains if prices
were attractive enough and if it had the infrastructure (crop failures
in Russia are a thing of the past). Russia has been very careful, under
Vladimir Putin, not to assume that energy prices will remain high and
has taken advantage of high prices to accumulate substantial foreign
currency reserves. That puts them in a doubly-strong position.
Economically, they are becoming major players in global acquisitions.
Politically, countries that have become dependent on Russian energy
exports — and this includes a good part of Europe — are vulnerable,
precisely because the Russians are in a surplus-cash position. They
could tweak energy availability, hurting the Europeans badly, if they
chose. They will not need to. The Europeans, aware of what could
happen, will tread lightly in order to ensure that it doesn’t happen.

Written by janusmusings

June 21, 2008 at 6:05 am

Posted in Middle East, Russia

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Bush Presidency

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This cartoon says it all (from the June 12th issue of The Economist):

Written by janusmusings

June 21, 2008 at 5:34 am

Posted in USA

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The Value of social networks

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June 16, 2008 at 6:50 am

Posted in Technology

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Demographics and the future

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Demographics play an important role in determining the future of nations and their evolution. Europe has seen a declining birth rate and it’s certain that at least in our life time we will see the decline of Europe and the emergence of Asia along with America as a dominant political and economic force. Given the surging oil prices and the projection of them touching $200 by year end of course brings in one more group as a force – the Middle East.

India’s demographics is “heavy” around the centre – meaning that most of her people are young, China’s demographic is heavy around the top – a sign of aging population and that’s one of the reason experts maintain that India will probably overtake China politically and economically.

But the demographics of the Middle East have been largely ignored. There is an older article (which is now a centre of a free speech argument) which puts a point across quite well that we have a lot to fear from this group.

Written by janusmusings

June 12, 2008 at 11:50 am

Posted in Asia, India, Middle East

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Monkey Brain?

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All the papers have been reporting on a paper published in Nature on how researches have inserted sensors into the head of a monkey who was able to control a robotic arm to feed itself using it’s brain waves. Remarkable!!

Such systems, Dr. Kalaska wrote, “would allow patients with severe
motor deficits to interact and communicate with the world not only by
the moment-to-moment control of the motion of robotic devices, but also
in a more natural and intuitive manner that reflects their overall
goals, needs and preferences.”


Perhaps this could be used for this person – very tragic.

Written by janusmusings

May 30, 2008 at 3:26 am

Posted in Technology

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Malthus – a false prophet?

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A lot has been written about how wrong Malthus was with his theory and how all is well with the population v/s food balance in the world. The recent increase in food prices has helped re-ignite that debate and the Economist calls Malthus a “false prophet”. I have a few disagreements:

  1. Malthus first set out his ideas in 1798!!! Given the time, I think his study was probably way ahead of his time.
  2. In 1803, Malthus published a second edition of his essay and softened the tone by introducing the concept of a “preventive check” – saying the problem could be averted if the birth/death rates changed voluntary. Again, way ahead of his time!
  3. This was pre-industrialization and pre-green revolution so when these happened people came to the conclusion that Malthus was wrong.
  4. However, the statistics today show more than ever that Malthus was right about the “preventive check”. World population growth has reduced to an annual rate of 1.2% – probably the slowest ever.

This leads me to believe that maybe Malthus had it wrong in the 1798 essay but probably got it right in the 1803. Without a preventive check we will have a problem and that should be a warning to everyone. Increased productivity of food through better use to technology can only go so far.

Written by janusmusings

May 30, 2008 at 2:24 am

Posted in Lies Damned lies and Statistics

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