02 July 2009

thought leader moments of fail...

so i mentioned that i'm a frequent commenter on thought leader.

generally speaking, there is a high amount of fail among both the contributors *and* the commenters, largely, i feel, because they were raised in a closed police state and the resultant mentality thereto. it's still evident in so much south africans in general do, and they largely have a really screwed up worldview.

something that i've noticed is that many people latch on to all things european [and the english premier league gets more tv airplay and newsprint than the local soccer league], including political thought.

today's moment of fail is so fantastic and the writer is so out of his league that i had to call in someone who, i don't know, has a bibliography on such things to check it out.

this is her reponse to it; i'm not sure if she left a response there, so i'm pasting it from my email. i completely suspect that she just looked at the title of the link and started writing, because it's just that obvious, but there you go:

My own feeling is that Turkey, France, Saudi, Iran (pre- and post-revolution), and Afghanistan are all wrong in either requiring or banning any form of the veil, because it violates freedom of choice. It's wrong in theory, and it's wrong in practice in that it's had actual, non-hypothetical consequences for women (girls dropping out of school in France because they can't wear the hijab anymore; girls burning to death in a Saudi school because they can't be seen in public without being covered, etc.).

Taken out of the realm of law, though, and into the realm of "dignity" -- I know there are Muslim women who wear full burqa because it's what they're most comfortable in culturally (all the women around them wear it, their mother wore it, whatever) and others, converts, who wear it to subvert/undermine the male gaze. But I also think there are women who do it to say "I am more Muslim-er than you," and I don't like it being used this way, as a barometer of piety, with the implication that women who wear just the scarf or who don't veil at all are whores and going to hell. Personally, I don't think any form of the veil is required by Islam, although "modesty" is, for both men and women. But I also respect that other women feel differently, and I can see the argument that a lot of Muslim women in North America make, that it identifies you as a Muslim to others and that, like fasting, the hardship that goes with it is its own reward.

I think Sarkozy would have more credibility on this issue if he spent a lot more time dealing with the problems in French ghettos rather than policing women's clothing. I know some Muslim feminists who've made the argument that a law like this is good, because it puts the burden of the argument on the state, taking it off of young girls. In other words, a 13-year-old who doesn't want to wear it can say "hey Dad, it's the law!" and is relieved of having to come up with an Islamically sound argument against it. Dad can then sit at home hating France, instead of calling his daughter a slut. I can see that, but it sounds a lot better coming from a Muslim feminist who advocates for women's and Muslims' rights on multiple fronts. From Sarkozy, it just sounds xenophobic.

the gordhan knot

we have a new finance minister here in south africa. he is called pravin gordhan. [i refer to him as "sahib pravin"elsewhere, and will probably do so here as well.]

he inherited the economy at a time during the global economic crisis, and he has to find his way to be able to fund a lot of election manifesto campaigns on the back of a contracting economy, tightening credit, and decreasing tax revenues.

yesterday he declared that he will run budget deficits in order to fund these things, and it's starting to reflect on the [artificially high] exchange rate of the rand.

this is a good thing, but the thing that both he and the reserve bank governor need to sit down and figure out is just how steep the devaluation which *must* come needs to be.

this article
says that stagflation could be on its way to south africa. if the next central bank governor raises interest rates next year, which is what mboweni almost certainly will do if he is re-hired when his mandate is up in august, that will almost definitely be the case.

a week ago, the central bank governor chose not to decrease interest rates, not even by 50 basis points, due, in part, to the "inflationary effects of the electricity price hike". this, of course, was complete balderdash for the following reason: an interest rate cut of 50 basis points would have mitigated the effects of the electricity and petrol increase for anyone holding a bankloan or a car note; 100 basis points would have completely erased the effects of the price hike in electrity, and 150 would have erased the effects of *both* for small, most medium, and almost all large businesses.

[full disclosure: i have both a small business and a mortgage, but no car. 100bp, based on my electricity consumption and my bond amount/payments, would have been more than enough to wipe out the electricity price rise. i've been telling my son that i want to hire him part-time so that i can increase my workload, but the interest and exchange rates are not making this possible.]

the south african reserve bank, according to its website, has as its sole mandate to target inflation. it says that it does this in line with this main trading partners, and as a result uses interest rates to keep it in a band of 3% to 6%.

the problem with this is several-fold. firstly, the reserve banks of south africa's main [read: western] trading partners have additional mandates: growth AND/OR [more *and* than *or*] full employment -- and, where there is a conflict, inflation targeting has the lowest priority among these. in addition, even when there is no explicit mandate, the electorates of these other countries are very likely to toss out legislatives and executive branch members during negative growth and high unemployment. in short, there are exogenous factors to push policies encouraging both growth and full employment.

now let's examine the south african situation. the reserve bank does not only gets to claim "inflation is our only mandate" but the electorate is loath to remove legislators and presidents who do not deliver sustainable growth or full employment. even if you give the mandela administration a free pass, the mbeki years have been pretty much a wash in terms of top-to-bottom, sustainable growth as well as employment. but because of other factors, the ruling party continues to secure a mandate. it can be a lose-lose situation and it was definitely was during much of 2008; the south african reserve bank raised interest rates during a period when nearly all of south africa's major trading partners lowered rates. nonsensical.

now, i don't exactly get that. it would appear that neither the reserve bank nor the finance ministry particularly have taken small businessmen -- who collectively employ more people than the international conglomerates and corporations for whom the government has bent over and to whom the government has handed lube before opening its cheeks -- into consideration during this time. smaller businessmen are more exposed to the ups and downs in the interest rate than larger ones, and often make greater effort to *not* fire people in a down market. remember, listed companies have a primary responsibility to their shareholders, not their employees or the communities in which they operate. the government does not seem to understand this. hmph.

the actions of the reserve bank, connected with the situation within the fiscus, overlaid with the global recession has been an interlocking puzzle for sahib prev to solve. while china has been inadvertantly helping somewhat with this knot -- by propping up the rand through buying gold -- it's doing it to cover its impending losses in dollars, and at some point this will not be helpful when the united states gets its act together.

instead of keeping the foreign markets happy, south africa really needs to look after its people or else the people will bite back. later on, i will talk about more about the causes and potential solutions for this.