Using Microfinance to help disaster victims

Today, OpinionJournal has an excellent article, A Hand Up, Not a Handout, by Mr. Yunus urging to use microfinance to help Katrina victims. The best is at the last:

... giving someone a hand up doesn't always require a handout. The most important thing is to help people get back to work while letting them hold on to their self-respect. Microloans can do just that.

Mr. Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank (which he founded) jointly won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. A very well-deserved recipient in a very long time.

Why microfinance is so successful for helping poor?:

The basic philosophy behind microfinance is that the poor, although spurned by traditional banks because they can't provide collateral, are actually a great investment: No one works harder than someone who is striving to achieve life's basic necessities, particularly a woman with children to support. Sadly, it is also true that in catastrophic circumstances, very little of the cash so generously given ever gets all the way down to the very poor. There are too many "professionals" ahead of them in line, highly skilled at diverting funds into their own pockets. This is particularly regrettable because very poor people need only a little money to set up a business that can make a dramatic difference in the quality of their lives.


Don't try free-speech at home!

Via InstaPundit, Althouse: "Our avant-gardist artistic establishment... prefers to exercise its anti-bourgeois animus within the coddled purlieus of bourgeois security.".

Now that some Muslims have made it painfully obvious that religion-taunting is not an easy game anymore, abandoning it expresses fear, not respect for religion. And continuing to disrespect the religions that don't lash back only highlights that cowardice.

If Islamists can silence the art establishment, that prides itself on expressing shocking ideas and challenging powers-that-be, I can only imagine the fear that Muslims must be experiencing in countries that are controlled by Islamist dictatorial governments. If non-Muslims majorities living under the protection of powerful western law-and-order machinery cannot stand up to the Islamists, how can we expect Muslims in countries such as Iran, Pakistan, and some  Middle Eastern countries, to express their opinions freely? Every time we get cowed by the threats of Islamists violence and riots, message gets delivered to the oppressed living in those countries: don't try this at home!


Independence vs Freedom

Amit Varma's first article at TCS Daily, Transforming India's Mental Landscape, is spont on:

India recently celebrated the 59th anniversary of its independence. That a nation with so much regional, ethnic and religious diversity could hold together as a peaceful democracy would have seemed astonishing in 1947, when there was no precedent for an achievement of this nature.

This freedom was achieved partly through a consciously non-violent struggle, which became an inspiration to other freedom fighters, such as Nelson Mandela. And yet, laudable as this achievement is, it is time to question just how deep India's commitment to freedom runs


Independence Day is celebrated in India mostly for getting soverignty. All the well-known patriotic songs, such as "Vande Mataram", "Jana Gana Mana", "Sare Jaha Se Acchacha", praise the motherland. Praising one's motherland and singing patriotic songs are fine! But where is the celebration of the freedom?

We can't bring ourselves to say that freedom is an important in itself and now we can do what we feel like doing (as long as we respect the desires of others to do the same)! Independence Day has become a sacred day, an another God! To be worshipped! To be revered!

We should remember all the sacrifices that so many people did to get rest of us the freedom. But remembering the sacrifices but forgetting the reason why those sacrifices were made, kindda of negatives the whole remembrance! The reason so many people made the ultimate sacrifice is because they wanted themselves as well as others to be free! Freedom was the whole point of the exercise! And not replacing one tyrannical regime with another.

Our current democratic system might be a whole lot better than the Colonial but  I really doubt that not having the right to private property, right to bear arms in self-defence, and other individual rights will make one feel really free! Maybe that's why we don't feel like celebrating freedom.


I want the truth!

Link: Instapundit.com.

HOWARD KURTZ featured this comment from USA Today Baghdad correspondent Cesar Soriano:

    To all the Chairborne Rangers advancing the vast 'negative media' conspiracy from the safety and comfort of their parents' basements: If you think you can do better, I've got a spare bed in the Baghdad bureau.

This reminds of the exchange between Jessep and Kaffee in the movie, "A Few Good Men".
Cesar Soriano:

Son, we live in a world that has wars. And those wars have to be reported by men with pen. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Mr. Chairborne Ranger? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Iraq and America and you curse the Journalists. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That America's defeat in the War on Terror, while tragic, probably will save lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me in that hotel. You need me there. We use

words like freedom of speech, peace, objectivity...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very information I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I'd prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a pen and write from the Baghadad hotel. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to.


Free Market System Drives down the Real Cost of Living

This 1997 Annual Report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Time Well Spent: The Declining Real Cost of Living in America, shows how the real cost of living has declined over the century. It uses the work-time required to purchase goods and services to compare the living costs across time. Truly eye-opening, especially, for those who are fond of complaining that life has become harder over time.

The "Exhibit 8", titled, "The Bounty of Time Well Spent—Household Ownership and Use of Products", plots % of households with Telephones, Automobiles, etc. over the century. It is stunning!

The chart, titled "THE WORK-TIME COST OF PRODUCTS, TODAY VERSUS YESTERDAY", gives average work-time required to acquire various goods and services over the years.

It won't be real if everything was so good! The spoiler comes at page 14:

Americans do, of course, have to work
longer to buy some goods and services.
Paying for higher education and medical
care requires more hours of work than it
used to. Tuition and fees at public colleges,
for example, have doubled in terms
of work time since the mid-1970s. Inflation
has been even steeper at America’s
private institutions.9

Also, see the accompanying chart giving the comparison of higher education costs over the year. It has almost doubled compared to 1979! Education at a Public University costs 200 hours more!

What's missing is analysis of whether those extra work hours spent in educating yourself is worth the decline in the work-hour costs for a typical univesity graduate!

They should given more space for analysis of medical expenses too!


Chaos can create order

Link: digg.

According to a computational study conducted by a group of physicists at Washington University in St. Louis, one may create order by introducing disorder. The physicists' research is not only hard to grasp for non-physicists, but puzzling for physicists, too. "Every physicist who hears this is surprised."

Pretty interesting!


Anti-immigrant liberals

Link: EconLog, Still More on Immigration, Arnold Kling: Library of Economics and Liberty.

    What should you call someone who wants government to provide for our education, competitiveness, and health care but whose concern about "us" stops at the border? The obvious label would be national socialist. But George Bush and Paul Krugman are not Nazis...

    The alternative ideology that I would propose might be called transnational libertarianism. The ideal libertarian world would have no economic borders. There would be no problem of illegal immigration, because all forms of immigration would be legal.

I thought the same way but couldn't have made the point as eloquently as Arnold Kling.


Australian Uranium exports: Yes to China, No to India

Apparently, Australia trusts the Communist regime in China more than the Democratic one in India! Sure, if China has signed the NPT it must have abided by it and since India hasn't, it must have participated in the proliferation of nuclear weapons! What kind of twisted logic is this where words matter more than actions?
Australia refuses to lift ban on uranium exports to India:

Australia has welcomed a US-India agreement to share nuclear technology but ruled out lifting a ban on uranium exports to India while New Delhi refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

CBC News: Australia opens up uranium sales to China.

Canada's major competitor in the uranium business, Australia, has reached a nuclear safeguards deal with Beijing that opens up the Chinese market to Australian mines.

...

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. said Monday's deal will ensure that Australian uranium is sold only to power producers and that there are international inspections of Chinese nuclear facilities.