Shocks and Change

Funny thing, the Chatham House rule. Introduced by the Chatham House thinktank to enable policy makers to speak more freely at seminars and meetings, people often assume it means you are sworn to complete secrecy about what was said. Not so. The actual rule reads “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the…

By admin December 29, 2008 Off

Never make predictions, especially about the future

The panacea of technological innovation is routinely trotted out by political leaders faced with difficult problems. Poverty? A laptop in every village! Climate Change? Carbon capture and storage, with a side helping of biofuels! So no need to ask, let alone answer, difficult questions on distribution, or possible environmental limits to growth – the magic bullet…

By admin December 29, 2008 Off

Bailouts v aid v climate change – $ reveals priorities

The most popular post ever on this blog was ‘How much is $700bn‘ – a set of ‘killer facts‘ on the initial US bailout. These days $700bn feels like small change, so it’s time for an update in the run up to Saturday’s Financing for Development meeting in Doha and Monday’s start to this year’s big…

By admin December 28, 2008 Off

What might Obama do on US Aid Policy?

By the time I got to the US (a week after the election), euphoria seemed to have given way to the strange interregnum between presidents. I found a vast gossip machine on who gets what job in the new administration (7000 jobs are up for grabs), and a lingering underswell of pride and anticipation, laced…

By admin December 27, 2008 Off

US elections: killer facts, what happens now? And Palin the poet

The December issue of my favourite current affairs magazine, Prospect, has some great analysis (laced with whimsy) of the election and transition. Top billing goes to an insightful assessment of Obama’s likely direction by Michael Lind. Lind cautions against euphoria, drawing on the already over-used comparison with FDR in predicting that Obama’s first term will mostly have…

By admin December 26, 2008 Off

The Rights and Wrongs of Food Miles

Professor Tim Lang, who invented the term ‘food miles’, is a gifted campaigner – it’s memorable, immediate and challenges consumers to take action to curb the environmental destruction caused by daft practices like shipping bottled water to markets on the other side of the world. But what if you’re one of the 1.5 million African…

By admin December 26, 2008 Off