Monthly Archives: August 2001

Davos Newbies Home

Out of touch CEOs

You know you’re in trouble when Dr Strangelove thinks you’re Dr Strangelove.” Donald Rumsfeld (my very own congressman in the ’60s) has thankfully been outmaneuvered at the Pentagon. And Maureen Dowd reckons the three top CEOs in the administration — Rumsfeld, Cheney and O’Neill — are all hopelessly out of touch with reality.

Repel all borders

I’ve always liked Hungary more than any other central and eastern European country. The Hungarians remind me of Italians: more than a fair share of brilliance and creativity, and more than a fair share of dodgy behaviour. In a very central European way, it’s supplemented by an unbelievably dark, pessimistic view of the world.

So I was disheartened by the latest moves by prime minister Viktor Orban to give the 3.5 million ethnic Hungarians living outside the country’s borders special status. It seem bound to increase tension and ethnic ill-will in a region that has the wholly negative example of the Balkans close to hand.

Surprise me

The French are lagging behind on Internet access.

Nailing the Times

Andrew Sullivan perfectly captures some of the spirit of The New York Times. “I particularly like the fearless judgment that Mount Holyoke’s decision was done ‘fairly and appropriately’. Those mind-numbing adjectives are Times staples, along with ‘fair-minded’ for anything they agree with and ‘mean-spirited’ for anything they don’t. They reflect an attitude of detachment that is rarely separated from condescension. The Times is the only institution I know of that can make me both infuriated and bored at the same time.”

Davos Newbies Home

Bretton Woods redux

Felix Rohatyn calls for a new Bretton Woods conference in the Financial Times. What I find surprising about this is that the FT deigned to print it. It must be the summer lull, with not enough to comment on.

There’s nothing new in what Rohatyn writes, and I find his suggestion that “it would determine the facts behind the assertions of the anti-globalisation protestors” naive.

Far more constructive was the news that the World Bank and IMF will meet with four of the constructive, critical NGOs during their September annual meetings in Washington. The World Bank, in particular, has been way ahead of its critics in everything except the public relations battle.

The FT makes some sensible comments about the planned meeting: “Past confrontations suggest the two sides do not agree on the facts underlying the debate and they focus on different outcomes. It may be a struggle to find enough common ground to hold a meaningful discussion.”

I liked the quote from George Soros, who took part in a fruitless teleconference in Davos with the anti-globalisation World Social Forum, which was taking place in Porto Alegre, Brazil. “I don’t particularly like to be abused,” Soros says. “My masochism has its limits.”

Essential viewing

As soon as I can carve a moment, I am going to run to the British Library’s exhibition “Lie of the Land: the secret life of maps“. I love maps, and I’m particularly fascinated by how they can lie and distort, as well as convey information.

Three great books on this I can recommend: How to lie with maps, Maps and politics, and Things maps don’t tell us. Looking these up for the links, I see Mark Monmonier, author of How to lie with maps, has a new book out: Bushmanders and Bullwinkles: how politicians manipulate electronic maps and census data to win elections. On title alone, it deserves a read.

Not so fun

I wrote a while ago about Michael Jackson, CEO of Wild Day, who was running his company while climbing in Pakistan. Following the death of a climbing friend on Broad Peak (near K2), Jackson sensible wonders, “What am I doing here?

Jackson’s account of his company’s battle with online credit card fraud is also worth a read. It was written at 5,000 metres, but it deals with a very down-to-earth problem.