The John Batchelor Show

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Air Date: 
October 30, 2013


Photo, above Muhammed Yunus, Nobelist for inventing the practice of microcredit, being received warmly in Queens, New York; he cuts the ribbon at the launch celebrations of Grameen America.  While giant financial service institutions in the nation are shirking under the iron hand of the economy, microcredit organizations are seeing an opposite trend — the number of lenders has been steadily increasing. Kiva, a Web-based microcredit non-profit in San Francisco, had a record month in February as its total monthly lending soared past $3.8 million.  . . . The microcredit model has proved successful in the United States already. Grameen America — sister to the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, founded by microcredit pioneer, Muhammad Yunus — says it has lent $1.3 million to about 500 families in Queens, N.Y.  Yunus, an economist, started the microcredit model on a microscopic scale. He loaned $27 to women who made bamboo furniture near Chittagong University in Bangladesh. The success of this model led him to establish the first stages of Grameen Bank in 1976, and as of last year, Grameen Bank had disbursed more than $7.12 billion to more than 7.5 million borrowers, 97 percent of who are women. A basic loan is generally $500 to $3,000 for a term of six months to a year, usually paid in weekly installments.  The interest rate is 15 percent on a declining basis.

For their efforts in alleviating the condition of the poor, both Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.  [more]  See Hour 3, Block D,  Shaila Dewan, NYT, in re: Grameen America. Very small loans ($1,500) to people who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for loans,


Co-host: Gordon Chang

Hour One

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block A: Richard McGregor, author of The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers, on this:  vehicle that blew up at Tien An Men contained a man, his wife and his mother (or mother-in-law?). Beijing's top pols – the unelected tyrants of Beijing - apparently are very nervous; had the entire site cleaned up, scrubbed, and the explosion rendered invisible within hours.  Longstanding grievance of the Uyghurs, the Muslim non-Han from Xinjiang (translation: New Territories, meaning that these lands have not long been under the suzerainty of Beijing) in the west of the country.

Can the Plenum open up industries currently owned by the State, that is, the Party?  .China Signals ‘Unprecedented’ Policy Changes on Agenda at Plenum.  Can the plenum open up industries currently controlled by the Party – the State-owned enterprises – on which a few families have become insanely rich.  Need political reform, which is off the table. 

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block B: John Wohlstetter, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and author of Sleepwalking with the Bomb, in re:  Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan: a massive land bloc, very lightly populated, energy-rich.  No burqa in sight.  Al-Azhar University is trying to get a foothold but not received with much enthusiasm.  Kazakhstan borders China and Russia; Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) is about 30 miles from Iran.

Silk Road Odyssey: A Future for Islam Lite? Eighteen days in central Asia leave a visitor with indelible impressions of societies that, while poor by Western standards, are doing far better than many wealthier countries. A central facet of life in the three “-stan” countries I visited — Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan — is that they wear their Islamic faith lightly. Their societies survived seven decades of harsh rule under the former Soviet Union, and as a result were to a considerable degree secularized. I saw not a single burqa veiling a single face in nearly three weeks. Other religions need not fear militant jihadist assaults upon their places of worship, let alone their flocks. Over one hundred ethnic groups co-exist in relative harmony. By contrast, Muslims living in Russia, at 15 per cent of the 144 million subjects of Tsar Vlad the Bad, are increasingly restive under harsh Russian rule. The remnant of Russian rule as to its Muslim republics is that the Russian language is in most “-stans” the official language for business.  . . . 

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block C: Vikas Bajaj, NYT, The Editorial Page Editor's Blog, in re: What If We Just Gave the Poor Money? Kenyan charity, Give Directly; gave $300 in one instance and $1100 in another; watched over a year. They spent the money for food, new tin roofs, livestock. Note: no big bureaucracy in the middle to steal the money. Did not go to health care or education; not clear why, but my sense is that while they had more money they didn't have access to more clinics or schools. Not in a poor village; can’t create infrastructure overnight; better for govt or NGO to jump in.  Grameen deals typically with people who have some resources and ant to set up their own business. Microcredit discussion.  Brazil and Mexico both give cash grants with quid pro quo of getting children inoculated, for example,

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block D: Bill Witherell, Chief Global Economist, Cumberland Advisors, in re: Abe-nomics.  Shinzo Abe: there's a glamour to Abenomics, but with substance – combination of a massive monetary stimulus using QE, plus fiscal (govt) spending, The "third arrow" he promised is reforms; no one knows exactly what he intends t0 do, but he currently has a lot of popular support. One is to loosen up the job mkt; also ag sector, corp taxes are too high; eke an important trade negotiation coming up, will have to give some on protections.  China stumbling? Even slowed down it’s doing better than everyone else, whereas Japan has had two decades of [stagnation].  Will Sony et al. have better profits?  Yes. Also are depreciating the yen, which is good for export. The equity mkt in Japan is 30% below its 2007 high, so there's a good distance for it to catch up with the rest of the world, which is good for the companies. Increasing sales tax because of the debt-to-GDP ratio, which is high; but most of the debt is owned domestically. Fukushima: all but two nuclear plants offline, which means higher electricity costs.  Have a lot of catching-up to do in the reforms.

Hour Two

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block A: Kelley Currie, Senior Fellow with the Project 2049 Institute, just returned  from Burma; in re: Nine explosions in two weeks?  Burma is much free-er than it was under the military, but not everyone is happy – vested interests fight the new openness, have guns.  Also ethnic divisions  on the Chinese border, esp the Karen?  In fact, that's not at all clear; murky accusation. Ethnic minorities are convinced that whoever is ding the bombing is not representing the interests of the Karen people.  US administration has been doing a victory dance precipitately.  Intl investors have benefitted from the military rule: a poor country with a lot of very rich people skimming. China is pouring cash in for infrastructure. Western investors are concerned about legal regime and other structural problems. A US full-ambassador, Derek Mitchell, plus a ramped-up USAID mission. Lacks knowledge to invest.  Whole donor community has done a poor job. Politics of aid groups.  . . .  Land confiscation.  Burma and China affirm ‘strategic partnership’   Burma police: Bombers trying to scare investors .  China International, China state media: 5 arrested in Tiananmen Square attack  Attackers and accomplices are reportedly members of the country's marginalized Muslim minority

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block B: Nitin Gokhale, anchor at New Delhi Television, in re: .  He was on board Manmohan Singh's plane to Moscow and Beijing.  Indian-Soviet ties go way back, to when Moscow and Beijing weren't very friendly.  Russia has 100 million people, which makes it a small country in population.   Moscow has been a reliable partner in space, energy, nuclear subs, military procurement in air force and army.  Major trade, however, is with China, which signed a border agreement with India – not the first, and previous treaties haven’t stopped previous Chinese incursions into Indian territory. At least, it'll improve dialogue till it’s settled, maybe in the next generation.  Right now, just local-level meetings; plan is to take it gradually up, to Chengdu and Lanchou regions and finally have a hotline between Beijing and New Delhi.  Afghanistan.  Grade the mtg at 7 out of 10.  We need you, we need you not

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block C: Mari Saito, Reuters, in re: Fukushima.  The "nuclear gypsies" – the workers – don’t have the labor protection enjoyed by other Japanese workers (lifetime employment, full pension, plus underclass who do nonskilled labor, have no employment guarantees, little health care. Wages as low as $6/hour (not survivable), which is less than that of a pizza-delivery boy.  Yakuza at Fukushima:  three major syndicates; in Fukushima 1,000-plus members, fifty groups or more; "the underbelly of Japanese society. "  Gangs came in as brokers or recruiters, find unemployed people around the country, promise them $300/day then skim one-third from the workers's pay. Yakuza infiltration because no strong laws exclude them from emergency cleaning of nuclear sites. Lack of manpower, of inspections – and another big failure by TEPCO. They're scrubbing walls, tearing up topsoil, stripping trees of new leaves, cleaning roads.  Being run by or skimmed by the yakuza gangs – and the workers are terrified of speaking out, that they'll be blacklisted permanently; both of our informants were fired.   PM Abe has not addressed criminal gangs in Fukushima.   Abenomics diverts attention from the miserable working conditions in Fukushima – this clean-up will last forty years. One worker was kept in a storage container with no water for two weeks. The workers aren’t gypsies – they're slaves.  Water leaks and other problems at the plant, while TEPCO also is under pressure to post a profit. 

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block D:  Joseph Sternberg, WSJ Asia editorial board, in re: Muddy Waters. Short-sellers force Chinese firms to be a lot more transparent than before if only to fend off short-selling attacks. Paul Gillis, acctg professor: auditors in China have to conduct different sorts of audits – can’t ask someone to verify cash balances: not arm's-length relationship between a company and its bank.  Bogus numbers.  "We visited their office, which was deserted." – people sell. We hear of these problems not from acctg firms but from Muddy Waters. Cash balance verifications in China are not reliable; acctg firms are belatedly waking up to this.

Hour Three

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block A: David Feith, WSJ Asia, in re: in Tien An Men a vehicle comes out of the road, explodes, fire, three deaths and five arrested. Photos snapped by smart phones but everything scrubbed on Net and in news.   Vehicle contained a man, his wife and his mother (or mother-in-law?), who were labelled "terrorists  - the mother-in-law cell.  Had Uyghur names, the Muslim non-Han from Xinjiang (translation: New Territories, meaning that these lands have not long been under the suzerainty of Beijing) in the west of the country. Restive population that Beijing has not been able to control: a lot of unhappiness in society. China looks like a pressure-cooker.  Significant subterranean difficulties, challenges and threats to Communist Party control: this news is not covered in China or in the West.  Policies in Xinjiang and Tibet; land rights, illegal land seizures – 200,000 annual local-level protests against the authorities. CCP not showing any success over time.  In the US, 100-plus campuses hosting "Confucius Institutes"  - paid for by Beijing. Note the man, economics professor,  who's been purged for demonstrating in favor of democracy, and the Nobelist who’s in jail for decades. Beijing University daily becoming a closer partner of Columbia, Stanford, U Pennsylvania, and multiple other schools – not a peep of protest from these academic apexes, which legitimize the Communist Party by partnering with them.  No transparency, no hope. Ivy Leagues pretend that Bei Da espouses the same freedoms the US does.   China state media: 5 arrested in Tiananmen Square attack  Attackers and accomplices are reportedly members of the country's marginalized Muslim minority

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block B: Jeff Bliss, The Bliss Index, in re: Tavenner shot down a question from Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.) that the administration had requested these numbers not be divulged, saying “we made a group decision that we would release those numbers in mid-November.”  Sibelius: "What - ever."  There was a known security flaw in; Sibelius let people register for a week anyway; now their private data are  very much at risk. :  "septic code."

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block C:  Aaron Klein, WABC Radio, in re: New homes in Jerusalem, which all Jazeera calls "East Jerusalem."   Riyadh-Cairo-Moscow axis: under discussion, incl Qatar and Turkey, closer strategic relations, weapons deals and oil deals. Game-changing for the US. All the capitals moving and the players are changing sides.   Hopes fade for Syria peace talks next month  Officials express pessimism about scheduled talks, which could be delayed once again

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block D:   Shaila Dewan, NYT, in re: Grameen America. Grameen America. Very small loans ($1,500) to people who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for loans, to be used for small-bore entrepreneurial activity.  Note payday loans (400% interest) and other brutal, confiscatorial loan methods.  Grameen charges 15% interest. In the US: a family named Perez have a party-supplies store; whole family works all the time; used loan first to bridge the gap in the recession.  After borrowing and repaying you can borrow a bit more next time, Now Mrs Perez can borrow enough to expand the business. Payback: women form groups of five, very carefully, inviting other women whom they know; payback is partly under peer pressure.  Need a few million dollars to start a branch – in Omaha, for example, may have a donor.  Grameen reports your good credit to credit agencies. Website invites people to donate; donors incl Robin Hood Fdn.  Charlotte, Omaha, Los Angeles, New York.  More cities coming soon.   Microcredit for Americans  Microloans, born of anti-poverty efforts in developing countries, are attracting American clients who don't qualify for credit cards or traditional bank loans. 

Hour Four

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 4, Block A:  James Taranto, Wall Street Journal, in re:  Another ObamaCare Victim 
One man's insurance cancellation is a cause for Schadenfreude.

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 4, Block B:  Alireza Jafarzadeh, National Councils of Resistance, in re:  Dear President Obama:  We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Iraq. As Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visits Washington this week, we urge you to press him to formulate a comprehensive political and security strategy that can stabilize the country, enable Iraq to realize its vast potential, and help to safeguard our nation’s enduring national security interests in Iraq.

By nearly every indicator, security conditions in Iraq have dramatically worsened over the past two years. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has returned with a vengeance: It has regenerated the manpower, terrorist infrastructure, resources, and safe havens to sustain and increase the tempo and intensity of attacks and to penetrate deeper into all parts of Iraq than at any time in recent years. Indeed, an analysis this month by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy found, “In 2010, the low point for the al-Qaeda effort in Iraq, car bombings declined to an average of 10 a month and . . .  [more]

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 4, Block C: Margot Kiser, al Jazeera, in re: Kenyan security.  KDF (Kenya Defense Forces). The Kenyan government continues to embarrass itself: KDF soldiers ransack shops at #Westgate

Wednesday  30 October 2013  / Hour 4, Block D:   Joseph Rago, WSJ editorial board, REVIEW & OUTLOOK, & Pulitzer Prizewinner, in re:  You Can Keep Your Health Plan*

..  ..  ..


Hour 1: The Grey.

Hour 2: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Hour 3: Inception. Dark Knight Rises. Ghost Writer.

Hour 4: Ghost Writer. Dark Knight Rises.