Best Films – 2010

This year I saw just over 125 films. Below is the list of the films I liked the most, presented in chronological order, according to the date I saw them. Unlike other similar lists, no ranking is intended.

I did not see many of the blockbuster films that most people see. So do not expect to see them on this list. And I saw a few films that have not yet been officially released in the US. Expect to see them on the list.

Failing Markets and Economic Theory

“How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities by John Cassidy is an excellent book that tackles the origins, impact and consequences of the recent economic crisis. It also provides a “What is to be done” (a la Lenin) in policy to avoid a repeat of the last crisis. The book is written in a clear and simple style. And Cassidy, not being an economist himself, has the ability to present almost any sophisticated economic theory in a fashion that is accessible to the general public.

The book has three distinctive sections which are related to each other. The first part of the book traces the evolution of the so-called “Free Market” theory starting with Adam Smith all the way to Robert Lucas. Cassidy clearly shows that 19th century free trade economist and philosophers were much more sympathetic

Read More

Heading to Baghdad III: A time-space warp

No one in the team traveling to Iraq was very excited about missing the helicopter. Most of them had slept close to nothing in the last 24 hours and were really yearning for a comfortable place to rest. I was a bit ahead of all of all of them -actually, 8 hours ahead, thanks to my own jet lag and the time difference. After having dinner/breakfast af the DFAC, my body was on a late evening mode. And 1am in the morning is still manageable on a normal day. So I was tired but not really sleepy.

I had no idea that UNAMI had its own building at the Victory Base Complex (VBC) which is relatively close to BIAP. Camp Victory is the main base in the complex – and, this is very important, where the DFAC is located. One can walk from the UNIMA one story installations to the DFAC (and the PX/BX) in less

Read More

Heading to Baghdad II: So close but yet so far

It still seemed like the middle of the night when we exited the plane and started walking on the tarmac. A UN security guide was leading us into the US army based located at the airport. The base is called Camp Sather (see here for more details) and has been in place since the invasion started in 2003. While walking towards the base installations, we could see BIAP about 1 kilometer away to our right. It looked just like any other modern international airport. No signs of war or destruction there.

The wind was still blowing quite hard but now it was much colder than when we left Amman. That same wind toyed with the light airplane while landing. The plane was swinging mildly from left to right and back while descending into Baghdad. Some travel peers thought we will probably miss the landing

Read More

Heading to Baghdad I: A step at a time

This is the third time in the last 4 months that I do the NY-Amman leg. I have been to Jordan several times since 2003. But this was the first time I was coming to Jordan to take off the following day to another country. The original plan, designed many weeks ago, was to arrive at 4pm, go the hotel, rest a bit and then take the UN charter flight to Baghdad the next morning. Needless to say, things do not always go as planned.

The direct flight from NY arrived on time. As I exited the customs area, I noticed that the airport was surprisingly empty. On the left, I recognized the driver that had either picked me up or dropped me off at the airport the last few times I have traveled here. He also smiled when he saw me. He then said something to another driver that was next to him and they both

Read More

Best Films – 2009

I saw over 130 films this year. Below are the ones I liked the most. They are listed in chronological order, according to the dates in which I saw them.

Worth mentioning:

Antalya: Going to the Airport

The eGovShare 2009 meeting (http://edem.egovshare2009.org/ organized by the Government of Turkey and UNDP (among others) was held in the Kervansaray Hotel which is located in Lara, to the east of Antalya. The hotel has a U-shape. There is a 300 meter long hall in the middle of the U. All rooms face outwards and the transparent structure allows lots of light into the long hall. When one is allocated a room one is also told which elevator one should take. The hotel has 10 elevators in total and each of them is numbers in an apparent random way. I got elevator 24 which is at the end of the hall and very close to both the bar and the main restaurant of the hotel.

The last night of the meting included a so-called Gala dinner. I made sure I did not have to wear a tie -which I did for all the sessions

Read More

Economic Crisis Book

I just finished reading The Origin of the Financial Crises” by George Cooper which was published last year. The book is subtitled Central Banks, Credit bubbles and the Efficient Market Fallacy which reveals right away the approach the author is will be taking.

This is an excellent book and a must read for anyone to wants to understand how financial markets worked until recently. It is written in a clear and simple style and has no equations or math (some do appear in a short annex). The author also provides a brilliant critique of the hard core free market approach that has reigned for the last 20 years or so. For example:

“The prevailing laissez-faire, efficient-market orthodoxy cannot explain the historical pattern of economic progress, nor can it explain the emergence of financial crises,

Read More

Comments on the Economic Crisis

Although the root causes of the current financial and economic crisis are still being debated (and will continue until the next large crisis hits), one issue that stems out of of the current discussions is the softening in the last 20 or so years of government regulations in the financial markets. Starting with the Reagan administration and later complemented by the Clinton presidency, laws that were designed to “regulate” financial markets were eliminated in the US. This, combined with a push for innovation in the global financial markets, where new technologies were a key factor, and a “risky” monetary policy (continuous lowering of interest rates in the last 10 or so years), indicate that “governance” issues played a critical role in its onsetting.

In the last 40 years or so we have seen

Read More

No Way Back for My Bad Back

Although I am feeling better – my left leg pain is now minimal but I still cannot sit for more than 5-10 minutes in a row, it seems that one of my trilogy of hernias in my back has decided to go astray and attack, without any scruples, one of my root nerves in my backbone.

The Neurologist asked me on Tuesday to have yet another MRI. The bad news came in yesterday afternoon. I am not sure why my hernias seem to be going in the opposite direction as what i had originally planned. I have been trying to take good care of myself and have been in good spirits to fight this to the end. The pain started after I came back from London so probably there is a correlation here. But where?

At any rate, the neurologist has asked me to consult with a Neurosurgeon to decide if a need surgery. It now seems

Read More