Fareed Zakaria GPS – Ashraf Ghani on Afghanistan

Once again Fareed Zakaria’s great new show on CNN, Global GPS, brings us face to face with people who *should* be household names here in the USA but rarely are because we focus far more attention on Britney Spears’ hair style than we focus on the looming war that Obama will be prosecuting in Afghanistan.  Today Zakaria is interviewing Ashraf Ghani, former Chancellor of Kabul University and former Afghan finance minister and a leading prospective leading candidate for the next President of Afghanistan, a role that will intersect on many levels with the USA and the foreign policies of our new President.

Ghani is critical of what he sees as Karzai’s “tolerance” of the levels of corruption in Afghanistan and what he suggests is the criminalization of the entire Afghan economy via the drug trade. Lke many I think I was initially very impressed by Karzai but have not been paying attention for some time. Ghani’s argument is that Afghanistan is now failing as drugs and threats of violence trump the need to build infrastructure.

On one point almost everybody can agree – Obama faces a huge and his key new point people in the region Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrook face perhaps the USA’s greatest foreign policy challenge in Afghanistan, especially along the Pakistan border where the Taliban and supporting warlords have some local support and continue to fight to restore the Taliban to power in Afghanistan.

From a strategic point of view I remain very skeptical that a primarily military approach will succeed in Afghanistan. There’s a tendency to simplify the analysis into the idea that “getting rid of the bad guys” will allow the regular folks to take control and establish a flourishing democracy. This view is both naive and dangerous and it’s the main reason we failed to bring stability to Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan after the first Taliban war. A far more sophisticated strategy takes a decades-long view of societal change and will focus on changing the views of the youth while funding and defending infrastructure improvements. It’s well understood now that many of the current troubles in Afghanistan stem in large part from a failure to bring the promised aid after international forced led by the USA forced the Taliban from power. Will we keep making the same mistakes of the past by imposing ourselves militarily with far too little regard for infrastructure and changing views of the youth. Those are the tactics that will most effectively undermine the objectives of the enemies of the US for whom ongoing instability represents a huge tactical advantage. Development and infrastructure funding should our paramount concern. Not because it is a moral imperative, rather becauase it is a *strategic* imperative in terms of protecting our long term national interests.

Today’s program should be available soon here at GPS:

CNN Holographic Reporting Debut: Cool

Kudos to CNN for using holographic imagery for the first time in TV reporting.

35 high definition cameras surround Jessica Yellin in a tent in Chicago at the massive Obama rally as she is beamed live to the CNN situation room to talk with Wolf Blitzer.

The imagery is imperfect but of a high enough quality to suggest we’ll be seeing this tool used more and more as a virtual meeting environment.

Good job CNN !

Wales: Internet Collaboration Still in Infancy

Speaking in London Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales made an obvious but important observation: the collaborative aspect of the internet – what many would call a key aspect of “Web 2.0”, is still in its infancy.

Although Wales seemed to focus on video collaboration and how that could improve I’d suggest that the real power of the online medium will *not* be video – rather we’ll find that many different combinations of photos, videos, and community will evolve into the next key style of web interaction.

This could be along the lines of a more powerful and more ubiquitous Flickr, acting within loose alliances of connected niche sites connected by Facebook and Myspace and Google Social and Open ID.

The niche aspect of the internet is already clear in Politics, where you find blogs and commenters and social networkers sticking pretty close to home, preaching to their own choirs and repeating the same themes throughout loosely connected social networks dominated these days by either Obama supporters or Obama bashers (who generally are McCain supporters but almost never talk about McCain!).

Obviously there are many, many exceptions, but if you look at many of the most successful major blog efforts it is interesting how partisan they are and how uninterested they are in providing more than ideological fodder consistent with what their readers already think:    DailyKOS, DrudgeReport, Huffington Post, WorldNewsDaily are a handful of commercially successful sites that add little to an informed discussion but remain more popular than the far more balanced views you’ll find elsewhere.    It’s encouraging that CNN and other major news outlets are looking more to interactivity and blogging, though I predict they’ll find it very challenging to monetize these social media assets in the amounts to which they are accustomed.    As with Yellow Page websites, I think major media blog sites may struggle with the difference between advertising costs and expectations online and off.

Robert Rubin on Zakaria GPS

Today on Zakaria GPS we have Robert Rubin, Citibank and Wall Street megamoneymeister and Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury.

Rubin is always one of the most impressive observers of the economy, and distinguished as one of the few Secty’s of treasury who presided over a Federal balanced budget.  He articulates complexity well and also avoids the partisan nonsense that clouds these debates.  For example he was complimentary of Paulson’s efforts

Main point was that we need to do more to address mortgages at home and bank level to stabilize things and that he wanted a *huge* stimulous package – probably not in the form of tax rebates because they don’t tend to hit economy fast enough and are often saved.

Rubin is Obama’s economic advisor (along with Volker, Buffett, Summers).  Rubin was very complimentary of Obama’s style and intellect, pointing out that at the meetings Obama is always quick to divorce the campaign considerations from the economic solutions, and to listen to those who agree and disagree.

The bad news is that Rubin sounded like he was not willing to go back to Washington and take the position of Secretary of the Treasury again even though many (certainly I) would like to see him there again.

George Soros on Zakaria GPS

Hedge fund manager George Soros is one of the world’s richest and most successful market watchers (and market manipulators?). Zakaria reports that Soros’ recent plays have netted him over 2 billion. He’s very controversial for his political views though my take is that great business folks can easily separate their politics from their business decisions.

Consuming more than you produce:/ That game is over.

Houses as piggy bank, instead of savings. [BAM! We are seeing this obvious but profound observation coming up a lot]

Misconception: Markets will correct themselves. They won’t. We have reached the end of a bubble cycle started in the 1980s when massive global markets and deregulation frenzy began.

Mortgages as the “detonator” of the nuclear bomb that is the current global crisis. Stock market in capitulation phase that has followed credit problems.

Can’t predict future because it depends on decisions. He says he was wrong in 1998 to predict some sort of climax to the bubble.

“The cost will be greater, the damage will be greater”.

“You need a government that believes in government”

Paulson bailout plan as ill concieved – same kind of financial engineering that got us into the mess. Paulson as behind the curve “all the way” because he buys into market fundamentalism.

The authorities have lost control of the situation.

Soros recommends: Mobilize private capital to buy into distressed banks and lift minimum reserve requirements to free up lending.

Reduce number of foreclosures by renegotiations to sound mortgages that will not exceed 85% of house value. Loss to be absorbed by mortgage owners (banks?). Govt will then guarantee mortgages to 85% value, which would encourages renters to buy. Some losses, short recession.

Soros: I understand the flaws which allows me to profit, but as a citizen I want better regulation. Markets and Govts are flawed. Less regulation, better regulation.

Soros (like Gates and Buffett?)  believes the anti-tax positions are false because supporting infrastructure with taxes is so critical to wealth formation.

Soros said he does have inordinate influence as a rich person on politics but , unlike many other rich folks, does not use it to improve his financial positions.  He thinks market fundamentalism abets power abuses in politics.

China built assets while we built debts.   Tremendous power shift.   But America will remain a leader and could be *the* leader with some changes.

Bill Gates on Zakaria GPS

Fareed Zakaria continues his amazing series of interviews on his CNN GPS show with Bill Gates.

Like Warren Buffett, a close friend of Gates, Gates will give away almost all of his wealth over the next decades via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which focuses on global health and education initiatives.

Gates supports “some” inheritance taxes because we are all beneficiaries of the education and stability provided by the US infrastructure.

His preference for foreign development investment seems to be based on the idea that the need is much greater there, the return on the charity giving is much greater, reducing infant mortality wll *decrease* birth rates [this is a profoundly important observation that is well documented but poorly reported – many think helping the poor tends to increase births when this is false]. They talked about the book “The Bottom BIllion”.

On the future of computing and the Internet:

Shape of computers will change.  VIrtual wallpapers, tablet computing.

The whole economy is using software simulation, which makes development less expensive.

China as largest broadband market – probably for the rest of the century.  He seemed to think India was unlikely to catch up to China.


He’s focusing more now on how to create visibility for issues like malaria prevention.

When asked how he’d be remembered – as a software pioneer or philanthropist – Gates didn’t answer but I think the answer is increasingly clear.  Gates more than any other person has brought a new era of Innovative huge scale development work that could turn back the tidal wave of poverty in our generation.  He’s helping to make it not only fashionable, but somewhat obligatory for the rich to pay a lot more attention to those in need.

Wen Jiabao interviewed by Zakaria

Wen Jiabao is the Premier of China, making him one of the most influential international figures of this generation. Today on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS – one of the best shows on TV, we are hearing from Wen Jiabao on several topics of extreme relevance to the global community.

I can’t compliment Zakaria enough for a journalistic style that does two things I’d argue are necessary to get *access to people* while at the same time getting real rather than canned insights. First, he’s polite, which gets access and creates a relaxed atmosphere where real dialog can take place. Second, he asks the *big* questions in a way that brings us real insights into the thinking patterns of the key political and thought leaders he interviews.

Rather than summarize things here I want to link to CNN’s GPS page where I think they will post the interview, because anybody with an interest in where things are going should be paying very close attention.

Much of the current debate in this country about China (as well as many things) takes a sort of cartoon form, where people are stuck on oversimplifying a handful of complex talking points like China’s economic relationship to the USA and China’s Tibet policy (which in my view could largely be solved by shifting treatment of Tibet to an autonomous region like Hong Kong, a relationship that is working fairly well).

Asked about the prevailing economic philosophy who did Wen Jiabao quote? None other than Adam Smith, suggesting that the free hand of capitalism should be balanced by Government regulations to keep things fair and orderly (FYI he’s right that Smith was an advocate of some regulation and application of “morality” to free markets – a historical point often lost in debates here over free market virtues).

What’s Wen Jiabao reading? Stoic Marcus Aurelius apparently is one of his favorite philosophers, a thoughtful but sometimes ruthless Roman emperor who advocated social responsibility and internal progressive social reforms even as he persecuted wars and treated some dissenters ruthlessly.

Zakaria vs Hannity

Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s excellent new show Global Public Square, is debating Sean Hannity today on Hannity’s America.   The topic appears to be Hannity’s insistence that “America is the greatest country on earth” and as far as I can tell he wants everybody, regardless of nationality, to agree.

I’m a huge fan of Zakaria’s broad, intelligent view of the role of the USA in our complex world and not a fan of Hannity’s sometimes spooky form of “shout down conservatism” where, unlike rounded folks like Zakaria, Hannity simply refuses to discuss or even acknowledge our many USA defects, choosing instead to personally malign many who he sees as standing in the way of his “my country right or wrong and my country is never wrong anyway” naivete.

Hannity correctly notes a lot of the things that make the USA a great country, but his blindness to our defects, especially our massive and irresponsible spending on unneeded military projects and our newfound enthusiasm for mixing fundamental religion and politics does a disservice to the wisdom of the founders who clearly understood how critical it was to think and debate the issues of governance and society far more broadly than most modern conservatives (or liberals) tend to do..

Lomborg on Zakaria GPS: Painfully Correct Thinking

More kudos to Zakaria’s GPS on CNN for bringing key global thinkers to the news table.

Today GPS featured Bjorn Lomborg, a figure who is controversial for the very simple reason that he has challenged sacred cows with common sense. When the sacred cow includes global warming alarmism even many otherwise clear thinking scientists have attacked Lomborg, generally on personal grounds rather than on the statistical high ground squarely occupied by Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus.

Bjorn Lomborg’s economically optimal approaches to finding solutions for global development, poverty reduction, global health, and more are thoughtful and rational. So rational and thoughtful that it’s always painful to hear his critics disparage him as a “global warming denier” (he is NOT even a GW skeptic as Zakaria very unfairly branded him during the introduction).

Lomborg’s main point is simple: We should seek the most effective solutions to global problems, which means seeking the most effective spending approaches given our current understanding of the problems.

I am very confident that history will show that the approaches taken by the Copenhagen Consensus were a sort of early “best practices” for Global problem solving, one of the first efforts to powerfully integrate science and economics in a rational rather than political or emotional way towards the vision of a better world.

Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN

There’s a new show on CNN called GPS for “Global Public Square” and despite the dumb name the show, hosted by Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, is brilliant – exactly the kind of dialog Americans need to hear as we face the complex challenges of the coming years.


NOTE: This is NOT a blog by Mr. Zakaria: Go HERE For official CNN show site: http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/fareed.zakaria.gps/

Frankly I’ll be surprised if the show can last for long – the Larry King demographic is not going to tune this in, even if they jazz things up as Anderson Cooper has effectively done with AC360 in an effort to pull in younger viewers and a more mainstream news audience.    In fact the weakest part of the show was the clever but insulting “GW Bush as idiot” sketch to close, effectively undermining the show’s (correct) contention that it’s going to bring together insiders and ask them very good questions.   Note to Fareed – you’re a great example of a respectful but edgy correspondent.  Don’t allow others to violate the trust this inspires in your interview folks.   I noted that Doug Fieth, an excellent spokesperson for the neoconservative cause, hardly spoke or was severely edited.   This was unfortunate as he was the only person on the panel with complete insider knowledge of the situation in Iraq.    Don’t let your guests and their *opinions* undermine interviews with people who were the architects of the still-active Iraq policies.

Zakaria is one of the best observers of the global state of affairs.   He balances the open, democratic, globalized, and entrepreneurial sensibilities we enjoy in the USA with the fact that most of the rest of the world does not share those sensibilities and in many cases *does not want to share them*.  This simple realization separates his views from the more common, and naive, idea that everybody wants to be … just like us.