Coconut oil

Came across this article in ‘The Guardian’ on Coconut oil. A professor at Harvard calls it ‘pure poison’.

A friend of mine who is a Cardiac specialist and surgeon wrote back:

“We have been using coconut oil for many centuries without any mishap. Whole of Kerala is using it and so many Pacific islanders do use coconut. Think the west is trying to undermine us! Our forefathers were clever indeed!”

Another friend sent me a link to this effective speech by Dr. B.M. Hegde on coconut oil. Dr. Hegde, in that six-minute speech, mentions an Institute that he has co-founded. You can find it through this link.

Another friend wrote in to say that he would trust B. M. Hedge over anyone else anyday.

One more friend – who always gives me a complex whenever I talk to him – shared the following information and insight with me:

I have read a lot of stuff on food and the only 2 things I have concluded are 1) a Mediterranean type diet is good, and 2) concurring with Michael Pollan’s pithy advice ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants’

I think Pollan is the Atul Gawande of food writing. I love his description of edible food like substances (high fructose corn syrup and other products of food science) which he contrasts with real food.

He added:

‘In defense of food: an eater’s manifesto’ is the one with the pithy advice; his preceding book ‘The Omnivore’s dilemma’ was good and his most prescriptive book is ‘Food rules’ which followed ‘In defense of food’.

I think coconut oil has already benefited me a lot, as you can see from the information I was able to gather from friends.

Das Activist Manifesto

I cannot fathom why I did not blog on Frank Partnoy (with Rupert Younger)’s article on ‘The Activist Manifesto’ (‘What would Karl Marx write today’ was the title of their article in FT in March 2018). By chance, I stumbled upon it again, today.

I was writing to my friend Gulzar about some of the books written by Wall Street insiders. ‘F.I.A.S.C.O’ came to mind. Frank Partnoy was the author. He wrote it after he worked for Morgan Stanley. I had read the book long ago. I liked it. He practised law after that and joined University of San Diego in 1997. I understand that he is now shifting to University of Berkeley as tenured law professor. I had used his article in ‘The Atlantic’ on Wells Fargo (‘What’s inside American banks?’) in the courses that I teach.

I decided to check and see if he had a Twitter handle. Thankfully, he had one and even more thankfully, he was not an inveterate Tweeter! In the process, I chanced upon the FT article again on the rewriting of ‘Das Manifesto’. They had a website for the manifesto.

I spent time reading Professor Alan Morrison’s great introduction to the manifesto of Partnoy and Younger. Worth reading. I am yet to download their new manifesto and the original. Intend to do so.

In the process, from Partnoy’s Twitter handle, I read the wonderful review of Adam Winkler’s book, ‘We, the Corporations’ by Zephyr Teachout. Sample this comment:

Beginning in the 1970s, a group of activist lawyers associated with the University of Chicago persuaded courts to gut well-established principles designed to protect open markets and decentralized power, and to replace them with an ideology of efficiency that has contributed to our current crisis of monopoly capitalism and inequality. Winkler mentions the Chicago school in passing, but he doesn’t address the post-1980 antitrust cases, a striking oversight because they fit neatly into his theory: Corporate monopolies gained rights by asserting that they benefited the rights of others (in this case, consumers). [Link]

Teachout says that Winkler missed out on this but writes a nice tribute to his work.

Also, read the review of ‘The Chain of Title’ by David Dayen, reviewed by Frank Partnoy himself. It is the kind of stuff that one sees in developing economies. Nobody knew who had the titles to the properties that were foreclosed. Yet, they foreclosed! This happened in America. Heart-rending, actually:

Lisa Epstein, a nurse, learns that the bank foreclosing on her, the one at the end of
the securitization daisy chain, could not prove that it had legally obtained her loan. When she challenges the bank in court, its lawyers present a document dated three months after she was served with foreclosure papers — a “poorly drafted cover-up,” Dayen writes. She meets Michael Redman, a car salesman who had a similar experience, and persuades him to publish an online guide to uncovering mortgage fraud. The two of them connect with Lynn Szymoniak, a lawyer, who investigates the signatures in her own foreclosure action and finds one with a date when the signer was actually in state prison.

Exposing those lies becomes a moral crusade. The homeowners’ stories are emotional roller coasters, which Dayen meticulously reports. He and his characters find the banks’ behavior not just indefensible but criminal. Prepare to be surprised, and angry.

Partnoy also reviewed Anita Raghavan’s Billionaire’s Apprentice.

So, an evening in ‘partnership’ with Partnoy!

 

On Adam Smith

There is a nice article in ‘Aeon’ magazine on Adam Smith. The article is better than the review prof. John Kay wrote of a new book on Adam Smith which, I think, is similar to the article above.

But, the book itself might be richer in content than the review suggests. So, my comment on the review is not a comment on the book. Perhaps, the article in Aeon and the book might be convergent.

The important message from the article above is that Smith was not so much against state intervention as he was about ‘State capture’.

Further, there is the unnecessary obligatory reference to Donald Trump in Prof. John Kay’s article. Not needed at all, in the context of the article. John Kay too does not need to conform. If so, he would not have written ‘Other people’s money’ and authored the report on UK Equity Market Reforms. Just shows how powerful the tendency to conform to conventional wisdom is.

That is the word

Tucker stopped short of advocating the BoE be brought back under Treasury control. But beneath the bonhomie with governor Mark Carney and his old BoE colleagues, was there a hint of critique? Late on, Tucker pointed to the front row, where Carney and three deputies (Ben Broadbent, Sir Jon Cunliffe and Sir Dave Ramsden) sat next to chief cashier Victoria Cleland, and joked: “I’ve just noticed: this is the politburo.” The front row, Soviet-style, did not smile. [Link]

I am reading ‘Unelected Power’.

Pre-announcement of our new book

I have some good news to convey:

Our (Yours truly and Gulzar Natarajan) co-authored book, ‘The Rise of Finance: Causes, Consequences and Cures‘ has been accepted for publication by the Cambridge University Press. It is now ‘syndicated’ for publication. Have to deliver the manuscript before I go on a holiday end of this month. Will provide further updates on the timing of the launch of the book.

Italy, Europe, Pakistan and the rest

Been six days since I blogged. Was travelling again on May 30-31. Backlog of blogging builds up. So, this one is a potpourry.

Almost done with reading ‘Final hour’ Sir Martin Rees. Recommend it.

Of course, ‘Adults in the Room’ by Yanis Varoufakis remains the highlight of the year in terms of readings completed. He has a fairly sober piece on Germany (Merkel, in particular) being at the heart of the problems confronting Europe. In his attempt to be politically correct, I think, he has finessed his lines.

Paul Krugman has three tweets on the Italian President denying the Italian election winners the right to form the government by denying them their Finance Minister nominee.

But, Yanis makes this interesting point:

Trump understands one thing well: Germany and the eurozone are at his mercy, owing to their increasing dependence on large net exports to the US and the rest of the world. And this dependence has grown inexorably as a result of the austerity policies that were first tried out in Greece and then implemented in Italy and elsewhere.

Today, I heard Raghuram Rajan in Singapore saying that, one of the reasons behind the austerity policies in the UK was (or, could be) that their banks were too big relative to their economies and that the austerity was an accommodation of the demands of such a big banking sector on the government’s fiscal resources. Same goes for Europe. He was not defending this, however. Rajan was delivering the 9th MAS lecture today in Singapore.

Nonetheless, I am not advancing this either as an explanation or justification for the ‘Troika’ to impose austerity – and that too with utter hypocrisy (I am yet to write a full review of ‘Adults in the Room’) – on Greece. Simply recording something I heard today related to the word, ‘austerity’.

Inter alia, UK Government sold some of its stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland at a hefty loss today.

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has such a massive conflict of interest with what he is doing at the ‘Evening Standard’ that I do not know where to begin. Read this to figure it out yourself. Equally, I am not surprised that Google took up his offer. They should be embarrassed but will they be?

The implications of this story are staggering and overwhelm me. How is India, for example, going to find employment for its youth with or without formal education? Is technology such a holy grail that it should be pursued, no matter what? That is where I find Sir Martin Rees thoughtful and humane. See the beginning of the post.

Prof. Atif Mian at Princeton has a series of fourteen tweets on development, the vicious poverty trap and how public policy and prejudices make it more vicious. First tweet here.

Australia charges Citi and Deutsche Bank for cartel-like behaviour in their underwriting of ANZ shares a decade ago. The authorities have made a criminal charge and that is serious stuff. Banks will be banks, I suppose.

A damning verdict on American universities by Rana Foroohar. They are now hedge funds, she says. Ed Luce wishes she were not right. He concurs.

A powerful way to understand what we (humans) have wrought to the climate. Found it via the twitter handle of Atif Mian.

Gulzar shared this pithy and perceptive blog post by Tyler Cowen on how Trump’s foreign policy might outlast him in America.

This should tell us why Europe has not earned Trump’s respect.

A good summary of Pakistan’s acute ‘Balance of Payments’ situation.

More later.

‘The House of cards’ trilogy

Mr. TCA Srinivasa Raghavan suggested that I read the trilogy, ‘House of Cards’. The books were ‘un-put-down-able’ while I was reading them. Well, I did not put down my iPad since I was reading them on the Kindle app in my iPad.

He is a very good, if very cynical, story teller. May be, very British too.

The first book did not impress me much because it was simply a case of FU (very creative name) using the information gathered in his role as the party Chief Whip to blackmail his rivals in the party.

The second one was better than the first – the thrust, the moves and the countermoves by the King and FU were interesting. It was good that he allowed King and his press secretary to emerge stronger and superior at the end of it. May be, that too was a very British thing to do – the superiority of the Constitutional Monarchy over the elected (or, unelected, in this case) public official.

His story telling reaches a peak in the third of the trilogy. It builds up slowly but surely and steadily to its climax with many strands woven and neatly handled to produce a grand finale, although one begins to anticipate it a bit, towards the end.

But, at least in fiction, one would like the story to end with morality emerging victorious and not only smart and wicked people emerging on top. Michael Dobbs does not allow that. That is why I call him a cynic.

To destroy Tom Makepiece in the way he does, in the end, is cruel. He also does not paint the Greek Cypriots with his climax that well versus the British for all the wrongs they had suffered.

FU keeps saying that he knows only to fight and he knows only this thing and nothing else. So, the author could have given him the glorious speech but ended with another twist with FU not getting a place in the history book because, after all, he was just a rank manipulator.

The PM’s wife basically does side deals for personal benefits – his Library – and barters away national interests. She escapes scot-free.

It is not fair.  May be, it is quintessentially British in that sense.

​Michael Dobbs’ women are smart, intelligent, pretty and ambitious and are prepared to sleep around to realise them. You might say that he is sexist and I could not possibly comment on it. 

For ‘budding’ politicians, the trilogy is an important reading manual for they might be missing a trick or two. FU or Michael Dobbs is the best teacher they can find.

In the final analysis, Michael Dobbs had put up a grand political theatre in his ‘House of Cards’ trilogy.