3 April 2016   2 comments

There has been a massive leak of over 11 million documents from a law firm in Panama, Mossack Fonseca, one of the world’s largest providers of offshore banking services.   Offshore banking is the primary method of disguising money from tax authorities, but we don’t have much hard information about how much wealth is involved.   But one has to be very rich to afford such services, so the method is usually used by very rich individuals or corporations.  The leak of these documents, known as the Panama Papers in the media, is the first solid evidence we have had about the process.  The papers indicate that very prominent politicians–in Iceland, Russia, China, and other countries–have used the method to cover up massive corruption.  There appears to be no one we can trust.

We have a very difficult time assessing the well-being of people who live outside of the economic mainstream.  We can gather incredible amounts of data on people who interact frequently in the market place:  we know how much money they have, what preferences they have, how much they save, and so forth.  But the poor are significantly more strategic in how they interact with the economy:  they tend to live in places that don’t have a lot of access to electricity, computers, and all the other devices that automatically generate information.  This difficulty, however, is creating tremendous opportunities for those who are gifted in the analysis of “big” data.  By using clever metrics on unusual interactions gathered by satellites and other ubiquitous devices, we are getting a better grip on those who are forced to live in the shadows.

The US is contemplating a dramatic increase in the number of ground troops it currently maintains in Syria.  Even though US President Obama has repeatedly said he would not send combat troops to Syria, the US is finding it necessary to develop stronger ties with Arab forces in Syria.  Its main ally in Syria, the Kurds, is usually mistrusted by Arab populations, and the US believes that only with a stronger Arab forces can Daesh (the Islamic State) be defeated.   The stealth build-up of combat troops is worrisome.

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Posted April 3, 2016 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “3 April 2016

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  1. Good Morning Vinnie,

    I was a student in your world politics course a few years ago. I am now teaching 8th social studies in Springfield, I would love to connect with you to discuss what in the world is going on in the world.

    I have been thinking about reaching out for some time now but today your post about the Panama Papers, “there appears to be no one we can trust”, really stood out to me because this is how I feel. Quite frankly I’m having a hard time as a new adult (I’m 23) coping with this harsh reality and, what I believe to be the, harsher reality that many seem to not know or care about this fact.

    I’m sure you are very busy, as am I, but if you know of any events or even opportunities for me to connect your students with my students I would love the opportunity to pick your brain and learn more from you.

    In Solidarity,
    Erin

    • Dear Erin,
      I would love to get together with you. I must say that I am quite discouraged by what is going on in the world, so I don’t think that I can offer any optimism. But I still retain my resolve that I have an obligation to do something about the situation we find ourselves in.
      Things are pretty busy right now (it’s three weeks before the end of the term–you probably remember the frenzy at the end). But we should plan to get together for a coffee (perhaps at the Thirsty Mind) when you get some free time. Let me know when things ease up for you and we’ll set a date.
      Best,
      Vinnie

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