Scenes from the decline and fall of this weblog …

Yep, now I’m reduced to throwing hit ‘n’ run insults at short exceprts out of context from newspaper columns. Might as well go for the gusto by using the most hackneyed device on the web and awarding a “King Stupid” award to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times for this gem

How is it that Egypt imprisons the leading democracy advocate in the Arab world, after a phony trial, and not a single student group in America calls for divestiture from Egypt? (I’m not calling for it, but the silence is telling.) How is it that Syria occupies Lebanon for 25 years, chokes the life out of its democracy, and not a single student group calls for divestiture from Syria? How is it that Saudi Arabia denies its women the most basic human rights, and bans any other religion from being practiced publicly on its soil, and not a single student group calls for divestiture from Saudi Arabia?

I would guess that the reason that there is no campaign for divestiture from Syria is that it doesn’t have a stock exchange.

There are a few Syrian companies quoted on the bourse in Doha, but they’re not exactly mainstream investments. The Egyptian stock exchange is absolutely tiny; I seem to remember that Fleming-CIIC Securities (part of the JP Morgan Chase group) is the only international broker operating there (edit: Google says I’m wrong and that HSBC and ABN Amro have a presence. But google also tells me that the market capitalisation of Egypt is only $30bn), and although the Saudi stock market is capitalised at around $40bn, investment into it by foreigners is tightly regulated; basically, the only way you can buy into it is through a country fund managed by a Saudi bank and listed in London. Unlike Israel, which boasts a number of companies with New York listings and two S&P500 constituents, investment in the three countries mentioned is pretty hard-core emerging markets stuff, not really the widows-and-orphans territory of your typical university endowment.

In fact, on the basis of the above research, I would hazard a guess (and perhaps award a small prize to anyone who can gainsay me with proof), that the major American university endowments have no investments at all in Egypt, Syria or Saudi Arabia, making it rather fucking pointless to campaign for them to “divest”.

It is considered traditional at this point to fulminate about the kind of individual who makes this sort of pig-ignorant blanket assertion without bothering to spend five minutes on google to check the facts, but I’m scared of the blowback from that one.

edit Apparently I thought this post was so great that I posted it eight times. I don’t know how that happened, but I think normality has now been restored.


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