Saturday, May 22, 2010

Linkism

On the Gov 2.0 movement.

Google—monopolist?...search neutrality?:
In January, Howard Shelanski, an F.T.C. economist, underscored the agency’s attention to Google. In a speech at the University of Colorado, Mr. Shelanski said that the concern over network neutrality should also apply to a dominant online search engine that might unfairly discriminate against individual companies.

Though he did not name the search engine, the implication was clear: the F.T.C. was worried that Google could show prejudice against competitors — exactly the complaint that has been levied by some comparison shopping sites, including Foundem.

Medical technology that reduces costs (sadly, they only cite one example, though it’s a pretty cool one.)

What happened to Africa’s economy in 2003?

Childbirth worries in the U.S.:
…it is a problem typically associated with poor nations, not a rich, industrial country like the U.S. It is one of the primary indicators of public health that improves dramatically as countries develop and strengthen access to, and quality of, medical care.

Though the U.S. spends more per birth than any other nation, maternal mortality is higher here than in 40 other industrialized countries, including Croatia, Hungary and Macedonia, and is double that of Canada and much of Western Europe.

That the United States is backsliding in this most basic of healthcare measures has triggered attention and alarm in medical circles. In January, the Joint Commission, an independent organization that accredits and certifies healthcare organizations and programs, issued a "sentinel event alert" warning of the rising maternal mortality rates.

Mohamed El-Erian continues to warn about Europe.

The Wall Street Journal has a couple of nice wrap pieces on financial reform: the first, about hedge funds who are worried about the reform, and the second, how GE Capital was exempted from financial reform (boo!).

Compare and contrast, first, from Simon Schama:
Far be it for me to make a dicey situation dicier but you can’t smell the sulphur in the air right now and not think we might be on the threshold of an age of rage. The Spanish unions have postponed a general strike; the bloody barricades and the red shirts might have been in Bangkok not Berlin; and, for the moment, the British coalition leaders sit side by side on the front bench like honeymooners canoodling on the porch; but in Europe and America there is a distinct possibility of a long hot summer of social umbrage. Historians will tell you there is often a time-lag between the onset of economic disaster and the accumulation of social fury. In act one, the shock of a crisis initially triggers fearful disorientation; the rush for political saviours; instinctive responses of self-protection, but not the organised mobilisation of outrage. Whether in 1789 or now, an incoming regime riding the storm gets a fleeting moment to try to contain calamity. If it is seen to be straining every muscle to put things right it can, for a while, generate provisional legitimacy.

Act two is trickier. Objectively, economic conditions might be improving, but perceptions are everything and a breathing space gives room for a dangerously alienated public to take stock of the brutal interruption of their rising expectations. What happened to the march of income, the acquisition of property, the truism that the next generation will live better than the last? The full impact of the overthrow of these assumptions sinks in and engenders a sense of grievance that “Someone Else” must have engineered the common misfortune. The stock epithet the French Revolution gave to the financiers who were blamed for disaster was “rich egoists”. Our own plutocrats may not be headed for the tumbrils but the fact that financial catastrophe, with its effect on the “real” economy, came about through obscure transactions designed to do nothing except produce short-term profit aggravates a sense of social betrayal. At this point, damage-control means pillorying the perpetrators: bringing them to book and extracting statements of contrition. This is why the psychological impact of financial regulation is almost as critical as its institutional prophylactics. Those who lobby against it risk jeopardising their own long-term interests. Should governments fail to reassert the integrity of public stewardship, suspicions will emerge that, for all the talk of new beginnings, the perps and new regime are cut from common cloth. Both risk being shredded by popular ire or outbid by more dangerous tribunes of indignation.

And second:
Some of the nation's biggest financial firms have increased the perks and benefits they pay their chief executives, despite the glaring spotlight from a public fed up with handsome bonuses at bailed-out Wall Street banks.

On shale, the possible source of our oil and natural gas for a while.

The idiot’s guide to Mikhail Prokhorov.

Ed Glaeser’s proposal to reform Fannie and Freddie.

Was the Irish Miracle a mirage?

This:
This spring, a curious type of underground banking is proliferating in parts of China. Called minjian jeidai, it enables Chinese companies to borrow short-term money from wealthy households, rather than banks, via a broker armed with a mobile phone.
On paper, the practice seems almost logical. Many small and medium sized companies in China are currently finding it hard to get loans from banks; and many Chinese households desperately need somewhere to put their money (other than the overheated property sector or falling stock market).

But there is a catch. Since the practice is illegal, lending rates are very high; moreover nobody knows how large this practice might be. In the City of Qingdao, which I visited the other day, some bankers and officials “guessed” that minjian jeidai accounts for more than 10 per cent of local finance, a huge sum. “But nobody really knows,” one official hastily added; officially, this practice does not even exist.

Were college graduation rates ever high?

A thought:
A more recent Venetian is the casino hotel of that name in Las Vegas, which features a fake St. Mark’s campanile, Doge’s Palace, Grand Canal, and Rialto Bridge…this exercise in architectural escapism is not terribly different from Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli or Schinkel’s Roman Baths at Sanssouci.

The Venetian has been so profitable that in 2007 the Chinese government was persuaded by the hotel’s majority shareholder, Sheldon G. Adelson, to build a replica of the replica in Macao, the former Portuguese island colony and the Vegas of the Far East. In a Power Point pitch, the American promoters to Vice Premier Qian Qichen in Beijing projected a motto summing up the Möbius-like contortions at play: “Authenticity is the basis for fantasy.”

550,000 new businesses were started up in 2009, about 27,000 more per month than the 2008 rate and 60k more per month than the 2007 rate.

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