Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Linkism

Recent music of which I approve: Cee-Lo, “Georgia”, Big Boi/Andre 3000 “Lookin’ For You,” DJ Earworm’s “Like OMG Baby!” and Eminem feat. Lil’ Wayne “No Love.”

By the way, two tidbits re: college football. For one, the NCAA brought down the hammer on USC: two-year bowl ban, the loss of twenty scholarships, probation, recruiting penalties…The NCAA has kneecapped USC for several years, and that’s just wonderful for the Pac-10…err, Pac-16. I’m sure Mack Brown and Texas are fist-pumping vigorously at this moment. By the by, other new facts about the new Pac-16 behemoth:
...it's possible the Pac-16 would push for two automatic bids to the BCS, one for each division champion. That potential bonanza could open the possibility of the two division champs from one league playing for the national title, and it would eliminate the need for a conference championship game.
Wait, what exactly was the point of this if they aren’t playing a championship game? Who goes to the Bowl that Shall Not Be Named? (You know, the one down Pasadena way that takes place on New Year’s, that involves a certain flower…) Who’s the champ? There’s got to be a conference championship, right? What am I missing here? I do like multiple automatic BCS bids though.

This is one of the greatest data visualizations I’ve ever seen. Naturally, it’s for the World Cup. Also, here’s a Slate piece on the early history of soccer in the U.S.

Big Pharma: incredibly corrupt.

Maliki: the balls on this guy, huh? “Iraq needs a strong leader—me!” The chutzpah on this guy.

A very nice Clay Shirky profile features this very nice line: “I've always been in communities of cultures that make things-artists, theater people, Internet entrepreneurs," said Mr. Shirky, a boyish, bald 46. "No matter now jaded or cynical someone's external demeanor, if you're in a group of people who make things, you're in a group of optimists."

Does writing without hyperlinks force you to be a better writer?

More on China’s heavy investment in international infrastructure: they’re building in Siberia now, and they’ve also got big plans for Greece:
Spurred on by government incentives and bargain-basement prices, the Chinese are planning to pump hundreds of millions -- perhaps billions -- of euros into Greece even as other investors run the other way. The cornerstone of those plans is the transformation of the Mediterranean port of Piraeus into the Rotterdam of the south, creating a modern gateway linking Chinese factories with consumers across Europe and North Africa.

The port project is emerging as a bellwether for Greek plans to pay down debt and reinvent its broken economy by privatizing inefficient government-owned utilities, trains and even casinos. This week, the Chinese shipping giant Cosco assumed full control of the major container dock in Piraeus, just southwest of Athens. In return, the Chinese have pledged to spend $700 million to construct a new pier and upgrade existing docks.
More on the China beat: Ezra Klein talks to the omnipresent Patrick Chovanec (part one and two) about China’s property boom/bubble, and then the Los Angeles Times includes this interesting information on Chinese regulators attempting to contain the bubble:
Now policymakers reportedly are planning to add a more powerful tool: a general property tax that would make it more expensive for investors to own multiple units. Speculators have bought millions of homes and apartments in China, pushing up prices and helping fuel a housing crisis, because many of those units sit vacant.

Chinese buyers currently pay a one-time transaction fee when they purchase real estate. But local governments do not assess annual levies like their counterparts in the United States and other developed nations do. Pilot property tax programs now are under consideration in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chongqing, a sprawling municipality of 30 million in southwestern China, according to Chinese media reports.

Foreign Policy has a nice series of retrospectives on the Green Revolution in Iran at year one. I wanted to highlight this piece about Twitter and the protests:
Before one of the major Iranian protests of the past year, a journalist in Germany showed me a list of three prominent Twitter accounts that were commenting on the events in Tehran and asked me if I know the identities of the contributors. I told her I did, but she seemed disappointed when I told her that one of them was in the United States, one was in Turkey, and the third -- who specialized in urging people to "take to the streets" -- was based in Switzerland.

it is time to get Twitter's role in the events in Iran right. Simply put: There was no Twitter Revolution inside Iran. As Mehdi Yahyanejad, the manager of "Balatarin," one of the Internet's most popular Farsi-language websites, told the Washington Post last June, Twitter's impact inside Iran is nil. "Here [in the United States], there is lots of buzz," he said. "But once you look, you see most of it are Americans tweeting among themselves."
The Guardian also has a good wrap-up.

There are dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico.

An underrated development priority: toilets. More information:
…According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 40% of the world — 2.6 billion people — engages in open defecation. This lack of toilets is the cause of an estimated 2 million preventable deaths a year, mostly in children killed by a variety of dysentery-like intestinal ailments that result from ingesting human fecal matter. When large numbers of people are defecating outdoors, it's extremely difficult to avoid ingesting human waste, either because it's entered the food or water supplies or because it has been spread by flies and dust.

On the failure of regulation from James Surowiecki:
The obvious problems of graft and the revolving door between government and industry, in other words, were really symptoms of a more fundamental pathology: regulation itself became delegitimatized, seen as little more than the tool of Washington busybodies. This view was exacerbated by the way regulation works in the U.S. Too many regulators, for instance, are political appointees, instead of civil servants. This erodes the kind of institutional identity that helps create esprit de corps, and often leads to politics trumping policy. Congress, meanwhile, often takes a famine-or-feast attitude toward funding, allocating less money when times are good and reinflating regulatory budgets after the inevitable disaster occurs. (In 2006 and 2007, for instance, Congress effectively cut the S.E.C.’s budget, even as the housing bubble was bursting.) This makes it hard for agencies to do consistent work. It also contributes to the sense that regulation is something it’s O.K. to skimp on.

The social psychologist Tom Tyler has shown that acceptance of a law’s legitimacy is the key factor in getting people to obey it. So reforming the system isn’t about writing a host of new rules; it’s about elevating the status of regulation and regulators. More money wouldn’t hurt: as the conservative economists George Stigler and Gary Becker point out, paying regulators competitive salaries (as is done, for instance, in Singapore, which has one of the world’s least corrupt, and most efficient, bureaucracies) would attract talent and reduce the temptations of corruption. It would also send a message about the value of what regulators do. That’s important, because what the political theorists Philip Pettit and Geoffrey Brennan have called “the economy of esteem” is crucial to making public service work. Offering regulators the kind of reputational rewards that, say, soldiers or firefighters get will make it easier for them to develop a similar sense of common purpose.

What’s the best way to fit a hypothetical 51st star on the flag?

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