Friday, June 11, 2010


On section 716 in financial regulation and derivatives reform. Wonky, but a good read.

Why did sport become such a big deal? (Focuses mostly on soccer in England, but has some good international points, namely this:
If the hype is extraordinary, so is the ambient presence. The last World Cup was all around us, on billboards, drink cans and cereal packets, on garage forecourts and millions of flag-bearing cars, in the windows of Boots the chemist and McDonald’s the burger joint (“Want tickets? Win tickets! Buy any large meal to play”). The cup-winning captain from 1966, Bobby Moore, was on every KitKat wrapper, despite having died 13 years earlier; his team-mate Geoff Hurst, now Sir Geoff, was appointed director of football for McDonald’s and had columns in two newspapers. The boys of 1966 were bigger in 2006 than they were in 1966.

The 2006 World Cup generated thousands of hours of television time, countless phone-ins and fan forums, endless blogs and eight hit records. It’s not just football: something similar happened in rugby with the 2003 World Cup and in cricket with the 2005 Ashes. And it’s not just Britain: each World Cup or Olympics makes more noise around the world than the last. American sport, in its different way, self-contained and tightly regulated, is getting bigger too: the television audience for the 2010 Super Bowl, 116m according to Nielsen, was the biggest ever recorded in America for any programme. With another World Cup starting on June 11th, half the nations of Europe have been strafed with giant images of the Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo in Armani Y-fronts, muscles rippling like a Greek god. Which raises the question: how did sport get so big? Whodunnit, and where, and when, and why?
And this:
In the 1960s and 1970s, the cinema kept up a steady supply of man-sized heroes: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson. In the 1980s, it provided human cartoons like Stallone and Schwarzenegger, and likeable everymen like Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis. Since the 1990s, it has favoured pretty boys (Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio), smiling scientologists (Tom Cruise) and more everymen (Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington). With the odd exception like George Clooney, the leading men are not pitched at grown-ups.

A similar transition took place in rock music. Its male superstars tend to be either elderly (Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney), earnest (Bono of U2, Chris Martin of Coldplay), neurotic (Robbie Williams), scary (Eminem) or baby-faced (Justin Timberlake). The last regular guy to reach rock superstardom may have been Bruce Springsteen, 35 years ago.

This gaping hole has been filled by sportsmen, from the basketball star Michael Jordan to the cricketer Andrew Flintoff. The artist Andy Warhol, who knew virtually nothing about sport, saw it coming 30 years ago: “the sports stars of today”, he said, “are the movie stars of yesterday.” The singer and poet Leonard Cohen made a similar point when I interviewed him in 1988: “In the Sixties, music was the mode, the most important form of communication. I think today it’s sports. The sports figures in America are much more attractive and interesting and their lives are much more dangerous than the rock figures. They are in the traditional heroic mould.”
Very nice read, overall.)

Speaking of very nice reads, this is a must read from The Atlantic on Paul Romer’s idea for charter cities. There is one flaw that I’d like to point out, but perhaps tomorrow.

An interview with David Remnick.

David Souter gave Harvard’s commencement speech; it sounds worlds better than Anthony Kennedy's (otherwise known as the worst commencement speech ever.) 

Glenn Beck’s novel features the line of dialogue: “Don’t tease the panther.” Just imagine the grossest possible innuendo there—no, they aren’t at a zoo—and that’s what it is. There are more hilarious groaners in there.

Matt Bai’s piece on whether or not Obama has coattails is largely uninteresting, I think—it succumbs to Magical Super President Theory, but I thought this was a very interesting observation on his part:
Of the five living Americans who have served as president, Obama is the only one who never worked as some kind of party strategist. George H. W. Bush oversaw the Republican National Committee for a time, and his son, George W. Bush, played a pivotal role in the headquarters of his father’s failed re-election bid in 1992. Bill Clinton got his start in politics helping to run George McGovern’s campaign in Texas. Even Jimmy Carter, who was thought to disdain tactical politics, was the chairman of the Democratic Party’s national midterm campaign in 1974. These men rose through their party organizations (in Bush’s case, this was more about a famous name than it was about holding a series of jobs), and they were intimate with the relatively cozy world of organizers, donors and local power brokers, the few thousand activists who control the workings of a political party.

Conflicting Iran news: on one hand, Mousavi just canceled a big rally; on the other hand, his wife is still speaking truth to power…sadly, the interview is a Guardian exclusive so you wonder how well it will port over to Iranian audiences (who, by the way, are very internet savvy: Iran is one of the most connected countries in the world).

Fascinating article about bringing comparison shopping to medicine.

Drilling for oil in the Great Lakes? Speaking of drilling, there’s a lot of geopolitical wrangling over pipelines.

U.S. companies are hanging on to $1.84 trillion. Here’s an interesting little thing to think about: both Google and Apple have huge stashes of cash that everyone has speculated they’ll use for acquisitions; Google, in fact, is making some moves into venture capital. Google is expanding hiring if I remember correctly, but I do think it’s interesting that these two tech giants—a part of a sector that is historically the most optimistic—aren’t exactly burning through their cash. In fact they may have too much cash—I remember some stories about Google building a trading platform; and Apple is advertising on the Stanford CDC for a forex trader (though I bet this is just straightforward hedging). I don’t exactly believe these two companies are too profitable or anything like that, but having that money sit around (or, worse, delegated to Wall Street) isn’t the most productive use in the world: maybe it’s time for some stock buybacks and dividend payouts?

Good on you Tom Harkin: he’s holding hearings on for-profit colleges.

Inflation watch: China and Great Britain.

How South Africa is relocating its poor to make way for World Cup amenities.

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