Monday, August 2, 2010


This LA Times report contains the very interesting information that Ahmed Chalabi has decided to ditch Malawi. Chalabi has been accused of many things—most of them true—but one thing he’s never been accused of is not knowing which way the wind is blowing. Also, the electrical grid in Iraq still sucks. The surge worked!

Ron Artest’s hair, a pictorial chronology.

Shocker: industry-sponsored drug trials more likely to show positive results.

Outlandish ideas indeed: what if we turned our highways…into solar panels? (while still being highways)

I’m not sure how excited to be for this, but this is potentially pretty awesome: AT&T, Verizon, and Discover are teaming up to try and bring mobile payments to the U.S. Note that it’s Discover that the phone companies are turning to—Discover, which is in third place in the credit card wars. Depending on how you look at it, they either have the most incentive to get it right, or no one will pick up the payments.

Fun private equity facts:
… in the first half of this year, most of the activity in the private equity industry was generated by buyout firms trading businesses among themselves. The ratio was 56%, according to the Centre for Management Buy-Out Research at Nottingham University Business School.

… the trend towards companies being shuffled between private equity houses should sound alarm bells among the providers of the capital, such as pension funds. In the private equity world, deals are the moment when the cash machine whirrs into action. Partners can collect their "carry", or performance bonus; buying firms can start to charge management fees on the cash they have raised from investors. But put yourself in the position of a pension fund with cash allocated to both relevant funds at Bridgepoint and KKR. In the Pets deal, you witness lots of individuals banking big cheques but you still hold the same investment in a chain of shops selling pets and pet accessories.
Somehow private equity has escaped the comprehensive besmirching that its fellow financial types have gotten, which only proves how deeply unfair the world is. I’m sure private equity types are dying to be vilified.

South Africa tries to climb up the value ladder.

Quoted for truth:
Before the crisis hit, the dynamic nature of the US economy was cited as one of its strong points by free marketeers, especially in comparison with European economies. Economic shocks, we were told, would be bring about a quick adjustment in a relatively free economy like the US. There was no need for government intervention. The price system would send the necessary signals and in no time at all the economy would be back at full employment running just as well, if not better, than before. That is, so long as things like oversized government, social insurance, and unions don't get in the way (like they supposedly do in Europe).

So it will be interesting to see if the same people who promoted the economy's ability to quickly respond to shocks and reabsorb unemployed labor and other resources now blame structural factors for the slow recovery, particularly the slow reabsorbtion rate for labor. … [B]laming structural factors serves as an excuse for the Fed and Congress to say there's nothing more they can do to help, the economy will just have to heal on its own.

What’s the story behind the Mongolian Neo-Nazis?

It looks like the media forgot about the weekend’s big wedding.

Things I assume are good but haven’t yet confirmed: George Packer on how screwed up the Senate is.

Mapping brainpower in the U.S.

Footnoting yesterday’s Mad Men episode.

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