Friday, August 6, 2010


Some great thoughts from Patrick Chovanec on rising Chinese wages and value added manufacturing there here and here.

Fault lines in the Indian economy.

Genetically modified plants have gone wild! Why this is worrying in this instance:
Most intriguingly, two of the 288 tested plants showed man-made genes for resistance to multiple pesticides—so-called "stacked traits," and a type of seed that biotechnology companies like Monsanto have long sought to develop and market. As it seems, Mother Nature beat biotech to it.

"The big concern is traits that would increase invasiveness or weediness, traits such as drought tolerance, salt tolerance, heat or cold tolerance" says weed scientist Carol Mallory-Smith of Oregon State University—all the traits that Monsanto and others are currently developing to help crops adapt to climate change. "These traits would have the possibility of expanding a species' range."
As a scientist says elsewhere in the article, there could be a weed farmers “can’t control.”

Will the Russian wheat export ban hurt developing countries? These two sources think not; beyondbrics thinks it will hurt Egypt. Also, some speculation that it was climate change that caused the problem.

The LA Times thinks the FCC has given up on net neutrality; Tim Wu says Google’s reputation would be sullied forever were it to abandon net neutrality.

Consequences of the recession:
Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation and sending working parents scrambling to find care for them.

Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.

Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.
Let’s discuss the practical consequences here. For Hawaii: there are a number of economists/educational thinkers who believe the problem with our schoolchildren is that they don’t receive enough schooling (there are some who don’t, to be fair). So cutting down school days is not exactly the way you want to go. For Clayton County: look, I don’t know about the demographics of that area, but I’ll venture the guess there are a not-inconsiderable number of residents there who rely on the bus system to get to work and to get about their day generally. They’ll have many more troubles in pursuing their lives. More broadly, it will at the margins mean more cars on the road—so the County’s approach is a bit of a penny-wise, pound-foolish one. Of course, if you’re down to pennies, being penny-wise is the only option available…That said, here are the pounds it’s forsaking: more cars on the road means more wear-and-tear on the road, more carbon emissions, and more accidents. All of these things are bad. As to Colorado Springs: the widespread use of the streetlamp is one of the seminal events in increasing the safety and livability of cities, along with indoor plumbing. So it’s a shame to go back to the 18th century in that sense. And of course going back to the 18th century is not necessary: there’s this entity that can borrow money at low rates and keep such offenses to human welfare from happening.

Wikipedia heroes explaining rap music. Highly hilarious.

Some ideas for Senate reform.

The (business) cost of self-censorship in China.

Two articles on Paul Kagame, Rwandan President, make the case he’s evil.

An excellent article on the people who go around trying to collect money from people who play music in public (e.g. restaurants, bars, etc.) It’s kind of funny to think about the technology of this: there are people driving around talking to the bar owners, etc., and people making calls in a telemarketing-type program to said offenders. Whatever your thoughts about copyright, my intuition is pretty much always that any economic system that relies on telemarketing-type operations is ripe for profitable disruption.

Kenyans approve their new constitution.

Is Facebook just like a power company?

The salt lurking in your diet.

George Soros on the Euro, with some interesting points:
Another structural flaw in the euro is that it guards only against the danger of inflation and ignores the possibility of deflation. In this respect the task assigned to the European Central Bank is asymmetric. This is due to Germany’s fear of inflation. When Germany agreed to substitute the euro for the Deutschmark it insisted on strong safeguards to maintain the value of the currency. The Maastricht Treaty contained a clause that expressly prohibited bailouts and that ban has been reaffirmed by the German constitutional court. It is this clause that has made the current situation so difficult to deal with.

And this brings me to the gravest defect in the euro’s design: it does not allow for error. It expects member states to abide by the Maastricht criteria—which state that the budget deficit must not exceed 3 percent and total government debt 60 percent of GDP—without establishing an adequate enforcement mechanism. And now that several countries are far away from the Maastricht criteria, there is neither an adjustment mechanism nor an exit mechanism. Now these countries are expected to return to the Maastricht criteria even if such a move sets in motion a deflationary spiral. This is in direct conflict with the lessons learned from the Great Depression of the 1930s, and is liable to push Europe into a period of prolonged stagnation or worse. That will, in turn, generate discontent and social unrest. It is difficult to predict how the anger and frustration will express itself.

How much money does the U.S. military spend on operations centered around oil?

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