Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Reasons to be afraid of a municipal bond collapse.

The heavy weight of history in economic development:
The largest silver mines in the Spanish empire were the Potosí mines, discovered in 1545 in what is now Bolivia. Exploiting the mines was dangerous, and in the late 16th century, the Spanish introduced the mita system of forced labour. Villages near Potosí were obliged to provide one-seventh of their adult male population to work the mines, and the mita system continued until its abolition in 1812.

That is history. This is not: the former mita districts are 25 per cent poorer than apparently identical districts on the other side of a boundary that ceased to mean anything 198 years ago. A long-abolished colonial system has somehow shaped the modern world.

How text messages might improve health care.

Why India is trying to create a national ID system for its 1.2 billion citizens:
The Indian government is expected to spend as much as $250 billion over five years on programs aimed at the poor, including subsidies for food, diesel, fertilizer and jobs. But 40% of the benefits, as the system now stands, will go to the wrong people or to "ghosts" with fake identification papers, according to a report by brokerage firm CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. Today's ration cards, for example, are issued on paper, and are relatively easy to forge or doctor.

Michael Hiltzik looks back at Xerox PARC.

Currency wars as beggar-thy-neighbor.

A rebuttal to Gladwell’s twitter piece in the New Yorker.

Insecticide from genetically modified plants is polluting waterways.

Why some banks don’t like low interest rates.

So Jim DeMint is holding the Senate hostage:
...Non-controversial legislation in the U.S. Senate gets "hotlined." That means it goes out on an internal messaging system to see if anyone has an objection. If no one does, the legislation is often passed using unanimous consent, and without any floor debate. That's done so the Senate doesn't waste a lot of time on things like post offices or -- to use an example that got hotlined recently --the Longline Catcher Processor Subsector Single Fishery Cooperative Act.

As the Senate approaches the end of a session, these non-controversial bills build up and often get passed in a rush at the end. And that's where we are now: The Senate is expected to adjourn either Wednesday or Thursday, and most expected a few non-controversial bills to pass during those final hours. But DeMint is saying he'll block any bills that aren't hotlined by this evening -- a position, according to his office, that the Republican leadership was notified of last week. Anything less than 48 hours, he says, simply doesn't give him and his staff time to review the legislation. If the bill -- and, in some cases, its CBO score -- isn't delivered by tonight, it'll have to wait until the lame-duck session.
Matthew Yglesias compares the practice to the Liberum Veto of the Poland that helped doom it to conquest and subjugation by stronger powers (come on, we don’t want Canada to invade us, do we?!?), Ryan Avent correctly notes that if the legislative process is broken continuously for a very long time ("Broken American Senate" est. 1840! Beat that, Abercrombie & Fitch!), it’s probably time to start blaming institutions rather than specific people in them, and Dave Weigel has an excellent point:
It's a new way -- if the Senate needed a new way -- for the minority to slow things down. When I asked Democrats about it, spokesman Rodell Mollineau took the chance to jab at Mitch McConnell. "If their Conference continues to follow the lead of the junior Senator from South Carolina," he said, "then the only title that will ever proceed his name or Sen. McConnell’s name will be Minority Leader." That sounds awfully optimistic: The big political story of the 2009-2010 Congress has been that there is no downside whatsoever for slowing down the majority's work in an obscure and hard-to-cover fashion.

Brazil’s central banker doubling down on the “currency war” narrative”, and a consideration of Lula’s career from the Financial Times. Also, Brazil is set to become the nation with leading coffee drinkers in the world.

How will Facebook’s worth affect Mark Zuckerberg’s donation?

An excellent profile of David Axelrod.

How much debt are we in, really?

A highly wonky post on inflation measurements and inequality.

How addressing primary care is necessary to address health care disparities.

The irony of South Carolina opening its own private equity fund.

An interactive map of Manhattan displaying where its fictional characters have lived.

The water use reckoning coming in the Colorado River.

An illustrated history of couches.

Is the solution to congestion privatization?

The hunt for the missing Gulf oil.

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