When China is no longer self-sufficient in basic agricultural products, how will the work look like?

New book argues the rise of the west was not due to superior institutions as it was due to rent-seeking behaviour that plunders the world’s physical and human resources.

Goodness in one compartment of life coexisted with violence and cruelty in another in Howard’s End, just as Edwardian sincerity and righteousness coexisted with moral doubts and ambiguities in E.M. Forster’s life.

There’s been a lot of talks over our “inequity aversion”.  How interesting that on our path to pursue this ever-so-illusive, one side of the ocean choose fairness, the other equality.

We blame German’s aversion to stimulus spending on its hyperinflationary episodes in the last century.  Now this obsession with Internet privacy, what is it this time, memories of mass deportations?

What does a “golden age” for biopharmaceutical sector in China look like? A hundred biotech parks up and running.

Message behind the burqa ban: We are finally free, now you have to be too.

The winner-take-all world of supermodels, where fuzzy values like beauty and edginess is about as stable as that “gut feeling” on Wall Street.

An interesting discussion on the use of colons.  On a related note, I recently discovered that in Dutch, colons are applied differently.  Their specific SOV (subject-object-verb) sentence constructions make many of their sentences appear longer.  And since colons make scarcer appearances, sentences can appear run-on to English speakers. For example, sentences can very well start with “also” followed immediately by another sentence, with multiple “and” peppered in a sentence running over two to three lines long, all without pause.  I’ve never thought about how the use of punctuations can vary with languages.  But that makes more sense the more I think about it.

And awesome sign of the day.

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The pipe dreams of an Exxon-BP merger.  Great, an even bigger conglomerate to look forward to.

The young, educated, affluent, and tech-savvy Chinese are, forgetting how to write Chinese.

Facts can potentially make misinformation stronger. So when what we think we know is actually wrong, there’s no hope in correcting that misconception no matter how much facts get thrown in our faces.

Inequality seems to attack our health above more material differences. But if economic growth merely reinforces inequality, there’s not much hope there is it?

Are universities responsible in serving economic objectives?

Belly buttons, race, centre of gravity, hidden height, and success in sport. It’s all related!

Thirty percent of medical practitioners in the UK are non-UK trained.  Thus when patients die at the hands of a foreign-trained doctor, the question of language competency comes to the forefront.

Another Middle Eastern country modernizing under the radar.

Not to say looking dowdy and boring is the way to female empowerment, but busting out a glamour calendar might not be the most effective method of celebrating Czech female MP’s political clout.

There’s no corner of the world where China hasn’t made significant investments in, Africa, Latin America, corners of Europe where nobody else wants to touch – Iceland, Greece. It’s just a matter of time before its economic interests drag it into local politics.

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Easy credit and wage inequality

by Dana on July 13, 2010

Creativity in education. We are doing better, so why is everyone so worried?

Cougar lust, myth or biological certainty? Or in the most expedient and most frequently quoted male-speak: Evolution made me do it.

Grameen Bank brings sub-sub-subprime back to US with legitimacy, serving the under-banked low income, often single mother market.

The re-orientation of Turkey’s foreign policy is really a game of “why shouldn’t we”. Why is everyone so surprised?

As long as social norms reward social media participation, we’re gonna stick with it.

Shutting down blogs and starting subscription-based email newsletters. Is this a trend?

Analysis on whether China be able to out-innovate the US in the foreseeable future: from its leadership makeup to education.

On the value and accuracy of research papers – which methodologies to trust, how much do peer-reviewing a document really mean, and when to agree with the conclusion.

The expansion of easy credit was the result of increasing wage inequality in America.  Unable to help their constituents to get the kind of education they need for higher-paying jobs, legislators went the other route – in guaranteeing them more credit for consumption.

Last but not least, “It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!”.  Sort of an antidote.

How many euthanasia cases will we see later this year as a result of the elapsed estate tax exemption?

Consider the possibilities of a post-growth world economy.

Economic history – Edward Chancellor on the choice between default and inflation when it comes to bad sovereign debts.

What might become the world’s fastest growing economy. No, it’s not China, nor India, nor Brazil, nor Turkey.

The EU, what is it good for?  And more importantly, what will its ageing voters choose for? Openness and flexibility, or corporatist and populist?

Is Google Games in the works? And what’s with Zynga and all that secrecy?

Women make more in part-time work than men. Whoo-hoo! Anyone fooled by just how patronizingly reassuring this is?

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What I’m reading this weekend

by Dana on July 10, 2010

George Soros the story teller: How the euro got to where it is today.

China’s ginormous banks have taken over the league table. But they are still some way to go before taking over the world of finance.

Hitler lost the war because Stalin was willing to throw almost unlimited manpower at the front.

How the Iran of today us nothing like the Iran from thirty years ago: the atmosphere of fear has gone away.

The bizarre communist revivalist show that is Slavoj Zizek.

When the stress tests pose no stress, financial markets don’t buy it.

This sounds like a step backwards: educated Turkish women have trouble finding work because they want to keep wearing their headscarves.

Greek’s oversized military spending, and those that facilitate it.

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BP’s demise eminent?

by Dana on July 9, 2010

Spinning something out of nothing of the Daily Show’s supposed woman problem, tapping into feminist blogophere’s “outrage world”.

Now that the Me Generation’s all grown up, will we see more strikes and more social unrests?

W00t! sends AP a bill for quoting their blog, which AP mandates their press partners to do.  Ouch!

Gold: the overvalued inflation hedge.

There’s the oil war, and there’s a gas war.  And China might’ve just check-mated both her rivals in this battle.

The explosion of “-ize” in our management-speak.

What I learned from the article – the triage of power perched at the top of the EU are: the Parliament (rotating presidency, currently Buzek), the Council (Van Rompuy), and the Commission (Barroso).

Croatia is exporting its labour to pay off its deficits. Not the smartest thing to do in a middle-income and rapidly-ageing country.

Britain already preparing for the eminent demise of BP?

Did North Korea’s 7-0 broadcasted loss to Portugal sully the regime’s propaganda plans?

Europe says ok to sending it’s citizens’ financial data to the US in the name of counter-terrorism. Comforting.

I’ve been out of school for a while. But when I was there, I did study, quite a bit. Has it changed that much in the last few years?

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Snuggling squirrels

by Dana on July 8, 2010

How even a Kindle is too distracting a device for long-form reading.

Who isn’t the ticking bomb nowadays?

Will the Saudis halt their oil exploration activities before the rest of the world gets a grip on their oil dependencies?

Long term unemployment hits the older and more educated most.

While immigration to the US flat-lined during the recession, it sky-rocked in some of the hardest-hit places in Europe.

All adult picky eaters like fries and chicken fingers.

“A Freudian slip, for example, is when we say one thing when we mean a mother. Another. You know what I mean.”

How squirrels are surprisingly similar to primates, including the act of greeting each other by nuzzling each other’s cheek and lip that look like a kiss.

If evolution favours meat-eating primates, then there’s no evolutionary support for veganism?

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Standing room only on flights

by Dana on July 7, 2010

What brain scans of psychopaths look like.

A series of discussions on why firms are hoarding cash.

Sensationalism, and the myth of the Lost Generation in Australia.

The four renegade German professors that spoke out against the euro back in 1998, are back again.

Standing room only on flights?  Last shred of luxury and mystery gone from commercial flights.  But there’s the issue of seat belts – can you be belted standing up?

Our trust of economic models hasn’t gotten us too far yet.  So is the mainstream agreement on more stimulus spending based on debt based on yet more blind trust of modeling?

Finding fingerprints to authenticate masterpieces.

Euro’s been picking up in the last few days.  But some say the worst is yet to come.

Have heard similar exclamations on the exorbitant prices of things in Africa. In Congo, a piece of broccoli costs 13 dollars in a grocery store,

Economic growth is the sweetest revenge. Who needs who? Europe or Turkey?

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Insidious benevolence

by Dana on July 6, 2010

The nineteenth-century German politician Otto von Bismarck was hardly anyone’s idea of a nanny, but he constructed the world’s first nanny state for the sole purpose of making German citizens so codependent on the German Reich that they would never think of rebelling against it. By offering Germans a prototype of the modern welfare state, Bismarck’s goal was not improving the common man’s lot—it was his way of inducing the common man, when faced with personal difficulties, to expect the state to look after him, instead of relying on himself to deal with his own problems.

Ironically, Bismarck launched the first welfare state because he feared the influence of Karl Marx on the German working class. Marx opposed the welfare state precisely because he recognized that it would create a population codependent on the ruling elite in charge of the German Reich. It would tend to make them more docile and helpless, less self-reliant and rebellious. Today’s European socialists, along with America’s welfare statists, are not the descendants of Marx; they are the great-grandchildren of Bismarck.

A rather cynical take on the social psychology behind the construction of a welfare state nowadays.

But as paranoid as some Libertarians may sound, there exist throngs of well-meaning politicians and policy-makers with intentions to improve the general well-being of citizens, but inevitably cultivate a culture of dependence and co-dependence.  The spirit of independence might be the de facto norm in many lands, but the zeal to defend it is hardly universal.

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Germany is likely the only country in the world where Ricardian equivalence — the theory that the government cannot stimulate private consumption by cutting taxes because rational actors know that taxes will eventually have to rise again and therefore put aside savings — actually holds true.

As for reasons behind Germany’s obsession with savings? Other than the demographic pressures and a cultural of frugality?

History plays a role:

Whereas the Anglo-Saxon world is characterized by what one could call pragmatic optimism, Germans instinctively think about the long term, and they aren’t disposed toward cheerfulness. Whereas America’s recent history teaches hope, Germans see in their history the need to be cautious: In the last 100 years, Germans have experienced two currency reforms and the rise and demise of three regimes.

A distinctly German view on economic activity and the role of trade:

It’s an economic model that traces back to the beginning of the postwar period, when booming exports were the backbone of the Wirtschaftswunder, or economic miracle — the period of strong growth in the 1950s that transformed the destroyed country into a major world economic power. When Germans saw Volkswagens on roads all over the world, it wasn’t only a source of income, but proof that the country was once again an accepted member of the international community. Add Germany’s traditional obsession with engineering and its distaste for the service sector, and it may become clearer why the country is prone to mercantilism.

How government sees its place in macro-economic policy-making:

Germany simply does not have a tradition of macroeconomic policy, at least not in the American sense of managing aggregate demand. Contemporary German economics has its roots in Ordnungspolitik, a unique school of thought that emerged in the 1940s and for which there is no English translation. Ordnungspolitik accepts that government intervention is necessary for the economy to function properly, but the role it assigns to the state is fundamentally different than in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. Whereas most American macroeconomists believe in discretionary intervention in the way of countercyclical monetary and fiscal policy, German economists encourage the government to only alter the framework within which economic agents interact.

We’ve traded nutrition for looks when it comes to supermarket foods in the last half-century.
The future of carbon omissions rests on how urbanization is managed in the emerging Asia, and China in particular.
Things are enjoyable when they connect us to pleasures we already possess.
A piece on snobbery wanders into the realm of soccer, and ultimately the French, which is well-versed in both subjects.
Why a new global reserve currency is not that easy to come by.
Quite like this style guide, does answer some nagging questions on grammar.
Another piece on the relationship between happiness and parenting in a pretty short time frame. This one compares momentary happiness to nostalgic purposefulness. Enhanced by Zemanta

In Bruges

by Dana on July 4, 2010

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Flemish art has a pretty religious slant and violent undercurrent to it. This one, Last Judgement, visited by Colin Farrell and Brandon Gleeson in In Bruges, by Hieronymus Bosch.

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The Judgment of Cambyses, story from Herodotus where the corrupt judge Sisamnes, guilty of taking a bribe, was taken and skinned.  His son takes his place as the judge, with his father’s skin draped over the chair.  Charming tale.

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From Ghent, Belgium

by Dana on July 1, 2010

- The city has some serious history. Some of the buildings are close to 900 years old. Buildings rightly expose the histories behind them, e.g. drawings depicting medieval torture methods such as chopping off prisoners limbs, which the Belgians incidentally later took to the Congo, and which later spread to other parts of Africa.

- It’s not a city many non-Europeans might have heard of, but the place is bustling. Schools are out, and many people are vacationing. That, combined with the summer sale – which the Belgians formally announce and market (July 1-7 in case you are interested), has the shopping streets jam packed.

- The whole city is on construction. One of the large pleins is completely squared off for renovation, almost every single church in the city has some part of it worked on, every second or third houses you see around the city centre has a painter or scaffolding in front of it. Quick round-up of the skyline totals at least 20 cranes. Apparently much of the city’s sewage and phone line system’s getting a makeover. The city is very old and beautiful, but some parts do need some serious work. Infrastructure, gentrification or fiscal stimulus, the construction sector’s keeping a lot of people employed.

- Ghent has a castle smack in the middle of it. A real, gigantuan castle.

- Housing looks much more spacious than the NL, with houses in the city center with built-in garages. Prices are much lower too. There are also a lot if for rent and for sale signs all around the city. In comparison, the Dutch housing market has all but frozen up in the last half year in anticipation of less favorable changes in mortgage interest subsidies.

- Ghent is for the most part, Dutch speaking. In my limited interaction with the service industry however, a high proportion of those are French-speaking. Perhaps better economies and better pay up north?

On driving habits

by Dana on July 1, 2010

I’m taking a short break away from the Lowlands, which gives me a good chance to reflect on the driving habits of my current compatriots.

There’s no doubt that the crowdedness of the country contributes to the overall feeling of aggression on the road. Behaviours such as tailgating, switching lanes with no signaling, not keeping to the right, relatively frequent use of the middle finger, all adds up to a pretty harrowing experience.

Taking into account the prevalance of biking as a serious mode of tranportaion in the country, perhaps this should not e a surprise.

Compared to the 2 cars per family (if not more) of more spacious lands, most Dutch families, when possible with work, make do with one car. That means a large portion of drivers on the road use cars only very occasionally.

I think of it this way: all those times much of North America spends on the road, driving to and from work, to the grocery store, going to movies, picking up kids from school; the average Dutch spends that time honing his ability to tackle various obstacles placed in front of his bike.

It would seem to me that as trivial as driving might be as a task, there is something to be said about practice. In my two years here, I have witnessed some truly mind-boggling driving behaviors that I can only attribute to time substituted on the bikes. In all fairness though, I’m also only on the road on the weekends too, so the sample is probably slanted towards the more amateurish set of weekend drivers. Alas, irony strikes as cloggie land mandates very expensive driving schools (around three thousand euros). And perhaps recognizing a rather unfortunate deficiency in manners, there are now discussion on driving exam touch-up when people renew their driving licences.

FT- It is quite clear that an isolated discussion of the need to reduce fiscal deficits will not work.

oecd.org- Since 1990, the number of people worldwide living in absolute poverty has fallen by about half a billion. What’s changed? In large part, China.

spiked-online.com- If growth scepticism were to be summed up in one phrase, it is “I’m in favour of economic growth, but…”’.

WSJ- Danone is among a vanguard of Western multinationals staking much of their future on the world’s poor.

thegreenskeptic.com- Drive 100 miles and you need to charge up, and there is currently very little infrastructure to support electric vehicle charging.

Voxeu- Do buyers discriminate based on race?

eurointelligence.com- If excessive austerity is imposed on Spain, the result will be even more miserable than for Korea, with at least as bad international impact.

NY Times- Ireland is pinning nearly all its hopes on an export revival to lift the economy.

blogs.telegraph.co.uk- Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says the Fed is slowly losing its marbles.

tnr.com- “Is this revolution a creature of globalization, or does global capitalism owe some of its energy and resilience to global English in all its manifestations?”

theatlantic.com- A paternal contribution may not be as essential as we think.

telegraph.co.uk- Women’s bodies have become so associated with sex that now a mothers’ magazine has called breast-feeding ‘creepy’.

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