Post-crisis Greece

by Dana on June 30, 2010

businessweek.com- Many Greeks view the state with a combination of a sense of entitlement, mistrust, and dislike similar to that of teenagers vis-à-vis their parents.

US Federal Reserve- “It is not the wolf at the door but the termites in the walls that require attention. The sooner the house’s structure is strengthened, the better.”

FT- It is time to recognise that Greece is not just suffering from a liquidity crisis; it is facing an insolvency crisis too.

blogs.ft.com- The eurozone’s most vulnerable economies are getting little benefit from the euro’s fall because they are too inflexible and uncompetitive.

standpointmag.co.uk- The least bad option would be for the German bloc to leave EMU. Germany’s banks might still have to be recapitalised, but it would be less costly than trying to “rescue” Greece.

The Economist- Rich countries with their greying populations should be saving whereas younger, fast-growing developing countries should be borrowing heavily. But in fact it is the other way round.

NY Times- Austrian banks slowly recover from a sharp economic downturn and tries to pay down a pile of private-sector debt.

marketwatch.com- We’re still living in a fantasyland. Most people have no idea what’s really going on in the economy.

WSJ- Hayek understood that the opposite of top-down collectivism was not selfishness and egotism. A free modern society is all about cooperation.

Newsweek- We may be reaching the limits of economics. The disconnect between theory and reality seems ominous.

newyorker.com- Financial illiteracy isn’t new, but the consequences have become more severe, because people now have to take so much responsibility for their financial lives.

cjr.org- Rolling Stone made a virtue of the fact that it is not wedded to the news cycle in order to produce journalism that helped drive it.

seedmagazine.com- No animal spends more of its allotted time on earth fussing over sex than homo sapiens.

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Unworkable compromises

by Dana on June 29, 2010

Modest salaries, high taxes, but high level of social safety net: that was the social contract stricken between the governments and their peoples across post-war European lands, in various forms. The welfare manifests itself in various forms: high level of labour market protection, unemployment benefits, guaranteed pension, subsidized housing and education, etc.

With greying populations and a fiscal trend that can only predict more costs and less tax revenues, the most logical thing for governments to do would’ve been to save more and borrow less.  Growth does not seem to be an option.

But that is hardly an attractive option with voters with their own interests to protect.  Voting with their ages and the social contract they still believe they are entitled to, working-class Europeans bought into their politicians’ utopian vision that they can live better without actually making things better.

Spain is now grappling with the highest unemployment level of Europe. And many people have no savings.  After all, why bother with financial literacy and savings when you can never be sacked from your job, are supposedly guaranteed a pension, and are entitled to live forever in subsidized housing?  And the perverse incentives of paternalistic policies is hardly unique to Spain, so you can betcha that this story of broken promises will only be repeated in more versions than one in the coming years.

In Greece, the trouble seems to be compounded with a troublesome political past (as recent as the 80s):

The Greek crisis reminds us that while Greece is a part of Western Europe, it is also a place where hammers and sickles and “F—- the Police” decorate the city walls; where references to civil wars and world wars and postwar American meddling come up in daily conversation; where immigrants fleeing violence and economic plunder scramble atop the life raft of Greece’s fragile European shores, only to fester in homogenous Athens. It is also a country that in some ways still mirrors the lands across the Mediterranean—the countries of North Africa and the Middle East that continue to be strangled by Third World ways and won’t simply acclimate to the rules of the West as one might have hoped.

Little India in the middle of New Jersey

by Dana on June 29, 2010

Hilarious account on the growth in Indian immigration in a small New Jersey town, which experienced the same kind of demographic and population shift that countless other towns and cities must have gone through in North America.

In the 11 years I lived in Manhattan’s Chelsea district, that area transformed from a place with gangs and hookers to a place with gays and transvestite hookers to a place with artists and no hookers to a place with rich families and, I’m guessing, mistresses who live a lot like hookers.

And what successful assimilation looks like, tongue in cheek.

[I]f you look at the current Facebook photos of students at my old high school, J.P. Stevens, which would be very creepy of you, you’ll see that, while the population seems at least half Indian, a lot of them look like the Italian Guidos I grew up with in the 1980s: gold chains, gelled hair, unbuttoned shirts. In fact, they are called Guindians. Their assimilation is so wonderfully American that if the Statue of Liberty could shed a tear, she would. Because of the amount of cologne they wear.

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weblogs.hitwise.com- Since it forced users to register in order to view its content, the Times has lost market share.

The Economist- The future for blogs may be special-interest publishing.

themoneyillusion.com- If you disagree with someone, their views will always seems simplistic.

NY Times- Media organizations can file all the briefs they want about protecting their work product from free-riders and insurgent hordes of digital pilot fish, but once they break their own rules and start feeding on one another, the game is over.

niemanlab.org- Blogging, uploading photos, editing Wikipedia entries — these are all symptoms of the surplus put to use. And they should be celebrated as such.

blogs.ft.com- Japanese executives seem to have had more difficulties handling relations with their Chinese workers than western competitors.

hollywoodreporter.com- Congress has driven a stake through the heart of movie boxoffice futures trading.

Reuters- Reducing deficits while at the same time accelerating economic growth: is it a chimera, or does it actually exist?

Business Insider- The pain of austerity will be far higher in European than it would be in the US, which makes the European austerity vs. U.S. stimulus divide just perverse.

econospeak.blogspot.com- Unless one is in a world of uniformly small, highly open economies, aggressive Keynesianism can be justified one country at a time. But the US is not one of those.

spiegel.de- The G-20 is now threatening to become a club of members that blame each other for their problems.

theatlantic.com- Instead of asking parents and non-parents whether they are happy right now, we might ask whether they are becoming more like the people they want to be.

NY Times- Iceland’s capital elect itself a former comedian.

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Business Insider- Spain faces a confluence of events in July, whereby it will need to finance 21.7 billion euros within a single month.

time.com- To the extent that China is using Africa as an experiment — to try out ideas of how it might be in the world — its African adventure is worthy of close study.

WSJ- Cluelessness is all too common in our expert-mediated world.

ivanhoff.com- The difference between a great value investor and a good value investor is that the former knows how to time its entry properly.

footballpolemics.wordpress.com- Through group play, 2010 is indisputably the lowest scoring World Cup in history.

VoxEU.org- Hard industrial policies should be replaced by soft industrial policies in developing countries, where collaboration is the key.

psyfitec.com- We need more and better quantitative modeling to improve the models, not less. But along with this we need better management and understanding of what these models mean.

Infectious Greed- The startup financing landscape has been transformed: a combination of ease of entry, lower capital requirements, failing incumbent VC firms, and general fervor has driv…

gigaom.com- When Facebook launched its Open Graph protocol in April, blanketing the web with “like” and “recommend” buttons, it seemed obvious that one of the company’s goals was to…

blogs.discovermagazine.com- Touching rough sandpaper makes social interactions seem more adversarial, and when sitting on a hard chair, negotiators take tougher stances but if they sit on a soft on…

esquire.com- What could possibly go wrong with all truth, all the time? Creepiness, for starters.

Wired- The act of public confession may help reinvigorate the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is gravely weakened by alcohol abuse.

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image

You get this kind of photos.

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The ultimate Englishman

by Dana on June 25, 2010

From an obituary of Norman Macrae, whom was the deputy editor of The Economist for 23 years.

For all his interest in the rest of the world, he was a very English figure.  His ideas were rooted in the English liberalism of the 19th century – a liberalism that celebrated the individual over the collective, progress over reaction, free thought over superstition.

And on his championship of limited governance and individual freedom:

His 1975 survey on America’s 200th birthday, in which he chastises the Democrats for flirting with the Fabian cult of government expertise, conservatives for flirting with religious extremism, and business for underinvesting in innovation, might easily be a portrait of Barack Obama’s America. Big government has been on the march for much of the past decade. The Beijing consensus celebrates the alliance of big government and big companies. Much of the public sector has resisted the power of vouchers and internal markets.

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Business
Sweet spot for China’s blue-collar revolution
english.caing.com- Recent spate of worker strikes at factories in China, what does it mean for the rest of the world?
iPhone economics and lower barriers to entry
O’Reilly Radar- The App Store created a marketplace that anyone with the appropriate skills can enter. Can it last?
Forget peak oil, peak lumber is coming
Minyanville- The mountain pine beetle is ravaging Canadian forests, leading a long-term bull market in lumber.
When anyone can be a published author
salon.com- Will readers have to flounder in an ocean of slush before the new gatekeepers appear to rescue them?

Finance & Economics
Public sees a future full of promise and peril
pewresearch.org- In the public’s view, the next 40 years promises to be an era of technological progress.
Trichet explains why Soros is wrong about the Euro
cnbc.com- Reforming the real economy in each country in the euro zone is what is needed, according to Trichet.
Sterling is the star
Credit Write Downs- The budget credibility, the lower gilt issuance and reduced risk of a downgrade is helped sterling recover.
Europe: Adrift amid the rift
FT- Economic and financial crisis in the eurozone has exposed deep and long-standing divisions between the two largest European economies.
Fed watch: China, day one
Economists’ View- While China appears willing to adjust the parity rate, changes are likely to be more window dressing than anything else.

The rest
Personality shows up in brain structure
pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com- Personality differences are now being explored biologically in the brain.
Words of the future
thenational.ae- As ebooks increase in popularity, typesetters are working hard to design the ideal fonts for on-screen reading.
Working on a (temp) dream
inthesetimes.com- Welcome to the freelance economy, where workers are atomized, badly compensated and strangely optimistic.
Beating China, India turns world’s top spam source
hindustantimes.com- The top country where spam servers are located is India, accounting for 16.9%, Brazil 8.7%.

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Content flooding in from every direction

by Dana on June 24, 2010

Excess content flooding affects not only the online news sphere, but also the book publishing and academic publishing industries, now that self-publishing tools are so readily available.

Bowker, a company that tracks industry statistics, calculated that, in 2009 alone, new titles published outside of “traditional publishing and classification definitions” numbered 764,448. Yes, you read that right: upward of three-quarters of a million books in a single year. Not all of those books were intended for a general readership, but if, say, two-thirds of them were, you could just barely manage to read the first page of every single one of them in the course of year — provided you also gave up eating, sleeping and bathing. (I calculate about one page per minute; your mileage may, of course, vary.) And this is the situation even in the days before we’ve come close to hitting the crest of the new, technology-driven self-publishing boom.

At the same time, libraries are straining under the burden of paying for an explosion of journals.

From 1978 to 2001, libraries at the University of California at Los Angeles, for example, saw their subscription costs alone climb by 1,300 percent.

The amount of material one must read to conduct a reasonable review of a topic keeps growing. Younger scholars can’t ignore any of it—they never know when a reviewer or an interviewer might have written something disregarded—and so they waste precious months reviewing a pool of articles that may lead nowhere.

The content problem isn’t going away.

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I soccer, therefore I am

by Dana on June 24, 2010

How do people invoke national football support as a boundary-drawing exercise?

In Scotland support for the national football team is regarded as a legitimate expression of national identity for both Scottish and English folk. The representation of a collective English national identity and ‘their’ stereotypes of the Scottish legitimate the assertion of a shared Scottish national identity, the maximization of differences between the national groups, and the justification for anti-English sentiment.

Moreover, this psychological attachment to Scotland and the Scottish is distinguished from the state of ‘being’ British. In England, respondents can also cast English and Scottish national identity in terms of national football, but treat these as problematic. Whilst the Scots are attributed with performing national identity and (justifiable) antagonisms towards the English through football, it is not acceptable for the English to do so.

Displays of collective English national identity are treated as irrational, a threat to individualism, and reflecting negative associations with hooliganism, xenophobia, and the values of the far Right. The inclusion of far Right hooligans into the sample, who do regard football as a legitimate expression of English nationalism, offers an insight into what the majority of the England-born sample resist.

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Business
No end to dementia
The Economist- At a time when research seems to have hit the wall, fundings are tapering off.
Le Monde on the brink
mondaynote.com- One of the reason Le Monde is about to go belly up? Laying off a €50,000 per year print plant employee costs €466,000.
Taking Booz Allen public could be company’s undoing
Washington Post- It is questionable whether Booz Allen can maintain its strong corporate culture that upholds quality, collaboration and customer interests central to its long-term management philosophy, once it goes public.

Euro & Europe
Eating vichyssoise in Athens
nationalinterest.org- A concatenation of crises over the past few months, of which the near bankruptcy of the Greek state is only the most lurid, has heightened an urgent question of which direction, if any, the Continent is now taking.
Hedge funds aggressively cover Euro short positions
marketfolly.com- Hedgies cover euro shorts, continue to short the Russell 2000 futures, long crude oil, and long metals.
Drowning in euros
FT Alphaville- Can a sea of devalued euros save Europe?

Finance & Economics
The benefits of the bust
WSJ- In the new economy emerging from the financial crisis, the self-serving assumptions of efficient, self-stabilizing markets have been discredited, but something will have to be put in their place.
The Terminator comes to Wall Street
theamericanscholar.org- How computer modeling worsened the financial crisis and what we ought to do about it.
Thinkers and tinkerers
tnr.com- At its core, Industrial Revolution was created by connected groups of smart people who stole each others’ ideas and implemented them.
Gold’s ever-so-brief new high
marketwatch.com- Some gold-timers are cautious, if not outright bearish, on gold.

The rest
What happens to Thailand’s sex tourism during the riots?
slate.com- How inconvenient for Thailand to have political turmoil that disrupts elderly men’s Viagra-fueled sex binges. Couldn’t they have waited to hash out their grievances with what they feel is an illegitimate government?
Kick it good
moreintelligentlife.com- What happens when an anarchist creates rules for football?

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Europe’s uncertain century

by Dana on June 23, 2010

Since the fifteenth century, the world has been dominated by Europe and taught by Europe and exploited by Europe and made by Europe. After the calamitous experiences of the first half of the twentieth century, Europe had had enough, not least of itself and its own recent history.

The French novelist and essayist is less concerned with the immediate political woes of Brussels and Strasbourg than with a collapse of self-confidence and a spirit of self-flagellation he finds among the former colonizers and masters of the world. This is supposedly manifested in various ways: a drop in the birthrate so drastic that populations are no longer growing and will soon decline in Spain and Italy; a reflexive hostility to the United States, and also to Israel; a self-hating or “miserablist” narrative of national and continental history; and a groveling, guilt-induced refusal to take seriously the threat from militant Islam, a threat which comes not only from as far away as Iran and Afghanistan but more and more from within, as greatly increased Muslim populations challenge, not only by their numbers, but also by their vigor and sometimes their violence, a post-Christian Europe which doesn’t believe in itself anymore and too often retreats into sour Trotzreaktionen.

EU enlargement to the east, integrating the populations within, faced with an increasingly distant America and rising powers elsewhere, what is Europe’s place this century?

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BRIC Special
India outsourcing firms set up shop in smaller towns
latimes.com- Call centres in India have a bad reputation as the breeding ground for inter-office romances. Newer, more rural openings want to avoid that.
EU sees solar power imported from Sahara in 5 years
Reuters- Europe will import its first solar-generated electricity from North Africa within the next five years.
It’s all about China now, get used to it
leighdrogen.com- Focus on companies doing business in China Brazil and India, the three centers of real growth. Says Drogen.
Smart, young, and broke
Newsweek- White-collar workers are China’s newest underclass, the ant class.

Tech & Media
Public Press started online, now turns to print
sfgate.com- One local newspaper is bucking the trend and going back to print.
“The whole music business infrastructure is about selling out”
37signals.com- The whole music business infrastructure, the baby boomer infrastructure anyway, is about selling out.
Why Amazon’s Kindle will eventually win the e-Book wars
gigaom.com- If Amazon wants to keep the device around, it will have to transform it from a mere e-book reader to a content consumption device that matches the iPad in its capabilities.

Business & Finance
Slowed food revolution
prospect.org- Obama seeks to boost demand for organic food but doesn’t offer meaningful support for the people who grow it.
A colossal fracking mess
vanityfair.com- The dirty truth behind the new natural gas.
Freight fright *alert*
FT Alphaville- This particular forward macro-economic indicator experienced its biggest weekly decline since 2008.

The Rest
Why bad guys matter
foreignpolicy.com- At the core of all successful societies are procedures for blocking the advancement of bad men.
Eye of the beholder
moreintelligentlife.com- What does it take to make a hit reality show?
Everything you need to know about the Internet
The Guardian- In spite of all the answers the Internet has given us, its full potential to transform our lives remains the great unknown.
40,000 deaths a year due to junk food

French World Cup meltdown

by Dana on June 22, 2010

France is now, sitting at the bottom of the Group A table, and amazingly out of the World Cup after 2 losses and 1 draw.

The French are naturally reflective of the loss and the mayhem that led to this abysmal reality, but not before some serious drama.

France is sensitive about its world image in the best of times. But when its team self-destructs on the World Cup stage, when it ties Uruguay and loses to Mexico, when its star forward hurls epithets at the coach and is sent packing, when the team then goes on strike, when some players won’t dress to play against host South Africa today, when the team director resigns in tears, when the French public shouts “shame” in the streets and the sports minister is pushed to the cameras by President Sarkozy to call for team dignity, when the world press snickers, when bank Credit Agricole drops ad sponsorship, and the far right blames “blacks” and the far left blames “millionaire athletes” – it all amounts to a national crisis, a moment of bitter societal soul-searching.

Back in the late 90s, racial diversity in the French team was accredited with its famous win.  Nowadays, it is a cause for little else than more bickering.

“Now in France a sense of decline is exacerbated by economics, the fall of the euro…a betrayal by elites felt in some places, and in the midst of this the French national soccer team is in disarray. Now you hear the words ‘black, black, black’ about the team. Unfortunately, this will spark our ‘cultural’ divide’ discussion.”

There might be a questionable correlation between sports prowess on the international stage and economic prosperity back home, but social cohesion on and off-field seems to translate to a certain degree.

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Business
BP’s hypocrisy problem
nymag.com- Hayward knew that what he was enduring was a ritualized necessity.
On guns, butter and broken windows, now with more oil…
economistsdoitwithmodels.com- Economists are right in touting the supposed economic benefits of the oil spill.
Retail chains are embracing their online stores
latimes.com- Traditional merchants such as Macy’s are adapting to online shoppers.
What valley companies should Kknow about Tencent
techcrunch.com- Tencent is the largest, most profitable Internet company in China. OK. It’s also the 3rd largest Internet company in the world, after Google and Amazon. Whoa.

Finance & Economics
Why European countries are like American banks?
thedailybeast.com- Greece is like Bear Stearns, Germany is JP Morgan, and guess which country plays the role of Goldman Sachs?
Canada’s economy is suddenly the envy of the world
Boston.com- And is very smug about it all.
Normal adjustment mechanisms
brontecapital.blogspot.com- When metals prices/demand falls the Australian dollar falls. Greece is not so lucky.
Dealing with Dutch disease
VoxEU.org- The recent boom in primary commodity prices has once more stimulated interest in the issue of “Dutch Disease”.

The rest
Unwed daughters in Greece catch ‘time bomb’ in pension overhaul
noir.bloomberg.com- Greek spinsters are not marrying for fear of losing their meager pension. Screwed up incentives? You betcha.
China’s real estate boom spells trouble for boyfriends
latimes.com- No house, no car, no girlfriend.  Welcome to the reality of an ever-so-materialistic China.
Soccer done right
forbes.com- Changing soccer scoring would better the underlying competitive realities than the current rules.

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