Thursday, January 31, 2008

Our Inner Ape

First there was Our Inner Economist, next Your Inner Fish and now Our Inner Ape.

Carnival of Podcasts

Bill Cosby
Says Black Youth Need to Be Re-Educated
Bill Cosby, actor and philanthropist, and Alvin Poussaint, professor at Harvard Medical School, spoke yesterday with Bloomberg's Tom Keene about the reasons for writing the book, "Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors," challenges for educating black youth and their visions for strengthening the black community

Shiller Says U.S. Home Prices `Falling at a Rapid Pace'

Feldstein Says Recession May Be Deeper Than Recent Ones

Serious Fun - how designers think today
Chris Wise, incoming Master of the Faculty of the RDI

Recent Fed Actions
Michael Moran, Daiwa Securities America
David Resler, Nomura Securities International
Chris Varvares, Macroeconomic Advisers, moderator

The Malvinas-Falklands War

Politics and justice: the Lockerbie trial

Economic meltdown for 2008?
Economist Professor Andrew Oswald talks about the chances of an economic recession and what consumers could do if it happens.

Global Markets Vulnerability

Philosophical love stories
This week, Friedrich Nietzsche meets the Frankenstein monster and Simon de Beauvoir hangs out with the Desperate Housewives, in a philosophical look at some stories of attraction and love.

Philosophy for Lunch

Minds and computers

The Neurobiology of Suicide

Is it really me? A question of bodily integration and identity
Professor John Bradshaw, a neuropsychologist from Monash University in Melbourne, has a neurological explanation for a not uncommon phenomenon, that of experiencing the powerful and disturbing sensation of someone watching us or standing behind us, whether or not there is really someone there.

Michael Gurr on the Gettysburg Address

Review of new Collins Australian Dictionary

Crusader Medicine

Spiritual Classics: Teresa of Avila, and John T. Robinson

New Age guru Caroline Myss tells us why the 16th century Catholic saint Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle is her spiritual classic. And the controversial retired American Bishop, John Shelby Spong, reveals the book that changed his destiny, John T. Robinson's Honest to God

Spiritual Classics: Jung and Eckhart

Spiritual Classics: Kahlil Gibran and M.Scott Peck

The Existential Jesus

P.J. O'Rourke on freedom, free markets, Paris Hilton and Adam Smith's wealth of nations

Sudhir Venkatesh

MLK Jr. after 40 years: a Fraternal Memoir

The post-imperial maestro: Sir Colin Davis

If every economist was honest as Rodrik

A recent teaching evaluation of a Rodrik course;

Looking at the detailed comments, I find that most students were quite pleased with the course and the lectures. But there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction relating to a number of issues. I was generally judged to be inaccessible outside the classroom (probably fairly so). The course needs more policy applications, said some. And we need more assignments along the way to make sure we are learning the material, said many. (I am not kidding... This is a bunch of MPAID students after all.) Most significantly, it appears, many students found me somewhat intolerant of diverse views and disrespectful. We are afraid to ask "dumb" questions, wrote one person.

Accessible and Inaccessible Economists

A friend from Columbia forwarded me the following email- he emailed to Professor Stiglitz for a clarification, and he got the following reply.

Thank you for your email to Professor Stiglitz. Because he receives so many emails, we regret we are unable to answer them all.

If you are a journalist, requesting an interview or comment, please email

If you are inviting him to give a lecture, or attend a conference, we will answer you within 7-10 days.

If you want a paper he has written, please look on

If you can't find it there, then please contact Jill Blackford at

For information to reprint or excerpt something he has written, please contact Ms Blackford.

If you need Professor Stiglitz's mailing address or fax number, please look on his website.

If you want his bio or more information about him, please see

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another Climate Change Event

How the Nobel Was Won: Advances in the Science of Climate Change

Beer and Smoking

Though thousands of beer aficionados will flock to Germany this fall for its famed Oktoberfest, native brewers will be left with an extra-bitter aftertaste. The country's famed reverence for beer is ebbing, as new figures show that sales of the amber nectar fell 2.7% in 2007, the steepest decline since 2000, according to Germany's Federal Statistics Office.

Things will get worse as a new, national smoking ban takes hold across the country. Pub sales should drop by a third this year because of the ban, according to the German Brewers Association.

-Beer? Germans Say Nein, Danke

It's good to be King

Though he lacks a Ph.D., Mr. King, a Cambridge graduate, is one of central banking's leading intellectuals. He has taught at the London School of Economics and, briefly, at Harvard and MIT, where he befriended Mr. Bernanke. Both are students of economic history; Mr. King sat in on some of Mr. Bernanke's Great Depression lectures. Today, Mr. King joins other economists, central bankers and financiers for occasional dinners to discuss financial history.

Blunt and bespectacled, Mr. King joined the Bank in 1991 and has been its governor -- the equivalent of Fed chairman -- since 2003. He has kept his academic bent, littering speeches with historical and literary references, many gleaned from solitary visits to a private lending library near the central bank. He keeps his mornings meeting-free, reserved for thinking and writing. He writes most of his own speeches, often gathering staff economists in his office, seminarlike, to discuss topics.

Mr. King helped devise the bank's current approach to setting a public inflation goal -- now 2%. After the bank won independence from the elected government in 1997, he helped develop public reports that show how policy makers plan to keep inflation on target; the reports have become a model for Mr. Bernanke's efforts to increase transparency at the Fed.

-Bank of England Chief Changes Tack in Crisis

IMF’s new Managing Director and his cuts

IMF is planning on cutting its staff by 15 percent. We open our readers especially staff from the Fund to comment on this proposal. Two issues we put on the table.

  • The Fund has played an important role in capacity building poor developing country governments – and its success is probably better than World Bank in this area. How would it affect this role?

  • The Fund has allowed and facilitated discussion of some taboo topics- like the effectiveness of foreign aid and on effects of globalization. Ask Dani Rodrik if you’re not sure;

Over the years I have been quite surprised by the assistance I have received from the IMF both in generating and also disseminating my ideas. My first book, "Has Globalization Gone too Far?", which was published in 1997 and which Prakash referred to, was actually written when I was a Visiting Scholar in the IMF's Research Department, not exactly the place that you would think that the ideas in that book would have necessarily originated. So there are interesting ways in which the IMF has been subversive and it gets too much criticism for not being open to different ideas--or maybe for surreptitiously promoting them in my case.

So how would the above two issues be affected with the downsizing? Or any other comments welcome.

Leaked document relating to IMF budget cuts

Explainer- Kenyan Politics

Understanding Kenya’s Politics

Debate of the Day

Policy for the Next President: Fair Trade or Free Trade

Dpt. of Correlation and Causation

Too Much Cola Can Cause Kidney Problems;
In a study published in the journal Epidemiology, the team compared the dietary habits of 465 people with chronic kidney disease and 467 healthy people. After controlling for various factors, the team found that drinking two or more colas a day — whether artificially sweetened or regular — was linked to a twofold risk of chronic kidney disease.

But drinking two or more noncola carbonated drinks a day, they found, did not increase the risk.

The authors of the study say more research is needed, but their findings support the long-held notion that something about cola — the phosphoric acid, for example, or the ability of cola to pull calcium from bones — seems to increase the risk of kidney stones, renal failure and other conditions affecting the kidneys.

A firm Handshake is a Measure of Health
Hand grip strength does not only provide reliable information about the health of a person. It also reveals the socio-economic status, future disability and mortality risks. It therefore permits a glance into the individual�s future. Karsten Hank and Hendrik J�rges, MEA, in cooperation with Jergen Schupp and Gert G. Wagner, DIW Berlin, merged datasets of SHARE and SOEP and analysed the grip strength of the Germans. The result: from 16 to 50 years of age, Germans squeeze so hard that exact statements about their health cannot (yet) be made. However, beyond 50 years, the decreasing muscular strength does speak volumes

Gandhi Fact of the Day

Relying on secret documents of the British Government released in 1967, the legendary constitutional authority, H M Seervai, concluded, Gandhi used non-violence as a political weapon, and was prepared to support, or connive at, violence to secure political goals. (Constitutional Law of India, Supplement to Third Edition, 1988, Pg 143 of Introduction). Seervai cites the following in support of his statement:

* In the middle of 1918, Gandhi supported the War Conference main resolution of recruiting Indians to fight on the side of Britain and her allies if it ensured the acceptance of Congress-Muslim League scheme for Home Rule.
* When Britain announced in 1939 that India was at war, Gandhi refused to support the Second World War on the ground that he would not support violence even to secure the independence of India.
* In July 1944, when the tide of victory was flowing towards the Allies, Gandhi stated in an interview to News Chronicle, London, that the Viceroy could remain in charge of military operations and India could be used as a base for such military operations provided that a National Government was immediately formed.
* In an interview with Lord Wavell on August 27, 1946, Gandhi told him that �If India wants a bloodbath, she shall have it.�

-The myth of Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

You Tube Lecture- State Formation and Conquest

Mahmood Mamdani on State Formation and Conquest

Index: a reality check on Darfur and Sudan / critique of Guns, Germs and Steel /

Global MBA rankings

Global MBA rankings from FT

An incentive to become a vegetarian?

via Megan McArdle

Question for the Week:
"Why does an American chicken lay 7 times more eggs than a developing country chicken?"

Listen to Lucas' answer to the question.

Falling Spy Satellites

It's raining satellites... hallelujah?

Why the spy satellite won't fall on your head

Watch out for falling satellites

AF General: Spy Satellite Could Hit US

So who should I believe?

The Economist as a Terrorist

Interesting post from World Bank's South Asia Chief Economist;

An interview I gave to a Sri Lankan paper, where I pointed to the lack of an evidence-based policy debate on economic issues in Sri Lanka, seemed to have struck a chord. An economist friend wrote, "When we speak out we are labeled as ‘terrorists.’" The head of a Colombo-based think-tank, the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA), wrote "Your comments on the lack of an evidence-based economic debate in Sri Lanka is hitting our email networks and websites, and is something we’ve been discussing for sometime within CEPA, in the wider context of development and poverty eradication.

Some quotes from the interview;
Sri Lanka needs debate on economic policy centered on real evidence or research instead of extreme posturing based on ideology if the island is to progress, a top development economist said.

"Sri Lanka is already a middle income country with about 1300 US dollars of per capita income," Shanta Devarajan, chief economist for South Asia at the World Bank, told LBO in an interview on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund here.

"But if you compare it with other countries at the same level, the economic policy debate is much more evidence-based elsewhere. In India, which is about 1000 dollars per capita, I find that the nature of economic policy debate is evidence based.

"Right now in India there is a vigorous debate about opening the capital account. People are writing papers and analyzing and participating in that debate. In Sri Lanka it is usually an ideological debate."

Devarajan points to a recent 500 million US dollar sovereign bond as a case in point where the government depicted the bond as a "great thing" while the opposition claimed it was "horrible."

"The truth of the matter is that they are both wrong," says Devarajan. "Ideally they should cut the budget deficit, but politically it is difficult to do. There are also constraints such as defence and interest costs, which may be difficult to avoid."

African-American Votes are Up for Grabs

Assorted on Election

Survey Determines African-American Votes are Up for Grabs in Democratic Party
Results from an opinion survey (pdf) on “Racial Attitudes and the Presidential Nomination,” conducted by Fredrick Harris, professor of Political Science at Columbia University and director of the Center on African American Politics and Society, show that African-American votes are up for grabs for both leading candidates of the Democratic Party and the skin color of the candidate will not automatically translate into African-American votes.

Political Dashboard

On Aid Effectiveness

Megan McArdle on MCC;

But the general approach of measuring aid by the amount of cash you managed to pump out, rather than the results generated thereby, was a very bad idea that the MCC was designed to challenge. It makes little sense to declare the project a failure on the ground that it's not spraying dollars over Africa like a firehose.

One effect of the MCC that is hardly discussed is the increasing role of lobbyists advising developing countries on how to get a compact. Believe me it makes a difference when you have a good lobbyist in Washington DC and increases your chance of getting a compact many fold.

MCC CEO's Letter;

To the Editor:

While your Dec. 7 front-page article about United States foreign assistance and the work of the Millennium Challenge Corporation covered important aspects of the organization’s efforts to help the people of the world’s poorest countries through economic growth, it didn’t mention essential elements of this topic.

From the Marshall Plan to the modern-day battle to fight AIDS, America’s efforts to help its friends escape poverty and suffering are founded on the principle that economic progress and democratic governments are the bedrock for building long-term stability and prosperity.

M.C.C.’s unique approach to poverty reduction builds on this idea, and proclaims that foreign aid is most effective when the recipient countries are held accountable for their actions. This is not too much to ask of countries receiving American tax dollars.

With more than $5 billion worth of projects ramping up that will bring new roads, irrigation systems and other large-scale infrastructure closer to completion, 2008 will be a pivotal year for M.C.C. These innovative projects have been developed and designed by the host countries from the bottom up, through an unprecedented process of citizen involvement. While M.C.C. is focused on investing this money as expeditiously as possible, it will not allow for reckless assignment of funds. By delivering assistance in tranches based on measurable progress, the M.C.C. process builds capacity within a country and raises the local standard for how a government should manage projects of this kind.

As any person with significant overseas experience will agree, doing business on such a scale in the world’s poorest countries is not always easy, and should never be hasty. M.C.C.’s work should therefore be measured not only by dollars disbursed, but also by expanding the ability of the recipient country to take ownership of the project, commit to its sustainability, and involve its people in the process.

This is what sets M.C.C. apart, and why I am proud to see the progress that we’ve achieved in such a short time.

John J. Danilovich
Chief Executive Officer, Millennium Challenge Corporation
Washington, Dec. 10, 2007

Brad Setser's advice to Gordon Brown's advisors

1) The UK could insist that sovereign funds looking to set up shop in London meet a high standards for disclosure. If the forecasts from banks like Merill Lynch are to be believed, sovereign funds may soon be adding $1 trillion a year to their assets. At that pace, to paraphrase a Ken Rogoff quip, sovereign funds quickly will become the global financial system. Even if those forecasts don't pan out, some black boxes look set to get big fast. A lot of them seem to have large operations in the UK. Without a bit more (retroactive) disclosure of the broad contours of their portfolios (of the kind in the IMF COFER data), it will be hard to assess their contribution to any future "underpricing of risk."

2) Upgrade the UK's balance of payments statistics to match the US statistics. Specifically, the UK could provide a breakdown of the geographic origin of inflows to the UK and the official/ private split. As more and more global flows move through London, the absence of more detailed data increasingly impedes real time and historical analysis of global capital flows.

The UK's data is here. Best I can tell, even in their comprehensive annual publication, the UK only provides a geographic breakdown for the current account, not for the financial account.

-If the UK wants to increase financial transparency ...

Assorted on Growth

Growth diagnostics: the dangers of agnosticism

Doing growth diagnostics well

Solow Growth Model II: Econ 101b: Intermediate Macro- audio of lecture by Brad DeLong

Growth theory: Solow or Lucas?


The 50 weirdest terms of financial jargon – and what they actually mean

How Setting Goals Can Improve Data

How Likely Are Sex Offenders to Repeat Their Crimes?

World Trade Indicators

World Trade Indicators 2007 has been soft launched.

A interesting event from World Bank

Monday, January 28, 2008

Muhammad Yunus goes to Google

Muhammad Yunus talks at Google

A better event Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger discuss their book "Breakthrough"

Financial Markets and Public Sector losses

A remote seaport town in Norway lost $64 million—a quarter of its annual budget—on bad investment products created by Citigroup. On Monday, The Boston Globe reported on another money-losing municipality: Springfield, Mass., a struggling city of about half a million people in the southwestern corner of the state, which lost nearly $13 million on risky mortgage-backed securities created by Merrill Lynch.

-Another City Where C.D.O. Spelled Trouble

CV of the Rogue Trader

Societe Generale SA has declined to name the rogue banker at the center of the $7.2 billion in trading losses, but traders working in the Paris markets have identified him as Jerome Kerviel, 31,.


OBJECTIVE Reach a position as a retail listed derivative products trader, managing a volatility and Delta One book

MASTERS in Finance (Organisation and Control of financial makets)
University of Lyon, September 2000

Bachelor Degree in Finance
University of Nantes, 1996 1999

Judo - 8 years practice - Trainer for children

Lt. Col. John Nagl is leaving the Army

Why is the Army losing so many talented midlevel officers?

The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual
- this is one book (and the story about the writing of the book) that need to be used for teaching public managers.

'Economies evolve, and so, too, must economic policy'

Many of Minsky’s colleagues regarded his “financial-instability hypothesis,” which he first developed in the nineteen-sixties, as radical, if not crackpot. Today, with the subprime crisis seemingly on the verge of metamorphosing into a recession, references to it have become commonplace on financial Web sites and in the reports of Wall Street analysts. Minsky’s hypothesis is well worth revisiting. In trying to revive the economy, President Bush and the House have already agreed on the outlines of a “stimulus package,” but the first stage in curing any malady is making a correct diagnosis.

Minsky, who died in 1996, at the age of seventy-seven, earned a Ph.D. from Harvard and taught at Brown, Berkeley, and Washington University. He didn’t have anything against financial institutions—for many years, he served as a director of the Mark Twain Bank, in St. Louis—but he knew more about how they worked than most deskbound economists. There are basically five stages in Minsky’s model of the credit cycle: displacement, boom, euphoria, profit taking, and panic. A displacement occurs when investors get excited about something—an invention, such as the Internet, or a war, or an abrupt change of economic policy. The current cycle began in 2003, with the Fed chief Alan Greenspan’s decision to reduce short-term interest rates to one per cent, and an unexpected influx of foreign money, particularly Chinese money, into U.S. Treasury bonds. With the cost of borrowing—mortgage rates, in particular—at historic lows, a speculative real-estate boom quickly developed that was much bigger, in terms of over-all valuation, than the previous bubble in technology stocks.

As a boom leads to euphoria, Minsky said, banks and other commercial lenders extend credit to ever more dubious borrowers, often creating new financial instruments to do the job. During the nineteen-eighties, junk bonds played that role. More recently, it was the securitization of mortgages, which enabled banks to provide home loans without worrying if they would ever be repaid. (Investors who bought the newfangled securities would be left to deal with any defaults.) Then, at the top of the market (in this case, mid-2006), some smart traders start to cash in their profits.

The onset of panic is usually heralded by a dramatic effect: in July, two Bear Stearns hedge funds that had invested heavily in mortgage securities collapsed. Six months and four interest-rate cuts later, Ben Bernanke and his colleagues at the Fed are struggling to contain the bust. Despite last week’s rebound, the outlook remains grim. According to Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, average house prices are falling nationwide at an annual rate of more than ten per cent, something not seen since before the Second World War. This means that American households are getting poorer at a rate of more than two trillion dollars a year.

-The Minsky Moment

Believe it or not

  • "Cheney has a piece of the house where Zarqawi died on display at his residence."

  • Obama's Father and Kennedy link
[W]hat made it possible for him to come here was an effort by the young senator from Massachusetts at the time, John F. Kennedy, and by a grant from the Kennedy Foundation to help Kenyan students pay for travel. So it is partly because of their generosity that my father came to this country, and because he did, I stand before you today – inspired by America's past, filled with hope for America's future, and determined to do my part in writing our next great chapter."

via FP blog

Why're food prices rising?

The battle for food, oil and water
Globalisation - in particular the rise of China and India - is driving a lot of these changes. The world oil price has risen by 80 per cent over the past 12 months and - since 2001 - China alone has accounted for about 40 per cent of the increase in oil demand. Global food prices have gone up by about 50 per cent this year. There are short-term reasons for this, such as a drought in Australia and pig disease in China. But the biggest long-term driver of increased prices is growing wealth in China and India.

As global food costs rise, are biofuels to blame?
Political instability over higher food prices is a key concern. Last year saw tortilla demonstrations in Mexico, pasta protests in Italy, and unrest in Pakistan over bread prices. Soybean prices, meanwhile, prompted demonstrations in front of Indonesia's presidential palace. Food inflation in China is a major problem.

But the connection between the expansion of biofuels and higher global food prices is not clear cut, with the biofuels industry saying its impact is relatively small and biofuel critics saying that ethanol plants are driving up the price of corn and biodiesel producers are taking a bite out of the soybean crop.

"The United States, in a misguided effort to reduce its oil insecurity by converting grain into fuel for cars, is generating global food insecurity on a scale never seen before," says Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute (EPI), an environmental think tank in Washington. World population growth will require food for an additional 70 million people this year, the EPI said in a report last week.

FAO forecasts continued high cereal prices

Rising Food Prices: Three Reasons

Food prices-Cheap no more

FOR as long as most people can remember, food has been getting cheaper and farming has been in decline. In 1974-2005 food prices on world markets fell by three-quarters in real terms. Food today is so cheap that the West is battling gluttony even as it scrapes piles of half-eaten leftovers into the bin.

That is why this year's price rise has been so extraordinary. Since the spring, wheat prices have doubled and almost every crop under the sun—maize, milk, oilseeds, you name it—is at or near a peak in nominal terms. The Economist's food-price index is higher today than at any time since it was created in 1845 (see chart). Even in real terms, prices have jumped by 75% since 2005. No doubt farmers will meet higher prices with investment and more production, but dearer food is likely to persist for years (see article). That is because “agflation” is underpinned by long-running changes in diet that accompany the growing wealth of emerging economies—the Chinese consumer who ate 20kg (44lb) of meat in 1985 will scoff over 50kg of the stuff this year. That in turn pushes up demand for grain: it takes 8kg of grain to produce one of beef.

Biofuel Demand Pushes Up Food Prices

The (Food) Price of Success

Who Is Harmed by the Surge in Food Prices?

Iraqis suffer soaring inflation

Food Inflation in China

Pension Reform Lessons

GAO Study: Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands Experience with Pension Reform and Reforms of Other Entitlements

Econ Talks

Collier on the Bottom Billion

Nassim Taleb Calls Banking System `Very Dangerous Neighborhood'

From Ibn Khaldun to Adam Smith and Robert Solow, and Beyond

A conference you might want to attend-Robert Solow and the Development of Growth Economics

via Sandra Peart

Assorted on Eminent Economists

Keynes sex diaries

Stigler vs. Chamberlain

Now Look at What Adam Smith is Blamed For This Time

Disaster Tourism- Bangladesh Cyclone Hit Areas

Two people who traveled to the cyclone hit areas-Who do you think learned most?

Nicki Bennett is an American aid worker who bounces around from one hot spot to the next, working for Oxfam

Praful Patel is the World Bank's Vice President for the South Asia Region

Blogs Old and New

Taking Hayek Seriously

Nicholas D. Kristof- On The Ground

Animal Waste Facts

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

On Fiscal Stimulus, Confidence Building and Beyond

Martin Feldstein

Lawrence Summers


Menzie Chinn

The Coalition against Fiscal Stimulus

Mervyn King Quotes

  • Jan. 22, 2008: "Northern Rock … is not the epicenter of the present global banking crisis. That lies in the very substantial losses made by many banks … as a result of the collapse of the U.S. sub-prime mortgage market." "After a decade and more of non-inflationary consistently expansionary (nice) economy, a phrase I coined in 2003, we move to a somewhat bumpier but still rather stable path … the not-so-bad period. You might think we have now entered a not-so-good period … a period of above-target inflation and a marked slowing in growth."

  • Nov. 6, 2007: "The role of the Bank of England is not to do what banks ask us to do; it's to do what's in the interest of the country as a whole."
  • Sept. 12, 2007: "The provision of large liquidity facilities penalizes those financial institutions that sat out the dance, encourages herd behavior and increases the intensity of future crises."
  • Aug. 8, 2007: "Interest rates aren't a policy instrument to protect unwise lenders from the consequences of their unwise decisions."
  • June 20, 2007: "Be cautious about how much you lend, especially when you know rather little about the activities of the borrower. It may say champagne - AAA - on the label of an increasing number of structured credit instruments. But by the time investors get to what's left in the bottle, it could taste rather flat."
  • June 20, 2007: "Excessive leverage is the common theme of many financial crises of the past. Are we really so much cleverer than the financiers of the past?"
  • Dec. 1, 1998 : "A successful monetary policy should be boring...successful central bankers should be seen neither as heroes nor villains, but simply as competent referees, allowing the game to flow and staying out of the limelight."
  • Jan. 1, 1997: "An 'inflation nutter' (is) a governor who places weight only on inflation and none at all" on other variables, including economic performance.

-Bank of England Chief Changes Tack in Crisis

Chief Economists' Workshop: Policy Challenges to Monetary Theory

Workshop on New Developments in Monetary Policy in Emerging Economies

Of Nutters and Doves

Assorted IMF and World Bank

World Bank Group To Implement Volcker Report

National Income Statistics online course

Dictating Loans

World Bank Summer Internship Program
- deadline January 31, 2008

Colombia: Selected Issues

Fair Growth: Economic Policies for Latin America's Poor and Middle-Income Majority

Evaluating Alternative Approaches to Poverty Alleviation: Rice Tariffs versus Targeted Transfers in Madagascar

Brown says radical changes needed to IMF and World Bank

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Breaking News- Davos under Attack

Some fun for the day- Davos under Attack

via Tyler Cowen

Rebuilding Brand America

Rebuilding Brand America: Five Suggestions for the Future President

Robert F. Bennett, John F. Kerry, HH Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Maurice Levy, Rupert Murdoch, Martin Sorrell with Moisés Naim

The Jews of Shanghai

An interesting story of a family that fled to Shahghai from Nazi Germany and finally escaped the Japanese invasion in 1937, settling down in US.

Innovating ways of teaching Economics

From ABBA to Zeppelin, Led: A Web Resource for Teaching Economics through Music
Joshua C. Hall, Robert A. Lawson and G. Dirk Mateer

Economics In The Movies

Teaching Economics with You Tube

"Homer Economicus: Using The Simpsons to Teach Economics,"

"Using Music to Teach Microeconomics"

Teaching Economics: More Alternatives to Chalk And Talk
by William E. Becker , Michael Watts , Suzanne R. Becker

Top Ten Distance-learning MBAs

The Economist Intelligence Unit's ranking of top distance-learning MBA programmes

The University of Florida's Warrington School of Business is number 1.

My advice; Try The MIT Sloan School of Management OpenCourseWare and get a better quality education thought not a certificate.

A President like JFK

But let me say this, South Carolina. What we've seen in these last weeks is that we're also up against forces that are not the fault of any one campaign but feed the habits that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation.

It's a politics that uses religion as a wedge and patriotism as a bludgeon, a politics that tells us that we have to think, act, and even vote within the confines of the categories that supposedly define us, the assumption that young people are apathetic, the assumption that Republicans won't cross over, the assumption that the wealthy care nothing for the poor and that the poor don't vote, the assumption that African-Americans can't support the white candidate, whites can't support the African-American candidate, blacks and Latinos cannot come together.

We are here tonight to say that that is not the America we believe in.

A President Like My Father by Caroline Kennedy
I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Kennedy Plans to Back Obama Over Clinton

The Story of Busunju-Uganda


Invasion of the 'freakish, doped-up, mutant clones'?
From Violence to Voting: War and Political Participation in Uganda

A Dying Breed;
GERSHOM MUGIRA COMES from a long line of cattle-keepers. His people, the Bahima, are thought to have migrated into the hilly grasslands of western Uganda more than a thousand years ago, alongside a hardy breed of longhorns known as the Ankole. For centuries, man and beast subsisted there in a tight symbiotic embrace. Mugira’s nomadic ancestors wandered in search of fresh pasture for their cattle, which in turn provided them with milk. It is only within the last few generations that most Bahima have accepted the concept of private property. Mugira’s family lives on a 500-acre ranch, and one sunny day in November, the wiry 26-year-old showed me around, explaining, with some sadness but more pragmatism, why the Ankole breed that sustained his forebears for so many generations is now being driven to extinction.

As we walked down the sloped valley path that led to a watering hole, we found a few cows lolling beneath a flat-topped acacia. They looked like the kind of cattle you might encounter in Wisconsin: plump and hornless creatures with dappled black-and-white coats. Mugira, a high-school graduate, was wearing a pair of fashionably baggy jeans and spiffy white sneakers. To a modern African like himself, he said, the most desirable cattle were the American type: the Holsteins.

In recent decades, global trade, sophisticated marketing, artificial insemination and the demands of agricultural economics have transformed the Holstein into the world’s predominant dairy breed. Indigenous animals like East Africa’s sinewy Ankole, the product of centuries of selection for traits adapted to harsh conditions, are struggling to compete with foreign imports bred for maximal production. This worries some scientists. The world’s food supply is increasingly dependent on a small and narrowing list of highly engineered breeds: the Holstein, the Large White pig and the Rhode Island Red and Leghorn chickens. There’s a risk that future diseases could ravage these homogeneous animal populations. Poor countries, which possess much of the world’s vanishing biodiversity, may also be discarding breeds that possess undiscovered genetic advantages. But farmers like Mugira say they can’t afford to wait for science. And so, on the African savanna, a competition for survival is underway.

Mugira was just about to tell me what made the Holsteins so valuable when suddenly, Dr. Grace Asiimwe, a veterinarian and my guide through western Uganda’s ranchlands, shouted, “The Ankoles are coming!”...

“You know, in Uganda, we have to look for survival of the fittest,” Mugira said once he finished sorting out the confusion. “These ones, they are the fittest,” he went on to say, gesturing toward his Holsteins. In physical terms, there was really no contest between the tough Ankoles and the fussy foreign cattle, which were always hungry and often sick. But the foreigners possessed arguably the single most important adaptive trait for livestock: they made money. Holsteins are lactating behemoths. In an African setting, a good one can produce 20 or 30 times as much milk as an Ankole.

Mugira explained that, unlike most of his peers, he was holding onto some longhorns, mostly for sentimental reasons. His father, who died in 2003, loved his Ankoles. One of them wandered over and nuzzled Mugira, who placed his hand gently on its forehead. In the days before Christianity arrived in this part of Africa, the Bahima made offerings of milk to herdsman gods. Their language contains a vast catalog of cattle names, which refer to characteristics like color and hide pattern. This cow was called Kiroko, indicating it had some white patches on its face. The ideal Ankole, Mugira told me, has a lustrous brown coat and gleaming horns that curve out and then inward, forming a shape like a lyre. “They are naturally good,” Mugira said. “They are beautiful. In our culture we preferred these. But then we developed another culture, from Western culture.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization, an agency of the United Nations, recently reported that at least 20 percent of the world’s estimated 7,600 livestock breeds are in danger of extinction. Experts are warning of a potential “meltdown” in global genetic diversity. Yet the plight of the Ankole illustrates the difficulty of balancing the conflicting goals of animal conservation and human prosperity. An estimated 70 percent of the world’s rural poor, some 630 million people, derive a substantial percentage of their income from livestock. Increase the productivity of these animals, development specialists say, and you improve dire living standards. The World Bank recently published a report saying it was time to place farming “afresh at the center of the development agenda.” Highly productive livestock breeds, the World Bank asserts, are playing an important role in alleviating poverty.

“You do have local animals with various kinds of disease resistance and whatever other kinds of things you don’t want to do away with,” said Chris Delgado, an agriculture policy adviser at the World Bank. “But there’s a problem: They are kept by very poor people, and they don’t want to stay poor.”

Every cow in the world is the product of some human agency. The extinct feral ancestor of all cattle, the auroch, was a fearsome horned creature that could grow to be six feet tall. There are two theories about the taming of wild aurochs. The traditional view holds that it happened around 6000 B.C. in the Fertile Crescent. But recent archaeological and genetic evidence suggests that domestication may have first occurred in Africa 2,000 years earlier, in the then-lush plains of the eastern Sahara. Then, beginning around 2,000 years ago, Arab merchants introduced humped cattle of Indian origin to East Africa, which were crossed with the indigenous longhorns to produce breeds like the Ankole.

For millennia, changing a breed’s genetics through husbandry required a long trial-and-error process. But today it can happen in an evolutionary eye blink. Multinational breeding companies, many of them based in the United States, collect semen from prime bulls, freeze it and export it to the developing world. Official estimates say there are about three million Ankole cattle in Uganda and smaller populations in bordering nations. An unknown — though by all accounts large — percentage of them are in the process of being turned into something else. After one cross with a Holstein, the brown Ankole cow will produce a black calf with darkened horns. After two, the horns will shrink and a dappled coat will appear. The third generation will basically look like American dairy cattle. With each cross, the offspring will produce more milk. The World Bank estimates that 1.8 million small-scale farmers in East Africa are benefiting from such genetic changes to their cattle and that some 100 million cows and pigs are created through artificial insemination in poor countries each year. Those numbers substantially understate the extent of genetic interchange, because half the offspring produced by artificial insemination are male and spread their genes the old-fashioned way.

To see the evolution in Ugandan dairy cattle, I visited a farmer named Jackson Sezibwa, who lives down a reddish dirt path outside the central Ugandan town of Mukono. A weather-beaten man of 46, Sezibwa greeted me in a torn, muddy shirt. He showed me to the metal-roofed stall where he keeps his Holstein, Kevina.

Chris Blattman has good coverage of Ugandan politics and developments

Mixing food with Statistics teaching- Cookie Poisson

During a lecture, he pulled out a bag of cookies and suddenly the students paid attention, he said. Then he gave a cookie to each student and asked him or her to count the number of chips (which requires carefully eating the cookie, since not all the chips can be seen from the outside). Lee graphed the data, showing a Poisson distribution, which is close to a classic bell curve in this case.

"The number of chips match what we expect statistically, but not what we know intuitively," Lee explained. "The students don't expect individual cookies to be that different, but they are. This example shows that variability is all around us, even in something like mass-produced cookies."

Math teachers have been known to spice up their lessons with various kinds of food items, including M&M candies, Hershey's kisses, and chewing gum. But these are usually "one-trick ponies," said Lee. Chocolate chip cookies, on the other hand, can be used to illustrate many key statistical concepts. That's why Lee developed ways to use cookies as a repeating theme in his course. He uses them as examples leading into discussions about measurement error, data display (such as histograms), extreme values, outliers, hypothesis testing, and analysis of variance.

For instance, when it came time to study two-sample t-tests, Lee brought in a second brand of cookies. The students got excited, he said, as they tried to figure out how to compare the difference in brands in light of all the variability between individual cookies. And, of course, they got to eat more treats.

Lee has even found chocolate chip cookies helpful for teaching graduate students about Bayesian analysis, a method for dealing with uncertainty that requires starting with an educated guess, or "prior."

"It's interesting because the students' initial guesses on the number of chips are usually very wrong," he said. "They find out what happens when their guesses are fairly far off, and how much they can update their prior by collecting real data."

Lee now has developed protocols that he plans to use in his statistics courses for the foreseeable future.

"If I hook students with the cookies, I find they keep coming to lectures for the rest of the course," he noted. "It has worked so well, now I use the cookies as much as I can."

-Chocolate chip cookies help make statistics lessons relevant and palatable

HT- AntiDismal

King Corn

King Corn

"According to the US GAO report to Congress on the 1990 farm bill, "The government established a wool and mohair price-support program in 1954 encourage domestic wool production in the interest of natural security." Really, it says that. I guess back in the fifties there was this military school of thought that held that in the event of a Soviet attack we could confuse and disorient the enemy by throwing blankets over their heads..."
- P.J. O'Rourke

Assorted Academic Tools

In Review: Academic Tools

Twitter for Academia

How To Edit PDF Files For Free

(Exploring and Collecting History Online) from GMU

Tourism and Poverty

US Government Blogs

Millennium Challenge Corporation Blog

EPA Blog

Homeland Security Blog

State Department Blog
Making the Most of “the Surge” in Iraq
Question of the Week: Do the Palestinians and Israelis Really Want Peace?

Library of Congress Blog

Department of Health blog

Office of National Drug Control Policy blog

Talkin' Trash

Congressional Budget Office Blog

Podcasts from the U.S. Government
Blogs from the U.S. Government

Regional Income Disparity in China

The Trend of Regional Income Disparity in the People’s Republic of China

Based on recent updated statistical data that has become available since the PRC implemented its first national economic census in 2004, this paper studies the trend of regional disparity both among and within the provinces of the PRC from 1978 to 2005. The authors find that compared with the 1990s, the expansive trend of inter-provincial disparities has slowed down and started to decrease somewhat since 2000. Disparities within many provinces have even exceeded inter-provincial disparities.

The authors find that changes in regional disparities in recent years can be attributed to many factors, including policies and regional specific factors as well as some cyclical factors. They conclude that it is not yet possible to say that the PRC's regional disparities have started a decline that will continue.

What lawyers cannot read

A North Carolina judge held an attorney in contempt on Wednesday for reading Maxim magazine during a court session. Judge Kevin Eddinger ... held lawyer Todd Paris in contempt after he saw him reading Maxim magazine with “a female topless model” on the cover, according to the court order. Paris declined to comment yesterday to the paper.

When Eddinger gave Paris a chance to respond he apologized and “stated in his view the magazine was not pornography, was available at local stores and that he did not intend contempt,” the order said. Eddinger fined Paris $300, gave him a 15 day suspended jail sentence that remains in effect for a year and placed him on unsupervised probation, according to the order.

-Judge Holds Lawyer in Contempt for Reading Maxim

Does Davos make you sick?

Banding Together to Raise AIDS Awareness
A rock star, a software tycoon and a computer hardware impresario walk into a Swiss village...

Google’s Davos Party Set Dance for the Love of Money

Pain, Pleasure and Thomas Schelling

For positive performance there are other tactics, some quite opposite to those for abstention. For example, breaking a large task, such as a Ph.D. thesis, into small pieces to make the goals more proximate and the magnitudes less intimidating, even setting time limits rather than piecework goals, works for some people. Kafka’s “Great Wall of China” required motivating people toward a task that could not be completed in their lifetimes; learning a new language, or a new athletic game, eventually entails a long hike on a seemingly infinite plateau. Round-number targets help motivate the joggers; and if there is no unique distance between two miles and five to offer an intermediate goal some runners joyfully discover the metric system with its handy five-kilometer distance. Even the weakness that takes the form of discounting the future- actually, more like averting one’s gaze from the future- can be turned to account: medium-distance deadlines look so unthreatening that people welcome them, even plead for them, knowing that without them “today never comes” and the promised task will never be done, perhaps never started.

I have come across an interesting case in which three “people” seem to be involved- three of me or three of you. It is the offering of modest rewards or punishments, and it goes like this. The person tells himself that he may sleep late and skip the exercise regime whenever he wishes but only on condition that he forgo lunch, or a favorite program, or a weekend skiing; alternatively he promises himself that every day that he gets up early he can watch five innings of baseball on the tube. Now, this scheme works only on two conditions. First, that the reward or punishment be potent enough to induce the desired behavior; and second, that the “somebody” who wants to turn off his alarm with his eyes closed will believe that another “somebody” will later have the fortitude to administer the punishment or deny the reward, when “they” are really all the same person. People told me it worked; I tried it and found that it could. If A lacks fortitude to get out of bed, B has the fortitude to do without because C laid down the law at an earlier time. If I cannot directly make myself get up at the alarm, I can nevertheless make myself inflict some worse privation later, contemplating which I get up with the alarm! It sounds like something a decision theorist would describe as “intransitive”.

-Choice and Consequence, Thomas C. Schelling, p. 79-80

Thomas Schelling receives medal from Tehran

Thomas C. Schelling, Micromotives and Macrobehavior

Stern-omics, climate change and academics having fun

Thomas Schelling in action

StickK To Your Commitments- Levitt
Back when I was an undergraduate, I took a class from the future Nobel Laureate Tom Schelling. One day in class, he was talking about commitment problems: when you want to achieve a goal, but lack the self control to do it. As I recall, he offered two pieces of advice for those trying to lose weight. The first was to clean out the refrigerator and throw away anything you might want to eat in a moment of weakness. The second was to write a check for a substantial amount of money to the American Nazi Party, seal it up in a stamped envelope, and vow to drop it in the mail if you break your diet.

The world has one less dictator

Mr. Suharto and his family became notorious for controlling state enterprises and taking kickbacks for government contracts, for siphoning money from state charities, and for gross violations of human rights. At left, Mr. Suharto at the family's Tapos ranch in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia.

When he came to power, Mr. Suharto refused at first to move into the presidential palace, saying he preferred to live in his own modest house in Jakarta. During his years as president, however, his homes became palatial.

Suharto, Former Indonesian Dictator, Dies at 86

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Balkanisation of regulation

Walter B Kielholz, Malcolm Knight, Raymond W. McDaniel Jr, Guillermo Ortiz with Maria Bartiromo

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Knight said the “major challenge” for regulators was the “the Balkanisation of regulation – fragmented across market segments, across national jurisdictions and yet we want to have a global financial system”.

'Now we are all sons of bitches'

A new episode of Terminator- The Sarah Connor Chronicles is online- The Turk
The test director, Kenneth Bainbridge, called the explosion a "foul and awesome display" and remarked to Oppenheimer, "Now we are all sons of bitches."

Just a random thought: I wonder whether central bankers and economists would have similar feelings looking at the sub-prime mess, as the physicist Brainbridge above? Or should they be having sleepless nights? Most of the academic economists I know including very prominent ones seem to be 'fascinated and excited' by the current financial turmoil- to them its good research and teaching material.

Origin of Norms

Interesting talk- Origins of Norms: The Place of Value in a World of Nature

Featuring Akeel Bilgrami, Lorraine Daston, Gerald Edelman, John Forrester, Lawrence Friedman, Anne Harrington, and Joel Snyder

Why People Vote- Black Voters in South Carolina

  • Rosa Wilson said she liked Hillary Rodham Clinton's "quiet strength."
  • Roy Powell, 19, a first-time voter, called Barack Obama "humble and approachable."
  • "John's got the Lord in him," Evelyn E. Dogan, 81, said of John Edwards.
  • Thomas Downing, 70, said, "It's not the time to elect a woman."
  • Ammie Bennett, 45, said she would choose "when I step into the voting booth."

Obama Wins South Carolina Primary
“We have the most votes, the most delegates, and the most diverse coalition of Americans we’ve seen in a long, long time.”

Plate tectonics - Science History Podcast

Plate tectonics

America is getting further away from Europe. This is not a political statement but a geological fact. Just as the Pacific is getting smaller, the Red Sea bigger, the Himalayas are still going up and one day the Horn of Africa will be a large island. This is the theory of plate tectonics, a revolutionary idea in 20th century geology that saw the continents of Earth to be dancing to the music of deep time. A dance of incredible slowness, yet powerful enough to throw up the mountains and pour away the oceans.

Plate tectonics was a genuine scientific revolution. It made geologists and many more besides profoundly re-think what the Earth was, how it worked and how it related to all the things in it.

Quote of the Day

From a Q & A with Religion Professor Mark C. Taylor;

Q. Do you believe in God?

A. Not in the traditional sense. God, or, in different terms, the divine, is the infinite creative process that is embodied in life itself. As such, the divine is the arising and passing that does not itself arise and pass away. This process is actualized in an infinite web of relations that is an emergent self-organizing network of networks extending from the natural and social to the technological and cultural dimensions of life.

Can anybody explain it in English?


Mrs. Clinton claims that her time in that role was an active one. He can hardly be expected to show less involvement when he returns to the scene of his time in power as the resident expert. He is not the kind to be a potted plant in the White House.

Which raises an important matter. Do we really want a plural presidency?

This is not a new question. It was intensely debated in the convention that formulated our Constitution. The Virginia Plan for the new document submitted by Edmund Randolph and the New Jersey Plan submitted by William Paterson left open the number of officers to hold the executive power.

Some (like Hugh Williamson of North Carolina) argued for a three-person executive, each member coming from a different region of the country. More people argued (like George Mason of Virginia) for a multiple-member executive council.

The objection to giving executive power to a single person came from the framers’ experience with the British monarchy and the royal governors of the colonies. They did not want another monarch.

But as the debate went forward a consensus formed that republican rule would check the single initiative of a president. In fact, accountability to the legislature demanded that responsibility be lodged where it could be called to account. A plural presidency would leave it uncertain whom to check. How, for instance, would Congress decide which part of the executive should be impeached in case of high crimes and misdemeanors? One member of the plural executive could hide behind the other members.

James Wilson of Pennsylvania made the argument for a single officeholder with typical depth and precision: “To control the executive, you must unite it. One man will be more responsible than three. Three will contend among themselves till one becomes the master of his colleagues. In the triumvirates of Rome, first Caesar, then Augustus, are witnesses of this truth. The kings of Sparta and the consuls of Rome prove also the factious consequences of dividing the executive magistracy.”

Wilson and his allies carried the day; and their argument is as good now as when they embedded it in the Constitution.

One problem with the George W. Bush administration is that it has brought a kind of plural presidency in through the back door. Vice President Dick Cheney has run his own executive department, with its own intelligence and military operations, not open to scrutiny, as he hides behind the putative president.

No other vice president in our history has taken on so many presidential prerogatives, with so few checks. He is an example of the very thing James Wilson was trying to prevent by having one locus of authority in the executive. The attempt to escape single responsibility was perfectly exemplified when his counsel argued that Mr. Cheney was not subject to executive rules because he was also part of the legislature.

-Two Presidents Are Worse Than One, Garry Wills

Debt Relief is working for Niger says IMF- so what?

In the landlocked Western African country of Niger, lower debt service, together with continued significant budgetary aid and higher domestic revenue mobilization, is having an impact on spending in education, health, and the rural sector, where budgetary allocations increased by 4 percent of GDP between 2002 and 2007...

Reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 will be extremely challenging for Niger. To halve poverty by 2015, as required by the MDGs, the new Poverty Reduction Strategy for 2008-12 estimates that real GDP growth must average 7 percent. Even if aid is substantially scaled up, from about 10 percent of GDP in 2007 to about 15 percent of GDP, Niger may have difficulty achieving this high growth rate.

- Debt Relief Yields Results in Niger

Session from Davos-Call to Action on the Millennium Development Goals

Ban Ki-moon, Jose Manuel Barroso, Bono, John T. Chambers, William H. Gates III, Stefan Oschmann, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua with Gordon Brown

Books to Read - Gang Leader for a Day

Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta'

What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire?

State budgets and the rising construction costs

Costs have jumped for projects as varied as levee construction in New Orleans, Everglades restoration in Florida and huge sewer system upgrades in Atlanta. The reconstruction of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, a $234 million project, has been fast-tracked for completion by December, and state officials say it is too soon to know whether it will come in on budget.

The impact has been felt in different regions at different times, and not every project has been high-profile. In Oregon, high costs have forced the State Department of Transportation to slow the rate at which it upgrades roads and bridges. In Seattle, school building projects were put on a fast track this fall because of fears of cost overruns.

“We escalated our project schedule to get ahead,” said Fred Stephens, director of facilities and construction for Seattle Public Schools.

Nationwide, increasing costs first became a problem for some projects more than two years ago, and in some regions the rate of increase has dropped in the past year. But some regions are tighter than ever, and the pressure from the high costs can be more acute in the context of general revenue declines.

The list of culprits for the increases often depends on the rate of growth and construction in a particular region, with labor costs playing a role along with the rising prices of materials like steel and concrete, and asphalt, fuel and other petroleum-based products.

Experts say high costs are linked to competition from a global development boom, particularly in China and India; the housing boom in the United States; and the rush to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and other recent hurricanes that struck Florida and the Southeast. In the Northwest, public projects have competed with downtown construction surges in Seattle and Portland. Just across the Canadian border, hotels and highways are being built to prepare for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The costs have added to what has become an increasingly bleak economic forecast for many states and local governments. At least 25 states expect to have budget deficits in 2009, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which estimates the combined budget shortfall for 17 of the states at $31 billion or more. Many cities, too, see difficult times ahead as revenues wane and costs increase for wages, pensions and health care...

In San Leandro, a city of 78,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area, Mr. Udemezue said the city could not afford to delay work on the parking garage and retiree center.
“We can’t wait,” he said, “because we don’t know if the prices are going to come down or go up.”

In the grading guide known as the Pavement Condition Index, zero is not far from a dirt strip and 100 is a fresh new roadway. When Mr. Udemezue began working for San Leandro 16 years ago, the average road ranking in the city was nearly 70. Now it is closer to 60, despite what Mr. Udemezue said were the city’s efforts to keep up maintenance.

Years ago, there was more money in the city’s general revenue stream that could be diverted to help with basic maintenance, which Mr. Udemezue said required about $5 million a year.

That general revenue now goes to other needs, like public safety, and the roads go wanting, with flat revenue from gas taxes and other declines leaving about $1.2 million to maintain roads each year. The $13 million retiree center and the $8 million parking garage have been affected, too, with the city dropping plans to build commercial space beneath the garage and reducing the space for social programs in the center.

Mr. Udemezue and others say they have heard that things may be stabilizing, but they cannot be sure.

-Building Costs Deal Blow to Local Budgets

Free Legal Advice for Tenants

Lucas A. Ferrara, a partner at Finkelstein Newman Ferrara, is taking questions from readers through Jan. 30 on tenant-landlord issues.

Photo of the Day- A Goodbye

Afghanistan-Bound Soldiers Say Goodbye to New York

Systemic Financial Risk- from Davos

James Dimon, Wes Edens, Robert M. Kimmitt, Jean-Claude Trichet with James J. Schiro

The Sociologist in Me

In New York, why do I see more white American men with Asian (Chinese,Korean,etc) women than the opposite. What's the sociological explanation for it?

The economics of marrying a foreign woman

Do airplanes make weird people stick out less?
Does this mean that weird men are more likely to have foreign wives?

Another interesting fact about New York;
New York City Death Rate Reaches Historic Low

For a Longer Life, Try Living In New York City, Report Says

Updated: I've found an answer, from an economist, Raymond Fisman;
Racial Preferences in Dating
We examine racial preferences in dating using data from a Speed Dating experiment. In contrast to previous studies, our methodology allows us to directly observe individual decisions and thus easily infer whose preferences lead to racial segregation in romantic relationships. Moreover, the richness of our data allows us to identify many determinants of same race preferences. We find that females exhibit stronger racial preferences than males. We demonstrate that this gender difference is not due to different dating goals by men and women. Exogenously bringing attention to possible shared interests increases the willingness to date people from other races. The subject’s background, including the racial composition of the ZIP code where the subject grew up and the prevailing racial attitudes in the subject’s state of origin, strongly influence the desire to be with a partner of the same race. Older subjects and more physically attractive subjects exhibit weaker same race preferences.

Capitalism and America

via the great blog Sociological Images: Seeing is Believeing

Why Labor Unions are good

Richard Freeman on Colbert


America Works: Critical Thoughts on the Exceptional U.S. Labor Market
by Richard B. Freeman