Sunday, April 27, 2008

Economists agree on Trade?

Tyler Cowen- Freer trade could fill the world's rice bowl

Dani Rodrik- The "free trade reduces prices" fallacy, yet again

Solow, Bhagwati, Krugman Evaluate the Human Cost of Trade, Economic Liberalization

The Grand Old Canyon

Just last month, a team of scientists announced evidence that the Grand Canyon is 17 million years old, or 11 million years older than previous estimates. Now, scientists at the University of Colorado and the California Institute of Technology say they have mineralogical evidence that suggests the canyon started forming more than 55 million years ago and possibly existed 65 million years ago when dinosaurs still roamed.

Who’s That Girl?

Alongside whatever she has offered her audience through the years — sex, glamour, dancing, defiance, blasphemy, spirituality — Madonna has never pretended to be anything but diligent. She’s disciplined, hard-working and determined to sell. For Madonna as a pop archetype, the truest pleasure isn’t momentary physical ecstasy or divine rapture but success. She labeled that impulse too in an early tour: “Blonde Ambition.”

Presenting herself not only as an object of desire but as a material girl with her eye on the profits was one of the many smart moves she made from the beginning. By flaunting her control and her triumphs, Madonna gave fans a stake in her long-term prospects, something that loyalists should be able to appreciate as her sex appeal inevitably fades — although Madonna is still svelte, toned and dressing in lingerie as often as she pleases. On another of the new album’s little manifestoes, “Give It 2 Me,” she insists, “Don’t need to catch my breath/I can go on and on and on.”...

Madonna might be singing to all her wannabes through the decades in “She’s Not Me,” a branding statement — “She doesn’t have my name” — couched as a warning to a lover. It’s about a girl who tries to steal a man by copying everything from the singer’s perfume to her reading list. As if to remind the guy that he and the singer have a shared past, the track reaches way back to revive disco — scrubbing guitar, canned hand claps, brief touches of (synthetic) strings — while Madonna sings, “She’ll never have what I have/It won’t be the same.”

Which is true. No one since Madonna (including the Neptunes’ client Britney Spears, whom Madonna once smooched as an equal) has come close to achieving the same alchemy of flirtation, pop proficiency, concert spectacle and self-guided tenacity. But she still has to watch her back.

Structural Reforms in crisis times

Any attempt to deal with the full range of structural changes while also trying to manage a short-term recovery from the crisis put severe strains on government competence that made economic recovery and foreign debt negotiations more difficult.

-Martin Feldstein critiquing IMF on response to the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997

Quote of the Day

"Blah, blah, blog. My blog, blah, blah, blah. Blog, blah, blog."

-Alex Tabarrok's six-year old son

Friday, April 25, 2008

Random Course of the Day

Central Bank Watching


Kaplan, Muse of Film `21,' Uses Blackjack Theory at Work
Bill Kaplan, chief executive officer of FreshAddress Inc., and a co-founder of the blackjack team upon which the recent movie ``21'' was based, talks with Bloomberg's Tom Keene about the film, parallels between his life and the movie, and the application of blackjack game theory in business.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Somebody had to do it?- Thomas Friedman pied

But for the wrong reason.

MATERIALISM--Podcast of the Day


If we go back to the beginning we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that fancy, enthusiasm, or deceit adorned or disfigured them; that weakness worships them; that credulity preserves them, and that custom, respect and tyranny support them."

It’s provocative stuff even today and certainly was in 1770 when published by Baron D’Holbach in his book The System of Nature. The baron’s boldness was underpinned by Materialism, a philosophical idea so dangerous that every copy of the book was condemned to be burnt. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, materialism dominates much of our understanding of the world today.

But what does materialism really mean, how has it developed over time and can we still have free will if we are living in a materialist world?

Welcome to Your Brain

Josh Waitzkin "The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence."

Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life

Brain Rules

The Global Power Elite

Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making
by David Rothkopf

Related Book- The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills

Nauru's Australian national sport

Aussie Rules- the national sport of the smallest country in the world

Rice vs Grapes- Poor vs Rich

Australian drought has global impact;
Australia is among the top five rice exporters in the world, providing the food staple to millions of people.

Farmers in NSW and Victoria are in the final stages of harvesting the smallest rice crop in 80 years.

In a good year Australia exports more than 600,000 tonnes of rice, but since 2002 exports have been lower.

Grief Industrial Complex

Mitch Albom

Explainer of the Day

Growth Rate Question & Answer

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sexuality and Cricket in India

Redskins Cheerleaders Shake Up Cricket In Modest India

Message Force Multipliers

Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand
Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.

“Good work,” Thomas G. McInerney, a retired Air Force general, consultant and Fox News analyst, wrote to the Pentagon after receiving fresh talking points in late 2006. “We will use it.”

Again and again, records show, the administration has enlisted analysts as a rapid reaction force to rebut what it viewed as critical news coverage, some of it by the networks’ own Pentagon correspondents. For example, when news articles revealed that troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor, a senior Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues: “I think our analysts — properly armed — can push back in that arena.”

The documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts. But some analysts said they had used the special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.

John C. Garrett is a retired Marine colonel and unpaid analyst for Fox News TV and radio. He is also a lobbyist at Patton Boggs who helps firms win Pentagon contracts, including in Iraq. In promotional materials, he states that as a military analyst he “is privy to weekly access and briefings with the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other high level policy makers in the administration.” One client told investors that Mr. Garrett’s special access and decades of experience helped him “to know in advance — and in detail — how best to meet the needs” of the Defense Department and other agencies.

In interviews Mr. Garrett said there was an inevitable overlap between his dual roles. He said he had gotten “information you just otherwise would not get,” from the briefings and three Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq. He also acknowledged using this access and information to identify opportunities for clients. “You can’t help but look for that,” he said, adding, “If you know a capability that would fill a niche or need, you try to fill it. “That’s good for everybody.”

At the same time, in e-mail messages to the Pentagon, Mr. Garrett displayed an eagerness to be supportive with his television and radio commentary. “Please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay,” he wrote in January 2007, before President Bush went on TV to describe the surge strategy in Iraq.

Conversely, the administration has demonstrated that there is a price for sustained criticism, many analysts said. “You’ll lose all access,” Dr. McCausland said.

Q. I am wondering if you have any statistics concerning the amount of taxpayer dollars spent on these so-called analysts?
— NHD, Ann Arbor, Mich.

A. It is difficult to assess the total amount of tax money spent on this effort. Significant sums were spent taking military analysts on trips to Iraq and Guantanamo. For example, when a group of analysts were taken to Iraq in 2003, they were flown each morning on military transport planes from their hotel in Kuwait to Baghdad, and then back to Kuwait at day’s end. They traveled around Iraq in heavily guarded convoys. In recent years, the Pentagon has paid the commercial airfare of some analysts who participated in trips to Iraq. The Pentagon also paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a private contractor to monitor their news media appearances.

The Secret to Economic Development

What's traffic in Hanoi and St. Petersburg got to do with institutional reform?

So the real secret is that there is NO Secret to development.

Death can't wait

Gerda couldn’t believe that cancer was cheating her of her hard-earned retirement. “My whole life was nothing but work, work, work,” she told me. She had worked on the assembly line in a soap factory, and had brought up her children single-handedly. “Does it really have to happen now? Can’t death wait?” she sobbed.

On one visit Gerda said, “It won’t be long now”, and was panic-stricken. Her daughter tried to console her, saying: “Mummy, we’ll all be together again one day.” “That’s impossible,’ Gerda replied. “Either you’re eaten by worms or burned to ashes.” “But what about your soul?” her daughter pleaded. “Oh, don’t talk to me about souls”, said her mother in an accusing tone. “Where is God now?”

Peter Kelling had never been seriously ill in his life. He was a civil servant working for the health and safety executive, and didn’t allow himself any vices. And yet one day he was diagnosed with bowel cancer. By the time I met him, the cancer had spread to his lungs, his liver and his brain. “I’m only 64,” he muttered. “I shouldn’t be wasting away like this

Klara Behrens knows she hasn’t got much longer to live. “Sometimes, I do still hope that I’ll get better,” she says. “But then when I’m feeling really nauseous, I don’t want to carry on living. And I’d only just bought myself a new fridge-freezer! If I’d only known!”

"I wonder if it’s possible to have a second chance at life? I don’t think so. I’m not afraid of death — I’ll just be one of the million, billion grains of sand in the desert…”

See the article- This is the end.

Unreason in America

Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason

Financial Literacy for Congress

Here's a Financial Literacy Quiz for Congress

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Obama again on The Daily Show

Next time you have a headache,

Think of it as Art.

People and Authors

British singer/songwriter Chris De Burgh

The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt

'Why Nuclear Disarmament Matters'- Hans Blix

Tom Dalzell, by Vice Slang

"Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America." - Eric Alterman

Monday, April 21, 2008

GAO's view on fighting terrorism

Combating Terrorism: The United States Lacks Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas
Since 2002, destroying the terrorist threat and closing the terrorist safe haven have been key national security goals. The United States has provided Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terror, more than $10.5 billion for military, economic, and development activities. Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which border Afghanistan, are vast unpoliced regions attractive to extremists and terrorists seeking a safe haven. GAO was asked to assess (1) the progress in meeting these national security goals for Pakistan's FATA, and (2) the status of U.S. efforts to develop a comprehensive plan for the FATA. To address these objectives, GAO compared national security goals against assessments conducted by U.S. agencies and reviewed available plans.

The United States has not met its national security goals to destroy terrorist threats and close the safe haven in Pakistan's FATA. Since 2002, the United States relied principally on the Pakistan military to address U.S. national security goals. Of the approximately $5.8 billion the United States provided for efforts in the FATA and border region from 2002 through 2007, about 96 percent reimbursed Pakistan for military operations there. According to the Department of State, Pakistan deployed 120,000 military and paramilitary forces in the FATA and helped kill and capture hundreds of suspected al Qaeda operatives; these efforts cost the lives of approximately 1,400 members of Pakistan's security forces. However, GAO found broad agreement, as documented in the National Intelligence Estimate, State, and embassy documents, as well as Defense officials in Pakistan, that al Qaeda had regenerated its ability to attack the United States and had succeeded in establishing a safe haven in Pakistan's FATA. No comprehensive plan for meeting U.S. national security goals in the FATA has been developed, as stipulated by the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (2003), called for by an independent commission (2004), and mandated by congressional legislation (2007). Furthermore, Congress created the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) in 2004 specifically to develop comprehensive plans to combat terrorism. However, neither the National Security Council (NSC), NCTC, nor other executive branch departments have developed a comprehensive plan that includes all elements of national power--diplomatic, military, intelligence, development assistance, economic, and law enforcement support--called for by the various national security strategies and Congress. As a result, since 2002, the U.S. embassy in Pakistan has had no Washington-supported, comprehensive plan to combat terrorism and close the terrorist safe haven in the FATA. In 2006, the embassy, in conjunction with Defense, State, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and in cooperation with the government of Pakistan, began an effort to focus more attention on other key elements of national power, such as development assistance and public diplomacy, to address U.S. goals in the FATA. However, this does not yet constitute a comprehensive plan.

Tamil Tigers, Africa, etc

Latest from Foreign Exchange show

Playboy and Economics Demystified for Free?

AbBooka- can't guarantee anything.

Bribes in Mexico

Mexico's Bribes Top $2 Billion

Econ Talks

Roberts on the Least Pleasant Jobs

Krugman Says Ethanol `Mistake' Is Boosting Food Prices

Reaching Global Goals

Jetting around the world in search of ICT!

Conditional Cash Transfer Program

Donald J. Boudreaux on Globalization- Part 1 and Part 2

From Foreign Student to Technocrat to Minister: Changing Perspectives on Development
Antoinette Sayeh, the Minister of Finance of Liberia

Michael Deppler of IMF on Europe`s Economic Outlook

Ready to Rumble

Remember the the now outdated Clinton’s Law of Politics

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Economics Explainer

Keynes Banana Plantation

Election Special

Hip-Hop Infiltrates ‘08 Campaign

Another endorsement

I believe that Barack Obama should be elected President of the United States.

- Robert Reich, Labor Secretary under Clinton

Economic Prediction of the Day

Comment on tomorrow’s announcement by the Treasury and Bank of England

Sentence of the Week

A married royal said to have performed a gay sex act on his senior aide on a kitchen floor as a Stringfellows stripper egged him on also took drugs, a jury heard yesterday.

From the Now Show.

The Birth of Religious Freedom in America

Steven Waldman, "Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America."

Literary Podcast of the Day

In May 1916, 15 men were shot by the British government. They were the leaders of the Easter Rising – a doomed attempt to overthrow British rule in Ireland - and they were commemorated by W.B. Yeats in a poem called Easter 1916. It ends with the following lines:

MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Yeats lived through decades of turbulence in Ireland. He saw the suspension of home rule, civil war and the division of the country, but how did the politics of the age imprint themselves on his poetry, what was the nature of Yeats’ own nationalism, and what did he mean by that most famous of phrases ‘a terrible beauty is born’?

Creative Ways to Sell Hope

A creative political ad from Argentina-

Does reading The Economist make you dull?

Quote of the Day-

Reading the same papers and magazines as everyone else around you is not likely to make you an interesting dinner guest, let alone alter your consciousness. In my case, a subscription to the Times Literary Supplement, courtesy of my father-in-law, made me more interesting to sit beside than someone whose diet was limited to Time, Newsweek, or the Economist- or Nature for that matter.

- James Watson, Avoid Boring People, p.311

Election Watch

On the Zero Marginal Product of Televised Debates

Assorted on Food Prices

"We have to put our money where our mouth is now so that we can put food into hungry mouths. It's as stark as that."
- Bob Zoellick

Rising Food Prices and Public Policy-BECKER

Addendum on Rising Food Prices-Becker

Food Prices: the Debate

Gary Becker Blames Food Inflation on Biofuel Policies

Rising Food Prices: What Should Be Done?

Dawe of UN Sees Impact of Rice Prices on Civil Unrest

Food Prices and Supply

The silent tsunami

The new face of hunger

Reviving the ration card

Commodity arbitrage

Food prices

Food prices and poverty

Rising Food Prices

Getting what you pay for: food & energy prices

Afghanistan swaps heroin for wheat

Photo of the Day- Sick Pig

Write your caption on J-Walker blog.

Economics in Plain English

I wish. Link of the Day, From Common Craft- Explanations in Plain English;

Zombies in Plain English
The Vodka Train, Eating Scorpions and a Surprise
Twitter in Plain English

Friday, April 18, 2008

Jackie Chan explains a fight scene

From his new movie 'The Forbidden Kingdom'

Indians on WWF

The Great Khali
Singh’s training schedule consists of two hours of weight training, morning and evening, every day. Maintaining his size requires a strict and intimidating daily dietary regimen: one gallon of milk, five chickens and two dozen eggs, along with chapatis, juice and fruit

Hillary, John Edwards and Obama on The Colbert Report

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Administrative leave for fighting corruption?

A letter in the latest Economist;

Trouble at the World Bank

SIR – A particularly disturbing feature of the latest corruption scandal to hit the World Bank (“Dirty linen”, March 22nd) is the fact that it is not, or at least should not have been, news to the bank. Many staff at the bank working on projects financed by the bank knew about it for a long time, but were not listened to or did not dare raise the issues with their higher-ups. As I can testify from experience as a senior economist at the bank, this problem undermines the organisation's anti-corruption efforts. Everyone at the bank understands that being too frank or proactive about corrupt activities in one's projects may not be welcomed. Regrettably, the bank has not done much about it until now.

The long-promised reform of whistleblower protections led the bank's management to commission high-quality reports by external consultants including Robert Vaughn and Graham Scott. These reports contained many specific and sometimes far-reaching recommendations. Yet the set of reform measures that is on its way to being implemented is only a pale reflection of these prescriptions.

Yang-Ro Yoon
Senior human-development economist
World Bank
Washington, DC

The World Bank placed Ms Yoon on administrative leave in March.

McMafia- Fall of Communism and Rise of Organized Crime?

Race and farming

The struggle of black farmers in America has been captured in vivid black and white moments by documentary photographer, John Ficara. Black owned farms peaked in the early 1920s with an estimated total of 15 million acres and over 900,000 farmers. Today there are only 2.2 million acres owned by black farmers. These farmers are losing their land three times faster than white family farmers and a recent study by the university of Michigan predicts that within the next ten years there will be virtually no black owned farms.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I, the flu

They found that each year's dominant strain in Europe, the Americas or other regions was traceable to ancestors first seen in a large region of East and Southeast Asia (an area bigger than China alone). It was never directly descended from a strain seen in temperate zones the previous year. In fact, the evidence strongly suggested that flu virus goes extinct each summer in temperate climates -- there is none left to smolder and evolve.

What the researchers now believe happens is that the world is reseeded each year by new, slightly different variants. "The strains are coming out [of Asia] fully formed," Colin A. Russell, one of the researchers, said in a telephone news conference.

The route the new strains then take seems to reflect both proximity to East Asia and the amount of travel between regions. The first stops are Australia and the Pacific islands known as Oceania, which the virus reaches about three months after it arises in Asia. Three to six months later it crops up in Western Asia, Europe and then North America. The last stop is South America.

-Researchers Chart Flu's Global Journey

IMF on Pakistan budget reforms

Update on Pakistan: Report on Observance of Standards and Codes - Fiscal Transparency Module;

An MTBF process has been initiated, but crucial elements of budget integration and policy transparency have still to be put in place. The development of an MTBF was initiated in 2003, and an MTBF process involving detailed activity costing and identification of ministry objectives and output indicators applied progressively from FY 2005–06.8 In phase one of the MTBF implementation, emphasis was given to establishing better costing and budget preparation techniques in the line ministries. From December 2006, however, the strategy has been changed to give primary emphasis to top-down budget control—while continuing to build up management capacity in the line ministries. The current and development budgets continue to be prepared and presented in the budget document as separate elements. Three separate call circulars are sent to ministries (for current, development, and MTBF budgets). Costs of policy objectives are shown, but further work is needed to link output indicators and budget allocations. The technical and policy basis of out-year estimates are not yet sufficiently clear in the budget documents and, in practice, out-years are resubmitted rather than being rolled over as the base data for the following year’s budget...

A program classification, based on subdetail functions, covering all ministries should be developed as part of the full MTBF rollout. The MTBF implementation is following an ambitious rollout plan. A unified classification derived from the existing COA will build on the present system and support the top-down allocation process. FAD staff suggest that the present budget classification permits evolution to a more focused program approach which will help to address a number of critical long-term change issues. Operational “programs” so defined would incorporate both development and recurrent budgets relevant to that function element. Starting from an across-the-board classification within the existing chart of accounts would contribute to several important transparency and management objectives. It would help to:

- Unify the development and recurrent budget processes—“new proposal submissions” for programs should be evaluated in a similar way to development projects, but cover both capital and recurrent spending;
- Eliminate crossover problems when the development phase of a project is complete and recurrent costs are transferred to the revenue budget;
- Provide a framework that applies to all ministries, allowing a more phased approach to establishment of effective budget management by line ministries;
- Provide a framework that applies to all levels of government, helping to coordinate cross-government programs, particularly those included in the PRSP24; and
- Set a basis for redefinition and harmonization of the roles of the Planning and Development Division (PDD)25 and the Budget Wing of the MOF.

31. Actual outcomes as well as forward estimates should be included in the MTBF presentation. Given the expected improvement in availability of data, it should be possible in the near future to meet the fiscal transparency code requirement that the budget and MTBF estimates should (in addition to the MTBF out-years) show actual outcomes for two years previous and provisional data for one year previous to the budget year. Allied to this, the budget documents should include summary tables showing original budget versus actual outcomes over several years.
32. The methodology for preparing MTBF out-year estimates should be clearly specified. Clear technical specifications for calculation of out-years will both improve the efficiency of budget preparation and improve transparency and accountability of the budget. Specification of technical parameters (such as price) and policy for the estimates will permit an analysis of factors causing changes in the estimates in the following year— most importantly, separating price changes from introduction of new policies. In turn, this will limit the need for data entry to establish baseline ceilings for following years’ budgets, since the first out-year can be automatically entered as data for the next budget year in the roll-over process.

See also Bill Dorotinsky's comments to my comments.

Cornel West on Race in America

Cornel West

The great Harry Potter trial starts

At the Harry Potter Trial, the New York Papers Pile On Steven Vander Ark;
All three major New York newspapers are out in force covering the Trial of the Century in a downtown courthouse. We're speaking, of course, of J.K. Rowling's lawsuit against the prospective publisher of a companion volume to the Harry Potter series. Pity poor Steven Vander Ark, the small-town Harry Potter lexicographer who testified yesterday and was immediately subjected to the harsh glare of the New York media spotlight.

Vander Ark burst into tears when asked about his relationship with the Harry Potter online fan community, which has mostly shunned him since Rowling filed a lawsuit against his publisher last fall. And that's not the worst — the worst was having his haircut made fun of in the New York Times. Which New York paper was the meanest to Steven Vander Ark?

The Origin of Words

Your hot philology expert of the day;

Econ Talks

Valdes Says Chile Intervention May Spur Inflation

Almunia Says IMF Shares View That Euro Is `Overvalued'

Rogoff Sees Asia Central Banks Raising Interest Rates

Michelle Obama on Colbert Report

Indonesian central bank governor arrested

The credibility of Indonesia's Central Bank is once again under question as it faces allegations of endemic corruption.

The allegations centre on the misuse of Bank Indonesia funds to bribe parliamentarians to ensure the bank's regulator control.

Statement from the Board of Governors of Bank Indonesia;
In light of the detainment of the Governor of Bank Indonesia related to “the YPPI fund case”, the Board of Governors of Bank Indonesia states that:

1. The Board of Governors of Bank Indonesia regrets and is deeply concerned with the detainment of Governor Burhanuddin Abdullah, and previously two Bank Indonesia officials, Mr. Rusli Simanjuntak and Mr. Oey Hoey Tiong by KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission).
2. The Governor and all officials of Bank Indonesia who have been required by KPK to provide information relating to the case have always fully respected the legal process and have always shown their good intentions as law abiding citizens during the investigation.
3. The Board of Governors of Bank Indonesia has in place a standard procedure and mechanism to ensure that macro-economic and financial system stability are maintained as mandated by the Central Bank Act.

May God almighty bestow his protection upon us.

A Book is not a book any more

Philip M. Parker seems to have licked that problem. Mr. Parker has generated more than 200,000 books, as an advanced search on under his publishing company shows, making him, in his own words, “the most published author in the history of the planet.” And he makes money doing it.

Among the books published under his name are “The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Acne Rosacea” ($24.95 and 168 pages long); “Stickler Syndrome: A Bibliography and Dictionary for Physicians, Patients and Genome Researchers” ($28.95 for 126 pages); and “The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India” ($495 for 144 pages).

But these are not conventional books, and it is perhaps more accurate to call Mr. Parker a compiler than an author. Mr. Parker, who is also the chaired professor of management science at Insead (a business school with campuses in Fontainebleau, France, and Singapore), has developed computer algorithms that collect publicly available information on a subject — broad or obscure — and, aided by his 60 to 70 computers and six or seven programmers, he turns the results into books in a range of genres, many of them in the range of 150 pages and printed only when a customer buys one.

If this sounds like cheating to the layman’s ear, it does not to Mr. Parker, who holds some provocative — and apparently profitable — ideas on what constitutes a book. While the most popular of his books may sell hundreds of copies, he said, many have sales in the dozens, often to medical libraries collecting nearly everything he produces. He has extended his technique to crossword puzzles, rudimentary poetry and even to scripts for animated game shows.

And he is laying the groundwork for romance novels generated by new algorithms. “I’ve already set it up,” he said. “There are only so many body parts.”

-He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More National Enthems

Lush Life

Richard Price talks about his new novel

WDI 2008 launch

Press Briefing on World Development Indicators

New to the 2008 edition - new data on purchasing power of currencies;

Developing economies now produce 41 percent of the world's output, up from 36 percent in 2000, according to the World Development Indicators 2008, released today. The combined output of the world's economies reached $59 trillion in 2006. Using new measurements that take into account the differences in price levels between countries, China now ranks as the second largest economy in the world, and 5 of the 12 largest economies are developing economies. Strong growth over the period has increased the shares of all developing regions except Latin America and the Caribbean, while the share of high-income economies fell by 5 percent.

This year's World Development Indicators (WDI) introduces new estimates of purchasing power parity (PPP). PPPs are used to convert local currencies to a common currency - in this case the US dollar. By taking account of price differences between countries on a broad range of products and services, PPPs allow more accurate comparisons of market size, the structure of economies, and what money can buy. The new PPPs replace previous benchmark estimates, many of them from 1993 and some dating back to the 1980s. These new estimates are based on the recently released results of the International Comparison Program (ICP) - a cooperative program involving 146 economies.

"We live in a world of highly interdependent markets for goods, services, finance, labor, and ideas," said Alan Gelb, Acting World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President for Development Economics. "When we measure economies on a comparable global scale, the growing clout of developing countries comes into sharp relief."

World Development Indicators 2008 (WDI) provides a detailed picture of the world through data. It includes, for example, information on health expenditures, on transport and other infrastructure services, on the quality of public sector management, on Internet access, on access to improved water sources, and on carbon dioxide emissions.

This 12th edition of the WDI also presents the major findings of the 2005 ICP round and explores some of their implications. For example, because price levels are lower in many developing countries, the new data show real expenditures on education and health care are much higher than previously estimated. For the same reason, official development assistance (ODA) goes farther when spent in the poorest countries because local goods and services are cheaper. But the data also show that spending alone does not assure good outcomes. In parts of southern Africa affected by HIV/AIDS, life expectancies are more than 20 years shorter than in other countries with similar health spending.

Recommended- the introductory essay on governance indicators


Graph of Interbank Spreads Suggests Financial Crisis Continues Unabated

Politics and trade: evidence from the age of imperialism

On the Link between Dollarization and Inflation: Evidence from Turkey

A spending spree

Food prices

Oil numbers

Developing Debt Management Capacity

Interesting radio revenue data from Charlotte

The Per Capita Recession

Italian Public Finance

Why teach the Solow model? (Part II)

OECD: Unchecked Deleveraging ‘Cannot Be Allowed to Happen!’

Why Don’t More Poor Countries Get Rich?

Targeting the Bitter Folks

The real costs of inflation

Cagans Hyperinflation model

The coming Perfect Storm

Biofuels Worsening Hunger and Global Warming--So Yank the Subsidies!

Food Price Rises Threaten Efforts to Cut Poverty

Dirty, Sexy Money- Corruption in Down Under

Four Corners on Labor's crooks & sharpies

The only Kick-Boxing Head of an Economics Department

Danny Quah

Rolling the Rock up the hill

Cartoon from New Yorker

Fire on Ice

Iceland’s current woes teach a useful lesson about the interconnectedness of global markets: trouble can come from anywhere. Homeowners default on mortgages in San Diego, and suddenly people in Reykjavík are paying more for gasoline and wondering if their bank deposits are safe. That doesn’t mean that Iceland is an innocent victim. The country went overboard with spending and borrowing—between 2000 and 2007, domestic credit in the Icelandic banking system more than quadrupled as a share of G.D.P. And relying on foreign money to fuel that kind of frenzy is foolish, since it puts you at the mercy of fickle foreign investors. But Icelanders can be forgiven for wondering if they’ve really been any more reckless than many other countries—most obviously the U.S., which relies heavily on foreign capital to fund home buying and profligate consumption, and whose banking system is rife with reckless lending.

And that’s the second lesson of Iceland’s plight: even in a flat world, there are different rules for different players. In order to prop up the króna, and keep foreign capital from fleeing, Iceland’s central bank has had to raise interest rates to an astounding fifteen per cent, a move that will slow the economy to a crawl. By contrast, the dollar, while weak, has evaded the króna’s precipitous fall; the Federal Reserve, far from raising interest rates, has slashed them; and Congress is borrowing a hundred and fifty-two billion dollars to hand out tax rebates. Iceland’s government has been forced to inflict pain; the U.S. is doing everything possible to avoid it. If Iceland were to attempt to emulate America’s approach, its currency would be demolished, and foreign investors would almost certainly head for the exits. The U.S., by contrast, remains the beneficiary of the world’s generosity—no matter how bad our financial situation looks, countries like China and Japan keep pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into U.S. securities. They’re doing this not out of kindness, of course, but because the U.S. is a colossal market and they need us to keep buying stuff. The world can’t afford to have the U.S. fail, and so we are able to get away with behavior that would wreck smaller countries. Great for us, but when we look at Iceland’s predicament we should say that there but for the grace of China go we.

-Iceland’s Deep Freeze

Lecture for the Day

Catholic Jews of America?

“Catholic Jews” are children or grand children of European immigrants who grew up along side Irish, Italian and Polish Catholic immigrant families in large American cities: think New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland and Newark.

Young Jews and Catholics in those urban centers became fierce rivals as they both struggled to gain admittance to the established American society. Jewish authors have recounted and I have heard personal stories of how gangs of Catholics regularly beat up young Jews as they walked to and from school. That physical violence was often accompanied by yells of “Christ killer” and “you dirty Jews killed our Lord.”

Those are the “Catholic Jews” who were negatively impacted by such bitter experiences. As a result, many Jews perceived the Catholic Church as the tangible symbol of anti-Jewish bigotry and hatred. Indeed, some Jews even refused to walk in front of the feared and mysterious Catholic houses of worship. For them, Catholicism meant ugly taunts, fistfights and a deep suspicion of all things Catholic, including the Pope in Rome.

-Pope Will Meet Two Kinds of Jews

Mis-governance in the Arab World

Governance Institutions and Development- Avinash Dixit

Is "good governance" an end or a means?-Rodrik

Stock-taking Syrian economic refroms

A Navy in land-locked Bolivia

Monday, April 14, 2008

Assorted on Exchange Rates

A gentle introduction to exchange rate regimes

The Real Exchange Rate and Economic Growth

Exchange Rate Economics

Econ Talks

Diane Coyle on the Soulful Science

Rogoff Sees Asia Central Banks Raising Interest Rates

Almunia Says IMF Shares View That Euro Is `Overvalued'

Asian Outlook and Prospects for Industries

Speakers: Ifzal Ali, Chief Economist, Asian Development Bank; Mark Killion, CFA, Managing Director, World Industry Services, Global Insight;
Moderator: Stuart Mackintosh, International Roundtable Chair/Executive Director, The Group of Thirty
Ifzal Ali discusses Asian economic development and the impact of global financial markets, the effects of U.S. credit crunch, whether rising food and energy prices will fan inflationary flames across the region, and how policymakers should deal with rising inflation and a slowdown in global growth. Mark Killion follows with a discussion of the changing prospects for industry activity, spending and profits, and more. He shows which sectors are the likely winners and losers in Asia and compares those to the rest of the world.

The Conscience of a Liberal

Dealing Fairly with Developing Country Debt

The Logic of Life

Roberto Unger on Free Trade Reimagined

Urban Colossus: Why is New York America`s Largest City?

The Credit Crunch and the U.S. Economy

Speakers: Steven Rattner
Beginning with the subprime meltdown last summer, U.S. markets and the economy have been thrown into turmoil. Liquidity and default fears have created the worst conditions in financial markets in many years. These adverse developments have spilled over in the "real" economy, raised the specter of recession and worse. Steven Rattner is Managing Principal of Quadrangle Group LLC, a private investment firm with more than $6 billion of assets under management. Quadrangle invests in media and communications companies through separate private and public investment strategies and across all asset classes through its asset management business. Quadrangle has offices in New York, London and Silicon Valley and will be opening an office later this year in Hong Kong.

Does Transparency Pay?

Does Transparency Pay?
Rachel Glennerster and Yongseok Shin

Abstract: This paper studies whether transparency (measured by accuracy and frequency of macroeconomic information released to the public) leads to lower borrowing costs in sovereign bond markets. We analyze the data generated during 1999–2002 when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) instituted new ways for countries to increase their transparency—by publishing the IMF’s assessment of their policies and committing to release more accurate data more frequently. The IMF’s preexisting internal timetable for country reports introduced exogenous variation when countries were faced with the option to become more transparent. We exploit this time variation and construct instruments to estimate the impact of transparency on bond yields in a way that is free from endogeneity bias. We find that countries experience a statistically significant decline in borrowing costs (11 percent reduction in credit spreads on average) when they choose to become more transparent. The magnitude of the decline is inversely related to the initial level of transparency and the size of the debt market.

World Economic Growth

Go to the next door diner- they have recession specials!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

One of the winners of the collapse of Soviet Communism

McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld
Misha Glenny

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the deregulation of international financial markets in 1989, governments and entrepreneurs alike became intoxicated by forecasts of limitless expansion into newly open markets. No one would foresee that the greatest success story to arise from these events would be the globalization of organized crime. Current estimates suggest that illegal trade accounts for nearly one-fifth of global GDP.

McMafia is a fearless, encompassing, wholly authoritative investigation of the now proven ability of organized crime worldwide to find and service markets driven by a seemingly insatiable demand for illegal wares. Whether discussing the Russian mafia, Colombian drug cartels, or Chinese labor smugglers, Misha Glenny makes clear how organized crime feeds off the poverty of the developing world, how it exploits new technology in the forms of cybercrime and identity theft, and how both global crime and terror are fueled by an identical source: the triumphant material affluence of the West.

To trace the disparate strands of this hydra-like story, Glenny talked to police, victims, politicians, and members of the global underworld in eastern Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Middle East, China, Japan, and India. The story of organized crime’s phenomenal, often shocking growth is truly the central political story of our time. McMafia will change the way we look at the world

Lalu Prasad presents India's Railyway Budget

Lalu Prasad Yadav;
But Mr Yadav is a wily and disarming politician and has confounded his critics by becoming one of the country's most successful railway ministers. And he has not forgotten his cows. “If you don't milk your cow fully it falls sick, and if the cow falls sick the farmer goes sick,” he says to explain his solutions to the problems of the world's second largest railway network. With more than 1.4m employees and 63,000km (40,000 miles) of track, the railways still help bind India together, but they have suffered from deteriorating finances and lack the funds for future investment.

Rather than raise fares as he was urged to do by various reports and pundits, Mr Yadav has opted for volume-boosting and cost-cutting measures that have made diehard officials in the stuffy Railways Board shudder. He increased load limits for the system's 220,000 freight wagons by 11%, legalising something that was already happening. He has boosted the railways' earnings by 72 billion rupees ($1.6 billion) in the current year. Of this, 60 billion rupees came from speeding up turn-round times. These measures have added some 24% to freight revenues—and freight provides 70% of the railways' earnings.

The Politics of Olympics

via Chris Blattman

The Beleaguered Torch, Now With Nazi Origins

An insult to democracy?

Kenya has formed a very grand coalition;
On Sunday, it took Mr. Kibaki more than 10 minutes to read aloud the list of ministers and assistant ministers, totaling 94 people, nearly half of Parliament. It is the biggest cabinet Kenya has ever had.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

An epic day trip

Another of Don's Letters

Robert Kennedy, Jr., might be correct that electricity is best provided in Chile by means other than hydroelectric dams (Letters, April 8). His presumption, however, about the source of prosperity casts doubt on the quality of his argument.

Mr. Kennedy opposes dams because he wants to protect "nature's bounty." But nature is not bountiful. If it were, human history would be one of prosperity and long, healthy lives rather than one of oppressive poverty and short, miserable lives. Nature is miserly. The bounty that Mr. Kennedy presumes comes from nature is, in fact, the relatively recent product of human creativity and industry unleashed by free markets - and now threatened by the mindless worship of nature.

Donald J. Boudreaux