Monday, September 22, 2008

The Corruption of Intentions

Ramadan Overeating Danger

Egyptains find hope in Dubai

"This is Dubai: go to the mosque, it is full. Then go to the disco, it's also full!"

"Here you become more materialistic because the values are materialistic. It doesn't mean you stop praying, or being religious -- I'm still very religious -- but you focus on other things during the day, and religion becomes more personal. In Egypt the value system is totally different -- the mosque comes before the bank."-Amr el Shoubashy, 25 from Egypt

"It happened to me twice that I had a girl sitting in my car and then I kicked her out. I couldn't. When I overcame the temptation, I started going out and I was observing more than I was participating, watching guys run after women and getting wasted. It's hard to hold yourself back and choose not to do this. Because all my friends might be going out and I would have to choose to just stay home alone."
-Muhammad Darawy, 25, from Egypt

"I work in the snow all day, on a ski slope in the desert! ... People can hardly believe this back home, the snow, me skiing. Dubai is about freedom and work - these are the two main ideas here. For that, you have to give up a bit of your personal life, your home, your family, but it is worth it."-Hani Khaled, 27, Egyptian

"When I was in Egypt everything was up in the air. I had no purpose. I'd go to work, come home, change, eat and go out with my friends. Now, I have a much clearer purpose. Egypt was not good to us."-Rami Galal, 24, from Egypt

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pakistan- is it now a Failed State?

How Jazz Can Change Your Life

Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life

10 Moral Paradoxes

I shall argue that sometimes it is morally permissible not to be sorry when bad things happen. It is even permissible to be happy about it. But how CAN morality say this? ["On Not Being Sorry About the Morally Bad", p.59]

Saul Smilansky and Will Winkinson on Blogging Heads
10 Moral Paradoxes
1. Fortunate Misfortune
2. The Paradox of Beneficial Retirement
3. Two Paradoxes About Justice and the Severity of Punishment
4. Blackmail: The Solution
5. The Paradox of Nonpunishment
6. On Not Being Sorry About the Morally Bad
7. Choice-Egalitarianism and the Paradox of the Baseline
8. Morality and Moral Worth
9. The Paradox of Moral Complaint
10. Preferring Not To Have Been Born
11. A Meta-Paradox: Are Paradoxes Bad?
12. Reflections On Moral Paradox
Postscript: The Future and Moral Paradox

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What does this mean?

A mule is a biological hybrid, an offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. According to a new paper, all of this cross-pollination has real benefits: mules are significantly smarter than either of their parents.

-Mules are Smarter

The Market for Medical Tourism

New figures from Deloitte LLP, an international consulting firm, show how popular the practice has become with an estimated 750,000 Americans seeking medical care abroad in 2007.

Projections indicate this number could be as high as six million by 2010.

Al Qaeda update

An in-depth examination of the evolving organism that is Al Qaeda and the US response to it- from Al Jazeera.

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 /

Schools killing creativity?

Ken Robinson with Riz Khan

Today is September 11


"...whosoever killeth a human being shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind"- Koran (5:32)

Surprised? Regulators in bed with Regulated!

The DOJ’s inspector general’s office, run by Glenn Fine, has had one heckuva busy summer, throwing much of its resources at investigations into the legacy of political meddling at the Department. But the Interior Department’s inspector general, Earl Devaney (pictured), has been busy too. The big news today, via the WSJ: Employees of the federal agency that last year collected more than $11 billion in royalties from oil and gas companies broke government rules and created a “culture of ethical failure” by allegedly accepting gifts from and having sex with industry representatives.

A report by Devaney describes a party atmosphere at the Denver office of the Minerals Management Service, a bureau of the Interior Department. Some employees of the office, which houses the department’s royalty-in-kind program, “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relations with oil and gas company representatives,” the report says, adding that “sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms-length.”

The report also says that between 2002 and 2006, 19 employees in the agency’s royalty-in-kind program, roughly a third of the program’s total staff, had “socialized with and had received a wide array of gifts from oil and gas companies with whom the employees were conducting official business.” Devaney’s report said: “We discovered a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity.”

We know what you’re thinking: What’s the Minerals Management Service? As the WSJ notes, it oversees the nation’s natural-gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf. Its duties include drawing up leases for drilling in offshore waters. Through the royalty-in-kind, or RIK, program, the government receives oil instead of cash payments from energy companies in exchange for drilling rights.

-Report: ‘A Culture of Substance Abuse, Promiscuity’ at Oil & Gas Agency

Most Educative Economics Blog for past Month

The joint winners are Economist's View and Stephen Kinsella.

Money does buy Happiness

Recent research by economists Amy Finkelstein, Erzo Luttmer, and Matthew Notowidigdo suggests that you'll get a bigger bang for your consumer buck by spending while you're healthy, before old age starts to take the fun out of life's indulgences. Their research is part of a larger academic enterprise attempting to understand what makes us happy. Economics is a field more associated with rational calculation than emotion, but there's an ever-growing subculture of "happiness economists." Just as mainstream economists spend their time figuring out things like gross national product—how much a country produces in dollar terms—these happiness scholars churn out numbers like gross national happiness (how much happiness a country produces).

It's relatively easy to measure things like corporate profits and trade flows. Measuring a person's psychic well-being is trickier, though happiness economists take a relatively straightforward approach: For the most part, they just ask people if they're happy. They then try to figure out what makes people say yes or no. Perhaps not surprisingly, money-obsessed economists have been fixated on whether higher incomes make us happier. And after much debate, their conclusion is that money does indeed buy happiness. Or, as an economist would put it, there's a positive marginal utility of consumption. People in rich countries say they're happier than people in poor countries, and in just about every nation, the well-to-do report being happier than their impoverished counterparts.

-Spend It While You Can

Marketers finally learn

The big grocery chains are not thinking about closing their larger stores, which have been a success. But they hope to capture new business with the smaller stores, appealing to consumers on days when they do not have time for a long shopping trip.

“The average person goes shopping for 22 minutes,” said Phil Lempert, who edits, a Web site that tracks retail trends. “You can’t see 30,000 or 40,000 products. We are moving into an era when people want less assortment.”

Jim Hertel, managing partner at the firm Willard Bishop, which advises supermarkets, added, “If you’ve got 50 feet of ketchup and what you want is Hunt’s 64-ounce and you can’t find it, people get overwhelmed.”

-Miles of Aisles for Milk? Not Here

Top Econ Blogs- BH is 29th!

Another ranking of Economics Blogs- BH gets 29th place.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Ellis on American Creation and the Founding

Oil Prices and the Cost of Logistics

What do Greta Garbo, Madonna and Napoleon have in common? Why Glamour, Darling!

How Psychology Affects Our Credit Card Payments

Calomiris Says Treasury Made Right Move on Fannie

Freddie, Fannie Scam `Hidden in Broad Daylight'

Orenbuch Says $60-100 Billion Needed to Capitalize GSEs

Hendra and the bats

The Gridlock Economy

Skills, Rights and Resources in the East Asian Path to Development

The Challenge in the Middle East: An Egyptian Perspective

The Future of Social Policy: Hard Lessons from the United States

'Allah' in Malay

Romani: a stateless language
Between three and five million people speak Romani, the language spoken by the Rom people, yet it originated in India. Professor Yaron Matras explains how this Indic language is thought to have become so widespread in Europe.

Assorted on Personal Productivity

Assistive Technology

Mind2Chart: MindManager add-in for project planning

Peace of Mind

Recommended Books

Tips 'n Tricks for Windows: Simplicity of Using MindManager Pro 7 as a Single Dashboard

Stacy Keibler Correction Coefficient

Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters

One of the best Google Talks- Bill Tancer is somebody to look out for.

Mad Scientists

Mad Scientist Hall of Fame: Muwahahahaha!
- Dr. Evil: Megalomaniacal doctor with antisocial personality disorder (and pathological dislike of his own son, Scotty)
- Nikola Tesla: Real-life mad scientist with obsessive compulsive disorder (and he talked to aliens)
- Lex Luthor: Villain and supergenius with manic mood disorder (and premature baldness

Keywords: Forensic Psychology,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Let your children watch television and surf the internet

But University of Chicago Graduate School of Business economists Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro aren't sure that TV has been all that bad for kids. In a paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics this year, they presented a series of analyses that showed that the advent of television might actually have had a positive effect on children's cognitive ability.

The two are part of a tight-knit group of young economists using statistical techniques to examine how television affects society. The group's research suggests TV enabled an earlier generation of American children in non-English-speaking households to do better in school, helped rural Indian women to become more independent and contributed to lowering Brazil's fertility rate.

Mr. Gentzkow, who is 33 and doesn't own a TV set, says that figuring out how television influences children is far from straightforward.

"What are the reasons why some kids watch six hours of TV a day and some kids watch none?" he asks. "Clearly it has to do with their parents and what kind of parenting they're doing; it has to do with how smart they are and how much they like doing other things like reading; it has to do with what socioeconomic resources they have. Do they have a nanny who's taking them to the museum every day versus sitting home alone?"

-Economists Probe the Data on Television Watching And Find It's Not All Bad; Better Test Scores?

At age 26, Jesse Shapiro practices accessible economics. ‘I’m Happy to Do That.’

Economists Look at How TV Affects Time Use

Sunday, September 7, 2008

US Elections links for the Day

A visual comparison of the four acceptance speeches

The Rhetoric and the Reality

'I love her very much'- Colonel Qaddafi

In the end they met at his compound in Tripoli. After the diplomatic niceties were dealt with, Ms. Rice and Colonel Qaddafi met one on one — though with note takers and interpreters, State Department officials said — for what had been billed as a more interesting private exchange than the usual diplomatic meetings.

After all, the Libyan leader had professed his “love” for the American secretary of state. “I support my darling black African woman,” Colonel Qaddafi told the network Al Jazeera last year. “I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders.”

He continued: “Yes, Leezza, Leezza, Leezza... I love her very much.”

*The Al Jazeera interviews Ali A. Tarhouni- an economist who has a death sentence on him by Qaddafi.

Another Saudi role model, Haifaa Mansour

WOMEN Without Shadows” is a Saudi documentary directed by the Saudi film producer, Haifa Mansour. The documentary, which unfortunately cannot be publicly screened in the Kingdom, was shown to a select audience at the French Consulate in Jeddah. As the title indicates, the film is about Saudi women, their problems and their development over time.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

This and That

Econ Academics Blog

Getting It Wrong by Robert M. Solow

Open Source Textbooks Challenge a Paradigm

Flat World Knowledge

Conference Presentations By the Numbers

Give every kid a kindle? No, give them a netbook!

Shadowstats debunked

Would NYT hire me?

I want to give some competition to David Leonhardt.

Ramadan Mubarik to all Muslims

Photo: NYT

Private Truths, Public Lies in China

Author Sorman Says Most of China Hates Communist Party
Why would a French writer publish a book in the United States about China and come here? Well, we live in a global world. But also, I think there is a specific reason, which is the Alexis de Tocqueville tradition. What I did for China and what I did in other books I wrote, like the book I wrote on India, is try to follow the Tocqueville method.

The Tocqueville method requires a lot of time. It is not like being a journalist, where you spend a week somewhere, you write a paper, and the following day it is over and you change the subject. The Tocqueville method requires that you spend a lot of time with the people and listening to the people. Tocqueville, as you know, spent seven months in the United States and took four or five years to write his book.

The Tocqueville method can be applied to other countries—going there, staying there, and listening to individuals—and with this material trying maybe to generalize, to come to some general conclusions, which are meaningful to understand the country but also meaningful for all of us, some kind of general laws of evolution and of history.

So it is a bit ambitious to say that, but this book on China is very much inspired by the Tocquevillean method.

Quote of the Day

[D]emocracy does not mean and cannot mean that the people actually rule in any obvious sense of the terms 'people' and 'rule.' Democracy means only that the people have the opportunity of accepting or refusing the men who are to rule them. But since they might decide this also in entirely undemocratic ways, we have had to narrow our definition by adding a further criterion identifying the democratic method, viz., free competition among would-be leaders for the vote of the electorate.

- Schumpeter in 1942

Assorted Writing Tips

Stiglitz the Omniscient;
When writing a novel, one of the things you have to decide is point of view. If you focus on one character, your point of view might be limited to what that character sees.

One point of view for the author to take is that of an omniscient observer. As you read, you know that the author knows what is coming (you keep getting hints) and understands all sorts of things that the characters are innocent about.

Stiglitz always writes as the omniscient observer. He knows exactly what should have been done to prevent or solve each of the 100 financial crises that he cites.

This omniscient-observer vantage point has its limits. It does not convey the uncertainty and trade-offs that policymakers face in real time. For example, as the housing bubble was inflating, there were not many Congressional voices raised against lending to first-time homebuyers.

From NYT's Paper Cuts;

The Economist article contained a passage that would never pass muster in an American news story:

“Recently, independent voters passed Republicans to become the biggest group in the state. Some of this is due to Colorado’s growing Hispanic population, some of it is due to Californians and some of it reflects the general unpopularity of the national Republican Party. But there is a more important reason for the Republicans’ woes: their elected representatives are bonkers.”

To most American readers, that last sentence certainly looks like an opinion, and should never be presented as news in a responsible publication. (As an editor, I’d never let it get through.) But consider this: what if Colorado’s congressional delegation really is bonkers, and the Economist correspondent was merely doing his job by informing his readers of that “fact.” Sometimes judgments, even if they aren’t as solid as hard facts, are more than merely matters of opinion.

A long goodbye;

It seems fitting to begin with the ancestors. One of the exceptional characteristics of this newspaper is the degree to which it still follows the principles and methods begun 163 years ago by its founder, James Wilson, and perfected by his son-in-law, Walter Bagehot. The Economist was launched to campaign for free trade and all forms of liberty, what proponents and detractors alike today call globalisation, blended with what George Bush likes to call “the freedom agenda”. It did so with a formula that was three parts factual description and one part strongly held opinion or argumentative analysis. That is what we continue to attempt today.

We do not do so merely out of loyalty to our founders: if those principles had turned out to be wrong, they would have been ditched long ago. And their application must always evolve. I, for one, had Bagehot grumbling in his grave when, in 1994, we declared the British monarchy to be “an idea whose time has passed”, in flat contradiction to his great 1867 book, “The English Constitution”. But in general what is striking about the past 13 years is how strongly this period has fitted Wilson's original view, how it made his principles feel more relevant than ever, and how in some respects our world is one whose issues he would have recognised.

Writing resources;
I would recommend them in the following order:

1. William I. Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, “The Elements of Style”

2. William Zinsser, “On Writing Well”

3. Deirdre N. McCloskey, “Economical Writing”

4. Keith Hjortshoj, “The Transition to College Writing“

Team of Rivals

Doris Kearns Goodwin with Colbert

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Poverty + Fashion = ?

A man modeled a Burberry umbrella in Vogue that costs about $200. Some 456 million Indians live on less than $1.25 a day.

Vogue India editor Priya Tanna’s message to critics of the August shoot: “Lighten up,” she said in a telephone interview. Vogue is about realizing the “power of fashion” she said, and the shoot was saying that “fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful,” she said.

“You have to remember with fashion, you can’t take it that seriously,” Ms. Tanna said. “We weren’t trying to make a political statement or save the world,” she said.

Nearly half of India’s population — about 456 million people — live on less than $1.25 a day, according to World Bank figures released last week. But as any well-briefed luxury goods executive or private banker knows, India also has a fast-growing wealthy class and emerging middle class that make it one of the world’s most attractive new places to sell high-end products.

The juxtaposition between poverty and growing wealth presents an unsavory dilemma for luxury goods makers jumping into India: How does one sell something like a $1,000 handbag in a country where most people will never amass that sum of money in their lives, and many are starving? The answer is not clear cut, though Vogue’s approach may not be the way to go.

Marketers need to “create brand awareness” in India, said Claudia D’Arpizio, a partner with the consulting firm Bain & Company, who is based in Milan. She recommended the approach that some consumer brand companies took in China, opening big flagship stores and trying new forms of advertising like television.