Friday, July 30, 2010

Football & Finance

In sport as in life, regulators are always a step or two behind the times. The brouhaha about the disallowed English goal against the Germans seems to have forced even the bureaucrats at FIFA to agree to look into introducing some technology. This piece by Richard Thaler brings out a few parallels between the worlds of super sport and high finance. Considering how out of touch with everyday reality both these universes are, they have a lot in common.

PS: If FIFA needs an example one can only point to a cricket match in Calcutta much before video replays were available to umpires. Azhar was declared run-out, while everyone on the field was helpfully shown multiple slow-motion replays indicating otherwise. The good natured Bengali crowd promptly rioted and torched a section of the stadium.

Shiver me timbers!

Martin Wolf in an excellent piece presents a take on current political thinking in the US government that left unchecked could lead to a situation where the mighty USA defaults on its debt. Then we'll have a real juicy worldwide financial crisis. Of course, its not unthinkable for a sovereign to do so. They definitely won't be the first leading power to pull the rug out from under their creditors, nor will they be the last.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ignored by The Economist

The Indian Rupee doesn't figure on the latest Big Mac Index. Probably because the franchise doesn't have a beef burger variety available for consumption in India. Replacing chicken for beef, and running through the numbers it seems the INR is undervalued by almost 65%. This indicates the PPP value of the INR to the USD to be in the range of Rs.15 to Rs.17.

Bad news for the NRI's remitting money to India, "Enjoy it while it lasts. The Rupee is headed just one way, and that's against you". :)

The freedom to be wrong

This fundamental right / privilege goes a long way in making the culture of the USA so appealing to a lot of people elsewhere. The thought process that went into making it so is evident here.

Consider the words spoken by Benjamin Franklin just before he appended his name to the most famous piece of parchment in American history. “I confess there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve,” Franklin said, “but I am not sure that I shall never approve them. For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shhh! The guest is reading a sleep manual

At one time, the stereotype of a business traveler checking into a hotel in a distant city was a boisterous fellow with wine, women and song on his mind. Now the universal craving that hotels seek to satisfy is for something considerably more urgent: a night of true, deep shuteye, with no distractions.

Looks to me that we've all just grown old. What would we rather do on most evenings? That's right, try and get a good night's sleep.

The English (speaking) are everywhere

and they're likely taking over in the not so distant future. The urban elite in most places have a tendency to avoid the public school system. In the developing world this often means moving to a non-native language based curriculum. And it seems parents from all classes prefer this, most don't only if they can't afford a private education.

The linguistic nationalists must take heart, its nothing personal. Just hard to fault the parents for the economics and rationale of the superior quality of life that knowledge of the English language affords anyone in this day and age.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

more on the veil, but here's a surprise

Seems there's a covert curb on the veil in Syria. With an immediate roll-out in the education system, affecting 1200 teachers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Another pearl in the string

Here's evidence, if any was ever needed, of the brilliance of the good folk in charge of long-term strategy within the Chinese government. Though it seems unclear whether this potential client state has any idea what they're getting into.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Let them eat apples

Not exactly a Marie Antoinette moment, but this state has been more trouble than its worth. I don't really care for the opinions and rationales on either side of the argument. As far as i'm concerned, they just provide another reason for the fundamentalists to attack the rest of us. They don't want to be a part of this economic unit, let them go, an occupational force is such a 20th century concept.

Though the stone throwing does bring to mind another flashpoint region.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gandhi wouldn't be too proud

Nicholas Kristof believes that the Palestinians are waiting for the Mahatma. Judging from the present West Bank definition of peaceful protest, they might be waiting a while longer.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

in defense of geeks everywhere

i do occasionally run the grocery errands, quite efficiently too. though the wife would still consider me a card holding member of the 'Can't Find Shit' club.  Now thanks to Scott Adams we know it isn't a super exclusive club.

another moment of hubris?

I get wary whenever i hear "the largest in history", and words of its ilk. This latest public offering from the Chinese government seems to be in keeping with its sentiment of taking money off gullible investors / sovereign wealth funds. The below snippets do not portend a good omen. This may well be a case of 'caveat emptor'.

The bailout did not take. In 2006, auditors said they had found fraudulent deals at the Agricultural Bank totaling 60.3 billion renminbi ($7.5 billion). In 2008, with nonperforming loans composing almost a quarter of the bank’s assets, the government pumped $19 billion more into Agricultural Bank, then assumed another 800 billion renminbi ($120 billion) in bad loans.

However, here's a more balanced viewpoint.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Shifting the production

"Growers continue to find the weak links in the enforcement chain. In 1995 Peru and Bolivia were the world’s top cocaine producers. Much blood and money was spent driving the trade out of those countries and, inadvertently, into Colombia (see chart). In 1999 America sponsored a big anti-drug programme in Colombia. As a result, growers have moved back: in the past decade, the area used for coca rose by 55% in Peru and 42% in Bolivia. Until legalisation, the only thing you can do is make it someone else’s problem.”

And till then, the futile 'war on drugs' seems likely to continue, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.