Tuesday, March 31, 2009
My conversation with Dambisa Moyo, author of DEAD AID.
Monday, March 30, 2009
By the end of 2008, slightly less than 50 percent of the global population lived in cities. If economic development proceeds at today’s pace, over the next century or so it is highly likely that 8 billion people will live in urban centers, up from today’s roughly 3.3 billion.
Part businessman, party philosopher, Nilekani gives us a market overview of ideas for India's future economic and social policy.
My conversation with Nandan Nilekani, founder and Co-Chairman of Infosys Technologies Limited and author of Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation.
The world will always need entertainment, and Southern California is the odds-on favorite to produce it. It has the history, the people, the infrastructure and the creative energy. But as Detroit automakers and New York’s financiers have learned, these natural advantages can disappear when an arrogant and insular industry comes to view its dominance as inevitable and its outsized compensation as an entitlement.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Andrew Nikiforuk, a respected Canadian journalist has written Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent the definitive guide to the true costs of Alberta's tar sands.
My conversation with Andrew Nikiforuk:
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Particularly challenging is the state of affairs in the urban core, where population stood at slightly more than 900,000 in 2006, down from a 1950 high of 1.6 million. There’s a critical difference here between the two cities. Even though it has only a third of Detroit’s population, Pittsburgh has more people working in it every day — 298,429 to 241,627. It also has a 1 percent county sales tax that serves as a user fee for regional entertainment and cultural institutions. Thus it’s able to offer area residents more urban amenities and job opportunities than Detroit.
For all its traumas, Pittsburgh retains an urban/suburban/rural coherence. That, coupled with striking architecture and a beautiful natural setting, goes a long way toward explaining why it consistently gets better press than it might deserve, and why, after you examine the region’s economic, demographic, environmental, health and local government measures, you refrain from blurting out, “Why, they’ve been treading water for years!” Which is, in any case, better than sinking.
But most of the anger we see and hear comes from people who are paid to be angry, on cue, on cable television--as opposed to people with actual grievacnes. Suddenly, the White House press corps goes barking mad over the AIG Bonuses. It is said that the bonuses are an aspect of the bust that the "public" can understand; in truth, the bonuses are an aspect of the bust that reporters can understand. Suddenly, the Obama Administration has a "crisis." The President has to go on television and act as if he's angry, even though he knows these bonuses are the tiniest outcropping of outrageousness.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Atlas Shrugged is a stupid book, Ayn Rand is a stupid woman, and John Galt’s ideas are stupid. That said, none of them are nearly this stupid. Rand’s novel isn’t about a world in which executives who build companies based on a lot of incorrect decisions, then pay themselves millions of dollars while bankrupting their firms, then come to the government hat-in-hand asking for bailouts, then find that the bailers-out want to attach some strings to their hundreds of billions of dollars in public funds and then go to hide out in Galt’s Gulch. That doesn’t make any sense at all.
If the folks running Citigroup and Bank of America and AIG were good at their jobs, we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. That’s the point. But they weren’t good. They lost staggering sums of money. Their companies went broke. They had to beg for taxpayer dollars. You don’t get to do that and then turn around and “go Galt.”
For decades, the wealthy have been held up as people to be admired, victors in the Darwinian economic struggle by virtue of their personal ingenuity and hard work. […] One factor fueling the public fury over the AIG bonuses, so inescapably in the news this week, is the recognition that so many huge fortunes landed in the hands of the undeserving rich. Some of them added little value to the economy but merely moved money around in novel, excessively clever and ultimately destructive ways; others are corporate executives who were ridiculously overpaid whether they succeeded or failed at their jobs. […] The shift in sentiment should surprise no one. As the management sage Peter Drucker once predicted, “In the next economic downturn there will be an outbreak of bitterness and contempt for the super-corporate chieftains who pay themselves millions. In every major economic downturn in U.S. history the ‘villains’ have been the ‘heroes’ during the preceding boom.” Drucker was speaking in 1997, two downturns ago.
On the other hand, there is the classic question: What better and more effective things might have been done with these trillions? That’s for historians to ponder and decide. But the combination of the massively misallocated resources produced by the bubble (plus the costs of military adventures) combined with humongous bailout spending puts the U.S. behind the economic eight-ball in a way it has not been in more than a century. Having hold on the reserve currency helps, but it cannot absolve all these compounded sins. Sooner or later the money will run out; bills will come due.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
When someone demands to be told how we can replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won't break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren't in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.
Next, Steven Johnson. A sample:
I think it’s much more instructive to anticipate the future of investigative journalism by looking at the past of technology journalism. When ecologists go into the field to research natural ecosystems, they seek out the old-growth forests, the places where nature has had the longest amount of time to evolve and diversify and interconnect. They don’t study the Brazilian rain forest by looking at a field that was clear cut two years ago.
That’s why the ecosystem of technology news is so crucial.
It is the old-growth forest of the web. It is the sub-genre of news that has had the longest time to evolve. The Web doesn’t have some kind intrinsic aptitude for covering technology better than other fields. It just has an intrinsic tendency to cover technology first, because the first people that used the web were far more interested in technology than they were in, say, school board meetings or the NFL. But that has changed, and is continuing to change. The transformation from the desert of Macworld to the rich diversity of today’s tech coverage is happening in all areas of news. Like William Gibson’s future, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
But cars represent only one-third of the gap in carbon emissions between New Yorkers and their suburbanites. The gap in electricity usage between New York City and its suburbs is also about two tons. The gap in emissions from home heating is almost three tons. All told, we estimate a seven-ton difference in carbon emissions between the residents of Manhattan’s urban aeries and the good burghers of Westchester County. Living surrounded by concrete is actually pretty green. Living surrounded by trees is not.
The policy prescription that follows from this is that environmentalists should be championing the growth of more and taller skyscrapers. Every new crane in New York City means less low-density development. The environmental ideal should be an apartment in downtown San Francisco, not a ranch in Marin County.
In Shenzhen, north of Hong Kong, I went to see Liam Casey, the Irish entrepreneur I described two years ago as “Mr. China” for his success in matching big, famous foreign companies with small, obscure Chinese factories that can produce brand-name products quickly and well. Casey said that of the top 100 Chinese companies he works with regularly, not one had gone out of business. While many were struggling, some viewed the recession as a chance to move into higher-value work and introduce their own advanced products rather than serving strictly as subcontractors. (Several such items, like new tablet computers and handheld GPS devices, were displayed at the latest Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.)
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
My conversation with Peggy Orenstein:
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
News coverage is not all that newspapers have given us. They have lent the public a powerful means of leverage over the state, and this leverage is now at risk. If we take seriously the notion of newspapers as a fourth estate or a fourth branch of government, the end of the age of newspapers implies a change in our political system itself. Newspapers have helped to control corrupt tendencies in both government and business. If we are to avoid a new era of corruption, we are going to have to summon that power in other ways. Our new technologies do not retire our old responsibilities.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership? Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic party in the 1980s. He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise—and we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
His NY Times Column from last week. Money quote:
The Middle East is an uncomfortable neighborhood for minorities, people whose very existence rebukes warring labels of religious and national identity. Yet perhaps 25,000 Jews live on in Iran, the largest such community, along with Turkey’s, in the Muslim Middle East. There are more than a dozen synagogues in Tehran; here in Esfahan a handful caters to about 1,200 Jews, descendants of an almost 3,000-year-old community
Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric.
His Column from March 1st. Money quote again:
But the equating of Iran with terror today is simplistic. Hamas and Hezbollah have evolved into broad political movements widely seen as resisting an Israel over-ready to use crushing force. It is essential to think again about them, just as it is essential to toss out Iran caricatures.
I return to this subject because behind the Jewish issue in Iran lies a critical one — the U.S. propensity to fixate on and demonize a country through a one-dimensional lens, with a sometimes disastrous chain of results.
Monday, March 2, 2009
The median price of a home sold in Detroit in December was $7,500, according to Realcomp, a listing service.
Not $75,000. Remove a zero—it's seven thousand five hundred dollars, substantially less than the lowest-price car on the new-car market.
But as the domestic auto industry, the city's principal private-sector employer and founding corporate father, seeks a financial bailout from Washington, formerly whispered remarks about the prospect of the nation's 11th-largest city being the first major American city to go bankrupt are now publicly discussed.