Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Lot Changes in Tech Over Four Years - NYTimes.com


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It's a Very Merry Christmas for Washington Insiders

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The Silence of the Liberals | The Weekly Standard

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The Corporate Profit Equation Derived, Explained, Tested: 1929-2013 | Philosophical Economics


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The Single Greatest Predictor of Future Stock Market Returns | Philosophical Economics


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The Single Greatest Predictor of Future Stock Market Returns? | PRAGMATIC CAPITALISM


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Friday, December 20, 2013

A Post from Business Insider

sun clouds mountain nature happy optimismWe live in difficult times. Financial crisis, sovereign debt crisis, euro crisis, Syrian conflict, global warming. We are bombarded nonstop with despairing news.

In Europe, the mood is morose and the prospects seem dire. The general consensus is that things are going to be bad, the only conversation is around how bad things will get.

Well, I have good news for you, for the consensus is dead wrong! We are in fact facing a wonderful future and I want to explain to you why.

Click here to see slides on the case for optimism » Politics & Wealth

Let me take you back in time to the late 1970s, for they seemed to mark the beginning of the end of Western Civilization. OECD countries were suffering from stagflation with inflation and unemployment above 10%. We had suffered from 2 oil shocks. The U.S. had lost Vietnam. The Shah had fallen in Iran. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. Dictatorships were the norm in Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Latin America and even Southern Europe. The Club of Rome had made dire predictions that the world would run out of oil, coal and many natural resources within 40 years.

No one predicted that over the next 40 years there would be democracies across Latin America, Eastern Europe and Southern Europe; that inflation and unemployment would fall dramatically; that we would see the greatest creation of wealth in the history of humanity as 1 billion people came out of poverty. 650 million came out of poverty in China alone, completely changing urban landscapes across the country as a whole.

Despite 40 years of record consumption of oil and natural gas we now have more reserves than we did then. The way we work and live has been profoundly transformed by computers, the Internet and mobile phones.

If we take a further step back, we can see that over the last 100 years economic downturns — be they recessions that occur every few years or bigger crises such as the Great Depression — as painful as they are while we live them, barely register in a background of unabated economic growth. In fact over the last 100 years human lifespans have doubled from 40 to 80, average per capita income has tripled and childhood mortality has divided by 10. The cost of food, electricity, transportation and communications have dropped 10 to a 1,000 fold. Global literacy has gone from 25% to over 80% in the last 130 years.

We have redefined what poverty means. Today 99% of Americans in poverty have electricity, water, toilet and refrigerator. 95% have a television. 88% have a mobile phone. 70% have a car and air conditioning. The richest people 100 years ago could only dream of such luxuries.

We are also living in the most peaceful time in human history; not just of recent history, but in the history of humanity. We are truly living in extraordinary times.

Improvements of this magnitude are continuing today.

When historians look back at these past 10 years I suspect that what they will find most remarkable is not the financial crisis, the euro crisis or the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but the remarkable growth of Africa. Over the past 10 years 6 of the top 10 fastest growing economies have been African. Africa is rapidly becoming integrated in the global economy.

The current environment of austerity has been leading states to want to do less with less, but there is a real opportunity for states to do more with less. Countries like Estonia are showing the world how the application of existing technology can revolutionize areas of the economy that have yet to be touched by the technology revolution, especially in healthcare, medicine and public services which account for more than 50% of GDP in OECD countries. Over 24% of people voted online in the 2011 elections. 93% of Estonians fill personal tax returns online. Estonians can set up a company online in minutes. Parents can check their children's homework, grades and attendance records online. All medical records are online.


New technologies are emerging that are going to revolutionize almost every sector of our economy. 3D printing is not only revolutionizing prototyping, but is increasingly being combined with traditional manufacturing to make end products. 25% of 3D printer output is production-ready items. It also has the potential to revolutionize medicine as the printing of a mini kidney demonstrated. 3D printed organs based on our personal genetic make-up will eliminate the organ shortage and rejection issues in the next 10 years.

Medicine is on the verge of a transformation. IBM's Watson is already better at diagnosing certain types of cancers that doctors are. This makes sense as computers have the patience and eye for detail to go through every millimeter of an MRI scan or x-ray. Granted Watson cost $21 million to build and develop, but with Moore's law today's expensive supercomputer is tomorrow's $100 cell phone. In fact, we are less than 5 years away from having a functioning Star Trek-like medical tricorder: a cellphone-sized device that can diagnose most illness better than most doctors.

Robots have already invaded factories and are now set to percolate in and dramatically improve our everyday life. Darpa has built the Atlas robot, a 6-foot tall robot designed to save lives in disaster zones. The Da Vinci Robot has already performed minimally invasive surgeries on over 200,000 patients.

In a few years, drones will deliver over 80% of Amazon's products in less than one hour, while self-driving cars deliver most of the rest. Google announced last week that robots are its next big project and has acquired 7 robotic companies in the last few years.

The "Internet of Things" is taking our everyday appliances to a new level. Connected coffee makers, vacuum cleaners, microwaves and lamps learn our habits to serve us better, more cost efficiently. To give you a few examples, the Quirky made Egg-minder reminds people when eggs are going bad. As simple as this sound, improvements like this can have tremendous impact. Imagine if we all reduced our food waste by 50%. One of the most popular objects of the Internet of Thing today is the Nest thermostat. It learns our behavior, routines and the temperature we like, helping us live in a more pleasant environment while saving on our heating bills! The Internet of things is not about things, but about improving our lives.


Education is also on the cusp of a revolution. If we transported Socrates forward in time 2,500 years, the way we teach our kids is one of the few things he would recognize: a teacher, of varying quality, spewing facts to students, of varying quality. Some schools are now experimenting with using gamified learning software to create challenging personalized curriculum for each of their students with continuous testing. The students are more engaged because they have challenging material at their level. Teachers are freed from being mere fact-spewing machines and start playing the role of personal coach. A few schools have tried this with extremely promising early results.

Education is also in the process of becoming scalable with the best professors reaching hundreds of thousands of students as many classes on the top MOOCs, Udacity and Coursera, have shown. Education is being democratized and is transforming itself in a lifelong endeavor as people from everywhere in the world, of every age, at every stage in life can take classes on the likes of Khan Academy or Code Academy.


Transportation is also on the verge of a revolution. Every year, in the U.S., 5.5 billion hours and 2.9 billion gallons of fuel representing $121 billion in economic value are lost to congestion. Over 1.2 million lives are lost to accidents each year globally on top of the injuries and economic costs imposed by 50 million accidents.

We originally thought we would have to rebuild our entire infrastructure to support self-driving cars, but Google has demonstrated that we already have the technology to make autonomous self-driving vehicles. They currently are cost-prohibitive but the technology that they use is already being deployed in the mass-market with self-parking systems and automatic braking when traffic slows. In fact Tesla expects to have a car that can drive itself in 90% of situations in the next 3 years! It might take a few more years for self-driving cars to reach the mass market, but it looks like they will be mainstream within 10 years.

Communications are also rapidly evolving. It makes perfect sense for Google to be working on glasses given that cellphones seem bound to disappear. We are making great progress in brain reading. We now have low resolution scanners than can scan images from people's brains. We can project our thoughts and make them appear on screen. This currently requires expensive and unwieldy hardware but that is also set to shrink and become cheaper because of Moore's law.

Google Glasses will probably evolve to use lasers to print on our retina taking orders from our mind control rather than by voice. This technology will also give us the potential for telepathy as we will be able to send our thoughts directly to others if they want to receive them. Ultimately the glasses or intelligent contact lenses will probably disappear altogether as we will find a way to send images and thoughts directly to our brain.

All this may sound sci-fie but it's already in the labs and will be part of our reality within 15 years. Remember that 15 years ago few could conceive that we would all have smart phones that we would use as general computing devices. This is merely the next step of this evolution.


Energy is also slowly being revolutionized and its revolution is one of the things making me most optimistic about the future of humanity.

The idea that we are going to run out of energy is ludicrous. We are awash in it. Every 12 minutes we receive enough energy from the sun to meet all of our energy needs for an entire year. As Peter Diamandis, who runs the X Prize Foundation, likes to say, the issue is not scarcity, it's accessibility. It's one we have faced time and time again.

In the 19th century aluminum was the most expensive metal in the world. It was more valuable than sliver, gold or platinum. That's why the tip of the Washington Monument is in aluminum. It's why Napoleon III when he received the King of Siam in the late 1850s gave silver utensils to his guests, gold for him and aluminum for the king. Aluminum is very abundant. It's 7% of earth's core, the 3rd most abundant element in the Earth's crust. The issue is that it does not occur in natural form, which made it incredibly rare. Prices dropped dramatically in a few years after 1886 when chemists discovered electrolysis, which allowed them to separate pure aluminum from its ore.

A similar process is under way with solar energy. It's following a slow Moore's law curve with solar power improving 14% per year in terms of energy production per dollar invested. In 1977, solar cells cost upwards of $70 per Watt. In 2013, that cost dropped to $0.74 per Watt, a 100:1 improvement. In fact, the costs dropped 50% in one year in 2011 driven by competition between Chinese manufacturers. Solar is already at grid parity in remote places. Based on current trends it will be at grid parity in sunny places of the U.S. by 2025 and most of the world by 2035. When that happens investments in its deployment will reach tens of billions of dollars.

In other words even excluding disruptive innovation like fusion or radical increases in solar efficiency, without subsidies or government action, we will transition away from a carbon based economy by the middle of the 21st century.

In fact the marginal megawatt should become so cheap that we should be in a position to "waste" it — the same way we waste the computing power in our cellphone or computer. Think about it. Computing power was so expensive we had to limit access to it. Now it's so ubiquitous we use it to play Angry Birds or check Facebook. Its very cheapness has unleashed an extraordinary wave of innovation.

The same will happen with energy. Once it's cheap, many of our other problems go away. The idea that we will face a fresh water shortage is also ludicrous. The earth is 70% covered by water. The issue is once again accessibility as only 1.3% of it is surface fresh water. However in a world of unlimited energy it's easy to desalinate salt water. In fact we may not even need to wait that long as new innovative devices like the Slingshot are coming on stream that can generate 1,000 liters of pure water per day from any water source, even saline or polluted.

Once fresh water is abundant food also becomes abundant as you can grow crops in the dessert — and that's not taking into consideration an agriculture productivity revolution that could come from urban vertical farms.

As people we are truly blessed to be living in this amazing time. As entrepreneurs and investors we have the privilege of helping create this better world of tomorrow, a world of equality of opportunity and of plenty.

This post originally appeared at Musings of an Entrepreneur. Copyright 2013. Follow Musings of an Entrepreneur on Twitter.

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Weird is Normal


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A QE and Stock Market Thought Experiment | PRAGMATIC CAPITALISM


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The long farewell to quantitative easing | Gavyn Davies


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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ed Driscoll » The Commander in Chief of MSNBC


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Digg.com: One Key Difference Between Today's All-Time High And The Last Two Market Peaks

One Key Difference Between Today's All-Time High And The Last Two Market Peaks

Are we or aren't we in a stock market bubble? To answer that question, some folks point straight to the stock market, which is currently at an all-time high. However, the nature of the current rally…


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Digg.com: Google Just Bought Some Robots

Google Just Bought Some Robots

BigDog, Cheetah, WildCat and Atlas have joined Google's growing robot menagerie.


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Digg.com: How-to: Have your iOS device read text for you

How-to: Have your iOS device read text for you

iOS devices are built with all users in mind: they come with several accessibility features for low-vision or legally blind users, settings for hard-of-hearing or deaf users, settings for individuals …


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Saturday, December 14, 2013

HAVE WE REACHED PEAK SCHADENFREUDE YET? “Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have …

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#NARRATIVEFAIL: Five Years Ago Today: Al Gore Predicted the North Pole Will Be Ice Free in 5 Years…

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Productivity and Potential Output before, during, and after the Great Recession


Productivity post-paradox | FT Alphaville


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Crying, while eating


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Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Canard of Decline - The American Interest


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About that ObamaCare Small Business Exchange… | Wizbang

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Article: Match schedule for FIFA World Cup 2014

Match schedule for FIFA World Cup 2014

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AEIdeas » A ‘New Normal’ November jobs report: The long emergency for US workers continues


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Lessons From Living in London - NYTimes.com


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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Economist's View: 'Is Technological Progress a Thing of the Past?'


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Antonio Fatas on the Global Economy: Saving glut or investment dearth?


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Antonio Fatas on the Global Economy: Bubbles, interest rates and full employment.


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How a presidency unravels - The Washington Post


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Why Nuke Now? | The Daily Caller


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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Watch ""If You Like Your Plan..." Supercut" at New York Magazine


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Unemployment in the Age of Capital Abundance | Macrofugue Analytics


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AEIdeas » “Wealth” and illusion


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Coppola Comment: When governments become banks


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Coppola Comment: Government debt isn't what you think it is


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Obamacare’s Moment of Clarity | National Review Online


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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bad Idea - Funny T Shirts, The Best Offensive, Hilarious and Crazy Shirts


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Obama Will Cut a Deal Sooner Rather than Later | National Review Online


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Sober Look: US loan-to-deposit ratio the lowest in 30 years and falling


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Sober Look: Deposit growth ≠ loan growth


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Screen-shot-2013-10-09-at-12.18.07.png 719×456 pixels


Marc to Market: Great Graphic: International Ownership of US Treasuries


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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why You Should Care

Why You Should Care About Twitter

Twitter has a problem. Most people you know aren't on it. They don't understand what it's for, or why there's a need to tell strangers what they're thinking every moment of the day. Here's why Twitter…


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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why You Should Care About Twitter

Twitter has a problem. Most people you know aren't on it. They don't understand what it's for, or why there's a need to tell strangers what they're thinking every moment of the day. Here's why Twitter…


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Where The Jobs Are

I thought you would be interested in the following story from The Wall Street Journal.

Where the Jobs Are—and How to Get One


The Wall Street Journal App provides a new way to experience the Journal's award winning coverage, blending the best of print and online. Special features include:

  • "Now" Issue featuring updated coverage throughout the day, with top article picks from Journal editors
  • Market Data including quote search and customizable Watchlist
  • Videos and slideshows published with free articles

Click or tap the link below to download The Wall Street Journal from the Apple iTunes App Store.


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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Letter Details Kennedy Offer To USSR | Sweetness & Light


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Remember History

In a March 2011 interview, Hillary Clinton implied that Bashar Assad was a "reformer." In 2007, Nancy Pelosi visited Syria, and said, "The road to Damascus is a road to peace." Senator John Kerry predicted that "Syria will change as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States."

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Monday, August 5, 2013

So You Want to Buy World Cup Tickets ... - The Triangle Blog - Grantland

So You Want to Buy World Cup Tickets ...


By Spike Friedman on
Buda Mendes/LatinContent/Getty Images

So you want to go the 2014 World Cup? Well, you're in luck. Because you can! And by "can," I mean you can apply to do so! Not now, but soon. Probably. It is complicated. To fully understand the system FIFA has put in place to distribute the 3.3 million tickets available, they have released both a 30-page brochure and a 90-minute video that you can read and watch (with the enticing headline Relive the FIFA World Cup ticketing announcement), or, alternatively, you can allow us to do that for you. So many pie charts. So much double speak. Let's just say that 80 minutes into the FIFA video one of the journalists in attendance asked apologetically, "Um, do I understand this at all?" (He did. Kind of.)

The entire system is being run as a three-stage lottery, with the bulk of tickets being made available for purchase starting August 20. From that time through mid-October, anyone from around the world will be able to apply for tickets based on price, venue, and the country they support. Tickets will be assigned randomly from the pool that applied in early November based on availability. This is a process that will likely be familiar to World Cup fans who have also tried to attend Burning Man in the past couple of years, a Venn diagram that I believe only includes my friend Monty. No matter.

Leftover tickets will then briefly be put on sale on a first-come, first-served basis. Then the whole system will be repeated with returned and (a small amount of) held tickets after the full draw for the World Cup happens in December (in case you want to know whom you will be seeing before you purchase tickets). After that, surplus tickets will again be put on sale on a first-come, first-served basis. Then whatever is leftover and returned will be available April 15 for rush sales. Simple enough.

Tickets start at $90 for international supporters, though to have a better chance of actually being allocated a ticket, one will likely have to enter the lottery at the Tier 1 level, with ticket prices starting at $175 per seat. FIFA will not reveal the percentages of tickets that they are allocating to each tier, or to which tier hospitality tickets (tickets sold with expensive transportation and lodging packages) are being assigned (except that they will include all Skybox seats), but this chart makes things pretty clear:

Tier 1 is the blue tier. So ... yeah. For the knockout stages, prices are even higher. If you want to go to Brazil to see the World Cup, expect to spend money.

Deciding how you want to apply is also an issue, as there are a number of options at play. For example, you may want to follow a single team through the tournament. Great! Except that you don't know how deep into the tournament they will advance. Meaning that you can apply for tickets to follow a team (though don't expect to get tickets if that team is Brazil) up through the knockout round. This, of course, is a gamble. As an American fan, do you go for the quarterfinals? How good are you feeling? The semis? Really? If you get tickets, and you have paid for a round that your side doesn't advance to, you will still be paying for tickets to the match that your team would have made even if they don't make it. Naturally, that match will feature the team that just beat your team. Pleasant!

Note that if you want to avoid this whole rigamarole, you can always purchase hospitality package tickets, which can be acquired by bartering the giant sapphires you use as paperweights or the gold sheets on which you sleep. The super-rich sleep on gold sheets, yes? Hospitality tickets are more expensive than the already very expensive proposition of going to the World Cup, but they are a sure thing, whereas this lottery system is rife with uncertainty. Also note that if you have some friends interested in attending and you are attempting to purchase tickets on their behalf, make sure that your name is the primary one on any application; once the tickets are assigned, you will be unable to change or resell the primary ticket without exchanging or reselling the entire batch of assigned tickets (seriously).

Let's say you get tickets! You did it! You're good to go! Just look up your seat ... um ... no. You actually don't have a seat yet. FIFA has yet to ensure that all of the seats are in the stadium, mostly because six of the venues are still being built. Lest they suffer a Cowboys Stadium Super Bowl scenario (a scenario that repeated itself at this year's Confederations Cup), they are only guaranteeing that you will have a ticket when you win the lottery. You won't actually have a seat until all the stadia are inspected (literally seat by seat) in 2014.

After that happens, you'll just print out your ticket, which will be scanned at the stadium ... no? No. You will actually need to go to a FIFA World Cup Ticket Center in Brazil (which will be located in the airports and downtowns of the 12 host cities) between April 15, 2014, and the match date. Then, the primary purchaser of your batch of tickets can show their passport and pick up the tickets in person. FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil said he hopes that people will be able to get a drink in these centers, which, on the one hand, a caipirinha sounds nice, but on the other hand, this suggests that picking up tickets won't be a quick in-and-out procedure.

Well, now that you have tickets, things get ... immeasurably harder. Because Brazil built or renovated 12 World Cup venues instead of the required eight or expected nine, and refused to invest in the transportation infrastructure of the country to support the event, traveling between venues likely will be the hardest aspect of attending the World Cup. Intra-country flights are expected to be both the only way to get from far-afield venues and, again, very, very expensive.

But would things be so expensive if you were Brazilian? The overwhelming media narrative surrounding FIFA's announcement of ticket prices has been related to the discounts afforded Brazilian citizens attempting to purchase tickets. Whereas tickets for non-Brazilians start at $90 a seat, Brazilian residents will be able to apply for tickets for as little as $15 a seat. Which seems like a huge boon for the Brazilian people until you look at the stadium chart again:

That pink section? That represents tickets for Brazilians. The total number available to Brazilians to purchase at these lower rates is 400,000, or around 6,250 a match. 400,000 is both a lot of tickets (around 11 percent of the total pool) and statistically almost no tickets. When you are talking about a soccer-mad country of 200 million, 6,250 a match is not that many. While these tickets will not be the only path for Brazilians to see the World Cup — 100,000 additional seats are also reserved for government officials (oh boy) and stadium construction workers — they are the only realistic way for most Brazilians to attend the matches. Brazilians will of course be able to apply for the more expensive international tickets, though those tickets would represent a serious financial burden for average Brazilians, who earn under $10,000 a year.

Does FIFA get credit for doing its best here? In a way, yes; it is dealing with a massively limited resource in terms of tickets compared to the potential demand, and it has a pricing tier that is artificially low so that its event is not impenetrable for a local audience.

That said, the massive public expenditure on stadia for the event, which has yet to be matched by transportation and infrastructure investment, means the actual cost to the average Brazilian for hosting this event is massively high.

While it was not FIFA's direct responsibility to ensure that the nation's priorities were in line when charting a path for World Cup–related investments, the anger that the country feels toward soccer's governing body is understandable. Even a much-maligned South African effort resulted in new train lines and airports as a legacy from their World Cup. The average Brazilian will likely neither see the impact of the influx of money into the country nor have access to the matches.

This is an unfortunate legacy for this event, one that should be troublesome for anyone considering heading down to Brazil to take in some soccer. On the purely practical level, there is uncertainty; will anyone be able to get around? Will the nation be ground to a halt during the event because of protests? Morally, the questions are also tricky. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has, as is befitting a man with the name of a lesser Star Wars villain, suggested that it is in Brazil's best interest to make sure that this year's massive Confederations Cup protests don't happen again. His statement mostly ignores that the protests weren't happening in a vacuum, they were happening because the government chose circuses over bread (and schools and hospitals), much to the dismay of its people. What is it to travel to a country, when the money spent on that travel goes toward a corrupt sports organization?

All of that said, I am still planning to go. It's the World Cup in Brazil. The appeal is overwhelming. Specifically, I'll reveal that my plan is to apply for the venue-specific tickets in São Paulo as well as trying to pick up one more match farther north after the draw happens (hopefully supporting the U.S. if they aren't otherwise assigned to São Paulo). Other options that sound appealing include following a gutsy young Belgian side around (the team among the true 2014 contenders with the smallest traveling fan base and therefore the easiest-to-acquire tickets), basing oneself out of Rio to see a match at the legendary Maracana, or trying to get tickets at a couple of the coastal northern venues and busing between them to enjoy a balmy Brazilian winter by the beach (you can see where each match is played by clicking here and rolling over the matches; don't try to look on the FIFA schedule page, as the image with each match location is illegibly small. They can certainly be blamed for that).

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Books That Will Change Your Life - Business Insider


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The Econtrarian: Will the Recent Rise in Interest Rates Shut Down Household Spending?


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Texas Leads The Low Tax Pack, But New Mexico Wants To Catch Up - Forbes


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olmo e daloo

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Income by Percentile

The Economy Just Grew 1.7 Percent, But It Should Have Been Much Better [feedly]

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The Economy Just Grew 1.7 Percent, But It Should Have Been Much Better

The economy is growing, but it's not growing fast enough, and now we have new numbers to tell just how not fast that is. The initial estimate for second quarter GDP growth came in at a depressing 1.7 percent, which, even more depressingly, was actually better than expected.

Welcome to the recovery.

Of course, even this relatively good news came with a caveat. First quarter GDP got revised down from 1.8 to 1.1 percent, which made growth look better in the second quarter, but certainly not the economy overall. And that's coming off a fourth quarter in 2012 that registered just 0.1 percent growth. In other words, it's been 9 months of nothing but stall speed, if that. 


Well, it's the austerity, stupid. For whatever reason, whether it's deleveraging or inadequate policy or both, recoveries from financial crises tend to be slower than from garden-variety recessions. But we've taken it a step further than inadequate policy with actively bad policy. Yes, we needed to stabilize the debt (as we have already), but we did so too fast and too soon. You can see that in the chart below that looks at what has added to (or subtracted from) GDP growth since the recovery officially began in June 2009.GDPRecovery.png

A few things stand out. Yes, inventories have bounced around like inventories do, and our trade balance has generally been a net negative for growth, but business investment has actually increased at a decent clip. The real culprits of the weak recovery have been weak housing and weak government spending. Now, housing is easy enough to understand. There was the boom, and then the bust, but we didn't do enough to end the bust. We didn't write down underwater mortgages, and only belatedly refinanced them on a wide scale. But years of basically building no houses at all has actually left us with too few houses now -- so few that residential investment finally started adding to the recovery last year.

But the government has been taking it away. Back in 2010 into 2011, it was state and local government spending cuts adding a degree of difficulty to the recovery. Now, it's federal tax hikes and spending cuts doing so. Indeed, for all of the talk of runaway government sending us down the road to FEMA camps serfdom, overall public spending has actually fallen at its fastest pace since the Korean War demobilization. We've only avoided a pointless double-dip recession, because enough time has passed that households have rebuilt their balance sheets a bit, and the Fed has stepped up the monetary stimulus to offset some of the fiscal austerity. That's the positive spin. The negative spin is that we're still stuck in a recovery that still feels like a recession when we finally should have been getting the elusive catchup growth we've been hoping for.

Maybe next year, Godot.


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Article: Watch the Intricate Patterns of Global Infrastructure Emerge From Geocoded Tweets

Watch the Intricate Patterns of Global Infrastructure Emerge From Geocoded Tweets

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

What’s an Idea Worth? - NYTimes.com


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Everything You Need To Know About Our Pension Crisis | Via Meadia

Everything You Need To Know About Our Pension Crisis


The Economist is worried about America's shambolic pension systems, and you should be too.

Many have been arguing recently that Detroit is an outlier, but we wonder whether they have seen the national and state-by-state pension liabilities numbers that Moody's published and the Economist analyzed. A nationwide shortfall of $1 trillion rounds out the "optimistic discount rate" that states themselves apply to their pension obligations; some think it could be as much as 25 percent worse than that. Illinois leads the pack with a pension liability equal to 241 percent of its annual tax revenues:


For everything you need to know about America's pension crises, read the whole article here. Besides the billion dollar shortfalls, you'll learn about: retired fire chiefs making over half a million dollars a year; tens of thousands of public servants in California with pensions over $100,000 per year; and widespread use of pension gambits like "spiking" (when public employees use overtime and unused holiday to inflate their final-year salaries, thus raising the base of their future pensions) and "double-dipping" (when a public employee collects pension payments while returning to a salaried job).

The Economist suggests that public employees retire later, and that states hasten the shift to defined-contribution schemes. To that we would add large-scale regulation and oversight of public pension systems and aggressive surveillance of collusion between union heads and politicians.

As the Economist concludes:

Uncle Sam offers an array of "entitlements" that there is no real plan to pay for. Barack Obama is on his way to joining George W. Bush as a president who did nothing about that, while Republicans in Congress imagine they can balance the books without raising taxes. The government spends more on health care than many rich countries and still does not cover everyone. America's dynamic private sector is carrying on its back an unreformed Leviathan. Detroit is merely a symptom of that.

Our thoughts exactly.

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China Might Never Become Number One | Via Meadia


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Saturday, July 27, 2013

10 Psychology Tricks You Can Use To Influence People - Listverse

10 Psychology Tricks You Can Use To Influence People


Gregory Myers

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Before we get started, it's important to note that none of these methods fall under what we would term the dark arts of influencing people. Anything that might be harmful to someone in any way, especially to their self esteem, is not included here. These are ways to win friends and influence people using psychology without being a jerk or making someone feel bad.


Trick: Get someone to do a favor for you—also known as the Benjamin Franklin effect.

Legend has it that Benjamin Franklin once wanted to win over a man who didn't like him. He asked the man to lend him a rare book and when the book was received he thanked him graciously. As a result, this the man who had never wanted to speak to him before, became good friends with Franklin. To quote Franklin: "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged."

Scientists decided to test this theory and found that those who were asked by the researcher for a personal favor rated the researcher much more favorably than the other groups did. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the theory is pretty sound. If someone does a favor for you, they are likely to rationalize that you must have been worth doing the favor for, and decide that therefore they must like you.

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Trick: Ask for way more than you want at first then scale it back later.

This trick is sometimes known as the door in the face approach. You start by throwing a really ridiculous request at someone—a request they will most likely reject. You then come back shortly thereafter and ask for something much less ridiculous—the thing you actually wanted in the first place. This trick may also sound counter-intuitive, but the idea behind it is that the person will feel bad for refusing your first request, even though it was unreasonable, so when you ask for something reasonable they will feel obliged to help out this time.

Scientists tested this principle and found that it worked extremely well as long as the same person asked for both the bigger and smaller favor, because the person feels obliged to help you the second time and not anyone else.


Trick: Use a person's name, or their title depending on the situation.

Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, believed that using someone's name was incredibly important. He said that a person's name is the sweetest sound in any language for that person. A name is the core part of our identity, and so hearing it validates our existence, which makes us much more inclined to feel positively about the person who validated us.

But using a title, or form of address can also have strong effects, according to the as if principle. The idea is that if you act like a certain type of person, you will become that person, it's a bit like a self fulfilling prophecy. To use this to influence others, you can refer to them as what you want them to be, so they will start thinking of themselves this way. This can be as simple as calling an acquaintance you want to be closer to "friend," or "mate" whenever you see them, or referring to someone you want to work for as "boss." But be warned: this can come off as very corny.


Trick: Flattery will actually get you everywhere.

This one may seem obvious at first, but there are some important caveats to it. For starters it's important to note that if the flattery is not seen as sincere, it's going to do more harm than good. But researchers have studied the motivations behind peoples reaction's to flattery, and found some very important things.

To put it simply, they found that people tend to look for cognitive balance, trying to always keep their thoughts and feelings organized in a similar way. So if you flatter someone who has high self esteem, and it is seen as sincere, they will like you more, as you are validating how they feel about themselves. However, if you flatter someone who has low self esteem, there is a chance it could backfire and cause them to like you less, because it interferes with how they perceive themselves. That, of course, does not mean you should demean a person of low self-esteem!

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Trick: Mirror their behavior.

Mirroring is also known as mimicry, and is something that some people do naturally. People with this skill are considered to be chameleons; they try to blend into their environment by copying other people's behaviors, mannerisms and even speech patterns. However, this skill can also be used consciously, and is a great way to make you more likable.

Researchers studied mimicry, and found that those who had been mimicked were much more likely to act favorably toward the person who had copied them. Even more interesting was their second find that those who had someone mimic their behavior were actually nicer and more agreeable to others in general—even those not involved in the situation. It is likely that the reason why this works is that mirroring someone's behavior makes them feel validated. While this validation is likely to be most positively associated with the person who validated them, they will feel greater self-esteem and thus be more confident, happier and well disposed towards others.

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Trick: Ask for favors when someone is tired.

When someone is tired they are more susceptible to everything someone may say, whether it is a statement or a request. The reason for this is that when people are tired it isn't just their physical body, their mental energy levels drop as well. When you ask a request of someone who is tired, you probably won't get a definite response, but probably an "I'll do it tomorrow," because they don't want to deal with decisions at the moment. The next day, they are likely to follow through because people tend to keep their word; it's natural psychologically to want to follow through with something you said you would do.


Trick: Start with a request they can't refuse and work your way up.

This is a reverse of the door in the face technique. Instead of starting with a large request, you start with something really small. Once someone has committed to helping you, or agreeing to something, they are now more likely to agree to a bigger request. Scientists tested this phenomenon in regards to marketing.

They started by getting people to express support for the rain forests and the environment—which is a fairly simple request. Then they found that once they had gotten them to express their agreement to supporting the environment, they were much easier to convince when it came to buying products that supported rain forests and other such things. However, don't start with one request and immediately assail them with another. Psychologists found it much more effective if you wait a day or two to make the second request.


Trick: Don't correct people when they are wrong.

Carnegie also pointed out in his famous book that telling someone they are wrong is usually unnecessary and does the opposite of endearing them to you. There is actually a way to show disagreement and turn it into a polite conversation without telling someone they are wrong, which strikes to the core of their ego. This is called the Ransberger Pivot, invented by Ray Ransberger and Marshall Fritz. The idea behind it is pretty simple: instead of arguing, listen to what they have to say, and then seek to understand how they feel and why. Then you explain the common ground that you share with them, and use that as a starting point to explain your position. This makes them much more likely to listen to what you have to say, and allows you to correct them without them losing face.

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Trick: Paraphrase people and repeat back to them what they just said.

One of the most positive ways to influence others is to show them that you really understand how they feel, that you have real empathy for them. One of the most effective ways to do this is by paraphrasing what they say and repeating it back to them, also known as reflective listening. Studies have shown that when therapists used reflective listening, people were likely to disclose more emotion and have a much better therapeutic relationship with the therapist.

This easily transfers over to talking to your friends. If you listen to what they say, and rephrase it as a question to confirm that you understood it, they are going to be more comfortable talking with you. They are also going to have a better friendship with you and be more likely to listen to what you have to say, because you showed that you care about them.


Trick: Nod a lot while you talk, especially when leading up to asking for a favor.

Scientists have found that when people nod while listening to something, they are more likely to be in agreement with it. They also have discovered that when someone is nodding a lot in front of them, it is natural for them to do the same. This is understandable because humans are well known at mimicking behaviors, especially those that they consider to have positive connotations. So if you want to be extra convincing, nod regularly throughout the conversation. The person you are talking to will find it hard not to nod themselves, and they will start to feel agreeable toward what you are saying, without even knowing it.

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