« January 2010 | Main | March 2010 »

February 28, 2010

Chamber's Donohue Promotes Free Enterprise


Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohoe. Source of caricature: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A13) The White House's war on the Chamber has come just as the group is launching a new $100 million campaign promoting free enterprise.

"We want to encourage and promote and educate and get a bunch of enthusiasm behind . . . the free enterprise system with free capital markets and free trade and the ability to fail and fall right on your ass and get up and do it again!" he says.

The belief in that system, Mr. Donohue says, has been eroded by the recession and subsequent criticism of the free market. "The purpose of this is to get out of the doldrums! Quit sulking and worrying." He hopes the campaign will remind Americans that "We created 20 million jobs in the '90s, we can do it again. We don't have to do it exactly like that--Adam Smith didn't have a BlackBerry--but we ought to pay attention to what made it work."

For the full interview, see:

KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL. "OPINION: THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW with Tom Donohue; Business Fights Back; His organization under attack by the White House, the president of the Chamber of Commerce stands by his defense of free enterprise." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., October 24, 2009): A13.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date October 23, 2009.)

(Note: ellipsis in original.)

February 27, 2010

Ray Kroc's Account of How Filet-O-Fish Came to McDonald's

One of the challenges of efficiently running a business is when to encourage experimentation and innovation among employees, and when to enforce standardization. Sam Walton seemed to have handled this well at Wal-Mart.

In the passage quoted below, Ray Kroc gives a glimpse of how he handled the issue at McDonald's.

(p. 137) . . . , the quality of our french fries was a large part of McDonald's success, and I certainly didn't want to jeopardize our business with a frozen potato that was not up to our standard. So we made certain that the frozen product was thoroughly tested and that it met every condition of quality before we made it part of the system.

There was another product being tested at this time that would prove to have a tremendous effect on our business. This was the (p. 138) Filet-O-Fish sandwich. It had been born of desperation in the mind of Louis Groen in Cincinnati. He had that city as an exclusive territory as a result of some horse trading he'd done with Harry and me back in the days when we were using everything but butterfly nets to catch franchisees. Lou's major competition was the Big Boy chain. They dominated the market. He managed to hold his own against them, however, on every day but Friday. Cincinnati has a large Catholic population and the Big Boys had a fish sandwich. So if you add those two together on a day the church had ordained should be meatless, you have to subtract most of the business from McDonald's.

My reaction when Lou first broached the fish idea to me was, "Hell no! I don't care if the Pope himself comes to Cincinnati. He can eat hamburgers like everybody else. We are not going to stink up our restaurants with any of your damned old fish!"

But Lou went to work on Fred Turner and Nick Karos. He convinced them that he was either going to have to sell fish or sell the store. So they went through a lot of research, and finally made a presentation that convinced me.

Al Bernardin, who was our food technologist at the time, worked with Lou on the type of fish to be used, halibut or cod, and they finally decided to go with the cod. I didn't care for that; it brought back too many childhood memories of cod liver oil, so we investigated and found out it was perfectly legal to merchandise it as North Atlantic whitefish, which I like better. There were all kinds of fishhooks in developing this sandwich: how long to cook it, what type of breading to use, how thick it should be, what kind of tartar sauce to use, and so forth. One day I was down in our test kitchen and Al told me about a young crew member in Lou Groen's store who had eaten a fish sandwich with a slice of cheese on it.

"Of course!" I exclaimed. "That's exactly what this sandwich needs, a slice of cheese. No, make it half a slice." So we tried it, and it was delicious. And that is how the slice of cheese got into the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish.

We started selling it only on Fridays in limited areas, but we got so many requests for it that in 1965 we made it available in all our stores every day, advertising it as the "fish that catches people." I (p. 139) told Fred Turner and Dick Boylan, both of whom happen to be Catholic, "You fellows just watch. Now that we've invested in all this equipment to handle fish, the Pope will change the rules." A few years Later, damned if he didn't. But it only made those big fish sales figures that much sweeter to read.


Kroc, Ray. Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's. Chicago: Henry Regnary Company, 1977.

February 26, 2010

The "Bongo System" of Corruption in Gabon: More on Why Africa is Poor

BongoGabon2010-01-27.jpg "The image of Ali Bongo, the son of longtime ruler Omar Bongo, blanketed Libreville." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A5) The "Bongo system," as people here refer to it -- forsaking roads, schools and hospitals for the sake of Mr. Bongo's 66 bank accounts, 183 cars, 39 luxury properties in France and grandiose government constructions in Libreville -- is etched in the streets of this languid seaside capital, where he ruled for 41 years, and also in the minds of its inhabitants.

. . .

A Western family here spoke of embarrassment at visiting a government minister whose house is packed with the latest flat-screen televisions and other expensive electronic gadgets, and whose garage was full of luxury cars. The top aide to a leading opposition figure, discussing the "Bongo system," said: "You had to bring a suitcase to the palace. Bongo didn't write checks." The president, he said, "calls everybody to the palace, and the money is handed out. That's how the country was run."

He spoke of a "sandwich system" of vote-buying employed by the ruling party in rural districts: notables are called together for a meeting, and at the end, when all are tired, a tray of "sandwiches" is passed around. Inside each "sandwich" is up to $600.

Looking around at an outdoor restaurant, he asked not to be named because he said: "It's a police state. They mess up your life."

. . .

On paper, the government's budget allocations for health, education and transportation were impressive, "huge," said the Western development official. "But in reality, it was actually about 20 percent of what was on paper," the official said. "The rest was embezzled," he added, asking to remain anonymous because identifying him would complicate his work in the country.

. . .

"It's a tiny number that benefits from the country's riches," said a cigarette vendor, Price Nyamam, squatting on the pavement in the poor Rio district. He said he had degrees in economics and sociology. "You are obliged to do work that doesn't correspond to your aspirations."

For the full story, see:

ADAM NOSSITER. "Libreville Journal; Underneath Palatial Skin, Corruption Rules Gabon." The New York Times (Tues., September 15, 2009): A5.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date September 14, 2009.)

(Note: ellipses added.)

GabonDumpForaging2010-01-27.jpg "Foraging for food at the main dump." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

February 25, 2010

Largest Decline in Private Sector Union Members in 25 Years

(p. A3) Organized labor lost 10% of its members in the private sector last year, the largest decline in more than 25 years. The drop is on par with the fall in total employment but threatens to significantly limit labor's ability to influence elections and legislation.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported private-sector unions lost 834,000 members, bringing membership down to 7.2% of the private-sector work force, from 7.6% the year before. The broader drop in U.S. employment and a small gain by public-sector unions helped keep the total share of union membership flat at 12.3% in 2009. In the early 1980s, unions represented 20% of workers.

For the full story, see:

KRIS MAHER. "Union Membership Declines by 10%." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., January 23, 2010): A3.

(Note: the online version of the article has the slightly different title "Union Membership Drops 10%.")

February 24, 2010

Business Decisions Often Need to Be Made Before You Have Much Data

McGrathRitaGunther2010-01-27.jpgRita Gunther McGrath is a member of the faculty of the Columbia Business School. Source of photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. R2) BUSINESS INSIGHT: You and Prof. Ian C. MacMillan of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania wrote a book called "Discovery-Driven Growth." What is discovery-driven growth?

DR. MCGRATH: Discovery-driven growth is a way of planning to grow that doesn't require a lot of analytical information at the outset. It recognizes that many of the data that you need to make decisions don't exist at the time that you have to make the decisions. It's a plan to learn.

I think we all live with a conceptual overhang from an industrial era when things were more predictable. You had big production runs. At least if you were an American company, you had a lot of markets with very little competition, and what competition there was was more or less predictable. In many businesses you could use the past as an adequate guide to what the future held for you.

In more and more industries, those conditions no longer apply. You're seeing temporary advantages, very rapid swings in who's on top competitively, new technologies that make older ones irrelevant at an ever-faster clip--the usual litany of things people moan about today. But I think one of the things that has not yet quite been fully recognized is that these have an impact on our management processes--or should.

For the full interview, see:

Martha E. Mangelsdorf. "Executive Briefing; Learning From Corporate Flops; When starting new ventures, companies should revisit their assumptions early and often." The Wall Street Jounal (Mon., OCTOBER 26, 2009): R2.

(Note: italics in original.)


Source of book image: http://events.roundtable.com/iguru/DiscoveryDrivenGrowth.gif.

February 23, 2010

Entrepreneurial Judgment Can Be Right Even When It Is Hard to Articulate

Entrepreneurs may develop a good sense of people, even though they cannot articulate their judgment. Yet their firms, and our economy, might be more efficient and productive if they were allowed to follow their judgments, rather than follow Human Resource Department credentialism and paper trails.

The entrepreneurs might make mistakes, but in an open economy they would pay a price for their mistakes in profits foregone, and hence would have an incentive to correct the mistakes. And there would be plenty of alternative jobs for anyone mistakenly fired.

(p. 91) I've been wrong in my judgments about men, I suppose, but not very often. Bob Frost, one of our key executives on the West Coast, will remember the time he and I were checking out stores, and I got a very unfavorable impression of one of his young managers. As we drove away from the store I said to Bob, "I think you'd better fire that man." "Oh, Ray, come on!" he exclaimed. "Give the kid a break. He's young, he has a good attitude, and I think he will come along."

"You could be right, Bob," I said, "but I don't think so. He has no potential."

Later in the day, as we were driving back to Los Angeles, that conversation was still bugging me. Finally I turned to Bob and yelled, "Listen goddammit I want you to fire that man!"

One thing that makes Bob Frost a good executive is that he has the courage of his convictions. He also sticks up for his people. He's a retired Navy man, and he knows how to keep his head under fire. He simply pursed his lips and nodded solemnly and said, "If you are ordering me to do it, Ray, I will. But I would like to give him another six months and see how he works out."

I agreed, reluctantly. What happened after that was the kind of (p. 92) personnel hocus-pocus that government is famous for but should never be permitted in business, least of all in McDonald's. The man hung on. He was on the verge of being fired several times in the following years, but he was transferred or got a new supervisor each time. He was a decent guy, so each new boss would struggle to reform him. Many years later he was fired. The assessment of the executive who finally swung the ax was that "this man has no potential."

Bob Frost now admits he was wrong. I had the guy pegged accurately from the outset. But that's not the point. Our expenditure of time and effort on that fellow was wasted and, worst of all, he spent several years of his life in what turned out to be a blind alley. It would have been far better for his career if he'd been severed early and forced to find work more suited to his talents. It was an unfortunate episode for both parties, but it serves to show that an astute judgment can seem arbitrary to everyone but the man who makes it.


Kroc, Ray. Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's. Chicago: Henry Regnary Company, 1977.

February 22, 2010

Dubai's Economic Future Depends on Its Institutions

DubaiViewFromTallestBuilding2010-01-25.jpg "A man took in the view of Dubai from the 124th floor of the newly opened, $1.5 billion Burj Khalifa, a rocket-shaped building that soars 2,717 feet." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A7) CAIRO -- In the heady days of the Dubai gold rush, when real estate sold and resold even before a shovel hit the ground, the ambitious emirate was hailed as the model of Middle Eastern modernity, a boomtown that built an effective, efficient and accessible form of government.

Then the crash came and revealed how paper-thin that image was, political and financial analysts said. That realization, not just in Dubai but also in Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates, has cast a harsh light on an opaque, top-down decision-making process, not just in business but in matters of crime and punishment as well, political and financial analysts said.

The financial crisis and now two criminal cases that have generated critical headlines in other countries have demonstrated that the emirates remain an absolute monarchy, where institutions are far less important than royalty and where the law is particularly capricious -- applied differently based on social standing, religion and nationality, political experts and human rights advocates said.

"I think what we learned here the last four months is that the government, at least on a political level, is still very undeveloped," said a financial analyst based in Dubai who asked not to be identified to avoid compromising his ability to work in the emirates. "It's very difficult to read or interpret or understand what is going on. The institutions have not shaped up to people's expectations."

For the full story, see:

MICHAEL SLACKMAN. "Dubai Memo; Entrenched Monarchy Thwarts Aspirations for Modernity." The New York Times (Fri., January 22, 2010): A7.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 21, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)

DubaiOfficesForRentSign2010-01-25.jpg "Workers repaired a phone line next to an office building in Dubai's Internet City. Even after a bailout, Dubai remains heavily burdened by debt." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

February 21, 2010

Chinese Subsidies Create Unprofitable Overcapacity and Risk of Crisis

(p. 5) . . . subsidies, . . . , have spurred excess capacity and created a dangerous political dynamic in which these investments have to be propped up at all cost.

China has been building factories and production capacity in virtually every sector of its economy, but it's not clear that the latest round of investments will be profitable anytime soon. Automobiles, steel, semiconductors, cement, aluminum and real estate all show signs of too much capacity. In Shanghai, the central business district appears to have high vacancy rates, yet building continues.

. . .

Over all, there is a lack of transparency. China's statistics on its gross domestic product are based more on recorded production activity than on what is actually sold. Chinese fiscal and credit policies are geared toward jobs and political stability, and thus the authorities shy away from revealing which projects are most troubled or should be canceled.

Put all of this together and there is a very real possibility of trouble.

For the full commentary, see:

TYLER COWEN. "Economic View; Dangers of an Overheated China." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., November 29, 2009 ): 5.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 28, 2009.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)

February 20, 2010

"How Am I Going to Live without Google?"

GoogleChinaFlowers2010-01-25.jpg "A woman examined bouquets and messages left by Google users on Wednesday outside the Internet search company's headquarters in Beijing." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article cited way below (after the citation to the quoted article, which is a different article).

David Smick in The World as Curved, has suggested that restrictions on the internet in China, limit entrepreneurship, and ultimately economic growth.

(p. 5) BEIJING -- At the elite Tsinghua University here, some students were joking Friday that they had better download all the Internet information they wanted now in case Google left the country.

But to many of the young, well-educated Chinese who are Google's loyal users here, the company's threat to leave is in fact no laughing matter. Interviews in Beijing's downtown and university district indicated that many viewed the possible loss of Google's maps, translation service, sketching software, access to scholarly papers and search function with real distress.

"How am I going to live without Google?" asked Wang Yuanyuan, a 29-year-old businessman, as he left a convenience store in Beijing's business district.

. . .

Li An, a Tsinghua University senior, said she used to download episodes of "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" from sites run by BT China that are now closed. "I love American television series," she said with frustration during a pause from studying Japanese at a university fast-food restaurant on Friday.

The loss of Google would hit her much harder, she said, because she relies on Google Scholar to download academic papers for her classes in polymer science. "For me, this is terrible," Ms. Li said.

Some students contend that even after Google pulls out, Internet space will continue to shrink. Until now, Google has shielded Baidu by manning the front line in the censorship battle, said a 20-year-old computer science major at Tsinghua.

"Without Google, Baidu will be very easy to manipulate," he said. "I don't want to see this trend."

A 21-year old civil engineering student predicted a strong reaction against the government. "If Google really leaves, people will feel the government has gone too far," he insisted over lunch in the university cafe.

But asked whether that reaction would influence the government to soften its policies, he concentrated on his French fries. "I really don't know," he said.

For the full story, see:

SHARON LaFRANIERE. "Google Users in China, Mostly Young and Educated, Fear Losing Important Tool." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., January 17, 2010): 5.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "China at Odds With Future in Internet Fight" and is dated January 16, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)

The source of the photo at the top is the online version of:

KEITH BRADSHER and DAVID BARBOZA. "Google Is Not Alone in Discontent, But Its Threat Stands Out." The New York Times (Thurs., January 13, 2010): B1 & B4.

(Note: the online version of the article has the slightly different title "Google Is Not Alone in Discontent, But Its Threat to Leave Stands Out" and is dated January 14, 2010.)

The reference to the Smick book is:

Smick, David M. The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy. New York: Portfolio Hardcover, 2008.

February 19, 2010

Kroc's Profits from Multimixer Venture Funded Kroc's McDonald's Venture

(p. 74) The income from Multimixer paid the rent and all salaries while I was slaving away to get McDonald's started.


Kroc, Ray. Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's. Chicago: Henry Regnary Company, 1977.

February 18, 2010

Socialist Chavez's Thugs Destroy Venezuelans' Economic Freedom

VenezuelanNationalGuardPriceInspection2010-01-24.jpg "A member of the National Guard stands guard during a inspection of prices at a store in La Guaira outside Caracas Jan. 12." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A8) CARACAS -- President Hugo Chávez's decision to devalue Venezuela's currency in order to shore up government finances could backfire on the populist leader if the move leads to substantially higher prices and extends an economic downturn.

Just days after Mr. Chávez cut the value of the "strong bolivar" currency, some businesses were marking up prices. Shoppers jammed stores to stock up on goods before the increases took hold.

Amelia Soto, a 52-year-old housewife waited in line at a Caracas drugstore to buy 23 tubes of toothpaste. "Everywhere I hear that prices are going to skyrocket so I want to buy as much as I can now," she said.

Airlines have doubled fares; government officials said they were looking into reports that large retail chains were also increasing prices.

. . .

The price increases are setting the stage for confrontations with authorities following Mr. Chávez's orders to shut down retailers that raise prices.

. . .

The higher prices for consumer goods represent a huge liability for a country facing 27% inflation, one of the highest levels in the world.

For the full story, see:

DARCY CROWE and DAN MOLINSKI. "Prices in Venezuela Surge After Devaluation." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., JANUARY 13, 2010): A8.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "Venezuelans Rush to Shop as Stores Increase Prices.")

(Note: ellipses added.)

February 17, 2010

Socialist Chávez Quashes Free Speech in Venezuela

Here is evidence of the continuing relevance of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom:

(p. A5) CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A cable television channel that has been critical of President Hugo Chávez was taken off the air on Sunday after defying new government regulations requiring it to televise some of Mr. Chávez's speeches.

Venezuelan cable and satellite television providers stopped transmitting the channel, Radio Caracas Television, after it did not broadcast a speech by Mr. Chávez on Saturday at a rally of political supporters.

. . .

. . . the cable channel, known as RCTV, said the telecommunications agency "doesn't have any authority to give the cable service providers this order." It said in a statement, "The government is inappropriately pressuring them to make decisions beyond their responsibilities."

The channel switched to cable in 2007 after the government refused to renew its license to broadcast on the regular airwaves.

For the full story, see:

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. "Cable TV Station Critical of Chávez Is Shut Down." The New York Times (Mon., January 25, 2010): A5.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date January 24, 2010.)

(Note: ellipses added.)

Reference for Hayek book:

Hayek, Friedrich A. Von. The Road to Serfdom. Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press, 1944.

February 16, 2010

When the Green Pedalers Went Home, the Grid Powered the Christmas Tree


"The pedal-powered Christmas tree at City Hall Square." Source of caption: the print version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below. Source of photo (which appeared in the print, but not the online, version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below): http://www.chriskeam.com/blog/uploaded_images/Copenhagen-Xmas-tree-792971.jpg

(p. A16) Copenhagen has splashed out on every kind of green widget to shore up its environmental credentials as host of the world's biggest climate change conference in years. Most of the emissions-free wizardry is familiar, such as electric cars. Here's one you may not have seen yet: An extra "green" Christmas tree.

At the Danish capital's City Hall Square, 15 to 20 volunteers can sit on stationary bikes located around a massive, decorated tree and pedal away to keep it light, at least during the day. The bikes are connected to electrical tie-ups that ultimately power hundreds of lights on the tree.

. . .

Late at night, the big tree continues to sparkle--but thanks to traditional power outlets, not pedal power--once the volunteers have gone home.

For the full story, see:

Spencer Swartz. "Copenhagen Dispatches: Pedal Power: Copenhagen Lights Christmas Tree With Bikes." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., December 16, 2009): A16.

(Note: the title of the online version of the article is "Pedal Power: Copenhagen Lights Christmas Tree With Bikes" and is dated December 15, 2009.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)

February 15, 2010

Scientist Helped Kroc Learn Secret of McDonald's French Fries

One recurring puzzle is the role, if any, for science in innovative entrepreneurship. The episode chronicled below provides one piece of evidence:

(p. 71) I had explained to Ed MacLuckie with great (p. 72) pride the McDonald's secret for making french fries. I showed him how to peel the potatoes, leaving just a bit of the skin to add flavor. Then I cut them into shoestring strips and dumped them into a sink of cold water. The ritual captivated me. I rolled my sleeves to the elbows and, after scrubbing down in proper hospital fashion, I immersed my arms and gently stirred the potatoes until the water went white with starch. Then I rinsed them thoroughly and put them into a basket for deep frying in fresh oil. The result was a perfectly fine looking, golden brown potato that snuggled up against the palate with a taste like . . . well, like mush. I was aghast. What the hell could I have done wrong? I went back over the steps in my mind, trying to determine whether I had left something out. I hadn't. I had memorized the procedure when I watched the McDonald's operation in San Bernardino, and I had done it exactly the same way. I went through the whole thing once more. The result was the same--bland, mushy french fries. They were as good, actually, as the french fries you could buy at other places. But that was not what I wanted. They were not the wonderful french fries I had discovered in California. I got on the telephone and talked it over with the McDonald brothers. They couldn't figure it out either.

This was a tremendously frustrating situation. My whole idea depended on carrying out the McDonald's standard of taste and quality in hundreds of stores, and here I couldn't even do it in the first one!

I contacted the experts at the Potato & Onion Association and explained my problem to them. They were baffled too, at first, but then one of their laboratory men asked me to describe the McDonald's San Bernardino procedure step-by-step from the time they bought the potatoes from the grower up in Idaho. I detailed it all, and when I got to the point where they stored them in the shaded chicken-wire bins, he said, "That's it!" He went on to explain that when potatoes are dug, they are mostly water. They improve in taste as they dry out and the sugars change to starch. The McDonald brothers had, without knowing it, a natural curing process in their open bins, which allowed the desert breeze to blow over the potatoes.

With the help of the potato people, I devised a curing system of my own.


Kroc, Ray. Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's. Chicago: Henry Regnary Company, 1977.

(Note: ellipsis in original.)

February 14, 2010

Senile Mice Benefit from Cellphone Radiation


"Mice seem to reap cognitive benefits from cellphone electromagnetism." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. D4) Alzheimer's and Cell Phones: Radiation associated with long-term cellphone use appears to protect against and reverse Alzheimer's-like symptoms in mice, according to a study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Mice genetically engineered to develop brain impairments similar to Alzheimer's in humans were divided into two groups. One group was exposed twice daily to hour-long electromagnetic fields akin to those created during cellphone use. Mice in the other group were not exposed to the radiation. After seven months, young mice in the first group fared significantly better on cognitive tests than their unexposed littermates. Older mice, which had already developed symptoms of Alzheimer's, exposed to the radiation for eight months in a subsequent experiment also performed better than older nonexposed mice. Mice, younger and older, not engineered to develop Alzheimer's also appeared to benefit from the radiation. Biopsies suggested such exposure might fight Alzheimer's by inhibiting the buildup of certain protein plaques in the brain, the researchers said.

For the full story, see:

JEREMY SINGER-VINE. "RESEARCH REPORT; NEW MEDICAL FINDINGS; Cellphone Radiation Aids Sick Mice." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., JANUARY 12, 2010): D4.

February 13, 2010

"Conservation Is About Managing People," Not Wildlife

(p. C27) People are hard-wired to be fearful of large carnivores. What's more, it's hard for the poor to see the economic advantage of rewilding. Humans don't like conservationists telling them what they can and can't do with the land that surrounds them. As one conservationist counterintuitively points out to Ms. Fraser: "Conservation is about managing people. It's not about managing wildlife."

For the full review, see:

DWIGHT GARNER. "Books of The Times; Conservation as a Matter of Managing People." The New York Times (Fri., January 22, 2010): C1 & C27.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 21, 2010.)

The book under review, is:

Fraser, Caroline. Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009.

February 12, 2010

"The Bus -- La Guagua -- Always Comes for Those Who Wait"

HerreraCarmen2010-01-24.JPG "Carmen Herrera in her Manhattan loft, surrounded by her art. She sold her first work in 2004." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 1) Under a skylight in her tin-ceilinged loft near Union Square in Manhattan, the abstract painter Carmen Herrera, 94, nursed a flute of Champagne last week, sitting regally in the wheelchair she resents.

After six decades of very private painting, Ms. Herrera sold her first artwork five years ago, at 89. Now, at a small ceremony in her honor, she was basking in the realization that her career had finally, undeniably, taken off. As cameras flashed, she extended long, Giacomettiesque fingers to accept an art foundation's lifetime achievement award from the director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Her good friend, the painter Tony Bechara, raised a glass. "We have a saying in Puerto Rico," he said. "The bus -- la guagua -- always comes for those who wait."

And the Cuban-born Ms. Herrera, laughing gustily, responded, "Well, Tony, I've been at the bus stop for 94 years!"

Since that first sale in 2004, collectors have avidly pursued Ms. Herrera, and her radiantly ascetic paintings have entered the permanent collections of institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and the Tate Modern. Last year, MoMA included her in a pantheon of Latin American artists on exhibition. And this summer, during a retro-(p. 29)spective show in England, The Observer of London called Ms. Herrera the discovery of the decade, asking, "How can we have missed these beautiful compositions?"

In a word, Ms. Herrera, a nonagenarian homebound painter with arthritis, is hot. In an era when the art world idolizes, and often richly rewards, the young and the new, she embodies a different, much rarer kind of success, that of the artist long overlooked by the market, and by history, who persevered because she had no choice.

"I do it because I have to do it; it's a compulsion that also gives me pleasure," she said of painting. "I never in my life had any idea of money and I thought fame was a very vulgar thing. So I just worked and waited. And at the end of my life, I'm getting a lot of recognition, to my amazement and my pleasure, actually."

. . .

But Ms. Herrera is less expansive about her own art, discussing it with a minimalism redolent of the work. "Paintings speak for themselves," she said. Geometry and color have been the head and the heart of her work, she added, describing a lifelong quest to pare down her paintings to their essence, like visual haiku.

Asked how she would describe to a student a painting like "Blanco y Verde" (1966) -- a canvas of white interrupted by an inverted green triangle -- she said, "I wouldn't have a student." To a sweet, inquiring child, then? "I'd give him some candy so he'd rot his teeth."

When pressed about what looks to some like a sensual female shape in the painting, she said: "Look, to me it was white, beautiful white, and then the white was shrieking for the green, and the little triangle created a force field. People see very sexy things -- dirty minds! -- but to me sex is sex, and triangles are triangles."

. . .

Ms. Herrera's late-in-life success has stunned her in many ways. Her larger works now sell for $30,000, and one painting commanded $44,000 -- sums unimaginable when she was, say, in her 80s. "I have more money now than I ever had in my life," she said.

Not that she is succumbing to a life of leisure. At a long table where she peers out over East 19th Street "like a French concierge," Ms. Herrera, because she must, continues to draw and paint. "Only my love of the straight line keeps me going," she said.

For the full story, see:

DEBORAH SONTAG. "At 94, She's the Hot New Thing in Painting, and Enjoying It." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., January 20, 2010): 1 & 29.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "At 94, She's the Hot New Thing in Painting" and is dated January 19, 2010.)


Ms. Herrara's ""Blanco y Verde" (1966-7)."

"Ms. Herrera's "Red Star" from 1949."

Source of captions and photos: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

February 11, 2010

Kroc Increased the Mortgage on His Home to Regain Control of His First Entrepreneurial Venture

Ray Kroc was the founder of the McDonald's chain, who wrote an autobiography called Grinding It Out. Back on August 12, 2009, I made a few comments on the book, and said that in some future entries, I would be quoting a few passages that I thought were worth remembering.

Well, the future has finally arrived.

Kroc's first entrepreneurial venture was Multimixer, a machine that efficiently made milkshakes. Kroc had sold a controlling interest, and wanted control back:

(p. 56) "All right," I said, "how much?"

I don't know how he kept from choking on his own bile as he mouthed the figure: "Sixty-eight thousand dollars."

That's all I remember of our conversation. I'm sure I said something. But I was so benumbed by his outrageous demand that I couldn't think straight. To add acid to the irony, he wanted the whole thing in cash. Of course, I didn't have that kind of (p. 57) money. So what we worked out was the culmination of the devilish deal he had tied me to. I had to agree to pay him $12,000 cash. The balance was to be paid off over five years, plus interest. My salary had to remain at the same level and my expenses in the same range. So, in fact, what I was doing was paying him the profits of my company.

I didn't know where in the hell I was going to raise the money, but I had made up my mind to do it. In the end, most of the cash came from my new home in Arlington Heights. I managed to get an increase in the mortgage, much to Ethel's dismay. Her apprehensions about my becoming Mr. Multimixer had been laid to rest at this point, and I don't think she ever got over the shock of discovering that we were nearly $100,000 in debt. She couldn't seem to handle it.

For me, this was the first phase of grinding it out--- building my personal monument to capitalism. I paid tribute, in the feudal sense, for many years before I was able to rise with McDonald's on the foundation I had laid.


Kroc, Ray. Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's. Chicago: Henry Regnary Company, 1977.

February 10, 2010

EU's Farm Subsidy Program Creates Fraud and High Prices

SugarSubsidyTable2010-01-27.gif Source of the table: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) Call it the mystery of the European sugar triangle.

It began when Belgian customs officials examined shipping records for dozens of giant tanker trucks that outlined an odd, triangular journey across Europe. The trucks, each carrying 22 tons of liquid sugar, swung through eight nations and covered a driving distance of roughly 2,500 miles from a Belgian sugar refinery to Croatia and back -- instead of taking the most direct, 900-mile route.

Along the way the trucks made a brief stop in Kaliningrad, a grim and bustling Russian border checkpoint on the Baltic Sea.

Suddenly the sugar triangle made sense to them. Because Russia, and not Croatia, was listed as the intended destination, the shipments qualified for valuable special payments known as export rebates from the European Union's farm subsidy program.

Some 200 shipments roared along this route over a three-year-period, investigators say, earning 3 million euros in refunds (about $4.5 million) for the Belgian sugar maker Beneo-Orafti. In the spring, dozens of Belgian and European investigators raided the company's offices, freezing half of its refunds and initiating an investigation that could cost the company the remaining 1.5 million euros, and possibly more.

In the sprawling European subsidy program -- which lavishes more than 50 billion euros ($75 billion at current exchange rates) a year in agricultural aid -- no commodity is more susceptible to fraud, chicanery and rule-bending, experts say, than simple household sugar.

(p. B4) Across Europe there are some 2.5 million acres of beet fields that will produce 16.7 million metric tons of sugar this year for an industry worth 7 billion euros. Last year the European Union spent 475 million euros in price supports for sugar, including export subsidies. Then it spent another 1.3 billion euros on restructuring aid to reform a subsidy regime so lavish that it even prompted cold-weather Finland to start producing more sugar.

Sugar producers across the Continent cashed in -- from Italy, where Italia Zuccheri collected more than 139 million euros, to France, where a handful of sugar producers received 128.5 million.

With this much money at stake, critics and some analysts say, the sugar subsidy system is like a cookie jar waiting to be pilfered.

. . .

"There's a whole world of commercial fraud, which goes under the radar for most people," said James Byrne, a law professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Virginia who has studied the global sugar trade. "It is a parallel universe that mimics the real world of commerce and finance."

For the full story, see:

STEPHEN CASTLE and DOREEN CARVAJAL. "Subsidies Spur Fraud In European Sugar." The New York Times (Tues., October 27, 2009): B1 & B4.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "Fraud Plagues Sugar Subsidy System in Europe" and has the date October 26, 2009. The online version reverses the order of the authors' names, and differs significantly in the first several paragraphs, mainly stylistically, but also somewhat in substance. The version quoted here is the online version.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)



Source of both the map and the table: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

February 9, 2010

Venture Capitalists Invested 37% Less in Start-Ups in 2009

(p. B5) Venture capitalists, whose money provides fuel to technology start-ups, last year invested the lowest amount in such companies since 1997, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association released on Friday.

. . .

In 2009, venture capitalists invested $17.7 billion in 2,795 start-ups -- 37 percent less cash and 30 percent fewer deals than in 2008. Internet companies, which have excited investors for more than a decade, took a big hit as investment declined 39 percent.

For the full story, see:

CLAIRE CAIN MILLER. "Venture Capital Was Tight for Tech Start-Ups in '09." The New York Times (Fri., January 22, 2010): B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

February 8, 2010

In Creative Destruction, Firms Survive that Have Technological Expertise Useful for New Product

StudebakerCarriage2010-01-23.jpg"Collection of Studebaker National Museum, South Bend, Ind." "Those who disparage buggies as a dead end forget Studebaker switched from carriages to cars." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 4) I spoke recently about buggy whips with Thomas A. Kinney, an assistant professor of history at Bluefield College in Virginia and author of "The Carriage Trade: Making Horse-Drawn Vehicles in America."

There were 13,000 businesses in the wagon and carriage industry in 1890, Mr. Kinney said. A company survived not by conceiving of itself as being in the "personal transportation" business, but by commanding technological expertise relevant to the automobile, he said. "The people who made the most successful transition were not the carriage makers, but the carriage parts makers," he said, some of whom are still in business.

One is the giant Timken Company, whose signature products, roller bearings, were first used in wagon wheels in the 1890s. They easily adapted to the automobile because they could be applied "to nearly anything that moved," Mr. Kinney wrote.

Westfield, Mass., still known as "Whip City," once had more than 40 businesses that made whips, tools and carriage parts. Today, only Westfield Whip Manufacturing, founded in 1884, remains. Although it produces buggy whips -- now called carriage whips -- most of its whips and crops, called "bats," are for equestrian activities like dressage and jumping.

Buggy whips, with their long, rigid handles and flexible end lashes, were created by braiding fiber around a hard core and had no automotive analog.

The carriage makers did, and they tried their best to remake themselves into automakers. But they were expert woodworkers without expertise in precision metalworking, Mr. Kinney said: "Bicycle manufacturers were actually better suited for auto manufacturing than were carriage makers."

Businesses do die, even big ones. Leslie Hannah, a visiting professor of economic history at the London School of Economics, studied the 100 largest industrial companies in the world between 1912 and 1995. Almost half of them disappeared, "and more than a quarter experienced bankruptcy or a similar close shave with it," he wrote in "Learning by Doing in Markets, Firms and Countries."

The standout carriage business that succeeded was the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, which began as a blacksmith shop in 1852 and had the financial resources to acquire smaller companies that supplied it with the precision metalworking expertise it lacked when it decided to enter the auto business. In 1913, its automobile production was second only to that of Ford Motor.

For the full story, see:

RANDALL STROSS. "Digital Domain; Failing Like a Buggy Whip Maker? Better Check Your Simile." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., January 10, 2010): 4.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 9, 2010.)

(Note: bold added.)

February 7, 2010

Entrepreneur Kurzweil Brought Sunshine to Stevie Wonder's Life

(p. 265) On the snowy morning of January 13, 1976, . . . , there was unusual traffic on Rogers Street. Outside the gray one-story buildings with their clouded tilt-out windows, vans from various television channels maneuvered to park. A man from the National Federation of the Blind struggled over a snow bank onto the sidewalk and began tapping earnestly to get his bearings. A dark-haired young man set out on a three-block trek to the nearest vendor of coffee and donuts for the gathering media. In the room at number 68, two engineers poked at a gray box that looked like a mimeograph machine sprouting wires to a Digital Equipment Corporation computer. Several intense young men in their early twenties debated when to begin a demonstration of the device. The short, curly-haired leader of the group, twenty-seven-year-old Raymond Kurzweil, refused to start until the arrival of a reporter from The New York Times.

The event was a press conference announcing the first breakthrough product in the field of artificial intelligence: a reader for the blind. Described as an "omnifont character recognition device" linked to a synthetic voice, the machine could read nearly any kind of book or document laid face down on its glass lens. With a learning faculty that improved the device's performance as it proceeded through blurred, faded, or otherwise illegible print, the machine solved problems of pattern recognition and synthesis that had long confounded IBM, Xerox, and the Japanese conglomerates, as well as thousands of university researchers.

. . .

(p. 266) Stevie Wonder, the great blind musician, called. He had heard about the device after its appearance on the "Today Show" and it seemed a lifelong dream come true. He headed up to Cambridge to meet with Kurzweil.

. . .

As Kurzweil remembers, "He was very excited about it and wanted (p. 267) one right away, so we actually turned the factory upside down and produced a unit that day. We showed him how to hook it up himself. He left with it practically under his arm. I understand he took it straight to his hotel room, set it up. and read all night." As Wonder said, the technology has been "a brother and a friend . . . . without question, another sunshine of my life." Wonder stayed in touch with Kurzweil over the years and would play a key role in conceiving and launching a second major Kurzweil product.


Gilder, George. Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology. Paperback ed. New York: Touchstone, 1990.

(Note: italics in original; all ellipses added except the ellipsis internal to the last paragraph, which was in the original.)

February 6, 2010

Chinese Economic Crisis Predicted by Investor Who Predicted Enron Collapse

ChanosJamesHedgeFund2010-01-23.jpg "James Chanos made his hedge fund fortune predicting problems at companies and shorting their stock." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

Chanos' views discussed below are plausible and worth taking seriously. Earlier and overlapping worries about the sustainability of China's boom were expressed in a credible and scary book by David Smick called The World is Curved.

In addition to some of the concerns expressed by Chanos, Smick also emphasizes that China's restrictions on the internet will dampen the ability of its entrepreneurs to succeed. That view seems prescient given China's growing attempts to censor the internet and to hack Google.

(p. B1) SHANGHAI -- James S. Chanos built one of the largest fortunes on Wall Street by foreseeing the collapse of Enron and other highflying companies whose stories were too good to be true.

Now Mr. Chanos, a wealthy hedge fund investor, is working to bust the myth of the biggest conglomerate of all: China Inc.

As most of the world bets on China to help lift the global economy out of recession, Mr. Chanos is warning that China's hyperstimulated economy is headed for a crash, rather than the sustained boom that most economists predict. Its surging real estate sector, buoyed by a flood of speculative capital, looks like "Dubai times 1,000 -- or worse," he frets. He even suspects that Beijing is cooking its books, faking, among other things, its eye-popping growth rates of more than 8 percent.

"Bubbles are best identified by credit excesses, not valuation excesses," he said in a recent appearance on CNBC. "And there's no bigger credit excess than in China." He is planning a speech later this month at the University of Oxford to drive home his point.

. . .

(p. B4) . . . he is tagging along with the bears, who see mounting evidence that China's stimulus package and aggressive bank lending are creating artificial demand, raising the risk of a wave of nonperforming loans.

"In China, he seems to see the excesses, to the third and fourth power, that he's been tilting against all these decades," said Jim Grant, a longtime friend and the editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, who is also bearish on China. "He homes in on the excesses of the markets and profits from them. That's been his stock and trade."

Mr. Chanos declined to be interviewed, citing his continuing research on China. But he has already been spreading the view that the China miracle is blinding investors to the risk that the country is producing far too much.

"The Chinese," he warned in an interview in November with Politico.com, "are in danger of producing huge quantities of goods and products that they will be unable to sell."

For the full story, see:

DAVID BARBOZA. "Shorting China: the Man Who Predicted Enron's Fall Sees a Bigger Collapse Ahead." The New York Times (Fri., January 8, 2010): B1 & B5.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "Contrarian Investor Sees Economic Crash in China" and is dated January 7, 2010.)

(Note: ellipses added.)

The reference to the Smick book is:

Smick, David M. The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy. New York: Portfolio Hardcover, 2008.


"Now Mr. Chanos is betting against China, and is promoting his view that the China miracle has blinded investors to the risks in that economy." Source of caption and poster: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

February 5, 2010

Washington's Influence Business is "Booming" Though Fewer Register as Lobbyists

(p. A1) WASHINGTON -- Ellen Miller, co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation, has spent years arguing for rules to force more disclosure of how lobbyists and private interests shape public policy. Until recently, she herself registered as a lobbyist, too, publicly reporting her role in the group's advocacy of even more reporting. Not anymore.

In light of strict new regulations imposed by Congress over the last two years, Ms. Miller joined a wave of policy advocates who are choosing not to declare themselves as lobbyists.

"I have never spent much time on Capitol Hill," Ms. Miller said, explaining that she only supervises those who press lawmakers directly. "I am not lobbying, so why fill out the forms?"

Her frankness makes Ms. Miller a standout among hundreds of others who are making the same decision. Though Washington's influence business is by all accounts booming, a growing number of its practitioners are taking a similar course to avoid the spotlight of public disclosure.

"All the increasing restrictions on lobbyists are a disincentive to be a lobbyist, and those who think they can deregister are eagerly doing so," said Jan Baran, a veteran political lawyer who has been fielding questions from clients hoping to escape registration. "It is creating some apparent contradictions."

. . .

(p. A12) But for all its penalties, the law left the definition of a lobbyist fairly elastic. The criteria included getting paid to lobby, contacting public officials about a client's interests at least twice in a quarter and working at least 20 percent of the time on lobbying-related activities for the client.

Enforcement is also light. Lobbyists suspected of failing to file receive at least one official letter offering a chance to rectify their status before any legal action is taken.

After the rules changed, private companies and nonprofit groups immediately began to rethink their registration.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which advocates on arms control, energy policy and environmental issues, had previously registered almost anyone who went to Capitol Hill on its behalf, said Stephen Young, a senior analyst for the group. That changed after the new law.

"We thought: 'Hmm, this is now not such an easy thing. Let's see if we are required to do it. We are not? Let's take them off,' " he said. The group terminated the registrations of "virtually all" its former lobbyists, he said.

For the full story, see:

DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK. "Law to Curb Lobbying Sends It Underground." The New York Times (Mon., JANUARY 18, 2010): A1 & A12.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 17, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)

February 4, 2010

Economic Freedom Declined in United States in 2009


Source of table: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A17) The United States is losing ground to its major competitors in the global marketplace, according to the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom released today by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. This year, of the world's 20 largest economies, the U.S. suffered the largest drop in overall economic freedom. Its score declined to 78 from 80.7 on the 0 to 100 Index scale.

The U.S. lost ground on many fronts. Scores declined in seven of the 10 categories of economic freedom. Losses were particularly significant in the areas of financial and monetary freedom and property rights. Driving it all were the federal government's interventionist responses to the financial and economic crises of the last two years, which have included politically influenced regulatory changes, protectionist trade restrictions, massive stimulus spending and bailouts of financial and automotive firms deemed "too big to fail." These policies have resulted in job losses, discouraged entrepreneurship, and saddled America with unprecedented government deficits.

. . .

The abiding lesson of the last few years is that the battle for liberty requires perpetual vigilance. President Obama professes desire to foster prosperity, environmental protection, poverty reduction and better health care. How ironic, then, that his economic proposals so consistently ignore or even undermine the one system--free enterprise capitalism--that has proven best able to achieve those goals.

Now America's once high-flying economy is barely crawling forward. Americans deserve better, and they can do better--as soon as they reverse course and start regaining the economic freedom that made America the most prosperous country in the world.

For the full story, see:

TERRY MILLER. "The U.S. Isn't as Free as It Used to Be; Canada now boasts North America's freest economy." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., JANUARY 20, 2010): A17.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated JANUARY 19, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)

February 3, 2010

Self-Financing was Key to Chips & Technology's Survival

At a key juncture, Gordon Campbell's self-financing was essential to the survival of his Chips & Technology firm. Chips & Technology produced the chip technology that was the foundation of the clones of the IBM AT (286) PCs. And Chips & Technology turned out to be profitable after one year.

(p. 228) Campbell remembered the words of Nolan Bushnell: "You are not a real entrepreneur until you've got to meet a payroll from your own bank account." There was truth in those words. There was a sense in which Gordon Campbell was still real a real entrepreneur.

If you are a real entrepreneurial hero, you do not get your start by rolling out of bed one morning in rumpled pajamas to answer the telephone at Oakmead Plaza and find that it's the man from Kleiner-Perkins announcing you've won the lottery (for spinning out of Intel with Dr. Salsbury and the rest). Real entrepreneurs do not usually become paper millionaires and Ferrari corsairs in a public offering without ever experiencing the warm sensation of a profitable year. Raphael Klein had put up his house to save Xicor; he was an entrepreneur. In the desperate silicon panic of the summer of 1985, Gordy Campbell too was going to join the club.

The venture capitalists were all waiting for Campbell to fail. He had no chance of money from them. But other sources would also be difficult. Campbell had been careful to buy no real assets and channel all his money into intellectual capital. Morris Jones's Amdahl 470--a powerful mainframe that ran the company's CAE programs---was a second-hand machine, leased by the month. The rest of their CAD and CAE equipment was either designed by Jones and his team. including two defectors from Silicon Compilers, or it consisted of various IBM workstations. The company's most valuable asset, beyond its ideas, was a compaction algorithm that Jones had developed from a Bell Labs model. It allowed the scaling down of CMOS technology into difficult non-linear volt warps near 1-micron geometries. Couldn't mortgage that at a bank.

Campbell could scarcely believe what was happening to him. There was nothing to do but use his own personal money to keep the company afloat. But if the truth be known, his personal funds were running a bit low. It was out of the question, of course, to sell the Ferrari. He could hardly putter forth onto Route 280 and down toward Sand Hill Road like a beggar with some tin cup from Toyota. Campbell's other wealth, though, was mostly in SEEQ stock that was then selling at $2 per share and going down.

Campbell would have to sell at the very bottom of the market and use his own last personal wealth to finance a company with no revenues and a burn rate of some $4,000 a day. He gasped and did it. He went through a couple of cliff-hanging months, with shortened fin-(p. 229)gernails. But the act of personal sacrifice was catalytic. Within a few weeks, several of the employees and other friends also put up some money, including $200,000 from his financial officer, Gary Martin. Before the year was our he had raised another indispensable $1.5 million from a number of companies in Japan, including Kyocera, Mitsui, Yamaha, and Ascii, Kay Nishi's PC software firm that represented Chips in Asia. By July, the IBM graphics enhancement chip set was finished and Chips & Technologies was a company almost fully owned and controlled by its employees.

By July 1986, when the chip set for the IBM AT computer was finished, most of the world had decided that the AT would be the next major personal computer standard. In the United States, Tandy, PC's Limited (now Dell), and several other then unknown manufacturers bought the Chips & Technologies set. Tandy became the leading AT compatible producer, assembling the computers in a factory in Fort Worth manned by immigrants from twenty countries led by an immigrant from Japan. Among the purchasers of the Chips set in Europe were Olivetti, Apricot, Siemens, and Bull. Nishi signed up NEC, Sony, Epson, and Mitsubishi in Japan; Goldstar, Samsung, Daewoo, and Hyundai in Korea; a number of companies in Taiwan; and the Great Wall Computer Company of China. Most of these firms --plus Compaq and a slew of producers of IBM add-in graphics gear--also were buying the graphics enhancement chip set.

At the outset. Campbell had boldly predicted profitability in a year and a half: In fact, the firm was profitable by the last quarter of the first year.


Gilder, George. Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology. Paperback ed. New York: Touchstone, 1990.

February 2, 2010

Grumpy Forecaster Bites Pushy Politician


"Will there be six more weeks of winter? Will Chuck mind his manners at the Staten Island Zoo? Will Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pull this stunt again? The answers are uncertain. It is clear, though, that the mayor can be persistent in the face of hostility." Source of the caption and the photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A20) There are creatures -- hibernating bears come to mind, or emergency-room doctors after an overnight shift -- who don't appreciate being roused from their slumber. Perhaps that's what irked Chuck the Groundhog on Monday morning on Staten Island when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg tried to lure him out of his wooden shelter.

Chuck wasn't up for whatever it was that Mr. Bloomberg had planned for him -- or for predicting how much longer winter was going to last, for that matter. And he got so annoyed at the mayor that he bit the mayor's left hand, his sharp teeth piercing Mr. Bloomberg's black leather gloves.

One can argue that Mr. Bloomberg sort of asked for it. As cameras rolled and the crowd took in the event -- a local imitation of the Punxsutawney Phil tradition -- Chuck at first refused to come out. Children chanted his name to no avail. Mr. Bloomberg seemed to realize that the reclusive rodent was spoiling the show.

He tried to lure Chuck out of his cottage with an ear of corn, but Chuck shrewdly grabbed the corn and dragged it inside to enjoy. The mayor tried again, twice, but then, seemingly out of patience, he grabbed Chuck by the belly with both hands before he could hide again and held him up in the air for everyone to see.

By then, the mayor had already been bitten.

For the full story, see:

FERNANDA SANTOS. "Reclusive Staten Islander Bites Mayor." The New York Times (Tues., February 3, 2009): A20.

(Note: the online version of the article has the slightly different title: "Reclusive Staten Island Groundhog Bites Mayor.")

February 1, 2010

Art Diamond Identified as One of "the Country's Most Prolific and Influential Economics Bloggers"

KauffmanBloggerSurveyChart2010-02-01.gifSource of graph: http://image.exct.net/lib/fef61175736207/m/1/Q9-Report-Card2.gif

The Kauffman Foundation recently invited me to participate in a quarterly survey on economic policy that they are compiling from among bloggers who they have identified as among "the country's most prolific and influential economics bloggers." I agreed to participate.

Apparently tomorrow (2/2/10) they will release the results of the first survey.

Below I have quoted most of a press release that they emailed out today.

(The Kauffman Foundation is one of the leading non-profit organizations supporting research on entrepreneurship.)

Top Economics Bloggers Grade U.S. Institutions that Influence Economy in New Kauffman Survey

Watch for complete results tomorrow of the first
'Kauffman Economic Outlook:
A Quarterly Survey of Leading Economics Bloggers'

The country's most prolific and influential economics bloggers grade the institutions and organizations that impact the economy in a new Kauffman Foundation survey. On an A to F grading scale, the nation's top economics bloggers give the highest marks to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and General Accountability Office (GAO), as well as to the "U.S. business community." Central banks such as the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank got passing grades by most, with few A's and many F's. Similarly, the World Bank had mixed marks. The worst marks went to Wall Street firms (31 percent F's) and the U.S. Congress (51 percent F's).

Learn more about what these insightful analysts think about U.S. economic performance, policy, institutions, and the deficit in the first "Kauffman Economic Outlook: A Quarterly Survey of Economics Bloggers," which will debut tomorrow, Feb. 2, 2010, at www.kauffman.org.

The survey was conducted in mid-January 2010 by soliciting input from bloggers ranked among the top 200 economics bloggers according to Palgrave's Econolog.net. Ten core questions and seven topical questions were designed in coordination with a distinguished board of advisors.

Web version of press release:



The StatCounter number above reports the number of "page loads" since the counter was installed late on 2/26/08. Page loads are defined on the site as "The number of times your page has been visited."

View My Stats