« October 2016 | Main | December 2016 »


November 30, 2016

About 90% of Current Jobs Include Tasks that Are Hard to Automate




(p. B1) They replaced horses, didn't they? That's how the late, great economist Wassily Leontief responded 35 years ago to those who argued technology would never really replace people's work.


. . .


(p. B6) A research paper published last month by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development argued that even the occupations most at risk of being replaced by machines contained lots of tasks that were hard to automate, like face-to-face interaction with customers.

It concluded that only 9 percent of American workers faced a high risk of being replaced by an automaton. Austrians, Germans and Spaniards were the most vulnerable, but only 12 percent of them risked losing their jobs to information technology.



For the full commentary, see:

Porter, Eduardo. "ECONOMIC SCENE; Contemplating the End of Human Workhorse." The New York Times (Weds., JUNE 8, 2016): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JUNE 7, 2016, and has the title "ECONOMIC SCENE; Jobs Threatened by Machines: A Once 'Stupid' Concern Gains Respect.")


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development paper mentioned above, is:

Arntz, Melanie, Terry Gregory, and Ulrich Zierahn. "The Risk of Automation for Jobs in OECD Countries: A Comparative Analysis." OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 189. Paris: OECD Publishing, 2016.






November 29, 2016

Many Great Inventors Grew Up Poor and Had Little Education




(p. A13) Mr. Baker is good at pointing out the unanticipated consequences that arose from some inventions: Richard Jordon Gatling, inventor of the Gatling gun, a fearsome instrument of battlefield butchery still in use in some forms today, believed that his contribution would save lives--depending on which side of the gun you were on--because one man operating the weapon would reduce the need for other soldiers. The inventor who created television, Philo Farnsworth, believed that his device could bring about world peace. "If we were able to see people in other countries and learn about our differences, why would there be any misunderstandings?" he wrote. "War would be a thing of the past." And you wouldn't need the Gatling gun.

Like Farnsworth, many of the inventors in "America the Ingenious" came from impoverished upbringings and had little formal education. Walter Hunt, creator of the safety pin, was educated in a one-room schoolhouse but went on to invent scores of other items, including a device that allowed circus performers to walk upside-down on ceilings. Elisha Graves Otis, of Otis elevator fame, was a high-school dropout who, according to his son, Charles, "needed no assistance, asked no advice, consulted with no one, and never made much use of pen or pencil." Of the innovators who undertook world-changing engineering feats, it is remarkable how often they brought them in under budget and ahead of schedule, among them the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam and New York's Hudson and East River railroad tunnels.



For the full review, see:

PATRICK COOKE. "BOOKSHELF; The Character of Our Country; Copper-riveted jeans, the first oil rig, running shoes, dry cleaning and the 23-story-high clipper ship--as American as apple pie." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Oct. 5, 2016): A13.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Oct. 4, 2016.)


The book under review, is:

Baker, Kevin. America the Ingenious: How a Nation of Dreamers, Immigrants, and Tinkerers Changed the World. New York: Artisan, 2016.






November 28, 2016

Berners-Lee Suggests Web Micropayments Replace Ad Revenue




(p. B1) SAN FRANCISCO -- Twenty-seven years ago, Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web as a way for scientists to easily find information. It has since become the world's most powerful medium for knowledge, communications and commerce -- but that doesn't mean Mr. Berners-Lee is happy with all of the consequences.


. . .


So on Tuesday [June 7, 2016], Mr. Berners-Lee gathered in San Francisco with other top computer scientists -- including Brewster Kahle, head of the nonprofit Internet Archive and an internet activist -- to discuss a new phase for the web.


. . .


(p. B6) Consider payments. In many cases, people pay for things online by entering credit card information, not much different from handing a card to a merchant for an imprint."

At the session on Tuesday [June 7, 2016], computer scientists talked about how new payment technologies could increase individual control over money. For example, if people adapted the so-called ledger system by which digital currencies are used, a musician might potentially be able to sell records without intermediaries like Apple's iTunes. News sites might be able to have a system of micropayments for reading a single article, instead of counting on web ads for money.

"Ad revenue is the only model for too many people on the web now," Mr. Berners-Lee said. "People assume today's consumer has to make a deal with a marketing machine to get stuff for 'free,' even if they're horrified by what happens with their data. Imagine a world where paying for things was easy on both sides."



For the full story, see:

QUENTIN HARDY. "World Wide Web's Creator Looks to Reinvent It." The New York Times (Weds., JUNE 8, 2016): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JUNE 7, 2016, and has the title "The Web's Creator Looks to Reinvent It." )






November 27, 2016

Hillary Clinton Did Not Give a Rat's Ass About a Rat's Ass Lawsuit




(p. A4) LITTLE ROCK, Ark.--One of Hillary Clinton's first assignments as a corporate lawyer landed her far from her roots. She helped overturn a ballot measure that increased electric rates for businesses and lowered them for the poor.

"Instead of defending poor people and righting wrongs, we found ourselves squarely on the side of corporate greed against the little people," her colleague, Webb Hubbell, later wrote.

The future presidential contender worked for 15 years as a corporate litigator at the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas's capital, longer than any other position in or out of government. Her portrait still hangs in the firm's downtown offices.


. . .


In her 2003 book, Mrs. Clinton writes only briefly about her work at Rose. She highlights a couple of cases, including her first jury trial, where she defended a canning company sued by a man who found the rear end of a rat in his pork and beans. He claimed he couldn't kiss his fiancée because every time he thought about the situation he would spit.

Mrs. Clinton argued the man hadn't suffered any real damages and because the rodent part had been sterilized it would be considered edible in parts of the world. She said the plaintiff won "only nominal damages." Mrs. Clinton didn't identify the name of the man or the company involved.



For the full story, see:

LAURA MECKLER and PETER NICHOLAS. "Clinton's Forgotten Law-Firm Career." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Oct. 29, 2016): A4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 28, 2016, and has the title "Hillary Clinton's Forgotten Career: Corporate Lawyer.")






November 26, 2016

Longer Permit Delays Slow Construction of Houses




(p. A3) Home prices and rents are surging in Denver, but local builder Jared Phifer said his construction work virtually ground to a halt last fall.

The reason: He can't get permits for new projects.

The process can take as long as eight months, at which point the prices he quoted buyers often are out of date, he said.

The delays are "almost making us go bankrupt," he said. "We've had to put a halt on so many projects that I'm in the process of getting a loan for $150,000 to cover all of our expenses."


. . .


Developers of single-family homes reported that the median delay was seven months in 2015, compared with four months in 2011, according to the National Association of Home Builders.


. . .


Last July [2015], Denver saw the biggest permit backlog in its history, according to Brad Buchanan, the executive director of community planning and development. Residential projects were taking as long as three months to review, three times the target duration. Apartment and office projects were taking two months to review, although some developers and homeowners reported waiting much longer.

"Last summer our phones were ringing off the wall with people who couldn't even get permits to change out water heaters," said Jeff Whiton, chief executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Denver.



For the full story, see:

LAURA KUSISTO. "Home Builders Slowed by Permit Delays." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., March 4, 2016): A3.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 3, 2016.)






November 25, 2016

When People's Lives Stagnate They "Often Become Angry, Resentful"




(p. 3) Benjamin M. Friedman of Harvard University, in his book "The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth" (Knopf, 2005), said that at a deep level people make judgments about the economic progress that they see in their own lifetimes, and in comparison with the progress made by the previous generation, especially their own parents. Few people study economic growth statistics. But nearly everyone knows what they are being paid. If they realize that they are doing less well than their forebears, they become anxious. And if they can't see themselves and others in their cohort as progressing over a lifetime, their social interactions often become angry, resentful and even conspiratorial.


For the full commentary, see:

ROBERT J. SHILLER. "Economic View; Weak Economies Foment Ethnic Nationalism." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., OCT. 16, 2016): 3.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date OCT. 14, 2016, and has the title "Economic View; What's Behind a Rise in Ethnic Nationalism? Maybe the Economy.")


The Benjamin Friedman book mentioned in the commentary above, is:

Friedman, Benjamin M. The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. New York: Knopf, 2005.






November 24, 2016

Tech Start-Up Grows with No Outside Money




(p. B6) . . . , it's possible to create a huge tech company without taking venture capital, and without spending far beyond your means. It's possible, in other words, to start a tech company that runs more like a normal business than a debt-fueled rocket ship careening out of control. Believe it or not, start-ups don't even have to be headquartered in San Francisco or Silicon Valley.

There is perhaps no better example of this other way than MailChimp, a 16-year-old Atlanta-based company that makes marketing software for small businesses. If you've heard of MailChimp, it's either because you are one of its 12 million customers or because you were hooked on "Serial," the blockbuster true-crime podcast that MailChimp sponsored.

Under the radar, slowly and steadily, and without ever taking a dime in outside funding or spending more than it earned, MailChimp has been building a behemoth. According to Ben Chestnut, MailChimp's co-founder and chief executive, the company recorded $280 million in revenue in 2015 and is on track to top $400 million in 2016. MailChimp has always been profitable, Mr. Chestnut said, though he declined to divulge exact margins. The company -- which has repeatedly turned down overtures from venture capitalists and is wholly owned by Mr. Chestnut and his co-founder, Dan Kurzius -- now employs about 550 people, and by next year it will be close to 700.

As a private company, MailChimp has long kept its business metrics secret, but Mr. Chestnut wants to publicize its numbers now to show the road less traveled: If you want to run a successful tech company, you don't have to follow the path of "Silicon Valley." You can simply start a business, run it to serve your customers, and forget about outside investors and growth at any cost.


. . .


"Every time we sat down with potential investors, they never seemed to understand small business," Mr. Chestnut said. Venture capitalists always wanted MailChimp to serve "enterprise companies," large businesses with thousands of employees and, potentially, thousands to spend.

"Everybody we talked to said, 'You're sitting on a gold mine, and if you pivot to enterprise, you could be huge,'" Mr. Chestnut said. "But something in our gut always said that didn't feel right."



For the full story, see:

Farhad Manjoo. "STATE OF THE ART; A Road Less Traveled to Success as a Start-Up." The New York Times (Thurs., Oct. 6, 2016): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 5, 2016, and has the title "STATE OF THE ART; MailChimp and the Un-Silicon Valley Way to Make It as a Start-Up.")






November 23, 2016

Regulatory Restrictions on Business Have Doubled Since 1975




GrowingRegulatoryRestrictionsGraph2016-10-31.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A2) Measuring the regulatory state is no easy task. The Code of Federal Regulations contains more than a million restrictions, as signified by the use of the words "shall," "must," "may not," "required," and "prohibited," according to two scholars from the Mercatus Center, a free-market think tank. The total has doubled since 1975, pausing only during Ronald Reagan's first term and Bill Clinton's second.

Rule enforcement is also getting more serious. Responding to accusations of lax oversight in the past, federal authorities have imposed criminal penalties, in particular on financial companies, averaging $7 billion a year in the past four years, up fourfold from the prior 11, according to Brandon Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia.


. . .


Brent Skorup, a scholar at the Mercatus Center, says regulators like the FCC increasingly extract behavioral conditions from companies via transaction approvals rather than rule-making. For example, Comcast Corp. acquired NBC Universal in 2011 after agreeing to a long list of conditions, from not charging for faster network access (aka abiding by "net neutrality") to expanding local, public-interest and children's programming.



For the full commentary, see:

GREG IP. "CAPITAL ACCOUNT; AT&T Feels Growing Reach of Presidency." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Oct. 27, 2016): A2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 26, 2016 title "CAPITAL ACCOUNT; Reaction to AT&T-Time Warner Deal Shows Presidency's Growing Reach.")


The data presented in the left panel of the graph above is described in the following article:

Al-Ubaydli, Omar, and Patrick A. McLaughlin. "Regdata: A Numerical Database on Industry-Specific Regulations for All United States Industries and Federal Regulations, 1997-2012." Regulation and Governance (2015), doi: 10.1111/rego.12107.


The data can be downloaded at:

http://regdata.org/data/


The Garrett results mentioned above, are reported in his article:

Garrett, Brandon L. "The Rise of Bank Prosecutions." The Yale Law Journal Forum (May 23, 2016): 33-56.






November 22, 2016

After Global Warming Hits Vietnam: "We Live Better Now"




(p. A9) On a chilly January day recently, Do Van Duy slugged back another shot of rice liquor. It had been a good year for raising fish in the Red River delta of northern Vietnam. He and other villagers in Nam Dien had gathered to toast their success as the Lunar New Year approached--and question whether climate change is such a bad thing after all.

"We live better now," said Mr. Duy, 31 years old, who now farms grouper, shrimp and crab in the brackish waters of the delta after giving up rice a few years ago. "If you can make the switch there's a lot more money to be made."

Nearly three-quarters of households in Nam Dien have abandoned rice farming, said Bui Van Cuong, a fisheries official with the People's Commune in Nam Dien, as salt water flows farther into the delta's farmland. "The changes are very apparent over the past 10 years," Mr. Cuong said.

The shift is focusing attention on a difficult question: Is it better to invest resources in fighting the effects of climate change, or in helping people adapt?


. . .


"Their competitive advantage is changing," said Le Anh Tuan, a director at the Institute for Climate Change Studies at Can Tho University. "The delta might not always be the best place to grow rice, but people can raise shrimp instead."



For the full story, see:

JAMES HOOKWAY. "Vietnam's New Tack in Climate Fight." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Feb. 25, 2016): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has title "Vietnam Tries New Tack in Climate-Change Battle: Teach a Man to Fish.")






November 21, 2016

Immigration Depresses Wages of Low-Wage Americans




(p. A11) Mr. Borjas is himself an immigrant, having at age 12 fled from Cuba to Miami with his widowed mother in 1962, just before the Cuban Missile Crisis shut down legal exits. As a labor economist, he has spent much of his academic career studying the effects of immigration on the American jobs market, often arguing that immigration depresses wages, or job opportunities, at the lower end of the scale. Here he notes that, on balance, the added production supplied by immigrants makes a modest contribution to U.S. economic growth. He generously provides readers with arguments on all sides, including Milton Friedman's wry observation that illegal immigrants are of more net benefit to the American economy than legals because they make less use of welfare-state services.


. . .


After totting up the pluses and minuses, Mr. Borjas concludes that immigration has very little effect on the lives of most Americans. He does worry, however, that some future wave might bring along with it the "institutional, cultural and political baggage that may have hampered development in the poor countries" from which immigrants often come, and he sees a need for reforms.



For the full review, see:


GEORGE MELLOAN. "BOOKSHELF; The Immigration Debate We Need." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Oct. 19, 2016): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The book under review, is:

Borjas, George J. We Wanted Workers: Unraveling the Immigration Narrative. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.






November 20, 2016

Unions Spend $108 Million on 2016 Elections




UnionPresidentialElectionSpendingGraph2016-11-14.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A1) PHILADELPHIA--U.S. labor unions are plowing money into the 2016 elections at an unprecedented rate, largely in an effort to help elect Hillary Clinton and give Democrats a majority in the Senate.

According to the most recent campaign-finance filings, unions spent about $108 million on the elections from January 2015 through the end of August [2016], a 38% jump from $78 million during the same period leading up to the 2012 election, and nearly double their 2008 total in the same period. Nearly 85% of their spending this year has supported Democrats.



For the full story, see:

BRODY MULLINS, REBECCA BALLHAUS and MICHELLE HACKMAN. "Labor Unions Step Up Presidential-Election Spending." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Oct. 19, 2016): A1 & A4.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 18, 2016, and has the title "Unions Up the Election Ante.")






November 19, 2016

Regulations Cause Sluggish Economy by Slowing Startup Creation




StartupFormationGraph2016-10-27.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.




(p. A2) The U.S. economy is inching along, productivity is flagging and millions of Americans appear locked out of the labor market.

One key factor intertwined with this loss of dynamism: The U.S. is creating startup businesses at historically low rates.


. . .


The share of private firms less than a year old has dropped from more than 12% during much of the 1980s to only about 8% since 2010. In 2014, the most recent year of data, the startup rate was the second-lowest on record, after 2010, according to Census Bureau figures released last month, so there's little sign of a postrecession rebound.


. . .


Rules and regulations also could be at play. Goldman Sachs economists in part blame the cumulative effect of regulations enacted since the Great Recession for reducing the availability of credit and raising the cost of doing business for small firms, making them less competitive.


. . .


There is some disagreement on whether tech firms have fallen into the same doldrums as other startups like mom-and-pop shops. Mr. Haltiwanger and colleagues at the Federal Reserve and Census Bureau find evidence they have, with significant detriment to the economy.

"It may be that we are designing things here in the U.S. as rapidly as ever," Mr. Haltiwanger said. "We're just not producing here. That's not good news for U.S. productivity."

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology delved into state business licensing information and found somewhat different but also discouraging results. That is, tech entrepreneurs are generating good ideas and founding companies at a healthy pace, but those ventures aren't breaking out into successful big companies.

"The system for translating good, high-quality foundings into a growth firm, that system seems to have broken," said Scott Stern, an MIT professor and co-author of the study on startups.



For the full commentary, see:

Sparshott, Jeffrey. "THE OUTLOOK; Sputtering Startups Weigh Down Growth." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Oct. 24, 2016): A2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 23, 2016 title "THE OUTLOOK; Sputtering Startups Weigh on U.S. Economic Growth." The passages quoted above include a couple of sentences that appeared in the online, but not the print, version of the article.)






November 18, 2016

Land Use Regulations Increase Income Inequality




IncomeAndPopulationInRichAndPoorStatesGraph2016-11-14.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A3) In this year's election, candidates have focused blame for rising income inequality on broad economic forces, from globalization to the decline of the American manufacturing base. But a growing body of research suggests a more ordinary factor: the price of the average single-family home for sale, from Fairfield, Conn., to Portland, Ore.

According to research by Daniel Shoag, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard University, and Peter Ganong, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a decadeslong trend in which the income gap between the poorest and richest states steadily closed has been upended by growth in land-use regulations.

Moving to a wealthier area in search of job opportunities has historically been a way to promote economic equality, allowing workers to pursue higher-paying jobs elsewhere. But those wage gains lose their appeal if they are eaten up by higher housing costs. The result: More people stay put and lose out on potential higher incomes.


. . .


Messrs. Shoag and Ganong looked at mentions of "land-use" in appeals-court cases and found the number of references began rising sharply around 1970, with some states seeing a much larger increase than others. For example, the share of cases mentioning land use for New York rose 265% between 1950 and 2010 and 644% in California during the same period. By contrast, it increased by only 80% in Alabama.



For the full story, see:

LAURA KUSISTO. "Land Use Rules Under Fire." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Oct. 19, 2016): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 18, 2016, and has the title "As Land-Use Rules Rise, Economic Mobility Slows, Research Says." A few extra words appear in the online version quoted above, that were left out of the print version.)


The research by Ganong and Shoag, mentioned above, is:


Ganong, Peter, and Daniel Shoag. "Why Has Regional Income Convergence in the U.S. Declined?" Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Working Paper Series, Jan. 2015.







November 17, 2016

Let Individual Indians Own Land on Reservations





Mortgaging homes is a common way for entrepreneurs to provide initial funds for their startups. So our keeping individual Indians from owning land on reservations, cuts off their access to funds for entrepreneurship.

The commentary quoted below is related to a book edited by Anderson and contributed to by Regan.



(p. A13) . . . , Native Americans showed a remarkable ability to adapt to new goods and technology. Italian trade beads became an integral part of American Indian decoration and art. The Spanish horse transformed Plains Indian hunting and warfare.

Over centuries, however, these adaptations and innovations have been replaced by subjugation by the U.S. government. In 1831, Chief Justice John Marshall declared the Cherokees to be a "domestic dependent nation" and characterized the relationship of tribes to the U.S. as resembling "that of a ward to his guardian." Marshall's words were entrenched when Congress became trustee of all Indian lands and resources under the Dawes Act of 1887.

In recent decades, the government has paid lip service to "tribal sovereignty," but in practice Native Americans have little autonomy. Tribes and individual Indians still cannot own their land on reservations. This means Native Americans cannot mortgage their assets for loans like other Americans, thus allowing them little or no access to credit. This makes it incredibly difficult to start a business in Indian Country. Even when tribes try to engage in economic activity, the feds impose mountains of regulations, all in the name of looking after Indian affairs.



For the full commentary, see:

TERRY L. ANDERSON and SHAWN REGAN. "It's Time for the Feds to Get Out of Indian Country; A permit to develop energy resources requires 49 steps on tribal lands and just four steps off reservations." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Oct. 8, 2016): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 7, 2016.)


The book mentioned at the top of this entry, is:

Anderson, Terry L., ed. Unlocking the Wealth of Indian Nations. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2016.






November 16, 2016

FCC Regulations Motivated by Cronyism, Not Economics




(p. A13) . . . , this burgeoning competition between fixed and mobile has always been predictable and yet has figured not at all in the Federal Communications Commission's regulatory efforts, which paint the country as descending into an uncompetitive broadband hell.

A new study by economists Gerald Faulhaber and Hal Singer details how an agency that once prized economic analysis increasingly ignores or disregards economics in its regulatory findings. Why? Because if it acknowledged the increasing competitiveness of the market, there would be nothing to regulate, no favor-factory opportunities for its political sponsors to milk.



For the full commentary, see:

HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR. "BUSINESS WORLD; Big Cable and Mobile Are Ready to Rumble; Technology is about to upend Washington's dire prescriptions for a broadband monopoly." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Oct. 8, 2016): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The working paper mentioned above, is:

Faulhaber, Gerald, and Hal Singer. "The Curious Absence of Economic Analysis at the Federal Communications Commission: An Agency in Search of a Mission." 2016.







November 15, 2016

Oxford Ranked as Best University in World




OxfordRankedFirstTable2016-09-30.png





















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









(p. A3) The University of Oxford, the oldest in the English-speaking world, took the top spot in the latest World University Rankings, released annually by Times Higher Education. The English university dating to 1096 dethroned the California Institute of Technology, a small, private school in Pasadena that had ranked No. 1 for five-straight years, according to Times Higher Education, a London magazine that tracks higher education.

This is the first time a university outside the U.S. is No. 1 in the list's 13-year history.



For the full story, see:

BECKIE STRUM. "U.S. Loses Top School Ranking to U.K.'s Oxford." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Sept. 22, 2016): A3.

(Note: the online version of the story has the title "Oxford Tops List of World's Best Universities.")






November 14, 2016

In Africa Lions "Are Objects of Terror"




(p. A17) Winston-Salem, N.C. -- MY mind was absorbed by the biochemistry of gene editing when the text messages and Facebook posts distracted me.

So sorry about Cecil.

Did Cecil live near your place in Zimbabwe?

Cecil who? I wondered. When I turned on the news and discovered that the messages were about a lion killed by an American dentist, the village boy inside me instinctively cheered: One lion fewer to menace families like mine.

My excitement was doused when I realized that the lion killer was being painted as the villain. I faced the starkest cultural contradiction I'd experienced during my five years studying in the United States.

Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being "beloved" or a "local favorite" was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from "The Lion King"?

In my village in Zimbabwe, surrounded by wildlife conservation areas, no lion has ever been beloved, or granted an affectionate nickname. They are objects of terror.


. . .


We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.


. . .


. . . please, don't offer me condolences about Cecil unless you're also willing to offer me condolences for villagers killed or left hungry by his brethren, by political violence, or by hunger.



For the full commentary, see:

GOODWELL NZOU. "In Zimbabwe, We Don't Cry for Lions." The New York Times (Weds., AUG. 5, 2015): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date AUG. 4, 2015,)






November 13, 2016

Once Great A.&P. Was "Going Out of Business for a Long Time"




(p. 17) Linda Fisch stopped at the A.&P. on Riverdale Avenue in the Bronx on Thursday and bought eight prepackaged containers of cottage cheese and fruit. She did not realize the store had become a footnote to history.

That A.&P. is the last in New York City, where the once-mighty chain was born just before the Civil War. Now the company has filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time in five years. Once its plan for liquidating is approved, the store's A.&P. signs will come down. And the A.&P. name will vanish from New York.


. . .


Once, A.&P. had no competition. It all but invented the grocery store in the 19th century, and in the 20th century, it reinvented itself as a low-price, cash-and-carry chain. Its thousands of stores were "so devoid of frills that they are simply machines for selling food," according to "The Great Merchants," a history of retailers and retailing published in 1974.

But it had been fading for years. In the mid-1980s, a former A.&P. executive published a book "The Rise and Decline of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company" even as A.&P. continued to expand, buying Waldbaum's and the Food Emporium chain in New York City and the Farmer Jack chain in the Midwest. A.&P. acquired Pathmark in 2007 for $679 million in a deal that involved significant debt. It also operated Super Fresh and Food Basics stores.


. . .


It began as a sideline for a hide and leather importer, George H. Gilman. "At some point around 1859 or 1860, there's no precise date, he started selling tea," said Marc Levinson, a historian and the author of "The Great A.&P. and the Struggle for Small Business in America." "In 1860 or 1861, he gave up on the leather business, gave it to his brother, and decided to go into business as a tea wholesaler. He leased a property on Front Street. It's the area where most of the ships carrying tea would come in."

Mr. Levinson said a Gilman employee, George Huntington Hartford, became involved in the new business. Some accounts say it was Hartford who proposed eliminating middlemen -- and cutting prices to consumers. From its earliest years, the little tea company promised in advertisements, it would "do away with various profits and brokerages, cartages, storages, cooperage and waste, with the exception of a small commission paid for purchasing to our correspondents in Japan and China."


. . .


"I grew up on Long Island and the A.&P. was the only supermarket in the town I grew up in, which was Lynbrook," said Ms. Fisch, 71. "Of course that's where we shopped. It was bright and it was clean, which is totally different from the one in Riverdale. It's like it's been going out of business for a long time."



For the full story, see:

JAMES BARRON. "A.& P. Bankruptcy Means New York, Chain's Birthplace, Will Lose Last Store." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., AUG. 2, 2015): 17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 1, 2015.)


The first book mentioned above, is:

Mahoney, Tom, and Leonard Sloane. The Great Merchants: America's Foremost Retail Institutions and the People Who Made Them Great. Updated and Enlarged ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.


The second book mentioned above, is:

Walsh, William I. The Rise and Decline of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. Secaucas, N.J.: Lyle Stuart, 1986.


Levinson's great book, mentioned above, is:

Levinson, Marc. The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America. New York: Hill and Wang, 2011.






November 12, 2016

Medal-Winning Official Steals Concrete from Public Road and Sells to Cronies




(p. A4) MOSCOW -- Corruption in Russia sometimes amounts to highway robbery, literally.

A senior prison official has been accused of stealing the pavement from a 30-mile stretch of public highway in the Komi Republic, a thinly populated, heavily forested region in northern Russia, the daily newspaper Kommersant reported on its website on Wednesday [January 13, 2016].


. . .


While he was in Komi, Mr. Protopopov won a medal for fostering "spiritual unity," the Kommersant report said, without specifying whether the unity was with the crews doing the illicit road work.



For the full story, see:

NEIL MacFARQUHAR. "Don't Blame Snow for Missing Road in Russia's North." The New York Times (Thurs., JAN. 14, 2016): A4.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: online version of the story has the date JAN. 13, 2016, and has the title "Missing a Road in Russia? This May Be Why.")






November 11, 2016

"Politicized Regulatory State" Cuts Hiring and Slows Innovation






EaseOfDoingBusinessGraph2016-09-30.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.




(p. A13) Sclerotic growth is America's overriding economic problem. From 1950 to 2000, the U.S. economy grew at an average rate of 3.5% annually. Since 2000, it has grown at half that rate--1.76%. Even in the years since the bottom of the great recession in 2009, which should have been a time of fast catch-up growth, the economy has only grown at 2%.


. . .


. . . the U.S. economy is simply overrun by an out-of-control and increasingly politicized regulatory state. If it takes years to get the permits to start projects and mountains of paper to hire people, if every step risks a new criminal investigation, people don't invest, hire or innovate.


. . .


How much more growth is really possible from better policies? To get an idea, see the nearby chart plotting 2014 income per capita for 189 countries against the World Bank's "Distance to Frontier" ease-of-doing-business measure for the same year. The measure combines individual indicators, including starting a business, dealing with construction permits, protecting minority investors, paying taxes and trading across borders.


. . .


Most of all, the country needs a dramatic legal and regulatory simplification, restoring the rule of law. Middle-aged America is living in a hoarder's house of a legal system. State and local impediments such as occupational licensing and zoning are also part of the problem.


. . .


There is hope. Washington lawmakers need to bring about a grand bargain, moving the debate from "they're getting their special deal, I want mine," to "I'm losing my special deal, so they'd better lose theirs too."



For the full commentary, see:

JOHN H. COCHRANE. "Ending America's Slow-Growth Tailspin; The U.S. economy needs a dramatic legal and regulatory simplification." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., May 3, 2016): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 2, 2016.)






November 10, 2016

Department of Motor Vehicles Staffed by Sloths




The video clip above is an authorized "embed" from YouTube.



(p. D3) . . . "since the trailers have been playing everywhere, I can tell you a bit about one of the best things in "Zootopia"--an extended sequence set in a Department of Motor Vehicles office where all the clerks are sloths. That's a funny notion, to be sure, and the main sloth, a clerk named Flash (Raymond S. Persi) has a deliciously distinctive demeanor. But the sequence's great distinction is how confidently it is developed. In an era of quick cuts and speedy action, Flash is remarkably...outlandishly....hilariously....and memorably s-l-o-w. Kids will be imitating him for a month of Saturdays.


For the full review, see:

Morgenstern, Joe. "'Zootopia': Beauty and the Beasts." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., March 4, 2016): D3.

(Note: the ellipsis at the start is added; the internal ellipses are in the original.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 3, 2016, and has the title "'Zootopia' Review: Beauty and the Beasts.")






November 9, 2016

Peter Thiel Asks "What Happened to the Future?"




(p. B4) Mr. Thiel has been an important player in Silicon Valley since the first dot-com boom, but he has recently taken on a much more public role. He was born in Germany and came to the United States as an infant when his father, a chemical engineer, found work here. He was raised in Silicon Valley and went to Stanford, where he developed the views in his first book, "The Diversity Myth," about the multiculturalism debate on campuses, written with the entrepreneur David O. Sacks.

In 1998, Mr. Thiel helped found the online payments company PayPal, an immediate success. He was the first outside investor in Facebook. Forbes estimates his net worth at $2.7 billion. Last year, he became a part-time partner at Y Combinator, a loosely defined advisory position.

A handful of others in Silicon Valley have similar investing track records. Where Mr. Thiel really separates himself from his peers is his skepticism that Silicon Valley is building a better world for all. His investment firm, Founders Fund, used to begin its online manifesto with the complaint, "We wanted flying cars; instead we got 140 characters," a reference to Twitter. Now it says simply, "What happened to the future?"

San Francisco, Manhattan and Washington, D.C., are doing well, but the presidential campaign has laid bare the angst of many other places. Feelings of decline are rampant. "Most of the millennials have lower expectations than their baby boomer parents," Mr. Thiel said. "Where I differ from others in Silicon Valley is in thinking that you can't fence yourself off. If it continues, it will ultimately be bad for everybody."



For the full story, see:

DAVID STREITFELD. "Peter Thiel, Contrarian Tech Billionaire, Defends His Support of Trump." The New York Times (Mon., OCT. 31, 2016): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 29, 2016, and has the title "Peter Thiel Defends His Most Contrarian Move Yet: Supporting Trump.")


The book mentioned above, that was co-authored by Thiel, is:

Sacks, David O., and Peter A. Thiel. The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford. Oakland, CA: The Independent Institute, 1995.






November 8, 2016

Chelsea on Clinton Foundation in Haiti: "The Incompetence Is Mind Numbing"




(p. B1) Chelsea Clinton was alarmed.


. . .


As Ms. Clinton asserted herself at the Clinton Foundation, eager to embrace her role as a board member and de facto heir, she became concerned about what seemed to her to be a lack of professionalism, as well as a blurring of the lines between the foundation's philanthropic activities and some of its leaders' business interests.


. . .


Even when emailing with her parents, Ms. Clinton was not shy about delivering blistering criticism, as when she wrote to them after a trip to Haiti, which the foundation was trying to help rebuild after the devastating 2010 earthquake. "To say I was profoundly disturbed by what I saw -- and didn't see -- would be an understatement," Ms. Clinton wrote to her mother. "The incompetence is mind numbing."



For the full story, see:

AMY CHOZICK. "CAMPAIGN MEMO; Hacked Emails Reveal Image of Chelsea Clinton." The New York Times (Fri., OCT. 28, 2016): A17.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 27, 2016, and has the title "CAMPAIGN MEMO; Chelsea Clinton's Frustrations and Devotion Shown in Hacked Emails.")






November 7, 2016

Many Can Have Good Jobs, and Good Lives, Without College




SkillsGapApprenticeshipsGraph2016-09-30.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. B1) American employers struggling to find enough qualified industrial workers are turning to Germany for a solution to plug the U.S. skills gap: vocational training.

Two million U.S. manufacturing jobs will remain vacant over the next decade due to a shortage of trained workers, according to an analysis by the Manufacturing Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group affiliated with the National Association of Manufacturers, and professional-services firm Deloitte LLP.

While the Obama administration has invested millions of dollars to promote skills-based training, it remains a tough sell in a country where four-year university degrees are seen as the more viable path to good-paying jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said two-thirds of high school graduates who enrolled in college in 2015 opted for four-year degrees.


. . .


In Germany, roughly half of high-school graduates opt for (p. B2) high-octane apprenticeships rather than college degrees. One draw: almost certain employment.

German apprentices spend between three and four days a week training at a company and between one and two days at a public vocational school. The company pays wages and tuition. After three years, apprentices take exams to receive nationally recognized certificates in their occupation. Many continue working full time at the company.

The Labor Department said 87% of apprentices in the U.S. are employed after completing their training programs. Workers who complete apprenticeships earn $50,000 annually on average, or higher than the median U.S. annual wage of $44,720,



For the full story, see:

ELIZABETH SCHULZE. "U.S. Turns to Germany to Fill Jobs." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Sept. 27, 2016): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 26, 2016, and has the title "U.S. Companies Turn to German Training Model to Fill Jobs Gap.")






November 6, 2016

New Tech in Costly Cars "Trickles Down" to Cheaper Cars




(p. B5) Chances are slim that the car, starting at just over $200,000 ($215,000 as tested), will grab market share from the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. But in the four days I had the GT, my wife was astonished at my eagerness to run errands of any kind.


. . .


Surely, few people buy cars this expensive, but such vehicles are important because they pioneer technology that trickles down to everyday cars. Recall that anti-lock brakes showed up first on supercars in the late 1970s. (The 570GT's brakes are very good, by the way.)

Perhaps McLaren's carbon-fiber tub chassis structure will be common in the future.



For the full commentary, see:

TOM VOELK. "Driven: McLaren 570GT: High Speed Meets High Style (at a High Price)." The New York Times (Fri., NOV. 3, 2016): B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date NOV. 3, 2016, and has the title "Driven: Video Review: McLaren 570GT Is a Rare Blend of Speed and Comfort.")






November 5, 2016

Breakthrough Surgeon "Defied Skepticism"




(p. D8) Dr. Johnson was a reluctant surgeon -- early on, he once recalled, "I disliked surgeons and their pompous attitudes" -- but he applied the crocheting skills he had learned from his mother, who was a home economics teacher, and the needlecraft he was taught in a seventh-grade sewing class (he got an A), to perform more than 8,500 heart bypass operations over four decades.


. . .


Doctors had experimented with coronary artery surgery since the 1950s, the goal being to remove accumulated plaque caused by cholesterol deposits, which can block blood flow and cause the stabbing pain of angina. One method was to remove the clogged portion of an artery and graft on a replacement patch of cardiac membrane or a segment of vein from a leg.

In 1968, Dr. Johnson and his team took another path, sewing segments of veins from multiple arteries end to end and stitching them directly into the aorta, the body's main artery, bypassing cardiac ducts where the flow of blood was impeded.

His breakthrough, reported the next year, defied skepticism within the medical profession and heralded a new era of successful double, triple and quadruple bypass surgeries.

"It was perhaps the presentation of Johnson in the spring of 1969 that had the greatest impact on the widespread use" of coronary artery bypass grafting, Dr. Eugene A. Hessel II wrote in "Cardiac Anesthesia: Principles and Clinical Practice," published in 2001.

To facilitate surgery, Dr. Johnson made another breakthrough by temporarily stopping the heart and slowing the body's metabolism by cooling and circulating the blood through a heart-lung machine.


. . .


Dr. Johnson's multiple bypass surgeries, which could take as long as nine hours and were often accompanied by classical music in the operating room, were credited with saving an untold number of lives.

But in an interview with Dr. William S. Stoney for "Pioneers of Cardiac Surgery" (2008), Dr. Johnson said "the single biggest thing I ever did to lower mortality" was to prescribe the drug allopurinol, which is ordinarily used to inhibit the production of uric acid (high levels of it can cause gout), but which has also been found to improve survival in cardiac patients by improving their capacity for exercise.


. . .


"The coronary artery bypass graft operation does nothing for the basic cause of the disease," Dr. Johnson said, adding, "Prevention is, of course, the ultimate answer."



For the full obituary, see:

SAM ROBERTS. "W. Dudley Johnson, Heart Bypass Pioneer, Dies at 86." The New York Times (Mon., OCT. 31, 2016): D8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date OCT. 30, 2016, and has the title "W. Dudley Johnson, Heart Bypass Surgery Pioneer, Dies at 86.")


Stoney's book mentioned above, is:

Stoney, William S. Pioneers of Cardiac Surgery. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2008.






November 4, 2016

"Negligible Temperature Impact" of Paris Agreement




(p. A11) The Paris Agreement will cost a fortune but do little to reduce global warming. In a peer-reviewed article published in Global Policy this year, I looked at the widely hailed major policies that Paris Agreement signatories pledged to undertake and found that they will have a negligible temperature impact. I used the same climate-prediction model that the United Nations uses.

. . . , consider the Obama administration's signature climate policy, the Clean Power Plan. The U.N.'s model shows that it will accomplish almost nothing. Even if the policy withstands current legal challenges and its cuts are totally implemented--not for the 14 years that the Paris agreement lasts, but for the rest of the century--the Clean Power Plan would reduce temperatures by 0.023 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100.


. . .


The costs of the Paris climate pact are likely to run to $1 trillion to $2 trillion annually throughout the rest of the century, using the best estimates from the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum and the Asia Modeling Exercise. Spending more than $100 trillion for such a feeble temperature reduction by the end of the century does not make sense.



For the full commentary, see:

BJORN LOMBORG. "Obama's Climate Policy Is a Hot Mess; The president hails the Paris Agreement again--even though it will solve nothing and cost trillions." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 1, 2016): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 30, 2016.)



The academic version of Lomborg's argument, is:

Lomborg, Bjorn. "Impact of Current Climate Proposals." Global Policy 7, no. 1 (Feb. 2016): 109-18.






November 3, 2016

Lower Solar Panel Subsidies Means Cheaper Electricity for Poor




(p. B1) LAFAYETTE, Calif. -- It was only two years ago that Elroy Holtmann spent about $20,000 on a home solar array to help cover the costs of charging his new electric car. With the savings on his monthly electric bills, he figured the investment would pay for itself in about a dozen years.

But then the utilities regulators changed the equation.

As a result, Pacific Gas & Electric recently did away with the rate schedule chosen by Mr. Holtmann, a retired electrical engineer, and many other solar customers in this part of California. The new schedule will make them pay much more for the electricity they draw from the grid in the evening, while paying those customers less for the excess power their solar panels send back to the grid on sunny summer days.

As a result, Mr. Holtmann's solar setup may never pay for itself.

"They've taken any possibility for payback away," he said with resignation, looking up at the roof of his 1970s ranch-style house in this suburb a short drive east of Berkeley.

The paradox is playing out around the country. Even as policy makers at the federal and state levels promote clean energy to fight global warming, the economics of electricity can often be at odds with those goals.

Thrust in the middle are utility regulators. Even if they support greening the grid through technology adopters like Mr. Holtmann, the reg-(p. B5)ulators are also responsible for ensuring that the utilities can afford to supply power to the largest number of customers at the most equitable rates. That includes people without the money or inclination to install solar collectors.

"The grid is no longer just a cheap way to get electrical commodities to people," said Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission. "People want choices, they want customized services," he said. "And how do you make that fair to everybody, because not everybody is moving as adopters at the same pace?"



For the full story, see:

DIANE CARDWELL. "Tug of War in Fine Prine of Your Electric Bill." The New York Times (Weds., JULY 27, 2016): B1 & B5.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date JULY 26, 2016, and has the title "Why Home Solar Panels No Longer Pay in Some States.")






November 2, 2016

After Infrastructure Stimulus "Japan Is Less, Not More, Dynamic"




(p. A15) To help fight . . . economic sluggishness, Japan has invested enormously in infrastructure, building scores of bridges, tunnels, highways, and trains, as well as new airports--some barely used. The New York Times reported that, between 1991 and late 2008, the country spent $6.3 trillion on "construction-related public investment"--a staggering sum. This vast outlay has undoubtedly produced engineering marvels: in 1998, for instance, Japan completed the Akashi Kaikyō Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world; just this year, the country began providing bullet-train service between Tokyo and the northern island of Hokkaido. The World Competitiveness Report ranks Japan's infrastructure as seventh-best in the world and its train infrastructure as the best. But while these trillions in spending may have kept some people working, no one can look at the Japanese numbers and conclude that the money has ramped up the growth rate. Moreover, the largesse is part of the reason that the nation now labors under a crushing public debt, worth 230 percent of GDP. Japan is less, not more, dynamic after its infrastructure bonanza.


For the full commentary, see:

Edward L. Glaeser. "Notable & Quotable: Infrastructure Isn't Always Stimulating." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., Sept. 14, 2016): A15.

(Note: ellipsis above added; ellipsis in article title below, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 13, 2016.)


The above commentary by Glaeser was quoted from the Glaeser article:

Glaeser, Edward L. "If You Build It . . . : Myths and Realities About America's Infrastructure Spending." City Journal 26, no. 3 (Summer 2016): 25-33.






November 1, 2016

GE Shifts Away from Six Sigma and Toward Innovation




(p. B1) One of the biggest engineering projects under way at General Electric Co. these days isn't a turbine or locomotive. It is reinventing the way the company's employees are assessed, reviewed and even paid.

For decades, an ideal GE worker was one adept at squeezing out product defects and almost allergic to admitting uncertainty.

Now, as the 124-year-old company refocuses itself on industrial businesses, executives say top performers are those willing to take risks, test new ideas with customers and even make mistakes.

Leaders say GE's multiyear effort to remake itself into a leaner, innovation-driven company requires a nimble workforce that can develop products faster and more cheaply. The shift is significant for GE, whose corporate ethos had long been embodied by Six Sigma, a manufacturing system designed to eliminate error, enshrining certainty and consistency.


. . .


(p. B6) The new style of measuring employees has roots in FastWorks, a companywide initiative intended to hasten product development and ensure that customers want new products before GE spends millions building them. It is based on Lean Startup, a management system popularized by Eric Ries, a 37-year-old author and consultant GE brought in with the blessing of Chief Executive Jeff Immelt to help employees get comfortable with trial, error and experimentation.



For the full story, see:

RACHEL EMMA SILVERMAN. "GE Tries to Reinvent the Employee Review, Encouraging Risks." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., June 8, 2016): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the title "GE Re-Engineers Performance Reviews, Pay Practices.")


Ries's Lean Startup management system is advocated in his book:

Ries, Eric. The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. New York: Crown Business, 2011.






HP3D5006CropSmall.jpg






Archives















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