"Success is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well."
Our Banana Republic
10:28 pm EST, Nov 8, 2010
The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.
C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent. ..
The richest 0.1 percent of taxpayers would get a tax cut of $61,000 from President Obama. They would get $370,000 from Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. And that provides only a modest economic stimulus, because the rich are less likely to spend their tax savings.
Miniskirts on Mount Fuji as Japan's `Yama Girls' Spur Trekking
3:26 pm EST, Nov 8, 2010
Forget the ice ax and $500 climbing boots. The mode du jour for today’s female mountain hikers in Japan is a miniskirt and leggings.
The North Face, a maker of Gore-Tex waterproof jackets, and Alpine Tour Service Co. are targeting “yama girls,” or mountain girls, the nickname for the growing number of women who are taking to the hills of Japan wearing short pants or fleece skirts with leggings and designer trekking boots.
“I want to wear something cute like a skirt,” said Machiko Miyauchi, 25, who made her first ascent of Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest peak, earlier this year after buying new equipment and shoes. “Climbing is healing. You can breathe fresh, clean air.”
“It was amazing when we saw the sun rise at the top of Mount Fuji,” said Yumiko Hongo, 25, who works at a recruiting company and spent almost $500 on a climbing jacket and shoes for the hike. “I could really enjoy the nature.”
Mexican drug cartel peddles Microsoft Office and Xbox games
Topic: United States
1:17 pm EST, Nov 7, 2010
AS the sun rose over the mountains circling Los Reyes, a town in the Mexican state of Michoacán, one morning in March 2009, a caravan of more than 300 heavily armed law enforcement agents set out on a raid.
All but the lead vehicle turned off their headlights to evade lookouts, called “falcons,” who work for La Familia Michoacana, the brutal Mexican cartel that controls the drug trade. This time, the police weren’t hunting for a secret stash of drugs, guns or money. Instead, they looked to crack down on La Familia’s growing counterfeit software ring.
The police reached the house undetected, barreled in and found rooms crammed with about 50 machines used to copy CDs and make counterfeit versions of software like Microsoft Office and Xbox video games. They arrested three men on the spot, who were later released while the authorities investigate the case. “The entire operation was very complicated and risky,” says a person close to the investigation, who demanded anonymity out of fear for his life.
The Fed is printing more money to satisfy Washington’s runaway spending and hopefully prop up an ailing economy.
I’ll leave the merits and menaces of QE2 — and the nautical puns — up to those on the rest of the Internet. The bottom line is that regardless of whether another round of quantitative easing is a success or failure, the result will be the eventual rise of inflation and devaluation of the dollar.
To help investors prepare their portfolios, here’s a 10-step inflation survival guide.
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Rutgers University November 5–6, 2010, Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Jekyll Island, Georgia
This special conference marks the centenary of the 1910 Jekyll Island meeting that resulted in draft legislation for the creation of a U.S. central bank. Parts of this draft (the Aldrich plan) were incorporated into the 1913 Federal Reserve Act. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the drafting of the Aldrich plan, the conference will take place at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel on Jekyll Island, Georgia—the same building where the 1910 meeting occurred.
The conference's discussions focus on three themes: the origins of the Fed and lessons from the pre-1913 era, how closely the Fed's actual performance has adhered to the original vision expressed by the framers of the Aldrich plan, and what the Fed's almost 100-year track record teaches us about its role going forward.
The webcast from the conference, "A Return to Jekyll Island: The Origins, History, and Future of the Federal Reserve," is scheduled to be available at the date and time below. Featured panelists will include: Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and Gerald Corrigan.
How did Tim O’Reilly describe the potential of Gov 2.0 to Dan Rather?
“Government 2.0 is the attempt to harness the latest technology to make our government more effective, transparent and participatory,” he said.
What do the alpha geeks want to do, with respect to improving government? “They started saying, first of all, we want to open up government, we want more access to all this government data. We want to create new capabilities for citizen involvement.”
During his recent European tour, Mr. Wen reminded politicians in Brussels that China had acted as “a friend” to Greece, Spain, Italy and other troubled European countries in their darkest hour by buying bonds as other investors fled. In return, he admonished regional leaders not to “pressure China on the yuan’s appreciation,” referring to the Chinese currency, formally called the renminbi.
In the past several months, China has pledged to buy Greek bonds when the government starts selling again, and purchased $625 billion in Spanish debt. On his visit, Mr. Wen hailed scores of business deals in Italy and Greece, including one that allows a Chinese state firm to run Greece’s top shipping port — one of the largest European gateways for Chinese goods.
For China, plowing a small but growing share of its more than $2.3 trillion in foreign currency reserves into European investments instead of low-yielding United States Treasury bills helps diversify its portfolio. Beijing also hopes that this kind of push helps reduce the international political pressure to raise the value of its currency.
Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome Will Tell Adama’s War Stories
1:02 pm EDT, Oct 31, 2010
A new Battlestar Galactica prequel will delve into the early years of William Adama, the military leader of the ragtag human fleet in the sci-fi series. Thankfully, it sounds like Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome might take the franchise back to the desperate battle between humans and Cylons that made Battlestar Galactica so gripping.
“This is very much an action-adventure, war series,” Mark Stern, Syfy’s executive vice president of original programming and co-head of original content for Universal Cable Productions, told TV Squad, which published an exclusive story on the planned show.
Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome was first envisioned as a web series spanning the time between Caprica and the reimagined series, but Syfy execs were so blown away by Michael Taylor’s script that they decided to turn it into a two-hour pilot.
The show, which Stern said wouldn’t air before the end of 2011, said the show would employ virtual sets produced by digitally scanning the Battlestar Galactica sets before they were taken down.
Syfy has decided to pull the plug on Caprica, the underwhelming prequel to Battlestar Galactica that has struggled all year to build momentum and audience, to no avail.
"We appreciate all the support that fans have shown for Caprica and are very proud of the producers, cast, writers and the rest of the amazing team that has been committed to this fine series," said Mark Stern, programming head at Syfy. "Unfortunately," Stern added, "despite its obvious quality Caprica has not been able to build the audience necessary to justify a second season."
Or, for that matter, continuing to air the first season, since Caprica is being yanked off the air immediately. The next episode slated to air on Tuesday, Nov. 2, has been replaced by a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (The title of the NextGen episode in question, "A Matter of Time," might have been the motto of Caprica's doomsayers.) The remaining five episodes of the first season will air sometime during early 2011.
Commentary: Loss of manufacturing jobs hollows out the economy
Topic: Markets & Investing
12:08 pm EDT, Oct 30, 2010
Former Intel chief Andy Grove, who gambled big — and won — on billion-dollar U.S. manufacturing facilities a generation ago, worries about “a general undervaluing of manufacturing — the idea that as long as ‘knowledge work’ stays in the U.S., it doesn’t matter what happens to factory jobs,” he wrote in Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
“But what kind of a society are we going to have if it consists of highly paid people doing high value-added work — and masses of unemployed?” he asked.