The End of the Internet

This is it for me, at least for this chapter.  I am off to join some people who don’t much appreciate voices singing out of key, and while they might be able to get over my public disdain for coaches who punt in opposing territory, it would be rather awkward to continue to point out the incompetence of the administration.  So for now, it’s probably best to hang it up.

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Nations have grievances.  Look at the Balkans, always fighting over some mid-fourteenth century slight.  But most leaders have the good sense to recognize that the rest of the world might find their problems slightly ridiculous.  Asif Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto and possessor of big enough balls to become famously corrupt in Pakistan – reflect, for a moment, on how corrupt you have to be in Pakistan for it even to be noticed – decides to take his issues to the Times.

But consider the history as seen by Pakistanis.  Twice in recent history America abandoned its democratic values to support dictators and manipulate and exploit us. In the 1980s, the United States supported Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq’s iron rule against the Pakistani people while using Pakistan as a surrogate in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. That decade turned our peaceful nation into a “Kalashnikov and heroin” society — a nation defined by guns and drugs.

Did he say “peaceful”? Continue Reading »


Steve Dodson over at the Idea Locker sent me this map and asked for my take.  The site is an interesting mapping mashup that goes neighborhood by neighborhood in New York and tries to measure median income and housing affordability.  Call it TIGER for dummies.

The problem is in the text overlay essentially complaining that NY has a dearth of affordable housing.  The site proceeds to advocate more affordable housing programs.  It’s a shame, because it is exactly these affordable housing programs that have created the high costs in the first place. Continue Reading »

The Wrong Way, Slowly

For the first seventeen years of the Peloponnesian War, Athens and Sparta fought to something of a draw.  Sparta dominated the land, but could not breach Athens’ walls.  Athens dominated the sea, but could not march inland with enough force to defeat Sparta.

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Still trying to process all of my objections to the current Afghan strategy into something moderately coherent, so I’ll start with a very different story: Fritz Henderson was rather suddenly and unceremoniously dismissed as CEO of GM.

General Motors Co. Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson resigned after eight months on the job as directors concluded he hadn’t done enough to fix GM’s finances and culture, people familiar with the matter said…Henderson’s exit caps a tenure that included aborted deals to sell the Saturn, Saab and Opel units, a struggle to replace top managers such as Chief Financial Officer Ray Young, and U.S. market-share losses. Continue Reading »

Vegas, With Real Gambling

I am enjoying the goings-on in Dubai tremendously.  It’s like the field mouse of an economics drug trial: take every extreme symptom, jam it into one place of absolutely no global consequence, and then try to figure out the cure.

Suppose you had a tiny country that decided it wanted to be important.  Playing on confusion with its oil-rich neighbors, it goes out and borrows a lot of money to build buildings.  Taking the Paris Hilton strategy that if you insist on your caricature long enough others will eventually believe it, the country makes a big show of people piling into the buildings.  Real estate developers, the ultimate momentum players, pile in.  The country goes the offshore tax haven route – no income taxes – and throws in absolutely no labor standards to ensure that construction can proceed on whatever blistering pace can be achieved by malnourished Thais and Pakistanis welding in 115F heat.  Eventually it hits the wall – for reasons completely beyond its control, at some point people look around and realize they have the world’s largest Potemkin village.  There is no market.  The locals are preposterously corrupt.  Islam is not compatible with the hedge fund lifestyle.  What then? Continue Reading »

Picking Fights

I’m a little surprised to see this:

Wal-Mart, the mightiest retail giant in history, may have met its own worthy adversary: Amazon.com.  In what is emerging as one of the main story lines of the 2009 post-recession shopping season, the two heavyweight retailers are waging an online price war that is spreading through product areas like books, movies, toys and electronics. Continue Reading »


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