Archive for May, 2015

And a lively end to the month


A powerful myth as lived in another culture.

Sunday’s reading – with some toe-tapping


That sudden, unexpected streak of luck that the randomness of life can bring.

Cotten-Picking, Rootin’ Tootin’, Sassafrassing…Guitar Hero

FIFA’s challenges, the rich US, and those poor countries


As the US Department of Justice extends its reach as the global enforcer of law, order and justice, the world is not at a loss for expertise and confident solutions that emanate from even US experts who are but passingly familiar with the sport of football.

To make the obvious blatantly obvious: when the US media, almost on cue, can give blanket coverage in a feeding frenzy of demonisation and vilification to a sport it routinely ignores, one does not have to be an expert in reading tea leaves, especially when its Senator McCain launches his own broadside. Something is rotten in the state of, where?

Now, then, to launch into a marine metaphor. A very good swimmer in a pool, indoor or outdoor, can often be at sea in the sea, and less so against an average sea swimmer in the sea. Knowing and understanding one’s environment does make a difference.

For example, a statistician with expertise on the politics or sports in one country can fare well elsewhere – with the requisite knowledge and insights in that new environment. Otherwise, a fool’s errand becomes apparent, and unbecoming. One dares hope that such an ill-considered foray is not born of that sense of exceptionalism. (more…)

Black gold, black hearts, and benighted populations


The gods of the environment and depleting resources must be at wit’s end. This time, an oil gush (‘spill’ is such a tidy, innocous word) in California, which brings back earlier memories of California and more recent one in the Gulf of Mexico. Would that those fishies, dolphins and fisher folk had the ducats, the guita to persuade their political representatives to preserve and protect their health, environment and livelihood.

The Guardian does the honour with the report, California oil spill despoils coastline in tar-blackened reprise of 1960s disaster. Three brief paragraphs sketch the context.

Mark Massara was eight years old in 1969, when a blowout at a Union Oil well off the California coast spilled more than three million gallons of crude along the beaches of Santa Barbara and devastated one of the northern hemisphere’s most prized ecosystems.

He remembers going to the beach with his family and throwing hay on the oil as it washed ashore – a frustratingly inadequate gesture that stayed with him as he later built a career as one of California’s top environmental lawyers.

Last week, Massara was back in Santa Barbara, surveying the damage of the latest of many spills along California’s staggeringly beautiful central coast and lamenting how little has changed in the past 46 years. An oil slick stretching for miles is once again choking fish and wildlife, and again local residents are flocking to foul-smelling, blackened beaches to do what little they can to help with the cleanup.

Clearly, a traumatic experience that inspires a career should not have deserved an encore?

Of course, we are reminded of the Lago Agrio of Ecuador and the Niger Delta of Nigeria, environmental, health and welfare disasters that remain, barely treated or resolved. The power (and impunity) of the multinational corporation?

Economics in one lesson? Not so fast


Henry Hazlitt had written his ‘Economics in One Lesson’ in 1946. The little book has enjoyed immense popularity, going through many reprints. Its focus on free markets, market economics, ensured its popularity among promoters of the school of thought, ideology. Comes now Prof John Quiggin, who thinks, well, that it is not all that all simple, yet not all that complicated.

Author of ‘Zombie Economics’, he uses the blog, Crooked Timber, to elicit the views of commenters on draft excerpts of his ‘Economics in Two Lessons’. In the process Prof Quiggin also underscores one of the strengths of the blogs. Like Hazlitt’s book, his is aimed at the general reader.

Here he posts another draft excerpt, Draft Preface: Economics in Two Lessons. One of the pleasures, and benefits, of following this process, is that we can gain an insight into the art of communicating, clearly and concisely, to readers of differing levels.

A songbird sings


One of those pleasures missed – Eva’s performances at Blues Alley.

In those Halcyon days of an era long past, Denizens of the Night in Washington, DC would recall Mr Henry’s, Bohemian Cavern, Showboat Lounge – and Blues Alley, where the late Eva Cassidy had performed.

OECD report: Inequality? US exceptional


No great surprise regarding income inequality. The US ranks among the most unequal among the OECD developed countries. That from the recent OECD report, In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All.

Do-It-Yourselfers can have a go at country comparisons relative to the OECD average. Interactive charts add life to the activity.

Click the countries of interest, e.g., US, UK, Greece. Or even Denmark. As is shown, the US is indeed exceptional for its inequality. For Latin America, where such inequality has been historically high, the situation has been improving markedly, as that of the US and UK, deteriorating.

For example, while high for Chile, the trend has been downward over time – and Chile has not been as activist as some of its neighbours in attacking poverty and inequality.

And to step, lightly – er, no, lithely


Long read on a Sunday


Shining a light on socialising, story telling,  and other goodies.

Lindau Longread: Illuminated Storytelling

The Mississippi Legend


The Legendary Blues Guitarist died on Thursday, 14 May 2015. Still, the thrill lives on.