mm403: Blast from the Past! No. 26

June 7, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

We embark this weekend on a business trip to a conference in Boston. As conferences usually take up a great deal of uptime, without the downtime associated with a normal schedule, we will probably cover many of our daily blogging deadlines with Blasts from the Past!

The conference itself, designed to illuminate the social networking phenomena in the context of business and corporate conduct, may provide the opportunity to blog, as blogging in the corporate environment is one of its key topics. So we may be able to mix business interests and responsibilities with our avocation in this space. Should be interesting!

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

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Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last summer, originally posted September 10, 2007 and originally titled “China – Two interesting aspects”.

MUDGE’S Musings

China is always in the news. Two stories from the past few days illuminate why in some interesting ways.

First, from the LA Times, a look at how we have become victim’s of our unlimited appetite for everyday low prices.

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Analysts expect prices in the U.S. to creep up as safety standards are reevaluated. Buyers and retailers may share the impact.

By Don Lee and Abigail Goldman
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
September 9, 2007

SHANGHAI — Get ready for a new Chinese export: higher prices.

For years, American consumers have enjoyed falling prices for goods made in China thanks to relentless cost cutting by retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.

But the spate of product recalls in recent months — Mattel announced another last week — has exposed deep fault lines in Chinese manufacturing. Manufacturers and analysts say some of the quality breakdowns are a result of financially strapped factories substituting materials or taking other shortcuts to cover higher operating costs.

Now, retailers that had largely dismissed Chinese suppliers’ complaints about the soaring cost of wages, energy and raw materials are preparing to pay manufacturers more to ensure better quality. By doing so, they hope to prevent recalls that hurt their bottom lines and reputations. But those added costs — on a host of items that include toys and frozen fish — mean either lower profits for retailers or higher prices for consumers.

“For American consumers, this big China sale over the last 20 years is over,” said Andy Xie, former Asia economist for Morgan Stanley, who works independently in Shanghai. “China’s cost is going up. They need to get used to it.”

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mm395: Blast from the Past! No. 24

May 29, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Still fighting to restore some normal computation to Casa Mudge. Meanwhile, we needs must blog daily.

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

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Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last summer, originally posted September 6, 2007, and originally titled “Our intangible riches”.

MUDGE’S Musings

Submitted in the spirit of: MUDGE takes well written good ideas where he finds them. And riffs from there. Hang on!

Oil, soil, copper, and forests are forms of wealth. So are factories, houses, and roads. reasononline_thumb4 But according to a 2005 study by the World Bank, such solid goods amount to only about 20 percent of the wealth of rich nations and 40 percent of the wealth of poor countries.

So what accounts for the majority? World Bank environmental economist Kirk Hamilton and his team in the bank’s environment department have found that most of humanity’s wealth isn’t made of physical stuff. It is intangible. In their extraordinary but vastly underappreciated report, Where Is The Wealth Of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century, Hamilton’s team found that “human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries.”

The World Bank study defines natural capital as the sum of cropland, pastureland, forested areas, protected areas, and nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal, and minerals). Produced capital is what most of us think of when we think of capital: machinery, equipment, structures (including infrastructure), and urban land. But that still left a lot of wealth to explain. “As soon as you say the issue is the wealth of nations and how wealth is managed, then you realize that if you were only talking about a portfolio of natural assets, if you were only talking about produced capital and natural assets, you’re missing a big chunk of the story,” Hamilton explains.

Intangible capital accounts for 77 percent of the wealth of nations!

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mm379: Iraq = Lebanon. Finally it makes sense.

May 14, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Faithful reader (if s/he indeed is faithful) is probably disgusted with this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© lately, as we’ve been rehashing good old stuff rather than creating good new stuff here.

As I reflect on my lethargic approach to blogging this past week, my analysis finds that it’s partly due to the demands of the bill paying occupation, and partly my failure to extricate from the zillions of new pages popping up every day in said ‘Sphere a nugget of insight upon which to build.

Didn’t really want to write about the Democrats’ Clinton/Obama soap opera. Although, I commend to your attention Eric Zorn of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s hometown Chicago Tribune on why Sen. Clinton is the wrong running mate for Obama.

So that left me with — what? Reruns, and this during sweeps month, too! smile_nerd

Tonight though, finally, revelation. Christopher Dickey of Newsweek makes a thought connection regarding the cesspool that is our Iraq adventure that makes such great sense that one is tempted to slap oneself, saying “it’s so obvious — why didn’t I think of that?”

I didn’t. Dickey did. Read and learn.

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mm375: Another superpower bites the dust?

May 10, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Let’s be geopolitically strategic today.

Our writers here make the point that, while we (manifestly!) weren’t paying attention, that superpower status we earned by being the last country standing after World War II, and defended so expensively during the ensuing Cold War, has quietly left the building.

From a new addition to our blogroll, Tom Engelhardt’s  TomDispatch.com, comes this bracing wake-up call.

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Tomgram: Michael Klare, America Out of Gas

TomDispatch.com | posted May 08, 2008 11:01 am

These days, the price of oil seems ever on the rise. A barrel of crude broke another barrier Wednesday — $123 — on international markets, and the talk is now of the sort of “superspike” in pricing (only yesterday unimaginable) that might break the $200 a barrel ceiling “within two years.” And that would be without a full-scale American air assault on Iran, after which all bets would be off.

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mm371: Ever wonder why the U.S. is using more robots?

May 6, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Well, most of our robotic forces are air forces these days, but we keep learning about “spiders” and the like that are meant to assist ground troops.

It’s not just about protecting precious lives, although heaven knows that should be a sufficient rationale for investing in this sci-fi like technology.

It’s about substituting for Army and Marine ground troops that simply aren’t available.

Fred Kaplan, who writes most cogently on military affairs for Slate.com, has an intriguing analysis.

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The Army’s Math Problem

We don’t have any more soldiers to send to Afghanistan unless we take some out of Iraq.

By Fred Kaplan | Posted Monday, May 5, 2008, at 4:56 PM ET

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants to send 7,000 more U.S. troops—about two brigades—to Afghanistan, according to the May 3 New York Times. But there’s a problem, which the story underplays: We don’t have any more troops to send. The Army is in a zero-sum state: No more soldiers can be sent to Afghanistan without a one-for-one reduction of soldiers in Iraq.

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mm368: Knowledge: Blast furnace of the 21st century

May 3, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Do you feel buffeted by the forces of the post-industrial revolution? How can you not?

The history of technology is a frequent visitor to this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©, mostly because it has long been of interest to yr (justifiably) humble svt. Also, because the macro changes occurring all around us are, of course, culminations, or at least stops along the way, of trends that began when humans created civilization, perhaps 10,000 years ago.

L-HC‘s History of Technology

mm361: Gin, television, Web 2.0
mm359: The Navy’s ferry tale — unhappy ever after
mm278a: Don’t look back: Something gaining on you
mm272: What the devil time is it anyway?
mm228: Toothpicks — Good to great to gone
mm224: Dec. 17, 1903: A seminal date in history
mm195: Edison and Tesla
mm159: Sputnik | Spacemen are from Mars
mm119: Creating the sequitur
mm104: There She Blew

The ages of human development have long been characterized, and popularized, by the most important attribute of the era. Thus we can cite some of the various ages, stone (which actually predates modern homo sapiens), agriculture, discovery, mercantile, industrial.

Have we moved beyond the industrial age? David Brooks tackled this topic in yesterday’s NYTimes.

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The Cognitive Age

Op-Ed Columnist | By DAVID BROOKS | Published: May 2, 2008

If you go into a good library, you will find thousands of books on globalization. Some will laud it. Some will warn about its dangers. But they’ll agree that globalization is the chief process driving our age. Our lives are being transformed by the increasing movement of goods, people and capital across borders….

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mm366: Blast from the Past! No. 17

May 1, 2008

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

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Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From our early days, originally posted August 15, 2007.

mm102: Fast Cities 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

I’ve always been a city guy, happier (even in its suburbs) than when away in some rural village, or bucolic resort. In fact, some would call my suburban home town more of a city than a suburb, and that’s just the way I love it.

And, I’ve always been secure in the knowledge that, no matter at what altitude and attitude I find myself on this breathtaking roller-coaster that is my life, I can count on my city to, eventually, provide me a livelihood. There’s just too much going on not to.

And during some extended times of un- or underemployment it was a matter of adjusting my own assumptions — the city was creating jobs every second, and I finally came to understand that I had to recreate myself to match up to one.

So, even while my faith in my home town has never wavered, even while one emotional center of gravity has shifted 2,000 miles west, it’s fun to encounter some more objective analysis about why my city makes me stay, no matter what.

And that brings me to the following story, first encountered in hard copy form (which means I’m probably 2 months late — an Internet eternity — in discovering it). I call special attention to the following tidbit:

Worldwide, the pace of urbanization is only accelerating. This year, for the first time, more of the earth’s population will live in cities than in rural areas–a cool 3.2 billion, according to United Nations estimates.

Take a look at the top of the story here:

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Fast Cities 2007

From Chicago to Shanghai, urban centers that are shaping our future.

From: Issue 117 | July 2007 | Page 90 | By: Andrew Park


You’re smart, young, newly graduated from a university with the whole world before you. You could settle in a small town with well-tended lawns, pancake suppers, and life on a human scale. Or you could truck it to the big city, with all its din and dog-eat-dog lunacy. Your choice?Fuhgedaboudit: There is no choice. For all the challenges cities face–congestion, crime, crumbling infrastructure, environmental decay, plus occasional issues with basic civility–they are still where jobs and youth gather, where energy begets even greater energy, where talent masses and collides. Worldwide, the pace of urbanization is only accelerating. This year, for the first time, more of the earth’s population will live in cities than in rural areas–a cool 3.2 billion, according to United Nations estimates. “In a world where we can now work anywhere, we’re tending to concentrate in fewer and fewer places,” says Carol Colletta, president of CEOs for Cities, an advocacy group. “Smart people are choosing to live near smart people.”

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mm360: Global food price crisis: genocide?

April 26, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Fellow WordPress.com blogger Dandelion Salad (and I call him my fellow blogger, which is a disservice to him, or gives me way too much credit) has a thoughtful essay on the increasingly dire global food price calamity.

You’re aware that food prices are skyrocketing, aren’t you? Here’s what The Economist (best magazine on the planet) had to say about it recently:

“This is a silent tsunami,” says Josette Sheeran of the World Food Programme, a United Nations agency. A wave of food-price inflation is moving through the world, leaving riots and shaken governments in its wake. For the first time in 30 years, food protests are erupting in many places at once. Bangladesh is in turmoil (see article); even China is worried (see article). Elsewhere, the food crisis of 2008 will test the assertion of Amartya Sen, an Indian economist, that famines do not happen in democracies.

That got my attention.

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mm354: Blast from the Past! No. 13

April 21, 2008

The MUDGE family is on vacation this week. We don’t know that we’ll be able to restrain ourselves from blogging during the entire span, after all the grandMUDGElets go to bed pretty early, but without access to our files, and WindowsLiveWriter, for this week only, when we feel that irresistible urge to blog, we’ll treat blogging like we do (sigh) exercise: we’ll just lie down until the feeling goes away.

But, the Prime Directive of Blogging reads: Thou Shalt Blog Daily! So shalt we.

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From our earliest days, originally posted July 28, 2007, the first of what became a lengthy series of posts on the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

MUDGE’S Musings

Things I found on the way to finding other things…

We’ve been reading about the One Laptop Per Child initiative for some time now, and it’s utterly fascinating to see it closer to fruition, courtesy of eWeek. The story is lengthy and comprehensive and worthy of your time. Click any of the links to pursue this.

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mm312: Fallon the fallen — a bitter defeat for strategic common sense

March 11, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

A good one gets away, while sleazy politics and politicians linger.

Unaccustomed as I am to following the news moment by moment, I did find myself cruising CNN.com more than usual (i.e., usual = never! exception? election night) awaiting the axe to fall on Eliot Spitzer’s governorship.

Life happened while waiting for something else: Admiral William F. Fallon, head of U.S. Central Command, resigned today.

It took an IM from my ex-naval officer son to open my eyes to the tragic implications. He directed me to a profile of Fallon that appeared last week in Esquire, which was hurriedly updated this afternoon.

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The Man Between War and Peace

By Thomas P.M. Barnett | March 11, 2008, 3:10 PM

The Bush Administration wanted a war with Iran. The head of U.S. Central Command, Admiral William “Fox” Fallon, disagreed. And now, as of March 11, Fallon has resigned.

That’s the update: here’s the story. Read about an amazingly accomplished diplomat in uniform.

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