Monthly Archives: December 2011

wHaTeVeR YoU cAlL tHiS.

Key Technical Matters of emailing at work.

1. Ask yourself if you would CC yourself. Easy with the CC.

2. BCC says more about you than the person you’re BCC’ing.

3. BC: One of the all-time great comic strips.

4. Not only should you assume that every e-mail you send will get forwarded to someone else, you should assume that every e-mail you send will someday be read aloud in a court of law. Discretion.

5. If your message is less than seven words, put it in the subject line.

6. An e-mail signature should not involve words of wisdom. Not Aristotle. Not Gandhi. Not Hayley Williams of the chart-topping rock band Paramore.

7. Unless someone’s in grave danger, no exclamation points.

8. Related: Grave danger is best addressed via a medium other than e-mail.

9. ALL CAPS. No.

10. small caps. No.

11. wHaTeVeR YoU cAlL tHiS. Absolutely not.

12. When in need of a font that’s a little bit fun, a little bit earnest: look to Helvetica.

13. Verdana? Please.


Also in video form.

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Filed under Humor, Miscellaneous

North Korea mourns Kim Jong Il

A sad set of photos. There has been discussion on whether or not the tears were genuine. Either they were genuine (proof of brainwashing) or they were compulsory (proof of a slavery-like existence). Either way, quite sad.

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Filed under Asia, Photography

10 things you didn’t know

  • Birds binge drink.
  • Incan brides had to peel a potato to prove they would be a good wife.
  • Sharks go to the cleaners.
  • There are only two beret factories left in France.
  • The US only got its first roundabout in 1990, in Nevada.
  • Apple has more cash than the US government.
  • The average Briton suffers 726 hangovers in a lifetime.
  • Yawning cools down the brain.
  • Alice Cooper runs a Bible class.
  • Hairy limbs keep bed bugs at bay.

And 90 more at the link.

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Rogoff on the sustainability of capitalism.

I’m catching up on some readings this morning, to include recent posts by Greg Mankiw at his blog. If you are unfamiliar, and are interested in economics explained in English, not jargon, his is an excellent site.

A recent post highlighted an article by Ken Rogoff, a Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University, and former chief economist at the IMF, discussing the sustainability of capitalism.

In principle, none of capitalism’s problems is insurmountable, and economists have offered a variety of market-based solutions. A high global price for carbon would induce firms and individuals to internalize the cost of their polluting activities. Tax systems can be designed to provide a greater measure of redistribution of income without necessarily involving crippling distortions, by minimizing non-transparent tax expenditures and keeping marginal rates low.  Effective pricing of health care, including the pricing of waiting times, could encourage a better balance between equality and efficiency. Financial systems could be better regulated, with stricter attention to excessive accumulations of debt.

Will capitalism be a victim of its own success in producing massive wealth? For now, as fashionable as the topic of capitalism’s demise might be, the possibility seems remote. Nevertheless, as pollution, financial instability, health problems, and inequality continue to grow, and as political systems remain paralyzed, capitalism’s future might not seem so secure in a few decades as it seems now.


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Filed under Economics, Philosophy

How to the 1% earn their livings?

  • 18 percent are financial professionals.
  • 42 percent are executives, managers, or supervisors in nonfinancial businesses. More than half of those are in closely-held (presumably often small) businesses.
  • 7 percent are lawyers.
  • 6 percent are in medicine.
  • 3 percent are in arts, media, or sports.
  • Less than 1 percent are professors or scientists.

From Greg Mankiw.

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Filed under Business, Economy

Unions cave to economic realities.

Manufacturers are hiring again in America, softening a long slide in factory employment. But for a new generation of blue-collar workers, even those protected by unions, the price of employment is likely to be lower wages stretching to retirement.

A price is determined by supply and demand. Wages, the price of labor, are determined based on the supply and demand for that labor. In a recession, there is excess supply (unemployment) and often, as is now, decreased demand. All of this means lower wages. This is clear to any student of elementary economics. I’m not sure that is news to anyone but a journalist. What is news is the phrase, “even those protected by unions.”

The NYT reports:

The wages for the new hires, however, are $10 to $15 an hour less than the pay scale for hourly employees already on staff — with the additional concession that the newcomers will not catch up for the foreseeable future. Such union-endorsed contracts are also showing up in the auto industry, at steel and tire companies, and at manufacturers of farm implements and other heavy equipment, according to Gordon Pavy, president of the Labor and Employment Relations Association and, until recently, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s director of collective bargaining.

“Some companies want to keep work here, or bring it back from Asia,” Mr. Pavy said, “but in order to do that they have to be competitive in the final prices of their products, and one way to be competitive is to lower the compensation of their American workers.”

The shrunken pay scale for newcomers — $12 to $19 an hour versus $21 to $32 an hour for longtime workers — threatens to undo the middle-class status of even the best-paid blue-collar jobs still left in manufacturing. A similar contract limits the wages of new hires at a nearby Ford Motor Company stamping plant, but neither G.E.’s 2,000 hourly workers nor Ford’s 2,900, nor their unions nor the mayor, Greg Fischer, have objected.

Quite the contrary, all argue that job creation must take precedence over holding the line on wages, given that the unemployment rate in this Ohio River city is above 9 percent and several thousand people apply for every unfilled, $13-an-hour factory job. “The trade-off is absolutely worth it,” Mayor Fischer said, arguing that while the city is actively subsidizing G.E.’s expansion here, mainly through tax rebates, that is not enough. “You must have a globally competitive wage to create jobs,” the mayor insisted.

Unions have long favored increased benefits for their members at the cost of higher unemployment within their respective sectors. This is true across time and place. Often growth can hide the effects as demand for labor increases, but there is no free lunch. Wages must come down, and will stay down until the imbalance between supply and demand is corrected – read, “globally competitive.” Then American manufacturers will demand more of it; employment and wages will rise.

It is kind of us to wish that those working in manufacturing made more. I don’t even pretend that my job is physically taxing, and can’t imagine swinging a nine-pound hammer as a career. But such wishes are arrested by economic realities.

Free market economists have long argued that inflated wages via union contracts push jobs overseas. It’s nice to see the unions finally acknowledge this.

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Filed under Economics

A year-in-review quiz for 2011.

Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never-ending news is spooling off a never-ending reel . . . Now a quiz is set to test you and your memory of the memes… like the stories that you find, in the pages of The Times.


Answers are posted here.


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Filed under Miscellaneous

The most sober journalist in America

A fascinating hour with David Brooks on Charlie Rose.

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Romney acts like an adult

Thomas Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia, in a critique of Romney’s campaign strategy, quotes the candidate:

Once we thought ‘entitlement’ meant that Americans were entitled to the privilege of trying to succeed in the greatest country in the world. Americans fought and died to earn and protect that entitlement. But today the new entitlement battle is over the size of the check you get from Washington.

But after reading Edsall’s summary, “The Anti-Entitlement Strategy,” I look upon Romney’s position more favorably. Why? First, I disagree with the very definition of the world entitlement. Second, ponder this little nugget of data from the recent Government Accountability Office’s fiscal 2011 financial statements, as noted by Bryan R. Lawrence, founder of Oakcliff Capital, writing in today’s WaPo:

In fiscal 2011, the cost of the promises grew from $30.9 trillion to $33.8 trillion. To put that in context, consider that the total value of companies traded on U.S. stock markets is $13.1 trillion, based on the Wilshire 5000 index, and the value of the equity in U.S. taxpayers’ homes, according to Freddie Mac, is $6.2 trillion. Said another way, there is not enough wealth in America to meet those promises.

Two points. First, I doubt that Romney would, if able, gut all of the entitlement programs. (He will not be able.) When asked during a debate which federal departments he would abolish, he gave a serious answer – that each department did some things worthwhile, and that we must not throw the baby out with the bath water. Thus, the valuable programs currently performed by a department must first be identified and then assumed by another department, agency or office, before the department could responsibly be abolished. I assume the same sobriety would apply to Romney’s position on entitlement spending.

Second, not all entitlement programs are transfers to “parasitic” “sloths.” He may have to trim down the rhetoric. Even so, he will be the adult in the room when debating Obama, who has responded to both the current depression and the forthcoming entitlement-fueled default by giving speeches and proposing to tax private jets.

Edsall again:

Romney’s adoption of an anti-entitlement strategy comes at a time when he appears to be looking up from the primaries toward Election Day, which suggests that his hard-line stance will be central to his campaign against Obama and not just a temporary maneuver.

Let’s hope that this is not only an election strategy, but a blueprint for governance.

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Filed under Domestic Politics, Election 2012

The balloon expands into Costa Rica

I previously blogged about the “balloon effect” of our war on drugs.

This is in part due to the “balloon effect.” The drugs entering America used to be trafficked from Colombia through the Caribbean. Due to a nationwide crackdown on the Cali and Medellin drug cartels and to increased control of the Caribbean waters by the U.S., the balloon was squeezed and expanded in Mexico. As crackdowns in Mexico squeeze the balloon it expands southward into Central America. Already plagued by high levels of violence, their situation worsens.

The one country to escape this was Costa Rica, who is usually acknowledged as the exception to any discussions of the various plagues in Central America. That may be changing.

Today Costa Rica draws nearly a million U.S. tourists each year to its beaches and national parks. It has traffic cops who don’t expect bribes, tap water you can drink and a national motto — “pura vida” (pure life) — that serves as a greeting, a farewell and an all-around expression of tropical beatitude.

And now, with Mexican drug cartels moving in, Costa Rican exceptionalism is being challenged by the same criminal forces dragging down the rest of Central America.

Costa Rican officials and U.S. drug agents say this country of 4.6 million is one more chess piece in the traffickers’ push for control of smuggling routes through the region, now the primary conveyance for billions’ worth of South American cocaine bound for the United States. Costa Rica’s cops, courts and politicians have never confronted a test like the one they are facing from the vast corrupting powers of the cartels, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said in an interview with The Washington Post.

“I don’t remember in our whole history a menace like this menace from organized crime,” said Chinchilla, who was elected Costa Rica’s first female president in February 2010 on a law-and-order campaign that tapped into voters’ growing security fears.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of ideology your government has, whether it’s left or right,” she said. “This has to do with the survival of our institutions.”

One institution they famously do not have is an army.

“This is a perfect location, and when you have a country with no army, that is extremely worried with people’s privacy rights, who is going to stop them?” the U.S. official said.

One thing that could stop them is the legalization of marijuana and cocaine in the United States, but don’t count on that anytime soon.

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Filed under Latin America, Mexico