Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Still alive?


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

World turned upside down?

Here is a little idea I have been working on recently. Check it out and vote to help me get $10,000 to make it a reality! Click here:
Promoting responsible consumerism in developing countries!

Idea Description

Most of the world's poor live in the "Global South", including South America, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. While most people are aware of this fact, they often forget about the thriving and rapidly-expanding middle classes that are springing up in places like Brazil, Ghana, and India.

What I would like to do is market fair trade and sweatshop-free merchandise to those CONSUMERS so that they have a chance to make the same responsible choices as those of us living in the United States and Europe.

What will you do if you win $10,000 for this idea?

1. Work with suppliers and exporters to ensure that their workers are paid a living wage and no child labor is used in the production of their products.
2. Begin distribution (using existing contacts) and start marketing "South South" products in a few target markets.
3. Put proceeds towards education and health programs in developing countries.

Potential Challenges

Are consumers in the developing world ready to support fair trade products? My answer is yes! What is yours?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Team sports

Comment from my buddy Ryan (a Pats fan) over on TGR:
From a few days ago, Talk pro football with's Andrew Perloff in Huddle Up, a forum to discuss the hottest topics around the NFL:

Sports Illustrated's player poll on the most overrated player in the NFL has touched off controversy around the country -- especially in Dallas and Chicago. Terrell Owens topped the poll of 361 players, and Brian Urlacher was second. Ray Lewis, Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Keyshawn Johnson and Peyton Manning round out the top seven.

I would add Tom Brady to the list.

If the Patriots hadn't drafted Brady, there's no way he'd be compared to Joe Montana and Johnnie Unitas. Would Brady be a Pro Bowler? Probably. He obviously has a ton of talent, but his elevated status has a lot to do with the incredible Patriots' system. It's no mistake the Patriots ran out as a team before they beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. If ever there was a whole bigger than it's parts, it's this team.

Nevertheless, the world has anointed Brady the unquestioned King of the NFL.

I have always thought people overrate players who win championships in every sport. If Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop of his era because of his rings, does that make Luis Sojo the top second baseman? Same goes for the Patriots. Is Matt Light the greatest tackle of the 2000s because New England won three Super Bowls?

Before you angrily respond, remember this is about perception. I'm not saying Brady isn't a great quarterback. I'm saying the hype has gone too far.

I took a deep breath and decided to respond to the bait:

This comment is absolutely retarded. Sorry buddy, but it's true. The fact of the matter is that one baseball player simply CANNOT win a championship without a great team around him. Pedro Martinez pitched 2 of the most dominating seasons I've ever seen from any pitcher, ever. And those Red Sox teams didn't get past the first round.

Barry Bonds, roids and all, put together a string of seasons that were as good as any of us are likely to see in our lifetimes*. His team made one World Series and missed the playoffs twice!

Football is definitely a team sport, but QB is the most important position. It would be like having a baseball team where the same guy pitched all 9 innings, every game**. So baseball comparisons should be dropped. Permanently.

In the end, a quarterback is more similar to a hockey goalie or an NBA superstar. Sure, they do need help from all of their teammates, but they are judged by championships. Patrick Roy isn't overrated. Bill Russell isn't overrated. And neither is Joe Montana.

Brady is already a surefire 1st ballot hall of famer if he drops dead tomorrow (not sure you could say that about Peyton yet). Remember also, that the Patriots already had a "Pro Bowl" quarterback when Brady jumped in the mix. Drew was decent (59-52 from 1994-2001), but probably was never going to win a Super Bowl. Brady might have to share the credit for that first Super Bowl. But how the hell do you explain the playoff record since then? The seasons (pretty much all of them) with 3000+ yards and 60% completion rate? And the record? 64 wins to go with 21 losses.

If he wins another ring with this Patriots squad and their "devestated" receiving corps (or another 2 Super Bowls at any point) then he deserves to be mentioned with the three guys above. Not just in the debate for hall of fame, but best of all time.

*Seriously, check out Barry from 2001-2004. Four of the top eight seasons for OPS in baseball history and not a single ring to show for it. And the year they did make the WS he hit .471 with an "are you kidding me?" 1994 OPS in the seven games!

**In this scenario, teams would only bring in their "closers" to take a knee and pitch a frame if they were already up 10-1 in the 9th.

This is very much a social science problem. Often times we'll only be able to say that X policy causes 25% of Y, but that it is the strongest effect that we can find. But that doesn't mean that our model isn't valid; only that it is incomplete. Oh well, I'm off to go build a better mouse-trap (model).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Back to life...

Just got back from Huancavelica (via Lima). Out there, the campesinos don't know what a Jew is, but they do know Mel Gibson hates 'em. Strange world, eh?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Some good news from Libya

Although I find it very hard to say anything nice about American foreign policy during the Bush years, one of the few bright spots has been Libya.

Today, the ever rotating cast at PSDBlog point us to this story of One laptop per Libyan child. This is a great victory for Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project. The former MIT Prof has been actively pushing this laptop as a way for developing nations to put technology in the hands of all their youth. Hopefully Mr. Gaddafi is serious about using his oil revenues to help Chad, Niger and Rwanda purchase the $100 laptop as none of those countries have the same resources as Libya.

That Libya can now be seen as almost the anti-Venezuela -- building up infrastructure, compensating victims of the Pan Am 103/Lockerbie bombing, and slowly re-opening a closed society -- should serve as a signal to our leaders (and Tom Friedman) that diplomacy can and often does work better than coercion and violence!

For more on the "Real Libya Model" and what it means for American Policy in North Korea and Iran, check out this recent
Michael Hirsh article from Newsweek International.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Market failures

Over at Enviornmental and Urban Economics, Matt Kahn wonders if there are Too few prizes in academic economics?

I am by no means a fee market fundamentalist. There are many externalities that need to be corrected and quite a few products that are undervalued relative to the market. Neverthless, Matt completely loses me with this statement:
In other academic areas such as biological research, one can become a billionare if one discovers something valuable. Academic economists don't have such possibilities.

First of all, I don't remember seeing many billionaire biologists on my last trip to St Tropez. Maybe they just have their yachts anchored offshore, but somehow I doubt it.

Second, if Matt wants to criticize economists for declining marginal production, then wouldn't eliminating tenure be a better place to start?

Finally, if the problem is more specifically the lack of "big breakthroughs" then I would argue that the market is particularly well suited to allocate this outcome. The problem is lack of rigor for most economic "proofs". Black-Scholes pricing has been accepted because it works, but not many other Nobel Prize winning ideas have had the same consensus or staying power. The market, in comparison, is great at recognizing new value. So we see Billy Beane arbitraging away the value of statistical analysis in baseball, Wal-Mart leading the way to more efficient retail supply chains, and Google proving the value of the Long Tail. Even for non-business oriented fields of economics we see governments (on a local and int'l level) competing to improve environmental management, labor market regulation, ideal levels of taxation, etc. Race to the bottom or race to the top depends on your perspective, but being able to actually apply insights from academic economics is rewarded. Same as biology.

How Western Union stays in business

Ever wondered how immigrants in Western nations send money to their families in poor and often rural parts of the world? Western Union is traditionally "the fastest way to send money worldwide", but also one of the most expensive, charging anywhere from 5 to 20% transaction fees.

ICICI Bank says they have some ideas in the pipeline, but no real specifics in this Hindu News Update. In any case, it's good to see this market getting more competition. Cutting international person to person transfer costs is one of the quickest ways to put money in the hands of the poor:
While not revealing the finer details about the proposed products, Misra said the products will be market-specific and possess a plethora of innovative features, which will make the modes of disbursing and accepting funds very easy.

"The new products will focus on end-beneficiaries who do not have an account with us as also on the hitherto unbanked segments," he informed.

ICICI Bank currently enjoys an over 20 per cent marketshare in the $ 24 billion Indian remittances market.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Just a comma?

Matthew Yglesias responds with an appropriate degree of outrage:

It's not as funny as Foley-gate, but the ongoing war in Iraq is, obviously, more significant. The president is running around the country slandering Democrats and lying about their stand on his administration's illegal surveillance initiative, while telling people the violence in Iraq will be "just a comma" in the history books. Not, obviously, to the 2,700 and growing dead American soldiers. Not to their wives, husbands, and children. Nor to the thousands more maimed or wounded or their families. Nor to the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis and their families and friends. Or, indeed, to those inspired by the war to join radical terrorist groups, or to those who will be the victims of their future crimes.

According to Woodward's book, Bush says he'll continue the war in Iraq even if the only ones left supporting him are Laura and their dog. And, presumably, he means it. Loose talk of winning or losing the war is, at this point, irrelevant. The president has defined our war aims in Iraq purely in terms of continuing the war indefinitely. For him, keeping all of these troops over there and handing the whole shitpile off to his successor is success. Nobody else should find that very comforting.