Gift of Grameen


My favorite gifts over Christmas – both in terms of giving and getting – are donations to organizations fighting poverty in the developing world.   Foreign Aid is becoming a controversial and intriguing topic (as it should be), but even aid cynics should recognize that most research supports the idea that helping the poor with small farms and businesses tends to raise standards and help people at the most basic level.

Grameen Foundation is a charitable branch of the Grameen Bank, and their work includes many innovative technology projects such as helping to use mobile phones to help the poor interface with important resources.

http://grameenfoundation.org/send-ecard

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The Fiscal Cliff as a graphic


This is a great nonpartisan primer on the Fiscal Cliff. Of course my solution remains as it has been and is guaranteed to solve most of the USA’s financial problems – cuts to entitlements via means testing and a 5% annual DOD cut for the next 10 years which would allow us to keep soldiers *safer* than now, reduce global tensions, and balance the budget. I understand why “liberals” like public spending – it shifts money from rich to middle class (and to a minor extent the very poor), but I don’t understand why “conservatives” support so much overspending on DOD. It’s inconsistent with the founders vision of small government and inconsisten with any reasonable strategic vision of how the world works. As Ron Paul points out to deaf ears you can want a strong defense without wanting an exhorbitantly expensive defense.

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College Football Bowl Games – 2012 2012 season


I found this list online here from a fan HERE who seems to know what he’s doing with the list.   For me this is mostly an SEO experiment to see how much traffic this list of College Bowl Games brings to this page.

I’m especially intrigued by those I have never heard of like the “Kraft Hunger Bowl”.    College football and charities – what a great concept!      As a non-football fan I’ve never understood the level of enthusiasm folks show for the game when they don’t even play it.   Fun, sure, but people seem to go crazy with statistics and concern even though they really doin’t have much of a stake in the game.   I think it must be part of our human tribal heritage where you kind of “latch on” to your team and then root them on as they conquer the imaginary foes.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Sat., Dec. 15, 1:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Pac-12 vs. MWC, (Played in Albuquerque, NM)

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Sat., Dec. 15, 4:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
WAC vs. MAC, (Played in Boise, ID)

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Thur., Dec. 20, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
BYU vs. MWC, (Played in San Diego, CA)

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, Fri., Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
C-USA vs. Big East, (Played in St. Petersburg, FL)

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Sat., Dec. 22, Noon EST, ESPN
C-USA vs. Sun Belt, (Played in New Orleans, LA)

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas Bowl, Sat., Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
Pac-12 vs. MWC, (Played in Las Vegas, NV)

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Mon., Dec. 24, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
MWC vs. C-USA, (Played in Honolulu, HI)

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Wed., Dec. 26, 7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
Big Ten vs. MAC, (Played in Detroit, MI)

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman, Thur., Dec. 27, 3:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Army vs. ACC, (Played in Washington, DC)

Belk Bowl, Thur., Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
ACC vs. Big East, (Played in Charlotte, NC)

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Thur., Dec. 27, 9:45 p.m. EST, ESPN
Pac-12 vs. Big 12, (Played in San Diego, CA)

AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, Fri., Dec. 28, 2:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
ACC vs. SEC, (Played in Shreveport, LA)

Russell Athletic Bowl, Fri., Dec. 28., 5:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
Big East vs. ACC, (Played in Orlando, FL)

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Fri., Dec. 28, 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Big 12 vs. Big Ten, (Played in Houston, TX)

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Sat., Dec. 29, 11:45 a.m. EST, ESPN
C-US vs. MWC, (Played in Fort Worth, TX)

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Sat., Dec. 29, 3:15 p.m. EST, ESPN/ESPN2 (NETWORK TO BE CONFIRMED)
Navy vs. Pac-12, (Played in San Francisco, CA)

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Sat., Dec. 29, 3:15 EST, ESPN/ESPN2 (NETWORK TO BE CONFIRMED)
Big 12 vs. Big East, (Played in Bronx, NY)

Valero Alamo Bowl, Sat., Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. EST, ESPN
Pac-12 vs. Big 12, (Played in San Antonio, TX)

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Sat., Dec. 29, 10:15 p.m. EST, ESPN
Big 12 vs. Big Ten, (Played in Tempe, AZ)

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, Mon., Dec. 31, Noon EST, ESPN
SEC vs. ACC, (Played in Nashville, TN)

Hyundai Sun Bowl, Sat., Dec. 31, 2:00 p.m. EST, CBS
ACC vs. Pac-12, (Played in El Paso, TX)

AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Sat., Dec. 31, 3:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
C-USA vs. SEC, (Played in Memphis, TN)

Chick-fil-A Bowl, Mon., Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
ACC vs. SEC, (Played in Atlanta, GA)

Heart of Dallas Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, Noon, ESPNU
C-USA vs. Big Ten, (Played in Dallas, TX)

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, Noon, ESPN2
Big Ten vs. SEC, (Played in Jacksonville, FL)

Capital One Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, 1:00 p.m. EST, ABC
SEC vs. Big Ten, (Played in Orlando, FL)

Outback Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, 1:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Big Ten vs. SEC, (Played in Tampa, FL)

Rose Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, 5:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
BCS vs. BCS, (Played in Pasadena, CA)

Discover Orange Bowl, Tue., Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
BCS vs. BCS, (Played in Miami, FL)

Allstate Sugar Bowl, Wed., Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
BCS vs. BCS, (Played in New Orleans, LA)

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Thur., Jan. 3, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
BCS vs. BCS, (Played in Glendale, AZ)

AT&T Cotton Bowl, Fri., Jan. 4, 8:00 p.m. EST, FOX
Big 12 vs. SEC, (Played in Arlington, TX)

BBVA Compass Bowl, Sat., Jan. 5, 1:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
SEC vs. Big East, (Played in Birmingham, AL)

GoDaddy.com Bowl, Sun., Jan. 6, 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Sun Belt vs. MAC, (Played in Mobile, AL)

BCS National Championship, Mon., Jan. 7, 8:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2, (Played in Miami, FL)

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The Prison of the Mind


For me the second most interesting topic* in the world is “why do people think so strangely about so many things ?”.    Most of us think we KNOW why others have such strange ideas.

… arghhh internet too slow to blog…more late…r….

* The first , OF COURSE, is the coming Technological Singularity

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Oregon beats Stanford


OK, it’s just a prediction but it’s a good one.   Today the Oregon Ducks, now ranked #1 in the USA, will host the Stanford Cardinals at Autzen Stadium in Eugene Oregon at the University of Oregon Campus.      Feathers will fly but the smart money says Oregon will win tonight. For most folks in the west, the game should be broadcast live on ABC at 5 pm or on ESPN if ABC coverage is not available in your area.   Check your local listings for details. The gamblers are giving Oregon a … wait for it … 20 point edge.     Those Stanford folks are pretty sharp, but not smart enough to beat Oregon’s very clever fast offensive strategy.

Score prediction?    Oregon beats Stanford  35-21

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GRPH Stock, John Person, and the Bottomline Newsletter


Just got a mailing that sure looks like a newsletter called  “The Bottomline Newsletter”, with somebody called “John Person, Market Analyst, Editor” pictured at the top right.

To even a careful reader this appeared to be some sort of report on the prospects for a stock called GRPH which is a US graphite producer.    But a look at the tiny fine print on page 6 reveals that John Person received $20,000 in cash compensation from Greenstone Media to “endorse this advertisement”, and that another payment of over *one million dollars*  (say this with an Austin Powers accent please) was made as part of this advertising campaign.

My recommendation is that if you are going to buy *anything* you read the fine print!

Update:   Wow, it appears this John Person fellow also participated in some sort of advertising scheme for the stock  MDMC.   Note the activity peaks about June (looks from online buzz like the MDMC Bottomline stock report and other promotions for that company came out about that time) and then the stock tumbles.    http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/mdmc/interactive-chart?timeframe=1y&charttype=line

Disclaimers state that the Bottomline newsletter people are not actively trading the stock  so perhaps they stay clear of legal problems because they are just advertising it, even as this is a company that is supposed to be providing people with trading advice?

Back in the days of Rum Running and Joe Kennedy, “pumping and dumping” was a common stock swindle.   Basically insiders would all agree to buy up shares of a stock (the pump), and after the price went very high as others “got in the deal”  they’d all agree to sell  out at the higher price which would send the stock price falling.    By working together and agreeing how to proceed the insiders had a big edge.    This activity used to be legal but is now a serious crime.

I’m not sure how this relates to modern media, but it appears that the idea behind these advertising campaigns is to pump up the stock price of companies.

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Cochabamba Water Wars, James Bond’s Quantum of Solace, and SKYFALL


I’m watching the first two Daniel Craig Bond movies to refresh my memory before watching the new Bond film  “Skyfall” and naturally one’s mind turns to the Cochabamba Water Wars because Bond’s “Quantum of Solace”, the second film, is loosely and somewhat bizarrely inspired by that important Bolivian event.

A too simple summary of the Water Wars is this:   Bolivian water in Cochambamba was very poorly managed, leaving about half the folks without water.    Government signed an expensive, questionable monopoly contract with an international corporation to build a major dam, generate power, and stabilize and increase the water supply.  Large cost increases for this privitized water led the people to protest , which in turn created enough unrest that the company left the country and water production was turned back over to a public management.

Water has become a critical issue in many parts of the world, and privatization is a big part of that story.   Unfortunately it’s impossible to analyze the effects in a simple way.  There are many examples of successful and unsuccessful private efforts  as well as public ones, and it’s clear that one cannot simply dismiss either option without risking suboptimal water provision to those of us whose lives depend upon a stable supply of clean water.   And by “those of us” I mean of course every human on the planet.

Wikipedia has a nice summary but it appears to stop in 2006, so more research is needed to see how the people of Cochabamba fared after kicking out the corporations:

Cochabamba Water Wars Outcome from Wikipedia:
In the end water prices in Cochabamba returned to their pre-2000 levels with a group of community leaders running the restored state utility company SEMAPA. As late as 2005, half of the 600,000 people of Cochabamba remained without water and those with it only received intermittent service (some as little as three hours a day). Oscar Olivera the leading figure in the protests admitted, “I would have to say we were not ready to build new alternatives.”[19] SEMAPA managers say they are still forced to deal with graft and inefficiencies, but that its biggest problem is a lack of money (it can not raise rates and no international company will give them a loan).[19] Luis Camargo, SEMAPA’s operations manager in an interview with the New York Times said they were forced to continue using a water-filtration system that is split between “an obsolete series of 80-year-old tanks and a 29-year-old section that uses gravity to move mountain water from one tank to another.”[19] He stated that the system was built for a far smaller city and worried about shrinking aquifers. A system to bring water down from the mountains would cost $300 million and SEMAPA’s budget is only about $5 million a year.[19] The New Yorker reports “in Cochabamba, those who are not on the network and who have no well, pay ten times as much for their water as the relatively wealthy residents who are hooked up”, and with no new capital the situation can not be improved.[1] A local resident complained that water-truck operators “drill polluted water and sell it. They [also] waste a lot of water.”[1] According to author Frederik Segerfeldt, “the poor of Cochabamba are still paying 10 times as much for their water as the rich, connected households and continue to indirectly subsidize water consumption of more well-to-do sectors of the community. Water nowadays is available only four hours a day and no new households have been connected to the supply network.”[20] Franz Taquichiri, a veteran of the Water War and an SEMAPA director elected by the community, said “I don’t think you’ll find people in Cochabamba who will say they’re happy with service. No one will be happy unless they get service 24 hours a day.”[19] Another Cochabamba resident and activist during the unrest summed up her opinion of the situation by saying, “afterwards, what had we gained? We were still hungry and poor.”[21]

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