Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

job losses in US retail sales

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Productivity is rising rapidly in the US retail sector, driven by a shift to large, self-service stores and, in recent years, to online shopping. Increased productivity brings decreased employment in the sector unless there is an offsetting increase in output. Nonetheless, the fragility of jobs in retail sales has been neglected by nearly all politicians, including Donald Trump.

FT columnist Edward Luce explains. (more…)

Donald Trump’s budget

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

FT columnist Edward Luce has a very readable op-ed in today’s paper. He tells us nothing we did not already know, but expresses it clearly and forcefully. There is a good chance that Trump will be removed from office. Unfortunately, Vice-President Pence will then take command and nothing will change. (more…)

happiness in the USA

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Economist Carol Graham has written a book on the pursuit of happiness in the USA. Here is an excerpt from a review of the book, written by journalist Geoff Dayer for the Financial Times. (more…)

the US population in jail is large and growing

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

The United States incarcerates approximately 2.2 million people, resulting in a higher rate of incarceration than any other large country in the world (see chart). Current policy reverses previous guidelines, so is likely to cause the USA to stand out even further from other countries.

Two economists at the University of Texas-Austin explain.


mangoes and other edible presents

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

[O]ne of the few recipes I can claim to make well is Jacques Pépin’s simple but glorious duck liver pâté. Carnivorous friends get pâté; vegetarian friends get mangoes, and the reaction confirms my belief that people remember what they eat far more than what they wear.

You might sometimes forget who gave you silver bracelets or neckties or perfume, but you always remember a honey-fleshed Dussehri mango, and the rich, melting flavour of pâté spread on slices of baguette. As presents, mangoes leave only a good taste in the mouth — no one in their right mind would return or regift a plump Alphonso.

Nilanjana Roy, “Mangoes, and the changing rules of buying presents“, Financial Times, 16 May 2017 (gated paywall).

FT columnist Nilanjana Roy (born 1971) is author of The Wildings (Aleph Book Company, 2012) and The Hundred Names of Darkness (Aleph, 2013), part two of The Wildings. She lives in Delhi with her journalist husband.

Trump’s tax returns

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

[W]hatever Donald Trump is hiding in his tax returns must be really explosive. Otherwise, why won’t he release them? ….

And yet he won’t. Why on Earth not? It makes no sense, zero, unless:

A. The man is a total fool; or

B. The actual returns contain information so damaging that he dare not release them under any circumstance.

And whatever else Donald Trump may be, I do not think he is a total fool.

Brett Arends, “What Trump is hiding in his tax returns must be explosive“, Market Watch, 13 May 2017.


With questions over Russia ties dominating the headlines again, the White House released a letter from the president’s lawyers, which said that their review of 10 years’ worth of Mr Trump’s tax returns showed no income from Russian sources, “with a few exceptions”.

Barney Jopson, Sam Fleming and Katrina Manson, “Defiant Trump courts Russia as calls for independent probe grow“, Financial Times, 13 May 2017 (metered paywall).

Quakers and Wikipedia

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

I never thought of this before, but Wikipedia has much in common with a Quaker meeting. In neither case is there an authority in charge. Anyone may contribute to a Wikipedia article, just as anyone may speak during worship at a meeting of Friends (Quakers).

Simon DeDeo, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has long studied Wikipedia, says that the online encyclopedia has operated like the Quakers: anyone can contribute whenever they are so moved.

John Thornhill, “Wiki-journalism may be part of the answer to fake news“, Financial Times, 2 May 2017 (gated paywall).

Trump and the nuclear option

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

“Given his volatility and inexperience, that is what keeps me awake at night especially as, during the campaign, he asked what the point of nuclear weapons was if you could not use them,” says Malcolm Rifkind, a former British Conservative party foreign and defence minister.

Demetri Sevastopulo and Courtney Weaver, “100 days in the court of King Donald“, FT Magazine, Financial Times, 29 April 2017 (gated paywall).

For more on the fear of Trump’s access to a nuclear button, see this TdJ post of 28 November 2016.

Chinese wine is improving

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

It is unfortunate that Chinese wine drinkers seem to be deserting the produce of their own vineyards for imported alternatives. In my experience, the quality of the best Chinese wine has recently turned a corner — in the right direction. ….

There is one potential handicap, however. The countries that have had the most success in establishing export markets in the modern era have had a USP. New Zealand has carved a niche for the world’s most valuable per-bottle prices by offering uniquely, refreshingly fruity Sauvignon Blanc. Australia saw massive success with its friendly Chardonnay and rich Shiraz. Argentina has blitzed North America with its bold Malbec.

But Chinese vineyards are dominated by the red Cabernet and Merlot grapes that grow in abundance all over the wine world — not least in Bordeaux, which produces massive quantities of inexpensive examples every year, typically made by co-ops that do not have the debt that recent investors may be saddled with.

The reaction of many Chinese producers to market trends has been to acquire foreign vineyards and wineries. …. One thing seems sure: Chinese influence in the world of wine will only increase.

Jancis Robinson, “China’s strides in the wine race are yielding robust results“, Financial Times, 20 April 2017.

Janice Robinson writes a weekly column on wine for the Financial Times, and is editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine.

A much longer, ungated version of the column is available here.


Joseph S. Nye on China and Trump

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

I worry less about the rise of China than the rise of Trump.

Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “What I Tell My Non-American Friends“, Project Syndicate, 12 April 2017.

Political scientist Joseph Samuel Nye, Jr. (born 1937) is the former Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He was chair of the National Intelligence Council (1993-94) and assistant secretary of defense (1994-95) in the government of Bill Clinton.