September 26, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 PM


It's time to break up the Euro (Shawn Tully, September 25, 2012, Fortune)

 Roger Bootle prides himself on being something of a modern-day Nostradamus -- with good reason. In 1999 the British economist predicted a bursting of the dotcom bubble, and in his 2003 book, Money for Nothing, he forecast a worldwide crash in housing that would prove dire for the financial system. A rigorous student of markets, Bootle, 60, is a onetime Oxford don and chief economist for HSBC (HBC) who now runs Capital Economics, a London consulting firm. Operating out of a 19th-century Victorian townhouse near Buckingham Palace, the bald, bespectacled son of a civil servant confidently advises major banks and hedge funds from New York to Beijing. But away from the office he isn't much of a risk-taker. Bootle likes to unwind at England's famous Ascot Racecourse, where he wagers no more than "five or 10 quid just so I have a horse to cheer home."

Today Bootle is betting his professional reputation on another bold contrarian call, one with long-term ramifications for the world economy and global stock markets: He strongly believes that at least a partial breakup of the eurozone is inevitable and that massive changes are coming for the euro, the currency now shared by 17 nations accounting for one-eighth of world GDP.

In July, Bootle and his team won the prestigious Wolfson Economics Prize for providing the best answer to the following question: "If member states leave the Economic and Monetary Union, what is the best way for the economic process to be managed?" In a 114-page report, "Leaving the Euro: A Practical Guide," Bootle delivered a blueprint for the steps a nation should take in exiting the common currency. He also went further, summoning a powerful argument for why an exodus of weak countries is the only solution for Europe's deep malaise.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 PM


Chile Rises (Alvaro Vargas Llosa | September 25, 2012, National Interest)

I recently spoke to President Sebastián Piñera and found him to be exuberant. The economy is roaring, his popularity is recovering (although he knows likeability will never be his forte), and his education initiatives have managed to isolate the communists and left-wing anarchists from the middle class.

Inequality continues to drop, thanks to the seven hundred thousand private-sector jobs created in the past two years, coupled with safety-net subsidies targeting the poor.

And support for the free-enterprise system remains high. According to a recent survey conducted by the Center on Public Studies (CEP), an academic foundation headquartered in Santiago, the vast majority of Chileans continue to support the country's free-market model.

As to why some people do well and others remain poor, half of the respondents attributed poverty to a lack of education. Others blamed it on laziness and lack of initiative, or to personal vices, such as alcoholism. Only 28 percent of the respondents, however, attributed poverty to flaws in the free-market model.

Indeed, Chileans seem to accept income inequality as a fact of life, more so perhaps than in the United States.

But they do so with qualification. Half the CEP respondents said they accept inequality as long as opportunity exists for families to improve their lot. Some 73 percent of the respondents said it was important to "reward individual effort" even if it results in differing levels of income, and 77 percent supported the idea that the principal responsibility for society's economic well-being should rest on "the people themselves," not on the government.

Such attitudes toward wealth are not those of a Third World country; they are the attitudes of an advanced, developed country.

The value of a fascist interlude.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 PM


In Arab Spring, Obama Finds a Sharp Test (HELENE COOPER and ROBERT F. WORTH, 9/24/12, NY Times)

[M]r. Obama's staunch defense of democracy protesters in Egypt last year soon drew him into an upheaval that would test his judgment, his nerve and his diplomatic skill. Even as the uprisings spread to Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, the president's sympathy for the protesters infuriated America's allies in the conservative and oil-rich Gulf states. In mid-March, the Saudis moved decisively to crush the democracy protests in Bahrain, sending a convoy of tanks and heavy artillery across the 16-mile King Fahd Causeway between the two countries.

That blunt show of force confronted Mr. Obama with the limits of his ability, or his willingness, to midwife democratic change. Despite a global outcry over the shooting and tear-gassing of peaceful protesters in Bahrain, the president largely turned a blind eye. His realism and reluctance to be drawn into foreign quagmires has held sway ever since, notably in Syria, where many critics continue to call for a more aggressive American response to the brutality of Bashar al-Assad's rule.

Mr. Obama's journey from Cairo to the Causeway took just 44 days. In part, it reflected the different circumstances in the countries where protests broke out, despite their common origins and slogans. But his handling of the uprisings also demonstrates the gap between the two poles of his political persona: his sense of himself as a historic bridge-builder who could redeem America's image abroad, and his more cautious adherence to long-term American interests in security and cheap oil.

To some, the stark difference between the outcomes in Cairo and Bahrain illustrates something else, too: his impatience with old-fashioned back-room diplomacy, and his corresponding failure to build close personal relationships with foreign leaders that can, especially in the Middle East, help the White House to influence decisions made abroad.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 PM


What's cooking: King Arthur demos (Star Tribune, September 26, 2012)

Six free baking demonstrations will be offered in the Twin Cities next week by King Arthur Flour folks. Each two-hour demo includes free recipes, coupons, door prizes and time to chat with the King Arthur Flour staff -- all toward alleviating "baking anxiety." Here's the schedule:

• Sept. 30 at the Marriott Southwest, 5801 Opus Pkwy. in Minnetonka: 11 a.m., perfect pies and savory scones; 3 p.m., baking with yeast and whole grains.

• Oct. 1 at the Shoreview Community Center, 4580 N. Victoria St. in Shoreview: noon, perfect pies and savory scones; 7 p.m., baking with yeast and whole grains.

• Oct. 2 at the Eagan Community Center, 1501 Central Pkwy. in Eagan: noon, perfect pies and savory scones; 7 p.m., baking with yeast and whole grains.

No registration is required for the events.
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Posted by orrinj at 5:11 AM


Marine Le Pen Calls for Kippah Ban : Front National Party says kippot not kosher in public (Adam Chandler|September 21, 2012, The Tablet)

In some troubling news, far-right French leader Marine Le Pen, who placed third in the French presidential elections in May, called for a ban on kippot and headscarfs in public. In an interview on Friday with Le Monde, the daughter of the infamous French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen (who wasn't nearly as adept at masking his anti-Semitism) said that she believes that religious headwear should be banned in places like stores, public transportation, and on the streets.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 AM


Barnes & Noble unveils $199 Nook HD (Julianne Pepitone, September 26, 2012, CNNMoney) 

The tablet field is one of tech's hottest battlegrounds, with new players and new devices popping up every week. The latest is Barnes & Noble's new Nook HD line, which offers beefed-up hardware and a new 9-inch tablet size.

The 7-inch Nook HD starts at $199 for a 8 GB model, and the 9-inch Nook HD+ starts at $269 for 16 GB. Both tablets begin shipping in late October and are slated to hit store shelves in early November. (Nook's older 7-inch Nook Tablet recently had its price tag cut to $179. The company's black-and-white Nook e-readers sell for $99 to $139.)