Strategies for a discontinuous future.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

BTW, did I mention that David Wells rocks? Lots of cool photographs on his site. I am partial to his light studies, but there's a lot more on his site. Enjoy!

-- Mahashunyam // 10:25 PM //


Voices from Jesusland

Communism of 21st Century

-- Mahashunyam // 8:20 PM //


Decline of Brand America

James Wolcott: On Borrowed Time (II)

This is brilliant. I've been thinking about the critical importance of aggressive self-marketing, hyping and promotion of Brand America to the success of American consumer goods companies and Hollywood. What will be the economic consequences of its reduced brand equity as the world becomes increasingly aware of, and increasingly resents, the perennial American hypocrisy of speaking for lofty ideals like freedom and democracy while aggressively acting to subvert them in practice? In other words, who will buy Coke from The Rattlesnake? In a world that is beginning to prefer Al-Jazeera to the shiite spewed forth by CNN or Fox, I think the erosion in the value of Brand America as it fails to deliver the promised benefits to its "consumers" has a huge potential as a disruptive force in consumer goods industry, as people dump a piece of Americana for its emerging competitors. It is interesting to think about the potential anti-Americanism as business strategy. How can any American company compete against someone like that? This is classic case of disruptive strategy : turn the very premise of a competitor's existence into its biggest liability. BTW, Note to Rupert Murdoch : Globalization is *not* Americanization, and we like it that way : thank you very much.

-- Mahashunyam // 7:13 PM //


Jeffrey Sachs asks for more money to fight poverty. Personally, I think this money too will be wasted just as incompetently as in the past. His time would be better spent working on convincing the G8 to stop killing the poor around the world with its evil, protectionist trade policy. Note to Jeffrey : this is how you reduce poverty.

-- Mahashunyam // 6:52 PM //


T.N. Srinivasan of Yale has some interesting papers on his site.

-- Mahashunyam // 6:38 PM //



We'd expect nothing less from the film industry, just in time for Christmas:

"...Disposable DVDs look and play like normal DVDs, except that their playable surface is dark red.

Each disc contains a chemical time-bomb that begins ticking once it�s exposed to air. Typically, after 48 hours, the disc turns darker, becoming so opaque that a DVD player�s laser can no longer can read it. (Discs can live as little as one hour or as long as 60 hours.)"

An exponential value destroyer. Incredible that these guys can keep coming up with them.

-- umair // 6:05 PM //


Politics of the Day

A worthy issue via Atrios. Alabama's Medicaid chief wants to cut healthcare to a girl who needs it:

"...13-year-old Lauren Rainey is full of life. She's smart, outgoing, and always smiling. Her nurse describes her as a drama queen. At school she is the class clown.

"She's a happy child," her mother, Laura, tells NBC 15 News. Her size is more like that of a 3 year old. But that's the least of her medical concerns.

"She's got the trache, she's deaf, she's got asthma, got an enlarged heart, all types of bone problems, scoliosis," said her mother.

To help her breathe, Lauren is hooked up to an oxygen machine and a humidifing mist machine. Lauren's doctor said her airway is restricted to the size of the end of an ink pen.

"That's why she is constantly suctioned. She is always getting plugged up," added Laura. Lauren's airway is suctioned several times an hour to prevent her from suffocating.

Due to her medical condition, Lauren requires 24-hour a day supervision. Medicaid currently provides her a trained nurse for 10 hours a day. But a recent letter from Alabama Medicaid says a decision has been made to eliminate Lauren's care.

..."It's just sad. It's sad that our government can, you know... it's like throwing kids away." said Carolyn Yates, Lauren's 10-hour-a-day nurse. And it's because of the rules in the State of Alabama, this young girl will possibly be denied the care her doctors say is necessary for her to just live and breathe. Lauren's family has appealed Medicaid's decision. Meanwhile, Medicaid will continue to maintain Lauren's care through the appeals process."

Contact info:

Medicare Managed Care Division of Medicare OperationsCustomer Service Line 404-562-7360 [email protected]

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
Region IV
Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth Street, S.W., Suite 4T20
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8909

Phone: (404) 562-7500

-- umair // 5:33 PM //

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Productivity Revolution

Hyperproductivity, which is trickling down the skills chain, is a strategic error. There are numerous reasons for this - the big point is that hyperproductivity is a short-term fix to a long-term problem: the loss of innovative capacity. Two vivid examples.

-- umair // 9:51 PM //

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Economy 2.0

A decent paper that reviews some perspectives about devaluation's effect on the capital and current accounts, using Thailand as an example. Gives a bit of intuition about what the effects of dollar implosion might be.

-- umair // 10:49 PM //


Economy 2.0

Interesting, if a bit dated, IFC paper about VC/PE in emerging markets - consider in the context of dollar implosion, which will push down (relative) risk-adjusted returns in the US, and so begin to level the playing field in terms of credit for third-world entrepreneurs. Maybe exactly the shot in the arm the VC industry needs.

-- umair // 10:33 PM //


Economy 2.0

The implosion of the dollar is going to release massive amounts of liquidity into the global financial system. Some of it will end up here, which is a very good thing, because these are the people that need it.

-- umair // 10:29 PM //


The Future of Music

Massively distributed John Peels (RIP) - now, where's the infrastructure to let everyone be one? iPodder is close...but I don't think we're there quite yet.

-- umair // 6:48 PM //


The Economist's Tech Quarterly is up...go waste an hour or two.

-- umair // 6:41 PM //


The Economist on the dollar:

"...Mr Sarkozy no doubt fears that his American counterparts are quite happy to watch the dollar fall. Their professed commitment to a �strong dollar policy� might disguise a policy of benign neglect. America�s net overseas liabilities amounted to 23% of GDP at the end of last year, close to the record debts it amassed in 1894, according to Ken Rogoff and Maurice Obstfeld of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Crucially, the bulk of these debts are denominated in dollars. Thus America may be sorely tempted to dishonour its dollar debts, not by defaulting on them, but by devaluing them."

Indeed. There's very little doubt that the economic future of the US is looking very, very, very bleak.

-- umair // 6:37 PM //


Crooked Timber on spam:

"...The solution is to put industrial-strength spamming technology into the hands of ordinary citizens. The resulting deterrent effect would reduce the flood of spam to almost nothing, as no rational spammer would risk immediate retaliation in kind."

Meant to be a joke, but interesting nonetheless. Problems: the 'deterrence' effect would be nonexistent, because of aversion, and the fact that spam is a one-shot game (ie, you can get new email addresses). Link.

-- umair // 6:23 PM //


Evil is Evil

"...Darknest sends word that his Gmail account has been terminated by Google because of suspicious files stored in his account. According to the user, he admits to having a few cracks and key generators on his account but is unsure how Google found out about it."

All kinds of interesting strategic problems in this little paragraph.

-- umair // 6:21 PM //


Data visualization fetish is coming. Shades of Ballard.

-- umair // 6:17 PM //


Gladwell's new book looks quite interesting.

-- umair // 6:02 PM //


Hedge fund operator Peter Thiel leverages the financial bubble. Incidentally he made his $$ with PayPal. Article demonstrates the illusion of stablility and growth in our current economy. Four more years people!

-- Kashif Hasan // 5:38 PM //


Interesting Wired piece about Acxiom/Persauders, etc. When you read, consider how innovations realize diminishing returns as they diffuse through markets, and how they create niches and gaps for counterinnovations.

-- umair // 5:17 PM //


O&M forgot to renew their domain name - and a competitor nailed them. Funny stuff.

-- umair // 5:14 PM //


Reactions to Jesusland

"...Suddenly, the left side of the blogosphere is awash in mass hysteria about how those religious white folks with their bibles and their homophobia are going to destroy your lives. What makes this any different than when a right bloggers says that Islam is the "Religion of Peace" in a sarcastic manner?"

Look, the USA is based on a fundamentally different (and some would argue superior) set of beliefs than countries like Iran and Saudi. Comparing the two is facile, because the US is a place which shouldn't have fallen prey to religious extremists as so many other countries have in the last 50 years.

So, there is no difference between us complaining about Evangelical Christians and right-wingers complaining about Fundamentalist Muslims - because we believe any kind of religious dogmatism in political power is fundamentally problematic.

The fact that anyone could NOT understand this argument is troubling - oh wait, I forgot how many of you voted for Bush.


-- umair // 5:06 PM //


Craigslist of the Day

"Straight male seeks Bush supporter for fair, physical fight - m4m"

-- umair // 5:01 PM //


Limits of Hyperefficiency

Reaching them forces Best Buy to alter revenue maximization decisions - by selecting more profitable customers, and excluding less profitable ones. This is a new kind of price discrimination that's gaining traction across various industries with hyperefficient supply chains (another recent example was clothing retailers).

What I find more interesting than the econ in this case is that, in the limit, this form of organization looks more like a co-op/club than anything else - where strong customer relationships are the key resource of the business, even to the extent of membership criteria. And it's not a big step from there to a guild. Very interesting stuff.

And of course, begs the seminal question: where will the innovation come from? Assuming you don't count this as innovation, is Best Buy eating itself (in terms of future growth rate) by doing this? Is it an admission of declining future growth to the market? Probably a little bit.

-- umair // 4:56 PM //


Got the following comment:

""Rove's ultimate genius was to figure out a better way to game our voting mechanisms."

By game do you mean vote count fraud or not? Or do you think the gaming is not worth investigating for some reason?"

I think looking at the numbers make it pretty likely that there was some kind of vote tampering happening. I've said this since election night, when various bits of information (exit polls/registrations/actuals) just didn't add up.

Now, nothing's impossible. But let's at least falsify the theory that votes WERE tampered with - by investigating votes and trails of votes across swing states.

The reason that the Dems keep losing is simple: when confronted with hardball tactics, they back down. Kerry conceded the day after the election because it was 'good for America'. I can't respect that decision, because it's fundamentally irrational. It's a classic example of hindsight bias - justifying an old decision based on new information. Here's another one.

My position is that Dems don't know yet whether they won or lost - so they shouldn't jump to silly conclusions about pandering to 'values voters'. But the fundamental perspective underlying this position is this: sometimes, it's not how you play the game - it's whether you win or lose.

-- umair // 4:47 PM //

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Cellphones outstrip landlines in India (via GigaOm)

-- Mahashunyam // 4:54 PM //


Simulation economy.

Miss Digital World

-- Mahashunyam // 5:13 AM //


India's Energy Diplomacy

-- Mahashunyam // 4:00 AM //

Monday, November 08, 2004

Post-election conspiracy theories with a bit of analysis behind them.

-- umair // 1:41 PM //


Macro - Latest

"...Lacking in domestic saving, America imports foreign saving to fund economic growth. The US must run massive current account deficits to attract that capital. With the external deficit having risen to 5.7% of GDP, the US is now absorbing over 80% of the world�s surplus saving."

Link. Just in case you didn't already know; it makes things like this happen.

"...China, which has $515bn of reserves, was also said to be selling dollars and buying Asian currencies in readiness to switch the renminbi's dollar peg to a basket arrangement, something Chinese officials have increasingly hinted at."

This would be the beginning of the End of the Dollar. Which would be the foundation for economic undoing of the US. The last hope, I think, to avert this, is a massive technological disruption manifested in a productivity boom...but as Roach points out:

"...Stripping out depreciation of obsolete capacity, net investment in the business sector in 2003 was 60% below levels prevailing in 2000 -- a serious warning flag on the productivity front."

So, as you probably intuitively know, there's little hope on that front.

Of course, Roach argues:

"...Let the dollar go. For an unbalanced world, rebalancing can only occur through a change in relative prices. The dollar is the world�s most important relative price, and, in my view, it has nowhere to go but down. Dollar depreciation is also part and parcel of a classic current account adjustment.

A weaker dollar will inevitably lead to higher US real interest rates -- providing long overdue restraint to interest-rate sensitive and asset-driven spending of American consumers and businesses. That will then lead to a rebuilding of national saving, thereby lessening the need to run large current-account and trade deficits that have, in turn, led to heightened protectionist risks.

A weaker dollar will also put long overdue pressure on the rest of the world to stimulate its own domestic demand -- both by embracing structural reforms and by backing away from the increasingly reckless and destabilizing recycling of foreign exchange reserves into dollar-denominated assets."

The point is that this is a nice medim-term effect, but it will be extremely painful in the short term for those who haven't already locked in most of their gains.

-- umair // 1:31 PM //


P2P for cell phones

Sounds pretty interesting and fairly innovative. The coolest idea here is NewBay's foneblog. Wireless blogs are long overdue, hopefully this is the right infrastrucutre to start building them.

-- Mahashunyam // 8:19 AM //




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