Cuban Agriculture - What Obama's Trip Might Mean

Below is an interesting article on Cuban agriculture by Miguel Altieri, professor of "agroecology" at UC, Berkeley. It's republished from The Conversation, a smart publishing platform that's a bit like The Daily Beast for academics. Anyway, having visited Cuba in January (sticking to Santiago, on the far eastern side of the island), the trip reminded me of how robust a food supply we have in the United States. Cuba's government didn't just limit the presence of food markets, it seems to be wrestling with how to maintain a regular food supply. Concretely, there was a definite lack of easily accessible... Read more →

Looking Long At The Short

I finally saw the film adaptation of Michael Lewis' brilliant book, The Big Short. The book was infuriating but also energizing. For a series of reasons, the film felt exhausting. That's not to say it's a bad movie. But it left me longing for a richer exploration of the underlying issues that link money and crowd-think, a blurry whir for which most of us lack the tools (or patience) to process. Whether I'm looking at the debates between Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton, or the pathetic dog fights called the Republican Presidential campaigns, they seem to all offer salves that... Read more →

Two extremes – how the rich and poor spend Chinese New Year

Qing Shan Ding, University of Huddersfield One of the biggest annual celebrations around the world is upon us. February 8 marks the start of the Lunar New Year in China. Also known as the Spring Festival, it is the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, akin to Christmas in the West. An important time of family reunions and catching up with old friends, it is also a huge consumer holiday, as people usher in the year of the monkey. Spending during this season in 2014 on shopping and dining was around 610 billion yuan – about US$100 billion. This... Read more →

The Value of Placebos

You can train your body into thinking it’s had medicine - From Mosaic Science, Jo Marchant asks if we can harness the mind to reduce side-effects and slash drug costs. Marette Flies was 11 when her immune system turned against her. A cheerful student from Minneapolis, Minnesota, she had curly brown hair and a pale, moon-shaped face, and she loved playing trumpet in her high-school band. But in 1983, she was diagnosed with lupus, a condition in which the immune system destroys the body’s healthy tissues. It ran rampant, attacking her body on multiple fronts. She was given steroids to... Read more →

Economics and desire

Yesterday's NYTimes was rich with articles of the type that spurred me to want to blog here. Pieces that profiled people's passions, visions, and obsessions that end up inspiring particular economics and/or generating their own economies. Here's one, a piece on marriage and immigration from the standpoint of people waiting to prove their courtships are valid, not just an excuse to slip into the United States for a better chance at work. Note how it creates an economy of regulators to play vigilance over romance. Another colorful story profiles the "singularity movement," a group of people (led formally and informally... Read more →

Expanding what gets printed

Digital Self-Publishing Shakes Up Traditional Book Industry -' A good piece on the way vanity presses (for people who pay to get their own work published) are changing the entire book industry. At one point looked at as a repository of third-rate creativity, this sector has been fueled by digital technology. In the mid-1990s, my brother-in-law, Philip Simmons, who was fighting Lou Gehrig's disease, ended up publishing one of his books in one of these presses. He'd tried unsuccessfully to solicit New York publishers for two years, not easy for a man quickly losing his ability to move, nevermind... Read more →

Israel today

A few articles by Israelis today captured my sense of a nation that is dangerously lost, caught in a defensive stupor. Below is David Grossman's response to the flotilla violence. A Puppet on a String - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News. No explanation can justify or whitewash the crime that was committed here, and no excuse can explain away the stupid actions of the government and the army. Israel did not send it soldiers to kill civilians in cold blood; indeed, this is the last thing it wanted. And yet, a small Turkish organization, fanatical in its religious views... Read more →