Links of the Week (Late) – July 12, 2006

Too many links to point you to to let them accumulate until next Saturday. My punishment for taking last Saturday off, I guess. Here we go:

Politics, Corporatism and All That

Surviving the End of Oil: A Lesson from Russia: Dmitry Orlov in FTW tells the story of Russia’s economic collapse and the anarchy and desperation that prevails now in much of the country, and shows how those who are coping with it successfully (other than the crime lords) could provide models to follow when our own economy collapses. Meanwhile, the NYT reports the Russians are so desperate that they’ve agreed to become a colossal toxic waste dump for US nuclear garbage.

The Suburb as Work Camp: An interesting and long essay by Swiss writer ‘P.M.’ explaining why unsustainable and unscalable “man-on-his-land” suburbia has such a powerful psychological draw to Americans, and why its reality (that it is really owned by the banks and by employers as a means of keeping workers pacified and dependent in a modern version of work-camps) is so different. Thanks to Andrew Campbell for the link.

Big Tobacco Prevails Again: Consistent with previous rulings, a high US court has overturned another class action lawsuit award against big tobacco, on the basis that (this is a quote!) it would “result in an unlawful crippling of the defendant companies.” In other words, the health of ‘defendant companies’ that market addictive and lethal toxins to people, outweighs the health of those people.

Big Ag Creates a Big Stink:Factory farms are fouling the country’s waterways with millions of tons of animal waste. And the EPA’s proposed regulations may not solve the problem.” Amanda Griscom Little in Salon & Grist is putting it mildly.

Big Finance Puts the Squeeze on the Hapless Poor: With US consumer debt skyrocketing, and with Bush eliminating most of the bankruptcy protection previously available to the poorest victims of usurers, it’s no surprise that the big finance corporations are ignoring the law and resorting to outright extorting money from the poor, exploiting their ignorance and often stealing money they aren’t even owed. This is what happens when a country treats poverty as a shameful personal crime instead of a national disgrace.

Ahem, I Said, the US is About to Invade Iran: A wonderfully articulate argument that the decision to bomb Iran has already been made, its consequences, and why Bush will get away with it politically. I’ve been saying this for months, but Arthur says it better. Thanks to Dale Asberry for this link and the one that follows.

And the US Dollar is Still Teetering on Collapse: Witty actor and economist Ben Stein tells it like it is:

As I endlessly point out, taxes for the rich are lower than they have ever been in my lifetime. (To be fair, taxes for the nonrich are very low as well.) And this is occurring as we accumulate government liabilities that will kill us in the long run. (And cutting spending will not work. Most federal and state spending is for items that are untouchable, like Medicare, education, the military ó and, most cruelly of all, interest on the national debt. Every president promises to cut spending and not one of them does it unless a war comes to an end.)

We are mortgaging ourselves to foreigners on a scale that would make George Washington cry. Every day ó every single day ó we borrow a billion dollars from foreigners to buy petroleum from abroad, often from countries that hate us. We are the beggars of the world, financing our lavish lifestyle by selling our family heirlooms and by enslaving our progeny with the need to service the debt.

I don’t see this ó except for the taxes ó as a Republican thing or a Democratic thing. It’s just the way we live today. Drunken sailors from the Capitol to the freeways. Heirs living on their inheritance and spending it fast. The titans of corporate America getting as much as they can get away with and hiring lawyers and public-relations people if there is a problem. It is later than anyone dares to think.

Business and Innovation

Co-Innovating With the Customer: Michael Schrage in S&B echoes the argument in many of my posts that innovation not only starts with paying attention to customers and their needs, but is best done in concert with those customers. Thanks to Innovation Weekly for the link.

Small Business vs Entrepreneur: Seth has an interesting short discussion of the difference, and comes down on the side of small business because he thinks “growth for growth’s sake makes less sense every day“. Good to see other business advisors acknowledging that businesses don’t have to grow to be profitable and successful. Too bad about the ‘small potatoes’ connotation of the term, though. There’s no reason, of course, that you can’t call yourself an entrepreneur (literally, “one making a commitment to start and be responsible for something”) and still refuse to grow.

Making Genetic Manufacturing Obsolete: Jeremy Rifkin says MAS technology, which involves traditional crop splicing and breeding techniques but uses the latest technology to improve it by honing in on the markers for the ideal characteristics, outperforms Genetic Manufacturing and entails none of the risks.

Wisdom of Crowds Beats the Experts at Market Predictions: Investment funds whose make-up is determined entirely by computer algorithms that use only quantitative analysis, not fundamental data, about the companies they invest in, are now regularly outperforming those selected by the hugely overpaid investment brokers’ analysts (full disclosure: I used to work for one). So-called “technical analysis” is a ludicrous science about as sensible as alchemy, but it has one advantage that the hapless experts don’t: it reflects the collective wisdom of the crowd over time. Since the value of stocks is purely psychological, that’s a big advantage. PS: It works at the racetrack, too.

Blogs & Blogging

Choosing the Right Blogging Tool: An interesting and up-to-date review and comparison of the leading tools from techsoup.

Stephen Hawking Goes Online With a Question: It’s basically the question my blog is designed to answer. I replied with the Credo from this recent post, joining some 22,000 other respondents. If I get a call from Hawking, I’ll let you know. Thanks to my former colleague Mark Matchen for thelink.

Lots more on Saturday, with a decidedly upbeat tone.

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