Thursday, April 24, 2008


Levi Stubbs Tears

One of my favorite songs.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

De-spiving hits full steam

Opes Prime

Lift Capital


The financial markets crisis is shaking the bad fruit from the trees .

People will argue that there should have been tighter regulation to protect investors, and I agree. But it seems that the market has its own bitter way of dealing with those that play fast and loose on the rising market.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fresh Thinking From 2020

From today's Age:

'Melbourne economist Nicholas Gruen, director of Lateral Economics, won backing for his plan for government to do annual workplace surveys to ask how contented workers were. Firms competing for top talent would feel competitive pressure to publish their results — and ensure they scored well.'

I think that this could be a good idea. However, if this type of reporting were to be introduced there will be pressure placed on employees by employers/human resources management to boost the surveys in order to attract the best recruits.

There may even be some bias from employees themselves in spruiking their respective firms. After all, given the incentive of attracting highly competent and motivated colleagues, I'm sure it would be in most employees interests to overstate their workplace contentment.

I guess at the end of the day, anything that encourages a more fully informed market will be a good outcome, but we should be mindful of the possibilities for gaming such a survey.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Is meat eating sustainable?

According to George Monbiot it isn't.

'What level of meat-eating would be sustainable? One approach is to work out how great a cut would be needed to accommodate the growth in human numbers. The UN expects the population to rise to 9 billion by 2050. These extra people will require another 325m tonnes of grain. Let us assume, perhaps generously, that politicians such as Ruth Kelly are able to "adjust policy in the light of new evidence" and stop turning food into fuel. Let us pretend that improvements in plant breeding can keep pace with the deficits caused by climate change. We would need to find an extra 225m tonnes of grain. This leaves 531m tonnes for livestock production, which suggests a sustainable consumption level for meat and milk some 30% below the current world rate. This means 420g of meat per person per week, or about 40% of the UK's average consumption.

This estimate is complicated by several factors. If we eat less meat we must eat more plant protein, which means taking more land away from animals. On the other hand, some livestock is raised on pasture, so it doesn't contribute to the grain deficit. Simon Fairlie estimates that if animals were kept only on land that is unsuitable for arable farming, and given scraps and waste from food processing, the world could produce between a third and two-thirds of its current milk and meat supply. But this system then runs into a different problem. The Food and Agriculture Organisation calculates that animal keeping is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental impacts are especially grave in places where livestock graze freely. The only reasonable answer to the question of how much meat we should eat is as little as possible. Let's reserve it - as most societies have done until recently - for special occasions.'

Mr Monbiot can't handle a vegetarian diet himself, and his suggestion that people eat tilapia, a freshwater fish with an unparalled conversion ratio, is just stupid. The article comes dangerously close to another 'do what I say, not what I do' article on sustainability and climate change.

But apart from that, there's plenty of food for thought in his article (Pun intended, sadly).

The fuel for food crisis is already upon us.

I will personally be advocating the 17th century British naval diet- 14 pints per man per day.

You won't miss cow one little bit.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Doping Incentives

Quite an interesting article over at Scientific American on the incentives to get on the juice. Michael Shermer frames the game as a Prisoners' Dilemma and from here, develops recommendations for how sports can reach a non cheating Nash equilibrium.

* 1. Grant immunity to all athletes for past (pre-2008) cheating. Because the entire system is corrupt and most competitors have been doping, it accomplishes nothing to strip the winner of a title after the fact when it is almost certain that the runners-up were also doping. With immunity, retired athletes may help to improve the antidoping system.
* 2. Increase the number of competitors tested—in competition, out of competition, and especially immediately before or after a race—to thwart countermeasures. Testing should be done by independent drug agencies not affiliated with any sanctioning bodies, riders, sponsors or teams. Teams should also employ independent drug-testing companies to test their own riders, starting with a preseason performance test on each athlete to create a baseline profile. Corporate sponsors should provide additional financial support to make sure the testing is rigorous.
* 3. Establish a reward, modeled on the X prizes (cash awards offered for a variety of technical achievements), for scientists to develop tests that can detect currently undetectable doping agents. The incentive for drug testers must be equal to or greater than that for drug takers.
* 4. Increase substantially the penalty for getting caught: one strike and you’re out—forever. To protect the athlete from false positive results or inept drug testers (both exist), the system of arbitration and appeals must be fair and trusted. Once a decision is made, however, it must be substantive and final.
* 5. Disqualify all team members from an event if any member of the team tests positive for doping. Compel the convicted athlete to return all salary paid and prize monies earned to the team sponsors. The threat of this penalty will bring the substantial social pressures of “band of brothers” psychology to bear on all the team members, giving them a strong incentive to enforce their own antidoping rules.
A neat analysis but it is lacking because it focuses on reducing the payoff to doping rather than increasing the absolute (not relative) benefits to staying clean.

Following the assumption of institutionalised doping, these regulations are unlikely to be legitimate in the eyes of those who follow them. In addition to the above five, I would increase the payoff to those who openly come clean, to help those who participate in the sport and rely on it for their livelihoods make the transition from one equilibrium to another.

An added benefit is that this would raise the relative payoff to benefits whilst waiting for the testers to catch up with the users.