Saturday, September 29, 2012

Grow, baby, grow - all the guar you can

I don't know what to make of this story. An economics soap opera ? How the most unexpected things can happen  ? How sometimes prosperity can hit you from the strangest of directions ? Read on - judge for yourself.

The story starts in a very boring manner. Everybody knows Americans guzzle gas. With the Sheikhs turning the screws, Americans are feeling the pinch. Ouch - the price of oil is hurting. Drill baby drill, is fine, but oil is, alas, not to be found. Need new forms of cheap energy so that Americans can continue to guzzle away. Suddenly they discovered a new "source" - Shale gas.  Apparently natural gas is  found in rocks called shales. And apparently shale gas is rather plentiful in the US. Wonder of wonders, use of shale gas even releases lower greenhouse gases than evil Oil.. Voila, the new gold rush is on. 

All very good. What's new. This sort of thing happens all the time. The real interesting bit is that, in order to extract this gas, you have to do "hydraulic fracturing" or "fracking". Without getting too technical, an essential ingredient in this process is an obscure agricultural product called guar gum. You simply can't extract the gas without guar gum ! Guar gum is derived from the , rather ordinary, guar bean.

Cut to Basni, on the outskirts of Jodhpur in Rajasthan state in India. This is a drought prone area, near the desert. The sight of fat , sweaty Americans is not new in this area as they come to tour the Thar desert and see the palaces and forts of Rajasthan. But suddenly the villagers started to see far more Americans than usual. This lot was different. They did not want to see forts or palaces. They wanted to buy all the guar you had !

You see, Rajasthan is the guar producing capital of the world. The farmers here are mostly poor - this is after all desert area. They have been cultivating guar for centuries to feed their cattle. For some strange reason guar doesn't grow well anywhere else in the world. 90% of guar is grown in India - the balance 10% in neighbouring Pakistan. Some 70-80% of guar in India is grown in Rajasthan.

It was, as if, money was raining from the sky. Guar used to sell at Rs 10 a kilo. At Rs 40, the farmer made a nice profit.  In December last year it touched Rs 70. And in March, this year,  it touched an impossible Rs 300 !!

Farmers who were in debt , or dirt poor, are suddenly seeing untold riches.  They've built a house. They've bought colour TVs. Two wheelers are plentiful - even the odd car is seen. Thousands of farmers have suddenly been lifted out of poverty into, what for them, is a quality of life they could not have even dreamt about. Guar gum is suddenly, back gold. The largest Indian agricultural export last year by far, more than basmati, more than cotton, was guar gum !

Of course, it has all the makings of a stampede. Everybody, man, woman and dog, is trying to grow guar.  Factories have sprouted adding crazy capacity to extract gum from the guar beans. Traders, middlemen and the usual scoundrels have descended to trade on the guar market - there was so much of the Wild Wild West going on that the government has banned the futures market in guar.  There has also been much stockpiling by the energy firms that the next season demand for guar might plummet. Lots of punters will burn their hands.

But for the next few years at least, the trend is inexorable. Shale Gas will be an important source of energy in the future. The largest reserves are in China, another energy guzzling economy. Nobody has yet found a way to extract this gas without guar gum. Nobody has also found a way to grow this economically outside of Rajasthan. So there is much prosperity waiting in store for the agriculturists of Rajasthan. Its a great story - those hardy souls deserve every bit of it. However you could be forgiven for some rather puzzled faces as to how come money is raining from the sky when even water doesn't. And the even more puzzled stare of their cow which is wondering, whatever happened to the guar bean it used to chew contentedly, not so long ago.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Business September 26th 2012, The "The Business is Back in Business" Edition

The Business has been Chris-less for some time now. NOT THIS WEEK! We’ve got not just one, but TWO! Both Garcia and Thayer have been in the land of dreams (and in LA) but they’re back and better than ever and they’re gonna be at the Business this week! Also, Alex has returned from being a road warrior Max Rockatansky-style and will be back in his business saddle again. That means all the regulars are assembling, forming a Voltron-esqe defender of the humorverse!

Chris, Chris, Sean, Alex, Bucky, Caitlin and Mike have made room for only one guest this week. Luckily, he’s a doozy.

“Jarrod Harris‘ act is an oddly comfortable mix of trailer-park filth, comic angst and hipster irony. While his style may fit into several categories along the comedy spectrum, his clever writing only fits into one: funny.” Noah Gardenswartz – Creative Loafing.

Over 20 million people have seen Jarrod’s popular Action Figure Therapy characters and most recently the series was named LA Weekly’s “Top Comic To Watch in 2012″. His character Jungle was also featured on the front page of the Huffington Post Comedy section in 2011. Jarrod has also been seen on TBS’ Lopez Tonight and Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham. Campus Activities Magazine named him as one of the Hot Comics of 2009 and Top Comics to Watch in 2010. In 2009 Jarrod was final 4 at the San Francisco Comedy Competition and in 2010 was invited back for Detroit Comedy Festival’s “Best of Fest” as well as host of 2010/2011 Laughing Skull Festival. Jarrod spends his time in LA and is a regular performer at independent shows as well as the Improvs, Comedy Store, Laugh Factory, and in 2010 had the pleasure of hosting a Comedy Death Ray show.

It is a pleasure to welcome him back to The Business.

Come join us! We SELL OUT, so get there before 8 and nab a seat. BYOBurrito. (Bring 8 more to share with us.)

Primum non nocere

Sometimes, rarely, you read something that resonates  so much that you nod your head right through and maybe even develop a crick in the neck.

Such was the piece I read today under the somewhat hyperbolic title " How to stop hospitals from killing us".  I opt to offer it to you without comment,  with only a strong recommendation. I just chose a less fanciful title that simply means - First do no harm.

Perhaps an appropriate title, for, this is a mini landmark post - my 500th.  Even for writers, this is a useful tenet to follow. Never thought I would reach this figure when I started blogging one winter's day in Guangzhou 3 years ago . How much life has changed in this short while. Thank you, dear readers, for the support, the encouragement, your comments and points of view. My life has been immeasurably enriched by you and, for that, a big, big, big, heartfelt thank you.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fall Sale Blog Hop...Swing on in!

Happy Saturday!  The weather was cooler this week in Tn.  It's actually beginning to feel like fall in the mornings and evenings!  I can't think of a better way to celebrate than with a fall sale!  Join bunches and bunches of bloggers this weekend only for a 2 day sale...Sat. Sept. 22nd and Sunday Sept. 23rd.  Grab some Items for up to 20% off throughout our stores!  Some of my favorite items on sale this weekend include:

Go to Starbucks in your PJ's (drive-thru), come back for some Happy hopping and Happy shopping! 
Bananas for Blog Hoppin' fun in your PJ's with a Pumpkin Spice latte'!  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

47% vs 97%

Mitt Romney is in a  soup over his 47% remark. In some remarks he made at a private meeting he said that 47% of Americans do not pay income tax (fact) and implied that these were scroungers (rubbish). But he was factually accurate in that 47% of Americans do indeed not pay income tax - although to be fair about that half of that lot do pay payroll taxes which is a form of income tax meant for funding social security and Medicare.

The purpose of this post is not to wade into the political controversy. But simply to point out the fact that if Romney were in India, he would say 97% of the population does not pay income tax. That's right - only 2.8% of Indians pay any income tax .

That's not to say 97% of the population does not pay any tax at all. Indirect taxes like VAT, Sales Tax, Octroi and a whole host of devilish taxes are levied on everything. Even a beggar buying beedis is paying all these taxes. But income tax, the largest revenue earning component of the budget is paid by only 2.8% of Indians.

Of course, this is a headline grabbing statistic that somewhat obscures the facts. India is a young country with a large number of children. They obviously are not meant to pay taxes (although I am somewhat loath to mention this as Ramamritham might pounce on the idea and design a tax for them). But clearly there is something very wrong in the Indian taxation system.

Surely so much of India is not dirt poor. The fact is that lots of people dodge taxes. Perhaps the true number of those who should be paying taxes is three times this number. Still, even if you say by rigorous enforcement of the law the number of tax payers would rise to say 9% - three times the current number, even then this is awfully small. How can a country which wants freebies and subsidies for everybody be financed largely by just 10% of its population.

Three things are blindingly obvious

- Economic growth for everybody should be the single most important priority of the government and society ; millions must be given the opportunity to earn enough income that they pay taxes. If ever there was a case for learning from the China model, this is it. Get rich first; then worry about income distribution.
- Tax evasion is clearly rampant. Here Ramamritham is indeed trying hard, but the scale of the problem beggars belief
- Tax exemption for agricultural income and long term capital gains has to go. If you earn sufficient income, whatever the source may be, you have to pay income tax.

You can only soak the 3% so much.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Business September 19th 2012, The "Lil Rascals in the City" Edition

This week at The Business, Our Gang is welcoming a few Lil Rascals to San Francisco.

Cameron Buchholtz is a stand up comedian based in Austin, TX. He is a regular at comedy clubs across the country, has done theater shows with the likes of Doug Benson and Todd Barry, rock clubs with Michael Ian Black and Neil Hamburger, and festivals such as FunFunFunFest and the Norman Music Festival. He is also the host of the laid back interview podcast 'CB Radio', where every week he sits down with some of the biggest
names in comedy and pop culture. He is proudly from Oklahoma. He is SO totally an Alfalfa.

Dave Child started his career as a senior officer of Emerson College's acclaimed sketch troupe: Chocolate Cake City. Dave co-wrote the screenplay: Will Triumph Fights Alone, which won the Film Artist Network’s Boston Screenplay Competition, was represented at The Cannes Film Festival and was later adapted into a comic book, illustrated by Death of Superman artist: Jon Bogdanove. Since then, Will Triumph has been optioned to ABC Family Channel as a one-hour drama. Dave came to Los Angeles to make comedy videos and web series for Warner Brothers Studios. He currently performs stand up all the country for the nation’s top clubs (The Comedy Store, The Comedy Studio, The Improv, etc.) and most popular alternative comedy shows: HOLY FUCK! (“One of the best alternative comedy shows in Los Angeles.”- LA Weekly), One-Two-Punch (a featured show in the LA Times), and What's Up Tiger Lily? (The Onion's "Comedy Pick"). He’s SUCH a Spanky.

Jono Zalay grew up in beautiful San Diego, where upon becoming a stand-up comic, he quickly grew tired of good weather and happy times. So he packed all his belongings and boarded a plane to Boston. His belongings boarded a plane to Philadelphia and were never seen again. In 2010-11, he became a staple at comedy festivals around the country, winning all of them in the “most fun” category that he made up. His unique and informed background brings a perspective to stand-up comedy unequaled by almost any PhD in Neuroscience. What a total Waldo!

Join our guests and the regulars, Caitlin Gill (total Darla), Bucky Sinsiter (BUTCH), Mike Drucker (like, completely Woim) and Sean Keane (man, wish the only two left weren’t Porky and Buckwheat… Can I just say Sean possesses Buckwheat’s impeccable comedic timing and Porky’s irrisitable charm? I DIDN’T JUST SAY SOMETHING RACIST OR CALL SEAN FAT, DID I?!?)

This whole darn show is just $5 measly dollars.  Remember! We sell out! Get there by 8 if you want a seat.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What did you have for lunch ?

Newspapers are falling over themselves in trying to figure out what happened to Manmohan Singh. What has suddenly prompted the slew of economic announcements. And what has made him so brave after all the dithering for so long. While there has been much speculation, I am afraid all the pundits have got it wrong For, you see, in order to understand the behaviour of all our leaders over the last two days, you have to look no further than what they ate.

Firstly Madam Gursharan Kaur has been making Dum(b) Aloo (PJ courtesy Chotu) all this while. She switched two days ago to Makki ki roti and Sarson ka Saag. It is well known that the said food, when washed down with copious amount of buttermilk rather emboldens a certain group of people at 12.00 noon. If you notice, all the policy pronouncements have come out at 12.05 over the last two days.

At the other corner of the country, you may have noticed that there has been no comment from a certain portly lady. For she normally has Thayir sadam on Saturdays and Sundays for brunch. The soporific qualities of this food is rather well known, so the good lady is, I am afraid, fast asleep and hence has not commented.

Her neighbour, a former Prime Minister is in an even deeper sleep. His lunch is usually Ragi Mudde which, has been scientifically proven to be the miracle cure for insomnia - that's why shops in this state open for business at 11.00 AM and then promptly close for the afternoon siesta at 12.30 PM.

One of the ladies closely watched has been cooking copious quantities of Ilish Maach. Now everybody knows that sane humans from outside the state run a hundred miles when a worthy pours mustard oil to start making this dish. Perhaps that's why nobody wants to keep this lady company and perhaps that's also why she says cholbe naa to everything 

A father -son duo, also closely watched are thoroughly confused and not sure what they are doing. This is because their lunch menu comprised of kebabs, kormas, biryani, kaliya, nahari-kulchas, zarda, sheermal, roomali rotis, and warqi parathas. After such a lunch they are walking about in a daze and therefore not very clear of what is happening.

The leader of the opposition has called for a bandh in protest on Thursday. Did you wonder why Thursday ? Because in her household Kadi Pakora is served only on Wednesdays. Now no self respecting person from her region will embark on yelling at two thousand decibels unless fortified with Pakode which has marinated in Kadi for at least 3 days.

What about the firebrand controversial leader from the land of the Mahatma. He is sulking because Vadilal ice cream is not available in the freezer outside his house - all stocks having been diverted to Law Gardens where pencil slim women who are just married are frenetically trying to put on a mountain of weight.

The only lot which are yapping away are the business types who are  falling over themselves in delight. Do you know why ?? On weekdays they have to do business breakfast meetings where they have to slurp corn flakes (yuk)  and shovel scrambled eggs (doubly yuk) in an effort to look corporate. Thankfully at weekends their bibis are serving parathe or idly/dosa which they are allowed to eat with both hands. That bliss is what is causing them to issue orgasmic remarks of delight.

Its all in the food ...........

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Spotlight Saturday & Birthdays

Why is it as a kid we LONG for our birthdays to come, and the older we get we LONG NOT to see our birthday show up?  I experienced that this week turning _____ (fill in the blank with anything you'd like as long as it's lower than 35)  NOT!     :-)   It didn't help with my own children thinking I was one year younger than I really am.  When I added that extra year onto the one they thought I was, they were like, "Hmmmm...REALLY?"   Thank heavens for 1st graders who honestly have no sense of time and age.  One of the 1st graders at my school heard it was my birthday and said, "Happy Birthday...are you past 25 yet?"  

Welcome back for another edition of Spotlight Saturday.  I've got some great freebies for you again today.  

Teaching by Hart has a cool math warm up for you in her "Spot the Imposter" freebie.  It's so simple, but so fun, and sparks some great math conversations.  Need a time filler?  Engaging warm up?  Thought provoking small group starter?  Grab Kim's imposter sheets where which are loaded with numbers.  All the numbers on a page have something in common.  There is one, "the imposter" that doesn't fit.  Students begin searching for odds, evens, multiples, etc.  Looking forward to the fun I can have with this one!

Sometimes you run into things and think..."Why didn't I think of that?"  I took one look at these and thought back to the years I taught Kindergarten and First grades.  Where were these when I needed something "magical" to motivate some of my kiddos to read?  Everybody needs some fun reading glasses, right?  Check out Tracy's Guided Reading Glasses for grades K-4.  You just provide the popsicle sticks and you've got yourself a class full of adorable little reading nerds.  :-)  

Second Story Window has 6 weeks of spelling homework for you, which can be used with any spelling words, in her Spelling Tic Tac Toe Homework pack.   Students use their spelling words to do a variety of activities.  It also incorporates a little student or family choice as to which parts are completed.  It serves 1-3 grades the best and is a nice alternative to the normally boring spelling homework sheets you usually see.  

In closing, I hope you were able to grab my "Writing a Paragraph Hamburger Style" freebie this week.  If you missed it, head back to my home page and check the post prior to this one to snatch.  

Bananas for birthdays even when the candles take up a LOT of space on the cake,

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Business September 12th 2012, The "TV’S Erin Judge Judy and Foxmeat News" Edition

New Business Logo courtesy of Dr. Foxmeat
Last week’s Members Only show was great fun, but it’s time we got some guests back in the Business. This week we have two of our favorites with their funnies.

Dr. Foxmeat began his comedy career with a soaring howl under a full moon. He has the sharp jokes of a seasoned comedian, and a furry beard that looks like it may contain fallen seasonings. He looks like he knows the value of a set of human teeth on an unsettled prairie, but also looks like he could roll you a doobie without using his thumbs. He has wandered down to SF from the wilds of Humboldt County for your entertainment. He is a doctor, he is a fox, he is meat.

Erin Judge began her career at the Comedy Studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and now she lives in New York and performs all over the world. Erin's first stand-up album, So Many Choices, was released by Rooftop Comedy in 2012. She travels with the Pink Collar Comedy Tour and co-produces The Afterlife, a weekly comedy showcase in New York City. Erin has appeared on Comedy Central, in Time Out New York as Joke of the Week, and in the pages of the New York Times.

(Any resemblance to Fox News or Judge Judy is purely coincidental.)

This is a $5 show. (JUST $5!!!) BYOBurrito, and remember, WE SELL OUT. Get there by 8 if you want a seat. No one turned away without a high five.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

China's next emperor(s)

Here's a completely political piece, which I wrote as a guest post on my good friend Sriram's blog. I normally don't stray into the political arena, but couldn't resist this one !

What say you ? If you like, leave a comment on his blog.

The emperor's new clothes

Somebody has to say this. Like the kid from the proverbial Hans Christian Andersen's tale, who exclaims that the emperor is actually naked, I will go ahead and say it. Stock markets have become a weapon of mass destruction.

The original purpose of stock markets was to become efficient allocators of capital. Capital was always scarce and economics needed a mechanism where capital would be pooled from investors and allocated to the most efficient users of capital. Voila, the stock market was born. It is important to remember why this mechanism was created in the first place.

One of the most important benefits that stock markets provided was liquidity. Investors needed liquidity to be able to withdraw their investment without affecting the company that they invested in. Contrast this with property markets which are not very liquid - try selling a property, especially in India. Liquidity was , and is, provided in stock markets by speculators. They performed the useful function of ensuring liquidity and hence were tolerated even though speculation climbed to above 90% of all trades in stock markets.

But witness what has happened in the last 10 years. Most of the trading is now done by computers against computers. By automatic trading ; not by human decisions. A concept called High Frequency Trading has come into being. Big trading firms have invested in creating a competitive advantage where their automatic trading computers can gain a few nano seconds advantage over competition. I am not exaggerating  - a few nano seconds advantage. A millisecond is considered an eon in high frequency time. Two critics of the way stock markets function today - Sal Arnuk and Joseph Saluzzi have been laughed at for proposing a solution that firms honour the prices they offer for a share for at least 50 milliseconds.

Software is vulnerable, as all of us know. Knight Capital, an American Equity broker, started using a new software programme to execute its trades on 1 August. Within one hour of the market opening errant trading had cost the firm $440m. It virtually went bankrupt and only escaped from near death at a huge cost and will never be the same again. Such events are now becoming not uncommon. In May 2010, The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 1000 points in minutes and for a brief period Accenture was trading at 1c a share !

Such high frequency trading is not performing any usual social function. They are not based on a company's future or a view on the economy. This is pure gambling based on tiny changes in price. The amounts of money are so huge - several times the GDP of the world, that a catastrophic systemic failure is a real real risk. It almost seems to be a question of when, and not if.

I submit that the original purpose of stock markets has got grossly distorted and weakened. Before a meltdown occurs, it is important to go back to the roots - stock markets have to be reborn as efficient allocators of capital and not a Las Vegas on steroids. Its better to do this before the calamity hits, rather than after.

I say this loud and clear. Almost everybody on Wall Street, Dalal Street, etc etc, is stark naked. Unfortunately, that is not a pleasant sight - potbellies, warts and all. What does it say about our society, when its best brains are running naked and looking as ugly as hell. This naked horde might do well to remember , as The Economist points out, the advice of Warren Buffett, the most successful investor in history who says that his ideal holding period for shares is for ever.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Writing a Paragraph Hamburger Style Freebie

I have been asked many times in the last few weeks what I think about my new job as Literacy Coach.  I love so many parts of my job, but like anything in the education world, it's challenging, overwhelming at times, and so fast paced that it's often 2:00 before I realize I haven't eaten lunch.  
Just when I was feeling a little lonely one day, a teacher asked me if I'd be willing to come into her classroom to model a revising/editing writing lesson.  I couldn't say "YES" fast enough!  I have tons of graphic organizers, posters, handouts, flipcharts, etc. on writing that I've used over the years, but I found myself with this incredible urge to go ahead and create something new.  After discussing what her class needs were, I put together the following freebie that is focused not only on putting a simple paragraph together (hamburger style), but putting a really GOOD paragraph together (BIG MAC style).  This little freebie is designed to be used with beginning paragraph writers.  It encourages them to plan ahead with a graphic organizer, attempt a first draft, practice editing together (which prompts great classroom discussion), compare/contrast the difference between a simple paragraph and one that is a little more elaborate and FAR more interesting, and finally, share what they've learned.  
The class that I visited had already completed their graphic organizers and first drafts, but were able to take it one step further and APPLY their newly acquired editing skills and edit their own papers with the correct editing marks.

I had such a BLAST going in her classroom this week and certainly look forward to reading their published BIG MACS in a few days!  :-)   If you need a quick and easy freebie that is easily modified to fit many genres, GRAB IT!   Either pic will get you to the link to download! 

What are some of your BEST writing instruction tips for teachers? 

Bananas for BIG MACS (Yum!) 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Spotlight Saturday Freebies

Welcome back to another Spotlight Saturday!  I took a 2 week vacation from blogging.  I'd like to say that I was parked beach front somewhere reading a good book, but it was actually due to some crazy schedules, a sick child, a trip "home" to see my parents, and a stubborn laptop. 
Hopefully this post finds you transitioning smoothly into the new school year, enjoying your new students, and tackling all the adventures each new school year brings.  How about some freebies??

Christina would love for you to check out one of her management systems where students are trained to use their non verbal cues to let you know what they need.  Needing the restroom, a sharpened pencil, a tissue, a drink, and having a question or answer to share are included in her "Show Me the Number" system.  This system can be used with any grade level.  Go check it out!

Ms. Soud knows the importance of parent communication!  She's sharing a Parent Contact Journal with you.  It includes an interest inventory for your students, Parent Contact Form, Parent Contact Log, Behavior Journal, and a Classroom Newsletter editable with Powerpoint.  The forms are nicely organized and the clipart makes you feel right at home as a teacher.  These forms are mostly suitable for K-2 grade levels.  Grab a helpful freebie!

Last, but certainly not least, we have Denise's literacy center using the BOOK ORDERS you send home with students all the time.  What a clever idea to put the extra book order forms (You know you get TONS)  in a center and let the students do some activities using those forms!  Reap the benefits from getting those forms out, utilizing them, AND sending them home for students to order!  Who doesn't love the bonus points from a book order?  You'll never get tired of these!  

If you downloaded a freebie today, don't forget to leave some feedback!  Sometimes that's all it takes to keep these fabulous creators going!   

ENJOY the rest of your weekend, friends.  Catch a good college football game, grill out, hang out with some friends, and schedule a nap!  Those lesson plans aren't going anywhere.   

Bananas for the nap I WILL make time for this weekend,

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Directorinas wanted

Meet Jean-Claude Moreau. Brussels' answer to Ramamritham.  It is well known that Homo Sapiens Ramamrithamitis is thriving beautifully in Brussels  under the umbrella of the European Commission. Monsieur Moreau has excelled himself in a number of fields and he is keeping with this tradition in trying to bring legislation that women should have a quota of 40% on the Boards of European companies.

We in India, know all about quotas and reservations. But surely Europe has better sense. Apparently not. M Moreau noted, after years of diligent research, that women only constitute 13.7% of directors in large listed companies in Europe. Given that women certainly constitute 50% of the population, and apparently 45% of the workforce, this was considered totally unacceptable.The Solution ? Legislate a quota. Wow. Only a Jean-Claude Moreau can think of that. It would be hard to think of a dumber idea.

There is no doubt at all that women in the workplace are discriminated against by culture, by religion and by male chauvinism in many parts of the world.  But only rarely so in Europe. The reason why women don't occupy a natural 50% in the Boardroom there is down to two things - a male club that does not easily let in others and the difficulty of getting good childcare which makes talented women drop out midway in their careers.

The male club is rapidly dwindling away, at least in Europe. Sheer talent cannot be suppressed anymore thanks to the brutality of the market. In major corporations today, I dare say, merit usually stands. The market ensures that there is a 100% quota for merit - man, woman or otherwise. No thank you, M Moreau for your contribution. Sure the glass ceiling exists in many places, but the speed at which it is crumbling will be far greater than what M Moreau is capable of in action.

The real problem why women are underrepresented in senior management is simply the age old problem - women sacrificing their career for children. M Moreau has two options to solve that problem. One is to allow free immigration of Filipino nannies - the good that will do to the world as a whole is immeasurable. If he doesn't have the guts to do that, the alternative is for him and his fellow bureaucrates to all become child minders - that way they will contribute more to the society than being babus and dreaming up silly ideas like quota for women on Boards.

I have another suggestion for M Moreau. First introduce a quota of 40% for women amongst the senior babus in Brussels. Then we shall see about Boards of private companies.

PS - Jean-Claude Moreau is a figment of my imagination, just as Ramamritham is, and has the same qualities. In the unlikely event that a  real JC Moreau ever reads this, no offence mate !

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Business September 5th 2012, The "LONG SETS WOLFGANG KILL THEM ALL" Edition

This week, the Business has called a private meeting of our Board of Directors. It’s all regulars this week, including our latest, greatest hire, Mike Drucker.

Sean Keane has the mind of a genius and the face of a newborn. His cheeks are like tea leaves, stare into them deeply and you will know your future. You’ll love him so much you will want to take his jokes home in your pocket, but don’t! They’re his.

Alex Koll is Awesome. The Awesome. Air Guitar HERO. And an impossibly talented filmmaker.
And a top notch writer. And a member of the legendary sketch group Boomtime, which means he can be appropriately described as the Bomb.

Caitlin Gill will make your dreams come true. Especially if you dream of really funny stand-up comedy. Or if you dream of homemade Twinkies. She can do that too.

Bucky Sinister is an irrepressible talent. A poet, author, and comedian who can also swing, snatch, clean, and jerk a kettlebell that weighs more than you do. Even though his arms could crush you, and one of them has a panther and a snake fighting on it, you will still want a hug.

Mike Drucker has written for SNL and the Onion, which are things of which you have totally heard. His jokes give comedians boners. Even the comedians with vaginas. BONERS. We are very pleased he has joined our fine organization.
Please keep in mind, this show sells out. Get there on time if you want a seat!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A tragedy all around

If it wasn't so sad, it would have been a classic case study where everybody was at fault. The Marikana miners strike in South Africa is a disaster where every party - the miners, the company, the unions, the police and the government deserve censure for the way they have conducted themselves.

Here is what happened. One of the platinum mines belonging to the mining giant Lonmin is in the Marikana area in South Africa. In early August there was a flash strike over pay demands. The situation escalated badly and resulted in a violent incident on 16th August when police firing resulted in 34 miners being  killed and 78 injured. Prior to this 2 police officers had also been killed. Since the infamous Sharpeville massacre in 1960, this was the worst violence in South Africa, and certainly the blackest day in the post apartheid era.

The company Lonmin deserves some of the blame. Its workers are poor and live in shantytowns without any decent housing. Since 2001, the price of platinum has quadrupled in the market. And yet the wages of the workers have risen by only a small amount. When profits are soaring and there are not commensurate benefits to employees, the situation is ripe for unrest. Lonmin also appears to have done little by way of social responsibility, and the little it did was often the subject of political patronage. It is impossible to be in an island of profits when surrounded by poverty. With such inequality, the flashpoint was inevitable.

The strike by workers was over a demand to triple their wages. Those of us in India, who remember Datta Samant would recall such absurd demands and militant action. No company is going to triple  wages in one go. There is also no doubt that miners resorted to some violence - two policemen were killed and it appears that their weapons were snatched and used against the police.

The unions were heavily politicised.  The dominant union was affiliated to the ruling ANC and an outsider union of the opposition was trying to break in. One upmanship on taking extremist stands and violence seems to have resulted.

The police have certainly overreacted. Yes two of their own were killed and they seem to have extracted revenge.  They were corralling workers with barbed wire and when threatened, resorted to extreme force with live ammunition. But was the force justified ? There is hardly any industrial dispute in the world where 34 people have been killed.

The government has behaved awfully. For long it has been indifferent to the appalling inequities in South African society and a small black elite has gone very rich through massive corruption. After this incident happened, the public prosecutor arrested some 270 striking miners and charged them with the murder of the 34 under an apartheid era law! The outrage was universal, and they have since had to withdraw and release the miners.

The real tragedy is on those who died - miners and policemen - and the injured. Nothing is going to bring back the dead. Is any business worth the loss of so many lives. And is any cause for agitation worth this price ?

South Africa has a real problem with inequality and seems to have no sensible way to tackle it.  It is of course, a global problem with no easy answers, but in South Africa the problem can be seen at its most acute form. If it does not find even a partial answer, the spectacle of Zimbabwe looms.