Forecast says snow, city government says “start digging!”

Residents of St. Petersburg are starting to wonder why they pay taxes at all when a city politician recommended they clear the streets themselves of snow.

After being criticized for insufficient snow removal, Deputy Governor Igor Albin went on an awesome rant, arguing that citizen dependence on the government is “the disease of modern Russian society.”  Here is what he had to say:

“People expect help to “do their dishes, maintain the yard, raise their children, protect them from foreign aggressors, and put things in order in their country and their home. Instead of watching television, people should grab a shovel and get digging, adding that physical activity is “good for one’s health and helps to order one’s thoughts.”

I hope this guy isn’t expecting another term in city government!  I love the fact that “protect them from foreign aggressors” is one of the attitudes indicating government dependence.

At least one citizen hit back on social media, writing “If there is a fire, then do not call the fire brigade. You need to call your neighbours, grab a bucket and douse the flames yourself.”

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade (in your pants edition)

The Pope is coming to Manila and the government has advice for everyone: Diaper up!

People, as always, I am not making this up.  Check here for 2000 diapered traffic cops, And here’s a local bureaucrat claiming the diapers he has in mind will go four rounds!

In possibly related news, Tyler Cowen will be visiting OU in February and the same protocol may well be in place then.

Freedom Fries: Venezuela edition

So Mickey D’s is apparently having trouble getting it’s American made frozen potatoes into foreign hot oil which has put them in hot water in Venezuela.

Some kind of labor dispute with shippers has caused foreign fry shortages, at least in Japan and Venezuela.

As usual, Knuckles took the news calmly, proclaiming that Ronald had joined the “economic war” against his Bolivarian Republic (quick aside: Hey Knucky! your two year bonds are yielding over 60%. French fries are not really relevant here).

And one government official has urged folks to eat 100% made in Venezuela yucca fries instead.

People, if McDonalds had yucca fries, I might actually go! How awesome would that be? Migas, platanos con crema, y yucca frita. Desayuno de campeones!

The ever expanding tentacles of Homeland Security

Thanks to Todd Miller (@memomiller), I read a disturbing, but unsurprising, article on the increasing reach of the Department of Homeland Security, this time at the university level.  The article highlights six $1 million grants from the DHS to a range of universities in the past year, including the University of Texas at San Antonio, Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, Jackson State University, Tennessee State University, Texas Southern University and the University of the District of Columbia.  These are interesting choices–I wonder how they make the decision of which universities to target.

With these grants, the universities are supposed to “partner with the directorate to develop course content and engage students and faculty in research relevant to the nation’s homeland security challenges, [specifically to] develop educational programs in homeland security science and engineering.”

Homeland security science??  wow, just wow.

One toilet paper roll at a time

I read an interesting article recently in the WSJ about Wal-Mart’s decision to adopt bodega-type stores in Mexico to better compete for low-income consumers.  Since that piece is gated, try checking out this article, which gives a lot of background information.  Apparently, Wal-Mart has experimented with a 3-pronged approach in Mexico and hopes to re-create the experiment in other emerging markets.  Briefly, the three prongs are:

1. The creation of a “compact hypermarket” called Bodega Aurrera, carrying a mix of “roughly 60% food and 40% non-food items, measuring about 42,000 square feet.”  I don’t know anything about retailing, but Aurrera?  Who came up with that?  It sounds horrible to me, but what do I know?

2.  A neighborhood supermarket called Mi Bodega that is smaller and focuses more on food items.  Now this name I like.

3.  Yikes, back to the Aurrera name.  The third creation is the Bodega Aurrera Express and it is a “soft discount store.”  Hmm, what does the adjective soft mean here? According to the article, it will have “an 80% food vs 20% non-food mi, focusing heavily on price and convenience as the primary trip drivers.”

Wal-Mart is hoping to provide a bridge between formal and informal markets.   One of the ways they are doing this is by “offering smaller packages or the option of buying one-packs (vs bundles) for things that other retailers wouldn’t bother doing.”  Check out the pet food sold by the meal and toilet paper sold by the roll:

petfood    toiletpaper

That is smart business!

Funny Sidenote:  The toilet paper innovation reminded me of Jim Gaffigan’s riff on Hot Pockets and the impossibility of buying toilet paper in a dignified way (given that they come 18 rolls per case). Here’s the piece if your are looking for a laugh:

Forget the Big Mac Index, check out the Quesadilla Index!

I just finished a tremendously funny book called Quesadillas by Juan Pablo Villalobos. The English translation by Rosalind Harvey is excellent, but the book was so good that I’m going to buy the Spanish version and read it next.


One of the best parts of the book was the way in which the narrator used the quality of his family’s quesadillas to the Mexican national economy.  Here is a great quote from p. 9 of the paperback edition:

“We entered a phase of quesadilla rationing that led to the political radicalisation of every member of my family. We were all well aware of the roller coaster that was the national economy due to the fluctuating thickness of the quesadillas my mother served at home. We’d even invented categories – inflationary quesadillas, normal quesadillas, devaluation quesadillas and poor man’s quesadillas – listed in order of greatest affluence to greatest parsimony.

The inflationary quesadillas were thick in order to use up the cheese that my mother had bought in a state of panic at the announcement of a new rise in the price of food and the genuine risk that her supermarket bill would go from billions to trillions of pesos. The normal quesadillas were the ones we would have eaten every day if we lived in a normal country – but if we had been living in a normal country we wouldn’t have been eating quesadillas and so we also called them impossible quesadillas.

Devaluation quesadillas became less substantial for psychological rather than economic reasons – they were the quesadillas of chronic national depression – and were the most common in my parents’ house. Finally you had the poor man’s quesadillas, in which the presence of cheese was literary: you opened one up and instead of adding melted cheese my mother had written the word ‘cheese’ on the surface of the tortilla. We were yet to experience the horror of a total absence of quesadillas.

I think I’m going to start using this novel in my Mexican Economic Development class! 

Ringing/Bashing in the New Year in Mexico

Mexicans have taken to expressing their displeasure with their President by turning him into a piñata, or as it is popularly called, a Peñata.  I’m guessing this is not how EPN envisioned his image at the end of 2014.

This post gives a very helpful instruction sheet on how to make your own personal Peñata


along with some wonderful examples.  Here are a couple of my favorites: