Things go better with….Racism??

In development circles, some people worry about the “White Savior Complex“, where essentially, development is done to/for non-whites by whites.

This video isn’t from the UN,or any development agency  but it illustrates the concept of white savior very well.

It apparently is a commercial for coca-cola.

It starts with citing stats about how indigenous people in Mexico feel alienated from mainstream Mexico and show a few grim, slow moving, stoic brown people. Then it cuts to a bunch of smiling, laughing, tall, thin, hyper-active white people, who then show up uninvited to a town in Oaxaca and construct a wooden Christmas tree (or just an obelisk perhaps) lit by Coca Cola bottle caps. Brown peoples’ eyes widen in wonder, a couple of them actually smile, get a free coke. White arms go around brown shoulders.  The end.

Here, see for yourself:

People, Robin and I have lived in Mexico. We’ve traveled several times to Oaxaca, driven through Chiapas and Guerrero. The people there know what coca cola is. Believe me. They also know what bullshit is.

These areas of the country are indeed much poorer than most of the rest of Mexico, but coke and condescension are not what’s needed.

Obama can’t get no Pinoy love?

So the biggest thing happening at the APEC thrilla in Manila is a hot-off between Mexico’s EPN and Canada’s Justin Trudeau.

Really.  Check out the hashtag #APEChottie. Or read this.

My question to you people is, where is BHO in all of this? He’s WAY HOTTER than either the Mexican or Canadian entry.

My observations for you people are:

  1. Wow, EPN finally won something. I hope he enjoys people asking how big his “burrito” is.
  2. Best.APEC.ever.

Everybody’s crazy about a sharp dressed man

I watched a video yesterday of Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela, looking markedly (and typically) unpresidential.  He was essentially threatening the people of Venezuela that he would not respect the outcome if they dared to vote in the opposition.  And he did it in his usual Adidas track suit (I wonder what Adidas thinks of this–have they considered paying him not to wear their clothes?)

Here’s a still from the video:

tracksuit_recentI particularly like the Nicolas M. embroidered on the suit.  Are his track suits regularly stolen from his presidential suite.  One would think so given the amount of times he wears such gear with his name clearly spelled out.  Here is another and it gets very specific, just in case some other Nicolas Maduro fellow tries to claim it for his own:


Here’s one that helpfully provides the name of his country, as if anyone could forget:

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters during a visit to inspect the progress of a subway construction in Guatire

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters during a visit to inspect the progress of a subway construction in Guatir November 14, 2015. REUTERS/Marco Bello


And a track suit is de rigueur when attending a communist summit:


And surprisingly, Maduro is not the man wearing the red track suit in this photo!  No wonder he doesn’t want to go anywhere without the suit!  He gets attacked by fellow fashionistas when he doesn’t:


OK, enough snark for the day, or at least the morning.  Maduro is an easy target to poke fun at but it would be a lot funnier of course if he wasn’t also inciting violence and destroying the country.


Mythical markets in Everything: Chilangolandia Edition

Awesome headline from down under this morning: “New Mini-pigs as pets craze sweeps Mexico City

It could have been a New York Times piece in that (a) it had no data to back up the headline, and instead (b) it talked to one owner and one “breeder”.

People, believe me at $2,500 US per porker, there is no mini-pig as pet craze in el D. F.

tacos al pastor craze? Pues claro.

kidnapping mini-pig pets for ransom craze? stay tuned.


Every Collapsing Communist Cloud has a Pirated Data Silver Lining

When Kevin and I first moved to Mexico City, we were amazed by the wide variety of goods that were hawked at traffic stops.  Not just the variety but the fact that a lot of them seemed wildly inappropriate for the situation, like the guy selling 6 foot hat racks at a busy roundabout on a major thoroughfare.  That was nothing compared to the gigantic satellite dish we saw hawked at a 4 way stop in Tunisia.  It must have weighed many hundreds of pounds.

I was reminded of this when I read Bill Browden’s excellent book Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice.  Browder was struggling to find information on companies in a country that seemed at first glance to be highly un-transparent.  He learns though that the legacy of Soviet bureaucratism has a few upsides:

“Because of Soviet central planning, Moscow needed data on every single facet of life so its bureaucrats could decide on everything from how many eggs were needed in Krasnoyarsk to how much electricity was needed in Vladivostok. The fact that the Soviet regime had fallen hadn’t changed anything—Moscow ministries continued to exist, and their bureaucracies took great pains to account for everything for which they were responsible.”

In the fall of the Soviet Union, that data still existed, it was just a matter of accessing it.  And lo and behold, he finds one such source of data at a traffic stop in downtown Moscow.

“While Vadim sat there that day, a boy approached the car brandishing his wares. Vadim wasn’t interested, but the boy persisted. “All right, what are you selling?” Vadim asked warily. The boy held open his dirty blue parka to reveal a collection of CD-ROMs in a plastic portfolio. “I’ve got databases.” Vadim’s ears perked up. “What kind of databases?”

“All kinds. Mobile phone directories, tax return records, traffic violations, pension fund info, you name it.”  Vadim spotted one entitled “Moscow Registration Chamber Database.” Vadim did a double take. The Moscow Registration Chamber is the organization that tracks and collects information about who owns all Moscow-based companies.”

Now that’s serendipity!  It’s also the most unique way I’ve heard of to come across a useful dataset.

“Un Nuevo Sabor que te Encantará” / markets in everything fail

Earlier this month, McDonalds of Venezuela re-introduced the French fry to its menus after a lengthy absence where only yucca fries were available (Jeez I would LOVE for USA Mickey D to have yucca fries. They are the bomb).


Or I guess to be more accurate, the Venezuela Fry (“100% made in Venezuela). Yes this is Chavismo’s version of the US Congress’s “freedom fries”.

Early reviews are not good.

And there appears to be a slight gap between the ad and the actual product:


As Raul puts it, “I guess these are like your mother’s french fries, if your mother was a lazy cook and she really, really hated you”.

Pretending to Fix what you don’t want to Fix? The US Immigration System

The Washington Post has one of the most scandalous stories of government inefficiency and ineptitude that I’ve read in a while (and that’s saying something).  Apparently, ten years ago government officials made the wise decision to digitize the immigration system.  The project as supposed to cost a half a billion dollars and take 8 years.  Instead, it is two years overdue and is scheduled to take another 4 years and cost $3.1 billion.  And what do we have to show for all this time and money?  Almost nothing.  Seriously.

The Post reports that of the 95 forms that are supposed to be digitized, the crack technology group on this project has managed to make only one electronic.  One!  That is one expensive form, given that they’ve already spent $1 billion of the $.5 billion in their budget (that is one soft budget constraint!).

And what is this one important document that they’ve digitized?

“The sole form now available for electronic filing is an application for renewing or replacing a lost “green card” — the document given to legal permanent residents.”

And does this system work well for at least this one form?  We want to make sure we get our $1 billion worth.

“Government documents show that scores of immigrants who applied online waited up to a year or never received their new cards, disrupting their plans to work, attend school and travel.”

At first this made me think of the old Soviet joke that “we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”  But then I remembered the billion dollars!

I think Adriana Maestas summed up the situation best in one of the best tweets I’ve seen on our immigration system.

Screenshot 2015-11-10 08.46.33

It does make you wonder.

Every inflationary cloud has a silver lining: Argentina Edition

Oh Argentina, where one of the few booming sectors is armored car services!

Why? Well it’s not mentioned in the article (which is a pretty confused piece), but Argentina is a pretty disintermediated country.  People don’t trust banks (gee I wonder why) and lots of business is done in cash. Add to that the fact that years of high inflation have rendered Argentina’s largest denominated currency to be worth only $10 (and this is at the official ER) and you can see that cash moves around and these days it takes a LOT of cash to purchase major items.

In other words, purchasing power that used to fit in a wallet, now fits in a suitcase.

What used to fit in a suitcase, now fits in a wheelbarrow…..

As a famous man once said, solve for the equilibrium.

Here’s some free CG investment advice: short wallets, long Brinks trucks!

Hat tip to the inimitable Boz.

It’s not easy being green

“Oh China, you are not a clean energy powerhouse, are you.”

“LOL no Angus we are not. We’ve been burning the shit out of some coal lately.”

People, check out this graph comparing China’s previously reported coal use and its currently reported coal use:

Screenshot 2015-11-04 07.51.04

“Illustrating the scale of the revision, the new figures add about 600 million tons to China’s coal consumption in 2012 — an amount equivalent to more than 70 percent of the total coal used annually by the United States.”

Who knows people, maybe someday, they’ll release accurate GDP statistics too!

Irony Fail: Mugabe Edition

Robert Mugabe went on a rant the other day about “thieving Kenyans” which was amazing in almost every way, but especially in its total lack of awareness of (1) his own corruption (perhaps he just doesn’t like competition) and (2) of the rampant corruption in Zimbabwe.  It is ranked 156 out of 175 countries on Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, making it one of the most corrupt countries in the world.  Here’s the report about Mr. Mugabe abominable rant:

“Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has launched a verbal war with Kenyans. While Presiding over a funds drive in a city church on Sunday where he was the chief guest, Mugabe said that Kenyans are the most arrogant thieves in the world because they steal with high degree impunity.

‘Those people of East Africa shock me with their wizardry in stealing. Sometimes I tend to believe that stealing is in every Kenyan’s blood. These people go to their schools and read good courses but they qualify as the best thieves. You can even think that there is a subject in their universities called Bachelor of Stealing. Whenever they get an opportunity as employees, they never disappoint. They steal enough money to buy their freedom because even the judges who listen to their cases are financially powerless. I urge you my people to be on high alert in case you by bad luck, happen to visit that East African nation. They might infect you with that disease and we don’t want it here. Zimbabweans are honest people who love their country and don’t want such stealing tendencies ‘ He shouted with courage as he advised his nation.”

Here are some salient points:

a. Of course Mugabe was the chief guest.  Duh!

b. What in the world precipitated such a torrid of hatred and why did he think a funds drive at a church was an appropriate venue to unleash it?

c. “Zimbabweans are honest people.”  Umm…

d.  This report is from a Kenyan newspaper, so why in the world did they publish that last line about shouting with courage. What does that even mean?  I believe the shouting part but the courage and advising seem pretty dubious.  It sounds like it was written by Mugabe himself.