Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Review: Broke, USA

Broke USA: How the Working Poor Became Big Business chronicles the recent rise of predatory lending institutions such as payday loan stores, check cashing outfits and the misleading mortgage. Downwardly mobile people using these product find themselves trapped with unpayable debt and the sudden loss of equity in their homes.

Very often, these businesses spring up near economically distressed populations: rustbelt communities with high unemployment, rural communities left behind in the global economy, and army bases (a young population in need of money).

It's part of a rather unfortunate period of American economic history where credit masks economic decline. At least temporarily.

Rivlin includes memorable portraits of the users of these financial products but also profiles the entrepreneurs that start these businesses and their take on their social utility. There's also quite a lot of information on the influence of the financial industry on state legislatures.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Intern Opportunities In the Real World

Here are some good websites to look for internships. Search by keyword intern or field....


Monday, May 16, 2011

Graduate Student Survival Video Tutorial

If you're a graduate student, or simply want to learn very advanced searching techniques:

watch this tutorial video

It covers the things you'll need to thrive in grad school: getting caught to speed outside your discipline (or even IN your discipline), finding the most influential articles, how to find and use other people's dissertations (read: bibliographies), using other libraries and career opportunities.

Fake Comments on the Web

The comments section of blogs critical of powerful public or private entities are regularly infiltrated by fake comments written by paid workers of those entities.

These paid commentators will attack the critical information in length comment after comment, drowning out those that disagree with the actions of the powerful entity.


As you might expect, China engages in this. People are paid to promote the official Chinese point of view around the internet. China, in case you have forgotten, is a non-democratic communist dictatorship.

Our US government is interested in this as well. Read this actual academic paper authored by a high government official that advocates flooding blog comments sections with pro-government material.

(There are many examples of big businesses doing this too - I will try to collect some examples for you soon)

My favorite example is when celebrities actually try to anonymously comment on critical articles on themselves! Scott Adams of Dilbert fame was busted doing this.

Here's a list of other famous/rich people concealing their identities in comments sections
. Yes, it's a Wikipedia link, but they do include sources for these examples.

Solutions: 1. Stop Treating the Open Web as an authoritative source. 2. Learn to Think For Yourself, even when you perceive your own views to be unpopular.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Check Orbis for Women or Minority Owned Companies

Go to Orbis Database.

Click on directors. Select women or minority. Includes subcategories of minority (hispanic, indian, african-american, etc.)

Contains millions of companies, public and private, so you might want to set other parameters like sales, place of incorporation and so on.

Or, with the same link, you can also check the directors' characteristics like nationality....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book Review: The Naked Consumer

Erik Larson's The Naked Consumer captures a moment where marketers learned to combine seemingly innocuous public information into powerful, almost intrusive, insight into our personal lives.

Larson commits on the involuntary nature of much of this information gathering and wonders what we can do about it.

Whether this information marketing is improving your life by tailoring products to you or is manipulation and intrusive is probably dependent on your worldview.

But this is an interesting book that chronicles what information how our personal information sources are used and when the bar for privacy is moved so we don't even notice.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Importance of Economic Facts

Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has written about the importance of laws and clear title in capitalism. See this review of The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else.

Now de Soto has written an article about the importance of objective facts in making capitalist decisions - who owns what, what something is worth, etc...

de Soto fears we might be getting away from that. He might be right. Good thought piece.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Organic Crops

Organic food and other crops (like cotton) is big business.

Some government prepackaged (but good) facts about organic production in us.

Do your own search for detailed percentages and totals for organic crops here (use keyword organic). note: right now I can find only data for all organic crops here (although it does break it down by county), but i will keep looking.

If you are looking for reports on organic food, Marketline Advantage industry reports are a good source.

You may have to search the internet for trade association publications, like this report on organic cotton.