HodgBlog

Budget Cuts

I heard an interesting report on NPR yesterday about the cotton trade. The story is basically that the US got sued by Brazil at the World Trade Organization (WTO) court over illegal (under WTO rules we have agreed to) cotton subsidies that the US government gives to US cotton farmers. Brazil won the case and its several appeals. However, in spite of the ruling, the US kept the subsidies in place, so Brazil threatened to retaliate with trade sanctions, which forced the US to negotiate a settlement with Brazil.

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Art, Trash, and Dignity

I recently saw a great documentary film at the Seattle International Film Festival called Waste Land. It's about an art project of Brazilian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Vik Muniz, which took place at the biggest landfill in the world, Jardim Gramacho, just outside of Rio de Janeiro.

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Risking life for school

I listened to BBC radio during lunch today, and this story made me cry: Risking life to go to school. So if you are feeling up for hearing about the things that some kids have to go through just to attend school, check it out.... Be sure to listen to the audio half-way down the page, which has children in Bristol, England, and Kabul, Afghanistan, talking to each other about the importance of education and what they must risk to go to school.

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Meaning in Life

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm doing vs. what I could be doing, and what's important in life -- finding meaning in life, rather than looking for The Meaning of Life. Several books have helped draw my thoughts together, including Melissa Everett's Making a Living While Making a Difference, which I read more than 10 years ago, and two I read more recently: the Dalai Lama's Ethics for a New Millennium, and Viktor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. Here are some thoughts:

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Men, Women, and Higher Education

In the United States at least, people with a post-secondary degree tend to earn more than people without one. For instance, looking at the statistics for people aged 25-34 in 2007, the median annual income for high-school graduates was about $25,000, while people with an Associates (2-year) degree earned $31,000, and those with a Bachelor's (4-year) degree earned nearly $41,000.

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How to Educate the Poor

I recently read an interesting book by James Tooley called The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World's Poorest People Are Educating Themselves, published by the Cato Institute.

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What's up with California?

What is going on with California lately? Last year, they passed an initiative that banned gay marriage.

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Towards a Green Economy

I recently read The Green Collar Economy, by Van Jones (with a forward by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.). I think President Obama must have read it too, since the ideas he's been talking about lately for fixing the economy are basically the same as what Jones sets out in his book. This is a good thing, in my opinion. Here are the main points from this book:

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Big Walls

I took a trip to Asia this past August and September with my dad, for six weeks. We visited the Russian Far East, Siberia, Mongolia, and China, traveling independently; most of the traveling was via the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway. I plan to get some photos and thoughts posted here eventually, but as you probably know if you read this blog regularly, I don't make time for writing very often, so I'm not sure when.

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The Current Economic Crisis

Because I used to work on Wall Street, some people I know are under the (incorrect) impression that I'm an expert in all things financial, and they have been asking me if I can explain how we got into our current state of financial collapse. So, I thought I would write a short summary of my understanding of how rampant greed around the practice of sub-prime lending led to a full-scale financial crisis.

First, let's set the scene: the sub-prime lending market. Here's a brief summary of how it worked:

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