Two stories about treacle and some other fascinating links

This is a long, but well worth it, point of view, dissecting the Obama stimulus in ways that I simply have not heard of from any other quarter. The highlights are simple, the stimulus; was successful and prevented the US economy from slipping further into employment hell even though unemployment is still problematic; at $800 billion (yes, billion) the money was far greater than anyone could have predicted and that credit is due to Obama for a terrier like pursuit of volume, and finally that huge strides have been made in terms of sustainable technology. Amongst other things $90billion into renewable and green energy paid for the world’s largest wind farm, 6 of the world’s largest solar arrays, America’s first bio-fuels refineries and practically single handedly kickstarted a battery manufacturing industry for electric vehicles. No wonder there is little reporting about that lot ! All under the radar maybe, but providing fuel to the theories of Carlota Perez nonetheless.



This is the transcript of a talk given by Eben Moglun last March titled ‘innovation under austerity‘. Eben is a leading advocate of the open source movement and has been engaging the US government for over 20 years with regard to the legal issues raised by all our new communication technology. Privacy and the implications of losing it have been key themes. This talk is designed to take the discussion into the economic realm in an attempt to raise even a modicum of interest from those holding the relevant reins of power in government. It is a very insightful talk and I strongly advise you to make the time to read or watch it. One point made, which I think is fantastic, is that innovation is mostly led by people in cities, which he attributes to the power of a city to give anonymity to young people, a device which enables personal reinvention and hence technical invention.


The Boston Molasses disaster of 1919 killed 21 and injured 150 when a storage tank burst unleashing 2.3 million gallons of molasses through the neighborhood. I would be lying if I said that my initial interest wasn’t driven by a somewhat bleak turn of humour. However, on further reading it turns out to have been a somewhat horrifying event. Horses and humans become stuck as the sticky mixture moved ( a wall of treacle essentially) through the streets at 35mph and with a height of between 2 and 4 meters. The pressure was such that buildings suffered structural damage and once stuck there was nothing that could be done to help anyone. Nasty.



Here’s a fantastic piece of good news. ABC in Australia has finally acknowledged something that many who follow the fight between the copyright pirates and the copyright industries have understood for some time. Whereas a certain percentage of copyright infringement is perpetrated by those who will simply never pay for content, a more significant proportion is driven by limitations in the distribution models that are still in place from the old pre-internet days. Artificial release deadlines, geo-shifted availabilities, refusal to provide streaming and an unreasonable approach to cost are all factors that lead some people to pirate when they might otherwise be happy to pay, people don’t like to wait when they don’t have to. ABC have announced that they will release the new series of Dr Who, just hours after it first screens in the UK, specifically to fight piracy! At last we have some sense.


This clip of Capuchin monkeys demonstrates that a sense of fair play is an instinctive part of a mammals social makeup. it explains much of modern economics, or rather the tension that is thriving in society, and also much of human history. The video is utterly clear, there can be no mistaking what the unhappy monkey thinks of the situation she finds herself in.


I recently discovered that Sweden, much like some corporations, turn over their national Twitter account to a different citizen every week. They are vetted by a panel, but once up and running their tweets are not subject to approval. They have had the occasional troll insulting all and sundry, but also some thoughtful applications such as this example, a Swedish / Iraqi national who has taken his chance to discuss the experience of nationalising into an alien culture. All tweets, by the way are expected to be in English. Imagine having such a comfortable approach to nationality that a whole nation is willing to tweet, via the national account, in a foreign language. Couldn’t happen here, I know that much.



For some reason (quite accidental I assure you) this is another story about treacle, although a little less macabre that the Boston Molasses disaster above. Canada has a Maple syrup lake, and someone has stolen $30million worth of it. Canada has been seeking to expand its international sales of maple syrup over the last few years (its big in Japan apparently), and in pursuit of that goal and because there are certain frailties in syrup production, they’ve been stockpiling it. The article doesn’t answer my biggest question, however, which is where the hell do you stash $30m of stolen treacle?


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