Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This week in the Economist

- This week's Economist has a brief bit on California's impending budget implosion. California's never been a great place for politicos to hone their craft-- direct democracy, for better or worse, prevented property taxation as being an annual source of revenue, and the political divide between the two parties has grown along with the fiscal problems. Yet spending continues as if someone is going to eventually figure it all out. The article notes that the state will likely need to begin issuing IOUs next month. A fiscal crisis shocked Ireland towards a vastly reduced public sector, and in the end it was for the best. Will we be saying the same thing about California in 20 years?

- I hadn't heard this, but Sanjay Gupta is rumored to be the next surgeon general. Which begs the question-- if we were to rank surgeons general on the basis of general popularity (in the objective sense), how much more well-known would Gupta be than #2? 10x? 400x? 5,000x? Koop comes to mind, but how well known was he prior to holding the position? I know it's basically a figurehead post, but honestly-- without clicking here, could you name more than 3 previous surgeons general? Do you know who the surgeon general is right now?

The bit also notes that Gupta went after Michael Moore's "Sicko," in Paul Krugman's estimation. Excellent! He's my favorite surgeon general yet and he doesn't even hold the position.

- Business jets are sybols of corporate greed (and evidently corporate greed is a bad thing), so the number for sale have jumped significantly. The magazine notes that prices rose, though, leading some to believe that companies are simply putting their jets up for prices well above any takers. The number of used planes sold could solve that problem; the number of planes available for sale rose dramatically at the end of November compared to a year earlier, but that could signal a supply response to increased demand as much as excess inventory. They note that firms are cancelling orders for new planes; maybe used models are being substituted in for new? Probalby not, but the numbers aren't conclusive.

- There's a longer piece on the resurgence of Rolls-Royce, via the production of jet engines. Skim it for what you find interesting-- I didn't know that jet engines were worth their weight in silver, nor that their interior can reach nearly 3000 degrees Farenheit, nor that lightning hits a commercial plane a couple of times an hour-- though I will add that if you ever have the opportunity to pick up a book on the history of the evolution of the jet engine, you won't be disappointed. I can't remember the few books I've read on the topic, but they were both superb, but for their story value but also the technology involved in furthering the device throughout the years.

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