Felix Salmon

How volatility hits pension plans

Nanea Kalani of Honolulu Civil Beat has obtained non-public performance numbers for the Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System, and they’re not pretty at all: in the three months to September 30, the fund managed to lose $1.4 billion, or 11.2% of its value.

A bipartisan proposal for more government spending

Now here’s a pair of strange bedfellows: Robert Frank and PJ O’Rourke. They have a bipartisan op-ed in USA Today making the obvious and compelling case for infrastructure investment. Not grand schemes like new high-speed rail lines, but just basic maintenance on which the country has fallen massively behind:

Holding aggregators to journalistic standards

Now I’ve got my rant off my chest, let me try to add a bigger-picture point to the noise surrounding Romeneskogate. The unanimous reaction to Julie Moos’s ridiculous piece has held little back: Hamilton Nolan called it “perhaps the most bullshit nonexistent plagiarism case in the annals of online journalism”, while Rem Rieder called her “portentous, not to say sanctimonious” and said that Romenesko “doesn’t deserve to be treated this way”.

Counterparties

“The euro zone is in a death spiral.” — The Economist

The Fed should buy every single Euro bond owned by a U.S. bank. Now. — Brad DeLong

America isn’t crowdsourcing its policies

Anil Dash, of Expert Labs, is very excited about the latest government action on student loans, because he’s convinced that it was driven by the White House petition site he helped to set up.

Counterparties

Some of the links today from Counterparties.com:

Why the ECB couldn’t save Italy even if it wanted to — WSJ

Echoes of pre-crash Japan in China today — Chovanec

The huge Chinese loan-sharking industry has lead to suicides and disappearances — Bloomberg

Market inefficiency of the day, Maple syrup edition

Maple syrup is made by boiling down the sap of maple trees. Early in the season, there’s lots of sugar in the sap and it only takes 20 or 30 gallons of sap to generate a gallon of syrup. Because it hasn’t been boiled down very much, that syrup lacks intensity. Later on in the season, however, there’s less sugar in the sap and it can take as much as 60 gallons of sap to generate a gallon of syrup. And that syrup is much darker and more flavorful.

The euro breakup thrill ride begins

It’s important not to read too much into today’s mid-afternoon stock-market wobble. But in the wake of the news that Germany and France have been talking for months about creating a “core” euro zone with real fiscal union, markets sure as hell didn’t go up. And one anonymous diplomat gave a succinct explanation of why:

Globalization datapoint of the day: Organic isn’t locavore

Organic World has a series of charts about organic agriculture, from which these two stand out: