* Next month begins the Chinese Year of the Pig, but China Central Television, the communist state-run station has banned all images and spoken references to the animals in commercials - to avoid offending Muslims who consider the pigs unclean. Pigs symbolize prosperity and good fortune as well as fertility and virility. Many Chinese think they mean good luck.
According to the Wall Street Journal, "The pig ban is a significant shift for a government that seldom puts the interests of minority groups ahead of those of the broader population. China has more than 20 million Muslims, but they constitute less than 2% of the population."
There's no word if the ban will be extended to other media or marketing in the country.
* GAO has data which shows the percent or households in each income percentile holding credit-card debt. While the numbers are from 2004, they're still interesting:
Top 10 - 38.5%
Next 10 - 57.6%
Next 20 - 56.0%
Middle 20 - 55.1%
Next 20 - 42.9%
Bottom 20 - 28.8%
All - 46.2%
Most people with credit cards (53.7%) don't hold debt...And the Senate will be holding hearings on the issue in their Banking Committee.
* Prizes are now being offered for solutions to problems...Netflix is offering $1 million for an algorithm that does 10% better than its current system for predicting whether a customer will enjoy a movie. Go for it!
* Many people talk about freeing ourselves from dependency on foreign oil...the following list shows the average net exports to the U.S. for the 12 months ending October, 2006 (in thousands of barrels per day):
2,131 from Canada
1,498 from Mexico
1,449 from Saudi Arabia
1,395 from Venezuela
1,154 from Nigeria
628 from Algeria
551 from Iraq
532 from Angola
360 from Russia
322 from Virgin Islands
264 from United Kingdom
258 from Ecuador
197 from Norway
196 from Kuwait
181 from Columbia
157 from Brazil
119 from Aruba
114 from Trinidad/Tobago
112 from Netherlands
94 from Chad
81 from Libya
Surprises, for me, were that we get oil from the Virgin Islands, Aruba and Trinidad/Tobago...
* "There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government." – Milton Freidman
* "The energy agenda in Washington has been long dominated by oil interests, but in a reversal of political fortunes, these days it is Big Oil fighting to preserve its tax incentives and the ethanol industry that is adding new ones," The Washington Post reports. "President Bush may up the ante tonight in his State of the Union address, many analysts think, by setting new targets for ethanol use or encouraging automakers to shift to engines capable of handling E85, a fuel that is 85 percent ethanol."
In "Oil Subsidies in the Dock," Cato senior fellows Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren write: "The Democrats' somewhat dodgy anti-subsidy crusade... collapses into ashes with the proposed 'Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve' tacked on to the bill. In short, all fiscal gains to the Treasury associated with the above will be handed back out again to corporations like GE, British Petroleum, and you-name-the-industrial-conglomerate engaged in energy efficiency and renewable energy businesses. But the same arguments against handouts to 'Big Oil' can be as easily marshaled against handouts to Big or Little Fill-In-the-Blank. And with energy prices this high, there are ample incentives for investors to spend money on oil and gas production, renewable energy, energy conservation, or other energy exotic."
In "For Now, Gasoline Is Our Only Cheap Fuel," Taylor dispels the myth of ethanol as the answer to America's energy woes: "Ethanol made out of corn is probably the closest thing we have to a domestic alternative to gasoline. But no matter how nice 'growing our own fuel' might be in theory, it's uneconomically expensive in fact. Even after 30 years of lavish federal subsidy, ethanol (defined as fuel that is nine parts gasoline and one part ethanol) has only managed to capture a bit more than 3 percent of the automotive fuels market, and even industry participants concede if the subsidies and consumption mandates were removed today, the entire industry would collapse."
* “Countless studies have shown that children raised in a two-parent family are less likely to be raised in poverty, less likely to do drugs, less likely to be criminals later in life, and more likely to graduate from and do well in school. Married people tend to take care of themselves better and live longer. They typically eat better, have more settled lives with less stress and fewer risky habits, monitor each other’s health, and are quicker to seek medical attention for problems that arise. Married people, particularly those with children, seem to be motivated to save and invest more for the future and to live longer to enjoy their savings and their children’s future. Out-of-wedlock births increase the national incidence of: lowered health for newborns; retarded cognitive, and especially verbal, development of young children; lowered educational achievement; lowered job attainment as young adults; increased behavioral problems; lowered impulse control (aggression and sexual behavior); and increased anti-social development. It’s been said you need only do three things in this country to avoid poverty: finish high school, marry before having a child and marry after the age of 20. Among those who follow such advice, only 8% are poor, while 79% of those who do not are poor. The consequences of this trend are crime rates higher than they should be, graduation rates lower than they should be and a treasury depleted in the name of trying to solve both problems by throwing more money at them. No culture can remain healthy with illegitimacy rates like these. And it is simply impossible to understate the socially catastrophic consequences of America’s crisis of illegitimacy. The family is still the best department of health, education and welfare ever invented.” —Investor’s Business Daily
* The vision Ronald Reagan shared with the British parliament in 1982: "We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few, but the inalienable right of all human beings. It would be cultural condescension, or worse, to say that any people prefer dictatorship to democracy."