Thursday, November 18, 2010

Undervalued currency explained in Big Macs

Big Mac alert!

HERE at HQ, the alarms that sound whenever the price of a Big Mac rises anywhere in the world have been clanging away this morning:

More inflation warnings on Wednesday in China, this time from a highly symbolic source. The price of a Big Mac has risen from Rmb14 to Rmb15 at the branch of McDonald’s around the corner from the FT’s Beijing bureau - part of an across-the-board price hike that the US fast food chain blamed on rising costs of ingredients - even if that is still less than two-thirds of the price of a Big Mac in the US.

Why has the price of a Big Mac gone up? Why, indeed, are many prices in China going up? You can see the main reason at right. According to our latest Big Mac index, the RMB is undervalued by 40%:

A weak currency, despite its appeal to exporters and politicians, is no free lunch. But it can provide a cheap one. In China, for example, a McDonald’s Big Mac costs just 14.5 yuan on average in Beijing and Shenzhen, the equivalent of $2.18 at market exchange rates. In America, in contrast, the same burger averages $3.71.
That makes China’s yuan one of the most undervalued currencies in the Big Mac index...The index is based on the idea of purchasing-power parity, which says that a currency’s price should reflect the amount of goods and services it can buy. Since 14.5 yuan can buy as much burger as $3.71, a yuan should be worth $0.26 on the foreign-exchange market. In fact, it costs just $0.15, suggesting that it is undervalued by about 40%.

That is a long way up

Why Is Tom Cruise Sitting On Top of the World's Tallest Building?

Why Is Tom Cruise Sitting On Top of the World's Tallest Building?

The photographer—Gerald Donovan—told us all the details:

He was up there for about an hour. Chopper circled several times very close. He's the only one that you can see, but on a video I have, you can see that there were other people up there but hiding down the spire. Lots and lots of filming was happening—both from the chopper and from below (check out the guy in the cradle hanging lower down the Burj on the left hand side).

They were filming a 360 degree pan of him. My guess is that it's for promo, and maybe not for the film itself (in all the swinging shots he's wearing 3/4 length trousers. Here he's wearing jeans I think).

How did he get there?

1. He first took elevator BS1: Concourse (4.0 m.) to level 138 (508.2 m.)
2. Then got into elevator BS3: Level 138 to level 160 (621.3 m.)
3. From there, he got elevator BS4: Level 160 to section 18B (646.9 m.) You can also take the steep stairs/landings from 160 to 18B.
4. After that, he climbed the ladder from section 18B to section 19 (653.3 m.)
5. Went from section 19 to section 21 (691.7 m.) taking the steep stairs/landings.
6. Climbed the ladder inside the pinnacle pipe: Section 21 to top platform (826.6 m.)

Yes, that's 443 feet climbing up a ladder at the end. Seems like quite a trip. Cruise has been filming Mission Impossible 4 in Dubai during the last few weeks.

Wicked. Funny. Nasty...From Paris

Gotta love Ann Coulter.  She's my idea of the perfect journalist.  Ann consistently brings her wicked funny-nasty-snarkyness to her Thursday column. Couple her snark with her great smoky voice and throaty laugh--it's perfection.

She's cool.

She's hot.

She's the whole package.

History of the TSA or why to buy a rubber glove factory.

After the 9/11 attacks, when 19 Muslim terrorists – 15 from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates and one each from Egypt and Lebanon, 14 with “al” in their names – took over commercial aircraft with box-cutters, the government banned sharp objects from planes.

Airport security began confiscating little old ladies’ knitting needles and breaking the mouse-sized nail files off of passengers’ nail clippers. Surprisingly, no decrease in the number of hijacking attempts by little old ladies and manicurists was noted.

After another Muslim terrorist, Richard Reid, aka Tariq Raja, aka Abdel Rahim, aka Abdul Raheem, aka Abu Ibrahim, aka Sammy Cohen (which was only his eHarmony alias), tried to blow up a commercial aircraft with explosive-laden sneakers, the government prohibited more than three ounces of liquid from being carried on airplanes.

All passengers were required to take off their shoes for special security screening, which did not thwart a single terrorist attack, but made airport security checkpoints a lot smellier.

After Muslim terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria tried to detonate explosive material in his underwear over Detroit last Christmas, the government began requiring nude body scans at airports.

The machines, which cannot detect chemicals or plastic, would not have caught the diaper bomber. So, again, no hijackers were stopped, but being able to see passengers in the nude boosted the morale of airport security personnel by 22 percent.

After explosives were inserted in two ink cartridges and placed on a plane headed to the United States from the Muslim nation of Yemen, the government banned printer cartridges from all domestic flights, resulting in no improvement in airport security, while requiring ink cartridges who traveled to take Amtrak.

So when the next Muslim terrorist, probably named Abdul Ahmed al Shehri, places explosives in his anal cavity, what is the government going to require then? (If you’re looking for a good investment opportunity, might I suggest rubber gloves?)

Ann Coulter

A Mathmatical Solution...From Paris

Speaking of airport screening (and continuing from my post last evening) in my opinion, the solution to airport security rests in the safety of an algorithm.  We are making things much more complicated than we should.

An algorithm employs a finite sequence of steps; "if this box is checked yes, than proceed to that box."

In example, "If your flight originates in Yemen, and you are a young man between the ages of 15 and 30, you win the WHOLE works!  Pat-down, grope down, X-ray, chemical testing, biometric screening, yada, yada, yada.

Speaking of biometric testing, why don't we do more of that?  Why are we obsessed with groping toddlers and nuns?  Why don't we narrow our focus to those who would carry the highest probability of causing harm?  And yes, I appreciate our loyal reader's suggestion that a terrorist could pose as a nun, however, don't you think an algorithm of likelihood makes more sense?



O and the Dems retreat (see below) - Texas advances.

America's Third War: Texas Strikes Back

"I never thought that we'd be in this paramilitary type of engagement. It's a war on the border," said Captain Stacy Holland with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Holland leads a fleet of 16 state-of-the-art helicopters that make up the aviation assets used by the Texas DPS to fight Mexican drug cartels.

In recent years, the cartels have become bolder and more ruthless.

They cross the border with AK-47s on their backs, wearing military camouflage. They recruit in prisons and schools on the American side. Spotters sit in duck blinds along the Rio Grande and call out the positions of the U.S. Border Patrol.

To combat the cartels, the Texas Department of Public Safety is launching a counterinsurgency.


‘If Hillary Gave Up One of Her Balls and Gave It to Obama, He'd Have Two'

  • Speaking to reporters Thursday, Democratic strategist James Carville dropped this one-liner: "If Hillary gave up one of her balls and gave it to Obama, he’d have two."

  • Carville made his remarks at a breakfast discussion hosted by the Christian Science Monitor at Washington, D.C.'s St. Regis Hotel.

    It is shaped like a sword

    Iran Unveils Islamic Necktie

    The tie, which is shaped like the sword of Imam Ali (cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad who is considered by Shi'a as his rightful successor) and decorated with an Islamic hadith

    It is close to a free fire zone in places now. This will only encourage the bad guys.

    Obama Administration Plans to Pull Back National Guard From Much of the Border

    The Obama Administration plans to withdraw National Guard troops from the Texas, New Mexico and California borders by the end February under a new Southwest security plan, even as turmoil in Mexican border cities grows, according to documents obtained by The Washington Examiner.

    Political Cartoon by Jerry Holbert


    Human brain has more switches than all computers on Earth.

    Then again, the adults are not fully in charge.

    House Dems Reject GOP Proposal to Defund NPR...

    The advantage of Adults. Sooner or latter we are going to have pain. Usually better to get it over with.

    House Dems want $12 billion more in jobless benefits...
    GOP blocks bill...

    This is bad for a dem.

    NEWSWEEK cover portrays Obama as Hindu god Shiva...

    There is no wage discrimination by sex

    "The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

    Carpe Diem blog: "Single, Childless Women Now Earn MORE Than Men: Do We Really Need MORE Federal Legislation?" (via News Alert):

    In 2009, the Consad Research Corporation conducted a comprehensive study on the gender wage gap for the Department of Labor, and produced a 95-page report titled “An Analysis of the Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women” ....
    The study concludes that “the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

    Holder should be fired.

    Time For Eric Holder To Go. “The failure of Holder’s DoJ to win anything more than a single conspiracy count against Ghailani as a result of using a process designed for domestic criminals than wartime enemies shows that the critics had it right all along. It also shows that both Obama and Holder have been proven spectacularly wrong, since a man who confessed to the murder of over two hundred people will now face no more than 20 years

    From Eric

    Why I Secretly Wish I Were Dutch

    According to a recent DoubleX article on Slate, Dutch women have cracked the work-life-balance code. They are happier, well-adjusted human beings who "work half days, meet their friends for coffee at 2 p.m., and pity their male colleagues who are stuck in the office all day."
    They would pity me, too. Two weeks ago, I started a full-time job after three years of work-from-home freelancing. (I have chronic grass-is-always-greener syndrome.) They would most certainly pity me as I worked up a sweat speed-walking home from the subway in order to capture every last remaining minute of the day with my 3-year-old and husband.
    Do the Dutch possess the answer? Can women really have it all, or are we attempting the impossible, as these underemployed European women prove?
    That's the deal here in America.
    If you want a steady paycheck, you work. Leaving at 5 p.m. is pretty much off the table, too. But these ladies in the Netherlands are leaving long before the clock strikes five. They are a culture of part-timers. According to DoubleX, "Though the Netherlands is consistently ranked in the top five countries for women, less than 10 percent of women here are employed full-time."

    LA Auto Show


    Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept

    Cadillac sales may be up, but the premium automaker could be planning a little downsizing if the Urban Luxury Concept is any indication. The chiseled four-seat coupe is about the size of a Chevy Aveo subcompact, but features scissor-style doors and an upscale interior worthy of the Cadillac crest. Power comes from a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine with a dual-clutch transmission and electric assist that the company says is good for 56 mpg in the city and 65 mpg on the highway.

    2012 Fiat 500

    Thanks to its retro-cute looks, the Fiat 500 may be the most recognizable car not sold in America. But that changes now. After years of anticipation, the Italian automaker took the wraps off of the slightly-modified U.S. version of the subcompact, which goes on sale in a few weeks with a starting price of just $15,500. Alterations to make it better suited to the American market include a stronger body for safety, more powerful climate control, and a larger gas tank for getting across this big country of ours.

    2011 Porsche Cayman R

    Porsche trimmed 121 pounds off of its Cayman coupe by dropping a few non-essential items like air conditioning and the stereo, while adding things like aluminum door panels and carbon fiber seats to create the 2011 Cayman R, the most track-focused version of the mid-engine two-seater yet. A 330 horsepower six-cylinder engine and lower, stiffer suspension help put your $66,300 to good use.


    Jaguar C-X75 Concept

    Jaguar's futuristic coupe was previously unveiled at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, but it's so gorgeous that they could unveil it every day and no one would complain. Propelled by a 195 hp electric motor at each wheel, the battery-powered supercar can travel for 68 zero-emissions miles before two mid-mounted gas-fueled micro turbines kick in to generate electricity, pushing its range to over 550 miles and top speed to 205 mph.

    Doing what works will never go forward with this Admin.

    KT McFarland: Forget Body Scans and Pat Downs -- Let's Get Busy Profiling

    Why don't we start profiling for terrorists and stop trying to put everyone from toddlers to granny through the same security procedures at airports? We're wasting money, time and the people's patience in an effort to be politically correct. In the end, it's not keeping us any safer; if anything it's making us less safe since it's diverting resources that could otherwise be used on better intelligence gathering, or developing screening devices for cargo on commercial and civilian aircraft, or checking containers before they enter U.S. ports.

    Ultimately, though, the debate over whether to use the new scanners or not isn't a choice between privacy and security - because we're not getting security where we need it - we're reacting to the last type of terrorist threat, not the current one or the next one.

    Supposedly, these body scanners may, or may not(!) prevent the next underwear bomber, but again, let's use some common sense - Al Qaeda has moved on! They're putting bombs in UPS packages that make their way from cargo planes to passenger planes. They're plotting to place bombs inside bodies - the human bodies of suicide bombers, or of corpses or even animals - which will then be detonated remotely once in plane is in flight. Full body scanners are useless against those threats!


    Next Step: The War on Irish Coffee

    The FDA has informed four companies that caffeine is an “unsafe food additive” when mixed with alcohol. In this particular case, the drinks being affected are cans of carbonated, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks… but if you’re wondering what’s the scientific difference between that and a hand-made mixture of coffee, whiskey and whipped cream, the answer’s simple: there isn’t one. This is strictly ‘political’… or more accurately, ‘pandering.’  And if you’re wondering what’s stopping the government from deciding that bars shouldn’t serve Irish or Jamaican coffee - or, God help us, Red Bull and vodka, which is apparently the big club drink now - the answer’s even simpler: nothing.

    Antimatter Trapped For the First Time

    Get ready for that warp drive spaceship, because we are now one step closer to it. After creating antihydrogen in their antiproton decelerator, scientists at CERN have been able to trap antimatter for the first time in history.

    The Texas Era


    In the future, historians may likely mark the 2010 midterm elections as the end of the California era and the beginning of the Texas one. In one stunning stroke, amid a national conservative tide, California voters essentially ratified a political and regulatory regime that has left much of the state unemployed and many others looking for the exits.

    California has drifted far away from the place that John Gunther described in 1946 as “the most spectacular and most diversified American state … so ripe, golden.” Instead of a role model, California has become a cautionary tale of mismanagement of what by all rights should be the country’s most prosperous big state. Its poverty rate is at least two points above the national average; its unemployment rate nearly three points above the national average. . . .

    Texas’ trajectory, however, looks quite the opposite. California was recently ranked by Chief Executive magazine as having the worst business climate in the nation, while Texas’ was considered the best. Both Democrats and Republicans in the Lone State State generally embrace the gospel of economic growth and limited public sector expenditure.

    TSA has not worked, cost too much, is way too invasive and they steal.

    No Union For Transportation Security Workers. “Despite years of imposing increasingly invasive new security procedures, the TSA has yet to catch one terrorist. By contrast, the Washington Post reported in May that ‘at least 23′ TSA agents have been fired since 2007 for stealing from passengers.”

    TSA does not perform psychological evaluations on officers. “To become a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent fully empowered to aggressively pat down passengers — even inside passengers’ underwear — applicants need not pass any psychological testing despite having full federal backing.”

    This is a senior Dem Senator. They would walk over the Constitution to be reelected.

    Rockefeller: FCC Should Take FOXNEWS, MSNBC Off Airwaves...

    This would be a crime unless you are a federal employee


     Dem Sen: Crotch gropes just 'love pats'...

    WHO WANTS IT: TSA Hit With Lawsuits As Revolt Explodes...
    Airport staff 'exposed woman's breasts, laughed'...
    COULTER: 'Please have your genitalia out and ready to be fondled'...
    Man arrested after punching screener in Indy...
    DA in CA vows to prosecute overly touchy...