Seedy Industry Structure: 1996-2008

From Philip H. Howard at Michigan State:

Consolidation has increased in the international seed industry in recent decades. The chart below depicts changes in ownership involving major seed companies and their subsidiaries, primarily occurring from 1996 to 2008. The largest firms are represented as circles, with size proportional to global commercial seed market share.

(click image to view version)

Extra Credit: Count how many sound like food companies.

The Best Laid Projections of Mice and GDP

What did we know about 2010 in 1970?  What do we know about 2050 GDP in 2010?

This is what Goldman Sachs thinks…

We know/assume/hope the future will be MORE.  But how much more and what does it mean?  Numbers go up, but how real is the growth?  In the end, they are just numbers and there’s always the chance they will add up to LESS.  The wheel of fortune spins after all.

Here’s a little background on these players historically…

Imagine what this chart will look like in 4016, when we will be firmly lumped with the rest of ancient history.

[Charts via The Atlantic and The Big Picture, respectively]

A Scenic Overlook for World Trade

The Observatory of Economic Complexity is a simple thing.  It’s a tool for exploring the world via countries and the products they trade.

It’s also a tool that has come a long way in a year.  Now you can embed an interactive chart of the United States’ imports anywhere…

Or go to their site and dig deeper into the specifics with bountiful options…

You can find out about who has and who wants everything from coarse animal hair to armoured fighting vehicles.  The only things missing are the whys and wherefores…

Bank of Coal (or Did Santa Give it to Them?)

No one is happy with Bank of America.  As their annual shareholder meeting draws to a close in Charlotte, NC today, four days of protests will be reaching their height while BofA’s stock continues to languish at lows it has not seen since the early 90’s.

There have been calls to stop doing business with Bank of America.  There’s a petition and song about breaking up the bank.  It was ranked #5 among America’s least reputable companies and named the second worst company in the country two years in a row.  They tried to raise debit card fees, backed down from the resulting outrage, and yet are already working more fees back in.  And now, as the possibility of their own credit rating getting a downgrade looms, their CEO’s pay has quadrupled

Where do you even begin cleaning up that mess?  An apology would be a start, but this one turned out to be a bit of economic fan fiction.  Meanwhile, Bank of America continues doing business, such as being the largest financier of the U.S. coal industry, which earned their stadium in Charlotte a recent rebranding campaign.

Aside from generating 42% of the electricity produced in the U.S. during 2011, there’s not much good to say about coal either.  If you’re tired of the usual laundry list of coal’s consequences, then maybe a report from Harvard pegging the best estimate of coal’s annual cost to the U.S. public at a third of a trillion, $75 billion in Appalachia alone, might be of interest.

The most alarming thought, however, is the simple combination of a desperate bank and a literally dirty business.  If no one is walking away from money on a good day, Bank of America will likely be the last to admit that it’s $4.3 billion coal business is as toxic as it’s purchase of Countrywide, a contender for the worst deal in history.  …  That’s why they’ll probably need a little help.

If you’d like to join in breaking the news to them, there’s a protest going down, a petition going around and a good chance you haven’t heard the end of this story.

[Stock Chart from Google Finance, Image from Rainforest Action Network via]

Banks Saying Sorry (or What You Won’t Find When You Open Up Your Letterbox Tomorrow)

What if this really was a letter from Bank of America’s CEO offering up a confession?  Go ahead, pretend…

It’s not the real McCoy of course.  Unknown person(s) have taken it upon themselves to write this letter for Bank of America and you can find out more about why at  The site has been set up to solicit ideas and encourage creativity in reimagining your Bank of America, including a bank ad meme generator, for which Ape Con Myth wrote a few entries.  Click through to share your favorite!

In situations like this, it’s important to start out light.

Ease into your subject.  What is the point of a bank in the first place?

If a bank is a business, then should banking be a mutually beneficial arrangement?

Bank of America was a presumptuous name from the start.  General Bank might have been a more appropriate choice, but they wanted the whole enchilada.  The question is, was it a self-fulfilling prophecy that they turned out to be as bad with their money as us?

[Your Bank of America via Forbes] [Related: Hungry, Hungry Hippos (or Banking Mergers 1990-2009]

Comfortably Numb? (or The Mere Fact That You Call It COMFCOMF Tells Me You’re Not Ready)

Every week 250 lucky American consumers are quizzed on their thoughts about the economy, the “buying climate” and their own personal finances.  The result is called the Bloomberg US Weekly Consumer Comfort Index, or COMFCOMF if you’re sitting at a Bloomberg terminal, and for the last five years the response has indicated consistent discomfort.

(click for interactive chart)

What’s behind the recent jump in sentiment?  We don’t know either but if you find out put it in the comments.

Non-Profit People

Economics Devision
Internal Memo
April 6, 2012

Re: Non-Profit People

If it’s okay for corporations to be called people, should it follow that people be allowed to seek non-profit status?

Profit-making has such a narrow band of activity associated with it that you couldn’t expect it to cover the entire range of productive human activity.  Because whose definition of “productive” are we going to use?  Is manufacturing Doritos productive?

There are over 1.5 million non-profits in the United States alone attempting to fill in the blanks and if you accept that artists are doing the same thing in a less tangible way you can add 2 more million to that number, not to mention all the volunteers and caregivers out there.

Too bad it’s the same problem.  Non-profits need money too.  There’s no way out, even if you’re not really playing the game.

How do we get out?

The Best of the America’s Worst

The voting has ended over at The Consumerist and Electronic Arts has won the title of Worst Company in America for 2012.

Bank of America made it to the final match-up for a second year in a row, but failed to worst EA this year as it did with BP in 2011.  The bracket brought together 32 of the least admired companies America has to offer and you can click on the image for the full bracket and blow-by-blow accounts of this year’s battle.

If you’d like to explore the history of the contest, here’s an archive of all the tournaments going back to The Consumerist’s start:

WCIA 2011BP beats Bank of America [bracket]
WCIA 2010Comcast beats Ticketmaster [bracket]
WCIA 2009AIG beats Comcast [bracket] WCIA 2008Countrywide Home Loans beats Comcast [bracket]
WCIA 2007RIAA beats Halliburton [bracket]
WCIA 2006Halliburton beats ChoicePoint [bracket]

Notice all the repeats.  Apparently “worst” doesn’t mean they won’t be around next year.  But where else are you going to take your demand when the largest companies control almost all of the supply?

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