Sunday, November 30, 2008
Tom Friedman starts to whistle another tune?
Bush was right in idea, wrong in execution?
Geopolitics do count?
Op-Ed Columnist - Obama’s Iraq Inheritance - NYTimes.com:
"I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Iraq to have relations with Israel anytime soon, but the fact that it may be developing an independent judiciary is good news. It’s a reminder of the most important reason for the Iraq war: to try to collaborate with Iraqis to build progressive politics and rule of law in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, a region that stands out for its lack of consensual politics and independent judiciaries. And it’s a reminder that a decent outcome may still be possible in Iraq, especially now that the Parliament has endorsed the U.S.-Iraqi plan for a 2011 withdrawal of American troops.
If Iraq can keep improving — still uncertain — and become a place where Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites can write their own social contract and live together with a modicum of stability, it could one day become a strategic asset for the United States in the post-9/11 effort to promote different politics in the Arab-Muslim world."
Moore's law doesn't apply here, or why SiValley isn't Detroit.
Only the Rich Can Afford It. Should Taxpayers Back It? - NYTimes.com:
"Tesla says it cannot move forward on plans to bring out a second-generation car, a less expensive sedan seating five, without federal funds. It’s also counting on rapid improvements in the core component of its powertrain — a thousand-pound pack of lithium-ion batteries — but such improvements don’t happen at the pace Tesla needs them to happen.
Tesla’s backers in Silicon Valley can be forgiven for hoping for a miraculous technical breakthrough, because Moore’s Law makes miracles appear in the Valley every day: costs drop by half every two years, again and again and again. The law is actually a rule of thumb, not a scientific law, and is based on the recurring doubling of transistors placed on an integrated circuit.
Unfortunately for Tesla, batteries are based on chemistry and have nothing to do with Moore’s Law. Lawrence H. Dubois, chief technology officer at ATMI, a semiconductor industry supplier, said, “With batteries, you can’t just squeeze more energy into a smaller and smaller space the way you can squeeze more transistors.”
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
A Rough Ride in Collectible Cars - WSJ.com:
"Or maybe they just ran out of money. Amid the broad economic deterioration of recent months, spending on extravagances like antique cars has slowed. In many cases, people can no longer afford even to keep their collections, says David Gooding, president of Gooding & Co., a Los Angeles car auction house.
In the past year, many collectors who used home-equity loans or other credit to buy the vintage convertible or muscle car of their dreams have had to sell as the housing and credit markets have declined. The same factors have kept new collectors from entering the market. As a result, many staple collector cars like 1957 Chevrolets, 1940 Fords and 1960s Pontiac GTOs are selling for half what they commanded two or three years ago."
Monday, November 24, 2008
Glen Arbor is always expensive (one station) but at $1.98 I could stand it
Best guess was $1.75 in Traverse City
Saw $1.66 on way, in Cadillac
Got to Lansing, and $1.58
Heading into a holiday week
Lansing peaked at $4.25 last July
“We put all our chips on a poker hand called durable goods manufacturing, particularly the autos,” said Charles L. Ballard, a professor of economics at Michigan State University. “In the middle of the 20th century, every time we turned over the hand it was four aces, a straight flush. If you have an undiversified economy based on a sector that’s booming, great.”
That is not the case anymore."
"Meredith Whitney, who in turn called out Citi as a failing model"
This morning :
U.S. Approves Plan to Help Citigroup Weather Losses - NYTimes.com:
"Citigroup’s shares have been hit particularly hard. A year ago they were trading at about $30; on Friday they closed at $3.77."
Oh yeah - and dividend goes from 16cents annually to 4cents
for the next 3 years
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Long piece but the quote below gives insight to street "insight"
I'd been looking for copy of comments by John Gutreund on how work on the street isn't that noble - not serious like medicine or teaching. Fun, but not serious ...
The End of Wall Street's Boom - Portfolio.com:
"He was hired as a junior equity analyst, a helpmate who didn’t actually offer his opinions. That changed in December 1991, less than a year into his new job, when a subprime mortgage lender called Ames Financial went public and no one at Oppenheimer particularly cared to express an opinion about it. One of Oppenheimer’s investment bankers stomped around the research department looking for anyone who knew anything about the mortgage business. Recalls Eisman: “I’m a junior analyst and just trying to figure out which end is up, but I told him that as a lawyer I’d worked on a deal for the Money Store.” He was promptly appointed the lead analyst for Ames Financial. “What I didn’t tell him was that my job had been to proofread the documents and that I hadn’t understood a word of the fucking things.”"
The above bit was about Steve Eisman, who coached Meredith Whitney, who in turn called out Citi as a failing model (read the whole thing... it's gory)
And this is why I try to invest in real companies that do real things, provide real services or better yet, make real goods, that real people want and need.
Then spotted Sir Bob Gledof: (Mickey Mouse?)
Lexus : The hybrid debate blog : Could hybrids help reduce our thirst for oil?:
"UK politics would change significantly if hybrids were able to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and gas. Our foreign policy, in particular, would be completely different. After all, who's interested in Saudi Arabia or Libya without the oil? And would we still be so involved in Iraq? No.
It's a resources-based economy we live in, and our primary reason for getting involved in the Middle East is to get hold of its resources. We may still want to go there on holiday, of course, but our political relationship with the region would change utterly. Perhaps the
only thing that wouldn't change there, as a result of lower Western oil-dependency, is the Israel/Palestine situation.
But the reality is that we need to do much more than change the type of car we drive to make an impact on climate change. In the UK, we'll soon have to scramble for more nuclear power. On this issue, I don't care what anyone says: we're going to go with it, big-time. We may mess around with wind and waves and other renewable energy sources, trying to make them sustainable, but they're not. They're Mickey Mouse."
Bottom line - Russia is history, not the future.
Put it real simply - Russians die early.
Layer on collapsing oil prices (how's your budget Mr. Putin?) and the threat shrinks.
Undefensible borders, declining population, struggles over power (aka "mafia") and they can be a nuisance but not a real threat.
Op-Ed Contributor - Rising Ambitions, Sinking Population - NYTimes.com:
"To international audiences transfixed by Moscow’s military swaggering in Georgia or dazzled by the newfound oil wealth of the Russian petro-state and its billionaires, this notion of an unstoppable Russian ascent may seem plausible, even compelling. To anyone who pays attention to population trends, however, it is absurd.
Russia is in the midst of a genuine demographic disaster from which its rulers have no obvious exit strategy. Although the Russia’s fortunes (and the Kremlin’s ambitions) have waxed on a decade of windfall profits from oil and gas, the human foundations of the Russian nation — the ultimate sources of the country’s wealth and power — are in increasingly parlous straits."
Russia: U.N. Warning on Population - New York Times:
Article Tools Sponsored By
Published: April 29, 2008
Russia is doing too little to reverse a critical decline in its population driven by increasing alcohol abuse, poor diet and social change, a United Nations report said. Karl Kulessa, the United Nations Population Fund’s chief in Russia, said Russia’s population could fall to 100 million, from 142 million, in 40 to 50 years. Russia lost 400,000 to 650,000 people a year from 1992 to 2006. Life expectancy for men among the population of 142 million was 55 years in the 1990s, nearly 20 years less than in Western Europe. “There is no reason to assume that Russia can recover from the crisis and stabilize its population,” the report said. “The authors of this publication do not share the optimism of government officials who claim that Russia will succeed in halting the population decline by 2015 and increase the population to 145 million by 2025.”"
Saturday, November 22, 2008
So many quips - like "hard up for cash..."
GM Spends $17 Million Per Year on Viagra:
"GM provides health care for 1.1 million employees, retirees nd dependents and is the world’s largest private purchaser of Viagra....Given the large number of aging autoworkers in the U.S., the industrys Viagra tab and bill for other erectile dysfunction drugs is certain to continue rising. Neither Ford nor Chrysler will disclose the amount spent on erectile dysfunction drugs."
Friday, November 21, 2008
The decline of the Republican Party | Ship of fools
"Political parties die from the head down"
Republicanism’s anti-intellectual turn is devastating for its future. The party’s electoral success from 1980 onwards was driven by its ability to link brains with brawn. The conservative intelligentsia not only helped to craft a message that resonated with working-class Democrats, a message that emphasised entrepreneurialism, law and order, and American pride. It also provided the party with a sweeping policy agenda. The party’s loss of brains leaves it rudderless, without a compelling agenda.
...the degeneracy of the conservative intelligentsia itself, a modern-day version of the 1970s liberals it arose to do battle with: trapped in an ideological cocoon, defined by its outer fringes, ruled by dynasties and incapable of adjusting to a changed world. The movement has little to say about today’s pressing problems, such as global warming and the debacle in Iraq, and expends too much of its energy on xenophobia, homophobia and opposing stem-cell research.
The piece above is link-able to th Economist
Not sure if WSJournal will keep the following open, so I'm posting, in full, copcopyrighted material.
The Perils of 'Populist Chic' - WSJ.com: "The Perils of 'Populist Chic'
What the rise of Sarah Palin and populism means for the conservative intellectual tradition."
Finita la commedia. Many things ended on Tuesday evening when Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States, and depending on how you voted you are either celebrating or mourning this weekend. But no matter what our political affiliations, we should all -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- be toasting the return of Governor Sarah Palin to Juneau, Alaska.
The Palin farce is already the stuff of legend. For a generation at least it is sure to keep presidential historians and late-night comedians in gainful employment, which is no small thing. But it would be a pity if laughter drowned out serious reflection about this bizarre episode. As Jane Mayer reported recently in the New Yorker ("The Insiders," Oct. 27, 2008), John McCain's choice was not a fluke, or a senior moment, or an act of desperation. It was the result of a long campaign by influential conservative intellectuals to find a young, populist leader to whom they might hitch their wagons in the future.
And not just any intellectuals. It was the editors of National Review and the Weekly Standard, magazines that present themselves as heirs to the sophisticated conservatism of William F. Buckley and the bookish seriousness of the New York neoconservatives. After the campaign for Sarah Palin, those intellectual traditions may now be pronounced officially dead.
What a strange turn of events. For the past 40 years American conservatism has been politically ascendant, in no small part because it was also intellectually ascendant. In 1955 sociologist Daniel Bell could publish a collection of essays on "The New American Right" that treated it as a deeply anti-intellectual force, a view echoed a few years later in Richard Hofstadter's influential "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life" (1963).
But over the next decade and a half all that changed. Magazines like the Public Interest and Commentary became required reading for anyone seriously concerned about domestic and foreign affairs; conservative research institutes sprang up in Washington and on college campuses, giving a fresh perspective on public policy. Buckley, Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Peter Berger, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Norman Podhoretz -- agree or disagree with their views, these were people one had to take seriously.
Coming of age politically in the grim '70s, when liberalism seemed utterly exhausted, I still remember the thrill of coming upon their writings for the first time. I discovered the Public Interest the same week that Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and its pages offered shelter from the storm -- from the mobs on the street, the radical posing of my professors and fellow students, the cluelessness of limousine liberals, the whole mad circus of post-'60s politics. Conservative politics mattered less to me than the sober comportment of conservative intellectuals at that time; I admired their maturity and seriousness, their historical perspective, their sense of proportion. In a country susceptible to political hucksters and demagogues, they studied the passions of democratic life without succumbing to them. They were unapologetic elites, but elites who loved democracy and wanted to help it.
So what happened? How, 30 years later, could younger conservative intellectuals promote a candidate like Sarah Palin, whose ignorance, provinciality and populist demagoguery represent everything older conservative thinkers once stood against? It's a sad tale that began in the '80s, when leading conservatives frustrated with the left-leaning press and university establishment began to speak of an "adversary culture of intellectuals." It was a phrase borrowed from the great literary critic Lionel Trilling, who used it to describe the disquiet at the heart of liberal societies. Now the idea was taken up and distorted by angry conservatives who saw adversaries everywhere and decided to cast their lot with "ordinary Americans" whom they hardly knew. In 1976 Irving Kristol publicly worried that "populist paranoia" was "subverting the very institutions and authorities that the democratic republic laboriously creates for the purpose of orderly self-government." But by the mid-'80s, he was telling readers of this newspaper that the "common sense" of ordinary Americans on matters like crime and education had been betrayed by "our disoriented elites," which is why "so many people -- and I include myself among them -- who would ordinarily worry about a populist upsurge find themselves so sympathetic to this new populism."
The die was cast. Over the next 25 years there grew up a new generation of conservative writers who cultivated none of their elders' intellectual virtues -- indeed, who saw themselves as counter-intellectuals. Most are well-educated and many have attended Ivy League universities; in fact, one of the masterminds of the Palin nomination was once a Harvard professor. But their function within the conservative movement is no longer to educate and ennoble a populist political tendency, it is to defend that tendency against the supposedly monolithic and uniformly hostile educated classes. They mock the advice of Nobel Prize-winning economists and praise the financial acumen of plumbers and builders. They ridicule ambassadors and diplomats while promoting jingoistic journalists who have never lived abroad and speak no foreign languages. And with the rise of shock radio and television, they have found a large, popular audience that eagerly absorbs their contempt for intellectual elites. They hoped to shape that audience, but the truth is that their audience has now shaped them.
Back in the '70s, conservative intellectuals loved to talk about "radical chic," the well-known tendency of educated, often wealthy liberals to project their political fantasies onto brutal revolutionaries and street thugs, and romanticize their "struggles." But "populist chic" is just the inversion of "radical chic," and is no less absurd, comical or ominous. Traditional conservatives were always suspicious of populism, and they were right to be. They saw elites as a fact of political life, even of democratic life. What matters in democracy is that those elites acquire their positions through talent and experience, and that they be educated to serve the public good. But it also matters that they own up to their elite status and defend the need for elites. They must be friends of democracy while protecting it, and themselves, from the leveling and vulgarization all democracy tends toward.
Writing recently in the New York Times, David Brooks noted correctly (if belatedly) that conservatives' "disdain for liberal intellectuals" had slipped into "disdain for the educated class as a whole," and worried that the Republican Party was alienating educated voters. I couldn't care less about the future of the Republican Party, but I do care about the quality of political thinking and judgment in the country as a whole. There was a time when conservative intellectuals raised the level of American public debate and helped to keep it sober. Those days are gone. As for political judgment, the promotion of Sarah Palin as a possible world leader speaks for itself. The Republican Party and the political right will survive, but the conservative intellectual tradition is already dead. And all of us, even liberals like myself, are poorer for it.
Mark Lilla is a professor of humanities at Columbia University and a former editor of the Public Interest.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Got back from Fritz's funeral, and headed to
Michigan's Future: Energy, Economy, Environment
2.5 Day event - I skipped Sunday
Richard Heinberg was keynote speaker and panelist.
While I don't buy into all the "Peak Oil" he has some interesting perspectives
Esp. that it isn't the end of oil, just changing cost structure(s)
On the other end of the spectrum (but trying to play off the topic) we had Ellen Brown, with Web of Debt - THE COLLAPSE OF A 300 YEAR PONZI SCHEME: THE REAL DEBATE IS CRONY SOCIALISM OR FINANCIAL SOVEREIGNTY:
In between, good stuff on Wind (same plant as Boone Pickens, place in Lake Michigan, could generate 50% more electricity) and Nukes (head of DTE on why we have to build new).
Some discussion of new law on "net metering" to the advantage of "alternative" sources of electricity
Side topics on local sourcing, from energy to food, and such topics as permaculture.
Monday, November 17, 2008
GSE's are OK ( Fanny Mae/Freddie Mac)
What They Said About Fan and Fred - WSJ.com: "House Financial Services Committee hearing, Sept. 25, 2003:
Rep. Frank: I do think I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness that we have in OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] and OTS [Office of Thrift Supervision]. I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing."
Not all the blame falls on crooks on Wall St.
More: and I love the Maxine Waters bit ...
House Financial Services Committee hearing, Sept. 10, 2003:
Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.): I worry, frankly, that there's a tension here. The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see. I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disaster scenarios. . . .
Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), speaking to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez:
Secretary Martinez, if it ain't broke, why do you want to fix it? Have the GSEs [government-sponsored enterprises] ever missed their housing goals?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Nah, then we might not have the sorts of idiots we usually get for Congress, left and right.
"... according to polls, Americans are approximately as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution, and when one-fifth of Americans believe that the sun orbits the Earth."
Op-Ed Columnist - Obama and the War on Brains - NYTimes.com:
Monday, November 10, 2008
In the long run, maybe for the good, at least for the west.
The Chinese demand for raw materials were skewing markets as was the need to put Asian savings to work ... one of the many triggers of the credit market blow up (too much savings looking for places to invest).
Chinese Economy Is Showing Signs of a Slowdown - NYTimes.com:
"SHANGHAI — Each new forecast of China’s economic fortunes predicts slower growth than the forecast that preceded it.
Christmas orders were down 20 percent this year, as big retailers and toy marketers grew gloomy about the holiday season.
Just as China attained supercharged growth that astounded much of the world, it appears to be slowing more sharply and more quickly than anyone anticipated."
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
Had the S2000: Vroom out with top down a few times.
Smells of Autumn
Leafs slowly molding, along with faster decomposition when some folks burn them...
Most are down by now
Time to start the leaf blower and tidy up
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
He voiced concern that Obama will not be able to cope with the troika (my term) of: finance, politicians (and lobbyists) and media that he views as ruling America.
Audio to be here later today : Fresh Air from WHYY : NPR
"Democratic Lobbyists already circling Washington"
I find it interesting that he includes the media.
My contention that they have fueled the fire of the Wall St. problems.
Much of the media is from NYC, and see the financial problems from a local perspective.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Link to video
Zakaria: President-elect won't have much time to celebrate - CNN.com
It's finance, not the economy.
Quick and sure action can stem the problems.
Wells Fargo's Kovacevich: The Importance of Hitting Bottom - BusinessWeek:
"What would your advice be for the next President, who will inherit a deeply damaged financial system and a troubled economy?
Priority No. 1 is to get the economy going. This is the worst financial crisis since the Depression, but it is far from the worst economic crisis. Simultaneous with that, we have to figure out a way that we don't continue to have these bubbles. Therefore, we have to look at regulating differently. Some people have called that regulating more, some think deregulation is to blame [for the crisis]. I think it is really a matter of doing things differently than we have done in the past.
Maria Bartiromo is the anchor of CNBC's Closing Bell."
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Doc sums things up pretty well.
My own politics tend towards libertarian and I have no truck with the right wing religio-control freaks.
I believe in safety nets, but not redistribution, cooperation not confrontation and demonetization.
Personal freedom's and modest government, a government to provide essential and community services, but not one that is a parent, a government which is of the people, not over the people.
Doc Searls Weblog : Back to real conservatism:
"Somewhere between Barry Goldwater and Sarah Palin, conservatism changed from a philosophical anchor — what Goldwater called a “conscience” — into a pure partisanship, defined at least as much by what and who it’s against (Liberals, Democrats, Hillary, Obama) as by what it’s for. The latter now includes a list of causes (opposition to abortion and gay marriage, religiously-defined “family values”) that bear no resemblance to Goldwater’s essentially Libertarian philosophy."
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Shares in VeraSun were trading for pennies in anticipation of the move, which, the company said in statement, was “precipitated by a series of events that led to a contraction in VeraSun’s liquidity, impairing its ability to operate its business and invest in production facilities.”"