"History is a wonderful thing, if only it was true"

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stunning progress .. NOT

Moore's law (halving of cost of transistors every 18 months) does not apply here.

Simple physics - storage takes atoms
Atoms equal matter which equal mass

A Quest for Batteries to Alter the Energy Equation - NYTimes.com:

"Automakers need improvements in batteries “everywhere we can get it,” Mr. Miller said.

In 1991 the Advanced Battery Consortium was founded and set a near-term target for developing a battery that would cost $150 per kilowatt-hour of storage. (A kilowatt-hour sells for about a dime and will move a car three or four miles.)

Eighteen years later, prices are in the range of $750 to $1,000. By comparison, a lead-acid battery in a conventional car costs less than $100 for that much capacity, although it is much too heavy to build an electric car around and not durable enough.

Now the Energy Department has a new goal: $500 by 2012.

“We think we can make that,” said Patrick Davis, the program manager at the Energy Department’s vehicle technologies program."

We'll see plug in hybrids on the road, but not because of progress, because of tax policy ... $7500 credit.

Can we say Whiney Bitch?

On Sarah

Op-Ed Columnist - Sarah Grabs the Grievance Grab Bag From Hillary - NYTimes.com:

"As McCain pal and Republican strategist Mike Murphy so sagely observed recently: “If Sarah Palin looked like Golda Meir, would we even be talking about her today?”"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sub Prime Governance ?

Just after watching finance head for Calif on CNBC about how totally dysfunctional the state's fiscal system is in his state, I spotted the following

Let's pick the worst of bad ideas, abandon leadership, just let the voters pick the most appealing offers. Let's not make hard decisions.

The Californication of Michigan | Democracy in America | Economist.com:
"MICHIGAN has become the sick man of the United States, with unemployment 50% higher than the national average, and dying industries that are begging the federal government for aid. The state's Democrats, who have controlled more and more of state government since the 2002 elections, have presided over some of the worst of it. They're now considering plans to place initiatives on the ballot in November 2010 with the aim of rescuing... well, it's not clear what they think they're rescuing."

Hangover on the Horizon

Public debt: The biggest bill in history | The Economist:

"Not since the second world war have so many governments borrowed so much so quickly or, collectively, been so heavily in hock. And today’s debt surge, unlike the wartime one, will not be temporary. Even after the recession ends few rich countries will be running budgets tight enough to stop their debt from rising further. Worse, today’s borrowing binge is taking place just before a slow-motion budget-bust caused by the pension and health-care costs of a greying population. By 2050 a third of the rich world’s population will be over 60. The demographic bill is likely to be ten times bigger than the fiscal cost of the financial crisis."

One simple answer ... raise the retirement age.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tina Fey impersonator tells a fish story

Or is she bragging?

More on Banking

Cleaning files
Spotted this from last spring

Charlie Munger, partner with Warren Buffet

Evil and Folly in banking
But bankers have built and maintained political clout
“Evil and folly have crept into our system at steadily increasing “amounts. And finally it helped create a catastrophe for everyone, created the biggest economic threat since 1930s. The conditions of the '20s and '30s gave us Adolf Hitler. That was really serious, and this one's not that serious, but it's the most serious we've had since that one. And it will be politically hard to remove from the system the evil and folly that helped create the mess, because the people who make a lot of money out of the system as it is have a lot of political power and they don't want it changed.”


Executive Summary - BusinessWeek:
"How Overconfidence Helped Sink the Street

"Was Bear Stearns' Jimmy Cayne the modern incarnation of Icarus? Like the Greek mythological character, Cayne and other erstwhile masters of the universe—Lehman Brothers' Richard Fuld and AIG's Joseph Cassano spring to mind—seem to share a personality trait: hubris. Delving into the roots of the financial crisis in an essay for the July 27 issue of The New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell arrives at a psychological explanation for what went wrong.

Overconfidence, he points out, afflicts people in many walks of life—as an example, Gladwell cites Frederick Stopford, the British officer who led the disastrous invasion of Gallipoli in 1915. But it's particularly prevalent in the field of finance. Wall Street, after all, is largely built on trust, and swagger can be a key ingredient in winning other players' trust. Studies show that overconfidence (some prefer to call it arrogance) is more likely to set in as people get older and more experienced—when one is at the top of one's game. And paradoxically, the tendency to inflate the reliability of one's own judgment appears to increase when the task at hand is singularly complex, such as estimating market risk. What's more, biologists have documented that overconfidence is actually an adaptive trait. So don't count on natural selection to wipe out the species of cocky bankers. (The New Yorker)"

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I've posted several times that "Banking should be BORING"

CNBC yesterday and Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analysis commented that banks will go back to being treated like utilities.

You will buy them for dividend yield, not capital appreciation.
They are not "tech stocks"

Video clip here

Expect them to have "high single digit" ROE (Return on Equity)

About that prediction

Last January

Looney Dunes: Potential weather changer

Although Mt. Redoubt has not fully blown it's top, some Russian volcano's have added to the cooling. Layer on low sunspot activity and we end up with record or near record cool spell

Caught report on Traverse City radio yesterday, maybe record of season degree days, and current highs (barely 60) are normal lows.

BTW - checked "Old Farmer's Almanac" - whoops
"Summer will be hotter than normal, on average, with an especially hot July followed by a cooler August. Rainfall will be slightly below normal."

Gong that one

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Interesting ideas

Use of Algae might make sense
At least much more than corn, or likely wood
Going to "soft" structure rather than having to break down cellulose first.

Note that Venter will be "engineering" the algae.

Exxon to Invest Millions to Make Fuel From Algae - NYTimes.com:

"Algal biofuel, sometimes nicknamed oilgae by environmentalists, is a promising technology. Fuels derived from algae have molecular structures that are similar to petroleum products, including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, and would be compatible with the existing transportation infrastructure, according to Exxon."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Book review

Not by me, but by The Economist
Maybe this goes on my "read sometime" list
Author is professor emeritus at Oxford and student of the Soviet Union

Communism: Dead end | The Economist:

"At first sight, all seem puzzling. Communism was an impractical mishmash of ideas, imposed by squabbling zealots that promised much, delivered little and cost millions of lives. It is striking that 36 countries at one time or another adopted this system and that five—Cuba, Laos, North Korea, Vietnam and the biggest of them all, China—still pay lip service to it."

Monday, July 06, 2009

More on demographics

Brief, lighter piece on demographics and longer working lives.
Good ideas for helping the problems with "entitlements"

Work longer when you are productive, pay taxes rather than draw Social Security.
Tweak with provisions for rewarding work.

New Age Thinker - Forbes.com:

"In 1900 men enjoyed an average of two years of retirement. Shoven isn't going so far as to suggest a return to a retirement that measly, but the number of golden years will have to stop increasing. Just as we index the value of a government pension payment for inflation (a practice that began in the 1970s), Shoven wants us to index age for improved health when calculating timetables for Social Security eligibility and retirement account withdrawals. He also wants to throw in tax breaks as sweeteners for the hardworking."

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Provative Thoughts on Wealth and Debt

At least the author's answer is to ramp up innovation and productivity, investing in education and research, trim spending .... not raise taxes.
Reduce inequality by greater investment.
A tricky political path to take

FT.com / Comment / Opinion - Debt is capitalism’s dirty little secret:
"Just why is there so much debt in the Anglo-Saxon world? Bankers and regulators know well that it is in nobody’s long-term interests to have allowed borrowing to escalate to a position where the US now owes far more, as a multiple of the economy, than at the start of the Great Depression.

The answer is capitalism’s dirty little secret: excessive lending was the only way to maintain the living standards of the vast bulk of the population at a time when wealth was being concentrated in the hands of an elite."


First article in a series in latest Economist:
A survey of ageing populations: : A slow-burning fuse | The Economist

Important pieces on future developments, not just in American, Europe and Japan, but also China (old before rich) and the emerging countries of the world.

The entire world will be getting older as live expectancy increases (better health) and fertility rates drop to below replacement rates.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Turn at hand?

Looks like it.

ISM - ISM Report - June 2009 Manufacturing ISM Report On Business:

"A PMI in excess of 41.2 percent over a period of time generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy. Therefore the PMI indicates growth for the second consecutive month in the overall economy and continuing contraction in the manufacturing sector. Ore stated 'The past relationship between the PMI and the overall economy indicates that the average PMI for January through June 39.2 percent corresponds to a 0.6 percent decrease in real gross domestic product GDP . However if the PMI for June 44.8 percent is annualized it corresponds to a 1.1 percent increase in real GDP annually.'"