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

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tragity of the Commons

Rent a bike - which cost $3,500 Each !!!

French Ideal of Bicycle-Sharing Meets Reality - NYTimes.com:

"With 80 percent of the initial 20,600 bicycles stolen or damaged, the program’s organizers have had to hire several hundred people just to fix them. And along with the dent in the city-subsidized budget has been a blow to the Parisian psyche."

Doling out favors

Cash for Clunkers for Michigan
Cash for Golf Carts for Florida?

Weekend Opinionator: Was the Car Rebate Plan a Clunker? - The Opinionator Blog - NYTimes.com

Friday, October 30, 2009

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Now we go from Cash for Clunkers to ... ???

Note : not just Obama, this started under Bush

Golf Cart Buyers Could Get Big Tax Credits - County By County News Story - WFTV Orlando:

"One of the most surprising things about the golf cart tax credit is that it gives people almost as much money as the tax credit for first time home-buyers, which is $8,000."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shameless plug

Full disclosure - I have an interest in RCT

East Lansing - Denton ATD Taps East Lansing-Based Red Cedar Technology's Virtual Design Tools

Ohio-based engineering company Denton ATD is using East Lansing-based Red Cedar Technology software to optimize its virtual crash test dummies design.

Red Cedar Technology is a engineering optimization software and consulting company that accelerates design processes for companies facing engineering challenges.

The Red Cedar Technology designed the HEEDS Professional software that's being used by ATD Design allows engineers to automate their design process. Typically, designers use CAD tools to develop computer models. They then analyze the model, and if the model isn’t correct, they have to manually fix the design until it’s correct.

“The software (HEEDS Professional) replaces the manual iterative process for finding the better design with a mathematically-based process that’s much faster and much more robust and much more intelligent than any engineer could be,” says Red Cedar Technology President Ron Averill.

Red Cedar Technology has 12 employees and, though 2009 has been a bit slow in terms of growth, the company has added one employee.

“We anticipate more rapid growth next year and I think things are starting to pick up,” Averill says.

Source: Ron Averill, Red Cedar Technology

This is success?

Our tax dollars at work?
What's next ... golf carts (yup)

Edmunds:Cash For Clunkers Cost Taxpayers $24K Per Vehicle Sold - WSJ.com:

"The government's 'Cash for Clunkers' program may have only added 125,000 vehicle sales, according to Edmunds.com, which said the rest of the units sold would have happened regardless of the program.

In total, the car-shopping Web site said about 690,000 vehicles were sold during the program. Edmunds.com said that based on the actual sales gained from the program, the Cash for Clunkers program cost taxpayers $24,000 per vehicle sold.

'Our research indicates that without the Cash for Clunkers program, many customers would not have traded in an old vehicle when making a new purchase,' said Edmunds.com senior analyst David Tompkins. 'That may give some credence to the environmental claims, but unfortunately the economic claims have been rendered quite weak.'"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

True Prosperity

Mark Sanford on Ayn Rand | Newsweek Books | Newsweek.com

I would add that true prosperity relies, as well as those mentioned, on the nations shopkeepers, and workers who add their knowledge and talents to the goods and ideas they produce.

"... at a fundamental level many people recognize Rand's essential truth—government doesn't know best. Those in power in Washington—or indeed in Columbia, S.C.—often lead themselves to believe that our prosperity depends on their wisdom. It doesn't. The prosperity and opportunity we enjoy comes ultimately from the creative energies of the country's businessmen, entrepreneurs, investors, marketers, and inventors. The longer it takes this country to reawaken to this reality, the worse we—and in turn, our children's standard of living—will be.

When the economy took a nosedive a year ago—a series of events that arguably began when the government-sponsored corporations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went broke—many Americans, myself included, watched in disbelief as members of Congress placed blame on everyone and everything but government."

Monday, October 26, 2009

How to talk to your banker

I would add
1) Banking should be boring
2) a banker who is not lending is not in business
3) bankers want return of capital even more than return on capital

The Secret Language of Bankers - You’re the Boss Blog - NYTimes.com

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Steve Wynn on the Economy, Jobs & Hotels - CNBC.com

Lucid insight as to work works and what doesn't

Steve Wynn on the Economy, Jobs & Hotels - CNBC.com

Politics

Devout and practicing non-partisan, with lots of issues with both major political parties.

But as long as we have the Democrats in power, we might as well pick on them for today.
I expect that the Democrats will place blame for problems on the Bush Administration or the rest of President Obama's term.

But sooner or later, the voters may decide that it's the Democrats economy and war(s)
Peggy Noonan: It's His Rubble Now - WSJ.com:

"At some point, you own your presidency. At some point it's your rubble. At some point the American people tell you it's yours. The polls now, with the presidential approval numbers going down and the disapproval numbers going up: That's the American people telling him."

and as for tactics ... Chicago Politics

They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way.

–Jim Malone,

"The Untouchables"



Kim Strassel: The Chicago Way - WSJ.com:

"A White House set on kneecapping its opponents isn't, of course, entirely new. (See: Nixon) What is a little novel is the public and bare-knuckle way in which the Obama team is waging these campaigns against the other side."

While I don't take the time to follow Fox, it looks like the administration does:

Behind the War Between White House and Fox - NYTimes.com:

"Speaking privately at the White House on Monday with a group of mostly liberal columnists and commentators, including Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich and Bob Herbert of The New York Times, Mr. Obama himself gave vent to sentiments about the network, according to people briefed on the conversation.

Then, in an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, the president went public. “What our advisers have simply said is that we are going to take media as it comes,” he said. “And if media is operating, basically, as a talk radio format, then that’s one thing. And if it’s operating as a news outlet, then that’s another.”"

Starting to get "interesting"

Moore Moore Moore

Apologies to Donna Summers (how do you like it ...)

Is Capitalism Evil? Michael Moore Thinks So | Newsweek Business | Newsweek.com:

"What have you done with all the money you've made? Do you invest it?
I don't invest in anything. I don't own any stock. I don't participate in the system. Why would I want to put my hard-earned money into a casino? Now, when you invest, people are taking secondary bets on other secondary bets and concocting weird schemes. No normal person can benefit."

Saw him on CNBC doing his promo tour for Capitalism: A Love Story .
Asked about his own wealth, he claimed that all his funds were in a "Saving's Account"
Really ?
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that he gets some interest on his deposits.
There are limits on insurance : FDIC: Deposit Insurance Simplification Fact Sheet
Maybe he spreads his deposits over a variety of banks?
Yield ? up to a whopping 2% ?

But what about his foundation?
From Michael Moore: A Love Story? Not So Much - WSJ.com we have :
"Public documents, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, show the foundation, the Center for Alternative Media & Culture, which listed Mr. Moore as president, held shares in Halliburton in 2000 and in Tenet in 2002, along with many other stocks."

OK, now we are getting into "fine print"... the foundation invests, Mike doesn't

A Russian ex pat's view : Advisor Perspectives :
"Moore neglects to admit that capitalism has brought people out of poverty and socialism sank them there. He blames rising health-care costs on HMOs, though HMOs are just a pass-through vehicle between payers and service providers. He derides capitalism as a system that favors businesses because it “allows them to get away with paying so little.”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

There goes the neighborhood

Traverse City makes Geographic's list of best destinations |

"Traverse City and the region's lakeshore have made the list of the world's cleanest and most authentic tourist destinations, according to National Geographic."

Friday, October 16, 2009

If Only we could

As Wall St. traders seem to have short memories, say less than 10yrs, or since the last debacle, maybe we should apply some genetic engineering.

No more "it's different this time"... because if usually isn't.

Now if we could implant bad memories ...

Science Friday Archives: Creating Memories:

"Researchers have used pulses of light to store the memory of a bad event that never actually happened into the brains of fruit flies. Writing this week in the journal Cell, the researchers describe their success in directly manipulating the activity of individual neurons responsible for associating a certain odor with a bad experience. By introducing chemicals into those neurons when the odor was present, the researchers found that they could produce flies that 'remembered' experiencing an electric shock connected to the odor, although no actual shock was present."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No-Mi

On Toyota closing Nummi, politics and unions as well as prospects for protectionism when Government Motors is told both to be profitable and go green, all the while maintaining the largest workforce possible.

Holman Jenkins: The Meaning of Nummi - WSJ.com:

"There you have the still-unfolding disaster of the developed world's auto market writ small. Protectionism is never about 'saving jobs,' but about saving specific jobs of politically useful groups. Ms. Merkel's steps may well cause a blow-up in the EU, given her insistence that Opel's German plants be protected at the expense of plants in Belgium and Spain. Likewise, California is not up for grabs politically, unlike other states where the UAW is powerful. So the union, having already received countless favors from the Obama administration, chooses to spend its ammunition elsewhere, partly because it never liked the Nummi idea of 'lean manufacturing' in the first place."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Grand Vision

In response to Leelanau Enterprise "County Board rejects Grand Vision"

Open letter :

To the Editor
I am writing with some observations and thoughts related to the story headlined “Vision not so ‘Grand”” First off, I was in attendance at the meeting, as a board member of the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, but stepped out after the presentation was made, and did not observe directly the later activities.

I’m writing merely in response to the story as presented in the Enterprise. Were a majority of the board “not impressed” or were they just lacking more information?

Commissioner Watkoski : “… I found it focusing less on transportation issues and more on issues like land use and housing.” I attended as many visioning sessions as practicable, and found, if anything, there was too much focus on transportation. Granted, the project was working with highway funds, but the charge was to come up with a long term plan, and where people are and where they want to go is your base data for transportation. Let’s not build bridges to nowhere.

Commissioner Schmuckle : “Your group is anti-growth…” I’ve never found this to be the case, and as a matter of fact, a slogan of the Grand Vision project is “Growth Happens”

Commissioner’s Tonneberger and Schaub seemed to have the right idea in seeking to table the issue until more information was available

I’ll withhold responses to the public comments, as they seem to have come from a group with pre-conceived notions.

I would further like to note that the Grand Vision has strong support from such groups as the Traverse Bay Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary Charities.

I am a strong proponent of regional cooperation and planning. In the days of horse and buggy, travel was a short distance issue. Today, citizens of Leelanau work in neighboring communities and counties. We are all in this together, and need to think “together.”

Full disclosure: I currently chair the Leelanau EDC, sit on boards of Grand Traverse Community Foundation, Traverse Bay EDC, and the Michigan Land Use Institute.

Not Peak Oil, not peak gas

Not peak hydrocarbons.

I can recall, decades ago (I'm that old) when I wasn't interested in Nat Gas because we were going to be running out.

Guess not"...calculated that the recoverable shale gas outside of North America could turn out to be equivalent to 211 years’ worth of natural gas consumption in the United States at the present level of demand, and maybe as much as 690 years. The low figure would represent a 50 percent increase in the world’s known gas reserves, and the high figure, a 160 percent increase."

Gas Extraction Method Could Greatly Increase Global Supplies - NYTimes.com:

"Italian and Norwegian oil engineers and geologists have arrived in Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania to learn how to extract gas from layers of a black rock called shale. Companies are leasing huge tracts of land across Europe for exploration. And oil executives are gathering rocks and scrutinizing Asian and North African geological maps in search of other fields.

The global drilling rush is still in its early stages. But energy analysts are already predicting that shale could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas. They said they believed that gas reserves in many countries could increase over the next two decades, comparable with the 40 percent increase in the United States in recent years."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

ouch

So much better than I could lay it out
like a marshmallow on a stick

Op-Ed Columnist - Gandhi Wuz Robbed - NYTimes.com:

"When he heard the Nobel Peace Prize shocker on Friday, Bill Clinton went into one of his purple rages. He picked up the phone and dialed the one person on earth who would be as steamed as he was."

Peggy Noonan rips the Nobel

A Wicked and Ignorant Award - WSJ.com:

"It is absurd and it is embarrassing. It would even be infuriating if it were not such a declaration of emptiness.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has embarrassed itself and cheapened a great award that had real meaning."

Then on to the meat of her argument - America has sought freedom and justice, not empire.

For instance: The Peace Prize judges won't see it this way, but America has gone to Europe twice in the past century to fight for peace. This is an old concept, and has to do with killing killers so they can't kill anymore. It cost America a lot to do this, and we kept no territory, as they say, beyond the graves where our soldiers lie. America then taxed itself and gave its wealth not only to its allies but to its former adversaries, to help them rebuild. We didn't actually have to do this. We did it to make the world better. We did it to foster peace. (They should give us a prize.)

America hasn't just helped the world, it literally lit the world with its inventions, which are the product of its freedoms. The lights under which the Peace Prize judges read, and rejected, the worthy nominations? Why, those lights were invented by an American. The emails the committee members sent to each other, sharing their banal insights on leadership? They came through the Internet. Who invented the Internet? It was a Norwegian bureaucrat with a long face and hair on his nose and little plastic geometric eyeglasses? Oh wait, it was Americans. The members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee are healthy because they have been inoculated against diseases such as polio. Who invented the polio vaccine, an enfeebled old leftist academic in Oslo? Nah, it was a man named Jonas Salk. He was an American.


Oh yeah, her comments on Ronald Regan were on point :

It was always absurd that Ronald Reagan, whose political project led to the end of the gulag and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and who gambled his personal standing in the world for a system that would protect the common man from annihilation in a nuclear missile attack, could not win it.

Smarts

UBS has been renamed "Use to Be Smart" and now we have "We Pretended to be Smart" :

John Thain Admits He Didn't Understand Merrill's Risks: Tech Ticker, Yahoo! Finance:

"The bankers and traders dealing in CDOs didn't understand what they were doing, John Thain said in a recent speech.

“To model correctly one tranche of one CDO took about three hours on one of the fastest computers in the United States. There is no chance that pretty much anybody understood what they were doing with these securities. Creating things that you don’t understand is really not a good idea no matter who owns it,” the former Merrill Lynch chief executive said in a speech this month, according to Financial News."

Good thinking on thinking

By Michael Milken

Published: October 4 2009 20:31 | Last updated: October 4 2009 20:31

FT.com / Comment / Opinion - Prosperity rests on human and social capital:

"Amid all the changes since I first went to Wall Street 40 years ago, basic investing principles have not changed at all. Attractive opportunities still await those who do careful research; capital structure still matters; and the best investor is a social scientist who analyses markets from both macro and micro views.

The macro view sees the 21st century defined by global competition for the world’s most valuable asset, human capital. Nations build this by strengthening education, healthcare, access to scientific knowledge, opportunities for women and incentives that attract skilled immigrants.

A continuous focus on education is driving the rise of the middle class in Asia. That is one reason Asia’s growing economy is expected to reach at least half the world total by 2030, up from less than 30 per cent today."

Friday, October 09, 2009

Style over Substance

John Stuart delivers the "news", the Noble committee delivers prospective peace.

In Surprise, Obama Wins Nobel for Diplomacy - NYTimes.com:

"But while Mr. Obama has generated considerable good will overseas — his foreign counterparts are eager to meet with him, and polls show he is hugely popular around the world — many of his policy efforts have yet to bear fruit, or are only just beginning to. North Korea has defied him with missile tests; Iran, however, recently agreed to restart nuclear talks, which Mr. Obama has called “a constructive beginning.”

In that sense, Mr. Obama is unlike past recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize such as former President Jimmy Carter, who won in 2002 for what presenters cited as decades of “untiring efforts” to seek peaceful end to international conflicts. (Mr. Carter failed to win in 1978, as some had expected, after he brokered a historic peace deal between Israel and Egypt.)"

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Prospects

Positive on the Dollar, interesting changes in China
"beginning of major shift to consumer orientation, and the crisis was good for China - shaking them out of export orientation"

Jim O'Neill global head of research at Goldman Sachs
Video - CNBC.com

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fish

Salmon and Trout at "The Tubes" on the Crystal
We've had some good rains, guess it brought them in from the "Big Lake"

Most I can recall ever seeing at once.

Hazard to navigation ...



video

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Where's your Union

I doubted the "cash for clunkers" as not much more than a quick fix gimmic for "Government Motors"
Clear some inventory, maybe juice production some, help the UAW

For used car dealers (as if the breed deserves much sympathy) get left out - they are non-union.

Used-Car Dealers Feel 'Clunkers' Pinch - WSJ.com:

"Michael Darrow, an independent used-car dealer, is still feeling pain from 'Cash for Clunkers.'

During the summer, he was shut out of the popular initiative, which allowed only new-car franchises to participate. Now, the inventory he normally buys at auction is sharply limited, a direct result of Clunkers sending close to 700,000 gas guzzlers to the junkyard. That's driven wholesale prices to new highs at a time when cost-conscious consumers, who sometimes rely on dated information from guide books, aren't paying more."

Monday, October 05, 2009

Your tax dollars at work

Bit of "social interest" investing on the part of Uncle Sam
Unlikely that there will be any breakthroughs here.

Betting on "nubie" companies with virtually no experience in volume manufacturing or distribution

A Long Bet on Electric Cars - BusinessWeek:

"Not every government investment is a sure bet. The question is how much risk taxpayers should shoulder. The feds have put $465 million into Tesla, but it has raised only $300 million and change in private capital. And the U.S. has invested five times as much in Fisker as private investors. Rogers says Fisker must raise more money to tap the credit line, but debt will still account for 70% of the company's funding. So the risk, and burden if these companies fail, will mostly rest with U.S. taxpayers."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Catching up

No particular order, but wanted to post some links on items I've come across
Starting with

---
Secret Lives of the Presidents - Timothy Egan Blog - NYTimes.com

Reminder that one should not take politicians at face value
Such as :

"We see more of them than we do most family members. We know what kind of dog they like and what beer they drink. Strangers bring up the most intimate details of their lives for rabid dissection, and intimates bring up the strangest details.

Yet for all the perceived closeness Americans have to their presidents, we don’t really know them, as a slew of recent revelations make clear. They are layered thick with the armor of artifice.

George W. Bush, who got Ned Flanders Nation to see him as a righteous Christian guided by Biblical principle, had a soft spot for gay marriage, and didn’t believe his own speeches on the subject. This from ex-speech writer Matt Latimer."

or

"Bill Clinton comes across in Branch’s just-published book, “The Clinton Tapes,” as the closest thing to the guy we recognize. He is needy, petulant, brilliant, with those oversized appetites. It’s no surprise that he is dead-on in his assessment of why Al Gore lost the 2000 campaign: failing to run on the Clinton prosperity, or even use the Big Dog. But what if Clinton had come out and said at the time that Gore was blowing it, as he told Branch. Most likely, Gore would have been forced to use him, and needing only a handful of votes in a few states, it would have tipped the 2000 election. But then again, as Clinton is quoted as saying of Gore: “I thought he was in Neverland.”
---

The very wealthy are concerned - in part about what may happen with confiscatory taxes or other government actions towards assets. That and commercial real estate.

Wealth Matters - Too Rich to Worry? Not in This Downturn - NYTimes.com:

"According to a study the Family Office Exchange plans to release this month, the super-rich are most worried about what they do not know. Some 45 percent of the 108 ultrahigh-net-worth families surveyed in August ranked the economy and financial markets as their No. 1 concern. They were most concerned about government intervention in the financial markets and a commercial real estate bust."