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

Friday, December 31, 2010

File under "duh"

Back to the last PCForum, 2006
Conversation with guy from Cargill re: bio-fuels and the like

Opinion was that the VC's were full of themselves, didn't have a clue about biochemistry and fuels.
"As if Cargill hasn't investigated all of this?"

Layer on the capital demands and you are ripe for failure.
IT/IP calls for minimal capital in comparison.
What does Kleiner’s drift from cleantech mean for green investing? | VentureBeat:

"It appears that titan venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins is moving away from cleantech and going back to its roots in Internet investing, where it made famously good bets on companies like Amazon and Google."


It's about Capital Intensity - VC is about low intensity, not high

Score one for big energy

Cleantech VCs are thinking small | VentureBeat:

"Cleantech has been the industry of big-money investments in ambitious projects, but that may be changing, judging from a venture capital panel at VentureBeat’s GreenBeat conference today.

The most emphatic speaker on this point was Navin Chaddha, a partner at the Mayfield Fund. Chaddha said he’s more interested in investing “downstream” from energy generation, rather than in generation itself. That’s where entrepreneurs will find more opportunities, and those companies require less funding. As positive examples, Chaddha pointed to SolarCity (one of his portfolio companies) and SunRun, which aren’t trying to build giant solar plants or factories, and are instead trying to change the solar distribution model by bringing it directly to consumers.

On the flip side, he pointed to solar panel maker Solyndra, which has reportedly raised more than $1 billion but just announced that it’s closing one of its factories. $1 billion is more than most individual venture funds, Chaddha noted, and spending that much money on a single company is the “antithesis” of what venture capital is about."

Monday, December 27, 2010


Note that I have only traded gold on the short side.
Despite problems with the current system, a gold backed system ensures poverty and low growth.

Could the world go back to the gold standard? | martin wolf's exchange | Economic commentary from the Financial Times – FT.com:

"In short, we cannot and will not go back to the gold standard. As L.P. Hartley wrote, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” We cannot live in the 19th century. It is foolish to pretend that we can."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Study Business, not Economics

Schumpeter: Why do firms exist? | The Economist

Coarse : His central insight was that firms exist because going to the market all the time can impose heavy transaction costs. You need to hire workers, negotiate prices and enforce contracts, to name but three time-consuming activities. A firm is essentially a device for creating long-term contracts when short-term contracts are too bothersome. But if markets are so inefficient, why don’t firms go on getting bigger for ever? Mr Coase also pointed out that these little planned societies impose transaction costs of their own, which tend to rise as they grow bigger. The proper balance between hierarchies and markets is constantly recalibrated by the forces of competition: entrepreneurs may choose to lower transaction costs by forming firms but giant firms eventually become sluggish and uncompetitive.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


In my spam box today

Now if I wanted to tout it ...
But does not apply

message :
Jt Hoagland has been selected as the 2010 Best of Lansing Award winner in the Investment Advisory Service category by the US Commerce Association. We have tried to contact your business throughout the year but have not received any response. With this final notice you still have a chance to order an award for 2010.
Award Image
The USCA identifies companies that excel in their business category and successfully market their business to the public and the local community. Each year, the "Best of Local Business" Award Program offers recognition to local businesses throughout the country based on the results.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Great Minds

Think alike - understanding

Questions for Brian Greene - NYTimes.com:
"How would you define intelligence?"

Intelligence is the ability to take in information from the world and to find patterns in that information that allow you to organize your perceptions and understand the external world."

Brian Green?:
This interview is for our annual Ideas Issue, and because you’re a physicist at Columbia University who specializes in string theory and the secret life of invisible particles, let mestart by asking you this: Do you think the fieldof physics is continuing to provide the world with big, important, Einstein-level ideas?
Absolutely. Physics grapples with the largest questions the universe presents. Wheredid the totality of reality come from? Did time have a beginning?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

yet more on China

Chinese business: Where are the profits? | The Economist:

"Chinese stocks are cheap because the market has spotted some serious underlying problems. Here’s one: as revenues soar, profit margins are falling (see chart). Sales rose by a staggering 42% year-on-year in the first half of 2010. That was partly because the first half of 2009 was dreadful, but sales will still rise by an impressive 23% in the second half of 2010, predicts Macquarie Securities, a broker. Yet margins have been on a protracted slide that shows no sign of stabilising, says Michael Kurtz, Macquarie’s Asia strategist. Normally they rise by 1.5% in the first half of the year because of seasonal factors, but that did not happen in 2010.."

The government wants to allow ordinary people to enjoy more of the fruits of growth. Happy citizens are less likely to riot or demand the right to vote, it assumes. How far it will go remains to be seen, however. Will it allow the (artificially low) interest rates that banks pay depositors to rise? That would reduce the transfer of wealth from savers to well-connected corporations, which enjoy cheap credit. Will it allow the yuan to appreciate, thus walloping exporters but boosting consumers’ spending power? As usual in China, no one knows

More on Asia

Growth - yes
Risk - yes, and has most of the prospective growth already been priced in?

The End of the Asian Bull Market

Over the next five or even ten years, investors relying on emerging economies will not be as fortunate, however, according to Louis-Vincent Gave, CEO of the Hong Kong-based research and investment management firm GaveKal.

Asian economies will grow faster than those in the developed world, Gave predicted, but that won’t be enough to compensate for high current valuations and excessive liquidity. Indeed, Asian debt and US equities offer far better investment opportunities, he said.

“The situation in Asia is 180 degrees from where it was five or six years ago,” Gave lamented, referring to the paucity of attractively priced stocks. He has lived in Asia for most of the last 20 years while investing in the Asian markets,

Houses vs Education

Invest in the future, not McMansions

Milken Institute Publications - Articles, Op-Eds - McMansion economics:

"Roads, railways and runways are important, but the real stimulus to sustainable economic growth is building human capital. If families downsize and redirect a greater portion of their income to education (or to cultural enrichment or to cover the cost of a healthier lifestyle), the benefits they realize can be lasting. If they're willing to forgo some of that expensive elbow room, parents might free up the resources to put themselves and especially their children on the path to more successful careers and higher quality lives in the future, minus the crushing burden of student loans that so many college graduates face today.

This shift could also go a long way toward making the U.S. workforce more competitive. Indeed, Nobel laureate James J. Heckman and Dimitriy V. Masterov of the University of Chicago have sounded an alarm that America is falling behind on this front, noting that 'both the quality and quantity of the labor force are not keeping pace with the demands of the skill-based economy.' That's an equation that has to change as innovation and knowledge workers become ever more prized in the global marketplace.

It's worth noting that China, which is on an upward trajectory, devotes a larger share of household expenditures to education and health than the United States."

Monday, December 13, 2010


Several links on China
Triggered by Jim Chanos on CNBC Squawk Box last Fri AM

From last January
Contrarian Investor Predicts Economic Crash in China - NYTimes.com

and yesterday

With some deeper analysis :

The process culminated in 2005 and 2006 with public listings in Hong Kong of China’s three largest banks. By that time, however, President Jiang and Prime Minister Zhu had already been out of office for two years and a key ally for reform, Vice Prime Minister Huang Ju, was terminally ill. With their departure went the willingness of the top leadership to endure the brutal volatility of market-oriented systems, and that, in turn, weakened the push for a floating currency, independent pricing of debt and other securities and international access to China’s capital markets. The appetite for turning financial institutions into real commercial operations disappeared also.

Reform was relegated to an expanding number of squabbling bureaucracies. China’s new senior leaders, having risen, unlike their predecessors, during years of strong growth, were concerned less with the threat posed by a stunted financial system than with widening income disparities and the possibility of social unrest. Their aims shifted to social goals, notably achieving a “harmonious society”. As a result, China’s financial reform stalled and the country has never truly opened itself up to the world. Foreign firms hold trivial amounts of domestic financial assets (under 2%), and play only a marginal role in any domestic sector.

There have been some advantages in this. Chinese banks were not, in the main, exposed to toxic Western debt and, perhaps more importantly, never adopted dangerous Western methods of hiding risks. But China’s own approach presents these problems in a different form.

To the extent that risk has been distributed, it is largely from state-controlled banks to other state entities in increasingly arcane ways. This distorts external perceptions of China’s solvency. State debt appears to be quite low by international standards (just under 20% of GDP) but when all government obligations are lumped together, the authors reckon it is actually 76%.

The bigger problem, though, is that the system trades almost entirely with itself. Critical information about liabilities and pricing is deliberately concealed or impossible to discern; there are no outside entities establishing prices by bidding in the market. That undermines efficient capital allocation and allows excesses to fester.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Pretty close to what I said in the interview.

Leelanau News from Leelanau County:
Nov 23, 2010

The chairman of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) for Leelanau County, EDC, is John “Chip” Hoagland.

“We at the EDC view employment as a regional issue,” Hoagland said. “What impacts the region impacts Leelanau County. Staff at the (regional) Traverse Bay EDC have been working to compile data on where citizens work and live to further substantiate this,” he said.


Hoagland said the trends he perceives include not only the ongoing slump in construction, but also growing activity in “hidden business such as work from home, consulting, and ‘knowledge work.’ This last one is tough to track,” Hoagland noted.

“During my tenure with the Leelanau EDC,” he added, “my focus has been on year-round employment as well as enhancing the agricultural economy. I once heard it said that while you can pick up and move manufacturing jobs (but) you can’t move a farm.”

Nov 24, 2010
On Hunting

John “Chip” Hoagland of Glen Arbor also does not hunt. “It’s never anything I’ve been excited about. I don’t hunt, my dad doesn’t hunt, no one in my family does. I’ve never had a desire to do so,” he said when reached for comment Monday morning.

Hoagland is an investment manager and is involved in many business ventures. He’s now working with Cherry Capital Foods, and is also chair of the county Economic Development Corporation.

“I’m working on too many projects to go into the woods and chase venison,” he said. That does not mean Hoagland has anything against hunting or people who enjoy the sport.

“I wish we had more people out thinning the herd. The less deer we have, the less chance there is one of them will run out in front of my car,” Hoagland said.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

More on Philanth...ropy

And it keeps wealth out of the hands of government...

16 Tycoons Agree to Give Away Fortunes - WSJ.com: "Investor and new addition to the pledge, Nicolas Berggruen, 48, said he decided to give away his fortune while he was alive so he could personally take responsibility for how his money is put to use.

'Wealth is an advantage, but it also is frankly a responsibility,' he said in an interview.

After the initial Giving Pledge list came out, some critics decried it as a public-relations stunt, or the product of tax-breaks that are hurting the government's ability to offer critical services.

'The state has limits in to what it can and cannot do,' said Mr. Berggruen. 'Private enterprise can be faster and less bureaucratic than the state.'"

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Knowing what is important

Interesting that the some 3000years ago, time-motion studies were underway
And, of course - measurement of beer

Ancient Egyptians’ Mathematical Ingenuity, Written on Papyrus - NYTimes.com:

"The Rhind papyrus contains geometry problems that compute the slopes of pyramids and the volume of various-shaped granaries. And the Moscow papyrus, from about 1850 B.C., has about 25 problems, including ways to measure ships’ parts and find the surface area of a hemisphere and the area of triangles. Especially interesting are problems that calculate how efficient a laborer was by how many logs he carried or how many sandals he could make and decorate. Or the problems that involve a pefsu, a unit measuring the strength or weakness of beer or bread based on how much grain is used to make it.

One problem calculates whether it’s right to exchange 100 loaves of 20-pefsu bread for 10 jugs of 4-pefsu malt-date beer. After a series of steps, the papyrus proclaims, according to one translation: “Behold! The beer quantity is found to be correct.”"

Monday, December 06, 2010


Unintended consequences

Information Warfare: Why Wikileaks Backfired:

"The leaked documents were meant (according to the Wikileaks leader) to embarrass the United States and expose American hypocrisy and underhanded operations, but the result was quite the opposite. The U.S. was shown trying to do what it said, publically, that it was trying to do. But many other nations were shown to be quite different in their private conversations, than in their public ones. Some of these leaders now claim that they were misquoted, or that Wikileaks documents were a fabrication. It was initially believed that the released documents would make foreign officials more reluctant about speaking frankly with American officials. Didn't happen. Those conversations take place mainly because everyone wants something from the United States, and unless you establish a relationship with American diplomats or officials, nothing will happen. Moreover, many foreign officials found the revelations useful, as the leaks got out into the open things (like Arab relationships with Iran and Israel) that could not be discussed openly at home. For the most part, Wikileaks confirmed what was already known, something the Wikileaks crew assumed could not be true."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

On foundations vs politics


Questions for Peter Peterson - NYTimes.com:

"Why not donate your entire $1 billion foundation to the government, to help reduce the deficit?
I wouldn’t have much confidence that they would know how to spend it."

Sic Transet Gloria

Easy come - easy go

Family’s Fall From Affluence Is Swift and Hard - NYTimes.com

Windfall of $14Million and how to blow through it

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Law

Insider Trading Probes & Wall Street - CNBC.com

The majesty of law is in certainty
Law should not be made via litigation or prosecution
That should be left to legislation, or rule making

Lay out the law, then enforce

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yes But

Exceed the US ... maybe in gross terms, but not on a per capital basis, and it will be an older society

China to Exceed U.S. by 2020, Standard Chartered Says - BusinessWeek:

"The economy is “unbalanced” and faces considerable risks, including a widening of imbalances, asset bubbles, overcapacity and rising bad loans which could lead to a serious decline, the report says. A 10 percent decline in investment in China would make it very difficult to achieve any GDP growth at all, the report estimates."

They must not have gotten the word

The word that we are "running out"

Article | Oil, Oil, Everywhere . . .

"The cost of oil comes down to the cost of finding, and then lifting or extracting. First, you have to decide where to dig. Exploration costs currently run under $3 per barrel in much of the Mideast, and below $7 for oil hidden deep under the ocean. But these costs have been falling, not rising, because imaging technology that lets geologists peer through miles of water and rock improves faster than supplies recede. Many lower-grade deposits require no new looking at all."

In times of trouble

Time for politics and politicians to find new paradigms, new approaches, new thinking.

Throwing the Bums Out for 140 Years - NYTimes.com:

"But the political instability of our own time pales when compared with the late 19th century. In the Gilded Age the American ship of state pitched and yawed on a howling sea of electoral turbulence. For decades on end, “divided government” was the norm. In only 12 of the 30 years after 1870 did the same party control the House, the Senate and the White House.

The majority party in the House — intended to be the branch of government most responsive to swings in popular sentiment — shifted six times in the era’s 15 Congressional elections. Three of those shifts in power entailed losses of more than 70 seats by the majority party (at a time when there were roughly 100 fewer seats than today’s 435). In 1894, Democrats shed more than 100. Today’s electoral oscillations, for all their drama, seem modest by comparison."


‘Giving Pledge,’ Promoted by Buffett and Gates, Stirs a Vigorous Debate - NYTimes.com

Sure, it puts power in the hands of those making grants, but is it really worse than giving funds to Congress for pork?

I think not

Friday, November 19, 2010


Russell Simmons :
"And as a businessperson, you can guarantee the long term success of your business by offing a product that promotes the kind of lasting success, lasting happiness, that you want for yourself. In seeking that, you sharpen your business choices. It happens naturally. As you start to have faith in the concept that what we give is what we get, you find that you start to move away from things that you don't like, that you don't want yourself, until even the things that produce marginal short-term happiness become marginal.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

35 years ago tonight

Edmund Fitzgerald

by Gordon Lightfoot

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T'was the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind

When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it's been good to know ya.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.
© 1976 Moose Music, Inc.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Long term problems

Europe's economy: Pushed to the breaking point | The Economist:

"Something clearly has to give. Policy changes are pushing Europe toward a very long period of stagnation if not an outright return to recession. Workers are underemployed and furious. Core and periphery have seriously diverging views on the direction policy should take. And markets continue to pressure indebted nations to make cuts they may not actually be able to make."

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Time to take a stand

First: and excerpt from Stephanie 2004, and I don't know if she has changed much since (although she does have a presence on Facebook, so maybe she has changed)
Community Solutions: Stephanie Mills Presentation:

"I've got to say upfront, I now have a computer. Somebody gave me a laptop. And it's holding down a stack of papers very nicely. But I am kind of like this Rip van Winkle type, because I left San Francisco and the world of offices in 1984, and I just went to Michigan and kept on being a writer the way I knew how. I corresponded. I write letters and use stamps and the telephone, and that kind of thing, and I noticed over the years that addresses of organizations no longer tell me where they are. And I don't think that's trivial. It's very important to me to know something tangible about the folks I'm engaged with. What part of Turtle Island do you live in? What qualities inform your experience? Gary Snyder is a wonderful author on the subject of the nuances of place, and he says, "what kind of boots do you wear in December?" Those aren't negligible matters, really. In some ways, I guess one of the threats of technology is just to make matter a big sort of box of raw material rather than this or this soil, or this carving, or this foodstuff, it all can become generic and available to be transformed and turned into a product and sold."

The question I pose is : how far to take Luddite-ism?
Why stop with computers, let's drop the telephone, and maybe question the postal service. After all, how do your letters move from point A to point B?

I may agree on local-centrism for some things, but not all.
I will buy my iPhone, manufactured in China, but will stick to local, pasture raised chicken - a non-fungible product. You cannot buy a local chicken from China - by definition.

Technology, esp. the internet is a liberating technology.
Stephanie again:
"I've begun teaching recently and discovered that people do their research on the Internet. And it's like, there's a realm of information out there. So I'm immediately thrust into a position of global ignorance by the fact of the World Wide Web, because if I don't know what's on the Web, I don't know anything really, or I don't know most things.

That's sort of a radical monopoly, in a sense. It sort of sets a new standard of what it means to be knowledgeable and well-informed. However, good Luddite that I am, I find that the value of face-to-face contact hasn't been completely supplanted. The personal networks that can operate by chance encounters, people sending reprints in the mail, the whole sort of goddess network, is still working fine, but at a different scale, at a more, for me, manageable scale. I guess – thinking about the Web – I don't really want to know everything that's on the Web. I would be happy to know adequately the life cycle of the slime mold."

Let's close libraries, because they contain too much information.

When I first had access to the family car (another piece of technology) I could (and did) go to the Michigan State University Library and cruised he isles.

I could chase ideas up and down the stacks.

Today, I can do the same at "light speed"

If I'm curious about a topic, a tid-bid of history or culture, I can access it in a few moments.

From the trivia of a movie I might be watching (technology again) to recalling a city in Siberia when geo-tagging photos I've digitized (that damn technology yet again)

I can share thoughts with friends and associates regardless of time of day (few want a call from me at 3AM, but I can post an email), I can video chat with grandchildren half a continent away, soon with family overseas.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I'm really unsure of what to make of this
Sure, Reagan was an actor, but then he became president
Obama is president, and goes on late night pseudo-news, on the COMEDY Channel

Obama, Jon Stewart and Change - NYTimes.com:

"Late-night television has come a long way since Bill Clinton, then a presidential candidate, played his saxophone for Arsenio Hall during his campaign for the White House in 1992. The lines between entertainment and news are increasingly blurred – in part because Mr. Obama has been willing to bring his presidential platform to settings his predecessors might have regarded as unconventional, to say the least."

Next - Blame Canada

Apologies to SouthPark on Blame Canada

But then, who else to blame?

No Second Thoughts - NYTimes.com:

"When times get tough, it’s really important to believe in yourself. This is something the Democrats have done splendidly this year. The polls have been terrible, and the party may be heading for a historic defeat, but Democrats have done a magnificent job of maintaining their own self-esteem. This is vital, because even if the public doesn’t approve of you, it is important to approve of yourself."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Demographics and more

Combination of Demographics and a society that doesn't clear mistakes ...

Japan Goes From Dynamic to Disheartened - NYTimes.com:

"Few nations in recent history have seen such a striking reversal of economic fortune as Japan. The original Asian success story, Japan rode one of the great speculative stock and property bubbles of all time in the 1980s to become the first Asian country to challenge the long dominance of the West.

But the bubbles popped in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and Japan fell into a slow but relentless decline that neither enormous budget deficits nor a flood of easy money has reversed. For nearly a generation now, the nation has been trapped in low growth and a corrosive downward spiral of prices, known as deflation, in the process shriveling from an economic Godzilla to little more than an afterthought in the global economy."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On doing business

J.P. Morgan Quotes (jp morgan quote do list):

"Asked: 'Is not commercial credit based primarily upon money or property?'
'No sir,' replied Morgan. 'The first thing is character.'
'Before money or property?'
'Before money or anything else. Money cannot buy it...Because a man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom.'"

Don't expect change - much

Will: The Energy Future Will Look Familiar - Newsweek

"Although the economies of developed nations are expected to be, on average, 50 percent larger in 2035 than in 2005, energy demand is expected to be slightly lower because of efficiencies. Recently, Tillerson says, “more than half the growth in demand has been met by efficiencies” driven by higher prices.

Today, however, “we’ve got the entire country in a crouched position.” He is not. He is temperamentally percussive, as befits someone who, as a University of Texas undergraduate, manned the bass drum in the Longhorn Band. Ethanol? A monument to “the power of the farm lobby.” The Chevy Volt, the $41,000 four-passenger electric car with a tax credit of up to $7,500 to bribe people to buy it? “That’s your government at work.” ExxonMobil at work includes labs doing research on algae-based biomass fuels.

So: There is ethanol promoted by government, which need not turn a profit. There is algae research by Exxon-Mobil, which does need to. Which do you think is most apt to serve the nation’s needs?"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wishful Thinking

Not like computers where Moore's Law describes the increasing power from the same mass (real estate on the chip), more battery power = more electrons, which come with protons and neutrons (ie Mass).

High Battery Cost Curbs Electric Cars - WSJ.com:

The push to get electric cars on the road is backed by governments and auto makers around the world, but they face a big hurdle: the stubbornly high cost of the giant battery packs, which can account for more than half the cost of an electric vehicle.

Both the industry and government are betting that a quick takeoff in electric-car sales will drive down the battery prices. But a number of scientists and automotive engineers believe cost reductions will be hard to come by.

Unlike with tires or toasters, battery packs aren't likely to enjoy traditional economies of scale as their makers ramp up production, the scientists and engineers say.

These experts say increased production of batteries means the price of the key metals used in their manufacture will remain steady—or maybe even rise—at least in the short term. They also say the price of the electronic parts used in battery packs as well as the enclosures that house the batteries aren't likely to decline appreciably.

Monday, October 18, 2010

sic transit gloria mundi

Layer on demographic decline ...

The Great Deflation - Japan Goes From Dynamic to Disheartened - NYTimes.com

Few nations in recent history have seen such a striking reversal of economic fortune as Japan. The original Asian success story, Japan rode one of the great speculative stock and property bubbles of all time in the 1980s to become the first Asian country to challenge the long dominance of the West.

But the bubbles popped in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and Japan fell into a slow but relentless decline that neither enormous budget deficits nor a flood of easy money has reversed. For nearly a generation now, the nation has been trapped in low growth and a corrosive downward spiral of prices, known as deflation, in the process shriveling from an economic Godzilla to little more than an afterthought in the global economy.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Country-Wide, indeed

A sad chapter closes

The questioner wanted to know what, if anything, worried Mr. Mozilo, according to a participant.

“I wake up every day frightened that something is going to happen to Countrywide,” Mr. Mozilo said.

A year and a half later, that day arrived. In January 2008, Countrywide, the company he had built from a two-man mortgage operation into a lending behemoth, had to sell itself to Bank of America at a bargain price because it was being smothered by losses tied to a mountain of sketchy loans.

Yet almost until the moment Countrywide was taken over, Mr. Mozilo was publicly buoyant about its ability to ride out the mortgage crisis. Privately, however, he occasionally offered a gloomier assessment of Countrywide’s prospects and practices, according to e-mail and interviews.

Prior posts here about Mr Mozilo and this mess

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fox to henhouse ...

The banks may be guilty as hell, but let's not forget who encouraged them
The damn politicians

Editorial - The Foreclosure Crises - NYTimes.com:

"This latest foreclosure crisis should settle one issue once and for all. The banks that got us into this mess can’t be trusted to get us out of it. The administration and Congress need to act."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Foundation or Government?

On CNBC : Oct 5

Leon Cooperman to give ½ estate to charity

Joe Kernan – "philosophically – does this have anything to do with not wanting to give it to the Government where 90% falls through the cracks?"

Hedge Fund Billionaire Leon Cooperman Donates Most of His Fortune to Charity - DailyFinance:

"Cooperman says his story is the American dream. Now he wants now to donate most of his fortune to 'those that are disadvantaged to experience the American dream.' Cooperman follows in the footsteps Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. He was asked to donate half his fortune to the Gates foundation, but he says he'll donate every dollar he makes to the nonprofit sector, wanting to give back to the system."

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Don't lever up a consumer discretionary and highly seasonal company going into a deep recession.

Don't go the raw PE route with a product/company build on personal touch reputation.

Harry & David still struggling under weight of debt, recession | lansingstatejournal.com | Lansing State Journal:

"Since New York-based private equity investors bought Harry & David six years ago, the company has sliced its work force by a third and cut back on raises and benefits."


Monday, October 04, 2010

Bit o'History

How Germany Ended Its World War I Reparations Payments - TIME:

"Not quite. Germany's last $94 million payment issued on Sunday isn't a direct reparations settlement but rather the final sum owed on bonds that were issued between 1924 and 1930 and sold to foreign (mostly American) investors but then never paid. The story of German reparations involves several payment plans, years of inflation, broken promises, canceled debts and a man named Adolf Hitler who flat out refused to give anyone anything."

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Headed home

Headed home from a bit of paradise

Great week
Will post some of my own shots late (not as good as this one)

from http://www.art.com

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Where Billionaires Are Putting Money - The Wealth Report - WSJ

Where Billionaires Are Putting Money - The Wealth Report - WSJ:

"What was surprising about the lunch was where the attendees are putting their money. Topping the list were vacant office buildings, farmland and Africa. Stocks look attractive, but the attendees pointed out that no one has made money investing in the indexes for 12 years. “Few were enthusiastic on gold. Many liked Brazil and some favored India.”

As for the current craze among banks and some investors to borrow at low, short-term interest rates to invest in longer-term bonds, one attendee asked, “Has there ever been a carry trade that hasn’t ended badly?”"

Google Earth leads to spectacular meteor crater find | Watts Up With That?

Meteorite hit within last 10K years, Egyptian desert

Google Earth leads to spectacular meteor crater find | Watts Up With That?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fantasy Politics

Tolken's race or Well's Eloi (the Time Machine) ?

This one admits to having dabbled with Wicca !!!

Op-Ed Columnist - Myth and Madness - NYTimes.com:

"Christine O’Donnell is in a fantasy world. Literally.

The pretty Palin Mini-Me identifies with the women of Middle Earth, comparing herself to the female characters in the “Lord of the Rings” novels by J. R. R. Tolkien.

“Look at the significance that he gives to Eowyn, the Lady of Rohan,” O’Donnell said on C-Span in 2003. “She was a warrior spirit and, to me, that’s who I love. I mean, I aspire to be soft and gentle like Arwen, but realistically, I’m a fighter, like Eowyn.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Not every day that you see a "car" with a watercraft tag (just over the front wheel)

or with "wheels" of this sort - the props

Amphibicar Leland Michigan

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Global economic policy: Monetary illusions | The Economist

With most governments unable, or unwilling, to offer more fiscal stimulus, central banks are left solely responsible for propping up the flagging recovery.
Responsibility for boosting growth must be more evenly split with politicians. Only politicians can address the structural problems that are also holding back the rich world’s economies, such as the housing debt in America and the barriers to hiring in parts of Europe. Only politicians in countries, notably including America, that still have room for fiscal stimulus can ensure that it is used to complement monetary policy. And only politicians can couple stimulus with longer-term pension and tax reform, so that investors do not lose faith in sovereigns’ future solvency. Such a combination (however difficult given the electoral cycle in America) would avoid damaging the economy with ill-timed austerity now, and increase the effectiveness of bigger central-bank purchases of government bonds.

The article

Comparison to WWII

But - then we have Basel

Tough New Banking Rules Coming

Global Group Prepares to Limit Risk-Taking; Cost of Loans

Convening in the Swiss city of Basel, the officials are hoping to cinch a deal this weekend. In one of the most far-reaching steps, the current proposal would require global banks to maintain basic levels of capital equal to at least 7% of their assets—much more than existing standards of roughly 4% for large U.S. banks.

The effort would transform banking, potentially forcing banks to take fewer risks, make less profit and face more government scrutiny. It comes nearly two years after the chaotic bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers convulsed the global economy and led to taxpayer-funded bailouts world-wide. U.S., European and Asian officials hope an accord will create new global standards designed to firm up the foundations of large international banks.

For consumers, the rules could cut both ways—potentially driving up the rates they receive on deposits but also raising the cost of loans and crimping their availability. "Everybody is going to feel the impact a little bit differently, but everyone is definitely going to feel the impact," said Mary Frances Monroe, vice president of regulatory policy at the American Bankers Association trade group.For banks, the rules could require them to raise capital, shrink balance sheets and dump business lines deemed too risky. They'll likely have to keep in reserve more earnings to protect against potential losses, which will leave them less money to pay investors and employees.

Regulators and central bankers who comprise the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the group in charge of international banking rules, have been negotiating for months. They have largely agreed on the broad parameters and hope to have a final deal Sunday. But the timetable could slip into next week amid a debate about how long banks should be given to implement the rules.

The impact won't be spread evenly across global banking. In some countries, such as the U.S., Canada and the U.K., banks have raised significant amounts of new capital—funds that reduce their debt level, and therefore pare back risk—and are sitting on thicker cushions than counterparts elsewhere.

Some big European banks might have to augment their capital. Analysts at Morgan Stanley Thursday pointed to Germany's Deutsche Bank AG, Allied Irish Banks PLC, Bank of Ireland PLC and Austria's Erste Group Bank AG as potentially finding themselves short of capital under the new Basel rules.e.

Top Citigroup Inc. executives told Wall Street investors this week the new rules could prevent the firm paying dividends to investors until at least the end of 2011, and "exhibited a great deal of uncertainty around the impact" of the new rules, according to a report by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst John McDonald.

Bank of America Corp. and PNC Financial Services Group Inc. could be forced to sell their ownership stake in giant asset-management firm BlackRock Inc. Deutsche Bank AG is working on plans to raise more than $10 billion in capital, in part to meet the new requirements, and one analyst predicted Basel 3 could force Morgan Stanley to raise $1.5 billion in capital.


Many other banks could take similar steps to meet government mandates. On Friday, Allied Irish Banks PLC sold its Polish operations to Banco Santander SA in a 2.94-billion-euro deal that was mandated by European regulators because the Irish lender had received state aid.

Bank of America, PNC, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Allied Irish Banks declined to comment.

Michael Mauritz, an Erste spokesman, said "we feel pretty comfortable" with the bank's capital ratios, but he added that "nobody really knows what Basel will bring." Bank of Ireland spokesman Dan Loughrey said his company currently exceeds the capital requirements set by Irish regulators.

Authorities are racing to complete the new rules by a November meeting of world leaders in Korea, where the standards could be formally ratified. The Basel committee, long the international standard-setter, was charged last year by the Group of 20 leading nations with overhauling the rules.

Officials are likely to begin implementing the protocol in 2013 through a process that could last at least five years. Each country will have to tailor the plans to its own banks.

In other words, banks would have to hold in reserve $7 in capital for every $100 in investments and loans. The riskier the loans and investments, the more capital would be required.The plan under discussion would require banks to hold a type of capital known as common equity that equals at least 7% of a bank's risk-weighted assets, which includes a 2.5% buffer. Under the new Basel rules, banks would be able to dip below the 7% threshold and into their buffer, but would likely face limits on dividends and executive compensation. If a bank's common-equity ratio fell below 4.5%, they could face tight regulatory sanctions and potentially seizure by national regulators.

Banks also wouldn't be able to move risky investments or trading off their balance sheets to shield assets from capital requirements. Analysts believe this could force banks to curb their appetite for high-risk, high-profit activities such as trading and derivatives that led to soaring profits before the crisis. The international rules would be on top of financial regulations passed in July by Congress.

Higher capital requirements "could be quite significant for a number of banks," said Bernard de Longevialle, a Paris-based managing director at ratings company Standard & Poor's. John Raymond, a London-based banking analyst at CreditSights, noted, however, that bank executives likely will need more details before they'll be able to gauge the precise impact.

On the other side of the spectrum, banks whose capital cushions exceed the new requirements are likely to face pressure from analysts and investors to start repurchasing shares or raising dividend payments. Those practices were largely abandoned amid the crisis as banks tried to conserve capital.

The industry has warned that tougher capital requirements will force it to curtail lending as banks keep more money in reserve, a move that could take a toll on stuttering economies in the developed world.

The Basel Committee, citing its own research and academic studies, counters that there's little evidence to support the industry's assertions. Regulators say the changes will create a more stable banking system, less susceptible to crises.

The success of any accord is largely dependent on the level of trust among countries as they adopt the rules. If any one country refuses to implement the rules, other countries could try to penalize that country's banks with higher capital requirements or even more severe sanctions.

French officials remain skeptical that U.S. regulators will move swiftly to implement the new rules. "We won't apply the new Basel 3 rules if the Americans don't do the same," French finance minister Christine Lagarde said Wednesday in an interview with France's La Tribune newspaper.

U.S. regulators have said they will implement the rules quickly.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

VAT coming?

But does Congress have the will to do this?

Contributing Columnist - One Nation, Two Deficits - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

One possibility would be to establish a new source of revenue, perhaps through revenue-increasing tax reform, and possibly including a modest value-added tax (that is, a V.A.T. of 5 percent to 6 percent). This approach has many potential benefits, including the opportunity to improve our tax code by cutting back on loopholes and shifting toward a consumption-based tax system. It is also politically impossible, at least in the era of the 60-vote Senate. Those who fear a V.A.T. have little reason to worry — the votes aren’t there.

IF you want to try - likely best to lease

Electric Car 101 - Lease or Buy? - NYTimes.com

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Apartheid not of races, but of sexes ... which ends up with very very strange people.

Television review: 'My Trip to Al-Qaeda' - Los Angeles Times:

"'My Trip to Al-Qaeda' is almost unforgivably thought provoking — one comes away from it feeling if not pity for the members of Al Qaeda than at least a better understanding of how human beings could dedicate themselves to such hate-filled bloodshed. Wright takes a very hard, non-p.c. line on Islam as a sociopolitical tool in the Middle East. He fulminates at intelligent Saudis who nonetheless swallow conspiracy theories without question and is indignant over a female Saudi reporter's refusal to acknowledge the sexism of a society that would choose a burning death in school for a young girl rather than have her be seen without her traditional over-garments.

Indeed, Wright argues Al Qaeda's driving force is a hatred of life and a love of death. Neither Osama bin Laden nor any of his acolytes have a plan for the future because they do not really believe in a future. Oppressed not so much by Western corruption as a life controlled by so many rigid outside forces — from the Saudi royal family to the life-denying strictures of extreme Islam — death become an acceptable, even desirable, alternative to a world in which virtually all earthly pleasure is forbidden and a culture of victimized paranoia is embraced."

For the working girl on your Christmas List

Intuit GoPayment for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store: "Description

Accept Credit Cards. Anytime. Anywhere. Use your iPhone to easily and securely accept credit card payments wherever your business takes you. No more waiting for checks to clear, chasing invoice payments, or missing sales."iPhone Screenshot 1

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Hope that this Internet "Thingie" keeps working

Burned a couple "banker's boxes" of statements yesterday.
Trusting that I can continue to access accounts online as needed and maintain spreadsheets "in the cloud"

Act of faith

Monday, September 06, 2010


Housing Choice - Help Today’s Owners or Future Buyers - NYTimes.com

Proposals to institute another home buyers credit - to those already planning to buy ???

Brainchild of the realtors : didn't work before, why will it now?
Just let the market clear

“The administration made a bet that a rising economy would solve the housing problem and now they are out of chips,” said Howard Glaser, a former Clinton administration housing official with close ties to policy makers in the administration. “They are deeply worried and don’t really know what to do.”

"Michael L. Moskowitz, president of Equity Now, a direct mortgage lender that operates in New York and seven other states, also advocates letting the market fall. “Prices are still artificially high,” he said. “The government is discriminating against the renters who are able to buy at $200,000 but can’t at $250,000.

and how about :

Some members of the National Association of Home Builders say a new credit of $25,000 would raise demand but their chances of getting this through Congress are nonexistent.