Archive for June 2013

More Climate Change Nonsense

I was at a Meetup recently, and someone said some wrong things about climate change. My mother would be so proud: I was able to keep my mouth shut. This person said a few things on the Skeptic Rebuttal One-Liners page.

I was not able to respond because this person called climate change “ideologically-driven science”, and she seemed very skeptical of large corporations. That paradox threw me off. I have never been able to discern what ideology the deniers think that climate change is supposed to be pushing, unless you think trying to understand reality is an “ideology”.  So she doubts climate change, which is what a lot of corporations and glibertarian think tanks want, but somehow she’s above ideology. Sure you are.

One of her points was that the climate has changed in the past. That does not mean it cannot be changing now. Or that it can change faster than humans, plants and animals can adapt. Nor does that preclude the possibility that it is caused by humans. One point I have not seen addressed by people who point out that “climate has changed before” is that we are seeing climate changing after we have been emitting CO2 and methane and lots of other stuff for about 100 years. Do you really think that all those chemicals would not have an effect on things?  And what are the odds that a century of human emissions happens at the exact same time as a natural warming cycle? I am guessing they are pretty amazing.

She also said that it still gets cold in the winter. Keep in mind, I now live in Texas. A state which has worse droughts and fires every year. People love to point to cold days in winter to cast doubt on climate change. Yet when we have record high after record high in the summer, and droughts and floods to boot, they suddenly get real quiet. Or they jump through hoops to some up with some reason that climate is not getting warmer, or it has nothing to do with carbon emissions. Therefore, we don’t have to change our lifestyles. How convenient.

But she said a new one: Why aren’t we seeing more plants if there is more CO2? There are a few answers to this one: We can produce CO2 faster than new plants can use it. Also: plants require more than just CO2. They need water and land. Due to development and desertification, there is less land. And since one of the effects of climate change is that water is being re-arranged (floods in wet areas, droughts in already-dry areas) there is not always more water available either.

I have a couple more points: We should stop using the term “climate change skeptics”. Most of them are not skeptics. They are deniers. There are some who are professional deniers. But for most people, when you parse out all the BS, it just starts to sound like “I want to keep driving a big truck”. I think you can look at the world from two perspectives: From what you want, or trying to see it as it is.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

More Thoughts On Austerity

I had written a while back that the predictions of the austerity crowd (that if governments cut spending then economies will improve) are just not coming true.

After it was discovered that Reinhart and Rogoff lied in their influential paper, it seems like a lot of the wind has been taken out of the sails of the austerity movement. And yes, they flat-out lied. Or they are incompetent. As a commenter on The Big Picture pointed out, they left out a lot of countries whose data would have contradicted their thesis. One of them is Canada, one of the largest economies. They had their conclusion, then they looked for evidence. That seems like the usual MO for conservatives.

R&R at one point wrote an op-ed saying that their paper should not be used for political arguments. They wrote this after they and their movement were exposed. If you can find evidence they were telling Paul Ryan and conservatives to not use their paper to score political points, let me know. I guess IOKIYAR.

I recently saw an article on Seeking Alpha which said that the debunking of R & R is a factor in Germany moving away from austerity, and Germany announced it is backing off from pure austerity and is now planning to spend billions of euros to stimulate the economies of Europe. The article described this move as “underreported”. I would agree with that part. Is this another example of the media’s right-wing bias?


http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/20/reinhartrogoff-gate-isnt-the-first-time-austerians-have-used-bad-data/
http://www.businessinsider.com/reinhart-and-rogoff-nyt-op-ed-2013-4
The Agony of Austerity: the Spanish Results
http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/04/30/faced-with-discredited-research-wsj-doubles-dow/193834
http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113073/austerity-and-body-economic-reviewed-ruy-texeira#

Rogoff & Reinhart answering my call in FT – Austerity is not the only answer to a debt problem


http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/05/self-defeating-austerity-shocks.html

There’s Even Bigger Problems in the Reinhart & Rogoff Thinking….


http://www.businessinsider.com/harvard-niall-ferguson-remarks-about-keynes-2013-5
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/05/the-laymans-case-against-austerity.html
http://www.businessinsider.com/niall-ferguson-bad-track-record-on-economics-keynes-comments-2013-5
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rj-eskow/austerity-in-de-niall_b_3222793.html?utm_hp_ref=tw
http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2013/05/blame-politicos-not-reinhart-rogoff/
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jun/06/how-case-austerity-has-crumbled/?pagination=false

It’s all been for nothing – that is, if we ignore the millions of jobs lost etc


http://www.businessinsider.com/recessions-hurt-but-austerity-kills-study-2013-5
http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2013/05/michael-kinsleys-repeated-factual-errors-why-oh-why-cant-we-have-a-better-press-corps.html
http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/06/the-end-of-austerity-mania-on-capitol-hill.php?ref=fpa
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/austerity-hampered-job-growth-2013-06-07

Austerity: the greatest bait-and-switch in history


http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/13/us-austerity-spain-idUSBRE95C0DB20130613
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jul/11/how-austerity-has-failed/
http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/04/26/reinhart_rogoff_respond_unpersuasively_to_their_critics.html
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/04/reply-to-reinhart-and-rogoffs-nyt-response-to-critics.html

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

 

2013-05 Dividend Income Report

Here is the dividend income report for May, 2013.

The monthly dividend income came out to $242.65. The yearly income so far is $1,141.24.

The income for May, 2012 was $258.15, and the yearly income up through that month was $1,268.97.

It looks like it might be a while until my dividend income for a month is greater than the same month a year ago. Given the decline in the market that we are starting to see, I might buy something soon.

Here are the stocks:

  • AT&T: $25.15
  • WGL Holdings Inc: $12.99
  • ABM Industries Inc: $8.00
  • Lowe’s Cos Inc: $8.32
  • Clorox Co: $33.70
  • Air Products & Chemicals Inc: $10.64
  • Abbott Laboratories: $7.35
  • Colgate-Palmolive: $35.41
  • Hormel Foods Corp: $7.85
  • Northwest Natural Gas Co: $24.42
  • Procter & Gamble: $32.59
  • Texas Instruments: $14.59
  • Eaton Corporation: $21.64

Image from Wikimedia

Peak Oil: Ambient Echo 002

I posted a week or so ago that there were a lot of articles debunking the concept of “peak oil“, and they all showed up at the same time. I wrote why I thought peak oil is still an issue.

Now, going through articles on The Drumbeat, we get two articles joining the debunking of the debunking of peak oil. “Watts Up, Vaclav? Putting Peak Oil and the Renewables Transition in Context” spends more time talking about the transition from oil to renewables than about peak oil. The author, energy analyst Chris Nelder, looks at some works of Vaclav Smil, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. One of Smil’s “peak oil isn’t happening” articles that Nelder looks at was published by the American Enterprise Institute. It seems like conservatism in this country is really more about sucking up to the wealthy and big business than freedom for individuals.

Dangerous Times As Energy Sources Get Costlier To Extract” by Stephen Leeb (in Forbes of all places) is pretty much all about peak oil. He talks about energy return on investment,” or EROI. As I wrote in my post: We are spending more money to get the same amount of oil. He also introduced a new acronym: RROI, or resource return on investment. It’s a new acronym, but not really a new concept. He points out that oil drilling requires water. Food production requires both water and oil (in the form of refined products). Electricity, mining and manufacturing all depend on water, oil, and in some cases each other. So if oil drilling starts using more water, it could start a price spiral.

I think RROI will be mentioned more in the future. I have noticed over the past few weeks The Drumbeat is including more articles on peak water, and today I read one on peak soil. Maybe the “peak X” meme is overdone, but the basic concepts are valid: We are running out of stuff to make our stuff.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Fallen Business Idols

I would like about the declining reputations of a couple of Businessmen Of Genius whose reputations are slowly declining, but ought to decline even more.

The first is Marc Andreessen. He invented the first graphical web browser. Either he should have taken his money and left the Bubble of Self-Absorption (aka Silicon Valley) for good, or he should leave now.

He runs a venture capital firm called Andreessen Horowitz. Some of their investments include Facebook, Groupon and Zynga. So he is definitely causing the patented Technology Uselessness Meter to go into the Red Zone.

He is also on the board of HP. He joined in 2007. He was a major force behind making Léo Apotheker CEO. Apotheker was appointed CEO by the board even though most of the board had never met him. After Apotheker quit, several board members quit. Except MA.

MA was also a major force behind the acquisition of Autonomy Corporation, which is also turning into a disaster. Somehow MA is still there. I guess he really deserves the nickname “the Golden Boy”.

He recently published an article explaining Andrew Mason’s farewell letter to all of us in the unwashed masses. MA defends Groupon’s use of non-standard accounting metrics. You have no right to question the man behind the curtain because MA was “someone who was in the room as an observer at the Groupon board when the decision to use these metrics was made.” Ignore the fact that whenever any other company does the same thing it’s a red flag.

The questionable metric is adjusted consolidated segment operating income. It is a fancy way of saying that “Instead of making $A, we would have made $B if we did not to pay expenses C, D and E”. Bloomberg compared it to a baseball player calculating their batting average and excluding all the times they struck out.  Some people call these non-standard metrics “earning without the bad stuff”. Has Andreessen lost his marbles completely? Groupon deserved hatred for its BS in the financial filings. “Hey, we would make a lot of money if we did not have to pay some of our costs!” If an individual said they would be rich if they did not have to pay for food or shelter, we would say they were idiots.

MA also said he doesn’t like to leave the city limits of Menlo Park, or Palo Alto, or whatever Silicon Valley shithole he lives in. If a farmer is a closed-minded doofus because he never likes to leave Snotrag, Iowa, why is it okay to never leave Navel Gaze, CA?

The other fallen idol is Jack Welch. The guy who made millions as CEO, got a big retirement package, yet still got money from the company after he left. Everyone gushes over how well GE did during his tenure as Thief Executive Officer. Which was from 1981 to 2001. He was boss in an era of declining inflation and declining interest rates. Perhaps GE investors should thank Paul Volker as well. I think there is a quote in Sun Tzu along the lines of: When a rock rolls down a mountain, it is the mountain that makes it more effective.

Plus this guy promoted Robert Nardelli to a position of leadership within GE. After GE, he ran Home Depot and Chrysler. CNBC ranked him as one of the Worst CEOs of All Time. Considering what a cheerleader for CEOs CNBC can be, that is saying something.

Mr Welch made news before the election when he accused the Obama adminstration of cooking the books on the unemployment numbers. Being accused of cooking the books by Jack Welch is like being accused of having an addiction by Rush Limbaugh: Is it the voice of experience, or false projection? Many people have pointed out that under Jack Welch, GE’s earnings were always just a penny above estimates. And the growth over time had been really smooth. People criticize the earnings growth under Jeff Immelt. The graph is a lot more volatile now than it was before.

I guess the world is full of people who think they are straight talking tough guys who really can’t handle the truth.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.