Friday, December 19, 2014

Broken Watch Still Broken

Dallas News

Martin believes holiday sales will rise 3.8 percent. The National Retailer Federation says sales will increase 4.1 percent and IHS Global Insight predicts sales will increase 4.2 percent.
Sales rose 3.1 percent in each of the last two years.

Anyone see a pattern here?  

Complete Regulatory Capture

 BBC Reports:

The US Federal Reserve has given Wall Street banks even more time to comply with parts of the Volcker Rule, a key provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. The rule prevents federally-insured banks from using their own money when investing in certain risky assets. The Fed had already announced banks would have until 2017 to deal with one type of trading product. It will now grant an extension to other types of funds.


 They don't even pretend anymore. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Adair Turner on Inequality

Festival of Economics 2014: Adair Turner
 Some interesting theories on inequality, saving, debt, leverage, etc.  Video here

They Say It Like It's a Bad Thing

Bankers See $1 Trillion of Investments Stranded in the Oil Fields  

In a stunning analysis this week, Goldman Sachs found almost $1 trillion in investments in future oil projects at risk. They looked at 400 of the world’s largest new oil and gas fields -- excluding U.S. shale -- and found projects representing $930 billion of future investment that are no longer profitable with Brent crude at $70. In the U.S., the shale-oil party isn’t over yet, but zombies are beginning to crash it.

That's $930 billion in mal-investment that would have gone to maintaining the status quo in the energy sector that can now find a more useful place to invest.   Of course from the money supply perspective this is just more loose money in a world awash with the stuff. From the consumer perspective it means lower costs for just about everything, more money left over for raises, and lower interest rates.  No wonder Vampire Squid Corp hates the idea. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Surprise? Work longer & harder for less

Joseph Wharton
Everyone has a Wharton subscription right? Here's their latest:
  In order to protect their retirement savings, today’s workers will have to stay longer in the workforce, save more and expect less in pension benefits, according to Olivia S. Mitchell, Wharton professor of business economics and public policy.

Further down:
Over the years, the government has tried to keep the PBGC afloat by raising premiums, but other circumstances came into play. “The financial crisis didn’t help at all. There were caps on contributions that employers were allowed to put in, and many employers have pulled out,” she said. Some, like the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund, is about $17 billion underfunded, she noted. “The problem is that any employers that can remain in business will want to try to withdraw; no new firm would try to enter that problematic pension fund because of the unfunded liabilities.”

It doesn't stop there.  California:
The state controller’s office says California is now on the hook for more than $70 billion in health care costs for retired state workers. That’s a 10 percent increase from last year. Gov. Jerry Brown plans to take the issue on in his new budget proposal next month.
The sharp increase in retiree health care costs comes mostly because we’re all living longer. Controller John Chiang says the state must start pre-funding its retiree health care benefits – just as it does with pensions. He compares it to making credit card payments:
“We know that the debt service increases over a period of time – and that you ought to fully pay each bill monthly with your credit card,” Chiang says.

 The "mere" $18 trillion Federal debt is but the tip of the iceberg.  This isn't tinfoil.  Thi is about charting a path out of the forest.  Some of California's $70 billion is 30 plus years in the future and would be imprudent to pre-fund at this time.  Yes, I am saying -outright- the best course for some of this obligation is to kick the can.  So sue me.  Sustainable polices are never clean and well defined.  Especially when you are trying to clean up past excesses. 

Who are we to disagree?








Wednesday Placeholder

The view from my garden shed Dec 17, 2014. 
Trying to get a few posts up later this morning.  In the mean time enjoy the view of the snow here in Southern California. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good Idea Bad Idea

Falling Fruit identifies urban public domain food sources. 

Falling Fruit

... is a celebration of the overlooked culinary bounty of our city streets. By quantifying this resource on an interactive map, we hope to facilitate intimate connections between people, food, and the natural organisms growing in our neighborhoods. Not just a free lunch! Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food.
Our edible map is not the first of its kind, but it aspires to be the world's most comprehensive. While our users contribute locations of their own, we comb the internet for pre-existing knowledge, seeking to unite the efforts of foragers, foresters, and freegans everywhere. The imported datasets range from small neighborhood foraging maps to vast professionally-compiled tree inventories. This so far amounts to 1,121 different types of edibles (most, but not all, plant species) distributed over 786,019 locations. Beyond the cultivated and commonplace to the exotic flavors of foreign plants and long-forgotten native plants, foraging in your neighborhood is a journey through time and across cultures. 


Okay.  This is great.  I do this kind of thing all the time (within limits).  More on that later.  Oranges dangling over the fence is a common sight in my ghetto.  On the golf course there are any number of figs or apples and such.  There is a hedgerow of pomegranates that -used- to be a community treasure for many years.  More on that later.  So, what are the good and bad aspects?  Well the good should be obvious to anyone.  Fresh local produce.  Free.  The bad?  Where to begin?  Let's go from most selfish to most egalitarian in order.  Come the Bankopolypse™you don't want "them" to know where "your" potential food sources may be.  You also don't want crazies to know where anonymous food is just laying around.  Especially food you might want to eat.  Those tasty morsels are attractive nuisances.  The fact that they have value means someone is going to abuse the system.  That is an issue locally with the pomegranates.  Assholes have come in and stripped the local pomegranate trees these last two years.  Finally is the slippery slope and the first "more on that" issue.  I would never take food from a commercial planting.  Not only is it stealing but I don't want them to put up fences and such.  And it goes without saying that the tragedy of the commons will always be with "us" as long as there are "them." 

Apologies  for the partial nudity.  Exceptions are the rule on EN. 

Sustainable Surprise

All-electric cars may be worse for environment

R&D Magazine.  Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:02am
An electric plug charges a Smart Car electric drive vehicle in New York. People buying all-electric cars where coal supplies the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study shows those coal-powered plug-in vehicles can be making the air dirtier and worsening global warming.
People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming.

Ethanol isn't so green, either.

"It's kind of hard to beat gasoline" for public and environmental health, said study co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the Univ. of Minnesota. "A lot of the technologies that we think of as being clean... are not better than gasoline."

The key is where the source of the electricity all-electric cars. If it comes from coal, the electric cars produce 3.6 times more soot and smog deaths than gas, because of the pollution made in generating the electricity, according to the study that is published in PNAS. They also are significantly worse at heat-trapping carbon dioxide that worsens global warming, it found.

The study examines environmental costs for cars' entire lifecycle, including where power comes from and the environmental effects of building batteries.

"Unfortunately, when a wire is connected to an electric vehicle at one end and a coal-fired power plant at the other end, the environmental consequences are worse than driving a normal gasoline-powered car," said Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who wasn't part of the study but praised it.


We've gone over all this seen above before.  At least the MSM is still trying to keep up.  Anyway, I for one am grateful for the bleeding edge types for several reasons.  First they pay for advancing the manufacturing processes.  Second they don't compete for gas.  Third they have the attention of the people who produce gas. 

Everyone here has a subscription to R&D magazine right? 

Mortgage Rate v 10 year Rate Spread

Banks making bank. 
"Mind the gap."