Posted on April 30, 2008 by ed
This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country. (Describing the results of putting in a gas tax holiday – resulting in increased consumption)
I just mentioned the gas tax of McCain recently and how dumb it is (see below), and then Hilliary Clinton jumps on the idea as well. Thankfully Obama hasn’t seen fit to give the ridiculous idea his approval as well. These candidates all have top notch economist advisers who apparently get overshadowed by their staffers who want to get dumb votes. Thomas Friedman has a good explanation of why it would be stupid in h is column “Dumb as We Wanna Be” while I don’t always agree with Friedman, he has some good thoughts on globalization and good that can come from it among other ideas, so I try to remember to read his column.
His column then proceeds to explain how we have not made any push into wind and solar power, which you can argue have strong potential both as renewable sources, but maybe right now more importantly in reducing dependency on hostile regimes (won’t have to go to war to keep our wind supply). Yet despite this he recounts the fact that all incentive programs have ceased.
While all the presidential candidates were railing about lost manufacturing jobs in Ohio, no one noticed that America’s premier solar company, First Solar, from Toledo, Ohio, was opening its newest factory in the former East Germany — 540 high-paying engineering jobs — because Germany has created a booming solar market and America has not.
Filed under: Business, Economics, News, Politics | 1 Comment »
Posted on April 24, 2008 by ed
This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold.
– William Carlos Williams
‘This is just to say’ is a famous poem by William Carlos Williams that you may have come across in an englishclass long ago, I hadn’t heard it in a long time, although I was reminded recently why it is such a phenomenal poem by a great 6 minute segment on This American Life. Check out the episode Mistakes Were Made (description below) at thislife.org
“Mistakes Were Made – Act Two. You’re Willing to Sacrifice Our Love.
There’s a famous William Carlos Williams poem called “This is Just to Say”. It’s about, among other things, causing a loved one inconvenience and offering a non-apologizing apology. It’s only three lines long, you’ve probably read it…the one about eating the plums in the icebox. Marketplace reporter (and published poet) Sean Cole explains that this is possibly the most spoofed poem around. We asked some of our regular contributors to get into the act. Sarah Vowell, David Rakoff, Starlee Kine, Jonathan Goldstein, Shalom Auslander and Heather O’Neill, all came upwith their own variations of Williams’s classic lines. (6 minutes)”
Filed under: Diversion, Media | 1 Comment »
Posted on April 23, 2008 by ed
Yesterday was earth day and while many of us might have done nothing to celebrate the earth, I did some reading (well most online magazines and news sources tended to put up a few articles so maybe they were forced upon me – heck if Google hadn’t done an earth day image I might not have known it was going on at all) Anyway, an article in Slate on the horrors, that’s right the horrors of bottled water. That led me to suggest in a brief chat with someone that a great idea (and the article may have mentioned this as well) that taxing bottled water would be a good idea. Why you say? Well its not like we don’t want to encourage water drinking over soda and sugary drinks so we need to be real careful, but bottled water is quite a bad use of our resources. If you think about it we spend a lot of money trucking, bottling in plastic (most of which ends up in the land fill – even states with deposit laws don’t have them on the plastic bottled water bottles) when we could focus our money and attention instead into getting great water from our taps (I know taps don’t sound sexy, look sexy or have the panache that drinking a Voss does, but we can work to change that). Maybe the solution for now is getting people to realize that faucet mounted water filters (I use a Pur one and I really like it) can make your tap water taste great and that often times the so called bottled water is sourced from Municipal supplies as well (purified water may be better than the tap water source, so I am not saying this is bad, I am only saying lets get those filters downstream and get the whole bottle out of the transaction.
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Posted on April 23, 2008 by ed
I love baseball and not much could get better than a night out at a baseball game with friends and a few beers. Nintendo is trying to change all that (for the better – lets remember that Japanese love baseball as much as anyone) by introducing for their hand held video game system the Ninentdo DS Fan Network, it opened up last year at Safeco Field in Seattle (Nintendo is an owner of the team and has North American headquarters nearby). Anyway, the Fan Network allows DS users to order food to be delivered, check stats, watch video replays, play trivia games (probably like the RTN network in bars). Anyway it sounds like a great idea, as many baseball fans know you definitely have time between pitches to check stats, settle bets over all time this or that and of course have a few beverages.
I say why limit it to Nintendo owners (well I can see why in Seattle they would) but why aren’t other teams jumping all over this and setting up wifi friendly ballparks where I could order drinks on my iPhone or see the stats even if I am in the bleachers with my back to the scoreboard (that the setup in Jacobs, err. Progressive Field in Cleveland – its gonna take a while to get used to saying that). Anyway, I think its a great idea, Nintendo used to charge $5 for the service but now is dishing it up free. See Engadget for that update or an older article on MSNBC that explains what its like to use it.
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Posted on April 19, 2008 by ed
So there can be no doubt in anyones mind that the United States has moved into Iraq for a really long time – possibly forever – as the new US Embassy clearly shows.
Nothing says permanent U.S. occupation of Iraq more than the construction of the largest embassy in the world, a $474-million compound with 27 different buildings, 619 apartments and an Olympic-size swimming pool—all, of course, for a country with 26.7 million people and 115 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.
I hadn’t heard about this crazy embassy of the US in Iraq has now surpassed $700 million in construction costs and will cost the State Department over a billion a year to operate, standing as the largest embassy in the world. Why so large? Well of course this isn’t going to be a traditional embassy but rather a fully self contained outpost to allow the US to maintain our presence in the Middle East.
See Washington Post
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Posted on April 17, 2008 by ed
I just heard about this on my drive home today (thankfully while on the subject of gas its only a 5 minute trip), anyway John McCain the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has proposed a summer gas tax holiday, meaning the 18% or so federal gas excise tax would be discontinued for the summer so as to spur on the economy, allow people to travel and generally drive like gas prices were what were used to. This is all well in good if you forget for a moment that the gas tax funds a lot of important road projects (yeah, its not like we couldn’t just ramp up the deficit a bit more and borrow). Secondly the price of gas in the summer going up reflects and increase in demand and the fact that capacity is constrained, such that if the price dropped supply already being extreme would be further challenged by a surge in demand – surely a boon to big oil, but is it really a boon to Americans who would deluding themselves that it is domestic issues that are driving the price up – the reality is high gas prices are here to stay as China and India are now happy to buy barrels of oil even when they are over $100 a barrel. It is the price raising over the summers that will remind people that they need to be responding to the market forces and finding alternative ways to vacation (maybe closer? maybe think about using the greyhound bus long the realm only the realm of the lower classes one might say but no reason to think that everyone needs to take their cars w/ them on vacation.
Marketplace on NPR had a nice piece on why it is a stupid idea and there are a number of articles (including a Fox News article) that rip the idea apart as well, so I am not too worried that it will gain traction and garner a chance of becoming law. That said it is a bit troubling to see a supposedly grounded in economics (at least his advisers were?) candidate turn against what is most certainly a smart tax. While debatable, many would agree that it is best to tax inelastic goods so as to decrease dead weight loss, or secondarily to tax items that you are wishing to discourage consumption of – sin taxes etc., gasoline falls into both camps and I would argue that we don’t tax it enough – as I have mentioned before In re: Skiing in the Emirates.
If we want to lower prices long term we need to reduce demand, not to mention the gain of reducing the oil producing nations grip on the world.
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Posted on April 17, 2008 by ed
Uber saver Mike Hegarty, a CPA in Des Moines, Iowa, says he saves $500 a year on meat by purchasing whole animals from local farms.
In case you’ve never done it and you’re having a hard time visualizing it in your garage, when you buy a quarter of a cow from a local farm, a butcher cuts it into the familiar hamburger, flank and sirloin steaks and packages it for you.” (Extreme-Savers from Yahoo! Finance)
These days everything is extreme, they got extreme golf, extreme makeovers, extreme food, and now apparently extreme savers, people who really really really try and save money (something I will probably never be even close to – trouble even using coupons for me) but the idea that buying local foods, buying whole (or quarter) animals make a lot of sense, of course most of us don’t buy whole animals, but I assume a few folks with deep freezers or who enter into a food buying co-op can do very well with that (I am doing a CSA 1/2 share this year but its hard to tell if that will be a cost savings or not – but at least the vegetables from it will be local).
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Posted on April 11, 2008 by ed
Most Americans know Monsanto because of what it sells to put on our lawns— the ubiquitous weed killer Roundup. What they may not know is that the company now profoundly influences—and one day may virtually control—what we put on our tables. For most of its history Monsanto was a chemical giant, producing some of the most toxic substances ever created, residues from which have left us with some of the most polluted sites on earth. Yet in a little more than a decade, the company has sought to shed its polluted past and morph into something much different and more far-reaching—an “agricultural company” dedicated to making the world “a better place for future generations.” ’ – Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear
Vanity Fair this month has a good article by Donald Barlett and James Steele on Monsanto, the chemical turned agribusiness who sells most of the GMO seeds in the world. As you can imagine their business is booming despite backlashes from those oh so stubborn Europeans and Japanese who don’t seem to have a taste for GMO soy products. In any event the article touches on a few issues and I’ll warn you it is a lefty leaning article so keep yourself balanced, but a lot of it is true about their campaign of fear, intimation and enforcement of their IP rights (over the seeds). Unlike most companies they have found that their customers keep coming back despite hating Monsanto. The article touches on some various issues including their history of toxic waste and harm (which may not be fully connected to the current company as they split into so as not to taint the seed business).
One of the things I have always thought was garbage that Monsanto has been able to do is fight the labeling laws, trying to prevent dairy farmers from labeling their milk as being free of growth hormones. Thankfully they haven’t gotten those through the FDA (though from the sound of the article they practically run it) but farmers are required to say the treated milk has not been shown to be any different (mind you no long term studies have ever been done)
Read it at Vanity Fair: “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear”
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Posted on April 7, 2008 by ed
Observers agree that fuel prices were perhaps the single biggest factor in Skybus’ demise, but they disagree on some other points. Some say the company wasn’t managed properly.” Columbus Dispatch “How could it happen”
Skybus burst onto the scene as the newest low cost US airline last year formed in the model of Ryan Air and other European budget no frills airlines. Just as suddenly as it appeared it burst into flames ceasing operations last Friday and leaving passengers stranded and without any infrastructure to help them. With so much promise and so much positive attention why did Skybus implode? Well it looks like some strategic errors and poor management are to blame but so are the skyrocketing fuel costs where oil almost doubled in price since they opened up shop.
Plenty of other mistakes were there and I think the $10 tickets were never that great an idea – sure they created some buzz, but they could have created buzz for west coast flights with higher prices, and the lack of a phone number and no contingencies to help in the wake of mechanical errors placed the airline as an airline that really could only be relied on by those who had a few days off or a very flexible work schedule.
Its too bad that it happened this way because Skybus created a great buzz here in Columbus and got some people who might have never thought of coming here, do just that. Hopefully JetBlue who left Columbus since Skybus opened up shop might return, but with the market the way it is, I am not getting my hopes up.
See Dispatch story “How could it happen?“
Filed under: Business, Columbus, Ohio, Travel | Leave a Comment »
Posted on April 4, 2008 by ed
So we live in an era where I can renew my library books merely with a mouse click (even if they are already overdue – basically stops the bleeding) yet for some reason I still end up with overdue books and massive (by library standards I don’t know) fines. I went out of town not having returned my books (7 of them) and not remembering to renew them despite email reminders. Is it that I am just lazy? (don’t answer) I don’t know – I live fairly near the library but I don’t pass by it ever so it must be its own little trip. Today I have 5 of the books in my car ready to return, and I have renewed most of them now as well, but just imagine if I lived 10 years ago how big the fines would be. Sad I know…
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