mm337: Dare we trust those who messed up to fix it?

April 3, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

I can’t help it — our turbulent economic news continues to cause concern.

And, as we’ve pointed out, it’s increasingly top of mind most everywhere.

As a topic, it has appeared here with depressing regularity (depressing topic but lively and insightful commentary, of course!):

“May you live in interesting times”

mm335: Are you prepared for interesting times?
mm334: Rearranging deck chairs
mm333: “Great people shouldn’t have a resume”
mm331: Obama at Cooper Union: Lincoln?
mm328: Today’s economics lesson: Depression 101
mm309: The news Bush really hates you to hear
mm289: Recession: Paying the price for our power
mm285: Mayor Mike tells some hard truths
mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger…
mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show
mm256: I don’t hate big corporations, either

Pointed here by American.com here’s a useful analysis that lays out the causes of the financial system’s deep crisis, and you might be surprised at the source: St. Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve that, directed by Greenspan’s successor, Ben Bernanke, now is portraying itself as our white knight.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm335: Are you prepared for interesting times?

April 1, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

I’d always heard it was a Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Wikipedia.org is not so sure.

Notwithstanding the source, I think we’re there.

We’ve written increasingly on the recession that has arrived, and the depression that might be lurking. Perhaps it’s time for a nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© link table.

“May you live in interesting times”

mm334: Rearranging deck chairs
mm333: “Great people shouldn’t have a resume”
mm328: Today’s economics lesson: Depression 101
mm309: The news Bush really hates you to hear
mm289: Recession: Paying the price … power
mm285: Mayor Mike tells some hard truths
mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger…
mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show
mm256: I don’t hate big corporations, either

Jon Taplin, who always has interesting, big picture points of view, has a big word to teach us.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm331: Obama at Cooper Union: Lincoln for our times?

March 28, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

He could have spoken anywhere; that’s what the communications age is all about. Perhaps he should have spoken in Pennsylvania; after all, its April 22nd primary represents the next towering challenge to his candidacy.

But, he spoke in New York City, because that’s where beats the economic heart of the country (and not too long ago, the planet). And his speech was about our economic distress, the Wall Street half of the equation, where “pain trickled up.”

An interesting site, new to Left-Handed Complement, “The Reality-Based Community” has been added to our blogroll with alacrity. There, yr (justifiably) humble svt found some incisive analysis, and, usefully, a transcript of this powerful statement.

reality-basedcommunity

Obama on the economy

March 27, 2008 | Posted by Mark Kleiman

Public images, once established, are hard to change, and it isn’t going to be easy for Barack Obama to escape the “pretty words, no substance” label that his opponents and some journalists have tried to pin on him. But if anything could do it, today’s Cooper Union speech ought to.

Those familiar mainly with the Obama of the stump speeches, the election-night speeches, and the Ebeneezer Baptist Church address on MLK Day — the Obama of the “Yes We Can” music video — will find the Cooper Union lecture a significant change of pace. No soaring images, not much poetry, few applause lines, lots of analysis and substantive proposals, only one Obama-esque turn of phrase in describing the current crisis in mortgage-backed paper:

“What was bad for Main Street was bad for Wall Street. Pain trickled up.”

The speech itself: workmanlike, serious, substantive.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm258: It’s the economy, stupid!

January 18, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Can’t escape it.

Oil at $100 per barrel. And planted well over $3 per gallon at the pump.

Stock market with more bad news than good.

Another bank lost $billions last quarter, due to the mortgage fiasco that is shortening breath and whose ripples are washing ashore around the world. A bank in England with the oh so modern name of Northern Rock caused the first run on a British bank in 200 years last fall and had to be bailed out by Her Majesty’s government; U.S. subprime mortgages the cause. How unseemly!

How do you feel about your job? More and more entry level positions in MUDGE’s IT field have “right sourced” (love those euphemisms) themselves to Bengaluru and environs; where do they (the suited euphemizers in the corner offices) think that their own successors will come from? What, me worry?

A presidential election that for more than a year seemed so much a referendum on the Republican party’s mishandling of Iraq has, as elections often do, and as this preposterously lengthy election season guaranteed, morphed into another arena altogether.

It’s the economy, stupid!

Fred Siegel points this out in the latest City Journal.

cityjournal-new

Fred Siegel

The Globalization Election

Voters are showing their anxiety about the economy and immigration.

10 January 2008

The common thread that ties Mike Huckabee’s come-from-almost-nowhere victory in Iowa to Hillary Clinton’s unexpected resurgence in New Hampshire is a shared ability to speak to widespread middle- and lower-middle-class economic anxiety. In Iowa, Huckabee effectively disparaged Mitt Romney—who made a fortune at Bain Capital and outspent him 20 to 1—as someone who couldn’t possibly understand “people at the lower ends of the economic scale,” who fear that they’re losing ground in the increasingly globalized economy. And in New Hampshire, while Barack Obama’s rhetorical flourishes spoke most effectively to the young and to the “creative class” that has flourished in the global economy, Clinton—like her husband before her—felt the middle class’s pain, devoting most of her campaign events to highlighting economic issues and offering narrowly tailored programs to address everything from the rising cost of tuition to mortgage defaults. And it paid off: she defeated Obama by ten points among those who felt they were falling behind financially.

Clinton’s comeback aside, the most surprising fact to emerge from New Hampshire was that voters in both parties named the economy as the Number One issue. New Hampshire, where more than 81 percent of the voters have at least some college education, is prosperous by any standard. It enjoys the lowest poverty rate in the country, one of the lowest unemployment and taxation rates, and is in the top echelon of income. Yet only 14 percent of its Democrats and half of its Republicans believe that the economy is doing well, while a stunning 98 percent of voters in the Democratic primary and 80 percent in the Republican primary were “worried” or “very worried” about the economy.

Siegel has very perceptively connected our economic (skyrocketing oil, plummeting home values) shpilkes with the issue of illegal immigration, tosses in terrorism, and calls it the globalization election.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Globalization Election by Fred Siegel, City Journal 10 January 2008

In the end (290 days and a couple of hours from now) it will come down to which of the smooth (or not) talkers convince the voters that s/he understands the gravity of the issue Siegel calls “globalization” and has a plan to make all of our troubles vanish.

For all the talking we’ve heard, I don’t think any one of the candidates has convinced enough of us.

It will be an interesting 290 days…

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Faithful reader might be interested in how MUDGE came up with that 290 day number.

Got to the second page of Google results before the answer popped up – a site I’ve depended on for years.

Global as yr (justifiably) humble svt is, accurately knowing what time it will be in Sydney when it’s 7:00pmCST next week is part of the job. Long years ago, I came to depend on a terrific website, timeanddate.com to accurately deliver that information. On its Personalized World Clock page, one can specify up to 25 cities around the world, and you get a page that displays them. As I write this, it’s 5:58pm Friday in Honolulu, 1:58am Saturday in Sao Paulo, 11:58am Saturday in Beijing, and 2:58pm Saturday in aforementioned Sydney. Very cool.

Well, the site also has many other useful calculators. And, doh!, a days between two dates calculator. Also very cool.

And, a theme we’ve used here before, it’s only 31,795,200 seconds, give or take a few thousand, until a new president is inaugurated.

Can’t come soon enough.

Really, now, it’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show…

January 17, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

On more and more minds, and lips, lately is that dreaded R-Word, recession.

First some news that we won’t have to work too awfully hard to relate to the topic at hand.

1. A critical gear in the export engine gets stripped

The aerospace competition between Europe’s Airbus and the U.S.’s Boeing has been hard-fought (think: Saturday-night saloon, brass-knuckles style) commercial dueling of a classic nature.

Boeing, complacent after lucrative decades owning global airline sales was embarrassed when upstart Airbus, an amalgam of several European aerospace firms unable individually to compete with the Boeing colossus began to outsell the arrogant giant.

Thus it was with no small satisfaction that Boeing watched Airbus announce delay after delay delivering its latest product, the immense 600-passenger A380, finally released to its first customers late in 2007.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot, as Boeing yesterday was forced to admit that its latest product, the new-age, environmentally sensitive 787 Dreamliner, has encountered delivery glitches of its own, the impact of which will push deliveries back to 2009.

Here’s the word from Boeing’s home-town paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (sorry, Chicago Tribune, but Boeing’s head may have relocated, but its heart remains in Washington State).

seattlepi

Boeing explains new 787 delay

Company ‘underestimated’ time to finish partners’ work

By JAMES WALLACE
P-I AEROSPACE REPORTER

It was 90 days ago Wednesday that Boeing troubleshooter Pat Shanahan took over the 787 program after then-Dreamliner boss Mike Bair was sacked.

A week earlier, The Boeing Co. had announced an embarrassing six-month delay, with the first Dreamliner deliveries to airlines slipping from May until the end of 2008.

Boeing believed at the time that it would be able to complete work on the first plane in its Everett factory and have it flying by the end of March. It is the first of six that will be needed for the flight test program before the 787 can be certified by regulators to carry passengers.

The story rings true enough; the 787 is a new aircraft, being assembled a new way.

The 787 represents a new way of building airplanes for Boeing, which turned over most of the manufacturing and assembly work to key partners in Italy, Japan and elsewhere in the United States.

But those partners were unable to complete a significant amount of work before the unfinished sections of the first of six test-flight planes arrived in Everett for final assembly. Boeing has struggled to catch up on all this “travel” work.

Typical complexity issues, perfectly understandable, if disappointing.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Boeing explains new 787 delay

It will take a more adept macroeconomist than yr (justifiably) humble svt (not a very high bar to scale either) to tell us the effect of this delivery delay on the economy. Exports are an important piece of the economic pie, and Boeing a critical element of that slice.

Boeing sneezes, and we all should start looking around for our Nyquil.

2. Okay, it’s a recession. Which candidate makes the most sense?

There’s a presidential election campaign going on, you may have noticed.

NYTimes’ Paul Krugman, one of our favorite economic analysts, takes a look at their positions. Voters are getting nervous; tell us you know how to make us feel better:

nytimes

Responding to Recession

By Paul Krugman | Published: January 14, 2008

Suddenly, the economic consensus seems to be that the implosion of the housing market will indeed push the U.S. economy into a recession, and that it’s quite possible that we’re already in one. As a result, over the next few weeks we’ll be hearing a lot about plans for economic stimulus.

Since this is an election year, the debate over how to stimulate the economy is inevitably tied up with politics. And here’s a modest suggestion for political reporters. Instead of trying to divine the candidates’ characters by scrutinizing their tone of voice and facial expressions, why not pay attention to what they say about economic policy?

In fact, recent statements by the candidates and their surrogates about the economy are quite revealing.

And he proceeds to get to the heart of each candidate’s economic sound bites.

  • McCain: ruefully admits he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know about the economy
  • Giuliani: his cure, a huge tax cut, isn’t
  • Huckabee: just wrong
  • Romney: who just might know something, won’t say anything, fearing to offend
  • Edwards: driving the agenda with a clearly designed policy
  • Clinton: following suit
  • Obama: after an awkward false start, now has a plan, although less progressive than the other leading Dems

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Responding to Recession – New York Times

Can’t help but wonder what Michael Bloomberg thinks… Mike, Mr. self-made billionaire, what get’s us out of our funk, fast?

3. Recession: Bitter but necessary medicine?

Another of MUDGE’s favorite economists, Daniel Gross of Slate, weighs in on our looming distress, and how it could provide a wake-up call to U.S. business:

slate

The Good News About the Recession

Maybe it will finally teach Americans how to compete globally.
By Daniel Gross | Posted Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008, at 11:53 AM ET

House for saleA sign of the housing slump

A recession may be upon us, which would mean fewer jobs, declining tax revenues, and sinking consumer confidence.

But for some (congenital Bush-bashers, the Irvine Housing Blog, critics of rampant consumerism), the parade of bad news is an occasion for schadenfreude….

(By the way, schadenfreude is defined thusly. Admit it, you always wanted to know but never bothered to look it up. Sequitur Service© at your service!)

… They enjoy seeing inhabitants of the formerly high-flying sectors that got us into the mess—real estate and Wall Street—being laid low. Others hold out hope that a recession will iron out distortions in the housing market, thus allowing them to move into previously unaffordable neighborhoods. Some econo-fretters hold out hope that reduced imports and the weaker dollar—both likely byproducts of a recession—will help close the trade deficit. And a few killjoys believe recessions can be morally uplifting. “High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life,” as Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon put it in the disastrous aftermath of the 1929 crash and ensuing Depression. Not for him stimulus packages and enhanced unemployment benefits. “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.” (Thanks in part to such comments, voters liquidated Republicans for a generation.)

With the exception of a few gleaming stars, like our friends Boeing, U.S. companies have been woefully ineffective at selling to global markets.

The world is running away from us. The volume of global trade in merchandise has been increasing rapidly. And it’s not just the United States importing goods from China. It’s China importing natural resources from everywhere and building infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa, sub-Saharan Africa buying oil from the Persian Gulf, Dubai investors purchasing Indian real estate, Indian builders buying German engineering products and services, and German engineers buying toys made in China. With each passing day, an increasing number of transactions in the global marketplace do not involve the United States. We’re still a powerful engine. But the world’s economy now has a set of auxiliary motors.

We know we’ve been floundering; the way out may well be to find business leaders with global skillsets.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The good news about the recession. – By Daniel Gross – Slate Magazine

It’s going to be an uphill fight. We’ve earned our way into this economic distress: outsourcing our jobs instead of figuring out how to become competitive; living high on borrowed money that is now coming due big time; wasting geopolitical and real capital, and thousands of young American lives, on a poorly designed, inadequately executed, military misadventure in Iraq.

The R-Word

We hope you enjoyed this week’s three-part episode, and hope to heaven that we don’t have to do run too many more of them!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm254: Bloomberg – just won’t go away…

January 14, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

The current issue of Business Week contains an interesting interview by Maria Bartiromo of Charlie Cook, a Washington DC based political analyst. You may have seen his talking head during an election night or two on NBC.

Political Guru Charlie Cook on the Primaries

FACE TIME By Maria Bartiromo | January 21, 2008

magazine cover

https://i0.wp.com/images.businessweek.com/story/08/370/0110_mz_facetime.jpg

Charlie Cook, political analyst photographed on 8 January 2008 in Washington DC Chris Usher

MARIA BARTIROMO

What will be the biggest issues in the election?

CHARLES COOK

I think it’s going to be the economy and America’s place in the world. And one of the things that’s sparking Obama’s rise is the idea of restoring respect for America.

Who displays the best grasp of economic issues?
Mike Bloomberg. What’s interesting is that if you look at polls of Democratic voters, they are very concerned about the economy. Republican voters just don’t seem to be showing that much concern about where the economy is going. But once the GOP nominee emerges, the economy is going to assert itself as a very, very big issue in the general election.

Guess it’s not just New York types who like Mike. Second question – out flops Bloomberg.

Could he win?
[Third-party candidate] Ross Perot was at 30% percent and in first place at one point in June, 1992, and an independent candidate would need to be able to get 37% to 39% of the popular vote to start winning a bunch of states by small margins and assemble the 270 electoral votes necessary. It’s plausible. A very bright, very impressive person spending $1 billion, with no fund-raising expenses and no nomination fights, could win if the stars line up right in the sense of both parties’ nominees emerging badly damaged.

We just posted this grid a few days ago, but here’s what we’ve been talking about since last June:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of NYC for U.S. President 2008

mm024: Bloomberg?
mm038.1: Jews Sorta Like Bloomberg Even Though…
mm051: Bloomberg.com: Bloomberg’s Money, Visibility…
mm054: Chicago Tribune news: An Idea for Bloomberg
mm057: Bloomberg for President?
mm058: What Kind of President would Michael Bloomberg?
mm064: How to take down plutocrat Michael Bloomberg…
mm066: Michael Bloomberg’s Knightly Ambitions
mm069: The Votes Are In for New York’s Mayor Mike
mm086: Bloomberg Takes School Plan… to Midwest
mm110: Grading Mayoral Control
mm117: The cure for the Electoral College is worse…
mm208: Overdue a Bloomberg post
mm238: Bloomberg’s candidacy — closer to real?
mm248: Political Potpourri

Bartiromo’s interview of Cook covers all of the major candidates of both parties, but Bloomberg was discussed first.

Definitely attention grabbing.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Political Guru Charlie Cook on the Primaries

MUDGE thinks that third party candidates stir the pot; sell advertising and commercials; buy advertising and commercials; and generally pique the interest of the commentariat. Oh, boy, a three-way!

But could there be more going on? With the economy seemingly headed for recession (ugh, the dreaded “R”-word!), perhaps having a leader who is recognized as very smart where economic issues are concerned might be seen by more than just political types as salutary for the U.S.

Last time we facetiously (that’s our story now) proposed an Obama-Bloomberg ticket, but I’ll bet Business Week would love a Michael Bloomberg-Warren Buffett ticket!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

November 14, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s apparently petroleum week here at L-HC. The previous post tackled the subject of researchers innovating to produce practical biomass (as opposed to the wrong-headed impractical but politically potent corn) ethanol as a petroleum substitute. Now, a look at U.S. oil policy itself.

It’s just downright amazing how much smarter Thomas L. Friedman has become since the NYTimes no longer charges to read him on line. 😉

Today, he tells some truths, and challenges the presidential candidates to do the same, regarding our treasonable dependence on OPEC petroleum.

thomaslfriedman

In the wake of 9/11, some of us pleaded for a “patriot tax” on gasoline of $1 or more a gallon to diminish the transfers of wealth we were making to the very countries who were indirectly financing the ideologies of intolerance that were killing Americans and in order to spur innovation in energy efficiency by U.S. manufacturers.

But no, George Bush and Dick Cheney had a better idea. And the Democrats went along for the ride. They were all going to let the market work and not let our government shape that market — like OPEC does.

So, we all understand by now why George III and his evil puppeteer took the horrible course they’ve chosen, and taken us along for this devastating six-year and counting ride.

But Friedman has a legitimate point: why have the “loyal opposition” not pushed for a tax at the pump?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda – New York Times

One has to love the proposed debate Friedman sketches for us.

His tax finances people who hate us. Mine would offset some of our payroll taxes, pay down our deficit, strengthen our dollar, stimulate energy efficiency and shore up Social Security. It’s called win-win-win-win-win for America. My opponent’s strategy is sit back, let the market work and watch America lose-lose-lose-lose-lose.” If you can’t win that debate, you don’t belong in politics.

And one has to admit that none of the serious candidates (i.e., candidates one can take seriously — sorry Dennis!) possess the steel to conduct such a debate. Not in Iowa, where present policy is just fine by the corn farmers. Not in New Hampshire where taxes are probably synonymous with Satan.

President Bush squandered a historic opportunity to put America on a radically different energy course after 9/11. But considering how few Democrats or Republicans are ready to tell the people the truth on this issue, maybe we have the president we deserve. I refuse to believe that, but I’m starting to doubt myself.

The war, $100/barrel oil — it’s all so wrong. January 20, 2009 can’t come soon enough, but if our petroleum policy stays hostage to the oil guys, the domestic automobile manufacturers and the corn farmers, all of whom are perfectly satisfied with the status quo, we’ll remain in desperate straits.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm166: Economic Miscellanea

October 10, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

shortattention_thumb2_thumb2

Short attention span blogging: Item 1:

Three totally different, but intriguing takes on financial and economics news found over the past few days caught our interest.

The first from an interesting business blog long since added to our blogroll, The Cenek Report.

cenekreport

A Modern Parable

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 at 08:16PM
Robert Cenek

A Japanese company ( Toyota ) and an American company (General Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River.  Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.  On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat.  A management team composed of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action. Their conclusion:  The Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing.

The lesson is short, but telling, and I dare not quote more of it than I have, so please read it for yourself.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Cenek Report – Journal

MUDGE wants to support the U.S. automobile industry. Instead, for many years, his family has supported U.S. automobile workers, as well as Japanese automobile workers, as he and his loved ones haven’t found a suitable Big 3 product for more than 20 years, yet we certainly haven’t stopped buying cars. Just Big 3 cars.

The ongoing arguments in the MUDGE family aren’t Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge, it’s Honda vs. Toyota, and throughout the MUDGE and MUDGElet families, a pretty even split between the two maintains.

Short attention span blogging: Item 2:

From Slate, the always approachable and most readable Daniel Gross writes about an increasingly pervasive trend:

slate

How Wal-Mart and the government are killing the incandescent light bulb.

By Daniel Gross
Posted Saturday, Oct. 6, 2007, at 6:53 AM ET

Light bulb. Click image to expand.Is the incandescent light bulb on its way out?

Compact fluorescent bulbs cost more than regular incandescent bulbs. But according to the U.S. Department of Energy, they last up to 10 times longer, use about one-fourth the energy, and produce 90 percent less heat. Over its life span of four and a half years, a CFL more than repays its higher cost in energy savings: $62.95 per light bulb. Oh, and they’re good for the planet, since they produce fewer emissions. But while they’ve grown in popularity, CFLs have yet to emerge as a household staple, in part because consumers can’t see beyond the shock of the sticker price to the long-term savings. “When you buy a compact fluorescent bulb at the cash register, you experience the higher cost vividly and all at once,” says Robert Frank, a Cornell economist and author of The Economic Naturalist. “But when your electric bill goes down as a result, the savings are not as evident.” Consumers routinely make such short-term economically irrational decisions.

As it aims to vanquish Thomas Edison’s filament bulb—and save the Earth—the CFL is running into the brick wall of human nature. But the CFL is getting a lift from two of the globe’s most powerful forces: image-conscious Western governments and Wal-Mart.

MUDGE remembers the days, now long past, and in the same classification of even earlier cultural artifacts as twice daily (and once on Sunday!) home postal deliveries (it’s true, but not since the ’50s in Chicago), when light bulbs were free, provided by your friendly electric company (“Little Bill”).

You went to some unlikely place (our local bank I think I remember) and traded a copy of that month’s electric bill for 10 bulbs. One only purchased bulbs, at the ma and pa hardware store or maybe an Ace or True Value store, when something unusual was necessary, like a 4-foot long fluorescent tube for a kitchen or garage.

So the first displacement occurred when everyday bulbs needed to be purchased, as the electric monopoly’s free bulb policy went the way of 29¢/gallon ethyl.

And now, the newest displacement, when instead of the familiar globular bulbs, the odd, curly CFLs, so much more  expensive, and still not providing quite white illumination, seem to be the purchase of choice when replacing lighting.

OF course, bleeding edge as always (ha!), we’ve been replacing incandescents with CFLs here in MUDGEland for many years.

We will never go vegan (don’t get me started!); we recycle but haven’t graduated to reusable grocery bags*; and sorry, the economics of hybrid cars just don’t compute for this family. But compact fluorescent lighting — we’re there (but never, ever to be purchased at Wal-Mart!).

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

How Wal-Mart and the government are killing the incandescent light bulb. – By Daniel Gross – Slate Magazine

And did you catch the WIWICWLT moment?

It takes more than one market force to change a light bulb.

Short attention span blogging: Item 3:

Finally this, from Paul Krugman of the NYTimes, unshackled from the newly abandoned pay per view policy, and whose blog has also recently joined the L-HC blogroll.

Here, he illuminates yet another instance of the distorting spin that the perfidious administration of George III has used when announcing economic statistics.

nytimes

Pathetic — Paul Krugman — The Conscience of a Liberal

The new White House “fact sheet” on the economy declares that job growth since August 2003 is the “longest continuous months of job growth on record.”

That’s literally true – the Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the great jobs boom of the 1990s do show a couple of scattered months of job decline, although these are probably statistical blips. But by any reasonable standard, job growth in the Bush years has fallen way short of growth in the Clinton years.

All the data are available at the BLS web site.

Over the whole of the Clinton administration, the economy added 22.7 million jobs – 237,000 per month.

Over the whole of the Bush administration to date, the economy added only 5.8 million jobs – 72,000 per month.

Pathetic – Paul Krugman – Op-Ed Columnist – New York Times Blog

One no longer is surprised, or even disappointed. Just incrementally more angry.

January 20, 2009

Bush’s last day

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

*Non-commercial Note!: the link to greensak.com used above is for the convenience of faithful reader and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. Deal with it.


mm136: China – Two interesting aspects

September 10, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

China is always in the news. Two stories from the past few days illuminate why in some interesting ways.

First, from the LA Times, a look at how we have become victim’s of our unlimited appetite for everyday low prices.

latimes

Analysts expect prices in the U.S. to creep up as safety standards are reevaluated. Buyers and retailers may share the impact.

By Don Lee and Abigail Goldman
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
September 9, 2007

SHANGHAI — Get ready for a new Chinese export: higher prices.

For years, American consumers have enjoyed falling prices for goods made in China thanks to relentless cost cutting by retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.

But the spate of product recalls in recent months — Mattel announced another last week — has exposed deep fault lines in Chinese manufacturing. Manufacturers and analysts say some of the quality breakdowns are a result of financially strapped factories substituting materials or taking other shortcuts to cover higher operating costs.

Now, retailers that had largely dismissed Chinese suppliers’ complaints about the soaring cost of wages, energy and raw materials are preparing to pay manufacturers more to ensure better quality. By doing so, they hope to prevent recalls that hurt their bottom lines and reputations. But those added costs — on a host of items that include toys and frozen fish — mean either lower profits for retailers or higher prices for consumers.

“For American consumers, this big China sale over the last 20 years is over,” said Andy Xie, former Asia economist for Morgan Stanley, who works independently in Shanghai. “China’s cost is going up. They need to get used to it.”

The low hanging fruit of lowest prices for decent quality has run into a rising standard of living in China, and the results have been ugly.

The bulk of the world’s toys are made in southeastern China, where wages have shot up in the last couple of years amid greater competition for workers and increases in minimum wages and living costs. Booming demand has pushed up commodity prices. The appreciation of the Chinese yuan, up 9% against the dollar in the last two years, also has hurt some factories, as they are paid in dollars.

Follow the link to the rest of the story, reported from Shanghai.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Los Angeles Times: Fixing Chinese goods will be costly

So, what with rising wages, increases in commodity prices, the unexpected new costs of safety inspections, prices for toys, tilapia, luggage, and an entire big box store full of consumer necessities (and not so) will go up.

So, now let’s turn to the other side of the consumer equation, courtesy of the always perceptive Daniel Gross of Slate.

slate

Pundits bemoan our trade deficit with China. But those container ships aren’t heading home empty.

By Daniel Gross
Posted Saturday, Sept. 8, 2007, at 7:59 AM ET

Economists make a big deal out of all the junk we import from China: tainted pet food, lead-laced toys, and enough cheap plastic tchotchkes to load up a landfill the size of Montana. And American industries are clearly being drenched by the rising tide of Chinese imports, which totaled $288 billion in 2006. But as imports from China loudly rise, American exports to China are quietly rising at an even more rapid pace. Would it surprise you to learn that a lot of those exports are … junk?

In an act of macroeconomic karma, materials thrown out by Americans—broken-down auto bodies, old screws and nails, paper—accounted for $6.7 billion in exports to China in 2006, second only to aerospace products. Junkyards may conjure up images of Fred Sanford’s ratty collection of castoffs. But these days, scrap dealers are part of a $65 billion industry that employs 50,000 people, who together constitute a significant arc of a virtuous circle. The demand of China’s factory bosses for junk—which they recycle to make all the junk Americans buy from China—creates jobs, tamps down the growth of the trade deficit, and might help save the planet.

Exports to China second only to aerospace products? Junk?

And this is a good story for all of you greens out there (MUDGE is always happy to assist his environmentally sensitive fellow citizens. Feel free to use yesterday’s post to wrap fish.):

The booming China trade isn’t simply good news for shareholders of Metal Management, whose stock is up 67 percent in the past year. It’s good news for tree-huggers. Every scrap of scrap put on a slow boat to China is one less scrap that winds up in a landfill or an incinerator. Asia’s insatiable demand for scrap has boosted prices, thus encouraging companies to suck more reusable junk out of garbage piles.

An interesting twist, eh? The imbalance is less so. That’s always good news.

Take a look:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The junk we send to China. – By Daniel Gross – Slate Magazine

A couple of things about this story are intriguing.

1) The story refers to corrugated paper, a key element of MUDGE‘s once family business. $130 ton for scrap corrugated boxes (the brown shipping containers everything wears to market) is an astounding price.

2) The idea of sending scrap overseas resonates in a slightly unpleasant way with us ancient curmudgeons. MUDGE was born after WWII (believe it or not!), but the lessons of that conflict were fresh.

In the years before Pearl Harbor projected the U.S. belatedly into a conflict that had started up in Asia in the early Thirties, scrap iron and steel in massive quantities made its way across the Pacific to, wait for it, Japan.

It was a bitter realization that many of those junked Model T’s and scrapped steam heating radiators were sent back to our combatants as Japanese aircraft and ships and bombs.

Is it too paranoid to make an association with cheerfully sending our scrap to a rapidly arming and increasingly assertive about its global destiny China?

So, two interesting China stories, one from each container port.

And did you catch the punch line from the LA Times piece?

Meanwhile, Skyway is gearing up to open a factory this fall in Vietnam, where wages are lower.

“I think the consumer will not accept the full impact of price increases from China,” Wilhoit said. “We’re going to have to do things differently, like Vietnam, to get the same quality stuff on the shelf and make money.”

The mind boggles.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE