Thursday, February 25, 2010

Talk about Palm's resurgence was PREmature

Palm took a massive dump today. Few people want the Pre or Pixie. Palm is clearly aiming for the ladies with their marketing, but the attempt was a flop. Women, like men, want lots of apps and a nice display.

Speaking of being premature, like everyone else I wrote off Microsoft. It has a dumb name (like all of Microsoft's products except Bing), but Windows Phone 7 Series (who the hell is responsible at Microsoft for naming products?) will be a big hit I think. Yeah, it's a Zune phone. But I like it. Just keep Ballmer away from the demos. And get the IE logo off there.

Houston civil servants are underpaid

I keep hearing that Houston civil servants are underpaid and make less than their private-sector counterparts.
I am glad that former Houston mayor Bill White was watching out for us taxpayers when he was in office, and I am sure he will bring those very same skills with him to the Governor's Mansion.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Taxman

Monday, February 22, 2010

Europeans need to butch up

So Eurostar breaks down.
Nearly 750 people were stuck for two hours last night after the Paris to London service came to a halt just before 11pm due to 'technical problems'.
Passengers had to wait an hour for another train. Oh, the humanity!
'Terrifying': Passenger Dan Feldman took this photo as scared passengers were evacuated from the stricken train. Several began to panic and many children were crying.
Somebody please clue me in: A train breaks down. Passengers wait an hour for another train. They climb down a short stair then up another one into a different train. They are traumatized by this. Do I have the story right?

100% chance of global warming

We're getting more global warming tomorrow. This will be the third time this winter we've gotten measurable snowfall in southeast Texas. This is unprecedented, at least in my lifetime.

I know that according to the rigorously cross-checked and peer-reviewed climate scientists that global warming causes snow to fall in places where it normally doesn't. I really don't like this global warming... it should be spring here, with azaleas just starting to bloom. But global warming is keeping us firmly in winter's grip.

Fat, drunk and Canadian is no way to go through life, son.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

One example of why we can't compete with the Chinese

Investment casting in China vs investment casting in the United States.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I didn't do it

I am the last person to defend the Vampire Squid, but I read that Greek and EU pols are trying to blame their fiasco on Goldman Sachs. And why not? Considering European history, they are a wonderful scapegoat.

It reminds me of the many failed real estate floppers who acquired millions in property with falsified loan documents and then claimed they were victims of predatory lending when the properties were foreclosed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chubai

It's like deja vu or something.
Chanos, founder of New York-based Kynikos Associates Ltd., predicted that China could be "Dubai times 100 or 1,000." Real estate prices there have fallen almost 50 percent from their 2008 peak as the emirate struggles under at least $80 billion of debt. The economy may shrink 0.4 percent this year, Shuaa Capital, the biggest U.A.E. investment bank, says.
Chanos is a smarter man than me and says Dubai will be marked down 80%, I say 90%. Let's split the difference and make it 85% off by the time the dust settles.

China? I think a lot of those new empty buildings and factories will wind up having no value at all.

Greece

I can't see this ending well. Greeks won't stand for it, German citizens are furious and want no part of it. Some argue the Euro will strengthen once Greece leaves, but that will simply bring the other PIGS into the firing line. Greece has a relatively small economy, Spain and Italy are major economies.

We live in interesting times.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Who's France's Largest Private Employer?

Let's be honest. The reason why both the French and tourists flock to McDonald's is because French food sucks.

Scientist of the Month

Shit Chew, Scientist of the Month

This month’s Undersung Scientist is Dr. Shit F. Chew of the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Dr. Chew’s work has gone too-little noticed by the broader science community. Her publications include:

Urea synthesis in the African lungfish Protopterus dolloi-hepatic carbamoyl phosphate synthetase III and glutamine synthetase are upregulated by 6 days of aerial exposure,” Shit F. Chew, et al., Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 206, 2003, pp. 3615-24.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

LG

Hey GE, while you were busy with subprime lending and buying media properties like NBC, a once-small Korean company took over your core business. They make pretty good products, too.

I used to think Jack Welch was a genius, but that was a long time ago. It turns out that Welch wasn't a genius, he was just riding the stock market bubble.

Update: Just to comment on what Paul said. Not to criticize, but to expand the conversation a bit.
Everyone in the world knows how to bend metal, paint it, throw in a electric motor and some parts.
Yes and no. If LG was building nothing but top-loading washers that have been around for decades, yes. But there is still innovation going on, even with household appliances.
There is no way he was going to expend expensive front office staff into a no profit, crowded environment.
Perhaps the field is crowded, but it's still profitable. Otherwise a company like LG wouldn't have come from seemingly nowhere to dominate retail space.

From a June 1998 BusinessWeek article,
The company boasts what most headhunters believe to be the most talent-rich management bench in the world. Gary C. Wendt has led GE Capital Corp. to extraordinary heights, where it contributes nearly 40% of the company's total earnings.
That was the secret to Welch's success, and look at GE now.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bill White campaigner plants sign at Perry rally

Bill White, campaigning for Texas governor, posted this on his Facebook page overnight.
"Homescholers for Perry". Isn't that clever? Of course, the teacher unions are lapping it up, leveling insults at parents who home school their kids.

It doesn't seem very wise to me. White already has the teacher union vote locked up and he risks pissing off the thousands of parents who home school their kids. They could provide a crucial margin in the November election.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Funky Cold Debra Medina

I am shocked I tell ya, SHOCKED, that Ron Paul acolyte Debra Medina is a 9/11 Truther.

Buh-bye, Debbie. Go crawl back under your rock. And while you're at it, take Ron with you.

Snow can be expensive

Uh oh.

Iran supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issues gas

American talk shows are buzzing tonight after a speech by dried-up old fruitcake Ali Khamenei!
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that Iran is set to deliver a "punch" that will stun world powers during this week's 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

"The Iranian nation, with its unity and God's grace, will punch the arrogance (Western powers) on the 22nd of Bahman (February 11) in a way that will leave them stunned," Khamenei, who is also Iran's commander-in-chief, told a gathering of air force personnel.
I predict something incredibly lame, like another threat against the US dollar (go ahead, short the dollar you genius), yet another missile test, or better yet an economic treaty with Melonhead. Regardless, a bunch of people will be let down!

Bump: (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran) "had produced its first batch of 20 per cent enriched uranium - and had the capability to enrich to far higher levels at its Natanz plant."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

RIP Charlie Wilson

I met him one time in 1987 when I was in college in Bag-o-roaches. He was giving a speech and after that he was handing out Texas road maps with big stickers plastered on the front. The stickers had the picture above, with text that read, "Charlie Wilson is taking care of the home folks." He was quite a character. Strange quirk that he died the day after John Murtha kicked the bucket.

Wish I still had the map.

Paul Krugman on the California Bailout Plan

What if?
There's a sense in Washington that it is still is too early to present a complete and detailed bailout plan for California, according to Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economics professor at Princeton University who also works as a columnist for the New York Times.

"It doesn't make sense for Congress to come up with a detailed plan as there's no default yet," Krugman said.

"Another problem with having a bailout plan now is that, before the federal government spends its money saving California, Californians have to understand how serious the situation is," Krugman added. "Otherwise there will be no change of behavior and therefore this will be just money thrown away, as they will simply come back later for more."

Apart from that, Congress has just presented a plan for California to start cutting its budget deficit. And many officials said that they should wait for results before anything else.
The question is moot. Of course this will happen. Arizona, Nevada, Florida, New York, New Jersey... they'll all be bailed out, only to repeat the cycle next year. The most important functions of government are meeting payroll and keeping the pensions funded. Besides, what's one hundred billion or two added to the deficit this year? Peanuts.

Sweet Rims

"Where your image is important, not your credit."

$2,000 for a set of wheels that were likely made in China. If you can only afford these things by paying $37/week on credit, something tells me you should be doing something more productive with your paycheck.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dubai white elephant shuts down

Thanks to Noodles for pointing this out: Dubai's Burj Khalifa, formerly the Burj Dubai, is unoccupied and shut down.
Electrical problems are at least partly to blame for the closure of the Burj Khalifa's viewing platform – the only part of the half-mile high tower open yet. But a lack of information from the spire's owner left it unclear whether the rest of the largely empty building – including dozens of elevators meant to whisk visitors to the tower's more than 160 floors – was affected by the shutdown.
Miami x10 = Dubai. Dubai x10 = China. Things are about to get ugly. As in, things will happen that are unimaginable right now.

Remember, 90% off habitable Dubai real estate.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Are Australians insane?

I saw a link to the 6th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2010 over on CR the other other day (PDF file).
Of the 272 markets surveyed, there were 103 affordable markets, 98 in the United States and 5 in Canada. This is an improvement from 87 in 2008. As before, the affordable markets include the three highest demand markets with more than 5,000,000 population in the high-income world, Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.
Factoids for the Anglosphere:
Housing markets ranked by severity of housing unaffordability, using median multiple (median house price/median household income), Q3 2009, major metro markets.

Top 20 Ranking

1 Canada Vancouver 9.3
2 Australia Sydney 9.1
3 Australia Sunshine Coast 9.0
4 Australia Gold Coast 8.6
5 United States Honolulu, HI 8.2
6 United Kingdom Bournemouth 8.1
7 Australia Melbourne 8.0
8 Canada Victoria 7.9
9 Australia Wollongong 7.5
10 Australia Adelaide 7.4
11 Australia Newcastle 7.2
12 United States Santa Cruz 7.2
13 Australia Darwin 7.1
14 Australia Mandurah 7.1
15 United Kingdom London (GLA) 7.1
16 Australia Bundaberg 7.0
17 United States New York 7.0
18 United States San Francisco, CA 7.0
19 Australia Perth 6.9
20 Australia Hobart 6.8

National Medians (median house price/median household income) Q3 2009

Australia 6.8
Canada 3.7
Ireland 3.7
New Zealand 5.7
United Kingdom 5.1
United States 2.9
While Californians are less insane, Australians have lost their marbles. Demographia tries to form an explanation:
"Plan-driven" land use regulation (more prescriptive regulation) is at the heart of the problem. It takes from 6.25 to 14.5 years to convert urban fringe land into new houses, which compares to less than 1.5 years before urban consolidation, and which remains the case in the "demand-driven" (more responsive) markets in the United States.
I don't buy it. Land use regulation alone doesn't account for the massive bubble.

I think California has a spending problem

I don't think it's a revenue problem.
San Luis Obispo County Under Sheriff Steve Bolts is taking home between $640,000 and $772,000 this year in retirement benefits and an hourly salary, while his boss, Sheriff Pat Hedges, takes home $340,000, according to calculations based on dates provided by Bolts.
It's all apparently legal.

Bounce House Bubble

With the tens of millions of square feet of vacant commercial real estate lining our roadways out in the 'burbs, I am seeing a glut of "bounce houses." Combine free or reduced rents, low start-up costs and thousands of laid-off middle and upper management types reaching career endpoints due to layoffs, I think we are experiencing a new economic bubble.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Corporate Failure Haiku

Sun Micro's CEO Jonathan Schwartz bailed today. His resignation was announced as a haiku that he tweeted:
Financial crisis
Stalled too many customers
CEO no more.
This opens up so many possibilities. Off the top of my head,

Tim Geithner:
My Goldman Sachs cash
We looted you dumbasses
I like Turbo-Tax
Angelo Mozilo:
Call me Orange Man
I do not care anymore
Cashed out my options
Chris Dodd:
I miss Angelo
The cash was very handy
Shady loans are great

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

¿Qué es esto?

Haven't asked this in a while. It should be easy.

Answer: Yes, it's the 730 ton tuned mass damper atop Taipei 101. Here it is during an earthquake.

Never short China?

You should read this piece by Michael Pettis.
China’s foreign reserves are certainly huge. They add up to an amount equal to about 5-6 % of global gross domestic product.

But they are not unprecedented. Twice before in history a country has, under similar circumstances, run up foreign reserves of the same magnitude.
Perhaps someone more intelligent that I can tell me why Pettis is wrong. But I can't see any holes in his logic.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Debra Medina is a Ronulan

Not only is Debra Medina a Ronulan, she's a regular on Alex Jones.


Yikes!

It will be Perry vs White. White will win.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Pumpkin Cannon of Ulster County

This rules.

It's time to end the home mortage interest deduction scam

Used House Salesperson Vicki Cox Golder has a message for Washington!
As this year’s president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Tucson Realtor Vicki Cox Golder’s "Washington Outlook" is focused on reform and preservation. Because Congress has approved so many new programs, "we’re going to have some heavy-duty tax reform to pay for them," she said.

The national association is most concerned about preserving the mortgage interest deduction on homes. The Obama Administration views it as a new source of revenue for the government.

"The deduction is the Holy Grail to anybody with a mortgage."
Wanna bet? The mortgage interest subsidy doesn't benefit middle-class folks in Flyover, it benefits wealthy people and those who stupidly paid too much.
"We are going to fight this tooth and nail," Golder said.
Knock yourself out, Vicki Cox Golder. I am rooting for your defeat.
"It does not matter what your income level is, it will affect everyone."
In other words, it will keep bubble prices inflated and houses out of reach for most people. Or so you think. Too bad! It ain't gonna work anymore. It's time to end this transfer of wealth from the working poor and middle class to the wealthy. Give 'em hell, Barry!

Great Recession, Part II

New credit card disclosure rules go into effect this month.
Come Feb. 22, card lenders such as Citibank and Chase will be barred from raising interest rates on most borrowers' existing balances, a practice that increasingly irked consumers the last decade and one of several that federal regulators and lawmakers finally barred as unfair and deceptive.
Also,
The Card Accountability and Disclosure Act makes it harder for credit companies to charge you fees that you don't expect.

The law requires issuers to give you the same due date each month and it requires them to mail your bill 21 days before it's due. That's up from 14 days. Consumer advocates say credit companies make millions in late fees because due dates tended to be moving targets.

The new regulations also say an issuer can't charge you a fee for going over your limit unless you agree to the fee in advance.

In addition, your bills will show you, in graphic form, how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you make just the minimum payment.
Like you, I know people who make financial decisions based upon their credit card balances. With the new rules it will be much harder to get additional lines of unsecured credit. This can't be good for retailers, but I think it is better for society in the long run.