My train reading:

• Economists vs. Americans (Real Time Economics) see also Not all jobs are equal (LA Times)
• China’s Connectivity Revolution (Project Syndicate) see also The paradox of prosperity (Economist)
• New-home purchases fall, 2011 worst ever for sales (Yahoo Fiannce)
• Adding Weapons to ATM Defenses (WSJ)
• Amazon’s Hit Man (Businessweek)
• Romney Can Thank The Supreme Court For Newt Gingrich’s Extended Campaign (TPM)
• Apple vs. PC Shipments: “PC” Decline Worse Than Reported (The Small Wave) see also In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad (NYT)
• Oldest dinosaur nest site found (BBC)
• Meet the Marriage Killer (WSJ)
• “What if…” Movies reimagined for another time & place… (Behance Network)

What are you reading?


Category: Financial Press

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

19 Responses to “Thursday PM Reads”

  1. Jojo says:

    Not all jobs are equal (LA Times)
    Good article! This is a point I have long harped on.

    The government counts anyone who worked even 1 hour a week as employed and makes no distinctions regarding the QUALITY of jobs. All they are concerned with is QUANTITY. So a burger flipper job is the same as CEO to them. Logical people know that can’t be right…

  2. theexpertisin says:

    Nice piece on the dinosaur nest found in South Africa. Sometimes we are so immersed in the day to day mayhem that we take scant notice of profound discoveries that are the result of dedicated professionals seeking to understand Earth and it’s wonders.

    The post gives a new twist to the term “nest egg”.

  3. rd says:

    I work for a company that is very focused on safety. They had a couple of wake-up calls a few years ago and really put the focus on it. The major clients that I have worked over the past decade have also been very focused on safety.

    It takes a serious corporate commitment with metrics tracking at a parallel level to the financial tracking to have a very safe corporate culture. The metrics are necessary because otherwise the financial metrics will simply take over and dominate every discussion and decision. Detailed tracking of numbers wins over amorphous feel-good arm-waving every time.

    It also takes senior management to be visible on the issue, visiting job-sites and offices doing the equivalent of troop inspections on safety issues. This means that people reporting directly to senior management have to go onto the premises, do detailed audits and reviews, with immediate actions required to correct safety problems.

    Employees have to know that they can report violations or stop work with no fear of reprisal. This needs to be enforced at the highest levels. One reprisal can undermine 100 feel good moments.

    Safety has to be a major topic in performance evaluations (metrics again). Poor safety metrics mean that the manager’s pay suffers. Eventually poor safety management will get you demoted or fired. As soon as it is obvious that short-term financial success trumps safety performance for compensation, you can kiss your safety program goodbye.

    Companies are finding that good safety and environmental practices are saving them money and reducing turnover in their work force. Good practices lead to a long-term sustainable business model. In the developed world, the reduction in insurance costs, increased productivity, and reduced staff turnover retraining can be big enough to see a significant impact on the bottom line.

  4. Julia Chestnut says:

    70% ROYALTY! Wow. I think standard with a trad publisher is TEN – somebody correct me if I’m wrong. That is a really, really big difference in how the arrangement rewards the publisher vs. the writer; of course, the risks when you don’t have to print copies and carry inventory are likewise completely different.

    This whole ebooks thing is getting very interesting, even faster than I thought it would.

  5. Francisco Bandres de Abarca says:

    What am I reading?

    A page marking that today is the NASA Day of Remembrance:

    Tomorrow, January 27th, will mark the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 1 launchpad fire. Saturday will be the 26th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, and February 1 will mark the 9th anniversary of the Columbia disaster.


    from the “Comments”..
    Kansas City
    Every Occupy Protester should read this article on their iPad.

    would be a big +

    “…This whole ebooks thing is getting very interesting, even faster than I thought it would…”

    LSS: there is a /huge/ Economic benefit, to some ‘Sectors’, in the proliferation of ‘Digital Media’ ..

    doing away with ‘unsightly’ (bad PR ‘Optics’) Bonfires is, just, an add’l +

  7. Francois says:

    I’m reading this excellent post from Health Care Renewal blog about the “privatization” of UCSF, the egregious behavior of its higher-ups, with a segue into an unrecognized problem: The stunning growth in managerial positions in health care and education, at the expense of the front line professionals.

    The money quote that floored me:

    In 1988, Alain Enthoven advocated in Theory and Practice of Managed Competition in Health Care Finance, a book published in the Netherlands, that to decrease health care costs it would be necessary to break up the “physicians’ guild” and replace leadership by clinicians with leadership by managers (see 2006 post here). Thus from 1983 to 2000, the number of managers working in the US health care system grew 726%, while the number of physicians grew 39%, so the manager/physician ratio went from roughly one to six to one to one

    And there are still people ready to swear this is a free market health care, when we are witnessing is a textbook example of Sovietization/crony capitalism.

  8. formerlawyer says:


    The big lie continues, in the NYT no less but then what does one expect from an opinion columnist that boasts about a book entitled ““Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation.” . And oh wait, a “journalist” from a libertarian think tank funded in part by the Koch brothers no less.

  9. formerlawyer,

    see also: “Poisoning the Well” (category: Logical Fallacies)

    or, differently, “You’re better than that..(~!)” (or, are you?)

  10. formerlawyer says:

    Sorry Mark E. Hoffer,

    I was exaggerating for effect. The meme about homeowners “buying more than they can afford” and the equation of underwater=irresponsible is doubtful for most of the homeowners. I have no data to back that up – feel free to provide anything.

    My point about the “big lie” goes back to my earlier post on the competing narratives 1) politicians made us do it versus 2) we lobbied for relaxation of the rules – and when the rules were relaxed we screwed up. Or am I reading this part wrong:

    “The president blamed the nation’s economic crisis on the busted housing bubble, yet he fails to place any responsibility on federal housing policies that rewarded banks for making loans to people who couldn’t afford them. Despite his rhetoric, the mortgage industry is no font of unregulated capitalism. Every step of the loan-making process is driven by government rules.”

  11. maddog2020 says:

    Mark –
    Your link to the NYT story reminded me of the irony of listening to this podcast on my iPod (no iPad yet):

  12. jbruso says:

    Envisioning emerging technology for 2012 and beyond:

  13. mathman says:


    Am I Living in a Nightmare?

    “My dreams contain more rationality and even my nightmares are not as frightful as what I observe when I am awake. The State of the Union Address and the Republican rejoinder afterward underscored this living nightmare reality. The talking-head commentaries afterward confirmed the madness.

    I had planned to deconstruct the President’s comments on energy as an example. As I went through the text of the speech, about energy, I realized how hopeless it would be to simply point out the inconsistencies and outright non-truths. There were too many, and the common person won’t care anyway. Governor Mitch Daniels’ responses regarding energy issues were just as insane, of course. And all the talking heads could do is analyze the whole thing in the framework of things like “energy independence” and “jobs creation”.

    Now I understand why zombie movies are so popular. The vast majority of people appear to be zombies. And clearly the so-called leaders (political and thought) have had their brains eaten.

    Here is the President enunciating what is essentially a drill-baby-drill (Republican) notion:

    Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right — eight years. Not only that — last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.

    What can we possibly conclude from this statement? Does the President really believe that opening lands for drilling is going to substantially increase our oil production, or even if it did (marginally) at a cost that would make it economical? More still does he grasp the energy cost of retrieving energy? Does he get that drilling more holes and deeper for a marginal increase in flows is just plain dumb? And does he realize this is not likely to produce any real improvement, even in the short run? I won’t try to point out all of the illegitimate notions expressed here. For better analysis than I can do go to The Oil Drum or Our Finite World for high-quality analyses of the oil and natural gas situation in the US.

    The highlight in my view was the fact that he did not use the phrase “clean coal”. He alluded to clean energy. After repeating the hyped claim about America having one hundred years of natural gas (very likely a completely fabricated claim by the gas industry), he went on to say:

    What’s true for natural gas is true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it. [Emphasis mine.]
    High-tech batteries! Great. And just what will we fill those batteries with? What will generate the electricity? Renewable energy use has doubled? I suppose a 100% increase sounds impressive until you realize that we are starting from a miniscule base. And, thousands of jobs when there are tens of millions who could work but are not? Is there a disconnect in scale here? The real cost-effectiveness of solar and wind is still hotly debated, but when you add in EROI and external costs the evidence strongly suggests that these sources can never produce the wealth of energy needed to run our current kind of economy, nor will they ever scale up effectively. Moreover, where will the money come from to make investments? Will we borrow it? Will capitalism suddenly discover that the return on investment in alternatives is really so great that capitalist will race to pump money into the industries? Get real.

    Later in the speech he asserts that he will direct the military to make substantial uses of alternative energy (the military has already been experimenting with several forms with mixed results). I suspect he believes that an economy of scale phenomenon will drive down the up-front costs (investment in energy production equipment) and help make solar and wind capital more affordable to Americans. That isn’t an unreasonable assumption if it were not the case that right now it is fossil fuel inputs to the manufacturing costs that subsidize the production of that capital equipment, as well as being needed to maintain the systems once built and installed. Until alternative energy sources can produce enough excess energy beyond what is demanded from the consuming economy to build their own replacements, we do not have a true renewable process. The current approach is not sustainable, nor will costs ultimately go down as much as might be expected. The reason is simple. The costs of fossil fuels will continue to rise because of the twin phenomena of peak production and declining EROI. These increasing costs could easily negate any economy-of-scale effect. I have heard from a military insider that people in the Pentagon have, in fact, derived that same model and are quite worried that this “political” move by the administration will end up costing the military much more in the end! Of course there are many Pollyanna types even in the military who are convinced this will all be obviated by technological breakthroughs. They don’t know what those breakthroughs are going to be. They just have faith that technology will always come through with solutions. Ah well, just one more scary thought to deal with.

    Mitch Daniels, in his Republican response speech said, “The extremism that stifles the development of homegrown energy, or cancels a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands…” He obviously feels that Obama has not allowed enough drilling. He also asserts, without any evidence in support, that the proposed pipeline from Alberta tar sands to Houston (which Obama has temporarily suspended – not killed outright) would be perfectly safe. How in the name of all that is holy (or unholy) could he make that claim in a rational world? There is so much evidence that pipelines are dangerous to the environment. There is more than enough evidence that increased production of really heavy oil from Alberta will produce many times more CO2 than just from refining and burning the fuel products.

    It doesn’t occur to either of these men that their statements are empty words, unsupported claims, and generally internally inconsistent (as well as usually inconsistent with reality). Moreover, it never occurs to the electorate that both sides have it so horribly wrong. Most people are choosing sides in meaningless debates. They go for ideological-based faux-reality. And it never occurs to any of them that most of what passes for assertions about how to best govern are just ludicrous gibberish. It’s the rhetoric not the substance of the messages.

    And this attitude, or lack of awareness is everywhere. Is it any wonder that I would feel like I am living in a nightmare? George Orwell came pretty close to inventing a fictional dystopia in which double-speak was the norm, in which truth is lie and lie is truth. But in “1984” the powers that be actually had a rational plan in mind. They were forcing society to conform with constraints through their manipulations (we never learned exactly what those constraints were but assumed they were simply based on power struggles). Our leaders have no real plan. They are bumbling through and by helping the 1% get richer just hastening the day of demise for all. Orwell’s world might have been frightening, but it didn’t have the seemingly random logic of a dream/nightmare. Our world is completely out of control and chaotic, even as political and thought leaders try hard to produce the illusion of rationality and even progress (or promised progress).

    The SOTU address, the rejoinders (even the Occupy response), and the analyses by political experts, all demonstrate just how far from reality our political and economic worlds are. It was somewhat amusing to watch the Republican candidates (read that clowns) perform in their debates and speech venues, as well as revelations of their complete hypocrisies with respect to their behaviors in life. But that race is just one small piece of the overall picture. What is happening in Congress, the Executive branch, the Supreme Court (where corporations were afforded the right of free speech – using money to talk) would have been considered totally unrealistic in former times. Completely, and totally, those governing the US have demonstrated that the United States way of life and means of government are without reason.

    Yes those governing, and would-be governing, are without a shred of understanding of reality. But they are there largely because the electorate shares that same fate. Most people in this country are generally ignorant, undiscerning, selfish, unempathetic, and lazy. I think I know why (lack of sufficient sapience) but that is of no avail. This is just the way it is. So with a general population of people who are in this situation, what else should we expect from our leaders? People get elected when they make promises to people that those people want to hear. It doesn’t matter if the promises can be fulfilled because they correspond to reality. All that matters is that they get the power and the wealth that comes with modern elected offices. Damn everyone else.

    And that is exactly what is happening. Just how bizarre will this nightmare get?”

  14. rktbrkr says:

    Watching the Newt vs Mutt mudwrestling match last night I was struck by Newt’s claim that Mutt would be the first president with offshore bank accounts. Will Mutt be able to convince Joe Sixpack that he will bring jobs to the US when he won’t even bring his own money here?

    Mutt might believe his Horatio Alger story struggling to survive as the son of a lowly CEO at American Motors but I think his enormous income, minimal tax rates and offshore accounts will not be a pretty picture for most of the remaining 99%

  15. formerlawyer,

    w/ “…I was exaggerating for effect. The meme about homeowners…”

    I hear ya..

    though, it seems that with ‘everybody’ “exaggerating for effect”, no one can ‘hear’ the point that was being made(if there was one to begin with..)..

    but, then there’s the ~”He once looked at another Woman, while Married! He and Newt should join the same Fraternity!”-style of G*rbage — that, properly, are, merely ‘ad hominems’..

    there are, enough, Logical Fallacies — as you mention, one, the “big lie” — about, ‘nary do We more, yes? :)


    the Plains are, seemingly, populated with those types of dichotomies, no?

  16. Winston Munn says:

    Hey, it takes a lot of cash to satisfy all those loan-hungry borrowers demanding new cars and homes.

  17. arthur.i says:

    If you haven’t yet seen this…ten minutes says it all about corporate abuse of power:

    Monsanto & Cancer Milk: FOX NEWS KILLS STORY & FIRES Reporters.

  18. rd says:


    Mitt Romney is the intended product of 30 years of tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation, and corporate tax policy almost designed to offshore jobs based on the supply side economics that Americans have specifically voted for several times and the Tea Party is espousing now.

    If Americans don’t like Mitt Romney’s wealth, private equity background, investments, or tax rates then they need to vote for different policies. As far as I can tell, he has done everything legally and above board, including reporting and paying taxes on his offshore “diversifications”.