Saturday, July 9, 2011

"I am going to a meeting on Capitol Hill to discuss a terrorist plot. Oh, reallly? Where are you going to park? I can't tell you that---it is a secret!"...

I am convinced that many things labeled "Secret" by the Federal government are done so not to sheild the information from "enemies, foreign and domestic", but to keep information from the general public because, well, it is convenient to do so for a variety of reasons. The term "national security" is used as a guise to keep certain policies/decisions secret that would subject agencies to scrutiny they would just assume not have to deal with. The amount of parking available to elected officials and their Capitol staff seems to be an example of this. Abuse of  power??...(HT: Matthew Yglesias)  

How Much Parking Is There at the Capitol
""The public isn't allowed to know.

Seriously: After taking note of the many expanses of concrete available for Hill staffers across the Capitol complex, I asked the Committee on House Administration how many parking spaces it oversees, and how many permits it hands out (each office gets a certain number to divvy up). Apparently, that information would imperil the security of...I'm not sure what exactly. But something.

My suspicion is that it's a big number. Along with infamous Capitol South metro lot, the U.S. of A. also owns parking lots west and south of the Spirit of Justice park, under the Rayburn building, and below Massachusetts Avenue between 1st and 2nd Streets NE. Some of that would be difficult to build on because of existing rail infrastructure. Most of it, of course, is a massive waste of good land served by some of the most robust transit links in the city.""

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Volkswagon making cars in the US to sell in South Korea...Think about that for a moment...

VW confirms plans to export Chattanooga-made Passat to Korea
""Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, now producing more than 100 Passats daily, plans to sell the car in South Korea as well as in North America, the factory’s chief executive confirmed Wednesday.

Frank Fischer, CEO of VW’s Chattanooga operations, said the automaker’s sales team determined South Korea “is a very good match” for the all-new Passat.

Volkswagen initially is targeting a modest 4,000-a-year sales goal for the Asian nation, Fischer said. Plans are to start those sales in 2012, he said. In addition to the U.S., VW has said the Passat also will be sold in Canada and Mexico.""
HT: Carpe Diem

A penny for your thoughts...A private market invention is saving the Taxpayers BILLIONS of dollars, or I should say cents...

The next time you pass (or use) a CoinStar machine, give it a wink and a nod and a pat on the head.  It is a nice example of a POSITIVE unintended consequence of bringing an invention to the marketplace. It takes "dead" financial capital (all those pennies, nickels and dimes) in a jar, under your car seat, or under the cushions of your couch, and turns them into financial capital that is "alive" and more likely to be spent. CoinStar then returns these coins back to the banking system to be re-circulated again.  The Dept of Treasury then needs to produce fewer coins to meet existing demand.  Natural and labor resources are conserved, hence fewer tax dollars are spent producing coins. 

How come the inventors of this machine don't win the Nobel Prize in Economics and Greenpeace's award for environmental activism?  A simple invention designed to solve an everyday, unromanticm, unflashy, non-technical problem. THAT is the free market at its best...

Source for this entry is at Economix:
The U.S. Mint produced about 5 billion pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in 2010, less than one-third of the average annual production over the last 30 years.

Just like paper currency, right? Well, not quite.

People clearly are using fewer coins.

But there’s something else too. Call it The Coinstar Effect.

In 1992, three Stanford University graduate students convinced four Bay Area supermarkets to let them install a new machine designed to count spare change. The concept was rather brilliant, like a slot machine with a guaranteed payout. There’s nothing quite like the sound and sight of money — your money — being counted. And as the company grew, the technology began to change the basic physics of change.

Americans keep vast quantities of coins around the house. “Keep” is maybe the wrong word. Coins gather in the folds of couches and drawer bottoms and coat pockets. They are collected in jars, popped into piggy banks, socked away. And until Coinstar came along, that money mostly just sat there. In keeping with the law of entropy, it was easy to turn bills into coins and difficult to turn coins back into useable money.

And that is exactly what Coinstar made easy.

By the early 2000s, the company’s machines were annually collecting more coins than the U.S. Mint was producing. And the company was putting those coins back into circulation, meeting a growing share of market demand, reducing the need to mint new coins.

There’s another important difference between bills and coins: Coin production tracks the American economy much more closely, because the demand for coins is almost entirely domestic, while the demand for paper currency comes mostly from overseas. (Moreover, the demand for paper currency can rise during a financial crisis, as it did in 2008, because people sought to withdraw their money from the banks.)

Coin production, in other words, is likely to rebound somewhat as the economy recovers. But the U.S. Mint estimates that production still won’t top 10 billion coins a year, so it is shuttering equipment and reducing capacity at its plants in Philadelphia and Denver.

Short video explaining the link between Economic Freedom and Standard of Living. So simple, yet difficult to achieve...

HT: Division of Labour

What are the most popular colors for new cars? You might be surprised...or not...

Consumers are pretty conservative when it comes to the color choice in cars. Why is that? Is it for re-sale value? While I might prefer a different, more off the wall color, I may not be willing to gamble choosing that color because it might limit the number of buyers of it used in the future.  Read about this and more on color choices for your car in this article in Road and Track Magazine...What do you think? (HT: Chartporn)

Source: Road and Track
Source: Road and Track

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Steve Jobs and jobs---See how he creates jobs around the world to produce the i-Pad. How would YOU do it differently?

Resources are not unlimited.

Just look at the two top countries, the US and China. If you wanted to have the technological wizardy of the  i-Pad in the marketplace for a "reasonable" price, and you had to divide up the labor to produce it, which combination of jobs would you want available for US workers? You certainly don't trade an engineering job for a production job. That would not make sense. How about a retail job for a production job? Well, can't do that either, because the retail market is in the US.  If we moved ALL(or some) those production jobs to the US, would the i-Pad be a better product? A more expensive product? LESS expensive? OR is everything basically in balance to bring you the magic that is the i-Pad...Perhaps Comparative Advantage works?

Source: The Conversable Economist
HT: The Conversable Economist

Where's Waldo? Likely calling a moving company to book a move to China...Need more evidence that it is in your interest to know more about China? See this graphic, graphic...

We can choose to view China as a problem or as an opportunity. The Genie IS out of the bottle and my advice for young people is to seriously look at what you can to do to prepare yourself for a future with a more prosperous China. Can't ignore hundreds of millions of potential new customers for US goods and/or services.

Below is a graphic from moving company data on international corporate moves. If you are in college, or are about to be, then consider mixing in a little instruction in Mandarin.  Spend a semester there.  Regardless of your major, whether it is medical, technical, business, marketing, etc, it will only enhance your marketability.   

Source: WSJ

Movers Pick Up China Business

""The rising numbers of U.S. workers and students moving to China are a bright spot for moving companies like St. Louis-based UniGroup Worldwide, which has seen domestic business decline.

The closely held company, an affiliate of Mayflower Transit and United Van Lines, handles moves for corporate clients that pay to relocate employees. Between 2008 and 2010, the number of moves from the U.S. to China it handled grew nearly 47% to 396. Meanwhile, United Van Lines saw interstate moves in the continental U.S. decline 26% to 146,837 in the same time period.

China was the third-most common international destination for UniGroup, behind the United Kingdom and Germany, according to the company, which handled more than 15,000 moves last year.

In part to handle the growth in Asia, since 2007, UniGroup has purchased offices in China, Hong Kong and Singapore, among other locations, said president Brian Iles.

Ernst & Young, which has about 9,000 employees in China, has hired more than 1,500 in the last year and plans to hire another 2,000 by next July, said Bin Wolfe, people leader for the company's Asia-Pacific region. Although most of those employees will be native Chinese, Ms. Wolfe said in the last couple years, more employees from the U.S. have sought to get experience in emerging markets such as China.

Chinese students studying in the U.S. are also increasingly moving back to their native country upon graduation, she said.

"There is a lot of competition out there. People with strong experiences and bilingual skills are in high demand," she said.""

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Oil and Bio-Fuels clash...The winner? Better question--The loser? Answer--all of us.

Bad energy policies equal bad outcomes...Two reminders in as to why we need to wean ourselves off of oil AND why using food-for-fuel is NOT the way to do so. You are just subsituting one set of bad trade-offs for another. Can we do better than this?...By the way, I am NOT a hardcore "Greenie"  at all.  I just believe in utilizing resources in the most efficient manner. While oil may have served us very well in the past to get us to an unprecedented level of standard of living, I think diminishing returns are setting in with it and we need to move on to develop a new fundemental source of energy production.  Are we there yet? No...Are we working hard enough to get there? I don't really know, but I believe we should be moving a little quicker to do so. Howver, in my humble opinion, bio-fuels are not the way to go.  Where am I going wrong???
Yellowstone river suffers oil spill
""An Exxon Mobil pipeline that runs under the Yellowstone river in Montana ruptured on Saturday, leaking hundreds of barrels of oil and causing a 25-mile (40km) plume that has fouled the riverbank.

The breach in south-central Montana led to the temporary evacuation of hundreds of residents along a 20-mile stretch of the river, a key tourist attraction in the region that runs through the famous national park of the same name. Cleanup crews deployed booms and absorbent material as the plume moved downstream at around 7mph (10km/h):""....Read more HERE
Biofuels land grab in Kenya's Tana Delta fuels talk of war
""The eviction of the villagers to make way for a sugar cane plantation is part of a wider land grab going on in Kenya's Tana Delta that is not only pushing people off plots they have farmed for generations, stealing their water resources and raising tribal tensions that many fear will escalate into war, but also destroying a unique wetland habitat that is home to hundreds of rare and spectacular birds.
The irony is that most of the land is being taken for allegedly environmental reasons – to allow private companies to grow water-thirsty sugar cane and jatropha for the biofuels so much in demand in the west, where green legislation, designed to ease carbon dioxide emissions, is requiring they are mixed with petrol and diesel.""...Read more HERE

Colleges are accepting more out-of-state students for admissions for the extra money. Does this mean the admittance of FEWER in-state students? There HAS to be some impact "at the margin", right? See interesting statistics here...

Interesting college admissions numbers from California. The acceptance of out-of-state (Foreign students included in this statistic too) has increased dramatically just in one year. As high as a 100% increase and some schools. With budget cuts, they are aggressively accepting more out of states students than they may have otherwise.  The obvious reason is out of state students pay a much higher tuition rate BUT do not cost anymore than an in-state student.  A negative---Does this potentially "crowed out" the admissions of in-state students seeking admittance to a California college/university?  A positive---does this allow the university system to keep tuition rates lower for California residents than they otherwise would be, even at the expense of admitting fewer in-state students?

Source: Matthew Yglesias
HT: Mattew Yglesias

Creating "Solar Entrepreneurs" in rural areas in developing countries...Solve a local problem that has global implications AND give someone an entreprenuerial opportunity...Does it get any better than that?

I love the concept of Social Enterprise--Equipping people in developing countries with the training,tools and capital to SELL (not give away) a product and/or service that solves a local problem. Solve a problem, fill a need (or want) and create a job--free enterprise at its finest.  Here is one I just stumbled upon. Selling easy to use solar power technology in rural Africa through a network of "Solar Entrepreneurs".  The focus in on training and equipping women to sell to women in remote villages. If you are young, ambitious and want to help people to help themselves, than working for or establishing your own social enterprise of some sort may be for you. I urge you to check this one out.

Solar Sister wants to light up rural Africa: Rugged, intuitive to use, affordable solar lamps that women can sell door-to-door change lives.

""Solar Sister eradicates energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity. We combine the breakthrough potential of solar technology with a deliberately woman-centered direct sales network to bring light, hope and opportunity to even the most remote communities in rural Africa (see flow chart below)

Investing in women is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Solar Sister creates sustainable businesses, powered by smart investment in women entrepreneurs. When you invest in a woman, you invest in the future. Join us by making an investment in a Solar Sister Entrepreneur today.""....Read more HERE at
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