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Jade Queen

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  • What's in Store for Regional Banks? [View article]
    I am part of a credit union that does not sell its loans. I also live in a place high in the estimates of trust funders and retirees. My credit union has a checking/savings product called Fusion. You put up to $35,000 in it, and when I first joined in March 2007, you got over 5% interest on your Fusion account.

    The last I checked in with a manager, they had plenty of money to lend and not enough borrowers. This is a problem for them, which would necessitate lower interest rates on Fusion.

    Fusion is marketing for them, and it is doing the job nicely, with much inflow in refugees from big banks recently in the news.

    Disclosure: I have $5 in a no-interest savings account, which was necessary to get the Fusion deal.
    Jan 5 03:03 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Firefox Browser Share Tops 20% in November; Microsoft Still Number One [View article]
    My son is in a Ph.D. program at MIT, supported by work he got after he did his one year's master's there. When his old windows laptop, bought for him by his subsidy, gave out, it was decided he would have a new all-bells-and-whistles Apple laptop. He loves it, and he is in geophysics, so he is a serious number-cruncher. He is not an artsy-craftsy person for which Apple used to be, and still is, so famous.

    I have also to say that Free Geek, in Portland, OR, installs pretty good Linux on everything that goes out their doors. True geeks around here tend to like Linux a lot, and my son's math genius friend (800 boards) from his undergraduate days, has always used Linux.

    Microsoft, more than Apple, seems to consider its customers to be its slaves. Apple and Linux are not like that, in my experience, which I admit, is limited.

    Disclosure: Seriously contemplating AAPL purchase.
    Jan 5 01:02 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Seven New Developments in Renewable Energy [View article]
    The dam is going to break even in the U.S. where a dazzling array of corruption has up to this time prevented us from leading.

    Here, public-utility cooperatives can probably lead the charge because they don't have to be burdened with the drag of greedy-CEO syndrome, anyway some of them don't.

    I know China has probably has some dazzling corruption of its own, but given the consequences if one is caught, I really don't think it comes up to our knees, if there is a way to measure corruption.

    Is there a greedy-CEO corruption index some place? If not, there should be. It might help out the ordinary working people of the world.

    Having been to China, I just did not detect our level of corruption.

    Maybe rate of incarceration per 100,000 persons would be a measure. I believe if we measure that way, the U.S. comes out first (Cheney owns private-prison stock, according to a recent lawsuit in Texas).

    China, I believe, comes out second.

    Disclosure: I own STP



    Jan 5 12:36 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • China Is Looking Fragile [View article]
    China can afford to go shopping for commodities, talent, and information from around the world, not that this has not already been going on.

    Many new ways of constructing homes for energy efficiency, for example, are minimally more expensive in the West and maybe even less so in China. There may be fewer barriers to distributed-energy systems in China. Pioneering with micro-grids there would be a service to the world, which needs to gear up with this technology.

    If fewer solar cells are being purchased by the west, installing them domestically could begin to happen at a faster clip. The Henry-Ford way of wanting workers to own what they make is still a good business model. China has many reasons to pioneer distributed-renewable-... systems. Competition in this sector comes from Dubai, but China has more brains to throw at the issue than Dubai, though I am aware Dubai is recruiting with its dollars.

    When I went to China in 2001, I was on a tour of medical facilities. The doctors assigned to talk with us were remarkably open. When asked to comment on their approach to dementia care, for example, they were direct and practical, with a series of physical things to check given perplexing behaviors. They were also open about suicide by pesticide, a problem for women left in the countryside when men have moved to the city for work.

    To some degree, they were jaded. So many westerners were traveling to China and had shared their own perspectives. In mental health, for example, China was doing all sorts of interesting things, including ballroom dance therapy, karaoke therapy--you name it. European groups had shared, and Japanese groups had been through. Tour guides could choose to be trained in American English, English-English, Australian-English, and so on.

    Western nations who had not shared with each other in all likelihood, had shared with China. I felt I really got my money's worth because it was like a world tour rolled into one, and accessibility in the West would likely have been less.

    In some ways, when pent-up demand to go to China burst through, The Chinese could stay home and fish valuable information out of the stream as it passed by dropping off-shore currencies. They have enough manpower and cash to go offshore for information, as has been pointed out.

    If the world needs to learn to do less with more while capitalizing on colorful history, I would say China has got a leg up. Try, for example, to keep Kissinger out of China. When I was there, my group was bumped from the section of the wall we had been scheduled to see, because Kissinger was going to be there privately with an entourage. Is Kissinger unique in his fascination with Chinese history and culture? I don't think so.

    What are some U.S. pundits saying were the biggest TV moments of 2008? Replaying the Olympics at year-end wind-ups is incredible PR for brand China. I will not be betting against China. I'm in a renewable-energy stock, STP.
    Dec 29 12:03 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Who Benefits from Seigniorage? [View article]
    Thank you for this article. This is a helpful way to look at a very complicated topic.

    For the U.S. dollar to maintain its overseas value, there must be a perception that the U.S. has value in its institutions, especially in its private institutions.

    Most ordinary people who buy things in other places have some healthy skepticism about government production of goods and services.

    Joint ventures in China have plastered U.S. brand logos nearly everywhere in the cities where manufacturing plants are located. It is very difficult to put value on that brand identification in current times, but there is value there, and there is value in relationships of trust and shared interest among persons.

    In Brazil and Europe, the major U.S. car companies modified their products to meet local demands. There is great value in these plants, but the value is for that local market, and it depends on the priorities of consumers there. If demand for private vehicles does not hold up in those markets, the value of the property may decline if it sits idle, possibly affecting the property around it.

    Little mentioned in the press has been the possibility of selling foreign assets. The effect would be to repatriate some dollars in an orderly way. It is not necessary to own real estate if what you really have to sell is design and engineering for a specific niche not covered by local companies.

    GM refused to sell a plant in Germany that it has had since early in the twentieth century. The proposed German re-use of the plant would have been for renewable energy.

    What worries me in the U.S. right now, concerning creating and retaining value in our private institutions, is the difficulty of sheltering promising new processes from lumbering older organizations' attempts to wheeze down huge amounts of cash for obsolete processes.

    Perhaps in some of the states, there will be mini-climates where poor federal behaviors have less influence. One thing this country has going for it is that it is so spread out and so difficult to completely control from a central place.
    Dec 28 02:37 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Alternative Energy Storage: It's All About Price vs. Performance [View article]
    I want to pose a few comments that speak to the difficulty of investing in an environment that is skewed to hurt innovation unless it hides itself from view for a pretty long and careful incubation.

    Large organizations can harm innovation by buying patents and locking them up, for example, or by ostentatiously floating a bad idea like direct corn-to-alcohol technology, for which they have received subsidies, then lobbying the subsidies gone to kill off lesser capitalized start-ups, even if the start-ups had better ways of doing things. They can also hope they have crashed that entire thread by doing it badly in a showy way.

    Making alcohol out of corn or other food products isn't a completely bad idea if you feed the mash to animals. The animals are then healthier because the micro-organisms that break down difficult-to-digest parts of corn add important nutritional components. The micro-organisms also decrease the famous flatulence from eating corn directly. Consequently, the animals are healthier and win prizes at fairs, after which their owners receive uninvited visits from the BATF.

    Smart people can make alcohol out of kudzu, for example, an abundant weed with huge starchy underground roots and cellulosic tops that runs rampant over the south. But for a long time we have had a government that discourages distributed attempts at generating wealth in reasonable ways, where, for example, energy is made close to where it will be used, thus avoiding the loss and possible interruption of porting it over long lines.

    Staple foods should be grown this way as well, and we would have different varieties suited to different micro-climates. To some extent, this is getting done, but the remarkable process of governments wanting to condemn small operations to, say, put an LNG pipe through them, is also stunning on a punishing-small-innova... index.

    Lobbying that results in enriching cartels and protecting them from start-up competition is a terrible drag all over the planet right now. Some parts of the U.S. are safer from this than others. The federal government has been running over even state governments that try to resist on behalf of their people.

    We have incredible potential that is locked up in bad practice. As bad as the U.S. is, most other places are worse, though Brazil and Europe have been able to get our car companies to produce more efficient vehicles, as noted above.

    If I were to invest in a company like ACPW, my concern is whether they are safe from unfair regulation. Do they have protectors in congress? Who are their customers, can they help to protect them? How will they break through the entrenched processes of existing businesses in an industry used to monopoly and entitlement? Will they sell to consumer-owned operations first? What is the business plan for the present situation?
    Dec 26 03:46 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Beware the Recession-Proof Stocks [View article]
    Anybody thinking pharmaceuticals are recession-proof should think again. Recession is a prime time for side-effect lawsuits, some of which are being pursued by under-employed attorneys with marginalized populations who have close to nothing to lose by suing. They do try to gag them, but this is the USA. Gagging people often just does not work. Add to that a new book counseling that people with mood issues try everything under the sun before medications. Add to that that many pharmaceuticals are made offshore from left-overs from the oil industry, leaving them vulnerable to shipping problems and uneven oil-production issues. I would not invest in this sector at this time.
    Dec 23 10:06 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Great Depression Not Imminent, But Inevitable [View article]
    Lumping the BRIC's together isn't accurate. I would not put a cent in Russia or India, sadly. I wish I could. I find corruption issues just too serious in those two economies.

    China and Brazil are different. I went to China in 2001 expecting to see poverty. This is not what I saw, by a long shot. Pollution is reducing their population. They are seeing the need to deal with that, and when they decide to deal with an issue, things happen.

    After all, Chinese officials don't travel off-shore that much.

    I watched a thousand, or however many it was, dance around all organized at the Olympics, and I thought to myself, "That couldn't happen here (in the U.S.), though it is POSSIBLE to orchestrate cats."

    What's more, China has had massive class mobility. I think Bush may have wanted class mobility here (as in "I want more home ownership. Make it happen."), at least briefly, but everything he has done worked against it.

    Some in China surely want to get off the fossil train. China has tested methodically to find the smartest and most hard-working students. She then sends them to the best universities all over the world. She uses wikipedia and probably MIT's open-university stuff to make good translations on good corporate websites that seduce the geeky potential customer.

    China and Dubai (Masdar) are going to throw the world's proved brains into getting some of us ready for less fossil use.

    Brazil forced the U.S. car companies to make better cars there, as did the Europeans. I don't know enough about Brazil to be invested there yet, but there are some investors who do. Brazil has also had some class mobility and some interesting progress with urban challenges, which isn't easy to do. I know big money is going in down there.

    I own a Chinese renewable-energy stock.
    Dec 20 01:29 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • 20 Comments on the Current Economic Scene [View article]
    Off-currency trading increased greatly during the great depression. It is happening now as well, and it has always been the way of the world in certain U.S. parishes where corruption is rampant. We have not had this level of costly imperial off-shore behavior and corruption for a long time.

    Also, Russia is severely harmed by this level of global deflation, as is Iran. When it became clear they could not bomb Iran as they wanted to, they had to figure out some other way to slam Iran. That they were able to slam Venezuela and some other folks at the same time was a side benefit. A severe deflation is not good news for the mullahs presently in power in Iran or for the First Peoples leaders in some central and South American countries. They may have to allow more domestic consumption than they otherwise would have.

    In the meantime, a popular virtual shoe-throwing game was invented here. With over a million hits over-all (listed by nation), the U.S. has the most unique players, outstripping any single Muslim nation and any single European nation as well. It's too bad the Chinese, courtesy of censorship, can't play. The Indians don't seem to be on board yet either. Maybe they will get the opportunity at some point. I am not sure why Indian censors would stop the game, though I get why Chinese censors won't allow it if they can stop it.

    We live in interesting times. The fifties are far in the future from now, in more ways that the obvious. If the Dali Lama can come around over and over, how about Eisenhower? I could do with a return trip for Dwight about now.
    Dec 18 11:45 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why I Need a Government Bailout [View article]
    I am trying to start a very important blogging business creating cross-over good feelings between right fringies and left fringies. The left ones are all really cute vegan-activist cheerleading women who are upset about animal-eating but scared of guns. The right ones are fundamentalist second-amendment true believers. I need a billion, but I might be willing to settle for slightly less.

    Thanks for the posting that prompted my personally slanted riff. I needed that. Cheers.
    Dec 18 11:13 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Government Intervention Run Amuck #19: The SEC vs. Madoff [View article]
    Thanks for the posting. I write about this sort of thing in assorted places where this is a novel perspective. I'm aware I sound as if I am in right field to them, but I keep at it. Left-field young people that I hang out with are kind and entertaining and completely sincere about wanting the world to be better. They are also refreshingly good at group process and flawlessly disciplined about not swearing, a relief from right-wing places. They also understand that they ought to do outreach at gun shows, to cross-over a bit. Even I am too squeamish for that yet. I will have to have a clear need for hired protection before I'm ready to go that far, though I have to say, I have a few women friends who are there already. Happy holidays and cheers to you. Mary
    Dec 18 10:49 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Why the U.S. Should Learn from China's Foresight [View article]
    Chinese experts shows up at world science meetings and plumb what they can from posters and presentations. This is one way they use foreign currencies. They also send students to MIT and other universities that may have product-spin-off possibilities. I have also heard from diverse sources of their commodities shopping trips. My impression when I was there in 2001, is that they have been successful in encouraging entrepreneurial small ventures in their cities. The merchandising was beautiful, and the shopkeepers hospitable. I am impressed with some of the Chinese company websites I see. I find them to be exceptionally informative and user-friendly. They use wikipedia information, for example, which gives them good translations of stuff they can check from other sources. When China really decides to focus on renewable-energy R&D and production, things are going to change, never mind Obama and change. India could do this too, but Indian government seems closer in its friendliness to corruption to, say, the U.S. I'm not saying China doesn't have corruption, but the ability of China to produce class-mobility is impressive. Its education system tests to see who can best do what work. People wanting to do something other than what they've been tested to do have to teach themselves English or another foreign language and offer to squire around tours. A woman I met in China had worked this angle, and it got her where she wanted to be. Everything about living in China seemed to require brains and hard work both. There are other countries where this is less so.
    Dec 18 07:26 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Exploring Madoff's Ponzi Scheme Will Unveil the Causes of This Global Monetary Crisis [View article]
    A challenge to composing a useful measurement of value is that value changes with need and want.

    Energy is more universally needed and wanted than gold, in these times. I am trying to hang onto a house while of an age where a job other than one not connected to health-care cost would be close to impossible to find. I have a roommate whose job is in energy-regulation. It seems likely her job would be the last to go.

    Oops. Got to go feed the stove.

    Energy is an addiction with current building standards in much of the world. In a frigid place, with an energy-inefficient built environment, people will reliably want energy. If a utility, whose lifestyle is financed by government-enforced monopoly, announces a huge price hike, the price of wood will go up also, and stove makers and installers will be busy.

    Some of the feds would like to bust every garage sale and neighbor-help-out findable, but I don't see how this is going to be practicable for them or for the states either, in the long term.

    Some localities are prepared for this as their right-fringes and their left-fringes both saw it coming and began brainstorming what to do about it all. I love hanging out in the fringes and trying to get them to cross the great divides between them. Unusual allies (sociologists used to call this phenomenon cross-cutting cleavages) happen as people look away from the usual suspects (unemployment lines that don't answer) to find ways to survive. I have found throwing myself on the mercy of neighbors when in need to be much more satisfying because a few steps next door on a snowy day tends to end up being a back-and-forth, as we inventory and horse-trade about who's got more of this or that.
    Dec 16 03:31 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Fiat Money and a Profligate Congress: A Bad Combination [View article]
    A market basket of goods is another way to measure value. The trouble with it is that what a "good" is is negotiable, not to mention "basket" and "market".

    I am told that silicon formed into something useful such as a solar cell or a chip can't have an easily pegged value because so much of its value is in the labor. We all know how much value labor has right now.

    In a political emergency in Kenya, phone cards were currency, at least briefly. Maybe they still are.

    As U.S. dollars seem unavailable in the U.S. largely, actual U.S. persons are going to be coming up with other ways to trade. Trade is both a necessity and a form of entertainment here, an entitlement not to be denied for long.

    Personally I just don't care much about gold, and I live in the Upper Left Coast where today a wetsuit would appeal more than gold, but maybe that would not be true for me if I were in Miami.

    Humans do seem to universally like energy. As a tree-hugging sort of person, I am concerned for trees in some places because they are an alternative when there is an interruption in the supply of energy from acts of man of Whomever.

    If currencies become useless, peoples around the world will come up with other ways to trade. Governors will be talking about whatever and imbibing whatever, and re-naming things (except for the governors who are locked up--I believe we now have at least two in that category).

    Meanwhile, private persons, sometimes even on the dime of their insurance companies, are flying around the globe to get new body parts, or whatever other new thing they want that is prohibited or too expensive in the U.S.

    Meanwhile, out in the U.S. boonies, things are going to change.

    In the South, for example, a recent on-line conjecture was that kudzu, a leafy plant that can cover a junk car in no time flat, might save NASCAR because they can make ethynol out of it.

    Things will change out in the hinterlands. If Obama can stay alive long enough, he can then claim to have made the changes that regions make on their own. Better still, as he seems a consummate politician, he can have his supporters say this, or he can acknowledge that the people did it themselves.

    If I were he, I would give their work back to the people and applaud their new, improved, rainbow ingenuity, and then I'd do a photo-op with Jennie-Sue, the daycare provider and Jim-Bob, the electrician, et al.

    Is this an American politician's dream or what?
    Dec 12 04:58 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • What if the Credit Crunch Is Just a Symptom? [View article]
    Thank you so much for the extraordinarily good article and comments. I struggle to find perspectives that can be combined to make sense.

    To some extent, we are still a culture that fights with words, certainly in the non-governmental sector, what there is left of that. In regard to that, I am glad we have some lawyers who are good enough entertainers and who are good-hearted enough to protect at least some of us from the worst corruption.

    I reassure myself that neither corrupt federal government nor corrupt local governments presently have the ability to bust every single garage sale or borrowing of sugar from a neighbor.

    What I have not seen analyzed much anywhere is the informal economy and its effects.

    People in my church who remember the great depression share stories about local currencies and scrips, for example. Teachers were paid with this in certain localities.

    They could pay rent with it, but not utilities. I assume they needed to chop wood and carry water when it came to utilities.

    That governments bestow odd grants of monopoly to utilities, on the theory they are necessary, seems something Will Rogers or Mark Twain would have been hasty to make jokes about.

    It isn't baubles we need to worry about now. We've got plenty. It seems to me it is water, energy, and pollution which should float to the top of the tangle.

    We already have situations where earthquakes and floods interrupt supplies to places that don't have clues about subsistence through adversity.

    Unpredictable behaviors outside the control of individuals or voluntary communities are called acts of God in legal contracts. I am not sure how to phrase this so as not to offend atheists, but this is a concept persons of good will will need in coming up with outside-the-crumbling-... scenarios.

    What do you think about Acts of Whatever?

    Anyway, we clearly do need to move to a place of dignity for individuals by, say, letting elders or neighborhoods sell wind- or sun-generated energy to an entity that is bound by contract to have the good of the individual and the community in some auditable process.

    This way we could perhaps get things back into a scale where neighbors can see the neighbor whose behavior is out of line and require corrective action before we have to give him three hots and a cot for 800 years.

    Doesn't Whatever supply wind, sun, rain, and sand (from which silicon can, with great effort, be formed into useful energy- computing- and communication-devices)... Isn't it becoming obsolete to allow human organizations to go to scales that cannot be held accountable to neighbors, families, or Whatever?

    The credit crunch is a symptom of an economy addicted to things that do not sustain health. Transition to walkable neighborhoods where one knows one's neighbors is my favorite multiple-choice scenario, and I'm sticking to it. I'd still like to eat chocolate, but sacrifices may have to be made.
    Dec 12 03:47 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
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