Friday, September 17, 2010

Re: Greedy Bankers


I *do* hope you're not falling into the trap of believing statements and conclusions made by a corporate-sponsored study on AGW! After all, we all know how misleading and worthless all those Exxon-supported studies were (hint: they reached the 'wrong' conclusion). After all, it is widely accepted and acknowledged that scientific research is only valid when it is funded by government taxation, and never by private business concerns. That would be another Proof by Consensus, right? ;-)

You - honestly and very correctly - touched on the subject but I'll step out and say it plainly - I seriously doubt Deutsche Bank believes or even cares about carbon footprints and impacts on the environment. What they *really* want is an opportunity to make gobs money buying and selling an imaginary product ('carbon credits') that world-wide consumers / taxpayers will be forced to purchase. Being a skeptic (aka heretic), I doubt their 'study' has *any* other purpose - if there was a program to buy/sell 'Whale Credits', they'd discover a sudden urge to 'protect this noble and intelligent species'. Regardless, yet-another survey of scientists and opinions proves nothing (Argument by Authority, again).

But I *could* be wrong. I'll read the 51-page PDF and respond soon... we'll see.

- Steve

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When In Doubt, Always Bet on the Greedy Bankers


Sometimes I just don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Deutsche Bank is one of the world's top ten investment firms. Among these ten, it ranks sixth in terms of revenue. However, significant to this post, it is a leader in terms of net earnings on revenue. In 2009, Deutsche Bank earned almost 5 billion dollars on 25 billion in revenue (20%). Only Barclays, at 30%, did better. Morgan Stanley came in at 8%. Chase earned around 12 billion - but on over a 100 billion in revenue.

So you get the impression that among huge, international investment banks, Deutsche Bank is not only one of the largest, but also one of the best managed. As a matter of fact, all things being equal, if you had invested $10,000.00 with Deutsche Bank last year, you would have come away with a cool $2,500.00 in earnings. By contrast, the same amount invested with Bank of America would have netted you a whopping $521.00. Don't spend it all in one place buddy.

Now I'm going to make a wild guess here. Most of the big shots at Deutsche Bank probably don't know astrophysics from apple butter. When they were back in high school during science class, while most of the science wonks were up front scoring points on relativity, they were the ones at the back pulling wings off flies and dreaming of the day they would be gobbling up municipal bonds and underwriting mortgages.

But now that they find themselves in charge of billions in investment assets, things have changed. New discoveries in science and technology can often have a nasty habit of radically affecting investment strategies. Take climate change for example. As you have probably heard by now, a near unanimous consensus of climate scientists concur on the potential effects of anthropocentric global warming. Of course, these effects sound pretty alarming. But if you're running one of the world's largest investment banks, you need to find out - and quickly - first, if any of this stuff is actually true, and second, if it is, what do you do about it?

Happily, the big wheels at Deutsche Bank don't have to go back to school and learn all the stuff they ignored while they were cleaning up on 50% interest loans to their classmates. All they have to do now is hire the science nerds who took the time to do their homework and have them figure it all out.

And that's just exactly what they did. Three years ago, Deutsche Bank established a whole division, DB Climate Change Advisors, (DBCCA) to study the problem and come up with answers. From that site:

"Three years ago, Deutsche Asset Management identified climate change as one of the mega-trends that would drive the global asset management business for the next generation and beyond. We saw that the rapidly growing level of carbon in the atmosphere meant that the world had to take action now, and that this would require massive capital investment over several decades. That in turn would produce exciting new investment opportunities from which our clients could benefit."

Just a couple of weeks ago, as a service to its investors, DBCCA released a report: Climate Change: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments. Interestingly, that report addresses just about every major denialist claim you and I have talked about here - and debunks them all in short, lucid, and absolutely devastating language. I won't post excerpts here. The report is only 51 pages long anyway and should take you only a few minutes to leaf through.

But I will post excerpts from an August article from Reuters, "Deutsche Bank spurns U.S. for climate investment.":

" "You just throw your hands up and say ... we're going to take our money elsewhere," said Kevin Parker in an interview with Reuters.

Parker, who is global head of the Frankfurt-based bank's Deutsche Asset Management Division, oversees nearly $700 billion in funds that devote $6 billion to $7 billion to climate change products.

Amid so much political uncertainty in the United States, Parker said Deutsche Bank will focus its "green" investment dollars more and more on opportunities in China and Western Europe, where it sees governments providing a more positive environment.

"They're asleep at the wheel on climate change, asleep at the wheel on job growth, asleep at the wheel on this industrial revolution taking place in the energy industry," Parker said of Washington's inability to seal a climate-change program and other alternative energy incentives into place..."

"The U.S. hasn't even entered the race yet" for a clean-energy economy, Parker said. Indicative of that was the fact that of the nearly $7 billion in green investments his fund currently juggles, only about $45 million originated in the United States, according to Deutsche Bank." (my emphasis)

Whoa! Wait a minute here. Deutsche Bank isn't a bunch of wild eyed environmentalists out to save the spotted woodpecker. All these dudes care about is making money - and if a few woodpeckers drop dead in the process I doubt they would even notice.

Steve, I think I need to say that again in a different way. All Republicans running for the Senate, and nearly all Republicans running for the House, have denied the legitimate findings of science and oppose any action of any kind to regulate the emission of greenhouse gasses or actively promote an environment favorable to investments in renewable energy. And, if the polls are anywhere near reliable, these are the kind of people we will be electing this November.

Deutsche Bank, a sharp investor with a track record to prove it, has seen the handwriting on the wall. These mopes running for congress didn't even bother to look at it. Which would you bet on?


Saturday, September 4, 2010


Well, I don't want to turn this blog into a Jerry Lee Lewis tribute, but what the heck - while I'm working on a response to your Libertarian post, I found a video where Jerry kicks away the bench and really gets down. I thought you might enjoy it.


P.S. - Yeah, I know I'm a modernist - but in these days of whiny white music, incoherent black rap - all the musical gangsta's, thugs and social victims, I sure do miss that age when music was all about just getting together, letting your hair down and howling at the moon for the sheer joy of it. Don't you?

That Lucky Old Sun


Man I just love this song...

I remember the first time I saw Jerry Lee Lewis on TV - and I absolutely fell in love with his music. He was playing "Great Balls of Fire" - and half way through stood up, kicked away the piano bench and played like he himself was literally on fire. What a terrific showman!


By the way, here are the lyrics:

Up in the morning, out on the job
Work like the devil for my pay
But the lucky old sun has nothing to do
But roll around heaven all day

Fuss with my woman, toil for my kids
Sweat til I'm wrinkled and grey
While the lucky old sun has nothing to do
But roll around heaven all day

Good Lord above can't you know I'm pining
Tears all in my eyes
Send down that cloud with a silver lining
Lift me to paradise

Show me the river, take me across
Wash all my troubles away
Like the lucky old sun give me nothing to do
But roll around heaven all day

Good Lord above can't you know I'm pining
Tears all in my eyes
Send down that cloud with a silver lining
Lift me to paradise

Show me the river, take me across
Wash all my troubles away
Like the lucky old sun give me nothing to do
But roll around heaven all day

Roll around, roll around heaven all day
Roll around, roll around heaven all day

Friday, September 3, 2010

Steve's Libertarian streak

NOTE: This will be rambling post, I'll address various issues as they come to me - It is by no means, 'complete'...

Libertarianism, to me (and I really speak for no one else), is grounded in the belief that the pursuit of individual freedom (of action or thought) is the highest moral value. It's as much a personal philosophy or lifestyle as it is a political agenda-based affiliation. Obstacles to the exercising of such freedom - such as the authority demanded by The State, are inherently dangerous and to be avoided when possible. The State cannot be completely avoided - so anarchy is not a solution - Good Government requires an acknowledgment that individual rights and freedoms (especially property rights) must be protected.

To me, libertarianism should generally advocate the freedom of thought and action with few exceptions. One (major) exception is that the actions of an individual should not infringe upon the freedom of any other person. This is a very simplistic definition, because - sooner or later - we have to tackle the subject of “Who Decides” what constitutes 'infringement'. Later. Please.

I believe 'Liberty', defined here as 'non-interference', is the only thing that can be legitimately demanded of others as a matter of legal or political right: the Freedom to choose and act in accordance with one's own judgment. I believe recognition of individual property rights (and the economic liberty that follows from their consistent recognition) are critical to respecting individual liberty and freedom.

I believe 'social awareness' develops out of a respect for individual liberty. I believe the only legitimate use of coercion (by the State) is defensive in nature or to rectify an error. I believe governments (and individuals acting on behlaf of the government) are bound by the same moral principles as individuals. I believe that, historically, governments have acted improperly by utilizing force for the purposes of plunder, aggression, redistribution, and other objectives which are beyond the protection of individual freedom and liberty.

I think government's primary justification is to provide a court (justice) system, police / military forces (for national defense), and manage the legislative (law / regulation) system. The first question that should always be asked - “Is this action a 'proper' function of government?” Typically, the answer will be NO. It is NOT the function of government to determine how to best promote liberty or freedom - but, instead, to insure the 'playing field is level' and to provide ONLY those (legitimate) services which CANNOT be provided by individuals, or independent groups. Above all else, Government should never be empowered to the extent that the goods and property of the effort s by one individual is confiscated, using the taxation and police power of the State, for the direct benefit of another.

Property rights are extremely tricky, simply because there are som many variations on the theme. I advocate granting strong private ownership rights. This includes freedom from 'unjustified' search and seizure, as well as clearly defined 'civil liberties', such as freedom of the press. (Note that being free to express one's opinion does NOT include mandatory access to the means by which to do so.) I can get along with Ayn Rand's Objectivism philosophy, although it does have its issues when applied to the current realities of the Real World. I believe in and support strong personal rights to private property, vis-a-vis free-market capitalism, including property in the means of production. I think the goals of minimal government regulation of property and minimal taxation of property are Good Things, and all within the context of The Rule of Law.

I consider private matters - such as sexual relationships and, in some cases, personal drug use - to be just that: Private Matters. They should not enter the realm of law enforcement or the legal system (unless, of course, exercising those actions interfere with the rights of others). The state should not regulate or interfere in personal choices EXCEPT to protect against aggression, breach of contract or fraud (or the freedom of others).

I disagree with the concept of compulsory military service, although such a personal sacrifice as serving in the armed forces as a volunteer should be encouraged, not discouraged.

I think it is best for government to avoid centralization and to maintain the distribution of power among the various federal, state and local levels. In this, I am more in line with Jefferson than most Founding Fathers (although Tom and I still have our differences).

As all this relates to current politics and political thought...

I don't want Americans to be detached from the workings of their government. Nor do I want Democrats and Republicans jockeying to score political points while accomplishing nothing. What I would prefer is two (or more) parties that understand that the government which governs least, governs best. When it comes to government programs, I defer back to good ol' Adam Smith who observed government should be able to finance those projects which have little potential profit to individuals, generally take time to complete, but which have great benefits to the society as a whole.

The Founding Fathers assigned Congress to finance post offices and post roads, but also included the rather vague phrase, "promote the general welfare". I must admit Roosevelt and the New Deal built TVA and Hoover Dam, built in a timely manner and producing energy, which were critical resources when World War II broke out. The TVA dam at Muscle Shoals was built to generate power for nitrogen fixing - needed to make nitric acid and various nitrates - the basis of high explosives. The 'surplus' power from the Department of War requirements was sold as power to the public. It can be argued several New Deal projects actually produced some useful infrastructure. (Even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then.) We can argue over the desirability of government programs and whether such things should be left to the market. But if government is going to borrow money and spend it, the end result ought to be something useful, not just spent money. I completely reject the Keynesian argument that the remedy for recession is spending money - spending borrowed money doesn't work.

Now, a man who has landed a job as a carpenter might see a need to borrow money to buy his basic tool kit, or even to buy a car for transportation to and from work. It makes little to no sense for that man to borrow money to take a trip across country for vacation and relaxation, or to buy frivolities. Everyone knows this except, apparently, the government we have today. Today, we borrow money to (a) fund invented entitlements, (b) build useless demonstration projects, such as local museums that no one is going to visit, (c) increase salaries of government workers and/or hire new government workers whose funding will then fall on the local community, etc., etc., etc. Spending borrowed money without a very specific purpose - and a measurable, tangible and carefully monitored goal - is nonsense.

The nation has become so disgusted with government as an entity that a return to the big spending days doesn't look likely. Thank God. But never fear, friend Chris, the Republican party will not get back into the White House this November, and for a year or so they'll have to act like they know what they are doing, while most of what they propose will be dead on arrival at the White House. Or we can throw those rascals out and look for (more) new ones.

Interesting times lie ahead.

- Steve

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Re: Joe Miller's take on AGW

Chris, Slow Down.

I think you may be so wrapped up in trying to defend AGW that you're missing the point. Just because someone is skeptical of the AGW theory (and its attached 'solutions') does not mean they are a foaming-at-the-mouth, wild-eyed, knuckle-dragging, heretical, Neanderthal (or Conservative) - this poster exempted, of course. Uncertainty is not the same as ignorance or stupidity.

First, in your 4 points, change "global warming" to "climate change". In other words, instead of focusing on warming, let's open the door to include that fact that temperatures go up and down (historically proven). Second, add # 1-B... "Climate Change is happening, but we don't know (understand) all the causes." I think that's what Joe Miller is trying to say. I'm not convinced we need to go any further down the list (although many do, on both sides). The motivations or syllogistic thoughts behind where folks stand on the issue aren't really of consequence.

My take on Joe Miller's statement you quoted -

A. Joe's correct in saying MAN-MADE climate change has NOT been proven. (Theorized, but not proven). That's not the same as claiming Climate Change itself is not proven. It's the MAN-MADE part that is under question. I've made this exact point multiple times. We just don't know enough (yet), to state, with certainty, that MANKIND is the cause (or the solution).

B. Joe's correct saying that for this (possible) problem, various 'solutions' have been proposed. It's also correct that NONE of those solutions have been proven to 'address the issue'.

C. Joe's off-base at the end because, Yes, some cost-benefit analysis for those 'solutions' *has* been done. And the cost is high. Very high. Is it worth it? Why are even talking about it? Prove it (the problem AND the solution) first, then we'll talk.

Conclusion: We have a observations of the Real world that may or may not indicate a problem. We don't know what the cause is. We don't know we (as humans) can do anything significant about it. We have some proposed 'solutions' that have not been proven to work. Everything that's proposed is Massively Expensive.

SO - To answer your question: NO. I don't think its odd to argue against a solution for a problem that doesn't exist (or hasn't been proven to exist). People do that all the time. IMHO, It is perfectly rational to MAKE SURE we understand the problem, *before* rushing off to implement solutions, especially when we have NO PROOF the solutions will actually work.

Joe's (political) point is that his primary opponent - an incumbent Republican, as I recall - isn't looking at the entire picture before taking a position on an expensive and potentially USELESS 'solution'. The election results speak for themselves - Politicos and bureaucrats of all stripes should take careful note - Folks don't like what they're doing about the Real Problems, let alone what they propose as 'solutions' for 'problems' that may not exist. This is an indication such feelings are not about party anymore - and that's a Good Thing.

I find Joe's attitude and approach on this issue refreshing. (Caveat: I don't know enough about him to comment on other positions he may hold.) And, I believe we will do BETTER in the long run with a Congress composed of calm, rational-thinking people taking the appropriate steps before choosing a course of action than we have with the agenda-driven, self-important, we-know-whats-best-for-you-just-trust-me... bunch of clowns we've had for far too long.

- Steve
I think I've remarked before that AGW denialism comes in stages.
1. Global warming isn't happening.
2. Global warming is happening
.....but humans aren't causing it.
3. Global warming is happening
.....and humans are causing it
.....but there isn't anything we can do about it.
4. Global warming is happening,
.....humans are causing it,
.....there is something we can do about it
.....but it is too expensive.

Exhibit A:

It looks like Joe Miller is going to be the Republican party's candidate for Senate, having nipped incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska primary.

Early on in an interview with the Fairbanks News-Miner, Miller peels off the first layer of the onion by conceding:

"I think it’s undeniable, that anyone who has looked at the natural record of the Earth can see significant cyclical changes well before the industrial age, so we know the temperature change is part of the process of our existence..."


“We haven’t heard there’s man-made global warming,” he said. “Second, even if we proved that, we have not proven we have a solution that works. And third, even if we’ve proven that, we haven’t done a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the solutions like cap-and-trade that Sen. Murkowski has proposed are actually worth the cost to people.”

Now maybe its just me, but don't you think its a little odd that he would bother to argue against a solution for a problem he believes doesn't even exist? I mean, "No Mom, I wasn't in the kitchen. And even if I was in the kitchen, I didn't steal the cookies..." and so on.

Pardon me for saying so, but this man is either a fool or a tool. Either way, he looks like the kind of person the American public is going to be filling the halls of Congress with this November. Ordinarily I would say we deserve better. But the truth is, if we are fools enough to elect fools like this, we're going to get exactly what we deserve.