Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Links

Weekend Links: (Sources: Seattle Times, Seattle PI)

1. Looking for the silver lining. The earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, with more than 10,000 killed and thousands more still unaccounted. The near term economic devastation will be difficult to measure, but it will most likely have an impact as exports to Japan will slow due to decreased demand. Another area where the impact could be felt is in the financial sector. Japan currently holds a good sized chunk of US Treasuries and may have to sell in order to finance their rebuilding efforts.

This is where the silver lining comes in. Not the sale of US Treasuries, which could have a significantly damaging impact on our economy and our dollar. But if we are able to withstand the sell-off, in the longer run, the rebuilding of Japan could be an economic boon for the US, and especially Washington State. They will need raw materials and construction equipment. We can provide both.

2. Here is a fairly smart idea.  Mark Russell has founded a company called Zebigo and using software he and his team developed you can try to link up some headed your direction. In these days of higher gas prices, this seems like a good idea. Free-market solutions; got to love them.  (No endorsement of Zebigo is intended, I just thinks it sounds like a good idea.)

3. You have got be kidding me. It seems that Washington State Ferry workers get paid extra to clean up vomit. No other state worker receives this extra pay, so why do the ferry workers get it? I know I wouldn’t want to clean up someone else’s vomit, but I don’t think I would demand extra pay, just a break from it once in a while.

4. He must have had a hot date. Someone stole a condom vending machine from a closed down bar in Bellingham, WA.

5. Washington State Patrol might have over stepped. For a liberal state, Washington has a fairly good track record when it comes to gun ownership and Second Amendment respect. Every once in a while, something does happen to remind us that we do live on the “Left” coast, and we must keep an eye on “the man”.

1. The collapse in the housing market continues. Homes sales tumbled 9.6% in Feb from Jan totals. Some have said weather was a factor, but I think that banks are still being tight-fisted with loans until the “recovery” shows more promise. More bad news:

Nearly 40% of the sales last month were either foreclosures or short sales, when the seller accepts less than they owe on the mortgage. (Source: Seattle Times via AP)

2. Military families evacuating. This news has been kept fairly low key. We have friends stationed in Japan and they have not yet evacuated and have not yet mentioned any plans to do so.  But we are watching.

3. Another case of the Environmentalist eating their young. Burning biomass to produce energy has been widely accepted to have less of an impact on the environment than burning other types of carbon-producing fuels.  Turns out this might not be so.

Two main complaints:

Although carbon math is complex, critics level two main strikes against biomass.

First, because of its high moisture content, wood yields less energy compared with more efficient fuels. Generating the amount of electricity from biomass emits 45 percent more carbon dioxide than coal and almost 300 percent more than an efficient natural-gas power plant, according to a 2010 study by the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, a nonprofit environmental research organization.  The study was commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

Second, burning biomass releases carbon dioxide instantly, while repaying that carbon debt through new tree growth takes years.  Just how long depends on many factors, including the biomass sources, what was done with it before and the fossil fuel in displaces. (Source: Seattle Times)

Various groups of environmentalist and global warming alarmists are scratching at each other about whether burning biomass, specifically logging and wood byproducts, is actually doing more harm than good.

4. Produce prices may drop. Prices in produce that skyrocketed 50% last month due to killing cold weather may start to ease as new crops begin to hit the stores. Some have already started to come down a bit, while other may take another month to recover.

5. Home schooling under attack. In New Hampshire, the state Supreme Court has decided that a home schooled girl must attend public school. The girl lived with her mother who has home-schooled the girl for the past few years. The girl’s father (parents are divorced) wanted her to attend public schools.

While I do not home-school my two boys, it was something that we had thought about several times over the years.  We just never had the guts to pull the trigger and, speaking only for myself, have regretted that decision. Many of the home-schooled children that I have met are academically superior to public schooled kids, and that notion they are not socially integrated has been proven to me to be quite false.


1. Is a caliphate in its infancy?  The link here is just one story of all of what is going on in the Middle East. Tunisia, Egypt, Jordon, Syria, Bahrain, Oman, Libya, and now Yemen are all going through revolutionary convulsion right now. In nearly all of these cases, the Muslim Brotherhood or al Qaida might very well have their hands in the mix. While not all of the governments that are either falling or in trouble have ties to the West, most were at least moderate. The same cannot be said of the people in the streets that are rising up.

2. Germany set to turn off all nuclear power. Germany has been working under a plan for the last several years to shut down all nuclear power plants over the next 25 years or so. Due to the on-going issues with the nuclear reactor in Japan, the German government has decided to accelerate the shut down process. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be required to replace nuclear power (generates 23% of Germany’s power) with renewable energy sources. Other than a significant increase in costs to consumers, no one is quite sure where the money will come from.

3. Gates and Buffett urge charity. While speaking with the newly rich in India, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett suggested to them to give to charity to help the impoverished in their country. This is a very good idea. I am not a big fan of Buffett’s call for increased taxes, but charity is one wise way to spend all the extra money they earn. Charitable foundations, when run correctly, can do things with a dollar than the government cannot do.

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