Monthly Archives: January 2009

Inventing the Next Amazing Thing

Woody Norris, inventor and chairman of American Technology Corp., demonstrates one of his newest innovations that he calls HyperSonic Sound or HSS and talks about his untraditional approach to inventing and education. As he puts it: “Almost nothing has been invented yet.”

Fans of dystopian fiction (or those with a conspiratorial mindset — you know who you are) will doubtless find some potential applications of HSS technology deeply disturbing.

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Filed under Technology

Augmented Reality

A very nifty website from the “ecoimagination” folks at General Electric to promote their so-called Smart Grid initiatives.

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Filed under Energy

Cutting Through Rush’s Bull

Last night on CNN’s “No Bias, No Bull” program, Campbell Brown put Rush Limbaugh in her crosshairs over the comedian’s attack on business reporter Ali Velshi (who’s Canadian, btw) after he’d criticized parts of Limpballs’ recent Wall Street Journal article.

Here’s the transcript of the rest of the exchange between Brown and Velshi:

Brown: All right. So, he argues the economy much worse in the early ’80s than it is right now.

Does he have a point?

Velshi: Yes, I mean, I don’t want to get into a “My recession is worse than your recession” argument, but ultimately, I am going to have to interject with a few facts that he might have to think about.

We have — unemployment was higher back then than it is today. It was 10.8 percent. It’s 7.2 percent right now. But 2008, we saw the price of a median single family home drop 15 percent. Never before have we seen that on record. Industrial production, which is the measure of how much we actually make in this country, has never been lower than it is right now.

Personal income, adjusted for inflation, was higher then than it is today. Personal savings — right after Reagan got elected, people were socking away 12 percent of what they made, today, virtually nothing, which means we don’t have anything to get us through a recession.

But put all of the economic talk aside for a second. Ultimately — we have talked about this many times — this is an economy that is based on people’s willingness to spend money, more than any other economy in the world. People are not willing to spend money.

And just to give you the one indication of this that we always talk about, and it’s consumer confidence. Inconveniently, for Mr. Limbaugh, the standard for consumer confidence was set in 1985. So, 1985, whatever consumer confidence was back then is considered 100. Today, it is at 38. It is the lowest it has ever been.

Until consumers start buying, businesses will not start investing. You can give them all the tax cuts you want; they can’t.

Now, he is right about something. Reagan cut taxes from 70 percent to 26 percent. They’re 35 percent right now, the top marginal tax rate. So, we don’t — we can’t halve them. Back then, when you took them from that rate over a course of years, down to 26 percent, even if you didn’t believe in tax cuts, you would really believe that that would be stimulative.

So, ultimately, there are two schools of thought, cut taxes or stimulate the economy another way. Virtually nobody falls into one entirely camp or the other. I, too, would like to pay lower taxes.But, ultimately, the facts are the facts. But maybe it was worse for a lot of people. Every recession is hard on — on some people. But we are in a very dire situation right now.

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Filed under Economy

Unambiguously Racist

It’s kind of pathetic when someone who evidently has no respect for free speech, who clearly doesn’t have the slightest understanding what the demonstration involved was about, and who apparently doesn’t seem to have any of the facts of the matter straight (he must not have bothered to read the article that he linked to, it seems), nonetheless furiously storms ahead, seizing on a peaceful protest as yet another opportunity to ventilate his petty, small-minded and clearly racist attitudes towards immigrants. No wonder he’s been picked up as free stringer for the National Post.

Does “Raphael” seriously think that Canadian citizens shouldn’t have the right to publicly protest about issues around the world that are of deep concern to them; whether that be out of principle or more compellingly, because they have family and friends abroad who may be directly affected?

In this case, the protesters were pleading with the Harper government to join other countries in calling for a ceasefire to the fighting in Sri Lanka amidst concerns for the safety of 250,000 civilians (according to the Red Cross) and displaced people trapped as the military pushed for victory against the last bastion of Tamil rebels. The EU’s Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel has called for a halt to the conflict in the wake of what he’s called an “escalating humanitarian catastrophe.”

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Uh-Oh…

In case (like me) you missed this report by Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes last month regarding the second wave of expected defaults on the way, it’s good to keep this in mind when considering some of the actions presently being contemplated by the U.S. government and others to bail out the global financial system.

This will have the likely effect of deepening and prolonging the recession south of the border, which naturally of course will drag down our economy along with it. This begs the question: where on earth is Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney getting his crazy rosy estimates of a relatively quick recovery from?

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Filed under Economy

Trickle Up Economics

Is it possible that Jon Stewart is smarter than Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke?

Earlier this week, on The Daily Show, Stewart suggested in an offhand way, that simply giving the $2 trillion dollars in “stimulus” money (or bail-out money… whatever), directly to the American people for the sole use of paying down their consumer debt. Start everyone with a clean slate, or in other words, to use his expression, “hit the reset button” on the economy.

dailyshow

The logic has some merit to it. After all, the banks would get their money and consumers, free of their towering mountains of personal debt, would then head right back out and start spending; thereby doing precisely what the government wants them to do in order to reinvigorate the economy.

Now I know there are lots of reasons to argue against such a scheme (possible creation of systemic “moral hazard” for instance) but Stewart’s “fine idea” isn’t without historical precedent. According to Aristotle, the ancient Greek leader Solon instituted a set of laws called the Seisachtheia whereby all outstanding debts of the Athenian people were immediately forgiven and lands returned to their traditional owners.

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Filed under Economy, Humour

The Crimson Permanent Assurance

Amidst all of the economic gloom and doom, it’s refreshing to take a somewhat more lighthearted view of banking and high finance…

“And so, heartened by their initial success, the desperate (and reasonably violent) men of the Permanent Assurance… battled on. Until, as the sun sets slowly in the West, the outstanding returns on their bold business venture became apparent. Once proud financial giants lay in ruins… their assets: stripped; their policies: in tatters.”

Thanks to Ian for reminding me of this absolute delight — arguably the most wonderful short feature film ever.

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Filed under Economy, Humour