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Jumbo Shrimp

Funny question: What is the purpose of “urban” farming and “rural” tiny houses?  It’s like jumbo shrimp, right?

I’m a fan of the tiny house movement and a bit less of a fan of urban farming (though I’m trying).  There’s something fascinating about the Swiss Army knife construction of tiny houses.  There’s a place for everything and everything in it’s place.  The tiny house dwellers say their primary reason for living in limited space has to do with a sense of freedom.  Freedom from rent or mortgages, freedom from the tyranny of “things”, freedom to go where they like.  They can save their money for more important things, like the ability to live a more self-actualized existence without being enslaved to a system that forces them to commit so much of themselves to the attainment of someone else’s vision of a good life.

The urban farming movement has to do with sustainability, providing for oneself and not feeling dependent on, or at the mercy of, a profit driven, finance directed food industry and oil based economy.  You grow your own stuff, raise your own chickens, make your own fertilizers.  You’re not going to get sticker shock when you walk in the grocery store with a hankering for grilled chicken only to find that a single package of breasts cost almost ten bucks. I’m beginning to suspect that there’s a speculator working the other end of the food deals in a way that is similar to the Enron guys manipulating rolling blackouts in order to stick it to the grannies.  I’m not there with the chickens yet and my backyard garden is still on the small side but I’ve got a lot of room to work with and I intend to put it to good use.

I suspect that financiers will find a way to profit from these trends eventually.  Or maybe we will devolve to a somewhat less affluent culture.  Think of England without the Empire.  We’ll live in increasingly smaller houses, giving up the McMansions, in order to snap back in line with our decreasing wages.  Our front and backyards will bloom.  Maybe we’ll raise bees.  It wouldn’t be the end of the world.  Yeah, the economy will plod along and we’ll have a lot less to live on when we retire and we will be like the elves, diminishing and going into the West.  But maybe that is what it will take to take down the financiers, when more of us take our balls and go home and refuse to play the game.   At least we’ll have a roof over our heads and our kids won’t starve.

It only takes one devastating layoff from the best job in the world to make a person a convert.  In the future, I predict that building your own tiny house will be a teenage “rite of passage”.  You heard it here first.

Here are a few of my favorite tiny house/urban faming links:

SmallHouseSwoon

TinyHouseSwoon

Kirsten Dirksen has been documenting the tiny house movement on YouTube.  Here’s her latest entry:

The Horticulture Channel

Titli’s Busy Garden

 

Be on your guard in 2015-2016

Nate Silver has written a post on Hillary’s chances for 2016.  I find it the same kind of insufferable “she ran a strategic mess in 2008 and thought she was the pre-ordained frontrunner but now that we’ve taken her down, completely humiliated her and the Republicans have lost interest in beating the shit out of her reputation, which is strengthened by her executive level management skills that we didn’t require of Obama because he had Penis Years, she is now acceptable to us as a candidate for 2016″*.  You know, the same meme diarrhea we’ve seen from all of the Democratic operatives since 2007.  Lots of mythology about the blinding brilliance of the Obama campaign that overlooks the facts that he was carried over the threshold to the nomination by the DNC because his Wall Street backers were willing to throw lots of money at the party.  Lots of lying about Hillary’s popularity and her “polarizing” personality.

This is bullshit.  I don’t care what his success is as a statistician or how many people would vote for Hillary grudgingly or un.  What’s good for the country is not necessarily good for Hillary.  I also don’t think any position is worth that much humiliation and kowtowing.  It’s likely that she will have to kiss a lot of asses and promise a strictly hands-off policy to the corporate and finance industry overlords.  And you know what?  As much as I would have liked to see her as president, I don’t think it’s worth it if you can’t be your own person and set your own goals.  I will always be of the opinion that that’s why she didn’t get the nod in 2008.  She wasn’t willing to play the same kind of game as Obama.  Well, we know what kind of game Obama was playing so he must have been courted and pressured very heavily by the finance industry gurus who have gone virtually unpunished for ruining our lives.  They found his ethics and values to be quite flexible and much more to their liking.  Can we stop the nauseating hagiography of Obama’s 2008 campaign??  When the historians write about what really happened, the young, male graduate student factions of the Democratic party are going to look like the self-interested Obama fluffers that they turned out to be.  In fact, next election season, read whatever those young Ezra’s and Yglesiases and Kevin Drums say and carefully consider the primary candidates they loathe.  As far as I’m concerned, the new, young and almost completely male “progressive” opinion makers have shot whatever credibility they ever possessed when they signed on with Obama.

Make no mistake, one of the parties is going to try to run another historic candidate in the very near future.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a woman.  If it is, I sincerely hope that the Democratic voters take a good hard look at her record and pay very close attention to what the media is saying about her.  There is sure to be a lot of hype around the next woman candidate and it will be very hard to resist.

But let’s not get sucked in again, OK?  The last thing we need is to get another stealth candidate like Harvard educated, financier toe-kissing Obama.  It’s the policies that matter above anything else.  That was the only reason I voted for Hillary in the 2008 primary.  The fact that she had lady parts was only icing on the cake.  I suspect that posts like Silver’s are just setting us up for disappointment because Hillary will not run and that the next “historic” candidate is going to be another Trojan Horse.  Let’s not let it happen again.

* Beating down a politician by using constant humiliation and misogyny ala Spinal Tap’s Smell the Glove album cover is a weird criterion for making a presidential candidate acceptable. It says more about the guys who had a baitball frenzy in 2008 than Hillary Clinton. I don’t think you guys know how over-the-top horrible you looked. We won’t forget who you are and we’d be nuts to ever take you seriously.

Attention New Jersey Voters- Rocky Anderson will be on the ballot

Anderson/Rodriguez ballot positions

Democrats in Exile who want to vote for a candidate who more closely represents their point of view and values, should check out Rocky Anderson’s page.  He has a map that shows where he is now on the ballot for the fall election.  He will be on the ballot in New Jersey, probably in a dark, obscure corner in 9pt font.  You will need to be determined to find him but at least you will have an option.

You won’t need to vote for the crazy party with the whip kissing authoritarian, mean spirited, hard hearted judgmental, religious nutcases who worship greed and ignorance and crave for someone to beat them, beat them *hhhharder*.

Nor will you be forced to sign on to your own severe haircut courtesy of your former party who doesn’t have the guts to impose one on the banking industry that bought their candidate.  (Anyone who still thinks Hillary wouldn’t have been different isn’t seeing the whole picture yet.  There’s no chance in Hell the bankers were going to let a potential New New Dealer get anywhere near the mechanisms of government.  You’ve been HAD, guys.  Deal with it.)

The ability to exercise a choice is what separates free people from unfree people.  It separates democracies from single party governments and authoritarian regimes.  Right now, the major parties *think* they have you cornered.  You either vote for ugly or son of ugly.  And the son of ugly party isn’t going to offer you a better choice because son of ugly is firmly in the grips of the people who now own both parties.  As long as the Democrats do their financiers’ bidding, they’re going to keep offering you son of ugly candidates.  And if that’s the route they’re going to go, they’re going to make themselves irrelevant because no matter how you vote, you’re going to end up with the same thing: rule by rich, powerful MEN.

The Democrats think this strategy is working for them.  As long as they’re in power, they won’t challenge their masters.  If it looks like they’re going to lose, maybe they will.

Whatever.

I can almost hear the Democratic loyalists screaming, “Don’t throw your vote away!  If you do, the Republicans will win and the world will end and bad things will happen, you stupid, racist, low information voter!”

Let’s see, I’m a single divorced mother in the little Depression and I’ve lost my job in an industry that is deserting the US at an accelerated pace and is never coming back and I’m paying over $900/month for COBRA.  AND I live in New Jersey where the cost of living is ridiculous.  How can it get any worse??  Obama has been a disaster for me and my two daughters.  If the Democrats are really worried that they will lose the White House in November because some of us can’t stomach the thought of signing on to four more years of the party’s demands for self-evisceration, then they should seriously consider asking their candidate to step aside, just as they asked Jon Corzine to step aside in NJ in 2009 before he lost to Chris Christie.  In the meantime, I have to think about the future and make my decisions based on what will constitute my own future happiness and without any reference to the happiness of politicians indentured to the bonus class.  I don’t feel obligated to sacrifice any more to a party who treats me like a child and keeps telling me I must eat my beets before I can have broccolli.

When the Democratic party gets serious again about representing its base, they will let me know in a significant way.  Having Bill Clinton speak at the convention isn’t going to cut it.  It’s going to have to be a MUCH bigger signal than that.  After all, Obama, the *presumptive* nominee, would still be on the ballot and I don’t trust anything that comes out of Obama’s mouth.  After four years, there’s no reason to trust him. And if his plans to cut the deficit are true, I’d have to be a pretty gullible sucker to vote for him.  With either party, I’m going to be forced to sacrifice very deeply, painfully and to my ultimate detriment.  Why should I sign on to that?  If the Democrats want me to vote for them again, they’re going to have to reestablish my trust.  They aren’t making any moves in that direction.

So, why shouldn’t I put my efforts in to changing the system, starting now, even if it takes a long time?  I’ve got decades until retirement. I might as well look after my own interests from now on, not some major party’s.

I’m not interested in playing games or jumping to the financiers’ tune.  I’m interested in putting the country back to work, holding people accountable for their actions, ending the wars that are sucking us dry, and equality for all people regardless of sex or sexual orientation.  And now, I have a choice just like all the other voters in NJ, and Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and FLORIDA!  If you’re in Minnesota, Idaho, Vermont and Rhode Island, the campaign is looking for volunteers to get petitions to get on the ballot.  In some of the other states, like NY and PA, your write in vote will count.  But there are still some big states out there, like California and Texas, where the state still needs petitions signed to allow Anderson’s vote to be counted as a write in.

Think about it.  Ugly, son of ugly or something completely different.  Don’t let anyone tell you that unless you vote for one of the major parties that your vote doesn’t matter.  Now, you have two viable alternatives: Anderson or Jill Stein.

*********************

And while the Obama campaign is burning through money like there’s no tomorrow, throwing everything it can at Mitt Romney, it’s barely moving the needle in the polls.

New results from surveys over the past week in Colorado, Virginia and Wisconsin, combined with surveys last week in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, show that Mr. Romney so far appears to be holding his own with that group, but running no stronger than Senator John McCain did four years ago.

Similarly, Mr. Romney is trying to peel off as many female voters as possible from Mr. Obama’s electoral coalition, hoping to offset the president’s advantages among single and nonwhite women by appealing to married and white women with a message about economic security and pocketbook issues.

But while the poll suggests that Mr. Romney is making inroads among women in Colorado, where he is also showing strength against Mr. Obama by several other measures, support for Mr. Obama among women has otherwise held up in the battleground states. As a result, Mr. Obama has so far been able to stave off bigger losses in the most hotly contested states, in particular among independents, who are divided in Colorado and Wisconsin and supporting Mr. Romney in Virginia, and white men, who are supporting Mr. Romney by double digits over the president in all three states.

Take a look at that sentence in bold.  That right there is the nugget that keeps getting buried by all of the Democratic loyalists who make it sounds like he’s on track for term two.  Obama is not going to battle to victory.  He’s spending obscene gobs of cash and he *still* can’t keep from sliding in the polls.  He’s just not sliding as badly.  His campaign has Jon Corzine written all over it.  Far from ensuring a Democratic victory in November, the Democrats are making a Republican one more likely by running with a guy we can’t trust who is without a shadow of a doubt in the pocket of the very same assholes who created the mess in the first place.

Sure, it may be tricky to change horses mid stream but not when you have a much stronger candidate available.

*********************

How to stand up to intense pressure and ridiculous arguments from the aristocratic rich with dignity, courtesy of Jane Austen:

Hmmm, the financiers seem to be undermining business

It takes the Brits to put the pieces together and spell-it-out for the terminally slow Americans.  This piece on Business Secretary Vince Cable’s revelation is from the Guardian this morning:

Britain’s banks are “throttling” the economic recovery because of an anti-business culture which focuses on short-term profits, the business secretary, Vince Cable, has said.

As Ed Balls warned of widespread outrage if the ousted Barclays chief executive, Bob Diamond, receives a £16m pay-off, Cable accused banks of undermining multibillion-pound measures to help businesses.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday, the business secretary said: “The real problem at the moment is that the banks – because of their existing culture, which is frankly anti-business, obsession with short-term trading profits, not focusing on the long term – are throttling the recovery of British industry.”

Tell me more:

He said: “There has been a breakdown in the mechanism, in the transmission. It just doesn’t get through to companies. We are going to ensure that the new money that the chancellor and the governor of the Bank of England talked about at the Mansion House does actually directly reach the companies.

“Given that our leading banks are, frankly, throttling recovery by not making business lending available, particularly to small-scale companies, we now have to focus single mindedly on that task. How to make sure that the additional money gets through to business.”

The business secretary indicated impatience with some of his Conservative colleagues, who were wary of state intervention, as he praised the scheme by his predecessor, Lord Mandelson, to revive the car industry.

Aaaand?:

Highlighting the importance of working in collaboration with business, he said: “Laissez-faire just doesn’t work. When you are making big long-term investments you have to have the government and the private sector working together. It has been a great success story in the car industry, similarly in aerospace and life sciences and others.”

Well, it *used* to be a great success in the life sciences business but no longer.  Mr. Cable might want to check in with the people who live and work around Sandwich, if there are any left.  A lot more government intervention will be required if Britain and the US ever expect to be on top in that area again.

In conclusion:

The shadow chancellor had earlier warned Diamond against accepting a £16m pay-off from Barclays. Balls said: “People will look at that and think that is totally outrageous. It is outrageous that somebody should stand aside because the board decides there is a problem and then get a payout which is off the scale for anything normal people will receive in their life times.

“The shareholders are going to think really hard about this. The government will need to look at this and talk to the shareholders. They clearly talked to the shareholders about Mr Diamond.”

Indeed, the shareholders should think long and hard about a lot of things.  For instance, do we need so many people to be trading their defined benefit pensions for 401Ks that will be used by the banks as a constant, monthly replenishing source of money with which they can gamble?  Do the hard working people of America need to also be the same shareholders who cheer at a bump in their portfolios at the same time they fear for their jobs (so other 401K shareholders can get a bump in their portfolios)?  By the financiers’ logic, the 401K will achieve its maximum value as the number of workers approach zero.  How did we get talked into this scam in the first place anyway? It sounds so stupid and self-defeating that we should all have our heads examined.  Oh, sure, there’s nothing wrong with investing if you have the money to do it but to use Wall Street as your primary source of retirement income?  Let’s face it, we are morons.

The politician that proposes a mechanism that allows us to convert our 401Ks to pensions gets my vote.

Anyway, it’s good that someone in government, well, someone else’s government, has finally made the connection between incentives for short term profits and an anti-business atmosphere.  Perhaps the Brits are finally waking up to the idea that all of the deficit reducing austerity measures are meant to do only one thing: increase the wealth of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, including Main Street businesses.  I don’t expect Republicans will acknowledge that this is what is leading to so many layoffs and dragging the economy down.  For that matter, I don’t expect Democrats to acknowledge it either.  And from what I can see on the frontpage of the NYTimes, this is something that the city elites don’t want to talk about.

By the way, why do I have to go all the way to London to get any new information on the LIBOR scandal?  Why exactly is there so little coverage of the LIBOR scandal in American newspapers? Who are they trying to protect with this “nothing to see here, move along” attitude?  Anyone want to take a guess at this?  And did you know that the CFTC started investigating the LIBOR manipulations back in March of 2011?  That means they must have been aware of it before that time.  THAT means that when Occupy Wall Street was righteously indignant at Zuccotti Park and was getting beaten up by the DHS and smeared by our elected officials, the Obama administration was well aware that there had been fraudulent interest rate manipulation on an enormous scale.  Those same students who can’t pay their huge student loans with their high interest rates are the same people who were potentially harmed by these manipulators.  Why was it so necessary to kick people when they were already down on Wall Street’s behalf?  And knowing this, do we have any reasonable expectation that Barack Obama will hold Wall Street accountable for what it has done to our economy and our futures?

Why so much silence from our elected officials?  And what did Tim Geithner know and when did he know it? Inquiring minds want to know.

Oh, and I ran across this bloke on twitter.  Is he representative of the British public?  Because he is asking a very good question about why the scandal is being handled like an internal governmental investigation instead of a judicial inquiry.  It’s similar to what we are doing here.  That indicates that they are trying to prevent too much public outrage and real reform.  But if the general public gets the gist of the scandal as well as this guy does, then how long will this stay contained?  And what effect will it have on an election year?

Stuff that only looks random

Worlds largest woodpile, Byholma, Sweden.

Update: Is it possible that the firing of Teresa Sullivan from the University of Virginia is part of a ratfucking operation to get Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts?? See this post at Brietbart (Ewww) for details.  Firing Sullivan may be the first step in making Warren look like she is guilty of scientific misconduct.  Regardless, the Board of Visitors should be investigated.  Who are they taking orders from?

*******************************

I’m cleaning out the Instapaper queue this morning.  Let’s take a look:

Derek Lowe writes a response in Slate to a recent Slate article that claims that we need more scientists and mathematicians.  No, what we really need are more jobs for the hundreds of thousands of STEM majors who are out of work right now.

Derek also has a post about the future of Organic chemistry in this country.  Bottom line: there is no future in this country for organic chemists and a recent National Research Council Committee study confirms this:

Whitesides believes that the question should be asked whether PhD theses are narrow technical presentations for jobs that no longer exist. Should U.S. graduate students be doing organic synthesis if most organic synthesis is being done in China? “That’s not to say that these aren’t really important activities, but we need to connect our investment in graduate school with what’s actually needed to give jobs to students.”

That’s really sad.  America has produced some of the finest chemists of the modern era but if there are no jobs after graduate school, why bother studying a dead field? You might as well get a PhD in Alchemy for all the good it will do you.  Our country hasn’t felt the full effects of all of the industrial slashing and burning on our scientific infrastructure yet but it’s coming and it won’t be pretty.  Meanwhile, our wealth of scientists are forced to pursue other careers…

*************************

Theresa MacBain, the Methodist pastor who recently came out as an atheist, gave a short interview on Fox News radio.  It’s only 9 minutes.  Well worth the time. She did very well and held her own.  Good job, Theresa.  It’s not easy taking on the blowhards at Fox.  Let’s hope some of this interview percolated into the minds of the listeners.

Theresa is presently directing the Clergy Project, an initiative to help non-believing pastors make the transition into the civilian world.  The purpose of the Clergy Project is not to deconvert practicing pastors.  The pastors that join the project are already past the point of deconversion.  They just want out of the pulpit because they want to stop living a lie and they need to make a safe landing.  The number of clergy who have joined the project has swelled dramatically since McBain and another graduate, Jerry DeWitt, have barnstormed the country in the past couple of months.  They have almost 300 members and many more clergy who are on a waiting list to be screened before they can join.

In another sign of the atheist apocalypse, Linda LaScola, a researcher on religion, gave an interview to CNN about the rate of deconversion and its future effects on politics. The days of the religious right strangling the country and squashing modernity are numbered.

As more people turn away from religion, there is an associated trend that shows they are becoming more liberal.  So, you have to wonder why Democrats seem scared to death of the religious right.  If they just hang in there and stop ceding ground to the conservatives, in a few election cycles, the pendulum will have swung the other way.  In fact, Republicans seem to be frantically throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the electorate this year because they know they are rapidly running out of time.  Before long, there won’t be enough elderly, conservative religious voters who they can conscript for the plutocrats.

By the way, did you know that up until recently, most people stayed with the religion traditions they were brought up in?  And according to Bob Altemeyer, author of The Authoritarians, “amazing apostates”, those individuals who reject their  fundamentalist upbringings and become secular do so at the rate of about 1%.  What the data shows recently is that the rate of deconversion is picking up with greater access to the internet.

Previously, that 1% shared some common characteristics, such as being good in school and valuing truth.  In other words, we don’t just accept what people tell us unquestioningly no matter how much our parents isolate us.  Altemeyer also found that there are a few people who go the other way from secular households to religious conversion but these people tend to be less well educated and they make their conversions after some life-changing event like an illness, unemployment or relationaship failure.  In other words, religious conversions happen when people are most vulnerable to persuasion and to individuals who are least able to reason their way out of it.  These findings are similar to my own experience.  I never believed the fundamentalist crap I was fed and to get me to believe it now, after I have seen the proof of evolution in my research and now know the historical facts behind the bible, would require me to undergo a lobotomy.

***************************

Something very weird is going on at the University of Virginia.  Last week, the President Teresa Sullivan, was asked to resign abruptly by the University’s Board of Visitors, which is like the Board of Regents everywhere else.  The reasons for the resignation are not clear.  Even Sullivan herself is not actually sure why she was fired and the board is not answering questions to anyone’s satisfaction.  This move came 2 years after Sullivan was appointed and has, by all accounts, done an admirable job.

I first read about this a few days ago from a history professor there, Siva Vaidhyanathan, who wrote about the dismissal in Salon.  What Vaidhyanathan describes sounds oddly familiar to those of us in the pharmaceutical industry who have lost our jobs due to cost saving measures of the shareholders:

In the 21st century, robber barons try to usurp control of established public universities to impose their will via comical management jargon and massive application of ego and hubris. At least that’s what’s been happening at one of the oldest public universities in the United States—Thomas Jefferson’s dream come true, the University of Virginia.

On Thursday night, a hedge fund billionaire, self-styled intellectual, “radical moderate,” philanthropist, former Goldman Sachs partner, and general bon vivant named Peter Kiernan resigned abruptly from the foundation board of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. He had embarrassed himself by writing an email claiming to have engineered the dismissal of the university president, Teresa Sullivan, ousted by a surprise vote a few days earlier.

[...]

“The Board believes that in the rapidly changing and highly pressurized external environment in both health care and in academia, the University needs to remain at the forefront of change,” [Board of Vistors chair] Dragas wrote in her initial email announcement. I have no idea what that means or why it pertains to Sullivan’s dismissal. I guess it means that stuff is changing. So the university must change. Firing a president is change.

On Monday Dragas, sensing that the university community might want some explanation for such a radical act, sent out a second message: “The Board believes this environment calls for a much faster pace of change in administrative structure, in governance, in financial resource development and in resource prioritization and allocation. We do not believe we can even maintain our current standard under a model of incremental, marginal change. The world is simply moving too fast.”

OK, then. It’s all about pace. I suppose this means the board will appoint a new president every two years. Or maybe more frequently, because that’s the only way to keep up with the pace of change.

Earlier in the statement Dragas wrote that “the board feels strongly and overwhelmingly that we need bold and proactive leadership on tackling the difficult issues that we face.” So we can derive from Dragas’ statements that Sullivan was not bold enough, fast enough, or “proactive” enough to guide a bucolic 193-year-old institution founded by a stocking-wearing guy who studied Greek and Latin for fun.

We were all baffled. So Sullivan did nothing wrong? The board would not even hint at the reason she was fired. Conspiracy theories quickly circulated to fill the vacuum. And they got worse after Kiernan’s letter unleashed an unfounded fear that an MBA “cabal” was in cahoots with Goldman Sachs to loot the university.

It sounds like the financiers’ values have come to the University of Virginia because they loves them some change! The bizspeak jargon is always a bad sign.  No one knows what it really means, not even the speakers.  This leaves a lot of leeway to interpret the jargon on the fly to justify just about anything.  Vaidhyanathan suggests that donors to the university want more control over how their donations are used.  Maybe they want more influence over the curriculum or benefits or hiring.  Whatever it is, they want to impose change on their timetable and in their way without some capable university president who specialized in class dynamics and the sociology of debt getting in the way.

Did I mention that the University of Virginia has pretty reasonable tuition compared to its peers?  How much do you want to bet that that’s going to Change!™ now that the bonus class has got its grubby mitts on the steering wheel?  Cut back on wages benefits here, hire some more poorly paid adjunct professors there, get more companies to foot the bills for research, raise tuition 30% over a few years and voile!  This is not a charitable institution, after all.  Why should University of Virginia students and their parents get off easy?

The students and faculty have turned out for Sullivan and latest reports say that 4 of the 12 members of the Board of Visitors have approached Sullivan to ask her to stay.  But this is not a good working environment for anyone at the University and Sullivan warns that the faculty may be poached by other universities looking to pick up spooked researchers and professors.  Researchers need to be able to plan and require a contiguous and stable environment and this crap from the Board of Visitors is undermining that.  They’ll get their change for sure but what they will be left with won’t be worth anything after they’re done.  The university’s faculty need only look at the smoking hulks of our empty industrial labs and extraordinarily well compensated former MBA overlords to know what will come next.

Another disaster brought to you by the Goldman Sachs family of assholes.

****************************

More office chairs.  I’m still pining for the white leather one from West Elm but the damn thing never goes on sale.

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Le Pacman:

Thursday: We’re not seeing things after all

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism wrote a post about a study that confirms what we’ve been thinking for years: Short term thinking is destroying whole industries and will have severe repercussions down the road.

Andrew Haldane and Richard Davies of the Bank of England have released a very useful new paper on short-termism in the investment arena. They contend that this problem real and getting worse. This may at first blush seem to be mere official confirmation of most people’s gut instinct. However, the authors take the critical step of developing some estimates of the severity of the phenomenon, since past efforts to do so are surprisingly scarce.

“A short-term perspective is tantamount to applying an overly high discount rate to an investment project or similarly, requiring an excessively rapid payback. In corporate capital budgeting settings, the distortions are pronounced:

Most recently, in 2011 PriceWaterhouseCoopers conducted a survey of FTSE-100 and 250 executives, the majority of which chose a low return option sooner (£250,000 tomorrow) rather than a high return later (£450,000 in 3 years). This suggested annual discount rates of over 20%. Recently, Matthew Rose, CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe (America’s second biggest rail company), expressed frustration at the focus on quarterly earnings when locomotives lasted for 20 years and tracks for 30 to 40 years. Echoes, here, of “quarterly capitalism”.”

Haldane and Davies argue the effect is significant:

“First, there is statistically significant evidence of short-termism in the pricing of companies’ equities. This is true across all industrial sectors. Moreover, there is evidence of short-termism having increased over the recent past. Myopia is mounting.

Second, estimates of short-termism are economically as well as statistically significant.
Empirical evidence points to excess discounting of between 5% and 10% per year.

The result is that projects with long-term payback, beyond the 30 to 35 year timeframe, are treated as having no value. No wonder we don’t fund basic science, infrastructure, or climate change related projects”.

The writers point out the first order bad effects: good projects don’t get funded, and those projects are often the ones with the highest potential for broad social impact (would we ever build the US highway system now?). But the knock-on effects are if anything more pernicious. The fact that most investors employ overly high discount rates produces is the same result you’d see with oligopoly pricing: overly high returns with restricted output. And this is consistent with the picture we see in most of the world. Perversely, the corporate sector has been a net saver for nearly a decade in the US, longer than that in some other economies. As we wrote with Rob Parenteau last year:

Over the past decade and a half, corporations have been saving more and investing less in their own businesses. A 2005 report from JPMorgan Research noted with concern that, since 2002, American corporations on average ran a net financial surplus of 1.7 percent of the gross domestic product — a drastic change from the previous 40 years, when they had maintained an average deficit of 1.2 percent of G.D.P. More recent studies have indicated that companies in Europe, Japan and China are also running unprecedented surpluses.

This fits nicely with what we R&D professionals have been seeing.  Its effects are especially profound with respect to the pharmaceutical industry because almost by definition, pharmaceutical research is a long term affair.  *Maybe* you can design a better silicon chip in a faster timeframe if everyone gave up sleep but with life sciences related research, Harvard’s Law applies:

Under the most rigorously controlled conditions of pressure, temperature, volume, humidity, and other variables, the organism will do as it damn well pleases.

You can’t make money in the short term in research.  Therefore, research must be cut.

It’s logic only a financier could love.

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