Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Brooklyn We Have Lift-Off

Great work Brooklyn Space team.

Luke Geissbuhler
2010 Brooklyn Space Program -- Video from a camera attached to a weather balloon that rose into the upper stratosphere and recorded the blackness of space.

Video Notes:

In August 2010, we set out to send a camera to space.

The mission was to attach a HD video camera to a weather ballon and send it up into the upper stratosphere to film the blackness beyond our earth.

Eventually, the balloon will grow from lack of atmospheric pressure, burst, and begin to fall.

It would have to survive 100mph winds, temperatures of 60 degrees below zero, speeds of over 150 mph, and the high risk of a water landing.

To retrieve the craft, it would need to deploy a parachute, descend through the clouds and transmit a GPS coordinate to a cell phone tower.

Then we have to find it.

Needless to say, there are a lot of variables to overcome.

After 8 months of research and testing, we checked the weather patterns, picked our day and drove to Newburgh, New York to launch.

Because of the foam collars, the craft does not spin, but instead rocks wildly from the turbulence of a large, light object climbing 25 ft every second.

In 2 minutes, the craft disappears into the low clouds 3000 ft above the ground for a 10 minute white out.

12 minutes later at about 20,000 ft

Still rising at 17 mph, a strange electronic rythm is audible on the track. The phone tries to transmit a GPS coordinate, creating some interference as well.

40 minutes and 60,000 ft, the craft experiences winds as high as 100 mph, flipping it head over heels.

60 minutes and 90,000 ft, the balloon escapes the thermal winds and is now 18 ft across, one foot short of its burst diameter.

After 70 minutes and 100,000 ft, nearly 19 miles high, the ballon reaches its breaking point.

There's only a brief moment of weightlessness as the craft stops climbing and begins to fall.

Reaching maximum speed at approximately 150 mph, even with the parachute deployed.

Slowing to 15mph, the GPS transmits its coordinates for the first time, as it shows up on a map.

Amazingly, the soft capsule only lands 30 miles north of the lauch site due to a quick ascent and two differing wind patterns.

The camera batteries finally succumb to the cold after 100 mins of recording, a mere 2 mins from landing

The craft is found 50 ft high in a tree caught by its parachute and located in the dead of night by its external LED light shining as a beacon.

via Paul Kedrosky

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Bing, Bang, Buffett, Bash

Items of Interest:

NY Times:
In Bing Crosby’s Wine Cellar, Vintage Baseball -- How a near pristine black-and-white reel of the entire television broadcast of the deciding game of the 1960 World Series — long believed to be lost forever — came to rest in the dry and cool wine cellar of Bing Crosby’s home near San Francisco is not a mystery to those who knew him.

Crosby loved baseball, but as a part owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates he was too nervous to watch the Series against the Yankees, so he and his wife went to Paris, where they listened by radio.

He said, ‘I can’t stay in the country,’ ” his widow, Kathryn Crosby, said. “ ‘I’ll jinx everybody.’ ”

He knew he would want to watch the game later — if his Pirates won — so he hired a company to record Game 7 by kinescope, an early relative of the DVR, filming off a television...

Jethro Nededog / Zap-2-It: 
'Jersey Shore' lesson: The bang-onomics of Angelina -- After watching Thursday's Sept. 24 "Jersey Shore," I have a new understanding of the way the crew's wild world works. I've pointed out the signs of the crew's wisdom before, but I learned a new subject from the last episode: Bang-onomics

You have to have noticed that the crew tallies every time they smush on the blackboard. The flip side is that the crew acknowledges the double standard that when the guidos bring home different girls on different nights and rack up the tally marks, they're studs --fist pumps all around. If a guidette, say Angelina Pivarnick, does it, she's a whore. But, this crew doesn't run with the usual pack. Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, for example, can hit it with different guys, because she spaces them out. See, bang-onomics is a harder discipline for the guidettes and it's so easy to fail the class...
Jeff Matthews Is Not Making This Up:
“Better Lucky than Smart”: The Urban Legend of Warren Buffett --
Asked by an audience member if returns such as those posted by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chief Executive Officer Warren Buffett…are the product of luck or talent, Taleb [Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of “The Black Swan”] said both played a part.

If given a choice between investing with Buffett and billionaire investor George Soros, Taleb also said he would probably pick the latter.

“I am not saying Buffett isn’t as good as Soros,” he said. “I am saying that the probability Soros’s returns come from randomness is much smaller because he did almost everything: he bought currencies, he sold currencies, he did arbitrages. He made a lot more decisions. Buffett followed a strategy to buy companies that had a certain earnings profile, and it worked for him. There is a lot more luck involved in this strategy.”

Bloomberg Businessweek, September 25, 2010
... the urban legend surrounding Warren Buffett ... is that Warren Buffett was more lucky than smart...
John Tamny / Forbes:
Rather Than Bash the Rich, We Should Emulate Them -- Ultimately it’s the goal of The Blake School to erase the culture of “white privilege” from its hallowed walls. No doubt this plays well to a media possessing an almost reflexive hate of wealth, but for the rational minds in our midst, white privilege is a falsely pejorative term for the enterprise and parsimony that often lead to financial and charitable success. Blake may well rid itself of what its administrators deem a wanting, privileged culture, but if successful, they’ll rid the school of the values that make it so attractive to the ambitious, including those not rich or white.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chanos: China is the next Enron

James Chanos of Kynikos Associates says China is the next Enron. Of course, this would sound ridiculous if Chanos hadn’t been one of the original people to uncover the Enron scandal. Chanos is a master short seller, accountant and hedge fund manager. He essentially believes the Chinese economy is one big government run ponzi scheme. He thinks it will end very badly:

via Pragmatic Capitalist

Friday, September 17, 2010

When Does Japan Give Up the Ghost?

This graph says it all. Japan will be shrinking this century. It will be going from a current population of 127,420,000 (10th in the world) to 90 million by 2055, and 45 million in 2105. Amazing.

Jim Quinn / Minyanville:
When Japan Collapses, Part 2 -- The more you analyze Japan's predicament the more you realize there's no way out. It's trapped in a boundless morass of uncertainty. If it successfully weakens the yen, why would foreign investors invest in its debt, paying 1%? As the following chart clearly shows, Japan has a bit of an aging problem. By 2050, 40% of the Japanese population is predicted to be over 65 years old. Its population will be in a relentless death spiral for decades...

Part 1
Bloomberg:  Japan Intervenes in FX Markets
MarketWatch:  USD Up as Japan Halts Yen's Rise
RealClearMarkets:  Intervention Won't Work Long
ZDian L. Chu / Economic Forecasts Opinions:
Japan’s Problem Is Bigger Than Yen -- Sadly but truely, as dismal as Japan’s economic outlook seems, yen (along with Swiss Franc) is replacing the US dollar as the safe haven currency with the continuing unwind of risk trades. Investors see yen as “safe” due to the fact that Japan has a current account surplus and its government debt is mostly domestic instead of foreign.

Moreover, prospect of a slowing growth in the U.S. and talk of the Fed's continuing quantitative easing--driving interest rates even lower--further discourage dollar holding.

Generally, a country’s currency value rises with a healthy GDP growth, but in the case of Japan, it is quite the opposite. Despite Japan's ongoing current account surplus, a currency out of line with fundamentals could pose risks to its stability...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

After the Reign: "Burning Down the Farm"

After the Reign:
Lyrics: "Burning Down the Farm" --
Well the banker man came to the house the other day
Said he's gonna take the farm away
Mamma looked at Poppa said what we gonna do
Poppa said hold on let me think this one through
He stood there long and quiet thinkin' with a scowl
And he said before I let this deal go down
I swear I'm gonna burn this farm right to the ground

The farmers and the bankers wanna go parted ways
They lend them damn near nothin' and make 'em pay and pay
When there's nothing left to give the bank takes back the land
And sell it to big business with few ...
When there's no course of action, no hope to be found
You're better off burnin' the mother to the ground

This farm is my family
This farm is my heart
And on the day I lose it I will know where to start
Pick up the pieces, tryin' to move on
Feel all the while like a part of you is gone

I was firin' the corn field just around dusk
In the smoke you could feel the spirits risin' up
Almost every migrant worker who's ever worked this land
Who could never get ahead, who could never run the stand
Why business would ever wanna shut these farms down?
Now they're watchin' as we burn this mother to the ground

The sheriff came up to the house today
Said the banker ain't been seen since he past our way
Poppa said sorry I ain't seen him Joe
Sheriff just looked on and said I gotta go
But I'll be back next week if he's not found
Poppa said that's fine except I'm leavin' town
But first I'm gonna burn this mother to the ground

This farm is my family
This farm is my heart
And on the day I lose it I will know where to start
Pick up the pieces, tryin' to move on
Feel all the while like a part of you is gone.
Banksters are disappearing.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Greenspan, Bernanke, and the Barbarous Relic

The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit... In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value... Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the ‘hidden’ confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.Alan Greenspan
Alan Greenspan / Gold and Economic Freedom, 1966
In truth, the gold standard is already a barbarous relic.John Maynard Keynes, 1922
John Tamny / Forbes:
The U.S. Goes Back To The Gold Standard -- The clock is ticking. Fiat money has never lasted long, and with good reason. Bad as things may seem now, future historians will write positively of today's economic crackup for allowing our stable-currency rebirth. Hope springs eternal.
Robert Lenzner / Forbes:
Central Banks Leading New Gold Rush -- It has not been lost on central banks that the dollar has lost 80% of its value against gold since 1999. Just as serious, dollar-denominated stock market indexes have also lost around 80% of their value relative to gold in the past decade. There is unmistakable fear that precious metals may well hold their value or rise in value as paper money gets trounced.

A wealthy precious metals investor recently warned me to move at least some of my investments out of the U.S. to safer havens and to switch dollars into gold and real assets, like other commodity producing properties...
Richard Daughty / Asia Times:
We're Doomed: Buy Gold, Silver and Oil - to my Sheer Mogambo Outrage (SMO), that all things cost about 47% more than they did in 2000, which is a compounded 3.9% inflation per year, which is not only historically horrifying, but is about half of the real inflation rate Right Freaking Now (RFN), which is above 8%, as calculated by John Williams at!

In short, We're Freaking Doomed (WFD), and the only way I can find to be "un-doomed" is to buy gold, silver and oil with every penny you can scrape up before that penny loses most, or all, of its purchasing power...
Drew Mason / Minyanville:
Why Gold Is Wall Street's Best Kept Secret
Richard_Mills / MarketOracle:
Obama Plus Bernanke Equals A Higher Gold Price 

Zero Hedge:
IMF Resumes Direct Gold Dumping, Sells 10 Tons Of The Shiny Metal To Bangladesh
ECR Research Says That The Point Of Recognition Is Approaching As The World Realizes Ben Bernanke Is Naked

Alix Steel / TheStreet:
A Potential Achilles Heel for Higher Gold Prices


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Geenspan and the Fed: High Crimes and Misdemeanors

More perspectives on the Federal Reserves mismanagement of the economy.

Gonzalo Lira:
The Prosecution’s Case Against Alan Greenspan -- Should Alan Greenspan, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board (1987–2006), be tried for Crimes Against the Economy, put up against a concrete wall, handed a cigarette, offered a red blindfold, and then executed by firing squad?

Yes—absolutely. No question...

There are four main charges against the so-called “Maestro”:

  • One—Irresponsible Market Liquidity, Which Created Rampant Moral Hazard...
  • Two—The Fed’s Do-Not-Touch-the Financial-Services-Sector Policy...
  • Three—Subsidized Money, Which Radically Distorted The Economy...
This is probably the biggest crime Alan Greenspan committed as Federal Reserve Chairman: The so-called “Greenspan Put”.

For the twenty years of his tenure, the Accused—supposedly an avowed free marketeer—subsidized the cost of money...

What happenes when a good—any good, including money—is subsidized? Simple: It creates market distortions. And the higher the subsidy, the greater the distortive effect.

The market distortions Greenspan’s monetary policies created led to one asset bubble after the other—each of which was bound to pop, as they eventually did. Each of which was worse than the last, which they were: Equities, dot-coms, tech, real-estate—they all ballooned, then they all popped. The latest bubble—which I have argued is the Final Bubble—are of course Treasury bonds...
  • Fourth and finally—Turning Economics Into a Religion with the “We Are Right Because Our God—Math—Is On Our Side” Fallacy, and Marginalizing the Heterodox...
discussion: Zero Hedge

Alan Greenspan the patron saint of easy money
Alan Greenspan the Patron Saint of Banksters and Easy Money
More mismanagement by the Federal Reserve with its new regulatory powers.

David Goldman / Inner Workings:
Gastric Bypass Surgery for Anorexia -- What do you do for an anorexic economy that refuses to ingest risk? The Federal Reserve prescribes the regulatory equivalent of gastric bypass surgery. Under federal regulatory pressure, Goldman Sachs reportedly will shut down its Principal Strategies group. Other banks will do the same. The headline reflects a transformation of the financial environment: Regulators are telling the banks not to take risk, which means to divest themselves of all but the most transparent and low-risk assets (e.g., Treasuries, mortgage-backed securities and corporate bonds). The evolution of the former swashbucklers into utilities is nearly complete...
Bernanke changes his Lehman story.

John Cassidy / New Yorker:
Bernanke Changes Story on Lehman Collapse -- What really happened [at Lehman] remains an open question. But by shifting his ground at this late stage, even if only modestly, Bernanke has given more ammunition to his inquisitors...
Seeking Alpha:
The Cost of Bernanke's Failure-Aversion
Ron Paul: Bernanke Deliberately Destroying Dollar

Congressman Ron Paul slams Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke during a House Financial Services Committee meeting for following a policy of deliberately destroying the dollar and wiping out the American middle class. Paul held Bernanke to task over his refusal to address the decline of the dollar and its clear link to inflation...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bernanke the All Powerful

Items of Interest:

“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.” ― William Shakespeare
If Banana Ben and the Fed are responsible for our boom-bubble-bust economy why is Congress giving him even more power to crush us?

Bloomberg Markets Magazine:
Bernanke Empowered -- The new financial regulation law gives the Federal Reserve chairman the authority to force banks to raise capital and tighten lending -- just as he’s trying to steer monetary policy in the opposite direction.

In November 2009, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd advanced a radical proposal: to create a super-regulator that would take over most of the bank supervision that had been done by the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other agencies.

Dodd had been a harsh critic of the Fed and its chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, declaring in July 2009 that the central bank’s supervision of financial services had been an “abysmal failure,” Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its October 2010 issue.

In January 2010, the U.S. Senate approved Bernanke for a second four-year term by a tally of 70 to 30 -- giving him the most negative votes any nominee had received since the chamber started confirming Fed chiefs in 1978.

Six months later, when President Barack Obama signed into law a 2,300-page bill overhauling financial services regulation, the super-regulator had been forgotten. Instead, the Federal Reserve had acquired new regulatory heft, and Bernanke had emerged as the most powerful Fed chairman ever -- with more authority even than his legendary predecessor, Alan Greenspan, who had chaired the Fed for 18 years...

Bernanke told Congress on July 21 that the outlook for the economy is “unusually uncertain.” The same might be said for his prospects as the new master of financial regulation.
Zero Hedge:
Does It Really Matter If We Get Another QE? -- Most of the investment world is a chatter with trying to discern when the Fed will announce another QE Program. When is it coming? How big will it be? How high will stocks soar when it hits?

The “Big Picture” thinkers already know that regardless of what Bernanke says or promises, the END GAME for Fed monetary intervention is at hand. If Bernanke DOES announce some new massive QE 2 program the subsequent spike in equities will only last a short time before stocks enter a free-fall (Europe’s $1 trillion bailout only bought a few days worth of gains back in June).

Moreover, the announcement of a massive QE 2 program would also kick the US Dollar off a cliff, sending a huge signal to international investors that the EXTREME moves Bernanker committed during the 2008-2009 Crisis are actually ALL he knows how to do and will remain the norm rather than the exceptional measures they were promised to be...
Michael Pento /
Bernanke Out of Bullets, But Not Bombs -- Word on the street is that the Fed is now "out of bullets."

Many economists fear that in its efforts to spur recovery, the Fed may have already exhausted its array of monetary ammunition and that it has nothing left of significance to fire at the steadily advancing recession...
ABC News:
Bernanke Takes Blame for Muddled Message on Lehman -- U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he was partly to blame for leaving the wrong impression that the central bank could have saved Lehman Brothers from failure in 2008.

Bernanke, testifying on Thursday before a congressional commission examining the causes of the worst financial crisis in 80 years, said he thought it "very likely" the investment bank was insolvent and lacked sufficient collateral to borrow enough from the central bank to avert collapse.

But he said he kept that view to himself in congressional testimony given just days after Lehman's September 2008 bankruptcy because he was worried that such comments might have spooked already panicky financial markets...
WSJ: Bernanke Defends Record On Lehman
Deal Journal / Wall Street Journal:
Ben Bernanke’s Labor Day Reading List -- Fed Chief Ben Bernanke suggests some dry, but important reading to consider. Ever heard of CoVaR? How about Montagu Norman?

Bernanke was asked Thursday by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission what books or academic papers he recommends reading abut the financial crisis and its aftermath. The Fed chief offered up four suggestions and said he would get back to the commission with more ideas.

Here are Bernanke’s four suggestions:
Slapped by the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World

Markus Brunnermeier /Journal of Economic Perspectives:
Deciphering the Liquidity and Credit Crunch 2007-08

Markus Brunnermeier:
CoVaR (a derivative of the famous “value at risk”)

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