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Population & aging - Sept 20

Energy Bulletin - 21 September 2014 - 8:25am

 New report overturns 20-year consensus on population estimates. New prediction is for a 70% chance of  a rise from 7 billion to 11 billion by 21200.


Categories: Peak oil news

The Market Ticker - The Service Economy And Silly Valley: Meh

The Market Ticker - 21 September 2014 - 3:13am

This is one of those feel good articles that doesn't say anything revolutionary yet manages to miss the point anyway.

To explain why it's possible for a cash-flush tech start-up to have homeless workers, it helps to know that the man I hired through Homejoy wasn't a Homejoy employee at all. That's because Homejoy doesn't employ any cleaners — like many of its peer start-ups, it uses an army of contract workers to do its customers' bidding.

So let me be a bit fair here -- I worked for a job shop for a period of time.  It was a convenient means for me to hawk programming services (which I'm fairly decent at) and have someone else handle all the bullshit other than doing the work and spending the money earned.

Of course for this intermediation I paid quite a price.  In fact, I paid several prices.  Let's list the more-obvious ones:

  • I got a lower hourly rate than I would have otherwise.  Nobody works for free, you know.  The job shop paid me my ask, but what they billed me at wasn't something I was entitled to know.  I did find out, but I had no control over it.

  • I got to pay all the taxes and fees that an employee doesn't see, but is part of his pay package.  Both halves of FICA and Medicare, for openers.  That one is obvious.  What's not-so-obvious are the other ones -- like health insurance.  At the time I did this I didn't have a need for it nor was there Obamacare, so I simply ignored it.  Had I been a W2 I would have likely been offered it and wound up with it as part of my "salary" whether I used it or not (I didn't.)  So not all of this was actual expense.  There was also workman's comp and unemployment insurance tax, which an employer must pay but a 1099 individual contractor does not have to pay.  That's great right up until you get hurt on the job, then you're fucked, and if you get laid off you're not eligible for unemployment.  I suppose a server rack could have fallen on me, but it didn't.

  • I don't have any of the alleged "protections" of an employee.  The job requires deliverables, not time put in.  Big difference.  You wind up doing 80 hours in a week?  Tough shit.  Oh, and since you're 1099 there's no overtime either; your billing rate is your billing rate.  Period.  I used to snicker when some of my staff at MCSNet would bitch about being assigned hours way beyond 40, usually during trade shows and such when it was all hands on deck!  Heh, it's a lot of extra work and it may be an imposition on your personal life but you're getting paid time and a half for it, and it's not because I want to, it's because it's the law that I must!  You work 60 hours, which is a lot, you earn double your usual wage -- and you want to bitch?  I can only say "shut up and pay me asshole!" in response to those complaints, because I would have given my left ball for time and a half when I was doing 1099 work -- or when I was exempt.  Ditto on any sort of seniority or protection against a canceled project (yeah, that happens a lot too) or simply because the guy that is running the project decides one day that he wants someone with tits to look at.  You're gone, period, and good luck suing.  At will states have few protections against being fired just 'cause I wanna, but as a 1099 you have zero protection against that.  About the only thing you can do is contract blocks of billable hours, which (for a sizable discount) you can sometimes get a client to take. If they shitcan you before the block is consumed they have to pay you for the rest, but trust me, the discount demanded for that isn't usually worth it.

I never did this when I ran MCSNet, although it was tempting more than once.  The reason is that it was my money on the line without having venture funds or an IPO under my belt -- and there is a significant risk of the IRS coming back at you and trying to reclassify everyone.  If that happens you're fucked and done, and what usually perks up their eyebrows is when one of your 1099s fails to file or pay taxes and they go trying to figure out where to the get the money from.

The worst part of a reclassification is that it is retroactive for a good period of time and even if the 1099 guy filed and paid his FICA, Medicare and income tax if they win you'll get assessed it anyway, and you can't claw it back from him!  So the government basically gets to double-dip you, and what they're dipping is long, hard, and dry.  You figure out where they dip it.  Then they'll take Round #2 out of your ass for unemployment and workman's comp, retroactively as well.  This can very easily put you out of business immediately, considering that you think you transferred that cost to the 1099 guy when in fact you basically overpaid him in the amount of those assessments -- pay that likely makes your firm retroactively uneconomic and destroys it.

No thanks.

When the money isn't yours, however, then it's easy.  Go ahead and do it. If it blows up in your face who cares?  Yeah, your little startup blows sky high but you can start another one, and the payday you were really looking for was at the IPO anyway.  So, you blew it -- but you're not bankrupted by it, because it wasn't your capital -- at least not most of it.

That's the problem, in a nutshell, that exists with things like "fines" against Wall Street banks and similar -- it's not the management's money that gets taken and nobody goes to jail -- it's "someone else's" money.

Bonne chance "angels"; you have this ramjob coming and it's your own damned fault.

Categories: Economics

'Have a cycle, improve your health and help get cars off the road!' All ... - Hemel Gazette

Transition Towns in the media - 20 September 2014 - 11:42am

Hemel Gazette

'Have a cycle, improve your health and help get cars off the road!' All ...
Hemel Gazette
The event will run from 2pm to 4.30pm and is organised by Transition town Berkhamsted. Leader John Bell said: “Bikefest is there partly to encourage people to get out on their bikes and reduce the number of cars we have got on the road. “This would ...

Categories: TT news

Missing Money: What Government Accounting Really Looks Like

The Daily Reckoning - 20 September 2014 - 8:53am

For some time now, the Government of the United States has been effectively checking through their couch for loose change. Anything helps, even if the debt owed is a staggering $17 trillion.

Not only is the United States continuing to spend quite frivolously, sometimes they don’t know where the money is going. A thorough review of Uncle Sam’s accounting presents some scathing findings.

A few billion missing there, and a couple of trillion gone there. It all evens out, right?

Original graphic from: Masters in Accounting

Categories: Economics


The Baseline Scenario - 20 September 2014 - 8:40am

By James Kwak

You may have noticed that my blogging has tailed way off over the past few months—to, well, just about nothing. You probably noticed that it was pretty spotty for a long time before that. The main reason is that I’ve been busy with a new teaching job, which requires some effort on academic publications, and raising two small children. The other major factor is that I often just find I don’t have much that’s original to say. Financial regulation is a pretty heavily covered field, and I don’t have the time to be a real expert on, say, derivatives clearinghouses, and—believe it or not—I generally try to avoid posting if I don’t have something new to add. I tried to get back into the flow in the spring semester, when I was only teaching one class, and that worked for a while. But at the beginning of the summer I started doing some part-time consulting for my old company (I’m on unpaid leave from my law school this semester), and that’s made it impossible to keep up with the news, much less write something interesting about it.

That said, I still like to write. I’ve started posting occasionally on Medium, which I like both for the gorgeous interface and because it isn’t organized as a reverse-chronological list—which means that I don’t have to worry as much about saying something newsworthy before the moment passes. This week I wrote about playing Minecraft with my daughter (OK, it’s mainly about the Microsoft acquisition) and one of my favorite topics, why megabanks run on bad software.

I don’t know how long I’ll be keeping this up, but in the meantime my plan is to write an occasional post here summarizing things that I write on Medium or elsewhere on the web. As usual, I’ll also post new articles to Twitter more or less immediately after publishing them.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: Economics

Sage Advice for Bored Investors

The Daily Reckoning - 20 September 2014 - 7:46am

I was at lunch with a friend of mine and we were talking about the big vote in Scotland. (As I write, the vote is not yet in.)

And then my friend offered up a reason why many people would vote yes. “They’re bored! They just want something to happen.”

The more I thought about this, the more I thought there might be something to it. Boredom can explain a lot. It can explain all kinds of financial behavior. And there is definitely a “boredom arbitrage” to take advantage of in the markets.

Below, then, is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of my theory of boredom.

In the financial markets, people often wind up sabotaging their own portfolios out of sheer boredom.

Boredom was invented in 1768.

Well, not the concept, but the word bore first appeared in the English language in print in that year. So says my copy of The Oxford English Dictionary. (And yes, I have the physical copy — all 20 volumes!) The OED defines the word bore in this way: “To be weary by tedious conversation or simply by the failure to be interesting.”

Funnily enough, the first usage appeared in a letter by an Englishman to a fellow Englishman complaining about the French. “I pity my Newmarket friends who are to be bored by these Frenchmen.” Classic.

“Boredom” — as in “the state of being bored” — came along much later. In 1852, Dickens used it in Bleak House: “the malady of boredom.”

Author Tom Hodgkinson would agree with Dickens. In his The Freedom Manifesto, he devotes a whole chapter to boredom. He writes:

“If contemporary science were more sophisticated and subtle, then I’m absolutely certain that it would rank boredom as one of the central killers in the modern world… It would not surprise me one jot if boredom were one day revealed to be a carcinogenic.”

Read in the proper lighthearted spirit, Hodgkinson’s book is terrific. He talks about all the ways in which modern life creates boredom — especially in the workplace. Mechanical, boring jobs “require just enough concentration to prevent you from going off into a dream but not enough really to occupy your mind.”

As a result, we have boredom on a mass scale. People are bored. And they do all kinds of things to alleviate the boredom. They act like idiots. They dress like fools. Anything to kill the boredom. They may even commit acts of sabotage.

In the financial markets, people often wind up sabotaging their own portfolios out of sheer boredom. Why else put money into tiny 70 cent share “mining” companies that have virtually no chance of being anything at all? Why bother chasing hyped-up biotech companies that trade at absurd levels based on flimsy prospects?

Because people are bored! It seems exciting to lose your money in this way. It’s no different than going to a casino. (And just like in a casino, these bets pay off often enough to keep people coming back.)

Why do people buy and sell stocks so frequently? Why can’t they just buy a stock and hold it for at least a year? Why can’t people follow the more time-tested ways to wealth? I’m sure you can guess my answer by now.

I think people often do dumb things with their portfolio just because they’re bored. They feel they have to do something. (Here I recall that bit of wisdom from Pascal: “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”)

I know I get bored, but in a different way. For example, it’s incredible to me that people spend so much time talking about the Federal Reserve. My newsletter peers, people in the media. It’s unbelievable. Don’t these people get bored? Or do they do this because they’re bored?

I’m so bored with the Federal Reserve. I know it was in the news this week with another pronouncement on interest rates. Boring. And thankfully, it is largely irrelevant to you as an investor. Warren Buffett himself once said, “If Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan were to whisper to me what his monetary policy was going to be over the next two years, it wouldn’t change one thing I do.”

I read every day where somebody, somewhere writes about QE or interest rates or the dollar. They are mostly rehashing the same old narrative. “When QE stops, stocks will fall.” “The dollar is going to collapse!” “When interest rates go up, stocks will fall.” I mean for crying out loud, how much more can you read about this stuff? And for how many years on end?

It’s just the same old crap, heated up and re-served again and again and again…

This is part of the reason why I travel. That way I don’t have to write about what the Fed said this week or go over some garbled macro scenario I drew up in my head. (“Let me tell you about Zero G-Day, Oil Doom, 13-X… You see, very few people know about this secret government document, but you could make blah, blah, blah…”)

Instead, I can write about what I see… in Greece, hopefully overlooking stunning cliffs and deep-blue water. Ha. Or in Germany, sitting at a long wooden table under oak trees drinking beer at a thousand-year-old brewery. Not boring!

But seriously, at least it actually has something to do with the real world. I’m almost desperate to find something new, something different, something interesting… You don’t need me to repeat what is in the newspapers. You don’t need me to add the chorus of noise you already hear.

Today, the market seems bored with just about anything that isn’t tech, biotech, social media or Tesla.

In fact, taking advantage of the noise is a simple arbitrage. Sometimes you’ll hear (smart) people talk about “time arbitrage.” The idea is just that most investors have a hard time looking out even just a year or two. They focus on now. And so, the idea goes, all you have to do is think out a year and you can pick up stocks that are cheap today because others can’t look beyond the current quarter or two or three.

I think the same kind of arbitrage exists with boredom. People get bored holding the same stock for a long time — especially if it doesn’t do much. They see other shiny stocks zipping by them and can’t stand it. So they chase whatever is moving and get into trouble.

As the famed money manager Ralph Wanger used to say, investors tend to like to “buy more lobsters as the price goes up.” Weird, since you probably don’t exhibit this behavior otherwise. You usually look for a deal when it comes to gasoline or washing machines or cars. And you don’t sell your house or golf clubs or sneakers because someone offers less than what you paid.

Speaking of Wanger, he wrote an investment book called A Zebra in Lion Country, published in 1997. It’s an entertaining read, and I recommend it. In it, he gets to the boredom arbitrage:

“Usually, the market pays what you might call an entertainment tax, a premium, for stocks with an exciting story. So boring stocks sell at a discount. Buy enough of them and you can cover your losses in high-tech.”

That was in 1997, before the 2000 bubble popped. Good advice from Wanger, as usual. (I met him once in his office in Chicago, in 2005. He was generous with his time and spent almost two hours with me, just sharing his wisdom.) Today, the market seems bored with just about anything that isn’t tech, biotech, social media or Tesla.

Anyway, if you can find ways to fight boredom and not take it out on your portfolio, I think your returns will benefit.

In any event, I hope I wasn’t boring today.

Have a great weekend… and don’t get bored,

Chris Mayer
for The Daily Reckoning

Ed. Note: Staving off boredom can be a difficult thing to do as an investor. But as Chris points out, knowing when to stay put is just as important as knowing when to buy and sell. Filter out the noise and keep a level head. Sign up for The Daily Reckoning email edition, for FREE, and you’ll read about other great investment insights you won’t find anywhere else.

Categories: Economics

The One Word Every IPO Investor Needs to Know

The Daily Reckoning - 20 September 2014 - 6:15am

“Everyone knows they can make a killing if they get in on the ground floor of an initial public offering…” – CNBC

Initial public offerings — better known as IPOs — are exciting. That’s especially true when a private company you’re familiar with becomes tradable. But most people don’t know what they’re getting into when it comes to buying newly listed stocks…

What really happens when a company goes public is not pretty.

Contrary to popular belief, IPO day isn’t the best time to get in on the ground floor of an exciting company — the ground floor was long before that.

By the time a company is big enough and successful enough to issue a public offering, the early investors have already made their money.

Investors buy initial public offerings for one simple reason: They want to get in on a big idea at the ground floor.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: As my colleague Greg Guenthner once put it, “Buying an IPO doesn’t get you in on the ground floor. It gets you in on the top floor; you’re just hoping that the company keeps building more floors above you!”

And that’s about the gist of it.

Facebook’s ground floor was in Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room, not the IPO in May of 2013. Twitter’s ground floor was back in 2007, when the service just started hitting the mainstream — not last November.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course. Quite often, companies are successful at building their businesses after going public, and early investors are able to claim enormous gains. But the worst thing you can do is buy an IPO on day one.

The way I see it, there are two pieces of a stock’s price: There’s the business itself, and then there are the hopes, dreams and anxieties of investors in the market. Every stock in your portfolio is impacted by both of those components.

As investors, we make money when there’s a mismatch between those two parts of a stock’s price. For instance, when a company has a stellar business that’s being discounted by lots of investor anxiety, it gives us a chance to buy shares at a bargain. And when other investors’ hopes and dreams become too dominant in a stock’s price tag, it’s time to sell.

On a stock’s first trading day as a public company, prices are often more strongly swayed by those hopes, dreams and anxieties than the business itself. That was evident when investors mixed up Twitter’s ticker symbol TWTR with bankrupt electronics company Tweeter whose ticker was TWTRQ — investors were so excited about the prospect of owning Twitter’s shares that they were buying up the wrong company!

There’s another hidden way that early IPO investors get fleeced too: through the IPO process itself.

The process of taking a private company public is shrouded in a lot of mystery. Even most Wall Street veterans have little idea of how the IPO process works. So let me pull back the curtain for you…

When a company decides it wants to go public, it hires an investment bank to underwrite the deal. The underwriter’s job is to figure out how much the company is worth — and how much the market is willing to fork over for each share. Then, the underwriter typically acquires the company’s shares to sell them to the public.

But in between, underwriters charge a “secret” fee for their efforts.

You see, after picking up shares of a stock, underwriters mark up the price before they sell it to investors. That markup is called the “underwriting spread”, and in some cases, it can be as high as 10%.

Even though the companies going public know how the process works, few investors have ever even heard of an underwriting spread before. But they’re paying for it when they jump in on a newly public stock.

Thing is, the underwriting spread really impacts only the earliest investors in a fresh IPO. That’s because as hopes and dreams settle down, a company’s business becomes the most important component of its stock price again — so unless the firm grows its business enough to make up for the underwriting spread and the initial buying exuberance, share price sinks.

By now, you may be wondering whether it’s even worth investing in an IPO stock at all. The short answer is yes — you’ve just got to know how to do it with minimal risk.

IPOs can be lucrative investments if you know how to buy them the right way. This IPO-buying strategy is so simple, in fact, that I can sum it up in a single word:


As investors, we’re programmed to act now. We’ve been taught to hurry up and trade before we miss out. So the notion of waiting before buying an IPO name is unfathomable to most market watchers. But it’s the key to actually making money as an IPO investor.

Why wait? For starters, waiting gives a new stock the chance to establish a trading history before we put real money on the line; it’s the only way to gauge the investor hopes, dreams and anxieties that I mentioned earlier. You can think of an IPO’s early price action as a way of feeling out the market for a stock. As prices move around, they’re identifying pockets of supply and demand for shares, and those technical levels can help secure the lowest-risk entry point for shares.

Sometimes, a new IPO stock moves pretty much straight up after going public. In those situations, waiting means that you’ll miss out on the very lowest buy prices. But that’s fine — even if you end up paying slightly more for shares, waiting for a pocket of investor demand before buying means that you’re taking on a position with far less risk.

As a stock establishes a trading history, the business becomes the most important component of its share price — that means you’re paying for real assets and earnings, not just excitement and underwriters’ fees.

Sure, waiting on an IPO is harder than giving in and hitting “buy.” But the rewards are worth the cost.


Jonas Elmerraji
for The Daily Reckoning

P.S. In today’s FREE email edition of The Daily Reckoning I told readers about one incredible company they could buy “pre-IPO” right now. It’s a company that one influential billionaire thinks is “going to be as valuable as Facebook.” That could mean an extraordinary 1,300% value explosion! But I didn’t stop there…

In addition to detailing this company, I also gave readers a chance to discover 48 other companies that they could buy “pre-IPO” and a timetable on buying each one of them to maximize their profits. Not bad for a FREE e-letter, eh?

Best of all, the chance to see these kinds of investment opportunities are packed into every single issue. So if you missed today’s issue, don’t worry. Tomorrow’s is just around the corner, along with all the profit potential that comes with it. All you have to do is click here and enter your email to sign up for FREE.

Categories: Economics

How to Escape Obamacare in One Bold Move

The Daily Reckoning - 20 September 2014 - 6:09am

Today I’d like to feature a story I heard from one of my Laissez Faire Today readers David F…

David’s story is a perfect example of what happens when you seek solutions rather than dwelling on the problem at hand.

We hope you’re as inspired by it as we are…

“My wife and I recently moved to Ecuador as a way of retiring early and escaping the ill-named ‘Affordable Care Act,’ before that convoluted health care system killed my wife.

“We made the move last year and can’t believe the difference it has made in the quality of both of our lives.

“The cost of living is very low, and we can actually afford to do the many things we’ve talked about during our previous life of 60-70-hour work-weeks.”

Why Ecuador, you ask?

The story begins when David’s wife, Barbara, was diagnosed with Stage 3 kidney disease while they were still living in the States.

The diagnosis itself, as you can imagine, is enough to turn a life upside down.

But, on top of it all, David and Barbara were also hit with the stress of hefty bills and “the literal merry-go-round circus the medical community put my wife through,” David told us.

“We were forever frustrated. There were endless hoops we had to jump through to try to get to the bottom of her issues over the many YEARS of various problems.”

After years of this, David and Barbara started to lose hope. But they caught a glimmer when they began researching places outside of the U.S.

They needed a place they could retire comfortably that also offered affordable and good healthcare.

“The country is full of beautiful locations… and we’re getting healthier and cured from all that ailed us in the States.”

“Both of us wanted to move up the schedule in doing the things we’ve always talked about doing,” says David. “We were worried dialysis might kick in before we could get to the retirement place in our life we spent so much time talking about.

“So we changed from a 65-year-old retirement time frame to around 55. We had to recognize and accept that our nest egg might not be as big, but what good is a larger nest egg if you don’t live long enough to use it?”

That’s when they decided to move to Ecuador: “Many places would have met our needs, but after visiting Ecuador, we found the locals to be very friendly and forgiving to non-Spanish-speaking expats (we’re learning).”

“The country is full of beautiful locations… our cost of living is ridiculously low (we rent a large penthouse apartment for the cost of a regular apartment in a low-cost area in the States)… we are much safer than in a big city in the U.S.… and we’re getting healthier and cured from all that ailed us in the States.

“The food in Ecuador is fresher and does not have all the dangerous chemical additives found in the foods in the States, so I’ve got to believe that has also contributed to the fantastic turn around my wife has made in her health.

“We’re also more active and walk most everywhere we go, so we are both healthier and in better shape.”

To boot, he says, “In only a little over a year, my wife has had one surgery related to her kidney’s at about 1/10th the cost of the same surgery in the U.S.”

What happened next is nothing short of incredible.

After moving to Ecuador and living a healthier, cheaper and less stressful lifestyle, Barbara regressed to Stage 1 kidney failure. Something the doctors in the U.S. said would never happen.

“We’ve spent years believing that her time was short and we had to speed up doing the things we’ve talked about before it was too late.  Now we have every expectation for a long and normal life for her.”

It gets better: David also had a life-changing experience (albeit, not as dramatic) with regard to Ecuadorian healthcare…

“In the U.S.,” he said, “I had a problem every year with sinus infections that required decongestants to clear up. This was a problem that I thought I had to live with.”

He suffered with it for over 30 years. And no doctor offered to help fix it… save for his doctor in Ecuador.

“I’ll never forget how I felt when the doctor said that I needed to have sinus surgery to remove the tumors/polyps from my nasal cavities. All those years, I had thought I just had to suffer with this problem, and this Ecuadorian doctor had a way of curing it after a couple short hours of evaluation.

“Of course,” David goes on, “the U.S. doctors all probably knew what would fix this problem (the Ecuadorian doctors go to the same medical schools as the U.S. doctors do), but they just didn’t tell me because of the costs or some insurance complication.

“At any rate, the surgery was performed, and I haven’t had a problem in over a year now. In fact, I also had sleep apnea that has also gone away as a result of the same surgery.

“I have to admit I’m furious that this simple solution was never offered over the many years I had the problem in the U.S., but I’m grateful I’m living somewhere where the doctors are allowed to practice medicine and cure their patients.

“My wife,” David writes, “is one perfect example of why we should not assume that our health care issues are set in stone once a few US doctors tell you that you are doomed.

“To get there, we had to change one of our life-long paradigms about the health care system being the best in the U.S….

“Which is probably still true if you have very large sums of money or if you know the correct code word needed to get past the insurance company controls and have the patience to keep fighting with them, etc. (thank god we’re done with that).

“But as is the case with health care, there are many life-changing paradigms you can pursue if you’re just open to the possibility. And if you’ll just consider them and take that steps to implement them.

“So my advice to anyone who may be fearful of taking that ‘first or next risky step’: Consider how life changing that step might be.

“I admit, in most cases, a move overseas may not be the radical solution you are looking for. But whatever it is that ails you, take that little step, that large step, that next step, or that giant leap if you want to change your current world.

“The results may be better than you even imagined. It was for us.”

Thanks for writing in, David. Amazing story.

Coincidentally, I’ve been doing a lot of personal research lately on medical tourism.

Many international hospital staff and doctors are educated and board certified in the U.S.

In fact, Laissez Faire’s in-house “medical tourism” expert, Jud Anglin, is helping me plan a trip to have some dental work done in Thailand.

Jud is the founder of MedRetreat. They arrange high-quality, low-cost surgery and procedures all around the world.

“Medical tourism is not a new phenomenon,” Jud told me. “Canadian and British patients have been traveling for decades in order to escape their universal health care systems, in which extensive surgical wait times are the norm.”

Sensing some jitters about the whole thing, Jud reassured me with a couple little-known facts…

Many international hospital staff and doctors are educated and board certified in the U.S.

MedRetreat uses only hospitals accredited by the same organization that accredits top U.S. hospitals — the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (formerly JCAHO).

“A JCAHO hospital,” says Jud, “is required to follow the same standards, procedures, and protocols as U.S. hospitals.

“So if your insurance deductible is too high or you are denied access to the surgical procedure that you need, it may be time to consider packing your bags and heading off to a foreign hospital.”

Through MedRetreat, Jud will hook me up with a dentist he’s met personally. He’ll also help me set up tours through some of the most cutting-edge hospitals in the world. Yes, in Thailand.

I’ll be flying out in January. And, of course, I’ll be writing all about it while I’m there.

More on that — and lots more on medical tourism — to come.


Chris Campbell
for The Daily Reckoning

Ed. Note: Subscribers to the FREE Laissez Faire Today e-letter had the opportunity to learn three words that let them opt-out of Obamacare forever. Without packing up their bags. Without going to a different country. And without spending incredible amounts of money. In fact, these three words could save you up to $10,000 on your healthcare. Learn more by signing up for the FREE Laissez Faire Today e-letter, at this link: Click here.

Categories: Economics

Is the Shale Revolution a 'Ponzi Scheme' or the End of Peak Oil? - Reason

Peak Oil - Google - 20 September 2014 - 5:53am


Is the Shale Revolution a 'Ponzi Scheme' or the End of Peak Oil?
In a column last year for The Guardian, Nafeez Ahmed of the Institute for Policy Research and Development cited studies predicting that U.S. shale gas production will likely peak in 2015 and oil production in 2017. In a July 2013 report for the Club of ...

Beyond divestment: climate-concerned philanthropists pledge to move billions to wind and solar

Energy Bulletin - 20 September 2014 - 4:52am

Groups have been divesting money from oil, coal, and gas for years. Now they’re hoping to get more climate-healing bang for their buck.

Categories: Peak oil news

The Market Ticker - The Stupid Is Strong With You

The Market Ticker - 20 September 2014 - 4:01am

Alibaba has opened and is trading right near $98/share.

This puts the company at a market valuation approximately equal to WalMart.

This is claimed to be "a titan of tech", albeit in China.


I fully expect this stupidity will go on for a while, but the fact remains that it is stupid, and I don't know when the crack-up will come but I am very sure it will.

The usual refrain will be that "Twitter is a bargain" compared to Alibaba, or similarly eBAY and on and on and on.

Oh please.

Tulips were great currency too - once.  Then they were just pretty flowers, as they were before.

I'm not going anywhere near this piece of crap, but I sure do see the shoeshine indicator lighting up nice and bright in the drug-addled haze of Wall Street.

Categories: Economics

Let the Alibaba IPO Show You Where the Market’s Headed

The Daily Reckoning - 20 September 2014 - 3:19am

Here’s a riddle for you…

What’s bigger than Amazon, China, and a name you’re already sick of hearing?

Why it’s Alibaba, of course.

One of the most valuable technology companies in the world is set to begin trading today on the New York Stock Exchange. As it opens near an expected $68 per share, its $168 billion market cap will immediately dwarf most other tech stocks on the market…

“By selling shares at $68, Alibaba will hit the top end of that modified range, a sign of strong investor interest in the most-anticipated public stock debut of the year and the largest in U.S. history,” Forbes reports. “That title was previously held by Visa, which raised $17.9 billion in its 2008 offering.”

Naturally, everyone is freaking out over the Alibaba offering. Folks are lining up to get their lotto tickets this morning — whatever the opening price might be.

Here’s why you should hang tight…

Just a few weeks ago, I told you investors’ reaction to this initial public offering could set the tone for how the stock market behaves this month — and the rest of 2014, for that matter.

Sure, Alibaba is the largest e-commerce company in the world. Transactions on its sites totaled $248 billion last year. That’s massive. But expectations are equally high for this brand new stock.

If the Alibaba IPO falls flat, we might see a larger negative reaction in the markets. I don’t think the slump would last longer than a few weeks or months, but it could be enough to spook stocks — especially when it comes to the social media and tech stocks that have sprinted back toward their highs recently.

Still, it’s been a heck of a ride for the big tech IPOs recently. Even after some initial disappointment, shares of Facebook and Twitter are having a tremendous year — even after a spring swoon cut into their respective gains…

Your IPO strategy should keep you away from Alibaba stock during its first few weeks of trading — even if you are just looking for a quick flip. Let this noise settle before considering a move…


Greg Guenthner
for The Daily Reckoning

P.S. In today’s issue of The Rude Awakening, I take this discussion one step further, and offer some more in-depth analysis of the day’s market trends. In addition, I also provided my readers with 5 important numbers to watch, and 3 chances to discover real, actionable investment opportunities. It’s all part of being a subscriber to my FREE Rude Awakening e-letter. Click here to learn how you can sign up for FREE, right now.

Categories: Economics

The Market Ticker - Why Isn't This Felony Child Abuse And Solicitation?

The Market Ticker - 20 September 2014 - 2:38am

Yes, you should trust your school system and its staff members with your special-needs child who they use as bait to try to catch a sexual predator.

"A school board cannot avoid summary judgment as a matter of law when a school administrator willfully ignores a plan to use a 14-year-old special needs student as bait to catch a student with a known history of sexual and violent misconduct, and as a result, the student is sodomized," reads the federal brief filed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals late today.

You got that down here folks?

Your school administration thinks it has the right to use your 14 year old kid as bait to catch a sexual predator they know is in their school building with their consent.

They devise such a plan (which, I might add, cannot come with said "bait's" consent because she's not of age to give consent) and then blow it on top of that and she gets raped.


The first crime was the arrogation of a right to use the girl as bait in the first instance.  If no act had occurred beyond that it should still be a criminal felony.  But no, it gets better!  Not only did they set this up they then failed to put anyone in the bathroom where the alleged "bait" was supposed to result in a "catch" and the girl was in fact raped.

And for this we have a lawsuit instead of felony criminal charges laid against everyone in the school that knew about or participated in it, and the school is (as usual) trying to duck responsibility, civilly or otherwise.

Fuck you all among the so-called "prosecutors" and "law enforcement" in Alabama who have failed to indict everyone responsible.

Categories: Economics

The Market Ticker - How Secession Can Happen In The US

The Market Ticker - 20 September 2014 - 1:06am

No, this isn't a novel.  Sorry, the Ticker doesn't do fiction, and especially not apocalyptic fiction.

I'm talking about reality here, in the wake of the failed Scottish vote.

Reuters reports:

(Reuters) - The failed Scottish vote to pull out from the United Kingdom stirred secessionist hopes for some in the United States, where almost a quarter of people are open to their states leaving the union, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

There's no such thing as a "hope" when it comes to this.  You either believe it would be good or you believe it would be bad.

Washington is likely to ignore those who think it would be good.  But they should do something about it instead -- although I'm quite sure they won't.  Indeed, not only won't they do anything about it but neither will those political entities, such as the Libertarians, that could capitalize on this.

Let me note that a quarter of the electorate is radically beyond any vote count that the Libertarians have ever collected, yet they're too idiotic to look at the economics of the matter and focus there.  

Know where I'm going yet with this?  Right here:

Today's Census Bureau report on health insurance in 2013 shows that on the eve of Obamacare, whether you had coverage was largely a question of how much money you made....


But the chart above is still one of the best possible arguments for the necessity of Obamacare, by demonstrating that the government programs preceding the law are too narrow to cover the poor. It shows that even with the existence of Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and other assistance, health coverage in the U.S. remains a luxury good -- one that the rich can afford but others struggle, in proportion to their income, to obtain.

Health "coverage" is a luxury good.  It should be -- and it should be an unnecessary purchase.

It is, by the way, exactly that the day after we enforce long-standing laws that are supposed to bear on the behavior in the medical marketplace, both by addressing the existing violators and removing the special protections that make much of what they do legal despite blanket laws that are supposed to make that conduct illegal everywhere in the United States.

It is only through that special protection that medical care is expensive enough for you to "need" health insurance in the first place.

I'm going to continue to put a number on this -- health "care" is not only of dubious quality when it comes pretty-much anything that doesn't involve fixing injuries and similar, but it is intentionally full of monopoly practices that under The Sherman and Clayton Acts are supposed to be federal felonies with 10 year prison terms and $1 million fines attached.

This in turn drives the price of such services up by 10 times and often more what it should be -- in some cases by factors of 100, 1,000 or even more.  That's the only way $200 worth of scorpion antivenom can cost $60,000, three hundred times the market price.  It is the only way that a $20 test can cost over $1,000, fifty times the market price.  And it is the only way that one half-hour of a physician's assistant time, worth perhaps $100, can cost $9,000 (to bandage a finger), or ninety times the market price.

It is also the only way you can actually put a $10,000 charge on someone's bill for a service that was never performed at all and not go to prison immediately for fraud and, when you threaten someone with collection for refusing to pay the bogus charge, extortion.

These acts happen every single day, they're intentional, the drug companies openly brag about conspiring to do so in the setting of their prices and nobody lifts a finger to stop it.

That's nuts but it's also reality.

The Federal Government not only refuses to stop this they're a big part of the cause of it, openly conspiring to fix prices.

A state or group of states that refused to permit this and seceded would instantly increase the buying power of everyone in the economy of that state by at least 10% and probably more.  It would also instantly become the destination for medical tourism to an extreme degree, effectively draining the revenue from the monopolists everywhere else in what was left of the United States.  And while such a state or group of states would not be able to deficit spend (especially if it refused to pay any part of the debt the US Treasury took on over the last 30 or so years) that's good, not bad as it would cause the purchasing power of those in the seceded areas to go up rather than down.

Within months the disparity would become apparent in the population, and it would be to the benefit (on balance) of the seceded area.  Yes, there would be losers, with the biggest group being those who gouge the public in the medical field.  They'd lose big, but everyone else would win big.  There would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but society would be better for it on-balance.

And if it worked, and I believe it would, not only would people flock to the seceded territory, especially those of means and industry, further draining the swamp, but pressure would mount fast for the remaining territory to join with the secessionists.  Nothing breeds success like success.

We could end up with Washington DC being all that was left, with no productive capacity beyond the ability to ask would you like fries with that?  The credit rating of the remainder would go in the toilet as well, and with it the influence of the so-called "creditors" who had bought the worthless paper (hello China!)

As for threats to do something militarily about it?  I doubt it very much in today's world, and here's why -- the mere act of secession would create a credit event, and that would make further deficit spending an impossibility.  To put down such an act by force of arms would require lots of money, and there wouldn't be any -- never mind that it would also require ordering the military to fire on the members' neighbors and friends, an inherently messy scenario that is by no means assured to be honored.

I'll take the under on Washington being able, in the 2000s, to muster a military response to a peaceful act of erecting the middle finger.  And frankly, were it to happen, I'd almost-certainly move there and might have a reason to start another business -- an act that I won't even contemplate in the US as it exists today.

Categories: Economics

'Outdated and lacking in vision' - group hits out over plans to revamp ... - Bournemouth Echo

Transition Towns in the media - 20 September 2014 - 12:00am

'Outdated and lacking in vision' - group hits out over plans to revamp ...
Bournemouth Echo
Andy Hadley, from Transition Town Poole, said that both schemes placed cyclists on the pavements. He added: “The council must know that this will create conflict points between pedestrians and cyclists, poor and inefficient cycle link routes for ...

and more »
Categories: TT news

'Outdated and lacking in vision' - group hits out over plans to revamp ... - Bournemouth Echo

Transition Towns in the media - 20 September 2014 - 12:00am

'Outdated and lacking in vision' - group hits out over plans to revamp ...
Bournemouth Echo
Andy Hadley, from Transition Town Poole, said that both schemes placed cyclists on the pavements. He added: “The council must know that this will create conflict points between pedestrians and cyclists, poor and inefficient cycle link routes for ...

Categories: TT news

How Land Trusts Can Counter New Urbanism's Gentrifying Tendencies

Energy Bulletin - 19 September 2014 - 11:17pm

There are some exciting aspects to New Urbanism but there are downsides as well, including the displacement of lower-income people as new urbanism moves into an area.

Categories: Peak oil news

The Market Ticker - The iSnicker

The Market Ticker - 19 September 2014 - 11:15pm


Given the materials suggested, the Apple Watch Sport with aluminium at $349 is a reasonable price. It’s the pricing for the second and third tier watches that are far too low. As John Gruber points out on Daring Fireball, the stainless steel watch with a sapphire screen could easily reach $1,000. If Apple releases a solid gold Apple Watch, the raw gold alone could cost a few thousand dollars. Apple traditionally looks for high margins with its products, so there’s no reason why the entry-level Apple Watch Edition, made with 18-karat gold, could command a starting retail price of $5,000, with further customisation options reaching $10,000.

What makes anyone think that's going to "disrupt" anything, other than the careers of the people who planned and executed that abortion?

Something akin to Rolex?  


First off, this is a "watch" that really isn't a watch -- it's a wrist computer that happens to display time.  And that sounds great until you realize that the same problem that buggers phone (pocket computers) does the same here, but writ really large -- energy density, space, and thus battery lifetime.

Charge daily if not heavily used?  Oh yeah, that'll go over well.  And if heavily-used?  You'll go to that swanky dinner and..... it's a brick on your wrist.  

There goes that "aspirational cachet."

I'll make a prediction right here and now -- this is a niche product that has less appeal than a Garmin running watch.  It's fancier and more-expensive, yet does less than the Garmin for fitness buffs (try Sunnto's current models as a comparison) and anything with Apple on it as a brand is no Rolex -- and never will be.

I call flop, here and now.

Categories: Economics

The Wheel Turns, the Boat Rocks, the Sea Rises

Energy Bulletin - 19 September 2014 - 11:13pm

I say: rock that boat. It’s a lifeboat; maybe the people in it will wake up and start rowing.

Categories: Peak oil news
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