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The Market Ticker - Diesel In America: Meh

The Market Ticker - 17 July 2014 - 11:50pm

This is an interesting story -- but unfortunately buries the truth in the process (gee, what else is new these days?)

With drivers looking to visit gas stations less often, automakers are slowly bringing more diesel-powered cars to showrooms.

Diesel, an option that’s more common in commercial vehicles and heavy-duty trucks, has largely been absent from passenger cars and sport-utility vehicles in the U.S. Unlike in Europe, diesel engines have failed to gain widespread acceptance despite a greater focus on fuel economy.


“There’s a need for consumer education,” Anand said. “Diesel is getting lost in the alternative-fuel shuffle.”

Uh huh.

How about some facts to go with that "education", eh?

And before you jump on me -- I'm generally a proponent of diesels.  In fact, I still have title to an '03 Jetta TDI that remains on the road with close to 200,000 miles on the clock.  It runs fabulously, which is no surprise and since I live away from the salted road phenomena the body is in good shape too.

No, the problem is that today the financial aspect of diesel ownership simply doesn't make any sense.  The culprit comes from two elements that turn on intentional design decisions of the manufacturers, including VW.

I speak specifically of the decision to design fuel injection systems that have failure modes that inevitably cascade through the entire fuel system, along with emissions decisions that are utterly destructive to vehicle value.

The first rests with the use of extremely high-pressure "common rail" fuel injection. By itself this is a good system; better atomization of the fuel means better (more-complete) combustion and that leads to both more power and lower emissions, along with a more "social" (e.g. lower noise) engine.  However, the decision to not isolate the high pressure pump from the rest of the fuel system in the event of a failure means that when the fuel pump fails it contaminates the entire fuel system with tiny shards of metal, requiring not just the replacement of a $1,000 pump (reasonable) but replacement of everything in the fuel system (a $5,000+ proposition) -- definitely not reasonable.

In warranty this is the vehicle manufacturer's problem.  Out of warranty it's your problem, and one that the manufacturer intentionally designed into the vehicle.  This sort of crap is similar to what GM did back in the 1980s with vehicles that had spark plugs that could not be reached for replacement without removing the engine from the vehicle first!

Oh, yeah, while we're on that let's talk about the other related problem -- the DPF.  Modern diesels have a "particulate filter" for emissions reasons that is a wear item -- that is, it is expected to wear out (as opposed to something that breaks such as the fuel pump.)  The expected life of this device is somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 miles.

That would be ok except that it is not reasonable to both access and replace, with the replacement cost more than being doubled ($2,000+, and perhaps as much as $4,000!) because the manufacturer combined it with the catalytic converter -- which does not wear out!  As a result you wind up throwing away a perfectly good catalyst because the company put both an expendable and very expensive but non-expendable device in the same case!

Note that heavy-duty trucks also have these DPFs.  But in those vehicles the manufacturers have designed them to be separate, removable and cleanable, making their routine service rational over the long haul.

I like diesel vehicles.  But the additional complexity and intentional value-destroying "features" that are in these modern diesels are another matter.  I won't own one, for the simple reason that it appears that the manufacturers designed them in such a way as to force me to come back and buy another car if and when the economic value of my vehicle is destroyed by a random part failure or expected wear-out of some piece of emissions equipment that could have been prevented from being a catastrophic cost event but wasn't.

I refused to own those vehicles where I couldn't get to the spark plugs without removing the engine years ago, and I refuse to own a vehicle today where the manufacturer acts in a fashion that appears calculated to create monstrous service bills or worse, the economic destruction of the vehicle in an attempt to force me to buy a new one simply because some part that is subject to wear or random failure (and thus is expected to have to be replaced at some point) is designed into the vehicle in such a fashion that it does catastrophic damage to other components, necessitating their replacement as well, when such is not inevitable or inherently necessary.  In the case of so-called "clean diesels" it's even worse in that there is not one such device in the car, there are two!

That's a design choice that is intended to fuck me out of a large amount of money down the road and one that I will not reward by purchasing that product.

Categories: Economics


Energy Bulletin - 17 July 2014 - 11:37pm

What is the best way to utilize sunlight: grow food or to produce fuel?

Categories: Peak oil news

Organic Food Is Healthier Confirms New Analysis

Energy Bulletin - 17 July 2014 - 11:35pm

More nutritional antioxidants, far fewer toxic pesticides; those are the results of a comprehensive meta-analysis on organic foods published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Categories: Peak oil news

Working for a Shareable Future

Energy Bulletin - 17 July 2014 - 11:29pm

This interview with Mira Luna of Shareable offers important lessons from connecting and scaling up the sharing economy movement.

Categories: Peak oil news

Preserving the sources of life

Energy Bulletin - 17 July 2014 - 11:28pm

The term “the commons” is typically defined as land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community.

Categories: Peak oil news

Peak Oil Notes - July 17

Energy Bulletin - 17 July 2014 - 11:25pm

After falling steadily for three weeks, New York oil futures reversed on Wednesday as US crude stocks dropped and China reported some better economic numbers.

Categories: Peak oil news

The Market Ticker - Winding It Down: Nanex

The Market Ticker - 17 July 2014 - 11:15pm

I, and others, most-notably Nanex, have long believed and put forward the premise (and evidence) that HFT is nothing more than a scam in the main.  Oh, I'm sure there are parts of it that aren't, but we're not talking about the margins -- you can always find things at the margin of any activity that are <x> or <y>.

No, we're talking about what most of the people who do a given thing actually are doing.

I remind everyone what The Securities and Exchange Act says once again:

(a) Transactions relating to purchase or sale of security
It shall be unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, by the use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce, or of any facility of any national securities exchange, or for any member of a national securities exchange—
(1) For the purpose of creating a false or misleading appearance of active trading in any security other than a government security, or a false or misleading appearance with respect to the market for any such security,
(A) to effect any transaction in such security which involves no change in the beneficial ownership thereof, or
(B) to enter an order or orders for the purchase of such security with the knowledge that an order or orders of substantially the same size, at substantially the same time, and at substantially the same price, for the sale of any such security, has been or will be entered by or for the same or different parties, or
(C) to enter any order or orders for the sale of any such security with the knowledge that an order or orders of substantially the same size, at substantially the same time, and at substantially the same price, for the purchase of such security, has been or will be entered by or for the same or different parties.
(2) To effect, alone or with 1 or more other persons, a series of transactions in any security registered on a national securities exchange, any security not so registered, or in connection with any security-based swap or security-based swap agreement with respect to such security creating actual or apparent active trading in such security, or raising or depressing the price of such security, for the purpose of inducing the purchase or sale of such security by others.

Now look at what Nanex has documented -- and this is not a singular case.

Looking at the table data, we note the first trade is 100 shares on BOST (NQ-OMX Boston) and belongs to our trader. Note, however, it was the 4th trade reported back to him ("4" in the last column). The first 3 trades, not shown here because they end up being reported dead last(!), were dark pool prints from Sigma-X (Goldman's dark pool).

The next trade is 67 shares at EDGE (New Bats Edge-A), but they weren't from our trader's order: someone else bought those shares ("X"). How does that happen?

Lines 4 and 5 are order cancellations of 100 shares and 600 shares from ARCA and NYSE respectively - all in the same millisecond!

Lines 6, 7 and 8 are trade executions from EDGE and belong to our trader - note the first trade (line 3) was also from this exchange but, as noted above, went to someone else. This also means that order cancellations from NYSE and ARCA happened before any size appeared.  

The next 19 entries (lines 9 to 27) show a flurry of order cancellations coming in from NYSE, ARCA, BATS, NQEX and EDGX. This is before the first trade execution at any of those exchanges! This flurry of cancellations removes 10,300 shares from the number of shares offered (Shares Avail. column drops from 21,400 down to 11,100)! Also note how the cancellations rotate through many different exchanges. That's one sure way to throw off, confuse, stall a smart order router.

In other words, roughly half of the so-called shares on "offer" were not really intended to be sold at all.

The reason these shares were "represented" to be available for sale is because the HFT boys get a feed of data faster than everyone else; they can thus discern that a large order is about to hit the exchanges before the trade actually gets there and thus can cancel their so-called "representation" of liquidity.

But for that privileged ability to know in advance what is about to happen they could never do this.  Not only does this make a mockery of RegNMS and the premise that there is to be one consolidated feed along with a National best bid and offer it further directly implicates The Securities and Exchange Act -- a law that broadly prohibits any activity that falsely represents shares on offer or bid that are not really intended to be bought or sold at the price advertised.

If a car dealer advertises a car for sale for $21,000, and when you go to buy it he then won't sell it to you, said car "magically" disappearing as soon as you show up waving $21,000 at him, we have no problem calling that bait and switch and criminally charging him.  Likewise, if a store advertises hamburger for $3/lb they better have some for sale at that price and be reasonably able to sell you the hamburger.

The "defense" of this sort of practice in the trading business makes an utter mockery of the so-called "markets."

Nanex has spent quite a bit of time and effort documenting this blatant activity, just as I have in various areas of our eCONomy.  And, it appears from this article, that Scott has had enough as well.

Just wind it down folks -- no more job creation, no more entrepreneurship, no more tax liability.  Say "fuck you" to Washington and it's refusal to enforce the law, making it possible to compete on the merits, until the theft is stopped and those who have been doing it start going to jail.


Categories: Economics

How we celebrate! Transition Town Wilmslow's energy group

Transition Culture - 17 July 2014 - 9:51pm

Like many Transition groups we have spawned different subgroups at different times to meet particular interests and concerns. The Energy group has been going for quite a while and what picked it up was putting in a bid for government Local Energy Assessment Funding. This brought out some new talented people, who have run businesses and charities, a Nobel prize winner on climate change, Cheshire Groundwork as fund holders, and got us a successful bid. In turn that brought in staff time to get out publicity, recruit a lot of new volunteers to use thermal cameras, and advise householders.

We discovered that neighbours are far more approachable as they trust us. The sorts of faulty insulation, dodgy double glazing and poor advice we saw showed why salespeople don’t have a good reputation. It was really frustrating when people had turned down free cavity wall insulation too though, and exciting when we came across a 1900 house with really effective cavity wall insulation (there are a few around Wilmslow with this). 

Once that job was over we have done stalls in the local market, promoting our top tips for energy saving – and now we have teamed up with the local area partnership to form a separate LAP energy group to try and help the council also deliver effective energy reduction. It has brought in a major local social housing provider, local town and parish councils, and the fire brigade too. This has got us funding for electricity monitors to be borrowed in the local libraries – though I wish we’d done more talking to others who have done this to get a better package for people to use… And a bid for Awards for All to try and bring in more people to survey houses and get another thermal camera. What next on this front will depend on funding and time. 

And whilst a few of us have done a lot of the direct stuff to deliver improvements, we have had some fun being creative too. Our next fun initiative is to have a pot luck low carbon supper – with people bringing in an item of food with a card to show how it was made to keep energy use low, whether raw food, thermal cooker, hay box, microwave, or something else clever. Any excuse for a party! 

Andrew Backhouse

Categories: TT news

Smile For The Aliens

Energy Bulletin - 17 July 2014 - 9:26pm

How will people cope when some of their most cherished beliefs have to face a cage match with reality, and come out second best?

Categories: Peak oil news

Smile For The Aliens

The Archdruid Report - 17 July 2014 - 11:44am
Last week’s post, with its uncompromising portrayal of what descent into a dark age looks like, fielded the usual quota of voices insisting that it’s different this time. It’s a familiar chorus, and I confess to a certain wry amusement in watching so many changes get rung on what, after all, is ultimately a non sequitur. Grant that it’s different this time: so?  It’s different every time, and it always has been, yet those differences have never stopped history’s remarkably diverse stable of civilizations from plodding down the self-same track toward their common destiny.
It may also have occurred to my readers, and it has certainly occurred to me, that the legions of bloggers and pundits who base their reasonings on the claim that history has nothing to teach us don’t have to face a constant barrage of comments insisting that it’s the same this time. “It’s different this time” isn’t simply one opinion among others, after all; it’s one of the basic articles of faith of the contemporary industrial world, and questioning it reliably elicits screams of outrage even from those who like to tell themselves that they’ve rejected the conventional wisdom of the present day.
Yet that raises another question, one that’s going to bear down with increasing force in the years ahead of us: just how will people cope when some of their most cherished beliefs have to face a cage match with reality, and come out second best?
Such issues are rather on my mind just at the moment. Regular readers may recall that a while back I published a book, The UFO Phenomenon, which managed the not inconsiderable feat of offending both sides of the UFO controversy. It did so by the simple expedient of setting aside the folk mythology that’s been heaped up with equal enthusiasm by true believers in extraterrestrial visitation and true believers in today’s fashionable pseudoskeptical debunkery. After getting past that and a few other sources of confusion, I concluded that the most likely explanation for the phenomenon was that US military and intelligence agencies invented it out of whole cloth after the Second World War, as protective camouflage for an assortment of then-secret aerospace technologies.
That wasn’t the conclusion I expected to reach when I began work on the project; I had several other hypotheses in mind, all of which had to be considerably modified as the research proceeded. It was just too hard not to notice the way that the typical UFO sightings reported in any given decade so closely mimicked whatever the US was testing in secret at any given time—silvery dots or spheres in the late 1940s, when high-altitude balloons were the latest thing in aerial reconnaissance; points or tiny blobs of light high in the air in the 1950s, when the U-2 was still top secret; a phantasmagoria of flying lights and things dropping from the sky in the 1960s, when the SR-71 and the first spy satellites entered service; black triangles in the 1980s, when the first stealth aircraft were being tested, and so on. An assortment of further evidence pointing the same way, not to mention the significant parallels between the UFO phenomenon and those inflatable tanks and nonexistent battalions that tricked the Germans into missing the real preparations for D-Day, were further icing on a saucer-shaped cake.
To call that an unpopular suggestion is to understate the case considerably, though I’m pleased to say it didn’t greatly hurt sales of the book.  In the years since The UFO Phenomenon saw print, though, there’s been a steady stream of declassified documents from US intelligence agencies admitting that, yes, a lot of so-called UFOs were perfectly identifiable if you happened to know what classified projects the US government had in the air just then. It turns out, for example, that roughly half the UFO sightings reported to the Air Force’s Project Blue Book between 1952 and 1969 were CIA spyplanes; the officers in charge of Blue Book used to call the CIA when sightings came in, and issue bogus “explanations” to provide cover for what was, at the time, a top secret intelligence project. I have no reason to think that the publication of The UFO Phenomenon had anything to do with the release of all this data, but it was certainly a welcome confirmation of my analysis.
The most recent bit of confirmation hit the media a few weeks back. Connoisseurs of UFO history know that the Scandinavian countries went through a series of major “flaps”—periods in which many UFO sightings occured in a short time—in the 1950s and 1960s. The latest round of declassified data confirmed that these were sightings of US spyplanes snooping on the Soviet Union. The disclosures didn’t happen to mention whether CIA assets also spread lurid accounts of flying saucer sightings and alien visitations to help muddy the waters. My hypothesis is that that’s what was going on all the way through the history of the UFO phenomenon: fake stories and, where necessary, faked sightings kept public attention fixated on a manufactured mythology of flying saucers from outer space, so that the signal of what was actually happening never made it through the noise.
Many of my readers will already have guessed how the two sides of the UFO controversy responded to the disclosures just mentioned:  by and large, they haven’t responded to them at all. Believers in the extraterrestrial origin of UFOs are still insisting at the top of their lungs that some day very soon, the US government will be forced to ‘fess up to the reality of alien visitation—yes, I field emails from such people regularly. Believers in the null hypothesis, the claim that all UFO sightings result from hoaxes, illusions, or misidentification of ordinary phenomena, are still rehashing the same old arguments when they haven’t gone off to play at being skeptical about something else. That’s understandable, as both sides have ended up with substantial amounts of egg on their face.
Mind you, the believers in the extraterrestrial hypothesis were right about a great many more things than their rivals, and they deserve credit for that. They were right, for example, that people really were seeing unusual things in the skies; they were right that there was a coverup orchestrated by the US government, and that the Air Force was handing out explanations that it knew to be fake; they were even right in guessing that the Groom Lake airfield in Nevada, the legendary “Area 51,” was somehow central to the mystery—that was the main US spyplane testing and training base straight through the decades when the UFO mystery was at its peak. The one thing they got wrong was the real origin of the UFO phenomenon, but for them, unfortunately, that was the one thing that mattered.
The believers in the null hypothesis don’t have much reason to cheer, even though they turned out to be right about that one point. The disclosures have shown with uncomfortable clarity that a good many of the explanations offered by UFO skeptics were actually nonsense, just as their opponents had been pointing out all along. In 1981, for example, Philip Klass, James Oberg, and Robert Sheaffer claimed that they’d identified all the cases  that Project Blue Book labeled as “unknown.” As it happens, they did nothing of the kind; what they actually did was offer untested ad hoc hypotheses to explain away the unknowns, which is not exactly the same thing. It hardly needs to be said that CIA spyplanes played no part in those explanations, and if the “unknown” cases contained the same proportion of spyplanes as the whole collection, as seems likely, roughly half their explanations are wrong—a point that doesn’t exactly do much to inspire confidence in other claims made on behalf of the debunking crusade.
So it’s not surprising that neither side in the controversy has had the least interest in letting all this new data get in the way of keeping up the old argument. The usual human reaction to cognitive dissonance is to exclude the information that’s causing the dissonance, and that’s precisely what both sides, by and large, have done. As the dissonance builds, to be sure, people on the fringes of both scenes will quiely take their leave, new recruits will become few and far between, and eventually surviving communities of believers and debunkers alike will settle into a common pattern familiar to any of my readers familiar with Spiritualist churches, Marxist parties, or the flotsam left behind by the receding tide of other once-influential movements in American society: little circles of true believers fixated on the disputes of an earlier day, hermetically sealed against the disdain and disinterest of the wider society.
They have the freedom to do that, because the presence or absence of alien saucers in Earth’s skies simply doesn’t have that much of an impact on everyday life. Like Spiritualists or Marxists, believers in alien contact and their debunking foes by and large can avoid paying more than the most cursory attention to the failure of their respective crusades. The believers can take comfort in the fact that even in the presence of overwhelming evidence, it’s notoriously hard to prove a negative; the debunkers can take comfort in the fact that, however embarrassing their logical lapses and rhetorical excesses, at least they were right about the origins of the phenomenon.
That freedom isn’t always available to those on the losing side of history. It’s not that hard to keep the faith if you aren’t having your nose rubbed in the reality of your defeat on a daily basis, but it’s quite another matter to cope with the ongoing, overwhelming disconfirmation of beliefs on which you’ve staked your pride, your values, and your sense of meaning and purpose in life. What would life be like these days for the vocal UFO debunkers of recent decades, say, if the flying saucers had turned out to be alien spacecraft after all, the mass saucer landing on the White House lawn so often and so vainly predicted had finally gotten around to happening, and Philip Klass and his fellow believers in the null hypothesis had to field polite requests on a daily basis to have their four-dimensional holopictures taken by giggling, gray-skinned tourists from Zeta Reticuli?
For a living example of the same process at work, consider the implosion of the New Age scene that’s well under way just now.  In the years before the 2008 crash, as my readers will doubtless remember, tens of thousands of people plunged into real estate speculation with copies of Rhonda Byrne’s meretricious The Secretor similar works of New Age pseudophilosophy clutched in their sweaty hands, convinced that they knew how to make the universe make them rich. I knew a fair number of them—Ashland, Oregon, where I lived at the time, had a large and lucrative New Age scene—and so I had a ringside seat as their pride went before the real estate market’s fall. That was a huge blow to the New Age movement, and it was followed in short order by the self-inflicted humiliation of the grand nonevent of December 21, 2012.
Those of my readers who don’t happen to follow trends in the publishing industry may be interested to know that sales of New Age books peaked in 2007 and have been plunging since then; so has the take from New Age seminars, conferences, and a galaxy of other products hawked under the same label. There hadn’t been any shortage of disconfirmations in the previous history of the New Age scene, to be sure, but these two seem to have been just that little bit more than most of the movement’s adherents can gloss over. No doubt the New Age movement will spawn its share of little circles of true believers—the New Thought movement, which was basically the New Age’s previous incarnation, did exactly that when it imploded at the end of the 1920s, and many of those little circles ended up contributing to the rise of the New Age decades later—but as a major cultural phenomenon, it’s circling the drain.
One of the central themes of this blog, in turn, is that an embarrassment on much this same scale waits for all those who’ve staked their pride, their values, and their sense of meaning and purpose in life on the belief that it’s different this time, that our society somehow got an exemption from the common fate of civilizations. If industrial society ends up following the familiar arc of decline and fall into yet another dark age, if all the proud talk about man’s glorious destiny among the stars turns out to be empty wind, if we don’t even get the consolation prize of a downfall cataclysmic enough to drag the rest of the planet down with us—what then?
I’ve come to think that’s what lies behind the steady drumbeat of emails and comments I field week after week insisting that it’s different this time, that it has to be different this time, and clutching at the most remarkable assortment of straws in an attempt to get me to agree with them that it’s different this time. That increasingly frantic chorus has many sources, but much of it is, I believe, a response to a simple fact:  most of the promises made by authoritative voices in contemporary industrial society about the future we’re supposed to get have turned out to be dead wrong.
Given the number of people who like to insist that every technological wet dream will eventually be fulfilled, it’s worth taking the time to notice just how poorly earlier rounds of promises have measured up to the inflexible yardstick of reality.  Of all the gaudy and glittering technological breakthroughs that have been promised with so much confidence over the last half dozen decades or so, from cities on the Moon and nuclear power too cheap to meter straight through to120-year lifespans and cures for cancer and the common cold, how many have actually panned out?  Precious few.  Meanwhile most measures of American public health are slipping further into Third World territory with every year that passes, our national infrastructure is sinking into a morass of malign neglect, and the rising curve of prosperity that was supposed to give every American acces to middle class amenities has vanished in a haze of financial fraud, economic sclerosis, and official statistics so blatantly faked that only the media pretends to believe them any more.
For many Americans these days, furthermore, those broken promises have precise personal equivalents. A great many of the people who were told by New Age authors that they could get rich easily and painlessly by visualizing abundance while investing in dubious real estate ventures found out the hard way that believing those promises amounted to being handed a one-way nonstop ticket to poverty. A great many of the people who were told by equally respected voices that they would attain financial security by mortgaging their futures for the benefit of a rapacious and corrupt academic industry and its allies in the banking sphere are finding out the same thing about the reassuring and seemingly authoritative claims that they took at face value.  For that matter, I wonder how many American voters feel they benefited noticeably from the hope and change that they were promised by the sock puppet they helped put into the White House in 2008 and 2012.
The promises that framed the housing bubble, the student loan bubble, and the breathtaking cynicism of Obama’s campaign, after all, drew on the same logic and the same assumptions that guided all that grand and vaporous talk about the inevitability of cities on the Moon and commuting by jetpack. They all assumed that history is a one-way street that leads from worse to better, to more, bigger, louder, gaudier, and insisted that of course things would turn out that way. Things haven’t turned out that way, they aren’t turning out that way, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that things aren’t going to turn out that way any time this side of the twelfth of Never. I’ve noted here several times now that if you want to predict the future, paying attention to the reality of ongoing decline pretty reliably gives you better results than trusting that the decline won’t continue in its current course.
 The difficulty with that realization, of course, is precisely that so many people have staked their pride, their values, and their sense of meaning and purpose in life on one or another version of the logic I’ve just sketched out. Admitting that the world is under no compulsion to change in the direction they think it’s supposed to change, that it’s currently changing in a direction that most people find acutely unwelcome, and that there are good reasons to think the much-ballyhooed gains of the recent past were the temporary products of the reckless overuse of irreplaceable energy resources, requires the surrender of a deeply and passionately held vision of time and human possibility. Worse, it lands those who do so in a situation uncomfortably close to the crestfallen former UFO debunkers I joked about earlier in this post, having to cope on an everyday basis with a world full of flying saucers and tourists from the stars.
Beneath the farcical dimensions of that image lies a sobering reality. Human beings can’t live for long without some source of values and some sense of meaning in their lives.  That’s why people respond to cognitive dissonance affecting their most cherished values by shoving away the unwelcome data so forcefully, even in the teeth of the evidence. Resistance to cognitive dissonance has its limits, though, and when people have their existing sources of meaning and value swept away by a sufficiently powerful flood of contradictions, they will seek new sources of meaning and value wherever they can find them—no matter how absurd, dysfunctional, or demonic those new meanings and values might look to an unsympathetic observer.  The mass suicide of the members of the Heaven’s Gate UFO cult in 1997 offers one measure of just how far astray those quests for new sources of meaning can go; so, on a much larger scale, does the metastatic nightmare of Nazi Germany.
I wrote in an earlier post this month about the implosion of the sense of political legitimacy that’s quietly sawing the props out from underneath the US federal government, and convincing more and more Americans that the people who claim to represent and govern them are a pack of liars and thieves.  So broad and deep a loss of legitimacy is political dynamite, and normally results within no very long a time frame in the collapse of the government in question. There are no guarantees, though, that whatever system replaces a delegitimzed government will be any better.
That same principle applies with equal force to the collapse of the fundamental beliefs of a civilization. In next week’s post, with this in mind, I plan on talking about potential sources of meaning, purpose and value in a world on its way into a global dark age.
Categories: Peak oil news

Admin mistake means free High Street parking for all: Traffic wardens told not ... - Hemel Gazette

Transition Towns in the media - 17 July 2014 - 11:21am

Hemel Gazette

Admin mistake means free High Street parking for all: Traffic wardens told not ...
Hemel Gazette
Another letter posted on the forum – which is on the Transition Town Berkhamsted website – comes from councillor Ian Reay. He says problems arose because the Parking Ombudsman upheld a driver's appeal against a penalty charge received on the High ...

Categories: TT news

Huge Payday from the Mobile Banking Revolution

The Daily Reckoning - 17 July 2014 - 8:36am

Today I want to introduce you to an opportunity that could make you ten times every dollar you invest. 1,048%, to be exact.

It’s a microcap stock that has pioneered technology that’s revolutionizing the banking industry. And I’m not talking about a payment system like PayPal… or some new digital currency like Bitcoin.

I’m talking about a technology currently being used by banks and loved by customers.

It’s a technology taking a wrecking ball to physical bank branches and one by one sending tellers the way of the dodo bird.

But before I unveil this disruptive technology for you, let’s look at a few important facts…

What if I told you banks could reduce that $4.25 per transaction cost to just 10 cents a transaction?

It’s estimated that it costs banks $4.25 per transaction conducted in person at a physical branch. Every time you go to a bank to deposit a check, it costs the bank about that much.

Where do these costs come from? Employee salaries, rent and other fees.

Meanwhile, it costs you time and money to travel to your nearest bank branch and fill out antiquated forms to do the simplest of tasks.

If only there was a way to nearly eliminate these costs altogether, right?

Well, what if I told you that there’s a way?

What if I told you banks could reduce that $4.25 per transaction cost to just 10 cents a transaction?

Even better, what if I told you you could deposit a check or conduct your transactions from almost anywhere you wanted, without having to step in your car or call your bank?

Is this something you’d be interested in? What about the banks, think they’d be interested?

Well, look no further. Introducing mobile banking.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, mobile banking is exactly what it sounds like — depositing checks, bill payments, fund transfers or whatever all from your mobile phone. If you bank at a large bank, like Bank of America, chances are good they have a mobile banking application for your smartphone.

Many banks are moving towards this new technology. And with good reason. It’s estimated that it costs banks 10 cents per transaction done on a mobile device. That’s a 97.65% reduction in cost! Meanwhile it puts all of your banking services at the tip of your fingers.

It’s a win-win-win for all parties involved. Banks get a lower cost structure. Consumers get a lot more convenience.

And one microcap stock — one that could make you 1,048% — enables all this to happen.

It’s a technology and software firm based out of San Diego, California. And it’s been around since the 1980s and has done a variety of services.

Early in its life, it worked for the Defense Department. Ten years ago, it shifted into working with banks.

Specifically, it helped banks electronically capture data on checks. It developed an imaging system that made it possible for banks to process thousands of paper checks quickly and cost-effectively.

In 2008, it capitalized on a trend. That trend was smartphone adoption. They developed a solution that you may have heard of called mobile deposit.

Mobile deposit lets a user deposit checks to their bank account using their smartphone’s camera. You take a picture of both sides of the check and hit send. It’s really that simple. I’ve used it countless times with no problem at all.

The company I have in mind developed this technology. And to date, they’ve signed up 2,222 banks. This includes all of the top 10 commercial banks, which account for a disproportionate amount of customers.

Today, the company has 20 patents awarded and 22 applications pending. Their big driver is mobile deposit software.

Though they’ve also been experimenting and had success with other smartphone ideas. For example, their technology allows you to open a bank account simply by snapping a photo of both sides of your driver’s license. You can also get automatic quotes from insurance companies simply by shooting a picture of your insurance bill.

Some of these newer concepts are only beginning to gain traction too. But it’s the mobile deposit solution that’s already being used… and it’s what’s really going to pay off for investors.

Just recently, I spoke with this microcap company’s investor relations department and here’s some interesting information they give me.

For every check that’s deposited through mobile capture, this microcap company earns around 12 cents. This ties into the above cited number on cost per transaction on mobile being 10 cents.

They sell their services primarily through a few different “channel providers.” Basically, these channel providers are the intermediaries between banks and this company. The channel providers are big, billion-dollar companies.

Two of these “channel providers” are NCR Corporation (NYSE:NCR) and Fiserv Inc (Nasdaq:FISV). Buying either company will give you great exposure to the mobile banking trend that’s revolutionizing the banking industry. They’re big safe billion dollar companies.

But if you want to make 1,048%, like I told you about, you have to go to the source.

Here’s how the business model works. The banks estimate how many checks they think will be deposited through their smartphone application. Then they buy that number of transactions from the microcap company I’ve been telling you about.

For instance, if U.S. Bank thinks it’ll have a million deposits, they’ll buy all these upfront and pay this microcap company $120,000, or 12 cents per deposit. It’s tough to project exactly how many transactions the banks will need. That’s the tricky part. But looking at this small mobile tech company’s quarterly revenues you can see that business continues to grow.

In the most recent quarter, revenues grew 39% year over year. And the number of banks signing up for this company’s mobile deposit solution keeps getting larger. It’s gone from 564 banks in September 2012 to 2,222 banks today.

Today, over 50% of the 5,800 commercial banks in the U.S. offer some form of mobile banking.

The big picture is this: The more banks offer this company’s mobile deposit technology to consumers, the more money this little company makes. And that’s good if you own shares of the company ahead of time — today a share goes for just $3.54.

And this company could be an absolute home run for you if you’re positioned ahead of time. Remember, the firm earns a small amount of money on each check that’s deposited using it’s mobile technology.

To put this in perspective, data from the Federal Reserve suggest that in 2012, 19.4 billion checks were deposited. They go on to state that of this 19.4 billion, only 0.6%, were deposited using a mobile device.

That’s tiny! What would happen to this company’s earnings if this the rate of mobile deposits grew?

I’ve set up a few scenarios to see what would happen. I’ve also reduced the check fee to 7 cents, from 12 cents. This is to be conservative and factor in bulk pricing.

As you can see, the potential gains are enormous here: 379%, 713%, 1,048%?!

I’ve dug up a few facts and data points that support the argument that the 0.6% of mobile deposits will grow. These facts come from a recent report put out by Monitise, a financial servicing firm.

First, the growth in mobile banking. Today, over 50% of the 5,800 commercial banks in the U.S. offer some form of mobile banking. This number will only grow from here.

Second, the future of bank branches. Ninety percent of U.S. bankers surveyed expect at least a 10% decline in branch numbers over the next five years, with 45% expecting the decline to be 25% or more. Soon, the “branch” will be located on your smartphone.

Both of these data points, along with reduced costs for banks by having fewer tellers, means this company is beautifully positioned for massive growth.


Thompson Clark
for The Daily Reckoning

P.S. You’ve probably noticed that I’ve kept this company’s name under wraps. And there’s very good reason for it. This company has a market cap just under $100 million. That means if just 1,000 of the Daily Reckoning’s readers bought 1,000 shares of this company… it could start moving the price in a way that would attract momentum traders. Then they’d buy in and send the price even higher… only to have it plummet back down afterwards. So to avoid any potential “pump and dump” controversy, I’m going to reserve the company’s name for readers of paid service Microcap Millionaires.

However… If you’d like to learn more about how to sign up for my elite service – as well as other great tips and strategies – I urge you to sign up for the FREE Daily Reckoning email edition. In each issue you’ll discover several opportunities to get in on the ground floor of the market’s most profitable investment stories. And it comes straight to your inbox, every weekday afternoon, completely free of charge. Trust me… This is the first step to making the huge gains I detailed above. Sign up for FREE, right here, before you do anything else today.

Categories: Economics

The Market Ticker - Catch and Release Results In An Alleged Murder

The Market Ticker - 17 July 2014 - 7:38am

Oh, it doesn't require the National Guard and sealing the border eh?

The dead woman would like to protest your bullcrap Mr. President and Gov. Perry.

LUBBOCK, Texas—An illegal immigrant who was released by U.S. authorities with a Notice to Appear has been arrested for the alleged murder of a woman and kidnapping of children on U.S. soil. The alleged crimes occurred after the man was released.

The man, Pedro Alberto Monterroso-Navas, entered the U.S. illegally with children and turned himself in to U.S. Border Patrol agents. He was processed and released, as are all illegal immigrants who come as unaccompanied minors or incomplete family units from Central America. The alien is from Honduras.

THIS is what illegal immigration brings to our nation.



Categories: Economics

The Peak Oil Crisis: Better Than Fire - Falls Church News Press

Peak Oil - Google - 17 July 2014 - 5:56am

The Peak Oil Crisis: Better Than Fire
Falls Church News Press
In addition to following the twists and turn of the world's energy situation, I have been tracking the reporting on developments concerning several “exotic” and therefore controversial energy sources whose proponents say would be far more cost ...

Peak Oil: Another Challenge - OpEdNews

Peak Oil - Google - 17 July 2014 - 5:37am

Peak Oil: Another Challenge
Reluctant as I am to add another Big Challenge onto the plates overflowing already, another looming problem awaits: Peak Oil. [Its significance is clouded by the steady drumbeat of the by-now-familiar tactics of those on the Right with vested interests ...

A Debate that Could Destroy Your Dream of Homeownership

The Daily Reckoning - 17 July 2014 - 4:26am

Some people are saying it is just what the doctor ordered. Others are saying that the cure is worse than the disease.

The Affordable Care Act? Reengagement in Iraq? Tea Party bullying in the GOP?

Not this time. Just as protracted in the corridors of Congress and the White House is the debate over the proposed reform — and potential replacement — of the beleaguered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And InsideSources has uncovered the involvement of a former Administration official, who appears to have been involved in the discussions that shaped part of the legislation that could offer a large upside to big banks.

Although it is less on the minds of Americans in the heartland, arguably no issue has more personal impact. The result of the debate will determine many of the winners and losers in the American dream of homeownership.

It is not merely families seeking their own backyard who will be affected. The titans of the banking industry also are keenly concerned about whether they will be warmed under the protective cover of government guarantees or be left out in the cold.

A key focal point in the debate is a bill sponsored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) and ranking Republican Mike Crapo of Idaho. The Johnson-Crapo bill was voted out of committee and to the full Senate in May.

The Johnson-Crapo bill is built on the framework of legislation sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Mark Warner (D-VA). Both Johnson-Crapo and Corker-Warner would effectively wind down Fannie and Freddie, replacing them with a newly created Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation (FMIC).

While the legislation ostensibly is designed to create a new and improved path to homeownership, its proponents don’t like to talk about who would primarily benefit from its approval: the big banks, the very entities that contributed to the housing collapse in the first place. In a classic example of the cozy ties that exist in Washington between regulators and the regulated, the legislation was shaped with strong input from a number of individuals with current or recent ties to the big banks and mortgage companies.

For example, Michael Bright, Corker’s senior financial adviser since 2010, previously was a mortgage trader for Countrywide Financial and Wachovia. The two firms figured prominently in the housing collapse.

Meanwhile, Fannie and Freddie investors are fighting the 2012 Third Amendment — the so-called “Sweep Amendment” — that allows the Treasury Department to seize all profits indefinitely. The restriction exists even beyond the satisfaction of Fannie and Freddie’s debt to taxpayers for the bailout.

…the legislation was shaped with strong input from a number of individuals with current or recent ties to the big banks and mortgage companies.

One of those who helped shape the amendment is Jim Parrott, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and former senior advisor at the White House’s National Economic Council. Parrott has served as a consultant for major banks. InsideSources has obtained an email strongly suggesting that Parrott played an advisory role for at least one bank, Bank of America.

The email, written by a senior official at the bank, refers to a meeting with Parrott about housing finance reform. In the email, the official also asks about arranging a telephone call to provide details of the Parrott meeting.

Parrott declined to discuss his role with the banks or in the Sweep Amendment discussions when asked by InsideSources. He also chose to not comment on how his work with any banks would fit against the backdrop of the Administration’s internal rules intended to cover political appointees leaving the government.

The sweep maneuver raises even more questions about the specter of the influence of major banks on policies meant to serve the public interest. “I am not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV,” says financial services analyst Josh Rosner. “But I do believe it seems like it was not something done solely by the conservator.”

Whatever the twists and turns, answers to the Fannie/Freddie dilemma do not appear to be coming anytime soon.

“Given the [political] climate and how complicated the contemplated makeover of the second-largest securities market in the world is, it will be many moons before reform legislation is passed,” says Jim Millstein, chairman and CEO of Millstein & Co. Until March 2011, Millstein was the chief restructuring officer at the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Prospects for the legislation actually making it to the Senate floor, let alone passing, are highly questionable. Opposition to the particulars of the proposals, even from those who support the concept in principle, is intense.

In testimony to the Senate Banking Committee this past November, Millstein cautioned at length against too hastily putting Fannie and Freddie to rest. He tells InsideSources:

“If the new first-loss capital hasn’t been raised in size on a timetable perfectly in sync with the five-year wind down of Fannie and Freddie imposed by Corker-Warner, there could be significant contraction in the availability of mortgage credit.

“Second, the wind down has the effect of orphaning all the outstanding Fannie and Freddie mortgage-backed securities, a $4.5 trillion credit market, prices in which form the basis off of which a variety of other instruments are priced and hedged.

“As a consequence, there could be significant dislocation in interest rates not only in the mortgage credit market but in the debt markets for a variety of mortgage-related entities (e.g., mortgage REITs).”

Critics of Johnson-Crapo say the bill would hand control of the nation’s $20 trillion mortgage market to the big banks while providing them with a full government backstop to protect against any potential losses. The legislation also comes at the expense of tens of thousands of investors who hold stock in Fannie and Freddie.

One outspoken critic is Rosner, managing director of Graham Fisher & Co. and co-author of Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon (Times Books, 2011). The book targets the individuals who, the authors argue, played pivotal roles in the financial meltdown.

The government’s entire approach to Fannie and Freddie is misguided, Rosner tells InsideSources.

“Rather than label Fannie and Freddie as GSEs (government-sponsored enterprises), we should treat them as public utilities — much like water, electric and sewer — and regulate them properly,” he says. “We need to depoliticize these institutions.

“Public utilities exist to make sure the public interests are served,” he adds. “Instead, we have the banks licking their chops like Elmer Fudd does every time he sees Bugs Bunny. They’re hoping to capture not only the primary but the secondary market.”

Rosner would keep the basic structures of Fannie and Freddie intact either through conservatorship (allowing them to raise private capital to sufficient levels) or receivership (re-chartering replacement entities that look like the GSEs with proper regulatory structures.)

“You could call them Jimmy and Sue,” he says. “I don’t care. Just fix them and support the mission they were originally conceived to perform, to support adequate liquidity in the primary mortgage market.”

Which route would he take?

“I am agnostic,” he says. “I just think we need to recognize that Fannie and Freddie are not the problem. The problem is our failure to regulate them and to insure the separation of the primary and secondary markets.”

Millstein’s formula for fixing Fannie and Freddie, at least on an interim basis, is similar.

“They need to be allowed to build capital so as to allow them at a minimum to be able credibly to back the $4.5 trillion of securities of theirs that will remain outstanding for decades to come,” he says, “and to create a capital cushion between the underlying mortgages and the U.S. taxpayers who are on the hook for those mortgage-backed securities until they are retired.”

As the lobbying and posturing continue in the corridors, Rosner holds hope that changes in Senate leadership — he believes Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) offer promise — could prompt a solution. “They both understand the issue, they are not terribly ideological about it, and they could work together.”

Besides, he says, “I am hoping that at some point rational thinking comes back into fashion.”


Richard Osborne
for The Daily Reckoning

Ed. Note: Fannie and Freddie might need the government to keep them from dying and fading away. But there’s currently one under-the-radar sector of the economy that doesn’t rely on government handouts… and it’s minting fortunes left and right. Readers of today’s FREE Laissez Faire Today email edition could have discovered a way to tap into that sector for huge gains. Sign up for Laissez Faire Today, for FREE, right here, and never miss another great opportunity like this.

This article originally appeared here on InsideSources.

This article was also prominently featured in Laissez Faire Today.

Categories: Economics

Reduce, re-use, recycle - Midweek Herald

Transition Towns in the media - 17 July 2014 - 4:21am

Reduce, re-use, recycle
Midweek Herald
Cathy Karniewicz, also known as Mrs Recycle, was at the Transition Town Honiton sustainability day at Mackarness Hall. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref mhh 7076-28-14AW. To order your copy of this photograph go to www.midweekherald.co.uk and click on ...

Categories: TT news

Edible Garden Tour returns for sixth year - Powell River Peak

Transition Towns in the media - 17 July 2014 - 4:11am

Powell River Peak

Edible Garden Tour returns for sixth year
Powell River Peak
The tour is a collaborative project with Transition Town Powell River, and support from Ecossentials, Springtime Garden Centre, Mother Nature, and Career Link. The event is by donation, with proceeds going to help support food-related projects in the ...

and more »
Categories: TT news

Edible Garden Tour returns for sixth year - Powell River Peak

Transition Towns in the media - 17 July 2014 - 4:11am

Powell River Peak

Edible Garden Tour returns for sixth year
Powell River Peak
The tour is a collaborative project with Transition Town Powell River, and support from Ecossentials, Springtime Garden Centre, Mother Nature, and Career Link. The event is by donation, with proceeds going to help support food-related projects in the ...

and more »
Categories: TT news

The Market Ticker - Our Lawless Government

The Market Ticker - 17 July 2014 - 3:19am

It says quite a bit when someone is willing to flaunt the law openly for years -- not only living here but becoming famous enough to win a Pulitzer and be a political activist while being here in the US illegally.

Border Patrol spokesman Omar Zamora said Vargas was in custody after being stopped going through security at the airport in McAllen, a city only a few miles from the Mexico border. Zamora said he had no other details about the case.


He (finally) gets "detained"; betcha he's not deported despite giving the finger to the United States and our rule of law -- indeed, not only doing so but advocating for others to be able to do so too.

Categories: Economics
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