Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for May 28th, 2008

Make your own solar panel

Posted by Charles II on May 28, 2008

Via Avedon Carol, Michael Davis shows us how to build an inexpensive solar panel.

Posted in science and medicine | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Price passthrough

Posted by Charles II on May 28, 2008

You remember those advertisements where they show you how many things are made from plastic which, in turn, is made from oil? We’re about to get a dramatic illustration of that. Daniel Pimlott, FT:

Dow Chemical, the largest US chemicals producer, said on Wednesday it would raise the prices of all its products by up to 20 per cent in response to the surging cost of energy and raw materials this year….

Dow’s costs have risen from $8bn in 2002 to $24.6bn last year and are set to hit $32bn this year at current levels of price increases. In the first quarter of this year, the cost of raw materials and energy rose 42 per cent. Analysts expect an even larger increase in the second quarter.

So far, the Producer Price Index has been rising much faster than the Consumer Price Index, as manufacturers have been slow to pass on costs. It looks as though that’s about to change.

Posted in economy, Oil | 1 Comment »

Paul Farmer on Haiti

Posted by Charles II on May 28, 2008

Paul Farmer of Partners in Health did an interview on Democracy Now regarding his medical work in Haiti. There’s all kinds of interesting history and asides, including the story of Peligre Dam, and how a development project supposedly designed to improve living standards instead impoverished a region. An excerpt on the food situation:

AMY GOODMAN: So the farmers get wiped out in Haiti because of the subsidized rice coming in, and then when there is a crisis, when the food prices soar, there’s no Haitian farmers or there’s not enough Haitian farmers to make up the slack?
DR. PAUL FARMER: Or the land has gone fallow, or the irrigation ditches have gone, because, you know, how can—there’s no way that they can undercut the prices of the staples coming from the subsidized rich world, which is for Haiti is the United States.

This, AIDS generics, drug resistant TB in Siberia, Creole pigs, and more! Listen and, if you are so moved, give.

Posted in global food crisis, Good Causes, Good Things, Haiti | 1 Comment »

Why oil is $130/barrel: fears of a strike against Iran

Posted by Charles II on May 28, 2008

Muhammad Cohen, Asia Times:

The George W Bush administration plans to launch an air strike against Iran within the next two months, an informed source tells Asia Times Online, echoing other reports that have surfaced in the media in the United States recently.

Two key US senators [Feinstein&Lugar] briefed on the attack planned to go public with their opposition to the move, according to the source, but their projected New York Times op-ed piece has yet to appear.

The source, a retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community, speaking anonymously, said last week that the US plans an air strike against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The air strike would target the headquarters of the IRGC’s elite Quds force.

In addition to the usual stuff we hear Iran might do,

The Islamic world could also react strongly against a US attack against a third predominantly Muslim nation. Pakistan, which also shares a border with Iran, could face additional pressure from Islamic parties to end its cooperation with the US to fight al-Qaeda and hunt for Osama bin Laden. Turkey, another key ally, could be pushed further off its secular base. American companies, diplomatic installations and other US interests could face retaliation from governments or mobs in Muslim-majority states from Indonesia to Morocco.

Let’s see if Feinstein and Lugar emerge from the Bermuda Triangle that the Senate seems to have disappeared into.

Posted in abuse of power, BushCo malfeasance, Iran, Iraq war, Republicans acting badly | 7 Comments »

Poisoned puts threaten Russian growth

Posted by Charles II on May 28, 2008

Dennis Maternovsky, Bloomberg:

A relic from Russia’s debt default a decade ago is threatening the country’s economic resurgence by forcing more than 200 companies to increase the interest they pay to as much as 16 percent.

With bond yields rising worldwide as the U.S. subprime turmoil spreads, hedge funds and other investors in Russia are demanding the higher rates or their money back.

Investors who were lured back to Russia with put options giving them the right to redeem debt forced Khanty-Mansiysk-based auto-leasing firm Ugra Leasing Co. in April to raise the yield on 1 billion rubles ($42.4 million) of three-year notes sold last year to 16 percent from 14 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Moscow-based supermarket chain Mosmart increased the coupon on 2 billion rubles of bonds from 11 percent to 15.5 percent….

Even with record oil prices pumping the economy, the global credit crunch is penalizing Russian borrowers as the put options leave companies liable for refinancing nearly a third of their 1.5 trillion rubles of bonds [about $20B]at higher rates by yearend, Bloomberg data show. Soaring interest costs may contribute to a slowdown in economic growth to 6.5 percent from 8.1 percent in 2007, said Ivailo Vesselinov, senior economist at Dresdner Kleinwort in London.

Put options give bondholders the right to demand payment at face value on a set date. They became more common in Russia than anywhere else, according to Dresdner, after the government’s $40 billion default in 1998 led to almost $4 billion of losses for Greenwich, Connecticut-based Long-Term Capital Management.

Some perspective: this is a $20B problem in a $2T economy, probably not enough to tip things. Still, this is the kind of unexpected hiccup that can cause an already-weakened world economy to shudder. It would be nice if this sort of fact were known to all investors.

Posted in economy, Russia, world news | Comments Off on Poisoned puts threaten Russian growth

Why Should We Listen to Scott McClellan?

Posted by MEC on May 28, 2008

Oh, so now Scott McClellan tells us that Bush is a liar. When did he figure that out? While he was working in the White House press office, or not until after he left?

I’m not impressed, Scottie. Not. At. All. You could have done the right thing, and leave the White House rather than repeat the lies. Maybe even hold a press conference on your own account, to tell the American people you’re quitting because you won’t be a party to deceiving them. Instead, you profited from abetting that deception, and now you want to profit by complaining about it.

I hope your new book goes straight from the publisher to the remainder table.

Posted in liars, rightwing moral cripples | Tagged: | 14 Comments »

Wednesday Morning News Roundup

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 28, 2008

— Zurich-based UBS is telling the more than 50 members of its former employee team that handled rich clients to stay out of the US, and has lawyered up big-time for these team members, probably in anticipation of a widening of the DoJ and SEC probe that’s already fingered UBS employee, former Senator, Capitol Hill lobbyist and McCain campaign co-chair Phil Gramm.

— Here’s just one way in which the end of the Bush Era — and the near-certainty that Barack Obama will be our next president — is already positively affecting us: It is what might be keeping the Nigerian situation from spiraling totally out of control, as the rebels and Nigerian government seem to be exercising relative restraint out of respect for him. And if you’re reading this and saying “Nigeria, Schmigeria”, bear in mind that the Nigerian conflict, and the danger it poses to that country’s oil industry in a time of tight supplies worldwide, is by itself probably adding $20 to $30 to the cost of each barrel of oil sold on the open market. No joke — if not for Obama’s involuntary influence, we would likely already be paying close to $5.00 a gallon at the pump right now.

— Speaking of Obama, this AP story has some interesting data:

Polls this month show the Illinois senator leading McCain among women, running even with him among Catholics and suburbanites and trailing him with people over age 65. Results vary by poll for those without college degrees. And though Obama trails decisively with a group that has shunned him against Clinton — whites who have not completed college — he’s doing about the same with them as the past two Democratic presidential candidates.

That’s right: Obama leads McCain among women, even with Hillary still technically in the race.

Posted in 2008, abuse of power, Barack Obama, BushCo malfeasance, corruption, cronies, Good Things, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Republicans, Republicans acting badly, rightwing moral cripples | Comments Off on Wednesday Morning News Roundup

Gas Rises, Driving Drops

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 28, 2008

So sayeth CNN by way of Democracy for Utah:

At a time when gas prices are at an all-time high, Americans have curtailed their driving at a historic rate. Americans are not driving as much as they did a year ago as gas prices skyrocket. The Department of Transportation said figures from March show the steepest decrease in driving ever recorded.

Compared with March a year earlier, Americans drove an estimated 4.3 percent less — that’s 11 billion fewer miles, the DOT’s Federal Highway Administration said Monday, calling it “the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history.” Records have been kept since 1942. […]

Some Americans have turned to public transportation. Ridership increased by 2.1 percent in 2007, in part because of rising gas prices, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Which reminds me: Why are we giving Bush’s big oil buddies $20 billion a year in free money when they’re making record profits from us?

Remember, in April of 2005, Bush said that there was no need to keep giving Big Oil any more of our tax dollars if oil prices stayed above $50 a barrel “Bush said, ‘With oil at more than $50 a barrel, by the way, energy companies do not need taxpayers’-funded incentives to explore for oil and gas.'”

Guess what? Oil now trades at nearly three times that amount.

Yet when the Democrats tried to cut the $20 billion a year that Big Oil gets from We the Taxpayers, and put it into developing alternative energy, Bush immediately threatened to veto the bill.

Go to Energy & Capital for more information from investing experts on how Bush hurt us all by putting his oil buddies ahead of the rest of us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Gas Rises, Driving Drops

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