The Carbon Flame War
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George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: no light either. on 11/17/2010 06:22:36 MST Print View

Dear Uncle Sam,

My mother told me to send thank-you notes promptly. I’ve been remiss.

Let me remind you why I’m writing. Just over two years ago, in September 2008, our country faced an economic meltdown. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the pillars that supported our mortgage system, had been forced into conservatorship. Several of our largest commercial banks were teetering. One of Wall Street’s giant investment banks had gone bankrupt, and the remaining three were poised to follow. A.I.G., the world’s most famous insurer, was at death’s door.


Many of our largest industrial companies, dependent on commercial paper financing that had disappeared, were weeks away from exhausting their cash resources. Indeed, all of corporate America’s dominoes were lined up, ready to topple at lightning speed. My own company, Berkshire Hathaway , might have been the last to fall, but that distinction provided little solace.

Nor was it just business that was in peril: 300 million Americans were in the domino line as well. Just days before, the jobs, income, 401(k)’s and money-market funds of these citizens had seemed secure. Then, virtually overnight, everything began to turn into pumpkins and mice. There was no hiding place. A destructive economic force unlike any seen for generations had been unleashed.

Only one counterforce was available, and that was you, Uncle Sam. Yes, you are often clumsy, even inept. But when businesses and people worldwide race to get liquid, you are the only party with the resources to take the other side of the transaction. And when our citizens are losing trust by the hour in institutions they once revered, only you can restore calm.

When the crisis struck, I felt you would understand the role you had to play. But you’ve never been known for speed, and in a meltdown minutes matter. I worried whether the barrage of shattering surprises would disorient you. You would have to improvise solutions on the run, stretch legal boundaries and avoid slowdowns, like Congressional hearings and studies. You would also need to get turf-conscious departments to work together in mounting your counterattack. The challenge was huge, and many people thought you were not up to it.

Well, Uncle Sam, you delivered. People will second-guess your specific decisions; you can always count on that. But just as there is a fog of war, there is a fog of panic — and, overall, your actions were remarkably effective.

I don’t know precisely how you orchestrated these. But I did have a pretty good seat as events unfolded, and I would like to commend a few of your troops. In the darkest of days, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner and Sheila Bair grasped the gravity of the situation and acted with courage and dispatch. And though I never voted for George W. Bush, I give him great credit for leading, even as Congress postured and squabbled.


You have been criticized, Uncle Sam, for some of the earlier decisions that got us in this mess — most prominently, for not battling the rot building up in the housing market. But then few of your critics saw matters clearly either. In truth, almost all of the country became possessed by the idea that home prices could never fall significantly.

That was a mass delusion, reinforced by rapidly rising prices that discredited the few skeptics who warned of trouble. Delusions, whether about tulips or Internet stocks, produce bubbles. And when bubbles pop, they can generate waves of trouble that hit shores far from their origin. This bubble was a doozy and its pop was felt around the world.

So, again, Uncle Sam, thanks to you and your aides. Often you are wasteful, and sometimes you are bullying. On occasion, you are downright maddening. But in this extraordinary emergency, you came through — and the world would look far different now if you had not.

Your grateful nephew,

Warren

- Warren E. Buffett is the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, a diversified holding company.

This story originally appeared in the The New York Times

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: Re: Re: Re: no light either. on 11/17/2010 07:41:47 MST Print View

Arapiles,

Note that I was speaking about the US. I already said that I had no doubt he was correct about Japan.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Australia on 11/17/2010 08:30:42 MST Print View

Roger, I appreciated your comments about opportunities. Actually my wife and I are seriously considering Australia, New Zealand, and Canada as places to move to. When I told her about the opportunities for nurses there that you mentioned, she beamed. Thanks.

Edited by butuki on 11/17/2010 10:18:24 MST.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: no light either. on 11/17/2010 08:48:10 MST Print View

I wrote some explanations here, but decided it wasn't worth it. No, I think I'd rather just delete my comment. I thought maybe I could open up and explain a little to you, Michael, but as I feared it just gives you the opportunity to tell me how great you are and how much more you know than I do. I think not. Please enjoy your worldview. I'm done here.

Edited by butuki on 11/17/2010 10:12:54 MST.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
Re: Re: no light either. on 11/17/2010 09:26:02 MST Print View

Miguel, if you are a German citizen....well that is German not American.


I didn't miss that from Arapiles, but you may have missed the part about it being in Tokyo? Firms often conform to where they do business.


If you don't like your circumstances of your wife's work or your work, then CHANGE it. You are capable of doing so, correct? You appear to be on here lamenting your present circumstances and complaining about the unfairness of it. But you aren't forced into this situation, surely? You chose it, correct? You even mentioned in your contract not being able to assemble...which implies you willingly signed a contract? If you didn't like the terms or feel the other side violated them you have recourse I would assume.

I just don't understand people that sit around complaining about situations they put themselves in. I can promise you that if you lived in Texas, your wife could have avoided the entire situation she is in by giving two weeks notice (polite thing to do). If they treated her like that after notice, she can walk out that day. No repercussions. And she could get a job in no time somewhere else with her qualifications!

As pointed out by Roger there is a need for nurses downunder. There is in the US as well. Move next door to me. We have a very diverse community. Our local youth soccer league has Mexicans, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Indians, etc... all playing together.

No place is utopia, but you make of it what you will.

I'm not trying to talk down to you in any way. Please don't think that. I'm just talking -err typing!

But I'm incredulous that some one would put up with the levels of abuse you apparently have. Not in any modern civilized nation. I could understand if you were stuck in some third world country, but you aren't.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
. on 11/17/2010 10:16:39 MST Print View

.

Edited by butuki on 11/17/2010 10:17:45 MST.

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: The Palouse
calm down on 11/17/2010 10:24:50 MST Print View

I am not claiming I'm great or any such thing. I'm just telling you to go for better circumstances. Even if your situations are the norm and mine are the outlier, well then you can find a better situation too.

This is Chaff.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
I see the problem, but I can't do anything now on 11/17/2010 11:21:47 MST Print View

The Badger went through a bit of hard thinking. 'Now look here!' he said at last, rather severely; 'of course you know I can't do anything now?'

His two friends assented, quite understanding his point. No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter. All are sleepy—some actually asleep. All are weatherbound, more or less; and all are resting from arduous days and nights, during which every muscle in them has been severely tested, and every energy kept at full stretch.

'Very well then!' continued the Badger. 'But, when once the year has really turned, and the nights are shorter, and halfway through them one rouses and feels fidgety and wanting to be up and doing by sunrise, if not before— you know!'

Both animals nodded gravely. They knew!

'Well, then,' went on the Badger, 'we—that is, you and me and our friend the Mole here— we'll take Toad seriously in hand. Well stand no nonsense whatever. We'll bring him back to reason, by force if need be. We'll make him be a sensible Toad. We'll—you're asleep, Rat!'

'Not me!' said the Rat, waking up with a jerk.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
superfreakonomics chap 5 - externality on 11/17/2010 12:06:01 MST Print View

Once you strip away the religious fervor and scientific complexity, an incredibly simple dilemma lies at the heart of global warming. Economists fondly call it an externality.

What’s an externality? It’s what happens when someone takes an action but someone else, without agreeing, pays some or all the costs of that action. An externality is an economic version of taxation without representation.




http://freakonomicsbook.com/superfreakonomics/chapter-excerpts/chapter-5/

book

Edited by gmatthews on 11/17/2010 12:08:33 MST.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
NZ, not Australia on 11/17/2010 13:13:13 MST Print View

Hi Miguel

Shameless plug here, but if backpacking is a passion of your that you wish to continue enjoying, I would strongly recommend NZ over Australia.

Nick, both Australia and NZ governments directly conduct basic research and salable research, as well as funding it through research institutes. Check out places like CSIRO (OZ) and the Crown Research Institutes (NZ).

NZ Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) were established in 1992 as Government-owned businesses with a scientific purpose. Each institute is based around a productive sector of the economy or a grouping of natural resources

CSIRO is an Australian Government statutory authority constituted and operating under the provisions of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949. CSIRO’s primary functions under the Act are to carry out scientific research to benefit Australian industry and the community, and to contribute to the achievement of national objectives.

I can't comment much on US research, but I'm sure the government does some good direct research as well, such as that done by the 6000 employees at the NIH. I don't know if this is cost-effective research or not...

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: superfreakonomics chap 5 - externality on 11/17/2010 13:19:46 MST Print View

"What’s an externality? It’s what happens when someone takes an action but someone else, without agreeing, pays some or all the costs of that action."

Sort of like when a terrorist's family does a credit default swap on his life?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Government on 11/17/2010 13:29:12 MST Print View

"Have I advocated democracy? A true democracy is probably the most dangerous government of all."

Exactly what type of government do you advocate? Just curious.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: no light either. on 11/17/2010 13:37:00 MST Print View

"Regarding your statement about corporations having the same rights as individuals. Just remember that a corporation is a group of individuals who have voluntarily joined together. And as a group of individuals, the corporation should enjoy the same rights as a voluntary union of individuals, as they enjoy separately."

Are you implying that when a corporation exercises its 1st Amendment right to free speech by contributing to a candidate the choice reflects the opinions of all the people in the corporation? The people whose productive efforts provide the cash to contribute? I would posit that those decisions are made by a very small group of top executives who could care less about the opinions of the rest of the "freely associated individuals" and would not think to consult them before deciding to whom they should contribute. If this is so, why should a corporation enjoy the same rights as the "freely associated individuals" enjoy outside the corporation?
Let each of the "freely associated members" express their opinions, and make their political contributions, outside of the corporation as individual citizens, and get the corporate money out of politics. It is destroying what remains of our democracy and is a cancer on the body politic! The idea that a corporation is legally and constitutionally equivalent to an individual is a mockery
of our Constitution.

Edited by Ouzel 14:09 11/17

Edited by ouzel on 11/17/2010 15:10:07 MST.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: no light either. on 11/17/2010 16:11:38 MST Print View

a corporation is a legal entity to limit liability for its owners (stockholders)

I agree with Tom that it is quite a stretch believe a corporation to be like a citizen.

Probably more like a cat than a person because they have multiple lives after death. GM stock anyone?

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Lights coming on on 11/17/2010 16:27:31 MST Print View

The Canadian Senate just torpedoed the Climate Change Bill a week before the next AGW Jamboree in Mexico.

http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010/11/17/senate-climate-bill.html#ixzz15Z4F3lHv

Which folllows on the heels of France scrapping it's climate change ministry.

http://notrickszone.com/2010/11/15/great-news-sarkozy-kills-french-super-environment-ministry-medad/

And of course the U.S. climate change bill is on ice, and the Chinese and Indians have opted out already.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: calm down on 11/17/2010 16:28:32 MST Print View

Michael, at no point did I lose my temper or get excited. I simply don't want to debate my private life with you, especially if you're just going to make assumptions without knowing the first thing about me.

I will expand on this, to get it clear for you: I am an American. Citizenship does not define a person's life or culture. I was stateless until I was 21 because of an obscure American law that stated that if my American father was living outside the States when he was 15 any children of his later in life who were born outside the States could not become American citizens. The law makes no sense, since there are tens of thousands of American children born to Americans outside of the States. By rights, since my father is American, I should automatically have gotten American citizenship. I only got citizenship from Germany, which normally only allows children of "pure blood" Germans to become citizens, because of a new law that allowed children of one German parent to become German. I've hardly lived in Germany and can't call myself, culturally, a German as much as I can American.

There is a lot more to all of it than that, but I don't want to waste my time talking to someone who has it all figured out and couldn't be bothered to try to understand someone else's point of view. I wrote this mainly for the benefit of my friends here in "Chaff" who understand that chaff doesn't mean being rude. I've been on BPL a very long time. I know what chaff is and have seen my share of its idiosyncrasies, and many long time members here know.

Lynn, NZ is top of my list precisely because of the mountains there, but also because I like its policies and I have quite a few friends there. Canada is second because it is close to my family in the States. I don't want to move back to the States. I disagree with too much of what it stands for and does.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: calm down on 11/17/2010 17:28:30 MST Print View

"Lynn, NZ is top of my list precisely because of the mountains there, but also because I like its policies and I have quite a few friends there. Canada is second because it is close to my family in the States. I don't want to move back to the States. I disagree with too much of what it stands for and does."

Both countries would no doubt treat your wife a million times better, and you as well. Two excellent options. As an American citizen living abroad, I can entirely relate to your last sentiment! My brother lived in Japan for 7 years with his wife, and they corroborate some of the issues you have mentioned, which is one of the reasons they now live in the US.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Lights coming on on 11/17/2010 17:32:32 MST Print View

Rog,

thanks for those good links

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: calm down on 11/17/2010 17:46:47 MST Print View

Miguel,

You said "I don't want to move back to the States. I disagree with too much of what it stands for and does."

Seriously, it is a good place, not perfect, but many people living here believe it not to be so bad.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Re: calm down on 11/17/2010 17:59:54 MST Print View

"Seriously, it is a good place, not perfect, but many people living here believe it not to be so bad."

I think, for me at least, perspective has a lot to do with it. If you live outside the US for a long period of time, you see the world quite differently, and going back to an American outlook is not always so appealing. Even just visiting my family is stressful, as their view of thee world is quite narrow and American-centric. And the strong emphasis on individualism and their 'rights' (which never include what the UN considers human rights) really turns me off. The gun thing is particularly distressing to me. I am more of a socialist by nature. I LIKE paying taxes to support my community and public good. i do NOT like paying taxes to support offensive military actions. Not saying all Americans are like this, and I'm sure many feel as I do, but not enough to vote in changes. I could never go back. If I had never left the US, I would no doubt think it was a pretty good place. That's nationalism for you.