A Costly Solar Flame-Out

Federal stimulus efforts to encourage “green energy” businesses took a shot to the chops today when Solyndra, a California solar energy company, declared that it will file for bankruptcy protection.

Solyndra had received $535 million in federal loan guarantees and was one of 40 concerns that was supported by a Department of Energy program designed to encourage green energy projects.  Today, however, the company suspended its manufacturing operations and laid off more than 1,000 workers.

It is not clear how much money the federal government will lose as a result of its support of Solyndra, and some no doubt will argue that such losses, whatever they may be, are simply a necessary cost of trying to develop “green energy” alternatives in the United States.  For others, however, Solyndra’s failure is a sobering lesson that even significant federal support doesn’t mean much if a company cannot hold its own in the rough and tumble world of the global economy.  In this instance, Solyndra apparently couldn’t compete with foreign manufacturers who sold comparable products at cheaper prices.  This story also raises more fundamental questions:  why should the federal government be supporting certain companies and industries at all, and when they do who is deciding whether the investment of our tax dollars has a prayer of earning a meaningful return?

 

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The Message In An App’s Popularity

What does it mean when an “app” is popular?  Does it convey a deep message about social trends?  Or, does it only indicate that some iPhone and iPad nerds liked the concept, or the price, or having a hot new “app” to yak endlessly about?

It may be worth asking that question, because the “Obama Clock” app has quickly shot to the top of the “app” charts.  The “Obama Clock” app includes a running countdown, in days, hours, minutes, and seconds, to the next presidential inauguration.  It also provides updated information on President Obama’s approval rating, the unemployment rate, the per-gallon cost of gasoline, and movement in a housing price index.  The “Obama Clock” app is at the very top of the “reference” app sales — where it competes with the likes of the world atlas and other informational apps — and is in the top 50 apps overall.

It probably isn’t a good sign for the President that the “Obama Clock” app has done so well.  It’s not like the information reported in the updates is good news that reflects well on his performance.  Still, I wouldn’t read too much into the app’s popularity.  A stampede of purchases by conservative iPhone users — the app costs only 99 cents — could easily skew the results.  And the President and his reelection team can take comfort in the fact that the “Obama Clock” app still trails SPY mouse, Angry Birds, and Fruit Ninja.  If the President were up against SPY mouse in November 2012, he might have more cause for immediate concern.

Let The Games Begin!

On Saturday, a bit before noon, the Ohio State Buckeyes football team will take the field for the first game of the 2011 season.  When The Best Damn Band In The Land marches down the ramp to the cheers of more than 100,000 fans, it will mark the end of what has seemed like the longest off-season in college football history.  I’ll be thrilled when that happens, and I’m confident that countless other members of Buckeye Nation agree with that heartfelt sentiment.

I’ll have a bit more to say about the 2011 version of the Buckeyes later.  For now, I just want to say how wonderful it will be to focus on what happens on the field once again.  I’m ready to get seriously into the minutiae of college football and the strangeness of talking about the Legends and Leaders divisions of the Big Ten.  (Let’s see . . . which one is Ohio State in, again?) I want to talk to my buddies about the freshman phenom, the senior who is under-performing, the stud defensive lineman, and the safety who hits like a ton of bricks.  I want to debate play-calling and controversial penalties.  I want to focus on the fact that Nebraska is now part of the Big Ten, and argue about who should be ranked number one.  Those are the things that make college football the greatest sport of all — not the off-the-field noise and controversy.

I say, let the games begin!

Snakes In The Trousers

Lately there have been a series of curious stories in the news about people trying to smuggle rare animals and birds by storing them on their persons.  Such conduct violates the Lacey Act, which prohibits the smuggling of exotic animals.

The weirdest attempt, in my view, was by a man in Miami who tried to board a plane with seven — seven! — snakes in his pants, as well as three tortoises.  The guy had the snakes and tortoises in nylon bags in his slacks.  It is not clear whether the creatures were drugged so that they would remain immobile during the flight.  In any case, the man’s illicit pants cargo was detected by an advanced imaging technology machine as he went through security.

It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to try to smuggle seven snakes and three tortoises in your pants, but just imagine what it would be like to sit next to the guy on the plane and notice his unusual trouser activity if all of those animals suddenly started moving around.

The Feds, Below The Mendoza Line

Cristobal Rigoberto (“Minnie”) Mendoza played for the Minnesota Twins in 1970 and hit .188 for the year.  That threshold of futility has come to be known in baseball as the “Mendoza Line.”  If you start the season in a slump and begin to pull out of it, crossing the Mendoza Line and getting above .200 is the first step back to respectability.  If it’s mid-season and you cross the Mendoza Line going in the opposite direction, expect to find a ticket to the minors in your locker.

When it comes to public perception of business and industry segments, lawyers probably set the Mendoza Line.  For whatever reason, most people don’t like lawyers.  In the media, lawyers are often depicted as conniving, duplicitous, arrogant, money-grubbing, and unscrupulous, which are not exactly endearing characteristics.  As a lawyer myself, I think the common characterizations of lawyers are profoundly inaccurate, and I regret that the general reaction to my profession is so negative — but there is no denying the statistics.

I therefore found it interesting that, in a recent Gallup Poll, the federal government crossed the lawyer Mendoza Line and ranked the worst in terms of public perception of 25 different business and industry sectors.  Lawyers were viewed positively by 29 percent of respondents and negatively by 45 percent, for a net score of -16.  The federal government, in contrast, was ranked positively by only 17 percent and negatively by 63 percent, for a net score of -46.

If I were in the federal government right now, I’d be looking for that ticket to the minors.

 

Please Say it Ain’t so O(bama)

So now that I have a laptop at home and I am semi-retired I spend most of my daylight hours reading by the pool or working at the Windward Passage and when I come home at night I like to surf the internet.

Tonight while surfing the internet I was quite disturbed when I came across the following article US-troops-may-stay-in-Afghanistan-until-2024.html. If this article is in fact true it looks as though we are in talks with Afghanistan to sign a contractual agreement that would supposedly allow American military trainers, American special forces and American air power (estimates of 25,000 American soldiers) to remain in Afghanistan until 2024.

One of the biggest reasons I voted for the current president and the change he was offering was because I was hopeful that he would get us out of the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan once and for all. My thinking was there was a much better chance of that happening with Obama as president as opposed to McCain. To my dismay this hasn’t happened yet.

From what I have read our current cost right now to support 100,000 troops in Afghanistan is $1 billion per day. So if we agree to  keep 25,000 American troops in Afghanistan until 2024 you can do the math, we’re talking about a lot of money that we quite frankly don’t have.

I think the Russian ambassador to Afghanistan said it best when he said “Afghanistan needs many other things apart from a permanent military presence. It needs economic help and it needs peace, military bases are not a tool for peace”. Well said Mr ambassador. When I see a picture like the one above I am outraged that we are doing what we are doing, isn’t anyone else outraged ?

Can any Republican, Independent or Democrat, anyone for that matter give me a logical reason as to why we need to be in Afghanistan for thirteen more years ? Bin Laden is dead and we need to get the heck out of there as soon as possible. If this deal is signed I will have no choice but to write in Ron Paul for President in 2012 since he is the only candidate who has promised to bring all of our troops home.

Skeeter In The House

We have a new dog in the house.

Her name is Skeeter, and she is a seven-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  In a few days Skeeter will be going to live with Kish’s Mom, who was heartbroken when her longtime canine companion, Effie, died a few months ago.  Our hope is that Skeeter will be good company and help Faith get over her loss.

Skeeter seems like an ideal choice for this important assignment.  She weighs less than 20 pounds, likes people, enjoys sitting on laps, and has a sweet and gentle disposition.  I make the latter observation based on the fact that Penny impolitely gobbled up Skeeter’s food, and Skeeter didn’t really seem to mind.