Rush Hour in Copenhagen, Denmark
Coventry League embraces bicycling as a healthy, sustainable form of transportation, so reading about bicycles’ outselling new cars in practically every European country is encouraging. Small Business Labs wrote a blog today referencing the article at NPR titled In Almost Every European Country, Bikes Are Outselling New Cars.
Small Business Labs also provide some additional statistics
and perspectives. For example, it mentioned that even in the U.S. bicycle outsold cars (18 million versus 14.3 million, respectively). Also, last October Coventry League highlighted the Top 20 Bicycle Friendly Cities globally (Portland was ranked #1 in the U.S. and Amsterdam in the Netherlands was the overall #1 city).
Who doesn’t what to strive to be a bit more sustainable nowadays? Some of the most respectable companies that have growth and profitability as goals also factor in externalities
(costs on society) and the quality of life (note, this is not synonymous with ‘standard of living’) for employees and stakeholders to achieve said growth and profits. Patagonia
(an interview with the founder, Yvon Chouinard
) and WL Gore (maker of Gore-Tex
fabric) are just two companies that are role models for others.
On a more personal level, citizens can put in place legislators who will put forth progressive policies to help achieve better outcomes for their respective communities. I particularly like to reference the policies
instituted in Copenhagen
, Denmark regarding bicycling (virtually eliminated vehicle street parking; imposed meaningful taxes on purchase and ownership of cars; relatively expensive gasoline; bike tracks separated by physical barriers – not simply painted lines and sharrows; etc.). Also, individuals may choose to be the change they want to see; for examples, bike to work or to do local errands, plant a garden, eat more foods that require less resources to generate, and – well, as the infographic
below illustrates – learn how to compost.
Star Trek (Next Gen): Jean-Luc Picard
A growing number of folks are becoming aware that the performance of most mutual fund managers over an extended period does not exceed that of benchmark indexes such as the S&P 500. More specifically, 99.6% of all mutual fund managers failed to beat (i.e., only 71 funds out of 17,785 matched or beat) the performance of the S&P, net of fees, over a ten year period according to data compiled from the Mutual Fund Screener of The Wall Street Journal. Please reference the entire article titled “Wall Street Is a Rentier Rip-Off: Index Funds Beat 99.6% of Managers Over Ten Years
” at the blog Of Two Minds
Talented investors are often not managing formal, traditional funds but rather managing one’s own accounts or a small number of accounts (e.g., friends and family). These individuals are more likely to fit the mold of idiosyncratic entrepreneurs or founders of technology start-ups.
Nevertheless, one of several takeaways is “don’t judge a book by its cover.” In other words, just because a money manager is nicely dressed, displays stereotypical good credentials, and has friends in high places (partly enables said manager to either procure capital or secure the fund management role), shouldn’t imply an above average talent for investing. One can present a similar case against most (not all, of course) hedge fund and venture capital fund managers, as highlighted in two Zero Hedge
articles titled “Most Hedge Funds Underperforming The S&P 500 For Fifth Year In A Row - Full YTD Performance
” and “Venture C(r)apital: Myth And Reality
Cover of Issue 9; Published 2002
You can find the comical article titled The Middle Manager’s Oath
written by Christopher Mah at McSweeney's
, a magazine founded by editor Dave Eggers
, the Bay Area Bard.
For those who are not aware of Eggers, he wrote the popular book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
, among others. He also founded a couple of nonprofit organizations based in San Francisco: 826 Valencia
, a tutoring and literacy organization in the Mission District neighborhood; and, ScholarMatch
, a program that matches donors with students needing funds for college tuition.
Below are a few extracts from the article:
"I will challenge my team to solve the problems I unnecessarily created for them."
"Jargon is not meaningless as long as it is strategic, measurable, and scalable."
"I will become diabolically drunk with the slightest sip of power."
Samuel L. Clemens stamp, 1940
November 30th is Mark Twain
's birthday, which makes me think of some of his witty quotes
such as this one:
“It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
Keeping that quote in mind, the webcomic xkcd
has a fine infographic cheat sheet of the economic vortex appropriately titled “Money Chart
.” It's available in a wall poster, which could make for a unique holiday gift for any finance geeks
among you. Also, Chris Turner, a sustainability blogger and author wrote a short article
referencing a few interesting sections of the diagram such as cost externalities of electricity (upper right corner; coal).
Amsterdam's popular mode of transportation
In today’s blog post titled “California Wakes Up To Another Record High Gas Price
,” Zero Hedge writes that “gas stations across the country are seeing increasing price-sensitivity by drivers with lines at the 'cheapest' and empty lots at the priciest. It seems yet another weekend of hyper-inflating gas prices has pushed the until-now seemingly uncaring-at-the-margin gasoline-'user' to seek out rationally lowest prices.”
Souce: ZeroHedge.com 08 October 2012
Nevertheless, if you are seeking consolation, then note that gas prices are much higher in Europe
. In Amsterdam, for comparison, it costs roughly 1.90 euros
per liter (that’s approximately $9.30 per gallon
So, what are some of the best bike friendly cities? Well, Copenhagenize Consulting is glad you asked. Last year it created an index based on 13 criteria. The inaugural ranking assessed 80 major cities worldwide and ranked the top 20
. Below is the top 20 list along with corresponding city data such as population, land area, and density compiled by Coventry League using Wikipedia (each city's page) and web research. You may download a PDF version for free
Land area used for GM crops by country ('96-'09)
Form your own opinion regarding the reasoning behind why some companies prefer transparency in food labeling and others do not.
Governing.com: Municipal Bankruptcies
provides a dynamic map
concerning municipal bankruptcies. It and ZeroHedge
offer plenty of commentary
, so we won’t regurgitate.
For perspective, however, keep in mind the size of the municipal market is $3.7 trillion
Also, Warren Buffet has written $16 billion
of municipal credit default swaps (CDS), which might imply that he believes the Federal government would step-in to assist certain issuers upon distress (this can happen indirectly - a backdoor bailout
- as some are suggesting regarding California's high-speed train plans).
Proven world oil reserves, 2009
Below is a 72-month chart from GasBuddy.com
illustrating the price of gasoline per gallon and the price of crude oil per barrel (WTI
, albeit Brent
has a greater impact on U.S. gasoline).
Nevertheless, for a brief history lesson, oil sold from OPEC
(the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) has been priced exclusively in U.S. dollars since 1974 when the U.S. Government (under then U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger) and the royal family of Saudia Arabia (the largest oil producer in OPEC) formed an agreement/partnership
in which Saudi Arabia agreed to price all of their oil sales in U.S. dollars and to then invest their surplus oil proceeds into U.S. Treasury securities. This is often referred to as petrodollars (see illustration below from an article titled "The Rise of the Petrodollar System: Dollars for Oil
" at the Financial Sense blog).
For buyers of OPEC oil, they must first obtain dollars in order to buy the oil – a significant concern for developing nations and ones that have a meaningfully weaker currency. One consequence is that these nations often need to take on debt to obtain dollars and then are at the mercy of external forces (currency markets; global fractional reserve banking; etc.).
Over the years, many nations have questioned and challenged the fractional reserve banking
and oil cartels
, most notably Iraq
and more recently Iran
and China – as they apparently want a more flexible market for commodity trading (see post from August 2011 titled “Oil Being Sold in Euro and Dirham
The Atlantic Magazine has a good article about how people spend their money and how this has changed over the last few decades. It's titled "Prices Are People: A Short History of Working and Spending Money
" by Derek Thompson. The article is part of a month-long project on why things cost what they do, according to the 2012 Atlantic Money Report.
Below is just one of several quality charts from the article.