Lunchtime Links 7-31

July 31, 2009

White House says cash for clunkers will go on (NYT)  Note that the administration hasn’t yet promised new funding.  So yeah, the program is good through the weekend, but the key will be whether there is a new appropriation.  Michigan Senator Carl Levin is quoted in the article exhorting people to rush to their dealers to buy now.  The more transactions he can stuff through the channel, the more pressure he puts on Obama to make a new appropriation.

MUST READ“Take back the beep” campaign (David Pogue)  Ever wondered why, when you’re leaving a message on someone else’s cell phone, you have to wait through 15 seconds of nonsense?  (E.g. “If you want to leave a numeric page, press 5.”  Who leaves a numeric page!?!)  In aggregate that’s a massive amount of air time being used, which adds up to billions worth of revenue for cell phone companies.  Pogue is tired of it and has organized a little protest campaign.  He lists e-mail addresses for the big four carriers where you can send a complaint.  I was happy to, and it didn’t even take 15 seconds!

Regulators are getting tougher on banks (WSJ)  This is good news.  Federal bank regulators are requiring stiffer capital cushions and restricting risky lending.  This is what bank regulators are SUPPOSED to do.  But I fear they aren’t going about it the right way.  Demanding more Tier 1 capital is certainly welcome, but they need to be demanding more tangible common equity.  Only the latter is in a true first loss position in the capital structure.  Focusing on Tier 1 allows banks to raise preferred in addition to common.  But preferred doesn’t support the capital structure like common.

Downtown Ft. Myers condo has 32 stories, and only one lonely tale (  The building has one family living inside…

FDIC tests “funding mechanism” of legacy loans program (FDIC)  This is the key program under which investors would get cheap, non-recourse leverage to buy whole loans off of banks’ books.  It was suspended, thank goodness, for lack of interest.  But FDIC is aware that whole loans are likely to weigh on banks and that many might be forced to move them at lower prices.  That will be very bad news for taxpayers.

Fannie/Freddie unlikely to repay U.S. in full (WSJ)  So far, Fannie and Freddie are among the biggest taxpayer money sinks.  TARP money is getting paid back and both the FDIC and Fed have yet to recognize substantial losses on their lending programs.  Fan and Fred, along with AIG and the automakers, have received tens of billions that are never coming back…

Smoking ban murder (Reuters)  “A restaurant owner in southwest Turkey was shot dead after he tried to prevent his customers from smoking to comply with a new law on the use of tobacco indoors”

Someone missing an intern? (DealBreaker)

Incredible water-color paintings from 6-year-old (Telegraph)

Man trying to find cure for cancer invents simple machine that burns salt water.  Sounds ultra-cool with lots of fantastic possibilities, BUT it’s highly unlikely this machine produces more energy than it consumes.  Note how the reporter doesn’t ask…


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Re: the saltwater, oh c’mon! Where’s the energy originating from? If you hit the saltwater with radio waves, something needs to power the radio waves. You never produce more usable energy than you consume (second law of thermodynamics), so the question is what is the conversion efficiency? This is no miracle energy solution.

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive

These things come up every once in awhile, I’ve seen it before on FOX news (wonder why?). The energy source here is coal, which powers the electrical plant which sends electricity to the transistor that makes radio waves. This causes electrolysis in the salt water, which is not actually a discovery. The energy put in (coal) is greater than the energy out (heat of combustion). In order to put this in a car, you’d need a great big battery.

Posted by Leah | Report as abusive

Come ON! This story is more than 2 years old and, sadly, John Kanzius has passed away.

Posted by Fred Sears | Report as abusive