Daily Digest

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Daily Digest 11/25- The Neo-Rurals, What Low Oil Prices Mean For The U.S. Economy

Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 11:15 AM


This Is What Your Face Looks Like to Facebook (jdargis)

Crispin gathers face patterns from data sets sets like Labeled Faces in the Wild, then “evolves” a two-dimensional image from the composite, finally rendering it in 3-D — much like Facebook. He stops the iterative process before the algorithm has created a perfect face, resulting in the strange mutations of his images. The image, he says, might have “somebody’s eyebrow, somebody else’s chin.”

This face (below) is “like looking at a ghost; it’s very disturbing,” Crispin says. The algorithm came up with the Sphinx-like grin on its own.

U.S. Economy Grew at 3.9 Percent Rate in 3rd Quarter (jdargis)

Since the recession ended in June 2009, growth has averaged at subpar rates just above 2 percent. This lackluster recovery has been blamed on the financial crisis and the severity of the recession. Such types of downturns are usually harder to recover from because it requires repairs to the banking system to get credit flowing again.

But economists believe 2015 will be the year when the recovery shifts into a higher gear, in part because they expect the government itself to help. Government spending grew at a 4.2 percent rate in the third quarter, the strongest performance since the spring of 2009. The gain was bolstered by a 16 percent surge in defense spending.

The Secrets of the “Secret Science” Bill (jdargis)

Last Wednesday, the chamber approved the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014, which prohibits the EPA from “proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based on science that is not transparent or reproducible.” It compels the agency to release all scientific and technical information used in its assessments.

On its face, this does not sound bad. Early in his presidency, Barack Obama promised to make agency science transparent. Many on the left and right have pointed out that the administration’s Open Government Initiative has fallen far short of that goal. Scientists and bureaucrats themselves want to work toward more clarity and openness.

The Swiss Referendum On Gold: What’s Missing From The Debate (jdargis)

To properly address the third SNB concern requires a historical context and a more detailed analysis. Prior to the change in the Swiss constitution, the CHF was backed by a minimum amount of 40% gold. Despite this constraint, Swiss monetary policy at the SNB was unhindered and functioned properly during the post World War II period. The SNB is correct in implying that today a partial gold backing, as required by the referendum, would make its policy of weakening the CHF against the EUR more difficult. Although the SNB has raised the currency peg as a reason for voting against the referendum the issue has not been directly addressed by the “YES” camp. Is the peg necessary? Does the population in Switzerland benefit as a whole from a weak EURCHF exchange rate? Why does the SNB feel compelled to continue a policy that it characterized over 3 years ago as “temporary”? How did “the minimum exchange rate” policy come to be? Why hasn’t there been a public debate about it?

The Neo-Rurals (jdargis)

In re-embracing the village as a social model, many younger Spaniards have rejected not only big-city life but also the excesses of the property boom that created ghost towns filled with empty tourist flats. They see pueblo life as an opportunity to revive the principles of self-sufficiency, moderation, and closeness to the land. A young man who recently moved from Valencia to his grandparents’ village described the urban exodus to me as a stand against wastefulness and for simplicity, adding that the only other option he saw was to move to another EU country—which would have meant severing his close family connections.

What Low Oil Prices Mean For The U.S. Economy (Evan K.)

For the last 4 years, the national average retail price of gasoline in the United States stayed within a range of $3.25-$4.00 a gallon. But that all changed this fall, with U.S. consumers now paying an average price of $2.82. This usually is the time of year when gasoline prices tend to be at their lowest. But the current U.S. price of gasoline is exactly what we’d predict given the long-run relation between the price of gasoline and crude oil. There’s essentially no seasonal component in the price of crude. In other words, if crude stays at its current value (namely, Brent at $80), the lower price of gasoline is here to stay.

World's Highest Wind Turbine Will Hover Above Alaska (Wendy SD)

Altaeros’ Buoyant Airborne Turbine has a power capacity of 30 kilowatts and will create enough energy to power about 12 homes, the company says. But that’s just the beginning. It can also lift communications equipment such as cellular transceivers or meteorological devices and other sensing equipment. Altaeros said additional equipment does not affect the energy performance of the turbine. The technology can be deployed in under 24 hours, because it does not require cranes or underground foundations.

This glass sphere might revolutionize solar power on Earth (Wendy SD)

German architect André Broessel, of Rawlemon, has looked into his crystal ball and seen the future of renewable energy. In this case it’s a spherical sun-tracking solar energy-generating globe — essentially a giant glass marble on a robotic steel frame. But this marble is no toy. It concentrates both sunlight and moonlight up to 10,000 times — making its solar harvesting capabilities 35 percent more efficient than conventional dual-axis photovoltaic designs.

Gold & Silver

Click to read the PM Daily Market Commentary: 11/24/14

Provided daily by the Peak Prosperity Gold & Silver Group

Article suggestions for the Daily Digest can be sent to [email protected]. All suggestions are filtered by the Daily Digest team and preference is given to those that are in alignment with the message of the Crash Course and the "3 Es."


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2036 political debate

Because we can count on our leaders to focus on the right issues:

From cartoonist Mat Bors at Medium.com (thanks, jdargis, for the link to this website)

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Where's the outrage? (Chicago Utopia stats - year to date)

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Halliburton - Baker-Hughes Merger

I heard an interesting take on the possible merger between oil service giants Halliburton and Baker-Hughes from an older colleague of mine who has taken a job in the business operations side of our school since he retired from a career in the oil services industry, working for a company that specialized in drilling mud (or drilling fluid) during the 80's and 90's.  Nothing very revolutionary here, but I learned some things from his comments that I thought some others at PP might find interesting.

When I asked him if such a combined power would be able to better compete with Schlumberger, the France-based global leader in the oil services industry, he said that he thought that Schlumberger would remain #1.  Schlumberger got its start over 100 years ago when the eponymous founder started using the new technology of electricity to detect metal ore, and later oil wells, based on changes in electrical conductivity.  Apparently, to this day Schlumberger has a reputation for being the most technically proficient of oil service companies, and for a long time they cultivated a successful tradition of recruiting top graduates from European polytechnic universities in order to stay ahead of the technological curve.

Halliburton, on the other hand, focused on installing the cement casings around oil well shafts, and Halliburton employees were known as cement heads in the industry.  My colleague basically said that Halliburton doesn't have the same technological prowess as Schlumberger, and still wouldn't even with the addition of Baker-Hughes.

Another thing he said was that Schlumberger has also been in cahoots with the French government for a long time and he said something about the French gov't funneling money via Schlumberger, but he didn't go into detail.  This seems fairly consistent with the postion of Halliburton, which, of course, has been pretty closely connected with the US military-industrial complex, most famously when former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney was vice-president.

I don't know if the merger will go through as well as pass all of the regulatory hurdles, but if it does, it sounds like the new Halliburton-Baker-Hughes will be giant, with a market capitalization of around $70 billion, but still much smaller than Schlumberger, whose market cap is around $125 billion.

While my colleague is sort of agnostic regarding the peak oil thesis, two of his former co-workers from his oil days spoke at ASPO-International 2012 in Vienna:  Jeremy Gilbert and James Buckee



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