Friday, July 24, 2009

India Rejects Carbon Bullies

It should come as no surprise that I find all of the panic and hysteria around "global warming," wait, now it just "climate change," utter nonsense. Fortunately, India holds the same view and has told the EU carbon bullies to take a hike.

The Financial Times online reports:

India rejected key scientific findings on global warming, while the European Union called for more action by developing states on greenhouse gas emissions.

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I say good for India! Much of the so-called science around "climate change" has either been debunked, disputed, or just plain junk! What really is happening is the EU and developed-world hand-wringers are busy trying to protect their economic backsides from rapidly-developing BrIC (Brazil, India, China).

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All of the Kyoto climate regulations aim at reducing emissions (not a bad thing), but for the developing world, that means reducing its ability to grow their manufacturing economies. Although I encourage clean air, clean water, and healthy working conditions, developing countries currently lack the resources to accomplish all three. Instead, they have to work to improve their economies to afford expensive pollution controls, municipal water treatment, and modernized plants.

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Although the other angle being played here is over financing for emission reductions, I think the bigger issue is that the science doesn't support the dire claims of climate cry-babies.

From the article:

Mr Ramesh on Friday reiterated that India would not accept emissions caps to held curb global warming, Bloomberg reported. “The world has nothing to fear from India’s development ... An artificial cap is not desirable and not even necessary as we haven’t been responsible for emissions in the first place,” he said.

I agree with Mr. Ramesh on this issue and support India's stance. As a sovereign, responsible nation, it must do what is best for its citizenry. In the case of India, it is to promote economic prosperity, freedom, and safety. While I hope India will more seriously address the need for clean drinking water, I do understand that things take time.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The iBum, a Market for Posterior Photography?

Have you secretly desired to photocopy your bottom at work? Now you can do it in the privacy of your own home! But is there a market for posterior photography? Mountain House Freeze-Dried Food reports in the article, "iBum chair automatically photocopies your butt" that Japanese designer Tomomi Sayuda has created the chair for "...positive and humorous reaction." Thank God for inventors with a sense of humor!

No doubt many will find the iBum tremendously entertaining, but will they buy one? Not to worry, Ms. Sayuda only built the chair as a design project, so it isn't a commercial endeavor. Chuck Norris wants YOU to get into shape! - Total Gym® Official Store. Try Total Gym® for 30 Days for only $1 - FREE Shipping.

For those of you who can't get enough of the iBum, enjoy the video of this positively petulant posterior photographic phenomenon!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Case for Core Competencies

Simultaneously posted at “Ask a Manager”

Whether large or small, what keeps a business going is its’ core competencies. Those one or two things the company does best that distinguish it from its competitors should be, with customers, its top focus. In three cases, Topps baseball cards, Quiksilver surf merchandise, and Dial-A-Mattress, straying from core competency either ruined, or nearly ruined a successful business.

Topps, a multi-generational, family-owned business, was known in the industry as one of the top two producers of baseball cards. It was successful in the business because it had exclusive rights with players and clubs to the images used on the cards. Additionally, they also were successful selling the formula and base materials for the chewing gum that went into the packs of cards. RingCentral Online - Free Trial plus 10% Off

However, as the founding members passed away and the younger generations took control, the company began to change. No longer satisfied with business as usual, it was decided the business should rapidly expand and begin competing with larger confectioners, such as Wrigley’s and Beech-Nut. This proved disastrous. As the expansion and new products, such as chocolate flavored gum failed, the company neared bankruptcy. In 1984, the firm was bought by the leveraged buy out firm of Forstmann Little & Co.

Quiksilver, a popular surfboard and surf merchandiser is currently suffering from its expansion into Rossignol skis and Cleveland Golf equipment. Rossignol was purchased in 2005. Its recognizable name in Europe and among ski aficionados appeared to fit with Quiksilver’s sports brands. However, the manufacture and marketing of skis and golf clubs proved radically difficult to integrate into the other product sets. Both units have been sold, and in 2009, according to multiple sources, is on Moody’s Bottom Rung list of companies unlikely to pay back their debt. Cheap? No. 100% Free. Trade stocks for free on The Free Trading Community.

Finally, Dial-A-Mattress, the firm started in 1976 allowing customers to order mattresses over telephone is being sold to it rival, Sleepy’s Inc. The Wall Street Journal reports in the July 14, 2009 print edition that “…the two major changes in his business were largely to blame: an expansion into brick-and-mortar sales and a culture clash brought on by new management.”

While the story from the Journal sheds light on how new, big company executives squashed the entrepreneurial, employee-input driven culture, the real story is that Dial-A-Mattress strayed from its direct sales model into competing with other established storefronts. Find high-end jobs on Doostang. It takes 30 seconds to join. JOIN TODAY.

In these three cases, failure to adhere to core competencies has ruined or nearly ruined the businesses. While many find a core competency approach too conservative and not growth-oriented, it can be clearly argued that in many cases, such a conservative approach rewards businesses and investors. While I don’t discourage risk taking, it should be done fully understanding the consequences. While Boeing was able to radically change air travel with the release of the 747, many other companies failed miserably. For companies, understand the risk and prepare for it. Investors, do the same. However, don’t be ashamed to make a profit from doing that at which you do best.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Telco Competition Creates Efficiency

The modern telephone system is about 100 years old, though it faces new competitors everyday. Competition from VOIP, hosted fax and telephone services continue to drive down costs and force innovation.

Having spent about 5 years directly in the telco business, and 10 more years dealing with data solutions, I have witnessed the changes, innovations, and cost improvements. One of the biggest drivers has been the internet and the data-centric thinking from it.

While none of this is news, what is news is that more and more people consume telco services from non-traditional telco providers such as RingCentral and eFax. RingCentral Online - Free Trial plus 10% Off

RingCentral is a hosted solution which offers individuals and businesses toll free numbers, fax services, as well as hosted and managed PBX. Here is a description of their products:

Grow your business with RingCentral

RingCentral Online
Toll Free and Local hosted phone & fax service for small businesses & mobile professionals delivering all the power of a “big company” phone system but with no hardware to buy and nothing to maintain.

RingCentral Office
Complete, hosted phone and fax system that combines virtual PBX and VoIP phone service with unlimited calling and full-featured IP phones ready for use.

RingCentral Fax
Easy, secure, and affordable internet fax service for small businesses and mobile professionals.

While the traditional telcos, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint also offer these services, RingCentral is focused on the smaller business.

Another competitor to the larger telco, particularly in the fax arena is eFax. This is a product I have used, and my spouse at a large firm uses as well. eFax allows the user to send and receive faxes over the internet, without a fax machine. This is a great advantage for the road warrior sales rep or consultant. Additionally, eFax is convenient for the home user, as it offers of subset of its products free. Try eFax Annual Plan For 30 Days Free - Get $34 Off the Monthly Rate

In both cases, the internet has been the catalyst or enabler for RingCentral, eFax and others to compete, at least at the fringes, with the larger telcos. As the recession of 2009 continues, businesses large and small will be looking to stretch their communications budgets further than ever.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Changing Game of Oil

Up until 2009, the oil blame game began just before Memorial Day in the US. Politicians would line up to paint oil companies as greedy price fixers, jacking up the price of gasoline before the summer driving season. What a difference a year makes.

Politicians being what they were (and still are), chose not to acknowledge that increased demand for a scarce resource leads to increased price. Most of us older than 4 understand patterns. Summer is when Americans drive the most. Thus the increased demand for gasoline and the increased price.

However, in the 2009 global recession, the price of oil is less than half of its 2008 record ($145 bbl). Why has the price fallen so much? Because oil is a leading economic indicator, meaning that its market price is a prediction of demand one month in the future. The market correctly believed(s) that the global economy would tank.

Oil prices have fallen since last year, down as low as $34, then settling in to the $70s, as of 08 July 2009, it is down in the lower $60s. Obviously, the case for price fixing is quite flimsy, or so it would seem. How’s your credit score? 0-600 Poor, 601-680 Fair, 700-774 Good, 775+ Excellent. Find out your Score now FREE!

While we aren't hearing the usual cast of characters demanding ExxonMobil and Chevron's chairmen explain why gas is more expensive, we are hearing cries of "Speculation!"

In the 08 July 2009 edition of the Wall Street Journal, the article starts:

"Policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic launched an effort to crack down on what they called speculation in oil markets, underscoring concerns that a sharp rise in oil prices could worsen the global economic downturn."

Perhaps Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy should take a deep breath and just try to control their instinct to regulate. Not to be outdone, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) declares the need to control "...oil speculators looking for a quick buck at the expense of the American consumer."

As I have written previously, traders in oil futures are airlines, utilities, and others who consume a regular supply of oil over a year and are trying to smooth out price variability. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Additionally, since oil is a global commodity, denominated in US dollars, its price fluctuates with the value of the dollar. Inflation in the US spells higher oil prices, and conversely, recession or deflation spur lower oil prices. Of course, the 800lb gorillas in the room are China and India, as their consumption grows annually. Cheap? No. 100% Free. Trade stocks for free on The Free Trading Community.

Does the trade of a global commodity need to be regulated? Only if it means the enforcement of contracts! Since oil hasn't followed its usual trends, government officials are struggling as how to propose more regulation. While oil is a critical component in the global economy, demands to regulate its future sale will only wreak havoc. Oil is generally an efficient market, though it is subject to swings. By allowing the swings and the pain it causes, the market will right itself, and hopefully teach important lessons. When government interferes and distorts the market, the swings are wilder and damage greater. Just look at housing bubble. Need I say more?

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