How Much Is Too Much Money?

hay truck

  Buried in a mnemonic curlicue related to wages and executive compensation, sits some business wisdom gleaned from a relative. Proprietor of a Midwest tool-rental store, he was once lamenting to me the poor skill level and sloppy work ethic of the hired help; in that small town, pickings for talent were slim.  I suggested that maybe he could raise the wages, which were marginally higher than minimum.  Better-paid workers could be happier and therefore more productive, that was my thinking.  He looked at me as if I was a two-headed idiot of the year.  "All that would mean" he shrugged "is that they'd drive to work in a bigger truck" (*). Aaaaaannd.... fast forward to this weekend. Drilling down trough the reports of … [Read more...]

Monday Morning Fish Wrap: The Mediocre Wages of Academia

No doubt there are propaganda posters from the old Soviet Union and Mao's Red China with the same heroic poses and inspiring message

We start off the Fish Wrap with a  look at what many on the right consider to be an ivory tower of university professors and academics dictating policy from behind unassailable walls of tenure.  Not so fast: The Closing of American Academia The plight of adjunct professors highlights the end of higher education as a means to prosperity In most professions, salaries below the poverty line would be cause for alarm. In academia, they are treated as a source of gratitude. Volunteerism is par for the course - literally. Teaching is touted as a "calling", with compensation an afterthought. One American research university offers its PhD students a salary of $1000 per semester for the "opportunity" to design and teach a course for … [Read more...]

You’ve Got Rail!

Deep discounts on standing room only

Don't like nasty oil and gas pipelines?  Pipelines in Alaska are bad for caribou populations (or not) and downright lethal for underground aquifers. Well, hope trains filled with millions of tons of crude rolling through your community are more your bag. Here at USA Financial Service, we --- "we" in the pretentious "royal We" sense, inasmuch as there's only one regular contributor (me), and I'm the emperor of this domain --- take a practical view of conservation, energy and the environment.  Alternative energy is interesting, has some good potential and is generally just swell, but so is air conditioning and motorized travel. So until we can find a way to power vehicles from unicorn farts, coal and nuclear and oil and gas pipelines are here … [Read more...]

Popular Myths on Auto Insurance

Unconfirmed if Bonnie Parker had auto insurance. Presumably not.

  This article brought to you by Insurance Hunter Next to a home, a vehicle is likely the common person's most valuable asset. Like a home, vehicle insurance expense is a major monthly expense. Very much unlike a home, car ownership carries significant risks of liability and negligence. Best to be prepared with the right kind of coverage. Part of being prepared is discounting popular myths and misconceptions. Many times debunked, yet more persistent and pernicious than crabgrass is the silly myth that the vehicle's color will impact insurance costs. Wrong. Insurance companies don't really care a whit about color, but more about year, make and model, and is it popular with thieves. A zippy red Mustang convertible will … [Read more...]

America is Number One! Except for Airlines, Health Care, and Sundry Other Things…. and That’s OK


Especially with regards to airlines, if you've got to fly anywhere out of North America... (mini-rant ahead, forewarned is four-armed) I have a short business trip coming up to South Korea, and I rejoice in the fact that the long-haul  flight from Atlanta to Seoul has been outsourced by Delta to Korean Air. Now, Korean Air may not be as spiffy as Asiana, the other major Korean airline that places in the top 10, but it's a damn sight better than the usual Delta fare of worn aircraft and even older flight attendants (add surly and overweight for American cabin crew).   U.S. airlines place nowhere near the list of 10 best airlines in the world, published annually by Skytrax. Nationalistic myopia is evidenced in this peculiar … [Read more...]

How to Profit From Pond Scum… Or Not

Chlorella regularis, not be confused with Chlorella Vulgaris, the ruder, ill-mannered cousin of Regularis

  Green crude sure sounds sexy enough, in a renewable energy kind of way. What's not to love about it?  Grow a bunch of algae from sunlight and CO2, harvest it, and presto-change-O, you've got "green" bio-diesel. Enough to get save-the-planet folks and environment reporters all hot in the pants. The best laid plans of blog topics sometimes take a backseat to chasing down rabbit holes.  The plan was to write a post on auto insurance today, but in the course of looking up a web reference, came across instead this story from MIT's Technology Review: In Race to Algae Fuel, Sapphire Scores Point for Open Ponds Sapphire Energy starts farming algae at New Mexico demo plant using an open pond design, which it says is the only … [Read more...]

Work Harder Than Europeans (Career Tip #18)

Nose, meet stone. Stone, meet nose.  Engage.

"Our goals should be the same as the Germans... work less". So quoth my old college professor of international business, in almost reverential tones. The Germans and other enlightened Europeans were held up as paragons of the good life, if not necessarily hard work and productivity.  This sentiment infests the Mainstream Media and commentariat: Why Americans should work less - the way the Germans do (The Guardian) Squeezed Dry - Why Americans work so hard, and feel so poor (The Atlantic) Why don't Americans have longer vacations (NY Times) American can learn from Europe on work-life balance (CNN) Why can't you be more like your cousin Wolfgang? He does all his homework, cleans his room every day, eats his peas, and … [Read more...]

Payday Loans Are for Emergencies

This post was provided by Sophie Wright from A payday loan should be used for emergencies only, not for boozing it up on the weekend or getting the cutest outfit ever or that trip to Ibiza. It is a stopgap financial measure to hold you over until the next paycheck. A legitimate expense might be a vehicle breakdown or a medical emergency, or both. The advantages of that you can get from fast cash loans is exactly that, that they're fast. As long as you're gainfully employed and can demonstrate it, the online approval process can be speedy and hassle-free. Some companies may even waive the credit check, as long as valid pay stubs are presented. The bad perception on payday loans, and one for which they have been … [Read more...]

Gunning Up Your Investments, Part 2

2008 to 2009 period

Barack Obama is going to win come November. Close election or landslide, it's a good bet Obama stays in the White House for another four years. (So says Intrade. Scoff at your own peril.) As popular thinking goes, Bible- and gun-clinging militia types will all troop down en masse to the local gun shop to stock up.   Now that Barack Obama is in without fearing a re-election, Big Brother gummint will really work on taking those guns away. Or not. While some financial analysts readily proclaim retail manna from heaven for the firearm industry (just like in '08) there are others, as this article from Mynianville relates, who would urge caution: Is It Too Late To Buy Gun Stocks?  (Aug 30, 2012) (Aug 30, 2012) [...] , there … [Read more...]

Sunday Morning Fish Wrap

Mathematician  Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Musa al-Khwarizmi  (Image based on a Russian stamp)

One of my favorite travel/geopolitical authors, Robert D. Kaplan, has a new book out, "The Revenge of Geography".  He also writes at Stratfor, and this week an excerpt of the book was made available: The Geography of Iranian Power Entirely worthwhile for readers wishing to know a little more on the conflicts in the Persian Gulf area. I work with a few people who occasionally express negative political views against Iran, the latest bete noir for the US Administration.   I understand that living as we are in the Bible belt, most of it the standard let's-bomb-em-all rhetoric is based on the Iranian government's overt/covert actions against Israel.  I'm neutral on the issue, so the fiery invective against a little-known country … [Read more...]