the visible hand

it is the theory which decides what can be observed – einstein

Archive for February, 2009

Mr. Whipple’s Charmin effect

Posted by ecoshift on February 26, 2009

A bit of good news for hardasses…

February 26, 2009
Mr. Whipple Left It Out: Soft Is Rough on Forests

Americans like their toilet tissue soft: exotic confections that are silken, thick and hot-air-fluffed.

The national obsession with soft paper has driven the growth of brands like Cottonelle Ultra, Quilted Northern Ultra and Charmin Ultra — which in 2008 alone increased its sales by 40 percent in some markets, according to Information Resources, Inc., a marketing research firm.

But fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them…

With a global recession, however, that may be changing. In the past few months, sales of premium toilet paper have plunged 7 percent nationally, said Ali Dibadj, a senior stock analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, a financial management firm, providing an opening for makers of recycled products.


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inside the meltdown

Posted by ecoshift on February 16, 2009

FRONTLINE: coming soon: inside the meltdown | PBS

FRONTLINE investigates the causes of the worst economic crisis in 70 years and how the government responded. The film chronicles the inside stories of the Bear Stearns deal, Lehman Brothers’ collapse, the propping up of insurance giant AIG, and the $700 billion bailout. Inside the Meltdown examines what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke didn’t see, couldn’t stop and haven’t been able to fix.


Inside the Meltdown
Tuesday, February 17, 2009, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS

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State budgets: 84.3 billion gap for 2010

Posted by ecoshift on February 8, 2009

States’ only option now is budget pain – Los Angeles Times

“With personal, sales and corporate income tax revenue plummeting, state governments — which recently trimmed their budgets to cover a cumulative $40.3-billion shortfall for the current fiscal year — are now watching in horror as a $47.4-billion gap opens for 2009.

And for fiscal year 2010, they will face a $84.3-billion hole, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The total shortfall through fiscal 2011 is estimated at $350 billion, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.

Unlike the federal government, nearly all states must balance their budgets. So legislatures either have to raise taxes, borrow money from dwindling rainy-day funds, or cut. The last option is becoming increasingly common.

“The easy budget fixes are long gone,” Corina Eckl, fiscal program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said in a statement. “Only hard and unpopular options remain.”

State lawmakers can expect some relief from the federal stimulus package — but it is far from a cure-all. The version passed by the House of Representatives would cover only about 45% of the projected state deficits. A Senate version of the bill, which has yet to be approved, would, in its present form, offer even less relief.

The budget-cutting plans that have emerged from state capitols so far have a potential effect on almost everyone. Parks will close. Environmental programs will be scaled back. Bus and ferry routes will shut down, possibly sending more drivers onto clogged streets and highways. Schools may go without school nurses, and classes may become more crowded. Sick people who rely on state health programs may instead get sicker.

Washington state’s predicament illustrates the brutal reality lawmakers are facing in the hardest-hit states. Washington’s budget gap for 2010 will total 18.5% of its general fund, making it the sixth-worst situation in the nation. (Nevada is facing the most serious shortfall, with a 38% gap; California’s 22% gap is the fourth-worst, behind Arizona at 28% and New York at 24%, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.) ”

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Procurement policies and free trade

Posted by ecoshift on February 1, 2009

The following may be of some interest to those who wish California’s procurement policies would prioritize local California products…

Out of Gaps In Treaties, First Salvos Of Trade War –
By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 1, 2009; Page A01

“In the United States, a move to greatly expand Buy American provisions as part of the $819 billion fiscal stimulus package has generated shock waves in other countries, with Canadian and European officials in particular rising up in protest. The provision, passed by the House on Wednesday, would mostly bar foreign steel and iron from the infrastructure projects laid out in the stimulus package. A Senate version still being considered goes further, requiring, with few exceptions, that all stimulus-funded projects use only American-made equipment and goods.

Yet depending on how the language on a Buy American provision may ultimately read, experts on trade law say it remains unclear whether it would categorically violate a WTO agreement on government procurement the United States signed in 1996.

“There are lots of institutional firewalls to prevent trade wars that exist today that did not exist during the Great Depression,” said Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “That could help now. But there is still a lot of room for damage, maybe pretty bad damage, that can be done in the gray area of the rules.”

Although the legality of the Buy American provision may be in question, that might not prevent a potentially dramatic series of countermeasures by America’s trading partners if it is passed and signed by President Obama. For that reason, analysts are seeing it as a major test for Obama, arguing it could signal that the United States may be changing course from a decades-long embrace of free trade because times are now too tough to maintain that path. ”

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