Saab no More?

Today, Saab filed for bankruptcy in Sweden.

Some blame GM for blocking Saab's purchase by two random Chinese car companies. I don't.

I blame GM for running Saab into the ground over the decade and a half they owned the company, taking a unique brand with a strong following and completely failing to understand anything about the brand, what made it great, why people bought them, or where the company could be taken.

Sadly, just as GM was finally turning the company around (the 9-5 is a great car, the 9-4X a very good crossover), the recession hit, and GM was forced to rationalize brands. I don't blame them for selling Saab at that point. Spyker begged them to sell rather than close Saab, and it turned out Spyker simply did not have the resources to run Saab, let alone rebuild it. Then, when Spyker looked to sell the company to China, they would essentially be selling GM technology to companies which will just take it to compete with GM. There is no reason GM should have approved the sale.

But what is sad is that a unique and impressive brand, a brand which for a time offered a very strong contender to the German brands in performance while still incorporating safety and usefulness, is going to go to waste.





Kim Jong Il Dies

N Korean leader Kim Jong-il dies - http://pulse.me/s/48Oig

Though we think he is just a wacko wearing tall shoes, the people of North Korea looked up to KJI as their demi God leader, partly because they were forced to, partly because they had no access to anything which challenged that reality.

Now, that leader is dead, and while the divine right succession worked in 1994, it is not totally clear that this time around, passing power down to his third oldest son, that the people will so willingly transfer their love, affection, and fear.

I certainly hope they don't, but given just how little access the people of North Korea have to reality or any form of power, I am not sure this opportunity will be acted upon.

Nuggets from Norm's Noggin

The world ain't just what it used to be.

Can a pure handling car survive? The 2013 Subaru BRZ


Autoblog just reviewed the 2013 Subaru BRZ and the result is... this is one of the best handling cars on the market, bar none. Subie used the Porsche Cayman for comparison (and perhaps a little reverse engineering also), and it seems like they have built a mini cayman.

But the issue is this: the car only has 200hp and 150lbs of torque. Now, it only weighs 2,700lbs... but still, that's not a lot of power.

And here is really the question: can a car with amazing handling but down on power make a dent on the market? My answer is no.

Exhibit one: The Mazda RX-8. Every reviewer loved it when it came out about 8 years ago. It was one of the best handling cars on the market, but like the BRZ was down on power, especially torque. Torque tends to matter more in day to day driving and passing situations (unless you are revving the engine like mad - which most people don't). The RX-8 has never sold well, and is now getting old, with Mazda making no plans to build a replacement model.

And while the BRZ is a good looking car...

2013 Subaru BRZ side view
2013 Subaru BRZ front view2013 Subaru BRZ rear view

It is not that good looking. I mean, I much prefer the previous generation WRX, or the 370z, or.. especially.. the 300hp Mustang v6.

And that is my basic problem. No one is sure yet what the car will cost.. but autoblog has heard every number from $22,000 to "somewhere around the WRX," which is $25,595, to $28,000. Of the broad competitive set Subaru listed, a 210-hp Genesis 2.0T Coupe starts at $22,250, a 300-hp V6 Mustang is $23,105, the Mazda Miata is $23,190 and the RX-8 is $26,795.

So, I love Subaru's, but I am not sure this really represents value (at least to me) vs. a 265hp $26,000  WRX.
2012 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan
No one ever called it pretty...

Our New Home...


One of the great things about technology, and space exploration in particular is that it gives us the potential of finding a new home. Now i am not one top believe that we are going to make this one inhospitable any time soon... but there is that whole eggs in one basket thing.
For the first time we have found a planet which we would probably be able to call home (without all that fancy terraforming).
The only downside? It ain't close. But so what, who's up for some multi- generational spaceflight?
Kepler confirms first planet found in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star! -

http://pulse.me/s/3LJQw

Global Income and Population Density

I think this map is incredibly interesting, not just for what is there, but for what isn't: the vast swaths of the earth which are essentially uninhabited.

Ahh, that New Car Dead Body Odor

This is why you use carfax...
Hearse parking\


By Jeremy KorzeniewskiRSS feed
Posted Dec 7th 2011 6:00PM

Most funky odors are pretty easily traced back to their origins... the french fries that spilled out of the bag and have found permanent residence under the driver's seat, or the forgotten grocery bag in the trunk from last week. Other, more serious smells, require the assistance of a biohazard company.

Such is the case with a 2006 Ford Expedition purchased by a Michigan woman named Margarita Salais, who purchased the vehicle from Suburban Ford of Sterling Heights. It seems that the dealership acquired the SUV in December of 2010, a cold month in Michigan. Salais purchased the car in March, near the end of the much-too-long winter season.

The cold temperatures apparently masked the smell of rotting flesh. Salais took the car back to the dealership and was told the smell must be coming from a dead animal. Unhappy with that report, Salais called her insurance company, which contracted Elite Trauma Clean-Up in Clinton Township to investigate.

This is where things get a little murky. According to State Farm, the insurance provider, the smell was determined to be of human origin... dead body, anyone? The Detroit News, however, dug deeper and spoke to the Elite Trauma employee who inspected the vehicle, who said that the smell could be traced back only to "rotten meat" of unknown origin.

In any case, Salais still has her rotten-smelling Expedition, which she later found had been used as a rental car and had been reported stolen three times. At the very least, Salais' lawyer believes the dealership should take the car back and pay his client for damages - an amount that would likely vary depending on the real cause of the dead-body odor.
News Source: The Detroit News

A delicious two year old sandwich: the future MRE

The Army's Latest Innnovation: A Sandwich That Stays Fresh for Two Years. This thing is pretty damn cool. Basically they have figured out how to keep water and oxygen away from the sandwich, and so without crazy preservatives they are able to make a sandwich which stays fresh for two years - http://pulse.me/s/3PgnO

Not the People's Car

VW has just released the new Beetle... and it looks a lot better, and is a lot better than the old one.

It's basically the 911's chubby little brother
The thing is... it's not very hard to be better than the outgoing Beetle. That car was first put on sale in 1997, which meant it was competing with cars like this:
1996 Toyota Paseo 2 Dr STD Coupe
The Paseo.. So under... whelming
So, what is the new one like? More or less, pretty good. Check out a good review here

But here is the issue. The car costs upwards of $25,000. If you include the DSG gearbox, the sunroof, and a premium package, you are going to be spending about $28,500 - which means over $30,000 once all the taxes and fees are included. 

That's a lot of money for a somewhat sporty car with a 2.0-liter gasoline engine with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. Actually, that's not just a lot of money, that is a huge pile of money. The Beetle turbo should be competing with factory turner Mazda 3's, hot Ford Focuses, and the rest in the tuner compact market. At $28,500, the Beetle is playing with the WRX, Mustang, Genesis Coupe, and Camaro. And lets be honest, in that bracket, its chubby ass gets spanked all over the road..

Tarranau

My brother wrote and has published his first book, a classic beginning to a fantasy epic, and I think it would make a good present for Christmas.

Tarranau: Book One of The Four Part Land (Volume 1)
http://www.amazon.com/Tarranau-Book-Four-Part-Land/dp/0982989407/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323288692&sr=8-1-spell

Take a look, read some reviews, and check out the website http://www.thefourpartland.com/

Oldest Living Animal

This is pretty incredible. They found a picture of this guy from over 100 years ago... and he was already 70 years old.

He was born before the Civil War, before railways took over, before modern machining. And he has lived to see a man on the moon, the rise of modern computers, and the mobile tech-enabled world of today. More specifically, he has eaten a lot of grass.


World's oldest living animal discovered after he is pictured in 1900 photograph

As a photograph it looks fairly unremarkable - a tortoise nibbles at the grass in front of a Boer War prisoner and guard.

 
By Richard Savill and Richard Alleyne
Last Updated: 11:16PM GMT 03 Dec 2008
1 of 2 Images
The oldest animal in the world
This rare picture of a Boer war prisoner snapped on the remote island of St Helena, has shed light on one of the planets oldest living inhabitants Photo: BNPS.CO.UK
The oldest animal in the world
Jonathan, the tortoise, still alive todayPhoto: BNPS.CO.UK
But the pictures helps to mark the reptile as the oldest animal on the planet.
Jonathan, the tortoise, is believed to be 176-years-old and was about 70 at the time the black and white picture was taken.
He was photographed during the Boer War around 1900, and his life has spanned eight British monarchs from George IV to Elizabeth II, and 50 prime ministers.
It was taken on the South Atlantic island of St Helena, where Jonathan still lives today, along with five other tortoises David, Speedy, Emma, Fredricka and Myrtle, in a plantation.
The previous oldest tortoise was widely thought to be Harriet, a giant Galapagos Land tortoise, who died in 2005 aged 175 in Australia.
Despite his old age, locals say he still has the energy to regularly mate with the three younger females.
A spokesman for the island's tourist board said Jonathan is owned by the St Helena government and lives in the specially built plantation on the governor's land.
He said: "Jonathan is the sole survivor of three tortoises that arrived on St Helena Island in 1882.
"He was already mature when he arrived and was at least 50-years-old.
"Therefore his minimum age is 176-years-old. He is the oldest inhabitant on St Helena and is claimed to be the oldest living tortoise in the world.
"He lives in the grounds of Plantation House which is the governor's residence with five other tortoises who are much younger than him.
"Apparently he remained nameless for the most part of his residence in St Helena until he was named by Governor Sir Spencer Davis in the 1930s.
"He feeds on the grass of the main paddock.
"Jonathan is still very active despite his age and adores attention, he is a real poser.
"He seems to be sightless in one eye, but does not let that slow him down."
It is thought Jonathan, from the species Testudinipae cytodira, was brought to St Helena from the Seychelles as a mature adult in 1882.
His remarkable existance has come to light after the photograph was discovered as part of a collection of Boer War images taken by a man named L.A. Innes who had a studio in the British overseas territory's capital Jamestown.
The pictures were recently sold at auction for £4,000 by Andrew Smith and Son auctioneers near Winchester, Hants.
Further investigation by the auctioneers revealed the tortoise in the picture was Jonathan who was still alive.
St Helena has a population of more than 4,200. Its greatest claim to fame came when Napoleon was exiled there in 1815.
He was held prisoner there until his death in 1821 and is buried there.
Another tortoise, Timothy, who was a ship's mascot in the Crimean War, died at his home at Powderham Castle, near Exeter, Devon, in 2004, aged 160. The castle's Rose Garden had been his home since 1935.

The Future of Tires (or Tyres)



Bridgestone is showing off their latest, non-pneumatic tire. As you can see, it is a pretty fancy looking thing, which uses advanced polymers to replicate the flexible but tough traditional rubber tire.

Right now, each tire can only support 150kg, which means these are destined for Hover-round duty, not your daily sleigh ride.

Interestingly Bridgestone is saying they are working on ways to stop objects from becoming lodged inside... I am not sure why a simple cover won't work.. but there it is.

Probably a long way down the road before you are rolling on these puppies, but still, interesting to see.

The New Xbox Software Sucks, As Do All Random Squares

What the hell is with the new standard in user interfaces being this shitty array of random squares and images?

Xbox just released a major new update and... it sucks. It makes the whole interface instead of a logical and clearly laid out ribbon and card view, some kind of bullshit graphic design wet dream.

The one we just lost was a major improvement over the original, and crappy sort of "blinds which randomly pop in from the side" interface... but goddamn if I don't hate this new square craps approach

Old (good) interface


New, shittacular, interface
Oh yeah... and see that up there? That is A FUCKING ADVERTISEMENT on the system you shelled out $250, and pay $50/yr just to play online games. 

And they are not the only ones. The new google marketplace? What the hell is that? It's terrible. I have no idea where I am and the whole thing sucks to read. I suppose it is good for some completely ADD moron hipster who loves random advertising images in all kinds of different sized squares popping up at them, but as far as I am concerned, it sucks.

For example, old android market


New android market
Because yes, I really want to pay $10 to read Stieg Larsson on my phone... 
All in... we have Microsoft to blame for all of this. Much as the Zune and then Windows Phone 7 have not been commercial successes, everyone in the industry came to believe that their live tile system of showing information in randomly sized cubes, with randomly sized text where you may or may not be able to read what the hell is going on, is the way of the future. This is much like when everyone realized that the card view in webOS was by far the best way to do multitasking, and everyone but Apple (multitasking is for losers who don't spend $1,500/yr on their phones) copied them.

The thing is... I hate it. I have heard that the original (Zune and now WP7) is actually very good, but I have never used it. Everything I have used like this.. I hate. They all suck. I use the Amazon app store as much as possible just to protest how crappy I think the Google market is. And on a final note, to sites which used to be blogs (you know, vertically scrolling) such as Jalopnik or Gizmodo (Gawker - go eat some poo), what the hell is with the new random articles in random sizes format? Again - ribbons, cards, scrolling - these are good things. Random ass shit flying at me in all directions? Not good.

whatthefuckasaurus



Om nom nom nom

Two Behemoth Black Holes, the Largest Ever Discovered, Could Swallow Billions of Suns - http://pulse.me/s/3LU21

A new woolly mammoth

Scienists to Clone Woolly Mammoth - http://pulse.me/s/3LVmc

Toyota going all sporty??

I think Toyota likes all the attention it is getting from the ft86. It likes the attention so much it says it might build two more sports cars (which would bring the number of exciting cars Toyota has built this decade to... three).

They claim they might build a supra successor and a small sporty coupe. Now whether this is for real or just Toyota pr guys just getting real excited about being popular at the car shows for once remains to be seen.

Study: Toyota considering Supra successor and sub-86 sports car - http://pulse.me/s/3Kq3l

Putin's Iron Grip Falters

Russia is finally tired of the rampant corruption of Putin's United party.

In parliamentary elections (though really, Russia is not a parliamentary system and is closest to the US form of govt) Putin's party will manage only fifty percent of the vote and that is with rampant corruption, ballot stuffing, hacking of election monitors, and of course, bribery.

Putin will still win next year's election of course. And the real opposition parties are not even allowed to run, so the other fifty percent of the duma will probably just rubber stamp everything which action figurine Putin wants done anyway.

Hopefully, at some point, Russia wakes up and is able to elect a modern and at least slightly moral leader. The country right now is a total backwater, with third world healthcare, massive levels of crime, incredibly short average lifespans, and a growing inability to attract foreign investment because of how the United party screws over any foreign company it feels like.

I think interesting enough is that soup nanny in the US seem to have a positive view of Putin. I am not sure why that is, other than the fact he is certainly an amusing character. But as a leader, the need for him ran its course years ago, and Russia now needs a new leader for a new age.

Russia: Putin's Party Barely Hangs onto its Majority - http://pulse.me/s/3KZo5

Newt???

How the hell did this guy end up in the lead?

I mean all really care about is who is the most electable in the general election, because another four years of Obama and I should probably switch from getting my MBA to a public policy degree so I could find a job.

And clearly, this guy is not electable in 2012. I mean... it's the Newt. Yeah, '94 was a good move, but who in the middle actually likes this guy?

It's just to bad to me that Giuliani never got his act together, or that Chris Christie didn't pull an Obama and decide to run.

Anyway, good article:

The Economist | The Republican nomination: The day of the Newt http://www.economist.com/node/21541030?frsc=dg%7Cb via @theeconomist

Making It

The Economist | Technology and society: More than just digital quilting http://www.economist.com/node/21540392?frsc=dg%7Cb via @theeconomist

Obama to take a well deserved break

And by well deserved, I mean we are all probably better off with him not attempting to run the country.

But seriously, Obama and his family will spend 17 days renting a $3,500/night mansion in Hawaii.

Anyone who still thinks Obama is anything other than a typical liberal, progressive, college professor, elitist hypocrite... yeah.. get your head checked.

Destroying a country builds up a sweat.

Nuggets from Norm's Noggin

Wet logs will burn if the fire is hot enough.

25k views


Just want to say thanks all for reading and following along with this sometimes rambling, sometimes interesting (I hope), sometimes absent, and sometimes relevant forum of my thoughts and ideas.

Just hit 25k views for the year =)

Coyote Wolf Hybrids

Interesting. In the absence of true competitors and with humans afraid of wolves but okay with coyotes... turns out that what is flourishing is a coyote wolf hybrid, able to take down larger prey, but still able to scavenge (and avoid pissing off humans) the way coyotes are.



Coyote picture: A coyote in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
A coyote is seen in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park in June.
Photograph by Elijah Goodwin, Whimbrel Nature Photography
Christine Dell'Amore
Published November 7, 2011
Hybrid offspring of coyotes and wolves have spread south along the eastern seaboard, a new DNA study confirms.
Scientists already knew that some coyotes, which have been gradually expanding their range eastward, mated with wolves in the Great Lakes (map)region. The pairings created viable hybrid offspring—identified by their DNA and skulls—that have been found in mid-Atlantic states such as New York and Pennsylvania.
Now, new DNA analysis of coyote poop shows for the first time that some coyotes in the state of Virginia are also part wolf. Scientists think these animals are coyote-wolf hybrids that traveled south from New England along the Appalachian Mountains.
The study also identified another coyote migration route moving through the southern states.
"You have a situation where you have these two waves of coyotes coming into the mid-Atlantic, a terminus for coyote colonization," said study leader Christine Bozarth, a former research fellow at the Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
Northern Virginia in particular seems to be a convergence point for coyote migrations, Bozarth said—and the animals' numbers are increasing there, especially in suburban areas where food is more plentiful.
Versatile Coyote Already Widespread
Coyotes are originally residents of middle America, particularly between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River, as well as parts of Canada and Mexico.
By the end of the 20th century, the versatile animal—which can eat almost anything, from shoe leather to fruit—had spread to nearly every corner of the U.S., even New York City.
The coyote is "one of the animals that will be left at the end, like the cockroaches, raccoons, and rabbits," Bozarth said.
For the new study, Bozarth and colleagues collected coyote scat samples in northern Virginia and extracted DNA. The team then compared the coyote DNA with that of representatives of every canid species found in eastern North America. (Get a genetics overview.)
The study, published October 17 in the Journal of Mammalogy, found evidence that Virginia coyotes mated with Great Lakes wolves but not with the rare red wolf, which is hanging on in just a few isolated spots in the U.S. South.
That's "good news for the red wolf," whose survival is already threatened by inbreeding, which reduces the species' genetic diversity, Bozarth noted.
Hybrid Coyotes Taking Down Deer?
For now, it's impossible to say how "wolfy" the newly identified coyote-wolf hybrids really are, Bozarth added—just that "at some point down the line, a coyote mated with a Great Lakes wolf-even generations ago."
Scientists have not yet studied the behaviors of the Virginian hybrids to see if they're killing bigger wildlife or otherwise changing the ecosystem, Bozarth added.
But other East Coast hybrids seen alive or identified by their remains are noticeably larger, with more wolf-like skulls, jaws, and teeth, Bozarth noted. (Seepictures of new hybrid species appearing in the warming Arctic.)
Given this, coyote-wolf hybrids "should be able to do things like take down deer, which a little, scrappy Great Plains wily coyote would not be able to do on its own," Bozarth said.
Indeed, the research highights "just how successful and adapted these hybrids are to the eastern forests," said Roland Kays, curator of mammals at the New York State Museum in Albany.
For instance, Kays's research on the previously known eastern hybrids has shown that a third of their diet is deer—a much higher proportion than in western states.
Coyotes in Mid-Atlantic "Here to Stay"
Jonathan Way, a wildlife biologist and head of the Massachusetts-based education group Eastern Coyote Research, called the new paper "timely."
Coyotes coming from the west are moving not only through the Great Lakes but also south of the region, through Ohio. But until now, it was unknown how that southern route of colonization was influencing coyotes in the mid-Atlantic region, Way said by email.
According to Way, these two fronts of coyote expansion have probably made the Virginia animals "hybrids of a hybrid."
That's because the Virginia hybrids are most likely a combination of northeastern coyote-wolf hybrids, which are slightly bigger and more wolf-like, and nonhybrid coyotes coming through Ohio.
"The results of the paper are clear and important, and confirm that mid-Atlantic coyotes have DNA from [Northeast] animals ... and western coyotes," Way said.
Whatever their exact genetic makeup, one thing is clear, study author Bozarth emphasized: Coyotes and coyote-wolf hybrids in the mid-Atlantic are "absolutely established—they're here to stay."

One Big Crappy Company

I actually know someone who works here... and while I believe they are good at what they do, the culture of this company seems centered around plundering government funds. Now, are they as bad as the big ol boys like Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon and General Dynamics... but this is pretty bad.

REPORT: ENGINEERING FIRM ‘CH2M HILL’ CUT THOUSANDS OF JOBS AFTER RECEIVING $2 BILLION IN STIMULUS

For all those who said that the Solyndra revelation would just be the first of many, pat yourself on the back.
new investigative report released by Accuracy in Media Wednesday, reveals that CH2M HILL, a Colorado-based consulting, engineering and construction firm, received nearly $2 Billion in stimulus funding despite a history of kickbacks, poor conduct and contaminating their own workers. While they are not in danger of suffering the same bankruptcy plight as Solyndra, CH2M has laid-off thousands of workers since receiving taxpayer stimulus. And like Solyndra, CH2M has donated thousands in campaigns finances to Democrats.
The report’s author, Rusty Weiss, notes that CH2M has received $1.961 billion in contracts from the Recovery Act despite a history of violations and fraud, to name a few:
  • In 2004, the Energy Department withheld $300,000 from the firm for poor conduct.
  • Between 2005 and 2006, the company was fined nearly $400,000 total for the radiological contamination of workers.
  • A “major spill” occurred in 2007 that resulted in over $683,000 in both fines and settlements to local agencies.
  • Timecard fraud at the CH2M HILL Hanford Group  between January of 2002 and October of 2008, that was “widespread” and “routine.”
  • False claims and paid kickbacks at the Hanford nuclear site between 2003 and 2005 led to a recent settlement in which CH2M HILL agreed to pay the federal government $1.5 million
How did a company with a track record like that become the recipient of billions of dollars from the federal government? Giving over $380,000 to Democrats during the 2009-2010 cycle and over $512,000 during 2007-2008, including $45, 337 to Barack Obama, may have had something to do with it. In addition to political contributions to individual politicians, the AIM study cites the Center for Responsive Politics that reports that CH2M was lobbying their special interests via $455,000 worth of itemized expenditures in 2010.
As stimulus funding has begun to dry up, CH2M is proving that the “green” jobs funded by the taxpayer are in fact unsustainable. AIM reports:
“Reports of staff reductions at CH2M began in January when KEPR-TV announced that 1,350 layoffs were coming in September due to the end of stimulus funding. The company had to organize a job fair for those affected by these layoffs, as well as an additional 1,000 laid off men and women at the contractor’s Hanford site. Hanford started the year with 12,000 workers but lost 2,000 positions nine months later.”
Aside from raising similar questions about the way the DOE is delving out taxpayer dollars, CH2M was directly involved in the plundering of a $535 million loan to Solyndra. $9.6 million of that loan given to CH2M HILL to design Solyndra’s solar manufacturing plant in Fremont, California. Weiss writes;
“With millions of dollars having been secured, CH2M clearly outdid themselves on the Solyndra project, building a facility the likes that had never been seen before in the heart of Silicon Valley.  The facility covers 300,000 square feet, ran a price tag of $733 million, and was equated by some to the Taj Mahal.”
To boot, CH2M reportedly has ties with “Green Energy Czar” Van Jones, who sat on the Apollo Alliance board that helped write the stimulus. This is the same Apollo Alliance that Glenn Beck said “aspires to destroy the U.S. economy by having the federal government fund green jobs scams.”
Jones has received recognition at the Aspen Institute award ceremony which is co-sponsored by CH2M, been a keynote speaker at events co-sponsored by CH2M, and served on the San Francisco Clean Tech Advisory Council with Jill Sideman of CH2M.
See the Accuracy in Media full report for the breakdown of CH2M Hill’s history of problems, ties to Democrats and lobbying, as well as other investigative reports.

Tea Party vs. Occupy - Fantastic Video

Will A Euro Bailout really be an out?

Interesting article from the Atlantic on whether the Eurozone can really be saved.



Reasons to Worry About the Prospects for a European Bailout

NOV 30 2011, 1:02 PM ET 320
I've been asked to explain my reservations about the idea that "we know what will work" in Europe.  Why wouldn't a eurobond/ECB intervention work?  After all, it worked here?

I should emphasize that I am by no means sure that it wouldn't work--I just sort of wonder.  And that these reservations are not shared by a whole bunch of people much smarter than I am.

With those caveats, here are the differences I see between a possible Eurobailout, and the indisputably successful actions of Treasury and the Fed in 2008*.

1.  Their bank debt is a much bigger than ours was.  Here's the list I blogged last year of bank assets as a percentage of GDP:

Luxembourg 2,461%
Ireland 872%
Switzerland 723%
Denmark 477%
Iceland 458%
Netherlands 432%
United Kingdom 389%
Belgium 380%
Sweden 340%
France 338%
Austria 299%
Spain 251%
Germany 246%
Finland 205%
Australia 205%
Portugal 188%
Canada 157%
Italy 151%
Greece 141%
For comparison purposes, ours was about 82% of GDP.

Now, these numbers have obviously changed somewhat since then, but it's a good rough guide.  An American bailout of the banking system was painful-but-feasible.  Depending on the level of impairment, a French bailout of their banking system might simply not be.

2.  We had more fiscal run room than Europe.

Here's the debt-to-GDP ratio in 2008 and 2009 (the last year the OECD had available)

debttogdp.png
Germany has a lot of room to borrow, but France and others have much less.  And these figures are several years old; everyone's debt-to-GDP load has risen since then.

But this is the real constraint:

outlayspctgdp.png

Maybe these differences don't look so big.  But that's because we think about taxes the wrong way around.  Most people think that raising a 5% tax rate to 10% is more noticeable (and painful) than raising a 50% tax rate to 55%.  After all, the first represents a doubling of your tax rate; the second is only a 10% increase.

But this is exactly the wrong way to think about it. The pain of a tax hike is determined not by how your current tax rate compares to your earlier tax rate, but by how your current disposable income compares to your earlier disposable income.

Doubling the tax rate from 5% to 10% decreases your disposable income by about 5.25%.  But raising it from 50% to 55% decreases your disposable income by 10%.  That's a much bigger whack.

When the crisis started, the United States was spending less than 40% of GDP at all levels.  Many European countries--including ones who are supposed to provide guarantees--are now at 50%.  They can  borrow the money today (though the facts in that first chart will constrain them) but they have to pay it back at some point, which means more taxes.

3.  They are having a sovereign debt crisis; we weren't.  There was no question about the US credit rating, and indeed investors were piling into treasuries.  Essentially, the US government had unlimited free money to guarantee our bank obligations.  Even the appetite for bunds is not so strong these days.

4.  There are fundamental structural problems with the euro area that no integration plan will fix. No one thought the US might break up or stop using the dollar.  But even if we stop the panic and put some sort of new structure into place that will check budget deficits, investors have to be aware that the result will be a periphery semi-permanently crippled by a currency that's far too expensive for their productivity levels.

5.  The world used up a lot of its firepower during earlier phases of the crisis.  I'm not just talking about those debt and spending numbers highlighted above.  I'm talking about the political capital, the diplomatic capital, the institutional capital.  In 2007, if this had happened, the US could have taken a much more aggressive role in helping Europe to get its act together.  These days, even if Obama wanted to do the right thing at the expense of his sure and certain defeat in 2012, he'd never get Congress to go along.  Similarly, my sense is that the last few years have frayed whatever pan-European goodwill existed.

The World's Coolest Base Camp

I want this. Actually, I want this as a permanent ski cabin, not as a high-alpine base camp, but any way you look at it, this thing is freaking cool.

Design Spotlight: LEAP

High Living
By Ben Bowers on November 30, 2011
The living ecological alpine pod, or LEAP, wears its heart right on its name tag and provides all of the benefits of traditional mountain shelters — think trekking basecamps, not lavish homes — but with a significantly smaller environmental footprint. Much of the LEAP’s “green” gains are derived from construction technologies for building planes and ships. Each LEAP is comprised of up to five modular living units, plus a biological toilet. The entrance unit’s thermally isolated inner door, storage/drying rack, and rescue equipment hangar is optimized for the risks of high-alpine conditions. In terms of creature comforts, the refined living interior is fully customizable and includes a pantry, interior lighting, an electric induction cooker, adjustable bunks and optional panoramic windows. On the technology side, each LEAP can be outfitted with a variety of self-sufficient core systems to automatically diagnose structural issues, monitor weather conditions, maintain emergency communication channels and collect power via photovoltaic films on the exterior.
Once the appropriate prefabricated modules are selected, the entire shelter is assembled off-site and then flown to its desired mountain location via helicopter. In the event changes must be made to the basecamp, modules can be added with minimal crew support later on. At the end of the LEAP’s useful lifespan, removing the structure is just as easy and leaves no lasting marks on the surrounding environment. While total cost hasn’t been disclosed, the company has stated that these shelters will be “highly competitive with the traditional solutions.” We take that to mean expensive, but on par with what a horde of sherpas with engineering degrees and hammers might go for.
Check out more photos of the LEAP’s interior for your browsing pleasure after the break.
Learn More Here