Mining bitcoins is destroying the planet

My comment last month was hypothetical

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5161765/Bitcoin-mining-causing-electricity-blackouts.html

For those not familiar with the process, a bitcoin is a secure virtual currency. In order to prevent a flood of that coin and a bubble market and bust, you have to create a bit coins by using a computer to do billions of calculations that consume time and electricity. As of this week, a newly minted bitcoin is worth $10,000

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Who will be the Joseph Welch of #metoo?

In 1954, Joseph Welch stunned Senator Joseph McCarthy and his aide Roy Cohn by challenging the out of control committee accusing pretty much everyone of being a Communist.

What we have going on at the moment is a cross betwen the McCarthy hearings and the Salem witch trials where men are losing their careers over decades old allegations of improper sexual conduct as mild as a kiss at a Christmas Party or a man soothing a woman’s bare back. While there were real Communists and real sexual predators, there are fundamental rights to due process in our society – a right to confront your accusers, the right to a quick trial, right to trial by your peers and a prohibition on ex post facto laws. A person cannot be charged with improper conduct for events that occurred before the leaders of our representative democracy declared them to be improper.

Leonard Lopate could be that guy. He is a very smart thoughtful 77 year old man – hosting a daily live two hour interview show on WNYC radio in New York City for 32 years. Without any due process and any details of the allegations, he has been suspended from his career. This comes on the heels of American Public Media terminating its relationship with “Prairie Home Companion” creator Garrison Keillor.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/06/business/media/wnyc-leonard-lopate-jonathan-schwartz.html

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Russian Collusion

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The “Three Generation Rule”

Timothy Belk was one of the heirs of the Belk department store fortune. He is now running an organic farm with no prior farming experience.

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article187512383.html

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article86612887.html

One of the other female heirs (in her 50s) married a surfer dude from California last year and runs a yoga studio part time.

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The Cashless Society

The year was 1976. I was attending Catawba College and involuntarily was assigned to an evening class with real adult people actually working out in the real world.

Several of the men told us they were working on a business proposal that seemed far-fetched at the time. The idea of low speed wireless data was brand new and their idea was that they could build a cell phone like device into vending machines.

This would allow the vending route person to know what was selling in real time, allowing fewer replenishment trips, changing the prices in the machine without having to visit in person, and to call the police if somebody was trying to break into the machine.

All of that has come to pass – today I finally took the plunge and used my debit card to buy a soda from the soda machine at the AAA garage while my car was being inspected.

Unlike a normal machine where you put the money in first, then choose your selections and get change – when you’re paying by debit card they need to authorize the card first before you choose what you want.

I was a little bit confused, so I actually wound up buying two sodas! In some things, I’m the last guy to arrive at the party.

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CMLS is toast

The deed is done. Facing default on Friday, Cumulus has filed a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy. If I followed the details, the existing CMLS stock is cancelled with no residual value – that wipes out the Dickey Brothers and the guy who bought out Citadel on the cheap.

About $1 billion of the existing debt will be converted to a new Cumulus Stock which will meet the requirements for re-listing on NASDAQ. By shedding $1 billion in debt, they aren’t so trapped into diverting all the cash flow into paying interest. It also gives options to cancel contracts and retiree promises.

At the time Mary Berner was brought in as the CEO of Cumulus, there was speculation she was brought in to handle the bankruptcy, having done the same thing for Reader’s Digest.

Of course, don’t forget lenders have given Mr Dickey a blank check for acquisitions, so it is not impossible he might try to take control back.

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Koch Brothers expected to fund takeover of Time Magazine

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-time-m-a-meredith/meredith-nears-deal-to-acquire-magazine-publisher-time-sources-idUSKBN1DQ0TH

Time Inc is no longer part of Time/Warner, which runs CNN – the publishing business was spun off in 2014

Time, Inc has a market capitalization of about $1.7 billion, and the group expected to make the offer is expected to offer around $2 billion. However, sometimes these deals are the first step in a bidding war.

Update while eating dinner: it is a $2.8 billion deal that is all cash at $18.50 a share. The stock spiked up last week, so the SEC is likely to launch an investigation

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/meredith-corporation-to-acquire-time-inc-to-create-premier-media-and-marketing-company-serving-nearly-200-million-american-consumers-300561633.html

Time Inc has over 100 brands, some of the larger being Sports Illustrated, Time, Fortune, People, Life, Look, and Shooting Gazette.

Meredith, the suitor, publishes Magazines That are mostly female oriented:. Family Circle, Parents, Better Homes & Gardens, Martha Stewart’s Living, She, Quilting.

In 2016, Time, Inc made $2,000 on income of $3 billion – after losing more than $880 million in 2015. The story speculates that Meredith will split off their TV properties from the print publications.

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Stuy Town and Charlotte

Stuyvesant Town/Towers is a post World War II housing development built by Metropolitan Life Insurance on the East River side of Manhattan as a family friendly middle class neighborhood for returning veterans. New York City radio host and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa spoke out at the time about this financial deal to increase the value of Stuyvesant Town, a place the Guardian Angels protected.

This investigative journey started when Countess asked what the most expensive house for sale is on Lake Norman. This is it, currently for sale for a bit over $7 million (reduced about $1 million from the original asking price)

This mansion is just down the street from Donald Trump’s golf course on Lake Norman. Looking up the property records, the house is currently owned by Thomas S Wickwire, who was the head of Real Estate investments for Charlotte based Wachovia Bank, which cratered in October 2008 and is now part of California based Wells Fargo Bank.

He bolted Wachovia four months before the bank was siezed, and he joined the infamous Carlyle Group and has since moved back to New York City.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/tom-wickwire-22669545

NY Magazine: Clash of the Utopias (February 2009) chronicles the poorly thought out plan to convert a lower middle income housing development into a gold mine by squeezing out renters protected by the city’s rent control ordinance – and replacing them with affluent finance types without kids.

Mr Wickwire arrives on the scene on page 7. Wachovia had put itself on the hook for $1 billion in funding of the $5.4 billion deal and Mr Wickwire was getting very concerned. The original plan was to package up the debt and sell it off to get Wachovia away from the risk before the real estate bubble burst.

The Stuyvesant debt was packaged up with other debt and $3 billion was sold off to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and others. The property was only throwing off 40% of the interest on the debt.

By 2010, the project was in default
https://therealdeal.com/2010/01/13/stuy-town-debt-holders-considering-foreclosure/. Attempts to auction off the property in 2010 and 2012 failed. It was finally unloaded in 2015 as part of a deal with New York City to keep 5,000 of the 11,000 apartments at below market rates.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/nyregion/residents-exhale-after-stuyvesant-town-is-sold.html

Perhaps Wachovia would still exist if it had not tried to play in the big leagues.

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Remington guns for Black Friday

A reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer is apparently thrilled that Remington Arms has a large supply of guns available for purchase on Black Friday.

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/inq-phillydeals/gunmaker-remington-faces-default-as-americans-buy-fewer-firearms-20171117.html

Remington Arms used to be based in New York, but moved its headquarters to Madison NC, in Central NC up near the Virginia border.

While Remington did have a manufacturing facility near us in Pineville, that facility was closed and production consolidated in Alabama.

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article9122978.html

If the reporter looks at the comments on his story, he may learn that Remington’s sales problem is not that “Americans are buying fewer guns”, but that the quality of their guns turned to crap after the company was sold by DuPont and gun owners talk to each other. Remington mostly makes shotguns and rifles for governments, while the growth in gun sales nationally has been in handguns.

Gun sales hit a record high in 2016:

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/312645-gun-sales-hit-record-high-in-2016

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Mobile Homes are now too expensive to afford

Bloomberg news story

The Countess and I have been doing some driving further away and seeing the state of the economy and communities outside of the Charlotte bubble. Back in the 1970s, mobile Homes were everywhere, and promoted heavily on TV. They were an easy choice to add a mother-in-law house in the back yard, or a house in a rural area when farms were divided among children. At least inland from the coast, tornadoes and flooding are not a serious danger.

While we see trailers that are probably from that era, new mobile homes are not evident and the Blomberg story hints at why. Warren Buffett now owns the biggest manufacturer and pushing the market toward prices as expensive as stick built homes. It is not hard to find mobile homes selling for $150,000 without the land, site preparation or transportation to the site.

Freedom Homes of Troutman

Another factor is surely the willingness of FEMA to buy these things. Nothing increases the price of a product like competition from free government money. A shortage of labor is another factor. I wonder how many are being built outside of the United States already…

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