Mid-Life MBA

The Art of Business

Gold Volatility; How About Potassium Iodide?

Posted in Uncategorized by Eric Back on March 15th, 2011.

In the wake of the tragic earthquake, tsunami, and now nuclear plant failure in Fukushima, people in Europe and America are exhausting supplies of potassium iodide (KI) which is know to afford thyroid gland protection. It was approved by the FDA in 1982 for protection of the thyroid gland from radionuclides released in fission emergencies.

Potassium Iodide provides protection from Iodine 131 by saturating the gland with the stable variety of iodine leading to the excretion of the radioactive isotope. Potassium iodide will not however, protect against other kinds of radiation including dirty bombs that produce non-iodine radionuclides.

Nukepills.com, a supplier of nuclear emergency preparedness supplies has provided 50,000 pills to the Tokushukai Hospital in Tokyo. A daily mail article notes that Nukepills.com has also sold 250,000 pills to panicked buyers worldwide. The site currently is out of stock on its potassium iodide products and notes that it has a backlog of 3000+ orders. Deborah Fleming Wurdac, co-owner of Fleming Pharmaceuticals has said, “It actually has been insanity here.” Another company is fielding inquiries at the rate of 3 per minute where they used to receive calls 3 per week. Amazon.com lists Iostat in a range from $20 to $500 depending on seller; it’s available from Nukepills for $10 when in stock.

So what is the risk really? Considering that in Japan the evacuation radius is 12 miles and the west coast of the USA is some 5000 to 6000 miles away, the risk is really quite low. Professor Kathryn Higley, director of the Oregon State University (OSU) nuclear engineering department, said that “We’re going to be lucky if we can even measure any of this.

Of course if you’re still not convinced, and you can’t get potassium iodide, eat 3 – 5 grams of kelp each day, unwashed preferably.

Tax and Spend Democrats vs Borrow and Spend Repubs

Posted in Analysis, Economy, Politics by Eric Back on November 22nd, 2010.

Every government must spend so categorizing the Dems as “tax and spend Democrats,” is alarmist to say the least.

A useful Wikipedia chart shows national debt to GDP ratios by presidency and house/senate control demonstrates that since Eisenhower, Democrats have reduced the ratio of debt to GDP and Republicans have vastly increased it.  Nixon/Ford increased the ratio by .3%; Carter reduced it by 3.3%; Reagan (and his Laffer curve Reaganomics) increased the ratio of debt to GDP by 20.6%.  Not satisfied with the level of national debt we elected George Herbert Walker Bush who increased the debt ratio another 15%.  In Bill Clinton’s 8 year run the debt to GDP ratio decreased by 9.7% but then we elected George W Bush and saw the ratio enter a new 8 year phase of expansion by 27.1%.

Debt expansion under Barack Obama is expected to rise from the current 83.4% of GDP to 90% by 2020 according to the CBO. Even so, that’s only an overall 6.6% increase over 10 years vs the 27% that Bush managed in 8 years, the 15% the Bush senior managed in 4 years, or the 20.6% from the Reagan era. Much of the current projection will of course be money spent to repair damages incurred by the imprudent policies of the Bush and Reagan years.

Warren Buffett has stated his favor of letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire. Just as the bottom line of the balance sheet is the difference between revenue and expenses, so the US Debt solution calls for the painful combination of higher taxes and reduced spending, (and probably a Democrat-led government).

Party Politics, A Newbie Decides

Posted in Economics, Politics, Regulatory by Eric Back on August 20th, 2010.

As a new voter I’m challenged to make sense of the American system and to effectively evaluate my choices of ”Democrat,” ”Republican,” ”Libertarian,” ”Green,” and ”Independent.”

I’m wary of the Democratic Party for it’s characterization as the ”Tax and Spend” party. I’m especially wary of the Republicans because of the sad legacy of Reagenomics and the fallout of their platform plank of de-regulation. Sadly, tax cutting and de-regulation are still at the top of the Arizona Republican platform.

Much of the Libertarian approach makes sense yet strikes me as unrealistic and impractical. In a sense, Libertarians, Greens, and Independents may amount to little more than ”ticket splitting.” Studies of Independents have variously characterized them as either a party realignment in process or as a values and beliefs voting block who are strongly anchored on one issue and who choose candidates according to that issue.

My preliminary considerations clearly suggest that I am most strongly aligned with Democratic policies at this point. The current economic detritus brings the imperative of appropriate financial regulation to the political forefront. It is also clear that budgets cannot be balanced by forever rolling back taxes. Nobody likes taxes but current levels of services cannot be funded without anteing up increased rates of contributions to the public purse at all levels of individual and corporate income.

Final Course Underway

Posted in Business School by Eric Back on February 12th, 2009.

What a time to be completing an MBA. Having managed to stretch out a two year, part time, degree to 5 years, I am finishing up during the lowest of business cycle low-points since the thirties. Nevertheless, as a mid-lifer, I never expected to suddenly scoot up the corporate ladder or land an investment banking job. Instead I’ve learned a lot that I was never previously exposed to in my arts, science, and theological studies. I also acquired a course of training that will qualify me for consideration to administrative posts within the health care industry. If you are exploring MBA options with similar motivations in mind, I strongly recommend that you consider Colorado State University’s evening/distance option: first developed in the 70s, AACSB accredited, and well managed with what I’d consider the best content delivery in the field.


CSU Distance MBA

Big Three: Too Late to Recover

Posted in Business News, Uncategorized by Eric Back on December 3rd, 2008.

MSNBC reported General Motors Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson saying today that bankruptcy isn’t a viable option because it would further erode consumer confidence in the automaker and “we want them to be confident in their ability to buy our cars and trucks.”

This man does not seem to be in touch with the sentiment of the general public who at this time seem quite prepared to take a big bath rather than continue bailing out failed corporations.  Realizing at least a few of their previous faux pas the heads of the big three are once again preparing to appear before congress to request an ever growing sum of bail out money. Henderson conceded that flying to Washington previously in separate corporate jets was “a problem” for lawmakers, and also acknowledged that their plan at the time was not clear.  This time the three auto leaders plan to travel the 520 miles to Washington in fuel efficient hybrid cars. Their collective satori may have come too late however as Americans, hopefully including lawmakers, begin to question the wisdom of the meme, “too big to fail.”

Automaker’s demands call to mind the antics of evangelist Oral Roberts who once threatened that “God will take me home” unless the public donated $8 million over the next two months. Well time has moved on and the automakers are demanding more than Oral ever did, much more.  Chrysler needs $7 billion ’till year end “just to keep running.”  GM is asking for $4 billion “now” as the first installment on a $12 billion loan. These demands are just the beginning, there are additional reqests for multi billion dollar lines of credit sealed with the threat “or we will have to close our doors and shutter our windows.”  The obvious problem with bailing them out at all is that once we begin, when do we end?  We need to ask about the opportunity cost of a bail out: what else could we do with $34 billion inflatable dollars?

Are the automakers really “too big to fail?”  Besides, even if I cannot buy a GM, or a Ford in the future, there will still likely be the Hondas, Toyotas, and Hyundais.  In a global market the lions share will go to the producer with the best balance of value and quality, the big three have realized this “too late to recover.”

So How Weird Can it Get

Posted in Economy, Markets, Uncategorized by Eric Back on October 7th, 2008.

The market is way down, the bailout is in process, how much stranger can things get?

In some quarters paranoia mode is fully under way from the upscale family murder/suicide in California to the 90 year old woman who shot herself because her house was being foreclosed.  Some are predicting dire outcomes for various dates including October 7th. I thought I’d post this prediction before the markets open so here it is…

Urbansurival.com, a site I came across on Reddit.com, predicts…

“there’s some resistance tomorrow at 9,376, then 8,983, and then switching to the 15-minute chart a pause around 8,049, and then the daily has a close range between 8,700 and 6,900 – with a center around 7,700 to 7,400 but that could be +/- 200 points.  All depending on how much the dollar is holding its own while the Euro is having issues/confidence issues.”


My best advice is stay invested, if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others call 911, ride out the correction, it’s a business cycle stupid!

The President Who Cried “Wolf.”

Posted in Economy, Uncategorized by Eric Back on September 29th, 2008.

“Every member of Congress and every American should keep in mind – a vote for this bill is a vote to prevent economic damage to you and your community,” Bush said.


Fogel on Universal Healthcare

Posted in Economics, Healthcare, Uncategorized by Eric Back on August 24th, 2008.


82 year old Nobel Prize winning University of Chicago economist Robert Fogel spoke recently at the annual Lindau meeting for Nobel Laureates. Fogel won the Nobel prize along with Douglass North in 1993 for the application of statistical methods to economic history, often with controversial results. At the Lindau meeting he said that the rising spending on healthcare in developing nations reflects the rising income of consumers along with a strong appetite for heathcare.  He argued that “As people get richer they want to spend a larger share of their income on health.”

This comment drew an almost unanimous expression of sarcastic derision from readers of the Wall Street Journal, most of whom, evidently failed to understand that independently of the current American healthcare system, rising wealth, whether individual or national, correlates with greater healthcare spending.  Fogel also said that governments should not interfere to decrease demand for healthcare in an effort to lower costs but should move to some form of universal healthcare for essential services with extra user costs for additional services such as shorter wating times, private hospital rooms, and expensive elective surgeries.  Now, am I daft or can these comments be constructively applied to the USA?

the WSJ article

the Lindau meetings and bio

Temp Rule on Short Selling

Posted in Economy, Markets, Uncategorized by Eric Back on July 15th, 2008.

The Securities and Exchange Comission has announced a temporary rule on short selling of investment bank stocks as well as the stock of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The rule will require brokers to actually pre-borrow the shares before shorting a stock.  Currently many short sellers could short a single stock based on the same shares; the new rule will require a broker to cover shorts, share for share by removing shares from the market once a stock has been shorted.  The SEC will consider extending this rule to the broader market.  To me this is kind of a “duh,” or, self evident principle that should have led to reform years ago.

Payrolls Shrink Again!

Posted in Economy, Uncategorized by Eric Back on July 6th, 2008.

Payrolls shrank again in June for the sixth consecutive month, this time, by about another 62000 jobs.  Couple that with the market now entering official “Bear” territory and looks like we’re in for some real dog days this summer.  Is it all doom and gloom?  That depends on who’s talking.  In the short term it most certainly is though the Fed is expected to be more bullish about prospects going into the new year (not to mention a new presidency).

In a recent Duke University survey of CFO’s the highest priority worries were 1) consumer demand; 2) cost of labor; 3) cost of fuel; 4) interest rates; 5) cost of health care.  Interestingly, European and Asian business leaders were much more optimistic.

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