Monday, May 18, 2015

How much is Anavex Life Sciences (AVXL) worth?

In my opinion, the value of Anavex stock depends on the upcoming results of the phase 2a  clinical drug trial of Anavex 273 which is currently underway. The preliminary results are scheduled to be released in the 3rd quarter of 2015 (July-Sept.). If that news shows it is at least marginally effective against Alzheimer's (and by extension, against Mild Cognitive Impairment), then Anavex stock will be worth a lot. If that news shows it is ineffective, it will be worth very little.

I have Mild Cognitive Impairment, which may be an early stage of Alzheimer's, and there are no effective drugs for MCI or Alzheimer's. I noticed I have not been posting on this blog, but on Facebook, but since I noticed that, I decided to also put this here so perhaps more people can see it. DISCLAIMER: I own a bunch of Anavex stock, although I hope Anavex 273 works well more for my brain than for my portfolio.

Anavex Life Sciences is still in an initial research stage, meaning it has no products yet, and no revenue. That means a lot of traditional means of valuating a company won't work. For example, you can't apply a "times-earnings" formula, because they have no earnings. There are many ways to estimate a company's value, however, and here is what I came up for Anavex with a few years ago. This is based on Avavex 273 being effective, because if it is ineffective, it will be worth near zero.

Estimate the number of patients who could benefit from Anavex 273 before its patents expire, estimate the lifetime retail value per patient, and multiply those to get an estimate of the total retail value of Anavex 273. Estimate a profit percentage to remove the costs of manufacturing, distribution, marketing, etc. and multiply it by the total retail value to estimate the company value. This value is based on  Anavex 273 (and the Anavex 273 Plus variant) only, and does not include the other sigma receptor drug candidates the company has in development because they are not as far along in the development process. You can estimate the value per share simply by dividing the estimated company value by the number of shares, but the share should include exercisable options, warrants, and convertible debt, not just the current float or outstanding shares.

Here are some estimates I came up with a long time ago:

Number of U.S. Patients, Alzheimers only 14,000,000
Lifetime Value Per Patient, retail, A-273 only $10,000
Retail Value $140,000,000,000
Profit Percentage 20%
Company Value, A-273 for Alzheimers only $28,000,000,000
Outstanding Shares (if all are exercised) 116,400,000
Value Per Outstanding Share, A-273-Alz only $241

Substitute your own estimates and see your own what-if analysis. My notes say my estimates are for U.S. Alzheimer's patients only because that was the only reliable numbers I could find. There are many millions more worldwide with Alzheimer's and others with Mild Cognitive Impairment, but those numbers are much harder to track down or estimate. My lifetime value per patient estimate is based on an initial therapy  period followed by a permanent maintenance dose. I have a vague recollection that someone told me my profit percentage estimate may be quite low -- but I am not a stock analyst and I am not an expert in the pharmaceutical industry. My total for outstanding shares was calculated a long time ago, and in the most recent meeting-in-lieu-of-an-annual-shareholders-meeting, shareholders authorized Anavex to issue more shares, and I have not reexamined their SEC filings to update an accurate count.

As of this writing, Avavex is still trading below half a dollar per share. Its price between now and the phase 2a trial results are anyone's guess, because the stock market is an auction, after all, so it is subject to issues of awareness, emotions, and estimates on the likelihood of success in the phase 2a trail. If the trial is successful, there should be lots of articles about it, which can dramatically increase awareness of the stock and increase positive emotions about it, leading fewer people to sell and more people to buy, which is the standard recipe for dramatic increases in stock prices. Based on my estimates above, there is a lot up upward potential.

If my estimate of potential company value seems unrealistic when compared to profitable, long-established pharmaceutical companies, perhaps I have made gross errors in my estimates. An alternative is that the potential for Avavex is just that good because of the huge number of potential patients, the death-sentence severity of the disease, and the current lack of any drug competitors.

I am very optimistic about the prospects for Anavex 273 being successful, but my notes on my study of that issue are incomplete. My expectations are irrelevant, however, because the results to be announced next quarter will supersede any analysis I performed in the past. Anavex Life Sciences is traded on OTC-QX, which is the relatively new high-requirement over-the-counter board. Anavex management and reporting is NASDAQ-ready, in my opinion, once they have a product on the market and have revenue that meets the threshold for NASDAQ. The last few months, liquidity of Anavex on OTC has not been an issue because it has become one of the more popular stocks on OTC. My biggest surprise is that with the recent increase in popularity, that so many people are still willing to sell shares. I guess if you bought at twenty cents and sell at forty, you're satisfied to have doubled your money, right? If the phase 2a results are bad, then I guess they made a good choice, but otherwise I don't think their satisfaction will last if the stock price goes into tens or hundreds of dollars per share.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Ketogenic Diet is helping me overcome Mild Cognitive Impairment!

Oops. I had forgotten that I had started a keto-diet diary here. Well, here's the latest...

I have had Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) for years, slowly getting worse, and then just over 2 years ago I had a bout of encephalitis that crashed my brain. I recovered a lot from the encephalitis, but it appeared some of that damage might be permanent. I started eating a ketogenic diet 4 weeks ago because it seemed to me it should be a hyped-up version of consuming occasional Medium-Chain-Tryglycerides, so I expected it to help my MCI some, and I blindly hoped it might help some of my remaining symptoms from the encephalitis.
The picture below is a screen-shot of a self-assessment I have been doing, assisted by my family. I am scheduled for objective re-assessments by professionals in March, but this self-assessment is extremely good news and very promising.
There have been multiple studies on adding Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) to a diet to boost blood ketones to alleviate some symptoms of Alzhiemer's, MCI, and other neurodegenerative disorders. I tried that. Occasionally eating or drinking MCT's gave me a spike that barely registered on a blood test, lasted for less than an hour, and the increase in brain function was noticeable, but less than useful, so I did not keep it up.
Well, somehow (my notes don't cover this, and I don't remember) I started hearing about ketogenic diets and began to research it. The purpose of eating/drinking MCT's is to increase blood ketones a little bit. A ketogenic diet causes nutritional ketosis, which gives a much higher level of blood ketones (still far below dangerous levels that uncontrolled diabetics get with ketoacidosis), and it keeps them there every minute of every day! Why aren't lots of people with MCI and Alzheimer's using ketogenic diets? I haven't found anyone else who's done it, but it made sense to me, so I started reducing my carbohydrates dramatically as I continued to study.
I attempted to induce ketosis with a high-protein, medium-fat, low-carb diet and did that for 8 days, but my blood ketones were barely registering. Still, I thought I noticed some subtle improvements in brain function. Then I learned that high-protein prevented nutritional ketosis because the liver makes glucose out of all the excess protein. I had gone high-protein instead of high-fat out of a fear of dietary fat ingrained over the decades by "experts." Then I learned a *lot* about ketogenic diets and how high-fat is not only not a problem, it's actually far superior to low-fat, high-carb diets for most people. So, I switched to a high-fat, adequate-protein, very-low-carb diet and my ketones shot up into the nutritional ketosis range and have stayed there.
It takes weeks for the body to fully adjust to ketosis, and I have been seeing steady improvements in my brain function. Most of our body's cells can use fatty acids for energy in addition to glucose, but not the brain cells. The brain cells, however, can make use of ketones for energy. Since people with MCI, Alzheimer's, etc. have brain cells which can no longer use glucose as efficiently as they used to, ketones can fill in the energy gap in the brain. When staring ketosis, though, first there are a number of systemic changes that take weeks to accomplish. Like at first, the muscles may take most of the blood ketones. Later, after various adjustments, more ketones become available to the brain cells. That partly explains why my improvements have been gradual.
In the last week or two, I have also learned a lot about proper levels of sodium, potassium, and magnesium, and have just begun a careful diet supplementation to get those minerals in adequate amounts and in correct proportions. Sodium and potassium control cell membranes, which affects what is allowed into and out of each cell. MCI and other patients have brain cells that have accumulated garbage they have not correctly gotten rid of, so there is a possibility that my new regimen of minerals could help in that regard.
I still have a lot to learn and a lot to do, but it is extremely exciting for me that for the first time since I first noticed symptoms of MCI, I have *improved* rather than continue to slowly decline.

7/23/2014, Began comprehensive calorie-counting to lose weight.
Nov. 2014, Average self-assessment scores during November after 5 months of reduced calories, losing ~15 pounds, mostly off my waist.
12/15/2014, Began a high-protein, medium-fat, low-carb diet in an effort to produce blood ketones to help my brain, not realizing that excess protein would be converted to glucose, suppressing ketone production. I was still under the influence of "dietary fat is always bad" myth.
12/22/2014, Switched to a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carb diet that is necessary for full nutritional ketosis diet half through the day after 8 days on high-protein diet that produced only .1 to .7 millimolars of serum beta-hydroxybutyrate.
12/23/2014, First full day on a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carb diet, and the ketones shot up into the nutritional ketosis range of .5 to 5 and stayed there.
12/25/2014, Some brain improvements noticed after only 3 days on ketogenic diet (plus 8 days on low-carb diet).
1/7/2015, 15th day of nutritional ketosis
1/13/2015, 21st day of ketosis
1/20/2015, Tuesday, 28th day of ketosis
1/23/2015, Friday, 31st day of ketosis, comprehensive fasting blood tests
1/24/2015, 20 tests of blood glucose, blood ketones, blood pressure, and pulse over 24 hour period.
3/11/2015, Memory re-assessment with neuropsychologist
??? Get results of objective assessment of memory status from neuropsychologist
??? Neurologist and general practitioner to discuss all improvements and possible return to work
Severity Scale
1 = much better than average
2 = slightly better than average
3 = normal
4 = annoying
5 = interferes with work
6 = too bad to work as a Premier Field Engineer
7 = too bad for any job
8 = too bad to take care of self

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ketogenic Diet Diary, Days 1-6

Glucose metabolism is well understood.
Ketone metabolism is not well understood.

Established: Alzheimers patients have reduced glucose metabolism in their brain, even before symptoms show up.
Hypothesized: Increasing ketones in the brain to complement glucose metabolism with ketone metabolism may help MCI/AD patients.

A hypothesis... has yet to be rigorously tested. A theory... has undergone extensive testing.
Ketone metabolism for fueling brain cells for MCI and AD has some positive tests, but not yet extensive.

Research topics:
Ketogenic Diet
Ketogenesis, the process by which ketone bodies are produced as a result of fatty acid breakdown.
Ketone bodies, there are many
Beta-Hydroxybutyric acid, the main ketone that may help brain function but can also fuel most other human cells other than the liver.

Started on 16 December 2014
Day 1

Goal is percent of diet from carbohydrates less than 5% per day. Purpose is long-term ketone fuel instead of glucose fuel. Reason is to see if it will help the problems I have from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and a encephalitis in my brain.

Yesterday turned out to be a good pre-diet start at 15.4% of calories from carbohydrates. I had four slices of whole grain bread, two around breakfast and two around lunch. After that I had very low carbs.

I have been tracking every calorie since 23 July 2014 to try to lose weight slowly. Losing weight slowly has been working. I have lost about ten pounds. I went from my fat pants being too tight in the waist to fitting to being loose to skinny pants being tight to skinny pants being loose.

I total from midnight to midnight. Last night I woke up and had a protein drink about ten pm. We did not have eggs or bacon so Carla went to the store early this morning and I waited so I did not have breakfast until about 8:30 and I had 2 scrambled eggs and 2 turkey bacon and a glass of water. I also took my morning supplements and medicine which diet is only affected mostly by the fish oil pills that help with cholesterol. So far my carb intake since midnight is 1.45%! I tried some exercises and I could not do quite as many pushups, pullups, or chin-ups as I had been doing recently. Maybe my excitement is why.

My diet plan is very low carb, around average fat, very high protein. The main source of calories is Premiere Protein chocolate shakes, eggs, and turkey bacon. I add Dasani flavor drops to my water to add flavor and electrolytes.

8:20 pm. I have not noted anything in my notes about anything unusual today except my calorie intake is unusually low at only 945 calories consumed so far today. I plan to have a protein shake and go to bed.

Summary of the first day, posted on the 2nd day:
5 large eggs
5 turkey bacon
4 fish oil pills
2 gummy fiber pills
3 Premiere protien chocolate shakes
.25 oz raw almonds
3 pints of water

1,105 total calories
129 grams of protein
46 grams of fat
35 calories of carbs w/o fiber
3.18 carb calorie %

The first day was no miracle cure for MCI or my encephalitis damage.

I am using the nutrition facts from package labels when available otherwise from a nutrition web site and I am using the rule-of-thumb of 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate so I think you should not blame me if the grams to calorie or calorie to grams conversions do not equal.
My starting weight was about 147. ("about" because exact weight varies throughout the day like if you guzzle a pint of water (16 oz) then you are immediately 1 pound heavier)

Day 2
Many years ago I went on a vegan diet for a whole year to see if it helped my health. This was long before doctors finally figured out my thyroid problem. The only change noticed was improved cholesterol. A ketogenic diet is like the opposite of a vegan diet in some ways. If I stay on this diet for at least a month I will get my blood cholesterol levels checked. They were all in normal range the last I was tested at my annual physical a month ago I know because I have a print of all the lab work. I forgot to order ketone test strips until this morning. They will be here by tomorrow night.

Here is some information about high protein diet:
"The effects of protein are very subtle. It's hard to answer if high protein diets are unsafe," says Heymsfield.
"If you take in too little protein, you lose body protein. If you take in too much, you just burn it as calories." Heymsfield is a professor of medicine at Columbia University in New York City and at the Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital.
"In addition to not providing any benefit to general health, eating a high protein diet may have adverse effects, some research has suggested. The authors cite several studies that have found associations between excess protein in the diet and kidney disease. Another study suggests a relationship between high protein intake and prostate cancer."
"Due to the lack of data, conclude the researchers, a maximum intake level for protein cannot be determined for a healthy adult population."
"Taking in excess protein means you'll just be excreting it," Pagenkemper says. "Basically, high protein is just an expensive way to feed yourself."
[adequate water consumption may reduce risks to kidney problems]

I woke up hungry and ate 225 calories at 4:30 and went back to sleep.
I woke up hungry and ate 289 calories at 9:30 and stayed awake.
10:21 am: BP 119/76, pulse 67
Got hungry and ate 259 calories at 12:15.
Took afternoon nap.
Got up slightly hungry and ate 259 calories at 3:45.
Slightly hungry and had snack of 7 almonds 40 calories at 5:00.
Not hungry but ate 259 calories at 8:45 so I would not wake up hungry.
Go to bed at 9:00.

Diet summary from following day
4 large eggs
5 turkey bacon
4 fish oil pills
1 gummy fiber pills
5 Premiere protien chocolate shakes
.5 oz raw almonds
3.5 pints of water

1,326 total calories
183 grams of protein
49 grams of fat
52 calories of carbs w/o fiber
3.93 carb calorie %

Day 3

Woke up at 12:15 a little hungry and drank a protein shake of 160 calories and went back to sleep.
Got up about 8:30 and ate an egg and bacon at 99 calories.
Took a long, hot bath.
Carla took me to a doctor in another city. It was a very tiring trip. We took a cold bag with hard boiled eggs, bacon, and protein drinks in it for me and Carla ate at fast food restaurants

BRAIN DOCTOR VISITCarla helped me figure out what happened at my neurologist's office. Here are some things we remembered.

I told the doctor about my ketogenic diet and she thought it was a good thing to try. The doctor said it could take several weeks to notice a change or longer than that for full effect. I told the doctor I was concerned about the drop in total calories I consumed the first two days because I was not eating as many calories as usual but I was not hungry. The doctor said "protein makes you feel full" so since my diet is very high protein, that explains that. I do not mind losing a little bit more weight so I am not concerned about that right now but later I may adjust my diet to slightly increase fat and slightly decrease protein to help me be hungry enough to maintain ideal weight.

The doctor said I did a good job researching ketones. I asked if I could get a job doing research but the doctor and Carla and the other person there all said no. That was very disappointing. They did not explain why not.

The doctor said I could try something new called Axona instead of a ketogenic diet. Most of this I learned after I got home: Axona is a 40 gram packet of powder that you consume once a day in water or mixed with anything else and it has a large number of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) that are the same as in coconut oil but the spike in ketones lasts for hours instead of only an hour like when I have tried drinking coconut oil. It is a "medical food" so it requires a doctor prescription but is not a drug and it is not a dietary supplement by the legal definition of dietary supplement even though it supplements your diet.

I said I wanted to keep trying my ketogenic diet and maybe try the Axona later because Axona is to help alzheimer's and mild cognitive impairment patients and not cancer patients and I have a lot of friends with cancer and a ketogenic might be able to help them but some people who have had ketogenic diets for cancer had a hard time staying on the diet and I want to see if I can figure out a ketogenic diet that is easy enough for people to stay on and that is one reason I am using a high-protein average-fat low-carb ketogenic diet instead of a high-fat average-protein low-carb ketogenic diet and since the Axona only boosts blood ketones for a few hours I figure cancer patients might need the boosted ketones 24 hours a day like happens with a ketogenic diet if you stick to it.
The doctor gave me a starter Axona box and a prescription and I can try it later either with the ketogenic diet or in lieu of it.

I am going to get retested sometime to measure my memory performance and other brain functions.
The papers that come with Axona show that its positive effects are much better for people who take it every day than the people who forgot some days and very much better than people who took placebo. Test at day 45 showed significant improvement and day 90 tests showed even more improvement. It shows exact test numbers but I do not understand their significance other than that the patients brain performance was better rather than the same or worse.

Diet of day 3
5 large eggs
5 turkey bacon
4 fish oil pills
1 gummy fiber pills
4 Premiere protein chocolate shakes
1 Muscle Milk drink
3 pints of water

1,375 total calories
177 grams of protein
51 grams of fat
36 grams unsaturated fat
61.7 unsaturated fat %
72 calories of carbs w/o fiber
5.21 carb calorie %

Day 4
Woke up about 5:30 and drank a protein drink, 160 calories

I am concerned about what will happen to my cholesterol levels, so that will be tested after 30 days on this ketogenic diet. Fats are far more complex than just saturated and unsaturated. Although saturated fat gets pointed out as bad for human cholesterol it really depends on the type of saturated fat and how it is balanced with other types of saturated and unsaturate fats. For example this statement may be close to true but is oversimplified and has exceptions: "Isocalorically replacing dietary carbohydrates with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats has been shown to lower serum LDL and total cholesterol levels and increase serum HDL levels, while replacing carbohydrates with saturated fat was shown to increase HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol levels. Trans fats have been shown to reduce levels of HDL while increasing levels of LDL." Generally you want low LDL and moderately high HDL to be healthy.

Day 4 diet was the same food as the first 3 days: eggs, turkey bacon, protein shakes, almonds, fish oil pills, fiber pills, water.

1,267 total calories
178 grams of protein
46 grams of fat
30 grams unsaturated fat
65.3 unsaturated fat %
51 calories of carbs w/o fiber
3.99 carb calorie %

Day 5

I added a calculation for percent of daily calories from saturated fat to try to watch to keep it below 7% for optimal cholesterol control.

1,267 total calories
178 grams of protein
46 grams of fat
30 grams unsaturated fat
65.3 unsaturated fat %
5.09 saturated fat daily %39 grams of all carbohydrates
15 grams of carbohydrates excluding fiber ("net carbs")
156.56 calories of all carbohydrates
51 calories of carbs w/o fiber
12.36 carb calorie %
3.99 non-fiber carb calorie %

Day 6
Morning: I have had some mild constipation so I am increasing water and fiber pills. I have no appetite. My writing skills seem slightly improved. I have not noticed any other changes.

Noon: My blood ketone level has increased to .7 and my blood glucose level is 130. My last food was a protein shake two hours before the blood tests.

.3 mmol/L blood ketones on day 3 was in the mild ketosis range
.7 mmol/L blood ketones on day 6 are into the nutritional ketosis range, as expected.

My appetite returned, but my total calorie consumption was still pretty low for the day. According to one formula for my gender, age, height, and weight, I should be burning in the neighborhood of 1,800 calories a day not counting any exercise.

I ate an ounce of cheddar cheese because I noticed its nutritional components make it ketogenic, but I did not notice that it would knock my % of calories from saturated fat above 7%. It was also a bad idea on this day because cheese can increase problems with constipation.

1,159 total calories
132 grams of protein
55 grams of fat
31 grams unsaturated fat
57.2% of fat was unsaturated
8.08% of total calories were from saturated fat38 grams of all carbohydrates including fiber
11 grams of carbohydrates excluding fiber ("net carbs")
153.52 calories of all carbohydrates
35 calories of carbs w/o fiber
13.25 carb calorie %
2.98 non-fiber carb calorie %

Friday, June 27, 2014

(The Allegory of) Ten Men Drinking Beer

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20." Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?" They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20,"declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that’s right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than I!"

"That’s true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men continued to complain and accuse the tenth man and then started planning to make the tenth man pay more. The tenth man finally walked away sadly, as the nine shouted accusations at him.

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

(copied from Scott Brewster with one edit)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Microsoft Extends Cloud to the Moon

Microsoft today revealed that they have made the first commercial use of private spacecraft to position a containerized data center on the Moon. Known as the Lunar Data Center (LDC), the new facility is part of the Microsoft Cloud and is fully operational, already hosting Microsoft's own Bing, Hotmail, and Office 365.

Since the same side of the Moon always faces Earth, connectivity will always be available via geographically-balanced, black-laser uplink nodes, with at least one in each time-zone. It's state-of-the art green-energy design uses solar-power and vacuum-cooled CPUs to avoid creating green-house gases that could damage the Moon's extremely thin Ozone Layer.

The LDC also boasts unprecedented long-term-storage (LTS) by means of its unique Deep Space Backup Vault (DSBV). The DSBV provides infinite archival storage based on a perennial series of linked deep-space vehicles (LDSVs), modeled after NASA's Voyager interstellar spacecraft. While Voyager spacecraft will eventually go too far to communicate with NASA's Earth-based Deep Space Network (DSN), Microsoft's first LDSV (and the farthest from Earth) will communicate with the second LDSV (slightly closer to Earth), which will in turn communicate with the third LDSV, so that the last LDSV launched at any given time will always be within signal range of Earth the the LDC.

Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer was quoted as saying that this surprise announcement "seriously undercuts Amazon's Mars-based cloud extension, which is not expected to be operational until 2015 at the earliest." When asked about Google's efforts to build a cold-data storage center on Uranus, Balmer said such a plan was unworkable, but that's exactly where he thought they'd try to put it.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why the Payroll Tax Cut is a Bad Idea

Extending the "Payroll Tax Cut" is a bad idea. The specific tax it cuts is the Social Security tax. Social Security is already underfunded and every politician in Washington D.C. knows it. That's reason enough to let this tax cut expire, and why it never should have been enacted, but there's an even bigger reason:

The tax cut will save most families about $1,000 over one year. The politicians pushing it say it will stimulate the economy. No, it won't. $1,000 per year is less than $20 per week. Most families won't even notice it. In fact, most people aren't even aware that this tax cut is already in effect (scheduled to expire at the end of this month), because that amount, spread over such a long period of time, just doesn't make a big difference to each family. The accumulated funds from every taxpayer, though, makes a significant difference to Social Security.

If you want to simulate the economy with a tax break, fine, but give families the $1,000 as a lump sum distribution so they actually notice it, and treat it like a windfall, and DO NOT take it out of Social Security!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Still Looking For a Good Republican Candidate

I keep hearing a lot of pundits make statements about Evangelical and independent voters that I don't think are accurate. I know many of them aren't accurate for me, and I'm both Evangelical and independent.

For example, Dick Morris said just a week ago, "Evangelicals... can’t back Romney due to his religion or Newt because of his personal issues." I don't care what religion a candidate holds, and I only care about their personal issues where it reflects on how the person would govern. Where Morris references Newt's personal issues, I believe he's referring to Newt's past sexual indiscretions, and not things like changing his positions.

I decided that Herman Cain wouldn't have been one of my preferred choices, because of his very notable weaknesses on foreign policy issues. He has other weaknesses, but that was the biggest one for me. I don't know that he's guilty of any sexual harassment or infidelity, so that wasn't a reason he moved to 2nd-tier in my mind. I think his new policy website ( is a good way for him to contribute politically.

Also in my 2nd-tier are, with example reasons:
Perry relies on his intuition, and I think he has poor intuition.
Bachmann makes flippant false accusations and frequently misstates facts.
Paul is so ideological I don't think he could govern effectively, and he's too isolationist.

That left my first-tier as Gingrich and Romney, but the more I evaluate them, the less I like them, and I'll probably drop them to 2nd-tier if I think there's a least one candidate who's better.

My biggest concern about Gingrich is his tendency to make substantial pronouncements without careful consideration. He's capable of excellent reasoning, but he still doesn't seem to discipline himself well enough to avoid ill-advised assertions. I suspect his propensity for speaking off-the-cuff would make him the most entertaining candidate and president, but that's not my top priority for candidates or presidents.

My biggest concern regarding Romney is the fact that he consistently denies he's changed positions on a number of issues. It wouldn't bother me if he consistently acknowledged his changes and explained why he changed, but his denials in the face of video evidence makes me wonder how much more he'll change on issues and deny he's changing.

That only leaves Rick Santorum and John Huntsman as current candidates, so here's my current take on them:

Santorum: I haven't begun evaluating his policies yet, but I don't care for his personality much, at least as he's come across in the debates.

Huntsman: I just recently started evaluating Huntsman's policies and character, and there's a lot to like so far. He may end up in my first-tier, even though he doesn't spell his first name correctly. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sexual Harassment and Herman Cain

Sexual harassment is a bad thing. It's just as evil as sexual misconduct such as adultery, because we can expect that the harasser intends to do more than just harass unless the effort is rebuffed. However, falsely accusing someone of doing wrong is just as evil as sexual harassment.

Often in the case of sexual harassment, only the individuals involved know the truth. The public can examine the character of the individuals, but that can only improve our odds of correctly guessing who's telling the truth. If one person is notoriously corrupt and the other is famous for good character, that gives us the best odds, but if both people seem to have roughly equal records, that gives us the worst odds.

A long time ago I learned that any human is capable of just about any failure. I'd like to favor the accusers when it comes to accusations of sexual harassment, but unfortunately, some people are just as capable of making false accusations as others are of committing sexual harassment. I can believe that Herman Cain is blameless regarding the current accusations, or I can believe that though he is a man of generally high moral character, there could have been a time in his life when he succumbed to sexual temptations. If he committed these crimes, he may remember them well but have too much pride to acknowledge them, or his mind may have walled off those memories so well that he's convinced himself he never did them. Never underestimate the ability of people rationalize their failures, to misshape their memories, or to deceive themselves.

Likewise, I can believe that the women who have accused him are wrong. If they are all wrong, the ones who are purported to have "felt uncomfortable" at some of the things they claim he said are probably motivated very differently from the woman who's accused Cain of physically groping her. The former could easily have been based on a misunderstanding, perhaps exacerbated by their personal circumstances at the time. I know a coworker of mine grossly misinterpreted something I said once, and it led to a major blowup between us. My coworker took very serious offense to something I said because she thought it revealed that I thought very poorly of her. Nothing could have been further from the truth: I had tremendous admiration for her skills and capabilities, but she didn't perceive my attitude or motivation correctly. Based on that experience, I feel sure that every day there are people in the working world who make similar mistakes where they think sexual issues are involved.

The woman who has accused Cain of groping, Sharon Bialek, can have no such misunderstanding. She's either lying or telling the truth, and he either groped her or he didn't. She could be telling the truth, and it could have been very difficult for her personally to come forward. Or she could be lying for any number of reasons, from simply hating something about him, to seeking notoriety and profit.

As for Mr. Cain's candidacy for the Republican nomination, I've studied him and his major positions a bit, and I like him. I also admire him for many things. But if someone comes up with proof that he committed sexual harassment or worse, my overall respect for him will decline substantially. Unfortunately, proof either way is unlikely unless someone comes up with explicit photos, audio recordings, or a DNA-stained dress.

I'm puzzled by Gloria Allred's claim that Ms. Bialek has two corroborating witnesses from the year when she claims she was groped, but that she hasn't released those statements. Those statements wouldn't constitute proof, but depending on the witnesses' own character, plus what they said and when they said it, the statements could significantly increase the odds of the public being able to correctly guess if Bialek is telling the truth. As long as they're not made public, they're obviously useless to the public. The fact that Allred hasn't released them makes me suspect they may not lend much credibility, but unless they release them, we'll never know.

So, will I stop supporting Herman Cain? Not yet. Where there's smoke, there's fire, but that doesn't tell you whether or not it was arson. Based on some leftist blogs I've read, there seem to be people who hate Cain so much they might recruit women to make false claims against him, hoping that the more accusers there are, the more people will doubt his innocence. On the other hand, maybe Cain's almost as bad as Bill Clinton when it comes to sexual misdeeds. I don't know. What I do know is that I will presume innocence until I see proof or overwhelming, high-quality evidence. I actually don't like presuming innocence, but I like presuming guilt even less.

If such proof or evidence comes to light against Cain, I'll shift to my very close second choice: Newt Gingrich. I don't like Newt, because I already know he has a lousy sexual track record. For those of you who don't know, Mr. Gingrich was committing adultery against his second wife while she was battling cancer, and then he divorced wife #2 and married the woman he was committing adultery with. On the other hand, Newt is much smarter than anyone else running, including Obama. Obama's pretty smart, but if there's ever a debate between Gingrich and Obama, I expect Obama will end up looking like the Great Pretender. So, -1 on Gingrich for poor personal character, +1 for dominant intellect. Newt also gets +1 for being down-to-earth (as much as any Presidential contender can be), and another +1 for his political skills while in office. The most important of those skills, in my view, was when he lead the House and he successfully worked with Bill Clinton to accomplish a lot of great things. I'd have taken President Clinton with Speaker Gingrich over Bush Jr. or Obama any day of the week.

By the way, today is election day, and I VOTED.

UPDATE December 1, 2011:
Since this original post, Ginger White has claimed she had an on-again-off-again affair with Cain over a 13 year period. It's been only 3 days, but so far she has provided no evidence of an affair. She's provided evidence of a relationship, but not of an affair, so that leaves us with guessing about character again. I've discussed Cain above, so here's some potentially relevant information about White: She filed a sexual harassment claim against an employer in 2001, which was settled. She's had several eviction notices over the last 6 years, although she claims she's never actually been evicted. A former business partner of White's sought a restraining order against her for "repeated emails/texts threatening lawsuit and defamation of character," and that was followed by a libel suit against White, which she lost by not showing up in court. Further, on Good Morning America, she said of Cain, “I honestly do not think that he is, in my opinion, would make a good president as far as I’m concerned.” Those are characteristics that would be consistent with a person who would make false allegations for a political purpose. Whether she is lying or not, we can only guess, unless she provides evidence of an actual affair.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Presidential Candidates for 2012, v2

Six months ago I blogged about presidential candidates for 2012. I'm more firmly convinced it's too late for Obama to win reelection, baring an event of near catastrophic proportions. I think President Obama is too narcissistic to step down like Lyndon Johnson did, and I think it's too late for anyone to successfully challenge Obama in the Democratic party primary, even Hillary. Obama controls the Democratic party machinery, and a challenger would not only have to do without that, they would have to overcome it. And no other party can field an electable candidate. If I'm right that Obama will be up for reelection, but cannot win, that means our next president will be a Republican.

That also means whoever wins the Republican primary will be our next president, so pay attention now, folks, because the campaign for the Republican nomination is in full swing. Democrats in States that allow any voter to vote in either primary may want to consider voting in the Republican primary this time around.

Six months ago, there were no declared candidates, and I said that Mike Huckabee was my favorite potential candidate. He decided not to run, but a boat-load of others are in. I'm no expert on any of these folks, but I've heard some positions and noticed some personal failings that have turned me off to several candidates, and I've seen a few things that I like in a few candidates. There isn't a single candidate that I like 100%, but that will always be true. If I ran myself, I'd agree 100% with my positions, but I'd be concerned about how my health might hold up under the rigors of being president, so I wouldn't even be for myself 100% taking everything into account. Nevertheless, I do have some new favorites that I'm willing to share:

My top choice of these folks is a tie between Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, and my third choice is Mitt Romney. There are things I like and things I dislike about the rest of the pack, but I prefer that none of the others become president for various reasons.

I like Herman Cain for president because he's not a career politician, he has a strong business management background, he's matured enough since he got into this race to stand up to the rigors of the election and the office, and most importantly, I like a lot of his ideas. He understands the importance of fiscal responsibility and simple and stable rules for businesses to be able to risk expanding their workforce and for entrepreneurs to start new businesses. And this isn't a big deal, but I think it'd be cool to have a presidential election between two black guys. Okay, a black guy and a half-black guy that most people refer to as black.

I like Newt Gingrich for president because he worked very well with President Clinton once Republicans controlled the House under Clinton's tenure, and the two of them got a lot of great things done for our economy and our finances, and because Gingrich has a lot of great ideas and stays open to new ideas. He also understands the stability and simplicity of rules that business people need regarding risk management, expansions, and start-ups.

Mitt Romney has answered the complaints against him very well, he has some very good ideas, and he comports himself as a president should.

I'll reveal a personal problem I have with a lot of candidates and elected leaders that I now hold against some of the Republican candidates: Verbal short-circuits. Anyone can make a misstatement or other verbal gaffe, but when a leader of my civil government does so, I cringe. It's embarrassing. Bush Jr. had the most frequent flubs, and Nancy Pelosi has had two of the worst of all time. Obama has had an average crop. It may be a flaw in my character, but  Bachmann and Perry have surpassed my comfort level with their foul-ups. Even though they're reasonably intelligent people (despite how they're portrayed by the media), the sheer number of their gaffes so far leaves me cold. I kind of hope it's not too much to ask for a President that won't embarrass me all the time like Bush Jr. did.

UPDATE (1Oct2011): After watching a bunch of Herman Cain videos, I'm no longer undecided between Herman Cain and Newt Gingrinch. I'm on Hurricane Herman Cain's train.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Cost of Gov't Jobs That Are Already Paid For

Contrary to what many people think, a civil government cannot efficiently grow a national economy with centralized planning.

As a case in point, in this article, the Dept. of Energy has been accused of creating only 3,500 permanent jobs with $38.6 Billion in stimulus funds. The DoE defends itself by saying when they're finished it will be 60,000 jobs and many more in the supply chain. For the sake of argument, let's say the DoE is right, and let's say another 60,000 jobs will be created in the supply chain for 120,000 jobs total.

$38,600,000,000 divided by 120,000 jobs is $321,666 per job. That's using the DoE's most optimistic numbers.

$321,666 per job.

Somehow, the President and his administration think their trillion dollar stimulus program has "prevented the collapse of the financial system, saved millions of jobs, and put the economy back in a place where it's creating jobs and growing again," according to White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer. Of course, both parties habitually claim their policies are responsible for all the good things in our economy and the other party is responsible for all the bad things, and that's easy to do since reporters rarely challenge them on such claims. But $321,666 of tax money per job? C'mon, only morons could believe that's a good thing.

You know what would have had far better effects on our economy? If they hadn't taken that $38.6 billion dollars from taxpayers in the first place, and instead they embraced "The Stossel Rule": For every business regulation they pass, they must repeal two or more. Stossel's rule is based on the sound idea that "hiring doesn't come from new laws. It comes when government gets out of the way and leaves all of us with simple and predictable rules."

So forget the "PassThisBill, PassThisBill, PassThisBill, IfYouLoveMePassThisBill" mantra. The trillion dollar stimulus didn't work, and another half-trillion dollar stimulus won't work any better. Taking money from companies and families by taxation and spending $321,666, or more, of it to create one job is not a road to recovery.

As to the claim that it's paid for (the President used the present tense in his televised speech), that's a foolish claim. Even a claim that it will be paid for is foolish as long as the Federal budget isn't balanced.

Suppose you loaned me $10,000 at 2% interest to support some essential business ideas I had that were guaranteed to work and benefit you, me, and everyone! At the end of the first year I paid you $200 in interest and you loaned me another $10,000, because the expenses for my essential business ideas kept growing. Except first you loaned me the $10k, and then I paid you back the $200. We repeat it the next year, but I pay you $400 in interest because I now owe you $20k. But I decided I need more money for more essential business plans, so I talk you into loaning me $15,000 the next year. So I've borrowed $10k the first year, $10k the 2nd year, and $15k the 3rd year, for a total of $35,000 borrowed, and my next interest payment is $700. Wow, the interest I owe you keeps going up for some reason. I need to borrow more money from you so I can be sure I have plenty to do everything I want and pay the interest I owe you. Okay, now I want to borrow an extra $5,000 in the middle of the year for an essential new business idea. What? You're getting reluctant to loan me more money? Trust me! I know exactly what I'm doing. I have everything under control. And, most importantly, this new project is already paid for! How is my new project paid for if I still owe you so much and I'm borrowing even more money from you? Simple! It's paid for because I was going to borrow that money from you anyway eventually and use it for something else, but now I've changed my plans and now I'm going to use this extra borrowed money for my newest essential idea. And if you notice my newest essential idea is the same as my old essential idea, well, that proves how good my original idea was.

(For any critics of my analogy who may want to point out that it's not a perfect parallel to life, may I point out that the paragraph above is an analogy, and it's not intended to be a perfect parallel to life.)

Can you think of a huge problem my analogy didn't go far enough to cover? It's this: Compounding Interest. The amount of interest keeps rising if you only pay the interest and none of the principal, and you keep borrowing more money. It will eventually reach the point where you cannot borrow enough new funds to even pay the interest on the debt.

In 2010, we paid $196,000,000,000 (196 billion) in interest on the national debt. In fiscal year 2011, we're paying $205 billion dollars. Just think of all the good things we could have done with that $205 billion dollars if we hadn't had to pay it on interest. These figures are from the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (see the Summary Tables), which projects the interest over the next ten years:

2012, $240 billion
2013, $322 billion
2014, $421 billion
2015, $505 billion
2016, $584 billion
2017, $661 billion
2018, $730 billion
2019, $798 billion
2020, $863 billion
2021, $928 billion

This is not the amount of our debt, this is just the interest on our debt. And these figures are based on interest rates that are at historic lows. Interest rates will rise. And when they do, the amount of interest we have to pay will go up higher than these projections, unless the morons in Congress stop borrowing more money and dramatically pay down our debt.

Even if interest rates stay flat for many more years (not likely considering Bernanke's historic monetary expansions), if we keep borrowing more and more money, in a few years we will spend more money in interest on the national debt than we spend on Social Security or Medicare, or the military. A decade after that we may be spending more on interest than on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the military combined.

We are all fools if we continue to elect politicians who think taking your money and borrowing even more money to spend $321,666 of it to create one job will magically make us prosperous.

We don't have to wait for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution to correct this problem. Find yourself a congressional candidate with personal integrity who will refuse to vote for another dime of deficit spending, and help them get elected in 2012 and in every congressional election after that.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Creating Jobs

Political policies to create jobs is about economic incentives. Here I present two ideas to help create jobs, neither of which will cost a dime in additional tax expenditures.

As a preface, the President and Congress are currently yammering about creating jobs. This concern is long overdue. In my view, any time we have significant unemployment, policies to facilitate the creation of jobs should be a top issue in national politics. That President Obama waited until he was 3 years into office to get serious about this issue is a disgrace. Lest you think I'm just another Obama-basher, I have just as many complaints about Bush Jr. before him. But, I don't merely want to complain, so without further ado, here are my recommendations:

#1. Permanently eliminate or dramatically reduce the corporate repatriation tax.
#2. Have the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) change the age-old definition of fiduciary responsibility for publicly-held corporations to put domestic employees on an equal footing with shareholders.


1. Economists estimate there are over a trillion dollars in profits held overseas by U.S. corporations. If every billion dollars brought home eventually resulted in 1,000 new jobs, a trillion dollars brought home would result in 1,000,000 new jobs. If every billion resulted in 10,000 new jobs, it would result in 10,000,000 new jobs. So this is not a trivial suggestion; It would have a large, beneficial impact on our national economy. I say eventually, though, because it takes months for companies to gear up new projects, and a given company can only manage a certain number of new projects at a time.

Most of our overseas profits are held by only a few dozen of our largest companies. If they bring that money back into the United States, it is currently, and normally, taxed at a 35% rate. That's an extremely powerful incentive for these companies to keep that money overseas. Eliminating or dramatically reducing that tax increases their incentive to bring that fortune back into the U.S.

What does this have to do with creating jobs? Well, what do companies do with profits? For the most part, they reinvest them, in a perpetual effort to increase their profits, but job creation depends on how the companies invest those profits: there are both job-creating investments and job-neutral investments. The same is true for how individuals invest, although most people only think about job-neutral investments.

If you take some of your retirements funds (or your pension plan managers do this for you) and purchase some stocks in an established company, that's a job-neutral investment. You and someone else are trading shares of that company's stock. That's a valuable function in society, but it doesn't create jobs. If, however, you  were to invest in a start-up company, or start your own company, that creates jobs. If you start your own company and succeed in it, then you've created at least one job, even if you don't hire anyone else.

There are quite a few job-neutral investments available to corporations if they repatriate their overseas profits, the same as with domestic profits, such as repurchasing shares of their own stock to try to increase their stock prices or issuing stock dividends to directly reward investors.

The corporate repatriation tax has been in effect for many years, with an occasional tax "holiday" that resulted in bringing overseas profits home in big lumps. Some opponents of eliminating or reducing this tax point out that when the holidays have occurred in the past (the last one in 2004), companies put most of that money into job-neutral investments, not job-creating ones. Of course they did! Because they can only manage a certain number of new projects at a time, they invest what they need in those projects, creating jobs, and they invest the rest as wisely as possible. For example, if they repurchase stock now, they are later able to reissue that stock to raise cash when they're ready to start or expand new projects.

The previous paragraph highlights why it would be beneficial to make this change permanent, rather than have unreliable, once-in-a-while tax holidays. It would create stability in those cash flows, allowing corporations to make reliable plans further out into the future, and that is a critical factor to any company considering hiring new employees. In addition, if the change is not permanent, then the remaining tax creates incentives for companies to permanently move jobs overseas, the opposite effect from what we need.

As far as eliminating vs. dramatically reducing, some of the CEO's of the companies holding that trillion dollars overseas have indicated they would have sufficient incentive to bring the money home if the tax rate was lowered to 5% or less, as opposed to eliminating it. I have no strong objection to that, so why do I suggest eliminating the tax? Because permanently eliminating the tax would maximize the incentives to bring the money home, and keep it working here to create jobs on a steady basis. 

It is more than interesting that the United States is almost the only nation in the world to tax repatriated corporate profits. Why did a previous short-sighted Congress create this tax? They obviously thought it would raise revenue. They were wrong. Companies simply hold those profits overseas and wait for the next tax holiday and invest those funds overseas in the meantime. Also obviously, other nations see this tax for what it really is: a counter-productive drain on the national economy. 

2. As long as we've had public-stock companies, the managers of those companies have been legally required to make their decisions in such a way as to maximize benefits to the stockholders. This didn't always result in moving jobs overseas because international shipping and communication used to be far more expensive and far less reliable. However, in the last half-century or so, both shipping and communication have become much less expensive and highly reliable. When this is combined with placing stockholder interest as the exclusive top-priority of corporate managers, of course they've been moving jobs overseas where labor is cheaper: They're legally required to do so if it increases their profitability!

We can permanently reverse this trend with one simple adjustment that won't cost any taxes: Have the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) change the age-old definition of fiduciary responsibility for publicly-held corporations to put domestic employees on an equal footing with shareholders. 

This change won't stop all American jobs from ending up in other countries, but it will protect many of them, and will eventually result in many jobs coming back to the United States from overseas. When the needs of domestic employees are given equal consideration to those of shareholders, an existing factory will only be relocated when that factory is completely unsustainable where it is. In that case, the local factory has to be shut down no matter what. The company could, under those conditions, still build a replacement factory in another country, if that's feasible. But no U.S.-based factory would ever again be relocated to another country just to increase profits when that factory could be sustained where it is at marginal profits.