Saturday, February 2, 2008

Dear Me

Exxon Mobil Profit Sets Record Again
: are we surprised?

Let's put this in perspective:

The company reported Friday that it beat its own record for the highest profits ever recorded by any company, with net income rising 3 percent to $40.6 billion, thanks to surging oil prices. The company’s sales, more than $404 billion, exceeded the gross domestic product of 120 countries. Exxon Mobil earned more than $1,287 of profit for every second of 2007.
Mind, they're not doing anything that special--for an oil company:
Oil companies have all reported strong profits in recent days. Chevron, the second-largest American oil company, said Friday that its profits rose 9 percent to $18.7 billion last year; Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday reported net income for 2007 of $31 billion, up 23 percent and the largest figure ever for a British company.
Naturally, the corporate spinners are already at work:
Anticipating a backlash, Exxon has been running advertisements that highlight the size of the investments it makes to find and develop energy resources . . . .
Um, how stupid doe you have to be here? What expenses are doesn't matter--the profits are profits, what comes after expenses. If their expenses had been seventy-leven zillion dollars, so what? They still made profits in the tens of billions.

The corporate earnings per share for 2007 were $7.28; the share price of course varies, but was around $90 through most of 2007. That's a return of roughly 8%, which does not take into account the rise in share prices that occur over time when earnings are high. Or, in another view, that's a price-to-earnings ratio of 12 or 13 to 1. While P/E by itself is not a terribly useful number, because growth rates matter a lot, too, a recent general article on investing presented Exxon Mobile up as a hot item indeed:
An example of a company with a very strong P/E/G ratio is energy giant Exxon Mobil, which has a P/E of 12.15. When we divide that by its growth rate of 31.69 percent (based on the average of its three-, four-, and five-year earnings per share growth figures), we get a P/E/G ratio of 0.38. This not only betters my Lynch-based model's 1.0 maximum; it also falls into the strategy's best-case category (0.5 or below).
So let them not come crying to the public about their obscene profits not really being big because the company itself is big. That's sheer bullshit.

[A] man suspected of killing a . . . restaurant owner and wounding a customer Wednesday morning . . . was . . . a felon who was once labeled "a danger to the community" . . .

But he's an ok guy: "Since his release from prison in December 2006, he has been complying with the terms of his probation, according to the state Department of Corrections." That's nice; I'm sure the victims and their families and friends are so relieved to know that.

And of course, the utterly predictable responses from acquaintances emerge: "He was a cool cat." (A minor variant of the usual it's "He was such a nice young man.")

What does it take to get society to understand that there are some people who are just broken inside, and all the King's horses and all the King's men and all the King's psychiatrists are not going to put them together again? And these badly broken specimens are not usually hard to identify, gullible acquaintances notwithstanding.

If we could ever get away from the mentality that says incarceration is punishment, a Puritan notion, and understand that it is for the protection of the rest of society, we might be able to make some progress here. But because we make incarceration punitive, and typically harsh, we are reluctant to put people to it despite a cumulative record of ever-increasing anti-social activity, till they finally go over the threshold and take lives, lives that could have been saved if we would recognize the broken ones.

In Somalia, a planned attack killed several volunteer medical charity workers from Doctors Without Borders, and the organization is pulling the rest of its staff out asap.

It's unclear, at least from the reportage, which side there did this monstrous thing, but it's a horrid commentary either way. There are few nobler groups in the modern world than Doctors Without Borders (properly, Medecins Sans Frontieres), and to see thugs murdering them because they might be providing humanitarian aid to the "wrong" victims is nauseating.

"Buyers, not savers, caused America’s deficit" - more useful economic insights into how and why this nation is spiralling into deep, deep do-do, including some explanations of Emperor Greenspan's clothing sheerness.

The idea that blowhards like Greenspan possess some mystical understandings of economics and politics beyond those granted to mere mortals is one of the several things leading us time and again into madcap follies.

Here's another one that has been known for a good while but that we keep on ignoring, to our cost: teenagers need to sleep late, but we keep making them get up and go to school at absurdly early hours. Naturally, their ability to learn is seriously hampered by this Puritan folly. But who cares? Apparently, almost no one.

Pual Krugman wrote a nice article about John Edwards and his underestimated effect on the presidential race--and, one hopes--the next administration. It's just a bloody shame how the media were allowed to essentially remove Edwards from serious consideration simply because a white male wasn't exciting enough news in a race with a woman and a black.

Well, I suppose, considering that almost no one in America seems to see the presidential races as anything more than the current hot Reality TV Show, maybe they had a point, principle, positions, decency, intelligence, and all those so-last-year things notwithstanding.

Voters in New Jersey who sent mailed in their ballots with votes for candidates who have now withdrawn from the race are apparently going to be given a chance to re-vote.

I have no idea how the process will segregate out people who actually voted for still-viable candidates and who just want to change their minds.

This sort of thing just highlights, as if it needed it, the absolute folly of allowing voting spread out over some period of time. That's why they called it Election Day, not Election Month. If we discover on the literal eve of an election that candidate X is actually (ala V, the TV show) an disguised alien from an evil race seeking to dominate humanity, he might already have been elected by the mail-in votes. It is simply insane to not require all voting to be done on one set day. If people have problems that justify an absentee ballot (something very few using such ballots really do), then just require that the ballot be postmarked as of Election Day; is that some insuperable strain?

But it just gets more and more, rather than less and less, widespread. Why? Dear me, how quickly we forget basics: follow the money. It's cheaper to do mail-in voting than in-person voting. Besides, it pleases the media, who get to call a winner instantly the polls close. That's it's a bugger-all lousy way to vote is apparently immaterial.

"Misperceptions About McCain's Abortion Stance" - wull, duh, dude.

The electorate has a bushel-basketful of misconceptions about Honest John's positions on almost everything. This smiling, happy-slappy ol' uncle holds a spectrum of views that ought to make any sane person shudder. One can only hope that as he becomes more significant as a candidate, there will be time (and media effort expended) to make plain his Neandertal character.

His Giulianiness has confused people: you don't have to be an obviously maniacal, egocentric would-be dictator to be a terrible choice. People can honestly and happily believe the direst things, as one would have thought human history demonstrates more than adequately.

Have a nice weekend.

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