Category Archives: General Solutions

Chattanooga, Zika Virus, and concerns for adults

I am concerned about the potential risks of Zika Virus to people locally. Below are some links to literature to aid in illustrating my concerns. I included some potential actions that can be taken to mitigate the potential spread of Zika.

Some Reading Material:

Health Departments currently advise that the best way to prevent the spread of Zika Virus is by preventing mosquito bites. Zika Virus is also a sexually transmitted disease. Initially it was thought to only cause mild viral symptoms in some adults. The primary major concern was the virus’ effect on fetuses. The major concern for fetal infections is that it can cause malformed joints and microcephaly. More recently there is growing concern for adults and children.

Zika is scary to me

As an adult this is a scary risk to see in our local community. However, as a parent it is even more frightening.

I’m not an epidemiologist however I have studied environmental science fairly extensively and part of that study involved fate and transport and advanced ecology.

Public Education Campaign

To me it seems that the most logical approach is to treat patients as they occur. While rolling out an extensive community awareness program to inform people about the potential risks to adults.

This public information effort needs to include at a minimum:

Disease Vectors:
  • Zika Virus can be passed on through sexual contact. People have been infected through unprotected sexual contact with partners who has the illness as recently as 188 days earlier. Unfortunately, 80% of people infected show no symptoms. This means that a sexual partner who was unaware of an infection up to six months earlier could pass the disease on.
  • Mother to fetus transmission.
  • Mosquito bites (major vector).
At risk communities :
  • We need to prioritize informing communities at higher risk.
  • Sensitivity to individual patients infomation privacy.
  • With regard to Zika it is prudent to inform the public of the risks and educate them about the disease.
  • Encourage those at higher risk to take proactive measures to reduce their personal risk and the risks of others.
  • I would guess the current cases in Chattanooga occur in more affluent neighborhoods (those are the people more likely to travel). If a mosquito acquires the disease it is likely to first appear in these neighborhoods.
Preventative measures:
  • Wear effective mosquito repellent (DEET based products or DEET alternatives) or other outdoor focused protective items.
  • Also, Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants (not shorts) will reduce skin exposure and thus bite occurrence.
  • Mosquito/bug deterring clothing.
  • Additionally you can reduce standing water. For instance, if you have something on your property that collects standing water (such as: a lid, pond, or bucket) then emptying the water out and taking measures to limit future pooling of water might have substantial positive impact. For pools and ponds you could consider adding movement to prevent egg laying, fish (to eat the larvae), or chlorination (to kill the larvae).
  • Avoid unprotected sex with partners who have been infected with Zika Virus in the previous seven months.
  • Avoid ecosystems where mosquitos might be more prevalent (bogs, marshes, wetlands, ponds and other such habitat where mosquitos have an easier time breeding).
  • If you have these ecosystems on your property then consider hiring a pest control company to work on mosquito issues. There are other options for mosquito control such as fogging and bug zappers.
  • For neighbors that these hazards consider talking to them about the safety concerns.
  • In order to address public property that has this kind of habitat then consider contacting your politicians to see if they are able to address the issue. Also contacting the responsible party for the property (like if it was a wetland on a county park, then contacting county parks and recreation might be beneficial).
  • Consider writing your congressman to request disaster funding for Zika control for your community. The white house requested $1.9 Billion in funding to address Zika and Congress recessed without approving the request.
Description of the risks:
  • Microcephaly in fetuses in pregnant women.
  • Zika Virus have been linked in the causation of Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • Potential problems (in mice) include depression and cognitive issues (similar to Alzheimer’s). However, the type of stem cells necessary for mice symptoms are also present in human brains.

As far as schools are concerned I’m not sure what is the best approach. Some routes to consider might be mosquito fogging, indoor recess and mosquito habitat reduction. The primary concern currently should focus on minimizing the number of mosquito bites.

Media should be encouraging people to contact their local health department with Zika questions.

The public education effort on the adult concerns should be proactive. Proactive public education efforts help create a more prepared and less panicked public when infections become prevalent.

Official sources:

Here is a link to the local health department (Hamillton County, Tennessee) page on Zika Virus. At current it does not reflect the medical concerns for adults.

Here is the CDC section on Zika Virus. They seem to be up to date with the adult risks on Guillain-Barre syndrome. However, the CDC does not address the potential longterm cognitive effects, memory problems, depression and alzheimers like symptoms that could potentially effects adults.

Both the local health department and the CDC have listed preventative measures. Their recommendations are similar to my recommendations but read multiple sources never hurt anyone.

Disclaimer: I am not a Medical Doctor or Epidemiologist. Also, I do not work officially in a field focused on Zika. However, I do have some education in ecology and environmental problems and have read a tiny amount of the literature body on this topic. I am writing this more as a concerned parent/citizen than anything else.

Samsung Gear S2 Review (7+ months of use)

Samsung Gear S2 Smart Watch

I received my Samsung Gear S2 Classic for Christmas last year. It has been on my wrist practically everyday since then. I wanted to share it with everyone because I really like this watch a lot. I am a bit on the heavier side and this watch has directly contributed to me losing some weight. When  received this watch I immediately enjoyed the pedometer and began walking everyday to ensure I got enough daily steps in. Well this added activity led to dieting and weightlifting and 15 lbs of weight loss later I can honestly say it all began with the watch. I have it paired with my Samsung S5 phone.

Features I Like
  • Pedometer – Great for increasing physical activity
  • Remote Control of Camera on my Phone – This is great for filming or photoing yourself
  • Rotating Bevel – Its got a great rotating bevel that’s fun to use.
  • Text messaging – Replying to text messages is a breeze
  • Checking E-mail – a breeze to see if I should find a computer or get out my phone to respond.
  • One touch Alarm Turn off – just lift the phone and swipe the screen to acknowledge alarms from your phone .
  • Call Answering – Can answer the phone from your watch, allowing time to get your phone from your pocket or the desk across the room.
  • The Classic version works with any standard watchband for lots of customization options.
  • Many downloadable watch faces
  • Aesthetics
  • Locate your phone – This feature causes your phone to ring even when it is on silent. Ever since I got this I do not have to waste time trying to locate my phone.
  • When using the phone with my car speakers I can select music using the watch from Samsung’s radio stations. With an unlimited data plan this is a great digital radio for on the go.
  • Obviously it tells the time and date and battery level.
  • There is a watch face that can show me daily stock quotes and news.
  • Water resistant
  • Wireless Charging – no more cords going bad, works as advertised for 7 months going now.
  • Long Battery Life

Features I wish it had

Speaker-  want to be able to talk into it like an Apple Watch and hear the person on the line respond, it has a mic but no speaker. This is mildly annoying but as an android phone user I would not choose another android watch over this. If I had an iPhone and I were deciding between this and the Apple Watch then the lack of a speaker would make me choose the Apple Watch as the devices are comparable in almost every other way (my wife has an Apple Watch so I have done the side by side). Additionally, I think the 3g version actually comes with a microphone.

Camera – Maybe pointing out the side between the two buttons so I can photo on the go and send it to my phone SD card. Video and still capture would be great and preferably 5+ megapixels.

How I Care for my Gear

I wear it to the gym and get all sweaty

It does not go swimming (technically is should be fine but I’ve never tried).

I usually take it off in the shower (but I have showered with it a couple dozen times, I make sure to keep it from being directly hit by the falling water and keep soap off of it…by the way adjusting your music from your watch while you shower is pretty awesome).

I did not tempt fate by wearing it to the beach or ocean. The sand and salt water scare me too much.

Other than that I wear it everywhere, wash my hands with it on and everything else. I take it off at night and throw it on the charger then put it on the next morning.

Overall

I recommend a Gear S2 as a daily watch  after wearing it constantly for over 7 months. The Classic version is my favorite because of the watch band options at the time. It was preferable to me to not be dependent on whatever watch bands were produced for the Samsung proprietary band connector. So for $50 extra I got the classic and now I can use virtually any traditional watch band on the market.

I prefer the looks of the Gear S2 to the Apple Watch or other Smart Watches. If you use a Samsung phone with it then I would not consider any other watch because you can unlock the watch’s full potential with the Samsung phone.  However if you must be able to use the watch to talk on the phone then you may wish to get a watch with a speaker (the gear works with a Bluetooth headset but I don’t wear Bluetooth earpieces).

Poll – Will Bernie Supporters Support Hillary?

After reading more than a healthy dose of politics on reddit I stumbled across a link posted where Clinton believes that Sanders younger supporters will support her if she gets the nomination. I suspect that her belief in this statement is overconfident and decided to create a poll to see what Bernie supporters actually think. Please share the poll with your networks to help get the biggest sample possible.

Without further babbling here it is:

Read after voting

This question is of high importance because if Bernie Sanders supporters do not fall in line behind Hillary Clinton then it is likely that she will lose the general election. Total electability of candidates should be an  important consideration for the superdelegates of the Democratic Nomination process. I would encourage you to share the results (even if they do not support my predictions) with the superdelegates tht represent your locality so that they can make the most informed decision when selecting the best route for the party.

If Bernie supporters flee the Democrtic nominee then that would provide a much reduced likelihood of the party securing the White House in November. There are already many sources findable with a quick google search that indicate that Bernie Sanders performs better than Hillary Clinton versus all three of the Republican Candidates. My guess is that this trend will continue the longer that Hillary takes the millennial generation for granted. Nothing stings worse than a candidate trying to intimidate you into voting for them on the basis that they are the better of two evils.  Sorry Hillary but this generation is very resilient. We are more politically informed (thanks to the Internet) than any other generation. While we may on occasion have low voter turnout it is not because we do not care it is instead because we do not like what is on the table.

My personal belief is many Bernie Supporters will either get behind Jill Stein or another independent if their candidate fails to be nominated by the Democratic Party. I can actually see some of Bernies supporters even jumping on the Trump train if push came to shove (if for no reason other than to send a message to the establishment). I think the majority will likely just opt to not vote at all rather than support the GOP or Hillary Clinton. In the end I suspect Hillary will net a minority of the Bernie Sanders supporters.

Thanks Everyone for your participation in this poll.

 

Democratic Primary Examination

Democratic Primary

I like many others have been watching the primary season with interest (click here for current results).  The recent momentum of Bernie Sanders (and maybe my like for him) made me interested enough to delve into the numbers. I gathered the information from all the stated that have voted (caucuses and primaries) and looked at them for potential trends.

First I looked at the last seven states and much to my surprise it turns out that based on the current momentum Bernie Sanders indeed has a very legitimate path to nomination. In fact if you look at the percentage of voters that picked Bernie Sanders vs Hillary Clinton then the breakdown predicts that if this trend continued then Bernie would have a 481 delegate lead on Hillary Clinton (that’s pretty impressive since he is currently 249 behind Hillary Clinton). I also checked based on actual vote count and utilizing the current momentum Bernie would reduce Hillary’s pledged delegate lead from 249 to only 64 by the Democratic Convention. Finally, if one considers strictly the pledged delegate count then the projected outcome is a 234 delegate lead for Bernie Sanders by the convention.

Note: Votes vs Percentage are different in how they weight the data. Consider Alaska’s vote count vs Arizona by  percentage. Bernie Sanders has a 20% lead over Hillary ( 39.9 + 81.6) / 2 = 60.75 % vs. (57.6 + 18.4) / 2 = 38%. However vote count gives a very different picture (163400 + 440) / 2 = 81920 votes per state for Bernie vs. (235697 + 99) / 2 = 117898 votes per state. As can be seen one weighting indicates (based on two states) that Bernie is winning and the other indicates that Hillary is leading.  

This is the Democratic Primary results from the most recent states.
This is the Democratic Primary results from the most recent states.Standing

It is important to note that this is only based on the most recent results where Bernie seems to have gained and be gaining momentum.  Another important takeaway is that even with this cherry picked data where Bernie is doing well none of his of the total delegate counts secure a nomination for either candidate (2383 needed to secure nomination). This indicates that based on recent performance if either candidate wish to secure the nomination without super-delegates then they will need to increase their ground game in the remaining states.

The trends of each candidate over time in the race for the democratic nomination.
The trends of each candidate over time in the race for the democratic nomination.

I decided to compare this data to the whole election season where each candidates performance was scaled against time. In this model which documents the momentum change overtime since the first state cast it’s votes then there has been a clear shift in the voters candidate preferences over the two month period.

The votes towards each candidate over time. Hillary has clearly had the momentum for a while but it seems to have stalled.
The votes towards each candidate over time. Hillary has clearly had the momentum for a while but it seems to have stalled.

Looking at the election long vote tally Hillary has been able to fairly consistently meet or beat Bernie’s total accumulated votes. This indicates that Hillary might have more voters behind her than Bernie. Another consideration is that Bernie did chip into her lead a little bit recently. If the Sanders campaign can push out a little more steam then they can probably chip into that lead even more. Will it be enough to win the nomination? We will all know in a few months.

Each candidates' pledged delegates count since the voting began.
Each candidates’ pledged delegates count since the voting began.

Finally, the last thing I examined was the cumulative pledged delegate counts. This graph mostly mirrors the vote count chart. It is worth noting that Bernie is having a bit more success at chipping away Hillary’s lead when the pledged delegates are the only consideration.

Overall many indicators lead to the conclusion that this race will be decided by super-delegates. If either campaign wants to secure the nomination before the convention then they will need to do better. I personally am optimistic about Bernie Sander’s prospects but in my opinion either candidate is better than a Trump presidency .

A Ranking of States by Electricity Production/Consumption related to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ranking the states from most green to least green regarding electricity and Greenhouse Gases.

Why I ranked the States for Electricity and Greenhouse Gases

I read an Open Letter to the California Air Resources Board  regarding the Volkswagen Emissions Scandal.  I really liked what the CARB letter said and as an environmental person I decided to draft a similar letter but to focus on Tennessee and the EPA and attempt to get local names involved in the signing and submission process. While drafting I was trying to articulate why Tennessee would be more successful than California using a similar program.  My logic was that here in Tennessee we generate a lot more nuclear and hydro electricity than they do in California.  This might mean that dollar for dollar money would go further in electric car programs to help the atmosphere.  I decided to dig up the data and take a real look at it to see if my argument had any merit.

What data did I locate?

The best data that I could locate on electricity production/consumption was federal data from 2013:

http://www.eia.gov/state/seds/seds-data-complete.cfm?sid=US#Production

There were other sources available but these seemed the most reliable for comparing data from different states and I made a subjective determination to utilize them. I used the data on green electricity production (not including ethanol), nuclear electric production, total electric production and total electric consumption. Each of these values were available for all 50 states.

I also grabbed census data from 2010 to have the population for each state:

http://www.census.gov/2010census/popmap/

Ranking the States

I put all of the data into a spread sheet and created an equation to rank the states.  First I summed nuclear and green (non-ethanol) electric production and labelled this non-ghg production. Then I utilized the equation:

STATE = N/TP * N/TC * POP

Where:

N = non-greenhouse gas electric production

TP = total electric production

TC = total electric consumption

POP = population

STATE = Raw Score

This number was then weighted by taking each states number and dividing it by the sum of all states and multiplying by 100 to create a percentage.  This was done to determine a fair compensation percentage for states based off their ability to benefit the environment and the population of the state. The idea would be to provide fair compensation (more people = more compensation for a state from an EPA fine) weighted by the states ability to positively impact air quality.

Compensation % = STATE/ΣSTATE * 100

I then calculated the percentage of the total USA population that each state had.

Population % = POP/ΣPOP * 100

Finally I divided the Compensation % by the Population %

Final Value = Compensation %/ Population %

These final values were ordered to create a list of states and the following is their ranking for benefit Per Capita. I found it interesting that my rankings were somewhat similar to a Forbes.com ranking that examined a much broader set of parameters. Here is a calculator that allows you to compare two states to see how much more green one is than the other based on these scores:

Below is a table with the numerical results:

Rank State Final Value
1 VT 5.482656
2 NH 4.777760
3 WA 4.281077
4 OR 3.893848
5 SC 3.775379
6 ME 3.323970
7 CT 2.409114
8 NC 2.091080
9 ID 2.059906
10 AZ 1.920453
11 NY 1.868505
12 GA 1.757706
13 TN 1.701424
14 AL 1.606049
15 NJ 1.518819
16 IL 1.126291
17 FL 1.098061
18 MD 1.030446
19 WI 0.930284
20 MI 0.920196
21 NV 0.878881
22 MN 0.808232
23 HI 0.803606
24 VA 0.626147
25 MA 0.620662
26 MS 0.538241
27 MO 0.528205
28 SD 0.447771
29 IA 0.423610
30 CA 0.406837
31 PA 0.384003
32 AR 0.304954
33 NE 0.299395
34 KS 0.274584
35 MT 0.255585
36 DE 0.121876
37 OH 0.120772
38 RI 0.117833
39 LA 0.060904
40 OK 0.040605
41 TX 0.030870
42 ND 0.030772
43 CO 0.021380
44 IN 0.015258
45 KY 0.010783
46 WV 0.009031
47 NM 0.007124
48 WY 0.004626
49 AK 0.003272
50 UT 0.000700

SWP Weapon Order Form

This is for Sly’s Wolf Pack to order weapons from the crafters within the guild. Currently  it is in beta test phase. If you are another guild and would like something similar to help out please send a message using the contact form on this website.

Your @name and level ( example: @Faugaun/vr16)*
Weapon Type Select:*
Trait Select:*
Style Select:*
Item Set (could make it a drop down box list):*
Word Verification:

Space Colonization Technology Ideas

Colonizing the Moon

The moon, our ever present and eternal neighbor in space, is an astral body that has captured the attention of humanity for millennia. Mankind first visited the moon in 1969 and the last time we were on the moon was in 1972. Since then we haven’t travelled beyond low earth orbit but this has not stopped man from eyeing big goals. Currently there are efforts to colonize both Mars and the Moon. This is a discussion of potential ideas for space exploration, colonization and technological developments that will simultaneously help us terrestrials. In order to brainstorm we first need to consider some difficulties that might be encountered when colonizing the Moon and Mars. Due to the complexity of the system as a whole and the Authors ignorance this article will by necessity be limited in scope.

Difficulty 1 – Energy on a moon or planet

Let’s face it no matter what planet or point in space we (humanity) ultimately decide to colonize energy will be something necessary to keep things running. In open space energy can be obtained from solar collection (which can occur constantly). This means that in near sun orbits electric generation is not very problematic. However, if the colony is moved further from the sun or placed on a planet or moon then the system becomes more complicated. Consider that a heavy atmosphere may prevent solar radiation from reaching the earth or a slow rotation of the planet may cause lengthy nights requiring non-solar solutions. Non-solar solutions could be a long power grid or nuclear but such projects require substantial infrastructure development (though some work is being conducted on micro nuclear reactors, which may make nuclear a viable option). I propose some existing technologies as candidates to be developed into potential space colony energy solutions.

Organic Batteries

Recently this year California scientists have published research focusing on utilizing mushrooms as a part of batteries. If this technology can be expanded to essentially grow a portion of batteries (either in flight or on arrival) then the weight and shipping space for transporting batteries can be greatly reduced. This has an additional benefit since the mushrooms are decomposers and can be utilized to recycle waste thus allowing for greater efficiency of resources in space as well.

Citation: Campbell, B. et al.Bio-Derived, Binderless, Hierarchically Porous Carbon Anodes for Li-ion Batteries.Sci. Rep. 5, 14575; doi: 10.1038/srep14575 (2015).

Larger Batteries

It may be necessary to cope with longer periods of darkness, like on Earth’s moon where night is two weeks. A second kind of potential battery would be a gravity battery. It may be possible to use modern materials to create a very tall storage container or utilize a deep crater; the preferred technology would be dependant on the gravity of the specific planet or moon. A body with a higher gravity would require a smaller elevation change while a body with lower gravity would require a much greater elevation change. During the day energy can be used to move mass to the higher elevation storage and at night it can be released to the lower elevation and this energy can be converted into electric. This is exactly what the Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant just outside of Chattanooga, TN has been doing since 1978. There are a variety of modifications that can be made to the system, such as utilizing sand instead of water (obviously durability of parts would be impacted with sand), or bricks, alternatively the system could be powered off of solar steam.

Solar Steam

This is probably my favorite idea because it involves nano-particles, steam electric generation, distillation, and hydroelectric generation from a reservoir style battery. Essentially you create steam directly and efficiently utilizing carbon or gold plated nano-particles (the original research utilized silicon if I recall, I would seek to modify the core to a magnetic material to allow easy separation of the catalytic nanoparticles). The steam intensity would be increased because the Moon’s atmosphere is lower than earths which would allow more energy to penetrate and reach the steam generator. A large Fresnel lens, or reflective mirrors could be utilized as a solar concentrator to allow higher pressure steam. This steam could then be piped to a steam turbine which would generate electricity from the steam and then the pipes would go underground (at the bottom of a mountain) and after the prescribed length the pipes would emerge at the top of the mountain where the cooled steam would condense into water.

Interestingly this could generate electricity while moving water to a higher elevation (greater potential energy) and purifying the water (this could dual purpose for desalination on earth to provide electric generation and salt (to sell) and distilled water). Once in the reservoir the water would collect until night when the distilled water would be released, through pipes to turbines, and generate electricity. If you would like a more detailed explanation please see: http://asolutionaday.com/environmental/martian-combination-plant/

Neumann, O., Urban, A. S., Day, J., Lal, S., Nordlander, P., & Halas, N. J. (2012). Solar vapor generation enabled by nanoparticles. Acs Nano7(1), 42-49.

Difficulty 2 – Food on a moon or planet

Non-Photosynthetic Fungi

Mushrooms are nutritious (http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/3050/2) and delicious and their use goes well beyond just batteries. They are edible and can be grown with minimal photosynthetic requirements. Additionally, they come in many flavors Laetiporus sulphureus, is a potential chicken substitute or Hericium erinaceus which can be cooked to a seafood like texture and a crab like flavor. There are thousands of potentially useful mushrooms for space application and dozens (maybe hundreds) of choice edibles. The opportunity to research and take specific ones that maximize use in space should be thoroughly examined. There are some examples of lichens (a fungus/plant dual organism) that are capable of surviving in very harsh conditions and they may even be capable of surviving on Mars.  They provide many nutrients not easily obtainable from plant based products this makes them a great supplement to a space diet. This is partially due to fungus being more closely related to cows and fish than they are to plants.

Space Goats

Yup….I said it…  “Space Goats” … Goats can produce milk which is an excellent source of nutrition. Additionally the excess (non-dairy) goats can be slaughtered to produce meat for the astronauts. This operation is not sun dependant (though a reliable food source would be necessary for the goats during the night). The biggest advantage of goats is that they require about 1/6’th the area that cows require and this reduced space requirement can allow a viable population in a much smaller space. An even lower space animal would be chickens which produce eggs. The bio-waste from these animals could be converted into soil creating a complete system. The goat field could double as a solar generation facility modern research has determined that pastures of grazing animals with shade yields more milk of equal quality. Thus some sort of shade would need to be provided, either trees or solar panels or something else that would be productive.

Difficulty 3 – Building supplies on a moon or planet

Insulation and Building Materials

Not to keep pushing for fungus in space but there is a company called Ecovative they produce Myco Board, Myco Foam and other products. Myco Board is essentially a fungal building material that remains stable for long lengths of time (as long as it stays dry, not a problem in space).  Myco Foam is a grown insulation which can replace Styrofoam and other products and again be grown at the destination which allows more flexibility for transporting the product from Earth to the colony.

Bio-Luminescence

This one is admittedly a long shot but there are mushrooms that naturally produce light (other organisms as well but mushrooms are stationary). If we started a breeding program which focused on selectively breeding the mushrooms that produced the most light then over time the mushrooms might produce enough light to reduce the night time electrical needs of a colony. On earth these could be sold as novelty space mushrooms or specialty lighting (high electric cost areas such as California might be all to happy to replace conventional lighting with mushroom lighting in the name of saving money and conservation) to help recover a portion of the development costs. Geneticist consultation might be warranted to see how difficult it would be to identify the genes responsible for the bio-luminescence and insert them in more desirable edible species then begin the breeding program.

Volkswagen’s Potential Liabilities

What are Volkswagen’s potential liabilities in the diesel emissions scandal?

Chattanooga, TN, has been a very exciting place to live recently. We have won Outside Magazines “Best Town Ever” competition for the second time and hosted numerous large greatly positive events. However, the year has not been without its woes. Probably the biggest woe faced by this community was the shooting incident in which five service members were killed by an apparent lone wolf attack. The second largest it appears will be the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal which has the potential to impact an estimated 10,000 employees (local suppliers and actual employees (including ones that would have been hired for the SUV line being added)).

I would like to provide an independent evaluation of the potential U.S. liabilities that the company faces and some ideas for the company to survive the scandal. I have read various estimates of the potential “worst-case scenario” costs to the company. These estimates range from $7 billion to $50 billion (internationally) and while they are indeed very large numbers I do not think the represent a realistic worst case scenario very accurately. I will begin with some basic figures regarding the financial position of the company then follow with potential costs looming over their company from the crisis. Finally, I will share my thoughts on the situation.

Volkswagen Company Assets

The company has a liquid cash fund of approximately $25 billion dollars. Earlier this year the company has a market valuation of approximately $125 billion (which has been reduced significantly, the 52 week high around $255 per share to a current $108 per share up from the low of $92 that occurred 10 days ago). I haven’t completely examined the financials thoroughly but the company puts their overall assets in the ballpark of $374.02 billion (http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/vlkay/financials/balance-sheet/quarter). This seems reasonable and for this valuation it will be accepted at face value for this article. Their total liabilities stand at a $285.37 billion which leaves about $88.65 billion (as of June 30’Th this year) that is potentially available (without external help) to resolve this crisis. Finally the company’s net income for the four quarters is $10.83 billion

Volkswagen Emissions Crisis Cost in the U.S.

The simplest worst case cost to determine is the U.S. EPA maximum fine value. This number alone for the 500,000 (11,000,000 world wide) illegally operating vehicles it sold in the U.S. is approximately $18 billion. There is currently a large cohort of analysts who believe the actual fine will be much lower. The historical highest actual fined amount is only $1.2 billion paid by Toyota for the faulty ignition switches. General Motors paid $900 million for their ignition switch scandal which killed 124 people. Putting this in perspective the VW emissions scandal has probably (it is practically impossible to get an actual count) killed between 16-94 people inside the United States. As a result some analysts anticipate the actual fines being much lower than the $18 billion. However, I differ in my opinion that the VW crisis will end up being much larger than many people anticipate (I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. EPA seriously considers the maximum penalty). The big difference is that VW intentionally designed and implemented technology then sold it to consumers illegally and falsely advertised knowing that the emissions released would hurt people. This is much worse than previous recalls where damage was primarily cause by accident (or lack of proper review) instead of willfully and intentionally causing harm. In my mind this is the difference in a plane engine failing and the plane crashing due to the malfunction versus the pilot intentionally crashing the plane. One scenario is exponentially worse than the other though both are tragic. My gut tells me that many others, including the EPA, can also easily see this distinction and as a result I believe the end fine will be between $12-18 billion.

The more difficult to calculate expenses will result from litigation ranging from states to customers and dealers and potentially even suppliers adversely impacted by VW’s willful deception. I am not a lawyer or economist but I know that damages in court are often calculated at three times the calculated value. On the supplier and dealer side there are most certainly negative economic consequences that are/will directly result from this scandal. Will these damages be recoverable in a court of law? I’m not really sure. The state and local governments whose laws VW has violated will certainly have some recourse. These costs are unknown (perhaps even to those directly involved) but substantial.

The most significant loss is the loss to the consumer who purchased a “clean vehicle” at a premium of about $3,000 (the price over a gasoline engine) and received a vehicle that is the opposite of clean. The reputation on these vehicles is likely to take a long term hit and cause problems reselling the vehicles. The worst case scenario is that these vehicles will be valueless and the company will be requested to buy them back at the sale price which is much higher than $3,000. Due to lack of an average price point that accurately represents the 500,000 diesels sold in the U.S. I will low ball this value at $30,000 per vehicle.

Quickly the math:

$3,000 * 500,000 = $1.50 Billion

$30,000 * 500,000 = $15 Billion

Suppose the drivers of each of these vehicles decided to sue for 3x the value they paid (punitive/pain and suffering for being sold a vehicle under false pretense) this equates to $90,000 * 500,000 = $45 Billion in damages, not including legal fees paid by the corporation.

Summary of potential U.S. Expenses

High Estimate:

U.S. EPA Fine – $18 Billion

Customer Law Suits – $45 Billion

State, County Municipality Fines: Unknown (We’ll say it matches the EPA fine $18 Billion)

Legal Fees – Unknown (We’ll use 10% of the total settlement $77 Billion * .10 = $7.7 Billion)

Law Suits from Suppliers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Law Suits from Dealers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Recall Costs – $7 Billion

Cost to return the air quality to what it had been if they hadn’t cheated – Unknown

Total High Estimate: $18 Billion + $18 Billion + $45 Billion + $7.7 Billion + $7 Billion = $95.7 Billion

Midrange Estimate:

U.S. EPA Fine – $12 Billion

Customer Law Suits – $15 Billion

State, County Municipality Fines: Unknown (We’ll say it matches the EPA fine $12 Billion)

Legal Fees – Unknown (We’ll use 6.5% of the total settlement $39 Billion * .065 = $2.535 Billion)

Law Suits from Suppliers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Law Suits from Dealers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Recall Costs – $4.2 Billion

Cost to return the air quality to what it had been if they hadn’t cheated – Unknown

Total High Estimate: $12 Billion + $12 Billion + $25 Billion + $2.535 Billion + $4.2 Billion = $55.735 Billion

Low Estimate

U.S. EPA Fine – $1.2 Billion

Customer Law Suits – $1.5 Billion

State, County Municipality Fines: Unknown (We’ll say it matches the EPA fine $1.2 Billion)

Legal Fees – Unknown (We’ll use 3% of the total settlement $3.9 Billion * .03 = $0.117 Billion)

Law Suits from Suppliers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Law Suits from Dealers – Unknown (Unable to find an estimate)

Recall Costs – $1.2 Billion

Cost to return the air quality to what it had been if they hadn’t cheated – Unknown

Total High Estimate: $1.2 Billion + $1.2 Billion + $1.5 Billion + $0.117 Billion + $1.2 Billion = $5.217 Billion

The three estimates above range again are: $5.217 Billion, $55.735 Billion and $95.7 Billion. Recall that VW only has a total positive value of $88.65 Billion. This means that the U.S. alone could potentially (in a worst case scenario) bankrupt the company single handedly. This doesn’t even add in other responsibilities internationally just for fun (and to put the entire crisis into perspective) I have calculated their international liabilities under three different scenarios: The world on average fines them 100% of what the U.S. does on a per car basis, 50% and 10% are the additional two values. I think the U.S. has some of the more strict regulations worldwide but some other countries may have more strict regulations than the U.S.

The cost per car to Volkswagen based on my estimates at the three price points is:

High Estimate: $191,400

Midrange Estimate: $111,470

Low Estimate: $10,434

Please remember the EPA alone can fine VW up to $37,500 per vehicle so the low estimate really is extremely low. Here is a table showing various combinations of international cost at the different estimates and international penalty points:

International Costs
Low Estimate Midrange Estimate High Estimate
100% $109,557,000,000.00 $1,170,435,000,000.00 $2,009,700,000,000.00
50% 54,778,500,000 585,217,500,000 1,004,850,000,000
10% 10,955,700,000 117,043,500,000 200,970,000,000
International Costs + U.S. Costs
Low Estimate Midrange Estimate High Estimate
100% $114,774,000,000.00 $1,226,170,000,000.00 $2,105,400,000,000.00
50% $59,995,500,000.00 $640,952,500,000.00 $1,100,550,000,000.00
10% $16,172,700,000.00 $172,778,500,000.00 $296,670,000,000.00

 

The potential liabilities range from $16 Billion (best case scenario) to $2.1 Trillion (worst case scenario). In fact only the low estimates (on the table) where the international community only puts 50% or 10% the severity of the penalty that the U.S. does will result in VW still maintaining a positive value. If they survive this disaster as a company there is still the hit to their reputation, their suppliers and the broader effects on the European manufacturing reputation that could cause further monetary issues on economies worldwide. Remember these estimates do not include any penalties associated with repairing the harm done to the environment, VW’s dealers and VW’s suppliers.

My thoughts As a Chattanoogan on the VW Emissions Scandal

As promised I would include a portion on my thoughts. Chattanooga is at an epicenter of this controversy we have about 10,000 jobs resulting from the Volkswagen manufacturing plant located in our city. Optimistically, I hope that in 2 to 5 years all these people still have healthy jobs and careers. Looking at the scandal I believe that based on the current information Volkswagen will likely end up being responsible for $60 to $200 billion in total damages. They can certainly withstand $88 billion without outside assets. Additionally they can probably sell stock to raise funds and cut costs to increase profit margins. Perhaps they will even receive a bailout from the German government, the Tennessee Government and China since these economies have many jobs that the company provides. I would put them at a 50% chance of bankruptcy depending on on going investigation and litigation.

Honestly, I’m not sure that I want Volkswagen to survive after purposefully harming so many people just for the sake of profits and growth. Perhaps the best outcome would be a buyout from another major auto player and drastic changes within the management of the company. What would excite me the most on a local scale is if Tesla Motors purchased the Volkswagen plant and Chattanooga became the new hub for electric vehicles in the United States.

Best States for Gainful Employment

This began with a simple question: “What is the best state in the United States to live in for gainful employment?” One important variable is the median household income. Obviously the more income that a median household earns the more potential there is for gainful employment. Another important variable to examine is the cost of living in a state. This is because a lower cost of living equates to lower expenses as a household. If a person has a high household income and fewer expenses then they have more money in their pocket at the end of the day.   A third variable is the unemployment rate within the sate. Naturally, a person needs to be employed before they can be gainfully employed. There are probably other variables that might also be considered but these three are the focus of this analysis.

The data used came from three different sources which had each determined one of the three variables for this analysis (links are at the bottom of the page). The states were then assigned a rank (if the data source hadn’t ranked them) where 1 was the best and 50 was the worst. The three scores for each state were summed to create the Worker Hardship Index values in the chart.

StatesChart

The data used for the median household income was separated by political party (Democratic/Republican). The way that they determined if a state was classified as one or the other was by taking the party affiliation of the three highest ranking politicians (the governor and the two senators) for each state. Whichever party had two or more of the three positions became the state’s affiliation.

StatesBasicStats

The same political affiliations from the source were utilized to examine if political party influenced the results of states in the Worker Hardship Index. Some basic stats were tabulated (Table 1) where the mean score for democratic states was 79.0227 and the mean for republican states was 74.3929 (median was 76 and 73.5 respectively). Subsequently, the variance and normality were checked on the data and an ANOVA was run utilizing R.

  1. StatesAnova

An ANOVA is a statistical test that can be utilized to determine if there is likely a difference between different factors in a dataset. This ANOVA produced a p-value of 0.501 which means that the difference between the means and medians of republican and democratic states was not significant. In less technical words there is no statistical reason for us to believe that the political association of a state (as determined above) has any impact on the Worker Hardship Index score for that state.

Congratulations to the top 10 most gainfully employed states! You must be doing something right.

State                            Raw Score           Political               Rank

  1. Utah                                      37                           Republican         1
  2. Iowa                                       41                           Republican         2
  3. Wyoming                            41                           Republican         3
  4. Nebraska                            43                           Republican         4
  5. Virginia                                44                           Democratic         5
  6. North Dakota                  47                           Republican         6
  7. New Hampshire             49                           Democratic         7
  8. Kansas                                 51                           Republican         8
  9. Minnesota                        52                           Democratic         9
  10. Texas                                    52                           Republican         10
  11. Colorado                           53                           Democratic         11
  12. Indiana                                53                           Republican         12
  13. Idaho                                    55                           Republican         13
  14. Hawaii                                  58                           Democratic         14
  15. South Dakota                  61                           Republican         15
  16. Maryland                          64                           Democratic         16
  17. Michigan                           65                           Democratic         17
  18. Oklahoma                         65                           Republican         18
  19. Vermont                           66                           Democratic         19
  20. Wisconsin                        66                           Republican         20
  21. Delaware                          69                           Democratic         21
  22. Illinois                                 72                           Republican         22
  23. Ohio                                     72                           Republican         23
  24. Kentucky                           75                           Republican         24
  25. Massachusetts              75                           Democratic         25
  26. Connecticut                     76                           Democratic         26
  27. Washington                     76                           Democratic         27
  28. New Jersey                      80                           Democratic         28
  29. Missouri                            81                           Democratic         29
  30. Montana                           81                           Democratic         30
  31. Georgia                              84                           Republican         31
  32. Maine                                  84                           Republican         32
  33. Pennsylvania                  85                           Democratic         33
  34. Arkansas                           89                           Republican         34
  35. New York                         90                           Democratic         35
  36. Tennessee                       90                           Republican         36
  37. Rhode Island                 94                           Democratic         37
  38. Alaska                                95                           Republican         38
  39. Florida                               95                           Republican         39
  40. Alabama                           96                           Republican         40
  41. California                         97                           Democratic         41
  42. Mississippi                      97                           Republican         42
  43. North Carolina             100                         Republican         43
  44. Arizona                              101                         Republican         44
  45. Louisiana                          103                         Republican         45
  46. South Carolina             106                         Republican         46
  47. Nevada                              112                         Republican         47
  48. Oregon                              114                         Democratic         48
  49. West Virginia                 133                         Democratic         49
  50. New Mexico                   136.5                     Democratic         50

 

Links to data used:

http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-unemployment-update.aspx

https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/

http://www.cleveland.com/datacentral/index.ssf/2015/09/blue_states_red_states_rich_st.html

Chattanooga, TN should increase minimum wage to $24.75 per hour

Chattanooga, TN should increase the minimum wage to $24.75  per hour.

Tennessee has more people paid minimum wage, or lower, than any state in the United States

I live in the Chattanooga metropolitan area and recently I have been reading about wages of employees and fairness of pay. It turns out that Tennessee has the highest percentage of minimum wage workers in the entire nation at a surprising 7.4% of the hourly workforce.  This information was worked out based on data from BLS.gov check it out here). This means that Tennessee is a ripe place to discuss employee wages and potential solutions to wage problems in this area and other places in the country. In this article I try to show why a Single-Income per household living wage model is a good solution.

Two Income Households are Problematic

The rise of two income households began perhaps as far back as the 1940’s where about 30% of women worked (my numbers are from here). This number increased to around 40% by 1967. I located some numbers of inflation adjusted median house hold income from 1967 to 2012  which shows that the inflation adjusted median household income of 1967 was about $43,000 and in 2012 that value had increased to about $51,000. This represents just over $8,000 in increased median household income over 55 years.

Let’s compare that $8,000 increase in household income to the increased presence of women in the workforce over that same period. From 1967 to 2012 the percentage of women working increased from 40% to 57%. This amounts to a 17% increase in female prevalence within the workforce. Simultaneously, the median household income increased 18%.  This may seem reasonable except that mass production has made prices cheaper and economically this was an exceptional growth period for the United States. The Dow Jones doubled in the same time period as can be seen in this 100 year chart. Comparing the market index chart to a CNN chart it seems that prior to 1968 the purchase power available to minimum wage was gradually increasing and so was the market. Though after 1968 as women’s role in the workforce increased the purchase power of minimum wage dropped.

When I look at this drop the more cynical side of me cannot help but think that the reduction of purchase power is a direct a result of corporate entities realizing that more and more of the work force was dominated by two-income households naturally they would realize that they could pay lower wages and the working class would accept these conditions. As peoples wages were decreased slowly over 55 years more households were becoming two-income households. It is not clear from the available data if this occurred from necessity or because people enjoyed the short-term luxury afforded by an increased household income. Either way the two-income household became the normal way of life within this country. The purchase power of minimum wage workers eroded and lower income families moved more towards the two-income household model.

The effects go beyond adults working more!

This might be easily dismissed and shrugged off as a situation where times are rough and people need to buckle down and get things done. The consequences instead are potentially massive. If we continue to accept a two-income household as the norm in our society then it will eventually, if it hasn’t already, eliminate the ability of vast portions of the american population the option to maintain a single income household where one of the adults doesn’t need to work.

Well maybe two-income households benefit society by increasing productivity and the single income household was a fluke? Surely there are some benefits to national productivity from a larger potential work force which certainly benefit the american people. However, what seems to be happening is that men’s income is being reduced while women’s income is being increased until they meet somewhere in the middle.

The current women’s rights movement is a push for equal wages between men and women. This is absolutely something which needs to be realized across the board in all areas where women work. They should get equal pay for equal work. The problem I have with this scenario is that we shouldn’t be lowering men’s wages to increase women’s wages. Instead men’s wages should be growing and women’s wages should be increased even more to close the gap.

Another problem is realized in the early child development in two-income households. Children raised in this environment have a less stable home life and perhaps more stressed and overworked parents. This can create a stressful environment for the children and could produce negative effects in growth and development. Additionally it prohibits the parents from providing as much attention to their children to teach and prepare them for taking over after we pass the torch on to them.

Business Wins and the American People Lose

American households stand to lose a lot. My personal opinion is that this is the cause of a lot of problems we are seeing today. Most importantly households are working more for less per hour of work. The businesses, and their owners, are making out like bandits. They have machines making products cheaper each day with a smaller work force. They have two-income households becoming the norm which allows them to reduce the incomes of their formerly single income household employees. We haven’t arrived there yet but my fear is that we are headed towards a way of life where households work 80 hours a week to provide what only 100 years ago was provided by 40 hours of work. This current model leads to a degradation of the american lifestyle.

Increasing Minimum Wage is the Answer

The situation can be changed to make the American citizens the winners and the businesses can become more profitable by real improvement instead of a false improvement where they get more labor for cheaper. American families are potentially harming the growth and development of the next generation by reducing the ability of parents to choose to keep a parent home to care for and raise the children. The best way, in this Authors current opinion, to fix this problem is to set a living wage based on what an American Household should be for size and for standard of living. The living wage should be based on a single-income household and if households have two incomes then naturally they should receive the full luxury of that second income. Additionally these minimum living wages based on Single-Income households should be indexed to the cost of living this is to prevent the business world from once again devaluing the work of Americans.

Currently the best charts I can find for estimating what a single-income family living wage might be are produced by  Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at this website where you may look up your own community. In Chattanooga Tennessee if we call my family the average Chattanoogan household, two adults and 3 kids, then an appropriate living wage would be in the $24.75 ballpark. Sure there may be an argument for a smaller household size to be considered than my family of five but the basic premise holds true. Set a minimum wage at a living wage for a typical single income American household and index it to the cost of living.

Check out the MIT link for Chattanooga to see the $24.75 for yourself. Obviously this would have to be implemented over a longer period of time, perhaps a decade of annual pay increases to catch the American worker up with an appropriate salary while allowing businesses time to adjust and plan.

To discuss this issue please start a thread on our new forums. This is an evolving idea and maybe updated as more perspective is gained.