Monday, October 27, 2008

Icnoclasts & CAFE

Just a reminder & recommendation to all that you must watch Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel Thursdays @ 10PM ET/PT. This show is by far the most intelligent and inspiring on television. Its fourth season lineup includes the following pairings:

Desmond Tutu + Richard Branson
Stella McCartney + Edward Ruscha
Tony Hawk + my buddy Jon Favreau
Bill Maher + Clive Davis
Venus Williams + Wyclef Jean
Cameron Diaz + Cameron Sinclair

T Boone Pickens appeared on 60 Minutes last evening. He seems to really get the fact that fossil fuels is a dying business. At times it is hard to understand if his Pickens Plan is pure altruism or just plain greed. Whichever it turns out there is no denying his impact on educating and furthering the alternative energy discussion. I certainly wasn’t impressed to learn that he funded the 2004 swift boat campaign against John Kerry and remains adamant that it was the correct thing to do.

Interesting story in Sunday’s NY Times about the death of the SUV. Production at the plant in Wisconsin has been reduced from 1000 vehicles a day to 100 and the plant is scheduled to close on December 31st. In light of this, here are the top 10 fuel-efficient vehicles for 2009, based on EPA fuel economy data for combined city and highway driving:

Vehicle City/Hwy/Combined

1. Toyota Prius
2. Honda Civic Hybrid
3. smart fortwo
4. Volkswagen Jetta Sedan/Jetta SportWagen
5. Toyota Camry Hybrid
6. Nissan Altima Hybrid
7. MINI Cooper/Cooper Clubman
8. Toyota Yaris
9. Ford Escape Hybrid/Mercury Mariner Hybrid/Mazda Tribute Hybrid (tie)
10. Honda Fit
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agenc

Thursday, October 23, 2008

HedgeFunder Says F**k You

Saw mention of this letter in the Los Angeles Time last weekend. Hedgefunder Andrew Lahde, who delivered a 866% return last year betting against the mortgage markets, bid goodbye to clients and colleagues with the below farewell letter. Note the last paragraph which addresses alternative food sources and energy:

Today I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, "What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it." I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

There are far too many people for me to sincerely thank for my success. However, I do not want to sound like a Hollywood actor accepting an award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the endless list those deserving thanks know who they are.

I will no longer manage money for other people or institutions. I have enough of my own wealth to manage. Some people, who think they have arrived at a reasonable estimate of my net worth, might be surprised that I would call it quits with such a small war chest. That is fine; I am content with my rewards. Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. Steve Balmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten. I do not understand the legacy thing. Nearly everyone will be forgotten. Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life.
So this is it. With all due respect, I am dropping out. Please do not expect any type of reply to emails or voicemails within normal time frames or at all. Andy Springer and his company will be handling the dissolution of the fund. And don't worry about my employees, they were always employed by Mr. Springer's company and only one (who has been well-rewarded) will lose his job.

I have no interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate. I truly do not have a strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life -- where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management -- with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.

On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to make a modest proposal. First, I point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reigned in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. Since Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith passed, I would argue that there has been a dearth of worthy philosophers in this country, at least ones focused on improving government. Capitalism worked for two hundred years, but times change, and systems become corrupt. George Soros, a man of staggering wealth, has stated that he would like to be remembered as a philosopher. My suggestion is that this great man start and sponsor a forum for great minds to come together to create a new system of government that truly represents the common man's interest, while at the same time creating rewards great enough to attract the best and brightest minds to serve in government roles without having to rely on corruption to further their interests or lifestyles. This forum could be similar to the one used to create the operating system, Linux, which competes with Microsoft's near monopoly. I believe there is an answer, but for now the system is clearly broken.

Lastly, while I still have an audience, I would like to bring attention to an alternative food and energy source. You won't see it included in BP's, "Feel good. We are working on sustainable solutions," television commercials, nor is it mentioned in ADM's similar commercials. But hemp has been used for at least 5,000 years for cloth and food, as well as just about everything that is produced from petroleum products. Hemp is not marijuana and vice versa. Hemp is the male plant and it grows like a weed, hence the slang term. The original American flag was made of hemp fiber and our Constitution was printed on paper made of hemp. It was used as recently as World War II by the U.S. Government, and then promptly made illegal after the war was won. At a time when rhetoric is flying about becoming more self-sufficient in terms of energy, why is it illegal to grow this plant in this country? Ah, the female. The evil female plant -- marijuana. It gets you high, it makes you laugh, it does not produce a hangover. Unlike alcohol, it does not result in bar fights or wife beating. So, why is this innocuous plant illegal? Is it a gateway drug? No, that would be alcohol, which is so heavily advertised in this country. My only conclusion as to why it is illegal, is that Corporate America, which owns Congress, would rather sell you Paxil, Zoloft, Xanax and other additive drugs, than allow you to grow a plant in your home without some of the profits going into their coffers. This policy is ludicrous. It has surely contributed to our dependency on foreign energy sources. Our policies have other countries literally laughing at our stupidity, most notably Canada, as well as several European nations (both Eastern and Western). You would not know this by paying attention to U.S. media sources though, as they tend not to elaborate on who is laughing at the United States this week. Please people, let's stop the rhetoric and start thinking about how we can truly become self-sufficient.
With that I say good-bye and good luck.

All the best, - Andrew Lahde

Friday, October 17, 2008


I am heading to California early in the morning for a few days of client meetings. I am attempting to travel sans laptop and with only the crackberry, so no new blog posts until mid-week. Had a really great time attending The Feast yesterday. Plenty of aspiring entrepreneurs making remarkable progress in the social-ecology space. I will share more of this with all next week. Wishing everyone a fantastic weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I am taking another day off from blogging to attend The Feast Conference here in NYC. The focus of this is to use creativity for social good. I am seriously looking forward to spending time with these innovators today. Synopsis and link below:

On October 16th in New York City, alldaybuffet and our closest friends are coming to dinner. "The Feast" will gather 150 of the world's leading creative mavericks, entrepreneurs, revolutionaries, radicals, and innovators together to inspire action to change the world.

Our mothers always told us "there's good in everything" so we've curated a series of inspiring, mind-expanding, and innovative talks that will showcase a look at social innovation from all angles. From design to business to science, and everything between, our speakers will share insights on the power of creativity to propel social change within and across industries.

Anchored in innovative ideas with a focus on action, The Feast will take a cross-disciplinary look at executions, strategies and concepts - digital answers to global problems, social design solutions and successful triple-bottom line business models. And more than just watching, The Feast will connect this remarkable network through "matchmaking" networking breaks, group projects, and one legendary after-party! Our hope is to leave you high on possibilities with a new menu of connections to get it all done.

Whether you're a social entrepreneur or socially conscious at heart, The Feast will provide you with an excellent platform for inspiration, connection, and action. We hope you will support us and join us in bringing the best and brightest minds together to make the world a better place.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pittsburgh & Hollywood

Pittsburgh Highmark- I ask for forgiveness in advance as I proceed to laud a healthcare provider. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is unveiling a 22,000 square foot green roof on its facility in downtown Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh has a soiled reputation (pun intended) and a major problem with sewage overflow. Highmark’s green roof will reduce the company’s energy consumption by 12% and will absorb most of the 37 annual inches of rain instead of it ending in the local storm water system. According to John Schombert, Executive Director of 3 Rivers Wet Weather, a local non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of the region’s water quality, from May to September the areas waterways are contaminated. The roof contains over 25,000 plants in varied depths of between 6 to 18 inches. Highmark is involved in a variety of other environmental-friendly initiatives such as a Silver LEED certified Data Center in Hershey, PA, paper and utilities conservation measures and use of certified green seal cleaning products. I think it’s fascinating to see this type of project in a very unlikely place, it continues to demonstrate that every city is beginning to understand the benefits of ecology and science.

Only In LA- Fortunately for Hollywood hipsters another club is about to open. This one, Ecco, is claiming to be the first “ecco friendly ultra lounge”. Can someone please explain this term to me? It may even receive a LEED certification. Flushless toilets, free valet parking for hybrids and green energy provided by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power are just some of the features. Sounds like the perfect place to hang for all those Dodger fans that require wearing sunglasses at night ballgames.

Punch Drunk- It has been an abnormally long election cycle and the candidates are definitely getting spendy with taxpayer’s and Asia’s money. Obamessiah yesterday just couldn’t help himself and proposed an incentive of $50 billion to US automakers doubling the $25 billion already approved by Congress. I need to start a failing manufacturing or financial business quick, so I can get mine.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mercedes Blue

Clean Diesel- Mercedes Benz is making available its new BlueTec clean diesel models to dealers this week. This technology which provides 20-30 percent higher fuel economy than gasoline engines and provides up to a 600-mile driving range, will be introduced first through the company’s SUV line: the 2009 ML320, GL320 and R320. If anyone has money left after last week’s dismal market then get down to your Mercedes dealer. This BlueTec technology is being designated by the IRS as “Advance Lean Burn Technology” therefore to ease your woes buyers can apply for up to $1800 in tax credits. Unfortunately, these SUV models are still pretty large vehicles, so this is not so forward-thinking, but BlueTec does reduce nitrogen oxide, a main cause of smog, by 80 percent. The models emissions are so clean that even states like California and New York are allowing them to be sold after a decade old ban on diesel passenger autos.

Food Chain- Filmmaker Robert Kenner new film, Food, Inc. casts a disturbing eye on our nation’s food industry and the FDA and USDA’s complicit ness. In this film Kenner focuses on how only a handful of corporations control the food chain and pretty much have put profit over the consumer causing harm to consumer health, the safety of workers and the economic well being of farmers. The film just debuted last month at the Toronto Film Festival, so look for it in theatres soon.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Alice & Edibles

Alice Is Wonderland- I attended a talk last evening as part of the NY Food & Wine Festival featuring chef and activist Alice Waters at the NY Times. Waters is truly a remarkable gift and has been a leader in sustainability regarding nutrition. Through her Chez Panisse Foundation which funds projects like The Edible Schoolyard and SlowFood Nation she is continuing to make a major impact on how we all view food, nutrition and ecology. Waters reiterated once again last evening that we (consumers) must have relationships with local farmers and that stewardship of the land is paramount. Additionally, budgeting for our food choices should be prioritized over other frivolous items (she pointed to basketball shoes and cell phones). In her opinion if food costs more, but we know it comes from a local organic farm source than it’s well worth the investment. Water’s work with school children through The Edible Schoolyard and its affiliate programs is groundbreaking. So many in last night’s audience were school teachers from outer boroughs of Manhattan desperately attempting to find ways to adopt this “edible education” into their own classrooms. The Edible Schoolyard consists of one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom at the Martin Luther King Jr. public middle school in Berkeley, CA. This program has helped over 3,000 students in making lifelong, healthy food choices and each carry these very ideas back to their own homes. The act of eating locally would have a far greater impact on the environment then all the hybrids autos in the world. I urge you to visit the Chez Panisse Foundation site and read more about this vital eco-gastronomical education program. Now if I could only get a reservation to eat at Chez Panisse!

Prius Its Own Brand- There is talk that Toyota may actually set the Prius up as a stand-alone sub brand. There is no denying the success of Prius and Toyota would like to take advantage of this good brand-will to perhaps fashion this like there Scion brand. According to a new article in Reuters, Toyota’s North American sales chief, Jim Lentz, has disclosed that there is a “definite desire” to market “a series of derivatives under the Prius brand name that would allow you to market product at a much lower cost.” This lends further reports that Toyota is planning a family of Prius hybrids, including models like a wagon and a convertible. An all-new Prius is expected to debut at the 2009 North American International Auto Show this January in Detroit, and a smaller, less-expensive hybrid is also rumored to be in the cards. According to Lentz, dealerships are already being constructed with a multi-zone theme, including space earmarked for the Prius, Scion, and the Toyota’s trucks. Underscoring all of this, a Toyota dealership in Conway, Arkansas was just awarded a LEED certification as part of Toyota’s efforts to make their dealers more environmentally friendly.