This economy is a what?
Replaying 1929: Business, Financial, and earth change news
Updated: Saturday July 5, 2008 07:40 CDT
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"Strong Dollars" and other Foreign Policies
As the end of the Bush Presidency rolls into view, the headlines continue to underscore that despite arguments to the contrary, we seem not to be doing so well in the foreign policy arena.
Not to picks on just one example like "Poland rejects U.S. missile shield offer", or The Wars, I'd point to the largest problem the administration has brought to both investors and regular everyday Main Street America.
That's the often claimed "strong dollar policy" of the White House, mouthed by various Treasury and Federal Reserve officials on cue.
Let's roll back the clock to see where the dollar was when The Decider was one day into his Presidency on January 20, 2001. But first, here's a headline from that day to put you into the mood for this little exercise in forensic economics: "We got some dancing to do," Bush says!'
When the markets closed on Friday the Fourth yesterday, the exchange was ONE U.S. Dollar buying 0.63180 Euro.
In other words, relative to Europe, the Dollar has lost more than 40% of its overseas purchasing power under Bush. Say, that's some "strong dollar policy" don'tcha think?
Not that the decline has been entirely relative to the Euro. When Bush took office ONE U.S. Dollar would buy $1.51340 Canadian. and the conversion to gold (or more properly, the XSAU proxy) was based on $264.55.
One U.S. dollar now buy 1.0156 Canadian, a loss of 32.9% when we're bidding against Canadian money for world market goods. Can you say "Spot the lunies/loonies?" And the price of gold (via the XAU proxy) closed this week at $932.
And that's without getting into how oil prices have fared...
The fact is, we continue to spend more than we make...so we water down our currency. Balance of trade deficits do come home to roost one way or t'other.
Even Wikipedia, which seems to have an answer for just about everything, seems a bit unclear on what the Bushistas have mean when they talk about the 'strong dollar policy':
That works as long as you don't remember the definition of Narcissism is:
Strong Dollar is strong ego coupled with an untreated case of denial with a dose of spendthrift thrown in.
A simple thought experiment makes the point: With 195 countries in the world, how many can have the strongest currency relative to all others? (Hint: One, last time I checked). And we're not even in the running, yet jingoism about strong dollars makes us look like Global Buffoons.
Here are a couple of inconvenient results of Bush foreign & economic policy (and that mythical 'strong dollar') after 7 1/2 years of Bush at the helm:
I will give the Bush crowd credit for improving our position slightly vis-à-vis Mexico.. Incoming, the dollar bought 9.792 Pesos. Today it buys 10.3883 Pesos. This foreign & economic policy triumph has only cost us a drug war on the southern border, which seems to be dissolving before our eyes, while Mexican truckers undercut US drivers. And oh yeah, there's the www.spp.gov movement, too. And rumors of the Amero persist, although a little research says nope, not yet. That's yet..
It may seem a little harsh, but I measure foreign policy by what it puts on the tables of Mains Street Americans. Less.
Eight years of corpgov's "strong dollar policy" has been delusional are best and deliberately deceptive at worst. We keep coming back to that "The harder we work, the behinder we get" problem. Joseph Tainter notes that's when past civilizations have either walked away or revolted...when the marginal rate of return on harder work falls below zero, a country or siciety is in trouble.
Are we working hard/longer than we were 8 years ago? I expect so. Further ahead? LOL, you're kidding, right?
The dollar is less sound than when Bush took office, as evidenced by the soaring values of currencies of other countries. Can the administration do anything about it in the final six months? I wouldn't bet on it. Rumors of another BANKruptcy continue, and a further meltdown in the markets seems probable this fall.
MSM Imploding Department
While it may be expecting a little much to get down to economic measurement of foreign policy, I can't help but notice that there's a p*ssing match of sorts going on between the Superpowers of News. $4.50 gas, loosing ground to India, Russia, and Brazil, a fading border and we get this?
You know why the 'net flourishes...LOL.
If you've followed the release of one-time Colombian presidential hopeful Ingrid Betancourt, you might well be thinking "that rings a bell somewhere..."
Well, she's got the 'highlands of south or central America' background and she's being widely and warmly received...she may be just part of the generalized 'women bringing healing and harmony' but I'll ask the time monks...
Another reader has a question, too:
It's usually a mix of good/bad...but you're right, there's often an actual 'release' along with the 'release of emotion' kind...
Bad and getting worse, by the sound of reports like this one.
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Coping: Car That Go 40
MPG's that is:
Another reader sends this reminder that while Ford was busy selling US cars and SUV's that got sucky fuel economy, overseas Ford was selling a dieselk version of the Focus that did over 60 MPG...check it out:
So here's a "Better Idea" for Ford: Bring in that 65.6 MPG 1.6 TDCi Duratorq turbo diesel Focus to the US market and it will sell like hotcakes. I'll buy the first one... Or, do you guys like losing money and market share? OMG, you don't think someone's in bed with the Oilco's do you?
Self Hair Cutting
Someone pointed out, after I revealed my self-hair cutting project this week (which I'm very pleased with, BTW) that Wahl has an eBay web store where they offer a self hair-cutting kit. At about $60 bucks it's more spendy than the "Hair-cutting for Dummies" kit that you can pick up for a pair of tens, but it also has some longer guides that don't come with the low-end kit; there are four over 1/2", for example. I'm trying to find a 3/4 or 1" guide, but in hot weather, a short 1/2" guide crew cut works just fine, thanks. It's ever so much more even than the weed eater.
7 Fat Years...
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A Better Kind of Money?
Money is in the midst of a huge decoupling from its traditional role as means of storing wealth. We've got several factors at play here which demand analysis. Among these we can count the declining underlying value model, where over time (and enough printing) money stores more 'interest' than 'value'. A second is that a transition from specie to paper and now digimoney is underway. And the third, and perhaps most important aspect is that 'money' as most folks think about it, is in the midst of decoupling from physical reality as the printing of paper assets may continue ad infinitum, while the available resources (oil, oxygen, and fish as examples) is not unlimited and is likely peaking, as anyone who likes Copper River Salmon will tell you. This week, a reexamination of the old problem "What is money, anyway?" and "Can we come up with something better?" (More for subscribers - click here)
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"Live on $10,000" Updated
There's now a single-page website devoted to my little ebook "How to Live on $10,000 a year (or less) at www.liveontenthousand.com. Yep - still possible. I also took a bit of additional material that was pertinent from recent issues of Peoplenomics and included them. The whole thing runs about 65 pages, but it gives you a vision of how to not only live on the aforementioned dollar amount, but also how to migrate up the economic foodchain if you make a little more than that and do some active savings... Click here for the page with more details on it.
Friday July 4, 2008
Fourth of July: Revolution, Transformation, and all that
232 years back, some really amazing people got a country founded, although at the time America's expansionist plans were a little more limited than they've been lately. Purchases of Texas to California, Alaska, and such weren't making headlines, but then again taxes were. So I guess some things never change.
Conventional wisdom has it that the American Revolution ended, but a counterclaim is that it has been 232 years of war between the PowersThatBe seeking to take back the country for the Elites and royals of this stripe or that, and those who just want all of what's spelled out in the Constitution, and not one bit less.
With an emphasis on "following the money", reporting on this ongoing Revolution, and guided by what the Framers wrote in pretty simple English, we continue to eye the future with a mix of hope ands trepidation, give my penchant for long wave economics that suggests another Depression is in the works. If you squint just this way, or that, you can see plenty of skirmishes going on in the continuous revolution process...
A judge in New York has ordered Google to turn over YouTube records in a lawsuit involving copyright infringement alleged by Viacom and others. As the L.A. Times headlines it, "Ruling against YouTube worries privacy advocates."
Although Ben Franklin was tinkering with electricity via kites and Leyden jars around the founding time of the country, the whole notion of licensing 'spectrum' wouldn't come along until 1934 while the matter of copyright was in its infancy in 1776. Without communications channels and the digital revolution, we wouldn't have the YouTube and streaming video.
The whole matter of owning ideas and intellectual property has evolved against a background of a changing world in which more work is done with less labor. How and when privacy and copyright notice is delivered continues to be a discussion point in publications like InformationWeek.
The revolution skirmish line is much broader than simply a court saying YouTube must turn over the IP addresses of computers which were tuned in to copyright material. Take for example, the battle between privacy advocates with the Justice (Just Us?) Department over mobile phone tracking.
Although that case involves the so-called 'anthrax case' which cost the government a $5.8 million dollar settlement, the issue of surveillance is far broader, thanks to projects like Echelon and the Bush administrations tendency to skip bothersome steps like the FISA Court. The battle line has now extended into the presidential contest as Barack Obama's stand on FISA becomes an issue.
Another front to watch as the world's longest revolution continues, is the one over energy. When the country was founded, we were a water wheel, sailing ship, and horse or mule-train kind of place. That limited the speed and appetite for conquest of new lands.
The revolution into steam power, internal combustion engines, and supersonic bombers delivered us global expansion and a kind of global cultural imperialism.
Record crude oil prices this week, along with reports that "Worried oil chiefs fail to find consensus" bring home the notion that energy is, and will continue to be, a front in the Revolution for a long time to come.
Consumers, tired of being 'held up' at the pumps have been fighting a pitched battle for more efficient transportation, despite media imagery that has promoted the 'bigger is better' and 'bigger represents wealth and power' meme which has been pounded into our heads as the mass hypnosis machine in the living room pounds away a mix on gun-toting rappers with their bling-bling and Escalades & Hummer 24-7.
There's hope for us sensible partisans, though: "GM May sell Mini-Cars to fuel-conscious U.S. Buyers." True, it's been slow coming, but some movement is better than none. I would love to be able to buy not just a 40+ MPG car that was built in America, but I'd like to be able to buy one that has been designed by Americans so that the profits from that enterprise could accrue to America, and not Japan or Germany. I suppose that defines me as a partisan in the Revolution, eh? But if they'd build it, I would buy one.
Government, which if I read history right is a revolutionary government, has lost sight of its original purpose, and now seems intent on expanding into all aspects of life. How you're schooled, how you drive, knowing what you watch, what you consume, and ever so much more.
Not that it's all government entities; just enough to be worrisome. As we reported recently, the expansion of government into the "surveillance state" has caused Missouri to pass a law forbidding mandatory RFID 'chipping' of employees. Of course, the federal government will no doubt declare itself exempt.
Superagencies are the future. Not just DHS, although it's the 800 pound gorilla. Next, we are seeing a push for integration of earth-sciences agencies.
I expect that in just a couple of years, we'll see the US military begin to require 'chipping' of all personnel. True, a case could be made that a chip with pertinent medical and health information could be very useful on the battlefield, but behind the scenes, is it not just another make work project for yet another family of soon-to-be-born defense contractors? War's good for the economy, redux.
At issue is the "Why are we fighting that war?" kinds of questions. Even today, there's little discussion about whether the Afghanistan War is about terrorism, or more about control of the lucrative opium production of the country and pipeline routes.
When the Washington Port reported recently that "U.N. finds Afghan opium trade rising" I expect few inside the Beltway wondered why. The US MSM viewpoint is that we're there fighting the Taliban and they must be bad because they grow all that opium. The opposite argument, specifically that the Taliban are growing more opium so they can kick us out of their country is lost in the politico's jingoism, replete with "You're either with us, or against us" rhetoric.
It's a circular reference, or a death dance; call it what you will. When the Taliban grow opium to buy guns, we find it bad. Yet, somehow, the Voice of America doesn't attach any stigma to the recent headline "Government-Controlled Opium Production is Way of Life in Turkey." Seems growing a death-dealing drug is fine, just so long as your government plays ball with the right folks along the way.
A piece in the Boston Globe today, about the "Revolution of urban rebels" reminds us of another front in the Revolution, the role of cities. Urban geographers, like Jim Kunstler, have argued that suburbia is not a sustainable model. Energy and transportation costs should make that apparent, especially if you have put gas in the car lately. They are that towns that have a well-define business core and are walkable in 20-30 minutes from one side of town to the other, make far more sense. Not to mention more healthy.
But, even beyond that, the Boston Globe piece points out that:
Here lately, I expect a fair number of the 'rurals' would question some of that "defending".
The idea and the image of being a revolutionary has been powerful enough that forces as diverse as the Ron Paul presidential bid to Madison Avenue's use Che Geuvara's image to promote products, have gotten on board with talk of 'revolution'.
Sadly, a note on the www.ronpaul2008.com web site said in part, "However, after much serious thought, I have decided to end my campaign for the Presidency of the United States." The announcement concluded:
And that we shall.
For 232 years, the Revolution in America has been a process. Last time I checked, it was still OK to be a revolutionary, at least in the Constitutional sense. But, putting your vote up for bid is not such a good idea, as a 19 year old in Minnesota found out Thursday. That's one law I don't understand. The rich just buy the election differently than with cash - they simply clog up television and radio enough to hypnotize people. Go figure.
The size of the beef recall is now up to 5.3 million pounds. Will it continue to grow?
Troubles in Mongolia
The State Department's Inspector General has found that wealthy and celebrity passport information is viewed more often than just common folks. Figuring that the passport system is open to abuse shouldn't come as any surprise...
Around the Ranch: Projects Galore
Dozens of projects to get done over the weekend, so please accept my apologies for short reports this weekend...
Thursday July 3, 2008
Report from the "Pre-News" Department
We've again been granted exclusive permission to go public with an update from the time monks at www.halfpasthuman.com because of the apparently widespread public impact of a possible future news events/sequence due to pop out of linguistic modelspace and into the headlines in the next day or so. (A link to www.halfpastman.com and www.urbansurvival.com is required if this is reposted): Their advisory reads sent out to their subscribers about 24-hours ago reads in part:
When the advisory came out, I immediately called my commodities guy to sort through whether this would be a 'playable event'. While there are rules on stocks and insider information, no one has ever ruled time machines an illegal trading tool, as best I can figure. Regardless, didn't seem to be any way to paper trade this to see how things would work out...
After a bit of discussion, we were left with no paper trades to follow because, as he noted, although things like feeder cattle went lock limit down when mad cow came out in the headlines, the linguistics are not exact enough to nail down a trade with high probability.
I was stuff doing the 'archetype painting" trying to figure out what was perking in modelspace. The way this works is you empty your mind as best you can, then take the aspect/attribute sets, like the [packing house/meat processing], [fumigation], and so forth, and put it into your head as 'images' and after you load them all in, you roll it around and think about the kind of events that would fit. Does [fumigation] mean a mercury or bromide kind of contamination, as those are major fumigant classes?
For example, something like a widespread fumigant/contamination event of frozen tainted meat and/or seafood, shipped around the country by air, and with the most susceptible group being older/senior people (of social security age) being most at risk, might be one fit. But too little detail on it...Or perhaps its a meat/seafood distribution into nursing homes?
Time doesn't permit the customary 'drill down' into the data because the model for the 0509 run (for which for which they are accepting subscriptions BTW) is still being populated into the model.
All of which seems to leave on the table the next big earthquake (western US?) between now and the end of summer, and then the big one December 10-12. And on this last, the HPH subscribers are no doubt wondering which of the earthquakes this week (Nevada, Russia, one off the Oregon coast with aftershocks, of the virtually unnoticed 7.0 this week off the Sandwich Islands) will be the 'prequel' to the Big Quake linguistics December 10-12.
Linguistics is a tough field. Some of the immediacy values may be driven by a story already emergent, like the current e coli outbreak that is impacting meats in supermarkets across the country. Kroger now recalling in 20 states... More to come?
If radical linguistics are right, there will either be a major/big (to huge) expansion of the present recall, or a new one, or people (seniors?) will be reported dying in the next day or two. We'll know, I expect, soon enough...
Curious, and impatient to wait for the news like everyone else, I asked a friend who is a remote viewer to look, and her report back was this:
Not sure what it is, but it's a long ways from the linguistics, sounding more like a sinkhole of airplane crash. Hole in the food chain? Hole in diets? Hmmm...so much for multi-disciplinary pondering of the near term future. More coffee, and back to mainstream...
Panic Low, Pleeeze.....
The market's drop of 166 Dow points on Wednesday is taking quite a few by surprise. Besides GM shares falling to the lowest levels since 1954, a mood of denial persists on the Street. Till there's capitulation, there's no bottom, so be watching for that.
The pimpernistic buy and hold paper hangers, who mindlessly promote "buy and hold" for your 401(k) holdings won't usually roll out the other side of the GM stock price (unless you hold them at gunpoint).
But, here's the deal: In 1954, GM stock price was equivalent to $80.15 in today's money corrected for inflation using the Fed calculator off in the left menu of this page. You can try it yourself. Shows you how busy the banksters have been watering down the money's purchasng power over time, doesn't it? Dividends making up for some of it?
If you have a table of GM stock prices from the last Depression please send them along! I want to see what GM stock prices would bee from 1929 or 1930 to now...backing out inflation, but adding in splits...anyone?
Do I hear $147?
Oil hitting above $146 today will likely help the precious metals and hurt the Dow...again.
Ghost Towns of the West
There's a huge disconnect coming in how the East views the housing collapse, which has been more concentrated in places like the L.A. East Bay, Las Vegas, and Phoenix areas, versus the perception of things on the East Coast.
An LA Times blog this morning says an "Analyst sees 'ghost town' in Inland Empire."
The problem is no one's particular fault, it's just that by the time loans make it into the securitization level, they've been stripped of the front-end hanky-panky that went one to get the loans done in the first place. Things like first-year interest rates buy-downs and 'gifted' down payments masked the 'teaser' rates that sucked people into the loans. Something that looks like a standard 6% loan by the time it arrived for bundling may have really been a no-dock, bought down, property taxes won't catch up with it loan on the front end.
In the one case, the loan looks good and like it's 'clean' but on the other, the buyers were snookered and their payments in many cases really have (or are about to be) doubled. As a result, until everyone in the paper pipeline from sellers to long-term investors start looking at things the same way, we're not out of the woods. De Nile's a big river, don'tcha know....
Unemployment: Stuck at 5.5%
That is, if you don't count the people who have had benefits run out, don't have a phone number to be telephone surveyed with, yada, yada, yada...
Apparently, there were few high school graduates this year, as the workforce shrank enough to keep the 5.5% number. Oh? You mean with all the high school grads, the workface went from 154.534 million down to 154.390 million? Pour me a shot of that, would yah? Maybe everyone is taking the summer off and going on to college this fall, although why just escapes me...
The further 'hide the sausage' (care to guess where?) part of the story is that the U-6 alternative measures of under utilization show that under employment was up nearly a full percentage point in the last month.
But wait! You think that's a knee slapper? Wait till you read in the CES Birth-Death model that 'estimated newly created new jobs' shows a 29,000 increase in construction jobs, and given that airlines are whacking and axing, the 86,000 news jobs in leisure and hospitality is a little hard to swallow.
I've got it!!! Maybe they're counting the parking lot attendants for those living in your car lots that are popping up in SoCal?
Say, they don't make canned whipping cream with nitrous oxide any more, do they?
Mass Firing of a different sort
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Coping: Is that you, Hairy?
I told you yesterday that I was going to try giving myself a haircut yesterday, armed with the Wahl Haircutting for Dummies kit. So, I set up my 'beauty' shop on the welding barrel outside my shop, propping a leftover 12 x 12 mirror tile up against a roll of sheet metal roof flashing and plugging in the power.
I decided to use the 1/2" cutting guide. I figured that that would be about right, and not doing things by halves, the first cut was right up the middle.
Turns out that a single pass doesn't leave a super-smooth cut, but after about 5-minutes of running the clippers all over my head, from this direction and that, the result was every bit as good as a 'store bought' haircut. A pass around the ears with the taper trimmer, and it was done.
Even Elaine admitted, "Not bad, a little shorter than usual, but it's really smooth and no gouges..." Ha! This was no harder than running a power planner or table saw, after all.
Apparently, I'm not the only one to come down with this particular version of do-it-yourself disease.
Great contrast reported? I was talking to a colleague who's a high-power Chicago advertising exec. "You wouldn't believe my haircut this week. There's this place I usually go for a haircut and it's $25. They called me up this week because they had a factory rep coming in to do some advanced hair cutting instruction, so they invited me in before their usual opening for a free haircut - and there I was with a dozen of the cutest, best hair stylists in Chicago...."
On this side of 50 watching 4-legged deer during a haircut is as rewarding as watching the 2-legged species. Does bring back memories of my most excellent 'catch and release" program.
Vitamins for the Fourth
Our discussion of which is the best value (beer or Scotch) for the Fourth, yielded this email:
You mean Vitamin B isn't Budweiser?
If you're a ham radio op, you'll find this review of the AI7R CCD antenna worth reading:
If you buy a CCD antenna, remember, they work best for the design frequency and they are about twice as long as a regular dipole antenna. The 'secret sauce' of the antenna is that they have a large number of capacitors spread out the length of the antenna, which distributes the current more evenly over the length of the antenna, raising efficiency. They also work very well when mounted low to the ground. Lots of people on 80/75 meters (where the CCD antenna is about 240' long, report great results from only 15-20 feet off the ground.)
My next antenna, which I won't have time to hang until fall at the present speed of things, will be a full wavelength loop on 160 meters, which will be fed with open wire line and my 2 KW Drake tuner. The 570 feet wire is just sitting there calling to me...but I put that project behind things more pressing...
The thing about the loop is that when you model out its performance, a multiple wavelength loop antenna develops significant gain as the frequency increases. So on 20 meters, for example, a full wave 160 loop has something like 9 DB of gain...and loops are much quieter than dipoles and such. Where were we...oh yeah, time to hit it and git it'...See you in the morning, or later today if the meat/fumigation/whatever pops into reality...
One business that's up? With people living in cars and needing something to do once the house, cable, satellite and fiber are gone, used book sales are way up... Predictable, sad, and encouraging, all at once.
The scary part of the economic picture that hasn't penetrated the intellectual fog around the Beltway is that hard times are squeezing the hell out of well intentioned Americans. The global suicide rate is soaring. One million humans a year are committing suicide. Why do you think that might be? Might it be that there's something seriously wrong on Ant Farm Earth?
Send snip and save notes to email@example.com
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Wednesday July 2, 2008
Happily Spinning Wednesday
Nothing but bummers in the financial headlines today, so we should try to put a 'good face' on things as best we can. If I do a really good job of happy-talking things, maybe I can become a rewriter for the MSM...
For example, the report that Ford was the leading loser as the headlines crossed that "GM, Ford, Toyota Plunge as Buyers Reject Big Trucks" could be construed as good news. Namely that Americans really want fuel economy and economic sensibility after all. All the advertising to the contrary aside.
The report that "U.S. auto sales hit 15-year low" might be construed as a pre-Crash indicator, but only by those people who remember that autos crashed in August of 1929, several months ahead of you-know-what that October.
Likewise, the pimpernistic press (<--use it, but give credit, please), might be tempted to put a happy face on the report out of Seattle that "Starbucks to close 600 US stores, rein in growth." Perhaps with fewer double shots of caffeine for uppers, some Americanos won't need to pop so many Prozac's to cope, yah think?
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is down 20% since December, Still it was worse, I think, in 1990.
Perhaps my gleeful attitude is because of my Danish heritage (the Jensen side of the family). This Is London tells us "Happyland: Believe it or not, we're all feeling good...and nobody's happier than the Danes..." Or, maybe it's just the prospect of a long weekend..
No, says Science Daily "Despite frustrations, Americans are pretty darned happy" - even more so than we were 25-years ago.
The dollar's up, the futures point to a positive opening, my pre-holiday rally prediction on the verge of coming true, and come noon tomorrow, the Street heads out to party. How does it get better than that? All you need to do is overlook the fact that we're in a bear market, running out of food, being screwed on energy, and climate has gone wonky....Ooops! We'll have none of that!
Reminds me to put the beer in the fridge today so it can chill extra well. Tomorrow morning we get the unemployment rate.
Thought your insurance would go down as house values decline? Ha! Fat chance, sport. A report in the WSJ says insurers are doing a little remodeling, as in the financial models that are designed to assess payout probabilities. Higher payouts lead to you-know-what premiums.
This is the first time I've read about a bulldozer being used by Palestinians to attack Israelis.
Iran War Lead-in
The technical problem, as anyone with any sea time knows, is that the Straits are only 21-miles wide, so if a ship transits it, the waterway is either in territorial waters of Iran or Oman...
So from the Iranian perspective, this would be analogous to the Russians telling the US that they vow to keep the Strait of Juan de Fuca open so Russian ships bound for Vancouver could transit between Port Angeles and Victoria (regardless of a possible Russian attack on our facilities at Hanford for example) on their way to the Lower Mainland docks....
We've dispatched a correspondent to Ulan Bator (pronounced Bah-tur with a slightly extended first syllable and a short second syllable by those who say zaaa...) because Mongolia's capital is all tense because of alleged electoral fraud. Hopefully we'll get a report from him next week.
Meantime, just 1,520 miles southwest in Tibet, the war of words between China and the Dalai Lama is heating up...again.
Maybe Not a Quake?
Yet. Chief time monk Cliff reminded me that the 'release' bubble next Tuesday in the predictive linguistics (and also in the astroecon work of Bob Hitt, BTW) may be something bit other than a quake. Seems that yes, there is a biggish western US quake due between June 21 and Sept 21, but the assignment of it to the July 8 data bubble may not be right. True, there's something due there, but it might be of a financial rather than shaker type event. So we see...
The problem with the future is that this is still, after around seven years of tinkering with interpretation, still a new kind of science. No textbooks about this stuff...
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Gone to the Dogs
Maybe if you bark...
In the month just ended, UrbanSurvival had 405,495 visitors, served up 728,700 pages, and had 3.914 million hits on the server. 107.21 GB of bandwidth. Thank you!
Compared with June 2007 traffic, (413,665 pages), that's a growth rate better than 76%.'Mazing...
Old Tires a Danger?
An ABC video explains how tires that are older than 6-years may be dangerous. Old tires being sold as new? Time to start reading date codes...
Oh, oh...this just keeps coming around...this time the attack may come from north of der border...
Maybe we could cut it into the ReaderNet and Viewer/ListenerNet 'cause you know where the bandwidth issues come from...
Blowing Off Wind Power?
Not that it won't power your place in the country just fine. The problem of ups and downs, solved with an inverter/charger and some batteries is just not feasible for a whole country, it seems
.It's Only Money Department
OK, so it's our taxpayer money, but check this out:
NSS. There's liars, damn liars, statistics, and then gov't statistics...
A quick trip over to Trader Bart's site where he charts out the Reconstructed M-3 which Alan Greenspan played 'hide the sausage' with a couple of springs back knowing what was coming, has been hovering between 16 and 18% lately.
A reader reports this experience...
THE MOST IMPORTANT Report of the Day Is....
This long but thoughtful comment from a reader on our Fourth of July beer-versus Scotch decision:
If you aren't making decisions like this, you may not have read Jim Kunstler's latest piece "Worse than Grandma's Depression." Sure, alcohol dulls the senses and is hard on the body - much more so than outlawed plants, for sure. But, it's not nearing as dulling as 2-hours of TV per day either way...
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Around the Ranch: Up Against a Wahl
There are lots of things that I've done in 40-odd years of living, yet there's one of those "got to try that sometime" items that has never come around until today. And that is what? Cutting my own hair.
Not that I spend too much money on hair cuts - maybe every two or three months. But, when I do, it usually costs $15-$20, so I promised myself back when I was living on the sailboat that I'd try it sometime.
The other day, Elaine picked up the $20 Wahl Hair Cutting for Dummies kit at...er... (pardon the pun here) Wahl-Mart.
The instructions look simple enough, and because I'm not gong to client meetings (except by web cam) I can afford to take the chance and give this a whirl.
I'll probably ask E to do a little 'touch up' around the edges, but even that as a certain challenge to it. I'm not trying to put the styling/fashion/razor cut folks out of business. Just have it on my 'one of those skills to conquer' list,; not unlike the replacing a front wheel bearing which came off the list this week.
Ultimately, how bad can I screw up a crew cut using the guide attachments?
That's just the start of the day's adventures. A ton of client writing awaits, and along with that I've been working on a list of things to get done over the long weekend. Oil change, furniture building, FTA satellite installation, ham radio antenna launcher, a tool box for the tractor -- I'm sure you've got your own list. I've started the list earlier than normal this year. Last year I didn't even finish writing the list till Labor Day.
Tuesday July 1, 2008
Q2: Glad it's Over?
The stock market put in a mixed performance on Monday, with the Dow posting a gain of 3 1/2 points, while the NASDAQ Composite might as well have been named the NASDOG Composted losing 52 points between last Friday and the Monday close. The S&P gained 1.62 points Friday close to Monday close- so don't spend all them profits in one place now, ya'll hear?
With the dollar once again exhibiting 'talk between legs' syndrome, gold which started June at a shade under $890 by the Kitco charts, was showing $931.30, a gain of about $40 in 30 days, which is fine, but I expect we will now zip back up to $1,000 plus levels. I mentioned the high profile hugging of the Queen (played on this timeline by Hillary) was a temporal marker for a major improvement in the outlook of the general population toward the metals. No, that's not a trading recommendation - you'd do better with a set of darts and the WSJ quotes page.
The Reuters headline "Global stocks close dismal 1st half, outlook grim" believe it or not, may be putting about as good a face on things as might be imagined.
Market performance like this is indeed enough to drive one to drink, or in the case of InBev, enough to drive them to a hostile takeover of Budweiser. Clydesdales and all.
We've seen a report that "America's Youth Delaying First Consumption of Alcohol" which while good news to parents, just reinforces the relationship between stock/401(k) contribution levels and booze consumption. Not trying to ruin you're fifth on the Fourth, as I'm sure the relationship is not causal. When the Bear is eating your retirement, a half rack of Bud in lieu of Scotch may be all that's in the budget, anyway.
The futures just plain suck, and a break to the upper 10,000's range seems possible on a panic low in here.
It's like I've said at the track, this horse of a market doesn't know how to read either the Racing Form or the Trader's Almanac very well... Where's my pre-holiday rally? Dow futures down more than 100...
Safe Boating Tip
Ethanol ain't what it's all cracked up to be. Turns out it has lousy storage prope4rties (is this by design?). A headline in the Oregon Statesman-Journal reports "Ethanol-free gas outlets growing daily: Boaters have had many engine problems as a result of ethanol in tanks". If you were thinking you'd be hugging a tree by running ethanol in your ski boat, you're more likely to be hugging your mechanic instead, sorry to report.
Turns out ethanol has all the storage capability of the aforementioned an iced half rack of Bud on a 100-degree day. Except for different reasons, 'o course.
Poor storage properties don't have anything to do with the International Energy Administration's slashing of oil demand forecasts for 2012. More driven by high prices.
Economic Indicators: Fireworks
I love fireworks - and have ever since the late Seattle restaurateur Ivar Haglund put on over Elliott Bay and Lake Union in Seattle Simultaneously. This year, folks in Seattle will get another great display put on by Western Fireworks for the seafood & chowder house outfit, the longest running private fireworks display on the West Coast. This year...
Back in 'the day' as a newscaster, I got to watch one Fourth from the deck of a US Coast Guard 44-foot patrol boat chasing local boaters out of the red zone around the bar...not sure how I could ever top that experience.
But, it's not all rosy for the Fourth. A Ric Anderson column in the Topeka Capital-Journal reports that this year, Fireworks sales may not boom. Seems that there won't be as many people willing to light off a $20 bill worth - or a $100-bill worth - of family entertainment this year due to the kind of economic events we cover here.
Those Green Olympics
War Prep Cover Story?
The headline out of Israel that "Health Ministry warns hospitals of possible quake in northern Israel" sure would be a nice story to mask extra preps for an Iran showdown, wouldn't it?
Don't forget we have a big quake window in the western US July 7-9'ish. More as the time monks read the new data coming in...
Down to Lagniappe Department
The Iraqis haven't signed their petroleum deals with the West yet. which has me wondering if they're looking for a little lagniappe. What's that, you're wondering? Answer here. Not to be confused with a little more dosh.
Geese and Gander Department
The BBC reports that a spokesman for recently re-elected (in a questionable contest) Robert Mugabe has "rejected criticism of the country's disputed presidential run-off election". They aide says the West can 'go hang a thousand times."
Mugabe's press relations are a little less than perfect, as we read about a TV Crew Challenges Mugabe at a conference in Egypt.
He could have at least used electronic voting machines...and he wouldn't draw as much heat if he'd just sell off his country's infrastructure to the West, I mean come on! Doesn't anyone have 'clean hands' in this?
Construction spending is due out this morning, futures are in the loo, and car sales are likely down on gas prices and the shortage of small cars.
Don't forget the stock market closes at Noon on Thursday so people with more money than you can take off early.
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Coping: Some Weekend Reading
A quote from Chapter One of the book will give you a sense of sense of its flavor:
Dated? Not very....at least in the early going...
Both JB my commodities guy and Cliff at HalfPastHuman recommended "The Secret History of the American Empire: The truth about Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Changer the World." by John "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" Perkins.
Banker's Book of the Day
Try a read of the new "Principle for Sound Liquidity Risk Management and Supervision" from the Bank for International Settlements, making its was around banker circles this week...
Just Making It
The metal lathe is a Jet 9 X20" geared head rig, which with stand will set you back about $1,200 (plus shipping) and then figure $200 on bits, coolant, tooling, and so forth - McMaster.com is a great source for tooling. The mill/drill machine is from Harbor Freight and will set you back about $600 with shipping. Pick up a clamping kit on eBay and again, back to McMaster for a end mill set, ball mills and a dovetail if you don't happen to know a retired toolmaker. Get both digital gauges and mechanical ones. The digital are easy to use, the 'regular' ones are EMP resistant, LOL. There's a small Taig lathe for really fine work, and a metal-cutting band saw, which wants to cut everything but a straight line, so I'm looking at making my own based on the Gingery design. Throw in a HobbyMelter furnace for casting metals and a 14" metal chop saw and a small Lincoln SP-=135 wire welder on a cart, (About $600), a 12 ton press and a 1 ton arbor press, compressor and air tools including impact wrench and both metric and SAE tools, torque wrench and you too can be endlessly distracted. I know it sounds like a lot of metalworking tools, but a replacing a front wheel bearing is probably a $300 bill in a shop, so it doesn't take too many savings on that scale to pay back the investment.
The tools sound expensive, but in fact if you look at it by weight, you're probably not paying over $3 a pound for reasonable and useful tools! Spray 'em down with Boeshield T-9 so they will last! How many years do you need to save $500 on repairs to pay for this stuff, and don't forget about inflation!
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Around the Ranch: 5th Amendment Driving
I got the wheel bearing installed on Elaine's car late yesterday. Not sure that the 5th Amendment applies to written material, so I will NOT tell you that Elaine's car passed a triple-digit test drive Monday. Nossir, I'd never confess to such a thing. Why that would be illegal and I don't do that kind of thing...who me? On the other hand, figuring the car is Autobahn-ready would be a good guess on your part.
Monday June 30, 2008
IMF To Audit US
The German news group Spiegel has a kick-in-the-pants headline that could rock Wall Street when folks figure out what's coming: The International Monetary Fund is about to audit the US Financial System. Key quote:
This has the potential to unleash a flood of embarrassing questions, although I'd sure like to see an independent audit of things like, oh, Fort Knox. I've always wondered what the definition of 'deep storage' meant for gold, like "Does that mean it hasn't actually been mined yet?" I'm sure it doesn't, but with all the discussion about 'swaps' and such, a nice neat report in regular accounting language rather that govspeak would be worth reading. Deeply.
The IMF coming to audit the US should be huge headlines all over the US financial press, yet we learn of it midway through a Spiegel report.
Meantime, Australia's "The Age" Business section also reports that "IMF finally knocks on Uncle Sam's Door" Has the US financial press been snookered (again), or is it strange you may read about this here first before it hits the MSM?
And you thought getting weapons inspectors into Iran was a big deal. Get the popcorn going to watch this one develop.
Chatting with my commodities guy this morning, he wondered aloud whether that would explain some of the recent 'circling of the wagons' by the US. Things like the "CFTC focuses on swaps, says 'Enron loophole' already closed" and the "SEC proposed reduced reliance of credit raters".
Add to that a UK Telegraph report that the Bush administration received up to $400 million for action against Iran, and you have circled wagons and a huge distraction at the ready to draw US citizen attention away from the state of the domestic financial situation. Another 'shock and odd' setup.
Oh, and there's a "Report: Iranian gets death for Israel spying."
We're Doing What?
Now It's $143 Oil
Where, conveniently, the U.S. "advised" Iraqi oil minister has approved oil drilling deals worth billions. Of course, that's not net,net billions to America. Seems to me that in any rational accounting of the oil profits one would have to back out the cost of two wars and a continuing presence in country to give the honest cost accounting picture. But don't worry about us being overtaken by such large scale strategic thinking. Neither of the corpgov candidates seems likely to change anything. Just ask Nancy "Change of Tune on War" Pelosi...
At Last: A Four Day Work Week
Damn shame it isn't like this all the time, huh? Most of us already do the 10+ hours anyway, so where is that 4-40 deal? Friday is the offishul Federal Holiday. Many people will be taking off on Thursday or Monday of next week to turn it into a four-day weekend, which is a fine plan, too. Gassing up today or tomorrow might save a few cents over prices coming Friday and Saturday, but maybe I'm just cheap. Gas isn't, though.
And this has what to do with markets, exactly? Since you asked....
There's often a pre-holiday bump upward in the markets as a kind of holiday fever besets Wall Streeters. As Q2 draws to a close today, and after a raunchy couple of weeks leading into it, there should be more than enough 'gunpowder' to ignite a week ending upside.
One of my favorite commodity traders to watch is Jim Rogers - he's got a couple of good books out on the subject. He's also got some advice: Avoid the US Dollar at all costs. In today's interview by Bloomberg, he's forecasting higher commodity and ag prices. Previously, he suggested that instead of sending your kids to MBA school, the money would be better spent teaching them Chinese...
Natural Disaster 1: Flooding
Small towns along the flooded Midwest rivers are pondering their fates. Issues like water supplies, sewage treatment plants, pollution, and then the matter of rebuilding homes is just the start of it.,
Natural Disaster 2: Wildfires
1,400 wildfires going in California, visible from space, and the danger is not likely to pass any time soon.
Travel for the Rich
With Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport expecting 50,000 fewer passengers due to an environment tax, and with airlines continuing their consolidation, we have to wonder if traveling might soon be the province of the rich and upper-middle class only?
Alternatives? Amtrak ridership swells in rural and urban areas, reports NPR recently. And last month the Pal Beach Post reported "Amtrak ridership up as fuel prices hit new highs".
The Runs: The Real McCain
A YouTube headline: "McCain's YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare" Ah, the problems of the 'net: People can see when politicos talk out of both sides of their mouth on issues. Yep, better license it quick. Too much freedom is a dangerous thing...
While we continue to expect turmoil in Pakistan in mid-August, the report that "Riots Rage in Kashmir" is intensely interesting to follow, as it's the disputed border area between Pakistan and India.
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Coping: Spinning Tomatoes
As a lot of the buzz on the 'net over the recent problems with tainted tomatoes has involved the spin from the reported use of untreated human waste on Mexican crops to a more politically correct discussion to divert attention to to other sources, we've noticed a new web site has popped up: www.tomatoesareevil.com.
With a long weekend ahead, I may have to do some tomatoes juice research Friday morning after my writing is done with doses of gin and/or vodka in the nightshade juice. Celery sticks are medicinal, right?
Don't Need a Fighter Pilot
I said last week I'd be more comfortable with an ex-fighter pilot driving the next airplane flight I'm on...but besides getting a scolding for not explaining that the airplane called a Citabria is Airbatic spelled backwards, there was this:
Good point. Say, are you old enough to remember the day Boeing test pilot Tex Johnson rolled a 707 over Seafair back in the day?
Day at the Bleach
"Fresh scented" bleach is NOT what you want for this purpose.
Oh Crap Department
Before we get to the earthquake (July 7-9 window, Western US) a reader sends this:
You have questions, I have answers. Folding toilet $10 bucks and 12 bags for $4 bucks at Bass Pro Shops. Where you planning to dump that lastic bucket???
On the second question, depends if the money market is 100% in US govt's. That in turn depends on how dicey things get between now and January and what the world does to the Buck.
Chips Are Down
If you don't think Big Brother would love to chip everyone (can you say "Mark of the Beast?") ask yourself "Why did Missouri just pass a law that chip implants can't be required by Missouri employers?
Garden Theft Up
Report out of the UK: "Third of people affected by garden theft". Mssrs Mossberg and Ruger assure me it's less of an issue here in rural Texas. Remind me to buy a pound of rock salt, though, wouldja?
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Around the Ranch: Grin and Bearing
OK, sure, it would have been a lot more efficient to just write a check and have someone else put new front wheel bearings in Elaine's car. But, hey! Then I wouldn't get to turn a 2" cast iron pipe fitting into a finely crafted wheel bearing press tool, then, would I? Life's about collecting skills and I like challenges.,..let's make some chips...
Before the chart, a little background:
Once upon a time, a long while ago, I observed during my quest for 'truth' in economics, that the powers That Be, the talking heads on the teeve, and the other information sources that actively engage in the programming of humans not to think, had conveniently swept several trillions of dollars that disappeared in the Internet Bubble's bursting (since spring 2000) under the rug. Surely, it wasn't unnoticed by the thousands of people who called brokers and said "Where is my money?" "Gone, but hang in there as you're a long term investor!" was about all they heard back.
But, the truth of the matter is that this chart shows what your account would look like if you have taken a few thousand dollars and invested equal amounts in the Dow, the S&P 500, and the NASDAQ Composite in the waning days of 1999. It's not a very pretty picture, and it sort of gives away the other side of the story. You know, the one that no one has an interest in telling, because it's a truth which shows the amazing coincidence of the timing of 9/11, the disappearance of naked shorting evidence and all, along with the impact of The Wars which have managed to keep the economy out of an earlier depression than the one expected by me by late 2008.
No, it's not a perfect replay of 1929, but history doesn't repeat exactly, it only rhymes. So think of this as the rhymes and the crimes chart:
Write when you get rich,
George Ure, The People's Economist
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