The Story Being Missed Is….

The fear-mongering headlines are back:  al Qaeda this (threats to bomb trained in Europe) and al Qaeda that (urges attacks on US diplomats) .  And then we can toss in the dead of Egypt this weekend, worries that oil and gas routes could become “iffy”, and then there’s the matter of the 25 Egyptian police killed near the Sinai.  But that’s NOT the story to be worried about.

The real story – and the one which the US can not afford to lose because of its economic implications is the one unfolding in slow-motion in Saudi Arabia.  Yes, we’re talking the Saudis who recently gave $2-billion to the military government of Egypt.

But unless you watch the non-mainstream media, you may not have noticed the rest of the fancy footwork going on as the parties involved are really scrambling to make sure that US policy-lynchpin Saudi Arabia does not become a participant in the democratic revolutions which have done things like brought president Morsi to power in Egypt, where he wasn’t hard enough for the West, so he’s out and the military is in charge.  For now.

What’s far more telling is the report on Russia Today (RT) last week that a Saudi prince – Khaled Bin Farhan Al-Saud – has defected to the West because of the suppression of democratic reforms in Saudi lands. This key development has not been missed by Iran’s government press which reports how a “Saudi prince slams Riyadh crackdown, corruption” and these are very hot keywords in the contexting being played on both sides.

And a second indication of the seriousness of the Saudi internals comes as we notice that as the weekend drew to a close “Saudi prince Alwaleed fires TV preacher for Brotherhood Links.”

A closer look at recent actions of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal reveals that he is trying to walk a very difficult balance here.  On the one hand, he is trying to keep the MuBros from gaining a foot in Saudi homelands, any more than the Wahabi already have, and yet at the same time he’s already said that proposed oil and gas fracking for petroleum would cause a threat to the Kingdom.

When we look at other telltales around the Saudis, we notice that prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd has put up his high-end home on the UK’s Billionaire Row, which though it may only fetch $100-million, or so, looks to be another subtle move of Saudi royals departing from a strictly business-as-usual profile.

Still, agitation aside, there is still plenty of “break and circuses” to be had such as the Saudi-Prince Faisal Cup karate tournament which opened Sunday.

While most analysts might miss it, there’s a haunting echo off World War I and the future of the then Austro-Hungarian throne which might be drawn to present events in Saudi Arabia.  This is made abundantly clear in a recent Peoplenomics report, where we noted the combinatorial effects of the four mini-Depressions prior to the final blow-off top which led to the Great Depression in America.

As we survey who could be the modern-era echo to Archduke Ferdinand, our attention is focused now, as back then, on where the lynchpin real estate is, and thus, where the highest regional risk to America’s security may be found.

And let’s not forget to toss in the report out this weekend that the CIA has admitted to masterminding the 1953 coup in Iran, which you know will be turned into anti-US propaganda in no time.

Time’s up:  Here’s the Iranian report, which, when you think about it, sure has a rhyme with present-day events in Egypt.

You know you’re in trouble with John McCain says the US has no creds left in that part of the world.  But stating the obvious is what people in office do a lot of…

Make or Break Week

After the decline of last week, the futures are painting about a flat open for the trading week, but we should have a clue before the week is out whether the decline will stop in the present range, or whether events will include a further decline to come.

In overnight action, we saw a modest decline in China but a decent-sized rally in Japan.  Carrying on over into Europe this morning, a negative tone is coming in as France and Germany began to slide and that took the UK with it.

So even if the US markets seem like they may experience a bit of an opening bounce, the international market weighs.

Down slightly (about $4) gold seems likely to continue its recent strength to the $1,390 to $1,410 range, but as always, this is not trading advice.

More after this

Selling the Security State

So now chief Kelly of the NYPD says the “stop and frisk” ruling (unconstitutional) will risk more crime in Gotham.  But wait a minute chief!  Couldn’t we end all crime by locking everyone  up?  Gosh, then we could do away with courts, cops, attorneys….yeah, sounds like a fine plan!

Another Birth Certificate

In the great swing of the social pendulum (8-11 year cycle) we wryly observe that in 2008 it was the right-wing conservatives who were questioning Obama’s right to hold office.  Now, we ought to find out if the shoe fits on the other foot now that Texas senator Ted Cruz has turned his birth certificate over to the Dallas Morning News.  Shows he was born in Canada to an American mother which yes, makes it possible for him to be president.

Who will be the first liberal to argue he can’t run?  Balance in Universe argues one (or more) will.

Obamacare Pushback

The Chicago Tribune is not exactly chump change when it comes to newspapers and especially when the guy in the White House has been a long-time windy city resident.  But here it comes:  The Trib has thrown its considerable weight behind delaying Obamacare.  A reasonable quote:

Bottom line: Let’s delay and rewrite this ill-conceived law. Congress need not start from scratch.

Read moreThe Story Being Missed Is….

Coping: I Wiskerman

Back almost 30-years ago my kids got me an electric razor for Christmas and it’s been doing a reasonably good job of keeping my face mowed ever since.  Except that recently – maybe it’s from looking in the mirror too long – I’ve begun to find fault with what I see.  I choose to blame the razor.

The difference is almost like the difference between a bush hogging job and a finish mower, to put it in local agricultural terms.

Not that the old razor has seen continuous use, either:  For months on end, a small Wahl trimmer kept up the facial landscape with just an occasional trim as in winter I often grow a beard or mustache.  But this year I’m not inclined to do that, having read that a beard makes a person look up to eight years older than they are. I don’t need the help.   And the mustache with a winter cold is always Kleenex challenge so this winter I may stay clean-shaven unless we get snow.

In shaving, the state of the art changes…and my face being an important part of my persona, I’ve decided to look around and see what’s what and likely buy a replacement for the Norelco three-header that has done so well for so long.

A Gizmodo article rates a high-end Norelco at the top heap, so the odds are good that I will pop for the Philips Norelco 1250X/40 SensoTouch 3D Electric Razor which at $180 seems a bit steep, but not as bad as the ritual of having cans of shaving crème (which I’ve had go off in the luggage, always fun) and blades which (if you’re over 60 and doing the half-a-baby-aspirin-daily routine) can leave the bathroom looking like a murder scene.

My research in this reveals that the average man spends about 3-minutes a day shaving.  I timed how long it took to remove three days worth of stubble (15 minutes for the rough and another 10 for a putting green finish) and more solidly-based figures suggest that should have been 9-10 minutes; 12 tops.

Either the razor is just plain wearing out, or thanks to my vitamins I’ve started growing Kevlar.

As a cost containment measure, I’ll look around for the model number on the old triple-header.  Maybe a tune-up with new heads would help. 

One shaving tip if you’ve got a shop:  An air nozzle on your compressor at about 100-PSI is about the fastest razor cleaning system I’ve found.  And, working outside (tractoring) puts just enough of a dust layer on the face that the stubble stands up well, no need for alcohol or powder first.  Unless it’s over 85 and you’re all sweaty, in which case shaving after showering can take hours because the beard goes into fall-over mode.

How many times have I told you “Everything’s a Business Model?”  Even shaving is being well-monetized:  There’s a very good website called www.theartofshaving.com but it leans toward the traditional bladed approach.  While I appreciate a good, close blade cut, the smell of mentholated crème,, a splash of bracer afterwards, those relaxing “art shaves” are for courtings, weddings, and undertakers, as I figure it.  That would be “lost count” “three” and zero (for now) if you’re keeping score.  I’m sure there’s a profound lesson in there about diminishing returns, too. 

One of these days either Toro, WeedEater, or Stihl will come out with a razor that could cut face-time cut in half.  With the American obsession with “productivity,” how long can we avoid Bush Hog getting into the space, too?  Given how the Labor Department counts things, a 20% reduction in shaving time could boost the economic recovery 70%, too.

If there wasn’t work to do, we could spend the rest of the morning discussing this and other important-to-males topics:  How to cut and light a cigar properly (I’m a wooden match guy) and what to have with the cigar (VSOP works), but for now, it’s on to the oatmeal and treadmill…which is about as contrary to a proper lifestyle of luxury as can be imagined.  Unless it’s Mccann’s Steel Cut Oatmeal, 28-Ounce Tin (Pack of 4), of course, but even then I like half-and-half and brown sugar, so what’s the point?

Well, that leads logically to….

Toilet Paper Poll

Have you ever wondered how paper companies decide how much clay and softeners to put in toilet paper?  How many plies, how much cushion, quilted or not?  Ease of tearing, or puncture resistance…especially fun on April Fool’s Day?

It occurred to me this morning that there must be a effort being made somewhere polling for toilet paper makers and yet in all of my 64-years I have never read about such research, nor have I been asked to take part.

Just kind of curious if you know of anyone who has been asked? 

Morning’s like this with the world situation as it is, the question just seems obvious…can you help us flush out the details?

My logic?  Thought you’d never ask:  I think there is a marvelous one-last-bit of economic largess to be had by introducing “His & Hers” toilet paper.  You know, segment that market into absurdity live everything else!

I envision a proper bathroom with a “His” dispenser loaded with (Old Spice? Right Guard?) scented TP.  “Hers” would be Obsession or Este Lauder.  The kid’s would be “Kids” and would be unscented, except in California where I’m confident a coalition would demand selecting his or hers at age three, and too bad if you get this one wrong.

I’m telling you there are millions to be made in this TP differentiation model!  

Oh, and for pet owners, who clean their pet’s…err….this is indelicate, but how about a Whiskas or Gravy Train scented wipe, since animals are going to err…. regardless so….HOLD IT!  OK, a little too much invention time this morning. 

It’s probably just as well:  I was about to tell you my idea for a line of gourmet-flavored personal lubricants.  Pizza, popcorn, and beef tenderloin might be novel….

A Note on Peanut Allergies

Reader Mary sent along this:

Thought you would be interested in this article, explaining how it all began — very thorough:

A link to the article “Peanut Allergy Epidemic:  What Everyone Needs to Know” contains a wealth of inflation.  But if you don’t have time to go read it right now, the main point is that the uptick in peanut allergies has paralleled the uptick in autism which all seem correlated back to the docs going heavy on injections, inoculations, and kids up with serums for this and that.

I’ll have to ask my most sensitive daughter (Denise) to look up he shot history from the big health cooperative in the Puget Sound area to see what she go when.  (Nickel says that like exact birth times which are disappearing, shot histories going back xx- years will begin to disappear, too…)

Fly Drones?

Reader Roberta sent in details about an odd encounter with a fly:

Hi George!

Some months ago, you had asked for stories of birds acting weird. I hesitated to write at that time (to see if anyone else would mention it) but my story involves flies. With no fear.

Either they very occasionally act like Australia’s flies (kamikaze, seeking moisture of one’s breath) or they are too mellow. I just escorted one out a few minutes ago by putting him in a cup, and after taking the cup outside, he would not fly away. I had to flick him onto a bush.

Read moreCoping: I Wiskerman

Prospects and Productivity

Well, let’s try this again…  The US markets had a bad case of news-granola induced runs yesterday, dropping 225-points on the Dow and putting our current short trade decidedly in the black, but as Peoplenomics readers know, the trading model still says “Long!”  Confusing times these are indeed.  As we slip and slide along toward a long wave Kondratiev 60-year cycle bottom, we can expect further declines but in an irregular fashion until later this year when the astrological signs experts  (like Arch Crawford in that domain) and cycle gurus (like Peter Eliades) and Elliott sages (like Bob Prechter) are all fairly concerned. 

Bbb’s article link there, by the way, is especially good since he explains how  “Declining C Waves are Devastating, No Place to Hide Except in Cash” which if fine if you have some.  Does the term “stack paper” mean anything to you?

There are some other strategies which are not particularly cash-intensive which we’ll cover in Peoplenomics this weekend as we continue our musing into just how bad Wave C could be as part of our continuing exploration of prepping based on economic needs now arriving.

Which gets us to this morning.  We’ve got some hot productivity number to go over, just out, but before we do, let’s check the calendar because a small bounce at the open is almost likely this morning for mechanical reasons.  Thursday’s close was when the option indices settled for the month.  The close today will be where equities (the underlying stocks) settle.

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that if an index closes on Thursday down, a bounce Friday would let the commercials make some lunch money.  But by late session today, we could be trending down again (depending on news flow, of course) but next week will really tell the tale as to whether this old market has enough juice in it to make another run to the upside.  Looking at the MACD and a couple of other indicators, it’s a hung jury. 

Although a “hanging jury” would vote for S&P 1,640 and maybe as low as 1,623.  The folks like me who wouldn’t ever be picked for the kind of jury duty where financial fates are decided would scream for an immediate hanging down at the 1,540 S&P level and somewhere thereafter, a cycle low in gold of anywhere from 770 to 1,100 to follow.

But no such jury is likely to be empaneled, because despite the B-school theory, markets are no more rational than I am, so we arrive at the meaningful headline of the morning which is the productivity data:

Nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased at a 0.9 percent annual rate during the second quarter of 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The increase in productivity reflects increases of 2.6 percent in output and 1.7 percent in hours worked.

Read moreProspects and Productivity

Coping: A Study in “Webanoia”

What happens when you cross a high speed internet connection, high resolution video, too much spare time, and a mild case of paranoia?  It’s a phenomena I call “webanoia” and it showed up this morning as a well intended email from a reader:

FYI  ????

“Subject: 57 Vessels/Ships Anchored Off Shore of NJ, MD/VA
To:

I have no idea what this means.  The person whom I consider to be my best friend called this morning and mentioned it, saying “they aren’t friendly.”  That doesn’t deal with why the ships are there – they might have found an excellent fishing hole, for all I know.  I just know they’re there.  This would probably be a good weekend to have the gas tank filled, some extra cash and food around the house, etc.  Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.  “

So this one is making the rounds, is it?  Well, here’s where use of date tools in search engines can be useful in trying to figure out how paranoid to be about things:

The first thing we do is check on Maritime Traffic.com and note that they don’t show anything particularly unusual in the way of traffic off the East Coast.  Then we run though a selection of weather other satellite image sites and nothing pops so we then become a little suspect.  Surely, after all, if there were really 57 ships which weren’t friendly, government would be scrambling. 

No signs of scramble.

So about here we ask “Is this one of those hoaxes/honest mistakes that happens on the net?” 

The story can be traced back to its earliest beginnings, and from there it lands on sides like InvestmentWatchBlog, and Before It’s News, and ibloga and FromThe Trenches.  then we find it on YouTube, LunaticOutput, earthchanges.ning.com and even Free North Carolina.blogspot and others.

The point?  A scent of anything that even begins to smell like smoke is fanned up into a solid smolder on  the internet on conspiracy leaning sites in a process that takes about four days to work through the process.

Oh…and what does the original source of the report, which as best we can figure was posted at the Godlike Productions site and there, the original posted an explanation on Tuesday of this week:

“Ok folks..
Here’s the deal. There does seem to be a glitch in the server where the ship info is coming from. The weather reports are coming from a few ships on the move instead of being anchored. But the older reports from some of those ships older locations while on the move are not being removed. Normally it’s one ship giving one report one location at a time. Old ship locations are not being removed from the map!
Sorry for starting this thread. I should of dug further before posting this thread. But Like I said, I been using this program for 5 years and never had a problem.

Read moreCoping: A Study in “Webanoia”

Market Blowback – Consumer Prices Disappoint

If I were sitting in the White House, I’d be having a hissy about now:  With all the economic stimulus going about we should be seeing some escalation in prices and that wouldn’t be all bad because a little bit of inflation, especially if it is predictable and reliable, is the greatest economic conveyor belt ever built.  Why?  Well, it allows the common man (or woman, or hybrid, I suppose) to buy a home with a modest down payment and then use the leverage of  inflation to make a few bucks and move up the food chain.

The problem is (in case you’ve gone Rip Van Winkle for the past 20 years) when we get to the Kondratiev low/winter of the economic cycle, inflation disappears and we get deflation instead which I’ve described as “one-over virtuous cycle” or the reciprocal of good times keep getting better.  We’ve living the flip side of that and – as if there was any doubt – here’s the latest from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Consumer Prices to make the [ugly, don’t stare at it too long] point:

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.2 percent in July on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 2.0 percent before seasonal adjustment. The rise in the seasonally adjusted all items index was the result of increases in a broad array of indexes including shelter, gasoline, apparel, and food.

Despite the gasoline increase, the energy index rose only 0.2 percent as the natural gas and electricity indexes declined. The increase in the food index was caused by a sharp rise in the fruits and vegetables index; other food indexes were mixed. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in July, the third straight such increase. Along with the advances in the shelter and apparel indexes, the indexes for medical care, tobacco, and new vehicles all rose. In contrast, the indexes for household furnishings and operations, airline fares, and used cars and trucks all declined in July.

The all items index increased 2.0 percent over the last 12 months.

Read moreMarket Blowback – Consumer Prices Disappoint

Coping: With 50% Stonehenge, 30% Scaliger

A number of people have written over the past couple of days that I must surely have lost the remaining bits of my mind to question something so “obviously true” as Stonehenge, which as a video recounts was substantially “made up” in the period of modern history since 1900.  No, I don’t think so…and you may have more questions when I waltz you through a few…well let’s call them inconvenient truths.

I use the term “made up” advisedly because I am not entirely sure of how much latitude should be given to the Stonehenge “reconstructors” who went about finding stones on the ground and then placed them where they believed them to belong and then insist that theirs is the only true possibility and that none other may exist. How much of the embedded “advanced knowledge” and presumed astronomical usage was due to liberties in stone placement?

Let me back up a bit for some broader context where I’ll give you some important insight into how our view of history shapes modern thought.  On the one side of this discussion you have alternative archeology where a wide range of names like Eric Von Däniken, Graham Hancock, and Anatoly Fomenko may be found.  Some hint of extra-human events is in these, for sure. 

Yet on the other side are the defenders of the current ruling paradigm and those who (citing the science they were taught) espouse a worldview that may also not be precisely as presented. 

No worries, this other side also believes in extra-human events, except that they hold the current intellectual high ground having their views “officialized” in rituals promoted at the State level in numerous Western and Middle Eastern countries. And toss in an Italian area city-state, if you care to round it out.

To make this a short dig into intellectual archeology, we begin with a fellow by the name of Julius Caesar Scaliger.  “Who?”  Right on…Wiki me, bro:

Julius Caesar Scaliger (or Giulio Cesare della Scala) (April 23, 1484 – October 21, 1558) was an Italian scholar and physician who spent a major part of his career in France. He employed the techniques and discoveries of Renaissance humanism to defend Aristotelianism against the new learning. In spite of his arrogant and contentious disposition, his contemporary reputation was high, judging him so distinguished by his learning and talents that, according to Jacques August de Thou, none of the ancients could be placed above him, and the age in which he lived could not show his equal.’

Well, what’s wrong with that?” you’re asking.    Nothing, except some puffery in his bio if you dig into it, but follow the trail with me:

Julius had a son, by the name of Joseph Justus Scaliger who rewrote a good bit of history in his “Study on the Improvement of Time” and elsewhere.  This, in turn was in some respects what the early Brits thought their heritage was all about, along with a 9th century monk by the name of Nennius.  While there were others we can get a sense of how British history was cobbled up. 

Let’s back up.  Takeing a few “liberties” with historical accounts was not uncommon.  A careful read of the Wiki entry on Scaliger (the elder) hints in this direction:

On his own account

When he was twelve, his kinsman the emperor Maximilian placed him among his pages. He remained for seventeen years in the service of the emperor, distinguishing himself as a soldier and as a captain. He studied art under Albrecht Dürer.

In 1512 at the Battle of Ravenna, where his father and elder brother were killed, he displayed valour, and received the highest honours of chivalry from his imperial cousin, who conferred upon him with his own hands the Order of the Golden Spur, augmented with the collar and the eagle of gold. But this was the only reward he obtained.

He left the service of Maximilian, and after a brief employment by another kinsman, the duke of Ferrara, he decided to quit the military life, and in 1514 entered as a student at the University of Bologna.

Read moreCoping: With 50% Stonehenge, 30% Scaliger

Peoplenomics: The Kondratiev (K-Wave) View of 2013

We will keep our morning review of current events a bit shorter than usual this morning in order to focus more on some of my recent work in Kondratiev long wave economic cycles, which are a kind of heartbeat underlying much of our economic, thence social, political, and military activities. This is the first part of what will be two parts: This morning we pencil in some timing scenarios (duck this fall!) and then in Saturday’s report we’ll deal with the prepping side and how to deal there. So hop to it!

Crash Dancin’: Retail Fails

My consigliere called Monday to point out that Art Cashin on CNBC had noted that the last time we had this many Hindenberg Omen’s we had the 2008/2009 financial mess.  “Aw shucks, I think we have a while to run yet…after all, auto sales have been strong and this oughta take a bit more time to roll over….” I explained, having just taken a gram of optimism pills.

This morning, the happy pills have worn off and we have a less than thrilling Retail Sales report just out a few minutes ago:

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for July, adjusted for seasonal
variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $424.5 billion, an increase of 0.2 percent (±0.5%)* from the
previous month, and 5.4 percent (±0.7%) above July 2012. Total sales for the May through July 2013 period were up 5.2 percent (±0.5%) from
the same period a year ago. The May to June 2013 percent change was revised from +0.4 percent (±0.5%)* to +0.6 percent (±0.2%).

Retail trade sales were up 0.1 percent (±0.5%)* from June 2013 and 5.6 percent (±0.7%) above last year. Auto and other motor vehicle dealers
were up 13.3 percent (±2.1%) from July 2012 and nonstore retailers were up 8.8 percent (±2.1%) from last year.

image

Are the good times in auto sales ending?  Sure looks that way.  Consumer super-saturation we call it around here.  Eventually everyone buys the last new car anyone can afford or the last possible iPhone…

Where we are now is simple:  Waiting for the other shoe to drop.  While some are suggesting around November 1st (like Steve Quayle and the Guerrilla Economist) its as good a crash date as any, although it could come a month before, or next spring.  In the meantime, the market should open up a bit this morning, but the premarket optimism was halved by retail’s fail.

In the Big Picture, we should see a modest decline begin shortly, and its then that many will be tempted to toss money into short positions.  Inevitably, this will be followed by a “running of the shorts” and it’s right there (with blood running in the streets) that Ure’s truly will enter the short side in a meaningful way…along with the commercials, of course.  It may not play out exactly this way, however, so constant vigilance and a good supply of tea leave to read is important.  We have our libretto and the tea has been ordered.

Ignoring implications from the effects of tax changes, I built you an infographic that explains why you feel like you have been working harder for little or no gain…

image

Meantime, real prices have continued up, and that’s why the old joke “The harder I work, the behinder I get!” is no longer an old joke.  It’s present-day reality.

Obamacare: It Just Got Worse

Breaking story in Forbes this morning reveals another bait and switch in Obamacare (my words, not theirs):  The promised out of pocket caps have been delayed for a year until 2015.  I’ve given up counting backpedals on this stuff…

The one thing that surprised me was that the story was written by Forbes contributor Avik Roy.  I would have expected a different reporter like, oh,   Ben Dover.

The Hot/Emotional LBGT Story du Jour

Rather than have a bunch of people figuring out that their lifestyle is going to decline, since prices have been going up faster than GDP growth in real terms since 2007 by my scrawlings, we instead are being flooded with hot-emo stories about how California has now strengthened the state’s treatment of transgender K-12 students in public schools, signed by Calgov Jerry Brown.  Depending on which side of gay rights you’re on, this is either a good thing or one of the dumbest, most insane things ever to come down the pike. 

So here’s what the bill actually says:

An act to amend Section 221.5 of the Education Code, relating to pupil rights.

[ Approved by Governor August 12, 2013. Filed Secretary of State August 12, 2013. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 1266, Ammiano. Pupil rights: sex-segregated school programs and activities.

Read moreCrash Dancin’: Retail Fails