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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What is mainstream news?

 ~  One big happy 'Family'- 'mommy', daddy', 'brother' and 'sister' telling me all will be OK

In a lot of blogposts here at 'A&G', the focus is on the financial and mainstream media (MSM).  Obviously this is not accidental.  Deciding where one is to obtain their information on finance, politics and any other topic of interest is one of the few controls an individual has left.  But it takes work to cipher through all the muck- effort that admittedly most don't wish to bother making. 

Most people genuinely do not care about the news in any way.  Then there's a percentage who think they're informed because they watch the 6:30p network news or the local paper filled with AP stories since newspapers are too cheap to hire journalists of their own.  Then there's a small percentage called 'news junkies' who will watch FoxNews, MSNBC or CNN for 8-10 hours a day and feel they're adequately informed.  This is false.

To really understand what's happening in the world, it takes two things-

1) Independently finding information and trusted news sources, particularly on the internet, that present a realistic and sincere appraisal of the facts. Like the concept of 'comfort food' which is empty-calorie junk, the MSM presents 'comfort news' where the point of view presented is meant to make you feel happy.  2)  This takes time, but one has to develop their own BS detector-  to read a news story or listen to something presented and be able to parse through the spin and corporate bias.

 ~ Only trust well-dressed media Personalities for news. Journalists aren't simply not attractive enough to convey news believably...

Notice I said corporate bias and not political bias.  This is because political bias is rather transparent- corporate bias is not.  Corporate bias means that news is presented in such a way that a populace stay docile and content- that no matter what information is presented.  It may at times provoke sadness or anger but in a minimalized way so as to not provoke call to action or societal protest against the system.  Also, information is to be presented with no context and analysis.  It is just 'there' followed by another headline or story. Nothing is to be presented to viewers or readers which may upset advertisers and the corporate hierarchy.

A big MSM mantra is that no news story is to last more than a week, not even 9/11.  Most people did not pay attention to this amid the outpouring of grief and sadness after 9/11 but it is important to go over the mainstream news time line.   On Tuesday 9-11-2001, the nation was attacked causing over 3000 lives lost.  The media focused on the panic and the beginnings of recovery amid the wreckage at Ground Zero.   By Friday, there was a Memorial service to the victims attended by many government dignitaries including past Presidents.  By the beginning of the following week, the MSM changed to focus on people getting back to normal.  Bush told everyone basically if you shop in malls or take trips to Hawaii you were a 'patriot' because then the terrorists wouldn't win.  The MSM gobbled it up and that was the focus of the Sept 17-24, 2001 news week.

Remember-- All MSM stories last for one week, then disappear.

~ I like seeing news anchors smile and chat... It makes me feel part of their group

The purpose of MSM is to be entertaining, not enlightening.  If sobering stories must be addressed or negative statistics, then they media must minimize, trivialize and rationalize to keep viewers and readers feeling optimistic.  Money is to be spent on elaborate, eye-pleasing sets and equally eye-pleasing people who read news off teleprompters then breezily chit chat amongst each other in a light way to elicit a feeling of sociable inclusion between the anchors and viewers.

There was a time back until the early-mid 1970s where news was meant to inform and educate.  That it was not supposed to have entertainment value and the news departments of TV networks were not expected to turn a profit.  The last 40 years, the media landscape has changed.  The 1975 movie "Network" accurately depicts this corporate shift from news being information to being profit driven. Yes, the movie where the famous line "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore" was uttered.

There is an old adage which summarizes the ability or inability to get truthful info from others--  "If you want to know the weather, don't turn on the TV.  Go outside"

Positive Headlines

Because there's so much negative news out there which the media puts a happy spin on, it has made this blog site appear more on the pessimistic side when in actuality, the goal of 'Ants & Grasshoppers' is to be neither overly down nor upbeat-- simply to present things as they are.

So I decided today to scour the internet news for positive headlines- even though they amount to specks of sand in a vast beach.  Some may agree or disagree with some of my choices but isn't that what makes democracy so lovely?

Stocks lower for a third day on worries over Europe (AP)

~ Its not the European situation which make this headline 'good'..  its that stocks lower. The Dow went down 46 pts. Interestingly, no matter how down it goes, it never seems to finish the day below 11,000, and it magically springboards up when teetering on that confidence level.  Kinda sorta makes you think the markets are um... rigged?

As I've written often, for most of US history, the stock market was an accurate barometer of the overall state of the economy.  Think of it as lines on a chart going parallel.   Since Bush & Obama pumped trillions specifically into the markets, the lines are converse.  Markets go up- everyday economy gets worse..  a great disconnect.   

So to state as candidly as I can, when markets go down, that's a good headline

Eight million customers stop using credit cards (CNN/Money)-- "Credit card use is on the decline, as millions of Americans cut up their plastic or get cut off by their credit card companies. In the past year, more than eight million consumers have stopped using credit cards, according to TransUnion"

~ A very good headline.  The government has been pushing increased debt as the means to recovery.  Instead of improving conditions to make jobs more available or directly bailing out the bottom 98%, the government has exacted policies to lower interest rates to near zero, destroy the lives of millions of responsible savers thereby steering them into the volatile market, and enticing people to take on higher debt loads by expanding credit.

Think of it this way. Lets say last year 8 million people carried a revolving debt of a mere $500 for a full calendar year at a low 15% APR who no longer use credit cards today- that means in simple math, credit card companies are not getting the $75 in interest from each of those former credit card holders this year.

8 million people x $75 = $6 billion dollars less in credit card profit.  A wonderful headline indeed.

Obama and Republicans agree to negotiate on taxes (Reuters)-- "President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he still disagreed with Republicans on whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, but the two sides agreed to negotiate a deal in the coming days."

~  This headline is not good for the reasons one would think.  The nation can not afford to keep any of the Bush tax cuts- not on the wealthy, the semi-wealthy nor the middle class. It needs to fully expire.

What makes this headline good is it shows once again that all politicians are liars.  Obama originally said he'd let all tax cuts expire- now he's negotiating with the 'enemy'.  'Dubya' Bush said he was a hands-off capitalist, then he gave $700 billion in taxpayer money via TARP to the banks.  Before him, Clinton said "I did not have sex with that woman, Ms Lewinsky"-  complete Lie.   Before him Bush Sr. said in a 1988 campaign speech- "Read my lips- No New Taxes" then raised taxes and still had nerve to run for re-election.  Before him, Reagan denied he had any knowledge of Iran Contra- a big Lie.. On and On..

All politicians lie. All politicians go back on their word and support policies that are the opposite of what they campaigned. And all politicians are opportunists.   No slogan ever put food on the table or a roof over people's heads.

WikiLeaks next target- 'a big US bank' (CNN/Money)-- "Julian Assange, the founder of the site that has gained notoriety by publishing secret U.S. military and diplomatic documents, said in an interview this week that the next WikiLeaks target is a major bank..."It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume," he said."

~  In the rest of the article, there's quotes by Wall St. insiders that smuggly dismiss the concern.  Asshole uber-capitalist Barry Ritholtz, a Wall Street money manager even said dismissively, "What are we going to find in these leaks -- that free checking isn't really free?"

Most people do not have the slightest clue how the US economy operates.  They do not know who really is in  power of US finances.  They don't know what the Fed does or its role in affecting every aspect of an individual's life from how much milk and bread will cost, to whether a person will find employment.  People have no comprehension how banks operate and make the ungodly profits they make while engaging in excessive risk taking.  Anyone who can expose the rot, is to be commended and WikiLeaks has a good track record of success.

So you see..  there are positive headlines in the news.. you just have to work really super-duper hard to find them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ireland accepts EU bailout.. what it means financially?

 Ireland's leaders have sold out its people.  But instead of 30 pieces of silver, they got a big loan with an expensive repayment plan and suffering for every Irish man, woman and child so that its banks can recoup its lost money.

**  Note:  1 euro is equal to $1.32..   so 85bill euros would be $112.2 billion US

From IrelandTimes..

"The European Union has approved an €85 billion rescue package for Ireland which, if drawn down in its entirety today, would attract an average interest rate of 5.83 per cent."

~ 5.83% of 85 billion euro is approx 5 billion euro (or approx. $6.6 billion US)-  This is interest.  So you could say Ireland will really be paying back approx. 90 billion euro ($118.8 billion US) for a nation of 4.5 million people- the same population as the state of Oregon.   One last point..  the IMF and the EU only charged Greece 4.5% interest

 "Of this €10 billion will be used to immediately to recapitalise the banks to bring them up to a core tier 1 capital ratio of 12 per cent, with a €25 billion contingency."

~  35 billion euro or 41% of the total loan will be going to strengthen the banks.

 "The remaining €50 billion will be used to meet the budgetary requirements of the State.  Ireland has also secured an extra year – until 2015 – to meet its target of reducing its budgetary deficit to 3 per cent as part of the agreement."

 ~  This is called austerity-- budgetary cuts on social services and salaries, higher taxes, new taxes on things such as water, prices of goods and services increase...

"Under the terms of the deal the State will contribute €17.5 billion of the required funding, €12.5 billion of which will come from the National Pension Reserve Fund and €5 billion from “other domestic cash resources”.

And one last thing...

"EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn said the Irish rescue plan will not compel senior bank bondholders to take a “haircut” on their liabilities."

~ Wheww.. we wouldn't want investors to accept the fallout from risk taking

 So what do the Irish think and feel on this move by their government?

“The Fianna Fáil government has shown no backbone, no negotiating ability and no authority"- Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore.  He also added that the bailout deal negotiated by the Government amounts to a "national sell out" that will leave the country crippled with debt.

“The Government was cleaned out in the negotiations and has not acted in the best interests of Ireland. At the very least we could have expected a low rate of interest on the loans, EU agreement on a jobs and growth package, and agreement to share the cost of rescuing the banks with the bond holders. The Government came away with none of these,”-- Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan

“The 5.8 per cent interest rate is unaffordable...  The decision to force the state to take €17.5 billion out of the Pensions Reserve Fund to pour into the black hole that is our banking system is a disaster.” -- Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams

~ Many people outside of Ireland may not care about this nor what happens to Ireland but they should for it is a precursor of what is to come for other nations down the road as the global economy deteriorates more under the weight of obscene national debts and international banking.

So what is the real difference between Ireland and the US? We can print more money.  Ireland couldn't.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday: Myth & Reality

 Here is the Black Friday myth in a nutshell-  This past Friday, Everyone and their puppy dog was out shopping, shopping, Shopping!!!  No one slept--  hundreds of millions of Americans stood up all night or woke up super early waiting for the stores to open; crashing through the doors in massive waves of humanity gobbling up bargains and walking around the malls with bags upon bags of goodies in their hands.  Recession?  What recession?  Its Recovery- Full Steam!!

It sounds like I'm being exaggerative, yes?  Here were some headlines from Friday 11/28:

 What Recession? Shoppers Eat Up Black Friday Deals (AP) -- "The most encouraging sign for retailing and for the economy was what Americans were throwing in their carts. Shoppers still clutched lists and the buying frenzy was focused on the deals on TVs and toys, but many were treating themselves while they bought gifts for others, adding items like boots, sumptuous sweaters, jewelry and even dresses for special occasions."  (Yes, this quote is familiar- it was cited in a previous blogpost)

Black Friday Bring Out Throng Of Bargain Shoppers (CNN/Money) -- "Larger-than-expected crowds jammed the nation's malls and discounters on Black Friday, elbowing each other in the race for the biggest deals on one of the biggest sales days of the year... "We had the best turnout yet. We had an estimated 1,800 people waiting to get in at midnight," said Nick Nicolosi, general manager of the North Point Mall in Alpharetta, Ga...  Macy's stores, which opened at 4 a.m., also attracted large crowds. At its flagship store in New York City, 7,000 waited for the doors to open, said CEO Terry Lundgren. "That's versus the 5,000 people who waited last year... I have been walking through the store to see that. I've seen lots of red bags, plenty inside the store and outside of it," he said."

Shoppers Come Out In Force (WSJ) --  "Shoppers came out in force on Black Friday in a signal that American consumers were slowly becoming comfortable spending again. But retailers resorted to heavy promotions to entice them, likely crimping profits. From New York to San Francisco, store chains reported strong customer traffic for the annual rite of bargain hunting, despite a spate of online-shopping offers and early sales. The turnout bolstered analysts' predictions it would be the busiest shopping day of the year."

Impressive, yes?  Now the pesky Reality... Headline from Saturday--

 Black Friday Sales Edge Up Only Slightly Higher (AP) -- "Shoppers crowded stores on Black Friday but spent just a little more than last year on the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, according to data released Saturday by a research firm.  Retail spending rose a slight 0.3 percent, to $10.69 billion, compared with $10.66 billion on the day after Thanksgiving last year, according to ShopperTrak.  Two factors behind the slim increase, a disappointment following bullish reports from stores Friday, were heavy discounts earlier in November and online shopping, which saw a big increase."

""Retailers were very conscious of driving traffic early in November and in doing so, some might have thinned Black Friday spending a bit," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said. "The reality is we have a deal-driven consumer in 2010 and that consumer responded to some of the earliest deep discounts we've even seen for the holidays.""

*  The preceding statement by Martin is called Rationalization.. or excuse making.. or double talk Bullshit- take your pick.  Black Friday has been hyped by everyone in the retail industry and financial media to dramatic extremes.  We were told Black Friday would be an accurate indicator of robust sales and economic boom.  Now the experts begin their fibbing, falsehoods and truth-fudging..  yes, Lying.

~  This is the truth about Black Friday-  it is an Event much like the Super Bowl.  And like in all events, people enjoy participating in the unique once-a-year experience of staying up super late or getting up super early, and camping out to get bargains and super deals along with thousands of other like-minded people. 

That does not mean that Americans on the whole are feeling jubilant to shop and spend money in an economy where officially about 10% is out of work (unofficially 17.4%), 1 out of 6 Americans are receiving Federal assistance of some form (unemployment benefits, welfare, food stamps..) and those who are currently working, are nervous about job security.

So people will shop and they will buy gifts for themselves and loved ones because its the Christmas season and that's quite normal and healthy.  People will also hunt and find the best bargains, sales and values to make their dollar stretch.  But anyone who wants to treat Black Friday as some declaration of economic Recovery or that consumers have ample money to spend, is delusional or in the case of media, outright propagandistic Liars.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Two Americas - Example #1554

There are basically Two Americas...

America- group #1 --

What Recession? Shoppers Eat Up Black Friday Deals (AP)-- "Millions of the nation's shoppers braved rain and cold to crowd stores while others grabbed online bargains on what could be the busiest Black Friday ever... Shoppers still clutched lists and the buying frenzy was focused on the deals on TVs and toys, but many were treating themselves while they bought gifts for others, adding items like boots, sumptuous sweaters, jewelry and even dresses for special occasions."

 and America- group #2 --

99ers, Unemployed Need Help As Their Benefits Expire (CNN-Money)--  "Roughly 14.8 million Americans are unemployed, with about 6.2 million of them out of work for at least 27 weeks. About 8.5 million people are collecting unemployment insurance.  But as the nation's economic funk grinds on, a growing number of the jobless are exhausting their benefits."

~ Most people are able to be oblivious about the current recession because it doesn't affect them. Only when more people in the "group 1" category start becoming "group 2" will Americans start to really care about how bad things are nationally and globally.. and maybe will begin to care about each other..  maybe.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Is this a game you want to really be playing?

New York Stock Exchange Dow:

Tues:   11/23:   down 170 pts
Wed.  11/24:    up 150 pts
Thurs. 11/25:    Off- Holiday
Friday 11/26:    down  95 pts

Every day the market swings up or down, with no real rhyme or reason. And everyday the media will rationalize its pendulum swing with double talk and gobbletygook.  

And the talking meat sticks on the various TV business channels will tell you Today is THE day to buy stocks in a fashion no different than carnival hucksters would go from town to town in the early 1900's trying to sell magical cure-all elixirs to the townspeople.

The Fed has purposely made interest rates super low and destroyed the ability of savers to earn anything in interest by keeping money in a bank.  The Fed purposely has tried to steer mom & pop savers and everyday investors into the stock market....  Into This market.

The American people, to their credit have take out $60 billion from the markets because they will not play casino games with their precious and hard earned money.   The Fed has stepped in to fill the void.  Quantitative Easing 1 pumped trillions into the stock market via giving free money to banks.   QE2 pumped an additional $600 billion at $75bill/month.

This is not a game you want to be playing.   You will have a better percentage chance of success if you took your money to the roulette table and placed it all on black or red (45%)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Video: Peanuts- Happy Thanksgiving

This 45 second video sums up this Special day...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours~

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The stock market is bull poopy (G rated version)

Yesterday 11/23/10, the Dow fell 170 pts-  among the causes were concerns over North Korea firing missiles into South Korea, the uncertainty over whether the European Union can get its financial cards in order, and real estate sales dropping 2.2% in October.

Today, magically the Dow rose 150 pts.

Did all the problems and concerns of Tuesday suddenly disappear today and all is well with the world? AP news says stocks went up because "Incomes rose last month and consumer spending climbed for a fifth month. That raised hopes that shoppers will hit the malls in droves the day after Thanksgiving, the start of the holiday shopping season."

THAT was the reason the Dow went up 150pts one bleeping day after falling 170?

Could it also be that Wall Street is nothing more than a rigged casino where the scummiest sociopathic human filth trade with each other on a daily basis with the goal of making as much profit as humanly possible while the bottom 98% of the nation receive no benefit?

Here's another AP quote from a different article-  "The Wall Street insider trading investigation may lead everyday investors -- already rattled by a stock market meltdown, a one-day "flash crash" and the Madoff scandal -- to finally conclude that the game is rigged... Americans have pulled $60 billion out of U.S. stock funds this year"

The truth is that the market goes up and down without any rhyme or reason.. it is the most conformist enterprise one can involve themselves in- a pack mentality that one follows arbitrary ups and downs that the media later rationalize at the stock market's closing bell.

Anyone who puts their money in this stock market is a Fool..  period.

Real Estate sales figures and Double Talk

Real Estate sales dropped 2.2% for the month of October.  That is a statistical fact.  Its also a downer.  And heaven knows the media does not want to give downer information.  Yet they can't bury the story or outright lie either.  Instead they do other little tricks like rationalize, minimize and trivialize.

From National Association of Realtors (NAR) -- "Existing-home sales retreated in October on the heels of two strong monthly gains"

Understand that it is the job of the NAR, representing thousands of real estate agents across the country whose livelihood is dependent on people buying and selling, to convey optimism and hopefulness even when the statistics show a negative picture. In other words, it is the job of NAR to fib, fudge and distort.. just not Lie.   So in this example, the NAR's emphasis is on the 'two strong monthly gains' prior to October's numbers.

Let's continue... Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist said,  "The housing market is experiencing an uneven recovery, and a temporary foreclosure stoppage in some states is likely to have held back a number of completed sales.  He also said that sales activity appears to be "off the bottom and is attempting to settle into normal, sustainable levels. Based on current and improving job market conditions, and from attractive affordability conditions, sales should steadily improve to healthier levels of above 5 million by spring of next year."

First Yun rationalizes by blaming the real estate woes on the recent temporary foreclosure stoppage, as if to imply if not for that pesky 'stoppage', October's numbers would have been 'strong' as well.  Next Yun minimizes- that the drop in real estate prices is a natural progression as the market finds its bottom, then all will be well.  Of course, there's no mention of Freddie and Fannie Mae artificially keeping home prices elevated and there's another 15-20% fall to come before a real bottom is established.

Lastly, Yun trivializes- he basically states that jobs will be more plentiful in the coming months and this will cause a 5million homes sale increase.  An outright lie (I mean fib, fudging of truth and/or distortion).  Official unemployment is at 9.7% and all independent forecasts show unemployment staying above 9% by end of 2011 at minimum.  Where is this magical increase of 5million home sales going to come from?  And will anyone hold Yun's feet to the fire when it turns out that prediction is greatly exaggerated?

When facts are gloomy, the mainstream media and those with a vested interest rationalize, minimize and trivialize.

 So why should anyone care what the NAR or one of its representatives thinks or feels on anything?  Because the extremly LAZY mainstream media contacts them for a quote or two, then regurgitates it to thousands of other newspaper and media outlets across the country without any editorial fact finding on its own and the empty NAR opinions become 'Fact'.

This is from Associated Press-  "Sales of previously owned homes slipped slightly in October as the housing market continues to battle tough economic conditions including high unemployment and tight credit. The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales of previously owned homes dipped 2.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million units.  The Realtors group said that the moratorium that many big lenders imposed on foreclosures may have dampened sales in October by introducing more uncertainty in the sales market. But they said a bigger problem is the tight lending standards that banks have put in place in the wake of record foreclosures. “The dial has been tightened way too much” on lending standards, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the Realtors."

Do you see what happened?  A lazy, good-for-nothing AP writer is told by an editor to write 2000 words on the latest Real Estate numbers for October.  He/she contacts the National Assoc. of Realtors- asks a handful of questions- gets a lot of quotes, then pretty much prints word for word the opinions of the NAR as gospel.   The information is sent all over the world-  millions upon millions of people read or skim the article in their local papers and feel all is still right in the world.  And the lazy AP writer gets a paycheck for his/her lack of journalistic due diligence.

So-called 'experts' can give any rationalization but This is the simple reason why home sales declined--  Home prices are still too high especially with the excess of available and new homes, unemployment is still high, job insecurity is an even higher worry and banks are not lending unless credit scores are pristine and they are charging exorbinent fees and closing costs to acquire mortgages.  Until the housing fundamentals change, things will continue staying bad, and no NAR double-talk will change that.

Wasteful spending- example #1,284

 From Associated Press:  "Apple Inc. says people snapped up more than 450,000 copies of Beatles albums plus two million individual songs during the Fab Four's first week (on iTunes)"

If a full length album is $9.99 and an individual song is 99cents,  that means collectively, people wasted $6.475 million precious dollars on Beatles music they could have added to their iPods and iPads for FREE and done legally so.

How?   Here's how--  At your local library, there is bound to be Beatles CDs (at my local library, there are five)  In addition, many libraries do Inter-Library Loans within a country, where you can acquire any book, CD or DVD that's available for checkout on the library's website.   Then, you take the Beatles CDs you've checked out and burn to your PC (you are legally allowed to burn one copy of a CD for your personal use).  Then once the music is burnt, you transfer the music via iTunes to your portable player.    Done.

The bigger point is this..  millions and millions of people literally piss their money away daily on either things they do not need, things they can not afford or things they could get for free legally.  Little things add up- two 99cent iTunes downloads a week adds to $102.96 a year.  A two-dollar cup of coffee each weekday adds up to $520 in a year.. and so on.

In spite of the government and media Lying to you, economic times are getting worse, not better, both domestically and globally.  Those who will survive the upcoming economic winter are those who think before they spend and don't succumb to the need for instant gratification.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How to get a Job and Keep it

What Ireland's surrender means- in simple terms

As some of you might know or have heard, Ireland agreed to accept $110 billion bailout from the EU (European Union) and the IMF (International Monetary Fund).  But what does this mean and why does it matter?   The best way to answer those two questions is to explain in simple terms what the new Ireland will now become, and you can determine for yourself if it matters to you.

The $110 billion EU & IMF bailout means the following:

1)  Ireland is no longer an independent nation where its economic and budgetary decisions are concerned.  Perhaps in a sense, they lost their autonomy years ago when agreeing to join to European Union and accept the euro as its currency.

Think of it this way- in the US, we were once colonies.  And each state saw itself autonomous of the other- it printed its own currency and made trade pacts separately with one another.  When the US Constitution was ratified in 1791, that all stopped.  Currency was centralized and to be accepted in all corners of the Union.  The states were now secondary to the centralized Union and it took a civil war 80 years later to solidify that fact.

Europe used to be a group of independent nations- now they are states.  Perhaps an accurate way to describe them would be the 'Semi-United States of Europe'.  There are two powerful economic states (Germany and France) that have the most sway and everyone else is weaker.  In the past when a nation had financial difficulty, they'd play around with their currency, print more,etc...  Now that its a centralized currency, Ireland like Greece and Iceland before, was forced to accept the will of the EU and took the bank bailout money so the euro and the EU on the whole, would not collapse.  

2)  The agreement to a bailout means Ireland will go through austerity.  The taxes of its populace will rise while social services will decrease.  Perhaps in time their retirement age will go up as well and pension will be affected.  Ireland is also going through a mortgage foreclosure crisis similar to the US and no doubt austerity will mean mortgage rates will climb causing more defaults. All this will increase civil unrest and encourage political destabilization in the Irish state.

The most talked about aspect of this agreement and how it may affect Ireland is its corporate tax rate, which is extremely low in order to draw in foreign corporations.  Ireland's corporate tax rate (for those who actually pay) is 12.5%.  To give perspective, the average tax rate for the rest of the EU is 25% and the tax rate in the USA is 40%. Though Ireland's leaders have promised that this bailout will not affect that rate, they are outright lying to their citizens once again.  The rest of the EU will not tolerate Ireland charging 50% less taxes and now this bailout gives the means for the EU to step in and change that tax policy.

3)  American taxpayer money went towards the bailout of Ireland's banks.  Of the $110 billion that Ireland will receive, 50% will come from the IMF.   Of all the funding it receives, approximately 18% comes from the United States.  So 18% of $55 billion equals $9.9 billion dollars. This doesn't count taxpayer money used to bailout Greece or money that other nations in Europe and the rest of the world have received in the past.

4)  Ireland is not the last bailout-  Portugal and Spain are in very bad fiscal shape.  They will need bailouts too in the future, with Spain being potentially massive.   Also, domestically,  as I said before, the European states are no different now than American states.  Over 80% of the US states are deep in debt with California and Illinois the worst.  The US will have to bail out these states as early as this coming year, 2011.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Video: Water Cooler Chat on Ireland

Thanksgiving History

Since it is the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I thought I'd take a moment to focus on a holiday that second to Christmas, I love most, and give a brief history of the day and how its evolved through American history...

December 4, 1619-- 38 English settlers arrived at Berkely Hundred which comprised about 8,000 acres on the north bank of the James River, about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, Virginia where the first permanent settlement had been established in 1607.  The group's charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a "day of thanksgiving" to God.  During the Indian Massacre of 1622, nine of the settlers at Berkeley Hundreds were killed, as well as about a third of the entire population of the Virginia Colony. The remaining colonists withdrew to Jamestown and other more secure points.

1621--  The modern Thanksgiving holiday traces its origins from a celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the Plymouth settlers held a harvest feast after a successful growing season. This was continued in later years, first as an impromptu religious observance, and later as a civil tradition. The Pilgrims were taught by the Indians how to catch eel and grow corn. Additionally the Wampanoag Indian leader Massasoithad caused food stores to be donated to the fledgling colony during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient. The Pilgrims set apart a day to celebrate at Plymouth immediately after their first harvest.

 1630-- Massachusetts Bay Colony (consisting mainly of Puritan Christians) celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time, and frequently thereafter until about 1680, when it became an annual festival in that colony; and Connecticut as early as 1639 and annually after 1647, except in 1675. Charlestown, Mass, held the first recorded Thanksgiving observance June 29, 1671 by proclamation of the town's governing council.

1777-- The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was given by the Continental Congress commemorating the surrender of British General Burgoyne at Battle of Saratoga. During the 18th century individual colonies commonly observed days of thanksgiving throughout each year. We might not recognize a traditional Thanksgiving Day from that period, as it was not a day marked by plentiful food and drink as is today's custom, but rather a day set aside for prayer and fasting.

October 3, 1789-- George Washington created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the national government of the United States, and again proclaimed a Thanksgiving in 1795. President John Adamsdeclared Thanksgivings in 1798 and 1799. No Thanksgiving proclamations were issued by Thomas Jefferson but James Madison, the 4th President, renewed the tradition in 1814, in response to resolutions of Congress, at the close of the War of 1812. Madison also declared the holiday twice in 1815; however, none of these were celebrated in autumn.

 ~ "Thanksgiving In Camp"- Winslow Homer

November, 1863-- In the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863 and since then, has been observed annually in the United States.

During the second half of the 19th century, Thanksgiving traditions in America varied from region to region. A traditional New England Thanksgiving, for example, consisted of a raffle held on Thanksgiving eve (in which the prizes were mainly geese or turkeys), a shooting match on Thanksgiving morning (in which  turkeys and chickens were used as targets), church services, and then the traditional feast which consisted of some familiar Thanksgiving staples such as turkey and pumpkin pie, and some not-so-familiar dishes such as pigeon pie. In New York City, people would dress up in fanciful masks and costumes and roam the streets in merry-making mobs. By the end of the century these mobs had morphed into "ragamuffin parades" comprised mostly of costumed children, and by the 20th century the tradition had mostly vanished.

1939--  Lincoln's successors as president followed his example of annually declaring the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. But in 1939, FDR broke with this tradition. November had five Thursdays that year (instead of the usual four), and Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving rather than the fifth one.

With the country still in the midst of Great Depression,  Roosevelt thought an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas. Increasing profits and spending during this period, Roosevelt hoped, would help bring the country out of the Depression. At the time, advertising goods for Christmas before Thanksgiving was considered inappropriate. Fred Lazarus, Jr, founder of the Federated Department Stores (later Macy's & also currently Bloomingdales), is credited with convincing Roosevelt to push Thanksgiving back a week to expand the shopping season.

Republicans decried the change, calling it an affront to the memory of Lincoln. People began referring to Nov. 30 as the "Republican Thanksgiving" and Nov. 23 as the "Democratic Thanksgiving" or "Franksgiving." Many localities had made a tradition of celebrating on the last Thursday, and many football teams had a tradition of playing their final games of the season on Thanksgiving; with their schedules set well in advance, they could not change. Since a presidential declaration of Thanksgiving Day was not legally binding, Roosevelt's change was widely disregarded. Twenty-three states went along with Roosevelt's recommendation, 22 did not, and some, like Texas could not decide and took both days as government holidays.

 October 6, 1941-- Congress passed a joint resolution in 1941 fixing the traditional last-Thursday date for the holiday beginning in 1942.  In '40 and '41, years in which November had four Thursdays, Roosevelt had declared the third one as Thanksgiving and as in 1939, some states went along with the change while others retained the traditional last-Thursday date.  After 1941, Thanksgiving became a matter of federal law.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some good news on horizon??

I often read the financial news and feel a bit tense because the focus is all about cheery optimism, empty 'recovery' and endless investment advice. And I often criticize mainstream media with valid cause because they are simply finance cheerleaders without the pom-poms. As for government- it has been quite a long time since they did anything legislatively or otherwise for the general public's benefit.   But on rare occasion there's a news story in a mainstream news outlet that gives me some hope that maybe there is some justice amid the endless seas of corruption and economic power games.

From Wall Street Journal, 11/20/10 --

U.S. In Vast Insider Trading Probe

"Federal authorities, capping a three-year investigation, are preparing insider-trading charges that could ensnare consultants, investment bankers, hedge-fund and mutual-fund traders and analysts across the nation, according to people familiar with the matter.

The criminal and civil probes, which authorities say could eclipse the impact on the financial industry of any previous such investigation, are examining whether multiple insider-trading rings reaped illegal profits totaling tens of millions of dollars, the people say. Some charges could be brought before year-end, they say.

The investigations, if they bear fruit, have the potential to expose a culture of pervasive insider trading in U.S. financial markets, including new ways non-public information is passed to traders through experts tied to specific industries or companies, federal authorities say.

One focus of the criminal investigation is examining whether nonpublic information was passed along by independent analysts and consultants who work for companies that provide "expert network" services to hedge funds and mutual funds. These companies set up meetings and calls with current and former managers from hundreds of companies for traders seeking an investing edge.

In another aspect of the probes, prosecutors and regulators are examining whether Goldman Sachs Group Inc. bankers leaked information about transactions, including health-care mergers, in ways that benefited certain investors, the people say. Goldman declined to comment."

~  If Santa Claus could bring me one present this Christmas season, this would be it.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Who is Andrea Mitchell's spouse?


Andrea Mitchell is "an American television journalist, anchor, reporter, and commentator for NBC News based in Washington, D.C.. She is the NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, and has recently reported on the 2008 Race for the White House for NBC News broadcasts, including NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Today and MSNBC. She anchors Andrea Mitchell Reports airing at 1pm-2pmET weekdays on MSNBC, has appeared on and guest hosted Meet the Press, and is often a guest on Hardball with Chris Matthews and The Rachel Maddow Show."

So, who is Andrea Mitchell married to?  Multiple choice-  is it....

A)  Drew Mitchell-  Australian rugby player

B)  Freddie Mitchell, former NFL player

C) Joni Mitchell- singer

D)  Alan Greenspan- former chair of the Federal Reserve for 20 years (1987-2006)

Yes-  the answer is D.   Take of it what you will...

Jon Stewart's powerful brother

Jon Stewart is a funny commedian- some of the time.. And I agree with his views on occasion.  And he has a good shtick going where he pretends to care about everyday people...

Here's an interesting 'Did You Know?"...

Jon Stewart's real name is Jon Leibowitz

Ok, nice name, you say-- big deal-- so what?

Jon has an older brother named Larry Leibowitz.

Once again, So what! Who bleeping cares?, you say..

Larry Leibowitz is the Chief Operating Officer of the New York Stock Exchange...

Think about it a moment-  the brother of the most popular political satirist of the moment, on a show where most people under 21 claim they get their news from, is one of the most powerful people on Wall St.

He was appointed chief operating officer in the first quarter of 2010. In this capacity, Leibowitz is responsible for all the operations management, global cash execution and global listings. He previously served as group executive vice president and head of U.S. Execution and Global Technology from 2007 until 2009. He joined NYSE Euronext in 2007, having served as managing director and chief operating officer, Americas Equities, at UBS Investment Bank.

Apples never fall far from trees

Counting the Lies...

Ben Bernanke doesn't seem to be too pleased that he has critics who are vocal against the additional $600billion in free money called Quantitative Easing the Fed gave to the banks under the guise of 'stimulus'.

So in an AP article entitled "Bernanke Hits Back At Critics of Bond-Buying Plan-- defends Fed's bond purchase plan but warns Congress must also back more stimulus aid", he tries to justify his actions with lies..  Let's count them, shall we

**  All lies will be in Red

From AP: "Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has sought to defuse criticism of the Fed's $600 billion bond-purchase plan by arguing that it's needed to boost the economy and reduce unemployment. But he warned that the Fed's program can't succeed on its own."

~ Two lies in once sentence- the $600 billion will do neither.  It will give free money to the banks to supposedly lend but which they will not do.  Instead, they will take that free money and buy US Treasuries at 3% interest.  The $$ never goes into the private sector.

"In his first speech since the Fed announced the program Nov. 3, Bernanke on Friday made his most forceful case to date that Congress also must provide more stimulus aid. Without more stimulus, high unemployment could persist for years, he said. But in making that argument, Bernanke risks heightening complaints that he's plunging the Fed into partisan politics."

~ Lie #3- High unemployment will persist for years because most US manufacturing jobs are now overseas and businesses have no incentive to hire unless its for lower wages, fewer benefits and zero job security.

"He also said the global economy could falter if struggling countries abroad don't receive sufficient support."

~ Lie #4- The global economies will falter no matter what because in the past 2-3 years, nothing has been implemented to correct the problems which caused the financial meltdown we're still feeling the affects from... Bernanke is talking about continual bailouts in a very large scale of most if not all major banks around the world.  That is what he means by 'support'-  this money comes from taxpayers which in eventuality, brings upon austerity, dramatic cuts in social programs and a deeper discrepancy between the haves vs have-nots

"The Fed's Treasury bond-buying program is intended to invigorate the economy in part by lowering interest rates, lifting stock prices and encouraging more spending. Lower interest rates on loans would prompt companies to borrow and expand. And higher stock prices would boost the wealth and confidence of individuals and businesses, Bernanke has suggested. The additional spending would lift incomes, profits and growth."

~ Lies, Lies, Lies..  I lost count after that paragraph-  all ideological hogwash.  As I've written repeatedly here, Bernanke wants to devalue the US dollar so it is virtually worthless in order to attract foreign exports and compete with the devalued Chinese currency.  The more money you print, the less value the paper has that's being printed.  The interest rates are already at near zero- been this way for over a year.  Still no job growth.  Adding $600billion to public debt can't lower interest rates any lower than they are and won't make any real difference in job creation.

Please understand what this is-- it's chicken/egg:  companies won't borrow, expand or hire until there's tangible signs of economic growth particularly in the US consumer.  The consumer can't match pre-recession levels of consumption due to massive debt loads carried and massive unemployment among the American people.  You can't spend if you have no money.. can't make money if there's no job.  Can't get work if companies refuse to hire.  And companies refuse until consumption picks up.   Its a cycle.

Many people say that job creation comes from the private sector- but the truth is this- if a business can get by with a staff of employees who are mostly temps and easily discardable, what is their incentive to expand to hiring full-timers who receive good wages and benefits? 

Lastly as I've stated repeatedly in this blog, the market does not represent the true economy.  For most of US history, the market would be an accurate barometer of the economic state of the nation.  Now it is a contradiction.  The real economy is near-dead while Wall Street, thanks to Trillions of dollars pumped into the market back in March '09, has thus far made up about 60% of its pre-Lehman Brothers level.  It is 100% artificial and the success of Wall Street does NOT trickle down in any meaningful way to Main Street, USA.

--  In summary, Ben Bernanke is an F-ing Liar.  No way to sugarcoat it.  Most people haven't a clue what the Fed is, its role or purpose or what has been going on under Bernanke's watch in particular the past two years. Our tax dollars have gone to help multinational corporations, banking interests and investors make large profits while the quality of life for the bottom 98% has deteriorated.  And the media are just ignorant lap-dogs who will happily regurgitate any positive spin to convey 'recovery'.

The US Govt has spent $14 trillion dollars since Sept. 08 to re-start the economy and despite BS declarations such as the recession being over as of June, 2009,  unemployment officially is still close to 10%  (unofficially it is over 17%), banks aren't lending, personal bankruptcies and foreclosures are sky-high and prices are going up for food, gasoline and other essentials.  Bernanke's attempts to stimulate the economy have been an abject Failure.  Thus--  Bernanke is an F'-ing Liar.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How much is an undergrad education at Harvard?

So you're a high school junior or senior, and you submitted an application for admittance to Harvard College as an undergrad.  And you get the letter you've been waiting for and dreaming about-- Acceptance!!  All that hard work really paid off.. Now, while you were academically good enough to be accepted, you weren't That good scholastically to the point where you are able to get scholarships or grants, and your parents aren't wealthy.

So how do you pay for college?   Student loans of course...

And how much will four years of attendance to Harvard set you back?

From :

"The complete budget at Harvard College (exclusive of transportation) for 2010-2011 is $52,000. Tuition – $34,976; Room and Board – $12,308; College Facilities Fees (for use of library and other University facilities including the Health Services) – $3,439; Minimum for extras (books, clothing, dues, recreation, etc.) – $3,227. Please note these fees are subject to change without notice and that costs can be expected to increase for 2011-2012."

So freshman year will cost $52k, and costs will increase for sophomore year.  The average tuition increase is 4.5% so let's figure that for each of the remaining three years of undergrad:

Freshman-      $ 52,000
Sophomore-   $ 54,340
Junior-            $ 56,785
Senior-           $ 59,340
Total -4 yrs:    $222,465         

Four years at Harvard will cost $222,465 in student loans

 ~ Is Wynton Marsalis playing the Harvard Fight song or TAPS?

Now, say Mr or Ms Harvard graduate has 10 years to repay his/her debts at a very low interest rate of 3.99%, our Ivy Leaguer will be paying a monthly student loan payment of $2,251.29.  If he/she needs the full 10 years to pay off the student loans, ultimately he/she will have paid an additional $47,690.25 in Interest.

The total cost of the four year undergrad degree at Harvard by the time the student loans are fully paid off: $270,155.25 

~  Let us hope and pray these Harvard grads did not major in Art History, Philosophy or English Lit.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Media spin vs Truth; Topic- Back to School sales

 A brief posting.. I wanted to show once again how the media distorts information.

First, the spin...

"If the back-to-school selling season is any indication of holiday sales, this Christmas should be merry for teen retailers"- TheStreet, Nov 15

"After a last-minute back-to-school buying spree, Americans appeared to have taken a shopping pause in October..." -AP, Nov 5

~ Because this is an Associated Press article, thousands of newspapers across the nation and abroad, reprint this without ever checking for factual accuracy- its just meant as space filler between the print ads since most newspapers are too cheap to hire their own reporters. And like an airborne virus, whatever Lie the AP writes, is quickly spread, 'infecting' every reader with propaganda.

Now, the truth...

"Much of the back-to-school [business] actually happened after the event, as customers sort of shunned the school list, waited until school started, and found out what they really needed and then came in and shopped... Our customers remain (economically) challenged." -  Bill Simon, Walmart's CEO, Nov 17

Understanding the News- Ireland 11/17/10

Currently there is a big push among the European Union, Britain and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bailout Ireland in spite of the fact that as of this moment, the nation does not seek it.   To those who don't follow European politics or finance, this topic may seem confusing and/or unimportant.   Its actually quite relevant because it shows a repeated pattern of banks and financiers holding nations hostage and protecting their interests at the expense of national fiscal sovereignty and the will of the people.  Much like what is continually happening in the US.

I will try to explain the below article as simple and plain as I can.  Don't get burdened with the details- focus on the bigger picture.

Sweeping Irish Aid Package in Works- Wall Street Journal (11/17/10)

 "Senior European officials laid the groundwork for a bailout of Ireland that could reach €100 billion ($136 billion), saying experts would travel this week to Dublin to examine the country's finances amid alarm about the dire straits of the Irish banking system. Several euro-zone countries urged Ireland to adopt an aid package... and some pressed for the package to include direct loans from the U.K. alongside assistance from Europe and the International Monetary Fund. Britain is in the European Union but not the euro zone. But at a finance ministers' meeting here, Ireland's Brian Lenihan repeated that his country wasn't ready to seek help despite a huge budget deficit and sky-high interest rates on its government debt"

~ $136 billion dollars may not seem like much in comparison to the Trillions the US has spent so far to bail out its banks but understand that Ireland is a population of only 4 million, a little more than the population of the state of Oregon. And this can not be over-emphasized- the money goes to the Irish banks, Not the Irish people.  In simple terms, Ireland doesn't want the bailout because it means the IMF will step in and control its finances- it would force heavy austerity with deep cuts in social services that would affect millions, and demand excessive taxes upon its citizens.  

 * St Patrick's statue- grounds of Ballintubber Abbey

"Markets fear Ireland's problems could spread the financial crisis into vulnerable members of the euro zone such as Portugal and Spain. Contagion of Spain, one of the continent's largest economies, would greatly strain Europe's rescue capacity and pose a severe threat to the euro's survival."

~ If Ireland wasn't in the EU, continental Europe wouldn't give a damn about Ireland's fiscal problems.  But since it is, and Ireland affects the stability of other PIIGS nations (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, & Spain), the desire for a financial intervention is being pressed upon Ireland whether the nation seeks it or not.

"European stock markets tumbled Tuesday amid the concerns over Ireland, with the steepest declines coming toward the end of the trading session. London's FTSE 100 index recorded its sharpest one-day point decline since late June, falling 2.4%, while in France and Germany the stock indexes fell 2.6% and 1.9% respectively. The commotion in Europe was one factor tugging down stocks in the U.S., where the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.6%."

~ As in America, ultimately the only thing that matters globally is the stock markets going Up, Up, Up, and making sure investors are happy.

 *Lough Mask, County Mayo

"The EU can't provide help unless Ireland asks for it, and negotiations looked set to continue into a second day of meetings Wednesday. Among the sticking points: Ireland is reluctant to surrender its own economic planning to the IMF, while several countries are making strict IMF oversight a condition of their help.  Europe left little doubt, though, that it is ready to jump in... the focus of concern was not Ireland's budget deficits, but its banks."

~ When banks default, investors suffer.  In international global finance, nations and banks can crumble but investors must not be left holding the bill.  If that happens, as many billions or trillions will be spent to guarantee that those who did the speculating or the heavy risk taking, get off the hook and not take losses.  Investors are held in such high pedigree world wide because they are the ones who purchase government debt and without such capital inflow, nations, particularly indebted nations would not be able to acquire the capital to grow their economies.

"There is wide concern in Brussels and in many European capitals that Ireland's troubles—if left unchecked—could further unnerve already-skittish bond markets. Because the 16 euro-zone countries, by and large, persistently run deficits, they rely on financial markets to fill those budget gaps."

~ Self explanatory..  Must protect the bond markets..  Must protect Investors

"The possible inclusion of the U.K reflects the country's close relationship with Ireland. Though outside the euro zone, the U.K. is a major Irish trading partner, and its banks have considerable exposure to Ireland's financial system. In effect, some bailout money to shore up Irish banks would eventually end up flowing to their British creditors."

~ Did you catch that?  UK wants to help Ireland because they would be a partial recipient of that bailout money.  Britain would not be required to pay any of it back- Ireland and its citizens would.  the UK would simply receive some free money into the hands of British creditors.  Amazing..   Repetitive but the point needs to be restated- Ireland's finances Only matter to other nations because they or their banks would be affected.  No other reason.  And any financial assistance for Ireland is for other nations' benefit, not theirs.

* Custom House, Dublin

"In any deal, the IMF would likely contribute half as much aid as the EU and U.K. combined. No further decisions on the breakdown of aid contributions have been made, the official said, as ministers debate whether they should act simply to shore up the banking sector or should make a bolder gesture of support for Ireland's finances. In Ireland, political leaders who insist they don't need a bailout are also angling to avoid the stigma of an IMF-directed economic program, if one comes. IMF loans typically come with policy prescriptions and force governments to relinquish a degree of sovereignty to the Washington-based institution."

~  Remember what I wrote in a previous posting on the IMF- 17% of its funds come from the US... more specifically US taxpayers.  So if Ireland received $136 billion, and half the amount comes from the IMF ($68billion) then 17% equals $11.56 billion.  

** Think about that--  $11.56 billion American taxpayer dollars would be used to bailout banks in Ireland, to which a portion will go into the hands of British creditors.

"It appeared unlikely Tuesday that Ireland could dodge the IMF. Before the finance ministers' meeting, Finnish government officials made clear that they felt Ireland would have to submit to IMF oversight to better ensure any loan is repaid. Arriving at the meeting in Brussels, the Dutch finance minister Jan Kees de Jager drew a line in the sand. "The IMF should be involved, otherwise we will not give any support, ""

~  Poor Ireland..  Even Finland is dictating economic policy.  When you think of the IMF, think of "The Godfather" series.. think of Don Corelone