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Sunday, July 31, 2011

All is well-- yippee

An hour after the previous posting, I saw the following AP headline:

"Obama, Congress reach a debt deal"

See all is well.

If 2011 demonstrates one thing, it seems the only thing governments, banks and financial markets can not manipulate or control are natural events like tsunamis.  

Everything else- completely under their thumb.

Life is not complicated

Apologies that we haven't written more in the past week or two.

We've really wanted to.  Its just we've taken a stand not to cover any aspect of 'Operation: Debt Ceiling Fear' beyond what we absolutely must to inform readers to not follow it and to not care.

In order to avoid writing on it, we've had to make the conscious and self-preserving step of not reading or listening on it either.  Like the story of Peter & the Wolf, there comes a point when you just get sick and tired of being set up and then it turns out to be nothing or even worse, 11th hour deals are agreed to by parties with no principles or ethics as a means to kick cans while preserving their political skirts (I meant that for male politicians as much as the female ones).

So we at A&G just won't cover it.

We expect some last-second deal will be made late Sunday night or Monday or maybe even Tuesday.  Insincere, disingenuous politicans will smile and speak grandiose about how they saved the nation in spite of the other party while never admitting to themselves how filthy dirty their tiny souls are.  And the markets will cheer and continue making disgusting sums of money which do not translate in any way to the bottom 98%.

Life is not as complicated as many wish it to be.  For instance, if you wish to avoid an 11th hour crisis, then you take the time to negotiate in good faith in figurative hour #7 or #8.  And if you know the debt ceiling must be raised, then you do not complicate an already emotional issue by attaching debt reduction bill to it.

And if you as a politician really give a fuck about balancing a budget and reducing debt, then you don't engage in military operations in 6 nations concurrently (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia & Pakistan) and you force the top 2% to pay more taxes before you begin stealing the economic lifeblood of the poor, elderly and disenfranchised.

Remember all the hype and sensationalism from the media last week about the markets collapsing because a deal couldn't get done?  Well has it?   Its dropped but markets always ebb and flow.  Did it panic drop? Did it do so anywhere in the world last week?   No it did not.

And if the markets don't care, why should you? And if you don't care, should I?

Markets may tank tomorrow or Tuesday.. who what?!  Just one big rigged casino game- completely irrelevant.  It actually would be good if there was a sincere 1000-1500 pt drop which would be a bloodbath for many investors who Deserve to take some kind of massive financial hit after avoiding one since 2008.  Of course the financial media wouldn't describe it that way but then again, they run by different agendas than we.

If the nation was a human being, it would be a patient in the hospital diagnosed as in 'serious condition' while racked with many internal cancers which doctors have chosen not to treat directly.

And the worst aspect of the entire 3+ year Great Recession which shows no signs of let-up, is that even though maybe 15-20% of the population are directly adversely affected, it also means 80-85% are not.  They are allowed to live in complete and total oblivion, and happily gobble up 'recovery' like mint ice cream.

There's a common saying- If a person you know loses their job, its a 'recession', and if it happens to you, its a 'depression'    It should be added that if you're unaffected in any way, then life is good, everyone is 'lazy', and the mantra is 'don't bother me with more taxes'

Once this debt ceiling nonsense passes and the media moves on to the next topic of alarmism, we'll be back to write more consistently.  Until then.. pardon us.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Is this 'recovery'?

~ This man is not dying.. he's simply in 'recovery' & this a 'soft patch'

Quick follow up to last posting..

GDP announced today..  1.3%

This is what Reuters had to write:  "The economy stumbled badly in the first half of 2011 and came dangerously close to contracting in the January-March period, raising the risk of a recession if a standoff over the nation's debt does not end quickly."

Interesting though... notice even in this economic reality piece, the writer still Refuses to admit there never was a break in the recession.  Key words:  "raising risk of a recession"

The need to mislead its reading public never ends...

PS  We predicted a 350pt drop.. turned out it only dropped 96pts so we'll call ourselves 'wrong' on that.  However it means Wall St isn't taking the threat of a default seriously.. neither should you.

Freaky Friday- what will Day 5 bring?

~ "Recovery.Gov: Accept it or Tough Sh*t because we're Not stopping"

The current farce played out in the media with the fear of catastrophe if the debt ceiling isn't raised does not anger me.. Actually quite emotionally detached from it all.  A story I've seen repeated too many times with the same stale, predictable 11th hour magic solutions concocted out of thin air

I will admit one thing that does irritate me to no end even though it is also a repetitive 'dead horse' beating by the corporate media:  The incessant and determined refusal by the media to stop calling this recession/depression a 'recovery'.

Examples of last 24 hours include:

A Recovery That Repeats Its Painful Precedents (NY Times)

Fed may need to do more if recovery stalls-Fed's Williams (Reuters)

Miron Says US Can Cut Budget Without Hurting Recovery (Bloomberg)
    **  Miron is a Harvard Economics Professor

And on & on the lie goes.. when it will stop, who really knows?

I said a few weeks ago that when I really want to understand what's going on in US finance and the overall economy, I don't focus my attention on American news.  I actually read British newspapers.  Why?  Because British publications do not have any agenda or motivation to paint a false-rosy picture of the US economy.

The following are portions of a commentary in the Guardian UK by Richard Wolff, a Professor of Economics at the New School in New York:

"The so-called economic "recovery" since mid-2009 was chiefly hype, a veneer of good news to disguise and minimize the awful underlying economic realities. The few (large corporations and the rich) who bear much of the responsibility for the crisis made sure that the government they finance used massive amounts of public money to support a recovery for them. The mass of the population was excluded from the government-financed recovery for the few."

"From the depths of the crisis in early 2009 until now, there has been absolutely no recovery whatsoever in wages or jobs for US workers.The crisis of the capitalist system in the US that began in 2007 plunged millions into acute economic pain and suffering. The "recovery" that began in early 2009 benefited only the minority that was most responsible for the crisis: banks, large corporations and the rich who own the bulk of stocks. That so-called recovery never "trickled down" to the US majority: working people dependent on jobs and wages. The countless claims of "recovery" as if it were a general economic event spread across the entire US economy were, and are, lies. They hide the tragic truth of ongoing economic crisis for the many."

And now that you understand better, enjoy your Friday and try not to watch much news unless an over-saturation of fear is something you enjoy experiencing.

PS  Unofficial prediction for Friday..  Assuming there's no debt deal, markets will drop, probably more dramatic in afternoon to close in the -350 to -400 range.  This organized and intentional pulling from the market will be intended to spread fear among Washington and most Americans who truly don't understand the shell game they're being drawn into.   This won't' be the big 'crash' as it were.. just a warning shot across the bow, to use navy-speak.

But don't worry-- if there's no agreement by Monday, it will go up a little on the dip so that's a buying opportunity.  Plus once it Does get done..and it will.. the market will irrationally spike and of course then, All will be Well won't it kids?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Predictions: How'd we do?

This morning around 6a, we made some predictions which really wasn't that big of a risk since this manipulative, rigged market is as predictable as a stale TV sitcom.  Let's see how we did:

The market ended the day at -62 points which was within the +100 to -100 range.  Now we admit that range was wide so nothing to brag about.  But our reasoning for the wide prediction was spot-on.  Most of the day, the market hovered between +10 and -10 which meant the cockroaches couldn't figure out whether to take in profits off yesterday's 'dip' or continue participating in Stage 2 of "Operation Debt Ceiling Fear".

By 3p, based on Absolutely Nothing, it dropped 100pts then bounced a little bit to finish at the 4p bell where we stand- 12,240.

So we accurately predicted today would not be a dramatic sell-off day nor a dramatic buy.   We also predicted no debt ceiling/debt restructuring agreement in place (that was a super easy one).

As for the prediction of the media and politicians drumming up the rhetoric- wheww..

"Nancy Pelosi on today's vote: "What we're trying to do is save the world from the Republican budget. We're trying to save life on this planet as we know it today." " -- Weekly Standard

Headline: 'Rep.Clyburn (SC- D) Likens Executive Order To Raise Debt Ceiling To Emancipation Proclamation' -- Real Clear Politics

Tone down the hyperbole and they're correct but still..whewww~

And the last prediction-- about the birds chirping and people living their lives unaffected?  Yes- that was another safe prediction as well..

Final tally:  4 for 4

Tomorrow's prediction- Intentional market turbulence & more fear

Predictions for 7/28/11

Its very early AM, and we're going to go out on a limb and make predictions about the upcoming day.  Now because we're sticking our necks out, we could end up completely wrong and with egg all over our faces.

If so, no harm-we just wipe it off.

But if we're right and we expect to be, then nothing horn toot-worthy either.


1)  We do not expect a debt ceiling/debt reduction deal done today.

2)  We Do expect more and more fear drummed up in the media & amongst politicians and if you watch for long periods, we also expect you to need some antacids or "the pink stuff" to get you through the day.

3)  We predict the Dow will close tomorrow at a range between +100 and -100.

You're thinking- well gee, that's not very committal is it?  But it actually is because investors and traders are so Deeply Evil that they could easily look at yesterday's drop as a reason to 'buy on the dip' or they could stay focused on pulling the market down as part of the overall fear game which will culminate next week.

Now we most certainly DO expect a big market drop on Friday because it fits within the overall theatrics that Friday will serve as a 'prelude' or 'precursor' of what is to happen supposedly if the debt ceiling isn't raised on Aug 2nd.  But let's stick with today shall we? ... Tomorrow will come soon enough.

4) We predict the sun will continue rising until it reaches midday, then slowly cascade downward upon the horizon until it is dusk, then night.   And we predict people will live their lives today as they normally do, and with minimal exceptions, be completely emotionally detached from this "financial meltdown" farce.

Guess we'll see how we did by late tonight...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Operation Debt-Ceiling Fear"

Seems the Dow dropped 200pts today..


I mean if the market benefits few everyday people when going up, then it really doesn't matter that it drops.

But here commences the 2nd stage of "Operation Debt-Ceiling Fear" where American investors and financiers get to act like Kamikazes and try to intentionally sabotage the US markets to instill panic among the common folk.

Expect 2nd stage to extend into Friday with a dramatic sell-off to try to scare the bejeebes out of Washington.  But remember the previous posting-  Obama promised Wall St secretly there will be no default after Aug 2nd even if no agreement on raising the ceiling is met.

So block out all mainstream news- you're up to date. Go out & enjoy your day.

Further proof of the Debt Ceiling con job

So much drama.. So much Needless drama..

Here's further proof that nothing terrible will occur on August 2nd.

From Fox Business:  "While officials from the Obama Administration raised their rhetoric over the weekend about the possibility of a debt default if the debt ceiling isn't raised, they privately have been telling top executives at major U.S. banks that such an event won’t happen... In a series of phone calls, administration officials have told bankers that the administration will not allow a default to happen even if the debt cap isn't raised by the August 2 date."

What more can really be said?

Complete, total Theatrics and Kabuki.. or Bullshit. Take your pick...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You have to admit..

~ Pic has nothing to do with article; it just makes me laugh :-)

A Quick thought:

You have to admit after TWO SOLID YEARS of hearing non-stop "Recovery... Recovery... Recovery" by the media and politicians when there was NONE to be found, that its quite comical that this week its all Revelations fire & brimstone-  "recession.. depression.. catastrophe.. Armageddon!!"

It shows one thing crystal clear- the media.. the politicians.. they really think you're simplistic morons and have not the slightest bit of respect for you or what matters in your life.

You & I.. we're simply instruments to be "played"

Tues Update- "Don't believe the Hype"

On Friday, July 22nd, House Majority leader John Boehner abruptly left a meeting between himself and the President because supposedly Obama "moved the goalposts" or whatever that means.  

They agreed to continue to talk on Monday.

But someone-- we're guessing some higher above power that pulls the political puppet strings of both parties, seemed to scare the President and Boehner into talking all throughout the weekend.  Some nonsense about keeping the Asian markets calm and investors (those precious little souls) from panicking.  

No agreement was made before Monday.  In fact as of this moment of writing on Tues, no debt ceiling or debt reduction agreement was made.

All weekend into monday and today the lazy, corrupt media has been spreading fear that the world will collapse and endless fire & brimstone..  Has it yet?

Let's take a brief look at numbers- they don't lie:

The Dow at the close of Friday's bell was 12,681.

After practically 2 days of trading since, the Dow is at 12,543 as of 2:45p.

This is a drop of 138 pts and to novices, may seem like a lot.  It isn't.

On Wed, July 20th, the Dow ended at 12,571.   That means in the span of just about 5 trading days from the 20th to the present, amid all the non-stop incitement of fear and panic from media, pundits and politicians, the market has dropped a whopping total of.....

42 points.

But you say.. well look at Asian markets- they must be tanking?

Japan's Nikkei ended today +47;  China's Hang Seng at +278

Well what about Europe?  They must be freaked out huh?

Each indice did its own thing.. some went up, some went down but nothing drastic or catastrophic; nothing to do with the US debt debate and debt ceiling showdown.

Ohh well.. you say.. Markets will still panic when nothing is done next week..

Yes they very well might.  It would be called an Orchestrated Panic much like in late 2008 when the original $700 Billion TARP was voted down in Congress after that scum Hank Paulson said if not passed, the world would end.  So Wall St. purposely, intentionally, willingly and spitefully Crashed the market by 1100 pts in two days to scare the willies out of Congress to give them their money.

So expect a lot of drama and theater next week.

Think of it this way:  You're on an elevator in a large office building when it stops suddenly and shakes and feels like its about to drop-  now that would be a Genuinely scary situation.  Goodness knows what will happen next.   OK  Now, picture yourself at Disney World at the Haunted Mansion attraction.  You enter the main room which eventually acts as 'elevator'- it shakes and makes you feel like you're falling endlessly.  People scream and yell but its all in good fun- Everyone knows that really nothing harmful is to come about from the experience.

This is precisely what next week will be, assuming nothing is agreed to by Sunday.

You can choose to be intelligent or you choose to get sucked into the hourly updates and he said/he said until you have knots in your stomach and want to scream.

1)  The Debt ceiling Will be raised.  Today-- Tomorrow-- Aug 2 or Aug 4th.. By congressional agreement or on the President's own initiative via the 14th Amendment.  Ultimately it will be raised.

2)  There will be some Debt reduction plan that pretty much Everyone will Hate.  The key is will the wealthy be the only group excluded from feeling Any pain?  Or will the President capitulate again like in December with full extension of the Bush tax cuts?

And now you're updated..  "Don't believe the Hype"

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Don't believe the Hype"

You've probably noticed we've not written as much in the past week or so as we once had.  This is not due to illness or summer vacation.  Rather its because quite honestly, the latest current economic "pretend event" sickens and disgusts us too much to waste a lot of time covering it like the mutts in mainstream news.

What is this "pretend event" of which we speak?

That would be the needless drama and theater which is the current US debt ceiling & debt reduction faux-crisis. All of what you are seeing and hearing and reading on TV, newspapers & internet is pretend.  It is illusion; smoke and mirrors.. it is all contrived like your favorite sitcom or drama.  We shall explain...

But where to begin?

Currently the national debt is at $14.3 trillion.  That's a lot of debt if it was for a city, a state or most nations.  Its not for the United States.  The debt is high, yes but it needs to be put into proper perspective.  If the US was to default on its obligations next week, it wouldn't be because the nation did not have the means to pay off its creditors.  It would be because we choose not to.  The nation takes in at minimum $200billion/month in revenue  ($2.4Trillion/yr)  As a nation we are not the equivalent of income-less 'bums' as some in media like to portray.

Every time the need for the debt ceiling to be raised came for a congressional vote, it was done with a straight  yes or no vote. The congressperson either agreed to raise or voted against.  There were no other issues or legislation attached to confuse the matter.  This time there is.   President Obama and Republicans want to combine a debt-reduction plan with a debt ceiling vote.

Why?  Because it provides political cover.

True dye-in-the-wool fiscal conservative Republicans want to slash and burn social security, medicare and every other FDR & LBJ created "entitlement" as much as humanly possible.  Normally this is a political killer but if you're using fear of increased debt suffocating the nation, you can get all the cuts you want without having to cut the military, increase taxes on wealthy or force corporations to start paying their fair share.

As for Obama, he's really a Democrat in name only.  Like President Clinton before him, Obama is pro-Wall St. fiscal conservative.   Wall St. donated 20% of the total of his 2008 campaign, and he desperately needs them to finance campaign 2012. His most recent acquisitions of former JP Morgan-ite William Daley and former GE CEO Jeff Immelt (who's former company paid Zero in income taxes this year)  were overt signals to calm and soothe Wall St that he wasn't as radical as some had first thought & could be trusted.

When an individual makes a campaign contribution, he/she is limited to a max donation of $2400.  A business or corporation is capped at $34,000.  It takes 14 personal max donations to equal one max corporate one.  And we're not including the expensive dinners and other 'events' that presidents of both parties Lower themselves into doing.

Obama wants to cut social security and medicare as much as the Republicans.  He was the one who put cuts of both programs on the table- voluntarily.  The Republicans were more than happy to accept the cuts and reconfigurement of how inflation was computed- they only balked when pushed to accept tax increases in addition to the volunteered entitlement cuts.

So where are we now?  A pretend line in the sand was created for Fri. July 22nd.  It has passed.  Everyone in the media and political world were expressing Non-Stop fear and paranoia that the Asian markets and eventually US markets would start dropping hard on Monday if a dead wasn't done by Sunday.  A deal wasn't done.  As for the markets?  Honestly-- Who cares?  They're fixed--manipulated.. rigged..  and few everyday people truly benefit from when they rise, so it shouldn't matter if it goes down.  Its simply a psychological trick to scare non-financial people to panic at their politicians.

Next- what now?  What is the 'end-game' of this Peter & the Wolf kabuki?

Expect this week into next to be A LOT of sensationalism and doomsday fear as it gets closer to the Aug 2nd 'deadline'   There are a lot of vested parties with a lot of money who run this nation's finances who want this situation settled specifically with a raise in the debt ceiling and vicious social cuts while giving no tax increases.  And they will not rest until they get their way.  Markets will drop.. media pundits will carry-on nonstop.. politicians will inflame the situation with hyperbole and bombast.

Eventually one of 3 things will happen:

1) A deal is struck in plenty of time before Aug 2
2) A deal is Magically struck right before Aug 2
3) A deal is struck very soon after Aug 2 when markets purposely tank

In All Three scenarios, the debt ceiling is raised and no one is affected.

Now because no one in Washington has the courage or cojones to simply vote a debt ceiling raise separate from a debt reduction bill, expect the longer it gets played out, the more the President will succumb.  This is more because the Tea Party element is approaching the fight over no taxes as a financial terrorist suicide bomber would- take no prisoners and destroy everything & everyone if need be for an ideology; to get their way.  The mainstream Reps who are mature and understand their actions have repercussions are not this way- they've just been held hostage by the 'terrorists'.

One last thing on this most annoying topic.  Let us say for argument that an agreement is met tomorrow that would result in a Trillion dollars in cuts to social services as a means to lower the National Debt.  It is important people understand it takes next to nothing to get that Trillion put back onto the debt ledgers.  For instance, every dollar Fed Chair Bernanke spends to boost the stock market via QE..that counts against the national debt.   So the $600 Billion for QE2 is part of the $14.3 Trillion.  So if he feels one day soon QE3 is needed and a full Trillion is required to jump-start Wall St., you're back at square one in terms of combating the debt.

This is the clearest way I can explain what the US government has been doing for the past 3 years:  A single woman is head of the family and has 3 children. She brings in $3k/month which normally would be enough to provide for her family.  But instead of using her $3k for home expenses, food, etc., instead she bought a $1500 diamond tennis bracelet, then told her family that they needed to figure how to live on $1500. And cuts would need to be made- no dance lessons or soccer registration for the kids, no cable TV... Everyone needed to make cuts Except the mother who bought the bracelet.  And if any one in the family mentioned it, the mother would change topics and "Control the debate".

This is what the US did by giving Trillions to those Damn banks and Wall St and expecting everyone But them to foot the bill.  This is what the UK did as well..and Germany..and Japan.. and every modern nation in a panic back in 2008 to save their precious banking system.

The best advice I can give people in the coming week or so is best expressed from a famous late 80's rap song from Public Enemy...

When it comes to the media, markets and Washington, "Don't believe the hype"

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sometimes you gotta choose...

In the beginning, there were 13 colonies.

And loosely bound by a Confederation, representatives for all the colonies met in 1787 originally to figure how to modify the 'Articles'.  Eventually, through tricks, chicanery and a lot of compromises, a new framework was created- the US Constitution.

And though some states ratified it quickly, others were very hesitant about giving up too much power at the hands of a central authority.  So included in the Bill of Rights, was a Tenth Amendment, which though intentionally vague, provided that states would not be giving up full autonomy.  And as a result, other states ratified and a nation was born.

Fast forward 80 years- a big, long, expensive bloody civil war is fought between (1861-65) because one group of states want to leave the Union as was their right and the other half wanted to keep them against their will, saying the Constitution does not give such rights.  Eventually moral issues of emancipation and human freedom were used as reasoning and rationale to keep the Union intact.  But at war's onset, it was more a Constitutional fight over rights of states and how much power and control a centralized Federal government was to play in all our lives.

We all know how the war ended.

And the Federal Govt. grew and grew.. and as thoughts of secession faded into the backdrop of history, one generation at a time. And more and more people became dependent upon Government for everything especially since the Great Depression-- money to live, food to eat, for healthcare and other basic services. Today it is so entrenched into our society that to slash even a fraction of the financial costs, would cause needless suffering and irreparable harm to many innocent people.
And since the Financial crisis of 2008 resulting in the ongoing Great Recession, the Federal government stepped in to bail everyone and every entity out (except you of course).  They bailed out US banks and foreign banks; US financials and foreign ones, the auto industry, on and on.. bailouts galore- frontdoor, backdoor, sidedoor.. every single aspect of the economy is controlled and manipulated by the US government.  And things are so bad that without it, we'd be in severe depression, so everyone cheers the intrusion.

Here's a new way the government is considering artificially manipulating the economic system (From

"The Obama administration is examining ways to pull foreclosed properties off the market and rent them to help stabilize the housing market...  While the plans may not advance beyond the concept phase, they are under serious consideration by senior administration officials because rents are rising even as home prices in many hard-hit markets continue to fall due to high foreclosure levels."

So in other words, the US government would intervene to stop the natural ebb and flow of home values, and to artificially prop up prices, they'd take over these properties then play landlord to take advantage of higher rental prices.   The government wouldn't be doing this to offer rentals that are more affordable to people in need or who are struggling.  No, they'd be stepping into the private sector and competing with others to rent homes and apartments at the highest price possible on the open market.

In Capitalism, you rise and fall by your own merits.  If your business can't make a profit, you sell it or liquidate.  If you can't make your payments on your home, you sell it and relocate to a residence that is within your affordability.  If you're broke and missing mortgage payments, you get foreclosed upon.  And by the same token, if your home values fall and you're underwater (you're paying more than your home value) then you simply walk away.   That's Capitalism.

Instead we have this hodge-podge bastardization of the word capitalism by mixing elements of fascism (merger of business and state), socialism, collectivism, and social & economic engineering to provide a system that presents itself as all things to all people and in actuality is nothing to no one.

There are two ways the US is going to get out of this current 3+ yr recession- Either commit the money needed to truly stimulate the economy and create jobs via the government taking the lead (and that will be very expensive but will work)  OR Truly get government out of the way and allow businesses and financial entites to Fail; to collapse upon themselves while other companies and those with ingenuity pick up the slack and create the jobs on their own, free of most government regulations and controls.

One way is very liberal, the other very fiscal conservative; both ways are diametrically opposed and yet both plans would work to fix this economy.   BUT --  They can not Ever work together in unison, which is what most presidents of both administrations try to do.

If the government is going to reward corporations with little or no corporate taxes collected, extra low interest Fed loans and guarantees offered, and other special perks and privileges, then when a corporation or financial entity crumbles, you MUST let it crumble-- it MUST be allowed to fail, no matter what the political fallout.

Either the nation is bigger than the company, or the company is bigger than the nation. And until a leader can have the courage to make the choice and stick with it,  the US (and really All western nations that play this 'best of both worlds' game) are going to cause their populaces a lot of economic pain now and in the future.

Friday, July 22, 2011

June's state unemployment rates

According to WSJ, last month the jobless rate rose in 28 states and dropped in 8.

There are 50 US states.  That means 14 states did not change up or down.

If you're an eternal optimist (or have an agenda) you will twist and mold these statistics so it will sound like this: 22 out of 50 US states (44%) either improved or held ground in June.

If you're honest, you will look at the statistics this way:  42 out of 50 US states (84%) either saw increases in unemployment or were unchanged in June.

Remember, its been 24 months since a board of know-nothing economists convened and declared the recession over.  And for 24 months, every media outlet has shoved the word 'recovery' down our throats.

Is your life better today than it was 24mths ago?

Fixing the US economy as one would fix their life

~ Actress Gywneth Paltrow as she normally looks, and in a 'fat suit' for a movie she made a while back called "Shallow Hal"-- which would you hire?

The debt ceiling - debt reduction debate is the topic du jour of the week, and it will continue growing and growing-- the scare tactics, rhetoric, etc. until either at the last second a magical solution is reached or a couple days of market selloff Panic will scare the politicians into passing something.  What will be passed is still up in the air but it is safe to say the debt ceiling will be raised at some point around or soon after Aug 2nd, and Congress & the President will hammer out some budget compromise that angers everyone and hurts the poorest and sickest the most.

There are some that believe (rightly or wrongly depending on your politics) that the US spends too much money. And in order to fix what ails this nation, we need serious and drastic reductions in spending.  This would mean serious and drastic reductions in social services and institutions like social security, food stamps, medicare, welfare,etc (I hate the word 'entitlements' because its a loaded word with negative connotation).

But I propose an argument that the opposite needs to occur to get this nation track; a concept shared by economist Paul Krugman and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich among others--  That to get out of the economic malaise we're in, the nation needs to dramatically INCREASE its spending, but not just simply spend for the sake of it.  It needs to be targetted far more effective and efficiently to areas where economic growth can occur and do so quickly.

To make my point, I will bring the argument to an individual level.  Example:  A woman is in her early 40s and unemployed.  She has limited skills and in the open job market, there's nothing exceptional to make an employer want to hire her-- she has a couple basic skill sets.  No big deal.   Her outward presentation is also blehh.. The woman is overweight, plain, frumpy and dresses very dull. She's massively in debt and in a rut with no realistic chance her life will improve economically as things stand.  

So what can she do to prevent freefall?  In order for her to get control and springboard back into a position where she can take care of herself and pay down her debts, she has to invest financially in herself.  Not money to spend on vacations and a fancy car.  Instead, money to pay for education to acquire real job skills and a real career path in a field that is needed.  Money to pay on fitness spas, new clothing, cosmetics, etc,, to present herself in job interviews as an energetic person full of energy  (No matter the economic climate, employers want people who appear to have positive, winning attitudes in their company, even if they have to fire someone else to make room)

Now the woman in the example has dramatically increased her debtload via education and an overall rebuilding of her self-worth and self-image.  But this debt increase serves a purpose-- not to find a lover or  simply to 'feel good'..  the expanding of her personal debt was a necessary component to the overall strategy of improving one's economic circumstances and empowering oneself to make the changes needed to succeed.

This works both on an individual level and nationally as well.  The US govt, has spent trillions since the 2008 crisis but its pissed that money away on the wrong things-- banks, other financial entities, both nationally and abroad.  Money given to entities so quickly that no effort was made to keep track of where the money went.  No desire to place conditions that upon receipt of funds, it was meant for specific purposes.  Corrupt people gave taxpayer money to their corrupt cronies on Wall St. which increased the National Debt but had zero impact on job creation, house price stabilization or any other problem area needing addressing.

In other words, instead of using the hose to water the grass and the flowers, government watered the sand and from it, created a quicksand which is our current debtload.

But if we had leaders with the courage and will to increase spending to a point necessary to turn around this recession, the nation could actually start feeling a Real recovery. Money to be used for Main Street; small and medium sized businesses; grants to start up businesses in bricks & mortar locations..  very low interest loans for people to go back to school and re-educate themselves in career paths that won't disappear or be outsourced...  And while you do not lower taxes on corporations, you let them know you won't increase their taxes for a few years so they can factor this into their budgets.  But.. this is with conditions that they start expanding their hiring or it will trigger tax increases  (called carrot & stick)

I believe more and more that the only way this nation has any chance of returning to a pillar of economic strength as we're all accustomed to seeing it, is with a serious hard jolt of spending that is targeted specifically in job creation and rebuilding of infrastructure.   When good paying jobs are created along with stabilization of home prices without government propping, those two things make the basis of a long and sustainable recovery, and from that the necessary tax revenues to pay down the debt while maintaining a quality standard of life, to which most Americans are accustomed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Credit Card use- Fiction & Truth

Credit card use is on the rise.  And there are two ways you can interpret that. On one hand, it could mean the economy is improving and people are feeling better about themselves and where the nation is headed, because economically, to quote Obama Press Secretary John Carney this morning, we're "vastly improved".

Or it means the economic situation is either stagnant or worsening and more people are using credit cards for basic survival and paying bills.

We know the answer.  But for a little "fun", let's present both sides' argument.

Here's how credit card companies see it (from blogsite 'Credit Card Assist, written in late May):

"Increased credit card use in the first quarter of the year indicates that Americans are starting to feel the gradual improvement in the economy and are now starting to feel better about their own finances. The higher spending levels and eagerness to get back to using their credit again also helps the economic recovery. The nation’s top three payment processing companies have confirmed that, indeed, Americans have increased their spending capacity... The good news is that many consumers have started to put serious effort into reducing their overall debt levels."

And how does Banking blogsite view the increased credit card usage among Americans in a posting on July 14th?

"A report Tuesday from First Data Corp. showed that the number of credit card transactions grew almost 7 percent last month, while the dollar volume of those purchases jumped nearly 11 percent... Revolving credit, which is mostly credit card debt, rose 5.1 percent in May to $793.13 billion. That marked only the second increase in nearly three years (or 33 months to be exact).  Some are saying this is proof consumers are feeling better about the economy. And it certainly looks like bankers are more optimistic. More than two-thirds of bank risk professionals surveyed by FICO said they expect credit card delinquencies to fall or remain flat through the year"

So now that I filled your brains with enough propaganda spin and lies to make one feel nauseous, here is a more honest and truthful telling of why credit card use is on the rise...

From Bloomberg:

"Consumers in the U.S. are increasingly using credit cards to pay for basic necessities as income gains fail to keep pace with rising food and fuel prices.

Silvio Tavares, senior vice president at First Data, the largest credit card processor (said) "Consumers, particularly in the lower-income end, are being forced to use their credit cards for everyday spending like gas and food.  That’s because there’s been no other positive catalyst, like an increase in wages, to offset higher prices. It’s a cash-flow problem.”"

~ Notice this the same "First Data" as sourced by that bullshit banking blogsite BankRate when they make the proclamation that 'this is proof consumers are feeling better about the economy'.  There used to be a time and place this type of propagandistic empty writing was very prevalent- it was called the Soviet Union and the paper was Pravda.

Let's continue with the Bloomberg article...

"Rising costs of food and gasoline are leaving Americans less money to spend discretionary items, slowing the pace of the recovery... The value of an average transaction on credit cards outpaced the gain for debit cards, showing consumers are increasingly relying on borrowing to pay for gasoline and other necessities...

The use of credit cards is a “smoking gun” that indicates some consumers, including the long-term unemployed who have lost jobless benefits, are resorting to other sources of cash flow just to “get by,” said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc. in Toronto. “People on the margin are putting necessities on their credit cards and this is a trend that’s very consistent with what lower-end retailers have been saying about their paycheck cycles... For people to think that this rebound in credit-card usage is actually a sign of resurging consumer confidence, I think they’re looking at the situation backwards,”.

We said it before.. we say it again.. besides living in a current Great Recession, we also are living in a Great Detachment.  Politicians, media, banking interests, and those individuals with security in wealth and employment are Completely detached and unconcerned about the struggles and daily suffering of the millions who have been affected by the recession.

And because of this detachment, politicians will not craft legislation to create jobs or expand unemployment.  And media will rarely cover the ongoing recession honestly without injecting empty optimism.  And the banks and financials will look at the 'peons' as simply revenue streams while double-talking the reality in banking industry blogsites.  And others look and say, 'Oh, those people..   they don't want to work..   they are (fill in the blank)'

Its important you know how you're looked by others if you're struggling to make it and doing the best you can to raise a family, because the first sign of true independence of thought and spirit is to stop admiring and respecting the entities that are constantly putting you down.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A US History of War- 'Moral & Just'?

~ Spanish American War (1898) veteran in 1948

This posting is a little different that normal in that the focus isn't so much on economics and finance as is it the military and the US history of being at war.

I was watching a documentary last night on the Vietnam War made in 1972 where servicemen stationed at various military bases who had been deployed previously and returned, and those about to be sent off, were speaking honestly about the conflict.  Many spoke of feeling that Vietnam was not a 'moral and just' war.

And that got me thinking.. In the entire history of the US military from Revolutionary War until the present conflicts, how many wars have we truly fought that were 'moral and just'? Or was the situation in Vietnam something new?  So I decided to break down each war the US has been involved in militarily to see if it can fit as 'moral and just'.  No judgments are made on those who serve or have served.  This exercise was meant to look at government's decision making processes and rationales.
Revolutionary War (1775-1781) -  Obviously Americans feel it was a moral and just war because it brought about independence and a new nation.  But let's get beyond that Civics 101 nonsense- What provoked the war to take place?  Merchants in New England did not want to pay increased taxes by the British govt' to fund a past war (French & Indian War) that city-dwelling colonists did not get any direct benefit from.

So the masses were riled up into a lather by cheap merchants, and from Boston Tea Party to Boston  'Massacre', the rebellion drum was beaten harder and harder until eventually shots were fired. And if the colonists' cause was so just and moral, why was it that the British offered full freedom to any black man who took up arms to help crush the rebellion?  Wouldn't emancipation have been something we ourselves would offer since we were supposedly fighting for it?

Much more I could write but for brevity sake, I won't...
War of 1812 (1812-1814)-  This was the second fight with the British and our 2nd economic fight.  This was a war over free trade, control of the seas, impressement  (opposing nations coming on board and taking sailors to commandeer to serve as sailor in that nation's fleet).  The war essentially ended in a draw though the Battle of New Orleans was fought months after the Treaty of Ghent had officially ended the war in 1814. The Battle was a rout, a great achievement by General (and future President) Andrew Jackson.  Nonetheless, the conflict was not a 'moral and just' one.
Indian Wars (1810s- 1840s)- There were many small wars between US military and the Native American population during this period. Collectively, the goal was to push the various tribes west from the Appalacians, Ohio Valley and still recently new Louisiana Purchase territory.  Some US successes, some failures but nothing moral about the "Trail of Tears", Seminole Wars and other military actions around this time.
Mexican War (1846-1848)-  Some will say the war was fought to liberate Texas and make it a US state. The US was also big on a concept called 'manifest destiny' which is a way of saying it is the US' destiny to expand its empire as far as eye could see and westward to the Pacific.  The US won and acquired a lot of land- future states of TX, OK, NM, AZ, CA, CO and NV.  The war was a great success for America; just not a moral and just one.
US Civil War (1861-1865)- Now at this point you're going 'Aha!' But let's really understand what happened and not what your history teacher/asst. football coach taught you in HS.   The Civil War was not fought over slavery in terms of human bondage, rather the economics of the institution.   Slavery meant free labor which undercut northern businesses. They used mostly immigrant labor who were treated to horrible working conditions by northern owners.  But they still received a wage and that meant greater profits for Southerners who paid none. In addition, Southern cotton was exported across the Atlantic to Liverpool England to be milled because it was more economically cost-effective than to send the cotton to northern mills. Many Northern industrialists wanted to stop this practice.

By the time the war began in April, 1861, the fight had nothing to do with slavery on a human level and the Union had zero concerns on the institution or curtailing it.  To paraphrase Lincoln, if he could unite the Union by freeing some of the slaves in some of the states or all of them or none of them, the focus was preserving one nation.  The Emancipation Proclamation came about in early-mid 1862 as a means to motivate Union soldiers to re-enlist at years' end by making the war a 'moral' one.  It turned out to be good propaganda because the ruse worked nd re-enlistment soared by New Years, 1863 even though Lincoln held off releasing it for months until there was a Union victory as not to appear 'weak' and it only freed slaves in states it had no jurisdiction--the Confederacy itself.  Border states that aligned with the Union were allowed to keep slavery.
Indian Wars (1860's- 1890's)-  A continuation of first series of Native American wars upon various tribes. Some American setback, some victories and ultimately pushed millions of people into territories then 'Americanized' them by giving them Christian names and clothing to attempt to take away all sense of heritage identity and pride.  All this done so railroads could expand and connect to California.
Spanish American War (1898)- Not much moral about it.. we wanted ownership of Cuba and Philippines so the US provoked armed conflict by rigging an explosion upon the USS Maine (Remember the Maine!) and blaming it on Spanish provocateurs.  The conflict ended rather quickly.
Military involvement in Central & South America (early 1900s)- Marines sent to numerous places (Haiti, Nicaragua, etc) to occupy various nations while assisting US business interests in gaining a foothold in this part of the world.
World War I (1914-1918)- US involvement was only the last 9 months of the war even though official declaration was in 1917.  Most believe we declared war on Germany because of the sinking of the Lusitania and/or the Zimmerman Telegram where Germany's Ambassador to Mexico promised them they would be given back territory lost during the Mexican War if they opened a military front on the Mexican-US border.

Both incidents were part of the overall reason but in 1917 the war was going badly for the Triple Entente (Britain, France & Russia)  When the Russian people rose up and overthrew Czar Nicholas II, that took Russia out of the war.  And had Germany won, American investors who had heavily backed England would have taken a Severe financial beating.  So they pressured Woodrow Wilson to eventually enter a war he had spent years promising he wouldn't involve the US military in.  WWI was not a moral and just war and neither was US' involvement.  After the war, Wilson tried to push through his highly idealistic and naive 14 Points, but neither Europeans or the opposition party at home wanted anything to do with it.
World War II (1939-1945)-  Ok.. This is The Moral War if there ever was one, right? Obviously when you look at the number of lives lost and in particular the millions of innocents exterminated for their religion, ethnicity or outright hate.  But its important to look with objectivity too.  The war began in September, 1939.  It took 27 months for the US to enter.  And what provoked US involvement- some horrific act the Nazis perpetrated upon innocents?  No, it was an attack by Japan.  In fact, in 1940 the US govt sent many boats full of emigres and those escaping persecution from Germany BACK to Germany, the "Spirit of St. Louis" being a famous example (not specifically Charles Lindbergh's plane)

The war ended by dropping 2 nuclear bombs on Japan.  I am not saying it was wrong since many experts on WWII argue had that action not occurred, it would have taken a million US soldiers invading Japan and many more years of fighting to truly end the war.   So one can not discard elements of necessity.  But a moral and just war, by definition does not end with the destruction that 2 atom bombs create.  Nonetheless, this war was the closest the US has come to fighting a truly moral and just war, especially considering the monsterous enemy which was defeated, particularly in Europe.
Cold War (1945-1990)- For time constraints, I incorporated Korean War (1950-53), Vietnam (1964-75) and every other military action we took to try to stop the spread of Communism as the argument went.  If you truly believe communism is an insidious evil, then you believe all the armed conflicts of the period were necessary to protect freedom and democracy.  If you feel that the 'domino theory' and fear of communism spreading and infecting like a virus is a bunch of BS, then you don't look at any part of this period as being moral or just.
Modern War (1991-present)- In this list, I include Operation Desert Storm (1991) with current invasion and occupation of Iraq (2003- present) since I see Desert Storm as a prelude, rather than a conflict distinct in itself.  I also bunch together operations in the Balkans (mid-late 1990s), Afghanistan (2001- present), Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, on 'n on 'n on.... Some say we're fighting terrorism.  Others feel we're being colonists and nation builders to serve our geo-political and varied corporate interests.

American soldiers throughout history have generally speaking, been very moral and honorable men and women. And this posting was not meant to disparage them,  There's always exceptions who do not represent the military in its entirety but overall US soldiers over history have conducted themselves admirably.

But in terms of US government policy specifically, the causes and justifications to go to war, and military involvement with adversaries domestic and abroad, America has a very poor historical track record.  And even when we fight in wars with moralistic aims and goals,  it always seems to take a backseat to the economic interests of special interests and financiers.

Quick Thoughts -- 7/20/11

Looks like another slow week in world of economics and finance; a week full of sadistic fear mongering, saber-rattling and demagoguing, all in the attempt by political leaders to scare common folk into voting for them in 16 months.  'Quick Thoughts' had to pick the bottom of the barrel this time but to paraphrase an old adage, a wild squirrel always finds his/her nut.  Onto today's "Quick Thoughts"...

Public Tilts to Lifting Debt Limit (WSJ) -- 38% say it should, 31% say it shouldn't and the other 31% will wait until after Aug 2nd to commit either way to a response

BofA reports worst ever loss, margins shrink (Reuters) -- No truth to my daydream that Bank of America be forced into bankruptcy & liquidation with all branches to close within 6 months and CEO Ken Lay be arrested for financial terrorism.

Borders to Close All of its Stores (WSJ) -- Expect liquidation discounts of 5-10% for weeks and weeks until all the quality books are gone, then Amazon-like sale prices on the garbage within the last 48 hours.

16 Arrested as F.B.I. Hits the Hacking Group Anonymous (NY Times) -- The arrests were in connection with strikes carried out by a loose, secretive federation of hackers called Anonymous.  Among those arrested were the hacker names "LivesWithParents47", "HarryPotterSuperPhan" and "RogaineWarrior".

Greece Threatened with Longterm, Widespread Poverty (der Spiegel International) -- To which the ECB, IMF, EU, Investors, Traders, and Bankers collectively shrugged then pretended to be moral, ethical people.

June housing starts at 6-month high, permits up (Reuters) -- Oh that's good news.. Yay.  But this is due to growing demand in rental apartments.  Oh.. thats' um sorta-good.. "Confronted with plummeting home values, Americans are shunning homeownership"  Oh.. thats.. um.. bad.

T-Mobile to Offer Unlimited Data Plans -  Horray! ..  But they were bought out last year by AT&T who does Not offer unlimited plans.. Boo!  Unlimited plans will be available with a two-year agreement for new and existing customers.  But.. Um. Huh?

Test Finds U.S. Students Slacking in the Geography Department (ABC News) -- This is important because students need to know just exactly where they will be immigrating to when they reach adulthood and find there simply not enough work to be found here.

Yao Ming Retires (AP) -- And so closes the book on the basketball career of the first Communist Multi-Millionaire NBA player; the human oxymoron.

Nissan Will Raise Price of the Leaf, Its Electric Car (NY Times) -- The vehicle's price is to be raised by $2450 to a starting price of just over $36k.  Good thing wages are rising by that much to keep up.  Oh, they're not?  Oh.. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Debt Ceiling 'crisis'- A&G's view

This is a topic I've avoided writing much on because this like everything else dealing with corrupt governments and banking systems both in US and abroad, the laws of physics never apply.  Some refer to it like a soap opera with constant twists and turns that never get resolved.  Others may refer to these so-called 'crises' as financial "cockteases" where you think the banks and investors are Finally going to get their comeuppance and then thanks to magic, tricks and/or schemes, the baddies win.

But its important to present to readers a different and more comprehensive view of this issue than what one would get watching TV or reading the newspaper.

It will be assumed in writing this posting that people know that according to Treasury Secretary Tim "The Ferret" Geithner that after August 2nd, if the debt ceiling (which stands currently at $14.3 Trillion) isn't raised that we will be in a default.  Credit ratings agencies have threatened to downgrade our AAA credit rating and almost every politician under the sun has threatened doom and gloom if an agreement can not be met in time. Even the President has subtly threatened to withhold Social Security and Medicare checks as a means of scaring the sick and elderly.

It's always someone else's fault--  notice that?  Everything about this issue is politically manipulated as a means to set both parties' economic platforms for the 2012 election.   So if you follow this issue very closely, you're bound to be endlessly frustrated because both parties are putting on a show.  Both are completely Owned by Wall Street and since it is not in their interest to see a long term default, it will not happen.  That doesn't mean there isn't the possibility of a short term one.  And that's where things get dicey.

So with this rhetoric from politicians and powerful people in finance saying terrible things are going to happen if we default-- what do I believe?

Before I answer, I will state my personal view in that this is a contrived crisis.  All other times previously, there was a straight Yea or Nay vote on raising the ceiling, it was agreed, then the President signed into law.  This time its intentionally and purposely complicated by attaching a bill meant to reduce the National Debt.   Let me also state that if it wasn't for politicians using 70million people as 'human shields' by being non-committal about Soc. Sec. and Medicare continuing to be covered, I personally would be against the ceiling being raised and let the banks and investors take the bloodbath they should have been forced to take back in Autumn, 2008.  

That is not to say I take the Tea Party platform-- Far Far from it.  Any discussion of lowering the National Debt must start with two things simultaneously:  dramatic cutbacks in military spending and graduated increases in taxes for those making $2.5 million/yr or more.   Notice I didn't say $250k.   That may be a lot of $ to some but I don't know too many earning that income with yachts docked in the Caymans.

So, back to the question at hand... what do I believe?   For one thing, even if August 2nd passes with no agreement, I expect Geithner to make paying creditors and interest on debt his #1 priority.  So none of them will get hurt.  It is said that US generates $200billion/month in revenue so it could very easily pay its debts, Soc. Sec, Medicare, welfare, military pay and all other basics to keep the nation from rioting.  But it would be forced to cut non-essentials like military operations currently in 6 nations.  Odds are, the govt would rather you and I starve, then have to drop one less bomb.

I believe the markets will take a hit at first because Investors are cowards who lack any sort of gender-neutral "manhood" to hold fast and ride financial storms.  But once they see the debts are being paid or speculator opportunities on oil or some other precious commodity the world needs for survival, they'll spike back up. (Today the Dow jumped over 200pts based on Nothing but Obama saying there's 'progress' and the price of oil spiking up)  So don't worry about Investors-- remember, cockroaches and other bottom feeders can survive anything.

Interest rates will also go up if the ratings agencies go through with their threat to downgrade US credit which will mean it will cost us more to pay back our debts and cost everyone else more to borrow.  But there are two plus sides as well.. 1)  Your savings rate will increase which means after 3 years of Bernanke keeping it artificially at near zero, it will begin to rise and pay some dividend.  2)  Americans are suffocated with debt overall.  Buying more things that one really does not need simply because interest is low, is not smart.  To be truly free and independent, you have to be free of financial obligations to banks and other creditors..this means a single-minded focus to become debt free.  

What will happen to Social Security, Medicare, welfare, food stamps and such?  Logic tells me that even in a default all those are safe because the combined affect would cause civil unrest and widespread panic i.e. rioting and looting the likes of which has never been seen in this nation before.  Think post-Katrina x 1000.   And do scummy, selfish politicians really have the guts to see what would happen if you deprive someone of their Only means of economic subsistence??    

That said, if I was dependent on such income or had to take care of someone who was, I'd be saving pennies and making contingency plans to cover my ability to pay for essentials for at least a week or two after the 2nd of August.  The reason I am not 100% confident that logic will carry the day is the Tea Party movement are stubborn bastards- they refuse to see taxes raised 1 penny, don't believe the world will end after the 2nd and are willing to see their theory put into practice.

In summary, there's no way to predict truly how this all will play out.  Too many egos.  Too many agendas.  Too many innocent 'human shields' affected by these games.  All one can do is not buy anything that isn't essential and put the $ away for emergency use until this debt ceiling charade gets settled in one way or another.

Quick Thoughts - 7/19/11

Its Tuesday so time to start to another week of 'Quick Thoughts'.  Normally Monday is a start to a week (though I guess some could say Sunday is the official 'start') but since nothing to really talk about on a weekend, Tuesday becomes day #1 when it comes to QT.  Summary of Monday in one word:  Ehhh.  Really nothing good happened. Nothing dramatically bad happened either, unless you work for Cisco or Borders, so maybe in a weird way today was a 'good' day, which is pretty sad..  Don't worry, we at A&G are here to pick you up  (funny stuff begins with headline #6)..  Enjoy~

Debt worries drag down the stock market (AP) -- That's what the lying media 'say' but its just a set up. Lesson of day: Never trust child molesters, investors or financial media. This is a purposeful 'dip' to set up a post-debt agreement 500pt spike.

Debt ceiling delay: Gun shot to the economy- (WSJ) -- Here's the blunt truth- if not for fear of Soc. Sec, Medicare and military pay being affected, the debt ceiling not raised is a Good thing.  The market would plummet, investors would deservedly suffer and interest rates would rise meaning savers begin getting some rate of return.  The economic fate of the poor and elderly are being used as economic 'human shields' to get the ceiling raised.

Borders' seeks approval to liquidate, close stores (AP)  Border's was a bricks & mortar bookstore chain which stubbornly refused to discount its inventory or compete with Amazon's prices..  Really can't figure out what caused them to close up..

Cisco to cut workforce by 15 percent, sell factory to Hon Hai (Reuters) --  11,500 workers will be out of a job so that Cisco will cut annual expenses by $1billion.. Did you know if you add these lost jobs plus 11k jobs lost from Borders, that equals 22,500?

Goldman Sachs cuts U.S. second-quarter growth estimates (AP) -- "Downgrade follows last week's raft of weak reports on retail sales, manufacturing and consumer sentiment, which have raised concerns that some of the factors impeding growth are no longer of a temporary nature, as previously thought." -- File article under "No shit!"

Obama tells joke-- No one laughs ( -- It was in reference to his commerce sec. nominee being a former Jeopardy! contestant.  Here's a good joke.. Q: 'Why did the chicken cross the road?'  A: Because better paying jobs were on the other side.

"Harry Potter" Profits cast a Spell (Reuters) --  "Potter" made over $168million this weekend in US and Canada, which once again shows fools and their money are easily parted.

Vancouver, Wash. woman in court for trying to sell baby at Taco Bell (AP) -- The deal fell through when the mother later insisted a quesadilla be added to the 3 crunchy tacos offered.

Inner-city girls inspired by women's World Cup (CNN) -- Nice story written but honestly.. ask yourself.. would CNN have taken time to write story entitled "suburban girls inspired by women's World Cup"?  And if so, why didn't they?

Cheap Trick escape as Ottawa rock stage collapses (Reuters) -- The band "escaped unharmed when a storm blew down much of the stage they were performing on at a major rock concert in Ottawa, Canada, late on Sunday"  But the bigger news story-  people paid money to see Cheap Trick.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Baseball's first Millionaire

Yesterday, July 17th marked the 50th anniversary of the passing of Ty Cobb, seen by many as the greatest baseball player to ever play the game.  Eighty-three years after he left the game, many of his statistical achievements and records still remain including a lifetime batting average of .366, and he was the first ball player elected into Cooperstown's Hall of Fame.

But this posting is not about baseball or batting statistics.  Nor is it about Ty Cobb the man, his demons or other psychoanalytical aspects to his life in an attempt to understand what made him 'tick'.   Instead because A&G is a finance and economic blog, we're interested more in the story of how Cobb transcended himself into the first millionaire baseball player and the fortunate set of circumstances i.e. being at the right place at the right time, and amazing ingenuity Cobb possessed which allowed his fortune to accumulate.

At the time of Cobb's death in 1961, his estate was reported to be worth at least $12 million including $10 million worth of General Motors (GM) stock and $1.78 million in The Coca-Cola Company (Coke) stock.It is said that by today's standards, Cobb's estate was equivalent to over $86 million dollars.  The fact that Cobb held stocks in these two companies was not by chance or mere circumstance.  Cobb was blessed to be at the right place at the right time to get in on two bustling industries while still within its early inceptions- the automobile and boom in soft beverages.

Cobb played the majority of his career in Detroit (1904-1926).  His last two seasons were in Philadelphia for the Athletics before he retired in 1928.  Detroit was a bustling city-  every motor car company from Ford to Chrysler to Packard and United Motors (which eventually merged with another to become General Motors) was located there.   Demand for automobiles picked up across the nation as they were rapidly replacing horse and buggy as transportation of choice.  Because Cobb was a rising star for the Tigers within a couple years of joining and earning $2,400/yr which was a decent amount back then,so those connected with GM sought out Cobb to invest with them.

Cobb's first investments were in commodities though.  In Cobb's words: "By then, I had some money to gamble with and began hanging around the Detroit Stock Exchange.  First thing I did was buy cotton futures, $1,000 worth. It didn't go up until World War I and the need for uniforms. But when cotton did jump, I had a $7,500 profit."

Soon after, he bought into a copper mine in Bisbee, Ariz. When a strike was made, he collected $15,000, and then he diversified to invest in other areas.  His fans included pioneer auto men John Dodge, David Buick, J.W. Packard and Ransom Olds of Oldsmobile, and that connection led to a move into auto stocks, just as America was entering a vehicular boom. He got into United Motors, later to become the industry giant General Motors, and kept the stock as a source of fat dividends.

Cobb also did advertising for GM which in addition to receiving a paid-endorser salary, he'd see his shares rise in value as he helped to sell more cars.  According to Cobb, "The best players were making $6,000 a season from clubs then," he recalled. "I was worth over $300,000 after World War I."

~ Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson & Cobb on right, WWI- Europe

The connection Cobb had with Coca Cola was based on the soft drink company being based in Atlanta, Ga,  and the "Georgia Peach" being born in Royston which was in northern Ga.  Around the turn of the 20th century, the #1 soda of the day was called Moxie and Coca-Cola was looking to compete and eventually overtake it.  Like GM, they sought out Cobb to invest in the company as well as be a big focus of their print marketing campaign.  Cobb agreed and the partnership was mutually beneficial to both parties.

In Cobb's words, "Well, I was no sit-on-my ass guy. For example, Coca-Cola was a new drink on the market in 1918. Wall Street didn't think much of it. I gambled the other way with a small 300-shares buy, then with bigger buys and then Coke jumped out of sight. It brought me more than $4 million as time went by."  His self-taught skill at judging market trends, the advice of experts and luck kept the five- and six-figure checks coming in.

By 1928, his last year in professional baseball, Cobb was making a record $85,000 in salary yet thanks to all the dividends from his investments with GM and Coca-cola as well as John Paul Getty's Standard Oil and cotton on the commodities market, Cobb had enough money to allow him to make a $275,000 bid (thought unsuccessful) to buy the Cincinnati Reds. Later in his life at one point, he was a director of two Georgia banks, in Augusta and Lavonia.

~ Cobb & Joe DiMaggio (1958)

But even though Cobb was a multi-millionaire, he did not lead a lavish life.  Quite the opposite.  According to Al Stump who was his ghost writer for one book, and wrote the definitive autobiography on Cobb during his last year of life, recalled, "Cobb drove a dented old Lincoln that needed repair. He smoked dime cigars. A good tip to a taxi driver was 50 cents. He punched out a Palo Alto parking-lot attendant in an argument over his fee. He served his guests cucumber sandwiches."

Cobb would also go for weeks at a time without a phone or electricity due to arguments over utilities bills, and when fans would send self-address stamped letters requesting his autograph, Ty would keep the stamps and throw away the envelopes.

According to Stump, the late Casey Stengel had a story about Cobb: ""Back around 1938, Ty gave me some instruction on dropping the drag bunt and the double-steal and other stuff. . . . We got friendly. Then he told me to get into some new fields of east Texas oil. 'Bet your shirt on it,' " he tells me. "So I put up all I could borrow, just on his say-so. Well, I did better than all right." How much the tip helped Stengel isn't known, but after the "Old Perfesser" died in Glendale in 1975, his estate was valued at more than $800,000."

~ Cobb with Ted Williams

Stump also recalled that he once asked if Cobb had derived a lot of satisfaction from becoming the No. 1 moneymaker?  Cobb replied, "I'd trade it all for getting rid of what ails me,"  Seven months later, he died of prostate cancer, which had been killing him for two years.  Next to his bed at Emory Hospital were two items- $1mill in securities in a satchel and a loaded Luger pistol.

There are many good lessons which can be learnt from the success of Ty Cobb as businessman and entrepreneur:

1)   Skill is important but never discount some good old-fashioned luck
2)   Don't invest what you can not afford to lose
3)   Study what you're doing.. don't simply invest on a whim or a 'dip'
4)   Real investors are in for long haul; not cowardice of day-trading
5)   It's more financially rewarding to get in on the ground floor

The most important lesson to take from this posting is this: No matter how wealthy or powerful you are, you can not forever prevent illness and eventual death. And you can not take your wealth with you.  For Cobb in his later years- twice divorced and alienated from all his children, investing was all he had to keep his mind active and alive.  And as a result he passed away very wealthy and very frustrated & alone.

With full respect to Ty's memory and former greatness, it must be said that Cobb's deep Need to constantly make money in his last years, even when he did not need it to survive and while fighting numerous cancers, made ita very sad way for him to end a successful life.

Drinking or Investing: Always know when to say 'when'.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

2006 debt ceiling- how did they vote?

The last time the US Senate got together to vote whether to raise the debt ceiling was March 16, 2006. George W. Bush was President and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were both Senators.

Curious how Obama voted?

He and Every Democrate voted Against raising the debt ceiling, or a 'No' vote while practically Every Republican voted 'Yes'.

Ironically, Every Democrat today is in support of the ceiling raised while many Republicans don't seem to care.

Funny how one's view of default alters based on which party is in the Oval Office.

Here's the official vote breakdown, which ended up winning the day 52-48: (source:

Grouped By Vote Position:
YEAs ---52
Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Allen (R-VA)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chafee (R-RI)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
DeWine (R-OH)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Enzi (R-WY)
Frist (R-TN)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lott (R-MS)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Roberts (R-KS)
Santorum (R-PA)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Talent (R-MO)
Thomas (R-WY)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)

NAYs ---48
Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Burns (R-MT)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Carper (D-DE)
Clinton (D-NY)
Coburn (R-OK)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Ensign (R-NV)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Obama (D-IL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Funny TSA News story

On rare occasions you find someone making news for doing onto others, what was done onto them..

 From a local Fox news affiliate:  "A Colorado woman is accused of putting her hands on a TSA agent at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. Court records show 61-year-old Yukari Mihamae grabbed the left breast of the female agent Thursday at the Terminal 4 checkpoint. Police say she squeezed and twisted the agent's breast with both hands."

If you've ever had to deal with TSA agents, you are chuckling I am sure.

Quick Thoughts -- 7/16-7/17 Weekender

Ahh, finally.. the end of another work week.  How to best summarize the past 5 days?  One word:  Fear.  ~nods  Nonstop fear.  OK yes now that was technically two words, but you get what we mean.. Fear of the economic world crumbling.. fear of no checks for elderly and infirmed.. fear of this and that.  Friday in particular was such a repetitive waste full of fear and uncertainty, we didn't even bother writing a posting.

Of course the fears and concerns are real.  And if you thought this past week was annoying, the following week is going to be pure hell on the nerves.   But this is weekend.. clear your head, relax, lay by the pool, and sip a frosty one.  But before you do, here's today's Quick thoughts:

U.S. Downgrade Would Ripple Into Every Home (Fox Business) -- "The ripple effect from such a downgrade would be widespread and potentially severe, impacting everything from local municipalities and the neighborhood bank to home mortgages and student loans."  

~ Ya- Very Interesting.. hmm.. let's connect this with the next headline...

Congress May Allow Default, Stock Crash: Analysts (CNBC) --  "Analysts say some congresspeople would let the US default on its debt, causing a market crash, to create cover for a debt deal."  

~ Hmm OK, and that is not Treasonous how??

Another Recession Is 'One Small Shock Away' (CNBC) -- "The US economy is teetering on the brink of a second recession—not a double-dip—even though the stock market remains strong." Hmm, wonder what would a strong US economy with super-weak market be called..  Nirvana?

U.S. recognizes Libyan rebel group as legitimate government (WSJ) -- This allows the rebels to access billions of dollars in Libyan assets in U.S. banks.  What a comedy of errors this is going to be when (cough)  I mean 'if' NATO loses and is forced to re-recognize Gadhafi.. Oopsie~

Evangelicals Urge Perry to Enter Race (WSJ) -- They're quite impressed with the Texas governor's pro-life record involving the unborn and his success rate in lethally injecting & electrocuting the already-born.

Democrat Wisdom: Raising Taxes Doesn't Add Revenue (CNBC) -- Tax revenue can only come from 3 sources: the poor who are struggling to make it,  the middle class who are struggling to keep it and the wealthy who are struggling to hide it.

Why Some Students Are Saying 'No' to Student Loans (Fox Business) -- "The average borrower in the 2009-2010 school year took out $8,008 in federal loans"  Meanwhile, the average Intelligent young adult took out none.

Murdoch says sorry to murdered girl’s parents ( "G'day.. sorry for your loss.  Shame all this had to happen. I know what loss is like too..  Just lost my paper, 'News of the World' last week. Real Bummah.. Well..  G'day"

BBC Journalists Strike to Protest Planned Job Cuts (NY Times) -- Psst, BBC guys, I know they say the pen is mightier than the sword, but if you encounter police thugs in your protest, perhaps penknives are preferred.

Seinfeld Makes Twitter Debut (Huffington) --  "All tweets will begin 'Did you ever notice' and end with 'What's up with that?!' even when Jerry is not trying to make a point. Ex: 'Did you ever notice I'm not funny.. What's up with that?!'

J-Lo and Marc Anthony Spilt Up (IMDB)  -- Seems J-Lo fell deep & madly in love with another:  Her career.