Sunday, May 31, 2009

Nikkei Opens Lower On Monday

Fascinating, the Nikkei opens lower on the knowledge that GM is filing for bankruptcy.

According to CNN, they file on Monday. Obama will talk to the country at 11:30 am Monday on GM. No doubt he will attempt to quiet the nerves.

What's interesting to me is that for the past several weeks everyone has been saying they are already factoring into the equation GM's bankruptcy. Accordingly the market has lifted. But now that the reality is certain, the fear returns.

It doesn't seem much different from how any of us approach something that brings fear. We try to put it aside, and work through it. But when the actual moment arrives we proceed with a supra-fundamental understanding that carries us through in its own way.

Reuters: Nikkei edges down, eyes on fate of GM
Japan's Nikkei stock average edged down 0.3 percent on Monday, retreating from the more than 7 month highs marked last week, as wariness about the expected bankruptcy of General Motors weighed on the market.

Sped Away

Its interesting to note that the killer sped away from the scene in a car. One might ask why. If the idea is to intimidate the pro choice side and kill the doctor because they provide abortions, then why speed away. It suggests that there is a shame and a cowardice on the part of the murderer, an attempt to create immediate distance from the act of killing. Its like purging the memory and the experience by fleeing and leaving it behind. The fleeing is a purifying ritual and absolution, because the murderer is unable to bear the consequences.

Based on this alone, I bet the murderer is a devout church goer, someone who views themselves as spiritually connected.

CNN: Doctor who performed abortions shot to death
Witnesses provided a license number for a powder-blue Ford Taurus they said the killer used to speed away from the church...

"I am more concerned that the Obama administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions. Abortion is still murder, and we still must call abortion by its proper name."

If Tiller was slain because of his work, he would be the fourth U.S. physician killed by abortion opponents since 1993.

Republicans For Sotomajor

Notice the attempt to tone down the Limbaugh level of vitriolic activity. Somebody must have done some polling for Republicans and showed them that this was not the place to take the intense stand.

"Music Land"

Disney

Rapping Young Neocons

This is for real yo....

CNN - McConnell On Sotomajor

Consider this entertainment -

Obama To Speak In Egypt

President Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, and Germany this coming week.

On Thursday he will be giving a much anticipated speech in Egypt at Cairo University.

This is a big deal. The Arab and Muslim world anticipate a reconciliatory tone to Obama's speech with the intense hope that some kind of solution to the Palestinian - Israeli conflict is at hand.

What can we say, we've heard this so many times before we are immune to the suggestion that there is some sort of solution out there, a solution of the peaceful variety that is.

We will be listening carefully, but I will be extremely interested in reading the reviews of the neocons. Much of their war activity interests hinge on a divided Middle East. Where would these guys be if terrorism born in the Middle East were to quiet down.

McClatchy: Arabs hope Obama will offer a Palestinian peace plan
Agreement is widespread, however, that what Obama says about Israel and the Palestinians will be paramount.

"If President Obama puts the Palestinian issue on the real road to a settlement, then I think the atmosphere in the region will change, because this is the main reason that Islamic fundamentalists can recruit."

People expect that he is going to be evenhanded, which was an obscene word before..."

...Jordan's King Abdullah, who's pushing a new "57-state solution" that would offer Israel normal relations with Arab and Muslim nations once a Palestinian nation is created.

Proceed With Caution

Economic data released on Friday indicates that there is indeed a lessening of the effects of the recession.

The GDP shrank during the first quarter of this year, but at about a percentage point less than the fourth quarter of '08. So this is not great news but it is better news.

More and more financier types are jumping on the third quarter of '09 will start seeing a turnaround bandwagon. We would welcome the news as the recession is the longest since the Great Depression.

One interesting point is that business activity in New York City expanded in May '09, and that this is the first expansion since January '08. New York City is the center...

Reuters: GDP hints recession is moderating
Gross domestic product, which measures total goods and services output within U.S. borders, contracted at a 5.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter, the U.S. Commerce Department said, less than the initial 6.1 percent estimate.

"The recession is easing. The second quarter is shaping up to be a smaller decline of about 3.0 to 3.5 percent. It should be the last of the negative quarters..."

Consumer spending, which accounts for over two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose 1.5 percent

"Verklaerte Nacht Part 3'

Schoenberg performed with exceptional attention.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Michelle Larcher de Brito

Michelle Larcher de Brito, is a young rising tennis sensation. She is quickly getting a reputation for her vocal shriek when she serves and returns. Other stars do this, but Michelle Larcher de Brito is in a shrieking league of her own.

I'm too much old school, I think its obnoxious and unnecessary.

CNN - "Bikini Girls Burglarize Cars"

Finally, essential news we can all enjoy. If we could only get an alien or a spaceship in here, all bases would have gotten covered in the American tragicomic mythological supermarket pantheon.

"Chuck"

Episode 1, Season 1

Off The Cuff

Fellow bloggers, beggars, ingrates, former lovers, musicians, and friends, the secret to getting your clicks up appears to revolve around posts that insinuate Cheney is, was, will be, or might have been a liar or putting it politely and mildly, a mis-speaker.

Cheney to the chagrin of many Republicans, not all but many, and to most, but not all Democrats, will remain on the political landscape for as long as he can. The man has been around the block a few times, this is his thing. He goes way back and he's been active every step of the way. Think back to '74 when he and Rumsfeld ran the country the first time for President Ford. He entered the VP in 2000 far more primed than Bush. Cheney and Rumsfeld were the neocon point men ushering in the neocon years of 2000 to 2006.

Cheney will remain a fixture at neocon home bases - the A.E.I. and the Heritage Foundation. There are also tons of neocon off shoots which will remain in D.C. They are itching to get back into the game with the same degree of power they held under Bush.

Off the cuff and with no references this is my latest opinion on what gives with torture and Bush and all.

First off, all these guys know that waterboarding is torture. Nobody is that stupid to think otherwise.

So why did they do this. Several reasons really but the authoritarian personality which was completely endemic under the Bush administration is the fundamental reason. The authoritarian personality is a special thing. Here the ability to project one's own inadequacies is unparalleled, and the empathetic qualities are at best in infantile form. We see this now when we hear that empathy is nothing but nonsense with Sotomajor-gate and the chant is coming from the same authoritarian figures of old.

So, still why did they do this knowing full well that it was a violation of the Geneva Conventions and all of that. This is my new salient point. They did this because they thought they had their backs covered by Rove. Yes, it was Rove.

Recall that Rove was going to give the country a hundred years of Republican domination in politics. They thought they had their rear ends covered because no one would ever come along to challenge them on it, simple as that. They could not foresee the major losses of 2006 and the chilling and fundamentally destructive quality Bush and all had on America. After 9-11, they thought they had a lock on power that would last as far as the eye could see. Didn't quite work out that way, did it.

So now, the political landscape has flipped. Cheney is starting to realize that he is in deep trouble with his legacy and he may be facing a legal fight as well. Bush is unconcerned, he is untouchable. Cheney is pretty much untouchable as well, but not quite as much as Bush, who is.

Cheney and all have to maintain the no torture mantra, anything else will set them back even further in their ultimate aim which is to resume ultimate power.

The only possible answer to all of this will be the political will to undertake an extensive legal investigation, a summary investigation as it were. Anything less will leave the door open for more torture and neocon power plays in the future.

Right now, the neocons are winning the battle as Obama is not playing hardball, big mistake.

The Charleston

Rally On

The DOW gained 96 and the S&P gained 12 on Friday.

Let's not forget that many prominent investors and economists maintain we are in a bear rally.

The price of oil is rising again as are gas prices. This means that some degree of price inflation is occurring.

Next week GM is set to go into bankruptcy. At this point Wall Street has already adjusted for this change, its no longer stunning the imagination. There is speculation on which company will replace GM in the 30 blue chip company DOW index.

Unemployment continues to rise and the numbers probably do not do justice to the enormity of the problem. We suspect the real numbers are higher than the reported numbers.

Reuters: Economic optimism may trump GM bankruptcy
"If you have a return to some level of growth, with some moderate inflation, that would be the most positive scenario for equities and you could see more of a rally..."

Next Friday's data is expected to show unemployment rose to 9.2 percent from 8.9 percent the month before, according to Reuters data. Analysts say unemployment is expected to increase even as the economy starts to turn around as companies remain reluctant to hire.

Cookies Versus Waterboarding

This is a curious article from Time. Clearly there is an effort to change the tone of the country regarding torture, but cookies and milk?

If the article is accurate, then bravo. Its important to note that according to the TIME story, Abu Jandal was in a Yemeni prison for one year prior to the cookie offering. He doesn't enter the interrogation fresh as it were.

If the story is a concoction, then what's the intent.

Time: After Waterboarding: How to Make Terrorists Talk?
All it took to soften up Abu Jandal, who had been closer to Osama bin Laden than any other terrorist ever captured, was a handful of sugar-free cookies.

He had no intention of cooperating with the Americans...

...the Yemeni gave up a wealth of information about al-Qaeda — including the identities of seven of the 9/11 bombers — but the cookies were the turning point.

Put simply, there's no definitive evidence that torture works.

"If you have to inflict pain, then you've lost control of the situation, the subject and yourself."

"Dance This Mess Around"

B-52's

Friday, May 29, 2009

TPMtv

Petraeus Fox Interview On Interrogation

You have to listen to the very end of the clip to hear Petraeus say that we have violated the Geneva Conventions. Its there, its clear as a bell.

Levin On Cheney

Senator Levin is not mincing words.

Having read the documents that Cheney claims indicate that torture helped save lives, Levin is calling Cheney a liar.

It doesn't get much clearer than that.

CNN: Levin: Memos don't show what Cheney says they do
The Michigan Democrat told the crowd that the two CIA documents that Cheney wants released "say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques."

"Cheney's world view, which so dominated the Bush years and dishonored our nation, gained a little traction last week -- enough to persuade me to address it head-on here tonight," Levin said. "I do so because if the abusive interrogation techniques that he champions, the face of which were the pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib, if they are once more seen as representative of America, our security will be severely set back."

Cyber Control

Readers of the neocon based Project for a New American Century AKA PNAC document, the backbone of the Bush administration circa 2000 to 2006, will not be surprised to see the fruition of a cyber military command. This was outlined in the PNAC document along with a new Space command.

We are somewhat surprised to see Obama just go along with it.

Reuters: US to set out cyber security plan
...Mr Obama is expected to announce the creation of a cyber security office in the White House.

In a separate development, the Pentagon is to create a new military command for cyber space...

US media reports say Mr Obama will also announce the creation of a "cyber tsar" position to co-ordinate government efforts on this issue.

Shades Of Big

Record Foreclosure Rate

This is where a harsh reality of the recession job losses is taking another toll, foreclosures are increasing, not decreasing.

Take a look at the type of mortgage that is now going into default, its a fixed mortgage, not a variable rate mortgage which was at the center of the recession's cause at the start. So what does that tell you.

Its a simple formula, no job -> no money -> no mortgage payment -> foreclosure.

They are still talking about California and Nevada. We know that Vegas is in deep trouble.

McClatchy: Foreclosures, mortgage delinquencies climb at record rate
...the largest percentage of new foreclosures in January, February and March were on prime fixed-rate loans.

...California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada — also account for more than half the increase in new foreclosures on prime mortgages

"...delinquencies are very much tied to employment..."

The Market On Friday


Futures are up this morning.

Economic data on the gross domestic product, manufacturing activity, consumer sentiment, and economic activity is coming out today. All of the data will likely show a modest improvement over the previous quarter.

Investors may or may not run with it.

Perusing the list of companies reporting first quarter results, we see that J Crew is posting a profit. I find myself wondering how that occurred in a serious recession. We are poorer but we sure look good, or was it the Obama family bounce when we learned that the Obama's buy from Crew.

Are you guys buying those $89 pre-washed chinos? I feel so left out...

Reuters: Stock futures point to higher Wall Street open
U.S. Commerce Department is due to release its preliminary (second) Q1 estimate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 8:30 p.m.

"Monkey Gone To Heaven"

The Pixies

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Arnold On Limbaugh

Republican infighting continues - popcorn anyone?

Nikkei Opens Higher On Friday

The DOW gained 103 and the S&P gained 13 today. We will take it.

The government sold off about $101 billion in treasury notes of the 2, 5, and 7 year variety this week. Hey, you got to pay for this stimulus somehow. Apparently they got bought up with no problem and so the massive deficits are also no problem, simple as that. Who could have imagined. Your debts are a different matter, as you probably don't have a triple A rating you ingrate.

Couple that splurge in USDA approved prime government debt choice cuts with oil now at $65 per barrel and bam, you are now wealthier. So be happy. Just one second, isn't the price of oil all of a sudden starting to climb - rather fast!

10% of the country, recently laid off in the recession will have no problem buying a hybrid or two.
Hopes that the economy may be stabilizing helped stocks recover from 12-year lows of early March, but since early this month the market's rebound has been a bit bumpier. source
Reuters: Nikkei edges up as output data beats expectations
...better than expected industrial production data provided a fresh hint that the Japanese economy may have been through its worst phase.

TPMtv

Cohousing


Home ownership has taken a tremendous hit these last two years, to say the least.

At present one in eight people who have a mortgage are primed for disaster.

So what are the alternatives?

The problem is alternatives are invisible because we think of sole ownership or nothing, maybe renting, but we are trained to think sole ownership. The alternatives to this way of thinking are not apparent.

Cohousing was something I stumbled upon about ten year ago and it struck me as a decent idea then. I think its worth a look. We are still talking about having to come up with the means for paying your way here, this is not a free ride.

Cohousing
Cohousing is a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods.

Cohousing residents are consciously committed to living as a community. The physical design encourages both social contact and individual space. Private homes contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, a playground and a common house.

Tiny Respite


Read the article - its chucked full of economic activity data including unemployment figures.

Long story short, there is some minor improvement, still plenty of messes, and a sense that the bottom is here or near.

Reuters: U.S. durable goods orders rise, jobless claims ease
New orders excluding transportation climbed 0.8 percent in April after declining 2.7 percent in March, boosted by orders for communications equipment, machinery and fabricated metal products, the Commerce Department said.

In another sign of the bleak housing market, one out of eight U.S. households with a mortgage ended the first quarter late on loan payments or in the foreclosure process...

Here Comes Weezy

This is very cute.

Unfounded Optimism, Or Is It, Or Maybe Not

Ask 10 different people for their opinion on the economy and you will get 10 different answers.

That's the beauty of democracy. We are entitled to our outspoken opinions no matter how little we actually know. Damnit.

Obama and Biden are now out there pumping it.

But it might not be that good.

McClatchy: Despite Obama's optimism, economic outlook remains grim
...unemployment is expected to peak at 10.5 percent in the second half of next year. Last month's rate was 8.9 percent, up from 8.1 percent in February, when the stimulus became law. The number of unemployed increased by 1.26 million during the past two months to 13.7 million.."

Independent economic analysts largely expected the initially slow pace of spending, as much of the money so far has gone for tax breaks, health care and other immediate needs.

The Market On Thursday

Futures are up this morning and in this recession we know this has little relevance for how the market will look at 4PM.

Auto parts maker Visteon has filed for bankruptcy. This is a clear sign that GM is soon to follow. It will be interesting to see what remains after the bankruptcy.

GM is an integral part of the American landscape, its like something equally as important, oh say the Republican Party for example, suddenly announced it was disbanding. What a devastating loss that would be...

Reuters: Stock futures signal rebound on Wall Street
President Barack Obama said the U.S. economy was past the worst. "It's safe to say we have stepped back from the brink," Obama told a fundraiser in Beverly Hills. "There is some calm that didn't exist before."
Also on Reuters is another article by Roubini. I like Roubini, he prepares you for the worst. This is my new recession motto, remain optimistic but expect the worst.

Needless to say Roubini is not in the recession ends at the end of the third quarter '09 camp. He's talking first quarter 2010.

I suppose the good news is that he actually sees an end to this thing. The great recession seems like it could go on forever.

Reuters: Roubini says U.S. economy may dip again next year
"I still expect that economic growth in the U.S. is going to be negative through Q4, and that we'll see positive growth in Q1..."

"Compared to the current consensus that says we are practically at the end of the recession ... my view is: no, it's going to last another six to nine months before it's over."

Pari Intervallo

Arvo Part played by accordionist Francesco Palazzo

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

John Pugh - Muralist


Yes, that's a mural.

Nikkei Opens Lower On Thursday

The DOW dropped 173 and the S&P dropped 17 today.
...as rising yields on U.S. government debt fueled concern that businesses and consumers could face higher borrowing costs, which could hamper an economic recovery. source

"In general, we are at a point in the marketplace where it's going to take a big catalyst to get us moving upward again..." source
There is the sense that the market has hit a plateau for a while. If we can only keep going sideways. I think another drastic dip is going to take the last remnants of heart away, but we will survive.

Reuters: Nikkei slips in choppy trade
...on fears about the U.S. economy...

TPMtv

Newt Versus Sotomayor


Newt is taking issue with a Sotomajor statement made in 2001. He wants her to withdraw.

The salient quote is excerpted below.

Is this payback? Recall the selection of Thomas and the Anita Hill sex trial. Yet Thomas made it through. Recall Alito and Roberts and the Federalist buddies they bring to the table. Weren't there charges that Alito belonged to a racist fraternity?

This is how it works. There must be a term for it in the political lexicon, perhaps its called "flipping."

CNN: Gingrich: Sotomayor 'racist,' should withdraw nomination
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life," Sotomayor said in that speech, describing how life experience can inform judicial opinions.

Olberman - Mancow And Hannity

The Market On Wednesday

More and more news is coming forth predicting an end to the recession by the end of the third quarter of 2009.

That would be fine with us. The figures for unemployment remain high but mixed in here is a prediction for a small retreat in unemployment numbers. Rather than saying its better than nothing, we need to figure out what is going on precisely in different sectors of the economy and in different sectors of the country.

Notice that the price of oil is creeping up. Today it has passed $63 per barrel. I'm seeing the price of gas at some stations around here pointing towards $3 a gallon.

Futures are up. One might suspect with all of the various news articles in all media expressing the same end to the recession agreement, that investment interest would accelerate.

We shall see.

Check out the clip below - Dr. Doom...

Reuters: Stocks set to open higher on economy hopes
Sales of existing homes are expected to have risen at an annual rate of 4.66 million units, according to the median forecast of 66 economists polled by Reuters, as low interest rates, low home prices and government stimulus stir buying interest. The report is due at 10:00 a.m. EDT.
CNN: Economists: Recession to end in 2009
...the group still expects to see a decline in second-quarter economic activity.

The panel forecast a total of 4.5 million jobs lost in 2009, pushing the unemployment rate to 9.8%. Modest gains in 2010 will reduce the rate to 9.3% by year's end, the report predicted.

"Boulevard Of Broken Dreams"

Green Day

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nikkei Opens Higher On Wednesday

The DOW gained 196 and the S&P gained 23.

"Consumer confidence" showed a big boost (whatever that means) and consequently investors freaked and traded like piranhas feasting on a pig (that is a horrible analogy).

What is consumer confidence?

From Wiki - "the degree of optimism on the state of the economy that consumers are expressing through their activities of savings and spending."

Based on this definition, people are saving and spending more money. Who are these people? Also how do these spending and saving people compensate for the millions who are now without jobs and incomes. That's a lot of spending and saving...

Reuters: Nikkei up as U.S. consumer confidence improves
...consumer attitudes jumped to 54.9 in May from a revised 40.8 in April, well above forecasts centered around 42.0, helping push U.S. stocks more than 2 percent higher.

Joke Making The Rounds

A woman was at her hairdresser's getting her hair styled for a trip to Rome. She mentioned the trip to the hairdresser, who responded:

"Rome? Why would anyone want to go there? It's crowded and dirty. You're crazy to go to Rome. So, how are you getting there?"


"We're taking Continental," was the reply. "We got a great rate!"


"Continental?" exclaimed the hairdresser. "That's a terrible airline. Their planes are old, their flight attendants are ugly, and they're always late. So, where are you staying in Rome?"


"We'll be at this exclusive little place over on Rome's Tiber River called Teste."


"I know that place. Everybody thinks its gonna be something special and exclusive, but it's really a dump."


"We're going to go to see the Vatican and maybe get to see the Pope."


"That's rich," laughed the hairdresser. You and a million other people trying to see him. He'll look the size of an ant.


Boy, good luck on this trip of yours. You're going to need it."


A month later, the woman returned. The hairdresser asked her about her trip to Rome.


"It was wonderful," explained the woman, "not only were we on time in one of Continental's brand new planes, but it was overbooked, and they bumped us up to first class. The food and wine were wonderful, and I had a handsome 28-year-old steward who waited on me hand and foot.


And the hotel was great! They'd just finished a $5 million remodeling job, and now it's a jewel, the finest hotel in the city. They, too, were overbooked, so they apologized and gave us their owner's suite at no extra charge!"


"Well," muttered the hairdresser, "that's all well and good, but I know you didn't get to see the Pope."


"Actually, we were quite lucky, because as we toured the Vatican, a Swiss Guard tapped me on the shoulder, and explained that the Pope likes to meet some of the visitors, and if I'd be so kind as to step into his private room and wait, the Pope would personally greet me.


Sure enough, five minutes later, the Pope walked through the door and shook my hand! I knelt down and he spoke a few words to me."


"Oh, really! What'd he say ?"


He said: "Who fucked up your hair?"



TPMtv - Sotomajor Politically Correct?

Who knew that empathy was a hot button word in the rightwing dimension.

Sotomayor

Now it is incumbent upon us to learn about Obama's choice for the Supreme Court.

She is a liberal, did anyone think Obama was going to pick another neocon Federalist?

Reuters: Obama picks Sotomayor for Supreme Court
...barring an unexpected scandal, there was little chance the nomination could be derailed.

As an appeals court judge, she has often sided with plaintiffs in cases involving race, sex, age and disability discrimination and has ruled against businesses in cases on environmental law and securities litigation. The two business rulings were later reversed by the Supreme Court.

CNN - Colin Powell Pushes Back

Foreclosure Assistance

The article posted below is from May 14.

It spells out additional programs developed by the Obama administration to help people with homes that are underwater.

I suspect many people are not even aware of these programs.

McClatchy: Treasury rolls out relief for more homeowners facing foreclosure
Thursday's announcements address situations where borrowers can't qualify for either of those programs and are at risk of losing their homes. The administration will now provide additional financial incentives to lenders willing to help homeowners unload their properties at a loss when they owe much more than the present-day value of their homes.

The Market On Tuesday

Talk about starting off the week with a bang, North Korea explodes a nuclear bomb and then starts shooting off short range missiles, all to the chagrin of the entire world.

Its enough to make you want to stay in bed. Just imagine how the people of North Korea and Japan must feel. The North Korean's clearly want something with their ultra-catastrophic bargaining chip.

The thought of an ugly conflict with North Korea has sent futures down. What can we say, not much has changed since last week. There have been a few more bank failures, GM will or will not be in bankruptcy in one week, unemployment figures make one light headed, and foreclosures in the hot states are set to go into phase three which may be larger than the previous foreclosure periods.

The DOW is at 8,277, if somehow it can remain close to that number by the end of Friday, that will be a miracle.

Hey, enjoy the weather.

Reuters: Stock futures signal dip as North Korea tension mounts
...with investors rattled by mounting tensions surrounding North Korea.

"Bogoróditse Djévo"

Belle a Cappella performs Arvo Pärt

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nikkei Opens Lower On Tuesday

Its back to the races. My favorite sport resumes on Tuesday as the holiday break ends.

Hopefully all went pleasantly for you. We puttered in the yard and finally planted vegetables. The real sprouting that we are all so concerned with is still a mystery for the most part.

Reuters: Nikkei lower as techs weigh
"In the global car industry, following the downsizing of GM's operations, only Toyota now stands as having a clear outlook for market share and profit growth on the back of its eco-car business..."

Frost Nixon

Just watched Ron Howard's "Frost Nixon" and I must say it is fantastic.

It works on many levels, I highly recommend it, see this movie.

Unfortunately the movie's official trailer is not available for embedding. So here is a sample of the original interview.

"Love Sex Magic"

Ciara

Lithium

This might be something to look into.

Lithium usage in hybrid car will allegedly boom. That means lithium mining could also boom.

There is an anti-lithium movement.

Reuters: The lithium boom is coming: The new bubble?
Lithium is generally mined from rock, but it can also be found in deposits in brine ponds. It comes mostly from one region -- the Andes mountains of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, with some deposits in China. Chile's SQM is the world's largest producer, along with U.S. specialty chemical companies Rockwood Holdings Inc and FMC Corp.

"Lithium is not abundant by any means and future resources will be more difficult to exploit. On the demand side, key sources of demand like consumer electronics have been very weak recently, but longer-term, cyclical headwinds will fade or normalize..."

Krugman - World Economy Improving

I have to admit, I am in the extreme pessimist camp on how and when the country and the world will recover from the great recession.

Like you, I read the articles and try to find little glimmers of hope, little signs that the recession is abating. Right now we know that unemployment is expected to rise into double digits from the present 8.9% to 9% rate. And we also know that those figures are probably lower than reality. The government needs to look good or at least as good as it can...

Rising unemployment does not bode well because as we know that will lead to more foreclosures. That leads to housing devaluation and a diminishing of the value of our assets, etc etc. The housing market plays a prominent part in our economy and its health affects the economy's health dramatically.

So, I am pleased to see that Krugman is talking in a reserved and positive manner about the state of the world economy. I am very surprised to see that he is willing to predict flat to positive growth in the US GDP for the end of 2009. Recall that Krugman only a short time ago was flabbergasted at the Obama administration's plans to reignite the economy, expressing nothing less than catastrophe times 10 for the economy.

Reuters: World economy stabilizing: Krugman
"I would not be surprised to see flat to positive GDP growth in the United States, and maybe even in Europe, in the second half of the year."

"We have averted utter catastrophe..."

Sacramento Area Foreclosures

The recession continues to negatively reverberate through the economy. With unemployment continuing to rise, a new wave of foreclosures are coming, no job -> no money -> no mortgage payments -> foreclosure.

The article details the Sacramento area foreclosure rate and how that community is working through the problems. This is not a feel good article.

The Sacramento Bee: Rising inventory of troubled homes could spur fresh wave of foreclosures
As the 2009 summer sales season begins with repos accounting for two-thirds of sales in Sacramento County, no one is certain whether nearly 18,000 new troubled homes will actually come onto the market.

But O'Toole believes that banks also kept foreclosure losses off their books while preparing for recent "stress tests," and are still awaiting a federal plan to unload their "troubled assets."

"Brother In Arms"

Dire Straits

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Geithner On The Economy

"Dirty Work"

Neocons And War

I found the following piece while reading through a Jeremy Scahill article on the neocons and the media.

Its important to follow the neocons. Simply recall the Bush administration and its foreign policy to understand why.

Now, the neocons will reconvene in different think tanks and newly named institutes along with the usual A.E.I. and such.

Here neocon Ralph Peters writes an article for JINSA.
The Journal of International Security Affairs is the flagship publication of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). JINSA is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization based in Washington, D.C. It is dedicated to explaining the need for a prudent national security policy for the United States, addressing the security requirements of both the United States and the State of Israel, and strengthening the strategic cooperation relationship between these two great democracies.
The writing speaks for itself. Please read the full article.

A few of the themes revolve around the suppression of the full media in a time of war, overwhelming force to annihilate the enemy, a sideways mention of allowing for torture as it is winning by any means, pumping up the military, all themes fully expanded on during the Bush term with neocon support. There is even a sideways reference to the Rove quote on how liberals wanted to give bin Laden therapy. The writer uses a similar analogy and similar contempt for the left.

The Journal Of International Security Affairs: Wishful Thinking and Indecisive Wars
Had we been ruthless in the use of our overwhelming power in the early days of conflict in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the ultimate human toll—on all sides—would have been far lower.

...we need to bring every possible resource to bear from the outset—an approach that saves blood and treasure in the long run. And we must stop obsessing about our minor sins. Warfare will never be clean, soldiers will always make mistakes, and rounds will always go astray, despite our conscientious safeguards and best intentions.

Our potential enemies believe that anything that might lead to victory is permissible. We are afraid that we might get sued.

Pretending to be impartial, the self-segregating personalities drawn to media careers overwhelmingly take a side, and that side is rarely ours.

...the nonsense that, if we win by fighting as fiercely as our enemies, we will “become just like them.”

CNN - Ridge On Limbaugh And Powell

"Why Indeed Did The WTC Collapse?" Part 1/3

From a deep operative -

"The Road To Abu Ghraib"

From a deep operative -

This is an audio presentation 'History Counts' with Ken MacDermotRoe interviewing Professor Alfred W. McCoy.

This is first rate and I highly recommend it.

The Road to Abu Ghraib

CNN - Former Gitmo Prisoner Speaks

World Unemployment Crisis

Reviewing this article which raises an alarm regarding the world and unemployment, I can't help but return to a fundamental idea.

Its the simple idea that you can look in almost any direction in any urban or suburban area and instantly see massive amounts of work that needs to be accomplished. The trick of course is matching that need up with money and skills, turning the equation into a viable job.

With the amazing brain power that the human race collectively holds, a method must be out there that can match this need with a method of payment...

Reuters: Rising unemployment raises threat of social crisis: World Bank
"...if we don't take measures there is a risk of a great human and social crisis, with major political implications..."

"....economists and industrialists are conscious that the recovery will be slow coming and weaker than .expected."

"Fur Alina"

Arvo Part performed by pianist Victor Manuel Morales

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Obama's Weekly Address

Obama On Bush

Bush Criticized (What Else Is New)

Is it possible that Bush did "absolutely nothing to follow up" when told that bin Laden was planning to strike in the US because:

a. He and the neocons were in on it.

or

b. He and the neocons saw it as an opportunity to enact their horrible and malicious policies. The neocons even said as much in their salient "Project for a New American Century" document which called for a new American Pearl Harbor.

or

c. Both of the above...

Sande is unwilling to write option "d. "None of the above" because after almost 8 years of searching finds no evidence to support "d."

Yahoo: Bush criticized by former 9/11 commission member
In "The Emperor's New Clothes: Exposing the Truth from Watergate to 9/11," Richard Ben-Veniste writes that CIA analysts told Bush that bin Laden was determined to strike inside the United States, "yet the president had done absolutely nothing to follow up."

Republican Infighting Over Cheney

There is a report surfacing that Cheney is undergoing his Bush administration rosy half-truth tour, because he fears prosecution under the Obama administration. source

Also we are reading that Cheney's approval rating, as if this is relevant or any way important, is improving as he reworks and re-spouts the neocon agenda with half truths and glaring omissions.

The keywords are half and truth. Chalk it up as another example of how easily manipulated the mass public is.

The infighting comes from serious heights. Gates is the SecDef under Bush and Obama and Ridge is the former Homeland Security director under Bush.

Yahoo: Two Bush-era officials reject Cheney's security stance
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served in the same post under former president George W. Bush, and Tom Ridge, the former head of homeland security, both voiced disagreement with Cheney a day after he attacked Obama's performance as the new commander-in-chief.

Gitmo A Mess

I would encourage you to read the full Reuters article linked below.

The article covers some of the specific cases that are basically in a legal limbo.

Gitmo is Bush's baby. Its hard to find a single bit of Bush policy that holds any value. Gitmo is another part of that ill advised legacy.

Bush apparently opened the camp either not thinking through its ultimate state, which is likely, or thinking that the prisoners would be there for their lifetimes.

Reuters: Guantanamo guilty go free while "cleared" stay
"It is a system so broken, so discredited, that it cannot be saved by any amount of administrative or legislative duct tape," said Amnesty International's executive director Larry Cox.

A federal judge ordered that some of them, 17 Chinese Muslims of the Uighur minority, be freed in the United States. But an appeals court ruled in April that judges don't have authority to give such an order.

Green Bullets

Alright make bullets lead free, but calling them green? This is co-opting a term in the wrong direction. You can't put a pretty face on killing, sorry.

Can we call a bullet green that is not made from lead and therefor it won't contaminate the ground at a practice facility. That's fine, that's a start.

Talk about compartmentalizing.

What about when the green bullet hits a human being. Is it thank goodness I just got shot with a green bullet. Now my death is environmentally friendly...

The Army TImes: Army working on ‘green’ slugs
The new M855A1 lead-free slug will be made of a bismuth alloy that works much better and is designed to work specifically with the M4 carbine...there is an effort to remove all lead from the cartridge in the future.

“It’s good for the environment...2,000 metric tons [of lead] per year not going into the environment once this round replaces the M855.”

"Run-Around"

Blues Traveler

Friday, May 22, 2009

TPMtv

Assisted Suicide

Washington follows Oregon with a law allowing for assisted suicide. In this case the person was dying from terminal cancer.

This is a compelling social trend to follow. Its not easy to accept or reject this, and I must say I have mixed feelings about it.

CNN: Cancer patient first to use Washington's assisted suicide law
A 66-year-old woman with stage 4 pancreatic cancer became the first person to use Washington's assisted suicide law, a nonprofit organization announced Friday.

Liar

Very nice seeing the media doing its job for a change.

McClatchy is calling out Cheney on his neocon agenda and pointing out the obvious...

McClatchy: Cheney's speech ignored some inconvenient truths
Cheney said that the Bush administration "moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and their sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks."

The former vice president didn't point out that Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenant, Ayman al Zawahri, remain at large nearly eight years after 9-11 and that the Bush administration began diverting U.S. forces, intelligence assets, time and money to planning an invasion of Iraq before it finished the war in Afghanistan against al Qaida and the Taliban.

Gibbs On Cheney

Would somebody please send Cheney the golf clubs he so desperately seems to be lacking. He has too much time on his hands and seems unable to cope with his lost status and power.

The Market On Friday

The week went by like lightning. Here we are at Friday. Does time really speed up as we get older?

There has been a type of sober reality blanketing the market this week. Hard news has come through, from new projections on how long a full recovery will take, to lingering problems in the banking system, to harsh news on employment, and to a potential downgrading of the USA's credit rating.

This morning all of that is relaxing with futures up and the market expected to open higher. That unfortunately does not translate into a day of gains. but with the long weekend ahead and the market closed on Monday, maybe this will be a decent day. At least the intense volatility of the recent past has eased a bit, for now. The new keyword is "sober."

Reuters: Stock futures rise as Moody's reassures, Sears jumps
...Moody's eased fears about the credit rating outlook for the United States, and oil prices bounced higher, lifting energy shares like Exxon Mobil.

"You Really Got Me"

The Kinks

Thursday, May 21, 2009

UPI - Face Off

TPMtv - Dueling Speeches

Weekly Unemployment Data

The only "good" bit of news seems to revolve around the rate at which jobs are being cut. The rate is slowing, but it is still high and the job market is not improving, it is still getting worse.

In the Reuters article, there is still mention of an improved climate in the 3rd and 4th quarters of this year. The climate includes an improved job market. We shall see...

Reuters: U.S. new jobless claims drop 12,000 last week
The number of people staying on benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid increased by 75,000 to a more-then-forecast 6.662 million in the week ended May 9...

It was the 16th consecutive week that continued claims had risen to a fresh record high and this pushed the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate to 5.0 percent from 4.9 percent the week before...

Colbert On Yoo

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Extra! Extra! Bleed All About It!
colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage

Obama To Address Gitmo Closing

It strikes me that the Bush administration was so radical in its policies that the debate about what is acceptable under the law is still residing in the extreme.

The fact that Obama must somehow justify the closing of Gitmo is disturbing to say the least.

The best scenario would be an immediate closing to the base therefor removing it from the table for once and for all.

As Obama speaks, Cheney will be reliving his neocon bravado days as he addresses the American Enterprise Institute explaining why Obama is not a right wing radical extremist more in line with his bizarre neocon agenda. The fact that Cheney gets multi-mentions in the media these days is disturbing.

He is still off the chart.

CNN: Obama to lay framework for closing Gitmo
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, one of the most outspoken critics of Obama's policies, is slated to give an opposing argument Thursday morning. Cheney has charged that Obama's national security decisions have left the United States more vulnerable to attack.

The Market On Thursday

Here's what former Fed Chair Greenspan said about the economy -
"Things have unquestionably improved...They've improved everywhere in the world. It's remarkable."

"There is still a very large unfunded capital requirement in the commercial banking system in the United States and that's got to be funded..." source
Futures are down on Thursday morning. Weekly unemployment figures will be coming out today.

One gets the sense that the recent feeling of relief and reasonable news has yielded to a sober resignation that a full recovery will take years and that there are still profoundly large problems in the system that threaten present gains.

Reuters: Stock futures drop on recovery and U.K. jitters
Stock index futures fell on Thursday as doubts about a quick economic rebound fueled a global equity sell-off...

"Brandenburg Concerto No.5 (3 of 3)"

Glenn Gould plays Bach

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

TPMtv

Nikkei Opens Lower On Thursday

The DOW dropped 52 and the S&P dropped 4 today.

The Fed has recently altered its projection of how long it will take till there is a long term recovery, i.e. a return to a fourth gear economy -
U.S. Treasuries rallied after the Fed cited significant risks to the U.S. economy, which officials said could take five to six years or more to return to its long-run potential. source
This is a long time. Still managers keep expressing the idea that the financial crisis is abating. Perhaps we are at the bottom of the "L."

Reuters: Nikkei down as exporters slip on strong yen

Missouri Execution

Not a fan of the death penalty here.

Kansascity.com: Missouri executes Skillicorn for 1994 murder
...corrections officials this time paused after the first injection to ensure that Skillicorn was in fact unconscious. The fatal second and third injections were then administered.

Outside the prison, about 70 protesters gathered in opposition to the death penalty. One man — reportedly a Catholic priest from Illinois — was arrested after crossing onto prison property.

CNN - Soothing A Crying Baby

MRSA

More intense than the swine flu is the MRSA superbug. The bacteria is resistant to ordinary antibiotics, there is a level of super antibiotics that reach it though.

The bacteria is also far more lethal than swine flu.

Many years ago, a friend in the medical profession told us about how the overuse of antibiotics leads to the transmutation of bacteria into being antibiotic resistant. Eventually he said it would reach the community, it has been in the hospital environment for a while.

Reuters via Yahoo: Deadly pneumonia caused by super-bugs on rise: study
Deadly pneumonia caused by so-called superbugs are spreading outside hospitals and represent a growing threat to the public...

...the "super-bug" pneumonia most commonly appears following an influenza-like illness...

The Market On Wednesday

On Wednesday futures are up. Oil is at a new 6 month high priced over $60 per barrel. Of all the indicators for today, oil over $60 is in my opinion the most compelling.

It is useless to predict the market. As the day progresses all types of information from unexpected political events to outbreaks of the swine flu to whatever you can imagine, all of these things affect the investor's mind set and rationale. This in turn affects the direction of the market.

However with oil over $60...

Have you noticed that the price of gas at the pump is creeping up?

Reuters: Stocks futures point to higher open on economic optimism
Oil prices could boost energy shares as U.S. crude oil futures rose above $60 a barrel to touch a new six-month high.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Paul Anka does Nirvana big band?!?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"There's More Than One Of Everything"

Fringe - season finale

Nikkei Opens Higher On Wednesday

The Senate passed credit card legislation today - source

Basically we will have protection from sudden interest rate hikes on credit cards. At this point, banish all credit cards.

The markets performed well today, moving sideways with some gainers, some losers, and the DOW down a tad. If we can continue with days like today for about 9 months, then I might become a believer...

Reuters: Nikkei edges up as defensives rise
Japan's economy shrank 4.0 percent in the first quarter, the biggest contraction on record, but economists see a return to modest growth in coming quarters for the world's No. 2 economy

"Who's On First"

Jesse Ventura Vs. Hannity

Relief

Housing industry people like real estate agents want to see the $8,000 first time home owner credit extended to all home purchases. The idea is simply to stimulate interest and business, and by extension the economy since housing is at the economy's center.

The problem is this. If the $8,000 is being used to finance the house buy then are we setting up a repeat scenario of the present housing crisis. Are people relying on the credit to come up with the cash when otherwise they might not have the resources to make the buy. Sound familiar?

McClatchy: Pressure grows to stimulate housing alongside foreclosure relief
The Obama administration last week updated the Making Home Affordable program it rolled out Feb. 18. One key component involves allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance mortgages that have loan-to-value ratios as high as 105 percent.

That means a homeowner can owe up to 5 percent more than his or her home is worth — a condition called being "underwater" on a mortgage — and still qualify for refinancing. Fannie and Freddie used to allow refinancing only up to 80 percent of a home's value. This component of Making Home Affordable seeks to reach as many as 5 million at-risk borrowers.

Period Of Declines For The GOP

My own take on the recent Gallup poll on the declining support for the GOP is very simple.

George Bush was so bad that from the start of his presidency in 2001 and onward, he single handed sapped support away from the GOP among Americans.

Gallup: GOP Losses Span Nearly All Demographic Groups
The Republican Party clearly has lost a lot of support since 2001, the first year of George W. Bush's administration. Most of the loss in support actually occurred beginning in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina and Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court -- both of which created major public relations problems for the administration -- and amid declining support for the Iraq war. By the end of 2008, the party had its worst positioning against the Democrats in nearly two decades.

The Market On Tuesday

Futures are up on Tuesday morning.

Two pieces of data will be affecting the market today; new housing starts for April and the large inventory of unsold older homes throughout the country.

Housing starts for April are expected to be higher. The backlog of unsold homes is quite extensive and is weighing on the housing market. This backlog includes homes that have been through or are in foreclosure.

The market will probably respond to the good (housing starts) and bad (unsold inventory) news according to which data is stronger.

Most see the housing market as being stuck in the mud and like other recent economic indicators at least it is not accelerating its pace of decline.

The European markets are up so can we assume that Wall Street will follow - absolutely not...

Reuters: Stock index futures point to higher open
At 8:30 a.m. EDT the Commerce Department releases housing starts and permits for April.
Reuters: U.S. home starts seen rising to 520,000 units in April
"The glut of homes is so large that a typical early-cycle rebound in homebuilding looks far out of reach."

"...The huge overhang of inventory, much of which is distressed properties, must be cleared. This will keep downward pressure on home prices."

"Love Will Tear Us Apart"

Joy Division

Monday, May 18, 2009

Not Improved

American Express expects approximately 10% of the debt owed by its customers not to be repaid. This is linked to the recession.

Part of the company's restructuring includes cutting back on marketing. Consequently companies that benefited from the advertising revenue will also lose out. Certainly many more ripples from this lost revenue will affect various other sectors as well.

Reuters: American Express to cut 4,000 jobs
...it plans to eliminate 4,000 jobs, or 6 percent of its workforce, as the weakened economy causes higher customer defaults.

Two Forty


The DOW gained 235 and S&P gained 26 today.

I can't believe this is going to hold for all that long.

Allegedly the good news besides Lowe's results and BoA's improved status was that consumer spending is stronger than expected.

This is like someone with a habit they want to kick but sometimes they can't help but indulge. People stopped buying because their investments were down and their fears were up. Eventually a trip to the mall was inevitable. You can take the money out of the consumer but you can't take the consumer out of the mall - sorry that doesn't make any sense.

This excludes millions who were laid off and who may very well be sinking.

How does this all work out? If ten percent of the population is unemployed and wants to be employed, don't the employed people have to spend more in order to cover the retail losses of those unemployed. The employed population would actually have to spend more in order to get the mechanism up to pre-recession heights.

Um, that's not going to happen...

I do not trust this rally. I still would prefer to see small gains and small losses thank you very much.

Reuters: Wall Street gains as Lowe's lifts mood

CNN: Stocks get high on Lowe's

Say That Again...

If you are familiar with the 60s and Woodstock, please follow the link.

This is a riot - Joe Cocker

Underwater



One in every five homeowners is now underwater. This is a primary reason for the foreclosure rate. What's the point of hanging around in the house if walking away from it is a financial benefit at least in the short run. Staying in the house would be a long term bet that the local market improves and the recession leads into a visibly churning and moving economy. Its damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Yahoo: House-Price Drops Leave More Underwater
...about 20% of U.S. homeowners owing more on a mortgage than their homes are worth...

More than one in 10 borrowers with a mortgage owed 110% or more of their home's value at the end of last year...

Belly Dancer

The Vectrix VX-1


It costs about a penny a mile to ride this scooter as it is electric, recharging right from the outlet. The drawback is that the bike itself costs around eight grand.

Owning one of these is an appealing idea for me. There also may very well be tax credits for purchasing one.

Keep it on the back burner.

Autoracing Daily: Vectrix VX-1 Scooter - 60 Miles at 60 MPH on a Single Charge
It’s also electric, with a 180-pound battery that lets the rider forget about pumping gas. The Vectrix just needs an electrical outlet to get its fuel.

The scooter can go about 50 to 60 miles when fully charged and it can reach speeds up to about 60 mph. It’s billed as the only electric scooter on the market that’s highway legal.

“We classify this as a zero emissions vehicle....When you’re riding it and driving it, it is zero (greenhouse gas) emission..."
Vectrix

The Market On Monday

Futures are up. Lowe's is reporting better than expected results. There's a Lowe's nearby and I have to admit I like the garden center, lighting, window treatments, its a home owners paradise. Still nothing beats a smaller lumber yard where you can get personalized assistance. If I need a special order I use the smaller lumberyard.

Overall my bottom line is wanting the markets to at least maintain their present numbers, give or take a small amount. Is there anything there to drive them significantly higher? There are plenty of potential pitfalls to drive them much lower.

Reuters: Stock futures add to gains after Lowe's beats
The retailer's (Lowe's) report reinforced hopes that the worst effects of the recession may be past.
Don't be misled by the following article's reference to a U.S. budget chief. They are referring to the White House budget director Peter Orszag. The White House has to control the flow of information about the economy. The simple question to ask would be - does the White House want its budget director to make statements that are optimistic or pessimistic regarding the economy.

Reuters: U.S. budget chief says signs of economic free-fall over
U.S. economic data have shown evidence that the recession's worst phase may be over, with April consumer prices unchanged and industrial output declining at a slower pace than in March.

"Italian Polka"

The accordion trio of Zoran Kirjakovski, Filip Stamevski and Kosto Todorovsk

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nikkei Opens Lower On Monday

Reuters: Nikkei slips 1.1 pct, tech shares drag

AP Economic Stress Index

Yahoo: AP Economic Stress index: Measuring financial strain by county

Checking out the stress index map linked above, one can see the areas of the country most heavily affected by the recession.

One can easily see, Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Idaho out west are in it pretty deep. In the Great Lake areas Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana are bad. Down South its North and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

We are talking about areas of the country where unemployment is nearing 30%. Now that's not a recession, that's a depression.