Monday, October 30, 2006

Why Economists Suck with the Crystal Ball

This is a great article on why economic predictions are so off the mark usually. I have noticed that economists almost never get the numbers correct. I have seen predictions of growth and their is a slowdown. Then I see a prediction of a slowdown and then there is unexpected growth. It seems like they are sometimes picking numbers at random. These are the 10 reasons from this article. I wonder if anyone keeps percentages on how close/far off these predictions are to the mark?

1. The forecasting skill of economists is on average about as good as
guessing. In fact, predictions by the politically driven Council of Economic
Advisors, Federal Reserve Board and Congressional Budget Office were often worse than guessing.

2. Economists cannot predict the turning points in the economy. Of 48
predictions made by economists, 46 missed the turning points.

3. Economic forecasting accuracy declines with longer lead times.

4. No economic forecasters consistently lead the pact in accuracy.

5. No economic ideology consistently produces superior forecasts.

6. No economic forecaster has consistently higher forecasting
skills predicting any particular economic statistic.

7. Consensus forecasts do not improve accuracy (although the press
loves them).

8. Psychological bias affects forecasters and their forecasts. Some
economists are naturally optimistic and bullish, others are consistently
pessimistic bears.

9. Increased sophistication provides no improvement in forecasting
accuracy. Remember the Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund? Two brilliant Nobel Economists backed by Wall Street's elite nearly sabotaged the world economy.

10. Finally, Sherden says there's no evidence that economic
forecasting has improved in recent decades. In fact, forecasting appears to be
deteriorating as partisan politics, Wall Street gaming and unpredictable global
events invent new illusions.

Red Cross to Reform itself

It looks like they are trying to push through some much needed reforms. I did not know they had a 50 member board. It must have been like a meeting of the UN general Assembly every time they had a board meeting. Here are the other reforms that they are trying to impliment:

_Explicitly delegating responsibility for day-to-day operations to the Red Cross' full-time professional management, with the board focusing mainly on longer-term strategic oversight.

_Reducing the board of governors to between 12 and 20 members by March 31, 2012. An interim goal is to have no more than 25 members by 2009.

_Creating a single category of board members. Now, most are elected by local chapters, some are elected by the board, and others, including the chairman, are appointed by the U.S. president.

_Shifting seven of the presidentially appointed governors — all but the chairman — into a newly created Cabinet Council that will be merely advisory.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Safeway's Prices are Outrageous

I have shopped quite a bit at Safeway since there is one within walking distance of my apartment. It always seems like their prices are more then anywhere else in Hawaii and this article confirms it. I am part of the Safeway Club thing so it seems like I am getting a deal when I shop there. However it seems that I am getting ripped off.

J.P. Morgan analyst Stephen C. Chick said a food-retail pricing study
showing that prices at Safeway are at an 18.5 percent premium to Wal-Mart, while Kroger's prices were at a 19.6 percent premium to Wal-Mart. That gap makes it hard for the grocery chains to raise their prices in hopes of improving their profits.

"These were still high relative to the premiums 6 months ago,
when SWY (Safeway) was at 27.5 percent and Kroger at 11.5 percent," he wrote in a research note. "As the result of continued price reductions, gross profit
margin expansion is unlikely for the group, despite what the stocks' valuations
seem to imply."

So just 6 months ago prices at Safeway were almost 30% higher then that of Wal-Mart? I know people that comparison shop probably knew this a long time ago but it was quite shocking to see it in print like this. I guess Safeway is pretty good at fooling its customers into paying 30% more (and now just 18.5% more) for the same exact thing you can get at Wal-Mart.

Pretty soon a Whole Food Market is moving into my area and I'll probably do more grocery shopping there instead of the rip off artists from Safeway. I will be willing to pay more for fresh or organic foods that I can't always get.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Vampires Impossible According to Math

It seems that Math trumps Vampires every time.
Efthimiou's debunking logic: On Jan 1, 1600, the human population was
536,870,911. If the first vampire came into existence that day and bit one
person a month, there would have been two vampires by Feb. 1, 1600. A
month later there would have been four, and so on. In just two-and-a-half years
the original human population would all have become vampires with nobody left to feed on.

In some vampire mythos the vampire can feed off of one person up to three times before that person turns into a vampire. That would increase this by a few years before the earth would be thick with vampires. Only in the game Anne Rice novels can vampires feed off of something with blood and not turn it into another vampire.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cell Phones Make you Infertile?

Now this is ripe for Jay Leno territory.
Within the study group, those men who did not use mobile phones were
found to have average sperm counts of 86million per millilitre. This dropped to
69 million per millilitre for men with mobile phones who used them less than two
hours a day, 59million per millilitre for usage of two to four hours and
50million per millilitre for more than four hours a day.

I think this researcher may need to do more research rather then just making up the causes of this lowering of the sperm count on the fly.
"The effect of mobile phones on sperm may be due to the electromagnetic
radiation the devices emit or to the heat they generate," Dr Agarwal said

I'm pretty sure these guys are not using the cell phone with their crotches. Well with wireless Bluetooth earphones maybe people in Ohio (where the study was conducted) are doing just that. Perhaps they are storing the phones in their underpants while they talk hands free for some freakish reason. However this guy is probably on the right track:
"People who spend more than four hours a day on their mobile phone are
probably not doing physical work. They're probably sitting down for long periods
of time, which increases heat to the scrotal area, which affects sperm
production," Professor Driscoll said.

If you are on a cell phone for 4 entire hours a day then low sperm count will probably be the very least of your worries.

U.S. Starts "Out of Iraq Countdown"

It looks like the Bush Administration has finally switched gears in Iraq in what kind of looks like a purely political move.
General George Casey, who commands 140,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq
despite hopes early this year that a pullout might be under way by election
time, again forecast Iraqis would be able to handle most tasks in 12 to 18
months, with some U.S. support.

So that looks like the timeline for all intents and purposes. It sure is interesting that this revelation comes just two weeks before the election. It makes Bush look like he is actually doing something about Iraq and not just parroting "stay the course over and over."

It finally looks like he has gone to the generals and they gave him a strait answer. It isn't from some leaked reports or crap like that but it is the real deal from the guy commanding the troops. Bush should have done this far sooner and the American people would have had an idea of where we are going in Iraq far sooner. Thus they might have been able to head off what I think would be sure Dem win of the House.

Christmas in October?

It's beginning to look alot like Christmas whether we like it or not.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and J.C. Penney Co. are some
retailers hoping to get consumers into a Christmas shopping frame of mind two
months early. Sears Holdings Corp.'s Sears and Kmart stores kick off the
Yuletide mood in late October or early November. Costco Wholesale Corp. said
it's always put out Christmas ornaments, gift wrap, cards and artificial trees
as early as September.

I guess this is a good deal if your the kind of person that likes to finish their Christmas shopping early.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wal-Mart Thinks They Are Too Big

Yup they are going to sacrifice capital expenditures to focus on profit growth. So you might see less Wal-Mart stores opening in favor of growing same store sales.

"Our long-term goal is to have our capital expenditures grow at a rate equal
or less than sales growth," said Wal-Mart Chief Financial Officer Tom Schoewe.
"Over time, we expect our new capital efficiency model to reduce the impact of

I guess they are finally tired of competing with themselves in certain markets. Maybe they will start of focus on bringing up their profit margins or return some of that cashola to their shareholders. I have a feeling that this could be the thing to propel this stock out of that almost 5 year or so trading range the stock has been in.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Why I Don't Mind if the Dems Win the House

It makes the Stock Market go up for the most part. Check out this article.

One of the more noteworthy aspects of the chart given the upcoming election
is that divided executive and legislative branches have generally been good for
the stock market. In fact, in the thirteen instances where the same party did
not control both houses of Congress and the Presidency, the market has risen in
all but two periods for an average gain of 23%, while in the ten periods where
the same party controlled all three branches, the market has risen in seven
periods for an average gain of only 11.3%.

That chart they have on that site is pretty good because it shows which sectors do well in a divided government. The 1981-1985 period is where the Senate and the Executive is controlled by the Repubs and the House is controlled by the Dems. In those years the best performing sector was Consumers Discretionary for one year and Consumer Staples for two years.

China Puts Pressure on North Korea

It looks like the only country that could talk sense into North Korea has just done so.

An Asian diplomat at the United Nations said Friday that Kim's comments to
the Chinese could provide an opening to restart six-party talks. The diplomat,
who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue,
said the United States should not be so dismissive of Chinese efforts and that
Beijing has developed sticks in addition to carrots.

The idea of sticks in addition to carrots is very interesting. I wonder if China threatened North Korea with serious sanctions or maybe even a military response if they didn't ratchet down the tension. I still think it was Chinese operatives that tried to blow up Kim's train at Ryongchon, North Korea in 2004. If they get rid of Kim they can get rid of the wild card that keeps the US in the region and blocks their road to hegemony in Asia.

This is Why France is an Economic Basket Case

Why should their courts have anything to do with how long people in hotels, bars and restaurants work?
On Wednesday the country's highest administrative court -- the state
council -- decided that a 2004 deal under which the 850,000 employees in hotels,
bars and restaurants can work 39 hours a week instead of 35 contravenes the key reform of the last Socialist Party (PS) government.

The decision left an estimated 200,000 businesses in legal limbo,
uncertain over the costs of implementing the measure, as staff expressed fears
that they will see their already low-level incomes shrink still

This is clearly stealing 4 hours of pay right out of the pockets of people who are already not getting a ton of money. This is the kind of "reforms" that keeps Old Europe's growth so stagnate. If people are willing to work 4 more hours then why is the government stopping them. Oh well, this is just another thing that makes us lucky to live in the USA.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rogues Everywhere Rejoice

It looks like scientists have invented a cloak of invisibility.

It's like a mirage, where heat causes the bending of light rays and cloaks
the road ahead behind an image of the sky.

"We have built an artificial mirage that can hide something from would-be observers in any direction," said cloak designer David Schurig, a research associate in Duke University's electrical and computer engineering department.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Why Yahoo is Doing So Badly

This is according to Henry Blodget. He's calling for Terry Semel to either crack heads or step aside for someone who will. This is pretty much the situation that Yahoo is in now:

From the outside, it seems as though Yahoo!'s senior managers, having
rescued the company from a brush with death, have collectively decided that
they've done enough and that just being "good" is now good enough. (A less
charitable interpretation, one I've floated before, would be that the company
got fat, happy, and lazy.) Unfortunately, Yahoo is now competing against
companies for whom being good isn't enough (Google) as well as against old media giants that are thrilled to finally be playing in the Internet big leagues
(Newscorp). And these companies are kicking Yahoo!'s ass

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Yahoo Has a Bad Quarter but Project Panama Goes Live

All of that self advertising is hitting the bottom line this quarter.
Net income for the third-quarter dropped to $159 million, or 11 cents
per share, weighed down by $80 million worth of stock-compensation expenses,
compared with the year-earlier quarters profit of $254 million, or 17 cents per

They have to get rid of some of those options expenses or it will be like an anchor on them. However there is one ray of sunshine that the stock sorely needs. They at last got their new Search Technology called Project Panama online.
Yahoo was supposed to unveil Panama in the third quarter but told
analysts in July that it would come out during the fourth quarter

But during the conference call, Semel said that Panama was now live
and that the company was in the process of shifting advertisers to it over the
next few months.

Boyd said that it was crucial for Yahoo to not postpone the rollout
of this new search technology any further or else many investors would have
given up hope on the company.

Now if if they can buyout Facebook and make it a success they might be a credible threat to Google's Ad Search supremacy.

Vote for the New 7 Wonders of the World

Here are the finalists for the 7 Wonders of the World contest. You can vote for your favorties at this site. I would probably go with Pyramids, Acropolis, Colosseum, Great Wall, Stonehenge, Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty.

1 Acropolis, Athens, Greece
2 Alhambra, Granada, Spain
3 Angkor Wat temple, Cambodia
4 Chichen Itza Aztec site, Yucatan, Mexico
5 Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
6 Colosseum, Rome
7 Easter Island Statues, Chile
8 Eiffel Tower, Paris
9 Great Wall, China
10 Hagia Sophia church, Istanbul, Turkey
11 Kyomizu Temple, Kyoto, Japan
12 Kremlin/St.Basil's, Moscow
13 Machu Picchu, Peru
14 Neuschwanstein Castle, Fussen, Germany
15 Petra ancient city, Jordan
16 Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
17 Statue of Liberty, New York
18 Stonehenge, Amesbury, United Kingdom
19 Sydney Opera House, Australia
20 Taj Mahal, Agra, India
21 Timbuktu city, Mali

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tough Life for Goalkeepers

Wow I did not know that this was one of the most dangerous jobs on the Soccer Field.
Bert Trautmann was a German prisoner of war who stayed in England after
World War II and played for Manchester City. At the 1956 FA Cup final at
Wembley, Trautmann dived at the feet of Birmingham City's Peter Murphy and
injured himself. He continued playing for the last 15 minutes of his team's 3-1
victory. He later discovered he had a broken neck.

In 1931, Celtic goalkeeper John Thomson dived at the feet of
Rangers striker Sam English and his head smashed into his opponent's knee.
Thomson never regained consciousness and died soon after.

APPL may have a Merry Christmas

It seems that the Intel Powered Macs may be selling like hotcakes this holiday.
"In a world where a 1% market share change represents $2 billion in
sales, we're forecasting a historic market share shift in the PC space for
laptops and desktops with these new Intel-based Macs," said Tobin Smith, founder of ChangeWave Research and editor of ChangeWave Investing. "Market share grabs like this just don't happen in the PC world. Our numbers say that the Mac is surging."

This could be a really nice add on this holiday season since they are already forcasting brisk IPod sales.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Air America Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

I guess the Liberal Talk Radio format just doesn't work in practice. I wonder if the Libs are going to still be going on about the inequality of media outlets now? They had their chance and it ended up going bankrupt.

Air America Radio, the liberal talk and news radio network that features the
comedian Al Franken, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a network
official told The Associated Press.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Weird Temple

Now this looks like a dreamscape out of a fantasy novel or maybe a D&D adventure.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 has a list of Blue Companies

Upon researching this Blue Fund I came across this site that has a rundown of different "progressive" companies. There are some interesting things on this site that I can actually get on board with. I like the idea of sustainable living and cutting back on oil so we don't have to put more money in the pockets of the Iranian Mullahs and crazy idiots like Chavez. I don't give a crap about Global Warming I just don't want my money to fund suicide bombers and anti-American crazies.

Some of the Stocks in the Blue Fund

This article has a few more of the stocks listed in the Blue Funds stock prospectus:

Among the 75 different companies included in the Blue Fund are eBay (Charts), Apple (Charts), Liz Claiborne (Charts), Lehman Brothers (Charts), North Fork Bank (Charts) and Starwood Hotels (Charts).

There are some tech names including GOOG like the last article has said. It does seem to be heavily weighted in the Big Caps though.

Here is a link to their site and sure enough the people they have touting the fund are the usual suspects when it comes to "progressives." You have the grey haired 50-something woman that remembers when her generation could "change the world." She's all "Free Huey" and "Hey Hey LBJ how many kids did you kill today" but is probably living the Yuppie dream. Then you have the asian woman with the interesting blouse ties to fit the multi-culti bill. Finally, you have the dreadlocked black guy with the blue short sleeved collar shirt. All they would need is a grey haired guy with a pony tail and a tie-dyed T-shirt and you have all of the usual suspects.

Be a Dem when it comes to Picking Stocks?

This is a very interesting article on the comparisons between Democratic giving and Republican giving when it comes to stocks. A "blue" stock is one that gives more money to the Dems then to the Republicans.
According to the firm's research paper, "The Blue Factor," an index of
76 companies in the S&P 500 meeting certain ethical criteria and favoring
Democrats -- "blue" stocks -- would have topped a group of about 380 Republican
"red" stocks by 15.6 percentage points annualized over the five years through

In addition, the large-capitalization blue companies did 13.1
percentage points better than their S&P benchmark, the study said. Moreover,
blue S&P companies achieved this result without any representation in the
high-octane energy sector.

I have a feeling that most of the "blue" stocks happen to be tech names like GOOG and APPL while "red" stocks are mostly big oil, tobacco, etc. Also I would have a hard time comparing a list of 76 companies to a list of 380 companies. I'll hunt around for the lists to compare them better.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Lacey Rose the Author of the Forbes Jessica Simpson Article

My mom always wants to know what women that I think are good looking. I have to say that the woman that wrote this Forbes celeb piece is very good looking. She is also pretty talented as well. I think the reason why I find her attractive is because she looks like this girl Kristine that I had a crush on in high school.

Are You Sick and Tired of Jessica Simpson?

It seems that America sure is according to this article.
According to Encino, Calif.-based E-Poll Market Research, which
ranks more than 2,800 celebrities on 46 different personality attributes,
Simpson's "overexposed" score went from 17% in September 2003 to 41% in
mid-2006. (The average for most celebrities at the peak of their careers is
between 3% and 7%.) During that same period, Simpson's "talented" score
dropped from 36% to a disappointing 28%. Other stars the public would
supposedly like to see less of include Tom Cruise, Anna Nicole Smith and
both Britney Spears and her husband Kevin Federline.

That is very interesting how her overexposed score goes up while her talented
score goes down. People get so so tired of seeing her that figure out that she
just isn't very talented in the first place and has no reason for being a
celebrity at all. She then joins the ranks of Anna Nicole Smith and Paris
Hilton. You kind of forgot why she is famous in the first place.

I think Americans get the most tired of having a celeb filling up to much of mindspace.
Everytime you see them you cringe and have a feeling that they have worn out
their welcome. So every time you see them after this period you get more and
more tired of them and start to dislike them. Kind of like you feel when a guest
hangs around too long. You liked them at first but now if you never hear
anything about them forever it would be okay.

I think you can chalk this up to the tabloid treatment and the wall-to-wall entertainment press that goes on and on about a celeb. The tabs take something that almost all Americans do
like having a baby and pound it into the ground. As soon as a celeb announces
they are preggers you hguaranteedteed 9 months or more of news.

You first have endless shots of her with a big tummy. I bet the tabs love these
because they finally see a formally skinny celeb finally looking like an average
American. Then you have speculation on where she will have the baby. Will it be
in some tiny African nation or in some upscale birthing pod in Beverly Hills?
Then you have the first shots of the mother, father, and baby sold to the
Tabloids for millions. Then you have a story on how the celeb lost her baby
weight through eating tons of wheat grass and exercising like a Navy Seal.
Finally, you have some stories of the celeb raising the kid wrong by driving
around with the kid on their lap. By the time the baby is 2 years old you are as
tired of seeing them as you are of seeing the mom.

This Gitmo Report Seems Fishy

This almost seems like a hitjob by close Gitmo Operatives.
The lawyer sent the statement on behalf of a paralegal who said men she
met on Sept. 23 at a bar on the base identified themselves to her as guards. The
woman, whose name was blacked out, said she spent about an hour talking with
them. No one was in uniform, she said.

This paralegal was sent into the area to talk to the guards at a bar and I would bet even money that she is pretty good looking. So these guys were bragging to her that they roughed up the captured terrorists possibly to make themselves look like badasses in front a good looking woman. That happens in bars all over the world.

So they could have been bragging that they were tough guys simply to impress this woman (who probably didn't tell them that she was a paralegal digging up dirt on Gitmo) to hopefully get into her pants. Also if these guys didn't have some liquor in them in a bar I would be really surprised. I would think that getting information like this would be illegal but the Inspector General is held to different standards. I guess just taking these guards aside to interview them was not getting the dirt they wanted.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Paying for the Boomers Retirement

Even Ben Bernanke is worried about when the Baby Boomers are going to retire.
Shoring up the finances of Social Security and Medicare will make for
difficult choices, Bernanke said.

For instance, if the government tried to finance projected
entitlement spending entirely by revenue increases, the taxes collected would
have to rise from about 18 percent of the total size of the economy to about 24
percent in 2030, he said.

If the government attempted a fix through spending cuts, spending
for programs other than Social Security and Medicare would need to fall sharply
-- the equivalent of "a budget cut of approximately $700 billion in
nonentitlement spending," he said.

I have a feeling that they are going to cut entitlements using some arcane method in an 11th hour session before a real crisis develops. So it is pretty much guaranteed that I won't see a dime of the money I am paying into Social Security.

Great Commentary on the N. Korean Nuke Test

I agree with this article 100%. I could see Japan either starting a nuclear program or asking the US to base some nuclear weapons just in case North Korea gets froggy. That move would put China on Red Alert. Indeed shock waves would be felt.

A test would shake up northeast Asia, sending shock waves through South
Korea and possibly inciting a regional arms race - causing Japan and even South
Korea to consider it a necessity to reverse course and develop their own nuclear
deterrents. That, experts say, would very likely mean that the international
nonproliferation regime is dead.

Findings of APPLs Stock Option Mess

We got some mea culpa from Apple and one resignation so far. It seems like it was all before 2002 though so the current team should be okay.
Apple's investigation "committee" consisting of outside directors,
together with independent counsel and accountants confirmed a clean record of
the current leadership, but revealed somewhat unexpected results. After
searching through 650,000 emails and interviews with "more than 40 current and former employees, directors and advisors," the team identified "stock option
grants made on 15 dates between 1997 and 2002 [that] appear to have grant dates that precede the approval of those grants." The most recent "irregularity" dates back to a January 2002 grant.

Checking out those 650K e-mails must have been quite a job in itself. I would have hated being on that "committee." Maybe they used some kind of filtering software that searched out every usage of the word options or something to make it less work.

North Korea to Test Nuke

This would be a good time to do it as well. The House is caught up with they Foley mess. The President is in election mode and bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can't even help out Darfur with troops even if we wanted to. Everyone is distracted so they could test the thing now and might get off with only a stern warning from the West. Or it could just be another head fake by Pyongyang:
A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity
because of the highly sensitive situation with North Korea, said the United
States is now seeing the movement of people, materials and automobiles and other activity around one possible test site. But, the official said, it could be
similar to the activity a couple of months ago. At that time, no test occurred.

Foley Scandal a Death Blow to Republicans

I think this thing is going to get worse and worse the further we go along.
Speaker Dennis Hastert's political support showed signs of cracking on Wednesday as Republicans fled the fallout from an election-year scandal spawned
by steamy computer messages from disgraced Rep. Mark Foley to teenage male

Now they are turning on Hastert because he didn't clean up this mess a year ago when it first came to light. They should be rightfully angry with him too. A year ago they should have run Foley out of there and tried him. This whole thing would have blown over and the guilty parties would have been punished.

Now it could be a spoiler that puts them all out on their butts. If they did cover up for Foley then I think they *all* deserve to be out on their ear. Also if it is true that the party leadership covered up for a scumbag like Foley then I don't want any part of their party at all.

American Eagle's Same Stores up 19%

They really knocked it out of the park.

Total sales for the year-to-date thirty-five week period ended September 30,
2006 increased 17% to $1.635 billion, compared to $1.395 billion for the
thirty-five week period ended October 1, 2005. Comparable store sales increased
11% for the year-to-date period.

Based on better-than-expected
September performance, the company is raising its third quarter earnings
guidance to $0.61 to $0.63 per share, compared to $0.47 per share last year.
Previous third quarter guidance was $0.56 to $0.58 per share. Third quarter
guidance includes stock option expense of approximately $0.01 per share. For the
year, stock option expense is expected to be approximately $0.04 to $0.05 per

And all of the things that I thought would make this a good stock a few weeks ago turned out to be right on the mark:

September sales performance was driven by a well-received fall collection,
which added freshness to stores during a key back-to-school selling period.
Stores featured fresh colors, on-trend silhouettes and strong key items.
Additionally, in early September, the company's new intimates sub-brand, aerie
by American Eagle, debuted across the chain, to a positive customer