Thursday, July 31, 2008

Water Found on Mars

At last we have found the existence of water on Mars.

"We've seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted," he said, referring to the craft's instruments.

Now the next thing they need to find is signs of life.

Bush's Sweeping Intelligence Changes

It seems that the Bushies have slipped this gem past Congress and maybe even the press since it didn't seem like a big deal on CNN this morning.

Under the order, the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, will gain primary responsibility for developing relationships with foreign intelligence agencies that had been traditionally handled by the Central Intelligence Agency.

He would also assume a larger role in hiring and firing agency heads and overseeing the acquisition of new spy satellites and other expensive programs.

The Director of National Intelligence is a person that answers directly to the President. So if I read this correctly the executive branch just got the ability to "develop relationships" with other spy agencies from the CIA. I wonder if they get to look at that foreign government's secret info without having to go through the CIA first.

The DNI can also fire any agency head that displeases them so it puts the CIA on notice that their jobs would be on the line if they cross the President. The Director also gets to veto the purchase of spy satellites and other big ticket items that the CIA might like to buy. This move looks to me like the Bushies are getting revenge for that 2003 Iranian National Intelligence Estimate that put them at a diplomatic disadvantage at the nuclear talks.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Obama Went On a World Tour and All he got was this lousy T-Shirt

I guess the "Obamacon World Tour 2008" touring Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and Britain didn't give him the kind of numbers he thought it would.

Obama led McCain 51 percent to 44 percent in the CNN/Opinion Research survey, the first national poll conducted entirely after his international campaign foray last week. He edged McCain 50 percent to 45 percent a month ago.

I guess the American people don't care too much about the World Tours and instead concentrate on the American tour dates. I wonder if the Obamacon 2008 Tour is going to play the Blaisdell Center when he comes to Hawaii?

Visa Gets some Strong Number from Overseas

I guess foreigners like to use debit cards as much as we do.

International transaction fees, which are driven by cross-border payments volume, grew 44% over the prior year on a pro forma basis to $449 million, as we continued to benefit from higher multi-currency payments volumes across all regions during the fiscal third quarter. Other revenue, which includes the Visa Europe licensing fee, was $150 million during the fiscal third quarter, up 26% over the prior year on a pro forma basis. Volume and incentive payments, which are a contra revenue item, were $274 million for the fiscal third quarter.

Currently Approved Alzheimer's Drugs

This article talks about the currently approved Alzheimers drugs. I was thrown off by the fact that there are only 4 drugs that have been approved to try to stop something that is afflicting 26 million people. I expected there to be more for some reason.

Aricept is made by Pfizer, Razadyne is made by Ortho-McNeil Neurologics (part of Johnson and Johnsons mighty empire,) Exelon is made in a patch form by Novartis, and Namenda is made by Forest Labs. From reading their side effects most of these drugs sound like some nasty stuff. In any case I could easily see one of these companies going after Rember or TauRx just to keep their share of the market.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rember: New Alzheimer Drug that could be huge

The drug is called Rember and the company that is doing the research is called TauRx Therapeutics which is based in Singapore. It doesn't seem to be publicly traded but I bet they will be getting some serious venture capital out of this news.

I could also see someone like Wyeth or Elan picking up this company on the cheap after bapineuzumab failed on them. With a large company like Wyeth or Elan backing them TauRx would get big piles of money to work with. Here is more on what the drug does. If this drug does actually help with Alzheimer's (or just stops its progression) then I nominate Dr. Wischik and his team for the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

Previous research has shown that the buildup of brain lesions known as neurofibrillary tangles, which are composed of a short fragment of a protein called tau, is correlated with increasing levels of dementia symptoms. And, these tangles first appear in the brain long before symptoms of the disease become clinically apparent. Methylthioninium chloride (MTC, or brand name rember(TM)) has been shown in the test tube to dissolve tau tangle filaments and prevent aggregation of tau into tangles. MTC has also been shown to block the toxic effects of aggregated tau in cells. In animal models, MTC has demonstrated cognitive and behavioral benefits in line with reduced tau pathology.

In research reported at ICAD 2008, Claude M. Wischik, Professor in Mental Health, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom and Chairman, TauRx Therapeutics, Singapore, and colleagues conducted a 24-week, double-blind, randomized, dose-ranging, parallel design trial of MTC monotherapy in 321 people with Alzheimer's at 17 centers in the United Kingdom and Singapore, followed by a 60-week, blinded, active treatment extension. The control group received placebo for the initial 24 weeks and then a minimal efficacy dose subsequently. The primary objective was to investigate the effects of oral MTC at 30, 60 and 100 mg doses three times per day, compared with placebo, over 24 weeks on cognitive function as measured by the ADAS-cog in patients with mild or moderate Alzheimer's, stratified by stage of the disease. Another objective was to determine MTC's potential to modify the course of Alzheimer's over 19 months. Imaging results from SPECT and PET scans were collected at baseline and after 24 weeks of treatment.

Bapineuzumab Looks Like a Bust

At least that is according to a Phase 2 study by Elan and Wyeth.

Patients treated with bapineuzumab recorded a 2.3-point improvement over placebo on the ADAS-cog test, a measure of cognitive function. The result was not statistically significant. Likewise, bapineuzumab patients did not perform better on a functional endpoint, the Disability Assessment Scale for Dimentia.

The good news is if you don't have a a gene called ApoE4 then this drug might actually help you a little bit. A 5 point improvement on this test doesn't seem like a big improvement to me but I guess it is better then nothing.

In these non-carrier patients, treatment with bapineuzumab compared to placebo resulted in a statistically significant, five-point benefit in the ADAS-cog score. Other measures of cognition and function were also statistically significantly improved in favor of bapineuzumab.

Electronic Arts Misses on higher Expenses

It seems that EA had some trouble meeting the number this quarter.

Excluding charges, EA lost $135 million, or 42 cents a share, compared with a loss of $69 million, or 22 cents a share, a year ago.
Revenue rose 41% to $609 million from $431 million a year ago.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting a loss of 34 cents a share on revenue of $639.8 million.

I figured they would come up short and it looks like NCAA Football and Madden 09 have been sliding in the pre-sell numbers as well. I think you could chalk this up to gamers not going through the pre-sell channel as much as they did before. There hasn't been a shortage of a big game for a pretty long time so I think gamers are just waiting for the game to come out and then going to Best Buy or Gamestop and pick it up.

I had no trouble getting GTA4 at Wal-Mart on the day after launch day. San Andreas was really tough to get on the first day but it seems that the newer games do not have this problem.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Jimi Hendrix is on Guitar Hero World Tour

Now this game just went from a must buy to a preorder for me.

Activision has done an amazing job of locking up talent for its upcoming title. The biggest news was that Jimi Hendrix would be coming to the game, not only in song form but as an in-game model. A live version of "Purple Haze" as well as "The Wind Cries Mary" will ship with the title, with more exclusive Hendrix songs coming as downloadable content. This is huge; when you say the words "guitar hero," who comes to mind more readily than Hendrix?

If I can get All Along the Watchtower then this game will be complete for me. Plus it will also have Van Halen and the Eagles as well.

Tony Soprano With More Hair Might be Obama VP

It seems that Kasey Kahne err Virginia Governor Tim Kaine might be the frontrunner for the Obama VP spot.

Kaine "is getting a critical examination," the source said.

The 50-year-old Virginia governor is among a handful of logical, and much-discussed, choices to join Obama on the campaign trail. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn and Delaware Senator Joe Biden are among others frequently mentioned.

He kind of looks like Tony Soprano but with more hair:

Obama Talks Tough About the Economy

It seems that Obama has shifted from the feel good tour of the world back to the economy which he threatens to wreck by raising taxes.

Obama said the economy needs both short- and long-term fixes, including another round of "stimulus" measures from Congress to revive the economy and a longer-term focus on renewable energy to curb high gas prices and on universal health care to trim costs. He said he would move "rapidly and vigorously" to respond.

I guess more stimulus checks would be welcomed by quite a few people. The renewable energy push should be good for starters but it depends on how much federal money is allocated to it.

I guess universal healthcare is what Obama thinks will save the economy? So basically we will pay to put private health insurers out of business (and kill 1000s of jobs) just to have the bloated government run the system. I bet Americans will really be up in arms when they are refused treatment or get rationed care if Obama's plan is anything like the British health plan.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Senate Republicans Kill Oil Speculation Bill

At last they are drawing a line in the sand on something.

Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn promised a tough line on energy, daring the Democrats to defy the overwhelming will of the electorate on increased domestic oil production. The Democrats walked into the trap — and they may well find a way to lose a Congressional election that they had all but won this cycle. If they adjourn for a summer break without allowing Republicans an opportunity to begin the long-term process of increasing domestic production and lowering gas prices, voters will hear all about it for the next four months … and they’ll let Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi hear about it in November.

It seems that the GOP is going to try to get some form of drilling and allow us to use that oil shale added to these bills no matter what. I hope the GOP can add some nuclear reform to this thing as well so we can drop gas prices and protect our energy security at the same time.

I agree that the energy issue is a perfect way for the GOP to damage the Democrat chances come November. The idea of Dems and their crazy environmentalist friends making people pay $4 a gallon for gas might have some currency.

Oil Down Again: "Demand Destruction" is the Cause at Last

Finally "demand destruction" has come into the equation after so much crap was propping up oil prices. Now we won't see some threats from a Nigerian terrorist group moving oil prices back up $8 as the froth seems to have left the market.

Many analysts say the market's momentum points to further declines. Crude has fallen in seven of the last nine sessions, and is down more than 16 percent from its peak above $147 a barrel earlier this month.

"There's just nothing sufficiently bullish coming into the market right now to sustain a rally," said Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates. "We're just seeing a new theme in which demand has become a very important part of the equation."

Obama Looks Presidential while McCain Looks Ordinary

I think this world tour has cemented Obama's victory and only a huge gaff bigger then the "cling to the guns and religion thing" will lose it for him. Obama is writing the narrative astride the world like a colossus, with the MSM hanging on his every word, while McCain sits on his hands and seemingly does nothing. This is the narrative in a nutshell:

For the most part, the side-by-side images weren't pretty:

_Obama meeting with leaders in Iraq, McCain on a golf cart in Kennebunkport, Maine, with the first President Bush.

_Obama before a sweeping Mideast landscape, McCain holding a news conference in a supermarket in Bethlehem — Pennsylvania, that is — and narrowly escaping an attack from a tumbling stack of apple sauce jars.

_Obama delivering his trip's keynote speech at Berlin's Victory Column, McCain eating bratwurst and chatting with reporters at a German restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.

Yup you can picture the Daily Show sketch where they cut to Obama talking with Patraeus in a helicopter and McCain hitting a golf ball. Then you have Obama walking with Merkel and you have McCain eating a bratwurst. Finally you cut to Obama talking in front of a massive throng in Berlin and you have McCain talking in front of a small group of senior citizens in a supermarket.

Obama is just starting to actually look presidential while McCain looks like he is running for County Treasurer or something. McCain is blowing this election slowly but surely.

In fact McCain is finally getting around to the "audacity of hopelessness argument" that if Obama was President then Iraq would be a massive civil war zone that could have engulfed the Middle East while we ran for the exits. This argument would have been great if Obama was still in Iraq. There would have been some resonance to show Obama moving around Iraq while McCain is saying that the Iraqis are lucky that America didn't listen to Obama and abandon them while things were getting tough.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This is Why Obama Has it Won

This picture was taken in Germany in front of the Victory Column (Siegessaeule) in Berlin. These are the same Europeans that were (and probably still are) hating America just a few short years ago. Now they are waving our flag for one of our candidates who hasn't even won the Presidency yet. Obama has it sewed up. Time to Obama-proof your portfolio.

The World is Beating America in the Power Race

Plus the rest of the world seems to understand that they have to grow their power supply but cannot rely on alternative energy alone to do it.

The rest of the world knows that green sources of energy are inadequate to keep their people out of poverty. That is why around the world, from Europe to South America to Asia, countries are building coal and nuclear power plants at a dizzying pace while also drilling for oil wherever they can find it. Meanwhile, the United States, crippled by an out-of-control environmental movement, is refusing to develop needed energy sources.

This part is something that every American needs to know backward and forward so there won't be anymore environmental scare tactics regarding nuclear power. Nuclear energy is the only way we can get enough electricity while avoiding global warming at the same time.

The United States has not built a nuclear power plant in 30 years. While there are 30 plants currently being planned, all are tied up in the arcane permitting process the environmentalist left has created. None of the projects has started construction. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is embracing nuclear power. France already gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear power. Japan has six nuclear plants under construction and another six planned. India also has six under construction and another 19 planned. China has seven under construction and another 85 planned.

Are the Democrats Now the Party of the Rich?

At least it is starting to seem so according to this article by the Heritage Foundation.

More important, though, is whether Obama's remarks reflect the emerging demographic transformation of the Democratic party from a bottom-up "party of the people" into a holding pen for all sorts of economic and educational elites. One way to test this is to look at who has been making presidential campaign contributions during the 2008 election cycle. Thanks to the way the Federal Election Commission collects this data, we can sort contributions according to a donor's occupation or employer.

We are already seeing this tendency for the Dems to go for the rich in the housing bailout. The Housing Bailout Bill will let Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy mortgages of up to $625,000 in high-cost areas such as South Florida, California and the Northeast, which is up from $417,000. A person with a $625,000 home is probably in that elite category mentioned above. I wonder if some of Obama's economic plans will be softened by these new rich backers?

This is What Happens When Liberals Rule San Francisco

I think this is case-in-point why people don't trust liberals when it comes to law and order.

The scene repeats itself daily on city streets: a driver gets stuck bumper to bumper, blocking an intersection and preventing another car from turning left.

But authorities say that was enough to cause Edwin Ramos to unload an AK-47 assault weapon on a man and his two sons, killing them.

The deaths immediately drew public outrage, which intensified when authorities revealed that Ramos, 21, is an illegal immigrant who managed to avoid deportation despite previous brushes with the law.

So it would be cut and dried to think this guy would have been deported after he committed even one other crime but he was allowed to walk free. And a father and two sons were mowed down with an AK-47 (which I bet was unlicensed so San Fran. gun laws were worthless) simply because they blocked an intersection. It doesn't matter if he was a illegal immigrant or not you would think a person that committed such a terrible act would be up for the death penalty right? Wrong.

The heinousness of the deaths has put pressure on San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris to seek the death penalty against Ramos. Harris, who campaigned on an anti-death penalty platform and has never pursued capital punishment during her more than four years in office, has declined to say exactly how she intends to proceed.

"This case has been charged as a special circumstance case," making it eligible for the death penalty, spokeswoman Erica Derryck said. "No additional announcement has been made about this aspect of the charging."

So the taxpayers may have to feed, clothe, and house this psychopath for up to 60 years or more because the DA doesn't want him put to death. And liberals seriously want to lead when it comes to law and order? An illegal immigrant can commit 2 felonies and murder a family in cold blood and he will become a resident of the US for the rest of his life? The sad part is that these people might be running the country come next January.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More Into About Why we Are NOT in a Recession

As I have said many times before we are not even close to a depression and this article is even more proof.

The paradoxical thing about today's economy is its strength. No kidding. Consider all the hand grenades lobbed at it. Higher oil prices. The housing implosion. Large layoffs in affected industries: autos, airlines, construction, mortgage banking. The "credit squeeze" triggered by losses on "subprime" mortgages. Despite all that, the economy hasn't collapsed. It's merely weakened. Output in the first quarter of 2008 was actually 2.5 percent higher than a year earlier.

I would be willing to bet you that even if things get really bad in Obama 1st Term we will get all sorts of rosy predicitions of a recovery "just around the corner." I would be shocked if we even see one mention of a recession or depression in the next 4 years.

We may even get some op-eds about how Americans upon facing tough times and perserverering. I bet the media will make it seem fashionable to save money and start living within their means. There might even be a backlash against conspicuous consumption. Which are all great ideas.

I keep thinking how an Obama America would play out and there are some positives. If he improves the national mood and makes Americans proud of themselves again I think it might just outweigh the negatives. That is as long as I am either all in cash and heavily short the market.

WWE Diva Marlena (Terri Runnels) to Give Away House in Contest

At least this is one way of getting rid of your property if the home market in your area is getting beaten down.

That focus is what led her to create "Make the World Write," a national essay contest whose winner will win $100,000, as well as Runnels' personal home in Gainesville, Fla. That certainly an admirable prize in any situation, but what makes it more unique is how Runnels is trying to navigate the worsening housing market and economy.

"The reason I came up with this," says Runnels, "is because I was going to sell my house ... and the market is horrible."

I guess Terri Runnels gets a big tax writeoff for giving her house away in this contest. I'm not sure about Florida law so hopefully she has consulted a tax lawyer before she did this. I think this is a great idea because it gives a person the chance to live in a nice house in Florida and an extra $100,000 to help pay for property taxes. It is just a real wi-win. Who said these WWE Divas are dumb?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Subprime Crisis has a Racial Overtone

Hmm it seems that quite a few of these subprime loans have gone to blacks and Hispanics.

Subprime loans – loans made to homebuyers with less-than-perfect credit – were responsible for a large share of the foreclosures that started last year. And minorities received a hefty share of those loans. Just over half of African-Americans and 4 in 10 Hispanics who got a mortgage in 2006 had a subprime loan, according to a 2007 analysis by the Center for Responsible Lending.

I wonder if this was a case of the Subprime lenders catering to the market or did they simply dupe these minorities into signing these loans? I guess it is how you look at it.

"The difficulties have been concentrated in 'subprime' loans, which generally go to borrowers with limited or damaged credit, although there is evidence that some borrowers are shifted into the subprime category because they are African-American or Hispanic," said Rep. Barney Frank (D) of Massachusetts, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, in a statement last week.

It seems that some lenders might have gone after certain types of unsophisticated borrowers. It just seems so condescending to think that all of these minorities were duped by a bunch of pinstriped bankers. I guess there just weren't enough Hispanics and Blacks saying "how much is this going to cost me if interest rates change?"

That is why Congress needs to set aside some of that money to make a Money 101 class a required course to pass High School. I don't think the problem would have been so widespread if people sat down and analysed what they had to pay through the life of the loans. If there was proper budgeting and thought going into what how rising interest rates would affected the most important asset that most people will ever have.

Congress vs. the Oil Speculators

It seems that Congress is finally going to crack down on excessive speculation in the oil market now that oil is finally starting to fall.

It would provide more resources and authority to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to detect and punish speculation, stop speculators from using foreign markets to manipulate the price of oil in the United States, require more transparency in oil markets and limit the trading of market players who do not intend to take delivery of the oil they purchase.

In particular, the bill will give the CFTC greater power to regulate the "swap" market for futures and differentiate between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" hedge trading that, the Democrats say, has lead to increased prices.

I wonder how much they are limiting "legitimate" hedge trading to people that are going to take the actual delivery of oil? That would seem to make the market less liquid because there are far less players who would have access to the market. In this case we might see bigger price swings since there aren't as many traders that would be able to soften the ups and downs.

Hopefully this legislation will prevent pension funds from using their vast resources to chase after returns in the commodity markets. We may actually see oil come down to below $100 if there isn't a war with Iran or any hurricanes stopping supply in the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama to Leave 50,000 Troops in Iraq by 2010

It seems that Obama is tacking further and further to the center everyday.

In Iraq , Obama won a tacit Iraqi endorsement of a plan to withdraw U.S. combat troops in 2010, but he also said that he backs leaving a residual force in Iraq to help train military personnel, provide security for U.S. interests and thwart terrorist threats. The residual force might total up to 50,000 troops, his campaign advisers have told reporters.

Maybe Petraeus talked some sense into him and Obama can't just repeat the same tired far-left rhetoric of pulling every troop out by last March without putting facts into the equation. A force of 50,000 backing up the Iraqis allows us to have a presence in the area if things start to go south. I would think the Iraqis would agree to such a force if things are still quiet in 2010.

It would be like the Vietnamization policy in the Vietnam War but without having to contend with a hostile power to the immediate north of the country backed by Communist Superpowers.
There is a hostile power to the east but nothing like North Vietnam.

I mean honestly do we need so many troops in country on a permanent basis if things stay quiet like this? I am really hoping that these moves to the center by Obama are sincere and not just calculated to win the Presidency. If it were Hillary these moves would be suspect but I'm still not sure what to make of Obama.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Consumers are Changing: Hopefully for the Better

It seems we may actually have some frugal Americans now that there is so much food and fuel inflation out there.

Every economic downturn changes shoppers in some way. But this time, experts say the new behavior — fueled by higher gas and food prices, tightening credit and a slumping housing market — are the most dramatic and widespread that they have seen since the mid-1970s.

So retailers, marketers and investors are all trying to figure out which habits shoppers will keep and which will they drop when the economy recovers. Will the people who switched to store-brand ice cream go back to Breyers or Edy's? Will shoppers return to department stores or keep looking for labels at T.J. Maxx?

Perhaps Americans are finally understanding that they are spending lots of money they don't have on junk they don't need. They could be finally waking up to the fact that they are causing alot of the worlds problems by driving a huge car and wasting too much electricity heating their giant McMansion.

I mean if Americans took the lead in living a frugal life instead of consuming so many of the worlds resources maybe the rest of the world will follow suit. It isn't our God-given right to drive a massive gas guzzling SUV or a Full Sized Truck to eat a huge pile of food at Dennys. Maybe people are making due with less and are actually liking how they are feeling when they do it. I mean saving lots of money or getting a good deal has always given me a great feeling of accomplishment.

I think someone should start a "Live Within Your Means Movement" where people make due with only the essentials in life like nourishing food, adequate transportation, decent shelter, enough clothes to make due, and enough distractions so they don't freak out. All the rest can be saved for a rainy day or passed on to someone who needs it more. The person who can do the most good with the least amount wins some kind of award.

Now all we need to do is get rid of the My Sweet 16, the Hills, and the Do-Nothings of Orange County fetishization of wealth. This so-called "wealth porn" just shows how badly Americans can waste money on frivolous crap instead of using it to do some good. I think the nasty, dumb, and wasteful Americans depicted on these shows is one of the reasons why Al-Quida wants to kill us.

So I hope this slowdown makes some teenagers say "the money from that brats Sweet 16 party they could have fed 10,000 kids" instead of saying "I wish my party could be be like that." It would be nice for people to think of a trophy wife in Orange County as a pathetic drain on the worlds resources instead of something they need to emulate.

Newspapers Slowly Dying: Some Suggestions

Hmm I wonder if the newspaper industry is going to pull out of its death spiral or will it go the way of the buggy whip?

Newspapers have strong brand names, but their websites continue to capture only a small portion of the revenue lost by the decline in print advertising. Even classified advertising, once a huge moneymaker for newspapers, has evaporated as advertisers go online and everyone flocks to Craigslist. Auto and real estate, hammered by the current tough times, are also moving online.

I wonder if they could stop their precipitous drop by simply shutting down the printing presses and going 100% digital? They could offer an online subscription so you would be able to access the content similar to what the Wall Street Journal does. I mean quite a few people are switching to the online version of the Journal because it is very convenient and pretty much has the same thing that the print version has.

Or you could provide a service where you pay $20 and get access to like 5 different daily papers and you can search all content in the paper perhaps going back to their first issue. The only thing that I read in the Honolulu Advertiser is the Letters to the Editor and I would be willing to put that into a package of 5 papers along with the New York Post, Washington Post, the Star Bulletin, and maybe the New York Daily News. I, however, refuse to have a bunch of physical newspapers pile up in front of my door.

Also several papers could band together and form a pay version of Craigslist. Currently the only problem I see with Craigslist is that there seems to be lots of spam mixed in with the good stuff. This All-In-One-Classified service (or they could just buy out Craigslist so they don't have to build their own thing) would check the content to make sure it isn't spam and deliver up useful daily ads. I would be willing to bet that people would pay pretty well in order to reach the readers of 5 different nation-wide dailies with strong brand names. The companies would then share the earnings similar to how the banks share Visa's earnings.

I think the idea of a printed paper delivered to a persons home will not last more than 10 years in its present form. The newspaper industry is simply too expensive and its revenues are shrinking too fast for it to be a viable business in its current form. The newspaper industry is now similar to typewriter industry. It has been replaced by something that is much easier and more accessible.

If there are no changes in the industry then I think the only papers left will be billionaires private trophy papers (so the New York Times will live on) that don't have to worry about costs. Their owners will think of them in the same way that they think of sports teams, massive yachts, and thoroughbred horses. Printed newspaper companies will become something to brag about and will never need to turn a profit again. Perhaps when this happens it will usher in a second golden age of journalism. These papers will not have to worry about costs and cutbacks so they could really make their art shine.

Congress Should Declare War on Al-Quida

I think this would be a great idea and I'm shocked why it hasn't been mentioned before.

"Any legislation should acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us," Mukasey said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute.

I mean they have already declared war against us and provided a Casus Beli by destroying our buildings on 9/11. I guess we didn't do it because they are not an actual nation but a multi-national group. However the Constitution doesn't differentiate between declaring war on an organization rather than a nation but it would be without precedent.

This would solve the enemy combatant issue by making them POWs and allow us to try them by military tribunal. I mean they were seized on a battlefield during a war so they should be considered POWs.

Plus we would have to abide by the Geneva Convention and they should as well if they happen to capture our people. Of course Al-Quida are animals who beheads our people while we will try them under enemy combatant status. This action will formalize the War on Terror as an actual War Against Al-Quida, the Taliban, and its surrogates.

Netbooks Challenging Computer Industry?

I would be scared if these things became widely adopted. The PC makers margins would be under pressure and the growth of laptops (which is the only style of computer that is still growing) could be in jeopardy.

The new computers, often called netbooks, have scant onboard memory. They use energy-sipping computer chips. They are intended largely for surfing Web sites and checking e-mail. The price is small too, with some selling for as little as $300.

I just don't think that these things will be as big a threat as this article makes them out to be. It would be nice to browse the Internet and check email from anywhere but you can already do that with an IPhone or a Blackberry. They work as a phone and MP3 player and are about as small as you can get.

So in this case the small size of the Netbook PC makes it tough to do actual work on it since you can barely see the screen and they have such a tiny little keyboard. At least with the Blackberry you can two thumb type. The Eee PC has one of those tiny little keyboards that is designed for a 6 year old. You could plug in a monitor or a full sized keyboard like you can with the CherryPal that the article mentions but you can already do this with a regular laptop.

I think a really thin and light laptop like the Macbook Air is about the smallest laptop that people would use and still be productive. I mean to check your mail and fire off a quick message or to check your stocks would be much easier to do on a Blackberry or an IPhone then on something like The Eee.

It seems to me that this Netbook is an in-between product that is just too big to do what a smart phone does (access the internet on the go) but too small to do what a laptop currently does (mobile computing for business and pleasure.) So I think this will be more of a niche item and less of a game changer then the New York Times thinks.

Europe Embraces the Atom

It seems that the Europeans are finally starting to understand that nuclear power is one of the few short term solutions if you truly want to reduce carbon emissions.

All over the world, nuclear power is making a comeback. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just commissioned eight new reactors, and says there's "no upper limit" to the number Britain will build in the future. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has challenged her country's program to phase out 17 nuclear reactors by 2020, saying it will be impossible to deal with climate change without them. China and India are building nuclear power plants; France and Russia, both of whom have embraced the technology, are fiercely competing to sell them the hardware.

This article also has some interesting facts on nuclear power that needs to be highlighted any time nuclear power is mentioned. First you can't turn a nuclear reactor into a giant bomb since the uranium in the reactor hasn't been enriched yet. Also even if a plane crashes into a nuclear plant it won't cause it to explode or even have its cooling tanks get dented.

Finally nuclear waste is almost 95% recyclable and the rest could easily be stored in one place under guard. We might even find a use for it 50-100 years down the line depending on what new technologies come along. Most of the environmentalist opposition to nuclear waste is based on bad science. It is so hypocritical of the anti-nuke lobby to be so convinced about global warming but are in such opposition to something that can actually help us combat it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Batman: The Dark Knight Breaks Midnight Madness Record

This movie will probably be the top grosser this summer.

So far, The Dark Knight has the midnight record, topping 2005's Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith ($16.5 million) and, with its 4,366 theaters, the widest-release record, besting 2007's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (4,362).

I know of several people that went to see it opening night but I'm not sure if they got in or not. I'm planning on seeing it sometime next week or the week after. However I think the people below are just plain nuts. I mean the movie will be out for months and then be in DVD form before the end of the year.

A quick search reveals similar ads are up in areas such as Dallas, where someone was trying to get $80 for four midnight tickets to a theater in Plano, Texas, and Raleigh, North Carolina, where a buyer was willing to pay $40 for two $12 adult admissions to a Friday night show there.

Phil Gramm Out As McCain Advisor

I think these surrogates for the candidates need to just read the exact same prepared statement and not have any opinion of their own if one slip-up forces them out.

Last week, the McCain campaign stumbled when Gramm said the country was in a "mental recession" and had become "a nation of whiners" — sentiments McCain rejected.
Gramm, a former U.S. senator from Texas, issued a statement late Friday saying he was stepping down as co-chair of the McCain campaign "to end this distraction and get on with the real debate."

The problem is that he should have said that some people in this nation whine too much or hedge his bets with a "some Americans are feeling pain" type of thing.

Bush Talking About Iraq "Horizon"

A timetable by any other name will still let us march out as victors and not duck out under fire. The facts on the ground are starting to change Bush's opinions on the matter.

What's changed? The sharp reduction in violence in Iraq — to the lowest level in four years — has made the country's leaders increasingly confident and more assertive about its sovereignty, giving rise to demands for a specific plan for American forces to leave.

This along with coming in from the cold on Iran and possibly avoiding an Israeli strike if Iran agrees to cooperate. It seems like backing the Surge is the best gamble that Bush has ever made. If the Israeli's and Palestinians can agree to some kind of peace plan then Bush will have done more in his last 6 months in office then the entire time before. We may even have an economic recovery right at the end of his term as well. I guess it took him 7 years for him to really get a feel for the job.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Video Game Sales up 53% in June!

I think that $4 a gallon gas is keeping people at home glued to their consoles instead of driving to go see movies or whatever. It seems that this industry is recession proof and might even be inflation proof since this industry doesn't rely on any raw materials that could go up in price.

For the first half of 2008, the U.S. video game industry has generated $8.3 billion in sales. This is a 36 percent increase in sales from the same period a year before, indicating that the sluggish economy is not hurting the industry's performance as people turn to home entertainment, NPD said.

"These numbers are mind boggingly large," said Michael Pachter, a Wedbush Morgan analyst. "Clearly we have an expanded demographic, more than just hardcore gamers, and they have an insatiable appetite for video games."

Microsoft Misses Net Income Target

This doesn't sound good for tech stocks.

Sales of word-processing and spreadsheet products missed Microsoft's goals for the second straight time amid what Goldman Sachs says is the worst technology spending environment since 2003. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer is courting sales overseas, and efforts have been hampered by piracy in countries such as China, where eight in 10 programs are illegal copies.

I also have to say that those Office programs are just not much of a improvement over one another so I can see why they are missing goals. I have noticed that Office 2003 is pretty good for just about everything that a user may need.

If there are differences between Office 2003 and Office XP or Office 2007 then I am really not aware of them. I think many users are unaware of the difference as well. These new versions just seem to be a coat of graphics paint on the same basic structure.

No wonder they are trying to push the Yahoo merger so hard. They seem to be losing sales in their core businesses and are trying desperately to branch out with mixed results. Also it seems that Vista was a failure and the only reason people are using it is because it comes pre-loaded on their new PCs. I don't think Microsoft is going to be a decent stock until they get out their new OS Windows Vienna.

Tehran and Washington are Starting to Cozy Up

I think Bush might just be so desperate for a legacy that he just might bring the US and Iran a little bit closer before he leaves office.

The presence of the State Department's third-ranking official, Undersecretary for Political Affairs William Burns, in Geneva is intended to shore up a ``two-track policy'' to reward Iran for suspending uranium enrichment and impose penalties if it doesn't, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.

It seems that Burns will probably be there to offer the carrot if Iran decides to stop their uranium enrichment. If Burns is rebuffed then they could actually put in place some tough sanctions because they could say that "all channels have been exhausted." It seems like a decent plan to prevent a wider war in the Middle East that would drive oil prices to $200+.

Oil Dropped to $130

At last it seems that some of the air is being let out of the oil bubble .

The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration said crude inventories rose by 3.0 million barrels in the week ending July 11. That confounded market expectations for a decline of 2.2 million barrels. "The inventory report essentially indicated oil demand in the US is just very poor," said Victor Shum, a Singapore-based analyst with energy consultancy Purvin and Gertz.

So it seems that $147 a barrel for oil is now the very top of the market for the time being. You can probably see gas prices start to slowly go down in the next few weeks as well. It would be interesting to see what people start to do with the extra cash that was previously going to gas prices. Will they go back to buying full sized trucks when gas comes back to $3.00?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wells Fargo Taking Over the Western Mortgage Market

And it is starting to show in their last earnings report.

Ladenburg Thalman analyst Richard X. Bove said that he was impressed by Wells Fargo’s earnings despite coming in well below results in the past year. Bove added that Wells Fargo benefited from less competition as rival Washington Mutual is shrinking, Countrywide Financial (nyse: CFC - news - people ) and Golden West (nyse: GDW - news - people ) are gone and Bank of America (nyse: BAC - news - people ) is not competing as hard for mortgage business. He also likened Wells to "a 'hot knife' in the 'butter' known as the West Coast," as community bankers across the region are suffering. "The gains are likely to continue," he noted.

It seems like the last man standing is going to get a pretty large slice of the West Coast market. Also Wells Fargo seems to be pretty tight on the underwriting so the loans they are putting on the balance sheet won't damage the company going forward. Also it seems that Warren Buffet is long this stock and adding to his position. I could be a good place to start your research if you are nibbling fincancials again.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Shortside Hedge Funds Might Cause Bank Runs?

I was reading a pretty depressing piece by Cramer about how the stocks of many different kinds of financial companies are now in the toilet and some might not ever recover. This part caught my conspiracy theory seeking eye.

Any short-selling hedge fund could hire 30 actors and have them line up at a Washington Mutual or two and get a bank run going. Then we would have to hear about a "hasty" Treasury department plan to bail out WM. Hasty? How can these guys not see it coming?

Hmm, I wonder if this is an actual viable plan. They would need to hire 30 extras it would cost about a $100 per person per day. So this fund could conceivably pull $3000 out of petty cash (or some shell company) and put in a call to the Local Daily News so that they could film their extras pounding on the doors of their target bank. You just might have a panic on your hands if that Local News is the kind that loves to drum up controversy.

Hawaii newscasts are pretty laid back so it wouldn't work here. However, when I visited Seattle, I remember that KIRO made every purse snatching seem like a crime wave so they would be the perfect tool to do a "bank-run-short-attack" on someone like Washington Mutual.

Hell, this Short Side Hedge Fund could just get their employees to secretly be interviewed by the Local News. These employees would say that they are desperate to pull their money out of the target bank because they are afraid they will be the next IndyMac. I hope the SEC is watching out for a trick like this.

I think the problem is that so many banking CEOs are saying "we are well capitalized" but they go right back to the FED for cashola a few months later. There is a credibility gap with these people. They can't tap equity because their stocks are in the single digits and they can't tap debt because the market has seized up. All they can do is wait until house prices go back up and hope for the best.

I have looked at a few of the banking stocks that Cramer mentions below and it seems that waiting and hoping might just be their strategy. If they can just hold on and not have their customers rush their tellers then they can make it to a period where house prices will stabilize. So you can only be short (or don't touch them at all) until we see a Case-Shiller Home Price Index that isn't dropping anymore. I think that number may be what the market will turn on for the next several months.

No revelation that Lehman or Merrill's in the soup, although I do marvel that at no price do they seem interesting to anyone -- value guys, takeover guys, or acquirers in general. But how about Comerica (CMA - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Regions Financial (RF - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Sovereign (SOV - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Huntington Bancshares (HBAN - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Suntrust (STI - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Fifth Third (FITB - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), First Horizon (FHN - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Marshall & Ilsley (MI - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Zions (ZION - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Key (KEY - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr), Colonial (CNB - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) and BB&T (BBT - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr)?

How to Check if Your Bank is About to Die

This is a very informative site that tells you several ways to tell if you need to pull all of your money above $100,000 out of your bank account or not. This information is quarter by quarter so you might need to check this information after your bank brings out their numbers.

You can look up your bank or credit union at the following links to a) make sure they are insured, and b) check their financial statements and ratio reports, which are a quick snapshot of their performance.
FDIC bank/thrift lookup
NCUA credit union lookup

If you can't locate your financial institution, call them and ask for their FDIC certificate number (bank or savings and loan) or their NCUA charter number (credit union). If they don't have one, you should probably be concerned. (Just ask former customers of the SIBC.)

The easiest way to check your bank's health is to use's Safe & Sound® ratings. They comb through the call report data to rate banks, savings and loans, and credit unions on peer performance, industry standards, and key benchmarks.

Too bad there isn't a bank run monitor system with a Webcam setup in front of your banks headquarters. Also it would be nice to have a Schumer Watch to see if he talks about your bank so you can pull your money out before it gets run on. I guess you can hang out at his site and parse whatever official letters he sends out and immediately go short anything he mentions.

Recession? What Recession?

Well it looks like the economists are adjusting their numbers again.

Today’s data on May international trade prompted several economists to boost their tracking estimates of second quarter GDP growth. Macroeconomic Advisers boosted its estimate to 3.3% (annual rate) from 3% as did HSBC. Morgan Stanley raised its estimate to 3.9% from 3.8%. GDP grew just 0.7% in the first quarter.

We still have not had a single quarter of negative growth. If gas prices weren't so high I think we might be already pulling out of the slowdown. I agree with Phil Gramm in saying that this is a media driven recession. Of course a few more Senate-driven bank runs and perception might become an actual reality.

EPA Pushes Burying Carbon

This sounds like the start of a new generation of anti-pollution methods that might be viable revenue streams in the future.

The program would include testing and monitoring of wells to protect groundwater supplies, with rules going into effect as early as 2010.

"With proper testing and monitoring, carbon sequestration could play a major role in reducing carbon-dioxide emissions into the atmosphere," Grumbles said on a conference call with reporters.

Wells would be half a mile or more in depth, with a rock-confining zone to create a seal to prevent carbon dioxide from escaping.

I could see oil companies leasing out the land under played out wells in order to store carbon in. They might even get special treatment from the government for using the land they probably won't be using anyway. They could even get free offsets by doing this kind of thing as a side business.

Also a carbon pumping device could be a boon for a company that can make it quickly and put it in place cheaply. I'm sure that those heavy machinery companies like Mitsubishi or National Oilwell Varco could give it a try if it was profitable. The more I look into this green tech the more it looks like the dawning of the next Internet Age.

Oil Gets a Haircut

And not a moment too soon.

Oil prices plummeted by the second-largest margin on record Tuesday as investors feared a further decline in U.S. demand after hearing comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Light, sweet crude fell $6.44 to settle at $138.74 a barrel in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The drop in oil was the largest single-day slide in dollar terms since Jan. 17, 1991, when oil fell by $10.56. On that day, President George H.W. Bush withdrew oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve ahead of the first Gulf War.

I think all of the refiners and airline companies need to send Bernanke a fruit basket or something. I'm not sure how much longer they can take $145 oil and still stay in profitable.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Activison Blizzard Finds an Extra $150 Million Laying Around

I just love being in video game stocks that are pretty much recession-proof. Check out this blow-out guidance. This is without the Blizzard numbers coming over yet.

In a statement, the company said it expects first quarter revenue of $650 million, up from its previous view of $500 million. Earnings per share are estimated to range between 16 and 18 cents, a dramatic increase from its earlier expectation of 4 cents.

"Activision's first-quarter stand-alone net revenues and earnings were the highest ever for a non-holiday quarter," said Robert Kotick, President and CEO of Activision Blizzard Inc. "Activision Blizzard is well positioned to exceed the financial goals set for the combined company."

They guided higher by 12-14 cents while there was a Mortgage Crisis, $4 gas, a Credit Crunch, a Bear Market, and the threat of an impending Obama Presidency. That is just nuts!

And just wait until Guitar Hero 4: World Tour ships on October 27 of this year. That thing is going to be like Rock Band with a drums and a microphone and it allows you to make your own songs as well. This game could easily be the best seller for 2008 and it will probably take $180 of my money in order for me to buy the Band Kit with the drums, microphone, and wireless guitar.

I think Activision Blizzard could easily be the #1 video game company in time for the next generation of consoles. I mean with Guitar Hero and WarCraft alone they might have 2 of the most profitable franchises of all time.

How to Spot a Dying Bank

This is an interesting article by Seeking Alpha that gives two ratios on how to spot a dying bank.

In order to spot banks in danger, two popular ratios are used. First, when you divide non-performing assets by all outstanding loans, you find that a ratio over 5% signals danger (see CNBC article). Using this ratio you find that other banks, in addition to BankUnited and Downey (BankUnited's ratio is 5.36%, while Downey is at 13.86%) are suspect, including Corus Bankshares (CORS) at a 13.18% ratio, Doral Financial (DRL) at 12.82%, and FirstFed Financial (FED) at 6.73%. A second commonly used ratio that compares non-performing assets divided by reserves plus common equity causes Washington Mutual (WM), with a ratio of 40.6%, to also become suspect. Any value around 40% is thought to be in the danger zone.

I have never heard of any of those banks at all. All of these stocks are in the single digits except for Doral Financial which is at $12.12. I guess you could also say that Washington Mutual may be on the borderline of the death zone. That along with Lehman's Bruce Harting's note could be part of the reason why the stock dropped by 34% today.

It looks like Schumer Caused the IndyMac Bank Run

This is exactly why Americans hates to give this country's economic stewardship over to the Democrats. Even though I have given them plaudits in the past they still end up showing us just how dangerous they are when it comes to economic issues.

The banking regulator said it closed IndyMac after customers began a run on the lender following the June 26 release of a letter by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., urging several bank regulatory agencies that they take steps to prevent IndyMac's collapse.

In the 11 days that followed the letter's release, depositors took out more than $1.3 billion, regulators said.

I think there should be a censure motion brought up against Schumer on behalf of all the shareholders of IndyMac as well as those people that have more then $100K in savings at the bank. It is pretty much because of the Senator's loose lips that there was a run on the bank.

It is true that IndyMac's management is to blame for things getting terminal but it was Schumer's big mouth that pulled the plug. The funny thing is that Schumer is from New York and not California where IndyMac is based. I think it may be a good idea for the SEC to see if Schumer or some of his people were short IndyMac, XLF, or financials in general to see if his loose words lined someones pockets.

It may now be a good trade to go short any bank or mortgage lender that any Senator or Congressman talks about because there might be a run on that bank. It also looks like WaMu and National City Bank may now be under the gun. I would be nice to know Senator Schumer's thoughts on those companies so I can put in my trade now.

New Yorker Makes with the "Satire"

I thought the New Yorker was supposed to be a lefty rag but I guess they are engaging in the provocateur business to get people to read their magazine again. I would be pissed if I was Obama too. They even drew a picture of Bin Laden over their mantel.

The Obama campaign quickly condemned the rendering. Spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement: “The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Sen. Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."

Bush Passes The Ball on Drilling: Dems About to Drop It

It just seems to be the same old crap from the leadership of the Dems. I love this idiotic and overused defence as well. Pelosi just blames Big Oil and talsk about the 68 million acres of land that the oil majors "are sitting on." No mention of energy security or lowering prices at the pump.

"Once again, the oilman in the White House is echoing the demands of Big Oil," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "The Bush plan is a hoax. It will neither reduce gas prices nor increase energy independence. It just gives millions more acres to the same companies that are sitting on nearly 68 million acres of public lands and coastal areas."

Obviously Nancy Pelosi has never actually run an oil company. If there was vast reserves of oil on those 68 million acres of land then the oil companies would already have hundrerds of rigs up in order to take advantage of the $145 a barrel oil. Even if the oil was hard to pull out of the ground they would still go after it since high prices justify their costs. After all I hope Pelosi knows that the oil majors actually own only 6% of the worlds oil reserves.

Opening up extra lands for drilling makes it so those lands can be checked for oil or not. It adds to world oil supply so it stays above demand and will hopefully lower prices. The Brazilians would have never found that Tupi Basin oil if they let the land sit there.

So in this case the Democratic leadership are actually standing in the way of more domestic oil production. In fact you could say that they are driving us deeper in the pocket of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela since they refuse to let Americans have access to American oil. And they wonder why they have a 18% approval rating.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Astute Prediction of the Mortgage Mess by Ryan Krueger in 2005

I think this guy needs to run for Prognosticator and Chief. He called the mortgage crisis right down to what is happening with Fannie and Freddie way back in 2005. This part caught my eye.

In my business, I think many of us overestimate voters’ desire to own their own home. Many of them don’t mind living month to month, and our calculations can’t factor in this subtle shift, nor could their parents have imagined it. How much does it cost is less important than what the payment is. Building up equity and handing off a war chest to their heirs doesn’t matter to most folks, and that might not be as dire as some would have you believe.

I have to agree with this statement 100%. I think many Americans view home ownership as just another long term credit purchase like a car, boat, or a big screen TV. That is why you see the curious phenomena of people simply walking away from a home that is underwater and just letting the bank have it.

In markets hit hardest by falling home prices and rising foreclosures, lenders and brokers are discovering a new phenomenon: the "buy and bail," in which borrowers with good credit buy a new home—often at a much lower price—then bail out of the "upside-down" mortgage on their first home.

Homeowners are able to pull off this gambit—which some lenders and real-estate agents call mortgage fraud—by taking advantage of mortgage-lending practices that allow them to buy a new primary residence before their existing residence has been sold.

Obviously this homeowner views their home as a really expensive version of stock. They can just abandon the house and buy another similar one down the street for thousands cheaper rather then refinance their current home and wait for prices to go back up.

They obviously view their home as a stock in the red that can be dumped if things get bad and not the so-called American Dream. So maybe all the rhetoric of people feeling foreclosure pain by being kicked out of their home by cold-hearted bankers is not as true as some politicians might think.

2 for 2 on Democrats Looking Good: Dodd Stands up for Fannie and Freddie

I think I am beginning to like this new Democratic Party that doesn't mill around pushing a socialist agenda but actually try to fix some things that are broken. First we have Senator Jim Webb finally understanding that regular Americans should trump environmental wackos when it comes to drilling and nuclear power. And now we have Sen. Christopher Dodd, (D-Conn.) perhaps saving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shareholders' bacon.

Dodd said his discussions with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the regulators who oversee the firms and the two companies' CEOs convinced him they have more than adequate capital and that there was no need to even discuss failure or a bailout.

He also vowed quick passage of a long-debated housing bill to give greater oversight of the two companies, saying he expected it to passed and ready to be signed into law sometime next week.

"There is a sort of a panic going on," he said. "The facts don't warrant that reaction in my view. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were never bottom feeders in the residential mortgage markets. People ought to feel confident about them."

He pretty much stood up and quelled the fear of a government takeover sending FRE and FNM to zero. He seems to have actually worked with Paulson and Bernanke to hammer out a plan even though they are so-called "Bush" people. This all happened while Bush seemed to dither and hem and haw and almost killed the stocks in the process.

The New York Times says that senior members of the Bush administration are considering a takeover of Freddie and Fannie that would leave their shares "worth little or nothing," and where taxpayers would pay "any losses on mortgages they own or guarantee."

Yup, this death to FRE and FNA shareholders was purposed first instead of just letting the companies go to the discount window if they need some extra cashola. I mean they let Bear Stearns do it why not Government Sponsored Home Lending companies that represent several trillion dollars in home loans.

I think whoever mentioned receivership on the Bush team needs to resign because they can't read a financial statement correctly. I think it might be time to go long these stocks because they really are money machines if they are run properly. They seem to be actually backstopped by the government despite the Bush Administration's screw-ups. Maybe wait for the reforms to kick in before it is time to pull the trigger.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Stock May Go to Zero?

At least that is what might happen if they are still having trouble. Now that would be bad news to everyone who was bottom fishing these things.

The government is discussing placing them in a conservatorship, under which the companies' shares would be worth little or nothing and losses on mortgage holdings would be covered by taxpayers, the Times said, citing unidentified officials briefed on the matter. Their shares are plunging and their borrowing costs are rising as investors worry the companies will suffer losses larger than the $11 billion they have lost in recent months, the Times said.

Phil Gramm is Correct: We are a Nation of Whiners

I have to agree with what he is saying.

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline," said the former Texas senator. "You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession."

Gramm also said the media was responsible for fostering unnecessary anxiety over the state of the economy. "Misery sells newspapers," he said. "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."

I have to agree with him because things are not even close to either the 70's gas crisis and stagflation years that followed when inflation was in the double digits and unemployment was 7-8%. And we are not even ballpark of the 25% unemployment rate or the 16% interest rates during the Great Depression no matter what the media says. In fact we still don't have the 2 strait quarters of negative growth that is the classic definition of a recession. We haven't had negative GDP growth since 1991!

The "nation of whiners" part is true to a point as well. Things are not as bad as it has been in our nations history but 81% of Americans still feel that we are on the wrong track. We don't have millions of men engaged in a World Wide War, we aren't under the threat of nuclear annihilation, whole parts of the nation aren't killing each other in a Pennsylvania field, and we don't have millions of people living in tent cities or riding the rails.

I chalk this "whining" factor up to people who are actually feeling the effects of the economic slowdown. The Iraq War was over there in the Middle East somewhere, 9/11 was a scary time but we quickly got control of the situation, and the Dotcom Bust was Silicon Valley guys with nose rings losing their jobs. Couple this with the fact that too many Americans are economically illiterate and of course they will feel bad about the economy. They blame shady New York bankers, and pinstriped oil executives, and just about everyone else other then themselves for their situation.

The gas and housing crisis's are hitting Americans right where they actually feel pain. In the pocketbook. They can't drive a Full Sized SUV with heated leather seats, they can't afford the jumbo-no money down-interest only ARM on their mini-mansion, and they can't buy a new 64" Plasma TV with their Housing Line of Credit. And maybe Little Jimmy has to go to a State College instead of a fancy private school even though his grade inflated GPA and SAT tutor helped him test into one.

Line these fears up against a person in a Darfuri Refugee Camp, living under a Junta in Myanmar, or having their kid go to a madrassa that teaches her that blowing herself up in front of a blast barrier at an IDF checkpoint is top thing to do with her life. There is simply no contest who has it worse.

There are Americans who are struggling. But they have things far better then a Sudanese person who is struggling. I'm sure a refugee living in the Irrawaddy Delta would love to have trouble meeting a resetting ARM payment instead of dying of dysentery. So yeah, we are kind of a nation of whiners. We have it so much better then so many other people around the world and we almost never acknowledge it.

But luckily past generations of Americans who have faced *far* more dire times then we have currently have shown that we are a nation of doers as well. In a weird way I think Obama winning the White House, and the media starting a rosier outlook to help their man in power, would really spell the end of the gloom-and-doom that America seems to be feeling right now.

Obama Tells MoveOn to Shove it With FISA Vote

I guess since he already got the millions from the the so-called Netroots he can now throw them off the boat.

The Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee Barack Obama (D-Illinois) voted for the final bill, despite intense lobbying by supporters who used Obama's own online organizing technology to try to hold him to his promise to fight any bill that included amnesty. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama's former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, voted against the bill.

The strange thing is that this FISA bill gives Bush a huge win. But Obama still stood by his principals (or his shift to the center tactics he needs to win the Presidency if you are a cynic) and still voted for the bill. Part of me thought he would vote present or just skip the vote so he could hedge his bets with the Netroots. Instead he stepped up and voted.

Maybe he is the "so-called" post-partisan-warfare-candidate that he portrays himself as. He basically said thanks for the money MoveOn and DailyKOS now you are no longer needed. If he didn't advocate such destructive economic policies I would seriously consider voting for him because he does have the backbone to confront the zealots in his party.

It Seems Iranians Using Photoshop on Missiles

Sigh, here we go again. The Iranians are messing with the pictures to show that one of their missiles was not a dud. The sad part is the AP just ran the pictures without actually vetting them first. Here is the altered pic from Little Green Footballs site:

Jesse Jackson Wants to Castrate Obama?

Wow not this is a crazy development from the anti-Obama left. His own side now wants to see him become a castrato. I think Obama needs to start wearing a cup on the campaign trail just in case he runs into the good Reverend.

Washington Post: “Speaking near a Fox News microphone that he thought was turned off, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson on Sunday disparaged Sen. Barack Obama’s embrace of faith-based social services, using crude language to suggest that he wanted to castrate the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.”

Here is the video from Bill O'Reilly:

What Would The Israeli Strike Look Like?

This is a very interesting Poplular Mechanics article on what would go down if Israel bombed Iranian Nuclear sites. I think this is the part that is why the Israelis might be push up the air strike time table.

Ben-Ari and Long agree that Israel could very likely dismantle the Iranian nuclear program from the air. What comes after that—diplomatically, financially and strategically—remains open to debate. But the quality of Iran's antiaircraft equipment may drive the debate as much as the pace of any uranium enrichment project. Russia has indicated it is willing to sell its most sophisticated missile system, the S-300P (NATO designation), to Iran. If Israeli military planners see a future threat looming that they cannot counter, a near-term strike might look more attractive.

If the Iranians get the S-300P then any Israeli air strike might end up a dismal failure. So they might have to strike now while their enemy is still weak and not wait until later. I pointed out earlier that an Obama administration might hang them out to dry so this pushes up the timetable even further.

Democrats Coming Around on Offshore Drilling

At last they are starting to see that their constituencies are running the show and not the environmental wackos. Americans want to put their energy security in their own hands and not hand it off to Mullahs and Chavez. And on reading this I find it too bad that Jim Webb (D Va.) isn't running for President instead of Obama.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), fresh from his GI Bill victory, said that he is now making energy a major priority. “We need to look at all our assets,” he said, suggesting a large package including expanded offshore drilling, alternative energy, nuclear power and technology to make coal cleaner.

I am really heartened by talk like this from the Dems. At the very least I hope a guy like Jim Webb becomes Obama's Energy Czar. He actually gets it that we need to change our behavior toward oil and nuclear in order to get control of our national security. The Japanese and the French get 70% of their power from nuclear energy why shouldn't we? Hell, we invented the technology! Nuclear is the short term fix and alternative energy is the long term fix.

We can't just give in to the the Sierra Club and those people that want to protect the view from their million dollar homes. Hell, we probably wouldn't even be embroiled in the Middle East (at least since the 70s) if we had total control of our energy security. Part of the reason we propped up dictators and other undesirables in that area for so long is because we didn't want the Soviets to hurt our oil supply.

You could make the argument that we are filling up our tanks with the very thing that will get us embroiled in every hot war for the next century. We are actually giving the Mullahs money so that they can build nukes, and fund Hezbollah, so they can wipe Israel off the map. Even though we aren't buying Iranian oil directly all they have to do is pop off a few missiles, and it sends oil prices up, and it enriches them. So I guess the Dems are finally starting to understand that to "Stop the War with Iran" we need to throw the environmentalists under the bus.