Friday, July 29, 2011

Moody's Reaffirms AAA debt of the US. For Now.

Why haven't we had these people in front of committees right now? I mean they played a huge part in the 2008 Housing Crisis by giving bundles of junk loans top ratings. Now they are holding billions of dollars hostage with their ratings.

Moody's Investor's Service expects to maintain the United States' top-notch rating for now, despite the "limited magnitude" of the deficit reduction plans being discussed in Washington.

But Moody's on Friday warned that affirmation of its Aaa credit rating for the United States will likely come with a negative outlook, meaning it would not downgrade the rating immediately but could do so in the medium term.

I think there should be much more stringent regulation in this debt rating market to prevent further abuses.  The idea that a private company holds so much power over our everyday lives needs some sort of brake or federal oversight involved.

Thundercats Revamped. I Like It!

It seems the Thundercats are getting an anime makeover. It looks pretty good to me. Judge for yourself:

Obama's Approval Rating Hits All Time Low

There is now a 10% gap between the Likes and Dislikes.

Just 41 percent of the public said they approved of the way Obama was handling the debt-ceiling negotiations, while 52 percent disapproved, according to another Gallup poll released Thursday. Nonetheless, Obama still polls better than congressional leadership. Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid both received even lower approval rates.

I think Americans are saying a pox on all houses. I am in agreement. If these ass-grabs don't get a deal together and we go into technical default I will be very angry. If we have a 700 point move lower on the Dow due to these idiots I will be very, very angry.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What If America was a Publicly Traded Company?

Well, I would short it first of all but this is a pretty interesting report from Mary Meeker if America ran as a publicly traded company called America Inc.

America's financial challenges are headlined by a negative net worth of $44 trillion (or $371,000 per household) and gross debt as a percent of GDP in excess of 90%. But they can be solved with constraint and reduction in government spending at the top of the list. Entitlement spending is the largest expense by far and has risen to 57% of annual expenses, up from 25% 40 years ago. By the government's own forecast, our annual entitlement spending plus the interest expense on our debt is expected to surpass our revenue within 15 years. We all need to acknowledge the problems and commit to change. 

Yeah pretty much. I wish we could just toss out the CEO (President) the senior management (Senate and Congress) and hire some guys from Apple to run the company. I'm pretty sure they would get that debt thing under control and it would be a real blast to do any business with the Federal Government (which would all be on the USACloud with an ergonomically designed web page.)

Kudlow Understands How Good the Gang of 6 Plan Actually Is

I really think that more conservatives need to follow Larry Kudlow in his support of the "Gang of Six" Deficit Reduction plan.

The best part of the Gang of Six plan is a reduction in the top personal tax rate from 35% to a range of 23 to 29%. For businesses, the rate would drop in the same manner. And the corporate tax would be territorial rather than global, thereby avoiding the double tax on foreign earnings of U.S. companies. Finally, the plan would abolish the $1.7 trillion alternative minimum tax. That's huge. It's another pro-growth tax reform. 

Just the reduction of the double taxing would unleash billions of dollars for American companies to grow with. Plus, companies can finally stop gaming the tax system with tricks and worry about raising their revenue numbers. I mean GE can stop trying to lobby Congress and the White House for tax breaks and concentrate on creating new products and hiring people so their company can grow.

Also getting rid of the dreaded AMT would save millions of upper middle class people from getting hit with massive tax bills. I would love to see rich people just pay 29% of their income in taxes and not try to claim farm land and other nonsense just to reduce their overall tax bill.

No games or sharp minded accountants gaming the system but just you made X and multiply by 29% and write a check for that amount payable to the IRS.

This thinking actually harkens back to Reagan who wanted a tax system with 3 lines. How much you made, percentage of how much made, and how much you owe. They do raise capital gains by 5% but that can be gamed away with strategic stock sales. Or maybe just let lower income investors like me keep my 15% capital gains tax. In any case just simplify taxes and you will have millions of happy Americans.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Gang of Six" Spending Cut Plan: Looks Good so Far

Um, pass the damn thing already so the market doesn't have an excuse to sell off as we get closer to the August 2nd deadline. On looking at the plan it does seem like a fairly good compromise. This part is red meat for me.

Reform the tax code: The plan would eliminate some tax breaks, reform others, halve the number of income tax brackets to three from six, and reduce rates. 

The rate on the new brackets would fall between 8% and 12% for those in the lowest bracket; 14% and 22% for those in the middle bracket; and 23% and 29% for those in the top bracket. Rates today run from 10% on the low end to 35% on the high end.

I'm in the middle bracket so I would have my taxes cut by 6% hopefully. If they keep capital gains rates for me at 15% I would back this thing wholeheartedly. I mean shaving $4 trillion off of the deficit in 10 years sounds like a great idea in the first place. That means we would only be $10 trillion in the hole and can whittle that down further if the recovery becomes more robust. It would be so cool to have a budget surplus sometime in my lifetime.

I mean if the GOP wins the Senate next year they can push through a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment and maybe we will be able to finally get something other that $1 trillion in debt added onto our deficit each year.

Wall of Worry at 22 Blocks?

Very interesting article on all the different head-ways that are standing in front of the market now. Yet we are climbing that wall at least of the time being with today's 200 point move upward. Thanks IBM you did wonders. You got the market to not focus on Washington BS and onto companies that are making piles of money with great products. Here are the 22 blocks as put out by Lloyd Khaner.

QE III: Okay maybe just a little scratch to get us over the hump…again.

U.S. ECONOMY: Down, but not out. Emphasis on “down”.

UNEMPLOYMENT: Not looking for some corner office c-suite position, “just talking about some shiftwork, a big ol’ pile of shiftwork, working 7-to-3, 3-to-11, 11-to-7…”
U.S. DEBT CEILING: Playing catch with a hand grenade. Not advisable. (Our Debt Ceiling Countdown Clock is still sticking!)

The patient isn’t dead yet, but we're getting a mighty irregular heartbeat.

HOUSING CRISIS: Seeming more and more like the cavemen had it right.

INFLATION: China and the EU are fighting it tooth and nail. And they're promptly losing their teeth and nails.

“We’re baaaaack.” And spending a gloriously torrid summer in Europe.

OIL PRICES: The sub-$100/barrel price on WTI crude is possibly all that’s keeping the recession screamers from re-emerging en masse.

ARAB SPRING: The normally calm, cool and collected Jordan enters the fray.

Now up to 30-plus countries vs. Mo-Mo & Co., and still no end in sight.

Taking every positive they can get -- and winning the Women’s Soccer World Cup is worth a psychological boast if not an economic one.

CHINA: Doing their best to compete with the US in a who-can-lose-financial-credibility-faster tourney. I advise not sitting in the front row to watch this race.

EARNINGS SEASON: Not going to be terrible. Not going to be great. Going to be okay, like eating jello or listening to Josh Groban music.

SOVEREIGN DEBT: Daily threats of a downgrade of US Debt which has never happened in history. As my mother says, “Sometimes making history isn’t a good thing.”

COMMODITIES: “Rough rice” (aka regular old raw harvested rice) is spiking to 12-month highs. Not great, as 2 billion of us humans subsist on it.

POLICY MISTAKE: None last week. But not for lack of trying!

EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK: It’s big decision time and it has been for a month. So maybe it's also get-a-new-calendar (and a watch) time as well.

Some are suggesting that Greece sell off islands to pay off its debt. I myself have taken out a no-interest, 3-year exploding option ARM loan at 5% on Santorini.

SPAIN: Neatly passed the buck to Italy during a siesta.

ITALY: Now starring in the lead role of “Eurolanden Debtnicus Tragedia” Also see: Italian-Inspired Market Panic Pauses, Awaiting Thursday's Greece Summit

Monday, July 18, 2011

Herman Cain Against Building a Mosque in Tennessee

This is exactly the reason why I sometimes dislike the GOP.

During a discussion on "Fox News Sunday" of a proposed mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. that has drawn protests, legal challenges and even arson, host Chris Wallace asked the former Godfather's Pizza CEO his feelings about communities that wish to ban mosques.

"Yes, they have the right to do that," Cain replied.

Um, I just have to say that preventing a mosque from being built on private land is strait-up un-American. I mean this is the land of the free what do we have to fear from Islam? Political Islam is starting to show cracks anyway. I mean the Iranian regime will probably not last another 10 years and our form of government seems to be sweeping through the Middle East as we speak.

So what if there is a mosque in Tennessee? If nefarious things are going on there the FBI can look into it. Its not like as soon as they build the thing an Al-Quida cell will move right in or other nonsense. I mean would Cain be against a Synagogue or a Wiccan Church being built there? So the separation of church and state part doesn't matter.

Just let people use private land for whatever the purpose they want as long as it is legal. That is the only way to look at this as an American. It is not the Land of the Free (as long as you aren't Muslim) its the Land of the Free for everyone.

Tom Coburn Takes an Axe to the Budget: $9 Trillion in Savings!

Now this is exactly what we need in order to get this deficit under control. Coburn doesn't spare the axe anywhere even raising taxes and cutting veteran benefits and raises the retirement and Medicare age.

The plan by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is laced with politically perilous proposals like raising to 70 the age at which people can claim their full Social Security benefits. It would cut farm subsidies, Medicare, student aid, housing subsidies for the poor, and funding for community development grants. Coburn even takes on the powerful veterans' lobby by proposing that some veterans pay more for medical care and prescription drugs.

Let's debate some of his proposals. The more I look at Social Security and Medicare the more I think it will go bankrupt years before I retire. If that is the case I better have every dollar I pay into the system refunded to me with interest. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It Looks Like the GOP Leadership is Caving on Rasing the Debt Limit

I think some fairly meaningful spending reform could have come out of this whole mess but instead it seems the GOP is as addicted to spending as the Dems.

Ahead of a fourth negotiating session at the White House in as many days, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell defended his proposal to give President Barack Obama new powers to increase the nation's borrowing limit without GOP support.

"I refuse to help Barack Obama get re-elected by marching Republicans into a position where we have co-ownership of a bad economy," McConnell said on a radio talk show, contending that letting the nation go into financial default would give Obama reason to blame Republicans for the negative fallout.

McConnell is such a spineless weasel. I mean we will eventually default on our debt anyway if we keep spending like we are now. Hell, at this rate Medicare and Social Security will be bankrupt nearly a decade before I retire. If the GOP won't fight for deep cuts in every program then who will?  

I kind of understand that the GOP will be blamed for a debt default though and Obama will be a hero to the markets for marching in and invoking the 14th Amendment. I mean the market is already getting kind of antsy about a default. As we get closer to the deadline it will start to get worse and worse. A US Government Debt default is no joke.

Still a deal could have been reached without McConnell cutting out Boehner's legs like this. I guess McConnell got a call from some Wall Street Hedge funds or bankers or something that are long the market to throw water on the fire before it gets out of hand. 

In any case I think it is about damn time for someone to show McConnell the door. He caved on Obamacare and now he is caving on the debt ceiling. He really isn't on the side of fiscal conservancy so what use do I have with him?

Um, Obama Fly to Germany for the World Cup Already

Yeah, I don't like his political bent or his policies but he is our Commander-and-Chief and our Women's National Team is poised to win the World Cup so hop on a plane and fly out there posthaste.

After beating France 3-1 on Wednesday to book their place in the title game, several members of the squad told how the presence of the Commander in Chief would cap off a spectacular tournament. The Americans would be strong favorites to beat Japan in Frankfurt.

I mean if it was the Men's team vying for the World Cup he would be out there without any hesitiation  So it would be a nice capper for women's sports in general to have the President flying out to see them compete for the games highest honor. Although maybe the last minute security concerns may be a little much but he would be flying to Germany and not Sudan or something so there is that.

Breaking California into 2 States? Hmm, Might be a Good Idea

It is a little too big in the first place and this plan pretty much amounts to the blue portion breaking away from the red portion of the state.

Stone's idea has some merit, some analysts say. It addresses the problematic balance of power between Sacramento and California localities, as well as the political reality that the 13 counties in Stone's secession drive are far more conservative than the rest of the state. But the vision remains legally and politically unrealistic, many add, and is perhaps not the best solution to the problems it seeks address. 

The liberals in the Coastal Cities can then raise their taxes and provide a more socialist utopia without the eastern part of the state trying to inject realism or fiscal restraint. Plus, this would be great for liberals who are for gay rights because they would not have the conservative part of the state striking down their amendments.

I think it should be set up how West Virginia and Virginia are separated. So we would have California and Eastern California. Sounds like an interesting plan even though it will probably not fly.

Friday, July 08, 2011

What did the Philistines Eat?

It seems that quite a trove of information is coming from the ruins of a Philistine town called Gat.

Archaeologists have found that the Philistine diet leaned heavily on grass pea lentils, an Aegean staple. Ancient bones discarded at the site show that they also ate pigs and dogs, unlike the neighboring Israelites, who deemed those animals unclean — restrictions that still exist in Jewish dietary law.

What the hell is grass pea lentils? It sounds like some kind of thing you pick up at Whole Foods. It seems the town was raised by everyone's favorite conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar in 604 B.C. and all of the inhabitants put to the sword. Those ancient invaders did not fool around I tell you.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

TSA to Require you to Remove Your Skin when You Get on an Airplane

I can see the headline from the future already after the latest insidious terrorist plot.

US officials have warned airlines terror groups may be mulling implanting bombs under the skins of passengers, reports said Wednesday, but stressed the alert was not linked to any specific threat.

The Los Angeles Times said the US administration had warned airlines that extremist groups were considering surgically implanting explosives into people to try to beat enhanced airport security measures.

Passengers flying to the United States could now face even tougher screening procedures, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, Nicholas Kimball, told the daily.

Yup the TSA will now require you to remove your entire skin so that they can check to see if there is a bomb hidden under there. I think they should just require everyone to fly naked and they just knock everyone out with a cabin pressure change. Then they wake you up after the plane has landed. In the meantime they will scan every passenger with a total MRI to see if there were bombs implanted or not. The TSA is just ridiculous now.

Massive Storm Seen on Saturn: This one is BIG!

It sure is mind numbing sometimes the things that go on in this solar system.

Imagine being caught in a thunderstorm as wide as the Earth with discharges of lightning 10,000 times more powerful than normal, flashing 10 times per second at its peak. 

Now imagine that this storm is still unfolding, eight months later.

Now this is one impressive sight. The idea of lightning 10,000 times more powerful than earth is pretty nuts. Imagine if one of those things hit your city. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Huge Cheating Scandal Unearthed in Atlanta Schools: 178 Teachers and Principals Involved

Now this is about as bad as it could get for teachers and principals and sets a terrible example to the kids.

Award-winning gains by Atlanta students were based on widespread cheating by 178 named teachers and principals, said Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday. His office released a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that names 178 teachers and principals – 82 of whom confessed – in what's likely the biggest cheating scandal in US history.

It also appears to have all because of filthy lucre.

The 55,000-student Atlanta public school system rose in national prominence during the 2000s, as test scores steadily rose and the district received notice and funding from the Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation. But behind that rise, the state found, were teachers and principals in 44 schools erasing and changing test answers.

These principals even went so far as to stonewall investigators and punish whistle-blowers. Oh well, I guess no one looks at it as cheating the kids. I mean bonuses are at stake so why shouldn't teachers "teach to the test" or simply erase the answers on the test?

I guess there needs to be more emphasis on other factors rather then teaching. I think it would be interesting to base some of these benchmarks on graduation rate or the number of kids that get into college or technical schools. I mean school is supposed to prepare you for the real world so the idea of real world outcomes might be something to put into the mix.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Treasure Hunt School of Retailing

Hmm, I think this is a great idea that would certainly get me going back to the store again and again.

Constantly cycling in fresh merchandise is critical as the Web makes it harder for stores to compete on price. After all, why drive to a store that offers "everyday low prices" when you can find the same products cheaper online? Surprises also create suspense and encourage repeat visits.

Yeah, you buy the essentials using something like Amazon Prime and then you go to the retail store to buy something interesting. I remember going to Costco and seeing them stock things like German chocolate or funny biscuits from Europe. I would be much more willing to buy something like this on a whim to see how they taste. As long as the price is reasonable then I would try it just to try it.

The Story Behind the CIA Analyst that Caught Bin Laden

I really hope we have many more guys like him working the front lines at the CIA.

The analyst was the first to put in writing last summer that the CIA might have a legitimate lead on finding bin Laden. He oversaw the collection of clues that led the agency to a fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. His was among the most confident voices telling Obama that bin Laden was probably behind those walls.