Friday, November 16, 2007

C-Notes, Euros, and Liberty Dollars!

Back in the Summer of 84, life was wonderful traveling Europe with a strong dollar. WTF happened? You have serious whack-job goofballs printing their own inflation-proof currency. The rest of the world is wondering if the world belongs to European currency. Even rap stars are dissing our once illustrious currency.

C-Notes and P-Notes:
Wonkette reports that a group of Ron Paul supporters were raided because they were creating illegal currency, Liberty Dollars, featuring Paul. How are liberty dollars any different than Camel Cash? Save up enough liberty dollars and you can get Ron Paul lighters, shot glasses, ash trays, and a Ron Paul Members Only Jacket.

When surfing the net about camel cash, there was an old article from Bob from Accounting that our Dollar has been collapsing against the old C-note. A fact noted in an April 1997 Onion issue.

Show me the Euros: Jay-Z in his video, Blue Magic, flashes Euros as the new bling-bling bankroll.
The International Herald Tribune reports:
"Shortly after Angola and Iraq announced they may consider shifting their currency reserves away from the dollar and into the euro and other currencies, Nigeria's Finance Minister Shamsuddeen Usman said he was considering the same thing."

In related news, there was an OPEC oops today. OPEC accidentally broadcast Saudi Arabia rebuffing efforts of Iran and Venezuela to price oil in other currencies other than the US dollar. Saudi Arabia rejected the proposal because it didn't want to collapse the Dollar. It turns out that some oil producing countries will de-peg and diversify away from the US Dollar.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Teevee Maven

Teevee Watching Maven
Our teevee watching is rarely done live anymore as the commercial vs. entertainment ratio just eats up time we can never get back. Between the old PVR and DVDs we are pretty set with our entertainment. It takes patience to wait and not read any spoilers until series getson DVD, but the quality of sound and picture is worth it. We do make a slight exception for Heroes, which we watch live for the High Definition broadcast.

The Sopranos DVD Season Six Part 2
We finally watched the final half of the last season of The Sopranos. Last night we watched the final, final episode. We could see why fans who watched it when it broadcast were disappointed. The first half of the last season was the strongest and reminded us of themagic of the first two seasons.

Popping in the second half revealed a dark turn of Tony Soprano's self-destructive spiral. We kept telling each other thatthis was going to end badly for Tony and family. We were expecting an almost epic Greek tragedy ending -- a logical ending a socio-path's life. It really didn't end that way and we were disappointed.

Tony's character needed to be punished for his behavior. He needed to lose both families and have real consequences for his actions.He needed to be arrested, in jail, and facing a long time in jail with the knowledge of his wife and daughter being killed and his son committing suicide. We needed him to call Malfi to the Jail where she finally tells him that she couldn't help him, and in fact, she may have been enabling him. It would have been a more impactful scene if it would happend after he lost his freedom and more members of both of his families.

It could have ended in the prison yard and you could have ducks flying referencing the first episode'sduck symbolism. Except the ducks would symbolize freedom as well as symbolizing that his family is slipping away.

It felt more like a season ender (a mediocre one at that) than a series ending episode.

The first season of Heroes was clearly the best series we have seen in a long time. This season is being carried by our admiration of the first season and that we actually care what happens to our characters.While nothing really happened until the very end of last week's episode, we expect things may start hitting the fan for our heroes.I have heard some interesting spoilers/theories about the identity of Adam, which make pretty good sense, but I will let you google that information on your own.

Flip This House
HGTV is known for its home improvement porn, and I recently discovered a show that was born during the real estate boom. People buy property, set a budget and schedule to fix it up, fall out of budget and behind schedule, and hope to make money on their "flip".My opinion of flipping is it contributes to the unaffordability of housing these days. Homes should be for shelter, not speculation. I do like when they take a house that is blighted and unliveable and fixes it up so it is liveable. At least, you are creating more housing that wayand helping turn neighborhoods into places where the working class feels a sense of pride.

From watching this show, I found that you should be skilled in contracting and have lots of family who are too to keep labor costs down. Plus, you need to make sure you don't make improvements that are more pricey than the neighborhood will bear.

The Next American Band

This music competition reality show is by the same folks you brought you the next American idol. We are and always will be a non-voting fans of American Idol, and so we decided to give this show a try.The Next American Band is even more enjoyable because you get people who can actually play instruments and writemusic. I think you get a better caliber of contestant than you get in American Idol.

I think my favorite band is Franklin Bridge, who are a funky jam musicians that remind me of a little Prince and Jimi Hendrix mixed with hip-hop. They may not last if they keep jamming and do not fit into the commercial packaging of songs that the judges are looking for.
I also like Dot Dot Dot, a band that has the 80s sound down to a science and an art form. Their sound could easily be a soundtrack for a John Hughes movie. I like this band because they don't take themselves so seriously and really embrace who they are in and entertaining way.
I think some of the most talented bands play genres I normally do not care much for -- country and bluegrass.The Clark Brothers are an all-string old school country, roots trio who just cook on their instruments and truly belong in the competition.

Cliff Wagner and The Ol' #7 are an incredibly tight bluegrass band, who visibly have fun and are comfortable with what they do. These guys were asked by the judges in their tryout toplay Madonna and went into "Like A Virgin" like pros. You cannot hate these guys. They make me smile.

Light of Doom is what happens when you cross metal with the Hansons. They are extremely talented and it is crazy to think what they will be like if they stay together when they are adults.

My secret favorite band is Rocket, the all-girl bandwho are a cross between the Go-Gos and The Ramones. Like Dot Dot Dot, they appeal to my own sense of musical nostalgia of living my formative years in High School and College in the 1980s. The problem with Rocket is that the lead singer does need to strengthen her vocals. She did a better job with the original song this week but butchered the Elton John cover. To be fair to her, Elton John is a tremendous vocalist and it will be very difficult to outsing Elton.

There is also a swing band called Denver and the Mile High Orchestra. Denver, thelead singer is pretty much a drag on a very talented and tight big band orchestra. With a different front man, they would be real contenders even though they have no chance to actually win.Big Bands are not pop bands and haven't been for 60 years.

The Muggs are this deep 70s motown rock band where all three musicians are incredibly talented. The lead singers gravel voice sometimes suits the material, butlike Rocket the vocalizations often fall short. He is an awesom guitar player, but not so strong at singing. The Muggs appeal to us old folk who remember the 1970s.

There is a pop-Country band, Sixwire, that is very professional but I personally do not like them. I prefer more old school country, roots, and bluegrass to the bland corporate crossover-country that they serve out.

Of all the bands, the Sixties-nostalgia band, Tres Bien, is fun, but feels too novelty to last in the competition.

The bands that were eliminated so far have deserved it and there are still a few more to go. We will see how it goes.

One thing I do not care for is that this show has an austrailian host and an aussie judge. You would figure that a show called, "The Next American Band" would at least have an all-american host and judge panel. I am getting tired of the accents already. I love Sheila E. I think she is better suited than Paula Abdul to be a music critic. I actually have seen her in concert with Prince and she really rocks. She carries herself really well, where Paula often acts a bit loopy. There is also a judge from the Goo-Goo Dolls who does okay. I would have prefered Tommy Lee, because he was highly entertaining in his stint on Rockstar: Supernova.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Strong Economy? Not!

Yesterday, the Dow has plunged 362 points just a day after the Fed lowered interest rates. The Dow is trying to recover today based on Job numbers. The economy added 166,000 jobs in October, the fastest pace in five months. Good news, right? Whenever I hear news like this, I ask the crucial question: What Kind of Jobs? I always want to see the numbers behind the headlines.
From Shaffers Research:

- of 278 industries, 53.4% were adding jobs in October, down slightly from 55.6% in September
- Of 84 manufacturing industries, 43.5% were hiring in October, which is the strongest figure since July.
- Jobs in goods-producing industries fell by 24,000.
- jobs were also lost at banks and mortgage brokers, where employment fell by 5,000 in October, bringing the cumulative loss to 56,000 since February
- the services industry saw strong jobs growth, where employment rose by 190,000, the most since May
- Food services added 37,000 positions
- health care added 34,000
- employment services added 34,000

So it appears that job growth is fueled by the healthcare industry that has become a drain on the pocketbooks of the average american and small businesses because no one wants to control health care costs. We have created jobs in the field of finding jobs, which is kind of messed up if you think about it. Finally, we have created burger-flipping jobs! Is this really good news? I hardly doubt any of these jobs can keep up with the real inflation in this country.

We are also told that inflation is holding steady. How could that be when costs for food, fuel, and health care are rising beyond our incomes? What do you know, Core inflation figures exclude volatile food and energy prices. The Christan Science Monitor reports that "overall inflation, as measured by the personal consumption expenditures deflator, is up 2.4 percent for the year, above the Fed’s so-called comfort zone of 1 percent to 2 percent. That rise, compared with 1.8 percent in August, most likely reflected the surging cost of crude oil, which pushes up gasoline and energy prices."

There are signs that inflation is really higher given the rise in the cost of fuel, food, health care combined with the declining value of the dollar, which effects our buying power. Another thing to keep in mind is that the cost of renting or buying a home due to the bubble and its aftermath, bites into the American wallet. The financial picture is excellent if you factor out all the basic necessities of living for the average american. Don't forget to factor in the rising costs of child care, education, and services and products.

We are also told that personal spending is still holding up, which is good news since personal spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the gross domestic product.
How long will Americans be able to keep spending? If you take a look at the New York Housing Bubble Blog, they have some very interesting news items including Bloomberg's report that US Home foreclosures Doubled in the 3rd Quarter of 2007 and that Realtytrac Inc reports there were 635,159 forclosure filings in the 3q or 1 in 196 households including default notices, auction notices,and bank repossessions.

Who is going to want to go Christmas shopping when they have just lost their home?

Keep in mind that we are at the beginning of the fallout of the real estate bubble.
Mortgage resets for the notorius subprime loans will end up spiking in the latter half of
2008. Then in 2010 and 2011, we will start seeing resets on option adjustable rate loans and Alt-A loans (or "Liars Loans"). Unless these people can refinance in fixed loans with monthly payments they can actually afford, a lot of people will lose their homes and there will be tough times ahead for all of us.

One of my favorite bloggers is Marinite from the Marin Real Estate Bubble website. He writes that the American people are being lied to when it comes to the economy. He quotes Peter Schiff's November 1st editorial about how bogus all these financial numbers are that are bolstering the belief that our economy is strong, when the average joe feels something is wrong. I have actually heard someone on CNBC boggle at that disconnect between what the "experts" are telling us and the reality Americans experience.

We have all heard about the decline of the Dollar and how good it is for our exports.
The US Dollar Index has declined from 92 to 78 in less than two years - a 15% depreciation
in value. This effects American buying power not just when they travel abroad, but what we
purchase in this country.

Interest rate cuts only make the situation worse. Rate cuts may make it easier to borrow
and provide relief for those who have already borrowed (especially those attached to Adjustible Rate Mortgages) but it punishes people who save and invest in safe investments and reduces overall purchasing power.

If one steps back, we can begin to realize that our consumer economy is broken. What buttresses our economy is the consumer's ability to spend. The consumer's ability to spend has a lot to do with their ability to borrow to buy beyond what they have on hand. Can you imagine our economy if people gave up their credit cards and didn't buy anything until they saved up for it? Where would our economy be if people scrimped and saved or just realized one day that the consumer appetite was unsustainable? Jobs would be lost and our economic system could collapse.

Jury Rules Against The Phelps Family Scourge

I am loving the fact that Rev. Phelps was ruled against in a civil trial for 10.9 million for invasion of privacy and inflicting emotional distress by picketing funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope that this trial and others like it shut down Phelps, but somehow I am skeptical since this type of hate can survive financial ruin. Regardless, it does send a good message that regardless of one's political or social cause, a funeral is a sacred place where there is an expectation of privacy and a modicum of decency that needs to be enforced.

I only wish that these people were taken to court and stopped when they were picketing funerals of people who died of AIDS. It takes someone so void of humanity and soaked with evil that one could even think of desecrating a funeral to add emotional pain for those who suffer with grief. If there is a God and a Heaven and Hell, there must be a special place in Hell for Phelps and his family who join him on these things.

I have said it before and I will say it again, "Reverend" Phelps needs to have his minister status striped as he makes a mockery of Christ and God. He and his family need to have their citizenship stripped because these people are not Americans.