Posted by: thefinancedude | May 29, 2008

Two Pennies – May 29 2008

War on America


Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security secretary, does not agree with suggestions that the phrase is equated with a war on Islam, says Russ Knocke, his spokesman.

So this is one of those, your wrong because I think I’m right moments.  Who cares if you agree or not, if those people are offended and you want to stop fighting with them wtf sense does it make to continue to incite anger with their only possible detractors? At this moment, 70% of us don’t like Bush.  However faced with the lesser of two evils when push comes to shove, we would rally behind Bush if we’re occupied.  It’s common sense, yet they’re stuck on saying (believing) they’re right, until they’re proven wrong.  Nice strategy.

“We are at war with terrorism, and its underlying ideology – not Islam – and we’ve gone out of our way to make that point,” says Mr Knocke. “In truth, war has been declared upon us.”

“While we want to be mindful to the way our messages are heard by Muslim audiences, we also think war on terror accurately describes the fight we are in,” he added.

I remember the Redcoats being terrorized by Revolutionaries during the “War of Insurrection” when we did not line up like idiots and shoot at each other.  We used our brains and reasoned we must use tactics to suit our weakness’ to eliminate the foreign invaders.  Gee, what do the “terrorists” do – the same thing.  But we were right then, and they’re wrong now.  Do as we say, not as we do. History doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme…(Twain).

“The chairman is aware of the concerns voiced by many in the Muslim community about the phrase ‘war on terror’,” Captain Kirby said.

So there is more than one person to back this story up.  The Muslim world understands the connotation of the phrase rather than the denotative mind warp this administration wants us to believe. It’s flat out inflammatory and serves one purpose, to continue to add to the ranks of those against us and further the war serving American corporate interests.  Those are the only ones benefitting from this all.  The children of America are being slaughtered; the citizens who support the troops are being fleeced not only through the debt and interest but the wicked inflation that is gathering steam while the defense and infrastructure companies report record profits.


I suppose on one hand, maybe we should be happy.  America is on sale as the dollar gets trashed.  American companies are being purchased more frequently by foreign investors.  We’re not the ones buying a bunch of foreign companies, so what’s really going on here?  There is a large problem with the present course of action. Ultimately the world wants to reach our standard of living.  The thing is, our standard of living is so much better relative to most underdeveloped countries and consequently we’ll be giving up our standards and trading down while our bankers are seeking better alternative standards. Consider China’s communication infrastructure being near completely wireless.  Costs are lower, build out is quicker.  They’re catching up exponentially and when the frog looks out the day before the lake is covered, he sees half the lake.  The next morning he has no open water as the Lilli pads have grown exponentially.


You want to end this?  Follow Ron Paul’s sage words and remove the bases from foreign lands.  The basis for the struggle is a misguided animosity stemming from American hegemony distorting their way of life.  Yes corporate America will never leave, however the perceived aggression not only irritates a minority section of Islam, it is in violation of our constitution.  For those of us saying this is unrealistic, they do not understand the changes we have grown through.


Missile technology is quickly becoming the basis for military strategic operations.  We showed what we are capable of, near laser precision with a piece of metal moving several hundred miles an hour falling into your chimney.  Consider nuclear weapons.  One of two things must be true.  Either they work and are a nuclear deterrent, or they don’t work. If they do not deter anyone from using them against us, then we’ve wasted a few trillion tax dollars in the past sixty or so years. 


Or they work, and we’re waging wars against people and wasting money in the process.  The only wars we’ve fought since WWII have been limited engagements that have accomplished little.  Communism was destined to fail on its own.  The staple society in which it was constructed failed in the early nineties because their centrally planned economy was uncompetitive and was bankrupted when Saudi Oil flooded the market.


Even if we let Vietnam be overrun by Vietcong and never set foot, it would have failed as it has, and current day Vietnam is a small mirror to China. Both will produce a large middle class which won’t maintain status quo when it comes to individual freedoms.  It will take time, and most importantly a social movement to catapult the country even further forward.  The great firewall will not last.


So if we walk away and leave sovereign nations to conduct their business and we focus on ourselves instead of projection our insecurities, we might be able to move through beyond this and focus on real problems like citizens losing their freedom, transitioning away from fossil fuels and the general economic malaise that is descending upon us like icy hot.



Middle of Getting Nowhere


That’s exactly how Chris Ackerman feels. He said that he and his wife, who live just outside Seattle, find that their paychecks no longer cover their rent, student loans and daily living expenses. That is forcing the young couple to turn to their credit cards to make ends meet.

They’ve already cut out much of their entertainment and trips to visit her family and friends 30 miles away. If gas and grocery prices continue to rise, Ackerman, who works for an importer, said he’ll have to stop contributing to his 401(k) plan. He doesn’t see many other options.

Stories like this make me think of the classes we are led to believe don’t exist. I think the upper crust has been binging for the two terms of Bush following his lead in spending our money. Not until more people feel this and come to recognize they are getting nothing from the government in spite of the payments and patriotism in kind.  Corporate profits are private while the losses are being borne to the society.  When companies are not accountable for their losses, where is Capitalism?


Yet when we make an ultimate blunder but we can’t get bankruptcy to push the restart button. We get stuck with the tab on a five year plan.  Funny how people have to get on a five year plan, yet our own government and corporations have no five year plan. The government doesn’t even use the same accounting methodology they require public companies to use.  If we actually added all the commitments we’ve been promised the national debt is much closer to $40T, than the $10T we’re led to believe.



Mortgage Merry Go Round


The rocket scientists are the wizards of Wall Street who invented securities that supposedly dispersed risk widely but actually created much more leverage than proved wise.

In a modern capitalist system, regulators provide guardrails to keep markets from driving the economy off a cliff. The regulators failed. Whether regulators should or could have restrained innovation on Wall Street or prohibited business deals between consenting, sophisticated adults is a tough question.

This is the problem.  Let’s move already to the post modern version where we have instituted the lessons learned from the failures of what we though were successes.  More government hands are not the answer, less is. Government is run by powerful, elite people who share boardrooms with each other when not in government. When government gets involved in the economy it does so at the expense of a free market. Resources allocated on the basis of true demand provides more benefits to more people, than one government deciding to choose a winner and a loser. I trust the 300 million of us to make a better decision than a few people insulated from their mistakes.

If all these people don’t financially hang for their mistakes there is no disincentive to refrain from repeating this decade after decade. No one should say they can or can’t create a product.  However if their proven to have been selling toxic waste, they should suffer the consequences of those actions.  Unfortunately we’ve climaxed to a point where if one comes down, they all do. Let these entities fail and reorganize the quality pieces as they’re own. 


This may result in marginal higher costs to the industry, passed on to us, but it’s the price we must pay for insurance against a total failure. It will cost more today to clean this mess up than it would have spread out over 300 million people over the last twenty years in the form of slightly higher costs to obtain credit.  Yes, we wouldn’t have been able to buy as many big screens as we wanted.  Aw shucks.


But investors who relied on the rating agencies — particularly supposedly sophisticated pension funds and other institutions — are at fault, too. Rating firms became a crutch for investors who simply didn’t want to spend the time and money required to be prudent investors at a time when low interest rates had everyone reaching for higher returns without contemplating the higher risks.


Pension funds and those people who are depending on others to set them up are going to be shocked when they want to take money out.  The wealth the baby boomers have tied up alone is staggering and they must transfer these illiquid assets into liquid cash as they need it.  When they begin to see others selling, someone must buy.  What happens when they begin to feel the itch that the longer they stay, the more they have to lose?


We know SS is reaching a state of disequilibrium in the fact that more people will be living on it than putting into it.  So those who are paying either pay more or those who receive get less.  Someone is going to be unhappy, is it all of the above or one over the other?  I suppose it depends on the average age of Congress and the President during the next term.  The higher the average, the more likely the lowly Gen X and Millennials get shafted.



Derivative H-Bomb


Efforts to tackle the risk surrounding privately negotiated credit derivatives will take a step forward on Thursday when 11 of the world’s biggest investment banks announce the creation of the first central clearer for the opaque contracts by September.


Idea popped into my head.  What if this clearing house creates true price discovery for these derivatives and counter party risks quickly become clear.  If so, then will we have a rush to the exits and see whose left holding the bag?  Are we setting ourselves up for a crash in September?  There are those who do believe Sept/Oct is the best time frame seasonality wise to provide an opening for a crash. 


This clearing house is supposed to cast the light of day on a dark offbeat corner of the market.  Those inside the street agree that the derivative pyramid is akin to gambling.  Hedge funds have been selling insurance against losses for years as a way to provide a steady return on assets. Those products are exploding now that everyone is running to hide in a corner.  Oh well sorry, we’ve finally installed a light bulb and if we can find the switch to turn it on…


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