Monday, October 27, 2008

Tanks a Lot!

Thanks to Rx for this little gem,

"Just filled up for $2.96 a gallon. Congress needs to investigate this. Big Oil is clearly using its might to lower prices & take in less revenue to pay vendors with"

Everyone needs sarcastic friends.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fascinating and Frustrating

So I'm sitting here in the newsroom, watching the wall of TVs. Early afternoon means that one TV is on CNN, another on Fox, and the rest are showing soaps. Sound muted on all. My attention turns to CNN and a recent poll they've done. There are so many new polls these days that they're almost rendered meaningless, but this one struck me.

97 percent of Black voters surveyed say they're going to vote for Barack Obama. 97 percent!! Never- neh-ver- is a story done about how blacks vote based on race much more than whites. If anything, the "old fashioned, closed minded, racist thinking" white voter is more likely to vote for someone outside of their race than blacks or Hispanics are. 97 percent. Staggering. Why isn't this talked about? OK, I guess CNN did talk about it, and that's why I saw the graphic, but I'm guessing it was spun as "more blacks are unhappy with the Republicans than ever" than actually addressing the obvious.

What's going to sweep Obama into the White House? White voters. What's going to keep Obama out of the White House? At least according to the media, white racism.

My head hurts.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


The following video is five minutes of a French TV interview with John McCain, while he was a POW during the Vietnam War. Not a lot of fun to watch..

You know what people are up in arms about? That he smokes a cigarette during the interview. I'm not kidding. I wish that I was.

Now go enjoy your Starbucks.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Phone Drone

"Hi, this is Jon Porter......"

"I'd like to talk to you for a moment about Steve Sisolak....."

"Good afternoon. I'm John McCain...."

"May I ask you a couple of questions about Election Day?"

"I'm Barack Obama. Please join me in changing the......"

"This is Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury...."

"Hey there, this is Sarah Palin....."

I'm not picking up my phone again until November 5th

Bad To Be Glad

OK, so as little as two months ago, people were jumping out of buildings because of the price of gas. Now, the price of a barrel of crude oil is half of what it was then. Regular unleaded is under $3 a gallon. So we're happy, right? No.

OK, so foreclosures are at a record level. People signed bad deals and lost their homes. Bright spot: the price of homes goes down as people scoop up cheaper foreclosed homes. More people get to afford the American dream of homeownership. In fact, the housing crisis may eventually turn around because of the foreclosure crisis. More homes purchased, less inventory, values rise. So, we're happy, right? No.

Maybe it's just me, but these days we go out of our way to be miserable, as if being happy is something to feel guilty about. Misery is the new happiness. The Smiley Face has been replaced by Mr. Yuck. Negative events shape the person we become far more than positive ones do. If you don't learn from the negative, you'll never be able to appreciate the positive. In the past year, I've lost my job and had my mom diagnosed with breast cancer. The new job is working out. Mom seems good. Rarely will you find me more relaxed, or happy. And I don't feel one damn bit guilty about it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Vast, Serialized Wasteland

I pretty much grew up in front of the TV. It's gotten me absolutely nowhere, but I maintain an unhealthy amount of knowledge about shows that I used to watch between the years 1974 and 1984. Name the show, and I could tell you the day, time and channel it was on. I can name cast members, I can tell you cast changes, I can sing theme songs (poorly). Why my mind has chosen to hang onto this knowledge instead of, you know, how to change a tire, I'll never know. TV used to be one of life's joys.

I say "used to be" because almost every show on the prime time schedule has been serialized. There's no more discovering a show in mid-season. You better be there from the start or you may as well not even bother. Pumpkin is watching the show "Chuck" right now. It's a cute show, and she's watched it from Episode One. Good thing, too, because one show bleeds right into the next. I have not watched the show but for a few minutes here and there, so I can't get into it. I'd say there are more shows like "Chuck" now than ever. The days of 1) Conflict, followed by 2) Resolution-type shows are done. Instead of cliffhangers at the end of a season, we now get them every week, and it's exhausting.

The only new show I'm watching this year (ok, it's the second season) is "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles". It's pretty much the same every episode. Robots from the future come to kill a young John Connor because John is the leader of the future resistance that beats the robots back. How can you go wrong? Yet, I don't know why I watch this show. There's no conflict/resolution. There's just conflict, and more conflict. An end can't possibly be reached. Still, it's fun to watch stuff blow up, so I'm there.

I'm not going to go on a crusty old guy rant about how TV used to be better. I really don't think that's the case. In fact, some of the shows on now are as good as anything TV can produce. I just don't have the time to follow a storyline week after week. Imagine reading a book, but you only get to read a chapter every week. Each week, you get a new chapter. You're never told how long the book will go, or even if you will suddenly stop getting subsequent chapters. Would you read it? Of course not, you're not a dope, right? Still, TV sucks us in. Why do we watch? I can't speak for everyone, but for me, it's simply because my recliner is so damn comfortable.

Sorry I wasted your time. At least this topic is one and done.

Overwrought and Underthought

The nice thing about being back in daily employment is that I get to have regular conversations with thinking adults. Of course, that can be a bad thing, too. Still, being at a news station means talking about the news ALL THE TIME. Nope, not even banal chatter on how it's still warm for this time of year. Even the humorous (?) musings are based on whatever stories are being worked up. ALL THE TIME. Thus, I'm very ready for some football.

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague today. Not about football, or coffee, or sports betting. Politics, naturally. Most of my news colleagues are 10 years or more younger, so I take my debates with them as more of a challenge than someone older, or of similar age than me. Anyway, we were talking politics and the topic shifted to the presidential election. I'd made it known that I was going to vote for McCain and has was an Obama guy. I'm not surprised he's an Obama guy, but I was disappointed in the reasons he was.

He discounts McCain's military service. "That doesn't make you qualified to be president". Yet, he didn't counter with a reason why Obama was more qualified. True, just because you survived as a POW doesn't put you at the front of the line, but military service for our Commander in Chief is invaluable. The president is the commander of the U.S. military, and we're two weeks away from electing someone to run the military who has zero military experience. I don't know, but to me that's kinda big.

I brought up the question "who do the Islamic Fascists want in the White House?". This got the response of "I don't care who they want, it's who we want". A lovely response, if you're talking about, say, France. I don't care who the French want. I do care who the people we're fighting every day want. If they feel they can do more damage to us through an Obama presidency than a McCain presidency, this is important. Isn't this simple?

My colleague likes how everyone at the Obama rallies are polite, and get along and, well, just be. Great. They did the same thing in Germany, circa 1933, and that didn't turn out so well for anyone. "Getting along" with everyone isn't important. People can't even get along under their own roof, so to expect it on a larger scale is nothing but a pipe dream. My colleague says there's too much meanness at McCain/Palin rallies. I don't know if I agree with that. Fights aren't breaking out. No one's been hospitalized. I think they're frustrated that their guy is probably going to lose. If that's the case, they're similar to the Obama supporters. But here's the thing. When talking about Republicans, emotion is called "anger". With Democrats, it's called "passion".

Obama talks a great game, his ads are tremendous, and I can't deny being extremely curious how President Obama would do. Still, the fact that more people are inspired by his words than his deeds tells me that a well financed salesman could win the office someday. Like, two weeks from tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Read it and Reap

It's always much easier having someone do the work for you, instead of having to do it yourself. That said, thanks to "Rx" for sending this rather lengthy editorial from Gregg Easterbrook regarding "The Worst Economy Since the Great Depression. Again, this is lengthy, but well worth your time. Feel free to use it the next time the person next to you complains they had to buy a Zune instead of an iPod.

"Financial chaos is sweeping the world," a New York Times lead story said last week. I didn't notice any chaos in my part of the world -- every business was open, ATMs were working, goods and services were plentiful. There are economic problems to be sure. But chaos? Collapse? Next Depression? Please, media and political worlds, let's stop hyperventilating and show some perspective.

What is going on is a financial panic, not an economic collapse. Financial panics are no fun, especially for anyone who needs to cash out an asset right now for retirement, college and so on. But financial panics occur cyclically and are not necessarily devastating. The most recent financial panic was 1987, when the stock market fell 23% in a single day. Pundits and politicians instantly began talking about another Depression, about the "end of Wall Street." The 1987 panic had zero lasting economic consequences -- no recession began, and in <2>

Politicians and pundits are competing to see who can act most panicked and use the most exaggerated claims about economic crisis -- yet the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are, in fact, strong. Productivity is high; innovation is high; the workforce is robust and well-educated; unemployment is troubling at 6.1%, but nothing compared to the recent past, such as 11.8% in 1992; there are no shortages of resources, energy or goods. University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan shows that return on capital is historically high; high returns on capital are associated with strong economies. Some Americans have significant problems with mortgages, and credit availability for business could become an issue if the multiple bank-stabilizing plans in progress don't work. But the likelihood is they will work. When the 1987 panic hit, people were afraid the economy would collapse; it didn't. This panic is global, enlarging the risks. But there's a good chance things will turn out fine.

Why has a credit-market problem expanded into a panic? One reason is the media and political systems are now programmed for panic mode. Everything's a crisis! Crises, after all, keep people's eyes glued to cable news shows, so the media have an interest in proclaiming crises. Crises make Washington seem more important, and can be used to justify giveaways to favored constituent groups, so Washington influence-peddlers have an interest in proclaiming crises.
An example of the exaggerated crisis claim is the assertion that Americans "lost" $2 trillion from their pension savings in the past month, while equities "lost" $8 trillion in value. "Investors Lose $8.4 Trillion of Wealth" read a Wall Street Journal headline last week. This confuses a loss with a decline. Unless you cashed out stocks or a 401(k) in the past month, you haven't "lost" anything. Nor have most investors "lost" money, let alone $8.4 trillion -- crisis-mongering is now so deeply ingrained in the media that even Wall Street Journal headline writers have forgotten basic economics. People who because of financial need have no choice but to cash out stocks right now are really harmed. Anyone who simply holds his or her ground with stocks takes no loss and is likely, although of course not certain, to come out ahead in the end. During the housing price bubble of 2003 to 2006, many Americans became much better off on paper, but never actually sold their homes, so it was all paper gains. Right now many Americans holdings stocks or retirement plans are much worse off on paper, but will be fine so long as they don't panic and sell. One of the distressing things about last week's media cries of doomsday is that they surely caused some average people to sell stocks or 401(k)'s in panic, taking losses they might have avoided by simply doing nothing. The financial shout-shows on cable tend to advise people to buy when the market is rising, sell when the market is falling -- the worst possible advice, and last week it was amplified by panic.

We've also fallen into panic because we pay way too much attention to stock prices. Ronald Reagan said, "Never confuse the stock market with the economy." Almost everyone is now making exactly that mistake. The stock market is not a barometer of the economy; it is a barometer of what people think stocks are worth. These are entirely separate things. What people think stocks are worth now depends on their guess about what stocks will be worth in the future, which is unknowable. You can only guess, and thus optimism feeds optimism while pessimism feeds pessimism.

There is no way the American economy became 8% less valuable between breakfast and morning coffee break Friday, then became 3% more valuable at lunchtime (that is, improved by 11%), then became 3% less valuable by afternoon teatime (that is, declined by 6%) -- to cite the actual Dow Jones Industrials swings from Friday. And the economy sure did not become 11% more valuable Monday. Such swings reflect panic or herd psychology, not the underlying economy, which changes over months and years, not single days. For the past few weeks pundits and Washington and London policy-makers have been staring at stock tickers as if they provided minute-by-minute readouts of economic health. It's embarrassing to see White House and administration officials seemingly so poorly schooled in economic theory they are obsessing over stock-price movements, which they cannot control and in the short term should not even care about.

If you had invested $100 in a Dow Jones Index fund the day after Black Monday, it would be worth $460 now, a 275% increase adjusting for inflation. Don't panic, just hold your stocks. And if you'd invested $100 in real estate in 1987, it would be $240 today, a 30% increase adjusting for inflation. A 30% real gain in 20 years isn't a great investment -- until you consider that you lived in the house or condo during this time. To purchase and live in a dwelling, then come out ahead when you sell, is everyone's dream. Not only do stocks remain a good buy, America on average is still coming out ahead on the housing dream.

Economic problems are likely to be with us for awhile, but also likely to be resolved -- the 1987 panic and the 1997 Asian currency collapse both were repaired more quickly than predicted, with much less harm than forecast. Want to worry? Worry about the fact that the United States is borrowing, mainly from foreign investors and China, the money being used to fix our banks. The worse the national debt becomes -- $11 trillion now, and increasing owing to Washington giveaways -- the more the economy will soften over the long term. It's long-term borrowing, not short-term Wall Street mood swings, that ought to worry us, because the point may be reached where we can no longer solve problems by borrowing our way out."


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Right Again

I recently wrote that if Barack Obama loses in November (which I don't think will happen), that his loss will be blamed strictly on racism, not on the fact that he has entry-level qualificiations. Friends, I give you John L. Smith's column from this morning..

Not to get too boastful about it, as my line of reasoning is the only possible way it could go. Racism by whites is rightly condemned. Racism by and for blacks is called Affirmative Action.

Three weeks until Election Day. Can't wait.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ta(l)king Stock

Saturday morning should always be the time of the week when you're thinking most clearly. OK, that may not be the case if you have kids circling you like you're a totem pole, but out of the seven days/three parts of the day scheme of things, Saturday morning seems the best time to get some thinkin' done.

I was out walking Maverick this morning and thoughts drifted to the stock market, the economy, and why this week happened. I may be wrong, but I think that this week saw the single biggest percentage drop in the Dow's history. I don't get why it's happening, but that's not important. The important thing is to take advantage of it while it's happening. Co-workers were a little puzzled as I cheered the Dow on to losses of 777 and 638 points on Monday and Thursday. I didn't cheer in a rah-rah sense, more of a quiet little, "yeah, alright" way of acting. Stocks go down and stocks go up. Those that don't panic always win. That's my way of thinking, so I'm not going to get all out of sorts. I'm certainly not planning on hanging up the mic and going fishing soon, even though I think about it every day. Still, I'm a little concerned. Why?

Because people as a whole aren't patient anymore. We now live in a society where we can get everything almost instantaneously. We want the reward, but we don't want the risk. Investing is not a game, yet in the age of E-Trade, playing the stock market has become equivalent to managing your fantasy football team. If something's not working, you don't wait for it to turn around. You dump it immediately. If you can make a nifty little profit, you quickly sell and move on. It's been shown for decades that a calm, principled investment strategy yields the biggest return in the long run, but in times where we want it all, and we want it now, will that strategy hold for the future? I'm banking on it.

In the meantime, here's a conundrum: Since more people seem to be buying foreclosed homes, such that the number of existing homes sold is on the rise, can the foreclosure crisis actually solve the depressed housing market? If so, things indeed will come full circle.

UPDATE: My mom seems to be cancer free. Excellent news. Now if she can just stop tripping and falling into the oven door while trying to pull out a frozen pizza (true event), things will just be the tops.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Just Waiting...

It seems like a good time to post. Pumpkin won't be home in an hour, and I've got some down time. Laundry's almost done. I'm bordering on having a productive day.

I'm waiting for my mom to call. She was supposed to call by 3. It's almost 4:30. She's supposed to learn how bad the cancer is today. She was also supposed to learn yesterday. And the day before that. If the cancer doesn't get her, just the stress of what the diagnosis will be just might. I've tried calling her and the line is busy, so my concern is growing.

One of the advantages of having a blog is that you get to blow off some steam you otherwise might not have the opportunity to do. It was especially useful during my period of unemployment, where my dog was a good listener, but hardly an opinionated equal. I guess there's a bit of an advantage when it comes to personal stuff, too. My mom might call me and say her cancer is stage four and she has six months to live. That may happen this afternoon. Yet, I doubt that anyone can tell that I'm troubled, based on my outward appearance. That's where this helps.

It's kind of a private diary, but at the same time, it's open to anyone in the world that can connect to the internet. It presents my innermost thoughts in the most outwardly manner. Blogs make private moments public to all. Hopefully, those that read this can get all their updates here so I don't have to talk about very private things. I have no problems typing about things, just talking about them. In that way, this blog is invaluable.

Still no call.

That movie "Quarantine" looks pretty creepy, doesn't it?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Recession Obsession

I've been looking at my last few posts. Real cheery stuff. Sorry about that. It's a Sunday morning, it's 60 degrees, the coffee's warm and the air conditioning is finally off. All's well.

I was out for much of the day yesterday, just going here and there. Much of the news this week has been on the so-called "bailout" package that passed in the House and Senate this week. Many of the politicians and pundits are saying we're in the worst economy since the Great Depression. Some observations from yesterday;

The gym was packed. Obviously, people who are soon to be homeless via foreclosure still want to look good. That's a plus.

There was a healthy line at Fatburger. Most of the tables were occupied. It looked to me like everyone had their own meal. Heck, more people had thick, frosty shakes than didn't! Then I remembered a piece that I read that said the economy is making people dive into fatty comfort foods more than ever. They're eating to escape the bad economy. Obviously, except for me and Pumpkin, these weren't the same people I saw at the gym

After Fatburger, it was off to the mall. I wanted to get some nice duds for the new gig. It sure was hard to find a place close by to park. Bright spot: I walked off my Fatburger combo. Then I remembered that people are "comfort shopping" to take their minds off the.......anyone........? Bad economy, right!!. By the way, I got two pairs of shorts, a nice shirt, nice pair of pants and a belt, all for around $40. Gotta look where the deals are, my friends. Maybe people are waking up to the fact that paying $80 for a pair of slacks is simply asinine.

Later, it was off to Von's for some grocery shopping. Not many people there, which is normal for a Saturday night. Here's the thing. For being in "The Worst Economy Since the Great Depression", the store shelves were awfully full. I wanted for nothing. Total number of people begging for bread outside of the store: 0.

Just for fun, I drove past an Outback Steakhouse and a Buffalo Wild Wings on the way home. Both parking lots were packed. What the hell is going on? How can everyone be out spending money when I keep reading that they don't have money to spend?

Politicians and pundits claiming this to be the Worst Economy Since The Great Depression show an alarming lack of historical knowledge. There are no bread lines. There are no great migrations of people looking for a better life. John McCain has taken a lot of heat for saying that the economy is "fundamentally sound". What the critics conveniently overlooked in that sentence is the word "fundamentally". The basics of a free market economy are fundamentally sound, certainly more so than a socialist-based system. As is bound to happen over time, sometimes the system needs repairs, and that's when checks and balances are instituted. That's where we find ourselves today.

It's no different than when laws are passed following a tragedy. In light of the Metrolink train crash in L.A. last month that killed 25 people, railroad workers can no longer text or use electronic devices while piloting a train (the engineer was sending texts and missed signals that led to a head-on collision). A law developed from tragedy. The economy is similar but on a much larger scale. There are periods of good times, periods of great times, and periods of bad times. Bad times are needed to create longer lasting good times, as wars are sometimes needed to create longer lasting peace.

I've rambled long enough. I'd go to the Original Pancake House at Green Valley Ranch for breakfast, but I'm guessing at this time of day, it's something like a 45 minute wait. Damn economy.