Updated: Saturday, January 8, 2005
on Web Site
Confused by Search Engines?
Read our book on Using Search Engines
Inaugural Day Protest Planned
It's peaceful, easy to participate, and getting tons of play around the net this weekend. Here's the email passed on to us as a news tip:
We note that millions can be counted as taking part in this protest without even realizing it: The sorry state of the economy limits spending at close to zero most days anyway...
Ain't Technology Grand?
Letter of the week from a reader who noted our piece on microwave ovens interfering with warless links like the one built into our recently acquired "would-have-been -a-desktop-on-steroids-last-year" notebook computer:
Truly another reader who "gets it." If you're new to this site, run out and buy a copy of Joseph Tainter's seminal work, "The Collapse of Complex Societies" as a backgrounder. Amazon also lists some other titles to think about adding to your reading list if you are beginning to wonder if there maybe aren't some logical limits to complexification of life here on the small planet:
Remember, we're not Latter Day Luddites around here. Rather, after reading Tainter's book (a couple of times now) we have to wonder what future archeologists will think as they go through our landfills and find our technological remnants. From the Recycle Minnesota web site, http://www.recycleminnesota.org/Buy%20Recycled/computers_3_7.html " we read that
Hallelujah, will this make for perplexing archeological digs in a few thousand years. Like the old saying goes, World War III will be fought with nuclear missiles and bio-weapons. World War IV will be fought with sticks and spears....
South Pole Trouble
Nothing in the Western Press about it, but there's a report out of Russia that they have been called in to help clear a path in the ice to trouble McMurdo Station (curiously, mentioned in a ham radio reminiscence this morning) http://www.whatdoesitmean.com/index656.htm Viruses? Amped by mutating on cosmic rays? Leaving McMurdo? We can't tell is it's true, but then that's what the balanced and what's its news media are supposed to be on top of....right? UPI/ Washington Times has now picked this up... http://www.theatlantic.com/r/4mqwiin56No%3D%0A along with Interfax News Agency: http://www.interfax.ru/e/B/0/28.html?id_issue=10737539 Oh my....problems way down under...keep an eye on this one...
Weekend Reading Assignment
Nothing "Comic" About It
Haven't seen the Mexican invasion comic book yet - which teaches Mexican nationals how to steal their way into the United States? Well, click aqui, compadre: http://www.amren.com/mexguide/mexguide.html Now let's be clear on something. I'm trying to point out the pathetic response of the Bush Administration to this totally unsatisfactory. Filler stories - like this one : LINK - are obvious attempts to defuse the issue. Please, the American people are not so stupid.
Anyone who has spent any time in the Southwest knows that reconquista (the re-conquest of lands the U.S. bought from Mexico) is official policy of Vincente Fox and his pals. Ross Perot was right about NAFTA, which in my book means something like "Normal Americans ('effed') Totally Again." And if you like that, you will love the Free Trade Area of the Americas which is corporatist for "("effed") Totally Again and Again...
Want to see your future standard of living? Look at Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. This is an invasion to steal jobs and someone is not Defending the Constitution here....
Spare Me the Optimism
OK, this morning the latest jobs report was issued by the ever optimistic Labor Department. Here's the Gospel according to them:
More from the Bureau of Labor Stats web site at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
Not for a dime's worth of analysis: The unemployment rates, as percentages of the workforce are identical to last month with the exception that teenager unemployment is up and minority unemployment (like Hispanics) is down a bit. Not what I would all overwhelming progress. In case you haven't done the research, go look at how long the rate has been stuck around 5.4%.
Further, the employment picture should be massively better than it is because there are at least a quarter million direct jobs that have been created by the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Count soldiers and civilian contractor both at home and overseas. Starting with 150-thousand jobs among National Guardsmen and their replacements.
Want more? OK, sure. Over at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t12.htm we can look at the Alternative Measures of Employment. Here we see the number of people unemployed 15-weeks or longer has dropped off from 2.2% to 1.9% of the workforce. Did they find jobs? Probably not. The Department stops counting once unemployment bennies run out.
I don't mean to rant like the Mogambo Guru here (although he does give good rant), but if I can get you questioning the real meaning of the numbers, then today's column will be worth something. Hey, I like the fact that the Department doesn't seem bothered that 5.6% of the workforce was holding two jobs in December in order to make ends meet.
An hour into it, the market was sliding back down again, maybe I am not the only one who can read - the numbers were below the hype level - so now that the last of the suckers have been brought to the long side by this one, I wonder what the next stick in the back-side for the sheeple will be?
Reader Feedback: "George, if the current workforce is no larger and alot of folks are employed by war related industries, then my conclusion is simply that w/o war alot more folks would be unemployed...markets would tank..." Yeah - that's my rant, too... you got it.
Iraq Sucking Up Manpower
Not only is the war gobbling up the employment problem which would be posed if all National Guardsmen were at their jobs, but there's also the huge number of Army Reservists. Now, the Army is looking to further extend their terms of service in the war zone: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6796861/ And yes, this will further help the "stuck at 5.4%" unemployment picture.
We also see a retired four-star general being sent to Iraq to help assess the situation Story. I'm sorry, I think we can get a very good idea of how the war is going by reading the foreign press reports. Here's the real deal: Time Magazine this week it out when the truth when they report at http://www.time.com/time/election2004/columnist/klein/article/0,18471,699348,00.html on Bush's Iraq: A Powerful Fantasy.
The chances of an honest and meaningful (meaning people in country will buy into the outcome) seems to be lessening by the day. The leadership is welcome to send in all the four-stars they want, but the linguistic shift in the web bot (internet language sweeping technology) employed by our friends at www.halfpasthuman.com has been saying for months there are hot spots around concepts like "bloody retreat" and such. Selling Western-style democracy to people who have lives at the very ragged edge of survival for hundreds of years is a tough sell. As we learned in taking on the Soviet Empire with television, first you need televisions and people watching them...
Are We Really Free?
Medanwhile, the Arab press is having a field day with the hypocrisy involved in us (as in "the U.S.") trying to pimp Western-style government to people who haven't needed it in the past. Specifically, they are pointing to a report that says the U.S. is no longer one of the 10 "freest" countries in which to do business: http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/1049E17F-AA74-46E3-BFDF-D65F7E6C4310.htmUS Not that this surprises us, we are living in the Republik of Kaifornia for the moment...
Run Off River
Lots of pictures on the tube this morning here in LA about the heavy rains that started up last night - this is the first wave of wet - with a second one due in about Sunday as a Pineapple Express hits the West Coast (remember my tip about next week be watching the Weather Channel, per the web bots?) Well, this looks like the START of the fun. The local run-off river that from from the hills through Burbank up to Glendale hits speeds of 30-miles an hour - amazing. There's a 20-foot berm that's been bulldozed into the sand at Seal Beach (south of the airport some distance) in anticipation of the King Tide and balance of the storm due in later this weekend.
If you were using the recent moderation in winter weather as a chance to lay in some profits with declining oil prices, you might want to rethink that bet after reading about the weather up in the Northeast: http://www.kansas.com/mld/eagle/10585057.htm Not that one cold patch makes a trend, but it's still a risky gamble in our view.
Inside Report this week goes into a discussion of how even moderate climate shift can be devasting - subscription info.
We Now Return to our Regularly Schedule War
You'd think that when a country gets its ass kicked by a killer tsunami that there would be a certain "coming together" of opposing forces to help rebuild. Well, that's over in Sri Lanka says this BBC report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4155003.stm
Outing Project Blue Beam
Say, here's a goodie from our Houston Bureau: Ever hear of Project Blue Beam? Apparently, it's a NASA project to get the whole world to thinking about an "end of the world" event - in order to put down the foundation for a worldwide religion that would be controlled by (surprise, surprise) the Powers That Be! Hmmmm....Check it out - lots of articles emergent: http://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=my_mod&p=Project+Blue+Beam
Monsanto Bribery Case
Squeaky clean corporate behavior? Not exactly - especially when it comes to trying to influence a scientific study on the impact of genetically modified cotton on the environment: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4153635.stm
Here's an interesting observation from Elaine - who will likely start updating her site on a daily basis next week: The number of headlines about GM foods seems to be declining. Either the hush-money is in (big networks are reluctant to run stories which take on big advertisers) or people just plain don't give a damn anymore. We've noticed it, too. Less mention of GM food issues as the worries about terrorism have been hyped by officialdom.
Microwaves and Wireless
OK, here's this morning's weird computing tip: If you are operating an 802.11 wireless card, and you are operating in the vicinity of a microwave - and you are making something in the microwave (like a big thing of coffee, for instance) then don't be surprised if the microwave keeps your wireless link from working well at low signal levels. I found that out this morning when I was hurrying to prepare today's report - and was making nuke coffee at the same time. Son of a gun of the microwave wasn't putting out enough off frequency noise to mess up the front end of the built-in wireless card. Turn off the microwave and the link works - turn it on and poof - the link blows up.
Ain't that a hoot?
The Digital Lifestyle
My run-in with the microwave today is nothing compared with the series of glitches that Microsoft boss Bill Gates runs into - almost traditionally - when he gets up to intro new products at places like the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas this week - even the Chinese Press get coverage of this one: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-01/06/content_2427502.htm Gate's comments about a "glitchless digital lifestyle" are music to our ears - and we'll believe it when industry doesn't go pushing interference promoting technologies like broadband over power lines (BPL) which is a disaster for ham radio operators and AM radio users - along with more simple things like leaky microwave ovens (story above).
Tsunami Help from Hams
I know that you may not have paid attention over the years when I have repeated over and over again a simple bit of Urban Survival advice. But let me give it to you again because millions have never given it a though: When the crapolla really hits the fan, like it did in the Indian Ocean with the tsunamis, what's the only kind of communications that keeps on working? Answer: ham radio. Here are a few stories that ought to convince you that whether its terrorist or natural disasters, there's nothing that works as well has ham radio:
http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-01-05-voa24.cfm "But within hours, Bharti Prasad put up her radio with the use of a hotel generator, and reached out to other ham operators. Soon she and six colleagues were conveying thousands of messages to and from the islands. "
"Ham radio provides the missing link." http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/978465.cms
"Ham radio to the rescue in tsunami-hit Andaman" http://athens-olympics-2004.newkerala.com/?action=fullnews&id=53736
I won't go into a huge sales pitch here, except to summarize several points:
It's something to think about when the kids come along and say 'Hey Parent: I want you to buy me a cell phone..." You might want to answer: Go get a ham license and skip the monthly fees... see www.arrl.org for local clubs and how to get started. You could become part of the group that knows that 73 DE AC7X means. But even if you don't, you'll know why Elaine (KG4YHV) and I both have VHF handheld units and a globe-spanning HF radio in the car. Would you really live in LA without ham radio?
The first time I saw the value of ham radio was when the fellow ham down the street ran hundreds of phone patches from 1964 Alaska quake victims to families and friends "outside." Whether it's a tornado back in Texas or a killer quake here...its only a matter of time till the units will prove their worth again...as they have in tsunami country over the past week or two.
Update: 1200 EST
We have been properly outraged for some time about the lack of security on the Southern border of the U.S. with Mexico. Stories of OTM's (Other Than Mexicans) coming in by the thousands, - and God knows how many al Qaeda operatives among them - are only one point. But now we have evidence that it's the official policy of Mexico to send unarmed invaders into the U.S. as reports of a "how to cross the border" comic book have surfaced: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/page1/2978207 The pamphlet is called "Guide for the Mexican Migrant"
It's common knowledge that the Bush Administration's home state money boyz have been lobbying for weak border enforcement - and although Border Patrol has good people employed, they are really hamstrung by limitations from "above".
What's most outrageous about this is that the so-called "balanced" and "fair" media are staying away from this like poison. The reason? There's so much money being made in the illegal immigrant business (try building a house in the Southwest using U.S. residents only, to find out) that everyone is turning a blind eye.
It worse than stinks. Especially when wrapped up under a liberal banner of "in the name of safety." My foot. It's an invasion and Bush is doing nothing about it because of the Big Bucks involved.
If Israel can build a wall, why can't America build a legal one along our more porous border?
So Where's the Growth?
I wanted to watch the action in the market this morning a bit before launching into my latest rant - because the market is trying its best to break a three game losing streak. But while the streak may be broken today, there's a serious question that most investors don't think about - namely, where are future profits and growth coming from?
Here's an example: We find a story about "solid retail sales" for December at http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/050106/retail_sales_4.html Admittedly, a lot of stores did have decent increases in numbers. But are we talking about dollar valued increases or that much more physical product?
The reason that I mention this is that the 12-month seasonally adjusted M-1 (the narrowest measure of money in circulation) was up 6.2% from November to November - and I'd wager that come the end of this month the Dec-Dec numbers will be up something like 6.4%. http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h6/Current/
Now, when you read the hyperbole about growth in retail, remember that almost no one admits that the money chasing after goods and services has an impact on reported sales. But if you think about it, there's a serious question here about the insidious effects of inflation. And, just to round out the rant, if the interest rate paid (like the Fed rate) is less than the increase in printing press speed, you can rest assured that the dollar's decline is not over yet.
I expect more than a few folks down on Wall St. have figured this out, which may explain in part, why the market has unloaded a bit over the past few days and may very well continue that trend, if not later in today's session, then almost assuredly later this morning.
A number of people sent me the story from the Seattle Times http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002141092_storm05.html that said basically that we have a nasty convergence of winter weather ahead this week. One or two wondered why that was of any particular significance, and the reason is that it was in the web bot run of a week earlier. It's the getting a bead on stories ahead of time that make the bots so useful. Now, you see why the Weather Channel will be so useful about next Monday or so...
I had an email from a reader today who asked: "My ears have been ringing again a bit - not as much as before but a couple of rings yesterday and the day before."
Answer: May have been something to do with the 6.2 aftershock in Indonesia this morning or the 4.2 that we had this morning here in Southern California: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/recenteqsUS/Quakes/ci14116972.htm http://www.trinet.org/shake/14116920/intensity.html (it will take a while for the data to appear, but it should show up here shortly). Either that, or you're getting a cold, having a bout of high blood pressure, or you need to hear some loud ZZ Top.
But seriously, one of the nail biters here is that we wonder whether the recent rains in Southern California will set up a big quake here. Rain percolates down into the soil and changes the friction coefficient between layers...
In the event of a quake, my ham radio call sign is AC7X and I will be at 14.300 MHz +/- 10 khz looking for someone to make a couple of health and welfare telephone calls to the ranch, my mother, and our kids.... I only mention this in the event that this morning's shaker is a precursor. event.
A reader writes: "Saw that EQ within first 15 minutes. Went back and counted that Fontana has had 19 EQ albeit smallish since January 1st. But the EQs seem to be increasing in intensity and frequency. Just a nudge to keep alert. Did you feel it in Burbank?"
OK, truth? Absolute truth? I was sitting on this porcelain fixture at the time and.... Honest, that's where I was at 6:35 and no, I didn't feel it....hell of a timing call, huh?
Good BBC article on Tsunami warnings: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4149009.stm Here's one from us: The real impact of the Tsunami will be felt in 3-6 months as the countries of Asia spend some of their national income on protecting themselves and rebuilding. As this happens, the amount of money available to invest in war-payment driven U.S. bonds will dry up and it's at that point that the dollar slide will likely accelerate.
Is the U.S. Army running out of bullets? Well, yes. And to make up the shortfall from all the shooting in Afghanistan and Iraq (and soon, other Middle East nations, we're afraid) we've signed an agreement to buy bullets from Taiwan: http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/D7F24758-F512-4E94-AFD2-0898FA33448B.htm
Now, I don't know about you, but don't you see the great irony here? The U.S. is becoming dependent on Taiwan while the mainland Chinese are rattling sabers about how Taiwan is really a renegade part of China herself? What a supply cluster-eff! Think about this: All China would have to do is take over Taiwan and not only would the U.S. be reduced to a nuclear/navy response, but at the same time, the Chinese would take out some portion of the U.S. ability to shoot when our Marines went marching ashore to try and retake the place. Can you say "Ooops?"
On the other hand, where can we get bullets from in Asia? South Korea is not particularly enamored with us, and all the spare workers in India and the Philippines are already employed doing technical support for U.S. Software firms!
Here's a saying from an email from one of Alex Merklinger's buddies that spring to mind: "Tragedy + time = comedy."
(more after some coffee - there, that was good )
Gold Debate Challenge
From Business Wire:
We will let you know if we hear a response from the other side on this... this would be one hell of a discussion if it ever comes about. I don't know about you, but wouldn't this be the kind of thing that would deserve national coverage on C-SPAN or PBS?
Our friend Jim Kunstler has his 2005 predictions out at http://www.kunstler.com/mags_diary12.html. Jim's view is always refreshing because he sees the world through similar eyes to our own - with the future of America in smaller cities which are constructed in a walkable manner. Not that towns in Texas are particularly walkable (most have loops around them that would be a half day hike) but they are small and there's plenty of land to put in gardens and so forth.
Something for you to ponder in 2005: If guys like Kunstler have moved to smaller towns (under 100,000) and folks like us have bought small farm/ranch places (13 acres or so) in rural areas and with reports that British Columbia mountain property up nearly 50% in a year, so you think there's maybe some incentive to start seriously looking at places like www.unitedcountry.com and see if there's maybe something you might want to invest in that will have potential for appreciation even if gas goes to $10 a gallon? We managed to buy our plot sight unseen: http://www.independencejournal.com/buyfarm.htm thanks to the marvels of digital cameras, online topo maps and such.
Car Sales Slowing
It may be China where car sales are slowing, but nevertheless, its something we expect to see spreading over the next couple of months - car prices coming down in 2005: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-01/06/content_2422569.htm
Now a confession: I have been looking at buying a socially irresponsible Porsche again. Why? Well, as was the case with both my 911 and my 944, I found that if you buy a 8-10 year old Porsche, with the dollar falling like it is, you can actually get away from the problem of vehicle depreciation. Both Porsches went for basically what I paid for them, less maintenance, which was a bit more than average, but worth it from the "boy toy" perspective.
We have a highly reliable 1999 Daewoo that gets a respectable 28 MPG highway, and Porsches driven at the same speed are a bit less environmental. A 911 will get 17 MPG whether you drive 55 or 90 (trust me on this point) while the 944 sips along at 34-36 MPG at 75-80 (they are really remarkable cars, as was the follow on 963 series).
So far I have been holding myself in check, but oh, it's so tempting when the dollar is sliding to pick up something that will almost certainly hold its price, at least they are two for two for me so far. Besides, is an old turbo Porsche really that much less practical than an SUV? Thinking on this...just thinking...
Keeping the Lights On
If you have $30 and want a year's worth of access to the longer versions of key stories making news, please consider subscribing to our Inside Report series. Subscription Info. Doesn't include web bot runs - see the www.halfpasthuman.com site for that, although we use the runs sometimes for steering our topic selections...
12:15 EST Update
How Far is Down?
Oh, the market slide that is starting could be a doozy - especially if you believe in classical Dow Theory. What it says in a nutshell is that the Transports most times lead the Dow. If this is the case, the past 5-day chart of the Transports - coupled with the fare-war fears breaking down the airlines today, should give you cause to pause before buying in at the present market levels. Not that we offer investment advice - we don't...BUT if we did...
Check the chart at http://finance.yahoo.com/q/bc?s=^DJT&t=5d&l=off&z=m&q=l&c=^DJI for example, and you'll see what I mean. If I were still playing testosterone crazed options trader, I would have shorted again at today's opening hour highs. But coulda, shoulda, woulda. Nevertheless, a reader who suggests looking at Martin Armstrong's classic work, which in 1999 called Monday's high right, gets our gold star of the day for paying attention and 'getting it.' http://www.armstrongdefensefund.org/martypei/buscycle.htm Come on: Why do you think Armstrong is in prison, really?
About that (continuing) Market Decline
If someone were to drop in on planet Earth from somewhere out in the stars, and look at the performance of the stock market, one could almost make out the outlines of manipulation. Although the year 2004 performance of the market pretty much sucked up until about Thanksgiving, things reversed just in time to post a healthy gain for the indices by the end of the year. This had two effects: One was to make some bonus for people in the financial industry, and the other other was to bring thousands more back into the market who had been patiently waiting on the sidelines for the situation to become clear.
The next rather odd event has been the beating down of gold prices by the powers that be - especially curious in light of the fact that at least some portion of yesterday's decline was blamed on inflation fears http://www.nypost.com/business/37644.htm which should have sent gold skyward, not downward, as was the case.
So, naturally I was pleased to receive a note from G. Lammert, our resident fractalist who notes that the market is in a very high risk period for the months ahead:
Of course, Lammert's work is not the only mail from readers offering up strategies. Another reader offered what sounds to us like some of the best strategy we've heard in a long time, offered here for your critical review, but not as a specific recommendation:
The projections, while interesting overall, underscore something very odd here: We could be in a situation where the economy could crash and yet some large portion of the markets could maintain their paper value. Which is not to say you'll be able to buy anything of greater value than today... It's be a fun year, for sure. A flat to slight bounce at the open, but after that today's a crap shoot.
But our main lesson, class, is what? When gold gets it's butt kicked, the Dow soon follows might be one possible lesson to fetch out of recent trading sessions...
Less java from Java? Coffee prices could be going up as a result of damage in Asia from the tsunami: http://www.nypost.com/business/37634.htm
White House Woes
Latest on the nomination of Alberto Gonzalez to become Attorney General is that he had a hand in drafting the contentious U.S. torture/detainee treatment memos - this as confirmation hearings are about to begin: Story
Big Church Settlement
The BBC is reporting that the California Diocese of the Catholic Church has agreed to a $100-million settlement to deal with 87-allegations of a sexual nature: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4147431.stm
The sad stats from Iraq keep mounting up - today's is the passing of the 10-thousand mark of injured: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4147705.stm Officially, 1,300 have died, but remember that there are a large number of dead who are not counted in that figure because they were kept alive long enough to make it back to Germany, or on to Walter Reed. The actual honest accounting of dead may never be sorted out, especially when you figure in the reports of the hundreds of mercenaries who reportedly have died in the fighting and been buried in unmarked graves after being promised big paychecks if they survived.
In country: 22 dead from today's latest car bombing: http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/AD602118-F200-450F-A471-72E651F93D32.htm
There's an interesting story out of Apple on its new Xsan product - which basically allows multiple users access to shared video data files - us to 64 users per cluster: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/1104.html What we think will be interesting is that this kind of high bandwidth access to a storage network could do marvels for the speaker independent voice recognition systems in a couple of ways. First, it could allow essentially multiple accesses to a voice template matching database (which could further improve voice recognition programs like Dragon Speaking, and secondly, on the consumer side, you can almost bet that companies like Avaya will be looking at ways to load more logical branches into SIVR systems interfaced to consumers.... Good stuff out of Apple lately.
How About them Autos?
Good article - but bad news - in the Cincinnati Post this morning about the market share of US automakers: http://www.cincypost.com/2005/01/05/auto010505.html Declining, in case you were trying hard not to guess.
Blown Away by Web Bots
I promised not to reveal the specifics of the current web bot run publicly, but all I can say is WOW! Subscribers to the proprietary run were alerted to a yet-to-develop news story last weekend - and all I can hint at today is to suggest you might want to be watching the Weather Channel this coming weekend and early next week...Amazing technology, truly genius level stuff from my colleague Cliff. www.halfpasthuman.com
The High Cost of Over Spending
The Bush Administration announced last evening that they are working on plans to reformulate how Social Security payments are calculated - that's the weasel-word way of saying that they are planning to cut benefits. http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl/nation/2976442 The idea is that this will be a gradual process, though to anyone with half a brain, it's a further breaking of the trust - just like the Clinton Administration broke faith with the retired military and axed their benefits a few years back.
The facts are simple: The Bush Administration is massively over spending - any sign or pretense of fiscal restraint has become a distant economic dream. We also see evidence of fiscal desperation as the Administration announced under the cloak of the Holidays a big reduction in the Federal Pell (education) grant program - changes that will effectively increase revenues for the feds by $300-million and reduce the number of students and the amount each gets toward college: http://pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/trib/regional/s_288817.html
As one paper reports, the whole thing is a game of fuzzy math with family contributions to education costs based on 1988 tax tables and there's been no inflation adjustment to the basic $4050 Pell Grant amount for the past four years. LINK That said, the Administration needs the $300-million for the war effort by renouncing part of the social contract to help fund education.
Previous administrations had figured that education was a good thing because when a person has a better education, they generally reach higher incomes, and these in turn result in more Federal Income Tax revenues. One could argue that the Pell Grant program made money over time. Not to sound too cynical, but there are reports that students who get smaller grants will get a pitch letter from the military explaining that G.I. benefits help pay for schooling, so why not consider the military an option?
The latest moves with Social Security and education grants gives us a true insight into the Administration's plans. How do they pay for excessive spending and hide what little they can of the newest way to afford tax and spend zeal - the intergenerational transfer of debt?
Still, we can't be overly critical - especially after seeing the huge number of low-mileage SUV's on the highways on our latest 10-day, 3,700 mile foray across the South & Southwest. There's no doubt we'll need Iraq's oil - and Iran's - and just about everyone else's to keep our "suck 'em ups" on the road. Fleet economy standards shouldn't apply to the greatest nation on earth, right? We must be crazy holding out for 28 MPG highway.
But don't take my word for it that oil and military spending are behind the cuts, just read today's headlines...
Does the decline in the price of oil recently mean that the era of cheap oil is not really over? That could be argued by some who are skeptical of the recent pop over $50 a barrel: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20050103.woil0103/BNStory/Business/ More likely, this is just a normal decline in a trend channel higher, aided no doubt by a mild winter which will allow a better-than-normal build of gasoline for the spring, both of which could be good for the stock market during the first half of the year.
So...Saudis Cut Production
The Saudis know opportunity when they see it. With the price of oil dropping a bit due to the winter not being as cold as expected, we see the Saudi's have implemented their promised production cuts: http://money.cnn.com/2005/01/04/news/international/opec_naimi.reut/ It pencils out to a bit more than a 5% production cut.
Baghdad Governor Killed
This is definitely going to put a damper on the promised month end elections: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-01/04/content_2415859.htm It also means the U.S. role in Iraq will have to grow more, as we see it.
Santa and the Web
Figure out Monday of interest: Shopping for Christmas goodies was up 25% online this year according to a report: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2005-01-03-online-holiday-shopping_x.htm All of which we assume will lead to even more battles for web site consciousness come retailing season next. translation: ""Or visit www....." will be in even more ads than ever before.
Cal Weather - Snow, Thunderstorms
Odd weather continues here in Southern California where uncharacteristically wet and unusual cold just barely begins to describe the state of affairs: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=380482 A real treat coming down I-10 from Phoenix, there was a lot of thunder in the Burbank area on Monday evening.
UFO at St. Helens?
Here's a dilly of a picture for you to ponder: http://img129.exs.cx/img129/6664/ufo4qr.png Yes. this has shown up at a number of sites on the net with some analysis - most of which says it's a solid object... Elaine thinks it looks like a cloud. You make up your own mind on this one.
Back in Burbank
We pulled out of Phoenix on Monday morning at 06:15 local time and headed west for the Los Angeles basin. Nothing much notable except gasoline which was 93 octane and $1.87 at the ranch is 91 octane, full of bad-for-you additives and is $2.29 most places here, and it rained a bunch more than normal.
The first financial day of the New Year was eminently forgettable - Gold was under $430 for a while and the Dow dropped more than 50 points. One of the talking heads on Bloomberg or MSNBC has mentioned over the non-trading weekend that January 10th was statistically the biggest land mine at this time of year, and based on how the market did Monday, no reason to argue with that.
3,700 miles of driving over the past 10-days has shown that the situation in the country hasn't markedly deteriorated on the surface, but the erosion you can't see continues unabated. A "for instance?" Sure. The wife of Elaine's Phoenix son has worked in the travel biz for umpteen years and is now going through a home study course in order to become a medical transcriptionist. "Why?" Well, turns out that America West - where she works now, has, according to this street level report, got a group of people from overseas training in the Oakland area in order to take many of the passenger service functions to least-cost countries - rumor is in this case it's the Philippines., But you get the drift, right?
That's why on this week's Inside Report (which I'm writing now) the number one problem to be addressed world-wide is the concept of a global minimum wage.
Without giving you the whole enchilada - the only reason that corporatists are outsourcing the jobs of your relatives and friends to other countries is that people elsewhere doesn't make squat. But rather than pay them the "purchasing power parity equivalent wage" they pay them less and pocket the difference as 'corporate profits.' Sucks, huh?
Oh, not that it's bad if you run one of the fat-cat job jacking outfits - it's just peachy fine. But if you care about the people down the street - or genuinely cared about people in what used to be the Third World, you'd tell them to hold out for U.S. minimum wage - or whatever the local equivalent of $5.25 US Dollars is in the local currency.
I'll get into the Marx vs. Ure stuff on Inside Report, but as a reminder, I have a great great Grandfather, Andrew N. Ure, who was specifically named by Marx as an apologist for the British factory owning aristocracy back in the dawning of the Industrial Revolution.
On behalf of the Ure clan, I'd like to apologize to economic academics for us getting it so horribly wrong back then. It would be like being part of a family that would argue in the defense of Chinese prison workers that "Oh well, it gives them something to do besides serve time..."
News from Elliott Wave International
Write when you get rich,
George Ure, People's Economist
Bulldog Editions when noted are the "early editions". Check back later for a more complete update. Bulletins as warranted. Normal byte times are 8:30 AM (or earlier) CDT Monday-Friday. Weekends as the spirit moves us.