This economy is a what?
Replaying 1929: Business, Financial, and earth change news
Updated: Saturday May 17, 2008, 2008 07:55 -- CDT
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Lame Duck, Oiled
An urgent email from my commodities broker JB about 11 PM last night titled 'Heads Up!" got my attention. It was a link to Jim Sinclair's excellent web site that came out just a few minutes earlier and it read in part...
In case you didn't notice the Friday action in the precious metals, gold was up more than $20 an ounce on the spot market and silver was up 29¢. Silver is now just a few cents under $17 and gold is back over the battle line at $900. So what's going on?
We have to look at oil; it is, after all, the lifeblood of the modern world. Everything is driven by oil in some form, or another.
In the Friday commodity action, oil bumped up very close to $128 a barrel (42 gallons, remember) and this couldn't come at a worse time for American families thinking about vacation plans for the summer. Gasoline and diesel are both over $4/gallon in many locations. Even here in 'oil-rich' East Texas, Elaine was shocked when she went into town this week and had to fill up our relatively high mileage farm truck. "I just stopped when it got to $80!" she reported.
I reminded her of Pappy's old saying: "It doesn't cost any more to run them full." Besides, with the price of oil going up so fast and furious, the gasoline you buy now might be one of your all-time great investments. Who knows what the prices will be like in a week? I just don't see it getting any cheaper and that gets to the heart of this morning's tale.
The financial press is full of reports about the George Bush Middle East trip. He went to Saudi Arabia (after speaking in Israel Thursday) and essentially begged the Saudi Royals to cut the US a little slack: Either lower prices a bit or raise production - and it would be darned nice if they'd do both.
The response Bush got was not what the White House or the republicorp were looking for: "Saudis see no reason to raise oil production now" proclaimed an AP headline. So much for begging.
Behind the scenes, some sources in the oil industry are hinting that it may be more correct to says that the Saudis can't raise production even if they wanted to as a gesture toward the US. Why? Peak Oil. Recall that Peak Oil doesn't mean the world is out of oil, it simply means that we are not able to get it out of the ground any faster than we did a year or two back. There hasn't been enough exploration, new equipment brought on line and so forth.
Hence, Peak Oil results from aging equipment meeting up with oil fields that are, in many cases, well past their peak. I've recommended you read oil financier Matt Simmons PowerPoint's every time they come out - it's one way to see what's being talked about at the boardroom level of the oil industry.
In his latest report "Oil and Gas "Rust" - An Evil Worse Than Depletion", Simmons lays out the inevitable result when Peak Oil meets aging equipment. To borrow a couple of his bullet points from slide 26 "Declining Oilfields Accelerate Rust":
On the following slide #27, a worry-inducing presentation gets downright scary as Simmons says that based on April 2008 figures from the Energy Information Administration, world oil production peaked in 2005!
The Bushco neocons, republicorps, and corpgov have had a pretty good run during the 28 years that a Bush or Clinton has been present in the #1 or #2 spot in the White House, while the religious right was taken for a ride by political hacks who could "talk the talk, but not walk the walk". Managing to create a series of serial bubbles in financial instruments, the internet, housing, and by trumping up a war in Iraq under false pretenses of "weapons of mass destruction", they have pretty well run out of ways to keep the game going.
Save, of course, going to the Middle East and begging for a little mercy.
A couple of decades of being a reporter of one form or another has left me wondering "When does a political office holder really become a lame duck?"
If, as our predictive linguistics friends expect, the earthquake in China set a 7-10 day temporal marker before the next round of US Dollar Collapsing welling up in global consciousness, then next week we should see while acceleration of gold and silver to the upside along with an answer to the question "When does lame duck status occur?"
It's possible that it just happened.
Collapse of the Paradigms
We're still a long ways from the emergence in most people's lives of the "word for the year" [transformation] that will sum up how the world changes in 2009, but already we can see some of the paradigms beginning to teeter.
Columnist Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal this week about the falling fortunes of the republican party (the republicorps around here) and calls it the "Pity Party".
The concept of 'blind obedience' and 'following orders without questioning them' has come to the fore with solider Matthis Chiroux refusing to serve in the "illegal Iraq war".
Against this backdrop of news events, a thoughtful person could sit back, gaze into space and reasonably ask "Where would a planet in this kind of condition likely end up?"
I don't know about you, but the answers I'm coming up with make me want to "go spquirrel". Collect those things that will allow us to provide for loved ones no matter what the next chapter brings, and at a minimum we know it will be some kind of 'transformation'. The only open issue is "How much pain/discomfort/ and dislocation will accompany that?"
Damn Dams and Water
It was only a week ago that we were warning of Wedding Quake - and sure enough, the Chinese earthquake certainly pushed the Jenna Bush wedding off the news channels in short order as the scope of damage became obvious. This weekend, there are reports that bvesides a death toll that could top 50,000, "Thousands of Chinese quake victims flee possible flooding" amid concerns that dams in the region may burst.
The predictive linguistics hold that some kind of a global coastal event is due next spring (March/April 2009) so we have to wonder if something like a catastrophic bursting of the Three Gorges Dam would qualify? It certainly might raise sea levels globally a bit, but would that be enough to qualify linguistically?
You'll be pleased to know that your weekends in the future will be a bit longer. Seems that as global warming raises the ocean's levels, it slows down rotation of the earth every so slightly. But before you start the party, remember that it also makes Mondays longer, too.
The weather this weekend is set to warm up - record temps are due in the West -- causing some concern among our friends that there will be only two seasons in the future. Long cold winters and long hot/dry summers.
And what do you suppose happens where the hot season collides with remnants of the cold season? Tornados:
What we forecast back in January to occur in April seems to be spot on. From our Coast To Coast 2008 predictions posted on January 2nd of this yea for April 2008:
That only leaves me wondering whether the veterans group taking over the National Archives building in Washington a while back was "it" for the veterans taking over a public monument, or whether it was a temporal prequel with maybe something else to happen later in the month; say around Memorial Day weekend? Such is the fuzziness of virtual time machines.
Maybe we'll all be saved from Al Gore's over-hyped Global Warming by volcanic ash. There's new rumblings in Chile's volcano district this week. The Kilauea volcano has prompted a smog alert in Hawaii. Volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula (Siberia) are pushing ash a couple of miles high (albeit ignored by the global-warming crazed MSM). And Sicily's Mount Etna continues to spout lava.
The White House is making the usual blustering noises about the new Farm Bill passed by the Senate. it would increase subsidies to farmers and the WH bluster is that in a time of soaring commodity prices, farmers shouldn't get a boost in supports.
I'm a goat rancher (in the herd-building process with 11 animals now) and I have to tell you the White House and Bushco simply don't get it. Agricultural input costs are doing up dramatically! The goat feed that I was buying last year for $8.50 a bag had already gone up to $10 this year, and we just got word in the past week that the next shipment of feed will be going up to $11.50 a bag.
That's a 35.3% increase in my feed costs in less than a year! It's not like goat herders are the Lone Ranger, either. The folks who raise cattle, plant row crops - we're all feeling the bite. So when the WH says no to supports, are they trying to dry up food production - which will in turn drive prices even higher from where they are now?
This is typical of the kind of half-think that comes out of Washington, as I see it. Although I still make enough money helping clients build profitable businesses that I haven't looked at support programs -- yet.
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Coping: OOPS!@@#$%^ Transformation - Not "Transition"
I should not write in a hurry, nor early in the morning, it seems. The word which I told you yesterday was "transition" for 2009 is not that word at all. A note from chief time monk Cliff explains:
Yeah, I knew that...and I'd offer as an excuse only a lack of sleep (or more likely a lack of coffee...) for snoozing through Friday's proof-reading. If the truth were know, there's little time for proof-reading around here and the fact the site gets done most days is a free-standing miracle in its own right. But duly noted and corrected.
A reader asks:
Yes. To draw a wider conclusion would be like suspecting that there's a link between me wearing a blue shirt on the same day there's blue in the sky - one of those 'bound to happen things."
Send snip and save ideas/comments and letters to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Around the Ranch: Radios
I will have my ham radio gear fired up on 3860 KHz (LSB) this morning at 8 AM sharp if anyone wants to talk with AC7X, give me a call.
Otherwise, tons to do - and a good breakfast awaits...
My main internet pipe is almost back up - but another radio is on the way. The one that was installed by the broadband crew on Friday isn't delivering a full 1 mb downlink speed. In testing overnight, the uplink speed hit as high as 5 mb thought - so hopefully we can get that set up to be a little more symmetric...
If you ever want to test your up and download speeds click over to http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/ and try looping back through several different servers...
Next week, Peoplenomics will be into it's economic groove with a survey of ways to get rich in theses times. But what will life be like on the other side of an economic calamity? While we're waiting to find out this week's report is a short "quickie overview" of basic tools that may come to play an important role in your life, even if you never thought of yourself as "handy". Hard times might make being "handy" a very useful thing indeed, as the people in the Southeast found out this weekend as tornadoes came calling. Part of our 13 Acres and Independence project, a short chapter on the basics of how to make almost anything and under almost any conditions seems a useful thing indeed. If you were too busy learning computer science, accounting, or day trading skills to take the industrial arts courses (especially wood shop and metal shop), here's a 'quick start' I hope you'll never need...
Spread the Word
UrbanSurvival has a very interesting business model - one that depends on growth. So even if you don't subscribe to our premium newsletter at www.peoplenomics.com, please tell everyone you know about this site. The more this site grows, the more everything grows and the more content there will be on the free site... Click here to send 'em an invite... Thank you!
Better Living on Less Dough
There are lots of ways to save money on food, shelter, transportation, and such. It just takes a little reading and one source of good ideas is our handy ebook "How to Live on $10,000 a year or less. Still just $10.
I promised Elaine that I would unload some of my equipment, so if you're looking for ham gear, especially the older tube-type (EMP resistant) type, send me a note and I will send out the list of what I'm selling off when I get it together. Click here to Put Me On Ham Gear List
Friday May 16, 2008
The Middle East Simmers
George Bush was in Israel this week for celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the country, and a speech to their legislative body. In the wake of the trip, Israel says the "US sees need for 'tangible action' on Iran. From Israel, Bush is off to Saudi oil talks that will focus on the two P's in oil: Price and production.
Meantime, Iran has continued its belligerence. I mean besides leading the efforts to get neighboring Arab countries to reprice oil sales in something other than US dollars (namely, Euros), the headline "Iranian defense minister: Israel too weak to attack" is further evidence of a serious miscalculation by Iran's leadership.
While Israel I think has only once admitted to having nuclear weapons, my personal 'best guess' is they probably have about 300 in their inventory now, and that's before buying or borrowing from the US. What Iran doesn't seem to believe is that first use is an option on the table for the West because any fallout from use of a bunker-buster could be partially shielded by Western claims that any radiation release was from targeted weapons programs, not first use. And that kind of debate would be even more fierce than the one over what the real story behind 9/11 - and about equally conclusive.
Looking ahead, I expect that we will see a return of "war premium" into the markets and a resumption of the dollar's decline before the end of next week, which should set the stage for a violent commodity resurgence. This morning, I note that at press time, gold has been perking up a bit and oil is back over $125.
If indeed we hit the time monk's return of dollar woes in a window 7-10 days after the big China quake we forecast last Friday, then by this time next week, the dollar's resumption of a long downward slide should be apparent. With that will come more economic pressure on the West and that sets up an attack on Iran by late summer (if not before) and would leave the time monk's forecast of a mid-late August revolution in Pakistan on the table as what might be considered an attack on the West's flank. Oh, and a handy source of nukes and missile technology, too.
The Runs: Marketing
This left Hillary out of the fray, so she jumped in to criticize Bush's remarks, thereby scoring some ink in places like the Wall St. Journal's site.
The thoughtful person, with a little broader perspective, would likely marvel at how well the PowersThatBe are orchestrating these 'emotional hot buttons' of the American Public to keep us from realizing en mass what there is not alternative to the corpgov slate. And the MSM Blogs headline things like "Ron Paul loses worse than even Obama in West Virginia".
The power of the MSM continuers to deteriorate along with falling ratings. Nowhere could it be more clear than as the "Senate voted to roll back media ownership rule." In other words, media concentration - a hallmark of the Powell days at the FCC - is in trouble. Not a Big move, but a move toward broader discussion and away from the previous media concentration of power track.
Numbers, Numbers & Housing
While the Middle East continues to swirl around like a bad stew on a low boil, the economic situation in the heartland of America is not improving fast enough to bring relief to the pressured middle class. "Metro foreclosures show no sign of slowing" in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution summarizes things.
This trend, reports USA Today, has led to "Cities sue home lenders" over the skyrocketing foreclosure rates. The Triangle Business Journal up in Wisconsin says foreclosures are up 40% and it's much the same in broad areas of the country.
The reality of foreclosures aside, the Housing Starts report this morning was up more than forecast and that led to a short pop in the US dollar.
The foreclosures and the starts being up is not as contradictory as you might otherwise think. The increase was in apartment starts - meaning people who will go back to renting instead of flipping to own. Single family starts were down to a 17-year low.
50K Quake Dead?
Wry Universe: Dams, Redux
It's often curious to see how concepts pop out of the archetypes as rhymes with historical events as we read the headlines. For example, when reading the China dams story (above), my eyes were drawn to a headline about how the "WWII Dambusters raid" was being recalled on this the 65th anniversary of the bombing.
So, if you are keeping precise track of such things, write down in your 'news grand grimoire' and cyclical archetypes cookbook that if there are any humans left in 2073 (e.g. 65 years from now), they should be watching out for dam stories...
In our 'dots to connect' pile this morning we are trying to fit the Fox headline "German archeologist on trail of Ark of the Covenant" with this older book review on the American Mason web site "Fabulous Kingdom: The Exploration of the Arctic"
I don't know why, but a scaled up version of "National Treasure" comes to mind with something other than the Charlotte and maybe to the extreme south rather than extreme north? Ponders....
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Coping: The 2009 Word of the Year
I don't suppose it will hurt to let the www.halfpasthuman.com "word that describes the year' for 2009 out of the bag - a few people have guessed at the word and it should come as no surprise when I tell you what it is:
So, if you want one clue about the future - how to plan, what to expect and so forth, just remember that word.
OK, what kind of transformation? Ah...
If you're a long-time reader of this site, or of the premium newsletter I publish called Peoplenomics, you won't need to guess. Just a scan of Peoplenomics topics should give you some ideas. Here are a few:
So if you asked me what kind of transitions are likely ahead in 2009, I'd answer that just about everything is going to change - so get ready for a ton of transforming into whatever life is supposed to be like next. Rehousing, relearning learning, recovering from a much lower market/lost retirement plans, intermittent power, and oh yeah, higher fuel costs will cause blow-out protein prices. Got any investment grade canned salmon stored?
A thoughtful reader (who's obviously in the "I get it!" category), sent this:
I have added a link to the "Transition Towns WIKI" to the left menu of this site right under the useful Solari Action Network and other sites such as Jim "The Long Emergency" Kunstler's www.kunstler.com.
If you look for a common theme that the writings of chief time monk Cliff, Catherine Austin Fitts, Jim Kunstler, and a host of other writers who live '10-minutes to 5 years into the future' have, it's the word "transition". And in 2009 the odds are looking like at least half the planet will be participating in a major transition of one sort, or another, like it or not.
Ready? Got a garden in?
Send snip and save comments to email@example.com
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Around the Ranch: Lightning, Part Two
It turns out that not only was the lightning through East Texas bad enough to take out one of our phone lines this week, but it also cut off our Big Pipe onto the internet. The crew from East Texas Broadband (normally a very reliable service) came out on Thursday to help plumb us back to the backbone of the web.
No soap: The lightning apparently took out the electronics in the microwave transceiver that hooks us up - so we will be back on the Big Pipe later today when new gear is Fed'exed in. If this morning's column seems a little short, it's that WildBlue's satellite transit times are a bit frustrating to us hyper-clickers.
Thursday May 15, 2008
One Great Company
Readers often accuse me of being a 'naysayer', a 'doomster', and a lot of other descriptors that go to the idea that all George ever does is complain about the economy. Not so! There are still a few great companies out there, or at least companies which are making a sincere effort to be great - and succeeding to the point where if I was buying stock, they'd be a company I would give serious consideration to. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.
As you know, the predictive linguistics have been warning for better than six months that this year would be one where 'winds would gouge' and there'd be untold damage from them winds. As if the cyclone in Myanmar, where heavy rains but no second cyclone threaten, was not enough, there's a disaster declaration for Ottawa County where the town of Picher Oklahoma was pretty much sucked off the map. Slides in the Tulsa World's web extra today will give you a sense of it.
Amidst the line of severe thunderstorms that went through the lower Midwest on Wednesday was enough rainfall to almost overnight put Tyler, Texas -- our nearest official climatology site --- back up to seasonal averages after being something like 25% behind for the year just a week ago.
If you tried to load this site on Wednesday morning, you may have gotten a "Sorry that page not available" error a few times because we also suffered through a major line of thunderstorms and 2" an hour squalls in our area south of Tyler and north of Palestine, Texas.
That's where the story picks up.
Coming from a corporate strategic planning background and living on a sailboat for 10-years has ground into my head the importance of redundancy and multiple fall-back plans. This morning, for example, this report is being brought to you courtesy of our WildBlue satellite backup system because our local private microwave shot into the internet is down due to storm damage.
One of my phone lines also went down. When you "live out at the end of the string" having redundant systems is really worthwhile.
Naturally, when the phone line went down, I called the local dial tone provider (Embarq: NYSE: EQ) and this is where it gets amazing.
First off, because of all the storms this week, the call volume into the Embarq trouble reporting office was high and the ACD system message warned me that it might be up to 10-minutes of wait time. It turned out to be about 7 1/2". Good so far.
Then, instead of getting someone in India named "Bob" working for 45 Rupees an hour, I got an obviously bright well-spoken woman in the Embarq Illinois call center. You could have picked me up off the floor, at that point. Amazing! An American F500 corporate with US-based call handling. Hmmm...
The conversation was a delight. The call center woman was courteous, friendly, and when I was told "Someone will be out, but it may be as late as 7 PM tonight..." I was happy. After all, one of our lines was still up, so I figured "Cool... I can live with this."
Imagine my surprise when not an hour later, in fact is was 56 minutes by the clock on the kitchen stove, I got a call from a service tech. "Hi - This is Jim from Embarq...I just got your line fixed... While I was working on it, one of your buddies called and I told him to call back in about five minutes so we could finish our testing."
I looked outside, and sure enough, there was an Embarq van in the driveway, and Jim, bless his heart, was standing out in the rain on his cell phone calling me on what minutes earlier had been a dead phone line.
"What was it? Anything on my end?" I asked. "No, just some lightning had gotten into a pair down on 441...but we got you all fixed up...but any problems, be sure and call us back, ok?"
I was floored. This was remarkable. 56-minutes from the start of the trouble call to the system fixed and politely turned back over to the customer - why, that's unheard of! Absolutely the best definitive customer service experience I've had in years.
Not that Embarq is perfect mind you. I still can't get DSL out here at the end of the string, despite promises that have sounded eerily like the Caribbean phrase "soon com, mon..." fating back to when we moved up here in early 2003. I've given up waiting on DSL, though, and cobbled together a more expensive redundant microwave and satellite system as a solution.
But, on the other hand, Embarq just last month got me to drop my AT&T unlimited long distance calling plan as well. Not that it was a huge savings: Something on the order of $15 per month per phone line. But, with two lines and 12 months, $450 back is enough to make me switch.
So here's the bottom line: As usual I'm skeptical of many things in the economy, but when a company gets something absolutely smack-dab right and exceeds customer expectations, something should be said. So if you work for Embarq and you know how to get hold of Jim who works in the north Palestine/Montalba Texas reason, tell him thanks again. If you don't work for Embarq, but know someone who does, congratulate them.
Oh, and if you work for any of the other 499 companies in the S&P 500 with the offshore call centers delivering mindless empty customer service scripts? Here's you 'excellence' benchmark.
Has George awakened as a positivist? Not hardly. Still the same old cynic: The odds of the majority of the F5000 getting good enough to fix what ails us is pretty slim. But there is still some hope, so we fight the good fight another day....
As was mentioned in the predictive linguistic forecast we posted last Friday and Saturday in advance of the big quake in China, we were expecting to see references to dams. Today, we're seeing that in spades, however, the Big One that I'm watching for is anything having to do with Three Gorges. Death toll is just under 20,000 from the quake and still rising.
Fallout to watch on the commodity markets, perhaps: China has halted aluminum and zinc plant operations in the region.
In the forecasts, the "Global Coastal Event seems to be our in the March - April 2009 period, and whether Three Gorges letting loose would qualify as a global event is highly speculative. But while the smaller dams are making headlines, you won't find me in the flood plain of three Gorges late Q! or early Q2 of 2009...
The Runs: Edwards for AG?
With the presidential voting months off, we should note today that John Edwards has thrown in with Barack Obama over what's her name. The way I have this figured, being an attorney as he is, this might line Edwards up for either a VP slot or at least as attorney general in the Obama White House, should the cards fall that way.
First He Sells Gold...
One time chancellor of the Exchequer, prime minister Gordon Brown is vowing to fight to hold onto his country's leadership post as the economy in Britain has turned about as sucky as here in the Colonies.
I suppose the question boils down to how dumb are the Brits? Their housing market is described as being the "worst in 30-years". Then again, I suppose here in serial bubble land, we have no place to criticize.
"So How Bad Is It?" Department
Industrial production and capacity utilization are due out from the Fed today with Housing Starts due tomorrow. But, I'm still reeling from the headlines that would have us believe that "Slowed inflation surprises experts".
I've been doing some research into how this year looks and here's what I found using the government's own - unadjusted - figures:
When we add these up, we get 1.8% unadjusted for the quarter. Pushing this out over 12 months it's a 7.4% annualized rate.
It's not like I'm the lone voice in the wilderness telling youi this. CNNMoney headlined this week that the "Economic 'misery' more widespread" than is being reported. It's a good exposition of how the government figures are jiggered to make inflation look more benign than it is - and they also mention the 'core rate' charade, like food and energy costs don't matter.
Others are picking up the cry, too. The Christian Science Monitor, for example. Maybe the best headline to bottom line the outlook came from 'This is London" which distilled it down to "Bank of England warns 'The Good Times' are over". While their headline referred to the UK, it sounds suspiciously like the outlook around here.
The Post VCR World Shift
Apparently, someone at CBS is 'getting it' about the new media revolution. CBS is buying CNet for $1.75 billion. TV viewership is still down following the writer's strike, as we reported earlier. And what's this? "ABC Building Emerging Media Labs to Track Ad Viewership" says AdAge.
My personal outlook for conventional television is pretty bleak. How many readers who own TiVo setups actually watch commercials? How many people are sick of 20% of their screen being taken over by the crap in he lower right corner that pimps the next show up or some other blather?
Most dangerous thing for old line media defenders of the paradigm is commercial free content off YouTube - and it's going to dawn on someone, one of these days, to put out u7ltra low-cost subscriptions to something like a year-long series delivered via YouTube.
The technology is there. The content would be edgy. The whole thing downloadable and with PayPal and electronic content delivery options like www.payloadz.com it's only a matter of time.
In the meantime, there's a hell of a big opportunity for someone to flatten the traditional video content distribution system so that it goes more directly from content creators to the consumer instead of being marked up by the multiple layers in the mix now....
The Middle East Super Bridge
I haven't heard much about the "Bridge of the Horns" project between Yemen and Djibouti until a source tipped me off to it in an email this morning:
Meantime, I wonder if the project will result in the Middle Eastern version of the Florida Keys?
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Coping: And Now What?
A couple of UrbanSurvival readers got together for dinner this week - both well-educated types and chatted about the world for a few hours and what's ahead when present trends are projected and barring some miraculous change for the better. Afterwards, an email:
I'm sorry I wasn't able to make that discussion - sounds like a good one. Not many people are well enough read to cite Nok. A read of Tainter (Collapse of Complex Civilizations) is a good start, though.
So yes, let's throw it out there: What's the right path for those who see what logically follows once the TV is off, the power's down, and food no longer plentiful enough to justify garbage disposals?
Video of the Day:
Homegrown Revolution: Radical Change Taking Root
I tell you endlessly about why it's so important to grow food. Here's a video that makes the point better than I can: YouTube Link.
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Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday May 14, 2008
Building Tensions, Costs of Living
In a moment, we'll get to the Consumer Price Index figures out this morning, but before we do that, some straight talk about what's going on in the economy right now. Bear in mind that the CPI is month-old data. That's an eternity in fast trading.
From where I sit, it looks like there is a huge 'tension building' in how prices are worked out in the markets.
For example, the price of oil has continued to climb, shattering a connection between oil and gold that used to make some sense. I'll show you what I mean with a couple of headlines.
MarketWatch notes that "Oil closes higher after tapping a record near $127". This is a worrisome headline to be sure, and it's gotten enough press and phone calls from constituents of Congresspersons that the nation's legislators have actually voted to stop filling the strategic petroleum reserve for a while.
This much I can understand. Oil is going up because of demand, and it can only be pumped from fields at (or past) peak production just so fast.
But then I go flipping around the headlines looking for some explanation of the weak gold and silver prices. What do I find? Take the headline "Gold hits one-week low on dollar; physical buyers emerge". Pretty well sums it up.
Let's assume for a moment that gold has fallen because of the strengthening in the US dollar. How much has that move been?
As I write this morning, Kitco was showing the price of gold around $863. Then, when we hit the charts section of Kitco, we can see that gold recently (a few months back) had been up around $1,020 on a momentary spike on March 17th.
Bear with me because this is going someplace.
The way I read it, gold has come down 15.38% since its highs. Yet, in the same period, oil has moved up smartly. I go over to the commodity charts and I see that Crude for June was around $108 in the same period, while this morning, crude is around $125 and change.
Here's my point: Given that gold really means something (and we can argue all day about that, I suppose) then how high could crude spike if it turned out that we are in an inflationary world thanks to all the Fed money-pumping that's been going on?
Well, let's start with $125.50 and add our 15.4%, just for chuckles. I get $144.82, which in George Land is close enough to $145 to $150 oil that I am now planning for that.
And the implications for gasoline? If you are paying $4.00 for gas now, add at least another 15.4% on it and what do you have? $4.62, but that likely means a spike to $5. Oh, and everything you buy will have to take the higher price of crude into account. That means inflation, at least till we get to the market collapse phase in the fall, should start inching toward double-digit rates.
With oil up despite gold being down, something's going to have to give. And guess who's going to be doing most of the 'giving'?
7.44% Inflation Rate: Consumer Price - Duh!
OK, no surprises here, except maybe that the inflation number is so officially tame:
You can pencil out the 6-10th's of one percent in a month unadjusted as well as I can - but the headline writers are saying things like "inflation pressure ease despite food price jump". Really? On what planet?
Remember, oil prices can take up to 60-months to work all the way through the economy. That's five years.
This means the Fed almost certainly can't cut rates any more so look for a bit of market turmoil and traders reposition for inflation, I expect..
Bad to Worse
Winds of Wrath
While the Chinese quake survivors seem to largely own the MSM's attention, the view here is toward another wind-driven event that looks to be readying for Myanmar, or near there. A fresh cyclone (the Pacific basin's version of a hurricane) has significant development this morning. 'Them winds' continue to cause problems in the mid-section of the country this morning with severe weather and tornados likely in what has been a record year so far - and it's far from over. Horrible night on the ground in Missouri last night and even here in East Texas I was up at midnight-45 making a backup of critical data.
You might be asking "Why, George - you've got terabytes of backup...?" Ah. Read up on the impacts of lightning (as I did extensively when we lived on our sailboat) and you'll find that one of the last effects of a close hit for a ship is it can seriously screw up a ship's compass to the point of useless. Got that? High magnetic flux. So, rather than take a chance, I backed up the really important things to CD in addition to the automatic back-ups to multiple hard drives on and off network. CD's are more robust around magnets...
Speaking of the Chinese quake and aftermath, we're starting to get good linguistic 'fills' on things like the 'damaged dams' part of the forecast. "China quake weakens Sichuan dams and cuts off river" advises on report. As usual, we're not surprised.
Despite the really crappy spring in the Pacific Northwest, the water situation in California is looking dicey as ever. In fact, in the East Bay area (Alameda and Contra Costa counties) water rationing goes into effect today.
Eight nearly simultaneous bombings in India have police questioning a lot of folks today, but my bet is on extremists who will use the attacks as much for marketing purposes in stirring things up in Pakistan over Kashmir, as anything. The bet being hedged by linguistic hints about attempts to overthrown Pakistan's government in a couple of months.
Whipping Up Worry
Although I'm not concerned about a new 'attack on America" (at least until this fall), George Bush says if the democrats actual did end the War in Iraq, it would 'embolden terrorists" and would raise the risk of attacks on the US itself.
Barack Obama's comment that John McCain is running for George Bush's third term seems pretty much on point.
The Runs: Clinton's Win
I imagine this morning's briefing would have to include mention of Hillary Clinton's win in West Virginia Tuesday. I kid my friends from West Virginia that local politics is not that hard. you just have to get one really rabid supporter to get all their relatives to vote the same way... That usually results in me rediscovering the same expletives are used in W. Virginia as elsewhere.
We're On Drugs
[ rimshot ] But seriously, folks: The reports are out that over half of Americas (at least those who can afford health care) are on some kind of continuing medication. A testimony to either the marketing prowess of the corpgov pharma division or a genuine move forward for health care - choose one.
So how did this happen? Marketing. And, with marketing goes gifting. And now we read how the Senate is in the profess of watering down the rules on the kind and value of "gifts" that health care folks can receive from drug makers.
With elections coming up (wink win, nod nod) the country needs to have a little less regulation in this area it seems. Say wot? Oh? What's this? A nice pharma check for the campaign this fall...why thank you! No linkage there, I'm sure...
The very fact that the Catholic Church now says that aliens could exist seems kind of interesting. First, because it sets the stage for further disclosures about UFO's and their presumed occupants.
But more curious is the timing, given that NASA is holding a press conference this afternoon to announce some startling new findings. And those would be?
Someone already broke the embargo, so the topic of today's news conference is that "Astronomers Find Youngest Supernova Remnant In Milky Way".
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Coping: Knowing When to Fold 'Em
I hold to a very odd view of life - one that says, in effect, that this life is a kind of spiritual school and the Universe will put everything into the classroom any of us need to learn whatever lessons we're supposed to get out of this experience.
I'll show you what I mean by sharing a letter from a reader (name of course not given to assure privacy):
One of my favorite stories is about the devout Christian who finds his home is being flooded but decides based on his understanding of the Covenant about Floods, that he's going to make his stand at his home and wait for Divine intervention.
The water rises to the porch level and a rubber raft with sheriff's deputies comes by and offers him safe passage to high ground. "No, I will wait for God to save me..."
A few hours later, the water has risen to window height and a Coast Guard boat comes by, again offering safe passage to high ground which was declined.
With the Believer perched on the roof to escape the waters, another rescue boat comes by offering safe passage to high ground - and is refused a third time. "OK, but we're the last boat" they told him. "No, God will save me..." and off the boat went.
Finally, standing on the very peak of his roof, angles in the water and still coming up, the Believer cries out "God, God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
The skies part and a voice booms down from Above:
"What do you mean? I sent three boats!"
It would be pretentious of me to try and tell you which lessons you have selected to learn in this life, but I'd encourage everyone to have a good attitude, a can-do spirit, and a sense of adventure. Life's gong to get real boring when you get planted six-feet under, so why waste a minute of this one?
That may sound a little strong, but I've had a marvelous life full of adventures. Disc jockey, radio engineer, newscaster, news director, pilot, college president, airline VP, strategic planner, all kinds of things, including lately as a writer of things newsy and economic.
Behind it all? A sense of curiosity and a willingness to pick the low-hanging fruit that is put before me.
If some circumstance manifests itself in your life, the only sensible question to ask is "Will doing this make me happy? Will do this somehow work off some bad karma from past deeds?"
The answer to the Big Questions usually make the smaller choices easy.
send snip and save suggestions to email@example.com
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Around the Ranch: Google Hacks
One of the subscribers to Peoplenomics sent in his renewal this week with a book titled "Google Hacks", published by his employer (a hint here).
Recommendation? In a world full of more data than information, a copy of it would be a great investment. Have the world at your fingertips is fine and everything, but being able to get right to the heart of things is invaluable. More Info.
Tuesday May 14, 2008
Tuesday's Trio of Terrible Tolls
There are days that being a news/financial writer is not any fun. Most days, it's intensely interesting. You get to see the things play out as you've written and forecast them, usually much slower than you thought, but in the main it's pretty interesting work.
Then there are days like this one: The toll reporting. Call it "Tuesday's trio of terrible tolls" - here goes:
The death toll in what's now tagged as a 7.9 earthquake in China early Monday is expected to exceed 10-thousand. Perhaps by double...there's just so much damage to be cleaned up.
Just in time for the next quake, a reader has sent us a link to an antipodes map online. Kind of neat. We're about opposite the area in the Indian Ocean where new land should be popping up one of these days.
The death toll from the weekend tornadoes is up to 22, and other media are starting to report that 'them winds' we've been talking about for many months are now on a record pace. Yeah, we noticed.
And on the financial side, we're probably really close to a high for the dollar in here, with a return to much lower levels only a couple of weeks off. And the driver, you're wondering? Take your pick, but how about this headline from the NY Post: "CDO Debt could pose renewed danger for banks" for starters?
It ain't over till the fat lady sings, and as best I can figure, she won't even see the sheet music till late 2009.
Mixed Retailing Numbers
It's the old goods news/bad news thing again. Good? Wal-Mart profits way up. Bad? Retail numbers down a bit:
Hey, Big Spender
Yes, despite the talk about budget restraint and small government, yada, yada, yada, the gang that doesn't think straight has made the Biggest government ever. Hand me the checkbook, would yah?
The Runs: Hey Big Spender, II
What kind of president would what's her name make? "Clinton status puts focus on her $20-million debt" says one headline. Gee, you think she might spend more than the nation makes as president? Lemme see: Clinton going in hock and McCain blowing by campaign finance law limits...fine choices, no?
Wholly Holey Texas
That sinkhole up northeast of Houston (and 30-miles from a UFO sighting on April 30th at Baytown) has continued to grow.
Quick, Looked Surprised Department
Pakistan Heads Up
Not that it will blow up all over the TV until mid to late August, but we're starting to watch headlines out of Pakistan like "Dispute over judges deepens rift in Pakistan ruling coalition." It won't last. Not past fall, it seems...
No sooner does the 13,680 acre wild fire in New Mexico get off the crawlers than it's replaced with homes being torched and scorched by wild fires in Florida.
Several hundred people have been arrested/detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Iowa. The lead in to it was the take over by the feds of the National Cattle Congress fairgrounds a week or two back.
News tip: When you see the fed take over a facility for 'training' purposes, watch carefully. This time it was 'illegal immigrants' that were targeted. Dry run for larger events in the future?
On the other hand, the headline "53 illegal immigrants held against will in Phoenix" sort of misses the point that we have immigration laws, and with laws comes enforcement, doesn't it?
Inbox: Depression Studies
Good note from Jas Jain this morning:
Jas an I may have our differences on the how and the when of getting into the Greater Depression. But we don't argue on the if part. I expect we'll all know why by Christmas.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes in the UK Telegraph today that "The global slump of 2008-2009 has begun as poison spreads". Like I said, it'll be more obvious by Christmas. Which is why we'll probably buy one of those $50 converter boxes instead of a new 50" LCD marvel, tempting as it is.
You no doubt are wondering, "If this is a replay of the 1930's George, where are the bank closures and bank holidays?"
Did you miss the run on Northern Rock last fall? The 'forced takeovers orchestrated by the Fed? Did you miss the bank closing and takeover in NW Arkansas home of what Mart? Did you miss the Father Burke Credit Union being closed down by the Feds this week in the Bronx?
Close enough to a replay for me,
thanks. Even though another big bankruptcy in the banking
world feels close. Mid summer?
The Great Unraveling
This from a reader:
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Coping: Power of Media?
Recently, a long-time UrbanSurvival (and Peoplenomics) reader decided to move to New Zealand. He simply sold off his home in the Chicago land area, and off he and the family went on a big adventure.
Every so week or two I get a phone call from him - and it has been intensely interesting to hear his experiences. Moving to NZ, he reports, has been a good thing in the main, but of course there are missed friends stateside and such. But, on the whole, it's been a really positive experience.
Food is not cheaper, by the way. New Zealand exports enough of it's excess food production that residents pay world market prices for almost everything.
One of the topics we have touched on is 'when will be the right time to buy a house?" Real estate prices have been coming down in New Zealand, just as they have darn near everywhere else. And it seems, they may continue to generally track real estate here, although with time lags and what have you.
All of which is background that gets me to an interesting article. "Media can send real estate into nose dive" says a Kiwi media report.
This report, as you might expect, has stirred up quite a controversy, although frankly, it's a bit like a chicken and egg argument as we see it.
(We like New Zealanders a lot, but they may have a bit too much time on their hands because they argue points like whether the city of Whanganui would be spelled with, or without, the 'h'. It would be like me spending weeks figuring out if one of the 'e's in "George" is superfluous. Does it really matter? Microsoft has already decided the issue, after all - my spell chcker in Word 2007 says there's no 'h'. Deal with it.)
I don't expect it will be 'prime time' to buy a home in most places again until as late as Q1 2010, but that's stateside. Overseas, like the disclaimer goes, "Your results may vary."
Still, a great 're-balancing' is underway, it seems. Housing is coming down, while (at least in the short term) food, gasoline, and health care are going up.
That's the point that chatting with one of New Zealand's newest residents keeps reminding me: Inflation (report due tomorrow) is not so much an 'in your face' thing yet. It's for now a rebalancing. Less money for housing (as prices come down) and more money for gas and food.
How does one build the subliminal advertising like that link to a YouTube outing of a McCain presidential campaign subliminal? An industry insider offers instructions here, fre:
Remind us not to use subliminals, OK?
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Around The Ranch: Floating Your Boat
Chief time monk Cliff has an extra boat for sale. Since we've seen a 'global coastal event' coming for a couple of years, Cliff has taken to boat making. He's currently working on a complete rebuild of what he describes as a Bolgerized Sharpie. It will be along the lines of this, but with lee boards, to make it easily beachable.
That means his earlier work, a one-off Umiak, is for sale.
So here's where you come in: Do you know of anyone who would like to buy a remarkably well-made 26 foot (or there abouts) custom Umiak? Would make a fine display piece in an upper end store (green marketing program) or, it would make a dandy 'survival boat'.
The umiak is a lot of fun to paddle, reports our chief time monk. Because the skin is flexible, it adapts to waves and paddles remarkably well. Even with one person and a large dog, it only takes an inch or two of water.
So, if you have an interest, it's in the $6,000 range. Delivery in the Pacific Northwest could be arranged, but beyond that, shipping would be your issue.
Still, a really neat boat and even though we're at 600 feet of elevation here in East Texas, I'm keeping my eye open for a floatie boat myself. After all, when the 'global coast event' shows up, I'd just as soon not be treading water. And, since it's been in model space so long, it's bound to be a significant event, but how deep? No clues.
Send me an email if you're interested in more details. Subject line Boat: email@example.com
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Monday May 12, 2009
Oh, THAT Quake
If you read our report on Friday or Saturday, you no doubt saw that the time monks and I were expecting a massive earthquake about coincident with a "big wedding" along in here. While the Jenna Bush wedding Saturday night in Crawford, TX, was about the biggest high profile wedding we could find, we didn't rule other another high profile wedding, such as the Ashlee (with Jessica doing maid of honor duties) next weekend..
I know, you're thinking, "You guys didn't really say that, did you?" Well, yeah, we did and you can click here to review last week's report/forecast.
All this goes to underscore the problems associated with divining the future out of language shifts on the internet - there's just so much going on that linguistically, things for the balance of the year, things just keep getting hotter and hotter.
To put it another way, when a pond is really calm and glass-like, a small to medium sized rock thrown into it causes easily discernable ripples. Right now, modelspace which has in the past been relatively calm, is looking more like a bowl of spaghetti with crosslinks all over the place from this entity to that, just that tearing it all back to 'reverse directory' look-ups gets difficult. Close is good. Especially when it's a ripple from a small pebble thrown into what looks like a hurricane-tossed sea.
Not that the time monks were as concerned as me about the 'Saturday night' window: They have the attitude that "If George can imagine it, that just about ensures that it won't happen because Universe is never that clear...". Fast forward to this morning...
A "Powerful Earthquake Hits Western China" reports the NY Times. This one is a 7.8, which is plenty to do significant damage and go into the books as one of the biggest of the year. Things are bad enough that officials including the premier are rushing to the scene where aftershocks are continuing. Death toll is already well over 100 with many more expected.
The timing of the quake is close to the Bush wedding. The knot was tied, as best I can figure, around 9 PM Texas time Saturday night. Here's the official run-down:
So now a bit of gnawing on time and location.
The timing of the quake was 06:28 UTC this morning, which is 1:28 AM here in Texas. That means, if the coffee has soaked in well, that the quake was about 28.5 hours off from the wedding.
But more importantly, the concern about how the quake was placed hyper-dimensionally should be noted because our concerns were focused where a quake might have hit in the US. Just to give you an idea, the quake in China was 31.1 N and 103.25 E. Had the quake hit at 31.1 N and 103.25 WEST, that would have put the quake out 25-30 northwest of Fort Stockton Texas, and just for the record, that 31.12 North location in China. Crawford Texas is about 30 miles north of 31.1 North, by the way.
So, some interesting proximities, but not a direct hit. But, then again, for a project that costs no tax dollars and is done, as we are ever so careful to acknowledge, by a couple of nutjobs with a bunch of server, it's close enough.
Memes: "Them Winds"
If you've read this site for any length of time, you'll also appreciate that we've been going on endlessly about the 'gouging the earth' and the damaging winds ("them winds") in modelspace for the better part of six months - maybe it's been longer.
As the National Weather Service preliminary chart from the Storm Prediction Center graphically points out, this is far from a normal year for 'them winds':
Tornados over the weekend in the US are world news, with aid being rush to storm-ravaged states. Things were so thoroughly destroyed in one town (Picher Oklahoma) that residents may not even bother rebuilding.
While the death toll from the weekend storms was 23 at last check, hopefully people who have suffered home damage will find this weekend's Peoplenomics report ("Shops, Tools, and Makings") encouraging and helpful in reconstruction decisions and such.
Memeering: McCain Subliminals?
A number of readers have sent me links to the YouTube video which purports to show subliminal messaging (outside of a paid commercial) being done by a NY Fox affiliate. While we have no knowledge of the veracity of the claims, the video is certainly interesting, to say the least.
While the problems the McCain bid has coming are likely to make this a moot point, it is nevertheless disturbing and deserving of questions being asked. Don't hold your breath, though.
The New Media Stomp, Redux
"TV viewership still down in wake of 100-day writers strike", says the headline. Say, you don't think this smacks of a little corpgov blame-shifting, do you? I mean, it couldn't be that people are sick and tired of being force-fed pabulum/lowest-common-denominator mindless sitcom and survival slop, do you? Naw, tell me it ain't so....
10-years of living on a sailboat have left me well supplied with Polartec -- but who thought I would be breaking out a Polartec jack to walk over to the office from the house halfway through May in East Texas??? It was 42 degrees on two digital thermometers and one analog backup this morning.
You can do the research yourself, but what I did was head for the Weather Underground's climate data for nearby Tyler, Texas. Shows that we've had more heating days and less cooling days than normal. Places like Seattle are running well ahead on heating days.
Now, I don't have time to do the learned study of such things, but Chicago hasn't needed air conditioning yet this year. And in New York, both heating and cooling days are down from 'normal'.
May not last long, although it's been a wonderful spring so far: The National Weather Service has a heat warning out for the LA Basin for later this week. The record shows that it's been a cooler than usual winter in LA, so far, though.
While efforts to 'sell' global warming continues, I keep looking at the pictures from the Chaiten Volcano area of Chile and wonder how much smoke and ash are these going to put into the atmosphere, and what will be the impacts on the Southern Hemisphere's crop production this year if we get some serious cooling as a result?
Oh, boy, are there numbers this week. Not today, unless you get off on the Treasury Budget updates, but tomorrow we get import/export prices and retail sales. But, the BIGGIE is Wednesday with Inflation/CPI numbers. Then on Thursday, Industrial Production comes out, so the markets will have much to consider.
In the UK the producer inflation numbers are out and wowzer, the sharpest increases in 22-year will likely put the brakes on the Bank of England from lowering rates.
And, if I read the G.19 Consumer Debt report from the "Fed" last week right (which showed debt going up at a 7+% annual clip) then we have plenty of inflation to look forward to here in the good old US of A.
My continued bets on inflation before deflation, that I reiterated last week, drew a note from my deflationist pal Jas Jain when I wrote:
The scary thing is that over time, Jas's view and mine are converging: Not that the world will 'end' in 2009H1, but based on linguistics, market dynamics, and just common sense (a lack of musical chairs left on the Fed's version of the Titanic to save the next Too Big to Fail bank?) next year will be a fine time to have laid in your supplies, have reduced debt to manageable levels, and to have a back-up plan to share housing and all the other things that a Depression implies. And as Jas has already done, be in government bonds.
You don't think the timing last year of the limit on personal buying of Savings Bonds at $5,000 per social security number imposed at the end of last year was coincidental, do you? LOL. The PTB know what's coming and they have chained the doors well in advance of the bonfire of the equities.
No, Gold did not hit $2,000 an ounce in April. But the year's not over and I am still long commodities and metals. I'm betting inflation will reveal itself/rear its ugly head in the Wednesday CPI report. We shall see...
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Coping: Too Hard on the "Fed"?
I get emails all the time from people who take me to task on this economic point of order, or that, and many are off-put by my harsh view of the Fed as a scam to allow the Banksters a chance to charge America 6% for handling its money every year, as CONgress seems to have abdicated on this - along with a host of other powers.
Nevertheless, in an effort to be fair, a reader sent this is and I think you'll agree, it makes a good point:
I do a lot of promoting of "do it yourself and save at least half' and I'm not the only one who has figured out the value of hard work. Here's an example email on point:
There's a pretty decent shopping list for tools in Peoplenomics this week. More than anything, working generally has a much higher payoff than sitting on your butt watching TV. It's the height of absurdity than people go to gyms a couple of days a week and the pay people to wash their cars. I never have figured that one out.
Send snip and save items to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Around the Ranch: Ham Net
We only had 2-3 stations show up for the Saturday morning ham net this week. A good part of the problem was propagation. The bands were in lousy condition.
On the other hand, there were a couple of really neat ham radio things that did happen over the weekend. One was a major victory in solving a problem with one of my vintage tube-type radios. Turned out to be switching issue.
But the other one, well, it doesn't get any better. Talked to a ham out in California who's semi-retired now, N6ECE. Turns out he was a triple A ball player and used to play at the old Sic's Stadium down in Rainer Valley in Seattle where there's a big hardware store now. This is a fellow who I watched as a kid when he was playing ball. Darned nice hobby, when you can meet up with and chat with folks that were role models back in the day.
So, what hobby did/do George Pitaki, Chet Atkins, John Sculley, Walter Cronkite, Ronnie Milsap, Patty Loveless, Joe Walsh, General Curtis LeMay, Stewart Granger, Dick Rutan, Art Bell, Gary Shandling, and King Juan Carlos of Spain, have in common (Answer if you need help).
Passings: Doctor Ronald Parise, Friday May 9. Payload specialist on STS 35 (Columbia) and STS-67 (Endeavour). Better known as WA4SIR in some circles; now, a 'silent key'.
Before the chart, a little background:
Once upon a time, a long while ago, I observed during my quest for 'truth' in economics, that the powers That Be, the talking heads on the teeve, and the other information sources that actively engage in the programming of humans not to think, had conveniently swept several trillions of dollars that disappeared in the Internet Bubble's bursting (since spring 2000) under the rug. Surely, it wasn't unnoticed by the thousands of people who called brokers and said "Where is my money?" "Gone, but hang in there as you're a long term investor!" was about all they heard back.
But, the truth of the matter is that this chart shows what your account would look like if you have taken a few thousand dollars and invested equal amounts in the Dow, the S&P 500, and the NASDAQ Composite in the waning days of 1999. It's not a very pretty picture, and it sort of gives away the other side of the story. You know, the one that no one has an interest in telling, because it's a truth which shows the amazing coincidence of the timing of 9/11, the disappearance of naked shorting evidence and all, along with the impact of The Wars which have managed to keep the economy out of an earlier depression than the one expected by me by late 2008.
No, it's not a perfect replay of 1929, but history doesn't repeat exactly, it only rhymes. So think of this as the rhymes and the crimes chart:
Write when you get rich,
George Ure, The People's Economist
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