February 18, 2012

Bits Bucket for February 18, 2012

Post off-topic ideas, links, and Craigslist finds here.

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Comment by Professor Bear
2012-02-18 01:23:48

Can anyone offer any hot investing tips for surviving the Fed’s War on Savers?

War of Borrowers Against Savers: News Analysis
A zero percent rate, under strictly limited terms, is about the best borrowers can do under the current financial repression
By Gil Weinreich, AdvisorOne
February 8, 2012

Federal Reserve building in Washington. (Photo: AP) Federal Reserve building in Washington. (Photo: AP)

When Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced two weeks ago that the Fed expected to maintain its near-zero interest rate policy at least as long as the end of 2014, it was the latest salvo in our loose monetary regime’s increasing repression of savers.

Comment by combotechie
2012-02-18 05:14:41

Hot investing tip: Go to cash.

There’s a bit of a shortage of the stuff circulating about.

Comment by WT Economist
2012-02-18 05:42:54

Cash is at minus 2.0% per year in real dollars, as they measure it.

I’m there too, but only because I expect other assets to fare worse, and hope to buy in later. Later being in part when interest rates move up.

2012-02-18 05:52:45

Is it?

Seems to be appreciating at a pretty hefty pace against houses!

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Comment by X-GSfixr
2012-02-18 06:56:29

Minus 2%, when everything else is minus 10 …….

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 07:33:28

“Seems to be appreciating at a pretty hefty pace against houses!”

There ya go. Whether cash is depreciating or not probably depends on what you want to buy with it. Based on my personal observation, it has held up pretty well as of late against automobiles and rents.

Comment by oxide
2012-02-18 19:33:07

Only if you walk everywhere and live in a box, Prof.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 07:31:27

“Cash is at minus 2.0% per year in real dollars, as they measure it.

I’m there too, but only because I expect other assets to fare worse…”

Cash is at minus two percent, and all other assets are expected to fare worse. Something tells me this scenario can only happen in an economist’s universe, as it sounds mathematically impossible.

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Comment by Bill in Los Angeles
2012-02-18 09:13:39

Going to cash is a great idea for those whose income is above $300,000 and who is under age 35. After taxes and expenses it is easy to save half that.

Comment by Avocado
2012-02-18 11:34:57

Me too. But I am sick of the 1% return.

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Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 22:29:11

“Go to cash.”

I have a better plan for my musical household: Go to violins, violas and bows. They cost a bundle, but they provide immense pleasure plus an inflation hedge. And they are one of the few physical assets which tend to appreciate in value over long time horizons with a minimum of maintenance expense.

I personally know two people who did very well over time with this sort of strategy. One was my former violin teacher, who bought lots of bows and violins by young, unestablished craftsmen who were making first-rate equipment. By the time my teacher reached retirement age, some of those instrument and bow makers had established big-name reputations, and the equipment they made had gone up in value by a factor of five or more.

The second case was a cellist in my former string quartet, who bought a Testore cello when she was a student for $5K or so. By the time I worked with her, the instrument was valued at $100K — a pretty good inflation hedge, I’d say!

Comment by fisher
2012-02-18 07:23:53

War on Savers: Friendly Fire Casualties
The merciless carpet bombing of my interest income has had one upside as far as I can tell: guess who *isn’t* paying a big chunk of nominal rate income tax to the US Treasury any more? Hah hah hah! Sorry Uncle Goldman-Sam! Nothing but rubble left here so I’m afraid your revenuer looters will go hungry. I guess you can call it Operation Scorched Earth. Enjoy the march back home in the snow. :)

Comment by Bill in Los Angeles
2012-02-18 09:10:37

Yeah, buy my company stock on March 2009 at $2.00 per share. I got lucky by betting staffing companies will grow during the recovery. It is past $13 and anticipated to cross $16 in a year. They keep posting record earnings every quarter. 12,000 consultants, 1,000 employees. I have over 8,000 shares now at average cost of $4.89.

Yesterday I was not supposed to be paid due to an unpaid week between gigs. I was surprised to see a couple of deposits from my company totaling over $8,000. It is my first real bonus over $250 I ever had. Taxes must’ve been witheld, so it probably was over $13,000.

It helps because I will probably have to move out in six months.

Comment by Darrell_in_PHX
2012-02-18 10:19:05

The real war on savers is when the borrowers simply don’t pay back and the money goes poof.

Comment by WT Economist
2012-02-18 10:45:24

Well that is the point. The money is gone, if it ever existed to begin with. The question is the mechanism for admitting this, inflation or default.

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-18 14:02:25

Pointing out that “on deposit” is not “cash”.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 16:51:59

It’s more complicated than that, Darrell. There is nothing wrong with money occasionally going ‘poof’ so long as interest rates are not manipulated to suppress the ‘poof’ factor risk premium. In the current artificial low rate environment, high risk investments don’t pencil out relative to the returns.

Comment by RioAmericanInBrasil
2012-02-18 11:30:34

Brazil has the highest real interest rate among 40 leading economies


The Brazilian Central bank latest decision to lower the basic interest rate by half a percentage point to 11%, confirms Brazil leadership as the country with the highest real interest rates in the world. An honour it has held interruptedly for the last 23 months.

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-18 14:07:33

Brazilian CPI up around 7% in 2011. Assuming that CPI measures “real” price increases about as well as the US……

Comment by San Diego RE Bear
2012-02-18 14:28:34

“Can anyone offer any hot investing tips for surviving the Fed’s War on Savers?”

Slutty outfits to get the sugar daddy/mama of your dreams? :D

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 01:27:27

Insight: Today it pays to owe money, while U.S. savers suffer

A piggy bank is seen among rubbles that burned during the Station Fire in the Tujunga area of Los Angeles, California September 1, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

By Karen Brettell and Steven C. Johnson

Wed Jan 25, 2012 5:42pm EST

(Reuters) - Sometimes Maggie Smith worries that she may outlive her savings.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling to realize that everything is going up except your income,” said the 74-year-old from Galloway, New Jersey.

Rising home and car insurance costs have forced her to dip into savings which have been earning less than 1.0 percent.

That isn’t likely to change for some years.

The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that it is likely to keep its key interest rate near zero until late 2014. That would make more than five years of rock-bottom rates.

For Smith and other pensioners struggling to cope with inflation higher than the rate of interest they earn on their savings, all of this amounts to, as she puts it, “being punished” for being prudent.

She is a casualty of the Fed’s strategy to keep rates low in an attempt to generate the economic growth needed to lower the nation’s jobless rate. Low borrowing costs also prevent the federal government’s debt burden from getting even further out of control.

Central banks in other developed nations, including the European Union, have adopted similar policies.

Comment by combotechie
2012-02-18 05:20:42

“Today it pays to owe money, while U.S. savers suffer.”

Yeah, that’s the ticket to prosperity, owing money.

Take a look at all the payday loan stores popping up all over the place and check out the high-interest loan ads on TV and decide for yourself if owing money is really what one should aspire to do.

2012-02-18 05:44:52

A friend of mine decided that borrowing every penny he possibly could at 4% was a GREAT idea. After all, inflation would take care of it.

He got promptly fired about a month (unrelated.)

I did not bother with the obvious question, “How’s that loan working out for you, buddy?”

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 07:36:09

“Yeah, that’s the ticket to prosperity, owing money.

Take a look at all the payday loan stores popping up all over the place…”

Sounds to me the ticket to prosperity is owning payday loan stores.

Comment by rms
2012-02-18 09:45:06

Take a look at all the payday loan stores popping up

Few of them remain here in Washington state following a revamp of predatory usury laws.

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-18 14:09:03

Usury is only allowed now by chartered banks.

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Comment by GrizzlyBear
2012-02-18 16:27:51

““It’s an uncomfortable feeling to realize that everything is going up except your income,” said the 74-year-old from Galloway, New Jersey.”

Indeed. I am watching, with great fascination, the spike in oil prices. Not much was made of the 2008 price spike insofar as its effect on the economy, but methinks we are going to be revisiting those very side effects quite soon. $100+ per barrel crude is absolutely destroying any recovery which may be happening.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 01:30:50

February 16th, 2012
09:00 AM ET
Why America spends while the world saves

Editor’s Note: The following is an edited transcript of my interview with Sheldon Garon, a professor of history and East Asian studies at Princeton University and author of the new book, Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves.

Why Americans don’t save

Amar C. Bakshi: U.S. household saving rates peaked in the 1980s at around 11 percent, and by 2005, they had plummeted to near zero. How did America go from a nation of savers to a nation of consumers?

Sheldon Garon: Well, in fact, before World War II we weren’t a nation of great savers. We were a nation of OK savers. Those who did save, saved a lot. But as late as 1910, most Americans didn’t have a savings account. Unlike Europeans and Japanese, they lacked access to savings institutions that would accept very small deposits—such as savings banks and postal savings banks.

But then in the two World Wars, and particularly in World War II, the federal government intervened to encourage ordinary people to save in ways the Europeans and Japanese were doing at the time.

The U.S. government undertook two innovations. First, it introduced U.S. savings bonds right before World War II, and they became very popular and very accessible during and after the war. So that was one of the ways people saved and became good savers in America.

And the other way was the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, introduced in 1934, which guaranteed the deposits of small savers in most American banks. So during the Great Depression and after World War II for several decades, we saved at pretty good rates - between about 7 and 11 percent, from 1946 to the 1980s.

Then in the 1980s, Americans stopped being good savers - at first slowly and then very rapidly in the 1990s, particularly as housing and consumer credit became available to Americans in amounts unlike anything seen in the rest of the First World.

First, the credit card industry was deregulated as the result of a 1978 Supreme Court decision. Now able to impose any interest rate they pleased on unpaid balances, credit card firms aggressively expanded their customer base beyond the affluent to target middle and lower income households. By the 1990s, most Americans held not one but several credit cards, and more than half of those cardholders carried unpaid balances.

Second, home equity loans—which had heretofore scarcely existed—exploded. This occurred after the 1986 tax reform made home equity loans one of the few types of credit in which interest remained tax-deductible.

From the 1990s to 2005, homeowners borrowed more and more against their equity as home prices skyrocketed. Americans essentially stopped saving. Why save when you could borrow so easily?

This reliance on easy money came to a crashing halt when housing prices collapsed in 2008.

2012-02-18 05:41:12

There’s a terrific cartoon out there from the 19th century that would be right at home at the HBB today.

It basically shows Americans spending every penny they can possibly borrow.

This is sooooooooooooooooooooooo old that it seems new but it’s not.

The more I investigate, the more I realize that p1ssing away every cent that you can possibly borrow on speculative manias IS the American Dream.

Hello there, Great Gatsby!

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 07:41:47

Hello there, Mark Twain!

The New York Times
November 6, 1897

MARK TWAIN STILL IN DEBT.; Denies that He Wrote a Letter Saying He Had Paid His Creditors.

2012-02-18 08:19:06

I’m not the biggest fan of Sibelius but check out this link. (Click the chart to enlarge.)

The absurd inflation post-WW1 is what actually enabled him to pay back his debts.

See the pattern?

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Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 16:54:04

I’m with you on Sibelius’ music, though I like his violin concerto. Unfortunately, like the composer, who found himself unable to perform his own creation, I am rather doubtful it would be worth the effort for me to try to master its technical difficulties.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 17:04:07

I don’t read Finnish, but if I understand that chart, the red line is his debt and the green line is his assets. After a lifetime of living large on other people’s money, he ended up in the black at the very end. How much better can it get than that?!

Comment by In Colorado
2012-02-18 12:37:26

It basically shows Americans spending every penny they can possibly borrow.

I won’t argue against that. But I would say that back then it was a LOT harder to borrow.

I remember my folks had a Sears card and a BankAmericard. They never carried a balance on the credit card because they never used it. The Sears card did get some use, but there was only one thing at a time on it, and it was paid off in a few months, not years. And it was never maxed out.

My dad did buy a 1964 Impala SS. He put 50% down and paid it off in two years. The other car, a 1959 Bel Air station wagon was paid for long before he bought the Impala.

I recall when they replaced the carpeting in the house. They didn’t go into debt to pay for it, they paid cash. And my dad a mere machinist and my mom didn’t work.

Comment by GrizzlyBear
2012-02-18 15:00:20

Now, there are 19 year old kids with $800+ per month truck payments.

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Comment by Neuromance
2012-02-18 19:00:55

It’s the “Company Store” model of living.

Comment by WT Economist
2012-02-18 05:47:07

No role for the values of different generations in this discussion?

I could easily argue that the economic incentive structure worked the other way. Before Reagan, debt on consumer interest other than mortgages was tax deductible. That ended in 1986.

Reagan also started the slew of tax breaks and deferrals for savings, starting with the IRA. The government has kept expanding those.

What there is less if is “forced savings.” Paying off your mortgage because the bank makes it amortize, pensions, whole life insurance.

Comment by Avocado
2012-02-18 14:40:06

Reagan said it was OK, he tripled the debt.

Comment by Carl Morris
2012-02-18 07:05:00

I assume that there was a certain amount of mattress/coffee can saving that went on that couldn’t be quantified. Maybe that became a lot less popular after we left the gold standard?

2012-02-18 07:17:01

Read above.

I have a ton of cartoons from the 19th century. Americans were ALWAYS this profligate.

The sentiments sound old but they are ever so new.

The railway mania, the two manias before GD1.

Repeat after me. It was ever such and so it ever shall be. Human behavior never changes.

Comment by In Colorado
2012-02-18 08:17:58

There is a difference. Even just 40 years ago the average American wasn’t up to his eyeballs in credit card debt.

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2012-02-18 08:24:12

I wish it were true but it’s not. I’ll try and dig up the evidence.

There was the “company store”, and “store credit” and “hire-purchase”.

The modes were different but I’m sure that they were in hock right up to their eyeballs and then some!

Comment by In Colorado
2012-02-18 10:51:07

I’m sure a lot of people bought a new range for the kitchen or a new set of tires on their Sears charge back then. Many bought stuff on layaway. Fast forward to today when the typical household has several Visa and MasterCard accounts, all carrying non trivial balances. Trip to Disney? Charge it! Go out to eat 3 times a week? Charge it!

And back then there was no serial refinancing (with cash outs). The house was paid for long before you retired.

Of course, now that the house ATM is closed, people are struggling to pay off CC debt.

And don’t get me started with student loans. 40 years ago you could pay your way through State U flipping burgers.

2012-02-18 10:56:42

We are in more agreement than you think.

Look at it differently.

It scarcely matters what you are in hock for. What matters is the level of indebtness.

We are absurdly absurdly more productive now than we could be in 1920. Hence, they went into hock for basic living. We can go into hock for more frivolous reasons.

What matters, at the end of the day, is how much hock. And that’s pretty bad all across the board from then to now.

Incidentally, I already see your counterpoint about shouldn’t you take all that extra productivity, and do something with it. Unfortunately, that’s the average HBB-er is not the average person so my argument stands strong.

Comment by oxide
2012-02-18 11:26:39

How is layaway counted as debt?

2012-02-18 11:45:15

How is layaway counted as debt?

You can’t be serious!

Do you own the goddamn bloody thing or do they cart it away when you can no longer make the payments?

I suggest you rent out some of those B&W weepie-wailies from the Hollywood pre-code era to understand that you could make an entire artistic career out of this!

Comment by Michael Viking
2012-02-18 15:14:47

I don’t recall layaway working the way you describe it. There’s nothing to cart away because they don’t give it to you until it’s paid for. The layaway I’m familiar with has a person paying a fee and a down payment to get the item placed in hold. One pays more whenever one can, typically on a schedule. Eventually they pay enough and they get the item. They don’t get their layaway item until it’s been paid for. What you’re describing sounds more like rent-to-own.

Comment by Prime_Is_Contained
2012-02-18 12:02:05

The railway mania, the two manias before GD1.

Repeat after me. It was ever such and so it ever shall be. Human behavior never changes.

I agree, FPSS… But didn’t GD1 cure us of bubbles for a time?

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2012-02-18 12:12:42

Only for a short while.

Comment by Prime_Is_Contained
2012-02-18 12:37:40

When was the next one, in your view?

I didn’t think it was that short…

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-18 14:32:10

The people who were adults or getting to be in GD1 were in my experience more debt averse than the following generation.

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-18 14:45:23

I am still grateful for the Canal Mania, which was before the Rail Mania!

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Comment by Darrell_in_PHX
2012-02-18 10:24:43

Becasue our higher wages and free trade make trade deficit inevitable, and a trade deficit requires net debt.

The article has the cart before the horse.

First we became a net import nation, then we were forced off teh gold standard, then the economy went into stagflation, then we made borrowing much easier as it was the only way for an economy to function in the net deficit situation.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 01:34:33

Will Bernanke’s War On Savers Kick Off The U.S. Gold Boom?
January 30, 2012

The Federal Reserve sparked a huge rally in precious metals markets on Wednesday when it forecast super-low interest rates for the next three years and hinted at more money printing to come; the gold price surged more than $50 an ounce within about an hour and silver jumping almost $2 an ounce.

The yellow metal is now off to its best start to a year since 1980 when prices rose nearly 70 percent over a period of three weeks to the inflation adjusted record high of $850 an ounce.

2012-02-18 09:04:35

I observe as a neutral observer that in the US a “balanced mutual fund” invests in equities and bonds.

However, in India, the same “balanced fund” is advertised to invest in equities, gold and bonds. Frequently, the gold portion is emphasized in the prospectus.

I find it amusing.

One would assume that a rational Indian investor and a rational US investor would be invested in the same asset classes. However, clearly not!

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 16:56:46

Clearly one group of investors, either U.S. or Indian, is irrational.

Comment by Darrell_in_PHX
2012-02-18 10:29:17

Only until the economic collapse resumes.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 02:02:07

More evidence the global central banking cartel’s War on Savers is working: Even sovereign bonds, the traditional province of widow and orphan investment, are no longer much safer than casino gambling.

Sovereign bonds
Oat cuisine
A stodgy asset class has become more complex and more dangerous
Feb 11th 2012 | from the print edition

FIFTEEN years ago Western government bonds were regarded as being like porridge: stodgy but easily digestible. Investors knew returns would be modest but perceived the asset class as risk-free, an important concept in both financial theory and portfolio construction. And bond markets were seen as all-powerful, capable of imposing discipline on governments by pushing up borrowing costs in the face of irresponsible policies. James Carville, an adviser to President Bill Clinton, spoke with awe of their intimidatory power.

Things are different now. The bond vigilantes seem less frightening. They were asleep at the wheel as debts mounted in the euro zone, waking up in time to provoke the latest crisis but not avoid it. Private-sector bond investors in Greek sovereign debt face losses of around 70%, making the idea that government bonds are risk-free laughable.

The most powerful investors in many government-bond markets are not profit-maximising fund managers but central and commercial banks, which are buying bonds for all sorts of reasons. Other investors need to be like Kremlinologists, guessing what central banks will do next.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 02:10:21

FEBRUARY 17, 2012, 9:08 A.M. ET

CORRECT (2/16): Lehman Brothers Subpoenas Geithner In JP Morgan Fight

(”Lehman Brothers Subpoenas Geithner In J.P. Morgan Fight,” at 10:55 p.m. EST Thursday, misstated the year Lehman originally sued J.P. Morgan in the 10th paragraph. The correct version follows.)

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LEHMQ) and its creditors late Thursday said they want to subpoena Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to question him under oath over allegations J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) illegally siphoned billions of dollars from the collapsing investment bank in the days before it filed for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 07:49:38

“…J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) illegally siphoned billions of dollars from the collapsing investment bank in the days before it filed for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.”

Sounds like an interesting allegation.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 07:52:47

Notice how JPMorgan always seems to have its hand in the mix when a non-TBTF financial whale is on the brink of death?

November 4, 2011, 2:04 pm Investment Banking | Legal/Regulatory
MF Global Funds Found at JPMorgan

In Singapore, MF Global’s investors clamored to withdraw funds and close accounts. Lau Fook Kong/The Straits Times, via ReutersIn Singapore, MF Global’s investors clamored to withdraw funds and close accounts.

After days of intensifying regulatory scrutiny into missing client money at MF Global, firm funds have been found at JPMorgan Chase, according to several people briefed on the matter. It’s just not the missing money, rather assets that regulators have already counted, one person said.

Regulators discovered missing money late Sunday, with the unaccounted assets now totaling $600 million. The revelation of the unaccounted assets scuttled a last-minute deal that MF Global had brokered with a potential suitor, forcing it to file for Chapter 11 protection on Monday.

JPMorgan had a strong relationship with MF Global and provided several services to the failed brokerage, including lending, investment banking, and basic administration functions like clearing trades. The bank was listed as MF Global’s largest unsecured creditor because it oversees a $1.2 billion loan to the firm.

“MF Global maintains a number of accounts at JPMorgan,” a spokeswoman for the bank said in a statement. “Due to confidentiality obligations, we are not able to disclose publicly the balances held in those accounts.”

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 07:55:07

Now you see it, now you don’t.

FEBRUARY 17, 2012, 5:40 P.M. ET

Trustee Finds No Missing MF Global Funds at J.P. Morgan

Louis Freeh, the bankruptcy trustee overseeing MF Global Holdings Ltd.’s Chapter 11 case, determined that none of the estimated $1.6 billion in missing customer cash ended up in a company account at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. that he was reviewing.

Mr. Freeh, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director in charge of liquidating the New York company, said a forensic accounting analysis conducted by FTI Consulting Inc., the trustee’s financial adviser, found no missing customer funds in an MF Global cash collateral account at J.P. Morgan.

Mr. Freeh was ordered to look into the account by bankruptcy court Judge Martin Glenn, who wanted to know that money from the account, now being used to cover overhead and other expenses for remaining MF Global employees, hadn’t been improperly obtained from customers.

“After an exhaustive investigation, which included the review of volumes of bank statements and an extensive population of cash transaction activity during October 2011, the trustee does not believe that any of the cash in the JPM Account as of the petition date represents misdirected customer property,” Mr. Freeh said Thursday in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 02:17:09

Is the BDI seriously down to 717?

Anonymous Coward

User ID: 8954548
02/17/2012 10:40 AM
Report Abusive Post
Report Copyright Violation
Re: Baltic Dry Index….COLLAPSING
You probably read 6717 ? It’s -6 today which makes 717.
717 yes you read that right.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 08:02:14

I had to double-check that figure, as it seemed implausibly low.

Here are the stats (go to Bloomberg’s 5-year view for dramatic effect):

11,771 5/21/2008
717 2/17/2012

Drop in BDI since 2008 peak = (717/11,771-1)*100% = -93.9%.

Obviously the BDI no longer indicates the same thing about the global economy as it indicated before its collapse.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 08:03:14

717.00 6.00 0.83%

As of 02/17/2012 ET on 02/17/2012.

Comment by combotechie
2012-02-18 09:09:25

If you don’t cash out all the equity in your home and go all in on buying DRYS then you aren’t handling your money efficiently.


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Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 02:21:02

Iceland’s Viking Victory
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Economics
Last updated: February 17th, 2012

EMU shroud-wavers need a better argument (Photo: PA)

Congratulations to Iceland.

Fitch has upgraded the country to investment grade BBB – with stable outlook, expecting government debt to peak at 100pc of GDP.

The OECD’s latest forecast said growth will be 2.4pc this year, after 2.9pc in 2011.

Unemployment will fall from 7pc last year to 6.1pc this year and then 5.3pc in 2013.

The current account deficit was 11.2pc in 2010. It will shrink to 3.4pc this year, and will be almost disappear next year.

The strategy of devaluation behind capital controls has rescued the economy. (Yes, I know there is a dispute about exchange controls, but that is a detail.) The country has held its Nordic welfare together and preserved social cohesion. It is slowly prospering again, though private debt weighs heavy.

Nobody is forcing the elected government out of office or appointing technocrats as prime minister. The Althingi sits untrammeled in its island glory, the oldest parliament in the world (930 AD).

The outcome is a vindication of sovereign currencies and national central banks able to respond to shocks.

The contrast with the unemployment catastrophe and debt-deflation spirals across Europe’s arc of depression is by now crystal clear. Those EMU shroud-wavers who persist in arguing that exit from the Europe would be suicidal will have to start coming up with a better argument.

Comment by In Colorado
2012-02-18 08:18:59

Good for them!

Comment by Muggy
2012-02-18 05:50:41

Me and my greedy goon/thug teachers are going to phone one in today (on a weekend, no less!). We’re going to surprise a bunch of teachers by making over their rooms all with donated time and materials.

I’m confident most of the volunteers today will be 1 percenters. It’s trickle down time!

Comment by CarrieAnn
2012-02-18 08:54:51

Somebody’s in the mood to buy:



Comment by Realtors Are Liars®
2012-02-18 06:09:53

Realtors Are Liars®….. still…. more so today than ever.

2012-02-18 07:10:25

Some day (and it’s not too far away), you will look back upon your current “anger phase” with the amused look that a wise adult gives to a child.

I’m looking forward to it. :)

Comment by Realtors Are Liars®
2012-02-18 07:21:56

Speaking truth is anger? Really? REALLY?

I thought you had better vision.

2012-02-18 07:34:29

Depends on the manner of the speaking of the afore-mentioned truth.

So yes. =)

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Comment by Realtors Are Liars®
2012-02-18 07:40:26

Fair enough. Truth first, interpretation/perception last.

Yup. I’m ok with that.

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-18 14:37:13

Is Denial part of the Anger phase?



Comment by Hard Rain
2012-02-18 06:29:08

Wonder how many other pension fund “profits” are nonredeemable promises?.

State pension systems petition court to liquidate hedge fund

In 2008, trustees of the pension systems invested a combined $100 million in Fletcher, which promised a guaranteed 12 percent return on their money. If the return dipped lower, the difference would be made up by an unnamed financial backer, officials have said. All three of the pension funds share an investment consultant, the Memphis firm Consulting Services Group.

In March 2011, almost three years after investing $45 million in Fletcher, trustees of the Firefighters’ Retirement System learned that the value of the holdings had grown to $63.7 million. Days later, they filed a request to cash out $17 million of their investment to capture a portion of the profit.

Initially, Fletcher said the requests would be fulfilled after 60 days. But before that time had passed, Fletcher told fund officials that they would instead be issued promissory notes for the money, saying that selling the assets in the current financial market probably would result in a loss, and the process would require a more drawn-out approach to yield a better value.


A representative with Fletcher did not return a call for comment on Tuesday

Last month, trustees of the firefighters’ system set aside $8.5 million last month as a precautionary measure to cover cover potential losses stemming from the Fletcher investment


Comment by combotechie
2012-02-18 07:24:36

“… which promised a guaranteed 12 percent return on their money.”

Promised! Twelve percent! A PROMISED TWELVE PERCENT!

Guaranteed, even!

Lol. Sheeple: First you shear ‘em, then when you can’t shear ‘em anymore you skin ‘em.

Alive if possible.

2012-02-18 09:24:59

Some days, I wish I had half the comic talent on this blog!

I’m sorry but I laughed till I fell off my chair. Water up the nose!

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 16:58:13

“Alive if possible.”

And then, for good measure, boil them in oil.

Comment by Realtors Are Liars®
2012-02-18 07:20:00

Your govt is your master. You are a slave. Your cellblock gaurd is a FIRE thug.

Prove me wrong. You won’t because you can’t. You can’t because what I say is true.

2012-02-18 07:39:56

Angry much? :D

Comment by Realtors Are Liars®
2012-02-18 07:42:07

Troll much? :)

2012-02-18 08:07:14

Only with the cute and cuddly ones and your singular mania definitely makes you that.

It’s quite endearing actually.

Also, it’s good to see some stability in an uncertain time. :D

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Comment by Muggy
2012-02-18 13:25:05

Smiley much?


Comment by In Colorado
2012-02-18 08:21:03

I’m thinking that the Banksters are the masters, and the gov’t is their hired help.

Comment by Realtors Are Liars®
2012-02-18 08:38:05

Govt? Banksters? A distinction without a difference.

2012-02-18 09:11:51

Awwwwwwwww, you need a hug! :D

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Comment by ecofeco
2012-02-18 22:21:36

“I’m thinking that the Banksters are the masters, and the gov’t is their hired help.”

Ever heard of the Medici?

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 07:47:12

Greece in debtor’s prison
Edward Harrison | 23 October 2011 15:00

On the Max Keiser show, I said that Greece has been sent to debtor’s prison. The goal is for creditors to Greece to get as much out of the Greek government as possible before they default. These brazen attempts to heap the lion’s share of the losses onto Greek taxpayers and citizens will eventually backfire and lead to a disorderly outcome.

Right now, the policy is enforce fiscal contraction (a.k.a. fiscal austerity) in the European periphery as a pre-condition for monetising periphery debt until market access is re-gained. I have indicated that the central bank’s buying government paper is about price not quantity. If the ECB committed to a specific spread to Bunds at which it would buy, then it could sustain its programme indefinitely. However, this is unlikely to happen. Instead the ECB is buying just enough bonds to send a message to the Spanish and Italians that they need to live up to their austerity quid pro quo or else the ECB will stop buying.

At a minimum, the ECB wants to prevent ‘free riders’, if they are to move into a quasi-fiscal role. That means the quid pro quo is austerity for purchases. Moreover, institutionally, there is no appetite for capital losses at the ECB and that means buying Greek bonds is something the ECB sees as fraught with peril for the ECB itself.

Ireland is seen as the model here. Nicolas Sarkozy is reported to have said Ireland is today a country which is out of the crisis, or on the way out of the crisis.

A leaked Troika document has admitted this policy has failed in Greece. Clearly, these policies were never meant to be expansionary any more than the same programmes in Asia during their debt crisis in the late 1990s. But fiscal consolidation was sold as the solution to Greece’s problems. And that presents the conundrum of deep economic contraction and stagnant or rising debt.

Given the incomplete institutional structure of the single currency area, I think it was always the case that this conundrum would have to be solved via default. The question is who defaults, how much of a haircut bondholders have to take, and whether the default occurs before or after contagion has made the situation considerably worse.

Everyone is still trying to act as if Greece is different and that even there, there should be as small a haircut as possible. You can’t have small haircuts if the debt levels are high, the primary deficit is high and the institutional structure makes the ECB a reluctant bond buyer. Under these pre-conditions, internal devaluation and austerity are the only policy remedies; and that’s an anti-growth outcome in which debt increases. That is a scenario in which yields stay elevated and contagion takes down the banking system. Right now, that’s where we are headed. The Europeans think they can move to a hard restructuring before contagion becomes systemic. I think contagion is already systemic, both in government debt and with banks.

2012-02-18 09:33:10

Why get your panties in a knot?

Fed or no Fed, ECB or no ECB, you’re gonna get a one-time opportunity to buy premium European assets on the cheap!

At the end of this crisis, Europeans are still going to trade their labor for food, shelter and material stuff.

Got cash?

PS :- I wouldn’t mind owning a spare apartment in Madrid.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 16:59:57

I love your optimistic vision for a future when cash buys assets at an attractive price.

2012-02-18 07:51:48

I’m finally finished with the pictures (or at least as finished as I ever will be.)


The more detailed pictures (if anyone cares) are under the India folder in individual galleries.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. :)

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 08:05:49

Those are truly beautiful. Time to talk w/ AZ Slim about publishing a book…

2012-02-18 08:40:07

For the interested, it’s truly fascinating as to the myriad metaphors that the Indian sub-continent came up for “lust”.

There’s the “thorn” (frequently depicted as a maiden plucking out of her leg) and the “monkey” (wild uncontrollable animal.)

On a related note, the expression getting the “monkey off your back” relates to drug addiction.

Also, I loved the wit of the artisans. It’s all too easy to see this overwhelming art as “serious” but if you observe carefully, they are quite witty in strange ways. (The frog spout towards the end is an example. It’s not clear from that picture but it’s clear from the context.)

I’m in love. I wanna go back. I’m already planning for next year!

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 17:01:07


I thought I detected some of that in the symbolism carved into those statues.

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Comment by ahansen
2012-02-18 22:43:23

Appreciate you sharing these, Puss. You’ve a fascinating eye; particularly when taken in conjunction with your posts here. I’d love to read your commentary on the pix. (What, where, why.)
The cobalt city in particular is haunting…. Thanks.

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Comment by jeff saturday
2012-02-18 09:10:28

Pretty Impressive! They are all really cool but I like 31 of 31 the best, it looks like a snake is burnin` one.

2012-02-18 09:43:08


I never thought of it that way but I like the interpretation.

Leave a comment there if you care. I think you might ruffle a few feathers. I like, I like. :D

Comment by Avocado
2012-02-18 11:45:36

From an ex pro: Lots of great “backgrounds” but I want a subject matter to keep me interested.

Hope you don’t mind the critique. ;)

2012-02-18 11:49:01

Please email me privately. It’s in my profile.

I’d like to learn.


Comment by jeff saturday
2012-02-18 09:27:40

Caldwell theater may face foreclosure

By Peter Fraceschina
Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted: 8:28 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, 2012

As the Caldwell Theatre Company heads toward bankruptcy protection, its tax returns show revenue from ticket sales, grants and donations plummeted by more than half, to $1.3 million, between 2007 and 2009, when the theater began struggling to repay debts.

That includes repaying a $5.9 million mortgage on its showcase playhouse on Federal Highway in Boca Raton that debuted in December 2007, now in danger of being foreclosed on by the bank.

The Caldwell is one of South Florida’s longest-running cultural institutions, now in its 37th year, and if it is forced to shut down it would be a major blow to the arts scene.

Arts patrons who loaned the theater tens of thousands of dollars also have gone unpaid.

The Caldwell’s finances were so precarious in late 2009 that its artistic director, Clive Cholerton, turned to patrons to shore up the company, borrowing at least $85,000 that remains unpaid more than two years later, according to two lawsuits filed against the company.

One loan came from longtime arts patron Mimi Sadler of Boca Raton, who once sat on the Caldwell board of trustees.

She made a $20,000 loan to the theater in October 2009, solicited by Cholerton, and was to be paid back by May, said her attorney, Roderick Coleman, who filed suit against the theater Jan. 25 to collect the money.

“Clive Cholerton kept putting her off . He kept assuring her, ‘Just hold off. We will have it, we will have it,’ ” Coleman said.

Cholerton said he needed the money for a theater mortgage payment, and that Sadler had made similar loans in the past and been repaid. He said he simply did not have the cash to repay her.

Bradley Shraiberg, an attorney for the theater, said the company will file for bankruptcy soon to prevent its business and financial operations from being taken over by a court-appointed receiver in the foreclosure lawsuit. Shraiberg said the Caldwell has the finances to operate while it reorganizes its debts.

Coleman said he will fight in bankruptcy court to have Sadler repaid, because she was “fraudulently induced” by Cholerton into making the loan.


Boca Raton is one big house of cards. I live in an upscale area and do accounting for many of my neighbors 1/4 do not have any money, everyone pretends to be well off when nearly 1/3 collect some form of welfare or government assistance. 1/2 have stopped paying their mortgages years ago and are trying to maintain a phony style of living with the proceeds. The only ones who actually have money are foreigners or those moving here from New England. Do not fall for this sewer by looks. It is a dump.

Everything is going under
7:08 AM, 2/18/2012

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/money/caldwell-theater-may-face-foreclosure-2183209.html - -

Comment by CarrieAnn
2012-02-18 10:26:26

Wow! Not just broke but on some sort of government assistance. You gotta wonder how many communities that is going on in. Before this year I would have thought that meant I’d soon be seeing lower prices but we now know that evern the short sale sellers are getting loans for new places. The easy credit lives on and I’m not sure there’s much we can do about it.

I live in an upscale area and do accounting for many of my neighbors 1/4 do not have any money, everyone pretends to be well off when nearly 1/3 collect some form of welfare or government assistance. 1/2 have stopped paying their mortgages years ago and are trying to maintain a phony style of living with the proceeds. The only ones who actually have money are foreigners or those moving here from New England. Do not fall for this sewer by looks. It is a dump.

Comment by In Colorado
2012-02-18 10:42:25

Like I have said before, Florida is a strange place.

Comment by rms
2012-02-18 15:22:08

…Florida is a strange place.

A sunny place for shady people. :)

Comment by WT Economist
2012-02-18 10:48:00

Well I do know that spending on assistance to the poor has soared as a share of GDP. The question is, will it come back down again as it has in the past when the economy improves?

Comment by Avocado
2012-02-18 11:41:19

It should drop as people find jobs.

Comment by Muggy
2012-02-18 15:04:41

“He said he simply did not have the cash to repay her.”

Say it, Combo, say it!

Comment by Sammy Schadenfreude
2012-02-18 11:59:33


“We are All Greeks Now” solidarity rallies in the US and Europe. So let’s all elect corrupt socialist politicians, cook the books, defraud the tax man, and expect social welfare nets that somebody else pays into take care of us when we’re old or needy.

/sarc off.

Comment by Sammy Schadenfreude
2012-02-18 12:05:05


Children born out of wedlock the “new normal.” This bodes well for our future as a nation.

Comment by Muggy
2012-02-18 14:58:59

I can tell you as an education guy working on turning around struggling schools, after being poor, having a dad is the other biggie.

Most kids don’t know how to shake my hand.

Comment by Bill in Los Angeles
2012-02-18 15:42:30

My nephew is one such who was conceived out of wedlock. Turning 36 this year. This out-of-wedlock thing took off since the boomers were of child bearing age.

Comment by ecofeco
2012-02-18 22:28:47

This would then be the second generation.

Comment by ahansen
2012-02-18 22:55:20

What does “wedlock” have to do with parenting?

I have more than a few friends who co-parent with someone other than their children’s (unmarried,) bio-parent. Others who aren’t allowed to marry, but have still raised wonderful kids together. And women such as myself who are single by choice and mothers by choice and have done very well by them thank you very much.

Perhaps you were thinking about people who have children they can’t afford? “Wedlock,” for many, is a rather quaint concept if not an outrightly asinine word.

Comment by Prime_Is_Contained
2012-02-19 13:53:20

Others who aren’t allowed to marry,

How does that happen in this day and age, Allena??

Comment by ahansen
2012-02-19 16:20:02

Being gay?

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Comment by Prime_Is_Contained
2012-02-19 18:38:40

Ah, sorry if I was being dense. I was thinking that most gay people just went to a state where it was legal to tie the knot…

Comment by Bill in Los Angeles
2012-02-19 15:53:37

You are right. I don’t believe I. MarriAge anyway. I was just stating a fact about my relatives.

Comment by Sammy Schadenfreude
2012-02-18 12:09:30


China’s collapsing housing bubble cries out for a Chinese Ben Jones to emerge. Or we could share ours, a bit grudgingly.

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-18 19:06:56

I’ve had an interesting link to Chinese economics commentary, which has been shut down/redirected mysteriously.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 22:35:10

Luckily, there are plenty of economics commentators from outside China who are providing helpful insights to the real picture.

Global Economics February 16, 2012, 3:13 PM EST
One Wall Street Sage Who Got It Right
Morgan Stanley’s Stephen Roach saw the rumblings of the financial crisis before most
By Brian Bremner

In this season of unbridled public rage directed at Wall Street, it is worth taking a moment to mark the exit of Stephen Roach from the gladiatorial world of high finance. Morgan Stanley’s former chairman for Asia and chief economist is retiring from the firm, leaving the red-in-tooth-and-claw profession of investment banking for the red-in-tooth-and-claw groves of academe, according to a memo release on Feb. 16 by Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman. In a industry brimming with cable TV carnival barkers, Roach stands out for his wry humor and cool stock-taking of the big macro trends of the day.

Back in the aughts, Roach sounded the alarm more than once about the massive capital imbalances emerging between savings-rich Asia and spendthrift America that helped fuel an epic U.S. consumption binge and property bubble. In one research note posted in May of 2006, Roach described the co-dependency problem between U.S. consumers and Asian (particularly Chinese) producers. “The relationship is cemented by Asia’s quasi dollar pegs, which guarantee an automatic recycling of the region’s massive build-up of foreign exchange reserves into dollar-denominated assets. To the extent that this recycling pushes US interest rates lower than might otherwise be the case, asset-dependent US consumers enjoy a special subsidy from their foreign lenders,” Roach wrote.

This massive transfer of wealth, Roach continued, allowed the American consumer to “push consumption up to a record 71% of GDP over the past four years.” In late 2005, the Federal Reserve estimated that home equity loans had topped $640 billion, Roach wrote. And, he went on: “The US housing market has been pushed into bubble territory; in late 2005, fully 55 metropolitan areas were experiencing house price inflation of 20% or higher. With the housing market now rolling over, downside risk to equity extraction and wealth-dependent consumption can hardly be minimized.”

Translation: We’re screwed, folks.

That was an insight worth knowing back in 2006-two years before the full force of the subprime mortgage crisis and the collapse of Lehman Brothers had their way with jobs and incomes around the globe. Roach, of course, wasn’t the only one to see the eventual shape-shifting economic crisis of 2008-2009 that toppled money center banks in London and New York and touched off a severe global downturn that we are still living with today. Other variables-Fed monetary policy, Wall Street and Main Street greed, lax regulatory financial oversight and so on-certainly mattered as much as the bizarre vendor finance relationship between the U.S. and Asia. Yet Roach was one of the very few who saw the outlines of the firestorm so early.

What will be interesting to watch is whether another Roachian thesis plays out. Six year ago, he predicted that China’s massive recycling of dollars into yuan on that country’s money supply and real estate markets would create big problems. “There are several reasons why this state of affairs in not in China’s best interest: First, lacking a well-developed debt market, China has a hard time sterilizing its purchases of dollar-based assets. As a result, excess liquidity leaks into its financial system — contributing to its bloated money supply and fueling froth in its asset markets, especially coastal property,” Roach suggested. Let’s hope the Professor gets this one wrong. A Chinese economic collapse is the last thing planet earth needs at the moment.

Comment by jeff saturday
2012-02-18 12:15:21

Is that all it takes to be a saint, a couple of miracles? Well hell they`re everywhere then. Look at the 10 million Deadbeats, they`re all good for a couple of miracles each. One that they got the loan in the first place and two that they are still living there after not paying the mortgage for 3 or 4 years. And what about St. Angelo Mozilo, it`s a miracle he`s not in jail. Is this where the forgiveness comes in? Go and treat your house like an ATM no more my son. Thou shalt not falsify documents. St. Fannie, St. Freddie how the hell are they still operating? It`s a GD miracle alright. What`s the Pope`s phone number? He`s gonna have to get busy.

Pope sets Oct. 21 to make US saints

2 hours ago

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has set Oct. 21 as the date to make two U.S. saints: Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk Indian who spent most of her life in what is now upstate New York, and Mother Marianne Cope, who began religious life in the same area but moved to Hawaii to care for leprosy patients.

Benedict had already approved miracles attributed to the two, the final step toward sainthood. At the end of a ceremony Saturday to make 22 new cardinals — including New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan — Benedict announced the date for canonization of the two women and five others.

Dolan marveled that his first official act as a cardinal was to formally OK the New York-area saints. He quipped: “As grateful as I am for being a cardinal, I really want to be a saint.”

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-18 19:04:14

Jeff, every dog’s got a day. Some’s days are just postponed, at our expense.

Comment by alpha-sloth
2012-02-18 17:36:33

Yawn. Dog bites man. What percentage of the Republican party is secretly gay? 30%? 50%?

Ariz. Sheriff Allegedly Threatens To Deport Former Boyfriend
Congressional candidate and border hawk Paul Babeu denies allegations.
By Daniel Politi

Paul Babeu, a “rising Republican star,” according to Talking Points Memo, vehemently denied allegations that he threatened to deport a Mexican former boyfriend. In a news conference Saturday afternoon, Babeu acknowledged that he’s gay but insisted that neither him nor his attorney ever threatened anyone with deportation.

Babeu rocketed into the national spotlight in 2010 when he appeared in an ad for Arizona Sen. John McCain, demanding that the government finish “the danged fence” along the Mexican border. Since then he has become a frequent commentator on Fox News about immigration issues and is now running to represent Arizona’s new 4th Congressional District in the House of Representatives.

Babeu’s attorney allegedly demanded that Jose [the boyfriend] sign an agreement vowing never to reveal details about the relationship. The lawyer allegedly hinted that the attention he would get if he revealed the relationship could result in his deportation. Jose’s lawyer backs up the claim.

On Saturday afternoon, Babeu stepped down from his role as Arizona co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, reports Talking Points Memo.


Comment by Muggy
2012-02-18 17:50:11

It’s sad that, not only can they be themselves, they have to adopt this “conservative” persona.

Comment by Blue Skye
2012-02-18 19:01:27

“What percentage of the Republican party is secretly gay? 30%? 50%?”

Let’s assume 100%, and for the Democrats, less those openly gay. IMO they are all morally bankrupt, in that they willingly participate in the grand theft from and subugation of the freedoms of the American Citizen.

Isn’t this just a tad more important than who is tapping their foot in the men’s bathroom? I am thinking along the lines of Sammy’s perpetual posts: The struggle of R vs D is sensational made for TV drama, full of personality, berift of truth in issues, fit only for the comatose.

Comment by alpha-sloth
2012-02-18 19:24:44

It’s just odd that the anti-gay (let’s be honest) party has so many secretly gay stars and rising stars.

I wonder why?

Comment by ecofeco
2012-02-18 22:32:00

“Family Values”

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Comment by alpha-sloth
2012-02-18 19:12:26

insisted that neither him nor his attorney

Pedantic Man would probably have something to say about that.

Comment by ahansen
2012-02-18 23:00:21


Comment by rms
2012-02-18 20:48:00

Here a Paradise Valley, AZ fixer-upper:
http://tinyurl.com/7cr3hqx (redfin)

“This partially completed, one of a kind contemporary masterpiece, designed by world renown architect is perched on almost 4 acres in the shadow of Camelback Mountain in the heart of one of Paradise Valleys most exclusive areas known as Cameldale.”

Comment by ecofeco
2012-02-18 22:34:31

“Masterpieces” are NOT “partially completed”. :lol:

Comment by rms
2012-02-18 23:14:58

I’m sure there’s an interesting story behind the person who commissioned that build. I’ve read enough Joe ‘da Plummer stories; I wanna hear more about the big timber falling.

Comment by ahansen
2012-02-18 23:10:38

The seller has $20M invested in it? In what? Are the walls made out of cocaine or something?

Land was purchased for $420K in 1994. Last sold for 3.8M at height of the market. No way that’s $16M worth of construction.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 22:20:29

February 18, 2012 10:54 PM
Paul: U.S. “slipping into a fascist system”

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks to supporters at a rally held at Union Station Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul warned the U.S. is “slipping into a fascist system” dominated by government and businesses as he held a fiery rally Saturday night upstaging established Republican Party banquets a short distance away.

The Texas congressman drew a couple thousand standing and chanting people to Kansas City’s Union Station as the party’s establishment dined on steak across the street at the Missouri GOP’s annual conference. Kansas Republicans were holding a similar convention in a suburb across the state line.

Paul staged his rally near the nation’s World War I museum, asserting that the U.S. got off track about 100 years ago during the era of President Woodrow Wilson, who led the nation through World War I and unsuccessfully advocated for the nation’s involvement in a forerunner of the United Nations.

“We’ve slipped away from a true Republic,” Paul said. “Now we’re slipping into a fascist system where it’s a combination of government and big business and authoritarian rule and the suppression of the individual rights of each and every American citizen.”

Although campaign aides were aware, Paul told reporters after his speech that he did not know his rally was coinciding with long-established Missouri and Kansas Republican Party events, where Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell — a vice presidential prospect — was the keynote speaker.

Several Republicans slipped away from the banquets to join the Paul rally. Among them was Ralph Munyan, a Republican committeeman in Kansas City’s home county, who said he agreed with Paul’s warnings of a “fascist system” and his pledge to the end nation’s involvement in wars overseas and against drugs.

“His foreign policy is one of peace,” Munyan said.

Comment by Cantankerous Intellectual Bomb Thrower©
2012-02-18 22:38:56

Sounds like the Chinese real estate bubble is about where the U.S. bubble was before its collapse, right down to the prediction that no collapse is forthcoming.

Why China’s housing market will slow, not collapse

By Nin-Hai Tseng, writer-reporter February 7, 2012: 11:14 AM ET

There’s plenty of reason to believe China’s housing prices will slide during what’s expected to be a rocky economic year, but the market won’t crash. Here’s why.

FORTUNE – China’s hot property market and its implications on the global economy has been on the minds of many investors, and for good reason.

In January, Barclays published its latest Skyscraper Index report, which tracks links between the rise in construction of tall buildings and economic busts over the past 140 years. This could be purely coincidental, but the index suggests that the East Asian giant is the world’s “biggest bubble builder,” and is on its way to an economic bust. China already has half of the world’s existing skyscrapers (or buildings higher than 240 meters). And it plans to add more over the next several years.

However, let’s not read into this too much. It’s true, as Barclays notes, that the Great Depression coincided with the construction of three landmark skyscrapers across Manhattan: 40 Wall Street completed in 1929, followed by the Chrysler Building in 1930, and the Empire State Building in 1931.

No doubt, China’s property prices have risen rapidly beyond the reach of much of the country’s middle class. And there’s reason to believe prices will certainly slide during what’s expected to be a rocky economic year, but prices won’t crash. Here’s why:

China’s nation of savers

It was the no-money-down mentality that partly brought down America’s housing market. While it would be a stretch to compare the U.S. market to China’s, it’s worth noting that our neighbors to the East are nowhere near as leveraged.

China is known as a nation of savers, and consumers are relatively debt-wary, in part because the country doesn’t have the kind of educational and health care safety nets that its Western neighbors enjoy.

What’s more, Chinese officials trying to clamp down on rapidly rising prices have directly placed limits on how much homebuyers (and speculators) can borrow. For primary-home buyers, the government has set a minimum down payment of 30% of the home’s total sale price while buyers of second homes must put down at least 60%.

In 2010, a total of 4.4 trillion renminbi (or about $697 billion) of residential buildings were sold in China. However, mortgage loans outstanding were far less, at 1.4 trillion renminbi (or $222 billion), according to a JP Morgan November 2011 report on China’s housing market.

“As a result, the probability of mortgage default is quite low,” analysts say, adding that the quality of mortgage loans will “remain solid” even under the hypothetical scenario that home prices drop by 30%.

Comment by rms
2012-02-18 23:29:54

China is known as a nation of savers, and consumers are relatively debt-wary, in part because the country doesn’t have the kind of educational and health care safety nets that its Western neighbors enjoy.

The average person there isn’t as likely to “stick it” to the banks or government like they do here with wanton abandon. Corruption and fraud could also result in the death penalty as it did for the developer who built the Olympic stadium and regional airport.

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