Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Four conservatives add up to one vote for Obama

I voted for Barack Obama today. In the end, the substance of the endorsements (rather than the actual endorsements themselves) of Warren Buffett, Colin Powell, and Christopher Buckley over-rode anything anyone else had to say - except for the now obviously loose cannon known as Sarah Palin. Palin's rhetorical spittle of hate and fear against Obama, devoid of issue-based substance, her lack of national experience, and everything this now obviously desperate choice says about John McCain trumped all other considerations for me.

This election will likely be a landslide in Obama's favor. This, in spite of the apparent galvanization of the right-wing of the Republican Party by McCain's choice of Palin. Thus showing for all to see how irrelevant that political force has become. Good riddance (for now) to the politics of hate.

My only reservation about Obama is the absurd amount of money he raised. I think it should be a crime to spend so much money for a presidential campaign. But, the fact is that it isn't. Past hopes of campaign finance reform are left flapping in the breeze. All total, 2008 will be our first billion dollar (+) national campaign...a financial crisis of another kind.

I don't care what the supreme court said. Money isn't speech. That was a horrible decision and it has led to all sorts of present and future madness.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Lower Field

We have a section of our 10 acres called the Lower Field. It was farmed for cotton and for hay when I was a kid. It is about one acre in size. Since we bought the property several pines have volunteered in the field. We have also planted sawtooth oaks and cedars through the years. I keep it mowed about once a month in summer during seasons of normal rains.

This year the grass (mostly fescue) was turning brown, its growth stunted, in mid-July by the drought. I had only mowed the field twice in 2008 up til then. Then we had a few good rains, one of four inches from a tropical storm that passed through. I mowed the field in July after a rain and let it mostly grow from there. The result is some nice, tall sagey grass that ornamented today - a perfect, clear sky autumn day before much color has started showing around here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

"A Credit Tsunami"

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Sir Alan Greenspan was full of sound bits at yesterday's congressional hearing on the present financial crisis. Unlike many who testify before congress, however, he admited some mistakes under his watch that fundamentally led to the current situation.

David Brooks praised him tonight and offered the best summary of the current finanical crisis that I've heard yet. Commenting on Sir Alan's testimony, Brooks went surgically metaphysical:

"Well, first of all, I admired him for saying that. We often are in a political culture where nobody admits a mistake, and he admitted a mistake. And the question is, why? What did he get wrong about the economy?

"And I think what he got wrong is -- Paul Solman had a guy named Nassim Taleb on the show not long ago who got it right, who picked Fannie Mae, who talked about the banking collapse.

"And the difference between the two worldviews is Greenspan relied on quantitative models of risk analysis, where Taleb is the product of behavioral economics, which talks about the psychology of perception and the perception of risks, and the biases we make in assuming the future will be basically like the past, and the way we look for evidence that confirms our prejudices.

"And if you looked at the risk analysis through the frailty of human perception, as Talib did, you can say this risk was out of control. People did not understand what was happening.
And all these bogus economic models that the quantifying people believed in just were bogus. And I think that's the two mental frameworks that allowed some people to understand what was going to happen and so many, so many experts not get it."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mercury's in Retrograde

I got into a real fix with my mower today. My dad had to come pull me out. I ended up finishing our entire back yard - about half an acre or so - with my push mower because the hydraulics on my Gravely won't allow me to restart it. I'll call my mower guy tomorrow to see what I need to do to fix that. I got a great workout push mowing though. It took the place of my usual 3 mile run.

The market had the most volatile day I've known it to have in 10 years of seriously playing and watching it. The VIX is astoundingly over 70. The intra-day high and intra-day low was 1019 points difference. Amazing. For the week the Dow was down about 20%. Ouch...even if I am heavy in cash.

The Wall Street Journal said today: "The Dow Jones Industrial Average capped the worst week in its 112-year history with its most volatile day ever, as hopes for a major international bank-rescue plan were overwhelmed at day's end by another wave of selling."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Joe Biden: Senator from Mars

We got about two inches of rain yesterday. So that should help perk things up a bit around my land.

A friend sent me an email today alerting me to something virtually ignored by the major news media. In last week's VP debate Joe Biden stated: "Look, all you have to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie's Restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me where I spend a lot of time and you ask anybody in there whether or not the economic and foreign policy of this administration has made them better off in the last eight years."

It turns out that Katie's Restaurant has been closed for 20 years. It's enough to make you think maybe Joe ain't from around here...or there. He said this as part of a longer statement to indicate how "in touch" he is with the average American (trying to best the "Palin effect"), which in and of itself makes the whole thing incredulous. If he's so out of touch with the basic geography of his "hometown" then how is he any more qualified to fill his position than Sarah Palin?

More about this
here and here.

He also stated: "Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that."

I can't fault him on his criticism of Cheney but
Biden doesn't know the constitution very well. The Executive Branch is in Article II Joe. I bet you make Barack so proud.

Again, almost nothing on these statements by the major media. Nothing at all on TV news. Compare this with Palin's treatment. I have to admit the neocons have got a real reason to be upset about this one.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Jefferson speaks to the heart of the matter...

It was reported today that 60% of the American public think we could be headed for another Depression. I don't know if the American people have a clue where we're headed but Thomas Jefferson warned us over 200 years ago of what might happen should we continue on our present course of financial infrastructure.

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs."

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to the Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin (1802) 3rd president of US (1743 - 1826)

In another letter (to John Taylor) dated November 26, 1789, Jefferson wrote: "I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing. I now deny thier power of making money or anything else a legal tender."

For the record, the founding fathers of the United States authorized only gold and silver coin as legal tender in payment of debts. Under
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5 of the Constitution, Congress was given power to: "To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures."

Article 1, Section 10, Clause 1 of the Constitution states: "No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility."

The central problem with the American economy today is that it is (unconstitutionally - to the extend it was never amended) founded upon paper (fiat) money - that is, founded upon nothing at all.

An in-depth video of this unconstitutional situation is here. It runs about an hour in length.

From Richard Russell's Dow Theory column today: "New lows -- On July 15 there were 1304 new lows on the NYSE, A RECORD. Therefore, I took July 15 as the "internal low" for the stock market. I didn't think the July 15 performance would be surpassed. But today there were 1663 new lows on the NYSE. Thus, the record of July 15 has been surpassed today. Anyway you look at it, this is not good. Today, there were 3298 stocks traded on the NYSE. This means that an incredible 50.4% of all the stocks traded on the NYSE hit new lows today. Amazing."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Obama surges in a drought

It has not rained here in about a month. We were low on rainfall for the year anyway and the heat of September roasted a few of our plants.

The VP debate was better than expected. Both candidates did fairly well and there were no real zingers to amount to anything. Biden wins on substance. Palin was confident and forceful and came across as very genuine and sincere but without as many facts as Joe, who handled the sweeping issues while Sarah went back to repeating the rhetorical "maverick" mantra three times during the course of the debate. Overall, I felt Palin held her own. Overall, I don't think it matters any more.

Both candidates seemed to agree that same sex partnerships (not marriages) should be granted the same legal rights (not "spiritual" rights) as heterosexual couples. They should have property, insurance, and illness rights that partners in "marriages" do as a basic constitutional guarantee. We've come a long way in my 49 years in America.

David Brooks tonight said McCain is in big trouble.

He said: "If you look at a lot of the other battleground states, he's not doing much better in Pennsylvania, even Ohio, tightening up in Florida. So there's a whole tide, and it's a tide against McCain. He's thrown a lot of long Hail Mary passes. Some of them have paid off; some haven't. It's hard to see what else he does."

Obama has opened a commanding lead nationally. Anything can still happen but the odds (and the polling math) clearly favor a President Obama. I still believe the win will be a "big" Obama win and he'll take Ohio and perhaps even Florida. McCain will fight and probably win Virginia and North Carolina which are, remarkably, "in-play."

Warren Buffet indicates the $700 billion "economic rescue" bill that passed congress today might not be enough. I wonder what the effects are going to be if we find out it's truly not enough, if it's trillions for dollars instead.

On Buffett: "Buffett said the bill isn't perfect, but it's a crucial step in the right direction. He then warned it will take a while to work and that the economy is going to struggle even with its passage. It will cost more to solve this problem today than it did two weeks ago," said Buffett, referring to when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's first proposed that Congress help rescue Wall Street after Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America, and American International Group had to be rescued.

Dow Theorist Richard Russell, who Jennifer and I have subscribed to over the last several years, wrote today: "I have urged subscribers to jettison all preconceived notions as to where the Dow will end its decline. From recent polls, I gather that the majority of investors believe that "next year will be better." This kind of thinking is dangerous. I urge you to keep an open mind as to where this market is heading. It's been a long time since the Dow and the S&P offered great values and dividend yields in the above 5% zone. It could happen again, and if it does, none of my subscribers should be shocked."

On September 29, he wrote: "If the economy is going to improve, it will be up to the government to do the spending. Governments all over the world will have to run up big deficits and increase their spending. After all, what got the US out of the Great Depression of the 1930s? It was the massive spending of World War II that finally turned the US economy to the upside. The giant war effort and related government spending put everybody to work, including millions of America's women. Jobs were plentiful. And now Obama and McCain are competing in promises to CUT government spending! Forget it. To get out of this recession, the US government will have to spend as it never has spent before, along with running trillion dollar deficits. The government will have to embark on a giant "rebuild America program." Our streets and freeways are shot, our bridges are tattered, the US government will have to engineer a massive "make work" program to rebuild America. Unfortunately, as I see it, Washington will be tempting to start another war."

See latest polling data here.

And here's a "real time" polling summary of electoral votes...

This summary is dynamic and will change through time but today the numbers are Obama: 153/97 (strong/leaning) for a total of 250, just 20 shy of the necessary electoral votes to win. 125 votes are undecided. McCain has 108/55 for a 163 total. McCain has to win almost every other state in play. Not likely to happen.

Then again, McCain's an old fighter pilot.