Wednesday, December 31, 2008
It's 2009 and we have a lot to be thankful for:
-We have our health.
-God has taken good care of us.
-Our family is happy, safe, and well taken care of.
-We are employed.
-Our country hasn't been invaded by a more powerful country seeking our resources.
-We're not about to become the next president of the United States.
-We're not about to become the next Secretary of State of the United States.
-Our football team is rebuilding and will be back on top next year.
-Our country isn't experiencing riots.
-Our stock portfolio hasn't fallen 100%.
-George W. Bush is retiring.
-Gasoline is cheap.
-You still can walk in your grocery and buy food imported from all over the country and the world.
-You still have internet access.
-Brittany Spears is back at #1.
-The aliens are still only observing us.
-It's still not too late to get in shape.
-And last but not least: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are not only about to release a new CD, but are performing at halftime at the Superbowl.
Since New Years is a good time to make predictions, I'll probably just review/revise mine from 10/1/08. I'm sticking with all of them, except my oil price prediction has already been proven wrong.
· Oil: $150/barrel before $50/barrel WRONG
· Gold: $1500/ou before $500/ou
· Dow Jones Ind. Avg.: 5000 before 15000
· Next ten years will be the toughest we’ve ever experienced in our lifetime
· Next twenty much tougher than last twenty
· Next fifty much tougher than last fifty
· Military draft: within ten years, probably 5
· Brett Favre won’t be playing for the Jets next season
· Paris Hilton’s career tanks
· Saints win the Superbowl in 2010!!!
My one new prediction: Superbowl 2009 - The Manning Bowl - Peyton vs Eli
I believe that 2009 will be a very challenging year. I don't agree with the gurus that forecast a recession end by the third quarter of next year. Remember that those gurus just informed you that we've been in a recession for the past year. So much for proactive forecasting and timely notification. I think that we're in for a very long haul. A 26 year party requires a long hangover.
My recommendations for the new year:
-Take care of what is important first
-Prepare for all scenarios
-Think for yourself
-Read a lot from diverse sources
-Be aware of who's Kool-Aid you're drinking
-Turn off the TV
-Pray a lot!
For a laugh and summary of 2008:
Happy New Year to all!!!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
"Christmas is our feast. The time we remember Jesus, born homeless in a shelter in Bethlehem. The time of hope, of the birth of hope...the time we try once again to open our hearts, our lives, and let God be born in us. It's interesting: the Gospels begin with the Christmas story, the birth of Jesus, the power of God in a powerless little child, and ends the story with Emmaus: Jesus, on the road, incognito, a stranger, among his disciples.
What both stories tell us is that God inserted Himself into this tired struggle of humanity, among men and women struggling with the power of evil and despair. It is among us struggling people who form a story which God wants us to become a part of; and into this struggle God inserts Himself in Christ Jesus, becoming a brother, a fellow traveler with us. He walks with us. He joins us in our struggle, our hurts, our disappointments, listens to our stories and helps us realize that we are not walking in circles; we are not suffering without meaning; we are not alone in journey; that the God of love who gives us life is now with us - within us - at all times and in all places; so we never need feel lost, we can always trust that God walks with us.
Jesus listens to our stories and gives us hope; but so many of us...hide part of the story, cling to our aloneness; and when we do that we are not allowing God to touch us when we are lost in pain; we hide from one another those places deepest inside ourselves, where we are most in pain, where we are most confused, guilty, hurt. So Christmas is the time to commit ourselves to open up to one another and to God, and to allow God and divinity and hope and new life to be born in us.
It is night now and, in many ways, in America it is night. It is darkness. It was in the night when the angel told Mary that the Messiah, the Savior, would be born to her, a virgin - an impossible thing - and in the night when she gave birth in the shelter of a cave. How do we get out of this night, out of this darkness?
So tonight is the night to reach out and, in God, let love for each other be born; to think of any person among us we have judged, not accepted, even rejected, and build communion as a brother or sister.
When everything is dark, when we are surrounded by despairing forces, when we do not see exits from our troubles, then we can find peace and salvation in the remembered love of Jesus Christ, which is love made vulnerable through suffering, and teaches us that truth springs from patience, and patience from suffering."
Father David's ministry carries on today at Emmaus in Harlem. For more information or to make a donation:
Monday, December 22, 2008
Lets let Faith gives us faith for a great 2009. She illustrates the fact that we have to "play the hand that we're dealt".
Sunday, December 21, 2008
"As the printing presses for the bailouts run at full speed, those in power are no longer even pretending that the new giveaways will fix our problems. Now that we are used to rewarding failure with taxpayer-funded bailouts, we are being told that this is “just a start,” more funds will inevitably be needed for more industries, and that things would be much worse had we done nothing."
"The updated total bailout commitments add up to over $8 trillion now. This translates into a monetary base increase of 75 percent over the last two months. This money does not come from some rainy day fund tucked away in the budget somewhere – it is created from thin air, and devalues every dollar in circulation. Dumping money on an economy, as they have been doing, is not the same as dumping wealth. In fact, it has quite the opposite effect."
"One key attribute that gives money value is scarcity. If something that is used as money becomes too plentiful, it loses value. That is how inflation and hyperinflation happens. Giving a central bank the power to create fiat money out of thin air creates the tremendous risk of eventual hyperinflation. Most of the founding fathers did not want a central bank. Having just experienced the hyperinflation of the Continental dollar, they understood the power and the temptations inherent in that type of system. It gives one entity far too much power to control and destabilize the economy."
"Our central bankers have had a tremendous amount of hubris over the years, believing that they could actually manage a paper money system in such a way as to replicate the behavior and benefits of a gold standard. In fact, back in 2004 then Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan told me as much. People talk about toxic assets, but the real toxicity in our economy comes from the neo-alchemy practiced by the Federal Reserve System. Just as alchemists of the past frequently poisoned themselves with the lead or mercury they were trying to turn to gold, today’s bankers are poisoning the economy with accelerated fiat money creation."
"Throughout the ages, gold has stood the test of time as a consistently reliable medium of exchange, and has frequently been referred to as “God’s money,” as only God can make more of it. Seeking superhuman power over money in the way alchemists did in ancient times caused society to shun them as charlatans. In much the same way, free people today should be sending the message that this power and control over our money is no longer acceptable."
"The irony is that even had the ancient practice of alchemy been successful, and gold was suddenly, magically made abundant, alchemists still would have failed to create real wealth. Creating gold from lead would have cheapened its status to that of rhinestones or cubic zirconia. It is unnatural and dangerous for paper to be considered as precious as a precious metal. Our fiat currency system is crumbling and coming to an end, as all fiat currencies eventually do."
"Congress should reject the central bank as a failure for its manipulations of money that have brought our economy to its knees. I am hoping that in the 111th Congress my legislation to abolish the Federal Reserve System gains traction so that the central bank can no longer destroy our money."
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Jim Puplava: What are the possibilities that somehow they really get this wrong and we have hyperinflation? Do you think it is deflation first, then hyperinflation after that? Is there a possibility that we head straight to hyperinflation? In other words, if we look at Germany in the 1920s, did they experience deflation first, then hyperinflation after that?
Bob Prechter: What the German government was doing was printing bank notes, actual cash. What the Fed typically tries to do is to get people to borrow. I don’t think there is any chance that it is going to get people to borrow enough to overwhelm the deflationary forces. Borrowing is the problem, and credit is what is about to deflate. If they started printing bank notes, I think it would panic the credit markets. So I think we will get a deflation first. I think we will have a hyperinflation after the deflation, but that is not a monetary or market analytical conclusion. It is based on what I think is likely in politics... Our last national crisis, unlike Germany’s, was not inflation but deflation. The people who are running the Federal Reserve System are definitely afraid of deflation, because that is what brought on our Great Depression. It is very likely that they will turn on the monetary spigots and try like crazy to reverse the deflationary forces."
Amazing!! That was five and a half years ago. This week, the Federal Reserve pitched that exact plan. Buckle your chinstraps!
Friday, December 19, 2008
The financial crisis has stimulated a lot of discussion about the interconnected world. The world that Tom Friedman describes as a "flat world". Some have presented theories that we're approaching a "one world order" and the potential of one world currency.
To date, all countries appear to be participants and very well synchronized in this crisis. Peter Schiff in his book, "Crash Proof", believes that not all countries will fair the same. While all currencies could sustain damage, some will do better than others. He believes that China will surface after the crisis as the most powerful economy in the world. He's not a strong believer in the future of the U.S. dollar.
Time will tell.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
During the expansion, when credit is readily available, some companies and individuals stretch themselves too far to present a facade of success. Others use illegal tactics to obtain wealth. As the tide continues to lower, the skinny dippers get revealed.
This past week, we heard of another great Ponzi scheme. The lower tide revealed that Bernard Madoff scammed billions of dollars out of individuals, companies, and charitable organizations. It's reported that he provided constant positive results for decades. The most frustrating and concerning aspect of this discovery is that the SEC had investigated his business several times in the past and found no wrong doing. Madoff was a former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market.
"A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that involves paying abnormally high returns to investors out of the money paid in by subsequent investors, rather than from the profit from any real business. It is named after Charles Ponzi. A Ponzi scheme has similarities with a pyramid scheme though the two types of fraud are different." SOURCE: wikipedia
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
“The Federal government will not bail out lenders — because that would only make a recurrence of the problem more likely. And it is not the government’s job to bail out speculators, or those who made the decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford.” (George W. Bush, Sept 2007)
“These institutions [Fannie and Freddie] are fundamentally sound and strong. There is no reason for the kind of [stock market] reaction we’re getting.” (Christopher Dodd, Chair, Senate Banking Committee, Financial Post, July 12, 2008)
“Misery sells newspapers. Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day.” (Phil Gramm 7/10/08)
“I do think I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness that we have in OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] and OTS [Office of Thrift Supervision]. I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing.” (Barney Frank regarding Fannie & Freddie, 2005)
“I believe there has been more alarm raised about potential unsafety and unsoundness than, in fact, exists.” (Barney Frank regarding Fannie & Freddie, 2007)
"Improvements in lending practices driven by information technology have enabled lenders to reach out to households with previously unrecognized borrowing capacities." (Alan Greenspan, October 2004)
“There is a chance that housing prices could fall, but its effect on the economy will be limited.” (Alan Greenspan, 2005)
"The use of a growing array of derivatives and the related application of more-sophisticated approaches to measuring and managing risk are key factors underpinning the greater resilience of our largest financial institutions .... Derivatives have permitted the unbundling of financial risks." (Alan Greenspan, May 2005)
“I suspect that we are coming to the end of the housing downturn, as applications for new mortgages, the most important series, have flattened out…I think that the worst of this may well be over.” (Alan Greenspan, October 1, 2006)
“The market impact of the U.S. subprime mortgage fallout is largely contained and that the global economy is as strong as it has been in decades.” (Henry Paulson, January 2007)
“All the signs I look at show the housing market is at or near the bottom. The U.S. economy is very healthy and robust.” (Henry Paulson, 4/20/07)
“I’m not interested in bailing out investors, lenders and speculators.” (Henry Paulson, 3/2/08)
“At this juncture, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained.” (Ben Bernanke during Congressional Testimony 3/2007)
"We will follow developments in the subprime market closely. However, fundamental factors—including solid growth in incomes and relatively low mortgage rates—should ultimately support the demand for housing, and at this point, the troubles in the subprime sector seem unlikely to seriously spill over to the broader economy or the financial system." (Ben Bernanke, 6/5/07)
“It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve—nor would it be appropriate—to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions.” (Ben Bernanke, 10/15/07)
“Changes in financial markets, including those that are the subject of your conference, have improved the efficiency of financial intermediation and improved our confidence in the ability of markets to absorb stress. In financial systems around the world, the capital positions of banks have improved and capital markets are becoming deeper and playing a larger role in financial intermediation. Financial innovation has improved the capacity to measure and manage risk. Risk is spread more broadly across countries and institutions.” (Timothy Geithner, May 15, 2007)
“The worst is over.” (Warren Buffett, on Bloomberg TV, May 3, 2008)
“Sometimes, we drink the kool-aid.”(Moody’s internal email)
“It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.” (S&P internal email)
“Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.” (S&P internal memo)
“Chairman Bernanke has succeeded; the economy has been positioned on a sustainable track for manageable expansion: A Goldilocks scenario that is neither too hot nor too cold.”(MikeThomson, Financial Post, April 25, 2007)
“And I believe there will be NO FALLOUT whatsoever beyond the funds, despite the innate desire by so many people to rumor and panic the marketplace.” (Jim Cramer regarding Bear Stearns, 6/22/07)
“I am indeed sticking my neck out right here, right now… declaring emphatically that I believe the market will not revisit the panicked lows it hit on July 15, and I think anyone out there who’s waiting for that low to be breached is in for a big disappointment and [they’re] missing a great deal of upside. My bottom call isn’t gutsy. I think it’s just a smart call that all the evidence points toward. Bye, bye bear market. Say hello to the bull and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” (Jim Cramer, August 4, 2008 – market is down 28% since then)
“The stock market is cheap on a price-earnings basis, profits are fabulous, both here and abroad, stocks are a lovely place to be. I have no idea what the S&P will be ten days from now, but I am confident it will be a lot higher ten years from now, and for most Americans, that's what we need to think about. The subprime and private equity and hedge fund dogs may bark, but the stock market caravan moves on.” (Ben Stein, August 13, 2007 – market down 40% since then)
“The losses in the stock market since the highs of October 2007 are about 14 percent. This predicts — very roughly — a fall in corporate profits of roughly 14 percent. Yet there has never been a decline of quite that size for even one year in the postwar United States, and never more than two years of declining profits before they regained their previous peak.” (Ben Stein, January 27, 2008)
“We finished the year positioned better than ever to capitalize on the array of opportunities still emerging around the world as a result of what we believe are fundamental and long-term changes in how the global economy and capital markets are developing.” (Stanley O’Neal, former CEO of Merrill Lynch, January 2007)
"We deliberately raised more capital than we lost last year ... we believe that will allow us to not have to go back to the equity market in the foreseeable future." (John Thain, another former CEO of Merrill Lynch, April 8, 2008)
“When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.” (Charles Prince, former CEO of Citigroup, July 2007)
But as I do reflect on it, and I do a lot, that nobody saw this coming. S&P and Moody's didn't see it coming, but they simply just downgrade bonds, they don't take hits. Bear Stearns certainly didn't see it coming. Merrill Lynch didn't see it coming. Nobody saw this coming. (Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Countrywide Financial, July 2007 after he sold $138 million of stock)
I’m confident our company is in the right businesses for the long term and that our strategy of being in high growth businesses and markets, our laser focus on customer service, our expense discipline, and our commitment to strong credit risk management, will create value for our shareholders in the future. (KenThompson, former CEO of Wachovia, October 2007)
Source: James Quinn
Read the entire article at:
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Here's the 60 Minutes segment addressing the topic:
Note that there are three parts.
Friday, December 12, 2008
"The Socialist opposition leader, George Papandreou, speaking after emergency talks with the prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, said Greeks had lost trust in the government after three days of disorder across the country, triggered when a schoolboy was shot dead by police.
"The country doesn't have a government to protect it," he said. "Citizens are experiencing a multiple crisis: a social crisis, a crisis of values. People have lost trust in the government." Karamanlis today began emergency talks with top politicians, urging them to unite against the face of civil unrest, as he struggles to reassert his authority. "We won't show any leniency," he said. "No one has the right to use this tragic incident as an excuse for acts of violence. At this critical time, the political world must unite to condemn those responsible for this disaster and isolate them." Source: The Guardian
"But the anti-government movement acquired new impetus following the fatal shooting by the police on Saturday of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, 15. While clashes between the police and students have been common in Greece for decades, the ferocity of the reaction to the boy’s death took the nation — and its crippled government — by surprise. Outrage over the death was widespread, fueled by what experts say is a growing frustration with unemployment and corruption in one of the European Union’s consistently underperforming economies, worsened by global recession." SOURCE: The New York Times
Congo, Zimbabwe, Thailand......As Americans, what should we prepare for?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The Burj Dubai, the soon-to-be tallest building in the world, is under construction in Dubai. The Dubai financial markets, like many others, have lost 70% of their value since the summer. Robert Prechter's research illustrates that during major credit expansion periods, the tallest buildings "of their time" have been constructed. The Burj Dubai might be a great example of this phenomenom. Euphoria rules at the crest of the tidal wave.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I bought this book authored by Templeton and really have found it to be an incredibly diverse source of great "life lessons". This past May we had several high school seniors graduating and I wish I had discovered this book before then and sent it as the gift.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I had a conversation with a good friend a few weeks ago who has been travelling the world a lot lately. He reports that our arrogance has made us very unpopular. I don't think that that is new news to anyone, but shouldn't we stare into the mirror and ask ourselves the question "who put us in charge of the world?" I'm a very firm believer that we should wield our power to aid countries during major internal conflicts where millions of innocent people are being impacted. I'm not a supporter of invading countries for their resources under the veil of being a good Samaritan.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Historically, I believe that there has been two factors controlling the price of oil: supply/demand and whatever OPEC wanted it to be. In recent years, I believe that a third factor has arisen and that is fear. The fear factor could include "peak oil", terrorism, and geopolitical conflict in oil prone regions. This factor can explain the rapid rise to $145 per barrel this year. Supply and demand hasn't changed that drastically to explain the rapid rise or rapid fall. Most OPEC companies desire oil to be above $70 per barrel, so some overpowering force has won. Most recently, the "sprint to cash" and deflationary fears could explain the capitulation in the price of oil along with all other commodities.
In the coming years, I believe that these fears, geopolitical events, and market dynamics will drive the price of oil to very high levels. In the meantime, lets hope that low gasoline prices don't encourage us to take our eye off of the ball regarding the long term underlying problem of overconsumption.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Keep shining the light my friends!!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The natural cure for the hangover.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Recently, we went to see the box office phenomenom "Twilight". The movie is a love story about a girl and her love for a vampire. It wasn't my kind of movie, but while sitting in the theatre I couldn't help from noticing the darkness of the film. The scenes were dark (vamps don't like light) and the vampire theme, by it's nature, was dark.
The Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight", is smashing box office records. It's been categorized as a psychological thriller. The word "dark" is even in the title. Ironically, Heath Ledger, who played the Joker committed suicide and Christian Bale, Batman, has been charged with assault on his mother and sister. Were they impacted by the darkness of their film?
A quick review of box office sales reveals that at the inflection point from expansion to contraction, the top films in 2001 were Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, and Monsters Inc. While the scenes in Potter and Rings were very dark, at least the Monsters were cute in Monsters Inc. Ironically in 2000, the year of the dotcom crash, Mission Impossible II was the top grossing film.
So what's the point? Keep your radars on for clues regarding changes around you. How will they impact us? What influence will these films have on our children?
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
"She's poised to make a ton of money."
Howard Rubenstein, New York's best-known public relations adviser
But I did forget one big winner, Joe The Plummer. He's negotiating his book deal.
"Everyone came at me to write a book. They had dollar signs in their eyes. '101 Things Joe the Plumber Knows' or some stupid s--- like that. Excuse me, I am sorry, you know I will get behind something solid, but I won't get behind fluff. I won't cash in, and when people do read the book they will figure out that I didn't cash in. At least I hope they figure that out."
Joe The Plummer
Only in America my friends!!