Thursday, June 29, 2006

Your pawn is but a suckling piglet on the teat of failure.

"You amuse me with your pretention. Your pawn is but a suckling piglet on the teat of failure." - Ze Frank.

This guy kicks ass. He has created his own bizarre, rapid-fire, and cynical news / opinion / entertainment show that is released a few times each week and tracks current events. It's a bit of a underground / cult-film-style production that has fairly dedicated followers.

One of his newer pieces is fantastic. It starts out slow but amusing, and then leaps into a tirade against the erosion of personal liberties our country has seemingly tolerated over the past several years in the hopes of bolstering security. He makes interesting points and used a powerful quote from a Founding Father that I think is worth repeating here. From the wiki he hosts for transcripts and discussions about each show you can read his response to a viewer who voiced support of the direction our country is going:

I assume what you mean is that, if the warrantless wiretapping program catches even one bad person, it validates its existence.

The question isn't whether this program would be effective at catching bad people:

If we had mandatory anal cavity searches for every person that enters the United States, we'd find a lot more cocaine.

The question is whether these kinds of programs upset the balance between government and personal liberty and therefore can lead to an abuse of power. Given this sort of authority, the government decides who is and who isn't a bad person. People who openly dissent against the government's further attempts to encroach on personal liberties could also be called bad people. Governments are made out of people with strong ideas. Some of those people feel that if people of opposing ideas came to power, it would threaten the integrity of the United States. One abstract worry is that if people in power are left unchecked, they could use programs like the AT&T wireprograms to perpetuate their own rule. Court approval in these cases is supposed to provide the check to that unchecked power. In a free society, you can assume that at some point someone you don't agree with is gonna rise to power. When thinking about these kinds of programs, try to imagine how that person would use them.

When speaking about factions and their tendency to abuse power, James Madison, currently dead, said, "Liberty is to faction, what air is to fire, an ailment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency."

Oh, and personally? I'd rather not live in a country where somebody can stick their finger up my ass in an airport.
This is Texas Hippie, dredging the 'net so you don't have to.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Student Loan Consolidation Myths

CNN Money has a piece on the myths of student loan consolidation. Good info for those considering it, and here's a brief summary: Hurry up and get 'er done before June 30th, consolidating as many student loans as you can except your Perkins loan. I agree, seeing as how interest rates have risen since the last loan rate bump, they will continue to rise in the near future, and the next loan rate adjustment is coming soon.

Yeah! Take that!

Dems to grow a pair, and "vow to block [Congress] pay raises until minimum wage increased." (CNN.com)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

NJ supports gay marriage

From an Austin blogger at Casual Soapbox we find that NJ has come to support gay marriage in greater numbers since 2003 (shown in parentheses):

Favors gay marriage 50% (43%)
Opposes gay marriage 44% (50%)
Having spent time in NJ recently I can say that the difference in attitude is palpable, and people in NJ and NYC aren't simply personally supportive but are actually quite outspoken. It's a change that I think the whole country is starting to experience, but obviously it's going to be slower in a state like Texas. Still, progress is nice.

Texas has a lot of room for improvements

From Pink Dome, Texas really needs to make progress on the poverty issue. Part of this is going to require some effort on addressing immigration, but the biggest change is going to have to come from how people view programs like CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program). Since compassion isn't enough to motivate people when it requires money or time, we need to also explore poverty as an issue of investment, though I'm not familiar enough with the economic fundamentals of class hierarchies to describe my belief in "trickle up economics", so to speak. More on this later I hope....

For what it's worth, Chris Bell has dedicated a significant portion of his gubernatorial platform to fully funding CHIP and improving education by increasing our investment in it instead of reducing it as Gov. Perry has done. He believes that Texas requires a healthy and educated workforce to entice employers to invest and create jobs here. Texas has so much potential: Houston is a powerful force in the energy industry, Dallas is strong in telecommunications, San Antonio has the highest per-capita concentration of financial-industry employees outside of NYC, and Austin is "Silicon Hills." Our state can do better.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Real oversight from Congress?

It looks like Congress may be stepping up to do its job after many years of giving a free pass to the Bush administration. A key role of Congress is to have oversight of the executive branch so that it doesn't try to overreach its constitutionally granted powers. This is known as "checks and balances", and it's one of the first things schoolchildren learn about how our country works. In my belief it's one of the most important things about our country's political structure, but it has largely dwindled since the Bush administration cynically manipulated the public after 9/11 to increase its power. As usual, Glenn Greenwald does a fantastic job of dissecting recent activity in the legislative and judicial branches that indicate a chance of our country surviving this maniacal power grab.

Curious about other markets?

I'm just starting to learn how other markets like bonds, futures, and gold work. This article is a good start and can help you get a feel for why people invest in gold, and how to time your own ventures into this territory. I still have a lot to learn though so I'm not going there just yet.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A pictorial representation of the "housing ATM"

The "housing ATM" term describes how American consumers have sustained the economy through recent years by using the recent, rapid increase in housing equity as a source of funds to help purchase consumable goods. The entire housing industry was fueled by Fed interest rates at 46-year lows, along with a spate of ARMs and riskier mortgages such as interest-only. But if you look at the GDP % growth with the housing boom subtracted away, you can see a clearer picture of how tough this recovery has really been in terms of fundamentals.

Housing has already started cooling down, most rapidly in the most overheated markets such as San Diego. The housing bubble won't burst in the same fashion as the dot-com bubble, but the sudden shutdown of the housing ATM will have a very noticeable impact on the economy. Again, look at where our GDP would be without the Mortgage Equity Withdrawal.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Wal-Mart uses taxpayers to support its workers' needs

The Burnt Orange Report has recently broadened its scope and writing staff to include much of Texas. This brings in interesting new coverage, such as this article from San Antonio's Express News:

One of the richest companies in the world also has more employees enrolled in the Children's Health Insurance Program than any other Texas employer.
Wal-Mart is relying on the public safety net, even encouraging its underpaid "associates" to take advantage of taxpayer-subsidized programs. (warning: numerous links from progressive websites follow, read at your own comfort-level of skepticism)

From Wal-Mart Watch .org (pdf):
The PBS program "Now with Bill Moyers," reported Wal-Mart provides new workers with toll-free numbers to determine eligibility for public benefits.

Wal-Mart denies encouraging workers to get on the dole. In a May 18 letter to Newcomb, Joe Kefauver, director of state government relations for Wal-Mart, said the company has been unfairly targeted by grocery employee unions.

"Please be assured that we do not encourage the use of public assistance, and we do not structure our plans with the idea that there will be a governmental safety net," Kefauver wrote, adding that more than 500,000 of its 1.2 million workers buy company health plans, which begin at $155 a month for a family.
In reality they have made notable effort to provide their "associates" with easy access to applications for public assistance.

Documents bearing the Wal-Mart logo reveal that the company issues paper "Instructions for Associates" which direct them in applying to public assistance programs. [Wal-Mart Social Services Documents, undated]

  • Document #1: The Wal-Mart "Instructions for Associates." This document bears the Wal-Mart logo and contains a section entitled, "Applying to a Social Service Agency?" The section instructs associates who are applying for social services to tell their caseworkers to verify employer information with Wal-Mart's outside contractor, The Work Number. [Wal-Mart Social Services Documents, undated]
  • Document #2: Wal-Mart Memo. This document is a Wal-Mart memo, again bearing the company logo, and informs recipients that the company uses The Work Number to verify employment and income for associates. The memo provides "Special Instructions" for social service agencies. [Wal-Mart Social Services Documents, undated]
  • Document #3: The Work Number Services. This document is a page from The Work Number website detailing what services it provides for employers. The Work Number can "save time and money" for employers by verifying employee information for the following public programs: TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), Food Stamps, Social Security and Medicaid. [http://www.theworknumber.com/employers/employers_govtverify.asp]
Wal-Mart does offer its own plans in some cases, but its coverage is extremely limited and in some cases completely unusable.

So if anyone tries to claim that illegal immigrants are a cause of concern because of their burden on taxpayers, I'd like to hear their views on Wal-Mart first. If any benefit of the doubt is allowed here it's for the immigrants. Humans need compassion and a helping hand more than extremely successful corporations.

Don't give up on MOT just yet

Motorola still has compelling, innovative products and will continue to execute well. Nokia, before its latest endeavor, showed similar operating margins and profit margins as Motorola, but Nokia is now diluting its attractiveness with its involvement in a languishing networking division from Seimens. Combined with its already higher P/E, Nokia may see a heftier stock downturn based on investor pessimism. Recall that after Motorola spun off its semiconductor division into Freescale, both companies performed better. I suspect the converse may be true with Nokia's latest efforts, and this will help MOT work through the downturn better than NOK.

In summary, don't buy MOT now since it's likely to be cheaper in the fall, but long-term investors can hold their shares since I believe it will weather the downturn better, gain marketshare, and become a more attractive stock quickly when the market rebounds.

posting a note for myself

I'm posting this article from Firedoglake because I find it a generally interesting taxonomy of the collection of *Cons, (NeoCons, TheoCons, etc.). However this post is mostly a reference point to link against later, since I like to quote my own posts to feel circularly significant :)

Independents align with Democrats in all 50 states

When it comes to supporting Bush, Independents are closer to Democrats. But remember, some conservatives are backing away from Bush because he's "too liberal". As Rick Perlstein says, "Conservatism never fails. It is only failed." This country still votes with its collective gut, not its brain, and until we as a nation start thinking we're not going to see a sudden shift in voting patterns.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Last chance to sell

If you think stocks are going to drop even more over the next year, you may wish to sell some of your holdings in 3-6 weeks based on the linked Volatility Index analysis. It's sad to see how much has eroded over the last couple of months, but keep in mind that a lot of the run-up in stock prices was speculation and made the stocks overvalued, so there's no entitlement to that price. Look at the fundamentals of your stock, and if it still shows a stronger price then what you feel it can deliver then sell when the time feels right over the next 3-6 weeks. Stocks should drop afterwards and give you a chance to buy back at a lower price, offsetting the regret of not having sold two months ago. You'll eventually have a chance to sell again at those earlier high prices, but not for a year or more.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

What the Fuck?

Mrs. Hippie sent me this article which she found on Fark.com. For an extra level of redirection the article actually quotes the Washington Post:

Officials in US President George W. Bush's administration turned down a 2003 Iranian offer to begin talks with the US, recognize Israel, and end support of Palestinian terror organizations, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
What the fuck?

Austin is unprepared for a large-scale emergency

The Pink Dome found a Statesman article that identifies Austin as inadequately prepared for a major disaster or emergency. Coincidentally on this same day the Flu Wiki has turned one year old. My comment on Pink Dome describes why the Flu Wiki is a useful template for community driven preparedness for a multitude of disasters.

We should all take a moment to read the Flu Wiki put together as a non-partisan information site to organize community-level responses to a potential flu pandemic. The idea here is that we won't be able to rely on a centralized support system in the event of an emergency, and a number of parallels to other disasters (natural and otherwise) can be made to a flu pandemic outbreak. Do you think you can hole up in your house with your Tamiflu prescription and ride it out? What happens when Austin's water plant is shut down because nobody is healthy enough to service it? Can you survive for a month without going to the grocery store? The discussions of community-level preparedness aren't some mormon fantasy of armageddon, but rather a very sober view of what minimal effort could be done in the community to prepare for a major event.
When I return to Austin I hope to do more research in the fall to organize my HOA into some semblance of emergency readiness, in the least trying to identify community self sufficiency such as:
  • the existence of local doctors willing to service community needs & minor emergencies in the event of overcrowding in ERs.
  • the capacity of our local water supply, and what it takes to maintain it.
  • local ham radio hobbyists willing to help keep our community informed in the event of extended power outages (Austin recently had a complete network outage for Cingular wireless customers after a heavy storm. Extended power outages could easily disrupt broadcast radio and TV as well as phone systems and internet).
Of course I tend to get caught up in work & play without having time to do these side projects, but I want to accomplish a minimal goal of collecting information about our community's willing volunteers. After a recent family experience with emergency room overcrowding, even during an off-season, it's apparent that we need some form of local self-sufficiency.

Friday, June 16, 2006

She'll be a great prof!

Mrs. Hippie got a craving for popcorn around midnight, so we hiked across the enormous old house we're renting and made our way to the kitchen. I fumbled for some other snacks while she started grumbling at the microwave. Beep. Beep-beep. She finds the microwave button. "I can barely even fit one popcorn in," she lectures the microwave, "why give me the option for more?!" She hits one at the button's prompt, then enter. My wife, the Mac girl. I knew I'd find her out there.

Incidentally if she can lecture a microwave I'm certain she won't take any lip from her students when she's a prof one day.

Index funds are not so great right now

From The Big Picture, it's important to note that index funds only perform better than actively managed funds during a "secular bull market", whereby an investor holds for the very long term with the expectation that the end outcome of several bull/bear cycles will result in overall positive gains. And in the long-term there are certainly gains to be had; for example stocks will eventually return to the dot-com bubble era valuations. But a good individual investor or a well-managed fund can weather bear markets and recessions better than an index fund, as can be seen by the percentage of outperformers in these rough markets of the past 5 years.

This chart and analysis shows that the overall market can be flat for over a decade, where only careful and thoughtful investigation of where to invest will yield a positive return. A blind index won't always do the trick, so consider if you wish to rebalance your 401(k) or IRA. Again, I recommend large-cap stocks over small-cap for this next year or so.

Could it be because he has no message?

What does Chris Bell stand for? We know that Kinky hates politicians, Strayhorn hates taxes, and Perry hates pretty much everyone who isn't a white heterosexual Christian. (though I do appreciate Perry's leadership during hurricane Katrina, I think overall he's not a very good human being). But back to my point, what does Chris Bell stand for? .... hard to say. I appreciate that he doesn't have a polarizing platform like the other candidates - he seems more thoughtful on his positions - but that makes it very difficult for him to self-identify to the voters. Which is why he's performing so poorly.

The strongest platform Bell has to run on currently makes a lot of sense: We need to vastly improve the state of public education in Texas, which results in a far more powerful incentive for businesses to come to our state to do business than tax incentives or pork barrel projects. To wit:

Texas is poised to blow the doors off the rest of the country as the best place to work and raise a family. But we can'’t do better than California and New York if our schools are competing with Mississippi and Arkansas, and we're importing our ethics from Washington.
What of his platform have you heard that strikes a chord?

Wooing the Suburban and Exurban vote

Another great post from In The Pink Texas commenting on an NY Times article discussing voter demographic shifts. Choice quote in the NY Times from Chicago Democrat Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, modded slightly by the ITPT writer Pink Lady:

“I see this new reality in my district,” Kirk said. “In the old days, when you looked at a detached house with a big yard, that was usually a Republican home… when you looked at a car with a boot and a person sleeping in the back seat, that was typically a Democratic home.”
I love ITPT, it amuses me on a regular basis :)

Bicycle helmet law under consideration in Austin

From the Austin Centrist, the City Council has been requested to consider a helmet law for bikers in Austin. I wholeheartedly agree with the Centrist argument in principle. But I've also heard that emergency-room overcrowding has become an enormous issue in the U.S., and I wonder where Austin's ER capacity stands? My question then is: if people decide to consciously risk their lives, do these preventable traumas warrant less attention in the ER? Is there an argument for the helmet law aside from wanting to protect people from themselves?

I'm all for any and all personal rights to the extent that they don't impact the lives of others. But to me it's a gray area any time personal decisions directly cross over into other people's lives. What are your thoughts?

Getting rid of dead weight

The Dems did good by distancing themselves from the corrupt William Jefferson and voting to remove him from power. Corruption of any sort is simply not acceptable.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Excellent study of the Texas gubernatorial race

Texas Monthly magazine has an excellent article currently free for viewing which covers the gubernatorial race. Very interesting analysis!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Reinforcement of pessimism - the coming market decline

The Nattering Naybob Chronicles summed up this MSN Money article by highlighting many of the same key points I would have. There's one more:

My economic and investment models continue to forecast the potential for one last hurrah in stock prices this month before a precipitous decline in July through October. That'’s potential, not a guarantee. But it' ’s enough of a potential to worry about.
This would be the best time to reevaluate your current positions and to tune your retirement accounts, especially if the downturn this past month made you nervous. I'm fairly confident that there will be a bigger downturn of 10% or more starting as early as mid-summer, and it could take over a year to recoup, but I don't think that the downturn will be long enough to justify a wholesale changeover to bonds and fixed income investments. I do however think that Small- and Mid-Cap stocks are going to be hit fairly hard, so consider migrating your portfolio over to Large-Caps, which provide a less exciting ride during a Bull market, but are more reliable during a Bear.

Lastly I'd like to highlight a quote that contradicts my beliefs:
I think it is usually very important not to get too weighed down with what can go wrong in the market. If you're a smart person, you have a critical mind and can nitpick all kinds of problems with the world. You can see that the dollar is falling, energy prices are soaring, home prices are stalling, the U.S. budget deficit is out of control, the administration and Congress are flailing and inflation is on the advance. And you can conclude from all of these concerns that the market should fail.

As investors, we don't really care about all of these facts except as they pertain to individuals' appetite to buy stocks. All of these terrible things can occur, and yet investors can remain buoyant and drive the market higher. It's called "climbing the wall of worry," and it is a very important part of a strong bull market.

That first paragraph makes a lot of sense to me. The second, however, clearly differentiates the writer from a value investor. Folks like me don't buy and sell on the sentiment of other investors, they're just too hard to predict and their behavior tends to take dramatic swings in a unified stampede. Maybe I'm risk-averse, or maybe I'm just an "investor" and not a "trader", but I personally only feel comfortable buying underappreciated stocks with strong fundamentals.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Minimum wage hike? How about a living wage?!

The minimum wage hasn't been hiked in 9 years, while inflation steadily eats away at spending power and workers are getting fewer health care benefits. So minimum wage earners have effectively had their wages lowered the past 9 years. It's disgusting to hear members of Congress proclaim that the economy will be hampered if we don't continue to let businesses take advantage of the lower class. If you believe that compassionate conservatism was a genuine part of the GOPs recent platform, then clearly it is a phenomenal failure.

We need to start thinking in terms of a living wage, and this won't have to be paid for by taxpaying citizens. Instead the excessively large and profitable companies that damage our communities and environment such as Walmart and Exxon should be forced into some semblance of public good will. And they might even find their profits rise if they do so, because there are many conscientious consumers like myself that refuse to buy from them until they do. (BTW, Exxon is still involved in legal disputes and is still withholding some money from the Exxon Valdez spill repayments).

Friday, June 09, 2006

Perception differences by gender

This post requires some critical thinking and I've been working on it for a few weeks. The links are a very interesting way to examine your own perceptual biases, especially for men.

Every guy worries about going to prison at some subconscious level or another. That's because we basically can't help but do stupid things some times, or we could at least envision doing something stupid if only by accident. And it's not white collar resorts we're afraid of, it's PMITA federal penitentiaries. To reinforce that petrifying terror, read this article that starts with a discussion on prison rape.

I've read it multiple times, because it really caught me off guard. I was getting very agitated by the subject matter when this quote slammed reality in my face:

Ah yes, there's nothing to get red-blooded men fired up about rape than a good ol' drop-the-soap-story. By the way, it happens to a woman about once every 2 minutes, according to the DOJ.
Wow. The things we obsess about as an extremely remote possibility are a living nightmare to many women out there. So how is it that it did not come naturally for me to connect the unpleasant prison narrative to this harsh reality? I'm too cynical to be living in a sheltered bubble, so that's not it. I think it's that fundamentally our society is still biased against women, too mentally lazy to confront the issues that they face every day. I consider myself a feminist, but I still have biases that I'm trying to purge.

Do you stress about each pay raise you believe you deserve, while most women make 3/4 the pay for similar work? Where do you draw the line in your preferential thinking as the examples become more extreme? I'm still trying to challenge my own stereotypes, and this is a really good exercise for that.

Here's an extreme: social conservatives have attempted to challenge a vaccine for human papilloma virus (HPV), which is the leading cause of potentially fatal cervical cancer in women. The drug, which was developed by Merck and has been approved by the FDA, is 100% effective in combating the leading cancer-causing strains of HPV. But it's most effective when administered in young girls, leading social conservatives to boldly proclaim that this will lead to promiscuity in young women. This is as unnatural and creepy as the father-daughter "purity balls", a disgusting event where fathers pressure their young daughters into "abstinence pledges". Furthermore, it doesn't work: abstinence pledgers broke their promise at a rate of 61% (or 82% if you believe oral sex is still sex... which it is, duh), and from this article:
...pledge-makers who became pledge-breakers were less likely [than other sexually active teens] to use protection, such as condoms, when first having sex.
Trying to appreciate equality is how I came to supporting women's reproductive rights since I was a teenager, but traversing the gradient of inequality gives me a much clearer vector for connecting my thoughts to my beliefs. To those who still question a woman's choice, you too need a way to connect your thoughts to your beliefs. Think about it, and if you have a logical doctrine then please share. If not, hopefully this helps you challenge your beliefs, else your beliefs become cemented as faiths. Faith about your own moral path in life is one thing, but having faith about anyone else's proper lifestyle scares the crap out of me.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Funny/awesome clip with Jon Stewart supporting gay marriage

Good for him! And the audience's cheers made me feel really good this morning.

[Update]: I want to highlight a key point from this discussion that really stuck in my mind. Jon Stewart defused the anti-gay battle cry of the "slippery slope" leading to polygamy and bestiality by stating that unlike homosexuality these behaviors aren't part of the human condition. Homosexuality has been observed repeatedly in the animal kingdom as well, so it makes no sense to proclaim it as unnatural.

Since polygamy is also a natural element, why not allow it as well? What you wish to do as consenting adults is your business, and I could care less; however polygamous relationships that are formed as a bond of subservience are inappropriate counterexamples to the gay marriage debate, because they are not a relationship of mutual love, respect and equality. Beyond that, I strongly believe that anything consenting adults wish to do that does not violate the freedoms of anyone else is their right.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Detailed survey on Texas voter demographics

I've been working on this post since I hit the road for NJ, so now that I'm here I can clear it off my plate. (I've got a few others backlogged too.)

This demographic study of Texas voters reaffirms my belief that the extra candidates for Governor will dilute the persuadable votes of young and/or independent voters away from Chris Bell, which is fine. Perry will likely win without too much trouble. But I very much appreciate a system that is open to outsiders, because otherwise we would see the same stagnation and detachment from reality that has overcome even the Dems in the US Congress. The Democratic party does not take a principled stand on very many issues that I believe in strongly. Hopefully this will help them understand what they're doing wrong.

Here are the key points of interest in my opinion from these results.

  • More women support Strayhorn than Bell, though I believe that women typically (across the US) support Democrats more than Republicans, especially as compared to men. This is key to how this election will play out.
  • Bell and Friedman get the largest bloc of support from young voters.
  • Of the candidates, Bell curries the least favor from independent voters, due to the libertarian and two independent candidates.
  • Moderates take Friedman the least seriously, but Liberals seem to rank him as their second choice. This is the second key point to this election, and specifically to why Chris Bell stands very little chance.
I still believe that Bell will come in second to Perry, with Strayhorn and Friedman trailing closely in that order.

Reversion to the mean, and other value investment techniques

I'm a value investor according to most definitions, meaning that I look at the fundamentals of a company or market and not at the trends. I've considered buying into Apple and AMD some time ago, and my money would have more than doubled by now. But much of the activity that has boosted both stocks is based on speculation moreso than the fundamentals of what the companies can deliver; following the herd can be exciting and profitable if you know exactly when to get out, but I'm not a big gambler like that. In the past month they've both lost 17%. And I know so many people that lost money in 2000 that are much smarter than I that I feel it's not sensible for me to take huge risks.

So it's with this in mind that I'd like to point out that we are returning to much more reasonable P/E ratios, meaning that companies are more affordable for what they can actually deliver. Their stock price (P) is dropping due to market fears, while most companies have been reporting better earnings (E), making stocks more affordable for their value. This 50-year trend graph shows the P/E along with highlighted regions of Bull (aggressive) markets. The upcoming "reversion to the mean" is an indicator of stability, where the market reflects and regroups at a safe point while determining where the next bull market will take off. But heed the warning that market trends overshoot in both directions, which is why I still believe we're in for a soft spot until winter or spring, and we're not yet at a good buying opportunity.

My contrarian posts share my feelings about when to get out of the market, since it can be very hard to walk away from a "hot table". But I am also a contrarian in the sense that I don't trust most trends (I still wore 80s short-shorts in 1990 when jams became popular). Follow the fundamentals and you can not only get out of a volatile trend (with its possible but risky profitability), and then it's much easier to get back in to the market when it softens since you avoided getting burned.

Colbert kicks ass

Heh :)

Unfortunately for you job seekers, corporations searching for a better bottom line have moved many of their operations overseas, whether it's a customer service operator, a power factory foreman, or an American flag manufacturer. They're just as likely to be found in Shanghai as Omaha. In fact, outsourcing is so easy that I had this speech today written by a young man named Panjeeb from Bangalore.
...
And when you enter the workforce, you will find competition from those crossing our all-too-poorest borders. Now I know you're all going to say, "Stephen, Stephen, immigrants built America." Yes, but here's the thing - it's built now. I think it was finished in the mid-70s sometime. At this point it's a touch-up and repair job. But thankfully Congress is acting and soon English will be the official language of America. Because if we surrender the national anthem to Spansih, the next thing you know, they'll be translating the Bible. God wrote it in English for a reason! So it could be taught in our public schools.
...
I have two last pieces of advice. First, being pre-approved for a credit card does not mean you have to apply for it. And lastly, the best career advice I can give you is to get your own TV show. It pays well, the hours are good, and you are famous. And eventually some very nice people will give you a doctorate in fine arts for doing jack squat.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Deflating the low unemployment myth

Care of the Big Picture I see a link to an interesting report:

Unemployment fell to 4.6 percent largely because more adults chose to not participate in the job market. The adult labor force participation rate remains significantly lower than when George Bush took over stewardship of the economy. If adults were participating in the job market at 2000 levels, 2.7 million more people would be looking for work and unemployment would exceed 6 percent. - Professor Peter Morici, School of Business, University of Maryland
Some comments on the Big Picture link also bring up discouraged-unemployment and underemployment, which may be why average salaries have not gone up as fast as the "recovering" market has. Many businesses are definitely making a lot of money, but the average worker is not. When Bush cheers his economic recovery, he's really cheering his big-business pals (such as Ken Lay), and not you or me. The Big Picture has a separate post on this dichotomy, and why the current administration will never understand its constituents.

Thoughts?

Friday, June 02, 2006

New blog on the economy & investing

By way of CalculatedRisk I found a new blog called the Big Picture that I think I'll start reading. Here's a small excerpt of its latest, discussing the NFP (non-farm payroll) increase for this month:

Today'’s NFP number stunk the joint up: 75,000. That'’s half of the monthly population growth, meaning the percentage of people working (relative to pop) actually went down, if we are to believe this data.
It's also interesting to note that growth in real wages has been flat or negative, while consumer prices have not increased at inflationary rates except when tied to gas/oil prices. As a commentor in another blog described, unlike past periods of high inflation this time corporations are handling inflationary pressure by pushing the burden onto the workers instead of consumers in the form of below-inflation pay raises and reductions in benefits. If we didn't have such a grossly negative trade deficit, increasing the price of consumer goods could have the effect of making other countries share the burden of our inflation. Instead, we've got to shoulder it alone.

Quick update from New Jersey

I miss Austin already, of course! But I'll stay up to speed with Austin and Central Texas happenings with the help of this index of progressive blogs. Interestingly Austin has more progressive blogs than Houston, at least as observed by this site. And I'm not sure how I got on there :)