Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Market Theory Works

Economics is tough. Recently it has been broadcast that 1.2 million jobs have been lost this year. A large number of those jobs have been in construction and industry. However I do not know the statistics but I would venture the largest number of layoffs are in the service sector. Banks and financial institutions have laid of tens of thousands, insurance companies are shedding workers, real estate agencies and other mortgage brokers have to be losing people. I cannot help but wonder how many of those jobs were created with poor supporting structure.

What do I mean by that? Stop and think about it, here were these huge financial institutions putting together investment instruments containing thousands of mortgage and reselling them to investors for large fees, yet in their technological sophistication they cannot tell you what instruments lie bundled in these portfolios. as a result when the value of the bundles comes into question they have no way of sorting out the bad so the entire bundle of mortgages is devalued, perhaps way below market value.

Home prices are falling in many parts of the country. Why, because greedy people bought homes paying premium prices with little regard for real market value creating an artificial market value not supported by sound credit terms and traditional methods of measuring property value. Instead it became similar to a pyramid scheme and as long as no one asked any questions people were getting rich. However, they were also pricing the properties beyond the range of the average person thereby narrowing the number of participants in the market until it became unsustainable.

What we are seeing now is a period of adjustment, and quite frankly we need these downturn to put rationale back into the markets. Unfortunately some innocent people are going to get burned, and some shortsighted greedy people rewarded. But then, who said life was fair?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Economy 11-18-08

It is well known that a downturn in the economy begins long before the effect is felt. Yesterday experts were saying the economy began its down turn almost a year ago. If that is true then the same is true for a swing back up. Also yesterday productivity numbers in the U.S. improved by 1% above economists predictions. It was felt that that swing was due to recovery from the hurricanes that decimated the Gulf. This morning, Home Depot reported sales above expectations, not good but better than plan. Can this be the turning point. Perhaps It is easy to attribute changes to unexpected events. HD's increase in sales over plan could be due to the housing market and people now repairing homes instead of selling them. Who knows, but we need to be on our toes, the bottom may be near. Let it be said, if we start to regain economic strength, I made the prediction on this date. Yatata!

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Odd Sight

We have Turkey Buzzards in Arkansas. Actually they are all over the country, I saw some this summer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Back to the story. Turkey Buzzards are not seen in large numbers around our home of Paragould, AR. Yesterday morning Terry and I were returning from shopping about 9:30 AM. As we pulled into the final drive heading to the house there, in lazy circles, looping about the cabin were a flock of Turkey Buzzards, perhaps 8 of 10 in number. Circling slowly, weaving in their beautiful gliding pattern they were taking advantage of the thermals barely moving their wings. They were in no hurry. I assume they were testing the wind and searching the ground for food.

As were pulled up in the drive in front of the house they were positioned over the rent house just next to our property and their circles took them over our garage and pine trees along the garage driveway. They are an ugly bird, but you cannot see the turkey type head from a distance, all you can see is the grace with which they fly.

Standing along side the van I marveled at the beauty. All of a sudden from the north a fast moving form caught my eye. It was a hawk, a large hawk, probably a red tail. From underneath you cannot see the red tail It raced toward the circling buzzards. I thought, Oh boy, I'm going to see something happen now. It was remarkable, the hawk joined the circling birds. It did not attack, it did not alarm the buzzards, it just joined them. I assumed that the flight pattern of the buzzards would alarm other animals on the ground and may provide the hawk with a fresh kill. When they are hungry hawks have been known to eat carrion, so maybe it was a hawk, just laid off from an auto plant trying to make ends meet. Who knows.

It was some sight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Republican Party

I am a Republican. I am not a learned Republican steeped in political knowledge. However I watched Senator Obama beat the stuffing out of John McCain. I say I am a Republican, yet I find some of the values espoused by the Democrats to be appealing. I think abortion should be a choice made by the mother with the father's input. I think that we have to get health care under control and I do not believe giving a voucher to citizens to use in buying health care is viable. Hell, $5000 won't my much in the way of health insurance, and many poor people would use the money to put food on the table, booze in their gullet, or drugs in their veins. I think Social Security needs to be fixed. I am one who will probably have over 50% of their retirement income come from the monthly benefit check. I think veterans should received better benefits and the GI Bill do what it did years ago, pay for college so people who serve can improve their lot in life.

I do not like the idea of increasing government involvement in private issues. However, it seems the Republicans couldn't stem the tide. I think we are over committed in defense spending and need to work harder at forging international friendship instead of looking for the economic advantage all of the time.

A liberal Congress scares the hell out of me. I do not like the Employee Free Choice Act and think there will be nothing worse than its passage. I fear companies will flock to other countries to avoid the chicken shit contracts that will be forced on employers. I also think there are enough issues in the passage of that law to create law suits that will tie up the implementation of that bill for several years.

Most of all I want the Republicans to get rid of the religious right. I cannot think of a more damning, damaging segment of the party that drives young voters away in large numbers. I do not like the southern conservatism that continues to reflect the racial divide in the country, and I especially do not like that they tend to vote Republican. I do not think a return to the old values is to be the savior of the Republican party, I think that expanding commitment to new values is what is going to lead the Republican party out of the wilderness.

I also don't see that happening very soon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We Are Lucky to Be Americans

I went to bed last night before they announced Barak Obama's victory. I woke up this morning to a significant power shift in this country. Not only did Obama win, but won a majority of the vote along with about 350 electoral votes. States that have traditionally been republican voted democrat. Senators and legislators were swept into office because of Obama's win. The reaction around the world was unprecedented. In China I saw pictures of large crowds chanting Obama.

I got up, shaved, put on my clothes and went to work. There were no troops in the streets. There was no TV announcement of some general taking over the country. A significant amount of power shifted in the U.S. and I went to work along with several million other people. I read the republican accounts of the debate that must take place for them to regain some measure of respect two years from now. I read about the losing candidate's gracious concession statement. I read about the President's call to Obama assuring him of his administration's complete cooperation in the transition.

In January we will have a new president. The power shift will be complete and I will have worked over 20 days without threat, intimidation or loss of my rights as a citizen. It is truly amazing.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One more day, hooray!

Wednesday morning we will have a new President-elect. Who will it be? I cannot predict. However, I have a feeling that something many do not want will play a role. Race. Yes, it has been quiet. Some news organizations have tried to have experts discuss the role of race in this year's election. I hope it has little or no impact, and I certainly hope it will not effect the outcome.

However, I've worked in large industrial plants in the north, I've ran a manufacturing plant in the south, I've lived in Jackson, MS and worked in the Medgar Evers Historical Neighborhood. I've listened to people talk and know one thing, very few people talk race, but many have an opinion. It is not acceptable to be a racist in our society. Very few people openly discuss racial issues. Yet I cannot help but believe there may be a larger force at work than we perhaps are aware of. I hope not. However, when the curtain closes, the privacy of the voting booth allows a person to vote their mind without influence. Those biases and prejudices that are kept in the deep recesses of a person's heart may just come to the fore and influence his/her decision.

It would be the wrong reason to vote, but it could happen. We shall see.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I participate in a forum for those who encounter irregular heartbeats. I have learned a great deal, not only from reading medical materials but from the many members of the forum and their personal experiences. Over the year and a half I have participated there seems to be a pattern. A person typically has some large stress event in their life, they become conscious of the irregular heartbeat, they are extremely frightened by the experience and find the forum where they get reassurance they are OK. The person undergoes what I now recognize as standard tests, EKG, Stress Echo-Cardiogram, Holter Monitor, perhaps an cardiac catheterization, and other tests that check out the structural integrity of the heart. They are almost always told they are OK, the irregular heartbeat is benign and they should try to ignore the sensation. Eventually everyone seems to come to terms with the condition.

You do find the occasional person who says they are not overwrought by the problem, but take a logical approach trying to determine first what causes the onset and second what they can to do prevent the onset. I have found many of these people seem to underestimate the impact of stress on our lives. I find some people who are dead set against any form of medication. I also find persons who seem to be on a never ending quest for some natural solution, zinc imbalance, potassium, magnesium, omega oil, and on and on. I end up feeling bad for these people. It seems as though they find meaning in life by searching for a cause/cure. I am convinced irregular heartbeats are benign and will not hurt me, so I've chosen to get on with my life. Others seem to spend endless energy in their search when there may be no answer.

I've recently seen another behavior I wonder about. I have encountered some people who talk about exercise and workouts that seem to be intended to stave off aging instead of enhance the quality of their life. I recognize the last statement could be considered a contradiction of terms, after all if I do stave off aging am I not improving the quality of my life. Normally I would say yes, however I find there is a possible difference in the motive. I find my exercise routine enhances my enjoyment of my daily living. A few people I've encountered seem to look down the road past today and be wrapped up in exercise as a means of creating immortality and forget to enjoy the daily life experiences. I wonder if they ever come to terms with that drive.