Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Days After

Here is the set up.
Disaster is looming--- you know it and the rest of the audience that has been paying attention knows it. But the principals involved laugh it off and don’t believe it. Nonsense, they scoff. This can’t happen. Impossible. Don’t be ridiculous. All you have is a theory. There are safeguards to prevent this sort of catastrophe. Go home and let the experts do their jobs.

Finally, little by very little it starts to sink in. How much time? “Six to eight, tops” “Eight months? That cant be…”
“….That time scale isn’t in months, it’s weeks.”

Is this a description of the first 40 minutes of the 2004 film “The Day After Tomorrow” or the first 4 months of the Financial Meltdown?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hedging Against Stress

Over the years, 100 Women in Hedge Funds, a global association of more than 10,000 professional women, has sponsored various events for its members. Their aim is to “make a difference in our industry and community with unique educational programming, professional leverage initiatives and philanthropy.”

In the recent past they have invited members to events like:

Best Practices for Hedge Funds in an Ever-Changing Regulatory Environment

Women and Powerful Conversations: How to Negotiate Your Career, Expand Your Role and Increase Your Compensation

Oil Prices and Global Financial Mark

Distressed Debt Investing: Finding Opportunities after the Subprime Debacle

It is another telling sign of how things are now that the next event is:

Managing Stress and Living Well amid the Financial Crisis
Can meditation really make a difference in managing stress?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lessons not Learned

If the economy is the Titanic, just how many lifeboats are there, and just who gets saved? And who decides?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shopping and Spending.....Less

Bloomberg.com recently published a timely article with the title U.S. Luxury Retailers Face Grimmest Holiday Season:

“Luxury retailers may suffer the industry's biggest reversal of fortune during the holidays as the global financial crisis dents the wealth of the richest Americans…For five years luxury retailers outpaced low-priced chains. The projected drop this year would be the group's first since 2002, the year the ICSC [International Council of Shopping Centers trade group] began keeping the records.
Among the sectors, discounters may see the biggest improvement this holiday season, more than doubling their gain in sales at stores open at least a year to 2.5 percent from 1.1 percent a year earlier, the group estimated.”


And indeed, retailers like Target and Walmart seem to understand that is they are going to get anyone to buy anything this holiday season, so consumers have to think they are being virtuously thrifty while doing it. Notice the television ads for discounters Walmart and Targer, and Kmart—Layaway—who thought that would make a comeback?

Friday, October 24, 2008

It’s All About Perspective

While everyone watching the markets sweating that the Dow has fallen off, if not forever, then for a long time, from the 10,000 + mark, it might be a good time to look back at where the Dow has been over the decades.

For a complete, informative and detailed look, go to, for instance:


“Dow 1000: Finally in '72”

“Cheers rang out on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange when the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed the 1000 mark on Nov. 14, 1972.
If ever there was a psychological barrier for the Dow industrials, 'Dow 1000' was it. The average had knocked on the door of 1000 repeatedly for six years, but could never close above that 'magic' level.
For example, the industrials closed at 995.15 on Feb. 9, 1966, and at 985.21 on Dec. 3, 1968. There were also close calls in May 1969. But no cigar -- until the euphoria of 1972.
Many investors active today will remember 1972. Richard Nixon was president, ''The Godfather'' was packing them in at the movies, and Americans were tuned to ''All in the Family'' on television. The Watergate scandal, which later destroyed the Nixon administration, was only a cloud on the horizon. The Vietnam War was a major problem, but on the day the 1000 barrier fell, North Vietnam had agreed that its representative would meet with U.S. negotiator Henry Kissinger for a new round of talks aimed at ending the war.
The re-election of Mr. Nixon over George McGovern had occurred a week earlier. And the economy was doing well. Economic growth was unusually strong, inflation was moderate and interest rates were low.
In the stock market, it was the heyday of the 'Nifty Fifty,' stocks that were so popular that it was said they were ''one decision'' stocks: Buy them, and never worry about selling. Among the most popular stocks of the day were Xerox, Avon, IBM and McDonald's.
Not long after the industrial average punctured the 1000 mark, a recession occurred and the brutal bear market of 1973-74 set in, pushing the average all the way down to 577.60 in December 1974. It would be late 1982 -- a full decade after the 1000 milestone was first passed-- before the industrials rose above 1000 to stay.”

For a look at the next decade click on:

“...it was only a little more than 12 years before, on Jan. 8, 1987, that the average first hit 2000.
You remember 1987. Michael Douglas starred that year in the movie ''Wall Street,'' portraying the greedy Gordon Gekko.
But the real fireworks in 1987 took place on the real Wall Street. The industrial average started the year at 1895.95, then staged one of the most impressive advances in history, surging nearly 44%, and peaking at 2722.42 on Aug. 25. In the fall it turned around and suffered one of the biggest declines on record, dropping nearly 1,000 points in two months. The selling cresendo peaked on Oct. 19, with a 508-point, nearly 23%, crash, the worst one-day drop ever.
When the Dow industrials surpassed the 2000 mark, almost no one foresaw the pyrotechnics to come. The prevailing feeling was that, having climbed to 2000, the average would need to rest for a while.
Alfred Goldman of A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis predicted 'a victory celebration and then a headache.' New York money manager Robert Stovall predicted a 'groundhog day' effect in which the market would ''see its shadow, and promptly duck down again.'' Mary Farrell of PaineWebber predicted a trading-range market hovering between 1800 and 2200.
Nor did many people guess at the time that seven additional millenary milestones would fall in little more than a decade. After all, it had taken the industrial average about 76 years to reach 1000, in 1973. Then it took nearly 14 years for the average to climb to 2000.
Of course, it's easier and easier to hit each 1,000-point milestone, because each point gain becomes smaller on a percentage basis as the index rises.
'I'm excited. This is history,' exclaimed trader Jack Baker, then with Shearson Lehman Brothers in New York, the day the 2000 barrier was snapped. 'I caught 1000 and 2000 and I hope to live long enough to catch 3000.'' Mr. Baker captured the prevailing mood. But though hardly a soul suspected it at the time, the 3000 mark was only four years away.' "

“How Long it Took"

"When the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached each of eleven 1,000-point milestones"
[from the Dow Jones site: http://www.djindexes.com/mdsidx/index.cfm?event=showavgDecades&decade=1980 ]

1,000 Nov. 14, 1972 76 years
2,000 Jan. 8, 1987 14 years
3,000 April 17, 1991 4 years
4,000 Feb. 23, 1995 4 years
5,000 Nov. 21, 1995 9 months
6,000 Oct. 14, 1996 11 months
7,000 Feb. 13, 1997 4 months
8,000 Jul. 16, 1997 5 months
9,000 Apr. 6, 1998 9 months
10,000 Mar. 29, 1999 12 months
11,000 May. 3, 1999 1 month

All of this and more very helpful information can be found on the Dow Jones site. Learning about the history of the Dow and the history of the markets can only help put it all into perspective. With money and investing, it is always wise to know what has worked in the past and why and if what worked in the past will hold true for today, given the massive changes brought on by instant access to virtually any and all information.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A View of U.S. Politics from Ireland

A citizen of Ireland who works in ISP network support, says of the U.S.: "I love the place! I've worked for one American company or another most of my life. If I were to choose a word I've read on American news sites to describe my political views it would probably be 'liberal'

What do you have to say about the coverage of Senator McCain's speech at the Republican convention:
"In general the press [in Ireland] was positive about the speech but much was made of his choice for VP. It seemed as if she was chosen more for political reasons than to provide the best possible candidate for the job, specifically to cater to the evangelical voters. However, following her treatment at the hands of various bloggers and liberal sites coverage turned far more sympathetic towards her (mention was made of the treatment of her daughter by the press and a claim that one of her children with Down's Syndrome wasn't really her child)."
He adds that Fox, CNN, MSNBC and CNBC as well as Sky News, BBC News and Euronews and the news on the main 3 channels in Ireland are there for the viewing so there's always something on about the election.

What about a woman for VP?
"The male/female question is barely discussed on the news except for how it affects voters in the U.S. Ireland has had it's current female president, Mary McAleese, since 1997, and before her was another female president (Mary Robinson). Both had done exceptionally well in the job and brought more attention to an office that used to be considered quite unimportant. Although we have yet to have a female Taoiseach, I don't think it'll be long before that happens either. The race issue is also only discussed as it affects the tactics in the election and how it's 'playing out' in the U.S."

What’s the general consensus about the possible outcome?
"It is that if it's Obama there's a good chance the U.S. will pull through the current recession with more of a chance than with McCain at the wheel. With Russia becoming more active again there's a good chance that Iran could become a flashpoint during the next term (if not before the end of President Bush's term), especially if Tehran goes ahead and dumps the petro-dollar in favour of the petro-euro or worse, the petro-rubel. Most sources I read or watch agree that Obama has the temperament and ideas to work with other nations and lead instead of the unilateral action or the 'you're with us or against us' rhetoric that only alienates allies and makes enemies rub their hands in glee."

And McCain?
"The feeling is that Senator McCain is just another George W. Bush in waiting and I can't stress how unpopular President Bush is in Ireland at the moment over the war in Iraq and our own government's complicity in rendition flights through Shannon Airport from 2003-2006."

What is the most important issue that concerns the people in Ireland?
"Right now the foreign-policy issues concerning most people here are a resurgent Russia and the EU's energy dependency on it and the recently-rejected Lisbon treaty. The feeling is that we need a strong America, showing sound leadership for the first, and more democracy in the workings of the EU for the second. "

A good place to get a feel for Irish views on the election would be their national broadcaster's website (http://www.rte.ie/news/).
Here are two other helpful links:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Still another opinion....

From Matt in Mass.

".... haven't read exactly what it consists of yet. The one thing I do feel though is that NONE of the ceo's or cfo's that helped ruin these companies should get one dime of a bonus or buy out or however it is dubbed. The other thing is [that this is not really] another failed policy of George Bush since it was Bill Clinton and Barney Frank who set this in motion during Clinton's presidency......"

More thoughts from readers on the Bailout

From MB, who lives in PA

Obviously, I'm pissed like most middle to lower class citizens that I need to use my money to bail out all those rich people.

All the financial heads seem to walk away with hundreds of millions when they should be in jail!

I don't ask for much, I just want the price of gas lower and my mutual funds to be worth at least what I put in, not less!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More opinions on the bailout proposal

In favor of the bailout? From a fellow in his 40's in Oregon:

"Yes, I think it’s a good idea and I agree with Bernanke and Paulson that it should be unencumbered. However, the key to success is in the valuation of the assets. This should be done in a way to allow for fair current valuation, not the value the bank has it booked at. The taxpayer should have a reasonable, but not guaranteed, chance of making a profit on the purchase. The final bailout cost will be the purchase price minus the sale price minus administration and transaction fees. This will likely resemble the amount the taxpayer was on the hook for following the S&L debacle, or around 100 to 200 Billion."

Friday, September 26, 2008

More Opinions from readers on the Bailout

From AB, trying to make a living in FL

There comes a time when the piper must be paid. The individuals who have caused this set of circumstances should be tried and punished and the CEOs should return their ill gotten goods.

Opinions from Readers on the Bailout

From "DAC - Montclair, NJ:

Even before Ronald Reagan, supply side economics and the "trickle down" theory of economics have proven time and time again to be disastrous for the American people, producing massive national debt, rampant corporate greed with unaccountability and massive American taxpayer bailouts.
Yet, Republicans continue to point to Democrats over and over again as providing too much government and too much regulatory oversight as the problem. It may be true that this government bailout is necessary to save the American financial from it's own manufactured demise, but responsible government leaders must HEAVILY regulate the deal. They must make sure those responsible for reckless corporate management do not profit in any way (including through previously negotiated compensation contracts) and that the American taxpayer PROFITS from any benefit. And may all Americans recognize that we are looking at the end result of what Republicans propose for private Social Security accounts - corporate greed, corruption and another massive taxpayer bailout when it comes crashing down.

Let's learn something for a change!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin and Pit-Bulls...and Pitfalls

First:"Is the media covering Palin fairly?"

Why wasn't this question asked about press coverage of Hillary Clinton when she was being basted in the press during the Primary? It seemed that nothing was off limits then.
Palin is running to be Vice-President. Questions need to be asked. What’s going on privately within her family—her children—is not really our business and shouldn’t be our focus. But, if her opinions and her beliefs could affect how she might govern and represent this country, then we had better know where she stands.


Palin's "Pit Bull with Lipstick" quote? Either she isn't familiar with the American Staffordshire Terrier breed or she plans on doing whatever she's told to do. ASTs are known for being faithful to their owners and obeying them. (That's why the press’s coverage of "pit-bulls" is off-base. Attention should really be focused on the dogs’ owners. It is the people who relentlessly make the dogs mean.)


Like in 1992, “It’s [still] the economy, stupid.” We should be very concerned that no one is paying much attention to the economy. Issues/distractions like abortion and evolution—what year is this again? Are doing a good job of taking the spotlight off what is draining all or us day by day--the economy and how it is being mishandled. Ignore it, and it won't go away. It will just get worse.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

When is a Glamour Don't... a Don't?

Glamour Magazine's Dos & Don'ts feature has been a popular part of the magazine for many years and has amused or helped (or both) readers to pinpoint fashion mistakes that could easily be avoided. Photos of people wearing outfits that are either hit or miss --either by an inch or a mile-- make it easy to see where any of us can go wrong when trying to get dressed.

So after looking at their feature as presented on the MSN home page, we were a little puzzled. The latest online offering, as seen on MSN, seemed to be missing something and looked a little, incomplete http://www.glamour.com/fashionbeauty/slideshows/2008/07/dos_donts_denim . It most likely was an oversight but someone should have been paying closer attention.

There is a "Do" visible on Glamour's home page that is not present on the MSN page. This final shot is crucial to presenting a balanced piece. It may seem like a quibble but it does make a difference as far as sensitivity goes. If you visit Glamour Magazine's page of the Do's & Don'ts feature, you will see a final "DO" shot that balances the total picture, shot #13. http://www.glamour.com/fashionbeauty/slideshows/2008/07/dos_donts_denim?slide=13

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tomato Trouble

Perhaps the most jarring aspect of the widespread salmonella outbreak brought to us by certain varieties of tomatoes is that where the offending tomatoes came from cannot be determined. What does that say about the food chain? No one knows where these tomatoes originated? Looks like another argument for buying locally and just being content with whatever produce is in season in your area.
There have been numerous accounts of how the supply of fruits and vegetables for consumption far and wide is negatively affecting the environment. We want strawberries in December? They have to be shipped in from someplace that can produce them and that someplace may not have the same environmental regulations that we have here. But it is another case of "I want it and I want it now, and I can afford it, so there".
I’m not suggesting we go back to the Prairie Days when we could consume only what was grown in our own gardens or nearby. But having it all whenever we want it dilutes the appreciation for, not only the environment, but for that strawberry or kiwi we are putting into our mouths in December in Manhattan.
Take a look at a New York Times article on the subject:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

New film from Granite Films

From the inspiring folks who brought you "In the Bedroom."

Here's a link to the just-posted trailer for "Childless," with Joe Mantegna, Barbara Hershey, Jim Naughton, and Diane Venora.

It looks best if you click the button right under the screen that says "watch in high quality."


Please feel free to leave a comment or rate it, and by all means forward the link to friends and strangers alike.

Thanks for taking a look. Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Social InSecurity

Notice the growing numbers of competitors vying to lock up your identity—for a fee-- so that it is forever protected from nefarious thieves? No doubt—identity threat is a real and serious and growing problem. But what is to blame for the spiraling number of cases? The seeds of this kudzu vine were sown decades ago when, almost insidiously, more companies and entities started asking for Social Security numbers. Were we not always told, “Do Not Use Your Social Security Number for Identification Purposes”? Over time, however, more of us have been asked more frequently for our social security numbers---colleges, medical practitioners (including dentists), banks (understandably—but this started long before 9/11) utility companies, veterinarians, all want to know the number we were told we should never give out.

You can refuse in some cases but you have to be aware of this option. Here is what the Social Security websites states:

You should be very careful about sharing your number and card to protect against misuse of your number. Giving your number is voluntary even when you are asked for the number directly. If requested, you should ask:
Why your number is needed;
How your number will be used;
What happens if you refuse; and
What law requires you to give your number.
The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number. The decision is yours.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

Un-Buffeted by Over-Indulgence

Granted, many are using their credit card for used Mother Nature never intended—buying groceries and gas—and how else to get these things when paychecks and interest rates are not keeping pace with the costs of basic living? But as more and more people continue to expand their revolving debt (credit card—think stuck in a spinning revolving door) for stuff they really don’t need, but perhaps have grown accustomed to during the recent spend, splurge and spoil years, kind of like a New Age Roaring Twenties, it is almost refreshing to read how someone who could probably buy half the world feels about such expenditure.

Here are some excerpts from an interview conducted by Christoph Pauly and Janko Tietz and published in Der Spiegel this weekend [ http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,556114,00.html ] . Among other things, Warren Buffett explained why he doesn’t feel the need to live large:

SPIEGEL: You have pledged about half of your fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. What happens with the other half?

Buffett: In addition to the Gates Foundation, I have pledged money to four other foundations. So far, 80 percent of my stock holdings have been firmly committed to these five organizations. I have promised that I would ultimately donate every one of my shares in Berkshire Hathaway. My will clearly specifies what will happen to the remaining shares. But I can still change this decision while I'm alive.

SPIEGEL: You are the richest man in the world…

Buffett: … maybe not anymore…

SPIEGEL: Let's not argue about a few billion. How does your immense wealth affect your everyday life?

Buffett: I have everything I need. But that's also the way I felt at 25, when I didn't have that much money yet. I have a wonderful family. I have a job that I love and wonderful people who help me with it. It can't get any better than that.

SPIEGEL: You have no interest in a new mansion in Omaha, or perhaps a luxury house at the beach? After all, you've been living in the same house for decades.

Buffett: I don't need 15 houses. Owning real estate doesn't mean much to me. I don't like to think about things like that. I don't need 12 boats, or even the world's largest boat with a crew of 80. I'd have to take care of them, to worry about them. I get a lot more fun out of life without all the bells and whistles.

Yep, those bells and whistles seem to eventually rust and fall apart so maybe it is just better to not get too used to them. Just stick with the basics. The basics are priced pretty much like luxuries these days anyway.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Charge it! (Words by Tim Curry)

I keep hearing that Americans are still buying as much gas for cars. It is as if we are in denial—but then, not everyone can take public transportation. It may not exist for our itinerary. Does that mean more of us are charging it—putting off until tomorrow what we can’t pay for today?

Let the song speak:

You can Telex my accountant

Call up Tele-Credit, too

I know they sent a monthly statement

But I never read it through

You say you won't accept my Visa

Or American Express

And the computer is suspicious'

Cause I've got no fixed address

Lady, that's a valid document

Check out the way I'm dressed

You know the way I'm feeling now

I'd take a lie-detector test

Paradise lost for capital gain

Traded for a ticket on the gravy train

I can amortize the cost with a minimum of pain

But I need it for a write-off

Can't take another night off

You know I never carry change

I just Charge It

Where do I sign?

Charge It

Show me the dotted line

Charge It

I don't have the time to waste.....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I consume, therefore I am………………….broke

Consumer. Producer. Consumer. Producer. These days I find myself cringing when I think about making a purchase—any impulse to buy any item that is really and truly outside the realm of a staple. I think “CONSUMER”-- a kind of never satisfied monster devouring more goods ever day. A financial version of Jabba the Hut with a wallet.

And it seems as if there are more and more ways to spend money. Every other ad on television is either for a car or a restaurant or fast food place. Sprinkled among these calls for consumption are ads for beer or cosmetics and pharmaceuticals—“Hey—let’s all get made-up, get drunk, pig out and pop a few pills! But make sure you’ve filled up the tank in the new car because the price of a gallon of gas is going up 25 cents a day.” Here I am about to consume and what exactly is on the other end of that increasingly scary spectrum—PRODUCER? Where are more and more of these things being produced? Not here. Not anymore. I’ll get to the statistics but you know what you see when pick up a bag of broccoli or an umbrella or a pair of shoes or a shirt you can pretty much name it…..and you read where this stuff is made. And just suppose, those countries decide, for whatever reason—political, financial, or the wrath of nature—they can no longer send us all this STUFF either at all or for so few dollars?

Maybe it is time to take a step back and have second thoughts before buying. It really shouldn’t be a hobby.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Desperately Seeking.......What?

So, let’s see, the best use of the Internet is to….........make fun of celebrities, as if we were mean and desperate 3rd graders looking to make ourselves feel better by making someone else with maybe more exposure/aptitude/talent/luck look bad?

Here are some recent puerile examples :

Msn.com tagged BJÖRK as being a fine example of one of the “Worst Fashion Flubs.”
First Impression—
--- Do we all want to look the same? So what if she surrounds her head with tennis-size puff balls in every hue of the rainbow and then some? This is who she is. Isn’t she a singer anyway? This wonderful weirdness is what she is known for…should she look like everyone else?
Second Impression:
Why do we care about this? What about the worst Financial Flubs? What about hedge fund managers making obscene amounts of money hedging bets that the rest of us will have to eventually pay?

A nastier example—one of many, I’m sure-- can be found on “Trusted AOL partner” TMZ’s site—“You make the stars…We make them real,” they announce proudly. Uh-huh. Real subjugated.

Accompanying a photo of Sarah Jessica Parker:
SJP: You're So Vein
Posted May 13th 2008 11:03AM by TMZ Staff
"Sex and the City" isn't the only thing being brought back to life -- so are Sarah Jessica Parker's hands!
The 43-year-old trendsetter stepped out in London on Sunday sporting the latest It accessory of the summer -- a pair of Frankenstein hands! Carrie Bradshaw doesn't need a man -- she's got man hands!

Is this something anyone cares about? Does this make others else feel a lot better about themselves? This person has a job as an actor and okay, to some extent she puts herself out there since that is part of the fame game. Two sides to that coin. But these people aren’t walking PIÑATAS. And it makes journalism, or whatever this is, look really really bad.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Economy by Any Other Name......

So—Are we or are we not in a recession? Like many issues having to do with anything financial, it depends on whom you ask.

Our President says we are not in a recession. Times are hard, but…(The less said about that and the rather discomfiting news conference earlier today, the better. ) Many economists think we are, indeed, in a recession and at least one financier went so far as to allude to “depression.”

Why can’t anyone agree whether we are in a recession?

As respected economist Bernard Baumohl, Managing Director of The Economic Outlook Group, based in Princeton, NJ, explained, “The main reason you are not going to get any agreement whether we are in a recession right now is that none of the pundits can officially declare it. The group that formally declares whether the economy is in a recession is a group of academic economists who are part of a non partisan organization called the National Bureau of Economic Research based in Cambridge, Mass. Led by Martin Feldstein, they might get together at the earliest in the Fall, more likely at the very end of the year when all of the economic data has been revised and updated. They will then look back at what happened from the end of 2007 and what took place in 2008 and make an official declaration as to whether economic activity in fact contracted. They are the official arbiters—the referees on the economy.”

But can a recession be determined only after it has ended?

Baumohl believes that “employment numbers are bad enough to suggest that we are in a recession. We now have at least three months of net job losses from payroll numbers so far this year. The payroll numbers include government hiring, which I don’t like to include because the government doesn’t really care about profit and losses—they’ll hire whenever they need to hire people—so I take a look at the part of the jobs report that focuses only on hiring and firing in the business sector. That’s one of the more important economic indicators for me. The others that are critical are industrial production (and if that’s shrinking, that’s certainly an indicator), consumer spending and housing. So there are a lot of things we need to consider. I know the common definition people use to define a recession these days is 2 consecutive quarters of negative growth. But that’s one of those ‘finger in the wind’ definitions.

The recession, in my opinion, most likely began in December, and will probably last through the second quarter. That’s based on the economic evidence we are getting. Having said that, on Wed., April 30, we will get the first quarter GDP. That’s the first set of numbers for 2008. So we’ll see right then and there whether there’s negative growth.”

How would Baumohl sum up things right now?

“I think there are just enough economic indicators to tell me that this economy is in real jeopardy and there’s probably a recession underway right now. It certainly feels like a recession regardless whether it is one technically or not. Most people are not going to be able to tell whether we are in a recession or not. It still is going to feel awful for most Americans if the economy grows by 1% or whether it shrinks by 1%. It’s going to feel essentially the same.”

In other words, a recession by any other name would be very painful.


Princeton Junction, New Jersey 08550

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spend, Don't Save

So let me see if I have this right--- Interest rates are so low because, even though, as a population, we have always been nagged about not saving enough, we are now not supposed to be saving. The line now is spend, spend, spend. The government wants us to buy. Hence those tax rebate checks. But what can we buy if we can never save? A house? Not anymore. More likely that ballpark G will go to the 2 g’s--gas and groceries.
And if we just keep spending, buying, consuming, stuff that really won’t hold any value, then what will happen if we are suddenly faced with an unexpected life change—it does happen—usually just when you think everything is hunky-dory.
Talk about mixed messages. Cut interest rates so people (oh, and businesses) will borrow and/or spend, not save. Then give the people a tax rebate so they, for some reason, feel flush and go out and spend more. (Reality—that rebate is long gone, baby) Maybe we are now supposed to follow the example of the government and rack up a big deficit.
It seems as if that has already been happening. The Federal Reserve states that revolving credit increased at an annual rate of 6 percent, meaning we have been sliding our credit cards through those MSRs (magnetic stripe readers) quite a lot.
Revolving, or open-ended credit is an agreement by a bank to lend a specific amount to a borrower, and to allow that amount to be borrowed again once it has been repaid. http://www.investorwords.com/
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, open-end credit is a line of credit that may be used repeatedly up to a certain limit. (Also called a charge account or revolving credit.)

The key words here are “again” and “repeatedly” Think “revolving doors”—the kind that can turn so fast and for so long that you never know what hit you until you're flung out onto the walkway with your head still spinning.

(To ease some of the pain, while there is a time lag from when the Fed cuts rates, it does pay to call your credit card issuer and ask about a reduction in the rate you are charged, particularly if you have been paying on time.
In any case, a straightforward site to read about credit cards in general and how to avoid the quagmire that so often ensues, is
http://www.federalreserve.gov/Pubs/shop/ )

Monday, April 14, 2008

Descort over Escorts

Here is something that I have wondered about whenever I have to look up something in the Yellow Pages that happens to fall alphabetically somewhere in or near the “E” section.

It has seems a little strange that anyone can pick up a copy of the Yellow Pages, Yellow Book, most any business directory, whatever the color, and find a category named……………Escorts.

Go ahead. Look it up.

Or go online to Yellowpage.com . Type in Escort Services. I ask, who is kidding whom here? Typing in NYC 10021 here are some of the names I found:
“ Adorable Centerfold Escorts.” “Rock Star Escorts. “ And, in homage to the Al Pacino film, I guess, “Scent of a Woman.”

The list gets more entertaining: USA She Males, Tokyo 25, Victorias She Males, The Relationship Center, Young College Girls, Oriental Delight, “Oriental Delights” “Oriental Delight Toll-Free Dial 1 & Then…”

But let’s look at other locations:

Orlando, FL
“Wicked Ways.” “A Touch of Class” (usually when this is the name it has none. )“All Executive Service” Robertson Brothers (?) And the twelve stepper’s “Sober Escorts, Incorporated.” Even when the business is named “A Absolutely Discreet Desires.” As Spitzer found out, it's not so discreet after all.

Oklahoma City, OK -- “Asian Baby Dolls” (paging Stabler and Benson), “Hot Little Hotties” (Again—let’s get Olivia and El), “40 & Fabulous” “About 40 & Over” (evidently anyone over 40 can still be in demand in OK City) “Well Built” and “Blondes, Brunettes & Redheads’ and “Hot Housewives” “Latin Temptations” “Petite Treats” “Upscale Blondes”

LA— No surprises here----“Caligula Productions-- Exclusive Male Escort - American Express Accepted.” Good to hear that.
“Have You Been a Bad Boy”, “ICM Media” (I wonder if ICM knows about this?)

Boise, Idaho --“Slender and Sultry” “Ancient Thai Massage” “Boise Motor Escort” I have no idea what that one means. Don’t think I want to know.

You get the idea. Why can’t we just be honest here and say what is going on here?
It exists but we don’t want to know about. It is there but let’s not look too closely. This has nothing to do with Eliot Spitzer. Almost nothing.

I wondered if the companies that publish these advertisements have any thoughts about, well, the legitimacy of these services. So, I wrote and asked two of them:

What criteria must advertisers meet before they can advertise in the Yellow Pages?

How do you determine if a business is legitimate? Or if it is in violation of some law?

Thank you very much

One reply came back:
Thanks for contacting YELLOWPAGES.COM.
A representative will contact you as soon as possible.
If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to contact our customer service department toll free at 1-800-343-7390.

I never heard back. If and when I do, I’ll let you know here.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

An excellent economic explanation

For a look at how we are frequently being "Fooled By Randomness" and the theory of "The Black Swan,"
Go to

Thank you to Nassim Nicholas Taleb for these theories and thanks to Eric Gelman for the timely and clear article.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Economy Imitating Art

In May, The Vulture by Francis Bacon could be auctioned at Sotheby’s for as much as $70 million, which would be a record. The Vulture is a triptych based on the tragic trilogy of Orestes.
Suffice it to say that a curse figures in the myth and it seems as if we all are in dire need of placating the Furies.
May--where we all be, economically speaking—in May? The Lusty Month of Camelot may prove to be tepid, if we are lucky, and devastating if we are not. How low will interest rates be by then? (A double-edged sword, low interest rates—good for spenders but bad for savers—and aren’t we always told we don’t save enough? Why bother?) How high will the price of a gallon of gas or a loaf of bread be? How many people will be out of their homes—their real homes—not “investments to live in” as one realty company was so proud to proclaim during the boom. How many people will be out of work and how many of us will be even more discouraged about our futures? How big a chunk of the U.S. will Sovereign Funds claim?
A record price for “The Vulture” will be very nice for the collector selling it. But the vultures waiting around to pick up the pieces of the U.S. economy, while serving a practical purpose, will leave it forever changed.

Shopping List for a Damaged Economy

Shopping List for a Damaged Economy

Has President Bush gone grocery shopping recently? Has anyone who has anything to do with our economy set foot in an A&P or Shop-Rite within the last month?
We all know that prices have been rising, but it seems that in less than a week, on the consumer end, anyway, the price of bread and anything having to do with any kind of grain, frozen foods, and dairy products has shot up into the territory of disbelief. “Sticker Shock” was a term usually used for over-priced cars, not over-priced cornbread.
So when entering a supermarket or market or bodega, you must prepare yourself to make hard choices about whether to buy the orange juice or the yogurt and whether you should do without the extra milk your family likes because this week, anyway, it is not on sale.When you have to cut the basics, then something is basically wrong with the economy. So basic, that it had to have taken such a long time to happen that no one in charge noticed. But we all notice now.

Chaotic Economy Clarifier

If you want to read one of the most clearly written and informative articles that explains the mess our economy is currently wallowing in, go to


Excellent job, Allan Sloan.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Take My Rebate, Please!

And speaking of the economy….what about those rebate checks? I have been hearing about that rebate check for so long I feel as if it has come and already been spent. No, wait. It actually already has been spent. I figure the rebate check just about might be enough to cover either:

2 deliveries of home heating oil
1 month of groceries for a thrifty family of 4, if they are all on a diet
20 tanks of gas for some kind of car somewhere
2 root canals
Some combination of the above.

Point is, if the Government thinks anyone who gets a rebate check is going to run off to the nearest Ford Dealership or Target or Sears to make a major purchase to goose this foot-dragging economy, it is mistaken.
That money has already been spent. It will go to pay off the interest on the purchases of that stuff people made last year when they thought this latest boom would never end.

Copyright 2008 Kathryn Fallon klaatukafe

The Economy as Bi-Polar Patient.

The U.S. economy is right now in the throes of some serious manic-depressive manifestations, as evidenced by the recent gyrations of the stock market. Some firms—you know their names by now—have been given the chance to not have to be held accountable for offering loans they had no business making to people who had no business taking out these loans.

So, the rate gets cut, the reckless get rewarded and anyone on a fixed income or just trying to keep ahead of the price of oil, gas and bread, gets the shaft. The market rockets up and plummets down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until finally, some kind of nadir has to be reached for the whole things to level out to a more normal level.

Moral Compass, indeed.

We are in a sub-prime life. Not the prime of life, a sub-prime life.

Think of the “Annie” tune, “Hard-Knock Life”:

“It’s the sub-prime life, for us.
It’s the sub-prime life, for us.”
About those bailouts, We have no say
Steada price cuts, We must pay
It's the sub-prime life

No one cares for you at all
If as an investor you are small

“It’s the sub-prime life, for us.
It’s the sub-prime life, for us.”

But how about that other Annie staple—“Tomorrow” Do you think…..? Nah…more like the late summer. If we’re lucky.

copyright Kathryn Fallon, klaatukafe 2008.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Part 2 Virtual Lives, Virtual Lies

There is no end, it seems to the “I didn’t/couldn’t do it so I’ll just make it up” genre not only of books, but of—well, most everything. Misha Defonseca and Margaret Seltzer are just two of the recent ingredients in the made-up truths mix. Remember Marilee Jones, dean of admissions at MIT who resigned after it was discovered she had invented her qualifications?
Now, we also have this, from The Associated Press:

“After rising to culinary stardom preparing impossible meals on his Food Network series, Robert Irvine has met an obstacle his kitchen prowess couldn't overcome — an embellished resume.
The star of "Dinner: Impossible" has acknowledged fabricating some of the more fantastic parts of his resume, including having cooked for Britain's Royal Family and various U.S. presidents.
Following the revelations, the network announced it would not renew Irvine's contract, though it would air the remaining episodes of the current season, the series' fourth.”

I have another good friend who is in the executive search business and verifying resumes is the least a professional can do to make sure the candidate is all he or she claims to be. But it seems that today more liars think it is not really lying, just…embellishing.

All these fakers are sorry, of course and they are a sorry lot. But—do you want to feel more agitated? Take a look at:
Now that is really sorry.

Copyright 2008 Kathryn Fallon klaatukafe

Read My Memoir--It's Pure Fiction

Noticed the increasing number of so-called memoirs whose authors are admitting they fabricated the whole thing? How did these people get agents? How did they get published? First-- and this is just recent events-- we read that Misha Defonseca’s memoir titled “Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years” is a sham. Now we learn that some private school Wasp white bread fed and bred chick has written about her years in a gang----yeah right. Okay, so maybe she met a few gang members and maybe even worked with them. So—write about that. It ain’t a memoir, honey. If it’s fiction, be up front about it and say so. Or maybe, it is just so difficult to get anyone to pay attention to (ie publish) fiction, that desperate measures were tried.
I have a close friend who writes fiction—no pretend memoir writing here—and has been praised unabashedly by other well-known writers (much- published and who, by the way, are honest about their genre). This writer, on the young side, has been told she has a real ear for dialogue. But because she doesn’t write “fem-fiction” no one can figure where to pigeonhole her work. To her credit, she has not given up. And I know she won’t. I also know that if the only way you can sell your work is to lie about it, then, you’re in the wrong business.

Share your thoughts on this. Let those agents and publishers hear you.

Copyright 2008 Kathryn Fallon klaatukafe

Friday, February 29, 2008

Golden or Gold

There has been a lot of talk about gold these days—how it is at an high time high and is the investment to buy (yes—maybe before it hit this peak—not so much now) Gold futures saw a record high-- 978.50 Friday. And where it is stored—there’s the obvious place—Fort Knox and also West Point but more than $200 billion of it is—as anyone who has seen Die Hard with a Vengeance (aka Die Hard 3) knows-- way underground in downtown Manhattan under the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

But what about another type of gold —a coin specifically. For another type of collector, or investor. The Sacagawea dollar coin. Today the President signed a bill that ensures that the $1 Sacagawea coin will still be minted in 2008—but not as pocket change. It will only be minted in 2008 for coin collectors.

It seems there was a glitch in a law last year that said 2009 coins would be produced, forgetting about the 2008 coins that needed to be minted for all those collectors. The reverse of the 2009 coins will be changed periodically to highlight different Native American topics.

The Sacagawea coin is quite beautiful. And according to the United States Mint’s website http://www.usmint.gov/mint_programs/golden_dollar_coin/index.cfm?action=sacDesign here is the coins composition:
“The dollar coin features distinguishing traits including: a golden color, extra-wide border, smooth edge like the nickel's, and specially designed alloy.
Specifically, the Golden Dollar is: 8.1 grams in weight, 2 mm thick, and 26.5 mm in diameter.
The coins physical makeup is a three-layer clad construction - pure copper sandwiched between and metallurgically bonded to outer layers of manganese brass.

Manganese brass composition:
77% copper
12% zinc
7% manganese
4% nickel

Golden Dollar's overall composition:
88.5% copper
6.0% zinc
3.5% manganese
2% nickel "

It seems that all that is gold, is not gold.

Copyright 2008 Kathryn Fallon klaatukafe

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dispatch from Colombia

Thanks to our correspondent in Colombia for some personal insight into the hostage release:

"The big news here is the release of the 4 Colombian hostages. We watched the release on TV. It is incredible that there are so many hostages held for so long and that the parties concerned are so frozen in place about what to do. It seems that the powers that be are not that interested in negotiations and in changing the status quo. For instance, Betencourt, who you would think would be a sympathetic figure, isn’t because she was with an opposition party. When she went to talk to the guerillas and got taken, the consensus was it was at her own risk. So she depends on her family and international supporters. There are a few hundred others and some have been killed. It is so complicated and long standing. The hostages who were released today had been in the jungle for six years! Imagine living in the jungle for six years. And there are some who have been held much longer. "

Copyright 2008 Kathryn Fallon klaatukafe

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

VP Bill Richardson

The candidates are waiting patiently for Bill Richardson’s endorsement but maybe the reason he is taking so long is that someone is telling him that he would make a viable VP candidate. So why endorse Hillary or Obama when it is still not really clear who will be the Democratic candidate? Richardson would make a good addition to either Democratic option. The Governor of New Mexico has the kind of broad adhesive that could result in a cohesive Democratic offering.
It’s a thought at least.

Copyright 2008 Kathryn Fallon klaatukafe

Health Vault vs HIPAA


Have you ever attempted to get information about even your own health or medical history? It is easier for spammers to access private health information than it is for an individual to get at their OWN medical information. And I’m sure any insurance company can find what they want about us even without leaks from ChoicePoint or the VA Health system.

I was intrigued by a possible solution by Microsoft, which says Health Vault "...is the hub of a network of Web sites, personal health devices and other services that you can use to help manage your health. HealthVault lets you store the information in one central place on the Web. You're in control of what information you store and can decide who else can see, change, or help manage it. HealthVault never lets other Web sites or programs see or change the information in your HealthVault record without explicit permission from you or a record custodian invited to share your records.”

Of course, even though no one can be sure anything is secure on the web, the same can be said for archaic records management systems that delay or prohibit helpful transfer of information to the body in question: The person who should be the owner of the health information.
This seems a bit like the centralized health information systems that some larger group practices use. And it is a timesaver and immensely helpful when a specialist in a group can immediately see the notes the GP or another specialist has entered in the patient’s file.

I have had heard of many frustrating experiences of people trying to get much needed medical records for others when they have the authorization to do so. They run into the HIPAA Wall at hospitals and doctors’ offices and have even been told they cannot access even their own records without nonsensical paperwork because of HIPAA.
Here’s what I think about HIPAA. It makes it impossible or at least very difficult for someone to access his or her own medical information while at the same time, people who shouldn’t be able to get at it, probably can.

Maybe Health Vault or something like it could be a step to a solution.

Copyright 2008 Kathryn Fallon klaatukafe

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Election thoughts

This is the kind of national election that makes me [almost] wish we had a king. As recently as a month ago, at least a few of the candidates seemed to have potential. If not potential for running the country, then at least potential for running to run the country. Now, I want to run from all of 'em. What happened? Was it them? Is it us? Yep--I know-- "I have seen the enemy and they is us." Not my quote. Walt Kelly, via Pogo.

So, assuming we do get the government we deserve, what is the next step--to avoid complete apathy?

What say you?

Copyright 2008 Kathryn Fallon klaatukafe