Today's Weblog
Weblog 2002-11-02

Beginning now, I will be away for several days, or several weeks, as the great spirit provides.

Of restating financial reports:  O' bitter reality.

Now I know how the big fellas feel, in my miniscule manner.   In paying November bills I realize that my treatment of certain expenses...  automobile... has been ummmm misleading.  I have consequently been obliged to make one time accounting adjustments to reflect these expenses more accurately.  The adjustment equals approximately 4% of my annual gross revenue, and 16% of planned net revenue for the year.   Very unpleasant.

The adjustment reflects actual expenses of operation, not depreciation.  If I were to include an adjustment for depreciation of the beast in my results, it would run to  7% of gross and 30% of net revenues.    A really, really good car site says:

Money-sucking, wrath-inducing, polluting, pains-in-the-butt prone to breaking down at the most inopportune times.   The Golden Geese of the auto, insurance, repair, tax and petroleum industries.  With depreciation beginning at the signing of the papers, these have to be the worst  'investments' most people will ever make.
Freedom really does carry a price.
I was led to the need to consider this all by tires.  Tires which I should replace soon.   Found these to help me do that:
The essential tire guide - Lesson Four: Tire Designations
The essential tire guide - Glossary: Tire Terminology
Uniform Tire Quality Grading Standards

Of wine and food:  Ah, sweet memories.

It is unlikely I will ever again taste the favorite wine of my young, upwardly mobile, urban professional life in the mid '60's.   Somehow I was guided to Chateauneuf du Pape, and maintained it as a favorite through the 60's and into the early 70's, probably had my last bottle in 72 or 73.  It was considered a bit 'flinty' by the taste of the day, or by the people doing the pricing, or perhaps it was only that cotes du Rhone wines were not popular then.   I loved it.  Now I see it, in the Clos du Pape form,  is priced in some restaurants at $175.   Oh my.   I am glad I have had what seems to have been my share.

Perhaps the internet and web are changing our idea of 'locality' as some would claim.  There seem to be other factors at work in causing or permitting people to redefine their ideas of 'neighborhood', if they they can afford the travel and communications expenses involved.   Or their customers can.   In (an apparently unindexed for the web) article 'guess who's coming to dinner' in the July "Food and Wine"  Gabrielle Hamilton of "Prune" describes how her customers and employees have changed her restauraunt and her idea of neighborhood.  One delightful trio of sentences ends the paragraph which to me sums it up:

"The pinched and brittle upstairs neighbor hurries disapprovingly past the luscious sight of a young couple in love at the window table, so caught up in the lustful project of mopping up anchovy butter with bread that their napkins have fallen unnoticed from their laps to the floor.  She must get home to spend the long evening contemplating her wheat allergy.  If these are my neighbors, I am not attached to ZIP codes anymore."
Weblog 2002-11-01

A response to the emails of a couple of days ago led me to a new work on biblical exegisis which seems an  interesting and useful approach to understanding of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures.

Weblog 2002-10-30

I prepared and sent two emails today:   Darbyism (Dispensationalism) and Israel and Armageddon!

Weblog 2002-10-29

Senator Paul Wellstone's death has been a real blow.  And there has been a lot happening, personally, as well.  For purposes of this log, the only activity since the 23rd has been pulling together some indexes for the website, and doing technical edits of some of the pages.  With luck, these links are now active:

Weblog 2002-10-23

The "Middle East Review Newsletter" today leads with these judgements:

MID-EAST REALITIES - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 23 October 2002:   Here's the
bottom line.  Not only should this American President and those whom he serves (rather than who
serve him) not be easily trusted or blindly followed.  In many ways, he, and they, should not
even be fully respected.  In the most important way of all he, and they, should be feared, and
    "The Office of the Presidency" and the "People of the United States"... those are other
matters.  These insightful articles deal much more with the individual who currently holds the
Office (and let's not forget just how he got it) and the group of corporate hacks, Christian
fundamentalists, militarist fanatics, Israeli-promoted zealots, and public opinion manipulators
who currently hold the reigns (sic) of power in the United States of America.
It follows with supporting articles:
"The Souffle Doctrine" by Maureen Dowd of the NY Times - takes on the Cowboy Emperor and Richard Perl.
"Never trust a Christian cowboy" by Giles Fraser, Vicar of Putney - "Cowboy ethics always leads to death."
"For Bush, facts are malleable" by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post - pResidential embroidery of the truth.

Why It's Not Just Oil

Chris Sanders, of Sanders Research Associates, a financial research firm, has an article originally posted at The Hemingway Table, Le Metropole Café, HERE*, October 8, 2002, (posted at explaining why Iraq's oil is not the shrubbyist government's primary cncern over there -

"Although much opposition to an invasion of Iraq centres on the oil question, this itself is curiously devoid of context. America, on this line of reasoning, intends to invade Iraq simply to enrich the oil barons of Texas. Superficially plausible, this is at best only partly true. This makes even less sense when one considers that the US already had access to Iraqi production. It is the biggest customer for Iraqi "oil for aid" crude. "
. . .
The obsession of the Americans and the British with Saddam Hussein has perhaps more to do with the fact that he is a nationalist than it does with their ability to purchase his oil. After all, he does need to sell it. If this were simply a matter of getting oil, the market would do the job. What is intolerable is that a significant pool of petroleum is under the control of what amounts to an independent producer with a political agenda of his own. That  threatens volatility, and volatility threatens profits. But even more important,  every major power today with the exception of Russia is a net importer of oil.   Control of the Middle Eastern fields and access to and from them confers an advantage far more important than the profits of Halliburton or Exxon. It means  control of the world.

There is a clear and imminent danger that A. Sharon is planning for BioWarfare in the Middle East.  His government is planning to vaccinate the entire Israeli population against Smallpox.   England and the US are the only other countries I know of that even have the capability of doing so, though Canada may.   England is planning vaccination.  The US has the vaccine in production, but is "watching" before vaccination begins.

In a short while, there may be only three populations in the world protected against a virulent disease, for which near universal vaccination existed only 35 or so years ago, and for which vaccination ceased when the US declared the disease was extinct.  This is the disease which, transmitted through infected blankets, clothing, etc.,  largely depopulated the Americas of their native populations.

Do you think that, faced with this threat, even if it is only illusory and a paranoid chimera, other countries with proportional threats, such as nuclear,  will not plan for their use?  No wonder the Shrubbyists want a missile defense.  In the world they are creating for us, it would be needed, if it would only work.

Had a q. from a correspondent about the  posting "clear and imminent danger" above; my response follows:

I must be either "incompetent in my use of the language", or a "lying jerk"  to paraphrase your posting.  Perhaps both, as I chose the words "planning for" in my note quite purposefully.   I did not say "planning to wage biowarfare".  I did not say "planning to defend against" biowarfare.

I said, and I meant, "planning  for" biowarfare.   Flexible, as the strategy itself seems to be flexible.  In the case of the strategy however such flexibility is not a good thing.   The strategy of preparing for biowarfare, preparing your population to survive a Smallpox epidemic, is subject to interpretation, most importantly to mis interpretation, and over interpretation.

Some of us will admit to only one interpretation.  Others will admit only to its opposite.   I see only that it is not a strategic "balance of terror".  It creates a terrifying, and destabilizing strategic imbalance.  The people who it terrifies most are the ones who are apt to act first, and destructively.   (Create the conditions in which your opponent must make the first move, and be so blameless when you react.  A childhood game, 2 year olds are expert at it.)

Restraint in matters which create strategic imbalances of such significance is a matter of sense and statesmanship.   Rabin, however has been assassinated; the Israeli political system has no such sense or statesmanship at its helm.   Nor does the US.

We are at a Death Watch folks.   Get that straight.  We are at a death watch.  Quite possibly it is not just other folks' this time.

Nurev Ind wrote:

This sentence... "There is a clear and imminent danger ***THAT*** A. Sharon is planning for BioWarfare  in the Middle East." ... Implies that because they are preparing for a bio-attack, which the ISRAELIS will chose to implement.

Is that what you are trying to convey? Because you don't mention that they are expecting an imminent biological attack from Iraq.


Weblog 2002-10-22

At the link below you will find an exceptionally clear description of how the people who manage one aspect of our economy think, or say they think, it works.   The writer, Richard Clarida, is assistant secretary for economic policy at the US Treasury.  The topic is the "Trade Deficit" or "US current account deficit" as it is technically known.   Despite the limited view of the causes and consequences of the conditions he discusses, his discussion is interesting and informative.
America's deficit, the world's problem

The essence of the matter appears to be that the strength of our economy, especially our labor surplus,  productivity, and political and financial stability, lets us get away with importing cheap goods, and paying for them by selling our capital (productive capacity) at a price advantage.  That price advantage is supported by the stability and dominance of the dollar.  And especially by the relative "unattractiveness" of the developing economies as a place to invest - largely courtesy of "perpetual war" and social unrest over there.  It is a pretty decent racket, if you can keep it going....

Seasoned observers will recall that the Reagan administration used the same methods to manage very large deficits in the US budget; relying on instability in other societies/economies to create a flow of funds from them into the US to cover our deficits; minimizing what would otherwise have been a serious inflationary load on our economy.

In other words... we can cut taxes for our wealthiest class, increase defense spending, and the resulting budget deficits will not be inflationary so long as other economies are less desirable as places  to invest than is the US.   Under these circumstances, stability and economic growth in these economies would be markedly disadvantageous to the Shrubbyist originators of our economic policies.

A side benefit to the Shrubbyists is that instability and economic stagnation in the developing world work to their advantage in other ways as well, by increasing the leverage of the IMF and Wold Bank over these economies - they have to borrow back the capital which has been exported to the US, and conform to the terms of the borrowing to get it.  Typically, these terms include the imposition of politically destabilizing austerity programs, a la Argentina in recent months.

This creates a vicious cycle of exporting capital instead of investing it locally, reduced productivity, economic stagnation, and decreased social welfare and political stability - a breeding ground for ignorance, fundamentalism, nativism, despair, and terrorism.   Naturally, that even further reduces the desirability of reinvesting of profits in the local economy, virtually eliminates any hope of attracting foreign investment, and increases the export of capital to the developed nations, especially those with high interest rates.

Soon only IMF and World Bank loans are available to keep the local government running.

A longish page with a lot of information on this, and much more,  is available at "Mapping the Real Deal" by Catherine Austin Fitts

And do NOT believe that BS about there being no difference between Democrats and Republicans in these matters.   Besides noting the similarity of Shrubbyist and Reagan policies in domestic budgetary and other policies affecting this area, remember that Bill Clinton prevented the meltdown of the Mexican Peso by extending credit directly from the US Treasury, much to the disgust and distress of the former Reagan - now Bush people currently running our policies.

Never doubt that they had reason to hate him.

Do not doubt either that the overall effects on other nations of the policies of Clinton vs. those of the Reagan/Shrub bunch are vastly different, even in this area of foreign affairs and trade where so many "progressives" see them as indistinguishable.   The Clinton - Rubin policy of running domestic budget surpluses, reducing interest rates  and paying down the debt are diametrically opposed to Shrubbyist policies in their effects.  They greatly reduce the need to destabilize the societies and economies of developing nations so as to decrease the attractiveness of investment in them and attract capital to our own.  The Clinton - Rubin policy permits a positive cycle of increasing investment, productivity, economic growth, with increasing social welfare and stability.

What a contrast this is to the two years of Shrubbyism we have witnessed thus far.

Related  notes by Paul Erdman on the 1998 US Current Accounts Deficit:

Notes on the history and workings of the international financial system can be found here:

The Big Chart - Trading volume and price change relationships are out of whack!

Today's Motley Fool DJIA "big chart" looks good (10/22) --  however look also at the volume.  Decreasing volume on a rising market, indicates a thinning market, no real pressure behind the rise.  If a decreasing market were to show increasing volumes..... trouble.     (Look carefully at volume/price relationships - decreasing volume as prices increase - since the weak "rally" the first week of July, also in the first week of September.  Ugly!  Watch this  long enough, and you might see a price level which starts bringing buyers into the market - where trading volume begins to increase... which might indicate a real 'support' level or bottom.)

At you can see the sudden, very sharp upturn in long term interest rates since Sept. 27.   If an increase in LT rates were to extend to mortgage rates, increasing them  enough to break the housing market, and then the valuation of the housing stock -- the last remaining prop holding up the economy generally would have fallen.

Sept. mortgage rates were about 1/3 the 1981 rates, and the lowest in at least 30 years, so such an threat is "real but not imminent".  These low rates have kept the housing market going despite economic slowdown in other areas.  How sensitive the market would be to an increase in rates is anyones guess.

If effective long term interest rates continue to rise in a low inflation, increasing unemployment economy (Growth gauge continues its losing streak) that would  seem to indicate the financial markets are discounting anticipated future inflation... in other words are expecting a round of "stagflation" such as occured in the late 60's and early 70's, when the economy was stagnant, unemployment high, inflation high, and the stock market flat.  After breaking down in '73 the stock market did not really begin performing again until late '82 or '83 if I recall correctly.

That round of stagflation, and a generation of high interest rates,  was caused by Johnson's desire to have a war in Viet-Nam, without paying for it.  Anticipation of another such is probably related to the Bush "perpetual war" deficit, compounded by a tax cut (of which 40% goes to the top 1% of the population).

So far, I have not modified my estimate that the recent rise in stock prices  is in a thin market and is driven by a desire to prop up the market numbers before the election.

Here is a note on current financial statistics, including interest rates, household debt, and the money supply.

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