Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Whether the economy II

The powerful economic cross currents continue.

The dollar plunges against the Euro (take that deficit doesn't matter crowd). Median house prices decline for the third consecutive month; an exceptionally rare occurence. Auto sales too decline. Twenty years ago, if housing and autos were both down, a recession was virtually guaranteed. Today, with technology and services far bigger economic components, it isn't a fait accompli. Interest rates continue very reasonable, with a decent chance that the Fed's next move is down, not up.

Liz Ann Sonders, a heavy hitter investor, sees the housing decline as a very bad omen, almost always followed by a recession as construction workers lose their jobs, banks deal with defaulted mortgages, building materials manufacturers lay off workers and so on.

I'm not that negative yet, but I'm looking at placing some stop loss orders just in case...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Michael Richards - v2

So Michael Richards has reached out to Jesse Jackson? Who has reached out to Al Sharpton?

Michael - why couldn't you do like everyone else and check into rehab? Please, it's not too late - rehab in some country a long way from here....

Alexander Litvinenko RIP

In what may be the weirdest story of 2006, former KGB agent Alexander Litvenenko died from radiation poisoning. Apparently, Mr. Litvenenko consumed Polonium 210. I must confess that I had never heard of Polonium before, but you can't buy it in your local hardware store, unless your local hardware store happens to have a nuclear reactor, or your local school district has invested in a particle accelerator.

In a deathbed statement, he accused Prime Minister Putin of having him assasinated.

Apparently Mr. Litvenenko had recently dined at a popular Picadilly Circus sushi bar, and became ill soon after.

I've actually been more than willing to give Mr. Putin the benefit of the doubt. However, bit by bit the successful parts of the Russian economy have been expropriated by the central government, the press co-opted, and journalists eliminated. This is looking like a message from the old Soviet: get in our way and we'll take you out, even if you are in a free country, and we'll do it in a way that will be painful. Looks like the resumption of the Cold War.

This just in - one more candidate

Whoops - correction to my Nov 22nd post - George Pataki is traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire, bringing the Republican candidate list to seven. George - no offense, but you are a serious long shot.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Speaker of the House

After watching Nancy Pelosi in action recently, I've become concerned that she isn't too bright, and she's only two people away from the Presidency. But upon further reflection, I don't think that Dennis Hastert was publishing articles on string theory in the Journal of Science either....
be well W.

Michael Richards

Any time anyone ever comments on Southerners as racist, I'm just going to say "Michael Richards, from Culver City CA".

Monday, November 20, 2006

Handicapping the Presidency

The Congressional elections have now all been decided, and the race for the 2008 Presidency is in full swing. This is a seriously crowded field. Here are my early thoughts.

On the Republican side, there are at least six candidates.

Govenor Mitt Romney. Smart. Amazingly telegenic. Squeaky clean. A very rich, very smart capitalist (a co-founder of Bain Capital). Anti-abortion views will appeal to the religious conservatives, fiscal policy is likely to appeal to deficit hawks. Experience however, is rather light. Somewhat of a long shot.

Senator John McCain. Experienced, war hero, author; he owns the stateman position. We must assume he is the front runner, and has a legitimate claim to the centrist/moderate position. Age and temper may work against him, although he does seem to have mellowed a little in the last few years. Not the favorite of either the fiscal hawks or the religious right.

America's Mayor Rudy Guilani. Exhibited leadership after Sept. 11 that no one forsaw. Messy divorce and pro-abortion position will alienate the religious right. However, if the Democratic candidate is Senator Clinton, the Republican leadership might conclude to treat the religious right as a given; assuming that they would find Satan attractive compared to Hil. A big hit on the fund raising circuit. If nominated, I think he would win - great debater.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich. There are two great political minds in the U.S today - Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. The thinking man's conservative; a fountain of ideas. A real concept of foreign policy, which has been non-existent in American political life since the Nixon administration. However, he was a complete lighting rod for the left for a decade. A Newt candidacy would probably create the biggest Democratic fundraising ever. He too had an ugly divorce. Long shot for nomination, longer shot for election.

Senator Chuck Hagel. Even though he is a second term senator, a successful businessman and a decorated Vietnam veteran, I don't think he is that well known. Probably would be a good President, but I'm calling this one a long shot.

Representative Duncan Hunter. Duncan: I saw that you had formed an exploratory committee. Who are you?

The Democrats have even more candidates.
Senator Hillary Clinton. Husband is a politicial genius. Has already assembled the best team. And has already raised a lot of money. Smart. Great experience - let's face it - she's lived in the White House. A fund-raising machine. But, would fill Republican coffers like no one else. Both the nomination and the election are hers to lose.

Senator Joe Biden. Colorful. Great overall and foreign policy experience. Would probably make a really good, centrist President, but will struggle to catch Hil, or to learn to speak in concise, cogent sentences.

Former VP Al Gore. The Dem's big idea guy. A Nixonian comeback? He did, after all, win the popular vote. Presumably learned a lot, including perhaps some humility, from the loss in 2000. Environmentalism as the new religion will play well in liberal land. Another extremely well-quailified guy. If Hil stumbles, I think he emerges as the go-to guy.

Senator John Kerry. His friends say that he has a great sense of humor. It just doesn't show through. Americans aren't going to vote for someone they see as humorless. I don't think he gets the nomination, and I don't think he could beat McCain or Guiliani.

Former Senator John Edwards. Trial lawyer skills show on the campaign trail. Telegenic. However, seems to be lightweight. A long shot.

Senator Chris Dodd. Skilled politico. Chairmanship of the party taught him good debating and presenting skills. Would need to take a page from W's play book on how to put a party boy reputation behind him. Outside of those of us who watch Fox Sunday News, Meet the Press and Face the Nation, not sure how well known he is even after years in the senate.

Senator Barak Obama. Great story; great looking, good speaker, too soon.

My early call: Romney vs. Clinton - Clinton as the first woman President.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On Nancy Pelosi

There will eventually be a woman president of the U.S.

Perhaps as soon as 2008 with Ms. Clinton. She is certainly smart enough, highly skilled and qualified. We'll see.

However, I'm not too enamored of Ms. Pelosi in that role. Maybe she would surprise me and rise to the occasion. Is my knowledge of the Constitution correct? Is she third in line?

W is a healthy guy. That is a good thing, because if something were to happen to him, Dick "more gravy please" Cheney could go at any time. He's got more electronics and chip power in his chest than a good size data center.....and just like that - Nancy's in....

A Pox on Both Your Houses

As far as I can recall, yesterday was the first time I haven't voted in over thirty years. I felt totally betrayed by the Republicans, who were spending in a way that Lyndon Johnson and Tip O'Neill would have found embarrasing. They tried sidling up to us at the end, talking about spending, the borders and so on, but it struck me as totally phony. They were in power for years; if they had wanted to control spending, build a levee againist the tsunami of illegal immigrants, fix the death tax or deal with the mind-numbing crisis of Social Security, they could have. But they didn't.

On the other hand, I couldn't get excited about Jim Webb, or putting Nancy Pelosi in as Speaker of the House. So I stayed home.

I was bummed out about the election and some things at work, so I lit up a Macanudo. I'm not sure what they call it - it was a small ring gauge - so a panatella or a lancero - and listened as the election reports came in. Not a rout, but nontheless a big victory for the D's.

So, perhaps the R's will wander in the wilderness for a while and rediscover some conservative values....