Saturday, December 19, 2009

MicroSoft Does Something Right?

I have, these past few weeks, been taking a look at Windows 7. Maybe it is the competition from Linux (highly likely, since a lot of the "new" features in Win7 were already available in Linux), or maybe it is just how badly they screwed up some things in XP and Vista. But either way, it looks like they have done something good with Win7.

I normally wait a full year before looking into any new product from MicroSoft, but between the way they screwed up with Vista and some favorable reviews I saw this year on Win7, I thought I would take a look at it before the year was up. Plus, I got my wife a netbook, and the only thing I could find was either Vista or Win7. After doing about a week of research, it was an easy choice.

From the fact that all of the programing loads from a single disc - no matter which version you are buying (and there are about 5 versions) - to the way it handles hibernation and switching users, it looks like they have done a better job than any previous editions.

That is not to say I will be totally enamored with it. First, it costs over $100 a copy. Although you can get a family pack of 3 copies for less than the single copy price, a feature only useful to businesses in the past.

I still think, ultimately, Linux will be the way to go. But Win7 ain't bad.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Living Biblically 4

This is the 4th and final part to my review of the book "The Year of Living Biblically"

One of the reasons I recommended this book in the first place is that it provides a bird's eye view of the whole of Christianity. The author sets out, among other things, to look at every facet, denomination, sect, and cult of both Jewish and Christian (although, primarily the Jewish) religions. It is a breathtaking look at the variety of viewpoints and interpretations of the Bible, and despite being centered mostly on Old Testament, I think Christians should find it greatly interesting.

My first three reviews:

I have been told by reliable teachers, once you think you have a good grip on what you think you believe, it is always good to look around at those whom you might have a disagreement with. Sometimes they will give you insight you didn't previously have. Otherwise, it is still good, they can make you do the hard work of justifying your beliefs more precisely.

As I have mentioned before, the author misses the big picture, but he does get some impressive insights right. One of the ones I hadn't seen clearly before was the Sabbath. He got this one more right than I did.

Other reasons for reading (and owning) this book are the excellent lists of "footnotes," the index and the lists of (most of) the books he read while researching and writing this book. He really does have an impressive bibliography.

And I should also mention that, as it is written in diary format, it is a lesson in how to keep a journal, and how to examine that journal - both, for insight and for a good historical reference.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lending to ourselves

To make us look richer.

Those who stop by here that have a real understanding of economics should understand that nothing I post here in economics is prophetic or guinious. What I do here is distill some of the important news of recent times, and flavor it with my own philosophy. Nothing more. My goal is simply to make it understandable to the average Joe.

The numbers used by Wall Street and the govnernment show the economy is truning around, but this is partially an illusion, due to the decline in the value of the dollar.

The biggest recent news, for me, is the slide in the 5 year bond rate, from the boring little dance it did around 2.3% from last spring until this fall. It is now around 2.05%, and I saw 2.00% for a monment last week. The surface reason for this drop in intrest rates is the banking crisis in Dubai. The underlying reson, and the reason it has been staying so low for so long, (remember, a few months ago I said it was formerly 2.9%) is a stealth economy growing in the Washington-Wall Street circles. Seems the Fed has been buying up long term bonds, both government and corporate bonds and securities.

Keeping in mind that the Fed is loaning money to banks
and some other financial institutions at .1% (yest that is one tenth of one percent) this amounts to flooding the markets with free cash. And who is buying up this free cash? Well, it seems the banks are. It seems that, while Washington is publicly telling the banks to loan to homeowners and small businesses, it is quietly structureing the rules so that banks will invest in something safer. Like US treasury bonds. Yes you read that right. The Fed is lending to banks at near zero interest, and the banks are turning around and investing that money in the Fed at 2% to 4%. Free money for banks.

Brave New World
This has sparked a new era of "the dollar carry trade." The term is new, so you might have better luck looking up "yen carry trade" which was a phenomenon in the 90's. Meanwhile, many paniced investers all across the globe (including the coountry of India) are buying up tons of Gold. Not for the first time, the US Mint is short on one once gold coins. While I don't think this is the end of the world in any since, this with what I wrote about the past couple of months, does foretell a new era of increased hardship for the American worker.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Border is Neglected

I was going over my notes, and discovered I hadn't written anything about the border in quite a while. This is not because I don't think it is important any more, but I have just neglected it because it hasn't been much in the news any more. With all the other stuff going on, and not that much happening with the border, it is one area that hasn't gotten much coverage.

There is no excuse for this. While there hasn't been as much immigration activity due to our economy being in the dumps, drug smuggling is still going on, and terrorists can still move freely across our border.

The Army Corps of Engineers does have a border fence assessments site, which, while mostly a big PR stunt, isn't all bad.

Proof that the fencing action is working (June 2008)

The increasing use of bribes by Mexican drug cartels to corrupt U.S. agents comes as Washington is sending $400 million to help Mexico’s army-led war on the trafficking gangs, whose brutal murders have surged to unprecedented levels.

There is, of course, another side of the coin, some ranchers worry how they will get their livestock to water after the border fence is built? Border Fence Plan Worries Texas Ranchers (Oct 2006) and I would never discount that. It is just one hurdle we are required to get past.

Hopefully I won't neglect this topic in the future.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A day of Thanksgiving, or consumption

Today is supposed to be a day of Thanksgiving. But too many Americans, and too many others around the world, will only be interested in how much they can consume. It goes along with the Black Friday mentality.

This was what first attracted me to Geez Magazine. And while I don't share all of their views, I do share some of them. In fact, one of the first articles read was at the beginning of their De-Moterize Your Soul campaign, which many of us should at least give a passing glance. I don't read their stuff any more, but am thankful they were there for the few months I did read some of their stuff. The ones I liked the best are no longer on the site, but here is a good one about taking up bicycling for Lent.

So, instead of planning how we will go Chasing the Wind tommorrow, why don't we take today to give thanks for (or try to make amends with) our friends and families, and plan to spend tommorrow NOT shopping.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Season of Advent

I just looked at the Blog of the Crunchy Conservative, which I used to read occationally, and there is nothing on Advent. Checked some other pages on Beliefnet, and while there is some stuff, none of it is on the front page. Hmmm, the season is upon us, and I wonder how many, if you did a survey, know the relationship of John the Baptist and Jesus. Or Elizabeth and Mary.

Just wondering.
If anybody else is wondering, it is in
the first chapter or two of the Gospel According to Luke.

Happy Reading.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ammo Shortage almost over

The ammunition shortage is easing. (And that must be Bush's fault too. )

The article misrepresents some of the facts and totally ignors others, but is correct that the Ammo shortage is easing. I was recently able to find reasonable quatities of ammo at Achadamy.

Demand for guns and ammo began growing last year before the November presidential election. It continued partly because many gun owners were concerned that President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress would reinstate an assault weapons ban or drastically hike taxes on ammunition, guns and firearms materials, analysts have said.

While there hasn’t been such action in Washington, apprehension remains and is likely playing a role in prompting people nationwide to not just buy guns and ammunition, but to stock up on them as well, some gun enthusiasts say.

Truth is, Obama has done everything he can to infringe on the second amendment rights of citizens, and the press has done everything they can to ignore it, or misconstrue it. The press has for the past two years plus, been blaming the ammunition shortage on the war in Iraq, and later on the reaction to the election President Obama. Well, on that last part, they may be partly right. We did stock up a lot of guns and ammo based, correctly, on the premise that Obama is hostile to the Constitution - and especially the Second Amendment (and it is looking like he is just as hostile to the First Amendment, but that is another article).

The real problem began with the militarization of police forces in the late 90's as a poorly managed reaction to the Los Angeles bank robbery shootout. The massive increase in firepower and (practice) ammo usage caused the inital shortage in 2006 and 2007. Of course, that still goes on, and added to the stocking up of citizens in 2008 and 2009.

Back Story, correcting all the myths promoted by the Liberal Associated Press.
More currant story, same author.

If, for some reason, that one fails, try this one,
the article was written on 6 Mar 09

As a side note: Obama has ordered the disarming of Airlines Pilots, choosing Idiocracy over security.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Looking at rising numbers, but no

Because most measurements of our economy are measuring the wrong things, the economy still looks better than it is. If you read this Oct 29th Bloomberg article, you will see that the GDP grew 3.5 pecent in the third quarter after a yearlong contraction as government incentives spurred consumers to spend more. What is wrong with this picture is that they are still measuring consumption, as if consuming things will make us wealthy.

On the other hand, the Manufacturing Index rose above 50 for the third straight month Now that is an honest sign of recovery. Full report here. Hold your apploause, this, by its self, is not good news. (as you read past the nice headline, it doesn't say more people are working, only that those working are producing more. Still, that is good, at least in the "not too short" run.)

Here, Peggy Noonan gives a more complete picture of the problems facing America in the long run, titled "We Are Governed by Callous Children." Be sure to read both parts of her article.

Our Competition, China, may Add 11 Million Jobs as Recovery Gains Pace. This is why gas prices are going up.

Employment data is still dismal excerpt:
The Labor Department on Nov. 6 will report that the unemployment rate rose to
9.9 percent in October, from 9.8 percent the previous month, as companies cut
another 175,000 jobs, according to the median forecasts in Bloomberg News
surveys of economists. More Americans filed bankruptcy in October than any month
since changes to bankruptcy laws in 2005.

Oct. 2 (Bloomberg)

The U.S. jobless rate probably rose to a 26-year high in September as employers kept cutting staff, signaling consumers will not lead the recovery, economists said before a report today.

Unemployment likely climbed to 9.8 percent, the highest since 1983, from 9.7 percent in August, according to the median estimate of 81 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Payrolls probably fell by 175,000 workers...

And remember, the real rate, when you count all those not elegible for unemployment insurance payouts is about 7% higher.

As if the above isn't enough to show that Wall Street is out of touch with Main Street, Goldman Sachs is considering giving $1B to charity to mollifiy anger with their giving over $16B in executive compensation to reward those who helped run the economy off into the ditch. Or they might put the $1B into dividends. Ya'Think? The fact that they are only considering this as an altermative to funding their pet projects shows that corpratism is certainly not capitolism. (Update: They put the money into a fund to help small businesses. Still, profits should go to shareholders, not to corporate execs and their pet charities, even if I like their charities.)

So, there you have it. The recovery is underway - if you are a corporate exec or banker. If you used to turn a wrench or work in a factory, it will be quite a while longer for you. This stage of the recovery is for those who already have money.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Well, it is officially a swine flu emergency

Well, ths swine flu is now a declared pandemic, and even President Obama has gotten in on the act by declareing it a national emergency. I say this is an act because the H1N1 is still considered likely to do less damage than its seasonal counterparts. This is like calling a national emergency for a routine severe thunderstorm here in Texas. And if he really wanted to make a difference, where was he on this subject last May, when he could have made a difference?

In the mean time, the shortage of Children's Tamiflu, and this is not a production problem, since there is more than enough of the drug available. It is a problem with finding people willing to mix it into the right dose for children. Something any pharmacist can do. Of course this may change, as projections are for the epidemic to outstrip availability of the drug withing a couple of months.

Of course, all of this is made a little harder by those spreading rumors about the safety of the vaccine. I say a little harder, cause with not enough vaccine to go around, my thought is that you expend the vaccine on those willing to take it and ignore the nay sayers. Let the Darwin Effect take care of them. Let me be clear on my stand. The vaccine is relatively safe. No drug or vaccine is completely safe, but in this case, the risk associated with not getting the vaccine is much greater.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Characteristics of a good Church

It is important for a Christian to be in regular company of other Christians. (It is commanded in the Bible too) Christians call this fellowship, but most people today don't know what that word means, so call it what you want. (the Bible calls it the gathering of yourselves together)

I have been brainstorming about some things to look for, if you are looking for a new Church. (or if you are looking for a Church, for the first time in a long time)

I undertook this idea for a number of reasons, first and foremost, because a couple of my recent pastors (my Church has changed pastors twice in the past 7 years) have stressed the importance of being involved with a Church.

Since you are looking for a group of Christians to spend some significant time with, both for company and for learning, you want to find a Church that is well suited to you.

And with so many Churches teaching incorrectly, or even teaching outright heresy, how can you determine which Church is the best? In my local area, there are enough Baptist, Lutheran, Christian, Bible, Nazarene and Assembly of God Churches that you could go to a different one every Sunday for a year.

The following should be helpful to those who are searching.

The Church Building
It should be ordinary, unspectacular. A Church building is a building for meetings and teaching. It is not, in itself, holy or sacred. The last thing you want is to try to go to a Church that meets in a building that intimidates you.

The Congregation.
Look for a medium sized congregation. This can be anywhere from 100 to 1000 people. Just so you are comfortable. Don't like to stand out? Look for a little larger one. Afraid of crowds, or feel like you will just get lost in the crowd and not find any one to be friends with? Look for a smaller one.

The Preaching and Teaching.
Of course, the most important aspect of a church is the Preaching and Teaching. There is no substitute (except as in the next paragraph) for Expository Preaching (which is really teaching). Expository Preaching is a system where the Pastor goes through a portion of the Bible, one chapter or even one verse at a time, teaching (or exposing) the Scriptures. The Bible specifically requires pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints.

This means they are commanded to prepare Christians for service to Christ. Since this is their purpose, Expository Preaching is required. In addition, if a Pastor teaches on subjects straight through substantial portions of the Scriptures, it is very difficult for him to stray very far from the true meaning of those Scriptures, since the Scriptures, themselves, are tools for their own true interpretation. (This doesn't mean we can't have some disagreement on some interpretation, but the longer we study the scriptures, the smaller those disagreements should become, in relation to the whole.)

As a second best alternative to Expository Preaching, I suppose a liturgical format is OK, if they offer a Sunday School or other weekly (or twice weekly) expository study. Some information on the liturgical format:

At any rate, if they preach on the same subject three Sundays in a row, it is time to find a different Church, as they have become wrapped around the axle, and are no longer equipping the saints, but rather indulging their own social pet peeves. This is not quite the same as teaching from the same passage three weeks in a row, but close. A passage can be looked at from three different points of view, giving three different subjects. I would cut them a little more slack in this case = to maybe four Sundays. At any rate, if they are not moving on, teaching through the Scriptures, then it is time for you to move on.

Offerings and Tithes
Some (rare) Churches never "pass the plate" to take an offering. Some have been known to pass the plate three times in one service. Well, if they pass the plate more than once - except on rare occasions, then, again, it is time to find a different Church. On the other hand, if you are sitting indoors and the lights are on, someone has to pay the bills. And many Pastors find that leading a Church is a full time job, so they need to get paid. (The Bible actually directs a Church to support those who evangelize and those who teach the Scriptures)

But the Pastor should live like his flock. If most of the people who attend the Church live in apartments, or small unassuming houses, then the Pastor should live in a small unassuming house. If most in the congregation live in nice middle class homes, then they should expect
him to live in a comparable house.

If the Pastor lives like a king and the flock struggles to get by, if they constantly parade "successful stories of faith" across the stage or if you hear "let your seed reflect your need" (this is a specific heresy) or anything like it - run. Again, this would indicate that it is time to find another Church.

If you attend Sunday School, or any other theological classes offered by the Church, they should be Bible Based - not over dependant on other material. This doesn't mean they can't use other materials, but the classes should be centered on the Bible.

The Works of the Church
A Church should (unless they, themselves, are destitute) support Charities and Missions - this is one of the biggest advantages of belonging to a Church. If you have read things I have said in the past about charitable giving, then you know there is a hazard to giving individually. Namely that the money might not go where it should, or that they will spend much of it on trying to get you to give more. With a Church, one person can do the research on a charity for the whole group, and the charity only has one point of contact to waste their efforts on, if they try to get more.

The budget, along with some other Church documents, such as their Constitution and bylaws, should be open to inspection by members. But not necessarily by just anyone, so as a compromise, I would highly recommend inquiring about them before formally joining any Church.

Pastor and Deacons should be approachable. They are in charge of setting the overall direction of the Church and serving the spiritual needs of the congregation, but they are not Lords. And if they are not approachable, they cannot fulfil their Biblical Duties.

So applying the above half a baker's dozen tests will narrow the choice of Churches by probably 90%. Possibly to zero - in which case you have to look for the closest thing you can find, and I would say that Expository Preaching is the most important test. Or you may have too look some distance to find a Church. Here in Texas, I know a few people who travel 30 or more miles to find a true Bible Based Church. But after learning the Bible for myself, I think it is worth it.

Proverbs 29:27
The righteous detest the dishonest;
the wicked detest the upright.

UPDATE 27Oct09: I discovered, this morning, that my links to the definition of Expository Preaching were broken. I fixed them, but at the same time, found that I wasn't satisfied with the definition they linked to. I will be looking for a more precise, yet pragmatic definition. But in the mean time, I found the following thoughts, which I want to provide.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blog Labels

This is a detailed list of my LABELS.

Listed here for the purpose of making it easier to find any articles on any subject that I have written on. I will modify this article from time to time, to correct errors or in case I add some new topic of interest.

This label lists a series of articles on how to Study the Bible. The long version of the name is "Bible Studies 101" I will remove older articles from this whenever I replace them with newer versions.

This label includes all items posted with the goal of teaching others how to study the Bible. I am beginning to split this out, using this heading for motivational stuff and older articles and a new one "Bible Study 101" for the actual study guide.

Articles removed from "Bible Study 101" will be found here.

This label includes information and stuff about the process of blogging itself.

Border Security
This label includes all articles discussing the building of the Border Fence and other security measures, also includes information on the enemies of our boarder security efforts.

This label includes reviews of books I am reading,
Or have read over the past few years,
Or that I want to read, but haven't the time.

This label includes stuff about cars and trucks

And many other forms of personal transportation,
Including those with two wheels.

This label includes discussion on how Christians should live.
Authority for How Christians should live is the Bible.
But we need to look at 1 Corinthians 5
And balance it with Romans 15

This label includes stuff that I have removed tags from. Some de-tagged articles could be stuff that I have written a more updated article on, or stuff that I no longer consider it worthy of anyone spending time on. I won't remove the article, or pretend I didn't write it, but will just change it to this label.

Disaster Prep
This label includes information on what we should be doing now to prepare for disasters

This label includes discussions about Digital Rights Management, Copyright Enforcement, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the Jackbooted thugs at RIAA and MPAA and some other producers.

This label includes all kinds of stuff on economics, whether world economics or national. Or micro economics which, for my definition, includes economics of a single business, household, or even a single process (like driving to work).

This label includes discussion of all forms of energy,
both mainstream and alternative.
Oil, Coal, Nuclear, Wind, Solar, Home grown, imported -- etc
and the energy situations of other countries

This label includes information on current, future, and past epidemics,
their expected impact,
and what we should be doing to deal with those epidemics.

This label includes discussions on corporations,
their behavior, and how they undermine our prosperity,
our rights as citizens, and our sovereignty as a nation.

This label includes various heretical teachings, from prosperity preachers
to politicians mis-using biblical teachings for political purposes, to others
using quasi or pseudo scriptural ideas to support pseudo christian beliefs.

This label includes things conservatives do that will hamstring them, or that show they are not really conservative, but rather, doing what is right for big corporations or the very rich. Also included are things that will reduce our ability to remain a free and prosperous country.

Retiree Issues

Planned - but there are no articles under this heading.

This label includes stuff, including technology, that have vanished over the last 20 or so years, due to manufactures going out of business, production costs for too few items, or excessive greed on the part of patent holders.

The long name for this is "Observations and Definitions"
Just a place to put short articles that are
not much more than a paragraph,
Any observation, definition, or quick link to a good article.

Short for "The November Chronicles"

This label includes evidence of the "coming storm" and the decline and fall of the American Nation. Primarily, five things are leading to this "coming storm" Overpopulation, Overspending, Apathy, Islam, and Environmentalism.

This label includes notes on my personal life and things happening around me personally.

This label includes articles about state and national politics, and the goings on of international or foreign government bodies and agencies.

This label includes stuff I found where people have behaved in despicable ways. I thought about migrating this to the heading of Weasel, hat tip to the author of Dilbert for the term.

But instead, I have decided to depreciate it.
In Geekspeak, this means that
while I won't immediately delete it,
I won't be using it any more.

This label includes,
As the banner on my blog reads:
Discussions of Technology, and How We Use or Misuse it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Hollow Recovery amid Job Losses

This is coming out a bit late (OK, very late), and will mark a change in my efforts to regularly forecast the economic climate. Future articles will be shorter and address only one or another item.

Optimistic chatter from Washington and Wall Street is counter balanced by the reality that job losses, and especially manufacturing job losses, are killing the American Dream. This seems to be a continuation of the last few months. There is a (well thought out) theory afloat that the recovery will be in phases, but not really recovery - Change.

There is more about job losses here. And here: look specifically at "US manufacturing statistics" and then realise that this was written in 2005 - before the collapse.

Some time ago (July), when some of the brain-dead-heads in Washington (and some in NYC) were talking about the recession being over, the smarter people on Wall Street were saying it is too early. It still is.

Among the economic indicators I watch Baltic shipping index (third graph) is beginning to show the "W" shape that I mentioned in last month's update.

Two things that few people are talking about are dragging the economy, and preventing any real recovery. One is the addiction to foreign oil. While we are still importing 70% of our oil, and still not investing much in the way of new supplies or even new refineries, China is buying up future oil production, which will again push oil prices sky high. (About $20 - $40 a year increases) As Pickens says: "China has a plan," Pickens said. "We don’t."

The other drag on the economy is the previously mentioned manufacturing job losses. While the brain-dead-heads in Washington keep measuring the service sector, as if consumption will make us rich, we keep exporting our manufacturing jobs overseas. The pundits on Wall Street keep talking about a "jobless recovery," which means if the economy recovers at all, it will again be a hollow economy. I specifically remember, some years ago, one Caterpillar May (stock owner) telling me how good it is for the US to have free trade with China, since that would lead to them buying equipment from US. Now, after we pumped billions into the Chinese economy (some of which they loaned us this past year to stabilise our financial sector) they have built their own manufacturing facilities and are building machines they used to buy from US.

More about the jobless recovery here. And a quick quote from it:

(Oct. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Job openings in the U.S. fell in August to the lowest level in at least nine years, signaling the economy hasn’t improved enough to prompt companies to take on more staff.)

Although I can't find the reference right now, the real jobless rate, including people who have given up on finding a job, and those who don't qualify for unemployment is close to 17%.

Also, late breaking: China is going to be building Hummers
(Just a note that this does not affect the production of the US Army HMMWV)

There is a comical picture of our economic dilemma showing that we are counting on the unemployed to bail us out.

So, if things are so bad, why are the market numbers looking pretty good? Well, two things are in play, inflating the numbers. One is the constant pumping of extra money into the economy, mainly by way of low interest rates. The "Fed" has indicated that the current interest rate, which is indistinguishable from zero, and has been for almost a year. (Also found here)

But all this extra grease on the wheels of the economy has had a downside. The dollar has been declining for some months now, pushing up prices of commodities (like oil and gold) balancing the deflation in the economy. Of course, with material costs rising and finished goods remaining the same, the workers are obviously absorbing the loss. (also here)

As an ironic twist, some employers are pretending to have a hard time finding qualified workers. I say pretending, because they obviously are complaining that qualified applicants are taking the better paying jobs (or better work environment), and the complainers are the ones that can't get the workers.

Gold, trend lines are still rocketing upwards, and gold will be over priced for some time, unless one takes the demise of the dollar very seriously. But I don't think it will collapse entirely, since Obama's handlers in the far east (remember, the debtor is servant to the lender) want to keep it afloat.

So, What Now?

Because, as I mentioned above, the "Fed" is planning to keep interest rates low for at least another year, I will no longer be doing this article monthly, as I have been. Even thought the "markets" will seem to recover (good if you have mutual funds) the real economy will not recover for many many more months, if it recovers at all.

What to do in the mean time?

Keep working - if you have a job. Don't be afraid to take on any work that comes your way if you don't. Times will be hard for many years, and the line of work you want may never come your way again. Learn new skills. Everybody should have at least two (unrelated) job skills.

If you have money (if you can afford cable TV), buy tools for survival, in case the worst happens. And make sure you know how to use them. If you are no good with tools, you might have to barter - and find someone who has the skill.

Do not let your love grow cold. Now, to be clear, when the Bible talks about love, it is an action verb. To be specific, Love equals charity, in fact, if you look at an Old English dictionary, you will see they are synonyms. Love is a call to action.

And one last thought: hunker down. It is going to be a long and bumpy ride.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

My New (used) Truck

I actually began this subject with my rant against the Consumer Reports 2007 used car buyer's guide. The reviewer of all of the smaller trucks had a bad attitude, as was evidenced by their consistent belittling of small trucks.

I recently bought a Chevy Colorado. The Consumer Reports (this link subject to change) reviewer said the four cylinder engine in the Colorado was "crude and noisy." I do not find that to be true, but I will say the transmission tends to shift into overdrive and engage the lock at too low speed. It also seems to like first gear too much. At 1500 RPM in first, it is traveling about 12 mph, and does not want to shift into second. At 46 mph, it shifts into overdrive (and the lock engages at any speed over 35), which again puts you at 1500 rpm - but with about 6 times the torque output. There is a slight, but noticeable engine vibration. I doubt this is what the reviewer was referring to (really can't figure out what he is complaining about), but a switch to prevent it from going into overdrive, or just adjusting it to shift to overdrive only at higher speed would fix this.

The Consumer Reports reviewer seemed to think that anything with less than rocket like acceleration was underpowered, but this truck has plenty of power for daily use. And that is what it is meant for. There are heavier and more powerful trucks on the market, for jobs that need heavier and more powerful trucks (my job, as an equipment maintenance person requires something heavy duty, but I drive a corporate truck for that). What I need is something that is economical. This truck gets fairly good mileage, but not as good as my 95 Isuzu. And not as good as an economy car. And the tires will be a bit more expensive to maintain. But overall, it isn't too bad.

Anyway, at this point, my biggest complaint (other than it is going to cost more to drive) is that I can't get the dome light to come on without the key in the ignition.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

End of Quarter Roundup

I started doing quarterly roundups, instead of monthly, because I don't do enough blog entries on my blog to justify a monthly roundup. This quarter I started out strong, with a series of book reviews on Christianity in Crisis and followed with some stuff on economics and politics. In fact, for some months now, I have been doing a monthly economic article. Good Start.

But ultimately, between paying too much attention to national politics and some health problems (nothing I haven't had before), I have been neglecting what I should be doing with this blog. So, in the next three months, I hope to do more with Bible Studies and book reviews. And be seen less on other peoples blogs, talking about politics. If you look at my November Chronicles articles, you might see why.

Now, as in the past reviews, here are links to some articles that generated comments, followed by some stuff I got involved in on a couple other blogs, and lastly, a list of article numbers on Combat Effective that are of interest.

Sotomayor Unqualified
Bottoming out in the Recession

Other people's Blogs
Judges tend to evolve - badly.
Young people leaving their Churches
Pilgrim's Political Link
Biker Bubba's Thoughts On Palin Leaving the Governorship
Calvinism's author turns 500
Chiggers and other insects
Business Climate in Michigan is Icy
Unemployment in Michigan is growth business

List of article numbers of interest on Combat Effective.
I am too lazy to do full links to them, but
if you are really interested, I will coach on
how to get to the referenced pages.

3298 Blue Ray DVD players
3301 We now have two liberal parties
(republicans sent me a survey - w/ donation request)
3303 Can Blogs be killed by outlawing linking?
3304 Honduras, Clinton, Castro, and then Sotomayor
3305 on twitter and blogs (DW anti communist blog)
3306 the US has voted to be enslaved and impoverished
3309 bankrupting farmers, and corporate psychopaths
3310 Jury sees Rep. Jefferson taking a bribe
3312 Obama's pick for surgeon general
3313 Taxes and healthcare (and my little rant about it)
morphed into international finance
3314 Moon landing anniversary
3315 the coming war of gog and magog
3316 various topics
3317 On the demise of News Papers
and rise of "free" media detailed discussions
3318 various topics
3293 Late breaking updates to:
Note to GOP - don't compare Obama to Putin
As a nation, we are hanging in the balance
Two bills, should they pass, will bankrupt us
3321 Fannie Mae Needs more money
3322 Long detailed discussion of Cash for Clunkers
including some comparison to Unabomber predictions
3323 Combat Rob and Wife Expecting a little one
3324 Consumer bankruptcies and Credit card defaults
3325 don't let news of economic recovery lure you into spending
3330 Are we bitter, or offended, at the corruption of the system
this was moved to forums
3331 will we, or our grandchildren, pick up the tab for this mess
3333 A Josef Goebbel's recovery
3340 Ghost Fleet of the Recession - ships parked near Singapore
3348 (administrative action) User Databases scrubbed
3349 Liberals want civility
3351 Criminally Insane escapes while on field trip

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Swine Flu is Back

With the start of the school year, the flu epidemic has renewed itself. Or epidemics. It seems there is more than one strain going around this year. And the government will have the vaccines out after the majority of the threat is passed.

At least the schools seem to be less panicky. Now they are sending individual students home instead of closing schools. There has to be a point, though, at which the school gets closed. Some studies I have read indicate that when 1% of the students have been infected, it is time to close the schools. I haven't seen any plans like that, this time.

The bottom line is: we must depend on ourselves.
What I have said about this in the past still stands.
April 29 swine-flu
May 1 swine-flu-2
May 4 swine-flu-3-panic-and-stupidity
May 15 swine-flu-from-panic-to-forgotten

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

the economy does a W?

While there are some who think the recession may be about over and Obama my be able to take credit, I disagree.

Federal Reserve efforts to thaw credit markets together with the Obama administration’s "cash-for- clunkers" program and tax credits for first-time homebuyers are reviving demand. Factories and builders, which have accounted for half of all the jobs lost since the recession began in December 2007, may keep growing in coming months as sales rise.

In fact, even while that was being written, a correction was getting underway. Within hours, the S&P was back under 1000. the price of crude and gasoline dropped, and the interest rate on 2-year bonds was back under 1%.

Nothing, of course, is cut and dryad.
"Successful investing is anticipating the anticipations of others." (John Maynard Keys).

Much of the problems of the economy is hidden beneath the surface. There is a backlog of real estate in the foreclosure process that rivals the size of all the houses currently on the market today. Consumers are racking up massive credit card debt, and job losses are still mounting up, meaning that a mountain of credit card defaults are just around the corner. (numbers you may have heard - accompanied by rosy narrative that things are getting better, are a farce - the situation is just getting worse more slowly.)

In addition, the banks have been hiding weaknesses (this is in addition to the weakness caused by NOT foreclosing on delinquent accounts) through a technique called Mark to Market accounting. This is where they can estimate their holdings to be worth more than what they really are worth.

One person I should have been reading some years ago, Bill Fleckenstein predicted much of this, years before it happened. He says this is just a continuation of the bubble collapse of 2001.

What me may be facing in the next few months is a second "bottoming" of the economy, with more job losses. More market contraction. More losses in equity of most commodities. Instead of a V shaped economic chart, it will look more like a W. The Great Depression was not all one long depressed economy, but rather 3 or 4 (depending on how you look at it) serious recessions. That was GD1, and this is shaping up to be GD2, and we will likely see a round of high inflation somewhere in the mix. Or something that just looks like inflation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

being taught to be un-American

Business (and Government) team up, from time to time to teach people to trust in Big Brother and to not have do anything for ourselves.

Clark Howard has an article this month about employees who have been fired for interfering with robbers or shoplifters. Of course, the store is worried about being sued. Of course this is because the legal system is no longer interested in truth, justice or liberty. It has become only interested in refining the combative skills of the players (the attornies).

And judges are instrumental in making this so. In some cases, legal action has been brought by the government for pointing out that a particular action is unconstitutional.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

bottoming out in the recession

This is a continuation of my monthly economic outlook summary. Previous economic discussion can be found by looking down the right hand side of your screen until you see "economics" and clicking on that link.

The interest rate the "fed" charges banks for overnight borrowing is so close to zero, that it is almost impossible to measure.

One of the few things Obama has done right in this stimulus stuff (and I will give credit where credit is due) is the "cash for clunkers." While it was in the Senate, both parties backed it. It has done pretty well in the first few days, and of course, now the Republicans want to kill it. Politics.

We seem to have hit bottom on this economic collapse. Maybe.

Leading indicators, such as the Baltic Shipping (global) Rail Shipping (US) and Short term interest rates all give a pretty good picture of reaching the bottom.

The road back up will be long, slow, arduous, and fraught with danger of setbacks (just as this collapse was a setback on the road to recovery from the dot-com bust. Also, I heard this morning that Japan is having trouble recovering because their industry has been hollowed out by outsourcing. (On the flip side, China Manufacturing index is way up - you do the math).

However, both oil and gas are up, not to mention the rise in the minimum wage. These will be a headwind for the economy to overcome. The stock market, the housing market (except in a few places) and the price of gold are all up slightly - but these could all go up and down two or three times in the next few months. Remember "the market can stay irrational longer than you can remain solvent (John Maynard Keys). If you want to win at the stock market, I am not your teacher.

One note on the markets that may make gold look a little more useful as a hedge against inflation, Two to five years from now, we should be looking at a pretty massive inflation rate. If the inflation rate is as high as I think it will be, it will make the current bond interest rate negative (less than inflation). This could make gold look pretty good, but you still have to get around the exchange, storage and security costs - therefore I still cannot recommend it.

A final note:
I just heard Robert Crandall (Jul 3rd, on the Kudlow report) say that "consumers are 70% of the US economy."

Folks, this is just plain wrong. We would be better off if we didn't even look at the consumption side of the economy at all. All it is is funny money.

UPDATE: Well, the one bright spot in the stimulus programs has been tarnished. Seems the government can't get even the simple things right. Worse than "offsetting some of the benefits," these delays will cause the burden to fall on small independant dealerships - a critical part of the backbone of our econmy. I have written more on Combat Effective.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Book Review 2 - Christianity in Crisis

As a refresher, here is the same intro I used before, or you can skip down about
a half dozen lines or so to get to the new stuff.

This is a book review on a book that I more or less "stumbled across" in a Family Christian Bookstore catalog. The author, Hank Hanegraaff, has quite a few books to his name, but this is the only one I have read. A reviewer on Amazon made the statement: "... he correctly points out that no teacher has the free hand to have his teachings go unquestioned. We should never be in the habit of receiving a teaching or teacher without examining its biblical accuracy. This book correctly points this out."

My review of the beginning of this book is here.

Well, I finally got to the end of this book, and as I said before, it gets a little slow as you get towards the middle, but as you pass the middle Mr. Hangraaff begins showing both the theological errors promoted by the prosperity preachers (which he calls faith teachers), but also shows the contrasting theology of the Bible, when the Bible is read in context.

As you approach the end of the book, I found that I slowed down, so that I wouldn't miss any of the good stuff. He shows how to conduct your Christian studies to resist the heretics. Not just the prosperity preachers, but any other heretics that come your way.

From the Bible (read in context: Matt 7:13-29):

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."

He gets into quite a bit of detail, and while I do not agree with ALL of his theology, he and I agree on the major points. In addition, the last several chapters are devoted to methods of worship and prayer and study - to inoculate yourself against these heretics. One of the highlights of this part of the book is his use of "acrostics." These are like acronyms, but are used as learning tools. For instance he uses the acrostic "M-A-P-S" for Manuscripts, Archeology, Prophesy, and Scriptural Synergy. This is one of the facets of learning to defend the faith, when non-believers come calling.

Monday, July 27, 2009

annual gas price forecast

As promised, here are my annual gas price forecasts. While I did blow it last year, I have provided my readers with somewhat accurate forecasts for 5 out of 6 years, and the one time I did blow it, if they did follow my advice by living very frugally, no harm should have come from it.

The Bottom Line, Right Up Front.
I am forecasting gas to be $3.22 early next May.

The ever increasing role of China, the recession, and the prospect of a high inflation rate are challenges, but in this year's forecast, I think the ongoing recession will mostly cancel out the other two, leaving the economics in balance. A slow increase in consumption, coupled with some optimism in the markets, and a steadily increasing cost of production seem to be the prime factors in driving up the cost in the next several months.

Here is the formula I used this year:
The predominant price of crude oil in July this year
is $68 a barrel, divided by 25 (you can get about 25 gal
of gas at the pump from one barrel of crude) gives
$2.68 - to which I add $.50 tax (the tax in some states
is much higher) to give $3.18 per gallon.

I will likely, in coming years, add an inflation factor to compensate for the weakening of the dollar, and maybe a supply stress factor for increases in consumption. In addition, the price of oil seems, historically to rise at the end of July, and there tend to be disasters in Aug and Sept, as well as hurricanes in the fall, but the prices have these things built in so I don't think getting too concerned there is of any use. But this year, I don't think those need be applied.

some optimism in the markets (I don't agree)

why I think economic forecasts may be overly optimistic

Bernanke Says

A Jobless Recovery - but with extra pain.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Consumer Reports disappointment

Early this year I started looking for a new (used) truck to replace the 1995 Isuzu P'up I have been driving for the past 9 years or so. One of the steps I took, to research the market, I bought a copy of Consumer Reports (2008 edition, I think). After looking through some of the write-ups, I can see one of the problems we are facing in personal transportation.

I am looking for, ideally, a small pickup with an extended cab, a 4 cylinder engine, and an automatic transmission. I thought, with the ever increasing cost of gas a few years ago (and I think someone like consumer reports would have some foresight) they would have some focus on gas mileage. No, not at all. There is a mention of mileage on only one model.

No, instead, the write ups for all small trucks read like a spoiled teenager wrote them. 4 cylinder engines are to be disdained. All pickups seem to lack horse power, which seems to be a big issue. They drive like trucks (duh), stiff and choppy. Well, dang, they are trucks. They all seem to have "inferior brakes" (I guess he is comparing them to his sports car).

And it isn't just trucks that read like a spoiled teenager. I happen to own a Hyundai Accent. Nice car, but too many bells and whistles under the hood. So I looked it up. "Back seat too small for tall people." You don't say. It IS a subcompact. "Look for a model with the optional power steering, a must have feature." WHAT! Is this guy on drugs or something? Must have? On a subcompact? My truck doesn't have a power steering.

This guy needs to be stuck behind the wheel of my old Deuce and a Half (M35) army truck for a while.

As I alluded to in the beginning of this article, this is symptomatic of the problems we, as a nation, face in personal transportation. We keep adding bells and whistles to our cars and trucks. Each and every one of these costs extra on the price of the vehicle and almost all of them cost money every time we fill up at the pump. Also, deluded by the temporary availability of cheap petroleum, we almost completely replaced the Light Utility Vehicle (named after the Chevy LUV) class of vehicles with sporty indulgences that are in many ways play-toys that look like small pickup trucks.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Finances for the Long Haul

I once said this downturn in the economy may be known as the second Great Depression, or by the symbol GD2. So for the time being I will be writing a monthly column to summarise the world economics picture as I see it.

Well, on this third monthly installment, I have to first mention that I was initially wrong about the price of gas. Rather than going up another 10 cents, it dropped several cents, and looks now like it will drop another several cents. This is doubly good, both because it will grease the way for our profits and it means that China is not as big of a threat this year as I thought. Our profit is, as always, China's loss.

But, to be fair, everything went down this past month. The dreaded "double dip recession?" Who knows. But I once said it would keep getting worse until this fall, and it now looks, again, like that may be right.

There will be more on the subject of gas prices posted under "Energy" in the last couple of days in July. This will be the month to watch oil prices, as the going price on a barrel of crude, over the course of the month of July is one of the best indicators for the price of gas next spring. Of course, there is always the fly in the ointment - amateur speculators. These are the people who drove the price to $147 dollars a barrel last year.

I would have thought most of the amateur traders and speculators would learn from getting burnt in the dot com bubble burst of 2001, and getting burnt again in the housing bubble burst of 2007, but I just heard (on CNBC Fast Money) they are still playing a significant role in trading oil futures.

There was a joke on the Net's a few years ago about where is a fool and their money when I need them. Maybe we have found where they are: day traders and the government. Both have been throwing money into the markets like drunken sailors.

The last couple of weeks, bottom dropped out of the 2-year bond market, indicating that recovery and the move into very high inflation rates now looks more than two years away, but I don't want to forecast it that far out. It is highly likely the markets will rally suddenly and catch those of us who are wary by surprise.

I am still not advocating buying gold at this time (unless the price falls below $900), but I am not advocating against it either. See the numbers here.

There is a real worry some years out that the economy will undergo a round of high inflation coupled with phony numbers from the government. This happened about 5 or so years back. As one economist put it: "there isn't any inflation, but everything costs twice as much."

My basic advice still hasn't changed any. The five rules still apply.

So buckle your seat belts, and hang on. The ride is likely to be bumpy.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Book Review 1 - Chrstianity in Crisis

This is a book review on a book that I more or less "stumbled across" in a Family Christian Bookstore catalog: CHRISTIANITY IN CRISIS IN THE 21ST CENTURY. The author, Hank Hanegraaff, has quite a few books to his name, but this is the only one I have seen.

A reviewer on Amazon made the statement: "... he correctly points out that no teacher has the free hand to have his teachings go unquestioned. We should never be in the habit of receiving a teaching or teacher without examining its biblical accuracy. This book correctly points this out."

And this reviewer is completely correct. Is it no wonder that we hear those in the congregation (and those who should be in the congregation) espousing points of view that are quasi-Biblical or just plain non-Biblical?

In the past, I didn't pay much attention to television preachers, as I was too lazy to spend the time examining their doctrine. Bringing these so called christian leaders to our attention, the author exposes the cult like teachings of Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, Creflo Dollar, John Hagee, and many others. He also takes to task others like Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen, who I would consider (and I could be wrong) more of the "christianity lite" variety. All are, in one form or another, "prosperity preachers," espousing the view that we can tell God what to do.

I don't take the author's word for everything. "No teacher has a free hand to have his teachings go unquestioned" includes him. While I have not finished the book, some of what I read indicates he may have trouble interpreting Romans Chapter 8 among others.

The early chapters were hard for me to read, because I kept referring back to the "end notes" to see where he got such outrageous material. He supports each and every accusation of their heresy with citations on when and where the heretics made those statements. As the book progresses, it seems to get repetitive, but that is partially because each of the "cast of characters," as he calls them, espouses very similar viewpoints. He does, also, examine some of them from more than one angle. One irritant for me is that most of the more outrageous statements these prosperity preachers have made were in the 80's and 90's, giving them the opportunity to say that he is judging them unfairly because they have learned better since. I haven't heard any of them say that, but I do know that Jim Bakker later repented (although I don't know what he has been doing since).

Towards the middle of the book, which is where I am currently studying, he begins to compare their theology with the classical theology of the traditional Church. He supports his theological arguments well, and shows how, many times, even a shallow study of the context of the prosperity doctrine's biblical references reveals the absolute lunacy of their interpretation.

Well the book is about 400 pages, and I am only halfway through, so I should write more in the future.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Crisis in the Church

This is a combination of an initial book report, and a call to action.

There is a crisis in Christian Churches in America. Actually, it has been going on for decades, and is epidemic in many countries. Many people think this crisis is some unconfessed sin of pastors or may blame the bingo parlor, night club, strip joint, or tavern down the street. Some may think it is the stinginess of the congregants not putting their full tithe in the offering plate. All of these things may be a slight problem for your neighborhood Church, but there is a bigger crisis.

The problem comes into your home on television. No, it isn't MTV or VH1. It isn't PBS or National Geographic. It isn't the late night soft porn on many cable channels. It isn't the ever increasing sex, drugs and profanity on prime time, or the references both hidden and overt to the occult on those same shows, or on saturday morning cartoons. All of these things are bad enough, but they are the things of the world, and do not present a crisis inside the Church.

The crisis is brought into your home through the so called christian networks, and the many so called christian programs that air on sunday morning, purporting to bring the Church into your home, but are really wolves in sheep's clothing, teaching a form of new age metaphysical deism, wrapped in christian jargon, plucked at will from the Bible.

In the past, I didn't pay much attention to these television preachers, because I have learned over the years to inspect what men tell me is true, and in the area of religion, I must inspect all they tell me against the standard of the Bible. This is a lot of work, and I am somewhat lazy, so I never paid attention to them because I didn't want to have to go to all of the work to verify what they were teaching.

These so called christian leaders were brought to my attention through a book I have begun reading - a book that I more or less "stumbled across" in a Family Christian Bookstore catalog:

The author, Hank Hanegraaff, has quite a few books to his name, including an earlier edition of this book.

A reviewer on Amazon made the statement: "... he correctly points out that no teacher has the free hand to have his teachings go unquestioned. We should never be in the habit of receiving a teaching or teacher without examining its biblical accuracy. This book correctly points this out."

And this reviewer is completely correct. Is it no wonder that we hear those in the congregation (and those who should be in the congregation) espousing points of view that are quasi-Biblical or just plain non-Biblical? Catchy sayings and country music lyrics and the teachings of pseudo christian religions are more likely to be taken as Gospel than the Gospel itself. This is a complete disaster for the Christian Church, and needs to be dealt with in every truly Christian Church.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

End of Quarter Roundup

The big stories (but not the only stories) here this past quarter have been the Swine Flu outbreak and the economy.

For some personal notes, we have been having some record breaking heat here in the middle of Texas, and this may go down as one of the hottest summers on record. South and west of me, the ranchers are in dire straights and the cities have begun to restrict water use because of drought conditions, but it really hasn't affected me personally, yet. I have been reading a book on the heresies of the "prosperity preachers" and will be doing an initial review of the book shortly. (I still plan to do one more article on the "Year of Biblical Living")

GEEK ALERT: Despite being written for a general audience the next two paragraphs are quite technical in nature. If you are a non-geek, simply ignore the terms you don't understand, and you will still get three quarters of it.

My search for new software goes on, but I have decided to use an Open Office spreadsheet for my check book register. If you are looking for good FREE office software, Open Office is my recommendation. Not yet perfect, but getting there. And so many offices now use Excel or some other spreadsheet for a general purpose tool that I recommend almost everyone learn to use it. (More on that later.)

For a Personal Information Manager, I have settled on EPIM, which has version 3.02 out. Support for Win2K is not expected to go on much longer, but the authors patched it for Win2K compatibility for this version. Now to find some good journal keeping software.

Now for some notes on my writings for the past three months: I have managed not to publish and then update any posts, but one of my political posts generated some worthwhile remarks.

I do a lot of my writing by commenting on other peoples blog entries, here are some of the more significant comments.

Home Prices May Be Lost for a Generation
The linked to story here is worth reading

Economy to Shrink for "Some Time"
or "Obama's pep talker gives dismal review"

While I did not comment on this one,
it is a real good read about how some
big banks are gaming the mortgage mess.

I think I actually do more writing as comments
on Combat Effective than anywhere else.

Automakers, Bailouts, and Greed

Cowards and Sheepdogs

Dead Pirates

Daily Bad News - Should we freak out?

Mortgages Cramdowns and Contracts

Recovery, or Bear Market Rally

The Conflict between good and Evil,
the Bible and the Scammers

Conservatives don't Make Themselves Heard

Inflation, and Where does Money Come From

The People of the CombatEffective Crowd

Long winded Discussion of Political Wind shifts

The ongoing Economic Crisis

Just some political BS here

Just some economic BS here

Blue-Ray - the expensive
new toy - will people eventually buy it?

Opening up a discussion on the Happenings in Iran

A contrast on possible TARP bailouts

And there you have it. If there is any doubt, not only does this let people who use blog following and blog reading software keep up with stuff that doesn't show up on those tools, but it also ups my "update count" by one, with a lot of links. Kinda cheating, but kinda useful.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

opposing traffic in the economy

Last month I said I might make a monthly entry here on the subject of the economy, and even thought it has been less than a month, I have been chomping at the bit to make this next entry.

This economy is presenting many serious paradoxes that will act like pitfalls over the next several years (actually, forever - but in a few years, some people will catch on, and compensate).

First, there is a slight up tic in some of the market indexes. Don't be fooled. As I stated on Combat Effective (ninth comment), corporations are not us. They can experience some gains without any benefit to the public at large.

Second, I have been asked why the price of gas has been going up. It is going up because demand is continuing to be high. Normally this runs up the price in May and then through June and July, the price drops a few cents. It isn't dropping this summer. In fact it raised about a dime since the end of May, and looks like it will raise another dime. But US gas consumption is mostly flat, so what is this rise all about? China.

The Chinese economy (repeatedly called "cash rich" in the media), is surging ahead with some early growth, and (as you can see from another article) they are moving to secure vital resources to insure future growth.

While we may be at the bottom (even the G8 is talking about this) , real recovery is looking even further away. Currently, there are a lot of forecasters expecting gold and the Euro to remain near flat, the pound to take a slide and the US economy to turn around. (Indeed, the dollar and pound may have already both taken a slide this past week, but it is too early to tell.) Of course, they are partially correct, and partly because in the short run, economic forecasting is somewhat a self fulfilling prophesy. But this is one prophesy that may backfire for the public at large.

Much of what looks like gain for the US economy falls into two broad categories. Increases in spending, much like an unemployed person going on a spending spree because he got a job interview. He doesn't have a job, but he feels better so he goes out and spends more money that he does not have. Second, there may be a lot of repositioning of corporations to take advantage of improving conditions in China and some other third world economies. Neither of these are good for the US public at large.

As a couple of final notes, I previously stated that unemployment wouldn't likely turn around for a year, and housing for at least two years. Well, on further thought, I would double that. Expect the job market to be dismal for at least two years, and housing prices to be down for at least four. Nothing has really changed, except my view of the timeline.

How do I get my view of the timeline. Not real scientific (I don't spend enough time on it to get any more science into it), but I look mostly at the interest rates on 6mo, 1yr, 2yr, 5yr and 10yr bonds. In (not very) recent history, they have been around .45, .9, 1.9, 2.9, 3.9 percents. respectively. I watch for trends in deviations from those numbers. In more recent times, the interest rates on the first three have been going down, and the interest rates on the last two have been steady. Therefore, I expect meaningful gains somewhere between 2 and 5 years.

As for gold, still overpriced. But, maybe a good idea anyway. If you can buy some, and hold it for at least 4 years. Of course, this entails a great deal of security, both of your financial position, and physical security. I am discussing physical gold coins, and therefore you have to have a place to store them. I would still recommend other durable things. By durable, I mean lasting more than ten years, so that rules out almost anything electronic. My choice is hand tools, but there may be other things too. A good bicycle should last more than ten years, except for the tires. You get the idea.

Well that is it, until next month.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Bible and Heresy

I have been neglecting Bible study for the past few months. It happens from time to time for one reason or another, coupled with my work schedule - which rotates, so that it is hard for me to attend Church regularly.

I guess God wanted to get my attention in such a way that I would want to get back on track, and I am fortunate that he decided to do it in a somewhat pleasant way. Books. First, a catalog arrived with a somewhat intriguing title. Christianity in Crisis in the 21st Century. Well, I will admit that even then, I didn't really jump up and grab on. But it caught my eye with its description of preaching that undermines true biblical teaching.

Then came a second book. I order books from time to time, so from time to time Amazon sends me lists of books I might be interested in. "Jesus Interrupted." I won't link to it, since it appears from the description to be Complete Heresy. What is worse, I noticed that in May it made it to the top of the best seller list in the category: Bible and Other Sacred Texts, subcategory "Bible Study." Ok, so it is a small category and they didn't have to sell many to get to the top. But it shouldn't get anywhere close at all.

Then, a third book. "The Evolution of God." More Complete Heresy.
Again at the top of a list:
Christianity - Theology - Philosophy
"What is this coming to?," I thought.

And then I knew. I got complacent about the fight because I didn't know what I was fighting. I needed focus, so I ordered Christianity in Crisis, and opened it up. It wasn't talking about the Heresy I thought it would, after the 2nd and 3rd books that God sent my way, but it was about one I have been trying to deal with from time to time for the past couple of years.

There Will be More on this later.
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read -- Groucho Marx

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

remember Tiananmen

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the massacre.

For 15years I tried to find stuff made in the USA, or at least, not made in China. It seems we may have lost the war. They own our debt, and they are our main manufacturing base. I have determined that I cannot change this by myself, and don't try too hard any more to find non chinese made items.

Let us not forget, however that China has not changed. The still attack, and fund others who attack our military, they still use prison labor. They still persecute Christians. They still export poisoned food and baby toys to the US on a regular basis. They still support N.K. They are still the biggest exporters of pirated music, games, and movies (leading to our own government taking draconian measures against its own citizens).

But it is the US government's policy - with support of virtually every congressional district in the US - to support and befriend the chinese government. Under these conditions, I can no longer afford to worry about the trade imbalance or any other hostile acts against the US. I will continue to speak up, and if the US someday wants to elect leaders who actually support their own citizens against the China threat, I will still be here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

tunring the corner

A corner may have been turned, on the economy. I have been watching the bond markets, and have been predicting the economy will bottom this fall and begin recovery in a couple of years.

Well, I may have been off a little on the bottoming of the economy. The dry goods shipping index, probably the fastest reliable index of the world economy did a turnaround this month. We are still facing a long recessionary economy, with unemployment not turning around for at least a year, and housing prices not for at least another two years. (Take a look at the difference between the one year, two year, and five year bond interest rates.)

We can next expect a round of high (I won't call it hyper) inflation. More than 30%. Probably more than 60%. But spread out over a few years. I don't know if this will be 20% each year for 3 years or 12% each year for 5 years, but I think it will be somewhere around that three year scenario. So you now have permission to hoard (save) money. And you have permission to move to higher tax brackets, since your tax credits and deductions won't be worth as much. We get this compliments of our government (under both Bush and Obama) printing lots of money.

What I recommend, instead, is to buy things of lasting value, when you have the money. Things like quality hand tools (I no longer really care if they are made in USA, since Stanley started making them in China - that was the last straw), or a good touring bike, that you have already had your eyes on. I am not advocating gold coins at this time, since the price is about 15% over what it should be, and I would never advocate diamonds or any other jewelry type items. (Pretties, no matter how much the girls like them, are a loser's game.)

I will probably will start visiting this subject approximately monthly.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Democrats - Lies, Corruption, and FlipFlops

I find it seriously annoying that I spend so much time on this subject, but the corruption and damage to our nation has just been breathtaking.

One of the leading figures in the Democratic party, Nancy Pelosi has been lying about knowing that the CIA's aggressive interrogations were going on. And what a shame, those interrogations , while bordering on torture, may have saved thousands of lives.

The Democrat controlled press has been covering up the roots of the Mortgage Meltdown
The following links are about the same.

Obama's Complicity1 and Obama's Complicity2

This one gives a little more detail on ACORN's Complicity

This one shows that liberals, encouraging the poor to live beyond their means by insulating the loan brokers from the risk, was a primary cause of the meltdown, and that the Bush administration warned of the impending collapse.

So, why weren't the warnings heeded? Maybe because Barny Franks prevented the Bush administration from altering Freddie Mac's course by calling it racism.

And now, after the Mexican government, the press, and Obama lied about 90% (the real number is about 17%) of drug cartel's guns coming from the US, so Obama sent hundreds of agents to find them, but of course, they didn't find very many, cause they don't exist. (sadly, this last link comes from AP, and so it will probably disappear - but I hope I can find a more permanent one later.)

The only good news lately is that Obama has joined the waffle house bunch as he FlipFlops on Tribunals:

UPDATE: A little updating on that Mexican Gun stuff.
Keeping in mind that "FactCheck" is a liberal biased org that will do anything it can get away with to undermine us, they say the numbers are somewhere in between.
Also, from Opposing Views.

Swine Flu - From Panic to Forgotten

Well, the panic seems to be over for now. But now, is swine flu forgotten? That isn't much better. There will be other pandemics, and some of the things that could be learned from this one could be useful in the next one.

First, you need to prepare for a pandemic before it gets much news attention. Maybe before the first case. Do the simple stuff, have some extra soap and other supplies on hand. Get in the habit of washing your hands any time you come into your house from any public place.

As for society, we need to develop clear guidelines. This time around we closed schools where there was no outbreak, and every state and county had a different standard for what would be released about cases in their area. I would recommend that schools close after the first confirmed case, or after 1% of the school comes down with suspected cases. Of course, there will be people who think the action is too slow, but we have to be practical.

As for information dissemination, I would say that we should publish any county where a case has been found, and the school district if they attend a school. Maybe we need some standard for telling how many cases are confirmed or suspected, but I am not sure what that standard should be.

And we need to develop clear guidelines about the emergency issuing, safeguarding, and tracking of medicines. Especially antibiotics and antivirals.

Despite the lack of attention it is getting since everybody got interested in Nancy Pelosi's denial of knowing about our interragation techniques, let's not completely forget about this pandemic, especially since it IS still going on.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Swine Flu 3 panic and stupidity

One week after the swine flu burst onto the public scene, the public seems to be in full blown panic mode. I just saw on the news that school closings in TX are double the known cases of the virus, meaning that most of the schools closed have not experianced an outbreak. Public events and entire sports venues canceled. (OK, I heard that last cancelation got nixed)

There may be some signs that the panic is slowing, but around the corner is a whole new outbreak to panic about. Again, closing schools, canceling events or otherwise radically changing your behaviour before the first case in your area is panic. And the next panic, already underway, about the new strain of flu, already found in Canada, may severly damage and entire segment of the economy. One more time: you can't get this from eating pork (unless you are eating a live pig - and then I think the pig would likely bite you back) .

Here is a good resource for information on this flu pandemic. One of the articles about the pandemic panic says it well:

"When a pandemic hits, you deal with it using the resources you've got. Like an unexpected invasion, it's a "come as you are" event. The trick is to foresee the pandemic and to build up the personnel, equipment, and organization to stop it.

But if your response to the threat of pandemic is to be stupidly sanctimonious, all your planning will be in vain."

Good wording. Overall though, on a personal level, what the government or public at large does will have little effect on whether you get the flu or not (though it may delay you getting it for some weeks). Your own behaviour will be the biggest factor in whether you get it, that and total random chance. Using good sence, like washing hands and keeping your kitchen area clean, will go a long way. Other than that, your best bet is to be prepared in case it does come to your house.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Swine Flu 2

What a difference 2 days makes. Now we have panic all across the US about an epidemic that will likely not be much worse than the seasonal flu that comes around every year.

I warned against panic three times in my previous article, but I would give President Obama a C- for his handling of this issue, since I have not heard him warn against panic.

Let me be clear. The closing of schools where there have not yet been any cases, and canceling of public events where there is not already large numbers of cases is panic, and is irrational. What is the goal of closing public schools that have not yet seen cases of the flu? They will be behind in their work and have clean and steril desks for when the flu does show up. The flu will have the best of all environments to operate in, since it will not have to compete with the normal flora and everyone will be behind in their work, and so will not dare take another day off, untill the symptoms are unmistakable and they have passed it on to several others.

I made the statement that everyone should have at least a few weeks supply of food and soap in case there is panic buying. Don't go overboard, as some people did in previous crises. I found an interesting article about a panic in Oct 62 that could shed some light on that. Again, don't panic.