Sep 11

That’s not what my hedge fund manager told me

A Decade With No Income Gains

The typical American household made less money last year than the typical household made a full decade ago.

To me, that’s the big news from the Census Bureau’s annual report on income, poverty and health insurance, which was released this morning. Median household fell to $50,303 last year, from $52,163 in 2007. In 1998, median income was $51,295. All these numbers are adjusted for inflation.

Progress!

Aug 06

Have I mentioned McCain is dirty?

Because he is

Alice Rocchio is an office manager at the New York headquarters of the Hess Corp., drives a 1993 Chevy Cavalier and lives in an apartment in Queens, N.Y., with her husband, Pasquale, an Amtrak foreman.

Despite what appears to be a middle-class lifestyle, the couple has written $61,600 in checks to John McCain’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee, most of it within days of McCain’s decision to endorse offshore oil drilling.

At a June fundraiser, the Rocchios joined top executives at Hess Corp. — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hess, his wife, Susan, his mother, Norma Hess, and six other officials in giving a total of $313,500 to a joint McCain-RNC fundraising committee, Federal Election Commission records show.

Vote McCain! It’s like doubling down on Bush. You get 10% more narcissism, bloodlust, and sock puppetry for big oil and/or the evangelicals all for the same low price!

Aug 04

Correlation, meet causation

McSame edition, number 5012

Ten senior Hess Corporation executives and/or members of the Hess family each gave $28,500 to the joint RNC-McCain fundraising committee, just days after McCain reversed himself to favor offshore drilling, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Nine of these contributions, seven from Hess executives and two from members of the Hess family, came on the same day, June 24th, the records show. The total collected in the wake of McCain’s reversal for the fund, called McCain Victory 2008, from Hess execs and family is $285,000.

Apr 03

A good way to get your hate on

Wow. Real hard times for some former subprime lending institution execs.

Mysti was one of the last people out the door at New Century Financial, once the nation’s No. 2 subprime lender. She had been in charge of e-commerce customer service with dozens of employees reporting to her. It was at New Century where the Copes met in 2000.

Kent worked for several of the firms that helped give birth to the industry, which specializes in making loans to people with less-than-perfect credit, in the 1990s. He has been out of work since August when he was laid off by Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group (FBR) unit First NLC Financial Services.

Yeah, tough times. I feel for you guy-

Despite their financial problems, the Copes have worked hard to protect their credit rating, staying current on bills. And they’ve made cutbacks: trading in Kent’s Corvette for a Suburban and getting rid of the gardener, for example. But the couple also has learned that it didn’t need everything it used to spend money on.

Nevermind.

Special bonus points for being a midlife crisis, ‘vette driving, trophy/daughter’s age wife havin douchebag sugar daddy wannabe with no job. And being named “Kent.” Though that one’s probably not completely his fault.

Jan 22

A New Role for the Fed

The Fed, a secretive, unelected, group in the best of times has two goals to meet via their implementation of fiscal policy: one, keep unemployment low; and two, keep inflation under control. Where there’s ever been a conflict between 1 & 2, they’ve always, always picked inflation control over job growth.

Well, after this morning’s emergency session, and we have confirmation of a new third role for the Fed – they’re also Wall Street’s Bitch.

The Federal Open Market Committee has decided to lower its target for the federal funds rate 75 basis points to 3-1/2 percent.

The Committee took this action in view of a weakening of the economic outlook and increasing downside risks to growth. While strains in short-term funding markets have eased somewhat, broader financial market conditions have continued to deteriorate and credit has tightened further for some businesses and households. Moreover, incoming information indicates a deepening of the housing contraction as well as some softening in labor markets.

Oh, there had been hints before about the Fed pulling out the patent leather and gags any time their daddy fund managers came a’knockin, but today’s out-of-the-blue rate drop ices that cake. Or creams that banana. Or rims that job. Wev.

Now, given my current employment and market positioning, this is all good news for me, but I’m worried about what it means for the country. Because now we have a (quasi, but for all intents and purposes) governmental body making policy based on the whims of a tiny numbers of private corporations and individuals.

Then again, this is the third Gilded Age and a similar (though inverse) relationship has existed before, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.

Jan 16

Warrior for the Cause

Mark Deli Siljander, a former Republican congressperson from Michigan was indicted today as part of a conspiracy to funnel money terrorists who have threatened US troops in Afghanistan.

A former congressman and delegate to the United Nations was indicted Wednesday as part of a terrorist fundraising ring that allegedly sent more than $130,000 to an al-Qaida and Taliban supporter who has threatened U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan.

The former Republican congressman from Michigan, Mark Deli Siljander, was charged with money laundering, conspiracy and obstructing justice for allegedly lying about lobbying senators on behalf of an Islamic charity that authorities said was secretly sending funds to terrorists.

Siljander is a true warrior for the true GOP cause – money. It’s not about nationalism, jingoism, saving the troops, saving the unborn, saving christmas… it’s all about the benjamins. With regards to his true orthodoxy, Siljander is surely going to spend eternity with his 72 bags of glittery gold. Or the gold may be from the fronts of his soon-to-be cellmate smiling down at Siljander as Siljander performs his patented 72-lick salad toss. Hard to tell on these things. It’s heaven for one of them!

I give it approximately 30 10 minutes before Faux news “inadvertently” labels the GOP Republican GOP Republican GOP Republican GOP Republican GOP Siljander as “(D-MI)”. Oopsies! How’d that D get in there?

Read the indictment in my newly-opened “unfinished” legal bits section.

Jan 06

Proud to be an Amurrikan!

where at least I know my GDPeeeeeeeee

For the first time in more than 100 years, British living standards have risen above those of Americans, a report has declared.

Increasing incomes, longer holidays and “free” healthcare have all contributed to making Britons better off than our friends across the Atlantic, according to the respected Oxford Economics consultancy.

Can we have that talk about socialized medicine v. free market health care discussion again now? How about that “Republicans are good for the economy” one?

Nov 14

Oil and the Elections

Not that I’m a conspiracy theorist or anything, but long before the election I was saying that if I was the Republicans, I’d call in every favor I needed to with OPEC countries, oil companies, refineries, and a sub rasa deal with Hugo Chavez in order to bring gas prices down by the time of the election.1 I would even release some of the strategic oil reserve if need be.

It turns out that the Strategic Oil Reserve wasn’t needed, but the oil price drop sure did come in like a freight train. Here are crude oil prices for the past few months. Notice anything… interesting?

Crude Oil prices 2006

Beginning in August, oil prices took an unprecedented and ahistorical dive (non-recent election year ahistorical, that is). The world is at peak production of oil and there is ever increasing demand. Heading into the coldest months of the season, the price of unleaded gas dropped more than $0.70 per gallon on average. Even the loss of half of our crude refining capacity due to the spill and shutdown of a BP plant in Alaska did not make the price of gas go up in this country.

This was commented on at the time, including an actual study, showing not only an artificial drop, but a correlation in this ahistorical drop to US domestic election years (See the charts from 2006-2003, 2002-1999, 1998-1995. These look interesting but inconclusive to me, but I’ll trust the judgment of people who have much more experience in this field than do I).

Hamilton analyzed the gap between pump prices and the spot price of crude oil in election years, compared to the non-election previous years. He found that in 2002, 2004 and now in 2006 there was a moderate to substantial shrinking of that gap, meaning less profit potential for the oil companies, in measurements taken the first week in October.

“This pattern of the last three election years is an indication that motorists who smell something fishy in the rollercoaster prices they’ve endured this year may be on to something,” said FTCR President Jamie Court. “The rise to record high gasoline prices this spring unleashed a wave of justified criticism of bloated oil company profits. Now the price drop in the pre-election period, by a percentage well beyond reductions in the price of oil, smells just as bad.”

Even the loss of half of the oil shipped by BP from Alaska after a pipeline accident did not put a dent in steadily rising gasoline production, which exerts downward pressure on retail prices.

Obviously, a drop in gas prices before November in even-numbered years but only for the last three election cycles makes no economic sense. But it makes a boatload of sense if you are an oil company with close ties to the ruling party of a significant economic country. A country that, should your friends go out of power, might decide to not only investigate you, but to tax your record windfall profits, and possibly implement those dreaded price controls.

There are other post-election examinations of the convenient nature of unexpected and illogical oil price drops and the US midterm elections too numerous to list. I do recommend the pre-election link above is a recommended read, with some great discussion and graphs. Including this one of unleaded prices over the past year:

Unleaded prices

My best guess is that the drop in oil prices was the October Surprise the GOP had lined up as their killer move. Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for the country, their gambit did not work. This was probably for a few reasons: one, they couldn’t claim credit for it, because that would give the whole corrupt game away. No credit means no votes, other than general feelgood inclinations twoards them. Two, the effect was too subtle for general good feelings in the populace toward our paternalistic GOP rulers. And, not least, three, that their other scandals, incompetence, and corruption were so overwhelmingly large that they could be giving gas away on the corners and people would still be wondering why Johnny only has one leg. Apparently they are as lacking in competence at October Surprises as kar Rove is at having a soul.

As further anecdotal evidence to the pile, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been noticing gas prices inching back upwards of late. Here we go again.

I wonder if the gas companies are going to try and claim their unrealized profit from the artificial deflation of gas prices as political contributions and exempt it from their incomes on their taxes this year? Better yet, I wonder if anyone will file a shareholder lawsuit2 against the boards of directors of the oil companies for breach of fiduciary duty to the company?

1. OK, I wouldn’t do the Chavez part. You just know he’d go blabbing his big fat mouth about the deal everywhere. No link because the discussions were offline. You’ll have to ask Ms. Grumpy to verify.

2. AKA a “derivative suit.”

Nov 06

Politics may be the death of me yet

Death… or bankruptcy, anyway. One or the other.

While trying to figure out how I could monetize my “$100 million and climbing” HSX brilliance, I found Intrade (AKA Tradesports and some others). Holy cow is this awesome. Actual money on politics and news events. Of course, given my recent successful predictions (and GOP shenanigans), this is could just be an even easier way to lose money than Lotto. Also, I have no money. But the idea’s fun.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the things you can trade in (I don’t know precisely what will come up; it’s a dynamically generated frame):

And their banner advertisement looks something like this:

Intrade

Yet another thing that’s probably more Chartoo’s forte than mine, but I’m kind of excited about day trading in the presidential aspirations of Saint Rudy. Theoretically, of course. I would never engage in any sort of illegal activity like online gambling (non-Lotto and non-casino division, particularly laws attached as riders by cat killer Frist to port security bills) and then talk about it here on the interweb thingy. I’d have to be pretty stupid to do that now, wouldn’t I?

I know. I need to get out more.

Nov 02

Lieberman: whiner, liar, loser

and a cheat (a possibly felonious one, at that).

Lieberman’s Democratic opponent, Ned Lamont, has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over the $387,000 in petty cash the senator spent in the waning days before the August Democratic primary.

Political committees may make expenditures of not more than $100 to any person or for a transaction out of the petty cash fund and are required to keep a written journal documenting the payments.

The campaign has said it is under no legal obligation to release the journal and has no plans to do so. Lieberman also said their attorney has assured him that they have done nothing illegal.


The FEC requires the treasurer of the political committee to keep a written journal of all disbursements out of petty cash, including names, addresses, dates and purposes.

The campaign failed to make campaign manager Sherry Brown available for an interview on the campaign report and the status of the journal. Treasurer Lynn Fusco also failed to return phone calls seeking comment.

Also, Reyes and another man, Daryl Brooks of New Haven, who ran a consultant service, said they each got one check from the campaign for their services, but they are listed in the third quarter campaign finance report as getting two checks, for a total of twice what the men said they received.

The report lists Reyes as getting two checks for $8,250, one on Aug. 4 and one on Aug. 15. Brooks received $12,200 on Aug. 11 and another check for the same amount on Aug. 15, according to the Lieberman report. Both men said this was inaccurate.

Several young men, who were paid $60 a day out of petty cash to canvass in Bridgeport, said they were paid in cash for aggregate earnings over $200.

Rob Dhanda, 18, or Stratford, said he earned $480 in cash over several weeks, while Walter Ruilova, 18, also of Stratford, said his total was an estimated $360 in cash. Ruilova estimated there were about 30 teenagers working out of the Bridgeport office, each earning $60 a day in cash, over a few weeks.

Michelle Ryan, a spokeswoman for the FEC, would not comment on specifics of the Lamont complaint, but said “in terms of itemization, it is required once the aggregate total to a recipient is in excess of $200.”

He’s been attempting to buy votes 19th century styel, plain and simple.

The best part is that the Last Honest Man in Politics prevaricates and passes the buck. It’s not Joe’s fault! It’s never Joe’s fault.

Lieberman answered an inquiry about releasing the journal, by pointing to his history of compliance with campaign rules.

“I have an unblemished record of compliance with election laws. I always tell my staff at the beginning, whatever you do, just totally follow the law. I’ve never received anything approaching even a fine,” the senator said in a recent interview.

The size of the petty cash involved raised eyebrows with the nonpartisan Public Campaign Action Fund, which asked the campaign to go beyond the legal requirements and disclose the particulars of the expenditures.

“No other senatorial campaign that we know of has ever left undisclosed to the public a sum as large as this,” said the fund’s board Chairman Pete MacDowell, in a letter to the senator this week.

He said the issue could impact future elections if the campaign found a new loophole and is setting a precedent “of opening up a serious breach in the campaign finance disclosure laws.”

Oct 19

Scoop: OJ is a sociopathic narcissist

Dog bites man. News at eleven

The former football great, who was acquitted in criminal court 11 years ago of killing his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, reportedly has been paid a whopping $3.5 million to write about the double murder that shocked and riveted the nation in 1994, according to a detailed report in the new National Enquirer.

But Simpson is not actually confessing to the murder — rather, he’s writing a “hypothetical” book — which the Enquirer reports is tentatively being called “If I Did It.”

Every time I think I can’t be shocked by the moral depravity and narcissistim of the human creature, something like this comes along to remind me how little I know. I’m holding the publisher accountable as well for their $3.5M advance to the acquitted-due-to-government-incompetence unrepentant murderer.

Oct 18

A Union by Any Other Name

would smell just as sweet

Now, as Wal-Mart rolls out a new round of workplace restrictions, employees at a Wal-Mart Super Center in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., are taking matters into their own hands. On Oct. 16, workers on the morning shift walked out in protest against the new policies and rallied outside the store, shouting “We want justice” and criticizing the company’s recent policies as “inhuman.” Workers said the number of participants was about 200, or nearly all of the people on the shift.

It’s the first time that Wal-Mart has faced a worker-led revolt of such scale, according to both employees and the company. Just as surprising, the company quickly said it would change at least one of the practices that had sparked the protest. Late in the day on Oct. 16, there was some disagreement over which of the new policies would be put on hold.

The protest wasn’t led by any union group. Rather, it was instigated by two department managers, Guillermo Vasquez and Rosie Larosa. The department managers were not affected directly by the changes, but they felt that the company had gone too far with certain new policies. Among them were moves to cut the hours of full-time employees from 40 hours a week to 32 hours, along with a corresponding cut in wages, and to compel workers to be available for shifts around the clock.

In addition, the shifts would be decided not by managers, but by a computer at company headquarters. Employees could find themselves working 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. one week and noon to 9 p.m. the next. “So workers cannot pick up their children after school everyday, and part-timers cannot keep another job because they can be called to work anytime,” says Vasquez.

In addition to scheduling changes and reduction in hours, workers are now required to call an 800 number when they are sick. “If we are at an emergency room and spend the night in a hospital and cannot call the number, they won’t respect that,” says Larosa, who has worked at the store for six years. “It will be counted as an unexcused absence.”

W*l-Mart, bringing low prices, unemployment, crap products, a burden on your communities social services, religious right censorship, and outsourcing jobs to other countries to you. Every day.

Go organized labor, go! Even disorganized. Whatever it takes.

Oct 12

The Burbs Really Do Suck

and you don’t even save any money by moving out there to the land of big box retail and minivan-driving, athletic workout suit-wearing breeders.

The findings contradict the common notion that many people would be better off financially if they moved from areas with high housing costs, such as California, to states like Texas or Georgia, where housing is much cheaper. The median house price in San Diego, at $613,000, is four times that of Dallas. But the study found that working families in San Diego spend 59% of their income on housing and transportation, only slightly more than the 57% they spend in Dallas. Families in Dallas spent just 26% of their income on housing, compared with 31% in San Diego, but the Dallas families spent more on transport.

The study also found that moving to an inexpensive outer suburb, but continuing to work near a city center, often backfires. Typically, a move that adds more than about 12 miles to a one-way commute will result in a rise in transport costs that outweighs the savings on housing, the researchers found…