Friday, February 19, 2010

More Home Billions, CPI Problems, and it is Friday

An interesting week and a much needed weekend recharge on the way. Buckle up and let's get this show started.

FED Raises Discount Rate; The Day After
It was a quiet day after all the excitement from last night's FED rate move. Asian markets took a small hit but everything else returned to pre-raise levels. In last nights post I noted:
For my money if the DOW is not down over 200 points and the S&P 500 is not down by 15 points come 12 noon then the close is going green on the whole "things must be stronger than expected, rock on!" mentality
and from CNBC today:
Who's Afraid of the Fed? Market Actually Wants Rate Hikes
Forget the cosmetic move of raising the discount rate—the day the Federal Reserve really decides to start putting the brakes on growth could actually be a happy occasion for the stock market.

A fast mover could have opened up with TZA this morning and then swapped out into TNA early and caught the shift for a trade. I always recommend moving firmly into TNA when you get the chance, HA!

Housing Help Never Ends
As if the 1.6 trillion in mortgage debt buys were not enough (they are not!) the President visited Nevada today and pledged even more money for home owners (can we stop using this word yet?) in trouble. Another 1.5 Billion is no big deal these days, but the free money ride will never end. Nobody seems to want to understand that home prices are still TOO HIGH and none of these efforts can make that any better. Keep banging your head on the wall though. How about a 1 month free mortgage payment for any homeowner that has paid in full for 3 years or more? What about that? I would not qualify as I have only been here for 2 years so I have nothing to gain by this idea. I winder how much that would cost? I think this makes much more sense. Anyone agree?

CPI May Have an Issue; Restatement Possible?
Tim Iacono from The Mess That Greenspan Made was red hot today and he picked up on an error that may well result in action.

In the post "A Math Problem at the Labor Department" Tim finds that the 'lodging away from home' component of the CPI may have been incorrectly weighted in the final numbers:
It appears that they are mistakenly weighting the -2.1 percent decline for lodging away from home at a much higher level and, since housing is a major component of core inflation, the first negative reading in 28 years was the result.
Now this may be a quark in the numbers or some other issue but it seems the BLS is visiting the blog this evening and checking things out:
A Sudden Interest in TMTGM by the BLS
I've not heard from anybody on this subject yet but I did go through some calculations with some of the other categories in the most recent inflation data and, as far as I can tell, they've got an error in today's report and, despite what you may have read in the mainstream media and elsewhere, monthly core inflation did not decline for the first time since 1982.
Well I have total confidence in the government to run the biggest economy in the universe now! If this holds up Tim will have made a huge catch. Great work!

What is This?
Beyond weird:
Citigroup Warns Customers It May Refuse To Allow Withdrawals
Seems a notice meant for customers in Texas was sent nationwide, but why even is this out in Texas? Very strange indeed. Never get between an American and their ATM!

Friday Night Entertainment
Enough serious stuff! Are all my like-minded groupies ready to heap praise on me as well enter the BORG together? I knew you would say yes, I already knew! Allow me to bla bla about movies, music and pictures because all that sucks and is boring.

I am Sold!
I will be placing an order for the Northwest Territorial Mint product "Stagecoach Silver" which has the phrase:
"For When You Have To Get Out of Dodge"
Perfect! Both bars and rounds are available and will split off into 1/4 ounce sections so you have money after the end of all fiat currency:

or the round:

I love these! Bulk order coming up!

Car Flame War on Tap
When I saw this item I had to keep my cool and understand that everyone is different and some just have bad taste:
Car Disgust--1969 Chevrolet Camaro
Wait, Car Disgust? Say again?
Yes. The Chevrolet Camaro, one of the most iconic muscle cars of all time, is a car I loathe. In fact, it's one of my all time least favorite cars.
To be fair the writer's reasons are not so much the car itself, but issues related to the car's popularity and fans, but still, that headline just invites emotion! Have at it!
PS, Dear Santa, may I have a 1969 Camaro with the original ZL-1 all aluminum big block engine for Christmas? I will be a good boy; well as good as I can be...wait..ok scratch that. Damn, GYSC.

Film Clips
A few film selections?

Reader Watchtower notes a clip form the film "Pulp Fiction" that involves a samurai sword and thus is goes up:

Excellent choice!
I am an avid sword collector and nothing has the electricity of fine steel, yes even better than gold and silver and more useful in an end of the world scenario or a Zombie attack, which are both equally likely, IMO. A true hand folded samurai sword is a work of art and is about as deadly a weapon that has ever existed, and they are not cheap!

Of course now I am on that line of thought, so enjoy the greatest sword ever made by a man, the Hattori Hanzo sword, from "Kill Bill vol. I" with magic music as well:

When the horns come in at the 2 minute mark may be the most beautiful sound I have ever heard.

Cute Time
Saw this one today and had to save it:
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Nerd Cartoon
Now this is hilarious even for non-science types:


Rock Blogging
Don't call it a comeback, I been here for years
Rockin' my peers and puttin' suckas in fear
Makin' the tears rain down like a MON-soon
Listen to the bass go BOOM
Explosion, overpowerin'
Over the competition, I'm towerin'
Wreckin shop, when I drop these lyrics
That'll make you call the cops
-LL Coo J

Selections from requests?

A catchy tune can be gauged by how many times it is parodied, and the song "My Sharona" by The Knacks is a good example. Lead singer Doug Fieger has passed on and thus this goes out to him:

Reader Gawains would like a little southern comfort in the form of Gretchen Wilson and "Redneck Woman" and who am I to say no to such a lovely lady?:

Very nice.

In the haunting vocals category Grace Slick is near the top. Try out Jefferson Airplane and "White Rabbit":


In another note of things passing away, let us celebrate the last best chance for rock and roll that was Audioslave. Too bad songs like "I am the Highway" are probably never coming back:

Top 5 song for me!

I can admit it, I am a huge No Doubt fan and it has nothing to do with Gwen Stefani. Well mostly! I like almost all their stuff and a get up and move tune is "Hey Baby" so try it:

Fun stuff.

Last Call! Closing the show time, try not to cry...

To send you off in a smile, let's go with Bon Jovi and "Runaway" and yes, you know you all love it:

Rock on!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I need hairspray!

Have a good night.


watchtower said...

"Allow me to bla bla about movies, music and pictures because all that sucks and is boring."

Hey don't forget the occasional car and fishing 'think tank' conversations!
(Anon should have stuck around for that if football and films didn't catch his fancy)

Speaking of cars, my brother for one does not care for the 69 Camaro (I do not share his view on this).

He likes the 67 and 68 but says the 69 with the squared off fender and rear quarter panels above the tires looks like some old man's Cadillac with fender skirts.

He claims that is the reason he is a Pontiac man, i.e. all Pontiac F bodies have round wheel openings.

My daughter is digging the Lolcats picture.

TomOfTheNorth said...

Hi Kids!

While I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to Country OR Western, I was diggin' the Gretchen Wilson. I had to switch to the original video however. Gotta love a gal who 4-wheels. But what was up with those huge black caterpillars on her eyelids during the 4-wheeler sequence? I think we shoulda called the Orkin man....

I'm a big No Doubt fan. Reggae, ska, dance it all. Evry ting IRIE mon!

The Bon Jovi vid was trippy. I don't remember them being such a hair band.....Guess I wasn't watching the videos back then. Was singing "Living on a Prayer" during one of my skating classes the other day...never could hit the high notes....I'm sure some of my students will end up in therapy as a result...."WHOAAAAA! We're halfway ther-ere. WHOAAAAAAHOAAAAAA!...."

Have a great weekend!

getyourselfconnected said...

speaking of fishing....
the wife wants a birthday gift idea, which is coming up, and my pick is the Freedom Hawk Ultra light kayak for those tough to reach spots which are all thats left here!
19 69! An unreal yar for muscle cars, plus the number is not bad!

Bon Jovi rocks so enter my groupie page or leave!!!!!

joke, an inside one.

S. Gompers said...

Damn, I was hoping for some meatloaf...

Read that allegory yet?...

I do like stagecoach silver.

I am a much bigger fan of the GTO.

getyourselfconnected said...

Gompers, the goat rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!

sedentary state said...

Yes, Audio Slave!

And Soundgarden reuniting in 2010, wow.

GawainsGhost said...

Well, since you're a fan of samurai swords, GYC, I'm going to assume you've read A Book of Five Rings, by Miyamato Mushashi, the greatest warrior who ever lived. If not, I'm going to give it the highest recommendation. It is the classic work on strategy.

Here is a link to the new translation by William Scott Wilson.

And here is a link to an older translation which is also very good and contains more information on Mushashi, including pictures of his artwork and the cave he lived in when he wrote his masterpiece.

I have both of them, just got the former the other day. It's always interesting to compare translations. The newest one is based on a copy of the original scrolls presented by Mushashi's disciple to Yamamoto Gensuke, which is still in possession of the Hosokawa family. It is considered the most accurate of the extant texts. A quote:

"For those who would study my martial art, there are rules for putting it together:

1. Think without any dishonesty.
2. Forge yourself in the Way.
3. Touch upon all the arts.
4. Know the Ways of all occupations.
5. Know the advantages and disadvantages of everything.
6. Develop a discerning eye in all matters.
7. Understand what cannot be seen by the eye.
8. Pay attention to even small things.
9. Do not involve yourself with the impractical."

I have studied this book intensely for over two decades, and this new translation is fascinating.

By the way, did you know that Mushashi survived four wars and fought in over sixty duels to the death with the best samurai in Japan? And that in those duels he always used a wooden sword against a steel blade? That in itself is astounding. After defeating the best of the best, he retired to a cave to write of the Way of the warrior, which applies to all things in all situations.

This is an absolute must read.

GawainsGhost said...

Anyway, as to the housing market, mortgage modifications, and the ongoing never-ending bailouts of debtowners, you have no idea.

I got two new assignments this week, or actually one new and one old. The first was for a fourplex, three units of which were occupied. The mortgage company is offering these tenants $1800 each, cash for keys, provided they leave the units intact and broom clean, and vacate by 03/02/10.

The second was for a house on two lots out in the country. And I mean way out there, took about an hour to drive to. We actually got this assignment some months ago, but the house was occupied and the couple was contesting the foreclosure. They had been offered $4000 cash for keys to vacate by a certain date. So I got this notice that the house was empty and ready for inspection, and drove over there for pictures, notes, and what-not.

Well, I got there and the chain link fence was padlocked and there was a car in the driveway. I'm standing there wondering what is going on here, and the guy came out of the house! I talked to him for a while, and he said they were still talking to the attorney. I told him that I hoped everything worked out for him and left, because I didn't have the heart to tell him, buddy, you've lost the house, you've also lost the $4000, and now you're going to have to deal with the sheriff. Forceable eviction is an ugly thing.

People don't understand the repo market. I got this call the other day from some woman who thought she could buy a repossessed home cheap, for say half of list price. Um, no. You want to buy a house cheap? Buy a cheap house.

There are substantial expenses involved in the foreclosure process, not the least of which is attorney's fees. Then there's appraisal fees, realtor's fees, taxes, utilities, maintenance, yard care, repairs, ad infinitum. It actually costs a lot of money to foreclose on a home and put it on the market for sale, especially if it's been trashed.

But a house is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. So in order to move it off the books, the company has to list it at fair market value, which is based on comparable recent sales. There is nothing else to go on.

The company has already incurred losses in foreclosure and marketing, so there is no incentive to take less than fair market value for a house. This is what people do not understand. We sell over 100 repos every year, and in the last decade I can count the number of homes that sold for more than $1500 below list price on my fingers. That would be less than ten out of over a thousand.

Real estate is not a bubble. It's bubble wrap. Yes, houses are overpriced in some areas, underpriced in others, and accurately priced in most. So there are little bubbles inflated to the point of bursting, little bubbles deflated to the point of collapsing, and little bubbles properly inflated. It all depends on where you live.

The problem these days, and I've been saying this for almost a decade, is that this is a financial crisis, ripe with fraud. And frankly I don't see any way out of it without serious regulatory reform and prosecutions at the highest levels.

As for the President's plan to bailout only those in the bursting or bursted areas, it's doomed to fail. You don't get rid of losses by piling on more losses, any more than you get rid of debt by piling on more debt.

getyourselfconnected said...

I will pick the book up as I have never read it but of course I am familiar with the legendary swordmaster. Thanks for the great and detailed housing post as well.

the Oz site was very infromative and easy to read. Thanks for the tip.

GawainsGhost said...

Well, if you've never read A Book of Five Rings, you're in for a real treat. It will open your mind in ways you never imagined.

I recommend the older translation, if only because I'm most familiar with it, having read it, oh I don't know, a couple of dozen times over the years. And it does have a more complete biography of Musashi, with pictures.

But this new translation is excellent as well. However, it's going to take some time to study it and compare the two before I decide which is better.

watchtower said...

Gawains said:

"By the way, did you know that Mushashi survived four wars and fought in over sixty duels to the death with the best samurai in Japan?"

You know, if I was a samurai in Japan back then, and seen someone with a wooden sword kill a couple of other samurai with steel swords, I believe I would leave that guy alone.

And by the time he killed his 59th, I know I would leave him alone (must be some kind of Japanese honor type of thing I guess).

getyourselfconnected said...

To BE the best you gotta BEAT the best and I guess they just had to try. I would have just watched, lol.

GawainsGhost said...

Ha! No doubt, Watchtower.

By the way, there is a movie about Musashi. It won the Academy Award for best foreign film in 1954.

I've only seen it once, but it's really good. There's this great scene where Musashi was supposed to meet this much-feared samurai on the beach of an island for a duel, and he comes rowing up, jumps out of his boat, grabs the oar, runs up, and smashes this guy on the head, kills him dead. An oar against a sword.

The movie is based on this novel about Musashi.

It's considered among the best novels ever written in Japan.

But seriously A Book of Five Rings is required reading.

GawainsGhost said...

Oh, and by the way, when you consider that the best swords, like those mentioned above by GYC, with the steel folded and hammered multiple times to a keen blade, could cut through five bodies in one stroke, it makes you wonder all the more about the mentality of a man who would go up against a samurai with only a piece of wood.

For Musashi, it was all about technique and strategy. He never lost a duel.

The Way he outlines in A Book of Five Rings--Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Void--is the ultimate guide to survival. In the most prestigious business schools, it is required reading.

Or it was until the quants took over and mathematical models became all the rage.

I'll take a book over a computer any day. Wood against steel. It's the mind behind the tool that wins the duel.

getyourselfconnected said...

I am sold and will pick up the book tomorrow before my grocery store run.

I think of the film "Pale Rider" when CE beats up the guys with axe handles and says "Nothing like a good piece of hickory". Skill matters, not material!

GawainsGhost said...

Well, I hope you find a copy, GYC. That book will change the way you think.

I've read it once or twice a year since I first bought it back in the early 80s. But, you know me, being a literature major, what I find most fascinating is the structure and organization of the work, how the author or artist constructs his argument and how that reflects his perception of the world.

It's all about ontology (being) and epistemology (perception). For Musashi, the Way and the world is comprised of five elements--the solid, the fluid, the gaseous, the energetic, and the immaterial. Thus, in any given situation, it is which element is dominant that determines the strategy for how to survive and succeed.

It's a fascinating book, deserving of careful study and deep consideration, as the Way applies to all aspects of life.

You know, back when I was in graduate school and a teaching assistant, I left my copy in the library so my students could read it. But only one of them did, a basketball player. And he wrote a paper comparing the Way of Musashi to the play of Michael Jordan. I was impressed and gave him an A.

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