Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Tax Cut? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Tax Cut!

Actually, we do need a stinking tax cut, the problem is that the geniuses in Congress (all 3 of them - just kidding) can't seem to come up with a suitable number. The Democrats want to be their usual chincy selves and only let us poor peons keep $350 Billion, while the Repulicans, a more generous lot, seem bent on $550 Billion, or thereabouts.

So, what's a lousy $200 Billion between senators, anyhow and why should it make any difference. Truth is, it won't make that much of a difference, this whole bad play is nothing but posturing politics at its worse. If the government was sincere, these yahoos on the Hill and in the White House would be talking about CUTTING SPENDING by 10-15% across the board, and cutting our taxes back to some reasonable level far removed from the absurdity it is at today.

Most people just think taxes are a way of life and something that just gets deducted from their paychecks every week. They have no idea that those tax dollars are in reality theirs! The other problem is that we're currently bombarded by taxes from all sides - from the feds, the state, the counties and cities and villages we live in - and these taxes come in all forms - property, income, excise, sales, fees, etc. There are taxes on just about everything we buy, sell, touch and use. The number of different taxes in the United States numbers over 40,000. A search on for tax yields about 32,800,000 hits. I'm sorry, but that seems to be far too many pages on something most people loathe. By comparison, death yielded 33,300,000 hits, while sex topped out at 142,000,000 - there's hope.

Our taxes should be cut back radically and the size of governement at all levels should be reduced by as much as 50%, maybe more in some cases. The majority of working-class Americans are today - and have been pretty much for the past 20 years - just working to pay bills and taxes and not much else. If the people in governement were serious about reviving the economy, they'd have been off our backs years ago. They're not serious, so don't bother listening to this latest round of blather from both sides. It's a total waste of breath.

But don't forget to pay those taxes, no matter how much the government cuts them.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Terrorism Insurance Blows... Up

I've been wondering about how insurance companies can best rip people off and it looks like terrorism insurance takes the prize. Granted, most people don't want or have a policy that insures them against property and/or human losses in the event of a terrorist attack, but those who might want it are priced out and those who don't need it aren't buying.

With opposite ends of the spectrum literaly not buying in means that risk cannot be spread out, so the premiums for companies and structures that may indeed want the insurance - high-rise buildings in population centers, stadiums, energy facilities (including nuclear plants) - are over the high end. But, in the long run, that's probably a good thing, because the owners of such facilities won't pass the cost along and probably will never need to file a claim in the first place.

To paprphrase a famous president, let's not let facts get in the way of rumor and hype, here. There have been exactly two terrorist attacks in the United States over the past ten years and they have both been executed against the same target, the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York. In 1994, the damage was contained to the lower levels, but of course, we all know what happened on September 11, 2001. It was a horrific loss.

But, let's be realistic. What are the chances of terrorists actually pulling off a major attack against ANY kind of facility in the US in the next ten years? Actually the odds of them doing ONE are probably pretty good. There is the likelyhood that some terror group will cause damage in the billions of dollars (again, maybe). Now, how about the chances of terrorists pulling off 10 or more successful major terrorist attacks? Probably not so good. We've got Homeland Security and the FBI and the CIA and the Coast Guard, etc. at the watch. And if you ask what the chances are that there will be 50 or more successful major terrorist attacks in the next ten years, you'll probably be laughed at all the way back to Mecca. That would be an average of 5 per year and that's pretty much beyond anyone's perception.

So, OK, the actual risk is to roughly 10 as yet unnamed facilities or structures. And the costs to each would be, let's say, $5 billion, so that's $50 billion overall, which, when you think of it, is a pretty large bananna. If the terrorists blow up an empty stadium, it's a $600 million clean up and rebuild job. Of course, that number skyrockets if the stadium is full. But that would really take some effort, and it's not likely. Also not likely is a skyscraper or nuclear facility being blown up, so our figure of $5 billion per hit actually looks pretty tame. Fine, now for the math.

The insurance industry is really good at managing and identifying risk, so they've probably come up with about 100,000 structures and facilities that are at risk (personally, I would like to believe that the rotten crooks at the major insurance companies went straight to the municipalities like New York and Los Angeles and San Fran and tried to bully them for $100 million a year to cover everything and were turned down. I have faith in the audacity of insurance people.). The average annual premium is probably in the range of $20,000. Heck, just to get $100 million of coverage in a high risk area costs about $30,000, according to an April 14, 2003 BusinessWeek article. So, if the insurance companies were to sell coverage at $20K per year to 100,000 businesses, that would be $2 billion a year, so over 10 years, $20 billion. If there were no claims, WINDFALL! for the bad guys, the insurance companies. To make matters worse, the federal government will pick up the the entire tab if terrorist losses exceed $10 billion in a year. They'll pay out before that, but those poor insurance companies will have to pay them back, at some point.... we're not sure when.

The silver lining to all this bleak, black talk is that the consumers are not biting on the latest insurance scam. And it is a scam. Almost all insurance is a scam. Even, yes, homeowners insurance. Has your insurer offered additional terrorist insurance? Not yet? Don't worry, it's coming. Fortunately, you don't have to buy it and neither do the big businesses of America. And it's a good thing, because the number of successful terrorist attacks since 9/11 - remember almost 90% of the population, according to a poll taken shortly after the WTC attack, thought another terrorist attack was probable or highly probable - has been exactly ZERO. And that's the best news of all.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Just check out the new page!

Since we're going to be exploring the mediorcity and stupidity of the site, which, by the way does not even own the URL (how lame is that?), I decided to put it on the Companies That Suck Page. Unfortunately, I have lost the entire page. Let's just leave it at SYI still sucks as of October 20, 2005.

The Sadness of Mediocrity

Today we begin the examination of the psychology of mediocrity in American business with our case example being a singular auction web site known as

For the record, has roughly 39,000 auctions open currently. The following announcement from their resident gestappo generalist, Sheila:

Posted by My Page on 04/26/03 01:47:23 AM My Auctions Good Morning to Our Valued Community!

We are pleased to announce the placement of a classified ad in the following publications for a minimum of three (3) weeks:

* Antique Trader Weekly
* Postcard Collector
* Numismatic News
* Military Trader
* Goldmine (Music)
* Tuff Stuff (Sports Cards and Collectibles)
* Stamp Collector

Ads will begin appearing in the next available issue with space.
These classified ads will also appear online at:
Now, that's BIG news for these people. More on this as the story of mediocrity unfolds.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

The Madness Continues

The stock market continues to rise. The Dow hit 8500 yesterday, for the first time since January 21. Yes, in the last three months we went exactly nowhere. Now, for all you bulls, I don't call that very robust. And, as for you bears, we're not yet dead. But, what has happened over the past three months. Specifically, winter and a war. Basically, Americans are poorer because their incomes could not have possibly kept up with the rise in all forms of energy, from gasoline to home heating fuel. And, we also have a $75 billion bill for that little war to pay. Did this make American companies stronger, better, more competitive? Did it allow them to earn more? Maybe that, but at the cost of many jobs. The jobs market is the worst in decades, but the govrernment will never tell you that. You have to find it out for yourself. Just lose your job, or - hahahahaha - quit. And don't forget those health benefits. According to our sources, health care for businesses covering employees has basically doubled over the past five years. Inflation? Oh, it's here. But, don't worry, the market is up.

The war is OVER?

Generally, I think we won the war in Iraq. I say generally, because there were some objectives that may not have been overtly mentioned by the happy boys at the Pentagon that have not been met. First, shere's Saddam? Just like bin Laden, he gets away? I find this a disturbing coincidence and maybe not so much of a coincidence. I have steadfastly held that bin Laden is and has been dead for some time, because without him, US citizens might just declare the war on terrorism to be unnecessary. So, the same applies with Saddam Hussein. Should we now chase him into Syria, which is supposedly where he is? Why not. They have all the WMDs that used to be in Iraq, too.

The other disturbing thing is that a whole gaggle of Iraqis want some form of Islamic government, not a democracy that we were espousing. Is that what we, the USA, wants? Another Islamic fundamentalist government bent on destoying Israel for the betterment of Palestine and taking down the United States with it? I think we won the war, but we're going to lose the peace.

My thought is this. Here are the Iraqis, who now have the freedom to express themselves, because we, the US military, freed them from the tryanny of Saddam Hussein, and what do they have to say, now that they can say it? US GO HOME! That's what. I find it ironic - and a little bit showing in their overall stupidity - that they now despise the very people who gave them their freedom. We should just leave and allow the country to fall into a state of incredible anarchy and lawlessness. Hell, they don't want us there anymore. Yankee Go Home! ...Nice, and easy for them to say. Maybe they can call their friends the French, the Russians, and the Germans to help them out.

Friday, March 14, 2003

We're Right on the Brink

Just a note here that the invasion of Iraq seems to be about to begin. The President has set up a meeting in the Azores with Tony Blair and the Spanish President. I don't think he's really going - that it's a ruse to give our troops the element of surprise. We've also been broadcasting that we'll attack at night. I think we'll attack at dawn either Saturday or Sunday Bahgdad time.

The feeling is that war is imminent and it has never felt closer. I believe we are hours or at the most, two or three days from the start of this war. Time to get it on.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

OK, I Take It Back

Maybe the Google guys have taken over control of Blogger and are fixing it because I've just published two blogs without any problems. Happy Days? I certainly hope so. Now, about those archives and links...

More on the Economy

Today, reading various and sundry economic resources, I found the following in The Daily Reckoning: *** Here's something interesting: a list of all the places the U.S. has bombed since WWII:

China 1945-46 Korea 1950-53 China 1950-53 Guatemala 1954 Indonesia 1958 Cuba 1959-60 Guatemala 1960 Congo 1964 Peru 1965 Laos 1964-73 Vietnam 1961-73 Cambodia 1969-70 Guatemala 1967-69 Grenada 1983 Libya 1986 El Salvador 1980s Nicaragua 1980s Panama 1989 Iraq 1991-99 Sudan 1998 Afghanistan 1998 Yugoslavia 1999.

Nice, huh? Also, it has been reported that MANY companies have overstated pension fund gains. The eventual upshot (or downshot, as it may be) is that companies on the S & P 500 are carrying price earnings ratios in the 80s rather than in the 20s, meaning that these companies are now more grossly overinflated than ever before. While these companies have routinely reported pension fund gains of 8-9%, they have been losing (see: LOSS, as in less) 10-15-20% per year or more. And since these pension fund gains are estimated and done so in completely legal reporting fashion, they have contributed to the earnings of many companies and are a ticking time bomb. My advice: find the companies that have the largest pension funds for rtired workers and short their stocks or buy put options against them. As the economy unravels, you need to make money. Of course, our currency is also devaluing, so convert any gains into gold or other currencies.

Bogged Down By Blogger

I haven't really kept up with this because I have been sorely disapponted with the performance of Blogger. Usually, I am pretty good at organizing and figuring out how to make web-things work, but Blogger refuses to accept my settings for my archives. It's very anoying. I also have had various "run-time errors" when trying to post, which had resulted in a number of swearing episodes and lost "Blogs."

I'm giving it another try and hopefully, the people at Google will put together a more functional operation. I can't wait.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003


The threat of war has very little to do with the overall movement of the markets. Please take a look at some of the fundamentals in this market, which stink, such as high p/e's, lowered earnings expectations, continued obfuscation of the truth in public documents, the reality of pension plan underfunding, high unemployment, a sinking dollar, etc. And add to your thinking that this low volume decline is happening when bonds are not an attractive alternative.

The smart money is OUT of this market or SHORT. The war has little to do with it and the cost of $100 billion - while probably grossly overinflated - is not much to whine about. In fact, government defecits and lowered tax rates are *supposed* to be elements of stimulus.

Pay attention! you liberals in the back row. There's going to be a test in 2004.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Just a word on dividends... well, a few words. Stocks which offer dividend payments to shareholders are generally viewed as solid, and with President Bush's recent offer to cut the double taxation on dividends - essentially proposing to have dividend income taxed as ordinary income instead of as a capital gain - many people are looking at stocks which offer dividends.

Recently, however, we've been seeing a rash of dividend reductions by these companies - most of them large and aging. This trend will probably continue as these same companies have huge pension costs to deal with, so they must find a source for additional capital and the easiest place to find extra cash is to cut the dividend payment.

Bear in mind that as a stock's share price decline the dividend yield increases, so if you see a company offering a dividend yield of more than 4%, it's likely that the share price will decline or the company will cut the dividend. It's not a pretty picture in equities.

CNBC, the mother of all stock hype, never ceases to amaze on the bullish side. At 8:30 this morning, they reported the durable goods report, which came in with a healthy 3.3% increase for January. Jubilation! The economy is moving forward! At the very same moment the weekly new unemployment claims report came out and was UNREPORTED on CNBC. Why? Maybe because the number of new unemployment claims for the prior week was 417K, while the experts were expecting a number in the range of 370K. More unemployment claims, unabated, week after week, which the government and CNBC do not want you to know about. As long as the number of new claims remain in the 400K per week range, there will be NO RECOVERY. There is no such thing as a jobless recovery.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The DJIA closed just above 7800 today. There's been no volume for quite some time, due, I believe, to general malaise in the markets. Stocks are not good buys, many are overvalued. One I am particularly fond of is Marvel (MVL), which is the parent of Marvel comic books and also licenses their characters for movies like the current hit, DAREDEVIL and previous films, X-Men and Spider-Man. Marvel has plans for The Hulk and X-Men 2.0 this summer. The stock has doubled in price over the past 6-8 months, but looks like a huge winner. Carrying a forward p/e of roughly 25, it looks like a bargain, especially if they beat expectations, which I believe they will by a wide margin.