Friday, October 28, 2005

Blog as a guide to the Downtown Magazine web site

After toying with the idea of being a full-time blogger, I concluded that do so would actually be a self-demotion, since I'm already a reporter, editor and publisher, so I left the blog alone and didn't link it to my regular site pages while I decided what to do with it.

Finally, it occurred to me that I could actually help myself and my readers out by using the blog as a kind of guide to the site, and that's what I'm planning to do, use this space to promote the articles that are appearing on the site, so let me get right to that.

And maybe some day, I'll actually start writing like a PR person, rather than a war-worn editor with too much on his plate... Maybe not.

Articles of note appearing this week on the web site include, as usual, Business Editor Don Bravo's excellent daily musings on the world of investment and finance. You can find links to his daily briefings in archival form on the Business page.

Naturally, I kept busy writing nock-ups on the World Series (congrats to the White Sox). You can read the daily post-game recaps and notes working backwards from game 4, here.

For sports junkies who follow collage football as madly as I do, the news this week that Texas had moved past USC in the BCS poll came as no surprise around these parts. I had moved Texas into the #1 spot three weeks ago on the Downtown Magazine College Football Top 25 rankings and now find myself in the unusual position of actually being in agreement with the BCS. How weird!

It being Friday, you might want to get your sports fix ready with some action for the weekend, and there's plenty of it. Check out my college football picks, NFL picks and for those of you who love the ponies, I put together a package of Breeders' Cup picks, including my analysis of the win, place and show horses in each race, plus exacta, trifecta and multi-race parlays.

That's it for today. I'll be updating this space more frequently from now on.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Storms rising: Wilma and Fitzgerald

With the World Series scheduled to begin on Saturday, and hurricane Wilma set to hit the west coast of Florida on Sunday, the best time for prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to hand down indictments in the CIA leak case would be... hmmmm, Monday. It will be a slow news day and Fitzgerald would get prime exposure. Well, that's assuming the supine mainstream press decides to cover it and if Wilma doesn't do much damage to the Treasure Coast.

I can see Brian Williams now, "reporting from Ft. Meyers, Florida, where a couple of mobile home parks are closed today by FEMA for damage assessment. Wilma didn't hit here, but FEMA officials thought maybe the bird flu might have snuck in on the winds. In Washington, the President, Vice President, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Judy Miller, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Tim Russert, Katie Couric, Tom Cruz, Michael Chertoff and the entire Navy Marching Band have been indicted for conspiracy to commit treason. Donald Rumsfeld will be sworn in as president on Tuesday. John Bolton is rumored to be named Secretary of State."

"Now back to our studios in New York for important news on the World Series and our special 'Bringing the War Home' series on a man who has installed anti-tank guns on his roof in rural Oshkosh."

Yeah, I'm dreaming. But Fitzgerald will be handing down indictments shortly. My wish list is: Karl Rove, Libby, Rice, Powell (no bad act should go unpunished), Dick Cheney.

I would be happy to see those five be indicted. Any more, I'll be dancing in the street 'til dawn. If Cheney isn't included, I'll live. But please, please, get Condi on the list.

Monday, Monday, Washington, D.C....

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Social Security, Democracy and your money

I have to admit to being a little less than enthusiastic about faux-president Bush's ideas on Social Security reform. Basically, the imposter wants to take 4% of what we make - roughly a third of the total SSI contributions as it now stands, and allow us to make investments in stocks, bonds and other so-called "safe" investments.

Excuse me while I flush the rest of my money down the toilet...

Let's say you make 40K a year, 4% of that is $1600. Now, just putting that money in a jar in a closet will net you $48,000 after 30 years. If you inflate that $1600 contribution by 3% annually, it comes up to $76,000 and change. If you invest it, and you make an average of 4% per year (we're talking 30-year Treasury Bills here) you boost it to over 130,000.

You can slice and dice the numbers any way you like. Personally, I'd prefer that the government "allow" me to keep more of my income, even at the risk of a much lower retirement benefit at their predetermined time. I might be able to do much more with that 12.4% they scam from me every paycheck.

What the hell am I talking about. I haven't had a real job in 7 years. When I get to 67 (that's the new retirement age for us late boomers) I'll probably owe them money - according to them. If I ever see a Social Security check made out to me, I'll likely die from shock. Big deal.

Maybe you can see where this is going? Some people might want to get a little more out of their money, as in riskier investments. They don't always go up. Sometimes they even loss most or all of their value. Permanently, as in forever. Flush!

The faux-pres is taking a small step toward the complete bankruptcy and slavery of the US population with this scheme. No doubt, if we allow personal accounts to become part of the Social Security aparatus, the rules and structure will become so complex, not even the government's own accountants will fully understand it, much less the average wage-earner.

I suppose investing for yor retirement, instead of blowing your paycheck on the lottery - the hidden tax, completely voluntary, mind you - probably is an idea worthy of some merit. Doing it with money previously earmarked for the retirment fund of others, older than you, creates a deficit on one side of the equation, precisely, on the payout end, the most important element and the sole purpose of the program. It's not a good set-up.

The worst part of this scenario is the windfall it is for the banks, mutual funds, insurance companies and brokerages who will be handling an additional 4% of the total US payroll. Naturally, that would create a flood of new money and regular infusions of capital, forever. If the investments are limited to certain government choices, it is completely unfair to every other investment vehicle and create imbalances and market distortions, which is, quite possibly, the whole idea, anyway. For instance, will Americans be allowed to invest thse funds in gold futures, or currency swaps, or options trading? If not, why not? Some people are more adept at investing than others and more expert. Some could, if given the opportunity, make excellent investment choices and large profits. Others may not.

The idea of private accounts is a good one, just not within the bounds of the Social Security system. The introduction of private accounts into a system that has, since its inception, been, a model of simplicity, is simply irresponsible and far too risky. The faux-president wants to spend some of that "political capital" he boasted about after his recent win in the mock election. Unfortunately, that real capital is going to be ours and it's headed right for the rich slobs who helped put this bozo in office in the first place - the fat city fat cats of Wall Street.