Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review of 2009 predictions

My 2009 guesses were not as good as my 2008 guesses. I think I'll do a Gerald Celente and use some bizarre logic and reasoning to twist my guesses into "hits."
Oil trades below $25/barrel, briefly touching down between $10-$15. This will cause havoc within the nuttier OPEC nations. Leaders in Venezuela and Iran will be particularly stressed. The situation in non-OPEC Russia will become increasingly dire as the Russian economy goes into freefall and society breaks down. Historic crime wave in Moscow. Putin goes on some more military adventures to misdirect the restless natives and tries to hold Western Europe hostage to Russia's natural gas resources. Hugo Chavez flees to Cuba with a large horde of cash.
A big FAIL on oil prices. The Evil Dwarf in Iran and Melonhead in Venezuela are indeed looking particularly stressed.
By supporting Hamas, Iran is playing a game of chicken with Israel. Israel will launch a strike against Iran before Obama assumes the presidency. Ahmadinejad will use this as an excuse to attempt a blockade of the Straight of Hormuz, creating a brief tanker war and increasing the price of crude. The attempt fails.
Nope.
Dubai collapses, dragging down the other Emirates which are frantically trying to prop it up. Tens of thousands of formerly wealthy European speculators will be wiped out. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum will be forced to unload his prized airline to Abu Dhabi. Emirates will then be merged with Etihad. A380 orders will be canceled or deferred.
Looks like a correct guess. See here for why.
Massive societal upheavals in China as millions of laid-off factory workers are driven back to the countryside. Manufacturers around the world will find it difficult to maintain production due to supply problems of critical parts that have all been outsourced to China.
Millions of Chinese did become unemployed, but supply chain problems... not yet. I think this is still to come. By the way, have you noticed how many shelves at your local WalTargetMart are stocked with large un-nested plastic storage containers? Not Christmas containers?
Citizens of Zimbabwe finally get some limited relief after a coup is launched against Robert Mugabe. Once he is captured, he will be tortured and publicly executed after a session in front of a kangaroo court.
Zimbabwe residents did get some limited relief this year, but no coup.
Iceland clamors to join the EU, while current EU members including Italy and Greece hold talks to get out of the Euro.
Not yet. In fact, last I heard Icelanders no longer want in.
Web 2.0 bust. The majority of social networking sites will go belly-up as investors pull the plug on most of this nonsense. MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn will be among the few survivors.
Still to come. MySpace jumped the shark big time this past year.
The Democrat-controlled Congress will become increasingly protectionist, blocking all free-tradedeals regardless of whether or not they are good for the country. Americans as a whole will become more isolationist.
Yep, we seem to be heading that way. See Steel Tariffs Show Protectionism On The Rise.
Sears Holdings Corporation files for bankruptcy protection. Eddie Lampert's expensive "Sears is a real estate play" experiment will fail as the market is flooded by a massive inventory of vacant, never-occupied commercial real estate. Once-storied Sears brands are sold off to companies such as Lowe's and Best Buy.
Still to come.
Unemployment approaches 9%.
I was too optimistic.
2009 is the year the US will get some type of nationalized medical insurance program under the guise of helping manufacturers. This will occur more quickly than people think. Manufacturers will, of course, cease providing medical insurance to employees and retirees.
Yep. The paperwork just needs to be signed.
Ballmer is fired from Microsoft. The Redmond campus experiences massive layoffs as new Microsoft management tries to "get back to basics" and focus on doing things right. Google's Mountain View offices are emptied as Google management realizes that they have wasted billions on non-producing projects.
Ballmer hasn't been fired. Yet. Microsoft did see mass layoffs, but management still has its head up its ass. Google also had layoffs, but unlike Microsoft that have their act together.
Terrorists will attempt an attack on US soil during or soon after the presidential transition.
Nope. Not unless you consider Umar Farouk "Great Balls of Fire" Abdulmutallab. Failed guess.
Residential real estate will start to bottom out during the final quarter of 2009 in many markets, including Florida, Arizona and parts of inland California. Panic selling by banks anxious to unload deteriorating houses that have never been occupied will finally establish a floor. This will not mark a recovery, but will mark the beginning of a very long trough in real estate values that will last for years. Coastal California, the Pacific Northwest and the New York-Baltimore-Washington corridor will continue to decline throughout 2009 and into 2010. On a national level real estate will be down 35% from peak, while bubble zones will be down 55-65%. The option ARMs won't blow up later this year and into 2011 for reasons explained here.
I think this was a good call. Spot-on, in fact. We'll just have to wait a bit longer to find out for sure.
2009 will mark the year when Motorola and GE get their mojo back. Palm files for bankruptcy protection. Dell, like Microsoft, becomes a punchline. PC commoditization and lack of innovation will lead to a big decline in sales.
Another good call, I think. Motorola has a big hit with Droid, GE stock has recovered. Palm has FAIL written all over it, as do Microsoft and Dell.
In Houston, Safeway attempts to unload the Randalls supermarket chain after years of mismanagement. Safeway gives up after finding no buyers. Randalls shuts its doors and few people notice. Whole Foods sees a whole lot of problems.
Still to come! Who still shops at Randalls? No one I know.
Serin gets a damn job after being threatened with eviction by his parents. He will be selling cars for Steve.
Wrong on selling cars for Steve, yes on getting a damn job. Parking cars.

Happy New Year! Don't blow off any fingers with large fireworks.

Monday, December 28, 2009

College costs set to collapse

The Washington Post sees the symptoms, but doesn't recognize the underlying illness.

Tuition costs at U-Va. had already been growing rapidly. A decade ago, the price, excluding room and board, was just over $4,000 for in-state students and nearly $17,000 for out-of-state students per year. Now it's nearly $10,000 and $32,000, respectively.

Even before the financial crisis intensified the upward pressure on college costs, the price of a degree was soaring. Since 1980, the average cost of tuition and room and board has grown by a staggering 121 percent while median household income has risen a mere 18 percent, according to federal data. But the credit boom earlier this decade provided some relief for families.

Wall Street financiers packaged student loans into securities and sold them off to investors, who could trade them just like stocks. That, in turn, provided more money for lending, helping to make student loans cheaper and more available. Even people with poor credit histories could easily get a loan.

Gee, where have I heard this story before? Let me think... oh yeah. I remember. This was the very same story behind the housing bubble and the ridiculous run-up in real estate prices.

Some educators worry that college programs will sacrifice quality to contain costs or become limited to those who can afford it.

"The big macro question is: Will we have to sacrifice the quality of education, or the access, based on talent rather than the ability to pay?" said Marx, the Amherst president. "Either of those make America less competitive for the next generation."

Horseshit. If people can't afford your product the price will drop, Mr. Marx. I suggest you get your spending priorities in order right away.

They get no sympathy from me. Far too many American families commit financial hari-kiri because Junior MUST GO TO COLLEGE AT ALL COSTS, even if Junior wants to do something else with his life. Like... dunno... maybe be an auto mechanic. Or a plumber. Or run a restaurant.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Detroit East Catholic High School

Closed in 2005 (PDF file). And here it is four years later.

It appears they just walked away, leaving everything behind. It doesn't look like rain has seeped inside yet, but the elements are still taking a toll, even within just four years.

New TSA safety regs

From the AP:
Air Canada said in a statement that new rules imposed by the Transportation Security Administration limit on-board activities by passengers and crew in U.S. airspace. The airline said that during the final hour of flight passengers must remain seated. They won't be allowed access to carryon baggage or to have any items on their laps.
Now available from the Government Printing Office in Pueblo, Colorado:

Senator Foster Brooks

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Investing in Detroit real estate

Detroit is filled with cheap real estate and those $500.00 houses sound attractive to out-of-town real estate investors. This is what they are buying.



Detroit is like eastern Europe, only without the decaying Stalinist architecture. And like eastern Europe, Detroit residents are fleeing elsewhere.

Desperate in China, Seeking Stable Partner for Relationship

I've been getting a lot of UCE's like this at the office.
Dear friend,

This is John (deleted), sales supervisor from (deleted) Precision Circuit Co., Ltd in China.

I think I've introduced us to you for three times, and you still haven't replied, here, I'd like to introduce us to you for the fourth time.

Our company is a high-tech group enterprise which specializes in developing, manufacturing and marketing the printed circuit board.

Our products have got ISO and UL certificates and meet RoHS standard. What we offer is solutions to save your cost, but not just products.

Maybe you don't like this kind of emails, but there's no reason for you to refuse a sincere and competent partner.

If you have a demand for pcbs, please don't hesitate to send us the Gerber files, we shall quote for your reference.

Thanks & Best regards
John (deleted)
(deleted) Precision Circuit Co., Ltd
I don't buy any of it. When China blows it will be big, not only destroying the fabric of modern Chinese society but also destroying the world's largest factory. I think that US companies are about to find out why it's a really, really bad idea to stick all of their manufacturing eggs in one basket. I see an utter collapse in commodity prices and big inflation for manufactured consumer goods.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Favorite present

Like most parents I spent too much money, yet I knew in advance what my kids' favorite presents would be: Laser pointers from the dollar store. My son hasn't even touched the Hot Wheels crap, but he and his sister have been teasing the dogs for hours with these stupid lasers.

Progress is amazing. As a child in 1979 I'd never, ever imagine that in 30 years I'd be able to buy laser devices for my kids for a buck each.

Their favorite toys, in order:

1) Cheap laser pointers
2) Nerf guns
3) "Daddy, did you get any new games on your iPhone?"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas, everyone.



Yep, it's the same house in Mason, Ohio.

And a scene from my favorite holiday movie. Sorry if I've offended you with the title you see below. There's nothing I can do about it. But hey, we're all adults. I really, really doubt any kids come here.

Update: Almost forgot.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hugo Chavez Gone Wild!

Melonhead can't shut his piehole!

The Netherlands is about to attack Venezuela! VOA:
The Dutch government says it has asked Venezuela's ambassador to clarify remarks by President Hugo Chavez accusing the Netherlands of planning aggression against Venezuela.
He smells sulfur again. Whoever smelled it, dealt it! ABC:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez spoke at the United Nations Climate Change Conference today in Copenhagen, and suggested that President Obama is the devil.

"The devil came here yesterday, and it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of,” Chávez said, making the sign of the cross and acting as if he were praying. "Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the President of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world."
Hey Melonhead, I am not crazy about Barry, but he's our president. So shove it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The two sides of Charles Johnson

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs is currently in the bag for Al Gore. But just a few years ago, Johnson linked Gore's theories to Osama bin Laden.

Hmm.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chrome Mining

I like these ads a lot, but they don't convince me to install Chrome. I like to keep data mining to a minimum.

Belgium: The Michigan of Europe

This article on Belgian Waffles is fascinating.
Wallonia is described through its own similarly graphic metaphor: as Britain without Thatcher. That the income of Flanders overtook that of Wallonia sometime in the mid-1960s is not just an accident of natural resources. It had political causes too. The heavily unionized South, with its rigid system of wage bargaining and a lavish welfare state won through uncompromising labor agitation, was totally resistant to change. For all the attention Flemish nationalism has received, the Walloons also gave an impetus to the breakup of Belgium, for their own economic reasons. They wanted to seize control over national economic policy in order to protect their dying industries. Wallonia would be an economy of coal, iron, and steel or it would be nothing. It wound up nothing. "In contrast with e.g. Glasgow or Bilbao," Buyst writes, "a successful reconversion to tertiary activities never materialized."

That scared foreign investors, particularly American ones, who were pouring into Europe in the decades after World War II. Already by the 1960s, 80 percent of the foreign companies present in Belgium were in the Flemish north, according to the Ghent university political scientist Carl Devos. Wallonia is now a basket case. Charleroi, the regional hub, shows a lot of the outward signs of a city run by a Socialist party machine: 30 percent unemployment, life expectancies that have receded to their levels in the 1950s, municipal council members sitting in jail, and a tendency of helpful locals to describe it as "our Detroit."
And I thought everything was copacetic in Euroland. Wasn't socialism supposed to put a stop to this?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hypo

Over at The Big Picture,
The Austrian government has nationalized the insolvent bank Hypo Group Alpe Adria (HGAA). The financial institution, which has 40 billion Euros in assets, is the country's sixth largest bank. But, in relative terms, this is a very large bankruptcy using GDP at purchasing power parity, an American HGAA would have assets of $2.5 trillion, larger than any of the American banks. So, this is a very big deal and it speaks to the size of Austrian banks' international exposure, renewed risks in banking and the possibility of contagion.
Think about that. The equivalent of a $2.5 trillion US bank... and it's only Austria's sixth largest bank. That is the definition of too big to fail... but it still doesn't sound right. $2.5 trillion? Ed explains further:
When I wrote the figure $2.5 trillion, I was thinking more Iceland or Switzerland than the U.S. initially because they also had/have outsized banking sector. But, the fact that this was the sixth largest bank and is the equivalent in assets to economy of Citigroup in America should tell you they will have major problems if asset prices in Eastern Europe fall.
That's a relief. TARP for Austria!

(Ahh... the days of trolling.)

How bad are things in San Francisco?

This bad. And it's self-inflicted, despite all of San Francisco's natural assets.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Think and Grow Rich with Global Warming

Uh oh. Some information about Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Link 1
Link 2

"Global warming" is like everything else. Follow the money. For those who sneer that "deniers" are paid for by "Big Oil," you may want to wipe those smug looks off your faces. A lot of people are getting rich and they're picking your wallet clean. The global warming hucksters are not any different than the banksters, really. Except the global warming hucksters want us to fork over even more cash. And at least the banksters don't hide their activities behind the wall of "social justice."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Liening South Padre Island bubble condo imploded

From the Chronicle,
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — Demolition crews have imploded an unfinished, leaning 31-story South Padre Island condominium tower.

The Ocean Tower was to be a 151-unit luxury project slated for a spa and other amenities. Construction began in 2006 but stopped last summer when it became obvious the tower was sinking faster than attached parking garages, causing cracks in beams and columns.

I can think of some other liening bubble condo towers around Houston that need implosion.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Gaygaygaygaygaygaygay

As expected, Annise Parker is the new Mayor of Houston. Our second gay mayor. Her sexual inclination didn't amount to a hill of beans, nor should it. Now, can we move on?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Europeans are Obese

We're told that only Americans are lardasses, but I see a lot of waddling European tubbagoos in Copenhagen.



Captain Euro is on it!
National policies should encourage and provide opportunities for greater physical activity, and improve the availability and accessibility of healthy foods.
"Healthy" foods are available in great quantities, so this is nonsense. My theory has always been the link to cigarettes. Americans quit the death sticks before Europeans and picked up fast food to fill their vice. Europeans were about 10 years behind us in quitting cigarettes, and now it is catching up to them.

Annise Parker will be Houston's second gay mayor

Glenn has a post up about this. Folks are trying to drum up controversy, but the local ads have been pretty civil, just the usual "my opponent is a tax cheat" kind of stuff. I don't care what inclinations or skin color the new mayor has, as long as they don't replicate Leepee.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Astrology is even nuttier than I thought.

These two men are serious.

Dubai's Underwater Palm Island

In Dubai, they take underwater real estate deals literally (h/t Noodles):
One of the crown jewels of its real estate empire, The Palm Jumeirah, is literally sinking into the ocean, one scientist told the Wall Street Journal.

The man-made island, which was dredged from seabed and shaped into a palm for luxury housing, is sinking by an average of 5 millimeters a year, an executive at leading European ground survey company Fugro NPA told the paper.
I am crying for David Beckham and Brad Pitt. How will they cope?

DENTISTS RECOMMEND DAILY GUM MASSAGE!

It makes a great gift, but the AC power cord is alarming.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Disaster Porn

I was 8. Things were tough all over. Disaster porn was in vogue.

Lots of big-name stars! I remember being absolutely terrified by the elevator scene. It gave me nightmares. Now it looks really cheesy. Still, I like seeing Walter Matuschanskayasky dressed in 1970's pimp wear while sitting in a bar, oblivious.

Where's the 2009 disaster porn? That retarded 2012 movie looks like a bust.

Oh Holiday Tree, Oh Holiday Tree

I'm one of the many losers who play FarmVille. I just noticed this tonight.

I've never heard of a "Holiday Tree." However, it does look a lot like a Christmas tree. What's up with that, Zynga?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Will the last person in Dubai please turn out the lights?

Last Days of Rome:

The Emirate has been struggling for many months, and if you scratch the surface the pain in this new and gaudy metropolis is palpable. Ross, who asked not to be identified, is one of countless expatriates who have been caught out by the collapse in Dubai’s once-booming property market.

Like many he bought a flat off-plan in what was a red-hot property market. Today he is trapped, his passport confiscated until he repays bank loans he used to invest in a property that may never exist. If his work dries up before he can clear his debts he will go to jail.

Time of Transition:

On a recent walk around the car park at Dubai Airport, there were more than two dozens cars that looked completely abandoned by their owners.

Some people have taken to writing little messages on the layers of sand that have gathered on the vehicles.

One says "Gone 4 Ever", and another says "He will return. Inshallah".

"Many people leave cars like this," said an airport worker. "Maybe they have a loan from the bank, maybe their jobs have been terminated. That's why they have left their cars here and gone."

Nobody saw it coming.
"If there's one thing you can trust, it's Dubai," Khalid al-Malik, the CEO of Tatweer, a separate government-owned developer behind some of Dubai's most ambitious projects, said during an interview in April 2008. "Just like what the Americans did with their reputation, we are people who can deliver."
Dubai's biggest deadbeat is Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Why is he not in debtor's prison, along with the stupid greedy Europeans who flipped and flopped?

Let's ride our limo to the airport and hop on our private jet and save the world

Geez. Haven't these people ever heard of WebEx?

Bailout Ben app

Just $0.99 on iTunes.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Freeze

It looks like a neutron bomb went off in my garden. All of my tropicals are ruined. The oranges, which were just about ready to pick, will likely be mush once everything melts.

A coworker asked, "What do you care? You're moving." Well, I've nurtured this place for 15 years, and while I can't take it with me I still don't want to see it all trashed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

CSU official received more than $150K in improper reimbursements

California state worker is busted for $150,000 in improper reimbursements (he had an overseas travel fetish), but the state probably spent twice that on the investigation. Here's the very detailed report (PDF file), completed by:
ELAINE M. HOWLE, CPA
State Auditor
Date: December 3, 2009
Legal Counsel: Steven Benito Russo, JD, Chief of Investigations
Investigative Staff: Russ Hayden, CGFM, Manager of Investigations
Siu‑Henh Canimo, CFE
Beka Clement, MPA
Richard Fry, MPA
Justin McDaid, CFE
For questions regarding the contents of this report, please contact
Margarita Fernández, Chief of Public Affairs, at 916.445.0255.
Outside of a very few people at the very top, I am not sure that any state employees should be reimbursed for out-of-state travel. Most trade missions are a fat waste of money. Politicians are just taking advantage of these junkets to travel and get away from the spouse. I can understand why law enforcement may require occasional travel. But the guy in question worked in IT. Maybe he never heard of WebEx.

By the way, CSU disagrees with their findings.
The university disagreed with our finding that the official's travel appeared to offer few tangible benefits or advantages to the university. The university broadly asserted that the official's trips and associated activities were part of an effort to protect, maintain, and enhance the university's investment in software.
As you write those fat checks to send your kids through college, keep CSU in mind. It's happening everywhere.

23 degrees in Houston

For a place that receives maybe a trace of snow every 4 years on average, tomorrow should be interesting.
Amazingly, it seems likely Houston will see snow Friday, the city’s earliest ever white stuff. Forecasters are still hedging their bets given all of the puzzle pieces that must fall into place for it to snow in Houston, but now say the most likely scenario is 2 to 4 inches of widespread snowfall beginning Friday afternoon. Some areas may get half a foot.
23 degrees tomorrow night. Houses aren't insulated against cold weather, so there will be lots of busted pipes in attics and garages come Saturday morning. Plumbers, drywall repairers and insurance companies will be busy. And if the forecast comes true, I'll say the NWS did an amazing job of pegging this storm 5 days in advance.

Note to myself: Turn the water main off in the morning and get ready to kiss half my plants goodbye. Hope my orange trees make it.

Grapes of Wrath, 2009

H/T Julia6.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Got Paranoia?

Mish readers do. By the bucketfuls. Reading the word salad contained in these responses I can only conclude that George W. Bush is the smartest, cruelest, most conniving man ever. Bumbling and mumbling? It's all a smokescreen! And Barack Obama? He works for Bush! Bush and Obama and Osama Bin Laden PLANNED THE 9/11 ATTACKS in order to build pipelines in Afghanistan (that's why Obama is sending more troops), but there were no attacks in the US and those planes we all saw were just mirages. False flag! WTC and the Pentagon were bombed by Halliburton and Unocal. And all of them report directly to Dick Cheney!

Speaking of word salad and Dick Cheney, here's Allena Hansen again. Can someone please explain what Allena is babbling about now?
What is fairly certain, however, is that this time there will be no AIG bailout for Halliburton. With the House Oversight Committee breathing down the neck of the Fed, not even Helicopter Ben will risk the wrath of a chastised Barney Frank and an enraged American public.
Then there's Charles Johnson. Have any doubts about manmade global warming? DENIAR! You're a fundy Jew-hating right-wing kOOk neo-Nazi who works for BIG OIL AND BIG TOBACCO. There is nothing to "Climategate." The word "trick" means a different thing to scientists than it does to stupid dolts like you. You probably want to hang census takers and write "FED" on their shirts!

Sigh. Blogs I have followed for years have degraded so much. Everybody's so different. I haven't changed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Emirates sale to Etihad Airways

Me, January 1, 2009:
Dubai collapses, dragging down the other Emirates which are frantically trying to prop it up. Tens of thousands of formerly wealthy European speculators will be wiped out. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum will be forced to unload his prized airline to Abu Dhabi. Emirates will then be merged with Etihad. A380 orders will be canceled or deferred.
UK Guardian, November 30, 2009:
Dubai's flagship airline, Emirates, has emerged as a potential pawn in the city state's scramble for financial stability.

But financial experts believe the airline's future could be determined by Dubai's sister emirate, Abu Dhabi, which could demand ownership of the company for bailing out its neighbour if the troubles at Dubai World worsen.
It's fun to guesscast, and I think I am a pretty good guesser. The difference between me and other guessers like Gerald Celente is he takes his brainfarts seriously, choosing to ignoring his many failures. Plus, he is good at bullshitting reporters who lack skeptical brain cells.

Tiger Woods explained

Animation from Taiwan. Watch the whole thing.

Snow?

In Houston? In early December?