Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The New Ozzie and Harriet

Last night’s State of the Union Address was the last for President George W. Bush. The Bush Twins were both in attendance for the first time to witness a piece of history.

The performance is always a show within a show, a drama within a comedy, with the physical posturing of the politicos in attendance every bit as interesting as the main attraction for the evening.
Did the Ozzie and Harriet Show steal the limelight from Mr. Bush’s address? Ozzie and Harriet—Obama and Hillary, I mean.

I am repeatedly disgusted each year by the public displays of inappropriate body language by these elected sycophants. Probably why I will never run for office; I don’t want to be like them.

There are many who view Mr. Bush’s status as Official Lame Duck as one that will constrain him from accomplishing much. Don’t bet on it.

As our friends at Stratfor.com note, the very lack of political debt might actually empower the Bush White House to accomplish more than expected. Domestic issues are probably toast for the year, especially with the wrangling for each party’s nomination for President. But on the world stage, Mr. Bush’s opportunity to set foreign policy is still viable.

Because Mr. Bush is not running for re-election, he’s not going to be distracted by public opinion polls, and he doesn’t have to worry about protecting a successor, since his party is still in the shake-out process.

As Stratfor.com notes, “all the pieces are in place for a no-holds-barred executive with very few institutional restrictions on his ability to act. Foreign affairs require neither popular support nor congressional approval.”

Meanwhile, the circus continues in America.
What kind of man/woman do you want to be your next President?

Eyebrows were raised when Sen. Ted Kennedy and his niece, Caroline, threw their support behind the Senator from Illinois. What is it about Barak Obama that is so capturing the imagination of younger voters this time?

Ms. Kennedy wrote a moving editorial that was published this week in the International Herald Tribute, called “JFK and Obama: A President Like My Father.” Obama may or may not be another Jack Kennedy, but here is what he has inspired in the last survivor of Camelot, and which may explain his appeal:

“I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift Americans' spirits, and make us believe again that the country needs every one of us to get involved.”

Any questions?

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Crisis of Credibiltiy

The Fed’s surprise rate drop of 75-basis points last week was done somewhat blindly—they were not aware of the $7.1-billion write-down bombshell dropped by French Bank Societe General on MLK Day. Suddenly the game board changed, and the crisis of credibility US financials had been wallering* through had a little company.

If misery loves company, we’re in for an orgy of government posturing and political bandaids to cover multitudes of sins: The Chinese government is now faced with $119-billion in banking “irregularities,” a figure that’s been described as three-times the profits of China’s top five banks.

117 bank managers have been invited to leave their offices, and over 12,000 people are facing fines. Good thing China’s becoming more modernized. In the old days, they would have just executed them. We may still see some hari kari resulting from Chinese financial hanki panki.

The US government wants to give back $150-billion to you and me in the form of tax rebates. Some who do not pay taxes at all will receive these windfalls, which are hoped to stimulate spending, and thus revive our economy. The bandaid is intended to cover the skinned knee we got when mortgage brokers’ poor decisions caught up with all of us. It does not address the root cause.

Sarbanes Oxley wasn’t enough to make the captains of commerce more courageous in their defense of doing the right thing.
Wonder if China’s corrective measures will be as inspiring?

* Wallering is an East-Texas term that accurately depicts the condition of becoming entirely immersed in slop and slime by lying prone and rotating either clockwise or counter-clockwise on one's longitudinal axis.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Movie Review: Cloverfield--Don't Go

If you’re looking for a movie to check out this weekend, Rambo’s the one. Cloverfield is not.

My firstborn male child attended last nights’ midnight premier of the fourth Rambo ruckus-fest, and was still wired from the experience when I left for work this morning.

My Bride and I chose to see Cloverfield last night, based on the interesting movie poster and the ads we’ve sene on TV. That's also how we decide on breakfast cereals, too.

This was the biggest waste of $18 I can remember in a long time. If this is what film making of the future is going to be about, please let me go blind now.

Cloverfield is a bad example of what happens when you give your kid a video camera for Christmas, because it looks like it took about a month to think up, shoot, and then talk someone into distributing the mess.

I predict one of two things will happen: either everyone with a video camera is going to be encouraged by Cloverfield to think they are the next Cecil B. DeMille, or video camcorderes are going to take a fall because everyone now realizes no one wants to sit through a 90-minute "mockumentary" of their lives. In a large theater.

If you're bound and determined to blow a Jackson on an experience for which no brain cells are required, go to Blockbuster or Netflicks and rent $18-worth of the cheesiest Japanese B-movie monster flicks you can find.
Probably can get a whole armload.

At least you can stop the DVD and go get free food from your refrigerator in the comfort of your own home, if you need to.

2008 Tax Season will Suck

Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.
Jonathan Kozol

So Congress is going to give back some of your money.

Timing is everything…unfortunately, the timing on this bombshell is not quick enough to do much good—in fact, there are some economists who believe it’s not even needed at this point—and will fall during a period in the cycle when the IRS can least afford another distraction:
Prime Tax Season.
Let’s see, we want to give back $600 to every taxpayer, or $1,200 to couples, and if they have kids, we chip in an extra $300 per rug rat. Even people who are working, but don’t pay taxes, will get money back.
I love this country.
If you’re working for the IRS, you’re going to hate it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Buying and Selling

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.
--Franklin D. Roosevelt

What does the rest of the World know about the US economy that we don't?

I’ll tell you what they’re finally realizing: They cannot do as well without the consuming power of the United States as they’d like to think.

The world is made of buyers and sellers.
When the sellers go away, there’s nothing for the buyers to sell.
When America sneezes, the rest of the world still catches cold.

Now, the question is whether gentle Ben Bernanke's 3.5% solution is the right prescription for that cold.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Behind the Scenes at BizRadio1110am/KTEK

There is a scene in the new “Bucket List” movie where Morgan Freeman’s character, a wizened automobile mechanic, is waxing some young, flat-belly in an impromptu round of trivial pursuit.

“Who invented Radio?” asks the junior grease monkey, crawling out from under a car.
“You mean who got credit for inventing Radio, or who actually did the deed?” Freeman’s character fires back.
And then he launches into a narrative of how Marconi was credited for inventing Radio on the back of work Nikolai Tesla had actually done, and to whom, posthumously, the patent for Radio was eventually awarded.

Wonder how either inventor would feel about being the point of a minor scene in a major motion picture?
Wonder what they’d think as The BizRadio Network’s flagship station in Houston begins to shift its operations and dial position at the end of the month, to BizRadio 1110am/KTEK?
I think Marconi and Tesla would be pretty amazed at how the Medium has developed since 1897, and particularly interested in how things have changed. From it’s lowly beginnings, Radio has become a small medium at large. (Yes, I have waited years to spring that one on you.)
In just a few days, our Houston operations will shift to new, temporary facilities under construction just across the hall from my palatial office in the posh, Galleria Financial District. It’s not going to be mistaken for the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise, but its workings will be no less magical.
Right now there are boxes and cartons of equipment scattered about in a strategic pattern. Cords and cables are coiled on the floor in anticipation of their marriage to digital relays, processors, and microphones. Even the mic booms are at attention, ready to receive their delicate barrels of aluminum and copper.
Prominent in these facilities, and in the eventual, permanent Studios we’ll be building in The BizRadio Learning Center this spring, are computer servers emblazoned with the Google logo. Scott Studios is the audio management system we use for The BizRadio Network. A few years back, they were acquired by D-Marc, which in turn was gobbled by Google.

It’s a noun and a verb.
It’s even an adjective. If you’re Google-able, you’ve arrived.
Or if your trademark name is emblazioned all over computer servers the color of lime sherbet, which is also a sign of success.

Watch this space as the pace intensifies.
February 1 is just a few days away…and we’ll be seeing you on the Radio.
Tesla would be proud.

I Have a Dream List

Today is Martin Luther King Day…no mail delivery… banks are closed... and in some cities, there will be more than one MLK Parade.
I’ve never understood that.

One Martin Luther King, two parades. One’s not enough? Is this like churches with two services, one early, and one later on, for those who can’t overcome the night before on time for services?

Without meaning to be indelicate, I’ve got to ask whether there’s a competition on to see who can out-King one another today?
Wonder what he’d think about all this noise?

King had a dream, but it was an unpopular one at the time for the established leadership and most of the media. Over the weekend Kenyon College History Professor Glenn McNair noted that “Dr.King has slipped into the realm of symbol that people use and manipulate for their own purposes.” That doesn't mean just political purposes, either.

If you have a honey-do list and errands to run for today, that point is proven.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Movie Review: "The Bucket List"

Generally speaking, I seldom agree with movie critics. Once in a while, they’ll get it right, but I have found that the worse a film is panned by a critic, the better I like it, with few exceptions. (Okay, that Cabin Boy thing was a big disappointment to everyone. But generally speaking, okay?)

Take “The Bucket List,” the latest offering from Rob Reiner, featuring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, which has gotten raspberries and rotten tomatoes from most who’ve seen it. I disagree, and will make one more generalization about those who have seen the movie and panned it: They’re too inexperienced to get it.
Insufficient funds in their life's emotional bank account.

If you’ve never had cancer, you won’t get it.
If you’ve never been told you have a terminal illness, you cannot comprehend.
If you’ve never had regrets about things in life you always wanted to do, and didn’t, for whatever reason, the story will not resonate with you, because, frankly, you haven't lived long enough yet.

Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.
The pairing is genius.
Both actors are Academy Award winners.
While any acting ensemble is at the mercy of their script, Nicholson and Freeman could read the NYC Phone Book together, and make it entertaining.

Imagine what they can deliver about the aging process, proving that in the right context even normally scatalogic humor can hit pretty close to home (reference Nicholson’s comments about passing up certain opportunities most of us take for granted: “Never pass up a bathroom, never waste a hard-on, and never trust a fart.”) Thanks, Jack.

The subject of death is not one we like to entertain.
Oh, we’re entertained enough about someone else’s death, hacked to pieces by Freddie Krueger, impalings, beheadings, dismemberments, disembowelings, fryings, gassings, burnings, and blowing into oblivion the other guy—that’s entertainment.

But contemplating our own, eventual demise tends to be a turn-off for most audiences. Perhaps that’s why we pay premium dollars for front row seats to see the Rolling Stones, but tend to sit in the back at church services.

Go see "The Bucket List" if for no other reason than to pique your curiosity about how these two unlikely room mates in the oncology ward decide to address their mortalities, and a little unfinished business in their lives, too. There is as much fodder for laughter as tears, which would fulfill one of the requirements on their Bucket List, “to laugh until I cry.”

I won’t ruin the ending for you.
But I’ll bet by the end of the week, you’ve composed your own, internal Bucket List…and I’ll bet you don’t have to go to the hospital to find someone with whom to share that list.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Economedia or Ecomedia?

I wish the comedy writer’s strike would end so someone would get this story correct: A survey by the Business and Media Institute shows the major Networks are overwhelmingly predicting recession this year, but are ignoring surveys of economists showing most do not expect recession.

Nathan Burchfield writes that recent polls of economists “by leading financial publications have predicted a less than 50-percent chance that the U.S. economy will enter a recession in 2008. But the media’s coverage of 'recession' makes it seem inevitable.”

How much is there to the power of suggestion?

The Institute survey revealed the broadcast media mentioned the economy or a recession in 54 stories during the first two weeks of 2008, predicting a recession, or reporting fears of a looming recession, four times as often as they reported optimism about the New Year. What they missed was a raft of recent surveys of economists puting the chance of recession at around 40%.

According to the report, “ABC, CBS and NBC reported “more signs of a looming recession,” “deepening troubles,” “new fuel for recession fears,” “rattled consumers,” “an economy on edge” and “bracing for recession,” or some scary variation a total of 32 times. They mentioned positive predictions in only eight stories.”

Meanwhile, a survey of 62 economists conducted and released by Bloomberg this month showed those economists predicting 1.5-% growth in the first half of 2008. While that rate of expansion would be the weakest since the last nine months of 2001, it would still be growth. The economists also put the chances of recession in 2008 at 40%.

Here’s something really interesting: Both sides of Congress are in a huddle to try to figure out how to keep the economy from sliding into the abyss of a recession, real or imagined. What is the first thing they think of doing to provide financial stimulus?
Tax Rebates.
Giving us our money back.

The Associated Press reports this morning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio emerged from a rare meeting yesterday, promising to "craft legislation to energize the weakening economy."
Ooh, I can hardly wait.

Quoth the AP: "Although Republicans and Democrats differ over what provisions should be part of any such package, there's widespread agreement that tax rebates along the lines of the $300-$600 checks provided in 2001 are likely to part of the measure. The country last suffered a recession in 2001."

Two thoughts: do you really think a one-time shot in the arm of $600 is going to instantly jolt our economy back to life (by the way, it’s not dead, just running sluggishly)?

Secondly—if a one time give-back of your money is enough to jumpstart the economic engines of the country, just imagine how smoothly that machine would purr if less money was withheld from your pay each month?

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Congress accidentally proved to itself that a lower tax burden on the public would result in a stronger economy and higher tax revenues in the final analysis?

Anti Anti-Mortgage Reform

Why are State and National Mortgage Bankers Association presidents drumming up opposition to Federal legislation to set more stringent standards for subprime mortgages?

Would someone please explain to me their beef with a sensible requirement that lenders must show prospective borrowers are capable of repaying the loans?

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, George Hanzimanolis, the president of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, apparently believes Senate Bill 2452 will limit his members’ abilities to do business.
Perhaps that’s true.

Sen. Chris Dodd’s bill would impose new rules against doing business the way it’s been done in the past.
The way that got us into this mess.

In fact, I’d say the mortgage brokers and bankers who were all in cahoots that caused the mortgage meltdown, and subsequent crisis of credibility, have done a pretty dang good job of limiting their abilities to commit commerce all on their own, without any restrictive help from Congress.

I’d be mighty interested to hear Mssr. Hanzimanolis’ defense of plans to scuttle any legislation that would:

· Require lenders to ensure that borrowers have the ability to repay the loan
· Include taxes and insurance in subprime and non traditional mortgage loans
· Ban broker bonuses ("yield spread premiums") and prepayment penalties on subprime and non-traditional home loans
· Ban mortgage professionals from steering borrowers into higher priced mortgages
· Require mortgage brokers to act only in the best interest of the borrower
· Require accurate appraisals
· Require mortgage servicers to deal fairly with homeowners
· Establish strong remedies if these duties are not met

Why am I hearing the sound of crickets chirping?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The In-call of the Wild

Here are some companies you’re going to be hearing more about…and hearing from more frequently in the future:


IDT’s Voodoo Vox

These companies are behind what Fortune Magazine is calling "the attack of the ad-sponsored phone call, as various Internet telephony companies seek to sell seconds of airtime before connecting your calls."
I’m not sure I’m ready for this.

(dial tone…tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap-tap…

“Thanks for using this phone company. While we’re taking a few seconds to connect your call, have you thought about your liver lately? Take Liverite, right after you finish this call.”

And as these phone companies become more savvy about who we are, where we are, and details about our lives, those in-call advertisements could become more personalized…


“Your call will be completed in just a moment, but first, this reminder from AARP: your dues are due tomorrow, and don’t forget to recharge your Scooter chair tonight right after the computer bingo tournament.”

I am not making this up.
Well, parts of it.
Fortune reports "privately held Internet phone company Jangl started testing "in-call" advertising last year," and they’ve got some possible partners ready to bend your ear, like wireless game and ringtone purveyors.

Another internet-based communications company, Jajah, will have in-call ads later this year. In return for opting-in for the service and listening to a 15-second clip, you'll earn credits offsetting your phone bill.


“Welcome to another digital communication experience from Jajah and Viagra, helping keep staying in touch as pleasurable as possible.”

I guess these ads are the telecom’s answer to the Do Not Call lists. Here’s what I predict: you will soon be able to purchase a premium service that not only blocks unwanted telemarketers from disturbing you, you will be guaranteed a crystal-clear, un-interrupted dial tone and dialing sequence. Because sometimes your brain just needs to veg while the call is being placed.

Fortune says that because in-call marketing is so new, companies such as VoodooVox are producing ad messages for their customers, and there appears to be growth in the business. (VoodooVox had revenue of about $4 million in 2007, and expects revenue to increase at least ten-fold this year. )


“Hi, this is J. Scott Hamilton, CEO of Voodoo Box, the people who’ve demon-possessed your cell phone dial tone. Don’t bother hitting the end key, we’re now in control of your instrument. We control the horizontal, we control the vertical. Need a colon cleansing? We can control that too. Now, here’s your call.”

Here’s the bottom line these digital dorks should not forget: If these in-call ads become too obtrusive, they’re going to backfire on both the service providers and the customers for whom they’re pimping.

Eventually, folks will figure out a way around the clutter to make their calls. If we can hack an Apple iPhone, we can short circuit in-call advertising.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rating Interests

Congress is back in session today following their long holiday break—at least those that aren’t interviewing with the American Public for a new job.

What’s top on the list?
Interest Rates, Energy Policy, or Homeland Security?

No, it's The Great Steroid Scandal in pro Baseball that is in the Capitol Hill spotlight, as the House Oversight committee holds hearings today, reviewing the Mitchell Report.

Let’s think about this: Citi is about to lose its shorts over dicey mortgages souring on the vine, we’re paying north og $3/gal in gasoline that’s diluted by grain alcohol, and our elected representatives would rather spend their time chasing a bunch of over-paid jocks who like to boost their stats by shooting up with HGH.

That sort of galls me: Where’s the congressional investigation into the banking industry for the financial equivalent of steroids enhancing their quarterly reports? In this context, HGH could well be interpreted as Housing Growth Hormones, anabolic off-balance sheet portfolios…artificially beefing-up the ledgers. And like an athlete who's performance is artificially sustained with such suppliments, once the elixer of easy credit and fast cash is removed, the banks are folding up like a runner tagged along the baseline, unable to outrun the infielder.

Which is going to impact your life more this year—what Andy Petit did or did not inject into his veins, or what Citi, Merrill and Countrywide did or did not inject into those marginal mortgage portfolio pitches?

On which problem do you want your Congressman spending his time?

This morning’s show is Totally Spearless: We’re officially Britneyless.
Given all the challenges that our nation is facing, I simply do not understand the national preoccupation with this troubled woman, and wish the shallow-minded media minions would just leave her alone and keep her sordid life off the TV and out of the news.

Tried to watch a little TV last night, and could not get away from the video clips.

Who the flip cares what she wears, where she’s going, or what she’s doing? What does it matter in making your life better, making you smarter, and helping your family?
Nada, zilch, zero.

I actually felt stupider for having been exposed to the story last night on three different channels, like I’d lost brain cells from the exposure to the energy-sucking tale.
A net mental loss experience.

So just like Mike Norman’s No Weasel Zone, this is a Brittney-free zone on The BizRadio Network.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Golden Globes' Tarnish

The Golden Globes awards were distributed over the weekend without the usual glitz and glamour of Hollywood… Best Drama film kudos went to “Atonement.”

So, if a star wins an award without a ceremony or a lot of publicity, is he or she still a star?

Sort of misses the point: Stars are stars because they’re in the limelight…and like the old rhetorical question about a tree falling in the woods without anyone to hear the sound…is an actor or actress a star if there’s no one around to applaud?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Football Feeding Frenzy

The Chargers jolted the Colts, and the Giants conked the Cowboys over the weekend. San Diego now challenges New England, and the Patriots’ perfect-season status, and New York will tangle with Green Bay to determine supremacy in the NFC.

The stage will then be set for Superbowl Double Extra Large (XLII)…and, looking ahead to next year, some teams will not only be competing and swapping for playing talent, but are also rumored to be vying for who gets to put Jessica Simpson in the stands with their opponents.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wisdom of The Masses

We're at The BizRadio MoneyFair all day today. As you can well imagine, things are a little hectic, and it's a little like trying to do brain surgery inside a furniture warehouse.

So, in lieu of a regular posting today, please allow me to share with you a fairly thought-provoking story I received this week in my in-box:

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. A tourist standing on the pier complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish, and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the tourist. The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The tourist asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life," replied the fisherman.

The tourist interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

"And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles , or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge, new enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the fisherman.
"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the tourist.
"And after that?"

"Afterwards? Well my friend, that's when it gets really interesting," answered the tourist, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!" The tourist was becoming very animated, gesturing wildly, and pacing along the pier.

"Millions? Really? And after that?" asked the Mexican fisherman.

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta and. . . spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

The “poor” fisherman just smiled and walked away. The moral of this story is: Know where you're going in life... you may already be there!!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Iranian Navy, Soylent Gravy, and No Dough

CNN’s lead story this afternoon: “Five Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats "harassed and provoked" three U.S. Navy ships early Sunday in international waters, the U.S. military said Monday, calling the encounter a "significant" confrontation.”

The corrected lead should have been written this way: “The US Navy allowed five vessels of the Iranian Navy to cavort to within 200-yards while in international waters today, but restrained from answering the Iranians' provocative maneuvers with cannon fire.”

It was a significant confrontation, alright, in that the US warships decided not to vaporize the Iranian boats.

From the Pick-your-Poison Dept., unemployment is perceived to be growing. The price of oil came down to $97/bbl as a result of last week's jobs numbers. Of course, the high price of oil caused some companies to lay off workers, so there may be a double-whammy effect here: The more you lay off, the more oil prices drop, the less expense is incurred for energy.

Why don’t we just jump ahead to the Soylent Green solution?

Crispy Kreme CEO Darryl Brewster is no longer with the company. Hired to help turn around the business, Brewster apparently went through too much dough.

White Line Fever

I’ve got White Line Fever.
No, not those white lines.

According to Wikipedia, White Line Fever was one of those 1970’s B-movies about truck drivers, starring Jan-Michael Vincent. In the film, as I recall, he came back from Vietnam to run his father’s trucking company.

The truckers treated him so badly, he quit, got his helicopter license, and went to work for Ernest Borgnine in a TV drama, or something like that.

Anyway, the title of the film was taken from the slang phrase depicting the variety of highway hypnosis that comes from staring at the lane-dividing stripes in the asphalt.

So what’s the first thing we do after the holidays?
Road Trip.
Not a restful way to spend the weekend, but rewarding nonetheless.

First a trek to Huntsville to retrieve my mother-in-law (no, she did not bring her megaphone), then a lateral move to the west into Central Texas to celebrate the 50th birthdays of my brother and his bride.

(Each thought the other would be so surprised when everyone from work, church, and school showed up at the house on Sunday afternoon. So much for the time-honored tradition of the Sunday afternoon nap. And yes, they were surprised.)

But by 4pm-ish, it was time to scamper back behind the pinecone curtain, deliver momma-in-law, and arrive at The Clanton Hacienda just in time to turn in for the night.

This will be an interesting week.
In Houston, we’re putting the final preparations together for The MoneyFair.
We’re also counting the hours remaining in which to prepare for our move down the AM dial in Houston (to 1110am).

It’s a busy time.
No time for sluggishness.

The cure for White Line Fever?
Brent Crude: 1 small can of sugar-free Red Bull into your favorite brew of Java.

I'll see you in the morning on the Radio.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Post-Christmas GPS-Blues

There seem to be more and more incidents surfacing of people getting into trouble with their new GPS boxes.

The latest episode is with a guy from California trying to get around in New York (I know, that sounds like the premise for a mildly-entertaining sit com)...who followed the GPS prompts from his rental car, winding up driving onto a commuter rail track, where the car contacted the electrified third-rail, and caught fire.

Yep--the rental car caught a metro train in its grille, stalling 500-commuters. The hapless traveller now finds himself liable for damages to the rental car--and the train!

That would not have happened with the
Can-To-To $49.95 GPS system we were talking about before the holidays: Your mother in law in the backseat with a megaphone.
Works every time.

That Bubblin' Crude...

Listen to a story 'bout a man named Jed,
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed.
Then one day he was shootin at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin crude.

Oil that is, Black Gold, Texas Tea.

Well the first thing you know ol' Jed's a millionaire.
Kinfolk said "Jed move away from there."
Said, "Californy is the place you ought to be."
So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly.

Hills, that is. Swimmin' pools...movie stars.

How much difference might things have been in that classic TV show, were it to be produced in the here and now, and not in the '60's?
Would Jed be a Jillionaire?
What if he'd hit a patch of tar sands instead?
The possibilities are endless, and I'll bet the EPA would have had a prominent role.

This was the week in which Oil touched $100/bbl, but did not remain there for long. It’s just a matter of time, though, before it sticks.

I have learned better than to fear $100 oil, and now realize that this is the pain we all must feel to get to the next plateau. That's not going to win me too many friends, butI hope I can at least influence you to consider it this way: Which would you prefer—the government imposing additional taxes to inefficiently fund its version of alternative energy sources, or the higher price of oil creating organic economic stimulus in the private sector to create viable, efficient alternatives?

Efficiency is a key component, because without it, an alternative will not survive economically. If the government mandates a certain direction, however, we’re all stuck with it.

Look at the ethanol fiasco.
That’s not a good solution, because we’re now diverting corn crops from food production to energy production, resulting in higher food prices, and lower efficiency in the mixed fuel, which is also more expensive.
It's a horrible solution.

It’s a lose-lose in the long run.
But the government (with the support of the corn lobbyists) think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. (Ah, so many witty, metaphorical outtakes…so little time...)

One of my colleagues, Sam Hopkins, noted this week that no one would have imagined cooking dirt for oil when prices were in the $40/bbl range, but we have been able to develop oil sands technology with prices in the $80’s and $90’s.

The higher price we’re paying has a positive by-product of funding-as-we-go the research and technology development that will eventually result in our country being less dependant upon fossil fuels, and certainly wean us from the teat of foreign oil.

There are other down-stream benefits to higher oil prices that may well serve as stimuli for additional sectors, too, including innovations in new housing construction, and improvement of the energy transmission networks as we evolve into a culture of selling energy back into the power grid from individual residences.

Bottom line: higher oil is a fact of life.
It may well prove to be the very thing that stimulates us to a higher form of survival, too.

Primary Pecking Orders

“People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off."
--Republican Winner of the Iowa Caucuses, Mike Huckabee

A painful awakening for the Clinton campaign this morning, with the distinguished Senator from New York trailing Barak Obama and John Edwards. I'm not gloating at all; actually a little stunned.

Peggy Noonan notes in this morning’s Wall Street Journal that last night’s takedown was the softest demolition of a building seen in a long time.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee out-polled more sophisticated opponents, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, to take the lead in that race.

Today’s a new day…and there’s always New Hampshire.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

$100 Oil and $200 Votes

Something to keep in mind this morning, as you’re mulling over yesterday’s market results: Yes, the Institute for Manufacturing Index did clock-in at 47% for December—that's below the line of scrimmage.

(NOTE: Anything under 50 indicates contraction. So the manufacturing sector performance contracted last month. Hmmm...what happens in December each year? Christmas Holidays, maybe? Wonder how that impacts company output?)

Get this…For the past 74-months (since the bull run in oil began) the broader economy has expanded. What should that tell you about the high price of oil? $90 oil has been a sustainable price for the economy…and with the trickle-down effect, has boosted other areas as well.
We don't like it, no.
But we've been able to operate despite the price.

By the way, that $100 price was not the trading price for oil yesterday. Some clown on the floor spent $600 to get the magical, mythological price posted, and then it came right back down to trade at a lower price. Maybe he can tell his grandchildren he was the first guy to pop the cherry on the centennial price.
Big deal.
It was all about personal ego, and not economics.

Similarly, the housing “crunch” is the result of a few greedy, stupid financiers who thought they could bend lending rules to their advantage. The consequences will be borne by some of us, but over the long haul, we’ll get through it.

I prefer to focus on the fact that since November 2001, things have been percolating pretty well, despite increased energy prices.

What is up with David Letterman?
I thought the writers guild was on strike, not the union of people to use their brains to shave at least once a day.

Grizzly Letterman looked like he’d been living under a rock for the past two months…but his material wowed the audience last night as the kings of late night comedy, Letterman, Leno and Conan and Kimmel all returned to their studios for the first time since the writers’ strike began.

CBS should’ve sold a sponsorship to SchickLetterman will appear clean-shaven within a few days…unless he’s arrested for loitering.

The Iowa Caucuses are today.
250,000 Iowans are expected to participate…and if you calculate how much money has been spent by the candidates who would be King, each vote could be costing about $200 apiece.
What a country.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Year of the Rat

"Quite often good things have hurtful consequences.There are instances of men who have been ruined by their money or killed by their courage."
All of today's shows are not canned; our writers have returned to their computers, and are creating fresh material for you!
It’s the first working day of the New Year.
The Year of the Rat.

Wow, seems like it was just 1998, and that Artist Formerly Known as Prince was talking about partying until it’s 1999.

Lot’s of ponderables floating about in your mind this morning, I’m certain:
What’s in store for the year ahead?
What will the markets do?
How will the Presidential elections in a little over 10-months affect your business and your life?

Even more importantly, how did those Taiwanese guys get that 9-foot, three-piece faux-fir Christmas tree (with collapsible stand) into the box it came in, because, I cannot for the life of me get all the pieces to fit back inside.

On this first working day of the New Year, the Iowa Primary is 24-hours away…
A Winter Storm is giving school kids an extra day of vacation (check your flight connections before heading to the airport, if you’re flying north and east today)...
The last NAFTA tariffs went away yesterday for Mexican Orange Juice Concentrate and US corn.

They’re not happy about that in Mexico…demonstrators protested the opening of Mexico’s market to American corn, sugar, dry beans and milk powder. We’ll be getting Mexican peanuts and winter veggies from south of the border, for those of you with a NAFTA aftetite.

(I think I just created the first New Word of 2008: that yearning, craving feeling for imported items like Mexican orange juice concentrate, now available tax-free, thanks to the North American Free Trade Act; that hunger shall now be henceforth known as an “aftetite.”
Anita Bryant must be having fits.)

Rip- off is not a new word, however, but a fairly accurate description of the State’s new business margin tax…designed to replace the franchise tax…and for some of you, exponentially increase your tax liability.

Like I said, 2008 is The Year of the Rat.
Now you know why.