WC Varones

Don't lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools

Win Ben Stein's Money

About a month ago on this blog, Negocios Loucos took author/television host/Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein to task for being, well, an idiot. His financial prognostications have been far from prescient.

Mr. Stein didn't have the cajones to respond directly to the W.C. Varones blog, but he did offer a spirited defense in the New York Times. I guess he is America's Most Smartest Financial Advisor, because he didn't fall for the Madoff pitch:

They assured me that this genius had found a way to spot market inefficiencies and, indeed, to make money off a perfect hedge.

I thanked them for their time and promptly looked up Bernard Madoff online. Nothing I saw was even a bit convincing that he had made a breakthrough in financial theory.

Okay, it's not much of a defense:

I politely passed and went on my way, finding my own inventive ways to lose money on a colossal scale during these last 15 months.

One from the vault

(Note: These cartoons are here to fill in the gaps while Our Dear Leader lazes in Mexico. If you want more of this stuff, check out my blog here.)

Fed to Bailout the NFL?




No, not the entire league. That'd be too socialist. But why won't the Fed and Bush consider bailing out certain teams that are "too important to fail"? Two such teams, which are long-time "pillars" of the league, are the Bears and the Cowboys. The Bears are THE team that FOUNDED the league! Certainly we can't afford for them to NOT make the playoffs this year, just because in recent years they've made bad investment decisions in regards to players and coaches! That's not reason enough to refuse a bailout. That would be a travesty beyond all travesties. In this case, surely it would be appropriate to "save fair athletic competition by temporarily suspending fair athletic competition". If our government won't step in when things get this bad for the Bears, then what is it good for? Think of all the poor people!

Yes, the Bush/Paulson crew should use their muscle and their vast printing powers to INSTALL the Bears into the 2008-2009 Playoffs. To make room, they'd have to remove from the playoff schedule some other team that rightfully earned a spot there by means of winning enough games. Oh well, fine. That's a small price to pay for saving one of the PILLARS of the league from having to face the consequences of their bad investments and bad stewardship. In my proposal, I'm throwing in the Cowboys, too, not because I like them (I don't), but because clearly they are also "too big to fail". Just ask any Texan. Plus, by including the Cowboys in my proposal, I am sure to win additional votes and political favors from my colleagues. And besides, it was really unfair what happened to the Cowboys this year. It wasn't their fault. Think about it- The Cowboys have a new stadium opening next year, so clearly they CAN'T have been responsible for their bad decisions this season.

I demand, as does the powerful NFL Players' Union lobby, that Bush/Paulson/Congress extend the recent Federal bailouts to the Bears and the Cowboys exclusively, and immediately install them both in the playoffs by means of an executive order or simple voice-vote. Yes, it's sad that it's come to this, but it's time for government action. It's the right thing to do.

[p.s.- Strangely, I wrote this before Negocious L. posted his "Ain't that America" entry! I couldn't agree more, NL!]

Ain't That America...

From the sports desk at W.C. Varones world headquarters comes this - does anything exemplify America more than the National Football League? The regular season ended today and a few results stick out to me:
  • The Ford (as in the car company) family owned Detroit Lions became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16. They were pure failures, and the architect of this achievement was Matt Millen, an NFL broadcaster hired (and fired a few months ago) for his first management position--as the CEO and President of this silly organization. Since his arrival in 2001, the team went 31-84. That's easily the worst management record for that number of games in NFL history. Given it was the Ford Motor Company's brain trust that hired this guy, this result is not surprising at all. What's surprising is that Congress didn't make a law that the Lions play in the Super Bowl anyway.
  • The 11-5 New England Patriots did not make the playoffs, to determine the best team in the league, while the 8-8 Chargers did make the playoffs. It seems odd to me to not allow the best teams to compete for the championship. Huh, rewarding organizations that don't achieve as much as other organizations. I'm smelling something here.
  • Every year the best players go to Hawaii to play in a meaningless circle jerk to celebrate their greatness. An All-Star game if you will. Well this year Brett Favre will be one of the six quarterbacks playing in the game. His stats for the year are mediocre at best. He ranks 8th of 16 in the AFC and 18th of 32 in the NFL. The 1st, 2nd, and 5th ranked quarterbacks in the NFL will not be playing in this game of the best. Again let's reward the ones who aren't as good. Eli Manning will also be playing in this event and he's ranked 14th.
  • Finally, our local powerhouse, the Oakland "Commitment to Excrement" Raiders also did something that has never been done in the NFL before. They lost eleven games in six straight seasons. Not even the Lions managed that. Now the funny thing is that before the year started they paid ridiculous money for broke-down, over-the-hill, and slow players. They gave Javon Walker a guaranteed $16m contract when he was obviously not good anymore. He caught 15 passes this year (that's BAD). They signed Deangelo Hall for what they say is $24m guaranteed but cut him after eight games and gave him a million per game for his troubles. By the way, I don't understand how a contract has $24m guaranteed but then he doesn't get it, anyway...
I'd be fine with all of this if $0 government dollars were spent to support this league. But instead, BILLIONS of tax dollars are transferred from the population into the pockets of these owners so they can be "competitive." Oakland got royally screwed in dealing with Al Davis and getting him to come back after he left for L.A. And now he's leaving for Fremont, California.

My point is the NFL exemplifies our government and its bailout system very well. It is a show of the redistribution of wealth to the wealthy.

Besides, to watch a game is utterly painful. It takes you about 3 hours to watch what amounts to 40 minutes of real action. You spend more time watching ads for products you must have, like Ford F150s, than you do watching the game.

...little pinks house for you and me.

Three Dog Bakery

In a recent Del Mar CRE survey, we commented on the "Coming Soon" Three Dog Bakery. Well, they still haven't opened, which is a good thing, because it is like so annoying to have to deal with all those customers out holiday shopping. Better to wait for gloomy, rainy January days to open so the shopkeeper can surf the Internet all day without interruption.



But who opens a dog bakery anyway? You might have to be the dumbest person on earth to fork over franchise fees to somebody for an idea as stupid as a dog bakery. Who needs gourmet dog food after the consumer bubble has burst? People are going to be eating dog food, not the other way around.

Perspective

Disaster in this country...

...and everyday life in another.

Quotations from Chairman Varones

You have become old when the fear of what you have to lose occupies you more than does the hope of what you have to gain.

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Greenspan's Body Count: Randy Motts is 69, dude

In today's episode of Greenspan's Body Count, Randy Motts was a great car salesman who ended up buying the dealership... and then leveraged himself to the hilt just as Greenspan's bubble came crashing down:

According to multiple sources, Motts death was the result of a suicide. Police were summoned to the family's home on Tuesday morning with a report of a possible self-inflicted gunshot wound.

[...]

Motts' dealership had just undergone expansion, with the opening of an Abeloff Nissan at a new sprawling, five-acre location on Route 611 in Bartonsville.

"Nissan wanted Randy to build a new dealership. Nissan insisted it," Abeloff said.

Motts spent about $3.5 million, and had to put up his home as collateral for the loan, according to Abeloff.

"That was the beginning of his worries. To get the mortgage, he had to put his house up. That's what worried him. That spread him a little thin," Abeloff said.

Oil prices and the economy affected the Buick/Pontiac/GMC dealership. "The gas, that changed the whole market," Abeloff said.

Greenspan's Body Count now stands at sixty-nine, dude:

Randy Motts
Kristy Hunt
Joseph Nesheiwat
Tom Brisch
Alex Widmer
Brian Pugh
Marilyn Lewis
Sid Agrawal
Kirk Stephenson
Barry Fox
Dallas Dwayne Carter
David Hetzel
Sharron Hetzel
Cliff Kendall
Pamela Ross
Roland Gore
Mrs. Gore
Wanda Dunn
Karthik Rajaram
Subasri Rajaram
Krishna Rajaram
Ganesha Rajaram
Arjuna Rajaram
Indra Ramasesham
Joe X
Isabelle Jarka
Robert Wagner
Lt. Michael Howe
John Roberts
Palmer C. White
Dianne Pittman White
Ed Boesen
Edwin F. Rachleff
Carlene Balderrama
Troy VanderStelt
Scott M. Coles
Dawn E. Armstrong
Thomas Lizotte
Jonathon Calvin "40-Cal" Jacques
Salvador X
Lupe X
Jade X
Little Boy X
Little Girl X
Kashmir Billon
Bill McMurtry

Lisa McMurtry
James Hahn
Raymond Donaca
Deanna Donaca
[redacted]
[redacted]
Michel Veillette
Nadya Ferrari-Veillette
Marguerite Veillette
Vincent Veillette
Mia Veillette
Jacob Veillette
Maurice Pereira
Natasha Pereira
Mark Achilli
Raed Al-Farah
Andrew Kissel
Rufus Shaw Jr.
Lynn Flint Shaw
Mr. Pierce
Walter Buczynksi
Marci Buczynski
Jason Washington

Playing pool with a rope

I've been thinking a lot about how this will play out when Zimbabwe Ben prints infinite quantities of money to try to stave off deflation/depression. My current view is that Bernanke (along with our reckless fiscal policy) will succeed at destroying the dollar, but this won't bring back the economy. Something like ultrastaghyperinflation.

Mish consistently has some of the most thoughtful analysis, but if you want a concise one-pager in layman's terms, read it here at Denninger's.

Bad Santa

This guy wasn't one of those perverted Santas; he really did have a gun in his pocket.
A man dressed as Santa Claus showed up at a Christmas Eve party at a suburban Los Angeles house and opened fire with a handgun, killing three people and wounding two, police said on Thursday.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everybody!

May 2009 bring you and your family many, many government bailouts.

Health Care in America

It seems I'm one of the few supporters of our health care system. I spent the better part of 2 years deeply involved with the health care industry as a patient. I can say that while there are areas in need of improvement, (e.g. bitchy ER admins that think they are qualified to diagnose) I can say without hesitation that I would not want to be in any other country to receive treatment. Certainly not Canada or the UK.

I also believe we have a suitable insurance system. I am concerned with rising costs but I am opposed to this notion of Universal Health Care. Everyone does not deserve the same health care from the same administrator. A smoker should definitely pay more than I do for insurance. I'm concerned that in the universal world of Obama that might not be the case.

This well stated commentary from the Chicago Tribune describes my concerns for the proposed health care in our workers paradise.

You admit you suck, Cox

In You suck, Cox, we wrote:
SEC Chairman Christopher Cox became flustered when John McCain attacked him for not making stocks go up.

You don't want to see a cowardly politician when he's flustered.

Cox tried to appease McCain by lashing out at short-sellers about the financial crisis, which is roughly equivalent to lashing out at Siskel & Ebert for the box office failure of Waterworld. In his ill-considered, late-night order, Cox banned the short-selling of all "financial" stocks, throwing the market into chaos. The order was like changing the poker rules after everyone has placed their bets: "Okay everyone, deuces wild!" This is not how developed markets operate. Welcome to the new emerging market of 2008.

Now, the coward Cox confirms the story, though he blames Paulson, not McCain, for bullying him:
Cox said the biggest mistake of his tenure was agreeing in September to an extraordinary three-week ban on short selling of financial company stocks. But in publicly acknowledging for the first time that this ban was not productive, Cox said he had been under intense pressure from Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to take this action and did so reluctantly.

Del Mar CRE update

Another one bites the dust.



Nice spot for an office, right in the middle of the old Del Mar village. It would be a nice place to hang out if you didn't need to work much. It's in the same building as Bing I. Bush, local lawyer and Obama fanatic.

Prior Del Mar CRE surveys here, here, and here. It doesn't look like any of those vacancies have been filled.

UPDATE: Speaking of Bing I. Bush, I just looked him up and he's a horse lawyer. I wonder if he was involved in this case.

Body Count: Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet

Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet committed suicide Monday night, not because his parents named him Rene, but because he lost all of his, and his clients', money in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.

We seriously considered adding this death to the list of Greenspan's Body Count, for easy money bubbles facilitate all sorts of schemes, including those of the Ponzi variety. However, a direct link from Madoff to Alan Greenspan was too tenuous. Madoff could have run such a Ponzi scheme even in the absense of Greenspan's bubble.

There does exist, though, a direct and incontrovertible link from Madoff to the incompetent SEC, headed by Christoper Cox (Cox has been featured on this blog before in the post You suck, Cox). Cox's SEC not only failed to discover the massive, obvious fraud for years, but even couldn't find the fraud when they were specifically and repeatedly told by outsiders that Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme.

Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, welcome to Chris Cox's Body Count. You may be the first, but not likely the last.

Schwarzenegger: a girly man serving Democrat whims

California's budget disaster, caused by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger increasing spending 40% in four years, continues.

Decades ago, California voters passed Proposition 13, which requires a 2/3 vote in the legislature to raise taxes. Since then, this has been at least a minimal restraint on runaway spending and taxes.

Until now. Democrats, lacking a 2/3 majority to raise taxes, unilaterally declared that if they just call taxes "fees," they don't need a 2/3 majority. Among the taxes they plan to raise: income taxes and sales taxes. Fees indeed. California already has the highest income taxes and sales taxes in the nation.

Schwarzenegger, who as recently as Friday publicly called the scheme "illegal," has already flip-flopped and said he wants to do a deal with the Democrats.


Hat tip for the poster: some guy at redstate.

The reason for the season

Don't forget the less fortunate this holiday season.

Greenspan's Body Count: Kristy Hunt, MBS pusher

Two Body Count updates in one day! Serial killer Alan Greenspan certainly has been busy.

Kristy Hunt was a "secondary market manager" in the mortgage division of Missouri's Community Bank and Trust. Presumably, that means she packaged and sold mortgage securities to dupes (here's a job description for the same title at another bank).

Well, she resigned from the bank and then offed herself a few days later. Maybe she felt remorse over the toxic waste she sold her customers, or maybe she just hit hard times when the commissions and bonuses from the mortgage bubble stopped coming in. Either way, it's another notch on the belt for Greenspan's Body Count.
An autopsy of Joplin banker Kristy Hunt has revealed she died of self-inflicted wounds, the Joplin Police Department said Thursday.

Hunt, 49, reportedly worked as secondary market manager for Community Bank & Trust's mortgage department at the bank's 414 E. 32nd St. location in Joplin, before resigning late last week.

According to police, Hunt's adult children found her after 3 p.m. Tuesday, lying unconscious on the floor of her home on South Michigan Avenue. Hunt died a few hours later at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin. Joplin police initially investigated the case as a suspicious death and requested assistance from the Tri-State Major Case Squad.

Hunt's body was sent to the Boone County medical examiner, who determined that Hunt's wounds were self-inflicted, police said. Police say that Hunt inflicted several wounds to her body with a small kitchen knife found beside her on the floor.

"Based on the results of the autopsy and the Tri-State Major Case Squad (investigation), the Jasper County coroner is going to rule the death a suicide," said Joplin Police Cpl. Chuck Neiss.


Greenspan's Body Count now stands at sixty-eight:

Kristy Hunt
Joseph Nesheiwat
Tom Brisch
Alex Widmer
Brian Pugh
Marilyn Lewis
Sid Agrawal
Kirk Stephenson
Barry Fox
Dallas Dwayne Carter
David Hetzel
Sharron Hetzel
Cliff Kendall
Pamela Ross
Roland Gore
Mrs. Gore
Wanda Dunn
Karthik Rajaram
Subasri Rajaram
Krishna Rajaram
Ganesha Rajaram
Arjuna Rajaram
Indra Ramasesham
Joe X
Isabelle Jarka
Robert Wagner
Lt. Michael Howe
John Roberts
Palmer C. White
Dianne Pittman White
Ed Boesen
Edwin F. Rachleff
Carlene Balderrama
Troy VanderStelt
Scott M. Coles
Dawn E. Armstrong
Thomas Lizotte
Jonathon Calvin "40-Cal" Jacques
Salvador X
Lupe X
Jade X
Little Boy X
Little Girl X
Kashmir Billon
Bill McMurtry

Lisa McMurtry
James Hahn
Raymond Donaca
Deanna Donaca
[redacted]
[redacted]
Michel Veillette
Nadya Ferrari-Veillette
Marguerite Veillette
Vincent Veillette
Mia Veillette
Jacob Veillette
Maurice Pereira
Natasha Pereira
Mark Achilli
Raed Al-Farah
Andrew Kissel
Rufus Shaw Jr.
Lynn Flint Shaw
Mr. Pierce
Walter Buczynksi
Marci Buczynski
Jason Washington

Greenspan's Body Count: The Tale of Jim Kurtenbach and Joseph Nesheiwat

Today's episode of Greenspan's Body Count comes from W.C. Varones' own backyard: the town of Ramona in rural San Diego County. That's not surprising, as we live in one of the epicenters of Greenspan's housing bubble.

James Kurtenbach was underwater on a property and allegedly decided to burn his way out. Why he would kill a loyal employee in the process is not clear:
A Ramona gas-station owner accused of murder and arson once told a witness he wished his rental house had burned down during the Witch Creek fire in 2007, a prosecutor said Monday.

On Halloween, an explosion and fire destroyed the Ramona home and killed a gas-station employee.

James Kurtenbach, 47, of Poway, pleaded not guilty Monday to multiple felonies, including second-degree murder, arson for financial gain, and arson causing great bodily injury.

Joseph Nesheiwat, 24, was found Oct. 31, critically injured in the backyard of the vacant house after the explosion. He died of massive burns and smoke inhalation, Deputy District Attorney Fiona Khalil said in El Cajon Superior Court.

Kurtenbach “purposely sent a trusted employee to his death,” Khalil said.

Earlier press reports said that Nesheiwat was "like a son" to Kurtenbach. The lesson here is that Greenspan's bubble is thicker than blood.

Greenspan's (named) Body Count now stands at sixty-seven:

Joseph Nesheiwat
Tom Brisch
Alex Widmer
Brian Pugh
Marilyn Lewis
Sid Agrawal
Kirk Stephenson
Barry Fox
Dallas Dwayne Carter
David Hetzel
Sharron Hetzel
Cliff Kendall
Pamela Ross
Roland Gore
Mrs. Gore
Wanda Dunn
Karthik Rajaram
Subasri Rajaram
Krishna Rajaram
Ganesha Rajaram
Arjuna Rajaram
Indra Ramasesham
Joe X
Isabelle Jarka
Robert Wagner
Lt. Michael Howe
John Roberts
Palmer C. White
Dianne Pittman White
Ed Boesen
Edwin F. Rachleff
Carlene Balderrama
Troy VanderStelt
Scott M. Coles
Dawn E. Armstrong
Thomas Lizotte
Jonathon Calvin "40-Cal" Jacques
Salvador X
Lupe X
Jade X
Little Boy X
Little Girl X
Kashmir Billon
Bill McMurtry

Lisa McMurtry
James Hahn
Raymond Donaca
Deanna Donaca
[redacted]
[redacted]
Michel Veillette
Nadya Ferrari-Veillette
Marguerite Veillette
Vincent Veillette
Mia Veillette
Jacob Veillette
Maurice Pereira
Natasha Pereira
Mark Achilli
Raed Al-Farah
Andrew Kissel
Rufus Shaw Jr.
Lynn Flint Shaw
Mr. Pierce
Walter Buczynksi
Marci Buczynski
Jason Washington

Next up on Bailout Nation

Every crappy, overleveraged real estate developer.

Well, now that we've bailed out bad banks and bad auto companies, how can we say no to poor little mall and office building developers?

Zimbabwe Ben can just print a few trillion more dollars.

Once in a while, you get shown the light

In November 2004, I voted for this man,



whom I loathed and would later show to be the world's biggest douchebag.

My reasoning was that Bush was botching the execution of the Iraq War, and that a Euroweenie like John Kerry might kiss the ass of the corrupt and incompetent U.N. and get them to start helping to stabilize Iraq.

I doubt that would have happened. But a vote against Bush looks pretty good in hindsight, doesn't it? As mocked as Bush is for foreign policy, it's his domestic policy that will ensure that he goes down as the worst President in history. A year ago, it looked like the worst thing Bush would do was Medicare Part D, the greatest expansion of entitlements in decades, which alone was enough to threaten the ability of future governments to meet their obligations. Since then, though, Bush has done so much destruction that Medicare Part D looks like a footnote.

Bush has nationalized the entire U.S. financial sector. If someone had predicted that four years, two years, or even one year ago, you would have thought he was crazy. And Bush has set the automakers on the path to nationalization, a course that will not be reversed unless Obama rips off his mask to expose the ghost of Milton Friedman underneath.

In a shockingly short time span, Bush has destroyed the U.S. free market system that served us so well for hundreds of years, and imposed European-style socialism. At this point, being like Europe is at the optimistic end of the spectrum of possible outcomes. With the staggering debt Bush has piled up, complete collapse of the dollar and/or the government are looking like real possibilities.

I left my heart in San Francisco

I flew to cracktown Oakland Friday afternoon because all the flights into Frisco were delayed. I took BART into SF. You see, they have this thing called "public transportation" in the Bay Area. It's fast, efficient, and cheap. You people in Southern California should try it some time. The only downside is that there are poor people on public transportation. If we could just keep the poor people off of public transportation, that would be perfect.

Arriving at the Powell Street station, I was greeted by eight or so people wearing Guy Fawkes ("V") masks and Santa hats. They were from the underground group Anonymous, passing out literature against the Scientology cult.

As I walked up Nob Hill among the bustling crowd of Christmas shoppers, tourists, and office workers heading home, I passed a young man holding a sign that said "Banker. Need bailout. Please give me $700 billion." He didn't appear to be homeless or a beggar, just someone who wanted to make a point and/or amuse people. It worked.

And the politics of San Francisco? I greatly prefer the open, confrontational radicalism of San Francisco to the creeping socialism of President Bush and Governor Schwarzenegger.

I love this city. I might pick up a house or two here after the collapse.

As Rufus might say...

Once we get out of the oughties, the teens are gonna make the seventies look like the eighties.

We're so pretty, oh so pretty

Pretty vacant.

Dining out in the Depression

In the worst of times, an occasional indulgence can help lift the spirits.

Souplantation (aka Sweet Tomatoes in some regions) is an excellent way to have a healthy meal out that won't bust your budget. It's all-you-can-eat for under $9 including tax. Kids get great discounts, from free for toddlers to a couple bucks for 5-year-olds and scaling higher up to age 12.

Sign up for their ClubVeg, and you'll get e-mailed coupons like this, which is good today through Sunday. Print it out and take a date for $14. And if you don't get any action for your efforts, well, that's the last time you'll call her.

Why I buy SUVs

...for those crazy Vegas ski trips.
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CalPERS implodes, just as predicted here

Bernie Madoff had a very short reign as the biggest investment fund fraud in the world. He's just been surpassed by CalPERS, America's largest pension fund. The WSJ explains the collapse:
At the height of the property bubble, California's giant pension fund, Calpers, made a fateful decision: It aggressively poured money into real estate. As a result, today it's one of the biggest owners of undeveloped residential land in America.

[...]

Calpers in recent weeks said it expects to report paper losses of 103% on its housing investments in the fiscal year ended June 30. That's because Calpers invested not only its own money, but billions of dollars of borrowed money that must be repaid even if the investment fails. In some deals, as much as 80% of the money invested by Calpers was borrowed.


And just as some saw Madoff as an obvious fraud, some saw CalPERS as an obvious fraud, too. As we wrote in July:
What a coincidence. While things that have easily observable market prices (i.e. stocks) went down, everything that is valued subjectively went up! Private equity? It does great during a credit crunch when stocks are crashing! Just ask noted private equity players Blackstone Group or Babcock & Brown. And real estate? Well, whose real estate portfolio is not up at least 8% this year?

Nice numbers, CalPERS! Especially considering your investment in toxic waste CDOs at the beginning of the mortgage crisis, and your $1 billion dollar investment in the now-bankrupt LandSource at the peak of the real estate bubble.

Mark my words: CalPERS is lying about its performance, and there will be serious consequences for California retirees and taxpayers.

Will he go to prison and live up to his name?

The Financial Times:
No plea bargain has been agreed, and Mr Dikshit, one of India’s richest businessmen, risks a jail sentence of two years. He hopes the DoJ will recommend to Judge Jed Rakoff that, having gone voluntarily to the DoJ, he should not go to jail.

California is CUTTING TAXES!!!

Yippee, finally someone gets it. Finally someone understands that we can't raise taxes so much that it kills spending. Here is the report from the SF Chronicle:

The plan eliminates the current 18-cent-a-gallon excise tax on gasoline as well as the sales tax on gasoline, funds that are typically set aside for transportation projects. Instead, the state's sales tax for all other goods would be raised by half cent, bringing in more revenue for the general fund.

The state would establish a new gas fee - 39 cents a gallon - to pay for transportation projects that previously had been paid for by taxes on gasoline.

The legislative source said all of the proposals would require a simple majority vote because the proponents believe "when you reduce tax in one area, you can raise tax in another area" without requiring two-thirds majority by the Legislature.

WAIT A SEC!?!? They are eliminating a tax but creating a new FEE!??!? Oh but they are reducing taxes so it is working. I'm much happier now. When is American Idol on again? I can't wait.

Denial

You can't say you weren't warned. Peter Schiff and Ron Paul warned you.

Greenspan's Body Count: Tom Brisch

In today's episode of Greenspan's Body Count, Sherry Brisch returned home to a gruesome sight:
Brisch and her husband Tom had been together for 27 years, married for 20, had a lovely home in Wauwatosa and two great kids. They called themselves the Wally World family.

“You know go to Disney every year, just have two kids, a boy and a girl, and a retarded golden retriever, and we're just a regular family,” she said.

But things changed in 2008. In February Sherry lost her job as a radio ad sales executive, and Tom was struggling too. He sold Fords, and with gas over $4 a gallon, cars weren't moving.

“He was a commission-only salesperson, so the economic picture with a kid going to college, another one starting high school ... it was pretty grim and we were struggling,” Birsch said.

Then one morning she returned home from coffee with a friend and found Tom's car still in the driveway. She combed the house, and found Tom hanging by a dog leash from the attic trap door. The family was devastated and dumbstruck.

“The kids had no idea. We have two beautiful children, I had no idea, we had been on a camping trip the weekend before it happened,” Birsch said. “He seemed pretty normal.”

The medical examiner's report outlines details still too raw for Sherry to talk about. Tom left a suicide note in his shirt pocket. In it, he asked for forgiveness and wrote that he could not get it together to provide for them. He wrote to his children that they were wonderful and to his wife he wrote I love you. He told the family in the letter not to blame yourself for this.

Alan Greenspan, you destroyed another family, you sick bastard.

This case comes to light only because the courageous Sherry Brisch came forward to accuse Greenspan. Untold hundreds or thousands of Greenspan victims go unnamed because the details of their deaths are not made public. As the Milwaukee TV stationo reported,
WISN 12 News reviewed the medical examiner’s records for every suicide this year in Milwaukee County.

There have been 108. That's nearly 20 percent more than the number in each of the last three years.

While most who died had histories of depression or mental illness, at least a quarter of those who took their lives this year were struggling financially.

There were 32,000 suicides in 2005. If we extrapolate Milwaukee's 20% increase (certainly a conservative extrapolation as Milwaukee was not a big Greenspan bubble region), that's an additional 6400 suicides a year due to Greenspan's Body Count. That would make Alan Greenspan the greatest mass murderer of the 21st century.

Greenspan's (named) Body Count now stands at sixty-six:

Tom Brisch
Alex Widmer
Brian Pugh
Marilyn Lewis
Sid Agrawal
Kirk Stephenson
Barry Fox
Dallas Dwayne Carter
David Hetzel
Sharron Hetzel
Cliff Kendall
Pamela Ross
Roland Gore
Mrs. Gore
Wanda Dunn
Karthik Rajaram
Subasri Rajaram
Krishna Rajaram
Ganesha Rajaram
Arjuna Rajaram
Indra Ramasesham
Joe X
Isabelle Jarka
Robert Wagner
Lt. Michael Howe
John Roberts
Palmer C. White
Dianne Pittman White
Ed Boesen
Edwin F. Rachleff
Carlene Balderrama
Troy VanderStelt
Scott M. Coles
Dawn E. Armstrong
Thomas Lizotte
Jonathon Calvin "40-Cal" Jacques
Salvador X
Lupe X
Jade X
Little Boy X
Little Girl X
Kashmir Billon
Bill McMurtry

Lisa McMurtry
James Hahn
Raymond Donaca
Deanna Donaca
[redacted]
[redacted]
Michel Veillette
Nadya Ferrari-Veillette
Marguerite Veillette
Vincent Veillette
Mia Veillette
Jacob Veillette
Maurice Pereira
Natasha Pereira
Mark Achilli
Raed Al-Farah
Andrew Kissel
Rufus Shaw Jr.
Lynn Flint Shaw
Mr. Pierce
Walter Buczynksi
Marci Buczynski
Jason Washington

Congressional TARP panel wants your input

Tell them what you think about Paulson's TARP, foreclosure mitigation, etc. here.

A Mercer Update

We have provided reports from our favorite urban dwelling in a suburban setting here, here, and here.

The gist of the story is that in Walnut Creek, California you were given the opportunity to pay San Francisco prices but live 26 miles from San Francisco. It was a deal that couldn't possibly fail.

Well unfortunately the combination of a recession and a population of individuals with IQs above 60 have doomed the sales angle of this project.

But have no fear, the Mercer is back, as previously reported, with RENTAL opportunities!

So we thought - what's a nice place going for and what's the real sitch?? We sent some operatives in to have a look. The result: well first off the Mercer has only, ONLY 45 units left to rent! The agents also reported that they were actually excellent apartments, but not worth the $3000/month for a 2 bedroom asking price.

So if you are looking for the San Francisco experience, minus San Francisco, look no further than Mercer Homes. The price and cramped space of an SF apartment without all the interesting culture of SF. And with ONLY 45 units left, you must act now!

Subsidized housing in Del Mar

I noticed a condo for rent today in Del Mar near the beach. It caught my eye because the place had been for sale for a year before finally selling in April.

The buyers paid $2.55 million for it. Now they are trying to rent it for $6500.

Zoinks. A 6.5% mortgage on that will run you over $16,000 a month. Property taxes are more than $2300 a month. Add a few hundred more for insurance, maintenance, and/or HOA, and the cost of carry is around $19,000 a month. So even if these people find tenants in this market at $6500 a month, they are paying $12,500 a month for the privilege of being landlords.

I hope they had a great summer in that place, because they're going to be paying for it for a while!

CORRECTION: These are two different condos on the same block. Same story though, except the rent price is now $25,000 per month!

If you think investing in a Ponzi scheme is a bad idea...Nomura

... how about borrowing money so you can leverage up 3-to-1 to invest in a Ponzi scheme?

That's what Nomura and Neue Private Bank (NPB) did. You can read their marketing piece here.

It sounds like Nomura/NPB's customers are limited to losing what they put in (100%), so Nomura is going to have to pony up the other 200%. Sucks to be them!

Madoff Ponzi scheme has lots of great names

The Madoff Ponzi scheme has names that sound like they came out of a work of fiction. First of all, Bernie "Madoff" with their money. Secondly, a couple of the victims were named Nicola Horlick and J. Ezra Merkin. Nicola may have to turn to eponymous employment, and J. Ezra may have to pawn his Merkin.

UPDATE: The Sinkin Family! This is not a joke!

Building a Religion


Obama - Building a Religion - Funny blooper videos are here

Urgent child safety seat recall

DVS received this chilling notification about the child safety seat to which he had entrusted the lives of his young children:
As a valued Toys"R"Us customer, we wanted to make you aware that our records indicate you have purchased a product from Toys"R"Us which has now been recalled by the manufacturer. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced a voluntary recall of select Graco/Century items.

Consumers should cease use of these Graco/Century, ComfortSport™ Car Seats immediately. Please click here for additional product recall information.

Sincerely,

Toysrus.com

Wow. A well-known children's safety product company like Graco manufacturing death traps for toddlers. Who can you trust these days?

When you click through to the additional information, you see how deadly the product is:
A number of Frazier™ComfortSport™Convertible car seats, manufactured from November 1, 2006 through October 8, 2007, were produced with an optional “ body pillow” that partially obscures the required airbag warning label. Partial obscuring of the airbag warning label may prevent the important message from being read, and thus lead to improper installation of the car seat. Failure to properly install the car seat can result in serious injury or death.

What UAW goon Ron Middlefinger was defending when he torpedoed the Detroit bailout

Twenty-two pounds of union work rules.

His gamble paid off though, as Bush and Paulson are going to sell your children deeper into debt in order to keep paying union workers for sitting at home on the couch.

From the I-Told-You-So Department

California faces financial meltdown as debt grows by $1.7m an hour

The California budget situation is completely out of control. Raise taxes and you'll drive the last few productive people out of state. Slash spending and you'll add thousands of layoffs to an already bleak economy.

Arnold Schwarzenegger destroyed California with his reckless spending during the boom years:
At the time Mr Schwarzenegger promised an end to California’s tax-and-spend policies and runaway expenses, yet over the past four years of his administration the state’s budget has grown by 40 per cent to $144.5 billion.

How will this play out? I predict a huge federal bailout for California and any other states that need it. If we are going to throw away hundreds of billions of dollars on single companies like AIG and Citigroup, we can certainly spare tens of billions for the states.

A Senator who gets it

Jim DeMint:
“If you look at where we’re going, we’re not on a sustainable course as a country,” DeMint said. “Frankly, GM is in a better financial situation than we are as a country. The only difference is we can print money. But as other countries around the world lose confidence in the value of a dollar – that’s going to come home very shortly.”

How do you value a donut?

Stock market yammerers talk about stocks being cheap right now. Earnings on the S&P 500 are expected to come in around $67 this year, meaning that the P/E ratio is around 13 at today's 873 close. 13 may sound cheap to someone who grew up in the 90's, but compared to the last century, 13 is an average-to-high P/E. Ratios at major stock market bottoms are usually in the single digits. Put a common trough multiple of 7 on those earnings, and you get S&P 473, or about Dow 4600.

That's just the multiple; what about the E in the denominator? Is 2008's $67 the trough for earnings? Wall Street analysts think so, putting a $85.56 estimate out there for 2009 earnings. Wow, 26.6% earnings growth in what everybody keeps saying is the worst recession since the Great Depression! I can't imagine how you get there, but that's why they don't pay me the big bucks.

Let's pretend for a moment that earnings might not jump 26.6% year-over-year. Some bearish types are even suggesting that earnings might actually decline in the greatest recession since the Great Depression. But even they may be too optimistic. There's no law of physics that says that corporate profits have to be positive. Aggregate U.S. corporate profits in fact did go negative in... drum roll, please... the Great Depression. How do you value a donut?

I'm not saying that negative earnings in 2009 are likely. But earnings might be closer to zero than to glue-sniffing analysts' $85. Put a 7 multiple on $40 earnings. How does that fit?

This is obviously a bearish scenario and not the most likely outcome. But you could have said the same thing in Japan in 1993 with the Nikkei down 50%. Fifteen years later, it's down another 50%. And remember how we wagged our fingers at Japan that they wouldn't let their banks fail? That's why American capitalism was healthier: we didn't bail everybody out or let them hide bad debts on their balance sheets.

This surprised me a little bit

I was surprised when I tuned in to Obama's press conference this morning and heard him begin by saying, "I did not have [political] relations.....with that Governor....Rod Blagojevich."

Boycott the Bailout Babies

The sleazy Detroit automakers are trying to blackmail Congress into preventing a bankruptcy, claiming that the public would not buy cars from a bankrupt company (which is nonsense. The Feds would guarantee people's warranties, and the automakers would continue making and servicing cars. Do you know people who refuse to fly United because they've been through bankruptcy?). The real reason is that in bankruptcy, stock and bondholders lose money, management loses pay packages and/or their jobs, and workers lose their overly generous benefits. So this isn't about keeping the automakers alive; it's about taxpayers bailing out investors, management, and unions. When you invest in a bad company, you're supposed to lose money. That's the way capitalism works. You're not supposed to go crying to the government that your industry is special so you deserve a handout. Bankruptcy is ideal for this situation. They shed the crushing debt, the unmanageable pension and health care costs, and they become leaner, more efficient companies.

I drive a new Ford and and old Buick. I am happy with them. But if these bloated companies manage to steal my tax dollars for their stupid and greedy investors and overpaid unions, I will never buy another one of their cars. Toyota and Honda and Kia hire American workers to make American cars in American factories, and they don't leech off the taxpayers.

Please join me in this pledge to boycott bailout beggars, and call/fax/e-mail your Senators today to let them know.

Not our new Pet Rock President (elect)? Not him. Impossible

From this Chicagoan....I'll include more detail when I edit this post later, but our IL governor Blago, arrested on federal corruption charges, cut his political teeth as a staff member in Ed Vrdolyak's office. Ed V was convicted on Federal corruption charges. So it seems Blago learned from the one of the best.

But...3 of the chief political strategists who worked on Blago's first campaign to become Governor, back in 2002, were Obama himself, Rahm Emanuel, and Emil Jones (Obama calls him his political mentor). Then, in 2005, Blago was already under federal investigation. Everyone in the state knew it b/c the Chicago Tribune put it in front page headlines. All the state politicians already knew how Blago did business. "Pay for Play".

And yet, in 2006, as Blago was under federal investigation, Obama AGAIN worked for Blago's re-election campaign, giving stump speeches for him, etc.... why would a squeaky clean uber-man like Obama ever support a known-to-be corrupt politician? Further, why would he actively work FOR that man?

One of the things Blago's in trouble for doing is trying to get his wife a higher paying job by means of Blago's connections and bribery. That's the way it's done here in Chicago and elsewhere, I'm sure. So am I allowed to even ask how Obama's wife got her $300,000 job as Vice President of "Community Affairs" at the University of Chicago? A job she only got AFTER Obama was elected Senator, where he'd have the power to dole out precious earmarks?

Tony Rezko's currently in Federal Jail for facilitating for Blago the VERY same kinds of deals Blago has now been caught doing (Keep in mind the FBI only began taping blago 8 weeks ago! imagine what he might have been up to in the 6 years before that). Rezko was also a BIG financial supporter of Obama's and worked with him on many issues and events and deals.

Am I to believe that in his work for Blago, Rezko committed MASSIVE corruption, but in his work for Obama he was some kind of PURIST? Does Rezko have a split personality disorder?

I'm just asking. Vrdolyak-to-Blago-To-Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and Emil Jones...it's not hard to follow. You'd think maybe the AP might have at least looked into all this sometime before November 4th. You know, maybe just assigned an intern to it or something...No? Oh, maybe that's unreasonable of me.

Truth in advertising

Happy Day without a Gay!

Tomorrow is Day without a Gay, a sort of general strike for gays.



If you're gay, don't forget to take the day off to show everybody how gay you are.

If you're actually sick tomorrow, I'd suggest showing up for work anyway or you'll never hear the end of it.

A Little Southern Sarcasm

Uncle Fred gives us his take on the economy:

After this came the squirt bottle

One San Diegan's valiant response at the scene of a downed fighter jet.

Sexy girl cop costumes

... in Pakistan.



From the front page of today's WSJ.

Bill Gross on the Death of Capitalism

When Hank Paulson announced his plans to deplete the Treasury to bail out every bad bank that made bad mortgage loans, we wrote September 19, 2008: The Day Capitalism Died. Though it may have sounded like hyperbole to the untrained ear, we assure you that it wasn't.

In his December 2008 Investment Outlook, bond bailout beggar Bill Gross agrees:
My transgenerational stock market outlook is this: stocks are cheap when valued within the context of a financed-based economy once dominated by leverage, cheap financing, and even lower corporate tax rates. That world, however, is in our past not our future. More regulation, lower leverage, higher taxes, and a lack of entrepreneurial testosterone are what we must get used to – that and a government checkbook that allows for healing, but crowds the private sector into an awkward and less productive corner.

Though he is correct about the outlook, Gross is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the serial bailouts. Billionaire Gross's PIMCO portfolios held positions in all kinds of bad financial companies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and AIG that should have gone bankrupt. Gross's portfolio should have been decimated. Instead, the taxpayers made his positions whole.

A fool and his money are not soon parted. A fool and his money are soon partying with your tax dollars.

Bill Ayers is a bad influence

Del Mar CRE update

The past few months we have posted (here and here) on the Del Mar retail and office real estate meltdown, with vacancies piling up like dead racehorses. Today, we revisited the mean streets of Del Mar to see if there had been any improvement.

This is one encouraging sign. The shuttered shoe store featured in last month's update now promises to become a yogurt shop.



Will the rest of Camino del Mar show similar signs of hope?



There's the Three Dog Bakery we ridiculed in October. I knew some guys in college who liked to get their dog baked.

Odd, isn't it, that a new retail shop would be "Coming Soon" for months but not bother to open for the holiday season? But then anyone who pays franchise fees to open a store as stupid as a dog bakery probably doesn't get the whole retail concept. But what's that in the window?



It's a "Notice of Non-Responsibility" posted by the mall owners. Now I'm no lawyer, but I think it means "Notice: the store owners are deadbeats. So any vendors delivering equipment or inventory are crazy, and the mall is not responsible for anything you leave."

And what's this?



Just a couple doors down, the Just Pretend jewelry store is either going out of business or trying a new zero-inventory concept.

And on the dark side of the road:



A new vacancy just a couple doors down from the still-vacant "Dragonfly" store featured in October's post.


And remember the sweet three suites?



Now it's four.




And at 10th Street, a new office vacancy in the former headquarters of the Yes on G campaign. It's a good thing Proposition G won, because as you can see, Del Mar is desperately in need of more strip malls!

That covers our tour for the day. Aside from the shoe-store-turned-yogurt-shop, none of the vacancies from our October and November posts appear to be getting any action.

The Good Consumer

Greenspan's Body Count: Bank Julius Baer-ied alex widmer

Alex Widmer, CEO of the Swiss Bank Julius Baer, has reportedly just offed himself:

Alex Widmer, the chief executive of Bank Julius Baer and a well respected figure in Swiss private banking, has died unexpectedly at the age of 52, the bank said.

A source told Reuters he had been informed by close friends of Widmer's family that the banker had committed suicide.

Swiss news website 20Minuten cited two unnamed independent sources as saying it was a case of suicide.
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