“the market is starting to stir”

Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Posted in category housing bubble

I recoil when I spot these pea-brained-type headlines: “Consumer Confidence Lifting New-Home Sales.” I am perplexed by the fact that pro-central planning, quantitative methodologists can actually convince otherwise intelligent people that there can exist a “consumer confidence index.” To quote:

The nation’s biggest public home builders are telling investors that new-home sales picked up during the second half of January, reflecting rising consumer confidence, low interest rates and an improving economy.

This same old meaningless paragraph is lazily recast over and over, article after article, as tediously conventional non-thinkers – otherwise known as journalists – shilly-shally their way through the drudgery of received wisdom. The entire WSJ article reads like an “Onion” parody.

The nation’s “biggest home builders” are sucking at the teat of Government-Policy-and-Federal Reserve-Controlled, artificially-low interest rates. They profit from from a coercive monopoly of the money-making function of a banking cartel that exploits a fractional reserve banking system to manipulate the money supply. They benefit from a decades-long, Fannie Mae-sponsored propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the public that home ownership is the means by which Americans can experience the “American Dream.”

The “American Dream,” as originally cast by author James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book The Epic of America, referred to the following: “It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

“Consumer confidence,” stripped of its hype and progressive aspirations, actually reflects mass consumer stupidity and/or disinformation as regards economics. Housing is not an investment – it is a durable consumer good. Without the government-banking cartel, housing over time, like all other durables, would depreciate in value. Yes folks, your house can be measured by the subjective value you place on it for its utility, but it is no more an “investment” than was your 1992 Ford Escort.

Yet as consumers toss their cheaply-borrowed fiat money into the speculative bubble known as the housing market, they are consistently told by the media and presumed experts that they are “investing” in a “strong” economy. Here are three very consistently dumbass quotes from the very short Bubble Street Journal article, many of which are not shy about pointing to government management of the housing market. Apparently, I am among the few prophets of doom who dare to unwind the verbal diarrhea (“tailwinds”, “growth,” and other dark splatter) that dots the media landscape.

1- “But Sheryl Palmer, Taylor Morrison’s president and chief executive, and other builders said that sales this January were also boosted by better consumer confidence, an easing of mortgage requirements and other tailwinds.”

2- “Yet analysts and builders now point to several factors buoying buyer confidence. The average interest rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage stood at 3.66% last week, down from 4.32% a year earlier. Job and wage growth have gained momentum in recent months, and lower gas prices have emboldened some buyers. Recent changes by the Federal Housing Administration stand to lower mortgage-insurance costs and down-payment requirements for entry-level buyers.”

3- “The last two weeks have been so strong that the spring is looking really good right now,” said John Burns, chief executive of Irvine, Calif.-based housing research firm John Burns Real Estate Consulting Inc. But, he added, “ there could be a headline that turns this whole thing around tomorrow. It’s just dependent on consumer confidence.”


An Evolution in Happiness

Sunday, January 4, 2015
Posted in category Big Pharma

A wonderful Big Pharma lampoon from the Onion:

Gathering around the kitchen table to pick out their favorites, all four members of the Johnson household eagerly dug into a 38-piece AstraZeneca pill sampler that they received as a holiday gift, sources confirmed Friday.

Spoof aside, this reminds me of how far we have come from Bing to Bristol-Meyers Squibb in the age of advertising. This Whitman’s ad is from the early 1950s, with Der Bingle selling good times via a candy sampler and his smiling face, four spiritsed sons, and thoughts of sweetest day, minus a rent-seeking “Big Candy” industry. In the age of Big Pharma, these samplers are handed out by doctors and hospitals as generously as any candy sampler while the TV is splashed hourly with “ask your doctor about …” pharmaceutical ballyhoo. During one evening where we tried to watch some holiday television, we were bombed all night with pharmaceutical plugs where the visuals displayed the usual carefree and happy humans as the result of “asking their doctors” about yet another ‘legal’ drug being doled out by a controlled, oligopolistic, pharmaceutical-medical complex. I get a kick out of the Onion photo version of  the modern holiday sampler.  Thanks to Dan Moit for the Onion spoof.




Facing the Grip of Your Masters

Friday, January 2, 2015
Posted in category Tyranny of the Masses

People are so easily corrupted by power. This corruption tends to be the case even if that power is an untenable perception backed by nothing more than a trivial hierarchical ranking. This seems to be a simplistic statement, but alas, most of our fellow humans do not fully understand this notion, even though this observation requires only an elementary level of scrutiny and evaluation. So goes the Acton quote that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

We libertarians convey this sentiment often, but we usually couch this expression in terms of the state and its minions, mouthpieces, allies, enablers, and dictators. This is because we tend to view the state as the single greatest threat to liberty, and therefore we ultimately view the state as the most formidable menace to our daily, individual freedoms. So the state is a self-evident enemy. Therefore libertarians tend to focus on the state, and while this theme is valid and necessary, they oftentimes lose sight of the individual trees within the whole of the forest.

I wrote an article in 2003 titled “The Totalitarian Impulse” where I discuss the impact of the self-anointed dictators we face in our everyday life, but from the perspective of those who attempt to control our actions via legislative exploits and special-interest coercion. Forgive the dated material (12 years old), but still, I impress upon you that the totalitarian impulse is alive and well in our everyday lives as mini Führers attempt to control and corral others in order to assert their so-called position power and ascend up the ladder of dominance. We may witness this in our daily interactions, family, relationships, or especially, in the workplace.

The libertarian world is full of useful and necessary advice in terms of survival as it relates to imploding events combined with civil unrest or failures of the state and its monopolies (power grids, economic shortages, and monetary upheaval). However, an even more basic freedom is often lost in the shuffle, such as freedom from everyday impediments brought about by debt, sketchy employment, shoddy human relationships, and the lack of availability of across-the-board options.

In order to conquer these impediments, I stress that, always, one must set up the appropriate boundaries and stick by them, allowing no trespassing beyond those boundaries without an approved rationale. Additionally, you should have a bug-out bag of options that include a buildup of monetary savings/investment, lack (or minimum thereof) of debt, authentic friends and relationships, and a profitable skillset that can keep you capable of seeking alternatives and selling your services down new avenues when you need to escape the prison others are trying to build for you. As the power grabbers around you attempt to underwrite their own climb up some mindless hierarchical ladder, a portion of any route to the top surely runs right through you. See Larry Reed’s 1998 “Hayek Was Right: The Worst Do Get to the Top.” To quote:

These two benighted characters on the stage of international politics don’t know it, but they are reading from Hayek’s script. In his “Why the Worst Get on Top” chapter, he says of the central planner or “potential dictator,” “. . . he will be able to obtain the support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently.”

A good New Year’s motto – better than one that promises to start going to the gym! – is one that declares your right to self-ownership, and thus the two convictions I covet most: sanity and soul. This points to the power of making your own potential opportunities and being ready, and able, to pursue them when necessary in order to maintain your happiness, dignity, and freedom. Also, at the core of your sanity is the ability to be in a position of strength where you are able to deny others the opportunity and foundation for taking away your freedom and choice(s).

As you are often charged with turning back the would-be captors, always vow to win. The victory may have its short-term setbacks and/or temporary erosions, but in the end a human being’s sanity and soul are the key to thriving beyond just surviving. To survive means to exist, but to thrive means to prosper. Happy New Year, to all.


Crumbs & GoPro: Malinvestment x 2, But Blame Short Sellers. Booyah!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Posted in category Boom-Bubble Phenomenon

Forbes on the crumbling of Crumbs (bold emphasis mine):

Back in July 2011, Crumbs went public in a reverse merger at just over $13 per share. At approximately $60 million market cap, Crumbs wasn’t huge, but that was a hefty price given the chain only had about 35 stores.

Trouble came just about a month after it went public, when the company reported that same store sales were down 6%. By September 2011, Crumbs stock had fallen over 70%to under $4 per share. That November, the Crumbs CEO resigned. Despite growing to a peak of 70 locations, the overall financial performance has been in steady decline ever since.

Crumbs’ quick failure stands as a warning for investors of “trendy” new IPOs — especially for companies overly reliant on a single hit product.

So the IPO that Wall Street waxed endlessly about was doomed from the get-go. This IPO was not doomed because it was “trendy” and based on a single product – it was doomed because the easy-credit economic boom enabled manufacturers to invest in and produce increasingly more extravagant products and services that lured consumers who were not restricted by cash on hand or real wealth. Consumers could spend as they pleased through the careless use of government-subsidized cheap debt. Hence came the $5+ cupcake. I am always amused – perhaps too easily – by Wall Street’s high-toned pontification on these matters. From a 2011 article in The Street:

A publicly traded Crumbs “will be a growth play” for investors, Michael A. Yoshikami, president and chief investment strategist at YCMNET Advisors, told TheStreet in January when reports of a Crumbs IPO first surfaced. He expects investor interest to be strong since Crumbs would represent one of the only ways to bet on the cupcake trend through an exchange-traded equity.

The ‘cash is trash’ mentality ignores that long-term cash flow is necessary to sustain the business so that revenues can be earned and profits can be made. In the Wall Street world, trendy and fashionable = an investment banking firm’s wet dream. And so these disatrous IPOs commence. See my article from today on Crumbs and the end of the cupcake bubble.

Another recent and highly-praised IPO that is going to go bust is the GoPro, a camera company that is mostly riding the tide of the Narcissistic generation’s expression of self-love through endless video selfies. (Look at me! here I am! Here I was! There I go! Booyah!) After the IPO, GoPro shares quickly immediately rose 100% from $24/share to $48/share.

The stock’s torrid climb has more than doubled GoPro founder and CEO Nick Woodman’s net worth. Woodman (and his wife Jill) sold about 3.6 million shares in the IPO, netting a pretax windfall of $86 million. But he still owns over 52 million Class B shares, representing a stake of 48%.

Woodman’s shares were worth just over $1.2 billion at the IPO price, but they’re now worth over $2.5 billion (up nearly $500 million just from yesterday). Including cash and other assets, Forbes estimates Woodman’s current total net worth is approaching $3 billion.

Not that GoPro isn’t a cool and innovative product in some respects, but the same thing was said about Skullcandy when Wall Street poets talked up that IPO game. Skullcandy has since taken a nosedive into the bottomless pit of once-celebrated IPO carnage. Wall Street bobbleheads are now blaming the short sellers entering the market for GoPro’s volatility in price. The conventional minds of Wall Street always have it backwards: instead of short selling being the driver in downward stock price movement, the shorties are cutting loose on GoPro because they understand the malinvestment factor of fashion-forward products that quickly lose their appeal once the the infatuation and novelty is over. GoPro will GoToTheGraveyard.

I Called the Cupcake Bubble Bust. And It Leaves Behind Crumbs.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Posted in category Boom-Bubble Phenomenon

I called the cupcake bubble back in 2009. Post-economic bust, what started rising from the economy’s ashes was a series of economic “successes” whose popularity made no sense in an economy that was awash with bubble-bust carnage. Cupcakes were the most obvious an imminent mishap.

Later on, as cupcake pandemonia took firm hold and media stories gloated about the glory and popularity of those pricey-but-oh-so-special cupcakes, I was writing about the cupcake bubble and what was really driving the bubble madness that created endless malinvestments [ see definition ] in the cupcake business.

Yesterday, it was announced that Crumbs, the New York-based “cupcake empire” was going out of business. Forty-eight stores in ten states went kaput. The day that Crumbs mania hit its high and it was announced that the company was going public, I called it out as a favorable stock short.

I didn’t attack cupcakes because I hate cupcakes – I like an occasional cupcake every now and then. I merely latched onto an absurd fixation that was being fueled by something other than demand and productivity. From 2008 onward, the advent of government stimulus policies along with the Federal Reserve’s fight to keep credit cheap and money plentiful created market distortions that were making even the ridiculous seem profitable and real. Americans developed a strange obsession with enormous, sugar-laden, pricey mounds of sweets all dressed up in toppings and flavors suitable for the most discriminating 5-year-olds, and thus business malinvestments in the cupcake world ensued.

However, I was attacked by cupcake lovers and libertarians alike, the latter who were incensed that I would bring into question any free market activity. As a market anarchist, I am all for the free market investing in and opening up toe-jam restaurants if that is the desire and/or apparent trend. Nonetheless, my criticism would be based in the feasibility of the idea and the ability for the economy to sustain such a market without government monetary policy and interventionism mucking up markets. At the core of Austrian economics is the trade cycle theory that explains why recurring booms and busts occur in an economy. Unsustainable credit expansion and inflation, along with the “have-pulse-will-loan” mentality, served to lure entrepreneurs into seemingly profitable business ventures that were not sustainable on their own merit.

I argued that the bubble period produced many casualties in the form of absurd fixations produced by the boom years that continues to titillate perpetually adolescent adults of all ages who are still experiencing their own sense of made-up prosperity even as America’s boom became a flat-out bust wherein even multiple government stimulus policies have not managed to stimulate anything in a tangible sense. When government inflation and interventionist monetary policies prop up the economy and “stimulate” it through artificial means, peoples’ perceptions of economic life are transformed into that which was intended by the central planners: the economic crush is over; our government cured all the problems; things are great again; go back to your old ways. Rinse and repeat.

Thus the credit boom had given rise to a fictitious prosperity grounded in debt. The accumulation of stuff via the buildup of debt distorted people’s perception of reality and gave them a false sense of wealth, and so they took full advantage of their newfound “prosperity.” It has not been authentic affluence because much of the economic growth in the U.S. has been built upon a foundation of debt and consumption, not one of increasing production and real wealth.

As household debt-to-income ratios rose to an all-time high, personal savings rates plummeted to new lows. People demanded more and more materialism in the form of “things,” and producers responded by supplying the goods and services that were in demand. The easy-credit, economic boom allowed them to produce increasingly more extravagant products and services that lured consumers who were not restricted by cash on hand or real wealth. Consumers could spend as they pleased through the careless use of debt.

Debt-based consumerism can generate numerous social problems, including leaving behind a number of spiritual casualties. In essence, the boom-bubble period made people go bonkers. Entrepreneurs, business owners, individuals, and consumers became unhinged, going well beyond sustainable business models and reasonable spending patterns. The excess of credit along with the low cost of obtaining it allowed business ventures to be funded that otherwise would not have been able to raise capital. Business capital was therefore wasted on projects that were doomed to failure in the long run.

Along with that, I have argued that government monetary policy is the major contributor to the institutionalization of perpetual adolescence. Inflation and credit bubbles distort time preferences [ definition here ] to the point where individuals are attracted to inanity and reduced to puerile behavior. The distortion of time preferences serves to infantilize adults whose instant gratification has usurped emotional intelligence and common sense. Among the most tragic consequences are the behavioral enigmas left behind by the spiritual debasement caused by years of excesses, with two of the most disturbing problems being the professional child consumer and the perpetual adolescent adult.

I first recognized this phenomenon in all its ugliness in 2008 after I observed that Cold Stone Creamery was yet another credit-bubble business whose business model wouldn’t last five minutes outside of the hyper-boom environment in which the business was born and initially thrived. I wrote about Cold Stone in 2008 when I sensed that this business was a most preposterous venture, perhaps the worst I’d ever seen from a major chain. I was attacked on multiple fronts for daring to call out the failure of this chain that happened exactly as I said it would happen.

Hat tip to Lauren Snyder Grosz and the many others who messaged and/or tweeted this newsflash my way.


Outhouse Racism

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Posted in category political correctness

What’s the big stink over a crappy parade float of an outhouse labeled “Obama Presidential Library”? Of course, the whole thing was immediately elevated to claims of racism in spite of the fact that the outhouse-presidential library idea began as satire bashing a white guy: George Bush.

Government’s “Nutritional Experiment” That Killed Its Willing Subjects

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Posted in category Food Politics

Indeed, this is not a mock Onion piece, nor is it an illusion. The former mother of all conventional wisdom is striking out against conventional wisdom with its defense of fat and the way we used to eat. That is, until the McGovern Committee’s Report put Americans on a path to obesity and disease in the 1970s while the U.S. government facilitated decades of political pandering and billions in farm subsidies to support the Industrial Food Complex and its deliberate junk science. Here’s a quick hit on the impact of the McGovern era.

The 5-minute video (below) compliments the Time magazine cover headline, “Eat Butter: Scientists Labeled Fat the Enemy. Why They Were Wrong.” The Time piece addresses the errors of “science” and ensuing misplaced fears that radically changed the American diet from whole foods to a infinite sea of industrial substitutes. The video narrator refers to this as a ”vast nutritional experiment” and notes that Americans have since been “dropping dead from heart disease.” This narrative deems the government’s “experiment a failure” and correctly concludes that “Americans are sicker than ever before.” This is strong language coming from a mainstream media organ, especially after being accustomed to puff pieces that never dared to advance down the path of revisionism, even when backed by facts and science.

This video even manages to produce a revisionist and mostly correct portrayal of the former declared enemy, LDL cholesterol – whose demonization is one of the medical establishment’s greatest crimes. When one understands the politics and corporate state schemes of the rent-seeking Medical-Food-Pharmaceutical complex, one can one begin to understand why there has been a 5-decade assault on traditional, whole foods in favor of chemicalized-processed-plasticized industrial slop. The Time piece, however, doesn’t bump up too heavily against the political racket that completely turned science on its ear in favor of propping up politically-enabled profiteering on the part of mega-complex that changed the world one illicit proclamation at a time. I can assume that these truths will be broached at some point as curiosity leads the cat to the causes and conditions behind the latest conclusions. NYU Professor Marion Nestle has done some good work in this direction.

You can watch the Time video here. Here is a link to my post from yesterday: “Butter We Repent.”

Butter, We Repent

Monday, July 7, 2014
Posted in category Food Politics

My parents, once upon a time, never knew anything but real butter. However, my generation grew up with the usual 70s propaganda: fat bad, industrial-chemical substitutes good. The twisted, power-mongering politics of food have long had a stranglehold on fat, especially in terms of demonizing saturated fat in favor of its plasticized, industrial substitutes. One of the most notable traditional foods that ended up on government’s death row is butter.

Thus our parents and families were stripped of cooking traditions and free markets in food in favor of adherence to government’s junk science fueled by lies and Big Government-Big Business profiteering that served to benefit the government-subsidized, mega-industrial manufacturers at the expense of the artisanal makers and small competitors. Since then, diseases of modern diet have skyrocketed, with some – such as diabetes – approaching epidemic distribution within the American populace.

Fifteen+ years ago, I turned the anti-butter mythology on its ear in my household, and margarine was informally and unofficially and voluntarily banned to the deepest recesses of hell. Since ditching the last vestiges of an industrial diet such as processed foods, pop, and industrial oils while returning to a full-blown traditional, real-food diet, I was able to ward off a a rare autoimmune disorder (that I was told was “forever”); maintain my high school waist size into my 50s; and generally, just discover an overall fountain of youth and endless energy. The holistic view of full-body wellness recognizes that food is a powerful “medicine,” especially in terms of avoiding or healing chronic disease. Still, most of our traditional “medicine” has been jettisoned in favor of large-scale food politics because the participating entities are politically empowered.

In spite of the imbalance of political power, butter has recently developed a new block of devotees from the mainstream media machine who are repenting for the decades of butter bashing. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a headline on June 25th, “Butter Makes Comeback as Margarine Loses Favor.” Today recently ran a piece that seemed to gently concede to losing the war on butter, although giving the usual, woolly advice to practice “moderation.” Quartz magazine recently published a piece, “The War Against Butter is Over. Butter Won.” This story conveys the facts that sales of margarine are at a 70-year low. Hooray! Sales of plasticized butter have dropped 30% in less than fifteen years. Meanwhile, butter consumption is the highest it has been in forty years.

Even food giant Unilever is backpedaling on its anti-butter marketing and product placement while touting its “half butter” products. But most amazing of all is the recent Time magazine cover that declared, “Eat Butter.” In fact, Time goes so far as to attempt to undo the years of vilification of fat. A heroic advancement, on the part of the mainstream, in truth and facts. However, as The Guardian recently noted, don’t expect a collective apology from the purveyors of low-fat lies who have perpetuated the anti-fat orthodoxy for decades.


Here’s a related post of mine from April 2014 where I point to a favorable piece on butter from Mother Jones while I also take on the anti-butter rantings of James McWilliams, a professional, paid, one-man propaganda vehicle for the rent-seeking Industrial Food Complex. And here’s the kind of butter I use – a raw (unpasteurized and not homogenized) product that would not make it past the FDA’s lookout tower that stands proudly within the bowels of D.C. The label is clear and simple: made in a home kitchen, meaning without approval from our political slavemasters and special interest oppressors.

butter pic2

Meals Under Wheels

Monday, July 7, 2014
Posted in category The State

I just want you Michigan folks to be informed: the government just gave you permission to ask for permission to bring home your fresh roadkill. The good and kindly bureaucrats in the state of Michigan are making it slightly less onerous to take home your roadkill. Michigan Senate Bill 613 “streamlines” the bureaucracy one must wade through in order to clean up fresh roadkill for purposes of salvaging the meat. So instead of toiling through near impossible bureaucratic engines to tag a roadkill for a carry out, one must merely seek permission from the Department of Natural Resources in order to make a road mess into a series of meals. This is recognized as a sweeping advancement in trust, efficiency, and benevolence on the part of your taskmasters. “Roadkill: It’s What’s For Dinner.”

Duchess of Cambridge: A**Gate

Saturday, May 31, 2014
Posted in category Feminism

Kate Middleton’s windy-day, bared derriere has sparked a silly bottomless debate that has become a tired version of The Feminists vs The Rest of ‘Em, so Tessa Miller takes on the slippery slope of non-slipness in her article on the Daily Beast. She writes:

In 1,000 or so words that do nothing but push feminism back a few decades, The Daily Beast’s Kelli Goff argues that Middleton—and all women, for that matter—should wear slips or weight their clothing to avoid revealing their bodies when the pesky wind catches their skirt. “But as ‘Bottomgate’ proves,” the author writes, “[Middleton] could benefit from an extra something under her dress, and an old-fashioned slip just might be the perfect fit.”

The old wrangle over more clothes (repression) versus less clothes (freedom from repression) has been invoked in order to argue for or against Kate’s lack of an “appropriate” cover-up. Writer Keli Goff, also on the Daily Beast, doesn’t give the topic a slip when she insists that Kate should have been wearing something, perhaps even an old-fashioned slip in order to avoid the wardrobe malfunction, while Miller basically makes the case of ‘take your underclothes and shove it.’

I am not quite seeing a feminist argument here, but rather, I see the wind, a vigorous updraft, and an accidentally bared butt that some meddling photographer happened to etch in digital form and spread ’round the Internet. So now the world is horrified that a revered royal rump has been splashed throughout the media and has thus become etched into the minds of the group-thinking, celebrity-obsessed riffraff, permeating their piddling minds to the point of torment. And so the debate goes on.

To wear underclothes or not to wear them, that is not the question. The point is – who the f*** cares? It’s an ass, people, and we’ve all seen an ass or two in our day. Go to any beach where loads of women are stuffed into tiny cloth triangles caressing pricey and painful Brazilian wax jobs that offer much more exposure than the royal updraft. Or go to Peopleofwalmart.com and you’ll see more bared and flaccid body parts in one place than you ever cared to see in any environment, let alone the retail sphere. And as Ilana Mercer points out in “Kate’s Keister,” as least Kate has a pretty ass as opposed to the bulging spectacles springing from the Kardashian Klan that conjures up visions of frozen cottage cheese wrapped with a too-tight canvas tarp.

To wear or not wear underclothes is not a feminist argument, nor is there one right answer to the questions being asked about the necessity of wearing boob or bottom protection. To wear or not wear some form of cover-up is a choice made by an individual, usually without much contemplation or strategizing, because sometimes you feel like it, and sometimes you don’t. It’s just not that complicated.