Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A nation for all?

On Tuesday, following an address to the American Legion's national convention in Reno, Bush met with northern Nevada family members of soldiers who have perished in combat. Roberta Stewart, whose husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart was killed in combat in Afghanistan, was not invited, even though other relatives of Sgt. Stewart were. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sgt. Stewart's parents and brother were invited to the brief, private meeting with the president. So was the widow of one of the other National Guardsmen killed with Sgt. Stewart when their Chinook helicopter was shot down.

Why wasn't the widow invited? Because she sued the VA on behalf of her dead husband - she wanted to have the Wiccan pentagram placed on his tombstone. But the Wiccan faith isn't recognized by "our" government... so she had to go to court to defend her (and our) supposed freedom of religion.

In addition to the obvious religious bias out government exudes, the above demonstrates the level of "love for the troops" our leader truly has.

As most people who read this blog already know -- GW is simply a political opportunist: and one of the worst-kind if you ask me. He uses the flag, faith and "family values" to mask him incompetence and greed (for both power and $$).

Self-deception is the start of all decline... It gives me no pleasure to note that the US is on the broad road to irrelevance. If GWs legacy is anything, its that he added a few lanes to that highway.

Update 30 Aug 2007
Today, Bush called Stewart and apologized for failing to invite her to the meeting with veterans’ families. He also said he does not believe the Wiccan faith should be discriminated against.

Better late than never...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Gambing for the wealthy

That's about all the stock market really is.

There was a time when the stock market actually served capitalism (and society) in a way that benefited society at large.  That time has long since passed however: now the market is nothing more than a playground for those with a lot of $$ and time on their hands. If you actually believe it is more than that… well, read on.

There was a time when stocks, and the market, served a functional purpose. Namely, if a company needed capital to build a new factory, upgrade equipment or otherwise purchase durable goods that company could issue stock. Essentially stock is a contract between a lender and borrower that says "you give me some capital, and I'll repay you out of the profits I make". Usually, that included the paying of dividends. Lenders also hoped the value of the underlying "stock" increases as the company grew and succeeded in the market.

None of that is relevant today. Please try to think of a company that has issued stock to finance a purchase of durable goods… or any purchase. Most stock IPOs are simply a way of realizing value for the shareholders who started the company.

And if you actually think stock prices are actually tied to corporate performance just track a sample of stock prices vs earnings to see what I mean. Stock prices aren't set by corporate performance – they are set by investor perceptions. Remember Amazon, Yahoo! and a host of others (not just tech co's either)? They didn't even plan to show profits for years, yet people were willing to BET that the investment would be worth something. That perception alone drove the prices into the ridiculous range.

Now the entire economy is held hostage to these markets… And those markets are driven not by actual performance of the underlying companies – you don't even hear analysts talking about that – the markets are driven by investors' perceptions.

The system is based on a delicate house of cards held together by money-brokers who decide for themselves when the market will rise or crash. Like any pyramid scheme, when enough of them decide its time to take profits, the pyramid scheme collapses leaving a few holding the bag. After a bit, they come back in, start hyping new companies and the cycle starts again. Again, like any good pyramid scheme, it depends on a continual supply of folks will to believe the hype, jump in the game and hope they aren't left holding the bag.