Monday, July 10, 2017

The Economist writing about "The German Problem"

Sub title: "Why Germany's current account surplus is bad for the world economy".   The Economist goes on to write "At bottom, a trade surplus is an excess of national saving over domestic investment".   That's a crock.  Trade surpluses happen when you manage to sell abroad more stuff than you buy from abroad.  Having an array of good products at the right prices, helps with the sales end.  Having a good domestic supply of quality product helps keep imports down.  Germany has a lot of world class products, look at Mercedes, Porsche, VW, Lowenbrau, Airbus, and many others.  Who wants to buy an import when the domestic product is as good as you can get any where? 
   If the world wants to cut down on Germany's trade surplus, the world will have to offer products as good as or better than German products, at a competitive price. 
   Writing like this makes me wonder where the Economist's writers went to school.  If their economic writers are so deluded (in a magazine named the Economist!)  do their other writers know anything at all? 

You talk to everybody when you are running for President

Everybody.  They might vote for you, they might contribute money (in return for favors after the election), they might have intelligence (dirt) you can use, they might put in a good word for you, they might be planning a stab in the back.  You never know, so you talk to everybody you have time for.  You want to increase your candidate's name recognition, talking about him with everybody will increase it. 
   Given all that, I fail to see any interest in today's msm flap about Trump campaign workers, (Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner) talking with a low name recognition Russian lawyer.  So what? Everybody in the world wants something from the US, everybody in the world starts by talking to the presidential campaign people.  So what else is new? 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

NBC's Beat the Press, my weekly dose of MSM

Chuck Todd was pushing the "Russian" story.  He thinks the Russians somehow influenced our election.  He advanced NO evidence.  Spent a lot of time on this narrative.  Then he trashed Trump over Trump's disparagement of US intel services.  US intel has made some major goofs, failing to predict the fall of the USSR, predicting that Saddam had nukes, leaking the fact that we were tapping Bin Ladin's satellite phone to the NYT, allowing Bradley Manning and Edward Snowdon free run of their classified, and others.  I have little faith in CIA or NSA anymore, and I don't see anything wrong with the President expressing doubts about US intel stories.  Chuck Todd has a problem with it, probably because a whole bunch of US intel people are Democrats who attempt to destabilize Republican administrations. 
   Then he read off a poll praising the MSM.  If you pay for the poll, the poll will say anything you like. 
   Then someone made this amazing statement "The base won't permit any bipartisanship".  I doubt that.  The base (either base) has some things they want, and other things they don't want.  Congresscritters who vote for (or fail to vote at all)  things the base wants, and against things the base doesn't want, will be voted out of office.  Just ask a bunch of Democrats who voted for Obamacare and are now out of office. 
  And finally there was a lot of talk condemning Trump for failing to take Putin to task over Russian election meddling.  Just how do they know this, when the meeting was just Trump, Putin, Secretary of State, Russian Foreign Minister and two interpreters is beyond me.  Did NBC bug the conference room?  Both Trump and Putin issued statements after the meeting.  I know Trump's statement would never fail to make Trump look good, and Putin's statement is likely a lie from end to end.  
  Anyhow back to real news on Fox News for me. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

647 Hp Mustang. Only $450,000

Looks sleek and hot.  Top speed of 216 mph.  That's smoking hot.  But the engine is a 3.5 liter V6???.  My Buick has a 3.5 liter V6.  Turbocharged and all,  what ever happened to the 427 V8 that won Le Mans 50 years ago.  Ford plans to build 250 a year.   For people that plan to race them, it's probably a deal.  For us ordinary folk, $450,000 is a helova lot of money for a car.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Fed Governor Urges Housing Finance Fix

Headline of a Wall St Journal piece.  Fed Reserve governor Jerome Powell wants more private investors to buy into Fanny and Freddy, so that next time Fanny and Freddy go bust, private investors will lose money rather than taxpayers.  Everyone always thought that Uncle Sam stood behind Fanny and Freddy even though the fine print in the enabling laws did not so state. This wide spread belief allowed Fanny and Freddy to borrow money on the credit of the United States, which meant they could raise money for 3-4%, really cheap.   But when Fanny and Freddy went bust in 2008, Uncle decided us taxpayers were on the hook for $140 billion to avoid besmirching the reputation of the US treasury.
    Fanny and Freddy didn't cause much trouble until the 1980's when they started buying mortgages off banks.  The real estate industry loved this, it made more mortgage money available. Sell a mortgage to Fanny or Freddy, and presto, the bank has the cash to make yet another mortgage.  Fanny and Freddy recovered the money by selling bonds on Wall St.  They said "Look, these bonds are 'backed' by real estate."  Suckers fell for this, and for a while the bonds sold like hotcakes.
   The banks, now that they could unload their mortgages started writing really bad mortgages, "sub prime" and "alt-A" to borrowers who would never be able to pay off the mortgage.  No matter, long as we dump this worthless mortgage on Fanny and Freddy we are OK.  This continued until the sucker investors wised up to the fact that "backed by real estate" meant nothing.  They didn't have the right to foreclose and repossess the real estate.  So the bonds stopped selling, and Fanny and Freddy went Chapter 11.  For $140 billion.  This touched off Great Depression 2.0.
   In actual fact, we ought to shut Fanny and Freddy down, for good.  We don't need them to "make more mortgage money available".   Mortgages are profitable and safe. We used to say "Safe as houses". If the borrower fails to pay, the lender gets the house.  Home mortgage borrowers are strongly motivated to keep up the payments, who wants to explain to a spouse that they are getting evicted?  Far more secure than the stock market.
  Shut down Fanny and Freddy.  The real estate industry (brokers, builders, appliance makers, lumber industry) will cry a lot, but  life will go on. 

Prescription Rate for Opioids Falls

Headline of a Wall St Journal piece today.  But looking at the charts that accompany the piece, not very much.  Average prescribed dose did fall from maybe 60, down to maybe 48  "morphine milligram equivalents" what ever that may be.  Prescriptions per 100 patients peaked around 80 and is now down to 70.  Damn, 70 out of 100 patients get opioid prescriptions?  That's a lot.  In my whole life, just once a dentist prescribed percoset after a painful extraction.  That was 30 years ago, one prescription, which didn't put a buzz on me as good as a shot of bourbon did.  For that matter, aside from childhood earaches I don't remember having to deal with pain, not even the sort of pain that aspirin will deal with.  Somehow I find it hard to believe that 70 out of 100 patients are experiencing pain worthy of an opioid prescription. 
  The Journal piece did not discuss guidelines for prescribing opioids.  Surely there are some?  Other than recommendations for drug company salesmen? 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Eye catching photos

Front page color spread in the Wall St Journal.  Against a background of Mosul blow all to pieces, burned out cars and piles of rubble, we have a young girl, looked to be 7 years old or so.  Light brown hair, blue eyes, pink dress.  She could have come off any suburban street in the USA.  Makes you wonder how she wound up in war torn Mosul. 
   Same issue, page three, we have a photo of the US destroyer that collided with that container ship off Japan.  It's a formal photo from stock, tied up to the dock, crew is manning the rails.  Large ship, big enough to be a cruiser in WWII.  Clearly a new ship, all her topside structures have walls slanted in, (tumblehome) to reflect enemy radar beams up into the sky rather than straight back to the enemy receivers.  Just one popgun on the foredeck, looked to be 75 mm.  Which is a dinky cannon for ship that size.  Even army tanks carry 120mm guns these days.  I hope she has lots of missiles, and that the missiles work when needed.