Wednesday, November 28, 2007
“The Grinch Presents Justin Hunt” - at Carrie Garner’s Galleria d’Arte
Justin Hunt, one of Galleria d’Arte’s most successful and popular artists, will be the last featured artist in “The Grinch Presents Justin Hunt.” Hunt is a master of the ancient technique of reverse glass painting. His newest works will be on exhibit from December 8 to December 24, 2007, at Carrie Cameron Garner’s Galleria d’Arte at 115 South Kentucky Street in downtown McKinney.
You are cordially invited to join us for our final Second Saturday celebration on Saturday, December 8 from 4PM to 7PM with an artist’s reception. We would like to extend our thanks to our patrons of the last 2 ½ years. We have made so many wonderful friends and acquaintances it is with a heavy heart that we will permanently close our doors on December 24, 2007.
We have loved being “in prison” for the past six months, so to celebrate appropriately, Galleria d’Arte will be hosting the “After Party” immediately following the artist’s reception on December 8. At 7PM, DJ Crocodile will be spinning the tunes in the cellblocks on the third floor, and we will dance the night away. This may be your last opportunity to see the old Collin County Prison, so be sure and make time to join our duo celebrations on December 8.
MeSo Lounge is currently located on the first floor of Galleria d’Arte, and will be closing on December 24 in conjunction the art gallery’s closing. As an added appreciation to all our male patrons, MeSo Lounge will host “Gentlemen’s Night” on December 20. Our sales staff will be happy to help you select the perfect gifts for the ladies in your life…or a special something for yourself! For more information, please call the gallery or MeSo Lounge at 469-742-9509.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Citigroup planning major job cuts: report
Monday November 26, 8:34 am ET
CNBC said that no exact number had yet been set, though some jobs were already being eliminated. It estimated that the cuts could total anywhere between 17,000 and 45,000.
Citigroup officials were not immediately available for comment.
Four triggering factors of a major financial bankruptcy
LEAP/E2020 now estimates that at least one large US financial institution (bank, insurance, investment fund) will file for bankruptcy before February 2008, sparking off bankruptcies among a series of other financial institutions and banks in Europe (in the UK especially), in Asia and in various emerging countries... (page 2)
(En savoir +)
Factor N° 1 - Drastic drop in revenues for banks operating in the US
The CDOs altogether are now dragged into a general confidence crisis, and they represent a large part of bank assets since, in the past few years, large banks from lenders became investors and speculators, like hedge funds… (page 4)
(En savoir +)
Factor N°2 - Slumping value of assets owned by these banks resulting from new US banking regulation (FASB regulation 157)
On November 15, 2007, a regulatory factor, the FASB 157 standard (designed to enhance transparency of financial statements of financial institutions operating in the US) speeds up the pace of financial organisations’ collapses (American and others)… (page 7)
(En savoir +)
Factor N°3 – Increasing weakness of bond insurers
Bond insurers are financial markets’ « supports ». Completely unknown to the public today, their names could soon become as common as the word « subprime » has… (page 9)
(En savoir +)
Factor N°4 – Economic recession in the US
As a complement to our anticipations of the impact of the US economic recession for banks operating in the US, we find it useful to analyse here how much US official statistics have become totally surrealistic… (page 12)
(En savoir +)
Strategic advice / Operational recommendations for the intention of individual investors, corporate treasurers, financial operators(page 15)
(En savoir +)
GlobalEurometre - Results & Analyses
The Europeans seem to make no illusion on the evolution of US policies after the next presidential election, with 65% of the respondents who estimate that G. W. Bush’s successor will not change significantly the American policy… (page 17) (En savoir +)
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
NYMEX Light Sweet Crude Oil Futures Prices
Jan 1997 - $25.00
Jan 1998 - $18.00
Jan 1999 - $12.00
Jan 2000 - $25.00
Jan 2001 - $27.00
Jan 2002 - $21.00
Jan 2003 - $31.00
Jan 2004 - $33.00
Jan 2005 - $42.00
Jan 2006 - $63.00
Jan 2007 - $58.00
..... and today we're looking at $98.00
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
A few moments ago I posted on my site the MSNBC version of "The Coming Consumer Crunch" which forecasts severe and painful belt-tightening for American families in 2008. Then when I checked my inbox, a Truthout bulletin listing Kelpie Wilson's latest article "Give Thanks For Oil" appeared. One paragraph leapt out at me:
Why should we give thanks that the future holds no cheap oil? There are several reasons, but the first is that cheap oil has fueled a 50-year-long party in the industrialized West that has left us with an unsustainable economy that is wrecking the planet. The recent awareness of global warming is beginning to put a damper on our out-of-control binge, but not fast enough to slow the heating of the planet. Rising oil prices will force a cutback in consumption. Rising oil prices will also chill the fantasy of endless growth and force us to confront the reality of planetary limits.
I have no crystal ball, nor do I claim to have well-developed psychic powers, but I'd be willing to bet almost anything that next Thanksgiving season will be dramatically different from this one. A dark curtain of despair has descended, along with $100 oil, on Wall Street, and the amount of debt that the American working and middle classes are trying to juggle is, as Stan Goff so eloquently stated in his article on my site, "Middle Class Angst", nothing less than "pre-volcanic."
Cheap oil will allow us to travel "over the river and through the woods" to grandmother's or someone else's house, or we may prepare our food orgy at home using gas or electric ranges, savoring the turkey and trimmings made possible by low-cost hydrocarbon energy. While the feast will be more expensive than it was last year, its cost may pale by comparison with the price of next year's gastronomical adventure-if indeed we can afford one. The after-dinner experience is likely to consist of television or movie viewing at home or another car trek to the local cine-plex for a new Thanksgiving Day release or two. A walk or bike ride requiring no use of hydrocarbon energy would be ideal, but it will take much more energy depletion than we are now experiencing to make that option viable for most Americans.
On Friday, millions of shoppers will descend on malls and box stores where the bells and whistles of credit card transactions will reverberate every few seconds, non-stop for perhaps seventy-two hours. Those bills will come due for those shoppers in a post-holiday hangover of dollar plummeting hysteria, monumental levels of debt, foreclosure, bankruptcy, unemployment, energy depletion, skyrocketing gas and food prices, illnesses treated without health insurance coverage-or just not treated, unprecedented levels of homelessness, and by all indications, within a few months into 2008, America will be well on the road to a re-run of 1929-or something inconceivably worse.
None of this, of course, includes the likelihood of an attack on or invasion by the U.S. of yet another country in one of its serial oil-addiction binges, nor does it include another terrorist attack orchestrated by the U.S. government, nor does it include a natural disaster or two where Blackwater troops storm into the homes of innocent American citizens followed by another fraudulent election engineered by the Democratic Party or the cancellation of an election entirely.
As I continue to write and talk about collapse, the "tell-me-what-to-do" supplications escalate, and when I speak my truth in reply, my words are met with responses only slightly less hostile than eye-rolling. Americans not only refuse to accept the limits the earth is pounding them with, but demand that their response to those limits be effortless, cheery, hopeful, and above all not require them to change anything about their lives. Any suggestion that introspection, dramatically altering one's lifestyle, and pondering one's values, priorities, and life's work are as important, if not more important, than voting for Green Party candidates, consuming less energy, or purchasing environmentally-friendly products is met with blank stares or my favorite response, the accusation of "fear-mongering."
Two hundred species or more of life forms died today on planet earth, and two hundred will die tomorrow, but I'm not supposed to remind you because that wouldn't be "hopeful"?
Today, Gerald Celente, Director of Trends Research Institute stated that "We are going to see economic times the likes of which no living person has seen", as he forecasted a "Panic of 2008." Celente continued to say very non-hopeful things like:
"I would not be surprised if giants tumble to their deaths" and "The ‘Panic of 2008' will lead to a lower U.S. standard of living."
"A result will be a drop in holiday spending a year from now, followed by a permanent end of the ‘retail holiday frenzy' that has driven the U.S. economy since the 1940s," says Celente.
On this Thanksgiving Day I will shudder as I do every day for those clueless individuals and families who in a few years or even months may be daily visiting food banks which are already experiencing shortages. I will feel deep grief as I contemplate the teeming masses of innocent humans who will die because of Peak Oil, climate change, global pandemics, and species die-off and who because they didn't want to have their bubble of hope burst, called people like me a fear-monger while continuing their suicidal courses of action. I will be painfully aware that the food I eat for Thanksgiving dinner is on my plate because of cheap oil, and as I settle into a comfortable seat at the movie theater, I will be acutely aware that my two-and-a-half hour escape from reality is only possible because of the natural gas that powers the digital video and sound systems that dazzle me with what is unquestionably my favorite art form of all. What will I do in a post-collapse world when I don't have it? Make my own art perhaps?
Yet another part of me-a different part of my physiology experiences a bit of relief-perhaps a release and expansion in my cells as I realize that empire is reaching the end of the line, that the slogan my friend Matt Savinar has at the top of his website is not only true, but unfolding faster than I or anyone else could have imagined:
Deal with reality, or reality will deal with you.
So on this Thanksgiving week as stomachs are stuffed and the cacophony of credit card transactions deafens and defies the reality of global economic meltdown, I will celebrate that we are now closer to the total collapse of civilization than we have ever been, and that for all the rampant suffering it will evoke around the world, the soul-murdering, mind-numbing, body obliterating culture of empire is terminally ill and on life-support. I know not how many, if any of us, will survive its collapse, but I do know that until it has fallen fatally silent, no life form on earth will ever experience freedom or fullness of life.
These are the "good ole days" to be remembered when we have almost nothing that we now take for granted or feel entitled to. And at the same time, these are dark new days that begin and end amid the sea change occurring all around us. That darkness signals and end to holidays as we have known them. This year, like all those other years, we will lament that despite our best intentions, we ate too much. In what year will we remember Thanksgivings of the past and weep and salivate as we search for whatever morsels of food we can find? I am convinced that absolutely nothing will awaken Americans except starvation, but by the time they have arrived at that horrifying circumstance, it will be far too late.
In these dark new days when readers email me with questions or arguments about aliens or engage in nit-picking philosophical posturing, I refuse to respond with anything other than the following questions: What will you do when you have no food to eat and no water to drink? How will you obtain healthcare when it no longer exists? What have you done to liberate yourself from debt? Where are you living and how sustainable is it? If you need to relocate, why haven't you done so? I then refer them to the Survival Acres banner ad at the top of my site and the Preparedness Store at Matt Savinar's site. In other words, does it really matter what I or anyone else thinks about aliens or what method of intellectual masturbation we prefer when we have no food or water?
These are the good ole days, my friend, and these are also the dark new days. Happy Thanksgiving; savor every bite.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
U.S. Dollar Could Plunge 90 Percent
RHINEBECK, N.Y. -- A financial crisis will likely send the U.S. dollar into a free fall of as much as 90 percent and gold soaring to $2,000 an ounce, a trends researcher said.
"We are going to see economic times the likes of which no living person has seen," Trends Research Institute Director Gerald Celente said, forecasting a "Panic of 2008."
"The bigger they are, the harder they'll fall," he said in an interview with New York's Hudson Valley Business Journal.
Celente -- who forecast the subprime mortgage financial crisis and the dollar's decline a year ago and gold's current rise in May -- told the newspaper the subprime mortgage meltdown was just the first "small, high-risk segment of the market" to collapse.
Derivative dealers, hedge funds, buyout firms and other market players will also unravel, he said.
Massive corporate losses, such as those recently posted by Citigroup Inc. and General Motors Corp., will also be fairly common "for some time to come," he said.
He said he would not "be surprised if giants tumble to their deaths," Celente said.
The Panic of 2008 will lead to a lower U.S. standard of living, he said.
A result will be a drop in holiday spending a year from now, followed by a permanent end of the "retail holiday frenzy" that has driven the U.S. economy since the 1940s, he said.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
By Sven Ridley-Wordich
17 Nov 2007 at 06:20 PM GMT-05:00
RIYADH (ResourceInvestor.com) -- The linkage between high crude oil prices and devaluation of the dollar on the global markets has become one of the issues discussed in the sidelines of the OPEC Summit. During the behind-closed-doors discussions of the OPEC Ministers, Iran and Venezuela have proposed to delink crude oil from dollar denominations. Ministers have been discussing openly, as sources present during the meeting stated, whether oil should continue to be valued in dollars. Iran and Venezuela have already been openly urging members to consider the option. However, as OPEC officials stated after the meeting, even the mentioning of a possibility would currently have a debilitating effect on the position of the dollar. Still, Iran and Venezuela seem to be heading towards an implementation of the idea. Already, most Asian traders are being asked by Iran to have contracts set up in either Euros or Yen. Some negative effects currently hurting the dollar value worldwide could be contributed to the proposal.
Discussions presently seem to be heading towards a possible study of the de-linkage, even that OPEC will not include the option in its statement on Sunday. During other meetings, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Saud Al Faisal, has warned parties not even to discuss the latter as it is very sensitive. The possible consequences of a move toward the euro or other international currencies could undermine the already very weak position the dollar has. Some financial analysts have repeatedly claimed that the dollar could keep its global position only to the fact that it’s the main currency oil is traded in. Taking this basis away, the dollar could plunge even more.
Most Arab Gulf countries fear the possibility of a further devaluation of the dollar, which will put increased pressure on their overall oil and gas revenues, on which the majority of their international trade is still based. Some OPEC countries have refuted claims that they could have negative impact on the dollar, as the majority of crude oil is manufactured by non-OPEC producers. Al Feisal has stated to the press, showing his concerns, that if such a decision will have to be taken, this only will be possible if non-OPEC countries are involved.
Iranian officials are not complying, however, to the OPEC views, as they have still asked members to consider the option to counter the weak position of dollar. Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, all three vastly connected to the American sphere of influence via trade or political-strategic considerations, have refused to take the idea on board.
The idea will not become one of the main issues discussed by OPEC it seems, but developments such as the de-linkage need to be kept in mind for the coming years. In a rational way, the Iranian Venezuelan proposal could be effective and maybe even worthwhile taking. Economically it could support the hard-needed economic diversification projects of the OPEC members, leaving more value in the hands of governments. But as analysts also indicated, it would not only hurt global economy, which is still based on dollar transactions, push down American economic growth, but also have a very negative effect on the developing world. A crude oil sector based on euros will crush most developing countries’ already struggling economic development. Most African countries are energy importers, paying crude oil imports in dollars, while exporting products to Europe extensively. The revenues gained from the latter are needed to improve their own economies. If all will need to be paid in euros, the positive effects of the latter are removed, while higher crude oil prices will hurt directly all sectors in the end.
The obvious other link between the Venezuelan-Iranian proposal is to hurt American policies. A slowdown of the American economy and a weaker dollar is obviously seen by Tehran and Caracas as a nice way of confronting American president George W Bush. Oil is politics, the latter is currently also making headlines in Riyadh.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
by Laura Rowley
Virginia grandmother Ruby Fauntleroy, 74, knew something was wrong when her rent payment bounced shortly after her Social Security check had been direct-deposited into her bank account.
Fauntleroy went to the bank, where a teller told her that the account was frozen following notice of a court judgment and garnishment order by Capital One. Fauntleroy had been trying to pay off this $4,000 credit card debt for years, but dropped her monthly payment to $100 after her husband died and her income declined. Capital One sued, and won a judgment.
"I was just numb, I couldn't believe this could happen," said Fauntleroy. "I told the bank, 'You know nobody is supposed to take a government check,' but they did. I couldn't sleep at night, I couldn't eat. I thought, why are they doing this to me when I was trying to pay [my debt]?"
When Exempt Isn't
Legal aid agencies across the country say they've been flooded with calls from seniors and disabled people whose accounts have been frozen by bill collectors. This is happening even though the federal government specifically prohibits the garnishment of exempt funds such as Social Security and veterans benefits.
In the worst cases, seniors go hungry or without medication because they have no access to funds -- in some cases, for months at a time. "People can really bumble around for months trying to get their accounts unfrozen because the procedures they have to follow are so Byzantine," says Claudia Wilner, attorney with the New York-based Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project (NEDAP), which handles about 200 such cases a year.
In August, three senators asked the inspector general of the Social Security Administration to investigate the extent of the problem, querying the nation's largest banks on how often the practice occurs. The Senate Finance Committee held hearings on the issue in September.
Slow to Respond
The problem comes amid enormous growth in consumer debt, and changes in technology that make it easier and cheaper for creditors to seize bank accounts. Although banks can tell whether an account contains exempt funds before they issue a freeze, they argue that ignoring a restraining order would leave them in contempt of state court.
But even when both the creditor and the bank agree a mistake has been made, bureaucracy can leave seniors in limbo for weeks. Laurie Doran, staff attorney for South Jersey Legal Services, had a client who discovered the levy on her account when she went to buy medication. "They zapped both her savings and checking, and she didn't have access to any funds," says Doran. "She came over from the pharmacy in an absolute panic."
Although attorneys for both the creditor and the bank immediately agreed to lift the freeze, it couldn't be done because the levy officer -- a liaison between the court and the bank -- was unresponsive. It took two weeks to unravel, during which the elderly woman's health deteriorated.
Death by a Thousand Fees
Moreover, some banks are making a profit off these account holders through exorbitant fees. Banks typically charge a non-refundable legal processing fee of $100 to $150 for the freeze itself. Then, when the consumer, unaware of the freeze, pays their bills, they can incur significant overdraft fees.
In one case, Chase Bank froze the checking account of a New York retiree -- whose only income was from Social Security -- following a $920 judgment for an unpaid dental bill. The woman had $929.54 in her account, but the dentist never got anything. "Chase Bank managed to grab the entire account," says her attorney, Jim Baker of the Northern Manhattan Improvement Project.
The 72-year-old wrote nine checks against the account without realizing it had been frozen; several of those checks were presented twice for payment. Chase charged $30 each time. In addition, the bank was debiting 45 cents a month from her account for credit insurance. "Every time the first of month rolled by and Chase couldn't debit its 45 cents, they charged her another $30," says Baker. In four months, the account was empty.
Even when a freeze is lifted and garnished funds are restored, banks often refuse to refund fees. "The banks say they have the right to charge fees because it's a deposit agreement," says Wilner. "They say they are not acting through the legal process, but through a contractual agreement, so the regulatory exemption doesn't apply to them."
Trolling for Delinquencies
The problems are becoming more frequent because of the burgeoning debt collection industry. In 2005, $110 billion in face-value debt was purchased by third-party debt buyers, 90 percent of it credit card receivables, according to the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals.
In New York City, the number of consumer debt cases filed in civil court has grown 300 percent in 5 years, to 320,000 cases in 2006, according to a new report from the Urban Justice Center. Ninety percent were brought by third-party debt buyers. Almost $1 billion in claims were made against New York City residents, and creditors obtained judgments of nearly $800 million, the center estimates.
Once a default judgment goes through, the creditor's attorney sends an electronic information subpoena and restraining notice, which has the same power as a court order. The cost is minimal. "The volume of collection activity is way up," says Baker. "Creditors used to have to have some reason for thinking someone had an account at a specific bank. Now they simply send out a blanket email to every bank in the tri-state area, and say, 'If so-and-so has an account, freeze it.'"
On the consumer side, the problem is compounded by direct deposit: This year, 85 percent of Social Security recipients received their payments electronically, up from 41.5 percent in 1985. Someone who encounters a freeze may have subsequent checks slip into the account before they're able to find their way through the legal maze.
Frozen and Refrozen
Meanwhile, creditors who are rebuffed often turn around and file a new claim for the same debt. New Yorker Waverly Taliaferro, 70, worked for decades as a photographer before retiring in 2001. He and his wife lived off of his Social Security payment and her income. In 2003, when she was laid off, they fell behind on a credit card bill. Their account was frozen in 2006, which Taliaferro discovered on his way to the grocery store. Over the next 23 days, he says, he and his wife survived on a 10-pound bag of brown rice.
After his lawyer was able to remove the freeze, Taliaferro began receiving his check by mail, and paying $23 to a check-cashing service to cash it. Six months later, his attorney told him that Chase Bank had issued a policy not to freeze exempt funds, so Taliaferro opened an account -- and received a $100 bonus from the bank for using direct deposit. The account was frozen 16 days later because it contained non-exempt funds -- what was left of the bonus money from Chase.
"Absolutely nothing will stop that debt buyer from trying to freeze it again," says Taliaferro's attorney, Johnson Tyler of South Brooklyn Legal Services. "When a credit card company sells off a debt, they don't sell it with a red flag that says, 'We tried to collect and she's on Social Security.' It's sold as part of a bundle of debt. We have cases where the debt buyer froze the account three times in a row on a client who is homeless and mentally impaired. A judge ordered them to stop and they still did it."
A Modern-Day Debtors' Prison?
Consumer advocates say Congress should adopt federal legislation modeled after a California law that prohibits a restraint on the first $2,500 of any account into which Social Security funds are directly deposited. "That would simplify things for the banks, and essentially effectuate the whole purpose of what Congress wanted to accomplish with exemption laws," says Tyler.
For her part, Fauntleroy says she's done with credit cards, although she still gets daily offers in the mail. "They keep trying, but I won't bite -- I even got one from Capital One," she says. "Either they're crazy or they think I am!"
Like Fauntleroy, many seniors try to make good on their debts, legal advocates say. "Many of our clients made payments for years until they couldn't do it anymore," says Patricia Duecy, a paralegal with Legal Services of Northern Virginia who worked on Fauntleroy's case. "Some of them did pay them off -- if you looked at what they actually charged, outside of late fees and interest.
"A long time ago the country made a decision that when a person is old or poor, they should have a subsistence income to pay for rent, food, and medicine," Duecy adds. "The money is supposed to be going to their basic needs and not going into the hands of debt collectors. If we can't protect the most vulnerable among us, what are we doing?"
Sunday, November 11, 2007
by Mike Whitney
America is finished, washed up, kaput. Foreign investors and central banks around the world have lost confidence in US markets and are headed for the exits. The dollar is sinking, the country is insolvent, and its leaders are barking mad. Investors are voting with their feet. They've had enough. Capital is flowing to China and the Far East in a torrent. It's "sayonara" downtown Manhattan and "Hello" Tiananmen Square.
The dollar fell another 2 per cent last night, gold soared to $840 per ounce, oil topped $98 per barrel, General Motors reported a $39 billion loss after the market closed on Tuesday, the real estate market continued its downward slide, and the major investment banks are marching in lock-step towards bankruptcy.
The news is all bad. The nation's economic foundation is in shambles. US credibility is shot. Bush and Greenspan have put us on the road to ruin. Now their work is done. We're flat broke.
The catalogue of fiscal ailments now facing the country is too long to list. We'd need a ledger the size of a small encyclopedia. There's been a stampede away from the dollar even though it's already lost over 60 per cent of its value since Bush took office and even though central banks around the world will lose their shirts if it collapses. They don't care. They're getting out while they can.
Cheng Siwei, the vice chairman of China's National People's Congress, announced yesterday that China would continue to diversify its $1.4 trillion reserves away from the dollar to "stronger currencies" like the euro. "Strong currencies"; isn't that Paulson's line? Siwei's comments ignited a firestorm in the currency markets triggering a big blow-off of the greenback. The poor dollar has no place to go now but down, and it's on a greased pole to the bottom. With consumer spending paralyzed by the decline in home equity and frozen wages, and the banks "stuffed to the gills" with over a trillion dollars of mortgage-backed sludge; the prognosis for the hobbled dollar is looking grimmer by the day. The bulging trade deficits and dwindling foreign inflows haven't helped either. The greenback has suddenly become the global pariah; all it needs is a leper's rattle and a tin cup.
The news is no better in the real estate industry either, where the nation's biggest builders are reporting record losses and inventory is backed up 11 months. Sales are off 22 per cent in one year alone. Foreclosures are skyrocketing, jumbo loans (over $417,000) are impossible to get regardless of one's credit history, 40 per cent of all mortgages (subprime, Alt-A, piggyback, reverse amortization, interest-only) have been eliminated, and entire projects in Florida, Arizona, Las Vegas, and California's Central Valley have stopped building altogether. Tens of thousands of unoccupied homes across the Southwest have been reduced to ghost towns. Nothing is selling. The building boom, that began when Alan Greenspan ginned-up the Fed's printing presses in 2002, has turned into the biggest housing bust in American history.
On top of that, the banks are tightening lending standards and shunning potential buyers just when the economy needs a boost in demand. Loan originations are down and bankers are spooked by the gathering storm in the credit markets. That means that home sales will continue to be sluggish, prices will correct more quickly, and the anticipated "soft landing" will turn into a full-blown crash.
New home construction has accounted for 2 out of every 5 new jobs created in the last 5 years. Most of those workers are either delivering pizzas, cleaning bed pans or are lining up at the soup kitchen. The BLS's numbers on employment are bogus. It's just more government bunkum. They're predicated on a "birth-death" model that creates millions of fictitious jobs out of whole cloth. In truth, unemployment is soaring and the most vulnerable and impoverished among us are taking a beating from the housing debacle.
According to the Mortgage Bankers Association of Washington, the total of mortgage loans outstanding in 2006 was $10.9 trillion; $6 trillion of which were transformed into securities (CDOs, MBSs) About $1.5 trillion of those securities are subprime; another $1 trillion Alt-A (nearly as risky) and at least another $1.5 trillion in adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). At least 20 per cent of these shaky liabilities/securities will default, and yet, no one really knows who is holding them on their books. All of the major financial institutions – the insurance companies, foreign banks, hedge funds, investment banks – have purchased these CDO "roadside bombs" and mixed them in with their other performing loans and hard assets. The projected explosions have already begun to take their toll on the financial giants – Citigroup and Merrill Lynch are just the latest victims; others will follow. The problem can't be fixed with Bernanke's low interest rates. The bad debts are everywhere and must accounted for and written down. That puts us on the threshold of a jarring market-downturn triggered by an unprecedented number of defaults that will rumble through the entire system. Bankruptcies will pop up everywhere at random. It is a blueprint for economic chaos. And it is unavoidable.
The global markets have never seen a financial typhoon of this magnitude before. Mortgage lenders, homeowners, banks, hedge funds, bond insurers, etc. will all either go under or feel the sting of a slumping market.
Many of the major investment banks are already broke; it's clear from their own reporting. Charles Hugh Smith sums it up like this in his recent article "Empire of Debt: The Great Unraveling":
"If their bad bets were marked to market, Citicorp and Merrill Lynch would be declared insolvent. Why? Because they are insolvent – right now. The meaning of insolvency is straightforward: their losses exceed their capital. Recall that these firms list assets of $100 billion (or whatever) but their actual net capital is on the order of 2.5 per cent to 5 per cent – a mere sliver of their stated assets. In other words: a 5 per cent loss of their stated assets wipes them out. The game is now over, and the players shuffling losses can only last a few more days or weeks."
Up to this point, the banks have been able to place a sizeable portion of their "hard-to-value" assets in a Level-3 grab bag, which allowed company accountants to assign a value to those assets according to their own judgment. No more. The new FASB 157 regulation will force the banks to use "market prices" to determine the true value of their holdings. Some analysts believe that these new disclosure rules may result in $200 billion write-downs on assets and require the over-leveraged banks to increase their capital reserves. That will slow down lending and put a wrinkle in the banks' bottom line. In any event, once the law is enacted; we'll see who's "faking" the value of their assets or as Warren Buffett says, "Who's swimming with their clothes off.
Professor Nouriel Roubini summed it up like this:
"The amount of losses that financial institutions have already recognized – $20 billion – is just the very tip of the iceberg of much larger losses that will end up in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Calling this crisis a sub-prime meltdown is ludicrous as by now the contagion has seriously spread to near prime and prime mortgages. And it is spreading to every corner of the securitized financial system that is either frozen or on the way to freeze. The reality is that most financial institutions have barely started to recognize the lower "fair value" of their impaired securities. The credit crunch is getting worse and its financial and real fallout will be severe." (Nouriel Roubini blog.)
The constant drumbeat of bad news is having a numbing affect on Wall Street. Traders' are tight-lipped and downcast. Spirits are sagging. No one likes losing money, and yet, the credit storm shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. Yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial's took another 360-point pounding before the bell rang. Another day, another bloodbath. The subprime virus has now infected the broader markets leaving the once-brawny financial giants bruised and reeling like Joe Frazier in the Thrilla in Manila. A few more down-days like yesterday and they'll be carrying out hedge funds feet first.
The stock market is looking more and more like a glass pitcher propped up on the edge of a bookshelf. One little bump, and down she goes.
November 10, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Carrie Garner’s Galleria d’Arte
Miss Katrina, Lanus’ subject of her Los Dias de los Muertos series, will delight and intrigue you with her antics and unbridled joy. A number of works inspired by
Frida Kahlo, another of Lanus’ favorite subjects, will also be debuted at the reception. Bold colors and captivating themes abound in each and every Lanus creation.
FOUR ACCOMPLISHED ARTISTS FEATURED IN NOVEMBER
McKinney, TX – Aristeia Gallery is delighted to feature noted portrait artist, DeDe Barr and three of her very talented students for the November Second Saturday event. Patricia Hanszen, Tawni Hodge and Lois Nightingale are all accomplished artists in their own right, and share a commonality of being long-time art students of Ms. Barr.
DeDe Barr, a former McKinney resident, now living in Dallas, has distinguished herself as a much sought after portrait artist, among whose clients include former presidents,
U. S. senators, ambassadors and foreign dignitaries as well as noted sports figures. In addition to oil portraits, Ms. Barr creates portraits in graphite and has illustrated children’s books. Among Ms. Barr’s most recognized pieces are the official portraits of former president, Lyndon B. Johnson and that of Dallas’ own, Audie Murphy, America’s most decorated WWII hero.
On Saturday evening, Ms. Barr will have sample commission portraits and some of her current works on display at the gallery and she will be on-hand to greet guests and answer questions regarding her work.
Although Dallas native, Patricia Hanszen, pursued a career in business she always pursued her love of art through independent study and exposure to the influences of the country’s finest artists. While living in Boston and New York, Patricia’s love of realism developed and her subjects ranged from still life and florals to capturing the beauty of New England’s landscapes.
Patricia says that her strong influences in art have been Richard Schmid, impressionist, John Asaro and she remains a great admirer of John Singer Sargent. Patricia says that “beautiful art touches something much deeper within me” and she is now painting full-time while continuing to study under various well-known artists including DeDe Barr.
Growing up in Allen, TX, Tawni Hodge attended Baylor University, UNT and Texas Women’s University, where she received a degree in Fashion Design with a minor in Fine Art. It appears she was destined to be an artist, as she began her career in the fashion industry and her current career is in interior design, owning and operating a free-lance design business in Sherman. Tawni says that “through clothing and bare interiors”, she has been “painting for years with fabrics and furniture.” Several years ago she discovered a group of artists, taught by DeDe Barr and was inspired to pick up a brush and paint on canvas, Tawni says that “DeDe has given me the direction and skill and my fellow students have made the journey joyful.” Tawni photographs her own references for her paintings, including those for portrait commissions.
Prior to moving to the Dallas in 2001, Lois Nightingale enjoyed a successful career as an Art Director and Designer in the Washington, DC area. Lois says that she has “always been drawn to the decorative arts, fine art and portraiture”. With her husband’s transfer to Dallas in 2001, Lois was afforded her the opportunity to pursue her desire to paint.
Several years ago Ms. Nightingale began studying oil portraiture with DeDe Barr. A memorable part of this study included an extended visit to Italy in October of last year. She continues her study with DeDe and is accepting commissions for portraits. Lois and her husband have a successful manufacturing business in Ennis, TX.