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Archive for September, 2009

The debut of The Dude, Gustavo Dudamel

September 30, 2009 Leave a comment

With all due respect to Lebowski, there is a new “Dude” in town. This Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl, the 28-year-old Gustavo Dudamel takes up his conductor’s wand for the first time as the new leader of the LA Philharmonic.

http://www.laweekly.com/2009-09-24/music/la-phil-39-s-gustavo-dudamel/1

“Music has to be recognized as an element of socialization,” [Jose Abreu, who organized “The System” in which Dudamel learned music] says in Arvelo’s documentary, “as an agent of social development in the highest sense, because it transmits the highest social values, such as solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion, and it has the ability to unite an entire community and express sublime feelings”….

Or, as an 11-year-old violinist in Arvelo’s documentary puts it: “I imagine that God must be like music because something so beautiful can only be the work of God.”

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Keep your eye on the bouncing write-down: The “toxic assets” are still on the banks’ books

September 30, 2009 Leave a comment

The banks tried to play kick-the-can with the so-called “toxic assets,” or subprime mortgages.

* The Federal Accounting Standards Board changed the accounting rules in April 2009, so the banks could wait until the assets appreciated in value (read: until the real estate market improved) and therefore take less of a write-down against the losses.

BOTTOM LINE: The “toxic assets” are still on the banks’ books.

http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/article/346319/Massive-%22Shadow-Inventory%22-Overhang-Will-Keep-Pressure-on-House-Prices?tickers=tol,kbh,len,itb,bzh,xhb&sec=topStories&pos=9&asset=&ccode=

EXCERPTS:

  • “Liquidations” of delinquent loans are taking much longer than usual.The banks are taking longer to foreclose and holding foreclosed properties to avoid putting pressure on prices (and thus triggering writedowns).  Mortgage mods are delaying foreclosures.  Many houses are early in the foreclosure process.

We have wrapped many of Amherst’s charts into the presentation below.  Here is the firm’s bottom line:

We are concerned that, in light of this housing overhang, the stabilization we have seen in home prices the last few months is temporary….

During the boom, sales of existing homes soared to 7 million a year.  Now they’re back to a more normal 5 million.

At the current rate of sales, it would take 8.5 months to clear all the inventory on the market.  This is still high.  Normally “inventory-months” averages about 6.

If Amherst Securities is right, meanwhile, there are another 7 million houses of “shadow inventory” that will hit the market in the next couple of years.  It would take 16 months to sell this inventory.

The U.S. imports 50% of the oil it consumes

September 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Americans consume roughly 7.1 billion barrels of oil in 2009

http://www.eia.doe.gov/basics/quickoil.html

U.S. Petroleum Consumption (2009)
19.5 million barrels per day
or
7.1 billion barrels per year
“The Westwood company revealed in July that it had found the equivalent of 150 million to 250 million barrels of oil and natural gas in an undisclosed part of Kern County using techniques that the oil company’s executives would rather not talk about. It was California’s biggest find in 35 years.”
* Even if the company can bring above ground the total of 150-250 million barrels of oil (assuming the find is mostly oil) it is still an insignificant amount–15 to 25 days worth of oil, or 2 to 3.5% of our country’s yearly consumption of oil.
* We still need to import 9.7 million barrels per day or 3.5 billion barrels per year.
Yes, we import half of our oil. And here are the top 15 countries exporting oil to the U.S.
Crude Oil Imports (Top 15 Countries)
(Thousand Barrels per Day)
Country Jun-09 May-09 YTD 2009 Jun-08 YTD 2008

CANADA 2,001 1,746 1,883 1,942 1,926
VENEZUELA 1,119 1,228 1,041 1,085 1,009
MEXICO 1,099 1,088 1,161 1,124 1,196
SAUDI ARABIA 902 996 1,050 1,448 1,515
NIGERIA 769 552 635 943 1,035
ANGOLA 435 493 535 636 496
IRAQ 374 254 468 693 674
RUSSIA 305 416 272 228 114
COLOMBIA 286 227 256 177 182
BRAZIL 269 380 336 280 221
ALGERIA 232 126 246 269 321
KUWAIT 170 93 170 179 219
UNITED KINGDOM 154 164 130 73 69
ECUADOR 148 187 216 178 192
NORWAY 120 92 79 36 38

Marine who built Gitmo: US lost moral high ground

September 25, 2009 Leave a comment
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090925/ap_on_re_us/us_marine_guantanamo

EXCERPTS:

Lehnert, 58, was commander of Joint Task Force 160 when it was assigned to build prison cells in 2001 at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba to hold designated “enemy combatants” from Afghanistan and elsewhere.

He said he was given little guidance from the Pentagon, but he did have his staff read the Geneva Convention, the international agreement governing treatment of prisoners.

“I wanted to run it close to Geneva Convention rules,” Lehnert said. “Our job was to take them out of the fight, and once we had done that, I felt we had a moral responsibility to take care of them.”

However, another task force was put in charge of interrogating detainees, and there were disagreements over their treatment, Lehnert said.
“I think it is extraordinarily important how we treat prisoners,” he said. “Obviously, there were other views.”

“I came to the conclusion very soon that this probably wasn’t the right way to go,” said Lehnert, who served just 100 days at the base.

“Probably before I left Guantanamo, I was of the opinion it needed to go away as soon as possible,” he said.

The general said he didn’t feel the U.S. would get much useful information by using the techniques.

“I think we lost the moral high ground,” he said.

President Barack Obama has ordered the prison to close by January 2010, but it’s unclear where about 200 remaining prisoners would go.

US banks made $5.2B trading [financial weapons of mass destruction] derivatives in 2Q

September 25, 2009 Leave a comment

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2817995.stm

Derivatives are “financial weapons of mass destruction.”–Warren Buffett

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/US-banks-made-52B-trading-apf-2860531496.html?x=0&.v=3&sec=topStories&pos=5&asset=&ccode=

EXCERPTS:

Derivatives, traded in an unregulated $600 trillion market, were partly blamed for the financial crisis that ignited a year ago. The value of derivatives hinges on an underlying investment or commodity — such as currency rates, oil futures or interest rates. The derivative is designed to reduce the risk of loss from the underlying asset. Derivatives trading is dominated by about 20 big banks worldwide….

Credit default swaps, a form of insurance against loan defaults, account for an estimated $60 trillion of the over-the-counter derivatives market. The collapse of the swaps brought the downfall of Wall Street banking house Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. about a year ago and nearly toppled American International Group Inc., prompting the government to support the insurance conglomerate with more than $180 billion in aid….

Congress is weighing legislation to impose broad new oversight on derivatives. The Obama administration’s proposal, part of its plan for overhauling U.S. financial rules, would subject the banks that trade derivatives to requirements for holding capital reserves against risk and other rules. A new network of clearinghouses would be established to provide transparency for derivatives trades.

ap

US banks made $5.2B trading [financial weapons of

mass destruction] derivatives in 2Q

  • By Marcy Gordon, AP Business Writer
  • On Friday September 25, 2009, 12:48 pm EDT
  • Cande from Qaddafi at the U.N. General Assembly

    September 23, 2009 Leave a comment

    Fande = Fact & Evidence; Cande = Conjecture & Exaggeration

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/24/world/24nations.html?hp

    * If Qaddafi didn’t speak with so much hyperbole on almost every other topic of discussion he might have more credibility decrying wars.

    I would rather see diplomacy than war. But I want to see an honest, rational debate based on fact & evidence (Fande). Qaddafi offers the same, old, tired dogma (assertion without proof) and demagoguery (appeals to emotional biases) that have dominated geo-politics for far too long. With his form of language we get more confusion than clarity.

    “An hour into his address, Colonel Qaddafi began calling for investigations into each of the major wars since the United Nations was founded: the Korean War, the war over the Suez Canal, the Vietnam War and the United States’ two wars in Iraq, which he called ‘the mother of all evils.’ ”

    Cande from Qaddafi…

    EXCERPTS via the NY Times:

    “We are not committed to obeying or adhering to resolutions by the Security Council in its composition right now,” he said, adding that the Security Council should be renamed the “Terror Council.”

    Ali Abdussalam Treki, the Libyan diplomat who now holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, introduced him as the “leader of the revolution, president of the African Union, King of Kings of Africa.”

    At times, Colonel Qaddafi veered into conspiracy, saying, for example, that the H1N1 influenza virus, also called swine flu, might be a military or corporate weapon that got out of a lab, and he intimated that an Israeli hand was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said, should be solved by the creation of a single state, which Mr. Qaddafi called Israteen, but Mr. Qaddafi stressed it was wrong to infer that Arabs hate the Jews. “You are the ones who burned them, not us. You expelled them,” he said, referring apparently to European nations.

    Electricity rates in San Francisco keep going up, and up, and up…

    September 23, 2009 Leave a comment

    http://www.pge.com/tariffs/tm2/pdf/ELEC_SCHEDS_E-1.pdf

    * Yes, the more electricity you use the more you get charged.

    Prices as of September, 22 2009…

    Total Energy Rates ($ per kWh, or kilowatt hour)

    Tier 1 = 12 cents per kWh

    (Baseline Usage)

    Tier 2 = 13 cents per kWh

    (101% – 130% of Baseline)

    Tier 3 = 26 cents per kWh

    (131% – 200% of Baseline)

    Tier 4 = 38 cents per kWh

    (201% – 300% of Baseline)

    Tier 5 = 44 cents per kWh

    (Over 300% of Baseline)