Archive for the Category ◊ Business ◊

Who’s Dispensing ‘Fake News’?
Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 | Author:

Update

Here is an interesting update from recent polling:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the mainstream press is full of fake news, a sentiment that is held by a majority of voters across the ideological spectrum…

That number includes 80 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats. Eighty-four percent of voters said it is hard to know what news to believe online.

 

March 31, 2017

Today we call it fake news.  It was all fake news during the Obama Administration but there was a difference.  The media had transformed into something different, worse, and more insidious.  They became active Obama-collaborators.  They stopped conducting themselves as the fourth estate.  The media didn’t report on the most obvious corrupt administration in U.S. history, or the failures of Obama and his administration.  Instead, numerous reports indicated Obama had one the most scandal free administration ever.  The media and Obama were hand-in-glove, committed and organized to undermine the U.S. Constitution, destroy the rule of law, and attack common sense and American culture.

 

December 18, 2016

As a user of Feedly as my daily news reader, I am able to efficiently aggregate multiple news sources of my choosing.  Hence, I subscribe to over 200 sources (ranging from mainstream media to obscure special-interest blogs) from around the world.  This provides me with a wide range of viewpoints on newsworthy topics.  Over time, I’ve come to observe many common trends or ‘flavors’ of how these sources interpret events.

I must say that I see tons of irony in hearing the mainstream media calling out “fake news”.  These ubiquitous organizations (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New York Times) have been behaving as an American version of Pravda for more than 20 years.   As Bill Whittle recently observed:

Maybe all this fuss is to turn us away from the realization that EVERYTHING we hear from the main stream media, from the earth is dying hysteria to mom-and-pop bakeries in Oregon is ALL fake news, reported by, presented by, edited by and spun by the mainstream media, which has devolved into the publicity department for the Democratic Party in General and the progressive movement in particular.

I think it’s fairly safe to observe that the ‘democratization’ of information via the Internet is finally having the appropriate impact on the news monopolies.  The recent election results have shown these organizations that their spin on the news no longer has the influence that it once had.

3D Printing Conference in Pittsburgh
Monday, May 15th, 2017 | Author:

I recently had the opportunity to talk about additive manufacturing at the RAPID conference in Pittsburgh…  A couple of photos of the downtown looking towards the baseball stadium along with a view of the conference exhibit hall.

 

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Is Greece the “Canary” for Economic Decline?
Wednesday, May 03rd, 2017 | Author:

The continuing saga of economic decline in western democracies…  Is Greece the “Canary in the Coal Mine” for how these events unfold?

 

Update

It’s a never-ending story.  It appears to be the proverbial “kicking the can down the road”.  They’re throwing more money at Greece once again for the promise of more austerity measures:

The preliminary deal with international creditors would allow Athens to receive emergency funds in exchange for promises of higher taxes and lower social spending.

As far as I know, the real solutions are: a) a major write-down of the debt, b) significant steps for economic growth.  I haven’t seen either of these in the plans for the Greek empire.

 

February 7, 2017

It’s now 2017 and there is still no clear path to stability for Greece… and no one appears to have an answer. The economists are now saying that Greece cannot ‘grow’ out of their economic malaise:

The new report was prepared by IMF staff ahead of a February 6 board meeting to discuss the fund’s participation in an EU-led €86bn bailout of Greece and signals the continuing hard line the IMF is taking on debt relief for Athens. It offers a bleaker view of Greece’s economic dilemmas than an analysis prepared last year, warning that the debt load is “highly unsustainable” and would not improve even if it implemented further reforms recommended by the fund. . . .

“Even with these ambitious polices in place, Greece cannot grow out of its debt problem,” IMF staff warned in the report, seen by the Financial Times and drafted as part of the fund’s annual review of member economies. “Greece requires substantial debt relief from its European partners to restore debt sustainability.”

This is a good assessment of the real challenge:

The deeper problem is that Greece does not produce like a developed country, but its citizens expect the level of services and pensions normally associated with a developed country.  That’s why there is so much hostility to Greece in the middle-income countries of Eastern Europe, where benefit levels are lower.

 

June 25, 2016

From the Wall Street Journal, there is no end in sight for the economic decline in Greece…

Mr. Tsipras’s statist ideology is as hostile as ever to the supply-side reforms Greece needs, and both the IMF and other creditors seem to be giving up hope that any other Greek politician could enact such reforms. Which means Greece’s crisis will drag on no matter what happens next with Greece’s debts.

 

May 8, 2016

The drama continues as the government of Greece passes additional austerity measures:

Greece’s parliament has passed a package of tax and pension reforms, ahead of a crucial meeting of Eurozone finance ministers… Before the vote, protesters in Athens threw petrol bombs at police, who responded with tear gas.  Trade unions say the country cannot bear another round of austerity… Three days of a general strike paralysed public transport and slowed the public sector and the media.  Speaking before the vote, the leader of the Greek Communist Party, Dimitris Koutsoubas, said the Greek people would “not tolerate nor accept” the measures and would “show their true power” in the event of a yes vote.

 

April 16, 2016

This article in the Daily Mail should give you an idea of the recent economic progress (or lack thereof) in Greece:

The Greek government fears it could be subjected to terror attacks if a taxpayer-funded mosque is not constructed in Athens.  Officials claim it would allow Muslims to practise their religion under the auspices of a centrally-appointed imam that would ensure it does not stray into extremism.

Hmmm… the country is broke, yet it’s using ‘taxpayer’ (in Greece, the word taxpayer should always appear in scary quotes) money to payoff potential terrorists.

 

January 25, 2016

From the analysts at investors.com, the latest status and outlook:

In protracted and bitter negotiations last summer, the country promised to raise the retirement age, cut pensions, liberalize the energy market, open up closed professions, raise taxes and sell government assets.

There have been encouraging signs. In December, the Greek Parliament narrowly passed overhauls needed to get the next $1.1 billion segment of the bailout negotiated over the summer with the IMF, the European Central Bank and European Commission, known as the troika.

Standard & Poor’s raised its long-term sovereign debt rating to B- from CCC+ with stable outlook, citing the country’s compliance with its economic program.

But the country is a long way from recovery. Third-quarter unemployment was 24% and the economy contracted 0.1% from a year earlier.

Analysts with Deutsche Bank said earlier this month that they expect Greece to slip into deep recession later this year.

 

September 21, 2015

The malaise continues… a good analysis from Strategy Page:

We know how Greece got here. Greek productivity could not pay for the lifestyle its citizens desired. The productivity of other Euro-zone nations financed Greek good times and kept Greek politicians in power.

Greece lied to obtain the largesse. When the Euro-zone officially formed in 2001, Greece claimed it had a GDP deficit of 1.5 percent. In 2012, former Greek budget minister Peter Doukas said the real 2001 figure was 8.3 percent. Over the years, Greek governments violated fiscal agreements, borrowed money they could not repay and managed to hide the lies. European Union monitoring systems failed to detect the buildup in Greek debt.

The Greek people, who supported these lying governments, enjoyed “other people’s money.” Now German, French and even Italian workers say no more. Italians complain that Greek government worker pensions are far more lavish than theirs. No la dolce vita on our euros.

As for selective law enforcement: Systemic crookedness stymies economic growth. Greeks know it. A June 2010 poll found that 78 percent of the Greek people “accept the view that many or all in government are corrupt.” That same year, a Greek finance ministry investigation uncovered extensive tax evasion, corruption and bribery in its tax collection offices. Greek tax evaders cost the country an estimated $27 billion to $30 billion a year.

Here’s the big story. In Greece, we witness another hard example of an old lesson. Economic reality shakes and eventually shatters political fantasy. Fantasy may fade, but denial tends to die hard. All too often, it dies violently.

 

June 28, 2015

The saga continues… The Greeks elected a Communist leader that promised economic miracles for the citizenry (sound familiar?); and everyone has discovered the harsh reality of running out of other people’s money.  It’s now widely reported that the Greek government is shuttering the banks for a week:

Greek leaders planned to shutter their banks on Monday amid last-ditch discussions about their nation’s economic future, as panicked citizens tried to pull their money from their accounts while they still were able.

I still don’t know enough about macroeconomics to predict the eventual end game…  I suppose the other EU countries will be coming to Athens to repossess the Parthenon.

greek-economy

 

January 6, 2015

Well, three years later and we have not yet closed the loop on the outcome…  Today’s BusinessWeek discusses Greece considering its options:

The current Greek situation is particularly troubling since by as early as mid-year it could constitute Europe’s Lehman Brothers moment. Whatever the outcome of the Jan. 25 parliamentary election, it is difficult to see how Greece can avoid a major policy collision with its European partners. Greece is showing every sign of austerity and economic reform fatigue as its economy remains mired in the deepest of depressions.

 

February 3, 2014

Yes, the story continues more than two years later, but the plot and results remain the same… As noted at ZeroHedge, Europe pretends to bail out Greece… and Greece pretends to reform and comply with austerity reforms when it merely continues to spend as before until the money runs out…

At this point, I would be willing to say that Victor Davis Hanson has been the best prognosticator (see earlier posts below)

 

May 9, 2013

The Greek government began its first mass-firing of public-sector workers in more than 100 years this week, part of an effort to lay off 180,000 by 2015 under Europe-imposed austerity.

via Greece starts firing civil servants for first time in a century.

 

August 20, 2012

More bad news about the Greece economy…  They have debt coming due and the country needs to issue more bonds.  The Greek GDP shrank by more than 6% over the last 12 months.

I still have that lingering question:  How does Greece break out of this continuous decline?

 

July 24, 2012

The Prime Minister of Greece declares that his country is in a depression (any surprises here?):

Greek GDP is expected by the end of this year to have shrunk by about a fifth in five consecutive years of recession since 2008...

 

May 11, 2012

You may have missed the Greek elections, but the results are foretelling — the citizens cast quite a few ballots for the Communist and the Nazi parties…  the real takeaway that can be generalized for many western countries is that nobody wants to hear about austerity measures.  Given a choice between a leader who says “you’ll have to tighten your belt and go to work” versus a prospective leader who proclaims “the government should continue to support your lifestyle”, well, the answer is pretty obvious.

The saga about bankrupt western countries continues to unfold…

 

May 2, 2012

It’s not getting any better in Athens…

image

 

April 5, 2012

It appears that the financial markets are not convinced that Greece has overcome its problems.  The Greek 10 year bonds are now hovering around a 20% yield rate (in contrast, US 10 year bonds are approximately 2%).

 

February 13, 2012

A prognostication from Victor Davis Hanson:

There are only three scenarios likely for Greece: (1) In exchange for debt relief, a liberated Greece changes its ways, opens up its economy, redefines labor and capital markets and becomes a sort of Spain (unlikely). (2) It defaults and its drachma-based country reverts to what one remembered in the old days and what one would expect from a top-heavy, unproductive socialist state (somewhat likely). Or (3) it gets some half-relief, but soon reneges on its promised reforms and austerity, and thus like Greek cities in the 2nd Century AD, life goes on as weeds grow among the impressive, but crumbling infrastructure of the past (very likely).

 

February 5, 2012

The saga continues… Is the situation in Greece a microcosm of the western democracies and economic decline?  A recent issue of the Washington Times discusses how the Greek bailout cycle continues unabated:

The latest examination by international debt inspectors found Greece in such dire straits that it requires another $20 billion cash infusion. This would be on top of the $171 billion promised in October, which was on top of the $145 billion Greece received in 2010…

Greece is not going to escape this repeating cycle of near-collapse and bailout without doing something that sparks sustained economic growth and private-sector job creation. It’s well past time to try something new. The last two years of bailouts and broken promises to cut back on spending have resulted in a shrinking economy and what seem to be daily news of rioting on the streets of Athens. That’s not exactly the best advertisement for Greece’s most significant industry: tourism.

 

January 31, 2012

The German news organization, Spiegel, is sharing its thoughts on the situation in Greece…  They exclaim that European politicians are not facing reality:

Once again, Europe is arguing over a bailout for Greece, and it looks as though the result will be no different that it has been in the past… Europe’s politicians continue to battle reality. Everyone knows that Greece cannot repay its massive pile of debts, now at more than €350 billion ($459 billion). But instead of effectively reducing the financial burden, European politicians intend to approve new loans for the government in Athens and go on fighting debt with new debt.

 

January 29, 2012

The latest discussion is about Greece changing from using the Euro as its currency:

Germany and the rest of the eurozone can’t actually kick a country out of the euro for fear of investor panic and speculation against Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and Spain. But if Greece were to leave on its own…

 

January 25, 2012

The situation in Greece has many economists around the world concerned:

The rest of the world needs to sit up and take notice of what is going on in Greece right now. This is what can happen when you allow government debt to spiral out of control. Once it becomes clear that you can’t pay your debts, a financial collapse can happen very suddenly and you start losing your sovereignty to those that you must turn to for financial help.

 

January 15, 2012

I’ve been watching the situation in Greece with great interest.  It possesses all of the leading indicators of great decline associated with a western culture that has embraced Socialism.  These indicators include a very low reproduction rate among the indigenous population; huge amounts of entitlements showered among the citizens; and a government expenditure rate well out of line with the country’s gross domestic product.

When a country gets to this point what happens?  Do they declare bankruptcy and the creditor nations repossess the assets? Do they hyper-inflate their way out of debt by using their own currency?

Over at the Calculated Risk blog, they talk about the fact that everyone knows that the Greeks are not willing to adopt austerity measures.

At this point, it all sounds like a huge game of “kick the can” as a means to delay the inevitable…  of course, I still don’t have a clear picture of the eventual outcome.

 

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Do Google and Yahoo Provide ‘News’?
Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 | Author:

It’s amazing the drivel that covers the pages of the so called meaningful ‘news’ at the sites for Google News and Yahoo News.  Google is all about the mainstream media.  As you can see from the first screenshot below, they feature the usual suspects with articles from the Washington Post, New York Times, Huffington Post, etc.

Meanwhile, the Yahoo news site is fairly useless.  It reminds me of the magazines lining the checkout aisle at you local grocery store.  A little of National Star and People magazine.  As you can see in the second screenshot, they feature inane articles about the Kardashians and the cast from an old movie.  To make it even worse, Yahoo intersperses stealth ads that intentionally appear to be news articles.

Thank goodness for Feedly and the multitude of other information sites on the web.

Google News Extract

 

Yahoo News Extract

More Young Americans Live With Parents Than With Spouse
Wednesday, April 19th, 2017 | Author:

Interesting change in culture:

According to a new study by the U.S. Census Bureau.“There are now more young people living with their parents than in any other arrangement.”

In 1975, 31.9 million Americans in the 18-to-34 age bracket were married and lived with their spouse… In 2016, only 19.9 million were married and lived with a spouse—while 22.9 million lived in their parents’ home.

Source: More Americans 18-to-34 Now Live With Parents Than With Spouse

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Long-Held Views on Socialism
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 | Author:

Say what you will, but political and economic systems perform better when based on the reality of human nature, rather than the fallacies of how we’d like to believe that people behave. A great quote from more than 70 years ago:

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” – Winston Churchill

Sears Moving Towards Bankruptcy?
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 | Author:

Update

More on the downfall:

Sears Holdings Corp. suffered its worst stock decline in more than two years after acknowledging “substantial doubt” about its future, raising fresh concerns about the survival of a company that was once the world’s largest retailer.

Source: Sears Plummets After Filing Sparks Concern That End Is Near

 

January 4, 2017

It appears that Sears/K-Mart is on a downward spiral.

Hedge-fund manager Edward Lampert has pumped an additional $1 billion into his years-long effort to revive Sears, but the CEO’s latest financing likely is just another short-term fix for the struggling retailer.

Source: CEO Lampert Pumps Additional $1 Billion Into His Sears Bet

 

December 8, 2016

The venerable Sears retail stores, a mainstay of America for more than 100 years, is running into major financial problems:

It has lost more nearly $10 billion since 2010 and the retailer has sought to plug that with the sale of countless assets like some of its best stores, its stakes in Sears Canada and Lands’ End. It is currently trying to find buyers, investors or partners, for its remaining crown jewels, its Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard brands.

Source: Sears Says It’s Likely to Close Many More Stores

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More Government Control of Your Life
Tuesday, February 14th, 2017 | Author:

It’s not a crazy proposition of what’s likely to happen:

The time will come when you won’t be able to buy a cup of coffee without being traced, warns investment guru Jim Rogers. To control people, governments will increasingly seek to hunt down cash spending, he adds.

When it’s done, the governments are going to be very, very happy they are going to say they’re doing it for our own good, this is not them, this is for our good. That they’re doing this, but it’s coming, and it’s going to be a whole different world in which we live. Probably we are not going to have as many freedoms as we have now even though we are already losing our freedoms at a significant pace…

Source: Big Brother is watching you: Jim Rogers prophesizes death of cash & total govt control of spending

Is Science Now More Political Than Ever?
Monday, January 09th, 2017 | Author:

A tenured professor of climate science at Georgia Tech University decided to call it quits:

“A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science.  Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.  How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide.”

Source: Knives sticking out of my back

Vacation in Aruba
Sunday, January 01st, 2017 | Author:

We recently returned from our regular pilgrimage to the tropical island of Aruba.  It’s hard to beat the routine 80 degree and sunny days, along with the fine dining in the evenings.  Below are a few photos from our visit, including the view from the hotel balcony and a view towards the beach.

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