Archive for November, 2008

I’ve been busy this weekend and just learned that a man died at Wal-mart as he was stampeded to death much like if he were in an African Sahara  killed by runaway elephants or rhinos except this poor man was killed by  wild animals shopping at Wal-mart when the store opened for black Friday.

The throng of Wal-Mart shoppers had been building all night, filling sidewalks and stretching across a vast parking lot at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, N.Y. At 3:30 a.m., the Nassau County police had to be called in for crowd control, and an officer with a bullhorn pleaded for order.

Tension grew as the 5 a.m. opening neared. Someone taped up a crude poster: “Blitz Line Starts Here.”

By 4:55, with no police officers in sight, the crowd of more than 2,000 had become a rabble, and could be held back no longer. Fists banged and shoulders pressed on the sliding-glass double doors, which bowed in with the weight of the assault. Six to 10 workers inside tried to push back, but it was hopeless.

Suddenly, witnesses and the police said, the doors shattered, and the shrieking mob surged through in a blind rush for holiday bargains. One worker, Jdimytai Damour, 34, was thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede that streamed over and around him. Others who had stood alongside Mr. Damour trying to hold the doors were also hurled back and run over, witnesses said.

Some workers who saw what was happening fought their way through the surge to get to Mr. Damour, but he had been fatally injured, the police said. Emergency workers tried to revive Mr. Damour, a temporary worker hired for the holiday season, at the scene, but he was pronounced dead an hour later at Franklin Hospital Medical Center in Valley Stream.

Four other people, including a 28-year-old woman who was described as eight months pregnant, were treated at the hospital for minor injuries.

Detective Lt. Michael Fleming, who is in charge of the investigation for the Nassau police, said the store lacked adequate security. He called the scene “utter chaos” and said the “crowd was out of control.” As for those who had run over the victim, criminal charges were possible, the lieutenant said. “I’ve heard other people call this an accident, but it is not,” he said. “Certainly it was a foreseeable act.”

Yup, if you’re in an African Sahara and you see a thousand animals crowding around and heading in one direction, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out you need to move out of the way or prepare to do something and Wal-mart did nothing.  This is one of the many reasons I don’t ever shop at Wal-mart, it’s been over a decade since I’ve step into a Wal-mart store and I only go there if it is an absolute emergency and I can’t go anywhere else.   This is just so sickening that Wal-mart should be ashamed of itself for letting this happen.   It’s all about profit for these morons and catering to the lowest common denominator should always come with an extra layer of thought and security but that would certainly cut into Wal-marts profits.

What a sad event.

Wow, we had Thanksgiving Dinner last night and only a single person seemed interested in any kind of Black Friday deals.   No one expressed any interest in getting up at 4 a.m. to go shopping for crap this year and I can’t blame them.

I could never understand why people wake up so early to try to get some teaser crap that they’ll run out of after 5 minutes of a retail outlet being open.   I remember Wal-Mart having $300 laptops for sale a few years ago and I remember the crowds fighting over them like there would be anything cheaper! Lol, there are $300 laptops on any given day of the week at most places now and the price on everything seems to be dropping daily.

I’m actually beginning to wonder if the “buy crap on Friday after Thanksgiving” is finally coming to a cultural end.    Oh I know there will be people shopping on Black Friday but I suspect the crowds will be thinner and likely window shoppers rather than actual shoppers but we’ll see what happens.

What was everyone talking about?   Not spending to shore up cash in the event the economy turns for the worse and we’re no where near digging out of this economic black hole anytime soon so it makes sense.   The prudent will survive, others won’t.

If you’re not sure what you need to be grateful for them perhaps this little video might help….

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSS8ub5x0G0

Here’s a hint…

…Everyday we wake up
We choose Love
We choose light
And we try, it’s too easy just to fall apart

Plastic Bottles
Imported Water
Cars we drive wherever we want to
Clothes we buy it’s sweatshop labor
Drugs from corporate enablers
We’re not living the Good life
Unless we’re fighting the Good fight
You and Me just trying to get it right

In the center of the first world
It’s laid out before us, who are we to break down?

….

I’m being inundated by e-mails and comments that people’s FICO scores seem to be dropping mysteriously for no reason.   People don’t appear to be late on any payments and not increasing debt or credit lines so what’s happening?

I’m beginning to wonder if the banks are involved in these shenanigains as many credit card banks have been increasing interest rates on consumers credit card because of the financial crisis.   So if FICO artificially drops people’s scores then bank can “justfy” raising rates right?

Unfortunately, the banks are largely supported by tax payer dollars right now so why are consumers paying higher interest rates AND higher taxes to support these banks?   This is the scam of the century if you ask me.   The poor suckers that carry credit card debt are being screwed twice:  higher interest rates and higher taxes.   The banks?   They get rewarded twice:  Huge profits when the gamble pays off, bailout when it doesn’t and now higher interest on credit card loans.

And the people keep bending over and taking it…..I just don’t get it.

I just unloaded all my credit card debt and have ZERO credit card debt other than the routing stuff that floats on my AMEX monthly.   I’m curious to see what my December FICO will show.   My score has been continously dropping for the past three months for no apparent reason.

Right now, every CEO around the world is contemplating the financial crisis and wondering how much to cut back in production and investment for whatever widget or service they provide to the consumer world wide.

This black friday, there will be many great deals on TV’s, clothing, cars, and just about everything you can think of and the temptation will be to wait a few more months for prices to get lower but there will come a point for which demand will exceed supply and prices will begin to rise.   Companies are cutting production now so if you’re expecting next year’s black friday to be better, I would urge you to reconsider and be cautious.

If we are to have more major bankruptices coming over the next few months then there will be a small set of distributers and retailers (think Circuit City) and that in turn will lead to less competition, dwindled supply of consumer goods, smaller set of servicing agents and much higher prices.

Right now, there is a glut of cars, TV’s, clothing and everything else you can imagine, if you need something really badly or have been considering purchasing that TV then now may be the best time to buy.   I expect the inventory to slow and dwindle starting Spring 2009.   It’s also a good idea to stock up on food items because farms will go out of business too!

As I drove to work this morning, I noticed a new sign over one of the city’s “gentleman’s club” and couldn’t help but notice a sign that read, “Dollar Steak Buffets Are Back” over the establishment.

It got me thinking if this is a good strategy to save money on lunch and I’m wondering if it will show up on those famous frugal blogs out there.    Personally, I get my steak lunches the normal way: vendors;  I’m noticing that there continues to be a serious drop in patrons at high end restaurants and I’ve seen a few shutter doors already.

I can only imagine that these clubs are suffering along with the restaurants, retail and other industries.  Something has to be done be before we slip into a depression, this economic disaster is now feeding on itself exponentially and dollar buffets at the strip clubs are a sign of the times.

I was on my way to have lunch with a friend earlier this week but I over anticipated traffic so I got there about 30 minutes too soon. I was so hungry, I figured a $0.99 Mickey D’ double cheeseburger could tide me over until we met for lunch so I drove into a McDonalds in the most unsavory part of town.

As I was pulling up to the intercom to place my order an old poor black man walked up close to my car and said, “Sir, I’m not going to ask you for money but could you please buy me lunch today because I haven’t eaten in a while?”

As I looked him over, he did look fairly ragged wearing worn and torn clothing and rather filthy too. I said to him, “What would you like?”

He beamed back and said he wanted a “BLT Combo Number 5” and added “and Sprite for the drink.”

I ordered a double cheeseburger and a #5 with a Sprite and pulled up to the drive thru window. I handed the clerk a $100 but she didn’t accept the bill so I handed her my AMEX. She gave me the food and I drove up to the edge of the restaurant where “God” was waiting for his meal.

I handed the #5 combo to him along with the drink. He took it, looked at me and said, “God bless you today son” and walked away.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized I had purchased God lunch that day. I tend to think that an all powerful being would find it pretty boring to sit atop of the cosmos looking down on a seeming fairly placid universe. No, God hangs out in the form of a poor shunned person all day long unable to get something to eat from the very people for which everything has been given to on Earth.

Despite having written checks for hundreds or thousands of dollars this year for various charities and organizations only to have a sense of regret that my money went into a black hole, I got a high sense of accomplishment from a single $5 meal purchase for someone who needed it.

There have been many comparisons of our current credit crisis to the Japan crisis of the 90’s and the ensuing “lost decade” in which equities returned essentially nothing after inflation and adjustments.

If you were to assume that the U.S. stock market is heading toward a “lost decade” then what is your investing game plan? Will buy & hold work in this condition? If you’re in your 30’s or 40’s and the plan is to buy and hold for the next 10 to 20 years then isn’t this essentially “market timing?”

How many people are going to re-balance their portfolio and asset allocation in this mess? I don’t see how reallocation will work anyway because all across the board: commodities, equities, real estate, bonds have all been trashed.

So I’m curious, what’s your game plan for a lost decade?

With all the talk about Ford & GM, it seems that Intel and AMD stock are on their way down to oblivion.   Intel has a current market cap of 62 billion and stock price of $12.25 and dropping as the days pass by… AMD has a market cap of 1.6 billion and their stock is teetering at $1.91.

I don’t hear anyone talking about these companies being bailed out and if things keep getting worse then a bankrupt chip manufacturer might be worse than bankrupt auto companies.

But then again, the entire Semiconductor industry is in the gutter too, perhaps we need to bail out these guys before our iPhones and iPods go silent….

I’ve decided to pull a chunk of short term money out of the market.   Nothing in this market makes sense any more and luckily I got a good exit point on my latest short position (DUG) to exit at a break even point.

I’m keeping long term funds in the market but the short term money needs to go somewhere reasonably safe, like paying down arbitrage debt and my bank account.

Essentially, I can’t short anything because I’m not sure when the government isn’t going to come in and bail out someone, institute a ban on short selling, change the rules of the game or otherwise fiddle with common sense.

I can’t go long on too many things because if some of these big companies fail, they will act like dominos bringing down other companies and industries with them.   A cascading fall of companies is not unheard of in our current financial scenario.

I’m unclear at what the new tax policy will be for the upcoming year and am clueless as how to proceed on short term vs. long term capital gains tax.

Lastly, we have the end of the year tax loss selling and new year repositioning.  Who the heck knows which hedge funds will still be in business and what institutional investors will be rolling over into what and why so it just doesn’t make any sense to keep short term funds in the market anymore even with a buy/write ETF strategy.

Good luck.