2/3/10…back in the Bay Area

…from 20 degrees to 65 degrees. We had a great flight out, stopping in Denver where it was -6, and on arrival had to wait for police to arrest a fugitive on the plane and thus we walked into an empty Oakland airport at 2:30pm! Spent most of the day yesterday getting re-acclimated but did follow the markets.

As for yesterday’s ‘great’ day for stocks, the Dow at the peak was 12057.91, clearly a new high but the close was 12,042, just 2 points above the prior day as the same pattern of ‘creeping’ creepily higher continued. But Transports lost 99 points or 1.9% not confirming anything about the Dow’s meager rise – in fact it had a ‘lower low and lower high’ and for 3 of the last 4 days has traded well below both the 40 and 50 day moving averages! The S&P 500, both Nasdaq indices and the Russell 2000 were barely positive and volume was a weak 936 million shares…following two 1 billion share days, also weak, and the second lowest volume of the year so far by about 10,000 shares! Advance/declines and breadth were mixed with only the Nasdaq positive. Again we had 425 new 52 week highs and a smattering of new lows. Is this a strong market??? Not with the positive data we have had and again today with productivity strong, costs weak, and a drop in weekly jobless claims, albeit due to the foul weather.

TB is disgusted with the latest ruling on the healthcare act…it was fine to call parts of it unconstitutional…this we knew but to tell the states to ignore the entire law is shameful (shameful is a new extreme right code for something that is unacceptable to them), and partisan but making the decisions so far 2:2, obviously justice is not blind, it is their preconceived beliefs.

TB believes that some things should be done that would bring down healthcare costs:

1. force health insurers to go back to being non-profits. Had this been the case, Blue Shield would not have been paying its execs huge bonuses and then having the gall to raise rates in California by 57%…hey at least it wasn’t 60%!

2. make all hospitals not-for-profit IF they want federal or state aid….people to not endow for profit hospitals, further driving up costs!

3. BAN advertisements for prescription drugs since people watching them then believe that is their problem and tell their doctor who, many times (not TB’s who kicks them out of his office), prescribes them just to get them off his back at a huge cost to everyone….but this is the free enterprise system right? Not capitalism!

Next case, public pension plans. Undoubtedly there are abuses but most of the unfunding comes from poor market performance (aren’t you glad…even if you hate social security…Bush’s flawed and obviously Wall Street encouraged plan to let people decide how to invest was dead on arrival? If not, you don’t mind that you haven’t earned on your retirement over the past decade and are behind after inflation…not to mention your home declining sharply in value.

Robert Reich wrote an excellent op-ed in a pro/con piece in the Minnesota Star-Tribune. By the way the guy who was con on pension funds wrote a very balanced argument also saying the problems can be corrected, rather than rant on overpaid municipal employees. Here are Reich’s proposals (by the way he said public employees are not overpaid IF you compare college grads there to the private sector, but that non-grads are overpaid…thanks to unions!)

1. Mandate that retirees can only get ONE pension, the highest one eliminating double and triple dipping

2. Retirement earnings calculations not be based on overtime, or boosts in the last year(s) but calculated over the career wages.

These are the same ideas TB has had…but what irks Reich, and TB, is how the right has managed to deflect criticism for Wall Street and the banks who created the crisis to the public sector…better take a look at those salary and bonuses increases…meanwhile the workers get…peanuts!…and how about the shareholders? Stock buybacks with all that cash rather than dividends…buy back enough and those performance shares become a sure bet for the CEO. Wake up investors! 

Guess what? Not only is more than half of the CIA now contract workers…led by Lockheed Martin…and they are supervising CIA operatives…like at Abu Graib…but the CBO now says that the military is paying more for contract workers than for all the officers and enlisted men…think about that…GOP there is a place you can cut costs…

we dare you! The point is, whether it is for-profit colleges that receive 90% of their income from (coerced) student loans and pay exhorbitant salaries compared to public AND private colleges, private prisons…which in many cases are in cahoots with judges to send juveniles there that are good candidates for probation, or military operatives, it isn’t always better, or least costly…it is just hidden! 

Al Jazeerah – the word that inflames conservatives…not fair and balanced reporting – like FOX. Sunday on This Week, Sam Donaldson of all people, said to someone from Al Jazeerah, ‘thank you’ for bringing the problems out in the open which the American government and press failed to do. During the Iraq War, the government (Bush’s)  prohibited any listening to AJ by command…instead their televisions were tuned to FOX. As a result, they didn’t have a clue of what was happening. The government is now using that source (TB suspects they did secretly all the time). This is the most listened to network in the muslim world…yet it can’t be seen in the U.S….except on YouTube. Therein lies a problem with Americans that has gotten worse over the last decade…only listening to those who agree with you…and we call ourselves ‘enlightened’? They allow people on both sides to speak…we may disagree but isn’t it ‘shameful’ when we refuse to know, and worse, understand, our enemies? You decide.

By the way the Bush administration broke the law by using goverenment employees…including Karl Rove…for party purposes…worse they encouraged other highly paid employees to work on party projects…at taxpayer expense…on a president who barely won – or lost – in his first term. The Obama administration has now eliminated the office…guess it was good IF you were a Republican, but either way it should be a disgrace to you as an AMERICAN!

Enough rants for today…will try for a normal column tomorrow!

TB

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1 Comment »

  1. Yarnman said

    TB–My Google search engine gets “al jazeera english” without a hitch. Who says that al jazeera is blacked out in the USA?–Yarnman

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