My Blog past and present is now operating at SamBeal.com
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Nouriel Roubini's hue and cry to nationalize the banks last winter proved to be overwrought. With the TARP paybacks by Citi, Wells and BA, that crisis loomed but has now passed. The big banks did not fail. But they have failed to put their balance sheets to work in this economy. Banks borrow money at the discount window for approximately nothing, then charge credit card holders up to 31.99%. They can also buy Treasury Bills for 3.5% and pocket the difference. Does that sound like arbitrage or "dire straits"?
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
One of my fondest memories of Christmas is the food my mother prepared in the days leading up to Christmas.
Divinity Southern favorite candy with a texture somewhere between a cookie and fudge. Fudge (also with a Texas pecan on each piece). Chex mix. Long before you could find this prepackaged in the grocery store, my mother would bake Rice, Wheat and Corn Chex with pretzels and peanuts. She would fill up giant jars with snap-lids. We fondly referred to it as "grazings". One food item that was received as a gift, usually from one of my aunt and uncles, was FruitCake from the Collins Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas. Often the butt of TV jokes, if you haven't tasted this coffee cake, then you should hush up.
Today my wife has a her own set of special reciples. Gingerbread houses & cookies for the grandkids, and tamales for us.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
49M Americans go hungry while 60M Americans are obese and another 60M overweight. The satiated thin man depicted by Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood in the movies, has become a real-world rarity. But what is even more paradoxical is that many of the obese are also part of the hungry. One reason is the low cost of "empty calories": chips and fries, $1 meals at fast food outlets, $1 2-liter sodas at the mini-mart. The poor migrate to foods that are cheap and filling and that increasingly means high calories but poor nutritional value. Convenience is a huge factor. It is easier to spend $20 on pizza dinner than $10 in groceries followed by preparation time in the kitchen, especially with a car full of hungry kids.
Fat and Hungry has made companies like Archer Daniels Midland, McDonalds and Coca-Cola, "Fat and Happy".
Most weight gain is the simple result of calories in > calories out. Pro cyclists weight their food and ride with expensive power meters, but most of us have little idea what the value of either side of that equation is on any given day. People will burn 200 calories riding a bike, then reward themselves with a 1000 calorie meal believing they are ahead.
American's spend $10B on prescription antacid drugs and as much or more on over the counter alternatives. I would bet this drug market has grown faster than the population. I wonder if there is a correlation to weight gain in America?
Fifty years ago when obesity was uncommon, genetic differences were discovered to play a key role in how people absorb and metabolize sugars and fatty acids. Two people could eat the same diet, yet one only would gain more weight. Are genetics behind today's staggering obesity numbers? Gene mutations don't spread through a human population in one or two generations. In two human generations, bacteria can evolve millions of generations. There is recent scientific evidence that human gut bacteria (friendly flora) may have adapted the way sugars and fatty acids are moved from the digestive tract into the human bloodstream. Perhaps this will lead to new fat-forgiving products.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
First, unlike many on the right, I don't believe Gotham is in need of the Caped Crusader or Batman or Spiderman to maintain security during the trials of the 9/11 conspirators. But what is the upside for New York, America or Obama?
The downside is obvious - wasted tax dollars and more bad press for Obama.
In the Middle East, a trial like this would take about 5 minutes and cost 500 rials/riyals/dinars. In New York city, it will months and cost 100's of millions of dollars - to reach an obvious guilty conclusion. Then the fight over where to imprison them pending execution will begin.
The majority of Americans believe Guantanamo prison should be closed. But no one wants the prisoners transferred to their state - even though the federal government will shower billions of dollars on the lucky prison community to ensure that these super-villans don't escape. Duh Con Air was only a movie.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I was on an elementary school playground at noon the day John Fitzgerald Kennedy, "JFK" was shot. When we returned to class there was a school-wide announcement over the PA. The President of the United States was dead and school was closed for the rest of the day. Kids walked home or parents were called. At home Walter Cronkite was on TV. The mood was somber.
I grew up in the Permian Basin, so named for the geological era when a great sea existed in West Texas; a sea whose decaying animal and vegetable matter would over millions of years, create one of the largest oil-fields in the world. During the latter half of the 20th century, America ran on West Texas sweet crude from the Permian Basin. George H.W. Bush moved there in 1951 to start his oil company and later his political career. George Jr. went to elementary school in Midland, though he was in an East coast preparatory school when JFK was shot.
The political climate in West Texas was, and still is strongly right wing. There was no aura of Camelot surrounding the Kennedy's there. But the climate was also fraught with cold war tension. In California the school-kids practice earthquake drills. When I was a kid, we practiced Atomic Bomb drills - how quickly can you crawl under the desk and bury your head in your lap. There were houses in town that had bomb shelters. White Sands Missile Range was about 200 miles to the West. The first atomic bomb in the world exploded there. Sonic booms from the Air Force jets stationed there were not uncommon. In Nevada, the Hydrogen Bomb was tested underground in 1958. One winter for reasons I don't remember, we were warned not to eat or play in the "radioactive snow". Snow was a rarity for West Texas. When it happened schools closed - It was a day for snow-men, snow-ball fights and snow-ice-creme.
A year earlier Kennedy had made Khrushchev blink in the Cuban Missile Crisis. No one really knew what was going on, but we spent a lot of time crawling under our desks in October of 1962. When you take the cold war into account, the sudden loss of the Commander in Chief was a National tragedy that extended to the Permian basin as well. What would happen to America? Were we were vulnerable to Soviet aggression? No one under the age of 70 could even remember the last Presidential assassination.
Another Texan, Lyndon Baines Johnson "LBJ", took the Presidential oath in an airplane that Friday afternoon in November. Over time worries about World War III were replaced with realities of Vietnam. A best friend's older brother came home in a bag. There were 100's more on TV every night.
On Monday November 25 1963, the nation watched the funeral procession for the 35th President of the United States. The image of John John saluting his father's coffin is unforgettable.