Monthly Archives: April 2011

I am going to be traveling…

I will be away for a few days, so probably will not be posting.  Hope the weather gets better and the world does not blow up.  Things usually happen when I am not watching carefully…..

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While they all scream about the dollar declines….

…. as if they never happened before.  It seems again Obama can do nothing right.  HOWEVER… check out Barry Ritholtz and his history of the decline of the dollar.  Under Reagan/Bush I, from 1985 to 1992, the dollar dropped 58%.  Compare that with 2001-2008 under Bush II and a drop of 41%.  NOW check out the current decline of 14% and get real!!  While the decline in a couple of years may be bad, it is also in the context of the worst recession in 70 years, not the much less severe ones the prior Presidents had to deal with.

How to Make Your Lie Go Mainstream in 26 Easy Steps

Check this out!  Mother Jones has some great stuff!  Of course this was a find through my favorite Barry Ritholtz.

A sequel to the tax story

The truth is not easy to swallow and our so-called leaders in Washington are probably not going to have the guts to do what needs to be done, given that there is an important election next year, but here is what Doug Kass has to say and, unfortunately, I agree that this is most likely what the solution is going to be.  But also most likely, this is the least likely outcome from our politicians, who are in the oldest profession!  Here is part of his take on the issue:

In this past Sunday’s New York Times op-ed David Stockman spelled out the most serious (deficit) challenge clearly:

It is obvious that the nation’s desperate fiscal condition requires higher taxes on the middle class, not just the richest 2%. Likewise, entitlement reform requires means-testing the giant Social Security and Medicare programs, not merely squeezing the far smaller safety net in areas like Medicaid and food stamps.Unfortunately, in proposing tax increases only for the very rich, President Obama has denied the first of these fiscal truths, while Representative Paul D. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has contradicted the second by putting the entire burden of entitlement reform on the poor. The resulting squabble is not only deepening the fiscal stalemate, but also bringing us dangerously close to class war.

This lamentable prospect is deeply grounded in the policy-driven transformation of the economy during recent decades that has shifted income and wealth to the top of the economic ladder. While not the stated objective of policy, this reverse Robin Hood outcome cannot be gainsaid: the share of wealth held by the top 1% of households has risen to 35% from 21% since 1979, while their share of income has more than doubled to around 20%.

The culprit here was the combination of ultralow rates of interest at the Federal Reserve and ultralow rates of taxation on capital gains. The former destroyed the nation’s capital markets, fueling huge growth in household and business debt, serial asset bubbles and endless leveraged speculation in equities, commodities, currencies and other assets.

— David Stockman, “The Bipartisan March to Fiscal Madness” (The New York Times)

Ever considered how little you spend on food?

Compared to the rest of the world, we are very well off.  We spend plenty, but it is still a small portion of our income.  In 1930, it was more than 24% of our income, but by 2000, it had declined to less than 10%.  Even with the increases we see today, we are still among the most fortunate people in the world, when it comes to food security.  We truly should give thanks every day!

Here is a very interesting comparison of amounts spent by the average family in different countries around the world.  It is taken from:

© Peter Menzel http://www.menzelphoto.com from the book Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

Unfortunately, it does not include what the portion of total income is, that would give us the meaningful data to show just how much of a family’s resources are going to the feeding of their members.  But, as an example, the population in Belarus, where my husband was just on a medical mission, spends about 48% of their income on food.

One week’s worth of food by various cultures:

The Melander Family, Germany

Germany: Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide – Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

The Revis Family, USA

USA: United States: The Revis family of North Carolina – Food expenditure for one week: $341.98

The Ukita family - Japan

Japan: Japan : The Ukita family of Kodaira City – Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25

The Manzo family - Italy

Italy: Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily – Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

The Casales family - Mexico

Mexico: Mexico : The Casales family of Cuernavaca – Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

The Sobczynscy family - Poland

Poland: Poland : The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna – Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

The Ahmed family - Egypt

Egypt: Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo – Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

The Ayme family - Ecuador

Ecuador: Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo – Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

The Namgay family - Bhutan

Bhutan: Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village – Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

The Aboubakar family - Chad

Chad: Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp – Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

A great quote of the day from my fave – Barry Ritholtz

Quote of the Day

“When a person with money meets a person with experience, the person with the experience winds up with the money and the person with the money winds up with the experience.” —Harvey MacKay

Andy Borowitz on Donald Trump!

Thank you, Andy Borowitz for skewering the silliness inherent in the Trump pseudo-campaign.  The only thing Trump is for is self-aggrandizement, publicity and self-promotion.  Forget about what this country needs in a leader.

THE BOROWITZ REPORT:  APRIL 25, 2011

Trump Dogged By Rumors His Hair is Not From U.S.

So-called ‘Balders’ Movement Gathers SteamNEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – A threat to the fledgling presidential campaign of Donald Trump emerged today, as a group of activists charged that Mr. Trump is not eligible to hold the nation’s highest office because his hair does not originate from the U.S.

The group, who call themselves “Balders,” claim that the hair-like substance that crowns Mr. Trump’s head is from a foreign country, which would mean that the candidate is less than one hundred percent American.

“Time and time again, Donald Trump has refused to produce a certificate of authenticity for his hair,” said Leeann Selwyn, a leading Balder.  “This is tantamount to a comb-over of the truth.”

But if in fact Mr. Trump’s distinctive mane turns out to be of foreign origin, such a revelation need not be fatal to his presidential hopes, says Professor Davis Logsdon, who has studied the history of presidential hair at the University of Minnesota.

“Remember, several of our greatest early presidents, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, had hair that originated elsewhere,” Mr. Logsdon says.  “The only thing that could kill Trump politically is if his hair turns out to be from France.”

At a GOP event in Iowa, Mr. Trump made no reference to the Balders controversy, and instead sounded an upbeat theme: “If I am given the chance to do the same magic I did for NBC, America will be the number four country in the world.”

In a piece of good news for Mr. Trump, a new poll showed a majority of likely voters agreeing with the statement, “Donald Trump being sworn in as President would be a great last scene in a Planet of the Apes remake.”

A new movie I can’t wait to see

Spurlock Shills for Pomegranate Juice, Shoes in New Film


 Morgan Spurlock    

By Rick Warner, 4/19/2011, Bloomberg News

Director Morgan Spurlock at The Colosseum of Caesars Palace on March 30, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photographer: Ryan Miller/Getty Images

Morgan Spulock
Morgan Spulock wears his “Nascar” jacket. His current documentary is about product placement, the funding source of his film. Source: Sony Pictures Classics via Bloomberg

Morgan Spulock
Director Morgan Spulock. His latest movie is “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” Photographer: by Daniel Marracino/Sony Pictures Classics via Bloomberg

Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock walked into the interview room wearing a navy sports jacket plastered with 21 corporate logos.

“This is my Nascar prom jacket,” he joked, referring to stock-car racers whose uniforms are covered with sponsor names.

Spurlock was promoting his new film, “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” whose $1.5 million budget was funded entirely by companies whose products are prominently displayed in the documentary. POM Wonderful, which makes pomegranate juice packaged in distinctive bulb-shaped bottles, is paying $1 million to be the title sponsor.

Another sponsor, the Sheetz convenience-store chain, is based in Altoona, Pennsylvania, which is changing its name to the movie’s title for 60 days in exchange for a $25,000 donation from Spurlock’s production company.

The documentary explores the burgeoning world of product placements, whereby companies pay to have their brands used in movies and TV shows. With more and more viewers fast-forwarding past commercials on TV and ignoring them when they’re squeezed between trailers at the movie theater, companies are resorting to more direct advertising.

“I didn’t sell out, I bought in,” Spurlock explained. “I wanted to look at the way Hollywood makes movies these days. If you really wanted to reach a wide audience, you need that cross-promotion. You need the hat. You need the T-shirt. You need the collector cup.”

Horse Shampoo

Like Spurlock’s other films, including “Super Size Me” and “Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?,” “The Greatest Movie” examines a serious subject with liberal doses of humor. I spoke to the 40-year-old director in a conference room at a New York publicity firm.

Warner: So what do your sponsors think of the film?

Spurlock: They all love it. They realize it’s a great way to promote their products. Mane ‘n Tail (which makes a shampoo that works on horses and humans) even invited me to the Kentucky Derby next month.

Warner: Why did you make this film?

Spurlock: I wanted to pull back the curtain and show how the process works. I take you inside these pitch meetings and negotiations, which most people have never seen.

Warner: Product placements have been around for a long time, but they’re more noticeable these days. How come?

Spurlock: It’s expensive to make movies and TV shows, so producers are looking for new sources of money. Also, no place is really safe from commercials anymore. They’re even talking about selling advertising space in the Grand Canyon.

No Guns, Cigarettes

Warner: Did any of your sponsors try to influence the content of your movie?

Spurlock: They had creative input on how we promoted their products, but they didn’t have any say over the final cut.

Warner: Did you turn down any companies that wanted to be in the film?

Spurlock: No. In fact, we tried to get some offensive sponsors like cigarette companies and gun manufacturers but they said no. We even asked BP if they were interested. Who needs good publicity more than BP right now?

Warner: You visited Sao PauloBrazil, which has banned all outdoor advertising. That must have been a strange sight.

Spurlock: It was weird. As you’re driving into town, you see all these billboards. Then suddenly, as you hit the city limits, there’s nothing — no advertising at all. It’s like you’ve landed on another planet.

Nader’s Shoes

Warner: You interviewed Ralph Nader, who’s a harsh critic of commercialization. As a gag, you then gave him a pair of Merrell shoes, which is one of your sponsors. Do you know if he’s wearing them?

Spurlock: We gave him a pair of slip-ons, but he wanted one with laces. So we sent him another pair.

“The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” from Sony Pictures Classics, opens April 22 in New York, Philadelphia, BostonWashingtonChicago, Phoenix, San DiegoSan FranciscoLos Angelesand Austin, Texas.

We really need a dose of FACTS on taxes.

As a retired CPA, I think you should have the facts before you listen to all the political hyperbole that purports to tell you things like this – “half the people in this country pay no taxes” and “we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world”.  When lies are told often enough and loud enough, those of you who don’t have a way to get the real information wind up believing it.  The reality of taxes is taking a huge hit with the demagogues of the political parties out there.

So, I am doing my part in educating you.  I am listing the main points here, but  please take the time to read the whole article, which I am linking to.  It is by a very respected reporter, a Pulitzer Prizer Winner, a Professor of Taxes, etc.  Here is his bio:

David Cay Johnston is a columnist for tax.com and teaches the tax, property and regulatory law of the ancient world at Syracuse University College of Law and Whitman School of Management. He has also been called the “de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States” because his reporting in The New York Times shut down many tax dodges and schemes, just two of them valued by Congress at $260 billion. Johnston received a 2001 Pulitzer Prize for exposing tax loopholes and inequities. He wrote two bestsellers on taxes, Perfectly Legal and Free Lunch. Later this year, Johnston will be out with a new book, The Fine Print, revealing how big business, with help from politicians, abuses plain English to rob you blind. 

9 Things The Rich Don’t Want You To Know About Taxes

1. Poor Americans do pay taxes.

2. The wealthiest Americans don’t carry the burden.

3. In fact, the wealthy are paying less taxes.

4. Many of the very richest pay no current income taxes at all.

5. And (surprise!) since Reagan, only the wealthy have gained significant income.

6. When it comes to corporations, the story is much the same—less taxes.

7. Some corporate tax breaks destroy jobs.

8. Republicans like taxes too.

9. Other countries do it better. 

An older painting added to the mix

Summer Window, Oil on Canvas, 16" x 20"

Here is one I did in February – hoping for spring, I guess, even though it is perennial summer here in Florida.  In our travels, I take many, many pictures, now more than ever, since the advent of digital photography.  While my husband’s pictures are full of people, especially the old and the young, mine are nearly always devoid of people, and full of windows and doorways and empty streets and alleys.  Almost always, since I started painting and drawing, I have taken these pics with a view to using them as inspiration for my work.  So I am sure you will see much more of this kind of stuff.