Thursday, September 30, 2010

This Newsbite Deserves a Stand-Alone Posting

The things you learn when you read Zero Hedge...

Courtesy of Reuters...

To the outside world, the Federal Reserve is an impenetrable fortress. But former employees and big investors are privy to some of its secrets - and that access can be lucrative.


On August 19, just nine days after the U.S. central bank surprised financial markets by deciding to buy more bonds...former Fed governor Larry Meyer sent a note to clients of his consulting firm with a breakdown of the policy-setting meeting.


The minutes from that same gathering of the powerful Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, are made available to the public - but only after a three-week lag.


Meyer's clients were provided with a glimpse into what the Fed was thinking well ahead of other investors.



A respected economist, Meyer charges clients around $75,000 for his product, which includes a popular forecasting service. He frequently shares his research with reporters, though he kept this note out of the public eye. Reuters obtained a copy from a market source. Meyer declined to comment for this story, as did the Federal Reserve.

This selective dissemination of information gives big investors a competitive edge in the market.

YA THINK...?!?!

No one is accusing Meyer and his firm, Macroeconomic Advisers - or any other purveyors of Fed insights for that matter - of wrongdoing.


They are not prohibited from sharing such information with their hedge fund and money manager clients.


"It's certainly not what Fed officials should be doing," said Alice Rivlin, a former Fed governor and now a fellow at the Brookings Institute think tank. "The rules when I was there were you don't talk to anybody about anything that could be used for commercial purposes."


The precise number of former Federal Reserve employees tapping their network of old colleagues can't be determined, but by most accounts they are a sizable group.

"The revolving door between the Fed and the private financial sector is quite significant," said Timothy Canova, professor of international economic law at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California. There is no required registration process for economic and monetary policy consultants, former Fed lawyers say. Some especially high-profile former Fed officials now have their own shops, too: Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's Greenspan Associates offers policy consulting to Pimco, the world's biggest bond fund.


Barker's Newsbites: Thursday, September 30, 2010

I dedicate this song to our "honorable" Members of the House of Representatives and Senate of the United States of America...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Car Rental Trivia

Did you folks know that Alamo Rental Car, National Car Rental, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car are all owned by the same family... the Taylor Family of St. Louis?

Interesting, huh?!

Oh... by the way... I actually used one of the consolidators - Hotwire - today to make a new car rental reservation that saved me roughly $80 bucks compared to my previous "best rate" reservation.

(The moment I book a trip - purchase the airfare - I then lock in the best rental car rate I can get and between then and the actual day of departure I periodically check for better prices and re-book as appropriate.)

The only problem with using a consolidator - a third party - is that in certain respects this puts you in the position of "second class citizen" as far as the actual service provider is concerned should problems arise and also quite often you're not eligible for the normal perks a registered frequent customer would get booking directly.

Anyway... at the moment I have a full sized car reserved for six days at $20/day; even with the taxes, fees, and surcharges connected to an on-site airport rental, it still comes out to less than $200 for the "week."

Barker's Newsbites: Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In precisely one week Mary and I will be waiting impatiently for Drunk'n Ted's and Drunk'n Mary's plane to land in Ft. Lauderdale...

God bless Key West...!!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Barker's Newsbites: Tuesday, September 28, 2010

You guys know about the time I sang with Frank at Radio City Music Hall, right...???

Yeah... he was on stage and I was in the audience!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Barker's Newsbites: Friday, September, 24, 2010

Holy Elmo, Batman!

Seriously, folks... that segment was CUTE, not obscene, not "inappropriate."

Now I'm not saying we air this on Sesame Street, but for Christ's sake, let's all ease up a bit!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Barker's Newsbites: Thursday, September 16, 2010

If you read newsbites, then hopefully...

The Coming Republican Revolution

We live in a country with a two-party political system. That's the reality and nothing is going to change it - at least not prior to November 2010.

Both parties suck. That's a fact. Human nature has everything to do with this.

The GOP sucks far less than the Democratic Party. That's also a fact. Still... the GOP sucks.

Again... human nature, people... human nature.

Both parties are full of - and represented in elective and appointive office by - crooks, liars, incompetents, and degenerates. No... not all... not even most when it comes to malfeasance and bad behavior "beyond the pale"... but certainly both parties include more than enough "bad apples" to tar each with the same brush of disdain as far as most of the public is concerned.

But it's gone beyond the point of disdain now. Now I fear for our country if the coming Republican Revolution of 2010 fails to meet expectations and sputters as did the original Republican Revolution of 1994.

The weak links threatening to strangle the coming Republican Revolution before it gets out of the gate are selfishness and pride.

These wink links are personified in two Republicans: John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

Now I'll admit, Boehner has done a pretty good job managing the House Republican Caucus and keeping them in near lock-step as regards fighting for the right legislation and against the wrong legislation.

That said...

Boehner voted for TARP.

This disqualifies him from being the Leader of House majority Republicans... from being the next Speaker of the House... come 2011.

In my mind it does at least. Not in his I'd wager.

And that's the problem. When push comes to shove I have no doubt that Boehner not only will put self above party... he'll put self above nation.

A worse problem... I can't imagine any "Young Gun" or even fellow "Old Bull" seriously challenging Boehner - let alone engineering a successful "coup."

(Oh... and by the way... out of the three founders of the aforementioned "Young Gun" program... two of them - Cantor and Ryan - also voted for TARP.)

My plea to the House GOP Members... a plea that won't be heeded - I know... is to get behind their smartest, most honest, most fiscally conservative colleague who is most wedded to "originalist" Constitutional principles and elect that man or woman as their Leader and House Speaker come January 2011.

As to the Senate...

Mitch McConnell is a disaster. His "conservatism" is rooted mainly in the "good ol' boy" sense of the term.

No. I'm not saying that McConnell is a liberal or even a RINO in the strictly ideological or even policy sense. He's not. The man boasts an 89.66 lifetime rating from the ACU. But I'm not talking about dogma... I'm not talking "business as usual" conservatism... I'm calling for McConnell to step aside for someone who didn't vote for TARP... who doesn't "go along to get along" and "put party first" by supporting abominations such as TARP in order to support "his" president of the time - George W. Bush.

Nope. To my way of thinking McConnell's yea vote on TARP plus his inability to hold his GOP Senate Caucus together on a number of crucial votes plus his propensity to support "progressive" establishment figures as long as they're GOP incumbents over worthy libertarian-leaning, conservative, constitutionalist challengers disqualifies the current GOP Senate Minority Leader from seeking to become the once and future Senate Majority Leader.

Where the rubber hits the road, Mitch McConnell is for Mitch McConnell first, second, third, and last. The good of the Party... the good of the country... these are not McConnell's primary motivations.

Me? I'd like to see Jim DeMint as the next Senate Majority Leader.

Time will tell if the GOP can escape the moniker of "The Stupid Party." God knows that if any group of men and women can fumble an opportunity to pull this country back from the brink of disaster it's the men and women of the Republican establishment.

I don't know, folks... I'm trying to stay positive. I'm doing what I can by involving myself in my local congressional race, supporting Dr. Nan Hayworth for Congress.

Dr. Hayworth and I don't always see eye to eye, but she's a good woman - intelligent, principled, wed to her understanding of the Constitution; I'd say we're on the same page 90% of the time, perhaps more. To riff off Voltaire... In our search for the "perfect" candidate, we must not disdain the merely excellent candidate.

That's it, folks. That's all I've got. A bit of thinking out loud...

I pray that if a second "Republican Revolution" takes back one or both Houses of the Congress of the United States that the men and women representing "We The People" are able to succeed where the leaders of the 1994 "Republican Revolution" ultimately failed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Barker's Newsbites: Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sorry for no newsbites yesterday, folks; I was simply too busy.

Anyway... my candidate - Dr. Nan Hayworth - won the GOP primary here in NY's 19th Congressional District last night.


Also here in New York, Carl Paladino soundly defeated Rick Lazio. While this tectonic shift in NYS politics has been largely overshadowed by the news from Delaware...


...where Christine O'Donnell vanquished RINO extraordinaire Mike Castle to win the GOP line for this year's Delaware U.S. Senate seat race.

* BTW... as previously noted time and again... Karl Rove is a putz.

Anyway, folks... on to the newsbites!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Weekend Newsbites: Sat. & Sun., September 11 & 12, 2010

Folks, I admit it... you don't find a great deal of "good" news on Newsbites.

Today being the ninth anniversary of 9/11, allow me to use this post to share some good news highlighted in a "Weekend Interview" conducted by Matt Kaminski of the Wall Street Journal with Larry Silverstein,

From the 38th floor at 7 World Trade Center, Larry Silverstein peers down on a flurry of activity below at Ground Zero. The sound of jackhammers and "beep, beep" of cement trucks filters into his corner office.

No superlative, expressed in his thick New York accent, appears to suffice. "Remarkable," "grand," "extraordinary," "spectacular," "tremendous," "phenomenal" - Mr. Silverstein, the real estate developer who signed the lease on the World Trade Center a few weeks before 9/11 and spent the last nine years fighting to rebuild the site on his terms, uses them all - some more than once.

On today's anniversary, for the first time, the mood around the rebuilding at Ground Zero is decidedly upbeat. Significant disputes that held everything up for so many years are resolved. Plainly it is no longer just a big, ugly hole in the ground.

The main 1 WTC building, the old Freedom Tower, has 36 floors, a third of the way up to its planned 1,776 feet. Each week or so another floor gets added, soon blocking Mr. Silverstein's view of the Hudson, for which he says he's thankful. Two thousand construction workers are on the site.

In the southeast corner of the 16-acre site, architect Fumihiko Maki's 4 WTC is well along, too. The granite slabs for the two reflecting pools in the footprint of the old towers are in place, awaiting the names of the victims of 9/11 and the 1993 WTC bombing to be engraved there. The pools will showcase the largest man-made waterfalls in America.

Swamp white oak trees cultivated in New Jersey are brought in by truck overnight. A little over a dozen are planted. There will be over 400 by the time, on this day next year, the memorial plaza is scheduled to be dedicated. The first commercial tenants are to move into the first two completed buildings in 2013. Another two office towers will be added to the complex, as well as architect Santiago Calatrava's sleek new PATH train hub.

Mr. Silverstein says he never considered throwing in the towel. For one thing, throughout the years of delay, his company Silverstein Properties paid $10 million a month in rent on the site, per the terms of his lease. The lease also obliged him to rebuild. Most of all, it has become an issue of his personal legacy.

While he spent years battling the insurers of the Twin Towers in courts and nudging politicians and agency heads, Mr. Silverstein says "the most emotional part of it" was the victims' families. His own life, he says, was spared "by a miracle, an absolute miracle." On the morning of 9/11 his wife insisted he make a dermatologist's appointment and skip a breakfast with tenants at the Windows on the World in the North Tower.

My buddy Rob was supposed to be at a morning meeting at one of the Towers on 9/11/2001... thankfully - for some reason I no longer recall - he never made it to that meeting.

Mr. Silverstein says the new World Trade Center - with 12 million square feet of office space, half a million square feet of retail, and a quarter million people coursing through the commercial and memorial complex every day - can do for Lower Manhattan what Rockefeller Center did for Midtown when it opened in the 1930s - revive and redefine a neighborhood.

The area around Ground Zero is already a different place than in 2001. The residential population has doubled, to some 60,000, while businesses continue the steady migration uptown. A Whole Foods is now here, along with some well-respected public schools and new kid-friendly park areas. Mr. Silverstein's daughter moved down with her family from suburban Westchester County. The south side of a long stretch of older, obsolete office buildings on Wall Street was turned into condos. "It's just a question of time before the north side is converted," says Mr. Silverstein.

But in this changing neighborhood, he still sees room for a new generation of office space. Goldman Sachs recently opened a brand-new world headquarters across West Street. Once the four office towers at WTC are built, its backers see the residential and commercial existing side-by-side in a way you won't find elsewhere in America.

"New York never stops, right," says the developer, who was born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and got involved in the family real estate business in the 1950s. "It's always getting rebuilt. Gentrification, modification, alternation, modernization, reuse, adaptive use, and you see this happening down here to an amazing degree."

The new towers were built with exceptional new security features. The staircases will be wider than in the Twin Towers and empty out into the street, not the lobby. The buildings will have two sprinkler systems. The exterior glass was blast tested, the pedestal will be fortified. Thick metal and concrete casing around the elevator shaft at 1 World Trade Center building can be seen now. The lobby has a blast wall.

Folks... every once in awhile I am indeed proud to be a New Yorker.

September 11, 2010

I had the strangest dream this morning...

Mary and I were in Israel. We were riding on a bus and a woman wearing a burqah suddenly jumped up and started yelling and the dread feeling I got was that she was a suicide bomber.

Subconscious connection to it being 9/11 today...??? (BTW... I'm Episcopal; Mary's Catholic; and we've never been to Israel.)

We jumped out of the bus via the rear emergency exit and found ourselves at a strip mall searching for authentic middle eastern food...

Hey... what can I tell ya!? I've been dieting! Food is always on my mind!

Anyway... weirdly... what we found was a NYC style pizza joint with HUGE frigg'n slices of gourmet pie!

Very... very... very...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Labor Day Weekend Newsbites 2010

Anyone who doesn't love belting this song out is a sick, twisted, piece of...


Yeah, yeah... "Tell us how you REALLY feel, Bill..."


Hey, folks... surprisingly, I'm finding quite a few attention-worthy newsbites so far!

Check 'em out... I wouldn't emphasis this unless it were true!

Friday, September 3, 2010

U-6 Unemployment

We've discussed U-6 Unemployment before.

To reiterate...

U-6 = Total unemployed plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force plus total employed part time for economic reasons as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.

* Persons marginally attached to the labor force are those who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months. Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, have given a job-market related reason for not currently looking for work. Persons employed part time for economic reasons are those who want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule.

Basically, I look upon U-6 as the "real" unemployment number to keep an eye on.

As all of you reading this are no doubt already aware, U-3 - the "basic" unemployment number - rose to 9.6% last month from the previous month's 9.5%.

Interestingly enough... while U-3 "only" rose by 1/10th of a percent, U-6 rose by 1/5th of a percent.

While "basic" unemployment rose from 9.5% to 9.6%, "real" unemployment (broader... deeper...) rose from 16.5% to 16.7%.

What does this mean?

Nothing good - that's for sure!

Barker's Newsbites: Friday, September 3, 2010

Let's open today's "Newsbites" with a happy song...


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This Newsbite Deserves Its Own Stand-Alone Posting


The federal government has posted signs along a major interstate highway in Arizona, more than 100 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, warning travelers the area is unsafe because of drug and alien smugglers, and a local sheriff says Mexican drug cartels now control some parts of the state.


The signs were posted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) along a 60-mile stretch of Interstate 8 between Casa Grande and Gila Bend, a major east-west corridor linking Tucson and Phoenix with San Diego.

They warn travelers that they are entering an "active drug and human smuggling area" and they may encounter "armed criminals and smuggling vehicles traveling at high rates of speed." Beginning less than 50 miles south of Phoenix, the signs encourage travelers to "use public lands north of Interstate 8" and to call 911 if they "see suspicious activity."

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, whose county lies at the center of major drug and alien smuggling routes to Phoenix and cities east and west, attests to the violence. He said his deputies are out-manned and out-gunned by drug traffickers in the rough-hewn desert stretches of his own county.


"Mexican drug cartels literally do control parts of Arizona," he said. "They literally have scouts on the high points in the mountains and in the hills and they literally control movement. They have radios, they have optics, they have night-vision goggles as good as anything law enforcement has.

"This is going on here in Arizona," he said. "This is 70 to 80 miles from the border - 30 miles from the fifth-largest city in the United States."


[Sheriff Babeu] said he asked the Obama administration for 3,000 National Guard soldiers to patrol the border, but what he got were 15 signs.


Law enforcement authorities have been warning for more than two years that the dramatic rise in border violence eventually would spread into the U.S.

T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents all 17,500 of the Border Patrol's front-line agents, said areas well north of the border are so overrun by armed criminals that U.S. citizens are being warned to keep out of those locations.

"The federal government's lack of will to secure our borders is painfully evident when signs are posted well north of the border warning citizens that armed and dangerous criminals are roaming through those areas with impunity," he said.

Michael W. Cutler, a retired 31-year U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) senior criminal investigator and intelligence specialist, said the BLM warning signs suggest the U.S. government is "ceding American territory to armed criminals and smugglers." Meanwhile, he said, politicians in Washington, D.C., including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, continue to claim the border is now more secure than ever...


"How much more land will our nation cede to drug dealers and terrorists? At what point will the administration understand its obligations to really secure our nation's borders and create an immigration system that has real integrity?" Mr. Cutler [asked].

Two years ago, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the investigative arm of Homeland Security, said in a report that border gangs were becoming increasingly ruthless and had begun targeting not only rivals, but federal, state and local police. ICE said the violence had risen dramatically as part of "an unprecedented surge."

The Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center, in its 2010 drug threat assessment report, called the cartels "the single greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States." It said Mexican gangs had established operations in every area of the United States and were expanding into rural and suburban areas. It said assaults against U.S. law enforcement officers along the southwestern border were on the increase - up 46% against Border Patrol agents alone.

(At the same time, the Justice Department brought a lawsuit to stop a new immigration enforcement law in Arizona...)

Mr. Cutler said it was "outrageous" for the BLM to direct travelers to dial 911 to report suspicious activities since the calls do not go to the federal government but to state and local police. He said the signs are telling Americans to call state and local law enforcement authorities to deal with border lawlessness while at the same time telling Arizona that only the federal government can write and enforce immigration laws.

"You can't make this stuff up," he said.

Sheriff Babeu has dealt firsthand with the rising violence in his county since his 2008 election. One of his deputies, Louie Puroll, was shot and critically wounded in April after he spotted five men he suspected of transporting drugs along a remote span of desert near Interstate 8 and Arizona 84.

He said his experience makes him see the issue differently from the administration in Washington.

"The president is only looking at this from a political perspective," he said. "Everything is not fine. Everything is not OK."


Barker's Newsbites: Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Now this is good frigg'n news!

ANCHORAGE, AlaskaSen. Lisa Murkowski was booted from office in the Republican primary Tuesday by a little-known conservative lawyer in arguably the biggest political upset of the year.

Joe Miller, backed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, became the latest newcomer to the national political stage to take down an incumbent in 2010...

Sing it with me, folks...

At the top of your lungs..!

Miller's win was a major victory for the Tea Party Movement and marked the first time it had defeated a sitting senator in a primary.

(Tea Partiers had knocked off Utah Sen. Bob Bennett at a state convention in May.)

Emboldened Tea Partiers have now set their sights on Delaware where they are backing Christine O'Donnell against...Rep. Mike Castle in the GOP Senate primary.

Murkowski is the third senator to lose this year, along with Bennett and Arlen Specter, D-Pa.


Throw the bums out, people... throw 'em out!