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The Deipnosophist

Where the science of investing becomes an art of living

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Location: Summerlin, Nevada, United States

A private investor for 20+ years, I manage private portfolios and write about investing. You can read my market musings on three different sites: 1) The Deipnosophist, dedicated to teaching the market's processes and mechanics; 2) Investment Poetry, a subscription site dedicated to real time investment recommendations; and 3) Seeking Alpha, a combination of the other two sites with a mix of reprints from this site and all-original content. See you here, there, or the other site!

19 December 2008

Holiday!

I will be away for the holidays, during which time posts will be sporadic at best. Before I go, though, I wish everyone a jolly Happy Holidays!

And leave you with this excellent poster (below) by Bill Hyche that pretty much says it all...


[click on image to enlarge]

Stay warm; be happy.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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How leaders are the market's engine

I shared in yesterday's post, Leadership, how the health care sector lagged the decline (did not share in the decline), and now leads higher the market; an indication of relative strength. I also pointed out Johnson & Johnson/JNJ for leading the leaders, and for its screaming opportunity. (In fact, a Core Opportunity.) Today, Dorsey Wright corroborates my perceptions...
Today we continue our discussion of the Healthcare Stocks that are currently members of the Rydex Russell Top 50 ETF/XLG. For starters, the Healthcare sector is the best performing sector out of the ten broad economic sectors this year as it is down only -23.9%. To put this another way, the broad Healthcare sector is actually outperforming the S&P 500 [SPX] by 14.5% on the year. (It’s all relative, right?) The Healthcare sector is one that has been showing strength in this market since August of this year. This is about the time frame that the broad Healthcare sector became recommended (emphasized) in Level Five of our Dynamic Asset Level Investing (D.A.L.I.). In other words, this is a broad sector that should warrant your attention... There are some compelling signs building for some of the larger cap stocks in this sector that are members of the XLG...

Johnson & Johnson/JNJ: The maker of Tylenol has been in high demand this year, at least for its product offerings. As far as the stock is concerned, JNJ has held up relatively well, and up until October of this year JNJ was actually swimming in positive territory. In September JNJ actually hit a new high at $72 before selling off in October down to an eventual low of $53. Since then the stock has, more or less, been trading sideways just below the bearish resistance line. Most recently JNJ held support at $55 for the second time now, and with the addition of an x at $60, this puts the stock price right at its downtrend line. Watch for a move to $61 in order for JNJ to return to a near term buy signal as well as shift the overall trend back to being positive. Such a breakout would cause the technical attribute reading for this stock to uptick to a 4 for 5’er, and would mark the first time since the Fall of 2005 that JNJ could make this claim. In all, JNJ has positive strength on a relative basis, and a move to $61 can be used as the first action point for investors.

[click on chart to enlarge]

From post to post, I strive to show the market rarely is monolithic in either its rises or declines -- something somewhere somehow always bucks the primary trend. Coming off a monolithic decline (October 2008), the random pockets of strength bud into fruition, thus breaking the back of the overall decline -- at least for a while.

A while that likely will measure in weeks, if not months. (And already has, measured from the 10 October low.) From that vantage (the coming high point), we shall see what comes next.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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18 December 2008

Things you never say to your wife

For a good chuckle or two, watch the video below...

video

Enjoy!
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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Leadership

No surprise to this site's regular (but few) readers that the market trades from strength to strength, and leadership gathers no moss as it, too, improves.

I mentioned health care as a leading sector, and several groups within that sector act as the market's engine to higher prices. Among the companies from the health care sector that lead the charge to higher prices is Johnson & Johnson/JNJ, one of my Core Opportunities. BRIEFING.COM reports...

Johnson & Johnson/JNJ (60.04, +1.26) provides leadership to the health care sector and the broader S&P 500.

Aside from some selling pressure in the prior session, shares of JNJ have been on an upward trend since the start of the week. The stock is up roughly 4.8% since.

Health care is now up 2.3%, which is more than any other sector. The advance is helping provide leadership to the broader market since health care is the second largest sector in the S&P 500. Health care accounts for nearly 15% of the S&P 500's total weight.
And in a possible second surprise, Johnson & Johnson/JNJ is not alone.

Full Disclosure: Long Johnson & Johnson/JNJ.
- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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14 December 2008

The true costs of the bailouts

The true costs of the bailouts

The federal government’s massive effort to save the financial system carries a price tag that has soared into the trillions. Where will all that money come from?

How much have the bailouts cost?
Counting the money that has either been spent or promised in the form of loan guarantees, the figure now approaches a hard-to-fathom $8.5 trillion. For perspective, that’s more than the government spent, in inflation-adjusted dollars, on the Louisiana Purchase, the entire New Deal, and the Vietnam and Korean wars—combined. The bailouts have been coming at such a feverish pace that it’s hard to keep up, but they include everything from outright purchases of $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities to guarantees on $388 billion of Citigroup and General Electric debt. Just one of the bailouts, of insurer AIG, cost $150 billion.

Where does the money come from?
Technically, it comes from the federal Treasury. But there’s a problem. Even before the current financial crisis erupted, the U.S. was spending hundreds of billions more than it was collecting, leaving a budget deficit of nearly $400 billion dollars. So to pay for all the additional financial commitments the government has taken on in recent months, the Treasury has had to borrow hundreds of billions more. To do that, it has been selling bonds on the global bond market.

How exactly does that work?
Once a week, the Treasury Department, working through a syndicate of banks, conducts auctions for bonds—which come due in anywhere from 30 days to 30 years. The Treasury deposits the proceeds of the bond sales to its account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Then the government turns around and lends the bond revenues to Citigroup, AIG, and the other bailout recipients. It’s this process that people refer to when they say the Treasury is “printing money,’’ because the funds are essentially created out of nothing. Everything is done electronically, however; no physical bonds or cash actually exchange hands.

How much have we borrowed?
A staggering amount. The national debt currently stands at $10.6 trillion and is rising fast, since the Treasury is currently borrowing roughly $550 billion per quarter. About half the debt is money the government owes to itself—some of the biggest buyers of Treasury bonds are the Social Security Trust Fund and other entitlement programs. The remainder—the so-called public debt—is owed to individuals, institutions, and foreign governments. The federal debt is now so large that taxpayers must pay $412 billion in interest every year—the third largest expense in the government’s $3 trillion operating budget.

Can we afford that?
Yes, at least in the short term. The national public debt is about 39 percent of the annual U.S. output of goods and services, or gross domestic product. That sounds like a lot, and it is. But it’s actually in line with the debt-to-GDP ratio of the past two decades, and far less than during World War II, when the debt-to-GDP ratio topped 100 percent.

Who’s lending us all this money?
To a large extent, the rest of the world—especially China, which as of September owned $585 billion in Treasury bonds. The next largest foreign creditors are Japan, with holdings of $573 billion, and Great Britain, with $338 billion. Foreign oil-producing countries own $182 billion of Treasury debt. These countries have one thing in common: They’re major exporters to the U.S., which gives them a lot of U.S. currency that they want to invest. They invest much of those reserves in Treasury bonds.

What if China says ‘no more’?
It might cause a momentary shock, but other countries would likely pick up the slack—thanks, ironically, to the financial crisis. With loans going into default at a record pace, bond buyers trust only the most creditworthy borrowers. The U.S. has never defaulted on its bonds, making it the world’s debtor of choice. “The Treasury, at this point, is viewed as the safest harbor in the world,” says University of Pennsylvania economist Marshall Blume.

What is the effect of all this borrowing?
It could enable the U.S. to spend its way out of the recession. If the U.S. invests its money wisely—and that’s a big if—then all that borrowing could, as Bill Gates said recently, “bring us out of the downturn better off than when we went in.” Many experts say that investments in green technology, education, and infrastructure could lead to improved productivity and drive economic growth. But there is a serious downside: Every dollar invested in Treasury bonds is one less dollar of investment available to the private sector. And the private sector has been the source of most of the innovation that drives profit growth and creates jobs.

Are there other risks?
Yes. All that borrowing by the government, coupled with all the loans that the U.S., in turn, is extending to corporations and consumers, dramatically increases the world’s supply of dollars. With so much currency in circulation, there’s the risk of inflation, which is what happens when too much money chases too few goods. Prices rise, workers demand higher pay to keep up, and a hard-to-control inflationary spiral begins. But that’s a worry for another day. “There are extreme circumstances when a larger national debt is accepted as the lesser of two evils,” says Robert Barbera, chief economist at the Investment Technology Group. Most economists agree that this is one of those times.

......

China in the catbird seat
Now that China is America’s largest creditor, many observers worry that it could soon effectively have a veto over U.S. policies. Some analysts have noted, for example, that the U.S.’s ability to get tough with Iran is hampered by the fact that Iran is China’s ally; if the U.S. goes too far, according to this theory, China could punish the U.S. by halting its bond purchases. But most experts say such a move could hurt China as much as it would hurt the U.S. China’s economy depends heavily on exports to the U.S., which buys $321 billion in Chinese goods every year. By disrupting America’s economy, China would only be crippling its own. “It’s not in China’s interest to create financial instability,” says Bank of America market strategist Gerald Lucas. Indeed, the precarious world economy gives both countries a strong incentive to work together. “China and the U.S. still need each other,” writes Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, “perhaps now more than ever.”

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Food for Thought

Intellectual activities make people eat more than when just resting, according to a study that sheds new light on brain food.

But I have a different thought...

[click on cartoon to enlarge]

It fits me, if you know what I mean!
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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13 December 2008

The thing under the stairs

Proof positive there really is something under the stairs...


[click on image to enlarge and view the paranormal reality]

-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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12 December 2008

Car industry bailout

This new ad just about says everything re the bailout...

[You must read the fine print, so click on the ad to enlarge]

-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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11 December 2008

Bread and Circuses

It gets no bleaker than this particular reality... reality show, that is.

Which leaves me speechless, so I hope you share your comments.

-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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10 December 2008

The T-Bill Renaissance - Stratfor

An excellent and timely briefing by Stratfor re recent market developments.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



December 10, 2008 1731 GMT

United States: The T-Bill Renaissance

Summary
As the financial crisis forces investors around the globe to liquidate risky investments, the U.S. Treasury has benefited from its traditional role as a safe haven for capital. While the increasing demand for U.S. Treasury bills allows the U.S. wide berth for addressing the crisis, most other markets are being starved for desperately needed liquidity.

Analysis
A U.S. Treasury bill auction Dec. 9 resulted in investors eagerly seeking zero percent and even negative yields. Put simply, investors were willing to lock in a loss on their investment in order to guarantee that they would get most of their money back. The higher the demand for a bond, the less the issuer has to pay in interest.

In the world of financial trading, this is just about as desperate as traders get. As asset values collapse, those investing with borrowed money are forced to cover losses by either posting more collateral out of pocket or selling off assets – often at drastically reduced prices. This process, known as deleveraging, has investors of most stripes
worried about further market collapse. Thus, even market participants who have not employed dramatic leverage have pulled their money out of most types of investments and plunged it into what is broadly considered the safest investment in the world: U.S. Treasury bills.

Since the Lehman Brothers failure, the realization has dawned that even the best and brightest are vulnerable to the deleveraging process — and the absolute last thing standing, no matter the scenario, will be the U.S. government. Ergo, that is the place to stash cash. For many investors, such as the governments of China and Japan, this is not a course of action taken out of panic — this is what they done for decades. Government money managers in foreign states have long been the largest purchasers of Treasury bills; they regularly find low returns in U.S. government debt to be much safer than investments in their own countries.

In some ways this is phenomenal news for the U.S. government's ability to deal with the
financial crisis. If investors not just across the nation but across the world are shoving their money at the U.S. government and not demanding any return at all, the U.S. government can in essence borrow nearly limitless amounts of money to fund its liquidity injections, bailouts and other spending at near-zero interest rates. The U.S. federal deficit rang in at $455 billion for 2008, and as the U.S. pursues further bailouts and stimulus spending, it should race past the $1 trillion mark in 2009. With respect to the U.S. continuing to service its debt, the enormous demand for its bonds is good news (that is, assuming it can come to terms with a new $1 trillion of debt).

Of course the fear that this development represents is not good at all. As long as investors are too scared to put their money into anything but Treasury bills, there will be a shortage of funds available for the sort of pursuits that would get the economy going. The result is a broad seizing up of the lending and credit system that complicates everything from a mortgage to a car loan to a corporate bond issue. So while the government may find it easy to finance its efforts, the scope of problems that it must attempt to mitigate has become truly towering.

And that is by no means the worst of it. For while the U.S. government is certainly going to see this as a silver lining to the growing economic storm clouds, the news should inject absolute horror into the rest of the world. Money is pouring into the United States from all directions, leaving most global markets high and dry. So while Treasury bill yields are slimming down to zero, the rates on bonds — both government and corporate — in the rest of the world are going nowhere but up. The United States at least has the option of using rampant government spending as a means of kick-starting other sorts of economic activity, but in the rest of the world all trains leave for Washington.

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15 Corporate Logos

Some of these logos are especially inspired, some are laugh out loud funny, but all are clever. And appropriate.

Enjoy!

-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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09 December 2008

Two holiday songs

The holiday season is upon us again; shopping, partying, gift-giving, visiting with friends and family, all amid a sour and worsening economy and ugly financial markets.

Which all catches me in a reflective mood. What better method to capture my angst than with excellent music? The two original and amazingly fine songs below deal with the loss of love; both reach for redemption. No surprise, then, that each song was written specifically for the holiday season.

Brandi Carlile's song leaves us guessing if redemption is gained; the song by Over the Rhine (with the extraordinary vocals by Karin Bergquist) leaves no such doubt...




Brandi Carlile: The Heartache Can Wait

You're talking about leaving
It's right about Christmas time
Thinking about moving on
I think I might die inside

I'm thinking about years gone by
I'm thinking about church at midnight
I'm thinking about letting go
I think that might finally be alright
This is where we shine

Silver bells and open fire
And songs we used to sing
One more chance to be inspired
Is what I'm offering if love is not enough
Then stay with me because
The heartache can wait

It's not about hanging on
It's making my deal with God
If I could call one last truce
We've given it all we've got

Then I'm gonna catch my breath
And make it a long December
If we've got nothing left
This could be worth remembering
With a smile upon my face

Silver bells and open fire
And songs we used to sing
One more chance to be inspired
Is what I'm offering if love is not enough
Then stay with me because

Silver bells and open fire
And songs we used to sing
One more chance to be inspired
Is what I'm offering if love is not enough
Then stay with me because
The heartache can wait





Over the Rhine: All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue


Strings of lights above the bed
Curtains drawn and a glass of red
All I ever get for Christmas is blue

Saxophone on the radio
Recorded forty years ago
All I ever get for Christmas is blue

When you play my song
Play it slowly
Play it like I'm sad and lonely

Maybe you can solve my mystery
Wrap me in your arms and whisper
You miss me

Weatherman says it's miserable
But the snow is so beautiful
All I ever get for Christmas is blue

It would take a miracle
To get me out to a shopping mall
All I really want for Christmas is you

Let them ring the bells
They won't miss us
I'll be drinking down your kisses

Deep into the night we'll go stealing
Underneath a starry ceiling
Revealing
...

White lights on the Christmas tree
Thank God you are here with me
All I ever get for Christmas is blue
All I ever get for Christmas is blue
All I ever get for Christmas is blue.

Happy Holidays!
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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Fascinating display

This site offers an intriguing visual perspective on house prices.

I would welcome more analysis and more markets visualized; nonetheless, it visualizes well the data and trends it does offer.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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Books for the word lover on your list

Each year "... brings a collection of ambitious histories (long and short), specialized reference books, grammar grab bags, and quirky collections, in varying proportions. This year's crop is different only in its unusual abundance..."

Read the short list here.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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08 December 2008

'Twas a good week

... for deer, at least, after a big buck, shot and downed in Missouri, suddenly reared up and attacked hunter Randy Goodman, knocking him to the ground and repeatedly bashing him with his antlers. Goodman described the deer’s revenge as “15 seconds of hell.”
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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From strength to strength

Alas, this post must be, by necessity, a quickie, as I am pressed for time, but...

The market grows increasingly, and increasingly obviously, bullish, as it trades from one strength to two strengths and so on. In previous posts, I have shown how the budding upside will manifest itself, and now investors can see it for themselves: a diminution of the downside pressure (fewer new lows, increasing new highs), a flattening of the price trend, positive price reactions via the news response syndrome (see many data points from last week, especially Friday's solid upside reversal), the inability to cluster downside days in excess of 3 or more, price breakouts above resistance areas and the moving averages (beginning with the 50 day sma), etc etc. I have shared how the bottom will build, so you know what to expect. And now today's opening indications point to more strength.. but will the markets hold its opening gains throughout the day and into the close?


The markets show the true opportunities lie on the long side. Much work remains to be done, so adjust your sights accordingly (depending on your time frame).

I have more to say on this topic, but not before Wednesday morning at the earliest.

-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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07 December 2008

All about Google

The visual analysis of Google/GOOG below pulls together many seemingly disparate threads into seemingly one coherent tapestry. It is very interesting for all that, but for one caveat: it is overwhelmingly bullish, never stopping for a moment -- or a slide -- to consider any negative possibilities. Nonetheless, it deserves the attention of Google/GOOG watchers and investors.

See what I mean...?
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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06 December 2008

The topic that refuses to die

another servant of Allah writes,
"... please stop describing Muslim criminals or their actions as 'Islamic', as most of the media unfortunately typically does -- e.g., Islamic terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, Islamic extremists (the phrase you use in this writing). 'Islamic' denotes an action or concept or physical thing that is in keeping with the fundamentals of Islam."

Mark Steyn replies ably to that request...

Muslims "found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed linked to their religion". Oh, I don't know about that. In fact, you'd be hard pressed from most news reports to figure out the bloodshed was "linked" to any religion, least of all one beginning with "I-" and ending in "-slam." In the three years since those British bombings, the media have more or less entirely abandoned the offending formulations – "Islamic terrorists," "Muslim extremists" – and by the time of the assault on Mumbai found it easier just to call the alleged perpetrators "militants" or "gunmen" or "teenage gunmen..."
Read the entire essay below...

Jews get killed, but Muslims feel vulnerable
By MARK STEYN

Shortly after the London Tube bombings in 2005, a reader of Tim Blair, The Sydney Daily Telegraph's columnist wag, sent him a note-perfect parody of a typical newspaper headline:

"British Muslims Fear Repercussions Over Tomorrow's Train Bombing."

Indeed. And so it goes. This time round – Mumbai – it was the Associated Press that filed a story about how Muslims "found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed linked to their religion".

Oh, I don't know about that. In fact, you'd be hard pressed from most news reports to figure out the bloodshed was "linked" to any religion, least of all one beginning with "I-" and ending in "-slam." In the three years since those British bombings, the media have more or less entirely abandoned the offending formulations – "Islamic terrorists," "Muslim extremists" – and by the time of the assault on Mumbai found it easier just to call the alleged perpetrators "militants" or "gunmen" or "teenage gunmen," as in the opening line of this report in The Australian: "An Adelaide woman in India for her wedding is lucky to be alive after teenage gunmen ran amok."

Kids today, eh? Always running amok in an aimless fashion.

The veteran British TV anchor Jon Snow, on the other hand, opted for the more cryptic locution "practitioners." "Practitioners" of what, exactly?

Hard to say. And getting harder. For the Wall Street Journal, Tom Gross produced a jaw-dropping round-up of Mumbai media coverage: The discovery that, for the first time in an Indian terrorist atrocity, Jews had been attacked, tortured and killed produced from the New York Times a serene befuddlement: "It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene."

Hmm. Greater Mumbai forms one of the world's five biggest cities. It has a population of nearly 20 million. But only one Jewish center, located in a building that gives no external clue as to the bounty waiting therein. An "accidental hostage scene" that one of the "practitioners" just happened to stumble upon? "I must be the luckiest jihadist in town. What are the odds?"

Meanwhile, the New Age guru Deepak Chopra laid all the blame on American foreign policy for "going after the wrong people" and inflaming moderates, and "that inflammation then gets organized and appears as this disaster" in Mumbai.

Really? The inflammation just "appears"? Like a bad pimple? The "fairer" we get to the, ah, inflamed militant practitioners, the unfairer we get to everyone else. At the Chabad House, the murdered Jews were described in almost all the Western media as "ultra-Orthodox," "ultra-" in this instance being less a term of theological precision than a generalized code for "strange, weird people, nothing against them personally, but they probably shouldn't have been over there in the first place."

Are they stranger or weirder than their killers? Two "inflamed moderates" entered the Chabad House, shouted "Allahu Akbar!," tortured the Jews and murdered them, including the young rabbi's pregnant wife. Their 2-year-old child escaped because of a quick-witted (non-Jewish) nanny who hid in a closet and then, risking being mowed down by machine-gun fire, ran with him to safety.

The Times was being silly in suggesting this was just an "accidental" hostage opportunity – and not just because, when Muslim terrorists capture Jews, it's not a hostage situation, it's a mass murder-in-waiting. The sole surviving "militant" revealed that the Jewish center had been targeted a year in advance. The 28-year-old rabbi was Gavriel Holtzberg. His pregnant wife was Rivka Holtzberg. Their orphaned son is Moshe Holtzberg, and his brave nanny is Sandra Samuels. Remember their names, not because they're any more important than the Indians, Britons and Americans targeted in the attack, but because they are an especially revealing glimpse into the pathologies of the perpetrators.

In a well-planned attack on iconic Mumbai landmarks symbolizing great power and wealth, the "militants" nevertheless found time to divert 20 percent of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city's poor in a nondescript building. If they were just "teenage gunmen" or "militants" in the cause of Kashmir, engaged in a more or less conventional territorial dispute with India, why kill the only rabbi in Mumbai? Dennis Prager got to the absurdity of it when he invited his readers to imagine Basque separatists attacking Madrid: "Would the terrorists take time out to murder all those in the Madrid Chabad House? The idea is ludicrous."

And yet we take it for granted that Pakistani "militants" in a long-running border dispute with India would take time out of their hectic schedule to kill Jews. In going to ever more baroque lengths to avoid saying "Islamic" or "Muslim" or "terrorist," we have somehow managed to internalize the pathologies of these men.

We are enjoined to be "understanding," and we're doing our best. A Minnesotan suicide bomber (now there's a phrase) originally from Somalia returned to the old country and blew up himself and 29 other people last October. His family prevailed upon your government to have his parts (or as many of them as could be sifted from the debris) returned to the United States at taxpayer expense and buried in Burnsville Cemetery. Well, hey, in the current climate, what's the big deal about a federal bailout of jihad operational expenses? If that's not "too big to fail," what is?

Last week, a Canadian critic reprimanded me for failing to understand that Muslims feel "vulnerable." Au contraire, they project tremendous cultural confidence, as well they might: They're the world's fastest-growing population. A prominent British Muslim announced the other day that, when the United Kingdom becomes a Muslim state, non-Muslims will be required to wear insignia identifying them as infidels. If he's feeling "vulnerable," he's doing a terrific job of covering it up.

We are told that the "vast majority" of the 1.6 billion to 1.8 billion Muslims (in Deepak Chopra's estimate) are "moderate." Maybe so, but they're also quiet. And, as the AIDS activists used to say, "Silence=Acceptance." It equals acceptance of the things done in the name of their faith. Rabbi Holtzberg was not murdered because of a territorial dispute over Kashmir or because of Bush's foreign policy. He was murdered in the name of Islam – "Allahu Akbar."

I wrote in my book, "America Alone," that "reforming" Islam is something only Muslims can do. But they show very little sign of being interested in doing it, and the rest of us are inclined to accept that. Spread a rumor that a Quran got flushed down the can at Gitmo, and there'll be rioting throughout the Muslim world. Publish some dull cartoons in a minor Danish newspaper, and there'll be protests around the planet. But slaughter the young pregnant wife of a rabbi in Mumbai in the name of Allah, and that's just business as usual. And, if it is somehow "understandable" that for the first time in history it's no longer safe for a Jew to live in India, then we are greasing the skids for a very slippery slope. Muslims, the AP headline informs us, "worry about image." Not enough.

© MARK STEYN

I am sickened by this entire matter; everything about the topic stinks. What really reeks, though, is the deafening silence on the part of moderate, practicing Muslims to control the rogue element in their midst.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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A commute I envy...

Okay, even I would enjoy this commute from the office...

video

-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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A loving God?

I bring forward these comments from "FYM" because... well, because only a small fraction of my 7 readers actually read the comments. And because I believe FYM's remarks deserve a wider audience... Despite the truth that not all Gods at the center of each monotheistic religion's belief structure is "loving." Consider, for example, the Jew's Yahweh (transliterated incorrectly as Jehovah), who is a bully and a thug. (I was born, raised, and bar-mitzvah'ed as a Jew, and studied the world's religions while in school, so I have some knowledge and understanding of the topic of Judaism.)
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Begin "FYM"...
"Another servant of Allah", strangely, sounds similar to "A". Many words and few to the points. Saying: "... many hundreds of thousands of non-Muslims who have converted recently in the West..." proves nothing about Muslims or Islam, and btw, where are the official statistics? Anyone (even a Muslim) can tell you many more have converted from Islam to other religions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x...h?v=xdVnILalpeo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Lis...to_Christianity
http://crosstalk.elaboratech.com...olaFeb2007A.htm
http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/69001.aspx

But these numbers are not that important, even if they're true. A lot more people in the world drive Hondas and Toyotas than BMWs and Mercedeses. Does that fact make a Honda better than a BMW? Christianity has more adherents than any other religion in the world, does that make it better than others?

It's all about personal choice and belief. There are several factors influencing one's belief, in religion as well as in any other choice in life. If people don't kill each other because of their choice for cars or clothes, then why shouldn't it be the same with their choice of religions? Yet many have killed and died because of their belief.

Religion is supposed to be a matter of choice of belief. Which God my friends believe in is irrelevant to me as a friend - his/her belief is as valid as anybody else's. But obviously certain Muslims don't think so:

Intolerance to other religions:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/ tol...icle5021028.ece

"The driver of the vehicle ordered his men to shoot. Amar tried to lunge at them but was restrained. The assailants pumped six bullets into his head and heart, shouting: "Allah Akubar (God is great)".

Intolerance to Muslims who converted to other religions:

http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/14689.htm

"From its inception, Islam has rigorously sought to prevent its adherents from choosing any other faith. Such apostates are regarded as traitors and - according to shari'a (Islamic law) - should be executed."

http://mensnewsdaily.com/ archive...nalds030205.htm

Also, saying "If Muslims were as mendacious and unfair...you would see hundreds of Muslim-run websites in which we would simply cut and paste a google news search for one day worth of stories..." is exaggerating, emotionally defensive, and full of false assumptions.

The truth is, I've never read anything from atlasshrugs or any other related links before this post by David. This link came from a Google search, and was used as a convenient "source". Everyone probably has a view on Muslims and Islam just as on anything else, and so do Muslims on other religions, and that view doesn't necessarily come from one source or another. It's just an opinion formed over accumulated experience, evidences, news, and other sources throughout one's life. Some of these sources may be truthful and accurate, and some may not. Still, one's opinion and understanding of the world are nonetheless influenced by them to some degree, and rational people will try to ensure their sources of information are factual, but there's a limit to that. And an opinion is, after all, just a personal belief that may change with time or new facts. Who's to say one's belief is stronger, or better than others'? But of course many religious fanatics do.

First of all, I certainly don't allow any single source to shape my view on any subject. In fact, I think the things that atlasshrugs wrote about President-Elect Obama were full of s**t. Second, nobody (neither David nor I) said anything about "all Muslims were mendacious and unfair". We both referred to Muslim terrorists/radicals who killed innocent people (even their own kind) in the name of God, and who used religion to advance their own selfish, cruel ambitions and deadly hatred. Third, who stops Muslims from running an English-only website? Fourth, who can read and understand Muslim-run sites written in Arabic (except native Muslims) to know for sure such stories are not reported? And last, why bother? There are already thousands of English (and other languages) websites taking care of those stories. It's not a crime, for example, for Christians or Bhuddists to criticize certain aspects of their religions, or the teaching/propaganda of those religions, or even the religious founders, and they won't be considered traitors for doing so either. Is this true for Islam?

The fact is that cartoonists and writers don't normally receive death threats for drawing, or writing about, and/or criticizing Jesus or Christianity, but Danish cartoonists and other writers about Islam frequently do. The fact was that on 9/11/01, many Muslims in the Middle East (including many youths) were seen on TVs everywhere in the world cheering the fall of the World Trade Center and the death of thousands of innocent people. The fact has been that, since that fateful day, many radical Muslims have tortured, beheaded, bombed, and gunned down many more innocent people. True, not all Muslims behaved that way. There are good and bad people in every religion. There were many moderate Muslims who were silent, but probably saddened by what they saw. At least I want to believe so. A religion doesn't commit a crime, people who follow it the wrong way, or who abuse it, do.

I don't believe in "guilty by association". But many moderate Muslims remained oversensitive, defensive, and probably intimidated to speak out against those Islamic extremists, so they remained silent. And that might send the wrong signal to the rest of the world that they approve those actions. There are Christian (and other) terrorists too, but once they committed a crime, they're openly condemned. We don't hear things like "the Christian communities blamed these heinous acts on other "complicated" factors, including the fact that many non-Christians don't understand and learn enough about Christianity." Let's face it, bad guys are bad guys, no matter what culture, what religion, what country or what race, and should be viewed and dealt with for who they exactly are.

I came to David's defense because he's upset with the Islamic extremists (not the whole Islam world), and rightfully so. And instead of denouncing those radical Muslims you instead went on the defensive, unnecessarily, for the whole Islam. It's not about all Muslims or Islam, it's about those particular Muslim thugs. Acting defensively and illogically won't help the cause and progress of Islam, or any other religion for that matter.

Despite what religious fanatics believe, nobody has seen God, it's just a mental image in their minds. We're all mortal human beings and should deal peacefully with one another as we physically exist. Who cares if your belief is different than mine. I believe, if there is a God, then there may be only one God whose name and image vary from one religion to another. Sadly, some evil people took advantage of the blind faith of uneducated, intimidated followers of religions to commit horrendous acts in the name of God.

For people to be interested in something, it has to appeal to their senses, taste, preferences, or at least to their intellectual curiosity. Many Americans buy American cars, but many other Americans also buy Japanese and European cars, because they appeal to them one way or another (economically, technologically, aesthetically, etc.) Certain aspects of Christianity, Hinduism, Bhuddism, Taoism, and Confucianism appealed to me through conversations with my friends, which aroused my curiosity. We might occasionally tell each other about our religions, but none has ever said their God is superior, or is the only true God, or tried to persuade one another to convert to a different religion. And we all could still be good friends even with vastly different religious backgrounds.

Any religion that claims that their God is the only true God and denounces and/or antagonizes other religions is certainly not tolerant, not peaceful, not progressive, and not worth studying as far as I'm concerned. If something has true merits it'll come through naturally. There are plain rocks everywhere, but who's interested in them? But a little diamond appeals greatly. It's not quantity that counts, it's quality.

Moderate Muslims might be interested in this link:
http://www.reformislam.org. It seems to have right approach. When someone in a family does something wrong, shouldn't that person be criticized, corrected, and/or disciplined? It's irrational to blame this person's wrongdoing on outsiders who "don't understand" the family. The same goes for larger communities and organizations. Moderate Muslims should stand up against the aggression and cruelty of radical Islamic fundamentalists instead of complaining about outsiders. Prove that Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion.

On a personal note, from
http://www.abcog.org/cislam2.htm:
"The power of God, especially in regard to predestination, being brought out into such strong prominence in the Koran, it is not surprising that fear and passive resignation, rather than love and active devotion, appear to be the prevailing attitude of the Muslim mind towards Him. This is indicated by the very name of their religion, `Islam' or `resignation to the will of God."

I wonder, why "fear God"? Isn't God all-knowing and all-loving? A misbehaving child may occasionally get punished by his parents, but normally he won't grow up fearing his parents, because normally he loves them, and he knows his parents love him. Fear and resignation may only create haters, submitters, surrenders, or, at best, blind followers, not creative leaders and contributors. Why not embrace a loving God instead of fearing him? Again, just my opinion.

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04 December 2008

With hat in hand

What really irks me right now, at least with regard to our growing economic and financial turmoil, are the barely disguised ploys some entities pursue to avail themselves of Federal bailout money.

Consider the insurance companies (that shall remain nameless, although their identities can be discovered easily) that purchase banks in central Florida and elsewhere, and then apply for bailout funds; the insurance company did not need it, and it is arguable whether the bank needed the money, but who can turn away free money with few strings. And today's edition of the Wall Street Journal reports that, just as Detroit's auto makers seek aid in Washington, Michigan's biggest health insurer is arguing that it too needs a rescue of sorts.

"Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has asked state lawmakers to give it more flexibility over the premiums it charges, reduce regulators' power to intervene and toughen regulations for its rivals. If the not-for-profit insurer's controversial plan succeeds, the Michigan insurance market for individuals -- one of the most affordable in the country -- will be revamped. Blue Cross says the changes, which could be voted on as early as this week, are necessary to curb the mounting losses that result from its status as the state's insurer of last resort. But the company's push has sparked a political showdown with the state attorney general, for-profit insurers and consumer groups."
Huh? Excuse me while I retch. Can the people behind these schemes truly believe that Federal officials are so stupid as to buy into their con games? Becky Antworth published today an op/ed essay, "With a Detroit bailout, the Fed may become too invested to quit," that really is quite brilliant in its quiet, unassuming way...
"Whether for or against, both sides of the debate have been using slippery slope arguments to defend their view. On the wayward side, the argument goes, a Detroit bailout would spark a frenzy reminiscent of fish pellets in a carp pond. Credit card companies will demand a share; whole cities are already holding up cupped hands; makers of the dog polisher, mesh raincoat, and electric banana straightener will need some help. On the leeward, let the auto industry slip into oblivion and myriad other industries will tumble down after it. Before long, the entire economy will be in a heap at the bottom. The aftermath of either scenario looks more like a black hole that even experts can't hope to illuminate than resolution."
Read the entire essay here... but only if you care to share my disbelief and disgust. My perception represents only one side of the coin; shift parallax views, though, and as Becky Antworth ably explains, you will understand how the Federal government paints itself into a corner.

A realization all investors will grasp quite quickly.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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Has he no sense of shame?

Has Jim Cramer no sense of shame?

I can think of no employer that stands aside as an employee lobbies publicly for a new job, as Jim Cramer does seemingly every opportunity he gets... all while at the job. (CNBC, Jim's bully-pulpit.) Really, imagine the audacity. Moreover, I can think of no person more ill-suited than Jim Cramer for any public office, SEC chairmanship included.

Quite simply, Jim has the wrong temperment (he is renowned to be a screamer), the wrong attitude (he is renowned not to be a team player), and the wrong skill-set (Jim's short term time frame, everything now, lacks contextual bearing). Combine Jim's omni-present tirades with his attitude and skill-set, and then watch as the SEC founders, directionless; well, effectively directionless, as Jim reacts to each ripple while he fails to see or recognize the waves and tides.

I know Jim means well, and he certainly knows his stuff (although not as well as he thinks he does). If any of my 7 readers have access to Team Obama, please let them know that an appointment of Jim Cramer to any public office would be a poor selection and their first big boo-boo.

I feel confident there exist other reasons why Jim Cramer is the wrong person for the job. What are yours...?
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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Depression 2009: What would it look like?

An article that offers a rather fanciful envisioning of a possible economic and financial future for us all...
"Most of us, of course, think we know what a depression looks like. Open a history book and the images will be familiar: mobs at banks and lines at soup kitchens, stockbrokers in suits selling apples on the street, families piled with all their belongings into jalopies. Families scrimp on coffee and flour and sugar, rinsing off tinfoil to reuse it and re-mending their pants and dresses. A desperate government mobilizes legions of the unemployed to build bridges and airports, to blaze trails in national forests, to put on traveling plays and paint social-realist murals. Today, however, whatever a depression would look like, that's not it. We are separated from the 1930s by decades of profound economic, technological, and political change, and a modern landscape of scarcity would reflect that. What, then, would we see instead? And how would we even know a depression had started? It's not a topic that professional observers of the economy study much. And there's no single answer, because there's no one way a depression might unfold. But it's nonetheless an important question to consider - there's no way to make informed decisions about the present without understanding, in some detail, the worst-case scenario about the future. By looking at what we know about how society and commerce would slow down, and how people respond, it's possible to envision what we might face."
Read the entire article here.

I enjoy reading articles such as this one, whether time proves them to be correct or incorrect, because they satisfy my unending sense of wonder about the future.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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