Saturday, November 8, 2008

Lykke Li - Youth Novels

After listening to some tracks on Lykke Li Zachrisson's MySpace page, I decided to take a chance and get Youth Novels.

I typically don't go for synth/pop but from a brief listen I could tell Swede Lykke Li was doing something really different. So different, she released her debut on her own label (LL Recordings). Maybe this is what it what it takes to be interesting in a musically bland world? That's another post...

The product is great album that's almost a little too complex to be considered pop. Hopefully, Lykke Li will get some attention here in the States instead of being ignored like other great Swedish talent has been in the past.

Favorite track: Little Bit
Least Favorite: This Trumpet in My Head (I can't get this song out of my head)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Obama Economy

As I mentioned below, now that the election is over, the Dow is casting it's vote and it's off 10% or roughly 1,000 points since the election.

Lots of alternative theories, but we've been getting bad news on a near daily basis now since March. We saw a 1,200 point run-up before the election in spite of bad news as well.

In fact, this is the largest post-election Dow drop in history!

I've gotten into countless arguments with people who don't understand what the impact will be of higher (nearly double or more) capital gains for the "richest Americans."

There is a lot of big money in the market that now has one, maybe two tax years to escape without paying higher capital gains. The net result, as I predict, will be a slow unwinding in the markets, instead of a strong uptick once the current economic crisis is over. Obama's tax plans will punish investors for taking risk rather than rewarding them as the Bush tax cuts did after dot-com.

To put it another way; the market has to "price-in" an Obama Presidency.

Many are blind to this risk because "Obama promised my taxes won't go up" since I make less than $250,000. But in a market, we are all related in some way, shape, or form. Billions in private wealth leaving the equities markets (profit taking) to avoid being penalized for being successful is going to have an impact.

Sure, the little guy's income is safe, per Obama, but his 401k will be at risk when all the boats in the market sink together (how's that for a play?).

The Obama tax policy, as presented in his campaign, will not help our markets, but rather hurt them and the economy--hope the little guy catches on and positions himself accordingly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Morning After

And no one brought us breakfast in bed!

John McCain's concession speech shows just what kind of man he is. A man too good for politics. I particularly liked the part at the end...

"I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president."

I'm not sure if this was a shot at all those liberals who, in 2004, declared Bush "was not my President" but I took it that way. It was also a call for Republicans to continue to be better than that and respect the new President given the mandate from the People.

President Elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech introduced a new tone that I hadn't heard from Obama until last night. Some choice quotes...

"It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice."

Service and sacrifice?!? What exactly will be sacrificing President Obama? You've promised us everything; tax relief, health care, education, etc... What is required of us?

People interviewed after an Obama campaign rally sounded like they just won the lottery. The idea of work and sacrifice was never presented! This was a campaign of something for nothing (taking from the evil rich) and was never balanced with contribution or work.

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there."

Managing expectations or signaling defeat? We haven't heard this before either. Obama was the "lightworker" who, in spite of lacking past achievement, was capable of anything.

"There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can’t solve every problem."

Then why is bigger government always your answer? On the campaign trail did we hear "government can't solve every problem?" No. We heard "yes we can!" The "we" is collectivism. "Yes you can!" is somewhat less inspirational to the masses convinced of their own helplessness, although it would be more empowering to the few of us who still believe in ourselves and each other.

In summary, the change in Obama's tone, while refreshing for someone who appreciates honesty, is concerning. It demonstrates that the policy we've been promised may not be the policy we get. The promises that won the votes may not be the promises kept.

I can only hope that the country will hold President Obama as accountable for his failures as they have President Bush.

P.S. As I type the Dow is down 450 points! Looks like the stock market is trying to put it's finger on Obama policy as well!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Are You Better Off Now Than You Were Eight Years Ago?

Democrats (taking a line from Reagan) are asking us, as we head off to the polls, if we are better off than we were eight years ago.

I've thought a lot about how I would answer this question and how other Americans would answer.

The answer for me is "Yes!"

Since Bush took office in 2001 I have increased my gross salary by 130%. I have been able to learn to some new skills and sharpen existing ones thanks to the opportunities in the job market. I now own an affordable home with a decent interest rate (the affordable part was a challenge). My non-mortgage debt is paid off (car, credit card) and I no longer use consumer credit.

But for other Americans, I know the answer is much different.

Looking back, many have already forgotten the challenges that President Bush was presented as soon as taking office (dot com bust and 9/11). We are quick to judge the President on the last year but overlook the crisis he handled in 2001 and 2002.

Bush's economic policy consistently did two things; kept interest rates low and kept taxes low (across the board). These two things gave Americans and American businesses an opportunity to grow and create wealth. Instead many Americans used cheap credit to overspend and American businesses used low taxes and low rates to increase their margins instead of investing in their businesses (Wall St and mortgage industry, for example).

I think history will show that President Bush's biggest fault, in the economy, was trusting the American people to use low tax rates and low interest rates wisely. In other words, the President was wrong for trusting America.

This same flaw was demonstrated in July when Bush got cornered by a reporter in a testy press conference on rising gas prices. The President was asked what the American people should do in response to $4/gallon gas. The response...

"They're smart enough to figure out whether they're going to drive less or not. "

The President had an opportunity to tell people what to do, but instead trusted that Americans would make the right decision given the choice. On gas he might have been right, we did cut back on our driving, on credit and taxes he was dead wrong.

So here we are in the 2008 election and I fear many Americans will conclude that they are not better off than they were eight years ago. They will not look at the decisions they made that got them to this point, but at Bush economic policy. Policies which, ironically, gave them the opportunity to make good or bad decisions.