November 2008 archive

Black Friday

Who wants to be long?

For stores, the holiday season may already be over


Thu Nov 27, 4:33 am ET

Major department stores and mall-based chains have cut prices up to 70 percent to move out mounds of excess inventory stuck in the pipeline since the financial crisis hit in September and people snapped their wallets shut.

Big moves of merchandise happen every year – but usually after Christmas. This year stores are desperate to shed inventory even before Thanksgiving.

It wasn’t supposed to be this bad. Stores, which typically place orders about four to seven months in advance, had cautiously planned their holiday inventories about 15 percent below last year’s levels.

But because of the free fall in consumer spending, stores are now stuck with about 15 percent to 20 percent excess holiday inventory, estimated Burt P. Flickinger, managing director of Strategic Resource Group.

How bad will the season ultimately be for stores? Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia Corp., expects total retail sales to fall 0.5 percent for November and December. That would be the first decline in holiday sales since 1982.

The problem for a retailer is that most of their capital is tied up in merchandise, most of which is ordered up to 6 months or even a year ahead of time.  Like everyone else they buy on credit and count on income from sales to pay off the loans when they come due.

This year, just like hedge funds, they are liquidating assets (inventory) in anticipation of margin calls and redemptions.

But Wait!

Writing in the Raw: Tradition

this essay is mostly a re-post from last year, with minor up-date editing.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

When I was growing up my Dad was in the Air Force; we moved around… a Lot. Most holidays it was just us, no extended family. I guess in some way to make up for this perceived lack, Mama and Daddy always had ‘orphans’ for the holidays: cadets who couldn’t get home, officers just posted to the base whose family hadn’t yet arrived, young wives whose husbands were overseas and later stranded college kids my sibs brought home.

    Mama always put on quite the  feast…we weren’t allowed anywhere near the kitchen for several days before each holiday. It became a running joke. “She’s doing this on purpose, you know” Dad would stage whisper several times, “Starving us so our appetites will be immense & we’ll declare whatever slop she dishes out as food of the gods.”

Jackson Browne – Before the Deluge

I’ve been moving all day so I’ll keep this brief.  This is my happy Thanksgiving wish for you all.

I think it’s interesting how artists can be ahead of their time in ways that maybe even they don’t understand.  Some works of art only resonate the more as time passes.  Orwell’s 1984 for example.  

I felt that way about Paul Simon’s American Tune, and I think Jackson Browne speaks to our time in a similar fashion in Before the Deluge.

11/26 Horror In Mumbai To Ripple Across World?

The city of Mumbai is India’s financial capital. India’s New York City.

From Magnifico in his Four at Four today:

The Guardian reports Terrorist gunmen are holed up in Mumbai hotels. “About 10 to 12 gunmen remain holed up with hostages inside two Mumbai hotels and a Jewish centre, a top Indian general said today. Major General RK Huda told New Delhi Television that the rest of the gunmen appeared to have been killed or captured.” 125 people have been killed and more than 325 wounded.

Mumbai (Marathi: ?????, Mumba?, IPA:[?mumb?i] (help·info)), formerly Bombay, is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra and the financial capital of India. With an estimated population of 20 million, it is one of the most populous cities in the world. Along with the neighbouring suburbs of Navi Mumbai and Thane, it forms, at 19 million, the world’s fifth most populous metropolitan area. Mumbai lies on the west coast of India and has a deep natural harbour. Mumbai’s port handles over half of India’s maritime cargo.

Mumbai is the commercial and entertainment centre of India, generating 5% of India’s GDP and accounting for 25% of industrial output, 40% of maritime trade, and 70% of capital transactions to India’s economy. Mumbai is one of the world’s top ten centres of commerce by global financial flow, home to important financial institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India, the Bombay Stock Exchange, the National Stock Exchange of India and the corporate headquarters of many Indian companies and numerous multinational corporations. The city also houses India’s hindi film and television industry, known as Bollywood. Mumbai’s business opportunities, as well as its high standard of living, attract migrants from all over India and, in turn, make the city a potpourri of many communities and cultures. –wikipedia


Indian army personnel taking position at Mumbai’s Taj Mahal hotel on Nov. 27

The BBC says this morning:

Commandos are fighting to clear the last gunmen from two luxury hotels in Mumbai, more than 24 hours after a series of attacks across the city.

The Taj Mahal hotel was nearly free of gunmen, officials said, but operations continued at the Oberoi-Trident hotel.

At a third stand-off, at a Jewish centre, seven hostages were freed, a security official said.

Indian PM Manmohan Singh vowed to track down the attackers, who have killed at least 119 people and injured 300.

Gunmen targeted at least seven sites in Mumbai late on Wednesday, opening fire indiscriminately on crowds at a major railway station, the two hotels, the Jewish centre and a cafe frequented by foreigners.

George Friedman’s STRATFOR (Strategic Forecasting, Inc.) has produced an early tentative analysis of possible geopolitical repercussions from the attacks in Mumbai.

Let’s hope that STRATFOR is not as on the mark with this analysis as they usually are:


A fire in the dome of the Taj Hotel in Mumbai on Nov. 26

Red Alert: Possible Geopolitical Consequences of the Mumbai Attacks  (Open Access)

Stratfor, November 27, 2008

NOTE: As Stratfor is a paid subscription site, some of the links in this article may lead to a subscriber wall, while some will be Open Access.


If the Nov. 26 attacks in Mumbai were carried out by Islamist militants as it appears, the Indian government will have little choice, politically speaking, but to blame them on Pakistan. That will in turn spark a crisis between the two nuclear rivals that will draw the United States into the fray.


At this point the situation on the ground in Mumbai remains unclear following the militant attacks of Nov. 26. But in order to understand the geopolitical significance of what is going on, it is necessary to begin looking beyond this event at what will follow. Though the situation is still in motion, the likely consequences of the attack are less murky.

Four at Four

  1. The Guardian reports Terrorist gunmen are holed up in Mumbai hotels. “About 10 to 12 gunmen remain holed up with hostages inside two Mumbai hotels and a Jewish centre, a top Indian general said today. Major General RK Huda told New Delhi Television that the rest of the gunmen appeared to have been killed or captured.” 125 people have been killed and more than 325 wounded.

    The Hindu reports the Indian Army rushes in reinforcements ahead of “final push”. “The Army personnel, forming part of the present deployment of around five columns in terror-hit south Mumbai areas, has got a boost with the arrival of the fresh batch from Pune and Nashik… ‘The flushing out operations at these hotels, being undertaken jointly with National Security Guards (NSG) may be over sooner than expected were it not for our endeavour to ensure that there is no collateral damage,’ the sources said.”

    The NY Times updates an account, reporting that Indian forces take command of two posh hotels. “Indian commandos scoured through the flame and wreckage of two posh hotels Thursday, searching for survivors and battling bands of gunmen who unleashed two days of chaos here in India’s commercial capital. A third group of gunmen, the remnants of well-organized squads of attackers, remained holed up in a Jewish community center.”

    The LA Times reports Al Qaeda is just one suspect in India terrorist attacks. “Experts cautioned that it was too early to fix responsibility for the coordinated attacks that killed dozens of people at a pair of luxury hotels, two hospitals, a train station and an upscale restaurant. They said the group that claimed responsibility, the Deccan Mujahedin, was unknown.”

Four at Four continues with updates from Iraq and Afghanistan, food prices, and Barack Obama’s transition.

It’s Full of Stars

Which is of course, the last (?) line from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Which in my interpretation is about mankinds journey of discovery as we, or at least our consciousness for now, attempts to move beyond the confines of this tiny little world, in a tiny little corner of the vast universe. A universe that stretches so far beyond our world that we literally cannot comprehend it, a universe so vast that our minds tend to retreat in shock back to our little world when we attempt to contemplate it. It appears at first glance to be cold and harsh and hostile to the perceived needs of we little squirming corporeal entities, it appears to be filled mostly with what we would call nothing. And yet this cold harsh universe is what gave birth to everything….in particular, for the purposes of this essay, everything that we call beauty.

Like everything else it seems, the way we look at it and relate to it depends on our individual perception of it and how we react to it, Is it a cold and harsh universe, unforgiving and deadly? Or is it the beautiful and beneficent giver of all life and beauty as we know it? That, like everything else, depends on how we, as individuals and as the human race….. view it.

Which brings us to….Thanks Giving.

Nassau D.A. Kathleen Rice to dismiss charges against the Hempstead 15

Thanks are due to Docudharma for putting the Hempstead 15 action alert up on their front page, but that alert will now need to be modified slightly. 🙂

It is with joy that I pass on the following announcement from Matthis Chiroux:

Iraq, America, SOFA, Popular Resistance, And Real News

In Baghdad as I write this it is early Thursday evening, about 7:00 pm Thursday November 27, 2008. Add 8 hours to current US eastern standard time to calculate Baghdad time.

It is also about five and half years since George Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, claiming falsely to want to “liberate” Iraq, while beginning the occupation that has resulted in the deaths of more than a million Iraqis and more than four thousand Americans.

Since the invasion Iraqis belonging to all social factions and walks of life have been trying to throw their occupiers out of the country. They may finally, after all these years, be on the verge of doing exactly that.

But at what cost?

Yesterday the Iraqi parliament delayed a vote on the SOFA pact until today, then earlier today passed the agreement, but subject to a national referendum of Iraqis that could very well finally result in the end of the occupation because of the power and persistence of popular resistance.

Yesterday, in US-Iraq: The Big Picture: “Professor Michael Schwartz compare[d] the terms of the US-Iraq security pact – assuming the US will abide by them – with the initial, grandiose neocon plan which would have Iraq as an American colony peppered with US military bases projecting power all over the Middle East. He stresse[d] it’s unlikely the Pentagon and US Big Oil will abandon their dreams of Iraq domination.

Operation Iraq Liberation (OIL) would have been an apt codename for Bush’s invasion, but under any codename and whatever the lies and justification used, Iraqis have had enough, and the whole criminal adventure has also resulted in the repudiation and collapse of all the grand plans of Bush, the neocons, and PNAC, although it has yet to result in the arrest and trial of George Bush for war crimes. But grand plans or no, the oil men will not quit, and are still determined to control whatever oil resources in Iraq they can.

Neither will Iraqis quit, however, and the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama would do well to remember the power and persistence of popular resistance movements, both in Iraq, and at home, and not make a similar mistake in Afghanistan, and remember that it was not the oil companies who won him election, but popular movement.

On the flip The Real News and Michael Schwartz examine Iraq popular movement resistance to the US-Iraq security pact and how instrumental it has been for years in blocking the Bush administration agenda.

Open Thread


Thanks for all the thread.

Thankful Pony Party


Michigan GM worker answers attack by New York Times columnist

Original article, by Jerry White, via World Socialist Web Site:

On Tuesday, November 18, the New York Times published an article by one of its leading business columnists, Andrew Ross Sorkin, which places the blame for the downfall of General Motors on the supposedly “gold-plated” and “off-the-charts” wages and benefits of auto workers.

Riddle Me This, President-Elect Obama

If you’ll forgive the unfortunate Batman reference in the title, I must say that I’m glad our worst fears haven’t yet come to pass.  We’re at a major fork in the road, and there’s still a chance that we’ll prove to be a reality-based nation after all.  For the last 60-plus years, and especially over the past 8…we haven’t so much been ‘told’, as we’ve had it jammed down our throats relentlessly that food is just another commodity best left to international commodity traders and chemical companies.  Unsurprisingly, globalization as defined by those types in this area has proven to be a massive failure, as has everything else based upon their theories.

The simple fact is that our food system is completely broken.  We’re drive-thruing ourselves to ruin while trying to drown out the sounds of our destruction with the popping of Pringles…

If we intend to remain a “first-world” nation, we need to ensure we have the bare basics to begin with.  Like food, which comes from our soil…the health of which directly impacts the nutrients contained in same.  

It’s time we had people in positions of power in Washington who understood that, people like Jim Riddle.

Crossposted as always from La Vida Locavore, jump below the fold…

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