Walmart and Other Retailers See Falling Sales

Bloomberg has a stunning story out about Walmart’s dropping sales figures. In it, they cite leaked internal emails between company executives where they describe in plain language how bad sales are. The emails are only a few days old. Here are some quotes:

On February 12, Jerry Murray, Walmart’s vice president of finance and logistics, wrote:

“In case you haven’t seen a sales report these days, February MTD sales are a total disaster. The worst start to a month I have seen in my 7 years with the company… [since Wal-Mart is gaining market share steadily] that points to our competitive landscape, which means everyone is suffering and probably worse than we are.”

A few days earlier on February 1st, Cameron Geiger, senior vice president of Wal-Mart U.S. Replenishment wrote:

“Have you ever had one of those weeks where your best-prepared plans weren’t good enough to accomplish everything you set out to do? Well, we just had one of those weeks here at Walmart U.S. Where are all the customers? And where’s their money?“  Read More »

Posted in News | Leave a comment

James Howard Kunstler on PeakProsperity.com

This is a repost from Chris Martenson’s website PeakProsperity.com where he interviews author James Howard Kunstler on the state of the US society and economy. It’s a great interview and worth reposting here for posterity. Kunstler touches on a lot of themes, most notably the ongoing collapse of key infrastructure which amounts to an ongoing, nationwide “Hurricane Katrina.” They also discuss the ongoing money printing at the Federal Reserve and the commitment of our leaders to kick the can down the road, even as it makes the inevitable collapse all the more dramatic and destructive. Read More »

Posted in Reposts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Rising Nationalism Pushes Nations to War

In early 1095 AD, Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos sent a letter to Pope Urban II warning that the Turks were about to overrun Constantinople. Hoping to reunite the Church, which had been in schism for 50 years,  the Pope gave an impassioned speech at the Council of Clermont decrying the atrocities being committed by the Turks in their westward expansion and called for volunteers to launch a crusade to push them back.

Reports of the speech claim the crowd shouted in support “Deus vult,” a Latin phrase meaning “God wills it!” The Pope’s speech was just as well received across the empire, causing not only nobles and knights to join the cause, but the poor masses as well. Women and children were explicitly forbidden from joining the crusade, but to no avail; indeed whole families left everything they had to join this crusade, the first of many.

The Pope’s speech had single-handedly raised an army of thousands, the vast majority of whom were unarmed and untrained peasants. Indeed, his call for action was more successful than Pope Urban II envisioned or even wanted. If anything, the peasants only served to slow the armies. Read More »

Posted in Opinion | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Superbowl Bullshit

It doesn’t take much to see the Superbowl as a parallel for our society. It is the ultimate display of consumerism, violence, nationalism and faux-Americana. Every year it gets a little worse. Equally unbearable are US families who decry the “edgy” advertisements as they try to “enjoy the game” with those spastic mental cases they call children. This year’s orgy of excess finally culminated in a third quarter power outage putting a halt to the show. A better metaphor for our broken economy and self destructiveness could not be chosen.

Once you get into this mindset of viewing the Superbowl as a microcosm of our society, all sorts of hidden deformities come to the surface. Lets start with the advertisements. After all, there would be no game without them. Take the Oreo ad where passionate cookie lovers beat on each other and burn down a library. Then there’s the GoDaddy ad which is not only hyper-sexualized chauvinism, but as a friend of mine pointed out, a distilled corporate form of sexuality, which is somehow even worse.  Read More »

Posted in Opinion | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Hope Has Changed – It Died, By Monty Pelerin

This article is a reprint, posted here with permission and for posterity. It’s by an anonymous author using the name Monty Pelerin. It is originally available at EconomicNoise.com.

Hope is dying in the US.

The performance of financial markets affects everyone. For savers and investors, these markets represent the means to an improved life, at least as they define it. Savings and wealth provide options and opportunities, the quintessential aspect of being an American. These options and opportunities differentiated an American from someone who was born and destined to die in a hut or remain locked in a societal class from which there was no hope of escape.

Bonds and stocks were the primary means for savings and investments for generations of Americans. When these do not perform up to expectations, lives are changed. Plans and dreams are dashed. College educations, retirements and similar major events are deferred or never happen.  Read More »

Posted in Reposts | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Dependence on Food Stamps is a Ticking Time Bomb

Discussing the nation’s dependence on Food Stamps is likely to put many people into a defensive mode. Some feel resentful of those accepting government food subsidy. People on Food Stamps are sensitive to criticism in the media because often it comes with the implication that they are lazy or exploiting the system. Of course, fraud is a concern, but despite the national narrative, we would argue that these people are victims more often than not.

As readers of this blog are aware, we feel that the nation’s economy is at serious risk. Words like “meltdown” and “collapse” often come to mind. In the event of a financial crisis, Food Stamp recipients all over the country could be endangered. Unless the government responds quickly, violence could easily erupt as people attempt to secure food. Lets walk through it, but first we need to explain how bad the problem has gotten.

Food Stamp Usage

In the last five years, usage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called Food Stamps, has exploded, nearly doubling from about 26 million in 2007 to about 47.7 million today. An average of one out of every 6.5 Americans is now dependent on the government for food assistance, an absolutely stunning statistic.  Read More »

Posted in Opinion | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

History Rhymes: An Analysis of Nazi Germany

Mark Twain said, “History never repeats, but it often rhymes.” Indeed, the similarities between collapsing societies can be quite stunning. Rome comes to mind. It eventually rotted away through gross mismanagement, but collapse took centuries, while our rise and fall is being made manifest over the course of a single lifetime. While the bread and circus distractions we’re forced to endure are as engaging as ever, so is communication, technology and our own collective insight.

The comparison between Rome and the US may be useful for literary symbolism, but an immediately more useful and more disturbing model would be Nazi Germany, a tyrannical government born out of what had been a sophisticated, artistic, and politically engaged industrial society.

Casual students of history know that the Nazis were able to gain power by exploiting the political, ethnic and economic tensions building during post-World War I Germany, and certainly, we are facing similar tensions today, but digging into the details gives us other insights in to the rise of totalitarian power.  Read More »

Posted in Opinion | Tagged | 2 Comments

Alien vs Predator: Election 2012 Post-Mortem

“Whoever wins, we lose.”

That was the tagline for 2004’s critical bomb Alien vs. Predator where two franchises battle on Earth for supremacy. I haven’t seen it, but looking at the recent election, there seems to be something to the comparison — powerful forces fighting each other for control of the planet, it’s current inhabitants irrelevant or at most an inconvenience.

It’s all a farce of course, but now that the election is over and the way forward (herp derp) is clearer, we can begin to draw some conclusions about where history is headed.

The Democrats don’t seem to realize it yet, but their party is now looking down the barrel of a very big gun. There is a very real possibility the party itself will not survive the next few years. If war erupts, if the economy collapses, if the banks seize up, your bank account emptied or inaccessible, or some other unforeseen ’black swan‘ takes place, the blame for such events will not be as evenly shared as it would have been if Romney won.

Market analyst Karl Denninger spells it out a bit more directly:

“The Democrats, being in the White House, are staring down the destruction of their party within the next four years.  They don’t realize it yet, and probably won’t until it’s too late.  But because it is nearly certain that this mess will come to a head within the next four years, and might within the next year or two, they will get tagged with the blame since they hold the White House.”

The Republican’s 2016 candidate will not look like Mitt Romney. What comes out of the next crisis will look very right wing, fascist, & uglier than you ever though possible. Austerity, not as a fiscal policy, but as a knee jerk reaction of revenge will be the party’s platform.

For now, we brace for whatever comes next.

Posted in Opinion | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Questions You’ll Never Hear at the Debates

Sadly, you could also title this article “The Most Important Questions That Need to be Asked.” Today, our debates are merely a stage upon which candidates can exchange quips or attempt to act presidential. Most important issues are never discussed and those mentioned have little depth.

Before we list some of the questions that should be asked, a brief history of national debates is required. When historians cite the classic debate style, they are usually referring to a series of US Senate debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. In that case, each debate was typically three hours long, with the candidates delivering lengthy policy speeches.

While three hours was the norm, in at least one instance in 1854, Lincoln and Douglass debated for a total of seven hours. Douglass went first, delivering a three hour policy speech, followed by another three hour speech by Lincoln. The debate concluded with a relatively brief one hour rebut from Douglass. These debates were closely read throughout the nation and eventually lead to Lincoln’s nomination for President in 1860.  Read More »

Posted in Opinion | Tagged | Leave a comment

Is Greece an Omen of a Future America?

Imagine sitting on a beach. The tide is out. Things look static. You’ve set up your chair, beach towel, maybe you’ve even constructed a little sand castle. The tides come in slowly at first, then without warning a big wave comes rushing toward you, swamping you and your belongings.

We think we’ve learned from history. We think that we’ll see the warning sings and step back from the water’s edge before its too late, but often this is not the case. Change can happen suddenly and even those of use who pride ourselves on staying informed can find ourselves overwhelmed.

In Greece, we’re continually surprised to see such big waves. The situation has rapidly deteriorated. Unemployment among the youth is currently estimated at 55 percent. Since the start of the crisis, personal income has fallen by 25 percent. Acts of public immolation and suicide are common. Greek prison inmates are out of food, now surviving only on donations. Up to 30 “detention centers,” what some might call concentration camps or internment camps, have been set up to hold real or perceived illegal immigrants.  Read More »

Posted in Opinion | Tagged , | 1 Comment