Black Coffee: It’s All Good. Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain.

It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe

Welcome to another rousing edition of Black Coffee, your off-beat weekly round-up of what’s been going on in the world of money and personal finance.

We’re running the kids all over God’s little green Earth this weekend, so let’s get right to it!

The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed

From July 2010:

The Great Debate: Do Kids Really Need Cell Phones? – This article was the natural follow-up to a post I wrote that had chronicled the story of a $1055 phone bill I received — thanks to thousands of texts by my son. While I discuss the merits of kids having cell phones here, I also take a little time to share more than a few of the insults I received on some of the Internet’s biggest websites after my original post got widespread exposure. Some are quite funny. Still, it’s a good thing I have thick skin.

And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …

Money BeagleIs Flipping a Charity Auction Item Going Too Far?

Out of Your Rut – Why Credit Scores Matter Even if You Don’t Borrow

Canadian Budget BinderI Give Up …

Prairie EcoThrifter10 Money-Saving Tips for Your Wedding

Celebrating Financial FreedomMoney Problems? Don’t Use a Band-Aid When You Need Surgery.

Credits and Debits

Debit: On Monday, gold got pummeled again, this time falling 8% — after a 5% decline the previous Friday. That was the biggest two-day drop for the yellow metal in 30 years.

Debit: Of course, the precious metal price-plunge is being celebrated by big-government collectivist economists as an affirmation of the sanctity of the world’s fiat money system. I know.

Debit: Then again, these are the same folks who apparently failed to notice that  commodity prices also dropped across the board. As a result, give or take a few bucks, a single ounce of gold or silver continues to buy just as much of anything today as it did the week before. And they will continue to do so in the future — unlike fiat.

Debit: Sadly, what Keynesian economists like Paul Krugman seemingly fail to realize is that excessive money printing by the Fed ends up distorting the markets — which is why, after more than five years of bailouts and quantitative easing, the markets are broken; price discovery is all but impossible.

Debit: You know things are seriously out of whack when the laws of economics no longer apply, as evidenced by the continued suppression of prices, despite strong demand and many documented shortages of physical silver and gold.

Debit: In fact, higher premiums above the spot price of gold and silver are proof that the lower prices established by the paper market are insufficient to meet demand for the metal itself.

Debit: As I mentioned here last week, if the current conflict between paper and physical precious metals gets too extreme, prices will permanently diverge; that will presage the end of the paper gold and silver market. It will also mean that the demise of our current fiat monetary system may be close at hand.

Debit: Paul Craig Roberts, an economist who was the former Assistant Treasury Secretary in the Reagan Administration, claims that the Fed is manipulating the gold market in order to protect the US dollar’s exchange value.

Debit: Rising gold prices reduce confidence in the US dollar and, by extension, its exchange rate. If that happens, import prices would rise, thereby stoking inflation, and the Fed would lose control of interest rates. That, in turn, would crash the bond market — along with the entire financial system house of cards.

Debit: Roberts suggests that the Fed’s actions signal that a dollar crisis or other major economic disaster is looming. As such, they’re trying to reset the gold/dollar price prior to the outbreak of trouble in order to be better prepared to handle the situation.

Debit: Whether you agree with Roberts or not, the two most recent significant declines in gold (a 21% drop in July 2008, and a 20% plunge during September 2011) seemingly presaged, respectively, the Lehman Brothers collapse and euro crisis.

Credit: Okay; how about some good news? Well … the euro zone hasn’t disintegrated. Yet. (Although, according to the International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook, the crumbling euro zone is the weakest part of the global economy and the biggest threat to any worldwide recovery.)

Debit: Yes, arguably, that’s a “Debit” — but, as you can see, I had to lower the bar if we were going to see any “Credits” this week. Let’s face it, there hasn’t been a lot of news worth celebrating over the past seven days — financial or otherwise. No matter how you look at it, it’s been a tough week.

Debit: The news has been so dismal I suspect that nobody currently cares that health actuaries are now saying Obamacare will probably increase health plan costs in some states by as much as 80% next year. Yes, that’s in addition to steep increases that have already occurred since the fatally-flawed law was passed back in 2010.

Debit: For his part, Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) intimated that the figures are suspect because the actuaries work for the insurance companies — in essence impugning their integrity. Projection, perhaps? Remember, in stumping for passage of the law, it was Franken and other Obamacare advocates who pushed illogical pie-in-the-sky numbers that were clearly bogus from the get-go. Just sayin’.

Credit: Who knows. Maybe Senator Franken can try his hand in the comedy circuit after his political career comes to a close. On second thought … nah.

Credit: One thing that is certain: The Roofers Union isn’t laughing. In fact, after pushing for passage of Obamacare, the union — apparently having read the bill only after it was passed — is now clamoring for its full repeal. Now that’s funny.

The Question of the Week

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

By the Numbers

After briefly losing — and then regaining — the title of World’s Biggest Company this past February, Apple has now lost the title again, thanks to the continued drop in its stock price:

$378 billion Current market cap of Apple.

$385 billion   Current market cap of the new market cap king, Exxon Mobil.

6   Number of years that Exxon Mobil held the title of World’s Biggest Company prior to losing it to Apple in 2012.

0.08% Gain in Exxon Mobil stock price in 2013.

24.31% Decline in Apple stock price this year.

8% Year-to-date increase in the S&P 500.

939.06 million Outstanding shares of Apple stock in the market.

$705.07 Apple’s all-time stock high, hit last year on September 21 when the iPhone 5 went on sale.

$390.53   Price of Apple stock at the closing bell on Friday. That represents a drop of more than 45% from its all-time high.

Sources: Fox News, The Street

Other Useless News

Here are the top — and bottom — five Canadian provinces and territories in terms of the average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:

1. Saskatchewan (1.99 pages/visit)
2.  Prince Edward Island (1.93)
3. British Columbia (1.92)
4. Nova Scotia (1.70)
5. Alberta (1.66)

9. Newfoundland (1.25)
10. Yukon Territory (1.20)
11.  New Brunswick (1.15)
12. Northwest Territories (1.12)
13. Nunavut (1.00)

Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like the crazy canucks in the Saskatchewan, eh) — or not (you hosers living on the frozen Nunavut tundra) — please don’t forget to:

1. Click on that “Like” button in the sidebar to your right and become a fan of Len Penzo dot Com on Facebook!

2. Make sure you follow me on Twitter! And last, but not least…

3. Don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! Thank you. :-)

Letters, I Get Letters

Every week I feature the most interesting question or comment — assuming I get one, that is. And folks who are lucky enough to have the only question in the mailbag get their letter highlighted here whether it’s interesting or not! You can reach me at:

Last week I shared a message I received in my inbox from Svetlana, a 24-year-old Ukrainian who wanted to, um, get to know me better. Of course, I passed. That was followed by this request from Eric:

Can I get Svetlana’s number?  

Well, Eric, judging by her photo, I’d give her a 10 — but I’m an easy grader.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


  1. 1


    Ha, I never get those kinds of letters. Have fun running the kiddies around this weekend. I can’t stand automatic.. in fact the wife’s vehicle is automatic and it’s horrible. I don’t know why people drive them but I guess it’s easy for some. Most everyone in the UK drives a standard. Thanks for sharing CBB mate!

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      I’ve been driving a sticks pretty much my whole life, and I think the only drawback to them is when you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or congested city driving in towns with very steep hills (like San Francisco).

      • 3


        That’s true which I’m learning more so here than in the UK where we mainly have roundabouts and it’s full speed ahead. I’ve been on the M-series highway in the UK bumper to bumper but you get used to it. In Canada it can get a bit painful with all the stop and go all the time. I would not trade it for an automatic, no chance.

    • 5

      Len Penzo says

      Excellent, Jane! You know, growing up, I always appreciated newspapers and other publications that expanded my vocabulary through the use of exotic or uncommon words.

      These days, it seems as if most publications written in English stick to the standard 850-word deck.

  2. 6


    We have Wireless contract with a major carrier. We get 700 minutes among 4 family members. We have strict code of silence on cell phones when we get call from folks unknown to us.

    If we have to, we call them on home phone that has unlimited calls for fixed price.

    We have unlimited text messages for $20 a month.

  3. 8

    Doug Blasco says

    On the subject of the poll. So for what I have read, roughly 30% of the US population knows how to drive a stick shift. The poll, at least at this point, shows that 70% of your readers shift like a pro. I don’t know exactly what this means but it is interesting.

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