Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions #14

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

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

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. Here’s what caught my attention over the past week…

My Life ROI – I always enjoy visiting My Life ROI. This week, MLR had a post highlighting some positive US economic indicators, especially with respect to housing data. Still, I don’t think we should get too excited, especially with respect to upbeat comments that come from the National Association of Realtors – primarily because they tend to always spin data in a positive light. As I opined to MLR, despite the good news, there are a lot of problems still out there. Looking forward, there is another large batch of mortgages whose rates will reset in 2010, which will undoubtedly lead to another huge spike in foreclosures. There are other issues that trouble me too, like new home owners being allowed to use their $8000 home buyer credit toward their minimum down-payment – which can be as low as 3%. This minimizes their stake in the game – one of the big problems that caused the last bubble.

Cash Money Life – Regular readers here know that I am a cell phone aficionado. They also know I have the best cell phone technology money can buy – in fact, it is the exact same sporty cell phone billionaire financier Gordon Gecko used in the awesome movie Wall Street. Nothing but the best for me, folks! But just because I can afford the best technology doesn’t mean I still don’t like saving money. That’s why I was so happy to see Patrick’s site offering tips on how to lower your cell phone bill.

Fiscal Fizzle – I dropped by my pecuniary pepper, better known as Fiscal Fizzle, to check out Wojo’s excellent post on 15 signs that indicate you’re in financial denial. If you do discover you are in denial after reading this piece, Wojo has some tips to get you started down the road to redemption.

The Digerati Life – Small investors, which are probably 99% of us, will be interested in reading SVB’s detailed review of online broker Scottrade. And yes, I’ve still got a big crush on the Digerati Life’s Logo Girl – in fact, I almost got in trouble because of it the other day. The Honeybee told me I was mumbling something in my sleep about a “logo girl.” Lucky for me I was able to think quickly – I told her I was actually dreaming that I was at the beach in the middle of a hurricane I and was warning somebody who wanted to go surfing about the “loco curl.” I know. She looked at me kind of funny, but she finally bought it. Well – at least I think she did. ;-)

Financial Methods – Matt had a fun post explaining his “water map of finance.” He even drew a nice diagram. What the heck is that, you ask? Well, in Matt’s financial “water map” there are streams, puddles, lakes and the ocean; the stream, for example, represents your income. Hey Matt, I’d like to propose you add several large “water drains” that represent our state and federal taxes. Where do those drains lead to? The government bureaucracy, of course, which I would represent as a sewer.

Credits and Debits

Debit: Tiger Management founder and chairman Julian Robertson says the US is too dependent on Japan and China buying up the country’s debt and could face an economic Armageddon if that stops. “If the Chinese and Japanese stop buying our bonds, we could easily see [inflation] go to 15 to 20 percent,” he said. Ya think? This is very similar to one of my Inflation Week series articles in May where I warned that our reckless free-spending monetary policies could force China to use “the nuclear option.” Believe it.

Debit: Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is introducing legislation that would make it easier for workers to form unions and harder for management to block them. Wal-Mart is particularly concerned that if Harkin’s bill becomes law it could upend the low-cost, low-price model that many companies are built on. Union organizer Meghan Scott stated, “We feel that Wal-Mart, because of its size, because of its success — it’s continuing to make record profits in these tough economic times — they have a responsibility and an ability to do things that other companies can’t necessarily do.” Like what, Meghan? Follow in the footsteps of the bankrupted auto and steel industries by agreeing to grossly overpay their workers and make themselves uncompetitive?

Credit: Of course, maybe I have it all wrong and Meghan is simply asking Wal-Mart to follow in the footsteps of this UK-based store that is launching a new line of underwear for left-handed men. The new line will have a horizontal opening instead of a vertical slit accessed from the right-hand side, breaking a tradition that has lasted for 75 years. “In our view, this is a vital step toward equality for left-handed men,” said store spokesman Rob Faucherand. Hey, Rob, don’t forget right-handed women, too. ;-)

Debit: Just when you thought there would be no more short-sighted socialist entitlement programs foisted upon the backs of our children, the government has done it again – this time it is a cash for clunker appliances program. Environmentalists argue it will provide $300 million in federal funds to encourage consumers to buy energy-efficient appliances. Realists know that such a program is a total waste of money because as older appliances wear out they will end up being replaced by newer, more energy efficient models anyway. Even so, it is unclear how much the appliance program will save in terms of energy consumption — and whether these appliances will be recycled or just end up in a landfill.

Debit: Talk about a bunch of crap. American environmentalists are now working to ban plush toilet paper. “It’s like the Hummer product for the paper industry,” said Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We don’t need old-growth forests to wipe our behinds.” Speak for yourself, Allen. Hey, here’s an idea: Why don’t you buy a three-month subscription to the New York Times and wipe your butt with that? – many people say that’s all The Times is good for anyway. ;-)

Credit: Don’t tell Allen this but, according to his new toilet paper brand, this has been a banner year for oil exploration. Yep. New oil discoveries have totaled about 10 billion barrels in the first half of the year. If discoveries continue at that pace through year-end, they are likely to reach the highest level since 2000. The reason? Capitalism at work, folks. The high oil prices that were previously with us spurred the industry to invest in more exploration and better extraction technologies, thereby leading to the new finds.

Other Useless News- Over 9,000 Unique Visitors This Week!

That’s not a typo, folks! I had over 9000 unique visitors for the week, predominantly on the strength of my post on Why Rechargeable Batteries are Rarely Cost Effective, which basically went pseudo-viral last Tuesday and is still kind of in the “contagious” stage even now. The article got a big boost from The Consumerist, then went postal after being picked up by Lifehacker. Wow, what a thrill! Hopefully I can convince one or two percent of those readers to stick around for the long haul. We’ll see!

This past week’s massive spike makes me wonder how all of the heavy-hitter bloggers ever manage to deal with all of the comments and off-the-record e-mails on a daily basis. I found this week to be more than a bit overwhelming for me. I’m tired from all the dialog, but it’s a good kind of tired. :-)

If you happen to enjoy what you’re reading please feel free to follow me on Twitter too – and please don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed! :-)

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

From March 2009:

10 Sure-Fire Tips for Minimizing Pet Medical Costs – So how do you keep the cost of medical services for your pet manageable? Here are 10 tips to help you do just that – a couple of which may be quite surprising to you.

Update: My Shameless RSS Experiment — Week 15

After 15 weeks, My Shameless RSS Experiment has come to a bittersweet end! That is because I hit the jackpot this week, picking up 48 (yes, 48!) new subscribers to put me comfortably over the top of my 100 subscribers goal! Hooray! I want to thank ACORN for all their help – I knew they could work magic when it came to registration drives, but that was absolutely ridiculous! (I take back everything thing I said about you guys last week.) ;-)

But seriously, thank you to everybody who signed up this week – I truly appreciate your vote of confidence! Subscriptions are important to me because they are an important affirmation that you enjoy what you are reading here – not to mention it is also extremely motivating!

As always, if you haven’t already done so but like what you’re reading, please take a moment to subscribe. I’d really appreciate it! And, as always, thanks to all of you who have already chosen to follow me here at Len Penzo dot Com! :-)

Carnival News

Last week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:

- Carnival of Personal Finance hosted at Credit Cards dot Com

- The Bobo Carnival of Politics hosted at The Bobo Files

- Art Carney hosted at The Honeymooners

- Carnival hosted at Picadilly Circus

Hey! If you liked this article, please be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed!

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