A nice way to stay in touch with loved ones, and a convenient way to share my opinions without having everyone just walk away...wait a minute, where are you going? I wasn't finished..

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Kim facebooked a review of the Road

which she said made her think of me. I must protest, I did not buy a huntihg rifle in anticipation of Y2k, nor did I start wearing a hard hat during Kahotek's run at earth. Someone as disorganised and whimsical as I could never be a survivalist. Too many contingincies to plan upon. I'd get dizzy just thinking about them.

But I am an alarmist, about the economy and the markets. Leaving aside references to ethnicity (excepting this disclaimer) it is incredible to me and should be to you that responsibility for so much of the wealth and well being of our republic has been given over to a small criminal clique euphemistically referred to as "Wall Street bankers". Up to thirty years ago, tycoons made their money on holdings; today they make their money on bonuses, and leave the holding to the suckers.

But I know so many nice and interesting people, if 3 posts in a row are about my market misgivings, something is wrong with me. I decided that I was annoyed about not getting to play in the marketplace. So I bought a put on CAR (Avis car rental). I plan on making or losing a couple hundred bucks. preferrably the former, but will feel better, in any case, because I'm getting to do what I like to do. Besides there are worse ways to spend a couple hundred bucks.

So, now I have five digital recreation options, facebooking, blogging, reading about ND football. playing the market on line - and playing RISK offline. The other four just weren't enough. I was becoming surly and argumentative. Hopefully, my disposition will improve, and I will comment here on other matters more often.

But, all that bad stuff is still true.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I just posted a blog and then deleted it,

I was having trouble deciding which comments and illustrations to carry from an article, so I decided to link the article I recommend you read it.

The author of this article has a great record for being right about the markets, and I would be better off today if I'd been taking his advise over the last ten months.

PS I dont consider this or the previous post as being rants. or even venting. More like comforting for those of us who were sure either we or the market was behaving insanely.

A more reasoned tone

Since I posted my diatribe the other day the market hasw fallen a little, but it's hard for me to rrust the market. Here's some insiders' comments.

Is the Government Manipulating Stock Prices?

By Jeff Clark (www.growthstockwire.com)

After a 20-year career trading S&P 500 futures contracts on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, my friend Charlie suddenly retired last November.

"There was no way to protect yourself," Charlie said to me over lunch a couple weeks ago when I asked him about his unexpected decision. "This guy would walk into the pits and just start buying. It was unconventional. He'd buy at times when it really didn't make any sense – at least not to those of us who'd been around for a while. And he'd buy HUGE."

"It got to the point," Charlie continued, "that we'd have a bunch of our interns just watching the guy when he was off the floor. We'd know if he took a phone call. We'd know if he'd gone outside for a smoke. And we'd know if he started walking in the direction of the pit. That was our cue to start buying futures contracts ourselves – just to get in front of the guy.

"I knew it was time to retire," Charlie sighed, "when I started planning my trading day around this guy's bathroom breaks."

For the past 20 years, conspiracy theorists have engaged in stories about the "Plunge Protection Team" – a group of traders funded by the Fed whose sole purpose is to prop up the stock market. I never really bought into the argument, though. After all, an awful lot of people "in the know" have to stay quiet in order to keep the conspiracy going. And it's unlikely any group of people can maintain that sort of silence for two decades.

But Charlie's story got me thinking.

Then, last week, Charles Biderman, CEO of TrimTabs – one of the most respected and widely read financial research organizations – published a report that raised the possibility that the Fed is actively involved in boosting stock prices.
In the article, Mr. Biderman suggests it would only take $5 billion to $15 billion each month to buy enough S&P 500 futures contracts to boost the market 70%. Surely, with all the hundreds of billions of dollars used to prop up the real estate, auto, and banking industries, it's reasonable to suspect the Fed might use a few bucks to prop up stock prices, too.

At least it's something to think about.

I'm still not sure if I can completely buy into the whole conspiracy theory just yet. There is, however, one thing I do know for sure...

If the Fed has been actively engaged in manipulating stock prices higher, then it can manipulate them lower as well. You won't want to be the one left holding the bag when that happens.

Best regards and good trading,

Jeff Clark

Monday, January 18, 2010

I'm not happy

I mean personally I'm pretty happy, but things are getting on my nerves, like the senatorial election in Massachusets and, like Obama's faltering leadership. I am such a skeptic when it comes to politics, why should I care if the Democrats do the impossible and surrender the Kennedy senate seat two months after his passing? Or if Obama fritters away his administration's initiative amd momentum negotiating with Snowe and Lieberman on health care. Maybe because I am still apprehensive about the coming of the REAL economic shit storm, and am impatient and annoyed with Fox News, the Tea-baggers, and Pat Robertson for their self obsessed rants. Don't they know, don't they care? And I guess my disenchantment with Obama has little to do with Iraq, Afghanistan, Gitmo or health care, and everything to do with Geithner, Bernanke and Goldman Sachs,

I haven't been actively trading for a few months, but lost money on almost all my bearish trades in the past year, and finally realized that the Treasury's Plunge Protection Team had given participating memberships to the Fed and the major investment banks, and that securities will not trade downward untill something so cataclysmic happens that the Fed will be unable to paper it over. We'll later learn that Goldman got massively short just before the real crash, and they will pat themselves on the back and award big bomuses all around because at the "critical moment" they recognized the onset of a Black Swan (rare and unpredictable) event and ferociously shorted the markets.

Thank you for allowing me to express myself. I feel a little better now. But not because anything has gotten better in the real world, only because I'm not stumbling around muttering misgivings under my breath, but actually saying what I think right out loud.

What will the event be? Could be the popping of the China bubble, causing commodity prices to plummet and dashing hopes that China would spend the world out of recession. Could be Iceland, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Ireland sequentially defaulting on debt, wrecking the Euro and plunging Europe to the depths. Could be that someone will force an audit on the Fed revealing that the US central bank has been bankrupted by purchasing all the crappy bank loans they had to buy to fund the banks' stock market spree.

In any event, who holds a senate seat from Massachusets isn't going to make a lot of difference, and who pays your doctor bill or whether it gets paid at all won't matter much.

i know I'm a downer, but just want you all to know that when the bad things happen, it's not your fault.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Just a quick note on spelling

Homonyms are the worst, they're, their, and there for instance. Pretty smart people mix these words up and I think any such error should be considered a typographical error rather than a mispelling. With this in mind I googled "it's" and was sent to smartgeek to see whether it was a possesive or a contraction. Here's what I found out:

"A common mistake, and one that drives teachers of all levels crazy, is the mix-up between the words "its" and "it's." While the difference may not seem significant to the average writer, using the words correctly can help you appear more intelligent and educated. Many people form first impressions simply by reading someone's writing, so you want your writing to be as accurate as possible.

"Its" is a possessive pronoun, meaning "belonging to it." The confusion arises because if you don't substitute the pronoun "it" for the noun, an apostrophe is used. For example, the bone belonging to the dog is "the dog's bone." The eraser on the pencil is "the pencil's eraser." Both examples use an apostrophe plus an "s" in order to attribute ownership.

However, when a noun is changed to a pronoun, an apostrophe is no longer used. Instead of "a rabbit's cage," you might say "its cage." Instead of "the house's window," you would say "its window." This tends to confuse people who are used to apostrophes denoting possessives. Other examples of the possessive "its" could include the dog burying its bone in its backyard and the table which has its leg broken off and its tablecloth in need of ironing.

"It's" is a contraction. A contraction is when a new word is formed from two or more separate words. In English, an apostrophe is used to acknowledge the missing letters. "Don't" is a contraction of "do not," and "shouldn't" is a contraction of "should not." "It's" is short for "it is," or less frequently, for "it has."

Any time "it's" includes an apostrophe, the writer should be able to substitute "it is" or "it has" and have the sentence still make sense. "It's going to be my birthday tomorrow," is correct because it can be changed to "It is going to be my birthday tomorrow." "It's been two hours since I've eaten," can be verified since changing it to "It has been two hours since I've eaten," is still correct.

Therefore, it's easy to get the two words mixed up, because English does not always follow its own rules!"

My other spelling shortcoming? Putting an "h" in week, or leaving the "h" out of wheek, whichever one is wrong.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Just a quick PS re coaching conundrum

A couple of weeks ago I was writing about Notre Dame's quest for a new football coach. There was much pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth on Irish fans' boards, but aside from those sites, I think the concensus was generally that Notre Dame hired a better than good coach, and that the process was carried out in an orderly way, and that the school was not embarassed by events.

Subsequent events have made ND look even better. Urban Meyer's Greta Garbo impersonation down in Talahassee made everybody involved look foolish, and while Meyer and the U of Fl admin have tried to pour oil on the water down there, things remain unresolved. Strangely, Meyer's "I'm gone, I'm back" two step doesn't appear to have cost the school significantly in the recruiting area. Also, assistant coaches and coordinators with successful programs are usually ready to acccept promotions to positions of greater responsibility at other schools, but Urban has kind of a no-name staff and we haven't heard of a lot of poaching efforts directed their way. Still the situation remains unsettled, and coaches, players, fans and sports writers will be keeping a nervous eye on Urban Meyer in the next year.

Mike Leach being fired at Texas Tech was the next goofy story, The coach told a player who showed up for practice in a baseball cap and shades and claimed to be recovering from a concussion to get off the practice field and spend the practice time in the equipment shed. Apparently the player was a long time annoyance to the coach, performing indifferently and behaving too casually to suit the coach who likes to see a lot of intensity and desire in his players. Unfortunately for the coach, the players dad is a commentator for ESPN. Also unfortunately for the coach, the school admin felt he had secured a better contract last year than they were able or wanted to pay. By firing the coach a week before their bowl game they probably hoped to save the $800,000 bonus they were due to pay him on January 1st. Something tells me Leach's attorney will get a lot bigger settlement than that before this is over. Oh, by the way, for Friday Night Lights fans Mike Leach was the dark haired fellow who ran into Coach Taylor at a gas station and told the coach to keep swinging his sword and that the recent adversity might turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to him. Also for those who care, Coach Leach's players were achieving graduation at the highest rate of any state school in the country.

The third story getting a lot of attention is Pete Carroll's leaving USC. A very successful coach who ran a pretty thuggish program and turned a blind eye on agents and boosters throwing a lot of cash at his playwers (and probably other violations, eg academics), the coach is hitting the trail before the NCAA announces findings in its investigations at USC. Equally amusing is the fact that the school was turned down by the first four candidates it approached to replace Coach Carroll, and finally gave job to a twenty-something coach with a very bad record on as well as off the field. They apparently expected this non-entity to assemle a star studded cast of assistants who would maintain the school's high standards, um I mean for wins vs losses. So far he has enlisted one respected assistant, who also happened to be his dad.

Two other fairly big-tine coaches come to mind who were terminated in the last month, one for choking a player, another for making allegedly racist comments to black players.

All in all, looking back now ND seems to have handled the transition pretty well.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

OK, this is serious, even though it starts with -

I was watching the Opra Winfrey show today, and she was visiting with ladies in different countries via skype. There were probably others but I saw conversation with the women from Denmark, Kuwait City, and Rio de Janeiro. As you might expect, I was most impressed with the Danes, and not based too much on their appearance, although they were pretty, and looked slender and healthy. They lived with husbands and 2 or 3 children in modern smallish apartments or townhouses and space was well utilized, and decor was minimal. Everything was immaculate but looked comfortable. They acknowledged paying income taxes of 50% to 60% but all three interviewees agreed it was well worth the price in living in a society where medical care, education, and economic security were assured. Apparently if you lose your job the state pays you 90% of your wages for up to 4 years. Professionals presumably earn more than bus boys, but not at the multiples we observe in the US. Generally, the free education and equitable income levels encourages people to do what they value doing and they value creativity and job satisfaction more than incrementally higher income levels. When Oprah asked how they felt about living in a socialized state they seemed perplexed for a moment before responding they would call it a civilized state.

The ladies in Kuwait and Brazil appeared upper middle class and very comfortable. They disclaimed any awareness of poverty in their societies. The Kuwaiti lady mentioned having an abundance of domestic help and introduced her Philippine cook. Apparently they don't bring in desperately poor Palestinians to their enclave because of potential political dissonance, but bring in Indians and Philippinos.
The Brazilian lady seemed surprised to hear that Oprah's film crew had had to pay the local street gang hundreds of dollars to be permitted to enter the favella (slum)where the lady's servants live.

I attribute the egalitarian nature of the Danish society largely to the ethnic homogeneity; when everyone else is just like you it's probably easier to implement the golden rule. I'm sure the sense of fairness is cultivated by educational, social, and political infrastructures, but the interviewees bore no resemblance to the east bloc workers who used to extol the virtues of the glorious workers republics.

This program provided a jumping off point for a discussion of my concern that ethnic diversity in the United States impedes progress toward social justice. More on that another time. One caveat, the Danish ladies said the churches were empty and none expressed any inclination toward religion.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The history channel

is annoying me lately. Every time I turn it on lately they're talking about Nostradamus, and often tying in his end time forecasts with the Book of Revelation or the Mayan calendar. Today they rolled out Isaac Newton's prediction that the world would end before 2060. The Nostradamus and Newton end of the world musings were both recorded in "recently discovered, long lost" volumes. Three phrases are repeated ad nauseam. "It is an intriguing possibility that..." "Some believe that..." and "Only time will tell...". I thought anything would be more interesting than Ice Road Truckers, just goes to show how wrong you can be. On the other hand certitude that the world will end in 2012 would certainly simplify our retirement planning. Hmmmm, maybe the mind control guys at the CIA have taken over the History Channel. and it's part of a sophisticated scheme to reinforce the population's senses of futility and indifference.

Janett and I are feeling really happy after the last month. Christmas was very nice and all our children are lovely, and our grandchildren are lovely, too.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Lauren and baby John

The boy is a rambler, born on the 22nd and on the road visiting family on the 27th.