Friday, November 30, 2012

Late at night, how long can I read

A book of detail on today's China that is, as they say, drinking water out of a fire hose with all of its statistics;  A book on the food of Burma;  The latest Zagat of Manhattan, just published;  A crime fiction first novel by a Brooklyn teacher; the latest "Lucky Peach"; and this week's New Yorker, a food issue to soon be sent to older daughter.  All of this is at my feet, as one wonders whether to try sleeping or just have a ham, roast beef, cole slaw, pickle, and Reyes mustard sandwich on an Italian style French baquette, Italian style to me means much more of a crusty outside.

Verdict tomorrow.     

Traffic and shopping

Out today for some early Christmas shopping - younger daughter gave us a list?  There may be towns designated in this area but it is all big suburban sprawl.  Great Neck, Manhasset, Port Washington, Roslyn, Greenvale, Mineola, Garden City, one could go on and on, there are no dividing lines.  There are lots of traffic lines, almost always.  Go out to the stores and your day is shot.

We went today to Roosevelt Field, the spot where Lindberg took off and landed, now for many years a giant mall.  Specifically we went to the Bloomingdales at the mall.  Shopping like this is not my strength.  The place was just an awesome sanctuary of consumption.  Ever heard of Rag and Bone, we made their year from my perspective.  Don't get me wrong, when there I get into it, and choose a jean and leather jacket for younger, don't ask the price.  Other things, Chanel cosmetic boxes and a pair of leg tight jeans were picked.

Coming back, after two hours of standing and various bathroom breaks, we picked up some burritos, chicken and shrimp Veracruz, at Gonzo's, a stand alone shop in south Garden City run by the huge personality named Joe.  Also picked up some of the great chili and a steak taco.

So three hours after being convinced to return one t-shirt to Bloomingdales, we have food and a credit card bill that is usefully expanded, I guess?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Preparing for lack of compromise

Compromise does not seem to be in the cards for the "fiscal cliff" negotiations.  President Obama keeps rattling on about the "rich" paying more taxes, making sure to heighten the public divide, and as if $250,000 in income in a place like New York City is remotely rich, and the Republicans seemingly will not bend on an item that a majority of their voting constituents, not big money constituents, would agree is just fine, raise taxes on the wealthy by a modest amount.

Obama is not negotiating and there is no work at all being visible done on how to cut costs, on entitlements, or defense, or on the incredibly bloated and the many marginally competent departments of government.  No word from Republicans on anything but taxes?  So what to do?

Prepare for the worst.  Map out a plan to sell all equities with material capital gains within the next two weeks.  Do the same with heavy dividend paying stocks.  Close any financial transactions with gains, real estate sales etc., before year end.  What we know for sure is that taxes on capital gains and dividends will not go down, and if a settlement is reached between Congress and the Adminstration rates will still likely go up modestly.  Waiting for the 30 day wash period to pass, all stocks can be bought back.  If there is a fall off the "fiscal cliff", they can be bought back cheap.  If not, there is little chance of some substantial rally near term because whatever they agree on will be weird work, incomplete, and subject to regulatory interpretation.

This advice is difficult to follow through on... could lead to a much higher tax bill in 2012 but economically it could well be the right move.  Can I do it...    ?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Follow up - and now for the dogs

A friend called yesterday with a suggestion, referring to the top 11 equity positions comment posted yesterday.  His idea - why not show us your worst performers as well.  Good idea, but not exactly a corollary to the top 11, which was largest positions.  Smallest positions would be meaningless, just a bunch of cookie jar holdovers from M&A activity and a long discarded dividend reinvestment option that was preferred by someone else.

While the top 11 includes some stocks with huge gains, both near term and over time, some are just steady performers with strong balance sheets, long term holds.  The top 11 does not include some of the strongest recent performers, like Patrick Industries with a 670% gain over the last two years or Sprint with an almost 200% gain, a buy and already a sell within the year.

So the list that follows is one of poor performers still held here, not related to how large the positions are.  As a matter of history, the only truly huge loss that was experienced here was AIG.  What a great company, until it wasn't.  It was a large position spread across all portfolios, and the only solace is that major fund companies like Fidelity, Capital Group, and T. Rowe Price were not so different.  Few knew of AIG's huge bets in credit default swaps.  The other major loss, humorous in hindsight, was a company with, I think, the ticker ATHM.  During the late 90's internet boom the stock was bought here at around $10, it rose to $250, then the internet market crashed faster than one could react and it was sold at $5.  Not much of a loss on paper, but my mind was rattled, like watching a phantom Porsche back out of the driveway.

Generally, the practice here is to sell when the investment thesis falters or the stock drops for unexplained reasons.  That means that this list does not have any huge losses, but certainly unwelcome losses that nevertheless were the result of either poor decisions or the vagaries of the market, mostly poor decisions in hindsight, some based on incomplete financial information(never should have made the choice).  And the top ten losers are:

Investment Technology Group
Hewlett Packard
QLIK Technologies
North American Energy Partners
Etrade Financial
Broadwind Energy
Exelon Corporation

Several of these will be sold near term to offset taxes, as they are hopeless.  Some will just hang out to see what happens, and two or three will get "up the bet" treatment.  These are not generally recommended stocks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Fiscal Cliff" solution, a big risk

From this uninformed distance, the efforts to reach a compromise on budget and taxation issues do not seem to have the urgency that is needed in Washington.  Especially if the Obama administration follows its pattern of detailed rules set with Dodd Frank and the healthcare bill, time is already running out for legislation to be drafted.  The great danger is that policy decisions with significant ramifications for the long term will be jammed through without enough thought, and like Dodd Frank and the healthcare bill will have irreversible impacts even if wiser consideration and revisions follow.

The sooner the better, the simpler the better, is the course that needs to be followed.  Compromise is essential.  Obama needs to show more decisive leadership and the Republicans need to coalesce around some ideas that can pass the House.  This legislation cannot be a laid back waiting game.  It must happen.

Equity investing, essential even if not always a good sedative

Equity investing is essential to a balanced portfolio that has growth potential.  Done over time, with diversification, and with commitment,  the returns outweigh the anxiety that can accompany investments with the potential to go to zero.  Today, rainy and with light snow, just really damp feeling and overcast, has been a good day to stay in and spend some time surveying investments, both as a regular overview and as a time to make sure that capital gains and losses are managed going into the end of the tax year.

The result of this is, dear readers, the first ever list of the top 11(tie for last two) stock investments here.  This is not an endorsement of these stocks necessarily, although most are simply just long term holds, with additions and gains.  And the winners, in order of size, are:

Rackspace Hosting
Valmont Industries
Johnson and Johnson
Live Person
Berkshire Hathaway
Yum Brands

May this list not jinx any of those revealed!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Into the city...

Manhattan calling today, shopping at the Union Square shops or making the effort, picking up food, and enjoying the chill sun.  Bought a few interesting scarves at a Thai shop in Union Square, not too expensive but they are probably making about an 80% margin on this stuff, even after shipping.  They do the sourcing, I do the paying, they will make great little gifts for the girls, one of a kind hand made stuff.

As always, Manhattan time is take-out food time.  Bought some sesame grilled tofu, watercress and red pepper beef salad, and grilled squash at the smaller Mangia on 23rd and picked up some "moist barbequed flank steak" and some kale with bacon at Hill Country.  With some leftovers and a freshened up salad, dinner is done.  Seems dinner is always the responsibility of yours truly, and I do not mind.

J.B. Hutto and the Hawks entertained on satelitte radio on the way back from the station.  My God, no one knows about J.B. Hutto.  The track was from the same album, yes album, yes all down in the basement with a monster rough sound system and turntable, that is mixed among many others that were retained despite my father's amazing neatness efforts - if it was not his and in the way he would throw it away.  That's the past, still not forgotten obviously, but on to a great dinner.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Bernie", entertaining film

As often happens, the only way this film came to our attention was through Netflix.  With leads Jack Black and Shirley McLaine, a seemingly unusual combination to start with, the film is offbeat and full of low key laughs from start to finish.  That's my take, but some may not find as much humor, don't know why that would be the case but everyone's different.

Based on a true events, the film is about a mortician who is a model citizen, more that a model citizen, in Carthage, Texas.  He becomes involved with the town's richest widow, a dour and dominating person, and benefits from the odd seemingly chaste relationship, buying airplanes and accompanying her on world travels, first class.  At the same time he continues to be a pillar of the community in every respect. 

In an out of character moment, he shoots and kills the widow, puts her in a freezer, and continues on as if life is normal.  His ruse is discovered and he goes to trial.  This is not a spoiler really, since it is on the cover of the Netflix package and in every review.  The beauty of this film is in the way it unfolds and in the acting of Jack Black. 

A completely wonderful aspect of this film is that it uses at least 20 local residents of the small east Texas town of Carthage to make mock documentary comments about the trial and their beloved leading citizen.  Maybe it is "mock documentary" in a sense, but one feels that they are in fact talking about the real situation.  Those Texas voices and expressions take the film over the top.  What a great idea.

Find this film and watch it. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Yes, it happened, I went to the Lord and Taylor a little over a mile from our house to see if there were deals to be had, first time ever on a Thanksgiving weekend.  Unlike my wife and daughters, I am neither a willing nor astute shopper.  The huge parking lot was packed, causing some pre-shopping angst,but K urged me on.

We found a winter jacket for younger daughter, wrong size, right style, very cool modified multi-buttoned P-coat with some hidden zippered pockets, perfect for her D.C. walking.  We ordered the right size.  It was 50% off, plus a weekend only 20% off of that remaining 50%, so a quite expensive seeming coat at $400 came in at around $167, including tax.  Not bad.

Success here as well.  After meandering around not quite knowing what was going on, a table of cashmere sweaters was found.  Cashmere crew neck sweaters are a part of my never changing winter attire, and the newest one that I have is well over 10 years old, probably 15.  They're still nice, but have lost some of their elasticity.  2 for $150, $128 with additional discounts - these are not the incredibly good thick N. Peal like quality of the old ones, but they are nice and hugely less expensive.  Also found some slacks that are casual, great thick cotton fabric, fit well, and will be an anomaly in my wardrobe because they are not jeans.  Tommy Bahama is the brand, somehow not what I envisioned wearing but they are just right.

Enough of this.  The trip was a success.  I did not go into a claustrophobic panic or make some hurried rash decisions.  Is that just getting old or is it becoming mature, finally.

Friday, November 23, 2012

More deserved scrutiny for SAC

From 2006 to 2009, SAC, the hedge fund run by Steven A. Cohen, found its way into this blog repeatedly.  Maybe it was an obsession based on time spent in the securities industry and even at a mid-level seeing what was the always irritating and borderline ethical behavior of that firm.  Now SAC is moving toward the spotlight of regulatory and media speculation.

Whether Cohen has violated any trading regulations, as in trading on non-public information, is unclear.  The way that his firm is organized could well mean that some under him could have broken laws and he would not have known, or that there is no evidence that he would have known.  SAC is decentralized into groups or even individual mandates.  In the latter case a trader/investor is hired and given a stake to invest.  He/she has oversight, as in others know what he is doing, but he has sole discretion over the buying and selling of investments that he makes.  How does he make those decisions, what are sources of information?  Cohen delegates significant independence.  Bonuses follow good performance.  Pink slips follow weak performance.

SAC is in most cases a short term investor, often very short term.  The culture of the firm is to trade.  They have historically been abetted in this approach by almost all firms on Wall Street.  As perhaps the leading volume provider to many firms, an SAC relationship is nurtured.  With such razor thin commissions on equity trading, a high volume trader like SAC is an almost unique profitable account just on trading alone, no need for derivatives structures or special services to make that happen.  Additionally, big order flow helps Wall Street firms understand the market and have greater liquidity for their other clients.  The SAC relationship is important.

To that end, SAC gets great treatment.  If a Wall Street firm has a conference, has a lunch meeting with executives of a major company, or puts out new research, SAC is there.  In conferences or meetings with management almost solely attended by long term investors, SAC is invited.  When new research reports are released pre-opening, a firm's salesperson covering SAC makes sure to call them first, alert them, and at times highlight a short opportunity.

SAC uses this access to "manipulate" short term trading.  It may not be illegal, but they put their own spin on what they hear at investor meetings or in what questions they ask at such meetings.  It's generally always negative, and suggests that perhaps they have set up short positions prior to editorializing in a negative way or asking highly negative rhetorical questions.  They informally team with traders at other hedge funds to spread opinions, read that as rumors, that can move a stock intraday, all that they need for a profitable trade.  That's their m.o.  They hire smart people, put the pressure on, and see if they can cook.

The transaction in question now seems to be a case of obvious trading on non-public information.  It's really too obvious if the news reports are accurate.  This would not characterize SAC's normal behavior.  Theirs is much more circumspect, much more kicking the chalk lines getting their shoes dirty and crossing from time to time, not blatant insider trading as is the case here.  With the pressure that is on the traders, insider trading like this would fall under the don't ask, don't tell mantra.

How this unfolds will be interesting to watch.   

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Previous post is not an infomerical

A short while ago I reread the previous post.  I laughed.  It reminded me of the type of semi-news, semi-advertising type of reporting that is most likely found in weekly community newspapers that have a dual role of reporting the facts and promoting the area.  It is also found in the Sunday Long Island edition of the New York Times, in which a restaurant reviewer named Joanne Starkey writes almost exactly in the style of the previous post.  How strange.  Am I channeling Joanne Starkey after 27 years of shaking my head at her reviews.  What happened.

In fact everything that is in the previous post is accurate and is well meant, obviously too well meant.  It is a classic infomercial.  It is staying as is.  I will never do this reporting genre so brilliantly again.  Have I ever used the word "graced" in my life?  Did the black bean soup amalgam that was made for lunch, by me, do this, to me.  Or was it the leftover lamb shank with orzo from last night's restaurant that did it.  It's a mystery.

North Shore Farms is a great and unique place.  The writing needed more edge, and in some ways I purposefully stayed on the path of political correctness when there was a lot to work with.  Oh well.  Maybe tomorrow before the real Thanksgiving spirit sets in, I'll take on Steve Cohen and SAC Capital, a constant target of this blog for its first five years until giving up.  Maybe the truth is near, and that will have an edge.

North Shore Farms, a grocery with personality and character

In a Thanksgiving spirit, why not write about food.

North Shore Farms is an independent grocery store located in a nearby town.  Only in the last two years have we embraced this unique and long standing store, since our own town has a top notch Whole Foods and several independent small specialty shops that are especially good, in particular A&F Market, our butcher and after 27 years of doing business with them, our friends.

Recommended to us several times by a down to earth well connected Italian family and further intrigued by older daughter's devotion to the the store during her stay with us in parts of 2010 and 2011, we began going more often and became believers.  It is now a fixture on our foraging list.

The store's major strengths are the fresh seafood department, the prepared foods department that is extensive and all prepared there, the fresh vegetable selection that is huge and reasonably priced, and the just prepared hot food take-out area.  In that hot food area, several days ago we walked away with a tray of beets with dill, garlic, and olive oil, two large slices of tilapia with olives, tomatoes, and zucchini, and some oven roasted asparagus.  It was more than enough for two of us, some leftovers as well, it was really tasty - cost $16, no cooking, no cleaning, good food with character.

I can't forget to mention all of the noshing that can be done in the store.  In two aisles there are samples of cheese alone, cheese with small breadslices, varieties of plain bread, olives, and at times small pieces of tomato slathered foccacio - they must have a big toothpick budget.  Back at the hot food counter, it is ruled over by an energetic older man who acts as if you've walked into his house and seems insulted if you won't take a sample of his roasted salmon, or pasta of the day, or some vegetable that he decides you should try.  You should.

The inside of North Shore Farms is one of crowded narrow aisles.  They don't carry all brands that would be found at a chain supermarket.  They carry some that could never be found in one.  Some store personnel seem to have been there forever as they greet what seem like long term regulars as if they are family.  Prices always seem fair.  The fish is in line with Whole Foods but there is a broader selection much of the time.  With Whole Foods two miles away on the same road, we can check the two for what is wanted.  Both are good.  One thing that is hardly worth checking on price is vegetables.  This week, broccoli at Whole Foods is something like $3.99 a pound(a pound?) while broccoli at NSF is $0.99 a bunch.  Red peppers $1.69 a pound at NSF, $3.99 at WF, it goes on and on.

Other than the narrow aisles and the long lines at the prepared foods counter(never as long time-wise at it looks at first), the biggest challenge at NSF is parking.  The lot is not that big and it is built on a slope.  It is almost always, somehow, just quite full so there is always the feeling of getting that last place.  I always get one.  The lot is managed by a group of young men running around, looking to help cars find places and guide you in, looking to guide your backing out, watching for carts(especially necessary on the slope) just as you unload your groceries.  Stand for 30 seconds and look around and someone will be with you.  Need help unloading something, same deal.  What looks at first like a problem actually turns into an opportunity for nice encounters.

North Shore Farms is an exceptional place.  May it stay just where it is, even with its obvious on the surface limitations.  If they moved into some modern new store in a shopping center with the flat lot, I would fear for its identity.  That happened to Balducci's in Greenwich Village, famously located at 10th street and 6th avenue for at least two generations, crowded chaotic aisles with low ceilings,  they moved to a brand new space in a restored old bank building two avenues and four blocks away and were bankrupt within two years.  The character was lost.  May that never happen to NSF.

It must be added that we have never had a door or side dented or nicked at NSF, wish that could be said for the flat parking lots at our gym and at Whole Foods.

Our Thanksgiving will be graced by NSF homemade turkey gravy and freshly made cranberry sauce with orange and various spices, even a small touch of cherry brandy they say.  Best for Thanksgiving to all who can enjoy a holiday with no presents or fireworks required. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Israel's decisions

Has Israel played into the hands of Iran and Syria?

Maybe two weeks ago there was a minor exchange in the Golan Heights initiated by Syria and responded to by Israel.  There have apparently been two more since, nothing really consequential but hostile fire has been exchanged.

Following the first Golan Heights exchange, Hamas from its Gaza base lobbed a small number of rockets into Israel.  Israel's response was the precise drone attack that killed the head of the Hamas military. 

Then the real action began, with Hamas firing large numbers of its Iran supplied rockets into Israel and Israel responding with air raid, drone attack, and ship based attacks on Hamas.  The Hamas rockets are not so sophisticated but they have a longer range than what was there four years ago. Israel has a remarkably effective shield system that significantly erodes their effectiveness.  Israel intends for its attacks on Hamas to be precisely targeted, but in such a densely populated area with Hamas embedded in neighborhoods civilian casualities are inevitable.

So now the world gets to see a casualty count that is more than lopsided.

Why could this play into the hands of Iran and Syria?  Common sense suggests that it could given the history of the region.  For Syria in the immediate sense, it could allow Assad to maintain control of his military and stop abandonments as he stresses the Israeli "threat".  It could clearly be used politically.  With Syria's apparently huge chemical weapons stockpile and significant air power, Iran could underscore and those jihadists among the free Syria group could realize that further destabilizing Assad now would weaken the main force against Israel in that Levant area.

This is just speculation and all "facts" in this are gleaned from the media.  Take that for what it's worth.      

Sunday, November 18, 2012

One last storm comment, or realization

Many thoughts came from experiencing the storm recently.  Some are banal, like we sure never want to experience that again and that on the whole we were really fortunate although it never really felt that way.

Some were practical, the main one being do we finally get a generator installed at the back side of our house, presumably in the area behind shrubs next to the a/c compressors, which don't look too swift right now.  Do we then join the lines of red container carrying pilgrims at gas stations, at night crowds that looked like something out of the 1930's.  It's not a pleasant choice, but we still have winter ahead and if there is another big storm in 20 degree weather and LIPA collapses again, well, it would be worth every penny and every bit of effort.

But, the big one for me is the fear of being trapped.  It's been on my mind most of the years that we have lived on this island.  It may be Long but it is still an Island.  While my previous short lived late night fears had not been based on weather but on terrorism, it's all the same.  This was the first experience of it.  No power, exceptionally limited gasoline availability, no mass transit working, for the most part no cell phone service, so where to go.  The one tunnel off of the Island into Manhattan was flooded.  Two of the four bridges were closed but for us that did not matter because the Mayor required that no cars be admitted unless there were three passengers.  There are two bridges that head north into Westchester County toward upstate NY and Connecticut, but they are not close and with all of the first responders, repair crews, and roadblocks, could one even get there before running out of gas. 

In short, there was no way out and it was not a good feeling.  Bad events can happen anywhere of course, but this whole deal felt sort of claustrophobic.  Should we live here long term, if that's the way we feel? 

Nice area in many ways but is it a place to get older, especially since our economic livelihood is no longer related to where we live.  Well, that's not completely true.  The cost of living and tax burden could hardly be much higher anywhere.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Fiscal Cliffdom"

This could well be the new name of the land of the free and the brave, especially if one is masochistic enough to spend much time watching, reading, or listening to the business and financial markets focused media.  I know.  Could some wags also refer to our country's new name as "Fiscal Cliffdumb".  It's not impossible, insulting as that may sound to our exceptionalism.

Daily comments on this issue by politicians, pundits, scholars, op-ed writers, they think that they change market and critical opinion, so serious about themselves.  It is already getting old, with nothing new to say.  It could be suggested that the key "leaders" who are working on this be sent to wherever the Washington related underground bunker is(the Cold War one was beneath the Greenbriar resort in West Virginia), away from the media and their political constituencies, and not be released until they had agreed on a plan.  That would eliminate four weeks of the media interpreting every gesture and nuance of this negotiation, a word used with hope.

With Europe on the cusp of a possibly significant recession, the Middle East needing some references for stability, China having new leadership and some economic/political challenges, it is no time to fall off this cliff as it is called or "kick the can down the road" for six months.  There is too much else to focus on.

That's obvious, so apologies for editorializing. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More

What a strange joy, watching the Sergio Leone films on TCM last night, the first night with power.  We were so exhausted by this experience.  So lucky it must be said to only have been spared electricity and heat for 11 days and not anything worse.  House split in half nearby, now just razed, house burned down nearby, leaves on generator.  We now need to break the habit of eating out all of the time or breaking open the canned goods, and get back to cleaning up.

Thinking now of just going on a trip somewhere, get out of here.  Chesapeake Bay, Paris, Istanbul, anywhere to break the chain of recent events.  Not so rich here, but also able to be make important choices either for just health reasons, health broadly configured.   

Friday, November 09, 2012


Power is finally on but financial markets continue to collapse after the Obama win.  Even liberals have pension funds so this cannot be a welcome sign.  Voted for the guy, his three pointers and all, but he must stop his move toward a socialist country.  It will not work.  We can take care of our own while still not bashing free enterprise.

Power on, the house is so dirty after 11 days, my two pairs of long underwear are standing up in the corner, we are adjusting to heat after being in the forties each night in the house.  Throwing out lots of food.  Wires still bending outside, a/c compressors crushed by snow laden trees last night but missed the house so who cares, not us, not me running around the house like a five year old in my underwear, don't imagine that!

I've just been out putting bread and crackers on the lawn for the birds.  They have been crazed by this unfamiliar turn of events.  Got brushed by one on the face yesterday, and they have been slamming into the windows today.  Find the food and eat. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Better days ahead...

This title has nothing to do with politics, only with our weather.  It can not get worse.

Snow and a time for patience

Our corrupt leaders in this county only say a few days but some internet sites with much more integrity say that we will have no power until Thanksgiving.   The house will be a dirty mess.

Obama should really be focusing on what to do next.  We supported him, but only with the hope that he would not be such a loser.  Romney was not a real choice, an unattractive person.  Obama must stop his scorcherd earth policy against American business, and, as had been said here many times, understand that business equals taking risk, and to not pile on when a risk goes wrong.  So far, Obama still understands nothing.


For those of you that follow this blog, detailing our daily life was not the intention.  This was not meant to be the realm of twitterbugs.  Nonetheless, we will note that there was four inches of snow last night, 10 days now without power, and we ate canned tuna last night, along with some fortuniously purchased salads found earlier in the day.

The financial markets seem to be steadying now, with the hedge fund grumpies now having unloaded in their own way.  In fact, the discount factor for stock valuation has obviously now been lowered, and try to find another country to invest in?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Further reflections on the election...

At least it is over.  The election results leave not much changed at first glance.  The stock market certainly reacted negatively.  The bond market reacted positively, for those who think that virtually no interest rate cost has any value to our country's long term prospects. 

Whether the stock market's results today are just a reflexive act based on certain hedge fund managers actions, or a real valuation attempt is something that we will see soon.  No economic facts changed, and the discount rate for stock valuation now has an easier hurdle.  Do institutional investors really think that McConnell and Boehner and Cantor and Ryan have a clue as to what valuations should be, and what factors go into investor's thoughts.  Certainly not in the short term, but long term they have some serious concerns that Democrats need to come to terms with them on.

Certain influential hedge fund managers and market influencers who have no compunction about  saying that they detest Obama have certainly been selling stocks today and encouraging others to do so.  The two most outspoken have been Leon Cooperman, owner of Omega Advisors, and Ken Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot and a curmudgeon who is highly networked and on many corporate boards of directors.  Cooperman was featured in an October 5 New Yorker piece, interview while attending a Las Vegas dinner for major divas of finance by Anthony Scaramucci, a New York home grown ego. 

Cooperman is one of the two most repulsive people that we have ever met on Wall Street(Robert Raiff being the other).  He curses out his secretary in the most vulgar language in front of guests and he has no integrity in what he does.  He is a bully who has real clout, a former Goldman exec who started Omega in the early '90's and has a great track record.  He made it clear that he detests Obama and pretty much forecast the end of civilization if he won.  Langone is an interesting character and was one of the people who stood up to the unbelievably transparent illegal activities of Eliot Spitzer in his prosecution of innocent executives, ruining their careers for his political gain, most all of whom were eventually exonerated.  He turned his energy toward Obama over the last two years, focused on things that we all see but for many don't see as unchangeable.  Langone is a fine person, but is obsessed for whatever reason with a hatred of Obama, "the worst President that we have ever had" as he says.

Got a call earlier from a friend who voted like me I think and said that, based on the earlier post, "you voted for a person you liked who you hoped would think like a Republican".  Maybe that's right.  Maybe I just don't want him to think like a socialist.

The results are in...

Obama wins.  We are pleased that he won.  It is no time to celebrate.  He barely beat one of the worst candidates anyone could imagine.  No one should pat Obama on the back now.  They should tell HIM to "CHANGE", and he should not tell us to do so.

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi should be changed as Senate Majority Leader and House Minority Leader.  They will never lead any bi-partisan efforts because they, especially Pelosi, have been such mean partisans. 

Obama needs to change his approach to delegation, and not allow his major legislation to be written by party hacks.  Obama needs to stop telling his Attorney General to sue every financial corporation possible for political gain and financial gain, sue them for misdeeds from years well before they had any control of companies they acquired, or were forced to acquire.  He should tell them to not sue companies for success if they are better than their competitors(anti-trust).  Obama needs to oversee the implementation of his myriad regulations passed in his two agonizingly complex major bills, health care and financial regulation, to make sure that it is clear to business what it means to them and to make sure that overly zealous bureaucrats don't allow their resentments to lead to hostile implementation.  Businesses cannot deal with that.  Obama needs to stop being above it all, roll his sleeves up not just when he is out promoting himself but when he is actually supervising all of the stuff that he passed in his first two years.

President Obama is gifted with a rare intelligence it seems, but it also seems that he uses that as a shield from listening to what is happening in this country.  He was stymied in his efforts to do many things that he wanted by hostile Republicans like the near ignorant Mitch McConnell in the Senate and the Tea Party thugs that took over the Republican party and House of Representatives rather than start their own party as some thought they would a few years ago.  Obama is smart enough to figure this OUT, rather than just sit it OUT as he did the last two years, while plotting his way to another four years, quite successfully as we see now.

As written about yesterday, we hope that this freedom from running from office again allows President Obama, a first class clever politican, to focus instead on bringing the country together and not on rhetoric that magnifies the divides that we unfortunately already have.

His government should do what it can to help those who need help, but realize that our federal and state governments are the least creative and least hard working organizations in our country.  He needs to work to understand that private enterprise can be incredibly creative and hard working, and is the real source of growth and new jobs.  New jobs and growth are the only way out of this economic dilemma.  For the moment Obama needs to just get over the obscenely high salaries of corporate CEO's, get control of his obsession with fairness, and let shareholders eventually rein in the abuses.  His job is first to get the economy growing.

I can't help but think that he already knows everything that is written here.  Will he deal with it, or will he continue playing the Presidential role, above it all.      

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

When the results are in...

We will wait today and no doubt long into the night.  Still without power, heat, and hot water, 8th day on, we will eat in a restaurant tonight that has a sports bar format knowing the at least some of the televisions will be turned to election results.  After dinner we will go to an auditorium at a community center that has heat and will broadcast the election results until 11pm.  Long time political junkie here, after that it's the transistor radio that will report to me in our living room, sitting in two jackets and wearing a scarf, sometimes a stocking hat in the 45 degree temperature of the room.

Here are some random speculative comments about what happens if either of the two has a clear victory by tomorrow morning:

Romney wins? --- This would be a mild upset, but Romney supporters are generally more committed and enthusiastic than Obama supporters, even if not necessarily more plentiful.  Voting totals are essential.  Romney's speech declaring victory, which he will definitely make as long as the outcome is at all unclear, will be a version of his stump speech, promising a new day for America and a sudden increase in jobs over his first year in office.  He will enthusiastically smile and constantly do his practiced pointing at the audience as if he is picking out people that he knows.

The new day that he will promise could in fact happen, not because of his policies but due to the fact that business could believe that the regulatory morass and uncertainty  that they have faced under Obama will soon be alleviated.  Whether that is just a short effect that addresses none of our structural economic problems(as is likely the case) or not, the stock market and other financial markets will react positively, reinforcing Romney.  In a toss-up disputed election like in 2000,  that kind of reaction could give Romney a psychological edge in the disputes and in the courts.

Obama wins? --- Who knows whether Obama can get off of his standard speech of hope from 2008 and his stump speech of 2012 that really addresses only the desires of his constituency.  From this perspective, there is the sincere hope that he can be free to say something new, that he drops the sing songy intonations of a preacher that sound pompous to many, and that he says something concrete rather than repeat his wonderfully vague platitudes. 

We know, that no matter what his margin of victory would be, unless it is substantial the Republican legal assault on the vote totals will be significant.  We know as well that financial market reaction could well be negative(or maybe just flat as relief from this awful unsettling campaign sets in) unless his acceptance speech is hugely different from his standard speech.  More promises of the beneficence and all knowing insight of government will not work for the broad polarized market.  That's especially true in even in the Democratic leaning New York region now, as government led coping with this storm has been a disaster in itself.

The Senate balance of power outcome is the other tremendously important part of tonight's results.  While the Executive branch of federal government has many important powers(foreign policy, regulatory appointees, and undeclared wars as some examples) a totally Republican Congress would make Obama at least a two year lame duck in many areas.  Importantly for the Democrats, the Republicans managed to run some "foot in the mouth" big-time candidates and they may stifle their hopes for a result in their favor.

Have a good night everyone.  Any updates to this depend on access to a computer at our local library or a seat available at Starbucks for Wi-Fi.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Obama must win because Romney is a transparent liar who lives in a bubble

Well, the title sort of summarizes where I stand.  From the many comments here over that the last six months or more, it is probably clear there are, from this perspective, flaws with both candidates.  Obama has been a disappointment, with his brow beating of the free enterprise system, his actions that have created an unprecented level of regulatory uncertainty for business investment, and his aloof, even arrogant, leadership.  Romney is just beyond embarrassment with his constant changing of opinions to appeal to voters.  He has no soul and he believes unequivocally that he is always right, even while being an outright liar.

It's too bad that it has come to this but the possibility of a hard right turn by Romney if he got elected is too dangerous for our country.  That hard right turn would in fact be likely, and he would not even acknowledge it in any way.  His I, I, I, me, me, me campaign has been deplorable.  He does have a better sense of business certainly than Obama, but that is not necessarily reassuring, as in how will he use that knowledge.  Despite his religion, he seems to have no clear moral underpinnings unless they are related to his church or people he knows well.  I've considered Romney as an alternative seriously, but at the end of the day just can't get there.

Obama is a known quantity.  He is steady and thoughtful.  If he tries to go too far with his belief that government is the font of all good, the Supreme Court and the Congress(awful as it is) will be a brake.  We may not like all of his policies and parts of his absurdly complex health care and financial regulatory bills(his signature achievements in his most loyal supporters minds), but those bills had some laudable intent even if they went too far and are so vague that they allow a wide range of implementation possibilities for abusive regulators.  One more really important point - continuity in foreign policy is an obvious need now.  Romney's comments on China, Russia, and the Middle East have been irresponsible in the extreme in the campaign.  His friendship with Bibi Netanyahu since 1975 may be good for some voters here, but it may scare the heck out of even some of our allies in the Middle East.  Adelson's huge financial support to the campaign plus Bibi make an assault on Iran much more possible.  More war.

Romney is too unpredictable to be President, or maybe too predictable from another perspective.

After much thought, Obama for President.

Sandy is not much fun, Only lack of competence and corruption can explain LIPA

We are here, our house is intact, and we have access to food and water.  That's the good news.

We have no power, meaning no lights, heat, kitchen equipment, hot water, computer.  Even my cell phone does not work.  We do have land lines and  we do have gas in the cars because I filled them all up before the storm hit.  We have flashlights and batteries.  We have down sleeping bags and that's a very good thing because it's getting COLD --- 32 F last night, 28 tonight, with a storm on the way Wednesday, not a hurricane but I'm not sure if our largest tree can take another pounding, lost two huge limbs in Sandy but they missed the house but how safe it is now who knows.  Tree services are all busy with bigger problems.

This is not fun, one could even say hard on the spirit and even the body, cold is not a friend.  Our life has come to a standstill.  Certainly we are much better off than many others and that is something to remember.  This will not make us stronger, as the stupid saying incorrectly attributed to Neitsche(sp?) goes, but is will certainly make normal life seems glorious whenever that arrives.

Now in a local school, internet access is available on a rationed basis.  Other comments:

--- Long Island Power Authority(LIPA) should have its management sacked(put them in shackles at the town squares) and be taken over by the state government.  The Con-ED utility running Queens towns just four miles away from us(Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside) all have power, most of Brooklyn has power,  most of Manhattan has power, older daughter never lost hers in Brooklyn.  Still 900,000 homes without power on Long Island.  LIPA, like the Long Island Railroad, and the Long Island county governments, is rife with corruption, cronyism, patronage, nepotism, incompetence, a corrupt sourcing process, and unions that are a huge burden.   Is my opinion clear, I guess so.

---The Red Cross was so busy raising money, as always, that they did not show up in the NY region until Friday afternoon and seem to be just piggybacking on the already significantly underway activity of local residents and responders, as well as FEMA.  Yesterday they had shipped  Red Cross members from Mexico to walk around our town in their fancy uniforms with their highly visible insignias identifying their nationality but doing nothing.  How much did it cost to fly them here and house and feed them?  Their many overpaid administrators and their track record incompetence and inflexible administrative bungling from Katrina to Haiti to other spots suggests that it should relieved of its non-profit status and relieved of the funds it raises.  Maybe overseas they are better in some places.  Last I heard, five years ago, the head of the Red Cross made $600,000 a year, travel, car, home expenses all paid for as well.  Looks like a for profit, but it's just not as efficient as many private taxable concerns are.

---Must sign off as my computer at the local school is time up for me.  More at another time.