Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Fits my ideas about Cherry Capital Foods
Substitute sales and delivery for marketing
Seth's Blog: Is marketing evil?:
"For me, marketing works for society when the marketer and consumer are both aware of what's happening and are both satisfied with the ultimate outcome. I don't think it's evil to make someone happy by selling them cosmetics, because beauty isn't the goal, it's the process that brings joy. On the other hand, swindling someone out of their house in order to make a sales commission..."
Monday, February 23, 2009
Mr. Roubini tells me that bank nationalization "is something the partisans would have regarded as anathema a few weeks ago. But when I and others put it in the context of the Swedish approach [of the 1990s] -- i.e. you take banks over, you clean them up, and you sell them in rapid order to the private sector -- it's clear that it's temporary. No one's in favor of a permanent government takeover of the financial system."
There's another reason why the concept should appeal to (fiscal) conservatives, he explains. "The idea that government will fork out trillions of dollars to try to rescue financial institutions, and throw more money after bad dollars, is not appealing because then the fiscal cost is much larger. So rather than being seen as something Bolshevik, nationalization is seen as pragmatic. Paradoxically, the proposal is more market-friendly than the alternative of zombie banks."and...
What exactly is Nouriel Roubini's economic philosophy? "I believe in market economics," he says, with some emphasis. "But to paraphrase Churchill -- who said this about democracy and political regimes -- a market economy might be the worst economic regime available, apart from the alternatives.
"I believe that people react to incentives, that incentives matter, and that prices reflect the way things should be allocated. But I also believe that market economies sometimes have market failures, and when these occur, there's a role for prudential -- not excessive -- regulation of the financial system. The two things that Greenspan got totally wrong were his beliefs that, one, markets self-regulate, and two, that there's no market failure."
How could Mr. Greenspan have been so naïve, I ask, hoping to get a rise. "Well," says Mr. Roubini, "at some level it's good to have a framework to think about the world, in which you emphasize the role of incentives and market economics . . . fair enough! But I think it led to an excessive ideological belief that there are no market failures, and no issues of distortions on incentives. Also, central banks were created to provide financial stability. Greenspan forgot this, and that was a mistake. I think there were ideological blinders, taking Ayn Rand's view of the world to an extreme.
"Again, I don't want to personalize things, but the last decade was one of self-regulation. But in the financial markets, without proper institutional rules, there's the law of the jungle -- because there's greed! There's nothing wrong with greed, per se. It's not that people are more greedy now than they were 20 years ago. But greed has to be tempered, first, by fear of losses. So if you bail people out, there's less fear. And second, by prudential regulation and supervision to avoid certain excesses."
How does Mr. Roubini think the media has covered the financial crisis? "The problem," he says -- after first stating to me that he intends "no offense!" -- "is that in the bubble years, everyone becomes a cheerleader, including the media. This is the time when journalists should be asking tough questions, and I think there was a failure there. The Masters of the Universe were always on the cover, or the front page -- the hedge-fund guys, the imperial CEO, private equity. I wish there had been more financial and business journalists, in the good years, who'd said, 'Wait a moment, if this man, or this firm, is making a 100% return a year, how do they do it? Is it because they're smarter than everybody else . . . or because they're taking so much risk they'll be bankrupt two years down the line?'
"And I think, in the bubble years, no one asked the hard questions. A good journalist has to be one who, in good times, challenges the conventional wisdom. If you don't do that, you fail in one of your duties."
Sunday, February 22, 2009
That's what options and derivatives should be about, but they must be based on clarity, not obfuscation. Truth in borrowing, not falsehoods.
In time, we'll see this and it will help bring the finance markets back to life.
Can't be soon enough ...
Jan 29th '09
Taming the unruly OTC market | Drugstore cowboys | The Economist:
"The exchanges say that by offering the flexibility of OTC markets with central clearing and automated processing, they provide the best of both worlds: customisation (within limits) coupled with reduced counterparty and operational risk. Counterparty risk is reduced since all parties work through the same clearing mechanism. That leaves less chance of gridlock when a big institution fails. Operational risks are fewer, because exchanges have been early adopters of automated processing systems, whereas OTC systems are often outdated and time-consuming. Exchanges, finally, produce a plethora of information about prices and markets, a valuable public good.
This could mark a reversal of fortune for the OTC market, where trading volumes had grown to almost $700 trillion at last count, a ninefold increase in a decade. Yet OTC products have their own blessings; they allow bankers to tailor financial products to their customers’ needs. Their relationship with exchanges need not be wholly adversarial. Financial innovations may start out in OTC markets and move to exchanges as they mature. Youth may sometimes be wild, but it should be nurtured, not suppressed."
An excellent compilation of reports on current mess and how bankers got us here:
A special report on the future of finance: The collapse of finance | Greed—and fear | The Economist
Of particular interest is this:
A special report on the future of finance: Fallible mathematical models | In Plato's cave | The Economist:
"Mathematical models are a powerful way of predicting financial markets. But they are fallible"
My Mantra : Banking Should Be Boring
High returns come from high risk - not what banks should have gotten into.
How to make bad banks work | The spectre of nationalisation | The Economist:
"Economists have long recognised that banks are special. Through decades-old relationships with millions of households and businesses, they normally (though, sadly, not recently) steer savings to productive and lucrative endeavours. Letting banks collapse would wipe out this critical mechanism; nationalising them could, eventually, do it similar damage."
From Jan 29th '09
Fiscal stimulus is the right policy when consumers and business close their wallets, but ...
Will governments' fiscal stimulus plans work? | Big government fights back | The Economist:
"This need not be calamitous. Governments can work off huge debt burdens without default or high inflation. During the second world war, for instance, Britain’s gross debt burden rose above 200% of GDP; America’s topped 120%. During the 1990s, fast growth and fiscal prudence allowed countries from Ireland to Canada to cut their debt levels sharply.
The difference this time is that the rich world already faces the costs of an ageing population, which promise a fiscal burden many times greater than even the darkest scenarios for the financial crisis. Right now fiscal activism is indispensable, but the consequences will be bigger and longer-lasting than many realise."
I'm wondering if part of the current problem is that the leading edge of the boomers are pulling out, never to return.
From Jan 22nd '09:
Because China has no other place to invest, rates were driven too low, and bankers didn't recycle funds as maybe they should have.
Capital flows and the financial crisis | When a flow becomes a flood | The Economist:
"The deep causes of the financial crisis lie in global imbalances—mainly, America’s huge current-account deficit and China’s huge surplus"
"What persuades developing countries to export capital to the rich world that might be better used at home? Influences on saving vary from region to region. The income of oil-exporting countries, for instance, has ballooned since 2004 because of higher prices for crude. It would have been neither feasible nor wise for oil-rich nations to spend this windfall at home, so much of it was saved and sent abroad. Economists who have looked for something that unifies the saving behaviour of a disparate group of countries, from oil-exporters to metal-bashers, have converged on one important motive: the need to acquire reliable stores of value that can be sold easily when trouble strikes.
This idea has been developed in a series of papers by Ricardo Caballero of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Emmanuel Farhi of Harvard University and Berkeley’s Mr Gourinchas. Their thesis is that emerging countries cannot create enough trustworthy saving vehicles to keep up with the pace of economic growth, because their financial markets are immature. Householders cannot rely on a ready supply of credit—or on government safety nets—so must save hard for a rainy day. But the domestic supply of financial assets is unreliable so the thrifty plump for foreign assets instead. America is the favoured place because it has broad and liquid markets for securities."
Posting some pieces from the Economist (my favorite single magazine).
This one from Jan 24th on politics, the Lexington column
I'd posted previously on expectations ... might have been a bit high
Betrayed by Obama | The Economist:
"It has been only two-and-a-half months since Mr Obama was elected, but his “Yes, We Can” coalition is already fraying at the edges. In his appointments and pronouncements, Mr Obama keeps hinting that he is neither as radical nor as pure as his progressive supporters dared to hope. Anti-war activists, who rallied round him in the Democratic primaries because he was the only top-tier candidate to have opposed the Iraq war from the outset, now see worrying signs that their hero is a closet hawk. On the stump, he used to say things like: “I will bring this war to an end in 2009. So don’t be confused.” Now he says it might take a bit longer. To make matters worse, he has kept George Bush’s defence secretary, Robert Gates, in his job. “Not a single member of Obama’s foreign-policy [and] national-security team opposed the war,” fumes Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor of the Nation, a lefty magazine, adding that Mr Gates is “a terrible pick”."
and then this :
"On anti-terrorism policy generally, Dick Cheney, the former vice-president, recently remarked that before Mr Obama started to keep his campaign promises, he needed “to sit down and find out precisely what it is we did and how we did it.” Mr Obama described this as “pretty good advice”. The people who used to flock to his rallies with placards demanding that Mr Bush and Mr Cheney be tried as war criminals are aghast, not least because Mr Obama appears disinclined to prosecute anyone.
For the left, the list of Mr Obama’s betrayals—real or anticipated—is getting longer. His economic advisers are nearly all centrists. Far from bringing capitalism to heel, he is planning to save it. His choice for attorney-general, Eric Holder, used to work for big corporations, making him a “poster-child for…selling out,” grumbles David Corn of Mother Jones, a progressive magazine. Unions fret that Mr Obama will not campaign hard enough to increase their clout. Greens worry that he will not move fast enough to rescue the planet. The National Organisation for Women complains that his economic-stimulus package will pump too much money into male-dominated industries such as construction, leaving only scraps for teachers and social workers."
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Talk down the economy and it can go down, buy damaging confidence.
Not just consumer confidence, but by a series of confusing policies, capital can decide to stay on the sidelines.
Economic View - Can Talk of a Depression Lead to One? - News Analysis - NYTimes.com:
"This Depression narrative, however, is not merely a story about the past: It has started to inform our current expectations."
Friday, February 13, 2009
Wish I'd shorted this puppy when they lost my business
Fifth Third shares fall on stability concerns - Yahoo! Finance:
"Shares of the Cincinnati-based bank fell as much as 9 percent Friday, and recently traded down 6 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $2.14.
In a note to clients, senior analyst Kevin St. Pierre said more details are needed on how the government plans to administer its 'stress test' on banks with assets over $100 billion. This will determine not only if Fifth Third needs more capital, which he believes it does, but will also provide more insight on how much its shares could be diluted from further government investment.
As part of the government's overhaul of the $700 billion financial bailout package passed last fall, the Treasury Department has proposed a 'stress test' for the nation's largest banks to determine whether they can make loans on their own or need further government aid.
"Upon release of the details of the test and the minimum capital levels desired by the government, we will be better equipped to evaluate the viability of Fifth Third and the potential dilution involved with further injection of capital by the government," St. Pierre wrote. Until then, the bank is "un-investable," he said."
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Rather than a more typical Middle American region, let's pick an area that exemplifies the "irrational exuberance" of sunbelt real estate.
Just what needs to be saved...
In Florida, Despair and Foreclosures - NYTimes.com:
"By 2000, the lots had been sold, but most stayed empty. Only about 30,000 people were living in an area roughly four times the size of Manhattan. The builders really started to arrive in 2004, setting up model homes on Lee Boulevard next to Mr. Elliott’s office with the faded wooden sign that said “$50 lots.”
Bill Spikowski, a city planning consultant in Fort Myers, said that because Lehigh Acres had so many parcels and few restrictions on what could be built, smaller companies battled for customers. From 2004 to the end of 2006, developers completed 13,183 units in Lehigh Acres — nearly doubling the total stock of 15,216 that existed in 2000, according to Lee County figures."
Very little change in substance in Foreign Policy.
Changes in rhetoric do not equal change in policy.
Suggest reading the whole thing
Munich and the Continuity Between the Bush and Obama Foreign Policies | Stratfor:
"While the Munich Security Conference brought together senior leaders from most major countries and many minor ones last weekend, none was more significant than U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. This is because Biden provided the first glimpse of U.S. foreign policy under President Barack Obama. Most conference attendees were looking forward to a dramatic shift in U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration. What was interesting about Biden’s speech was how little change there has been in the U.S. position and how much the attendees and the media were cheered by it."
On State Secrets, Obama Is Sounding Like Bush - NYTimes.com:
"In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration."
But let's consider what the main business of Elkhart is - Gas Guzzling RV's. How green is that?
We're going to put you out of work, but it's too bad about unemployment ...
Al Gore on line one...
Obama visits job-starved Elkhart, Indiana - USATODAY.com:
"Layoffs are happening across the USA — but nowhere as fast as in this once-thriving area that used to be known as the 'RV Capital of the World.' One year ago unemployment in Elkhart County was at 4.7 . Today it s the highest in the nation at 15.3 fueled largely by the rapid decline in the recreational vehicle business.
On Monday President Obama traveled to this depressed northern Indiana city to highlight what s at stake as his $800-billion-plus economic stimulus bill is debated in Congress. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama wanted to go where the nation s economic problems are 'acute' as part of his 'his effort to convince Congress to move swiftly.'"
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Text here :
Traverse City Record-Eagle - Article: 'Are we 'up north' yet?' Depends on what you mean by 'up north'
All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.
"Obama should have written up a kosher (as in pork-free) bill that Americans could trust — and Republicans couldn’t as easily mock — and jammed it through."
Not a great promo for the season
NASCAR.COM : news:
Weebles wobble ... Hey we used that for our Motorcycle racing team slogan ... because they wobble, but don't fall down.
"After a record number of cautions in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, some drivers voiced concerns about the handling of the new car and are nervous about what could lie ahead in next week's 200-lap Daytona 500."
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Time for IQ checks on congress
CQ Politics | Congressman Twitters an Iraq Security Breach
"A congressional trip to Iraq this weekend was supposed to be a secret.
But the cat’s out of the bag now, thanks to a member of the House Intelligence Committee who broke an embargo via Twitter.
A delegation led by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner , R-Ohio, arrived in Iraq earlier today, and because of Rep. Peter Hoekstra , R-Mich., the entire world — or at least Twitter.com readers—now know they’re there.
“Just landed in Baghdad,” messaged Hoekstra, a former chairman of the Intelligence panel and now the ranking member, who is routinely entrusted to keep some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets."
Winter Wine Sleepovers - WSJ.com:
"Waffles and Wine"
Suttons Bay, Mich.
Chat up the winemaker or hole up next to the fire at Black Star Farms. Sample all of the wines in the tasting room and talk with the innkeeper at hospitality hour. Guests get a complimentary bottle of wine and a full breakfast. (The specialty is a savory root-vegetable waffle topped with shaved ham, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce.) Ask about snowshoe Saturdays and sleigh rides during the Taste the Passion weekend festival on Feb.7-8; blackstarfarms.com.
WHEN: January through March
WHERE: 10844 E. Revold Rd., Suttons Bay, Mich.
HOW MUCH: Stay one night Sunday-Thursday and your second night is 50% off; through April, a last-minute midweek special gives you a second night free."
Who needs Rush when simple missteps do damage?
More nominations come to grief | Another two bite the dust | The Economist:
"Throughout two years of high-flown speechifying he promised to clean the Augean stables of Washington, close the revolving door between power and money and raise ethical standards. In his inaugural address, he announced the dawn of a new “era of responsibility”; on his first day in office he unveiled a package of tight ethical guidelines, though they didn’t last long.
The failure of no fewer than three nominees for high office to pay all their taxes has scrambled this message. Aren’t liberals supposed to believe that government is a good thing? And aren’t people who are being considered to run big departments supposed to be able to run their own financial affairs? (Mr Geithner, who had such trouble understanding the tax code, is now the man in charge of the Internal Revenue Service.) During the presidential campaign, Joe Biden declared that richer Americans had a patriotic duty to pay higher taxes; back in 1998 Mr Daschle opined that “tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter.” Now Democratic insiders were giving the impression that they think that taxes are just for the little people."
And Nancy isn't happy about cuts to a 900 BILLION package
Pelosi Calls Cuts to Stimulus Bill ‘Very Damaging’ - The Caucus Blog - NYTimes.com:
And Gail opines:
Op-Ed Columnist - Tough Times at Obama Inc. - NYTimes.com:
"How could so many cabinet nominees get into trouble? The Obama transition team was supposed to be so organized! Did their seven-page questionnaire ask about Facebook pages but not tax liens?"
And from Peggy Noonan (speach writer for Regan)
Peggy Noonan Sees America Preparing for the Worst, and Republicans Suddenly Seem Serious - WSJ.com:
"Mr. Obama has a talent for reviving his enemies. He did it with Hillary Clinton, who almost beat him after his early wins, and who was given the State Department. He has now done it with Republicans on the Hill. This is very nice of him, but not in his interests. Mr. Obama should have written the stimulus bill side by side with Republicans, picked them off, co-opted their views. Did he not understand their weakness? They had no real position from which to oppose high and wasteful spending, having backed eight years of it with nary a peep.They started the struggle over the stimulus bill at a real disadvantage. Then four things: Nancy Pelosi served up old-style pork, Mr. Obama swallowed it, Republicans shocked themselves by being serious, and then they startled themselves by being unified. But it was their seriousness that was most important: They didn't know they were! They hadn't been in years!
One senses in a new way the disaster that is Nancy Pelosi. She was all right as leader of the opposition in the Bush era, opposition being joyful and she being by nature chipper. She is tough, experienced, and of course only two years ago she was a breakthrough figure, the first female speaker. But her public comments are often quite mad—we're losing 500 million jobs a month; here's some fresh insight on Catholic doctrine—and in a crisis demanding of creativity, depth and the long view, she seems more than ever a mere ward heeler, a hack, a pol. She's not big enough for the age, is she? She's not up to it."
The tax evasion issue does stick in my craw
The whole "this time it's different" spiel
From a couple of days ago:
Op-Ed Columnist - Well, That Certainly Didn’t Take Long -
"Mr. Obama admitted that “ultimately it’s important for this administration to send a message that there aren’t two sets of rules. You know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.”
It took Daschle’s resignation to shake the president out of his arrogant attitude that his charmed circle doesn’t have to abide by the lofty standards he lectured the rest of us about for two years.
Before he recanted, his hand forced by a cascade of appointees who “forgot” to pay taxes, his reasoning was creeping perilously close to that of the outgoing leaders he denounced in his Inaugural Address: that elitist mentality of “we know best,” we know we’re doing the “right” thing for the country, so we can twist the rules."
Friday, February 06, 2009
Now Twittering the State of the State...
Poynter Online - E-Media Tidbits:
"I even noticed tweets in this stream from a few journalists. One of them told me the experience definitely strengthened his reporting giving him a feel for how people were reacting to a very critical speech to a very economically depressed state 'It was a lot more fun than just watching it on TV and the interaction with friends and colleagues made it even better. But I think journalists basically fear oppose denigrate or can t understand the value of social networking like Twitter. It s a shame.' But he gave a nod to our tech-savvy governor: 'You have to hand it to Granholm for having an active tweet.' ...I m still wondering if this is journalism or simply very cool civic engagement. I certainly can t figure out how to monetize such an experience."
Thursday, February 05, 2009
In short, "real" banking is a low margin business.
The trouble is that some turned it into a "glamor" business
How Banking Diversification Steered Us Wrong - BusinessWeek:
"The mess we're in started with financial theories that substituted banking innovation for due diligence and sensible regulation"
Maybe there are models for cross linkage market to market.
Not sure it works for small communities or rural.
The urban model works if you can spread the overhead cost of print and distribution.
Free Newspaper Venture Depends on Local Blogs - NYTimes.com:
"The Printed Blog, a Chicago start-up, plans to reprint blog posts on regular paper, surrounded by local ads, and distribute the publications free in big cities."
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Obama’s Ethics Reform Pledge Faces an Early Test - NYTimes.com:
"Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, a liberal magazine, said Mr. Obama should withdraw Mr. Daschle’s nomination to “revive the change brand he campaigned and won on.”
Mr. Obama is running into crosscurrents that bedeviled his predecessors. Jimmy Carter promised a new day in Washington after Watergate but still found top associates caught up in scandal. Bill Clinton promised “the most ethical administration in history” and then endured the most independent counsel investigations in history. Mr. Bush vowed a new era of responsibility only to be accused of selling out to energy and military industries."
Monday, February 02, 2009
Alaska Volcano Observatory - Redoubt - Activity Page
Big volcano will throw ash and vapor far into the atmosphere
Midwest and NorthEast are "downwind" and will get more cold weather, maybe a lot more.
Near term good little tool for earthquake tracking
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Fisher Island - Still a Refuge, but Not From the Downturn - NYTimes.com:
"But even here, a haven for wealthy families since the late 1980s, the economic storms are bearing down. About a quarter of the island’s 695 condos are up for sale, roughly double the number on the market in recent years, and few are finding buyers. Sellers are cutting prices, brokers say, and one unit is in foreclosure, a surprise to some residents of a place where home prices range from $335,000 to $30 million."
And so it begins
"As Senate Democrats rushed to save the nomination of Mr. Daschle, their former leader, the White House spent the day trying to explain how he survived its vetting process despite his failure to pay $128,000 in taxes.
“It’s totally shocking,” an aide to a Democratic senator said Saturday. “Why do we have to continue to have the same story over and over again with these nominees?”
Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the party whip, had this to say after hearing the news about Mr. Daschle: “It is easy for the other side to advocate for higher taxes because — you know what? — they don’t pay them.”"