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Friday, March 30, 2012

Is it all over for Olbermann ???

Keith Olbermann was just axed by Current TV. Here is the most fitting tribute I could come up with--Ben Affleck's SNL send-up of the now-unemployed perfervid pundit.

Here Comes the Sun... and Blogger DJ's Friday Night 60's Dance Party

The Moody Blues, way back when
The Doors - Crystal Ship
Love - My Little Red Book
The Searchers - Love Potion Number 9
The Box Tops - The Letter 
Question Mark & The Mysterians - 96 Tears
The Standells - Dirty Water
The Seeds - Pushin' Too Hard
The Castaways - Liar Liar
The Moody Blues - Ride My See Saw 
The Amboy Dukes - Journey To The Center Of The Mind 
The Electric Prunes - I Had Too Much To Dream 
The Syndicate of Sound - Little Girl 
Sir Douglas Quintet - She's About A Mover
The Beau Brummels - Laugh Laugh
The Beau Brummels - Just a Little
The Left Banke - Walk Away Renee
Question Mark & the Mysterians- Can't Get Enough of You, Baby
The Animals - Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

Interested in the Supreme Court ObamaCare Deliberations ?

Or the U.S. Supreme Court (a.k.a. 'SCOTUS') in general ?

Check out the Court's own overview, or Bill Mears' article on the CNN website, 'The U.S. Supreme Court : How It Works.'

For detailed coverage of the case, there's a special section of Bloomberg Online, or SCOTUSblog, both of which Adam White cites in his recent WEEKLY STANDARD piece on Tuesday's oral arguments before the Court.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

And speaking of ETF's and ETN's, what's the latest from ETF Deathwatch ?

First, the skinny...
"Most of the 291 products on Deathwatch face a real possibility of closure.  The largest risk is not, however, that they may close in the future.  No, the more notable risk is that they suffer from extremely poor liquidity today.  Wide bid/ask spreads, little to no volume behind the quotes, and sleeping market makers can potentially inflict much more damage on unknowing investors than a fund closure.

"Still don’t think illiquidity is a problem?  Here’s a fact to consider: On the last day of February, a total of 152 ETFs and ETNs had no trades for the day.  Their volume was zero.  Seven went the entire month with no volume.  One product, iPath Long Extended 3x Russell 1000 TR ETN (ROLA), has yet to post its first trade of 2012.

"What makes ETFs unique and limits discounts and premiums is their ability to create and redeem shares through in-kind exchange.  However, this process requires trading activity.  The creation/redemption process typically involves 50,000 shares of the ETF.  The ETFs on Deathwatch routinely take weeks or months to generate that much volume.  For them, the creation/redemption process is virtually non-existent.  There is no ability to arbitrage the price to the net asset value."

For a detailed listing of endangered funds, click here.

Looking for Commission-free ETF/ETN Trading ?

Check this nifty utility on the ETF Database, which allows you to find a commission-fee trading platform by ETF/ETN offering, or to explore commission-free offerings by provider/platform.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Five Leadership Lessons from James T. Kirk...

...compiled by Alex Knapp of FORBES, are as follows :

1. Never Stop Learning
2. Have Advisors With Different Worldviews
3. Be Part Of The Away Team
4. Play Poker, Not Chess
5. Blow up the Enterprise

Knapp summarizes...
In his many years of service to the Federation, James Kirk embodied several leadership lessons that we can use in our own lives. We need to keep exploring and learning. We need to ensure that we encourage creativity and innovation by listening to the advice of people with vastly different opinions. We need to occasionally get down in the trenches with the members of our teams so we understand their needs and earn their trust and loyalty. We need to understand the psychology of our competitors and also learn to radically change course when circumstances dictate. By following these lessons, we can lead our organizations into places where none have gone before.
For the details of Knapp's analysis, click here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Blogger DJ's British Invasion Guilty Pleasures

The Animals, with Eric Burdon front and center
The Dave Clark Five - I Like It Like That,
Over and Over, Glad All Over, Do You Love Me,
Bits and Pieces, and Catch Us If You Can
The Spencer Davis Group - Gimme Some Lovin' and I'm a Man
The Yardbirds - For Your Love
The Zombies - Tell Her No,  She's Not There , and Time of the Season
The Tremeloes - Here Comes My Baby
The Animals - We Gotta Get out of This Place, Please Don't Let Me Be MisunderstoodIt's My Life

Of course, that doesn't mean Russia won't continue to arm the murderous Assad regine...

The fruits of Russian neutrality, in Homs, Syria indicated by a recent REUTERS report, excerpted below.

* * *

The biggest importer of arms to Syria, Russia sold Damascus nearly $1 billion worth of arms including missile systems last year, while shipments of hard-to-track Russian small weapons have risen since the uprising against Assad started, government defectors say.

In January, the Russian ship Chariot, loaded with arms and ammunition, turned off its radar and sailed quietly to Syria to avoid attracting the attention of world powers increasingly frustrated by Russia and China's refusal to back U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at ending 11 months of violence.

Moscow accuses the West of being one-sided, and says the arms it sells have not been used by Assad loyalists to kill 7,000 people, a figure used by advocacy groups, as violence has raged.

But rebel soldiers and an official who defected from the government say Moscow's small arms trade with Damascus is booming, and the government doubled its military budget in 2011 to pay for the crackdown on the opposition.

"I would say that on average the funds (for Defence Ministry expenditure) were doubled for 2011," said Mahmoud Suleiman Haj Hamad, the former chief auditor for Syria's Defence Ministry who defected in January.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How far will Russia support the Syrian regime ?

Less than the Syrian suppose, opines Sami Moubayed in his Asian Times article, "Putin offers threadbare blanket for Syria",  liberally excerpted below.

* * *

Whenever the world seemed to start caving in around them, Syrian politicians have leaned on the Russians for support. Moscow, both now and during the Soviet era, has always been Syria's "security blanket". Syrian leaders, however, have almost equally misjudged how far Russia was willing to go to help them.

Moscow may like the Syrian regime, but it certainly likes Russian interests in the Middle East a whole lot more. This is the fundamental thing that Syrian authorities still remarkably fail to understand. Moscow needs assurances that its political influence will be maintained in Syria, and needs guarantees on a basket of other issues, such as the US defense shield in Europe, for example, and, of course, Georgia.

Is Romney like Reagan ?

Hell no, asserts Craig Shipley in his Politico opinion piece, "Please, Romney is nothing like Reagan!"

Wall Street Journal editor William McGurn, a former Bush White House speechwriter, argued in an article Tuesday that Mitt Romney is no worse off now than Ronald Reagan was at this stage of his historic 1980 campaign. He compared these two races and also tried to show that President Barack Obama is the heir to Jimmy Carter.

The Romney camp would probably welcome these comparisons — but it’s more a theory in search of facts. There are indeed some similarities, but the differences are far more striking.

Both Reagan and Romney did begin as frontrunners, both stumbled. Romney’s outcome is still unknown. But other than the fact that Carter was a tougher politician than Obama, that is where the similarities end.
Want more ? Read on.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

John Maudlin's Advice to Greece... his Market Oracle article "Debt Crisis Unintended Consquences, What Greece Should Do and What About Ireland?", is so compelling, (which is to say, rational)  that I felt obligated to reproduce section on Greece virtually in its entirety.

* * *

The simple arithmetic is that Greece cannot afford to pay its debts. They are getting ready to give debtors close to a 70% haircut, if you figure in the time cost of money. There is no way in Hades, to borrow a Greek term, that they can get back to 120% of debt-to-GDP by 2020, given the massive austerity they have agreed to and which is just the beginning. (Is 120% now the new sustainable level because that is where Italy and Belgium are?)

Forcing debtors to take such a loss is not going to entice future lenders. Greece is effectively shut out of the bond market for a very long time. Their only source of borrowed money is the EU, and that debt is now costing the future of the country for at least a generation.

Most Greeks who are able send their children abroad to study. Given that the unemployment rate for people under age 25 in Greece is nearly 50 percent, it appears few young people are returning from abroad. In September 2011, organizers of a government-sponsored program on emigration to Australia, a program that reportedly attracted only 42 people in 2010, were overwhelmed when more than 12,000 people signed up to attend. (Source: Stratfor)

What is the point of paying back part of the bonds if you don't get access to future bonds? The current program offers no hope, and the people of Greece know that.

Greece should declare an "emergency," along with a bank holiday, and leave the eurozone and return to the drachma. Keep as much hard currency and reserves as you can, so you can buy needed medical supplies and energy until things turn around.

Don't pay one dime of debt to anyone for at least a few months, if not years. Default on every penny. Let the market set a value on the future currency, and only then offer to give two drachmas of debt repayment for the value of one drachma in hard euros in new debt. If you get no euros, then give no drachmas. But be very frugal about making that offer. Run up as little debt as possible in the beginning.

Play the political game, of course. Maybe even promise participation in a better future, when that happens.

Meanwhile, get your budget house in order. Figure out how to eventually run small surpluses, which will be easier if you don't have to pay for that old debt. Fix future growth of government spending to some percentage of GDP growth. Amazingly, you will soon – in just a few years – be seen as a worthy credit and be allowed back into the bond market. Ask Iceland or even Argentina (if ever there was a country that should be shut out of the world bond market, it is Argentina. They have made a national sport of defaulting on debt. Go figure.)

Right now tourism is 15% of your GDP. Make it 25%. Divert resources to make it happen. Make your country the best vacation value in Europe. Get your people, who are naturally hospitable, to get behind the drive for more tourism. Greet each traveler like someone bringing you gold, because that is what they are doing. That hard currency is what will buy you the resources you need (like food, energy, and medicine).

Note: you are not leaving the European Union, just the euro. There are lots of members of the EU that have their own currencies. You will just be another such country.

But since there will be a black market in euros if you try to keep a closed currency, at some point not too long after converting everything in the banking and financial system to drachmas, just go ahead and let people use their euros. Let businesses post two prices, but all government transactions will be in drachmas. Your citizens and businesses must pay their taxes in drachmas. If they take euros, they will need to find the drachmas to pay the VAT or other taxes.
Don't let the central bank go crazy printing money. That will just cause inflation and drop the value of the drachma further, postponing a recovery.

If a business wants to open a factory, then make it happen. Encourage all the foreign direct investment you can. Give them a tax holiday. Look at Ireland and match their tax rates. No government red tape to open a business, just bring your money and jobs. If some of your citizens "magically" find some euros that were in offshore bank accounts and want to bring them back to invest, let them. Declare a tax holiday on all money that shows up. Let them bring their euros back for the market price of the drachma until things stabilize.

Drop your tax rates to the lowest in Europe and then enforce them. The lower you make them, the more money you will raise in taxes. Look at some of the old Warsaw Pact countries. Selectively sell your government-owned businesses to get the currency you need for infrastructure (roads and such) and to remove the annual losses they have from your books. Or simply give most (and in some cases all) of the assets to the employees and unions, for businesses like your railroads.

There are local contingencies and characteristics I am not close to being aware of, I am sure. But structure everything that you can for the future, which will arrive faster than you think. There is a huge Greek diaspora. If they see opportunity, they will invest, if not come back. Make sure they see it.

It will be tough for the first year or two. But then you can grow your way out of the crisis, at first slowly and then more rapidly. There are myriad examples of countries that have done similar things without your natural advantages.

But staying in the euro and trying to pay that debt will just put chains on your children and elderly. You have been in recession for close to five years. Staying in the euro will mean at least another ten. Facing such a bleak future, the young and entrepreneurial will leave, which is what you cannot afford. They are your most precious asset. Without them there is no growth and no future.

Is leaving the euro and returning to the drachma a good choice? No, it will be a disaster. But I think it will be a lesser disaster than staying

Trying to make sense of the Greek Debt Mess and ECB rescue plan ?

Check out Graham Summers' perceptive SEEKING ALPHA post, "The Mainstream Media Still Doesn't Get The ECB Greek Debt Swap".

Summers' most cogent point relates to the "seismic" consequences of the ECB's immunizing their portfolio of Greek debt against loss, at the expense of private holders of same:
The global sovereign bond market is roughly $40 trillion in size. And the ECB just sent a message to all bond fund managers and private financial institutions that their Euro-zone sovereign bond holdings are not only the only holdings that are “at risk” for debt restructuring, but that ECB can change the rules at any point it likes. 
This instantly and immediately makes Euro-zone bonds far less attractive to private investors. It was bad enough that the idea of a 50+% haircut on a sovereign bond was on the table. The only reason private Greek bondholders were willing to stomach this was in order to avoid a default/ catastrophe and the total loss of capital. 
However, now all private bond investors know that not only will they be shouldering all of the losses during any upcoming sovereign defaults/ debt restructurings but that the ECB can change the rules any time it likes. Indeed, the only reason the ECB was able to get away with this without causing private bondholders to flee European sovereign debt en masse was because it didn’t take a profit on the debt swap.
In terms of Europe’s ongoing debt Crisis, this move is extremely damaging to any hopes of clean debt restructuring for Greece or the other PIIGS countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Spain). Remember, this entire round of the Euro Crisis was caused by concerns over 14€ billion in Greek debt payments that were due March 20th. 
So what happens once we get into the hundreds of billions of Euros’ worth of sovereign debt that needs to be rolled over in the coming months. The ECB, IMF, and EU have already spent 176€ billion trying to prop up the PIIGS bond markets. What happens now that private bondholders know that any potential restructuring of sovereign bonds for these countries means them taking a large hit while the ECB doesn’t suffer a cent in losses?
What's the endgame ? Summers believes that Greece will sink--or rather be pushed--further into depression and debt, until Germany forces Greece out of the Euro or Germany itself abandons the common currency, and that's just for starters.

For more illuminating articles on this subject, check out Felix Salmon's "The Epistemics Of Greek Default"  and Paolo Santos' "'Voluntary' Greek Debt Swap Creates Several Troubling Precedents ".

Right now, you might be asking yourself, just how did Greece evade EU debt controls ? It was greatly helped--and simultaneously roundly rogered--by Goldman Sachs. For the gory details, see the Bloomberg online article, "Goldman Secret Greece Loan Shows Two Sinners as Client Unravels" by Nicholas Dunbar and Elisa Martinuzzi.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I'm too busy to blog, except when it comes to baseball...

What else ? In Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, Fisk wills fair his dramatic extra-innings home run to left field. Click here for an appropriate musical link.
...and the augmented links to baseball sites in the Potpourri section.

Great read. Really. Click here for a modern baseball instructional video.
For the record, (1) I like what Bobby Valentine is doing with the Red Sox's Spring Training program, (2) I think the new MLB Playoff Setup is a joke, except for the TV money (which is what all modern sports are about) and (3) we should stop obsessing about the Dead Sox's September 2011 collapse, and (4) we should start obsessing about a new season of this immortal, timeless game.