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Friday, December 25, 2015

Banish the Winter Blues at These Massachusetts Attractions


Fancy orchids (see above) or camelias ? Then head to the Lyman Estate Greenhouses in Waltham, with greenhouses chock full of blooms. Some are available for sale, as well.




It's not too late to take in the Christmas lights at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens in Boylston MA. Just get there before January 4.  There's more to see than just the lights, like, say the Orangerie.

While you're in that part of the state, take a brief detour to Clinton and the Museum of Russian Icons,  and walk a couple of blocks to have a nosh -- say, coffee and some kattayif or baklava -- at Zaytoon, 72 High Street. 
 
 


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Carols


On Christmas Eve, I can think of no better program of Carols and Lessons than that offered by King's Chapel at Cambridge and its renowned choir. 

Among my favorites are the traditional Adam Lay Ybounden, the Sussex Carol, and Once in Royal David's City (which leads the program).

***

Once in royal David's city
stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
in a manger for his bed;
Mary, loving mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall.
With the poor, the scorned, the lowly
lived on earth our Savior holy.

Jesus is our childhood's pattern;
day by day, like us he grew;
he was little, weak, and helpless,
tears and smiles like us he knew;
and he feeleth for our sadness,
and he shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
through his own redeeming love;
for that child so dear and gentle
is our Lord in heaven above;
and he leads his children on
to the place where he is gone.

Adam Lay Ybounden

Adam lay ybounden,
   Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
   Thought he not too long.
And all was for an apple,
   An apple that he took,
As clerk√ęs finden written
   In their book.
Nor had one apple taken been,
   The apple taken been,
Then had never Our Lady
  A-been heaven's queen.
Blessed be the time
   That apple taken was.
Therefore we may singen
   Deo gratias!


Sussex Carol

1. On Christmas night all Christians sing
 To hear the news the angels bring
 On Christmas night all Christians sing
 To hear the news the angels bring

Chorus:

 News of great joy news of great mirth
 News of our merciful King's birth
 When from our sin he set us free
 All for to gain our liberty?

2. Then why should men on earth be so sad
 Since our Redeemer made us glad
 Then why should men on earth be so sad
 Since our Redeemer made us glad

 Chorus

3. When sin departs before his grace
 Then life and health come in its place
 When in its place, angels and men with joy may sing
 All for to see the new born King

 Chorus

4. All out of darkness we have light
 Which made the angels sing this night
 Glory to God and peace to men
 Now and forever more, Amen.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fed up with the Fed, Part N

Fed up with the spineless Fed, for finding yet another excuse not to raise interest rates a minuscule 0.25%, which would represent a pathetically halting step toward monetary normality. 

Supposedly the reason was "global weakness", apparently triggered by the Chinese economy's decline. 

So...  Odds are we'll see QE-Next sooner than we'll see a change in Fed rate policy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

They care about Cecil, but what about the People of Zimbabwe ?

I find it tragic that so much ink has been spilled and so much animus provoked by the killing of the lion Cecil in Zimbabwe, while the cruely, repression, and outright evil of the Mugabe regime goes unremarked.  It is a testimony to the utter superficiality of the media and their assiduous followers. 

NFL/ESPN Aversion Therapy Working !!!

In my May 10 post on the subject of NEVER-TO-BE-SPOKEN-OF-AGAIN-GATE, I recounted how the rank excesses as well as prejudices, hatreds, and calumnies -- look it up, Gen X'ers and milennials -- had weaned me from a routine of watching ESPN, NFL Network, and listening to Sports radio.

I can report that with the exception of VB day -- Victory Brady Day -- my mild addiction has been conquered.  I no longer feel the need to hear opinions proferred by the nattering nabobs in Bristol and elsewhere. I just don't give a damn.  And if, say, I find out that a product I use is the endorsed by ESPN, well, sayonara product.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cafe Minerve USA - Open for renovations

'Nation World Money' has been edited.  The most conspicuous change, besides the re-ordering of links, is the excision of David Stockman's Contra Corner, after a recent column in which DS extolled Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza party and current (but not for long I hope) Prime Minister.

Did I misread Stockman's tone ? Was his column the equivalent of Swift's "Modest Proposal" ? I don't think so.



Monday, June 8, 2015

Here's a thought for the Boston 2024 Olympics...


Forget the bloated Olympic games that serve no useful public purpose, let alone justify the massive dislocations and expenses involved. By all means, ask the Greeks what their legacy from the 2004 games was, beyond crushing debt and crumbling, useless venues.  Then consider what a worthy 2024 Olympics for Boston should be : a comprehensive, ambitious project designed to repair roads and bridges, rescue the schools and public education, work with the Commonwealth to repair and improve mass transit,  address urban over-development and attendant congestion, and reform the city's finances with a view to reducing the oppressive property-tax burden on those who are not in the 1%.  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

R.I.P., Louis Johnson

...founder of the Brothers Johnson, pictured above, at left,  To hear the group's hit recording STOMP, click here.

Russian adventurism continues in the Ukraine...

...and one wonders, does Obama take notice, and if he does, what does he propose to do about it ? Get Kerry onto some crutches and into a military jet, for more of the useless, dilatory diplomacy that has been the hallmark of this administration ? Probably.

Euro Officials will cave, and Greece will skate...

...or at least so it seems at this hour. 

The Euro powers-that-be -- as well as the IMF -- lack the guts to force the issue, i.e., reform of the bloated, ineffectual Greek public sector and its anti-productive labor restraints.

That being the case,  how long before the other sick men of Europe come to call for their concessions ?

Will caving to Tsipras and his buds really contain contagion, or rather speed the Euro's demise ? I'd bet my lunch on the latter.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

On the other hand, and upon mature reflection...


...let's jump in the car and burn rubber 'til we reach the beach, metaphorically-speaking, for some Fun, Fun, Fun, Beach-Boys style.

Grim Thoughts on a Grey, Windy, Rainy Day


Are we staggering toward an imminent, ineluctable economic, political, social, cultural, and/or environmental apocalypse, of the sort for which Mad Max, above, is the indisputable poster-boy ?

Damned if I know, but for such a demise, I can conceive of no better soundtrack than the second movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, conducted by Furtwangler.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Deflategate Coverage - Aversion Therapy or Mere Torture ?


Like the cigarettes above, too much of a good thing -- even a known carcinogen -- really can put you off an addiction. Whether in the form of deliberate professionally-applied aversion therapy, or not.

In my case, the nonstop voluminous, pervasive, sanctimonious spewings about Deflategate have cured me of a mild addiction to Sports Talk on TV and the Web. Gone are the days when I'd watch Mike and Mike or Pardon the Interruption , or fire up the laptop and follow the NFL Draft on ESPN or read Peter King's MMQB column at SI. Or have the radio playing WEEI or The Sports Hub in the background for, golly, minutes at a time.

Don't think I'll be tuning in much to the NFL Network, let alone many NFL games next season. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Think the U.S. Electoral College is Unfair ? Check out these results from yesterday's U.K. Elections

Scottish National Party - about 1.5 M votes, 56 seats in Parliament.
Liberal Democratic Party - about 2.4 M votes, 8 seats.
U.K. Independence Party - about 9.3 M votes, 1 seat !

For an American perspective on the election, check out the WASHINGTON POST.

* * *

As a side note, the Monster Raving Loony Party received 3,898 votes. This is an actual registered political party in the U.K. 

Sad to say, we missed their victory party. Bet it was a blast.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Blogger DJ's Musical Choice Tonight is one of his Jazz faves...

Click to hear.
... Duke Ellington's Band performing Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue -- featuring a legendary 27-chorus sax improv by Paul Gonsalves -- at the Newport Jazz Festival. Enjoy the remix !

What's a 'GICS', and Why Should We ETF -- or any -- Investors Care ?

The GICS Hierarchy
Because we should have some general idea what we're investing in, which is pretty much what the GICS -- Global Industry Classification Standard -- was designed to provide.

According to the Morgan Stanley Capital International [MSCI] website

  • In 1999, MSCI and Standard & Poor’s developed the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS), seeking to offer an efficient investment tool to capture the breadth, depth and evolution of industry sectors.
  • GICS is a four-tiered, hierarchical industry classification system.
  • It consists of 10 sectors, 24 industry groups, 67 industries and 156 sub-industries.
  • Companies are classified quantitatively and qualitatively. Each company is assigned a single GICS classification at the sub-industry level according to its principal business activity. MSCI and Standard & Poor’s use revenues as a key factor in determining a firm’s principal business activity.
  • Earnings and market perception, however, are also recognized as important and relevant information for classification purposes, and are taken into account during the annual review process.

  • The 10 Sectors are :

    • Consumer Discretionary
    • Consumer Staples
    • Energy
    • Financials
    • Health Care
    • Industrials
    • Information Technology
    • Materials
    • Telecommunication Services
    • Utilities

    So... Leaving aside the fact that the nifty icon shows 68 industries, and MSCI cites 67... let's say we want to know what's classified as part of Financials (Sector 40).  Digging into the MSCI spreadsheet, we find, among the Financials Industry Groups, Insurance (4030) and Real Estate (4040), Drilling down we find among Real Estate's subindustries the category REITs, or Real Estate Investment Trusts (404020).

    Okay, so where am I going with this ? 

    Say, for some reason, you read Dave Dierking's SEEKING ALPHA post, "Preferred ETFs: 5-6% Yields, But What Are The Risks?".

    Observing that three such ETF's are heavily concentrated in Financials, some of which have less than Investment-grade credit ratings, the author concludes...
    Preferred stocks' reputation as lower risk investments is generally deserved as any examination of betas, standard deviations and price performance charts will attest to. But it's important to realize that many of these ETFs are riskier than most people realize when examining the credit quality of holdings and the content of the portfolio.
    The ETFs focused on in this article invest mainly in financials, but there are more diversified options out there like the Market Vectors Preferred Securities ex Financials ETF (NYSEARCA:PFXF), which is more diversified amongst utilities, defensive and industrial preferreds.
    Now one would infer from its name that Market Vectors Preferred Securities ex Financials wouldn't contain a single investment in that sector. But as Ron Rowland points out in his SEEKING ALPHA post,PFXF: New Market Vectors Preferred ETF Is 37% Financials"...
    Market Vectors Preferred Securities ex Financials ETF (NYSEARCA:PFXF), which launched on July 17, is designed to track the Wells Fargo Hybrid and Preferred Securities ex Financials Index (PFXF overview). Wells Fargo defines the Financials sector differently from the better-known GICS scheme. GICS considers Insurance and REITs to be part of the Financials sector. Wells Fargo and PFXF classify these two industries elsewhere. This creates the odd discrepancy of an ETF with “excluding Financials” in its name which holds 37% in the sector, based on the more popular GICS definition.
    According to the PFXF fact sheet (pdf), the underlying index consists of 68 securities with an average current yield of 6.8%. Industry breakdown includes REITs at 30.8%, Electric Utilities 26.3%, Auto Manufacturers 12.0%, Telecommunications 7.6%, Insurance 6.1%, and Energy 5.2%.
    Conclusion:  you can't just rely on the name of an ETF, or an investment firm's sticking to the GICS. Drill down into the ETF portfolio to see what it's made of, or you could be in for a rude surprise.
     

    Wednesday, April 29, 2015

    Where Can You Find a Reasonably Reliable U.S. GDP Forecast ?

    The Atlanta Fed. It's all about money.
    Apparently, all you've got to do is check out the Atlanta Fed GDPNow estimate.

    Why ?  Wolf Richter explains in his article, "Atlanta Fed’s “GDP Now” Model Totally Nailed Ugly Q1, “Blue-Chip” Economists Ludicrously Optimistic".

    Peace out.


    Is Your ETF at Death's Door ?


    Check out Ron Rowland's April 2015 Deathwatch List, for the latest additions and deletions at SEEKING ALPHA.

    To scan the entire Deathwatch list, to find out what criteria Rowland uses to add an Exchange Traded Product to the list, or to read his suggestions on what to do if your ETF succumbs, click on the respective links.

    Have Abenomics Succeded, or Monetarism Failed ?


    It seems clear from Jeffrey P. Snider's article SEEKING ALPHA, entitled "Japan Needs A Bigger Hole? ", excerpted below, that the answer depends on whether you're in the 1% or the 99%.

    * * *

    Japan continues to provide the best refutation of monetary policy as anything other than destructive. With its economy stripped bare of dynamic essentials after thirty years of the Bank of Japan's "lead," marginal changes are left as remnants of nothing more than monetary transmission. In the space of QQE, that has used up and destroyed what was left of Japan's once-dominant trade position, leaving the economy to hollow out from the inside as Japan Inc. transfers to Offshore Inc.

    As it turns out, Japan may not be hobbling out of recession at all, despite the huge gains in "luxury" spending due to artificial, financial redistribution. In fact, quite relatedly, Japan's recession may still be digging deeper as March's retail sale figures can attest. Confirming of the trajectory apart from that yearly distortion, retail sales fell 1.9% M/M in March after February's +0.7% M/M gain. That negative direction persists across a range of figures, which, of course, has economists calling for the BoJ to visit some further injury.
    "If you look at the larger data points of the past three to six months, they've been pretty bad all around," Joe Zidle, a portfolio strategist at Richard Bernstein Advisors, told CNBC. "If you think about the consumer's importance … it's 60 percent of the Japanese economy, I think this ratchets up the pressure on the Bank of Japan (BOJ) in order to introduce more stimulus."
    I think that is exactly the problem, as consumers in Japan right now seem to be preparing themselves for more "stimulus." It has become so disastrous as monetary policy itself may have been sorely turned upside down (if it was ever right to begin with) but yet nobody in policy or the media has the intestinal fortitude to call it what it clearly is: destructive.

    The record of so much "stimulus" is absolutely clear, as the Japanese people, most of them, are becoming poorer by the day.

    Everywhere that QE has been tried, and it is almost a foregone conclusion for Europe, there is a clear bifurcation in the economy where those inside the umbrella of artificial redistribution do exceptionally well through artificial attainment. There isn't any wonder that does nothing but harm to the real economy as no system can arbitrarily remain in a stable state. There is absolutely nothing wrong with "inequality" except the manner in which it is achieved. Artificial means through bubbles and QE are the ingredients for nothing but social decay as well as economic malaise (and worse). Actual inequality brought about by productive wealth building is the means by which capitalism progresses because the creation of wealth itself is the foundation for economic health. There simply is no shortcut.

    Thus, the mistaken conceit of monetarism is on full display, especially in Japan, as they boil down their efforts to substitute financial wealth for true wealth as if they could simply conjure industrious creation from nothing. And Japan is proving useful as the full and complete refutation of every facet of such a notion, even if the mainstream resists so far confessing it.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2015

    Is it futile to hope Jim Webb's a real contender against Ms. Clinton ?


    Robert Tracinski, in his FEDERALIST piece, calls Webb "The Democrat Who Could Win, But Won’t". I respectfully disagree, at least to the extent of saying it's too darned early to rule the man out. Clearly, Webb, whose resume items include United States Senator from Virginia, Secretary of the Navy, Assistant Secretary of Defense, congressional staffer, and Marine Corps officer, would have the political right and center to himself in any contest with Hillary. And if the Democratic primaries took place while foreign policy crises erupted, say, in Libya or the Ukraine, Webb might re-energize Reagan Democrats and others tired of the Clintons. Meantime, it seems he has his work cut out for him even in his home state, where a recent poll showed Hillary a prohibitive Dem favorite.

    * * *

    In any case, the WEEKLY STANDARD's Fred Barnes does well to remind us in his article, "What we don't know about 2016" is "Almost everything."
    At the moment, there’s nothing going on in either party’s campaign that is predictive of what will occur when we get to the Iowa caucuses (February 1) and New Hampshire primary (February 9). This is not a historic first. Wildly off-base projections are the norm in the nomination races. Recall the situation at roughly this time in 2007. The eventual GOP nominee, John McCain, was dead in the water. Barack Obama barely registered a blip.
    The lesson here has largely gone unlearned. We see campaign stories about the threat Wisconsin governor Scott Walker poses to Jeb Bush in the New Hampshire primary next year, based on a fleeting poll. And considerable attention has been paid to New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s “comeback.” What comeback? He hasn’t even announced he’s running, much less competed with his rivals in a televised debate. The first debate isn’t until August 15.

    NEWS FLASH - Jarrod Saltalamacchia DFA'ed by Marlins

    Now that former Bosox catcher Jarrod has been designated for assignment by the Marlins -- right after his maternity leave came to an end -- wonder how long it'll be before Theo Epstein grabs him ? After all, TE was willing to take a flier on another former Bosox, busted reliever/starter Daniel Bard.