Wednesday, December 18, 2013

OUR UNDERACHIEVING STUDENTS IN AMERICA????

It is often reported that students in the United States underachieve on academic tests compared to a substantial proportion of the world.  This reporting hasn't sat quite right with me and I couldn't quite put my finger on why these headlines were misleading, if they were in fact statistically accurate.

Lets keep the record straight.  Let the same media report the following comparisons,  how do our mixed American nationalities compare to their home countries.

For example, lets compare our American Mexicans to Mexicans in Mexico.  Lets compare our American Germans to Germans in Germany. Lets compare American Russians to Russians in Russia.  When this is done, we will have a much more accurate picture of whether substantial portions of our media are either lazy, biased or accurate on whether in fact our children really do underachieve.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

WHAT THE FITCH (STANDARD & POORS RATING AGENCY)?!? (ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 11/17/11)

Yesterday, November 16th, within five minutes the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 200 points after a negative release by the FITCH company concerning the US banking system. Our markets have dropped sharply before based on the antiquated opinions of companies like Fitch, which are no more and probably less capable than anyone of the hundreds of investment firms that provide research on other matters.

You are not going to be able to believe this but I decided to take a look at who owns the FITCH rating service, let alone its record of prediction or the qualifications of its key personnel.

Guess what? This company that drove the market down, with its less than brilliant statements, is primarily owned by a man (are you ready for this) by the name of Marc Ladreit De Lacharriere. We have no idea of what his politics are or whether he even votes in the United States... he seems to be French. Yes, that's right a Frenchman controls one of the three rating services that were approved by the SEC in 1975. That's right, 1975. Something that was sanctioned in 1975 and doesn't seem to have been updated. The whole situation is so absurd that there has to be an immediate investigation of the qualifications, historical accuracy and potential hidden agendas of the people that run these companies. The three rating agencies, in my opinion, are of little value.

There is a better way. Its simply the following...everyone that sells bonds has to release information to bondholders exactly the same as information is released to shareholders. Any money management organization that gets paid to manage bonds for others must be held accountable to do its own research and form their own opinions about the quality of bonds that they buy or sell. If the meaning of this prior comment is not clear to you, at another time I will talk about it again.

The CEO of FITCH holds a BS degree from a poorly rated college. The President of FITCH has a marketing degree from a mid level college in another country. A top managing director at FITCH has a management administration degree from a University in France.

Globalization has distorted human nature. No one would ever dream of having foreigners take control of companies like Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics. The rating companies fell off the radar.

Monday, October 14, 2013

THE CURSE OF THE BOW TIE...(JIM ROGERS - ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 6/7/12)

It was 1987. The book was called "The Great Depression of 1990". It was close to a number one bestseller. The writer was regularly on TV, was left-wing and a major university economics professor.

The Dow Jones was less than 3,000. The book concluded you should sell all your stocks and real estate.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average immediately began an ascent from less than 3,000 to close to 12,000 in the 1990's. Real estate prices doubled and tripled to absurdly overvalued levels.

The sensationalist professor in my views, attempting to become famous with extreme projections and recommendations, fell out of favor.

Today we have other people, mainly professors, often using extreme views to obtain attention. One of them is a man called Jim Rogers who doesn't seem to have managed any publicly recorded money in almost thirty years. He too follows the trampled road using intellect to prepare extremist advice geared towards scaring the average investor into oblivion.

Rogers has created the "Rogers" commodity index which is the kind of thing that can be put together by most anyone with a computer in my opinion.

Just as the Depression of 1990 fell off a cliff in it's timing and significant number of wrong commentary, I think it would be wise to beware of the pundits of either extreme optimism or extreme pessimism.

Please note that Warren Buffet tends to go against the crowd and does not often establish extreme views in either direction. Watch out for marketers wearing the cloak of financial acumen without having any recent or current public investment record.

Friday, September 27, 2013

OBAMACARE - MERIT YET TO BE WRITTEN...

Term one President Obama was elected along with a democratic Congress and Senate.  These three controlling components of the government quickly passed what is called "Obamacare".  They made use of their majority power, the Obamacare bill was several thousand pages long and I didn't read about or know anyone who had read let alone analyzed the bill.

The Democratic control legally allowed them to pass this bill.

In the midterm election the Republicans won back control of the House of Representatives along with that control, came certain rights and powers, a similar situation to President Obama's first term

If the Democrats during term one hadn't been so down right nasty and paid little heed to Republican thinking we would not be in the political squabble that we face right this minute.

Because of Republican ineptitude to articulate what really happened ,much of the blame for the stalemate is being placed incorrectly.

P.S. This blog has nothing to do with whether Obamacare is good or bad.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

EGYPT...ANOTHER OBAMA DISASTER?? (ORIGINALLY POSTED 9/2012)

Egypt, going the wrong way...Saudi Arabia, still oppressive...Libya, chaotic...Syria, an abomination...North Korea, out of their minds..Iran, apocalyptic.   Woe to the world if atomic bombs proliferate, as their on the road to, in the Middle East.

You have to ask yourself the following question.   Is it just coincidence that the last time a United States Ambassador was killed was under the Presidency of Jimmy Carter?  Now we have lost an Ambassador under another appeasement oriented President.

During World War II it was next to impossible to bring the American electorate into an early tough stance against German expansionism.  It took the attack on Pearl Harbor to give President Roosevelt the political clout to come to the aid of Great Britain and Europe.

The issue is not so much the human suffering of World War II. The issue is that it would have been much simpler to have stopped it in its tracks more proactively with less human loss and suffering.

Wouldn't it have been better if President Obama instead of just saying "America does not denigrate other people's religions" then added that in America there is freedom of speech and we will not tolerate terror to suppress this freedom.  

Therefore we march down the same path as we did in World War II, hoping that appeasement will drench the acts of terrorism.

One is always hopeful that there is an easy path to controlling evil, unfortunately all you have to do is look around and follow the story.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE???

From a recent headline from a popular website:

"Arabs Attack American Jew in Venice".


In addition to the story, there was a large picture with a sign in bright red being carried by fully garbed Muslim looking people saying "GOD BLESS HITLER".


WHERE WAS THE OUTRAGE?  There was none.

WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE???

From the Chicago Tribune today:

 "Eight Wounded in Shootings across Chicago Overnight Including Two Teenagers".  


WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?  There is none.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

THE REAL RACISTS!!!

Please think what you want about the following comments.  I would appreciate it if some of you would candidly tell me if the following comments are completely wrong.

We now face a group of people calling for boycotting, marching, protesting, not accepting the rules of a jury trial, etc., etc.

It takes absolutely no courage to attack Paula Deen and Zimmerman, whether they are guilty of transgressions or not, neither of these people are likely to harm the agitators or their families.

Let's see these great protectors of the  people go into Chicago and Detroit and attack the drug and gun culture that is resulting in so many deaths.  Let's see these brave agitators go where the big problems are and face the drug dealers and the thousands of guns and criminals.

They try to make themselves look like heros, but they are really politicians of the worst type; using the race card to sustain a following.


WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE??? CHICAGOLAND..

Quoted from today's Chicago Tribune;

7 shot in attacks on South, West, Southwest sides



WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?  

Friday, July 12, 2013

ZIMMERMAN TRIAL...THERE IS NO WINNER

Why is "everybody" so interested in the Zimmerman trial?  I think I have heard about fifty explanations, some of which make sense and none of which are vital.

Trayvon Martin being dead is an abomination.  Pulling guns out in a fistfight, let along firing the gun is under most circumstances beyond the boundaries of moral and ethical law in this type of situation.

Unfortunately the Nation's obsession with the Martin-Zimmerman catastrophe totally obliterates the much more pressing issues of death by gun in cities like Chicago and Detroit.

There are hundreds of young black people being murdered in Chicago, mostly black upon black crime. Many innocent lives have been lost there also.  The sensationalized media should begin to put the same amount of time into covering these senseless killings.

Yet we as a Nation are obsessed with this one trial and the legality of murdering a young black teenager, who was unarmed and had a right to be in that neighborhood that night in Sanford, Florida.

There is no winner in the Zimmerman trial.  Trayvon is dead.  A young life lost.  George Zimmerman will never be a hero.  If he succeeds to be found not guilty it will only be due to the fact the prosecution was not able to provide an eye witness to describe what we all know occurred that night, Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon.

The only winners here are the greedy media and cable news shows that thrive on sensationalizing senseless crimes for their own benefit.







Wednesday, July 3, 2013

PAULA DEEN - "THE TAR AND FEATHERING"

The older brother bashes the younger sibling.  The gigantic father beats the older boy to a pulp. The older boy goes to a hospital, never recovers.  Obviously the father's reaction did a lot more harm than good.

Lincoln believed that slaves should be sent to Central America.  He believed they shouldn't have a right to vote and certainly not marry with whites.  Thomas Jefferson was in favor in sending slaves out of the country and it only gets worse from here, since Emancipation didn't free many slaves when it was issued.

Today Lincoln is revered as he should be despite of his mistakes.

The "tar and feathering" of PAULA DEEN seems to be alot worse than her use of a word  many years ago, as despicable as it is.  The cowardly behavior of so many corporations will breed more resentment than it will breed enlightenment.

If Paula Deen is truly a bigot and intent on harming Negroes through word or deed, than she is not worthy of our support.  If like Lincoln, she lived through a period of her life where certain matters were not quite clear, then she is worthy of redemption.

There's an old cliche that only bullies jump on a man that is down on the ground.

P.S. How many times in recent history have famous black people bashed white people with no repercussions? What's going on??

Monday, June 17, 2013

HORRORS DON'T END...(ORIGINALLY POSTED 3/15/12)

Nothing can compare to the horrors of World War II. The Syrian people are being slaughtered by another mini "Madman". Watching the United Nations and the major powers be completely impotent, (no matter what their rational) is best described by the cliche "A Plague on both your Houses". In the 21st century, there is no excuse, none whatsoever.

Friday, June 14, 2013

SNOWDEN - THE ALL AMERICAN COWARD...

The Japanese attacked and destroyed most of our Naval Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1941.  Shortly thereafter our Nation declared war on Japan and Germany.  The majority of our citizens did not want to enter into another European and Pacific War.

In 1942/43 our code breakers were able to interpret Japanese military messages.  The Japanese were planning an attack on Midway, approximately halfway between Hawaii and Japan.  The Japanese did not know we had broken their code.  If they had taken Midway, their control over the entire Pacific ocean would have been catastrophic and had a good chance of altering the outcome of the war.

The Japanese sent four aircraft carriers under the umbrella of a large supporting fleet.

Since we had broken their codes, and they didn't know it, we were able to send our last three aircraft carriers to lie in wait for the impending attack.  In spite of surprising the huge Japanese fleet, we almost lost the battle.  Our pilots were young, inexperienced and the Japanese defenses were formidable.  At the end we destroyed four Japanese aircraft carriers, an incredible feat totally due to our code breakers and valiant fighter and bomber pilots.

BUT THIS IS THE REAL STORY.  IMAGINE IF SOMEONE ON THE CODE BREAKING TEAM OR ON OUR NAVAL SHIPS DECIDED THAT THEY THOUGHT TOO MANY JAPANESE WERE GOING TO DIE BY SURPRISE ATTACK AND DECIDED TO SEEK OUT SOMEONE AT THE JAPANESE EMBASSY TO INFORM THEM OF OUR PLANS.

It's obvious we would have been dealing with a traitor.  It should also be obvious that we had to prevent this from happening again.  So our government started to monitor mail, phone calls and travel plans of those people who might be in a position to repeat treason.  Today many people would actually proclaim that privacy rights trump protection rights.

I can't think of greater gibberish, probably coming from people who have never served in the armed forces.  God Bless America.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

SNOWDEN IS A CHUMP...

There are all different kinds of mental illnesses.  They have all kinds of names, from schizophrenia,  borderline personality, sociopath, obsessive compulsive, etc.

The person who assassinated Abraham Lincoln believed in his cause.  The same for the assasinator of Kennedy, the attacker of Reagan and the numerous other attempts on other Presidents lives.

Snowden is just another form of terrorist, hiding behind his narcissistic personality and grandiose inflated ego who is probably looking to write a book, make a movie and be crowned Emperor.

If more and more people would decide that the rule of law was not to be followed whenever they believed that their illegal views took precedence over lawful procedures there would be no where to hide, the anarchy would be so pervasive.

The argument is made that if it wasn't for the brave, such as Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Women Suffragettes, and Gorbachev, tyranny would prevail and necessary changes would never have taken place. But none of these people committed treason!

Many of these dilemmas could be included under the banner "the clash of absolutes".

Snowden set himself up at as the ultimate decider of the what's in the best interest of national security.  He did this against the law and I'm sure with absolutely no knowledge of the catastrophic risks the nation is facing from world wide terrorism.

It seems pretty safe to conclude that the elected government believes that extraordinary risks require extraordinary actions.  There is no question that an enormous number of problems will develop from the information gathering that the Federal Government has now undertaken.

Each of us should carefully weigh realistically which is the greater risk to our freedoms.  Privacy protection or terrorism protection.

Friday, June 7, 2013

IRS AGENTS - THE ULTIMATE CHEATERS...

When an IRS employee ends up for six nights in the Presidential Suite of a major hotel, a tipping point has been exceeded.  This is what's really happened.  We now live in a country where IRS agents have a serious conflict of interest with the taxpayers that they audit.

The IRS auditors, as they delve into everyone else's personal finances are obviously saying to themselves; the more money I get from you the more likely it is that I can stay in the Presidential Suite, or get a pay increase, or get a bag of goodies, or fly first class, or attend a fancy convention...

The Congress has not even begun to uncover the under the table payments to IRS employees.

So many people have been afraid of the tea party and some parts of their agenda and yet have been blind to the Unionized Democratic party and the left wing wannabes extracting their "pound of flesh" from what they are obviously conceiving as the private sector.

Greed, so often attached to the businessmen, has now seeped into the bloodstream of an unknown number of government employees.

Government jobs are paid for with taxes from other people.  Unionized IRS agents have now figured out how to extract taxes in order to enhance their own personal standard of living.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

IF HEDGE FUND MANAGERS CAN'T BEAT THE S &P HOW CAN THEY TELL OTHERS HOW TO RUN THEIR BUSINESS?

8/28/89
Institutional Fund Managers and Other People’s Money
By: Shepard D. Osherow
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Osherow Siegel Capital Corporation

There was a time when a share of a corporation’s stock was considered to be an investment in its future. As idealistic as this may sound today, it is (or was) a concept at the heart of the capitalist system. The purchase of a stock made the bearer a partial owner of that company and therefore entitled to a proportionate voice in issues brought before the shareholders. Years ago, when the market was predominately comprised of individuals who placed their own money into equities, the assumption was that whatever voting power accrued to the shareholder would logically be used to enhance the performance of the firm, (and hence the investment) over time.

In 1989, however, between 50 to 70% of all publicly traded stock was “owned” by institutions and/or invested via professional managers and arbitragers who vote with no regard for anything but immediate profit. More importantly, however, through the powers extended to the fund managers via proxy voting institutions are fast becoming a highly vocal factor in the corporate board rooms of public companies, exercising increasing control over issues ranging from their day to day operations to long-term business strategies.

What’s wrong with this picture? Plenty. Because the so-called “managers” who are exerting this influence on corporate structure and strategy are, first, not professional business managers at all but private or government employees rewarded largely for their attempts to generate increased returns over short periods of time. Secondly, these people invest (and vote) with money that actually belongs not to them, but to the wage-earners who have virtually no say in where their pension money is invested or how that investment may ultimately affect their own job security in the years to come.

The reality is that this deferred voting power could have a lasting and quite possibly detrimental effect on the very people the pension funds are supposed to benefit: the pensioners themselves.
What we are witnessing is the institutionalization of American business. It was inadvertently spawned by ERISA and Federal and legal constraints making it virtually impossible for pension funds not to take a higher price on a company under hostile or otherwise leveraged attack. This has placed unchecked power behind institutional investors to influence and undermine corporate management’s control over businesses they’re paid to run. Their understanding and utililization of this phenomenon has provided the impetus (and resources) necessary to encourage complex legal buyouts and hostile M&A arrangements among corporate raiders and aggressive financial exploiters alike. Many of these deals couldn’t happen without the supporting power institutional funds wield through proxy power.

How did this come about? By encouraging the Funds to vote and sell to the highest immediate bidder, government, legal and performance fears have focused the institutions toward short term market performance. This offers scant incentive to finding the competent business managers to lead American companies, the best of whom operate towards disciplined, long range objectives. Instead, it has become commonplace to read about takeover coalitions of institutions, bankers, and M&A speculators manipulating even successful businesses for immediate profits and huge fees. This attitude has become so pervasive through the availability of tax deductible debt we’ve come to casually accept such absurdities as Pan Am’s bid to acquire NWA, or investor groups leveraging ownership based on massive “junk bond” issues and bank loans.
Corporations which have endured withering proxy fights over the last few years are, of course, a matter of rapidly expanding public record. On many levels the investment community and major institutions specifically, have been aroused into a frenzy of so-called “shareholder” activism. This has been supplemented through mutual collaboration among the fund managers, imbuing them with make-or-break prerogative at the board room table One such cooperative pairing, forged initially during the battle for Texaco, recently surfaced again in a situation which broadly illustrates the issues at stake”.

In May of 1989, Honeywell Inc. management unsuccessfully fought an aggressive shareholder action intended to contain the company’s efforts to protect itself from hostile takeover. Spearheading the assault were two public pension funds and a group of Texas financial specialists. Together they not only succeeded in neutralizing the firm’s anti-takeover measures, they also demanded strategic changes in the firm’s approach to its business, including recommending divesture of assets and repurchase of stock.

Who, exactly, were Honeywell’s new, self-appointed business “advisors”? One was a 26 year old former takeover analyst at Goldman Sachs; another a Labor Department pension administrator who is a self-proclaimed shareholder’s rights advocate and institutional consultant. The California Public Employees Retirement System (CALPERS) and the Pennsylvania Public School Employee’s Retirement, (well acquainted through their successfully united efforts during the Texaco affair), rounded out the group. As of early May, these combined entities held 4.5% of Honeywell’s outstanding shares on behalf of their constituents. Yet their assertive action in winning the proxy fight with Honeywell management infused them with powerful leverage over the basic composition and direction of that company.

Who elected these people to this exalted and influential position? It’s certainly doubtful whether California’s public employees or Pennsylvania’s school workers even know who their fund managers are, let alone their qualifications to manage either their money or a business. Never-the-less, the “Fund Financiers” and a growing number of their contemporaries have assumed a power and authority based not on their own assets but on those of the pension contributors they are hired to serve.

What knowledge, experience and talent in their respective backgrounds qualify them to take major, long-term business decisions on behalf of a billion dollar corporation? Has any one of them actually run a multi-national business?

Does a career as a Labor Department administrator, take-over artist, or pension fund manager hone executive skills worthy of board room level influence over a company as diversified and globally significant as Honeywell? Is their “advice” good for Honeywell? Is it good for the country? (Honeywell is a leading defense contractor). More to the point, is it good for the working people whose jobs and future retirement security depend upon these decisions?

To be fair, Honeywell itself has not demonstrated strong performance of late under its existing leadership, having suffered significant losses in 1988. Yet its management is currently making a sincere effort to refocus and reposition itself against its strongest, most profitable opportunities. Whether successful or not in the end, it can be reasonably assumed their intentions are to preserve the firm as a profitable, individually managed and publicly owned entity over the long-term.

By contrast, it is difficult to imaging the moves recommended to date by the proxy group are strictly designed with the prolonged health and independence of the firm in mind. One might easily conclude, in fact, given the history of the players involved, that their objective is merely to enhance Honeywell’s viability as a takeover target.

The fundamental question in this and an escalating number of similar situations remains whether these recommendations are to the long-term benefit of the people who really made this power play possible, in this case California’s public employees and taxpayers and Pennsylvania’s educators. Were they consulted about the repercussions from a potentially dismantled Honeywell? Have they pondered over what happens to their own job security if Honeywell is forced to divest itself or divisions, subsidiaries, or manufacturing plants in California and Pennsylvania?

These are difficult, far-reaching considerations. Yet sadly, it is too frequently short-term profit that seems to drive today’s aggressive pension fund strategies. Though professing to be a “quintessential long-term investors”, the average fund officer is unlikely to be around and accountable by the time most contributors are collecting their pensions. He is apt to be far more concerned whether return on the assets he manages exceeds the markets’ this quarter or next; or, in the case of government officials, how such decisions will affect his political aspirations. It’s “bird in the hand” decision-making, built upon the realities of the business and the regulations which govern it.

As these investment professionals flex their expanding muscle and crow about their new-found clout, one must wonder---who’s looking out for the guy whose money is really on the table? How many of the funds’ beneficiaries truly reap the rewards from excess returns created by an LBO or corporate raid? Most pension plans offer fixed benefits to their participants anyway! Who, then, actually reaps the profits? The answer is obvious: It is the investment bankers, LBO/M&A specialists, corporate raiders, and pension fund manager engineering these deals that have the most to gain, along with the arbitragers and a few fortunate stock speculators.

Who loses? All of us, in some way. Jobs and careers are destroyed or displaced as mergers and/or highly leveraged firms are forced to sell off their assets to cover awesome debts, resulting in unemployment and closed factories. As taxpayers, we lose vast revenues as these firms finance themselves through debt instruments written off at public expense due to substantial interest accruals to tax free institutions. And, as a nation of producers, we suffer a debilitating corporate and investment mentality which rewards short-sighted, self-protective business thinking instead of commitment, planning, and reinvestment for the future. It is the legacy of too much power concentrated in too few hands.

Not surprisingly, this burgeoning usurpation of economic might has come under congressional scrutiny. The new Chairman of the Senate’s Budget Committee, Senator James Sasser, has taken an active interest in whether pension fund managers are prudently serving the interest of both their contributors and American industry as a whole. Even Secretary Brady of Treasury has reportedly been considering ways to encourage these managers to invest, with a more long-term view of the country. To date, however, Government is clearly nervous about the repercussions of taking serious action and risking tremors on Wall Street. Yet failure to address this issue squarely could result in a crisis on the magnitude of the savings and loan industry as we continue to officially sanction highly leveraged debt as a viable means to own and manage major businesses. Sooner or later the bill comes due, and it will be the taxpayers and true stockholders who are left holding it in the end.

Why not, instead, cut to the source of the issue? Why not ban voting entirely for institutional fund managers and arbitragers who invest other people’s money? It would compel a less proactive evaluation of investments, encouraging analysis based on real earning power over time rather than how they might be manipulated for quick gains. Secondly, eliminating proxies should help curb abuse of shareholder power for the benefit of risky LBO’s offering dubious benefit to employees and shareholders alike. Finally, if there is an issue of critical importance to pension fund shareholders, it will be the obligation of both the fund overseer and corporate management to marshal the vote directly. This means, of course, devising an efficient method of polling fund constituents on the virtues of whatever issue(s) are at hand. No small consideration, certainly, but hardly impossible given the agility of electronic communication today.

Concurrently, it is also time to review the rules of ERISA, with due consideration given to ways to stimulate long-term investing. Perhaps if pension managers’ incomes were tied to five and ten-year annuity payouts, based on their fund’s performance over that period, we might witness more attention paid to the broader implications behind institutional “macro-investments”. The shareholder can thus retain some control over his own benefit program through direct voting, while the pension manager can focus on that which he is presumably best equipped to do: manage investment allocations for long-term safety and growth.

Business as a whole would benefit, as well. Such natural obstacles to amassing vast proxy leverage might gradually impede the near desperate “urge to merge” afflicting corporate America today. Despite the jargon of Wall Street’s players, sound investing for the future of one’s business or personal life is not a game. Virtually every LBO or M&A deal arranged behind backroom doors eventually affects the lives of hundreds, even thousands of people whose opinions were never consulted.

Exposure to the facts and possible repercussions of a highly leveraged takeover might give shareholders pause before opting for the easy, short-term gain. Perhaps an aware constituency will respond as the Northwest Airlines pilots did to the financial harpies hovering over NWA Inc. In a national ad in the Wall Street Journal they warned: “We will not willingly place our future in the hands of an unknown party whose highly-leveraged acquisition plans can only be financed by the breakup value of all or part of this corporation”.

This frequently buffeted group is all too aware of the consequences of Wall Street gamesmanship. They’ve learned the hard way about leaving their fate in the hands of a few financial quick-turn artists. Similarly, as long as the public remains apathetic about its investment rights, it will be left to the few to assume authority and stir the pot at their discretion…and for their benefit.

If “shareholders’ rights” is to be truly meaningful and representative issue, it must be made applicable to the actual shareholders themselves. It should refer to their right to vote as they invest, rather than as a cover for blatant corporate extortion by a select few. It is time we expose the ironies at play here and uphold the principles upon which our nation and its commercial enterprise system were founded. When it’s other people’s money at stake, those other people ought to have the right to vote their choice!

Monday, April 22, 2013

UNIVERSALISM VERSUS REALITY

This blog may seem like it's about religion, it's really not meant to be. I prefer to think it's really about politics.  So review this one in your mind after you've read the whole thing.

It's pretty well accepted that there has been antisemitism against the Jews in European countries. In one period, from the late 1700's to the mid 1800's, there was a decline in the antisemitism. Although living isolated lives, Jews were pretty much allowed to assimilate into society in general.  After the mid 1800's antisemitism  flared up again. Certain Jews decided on different methods of dealing with the antisemitism.

One of the ways was to assimilate, another way was to move towards the West and yet another way was to become even further isolated from the general community.

Jews lived primarily in ghetto type areas between the Polish Austrian corridor and into Russia, three, four five six million of them,   The return of antisemitism made it apparent to many that the traditional Jew was not easily going to be able to assimilate into European society.  Following a more orthodox route just made the antisemitism worse. Therefore several millions of the Jews that lived by Rabbinic Talmudic law instead of traditional government law moved West.

Changing their names, changing their clothes, attempting to assimilate did little to accelerate their integration into European society.  Since they weren't going to be easily accepted as Jews there developed the concept of Zionism.  Jews should live in a place where you could be Jewish ultimately resolving into the creation of the Jewish nation state.

We live in a world where China, Russia, India, United States, North Korea, Pakistan, Britain, France, etc. have atomic weapons.  Some series of circumstances has allowed this to be the acceptable norm.

In France a law has been passed that Muslims cannot wear their traditional clothing.  In England, Muslims have been attempting to live, some may say by overly influencing British society, in any case not really integrating into the system.  Imagine a large number of Muslim men and women walking around the United States compared to just a large amount of people,  What is it about the large Muslim walking people that could attract all the negative reaction?

As the Jew could not find equal acceptability in Europe, there is no question that the Muslim finds integration, especially in Muslim clothing, especially difficult anywhere but in a Muslim country.

So what we are really saying is if you come here or there, you by in large become like us.  We are not going to become like you, you are going to become like us, otherwise stay where you were.

This flies in the face of logic.  The entire concept of the European Union is no borders, no passports, a common currency and court system and the universality of man, but in practice the nations have not accepted the universal paradigm facing a billion Muslims.

The problem with Israel is not that its a Jewish country, it's that it is a secular country.

The Muslims in general are not interested in a universal world.  The Ayatollah is interested that the Mahdee for Islam appear to reset the mistakes of Judaism and Christianity.  Israel is a threat because it really doesn't want to be religious, it wants to be universal and secular.  Many Americans want to be Judeo-Christians and Europeans seem to want to be everything but Muslim.

So as the Jews, since they really could not integrate, went west and west and west.  The Muslims, being of so many people, don't have many reasons to retreat.  Unfortunately we have very little reason to deny them what they really want and stand on a thin thread of power politics destined to retreat unless the other powers of the world line up in unison once and for all against nuclear proliferation and terrrorism, no matter what has to be done to prevent it.   

Monday, April 1, 2013

GUNS AND GANGS...CHICAGO'S LEGACY? (ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 2/22/13)

THE COUNTRY WILL ARM MORE AND MORE UNTIL THE TRUTH IS TOLD...TODAY'S HEADLIINES FROM NBC CHICAGO...HUNDREDS OF TEENS MOB PEDESTRIANS IN THE LOOP

Here is the link:

http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Hundreds-of-Teens-Mob-Pedestrians-in-the-Loop-200755191.html200755191.html


Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff for the Obama administration was elected Mayor of
Chicago.  One of his major campaign pledges was to enforce gun control more strictly.

What has Emanuel really done to clean up this town?  Since his election the murder rate and crime in Chicago has become front page news and he has been ineffective in confronting the gangs and the criminal element in the minority population.

Vice President Biden decides to visit Newton Connecticut to discuss gun control.  Why doesn't he go to Chicago, the town where gun violence is out of control, and discuss his agenda.

This is typical for members of the Obama administration.  Significant problems like guns, unemployment and the Middle East get lots of rhetoric.  Judge for yourself whether they get results.

They travel to a small town in Connecticut to speak on gun control but avoid confronting the urban areas and people responsible for a disproportionate amount of gun related murders and crimes...




Friday, March 8, 2013

ALLY FINANCIAL - ORIGINALLY POSTED 2/24/12

You think we would have learned our lesson.  Every time I turned around I saw this ad for Ally Bank promising consumers all kinds of wonderful benefits.  Upon a quick look it turned out that Ally was nothing more than part of the whole Obama thoughtless financing of questionable companies.  I now read that Ally Financial is hiring a turnaround specialist, probably at huge fees.

Did you ever notice all the ads on TV with disclaimers of one sort or another in letters that are so small they can hardly be seen and certainly can't be read?  So much for change and transparency under this Presidential Administration.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

ANTI-GROWTH POLICY...DESTRUCTIVE...SEQUESTER MEANINGLESS(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 7/11/11)

There is so much talk about the deficit. Most of it is just plain wrong.

The deficits the Federal government was having almost every year going back to 1975 were generally manageable. Unfortunately, between 2008 and 2009 the federal income tax receipts dropped $400 Billion dollars. As a response, spending increased almost $1 Trillion dollars in order to stop a slide into depression. The policy has succeeded. Unfortunately the total deficit then became $1.4 Trillion dollars. There really wasn’t a significant deficit problem until the housing and financial crisis of 2008. That’s the first matter.

The second matter is all the talk about Medicare and Medicaid is total nonsense. The facts are that about 50 percent of all medical care expenses go to people 65 and over. EITHER WE WANT TO TAKE CARE OF THESE PEOPLE OR WE DON’T. Furthermore, most of the payments to take care of these people 65 and over go to pay for labor. Do you really think that labor costs are not going to rise and do you also think we aren’t going to take care of the people 65 and over? Well we are going to take care of the people 65 and over and labor costs are not really going to decline.

On the Medicaid end with younger people we take care of the indigent and the disabled. Yes, there are some crooks and cheats. AGAIN THE QUESTION IS DO WE AS A NATION WANT TO TAKE CARE OF THE INDIGENT AND DISABLED THAT ARE NOT CROOKS AND CHEATS OR DON'T WE? Or do we just want to tighten the procedures for those that really need help.

I don’t know what the “Tea Party” stands for and I’m basically a Republican. Unless you want Disney running our national parks and want to rely on Boeing to run the NASA program we better face up to the fact that government is here to stay. Most of the expenses are fixed and no matter what your political viewpoint, probably necessary.

The problem is we are destructive of our own national wealth. We let corporate executives who cheat assume practically no liability for mismanagement. We let our unions destroy major industries by not finding a way to adjust wages when competitive forces require it.

There is only one way out of this. Increase corporate and personal tax receipts by growth and incentive not by creating a “rich against poor” environment.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

SEQUESTER - FISCAL CLIFF...IT'S ALL THE SAME (ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 11/30/12)

Economic policy is geared towards controlling inflation during strong periods and controlling unemployment during weak periods.

The current "mania" over the fiscal cliff is a equivalent to the "mania" that occurred during the housing crisis.

It became the common wisdom and popular delusion that the price of residential real estate would rise in a straight line forever.  Obviously this was a delusion.  The delusion became so strong that people were allowed to borrow from banks the delusional paper profits that existed on their homes.  There was no regard for whether the personal income of the borrowers was rising enough to ever pay back the exaggerated mortgages.

Somehow or other a delusion has been created that it's okay to cut back on government deficits even when there is significant slack in the economy, little or no inflation, and unemployment well above the reported figures.

Therefore the politicians risk accepting an obviously incorrect economic policy for the current environment.  They have convinced a significant percentage of the population that the deficit is bad, no matter what economic conditions call for.  This is the same as being convinced that the price of houses would rise rapidly forever.

The Republican line of focusing on the deficit is the wrong policy at the moment.  Borrowing against an inflated house, at the wrong time, is the same as focusing on the deficit control at the wrong time.

There is a second delusional element that has come into the mainstream at exactly the wrong time. This combines with delusion number one, deficit reduction 2013.  Attempting to raise taxes for anyone while the economy is in a marginal state, is incorrect economic policy, as bad or worse than the prior discussion on deficit control.

We now face a government, on both sides, that have dug themselves into policies that are similar to the loaning against hyper inflated houses with risks that are clearly unknown.  Federal taxes have to be  paid by everyone and the government has to lead the way dynamically to modernize this country.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

HOUSING BUBBLE VS. GOLD BUBBLE (ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2010)

Two sides to gold - bullish and bearish - for those of us that still own gold it's important to be aware of both. You then stake the claim and hope you are right...

A friend of mine bought a home for $300,000 ten years ago. By 2007, the price of similar homes in their neighborhood had tripled in value.

During the period when the price of housing was rising so rapidly, banks were criticized for collecting deposits in one impoverished area of the country and lending it out in other more prosperous regions. The quality of the loans was not a factor, the equitable distribution of loans seemed more important. People all over the country were ecstatic over their increase of wealth through home ownership.

The government, in spite of everything, had created Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac and everything possible to increase home ownership. Practically no one was telling homeowners to liquidate their homes. Construction of homes was booming, millions of people were employed in the sector and no one dared to stop this lucrative bubble.

When the house I mentioned above was purchased in 1999, it would have taken approximately 1000 ounces of gold to pay for the home. Today, it would take only 250 ounces of gold to buy the same $300,000 house. Housing prices have “crashed” and gold has soared. In effect, gold has gone from $350 per ounce in 1999 to $1300 per ounce today.

Gold is basically a useless commodity. The price is a “bubble” that may sustain itself forever and ever, but it is a bubble. You can’t eat gold, it’s hard to carry, it earns you no money and its industrial uses are limited. Again, no one dares to tell people to sell their gold even though you can now buy it in vending machines. No one would even think of telling the mining industry to stop the production of gold, for fear of destroying yet another industry that is the primary source of employment and revenues in many struggling countries. I think we are all aware of the macro reasons that are being suggested to support current gold prices.

Keynes said that in the end investing is nothing more than a game of musical chairs and that when the music stops; we don’t want to be the ones without a chair. We still own gold. The late removal of hedges should finally allow the gold mining companies to achieve significant earnings increases. When interest rates normalize, gold prices will fall substantially. In the meantime, the music continues to play...Stay tuned.

Friday, February 8, 2013

DELL...A CARD FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE DECK?

In my 55 years in the investment business I would be hard pressed find a bigger boondoggle than the Dell situation.  Dell should be capable of paying shareholders a $5 dividend from their excess cash and earning power.  That action would probably reduce the price of Dell's stock to about $8 a share.

The $8 a share stock would be earning somewhere around $1.30 to $1.60 a share. This would enable them to pay as much .70 or .80 cents a share annual dividend, yielding close to 10%.

Whatever savings Mr. Dell plans to make after the company is private would be welcomed by shareholders while it is public and should add further to earnings.

The idea that those actions can't be taken because Dell is a  public company borders on the absurd, and seems to be an attempt to confuse smaller shareholders.

Obviously there are risks in the fundamentals of the PC industry, but do not deceive yourself.  It is totally illogical to think that Mr. Dell would put his shares into the new company plus almost 1 billion dollars on top of the leverage created, if he didn't expect a hefty return.

Give us a break Mr. Dell...investors aren't that stupid.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

US GOVERNMENT VS. STANDARD AND POORS...

The implications of the government lawsuit against Standard and Poors will have ramifications far beyond the simple claims which are being made.  Over time, this case will rock the Democratic party to its core and bring the entire process of government under a black dark cloud.  Stay tuned...

Monday, February 4, 2013

PAY BACK TIME FOR THE STANDARD AND POORS RATING AGENCY...(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JUNE 2012)

There can be no doubt that Franklin Roosevelt was an immensely impressive human being.  His ability to bring an extremely divided nation through the depression years and through a devastating World War II is beyond the conceptual powers of most of us mortals.  He was a great man whether you believed in some of his policies or not. 
Many of his economic views were concerned with what human beings were "entitled" to.  Entitlement had to be paid for.  An elaborate system of taxation on almost every level of society was put into place.  Medicare tax, Medicaid tax, Social Security Tax, Property Tax...TAX,TAX, TAX.

Along the way a lot of little things happened.  One of those little things was the government approving three bond rating services, Standard and Poors, Moodys and Fitch.

Here is the point.  Over the years, common sense would tell you that the agencies saw the eroding financial stability of many states, cities, etc.  It became absolutely impossible for the agencies to lower the ratings.  It was tacitly understood that the taxing power of municipalities would cover the revenue needs of these entities.  It didn't matter if the quality of the revenue streams were eroding and that the demands of labor, supported by liberal politicians, was raising costs as the ability to tax was diminishing. 

The agencies had to know that if they lowered ratings, in accordance with the financial flows of the municipal agencies, the interest cost of raising money would have been higher and higher.  So the concept was created that it didn't matter if the financial stability of municipalities was eroding because in the end, the federal government would bail out the municipalities.  Therefore, why lower the municipality ratings as they were as good as the federal government was conceptually.  Arguably, even though municipalities were separate from the federal government for financing, that was really a mirage.  The rating agencies understood it, the municipalities understood it, and the federal government understood it.  Above all else, labor unions understood it so why not just unionize the government workforce and in the end the federal government will be responsible.

Along comes the housing crises of 2008 and the federal government starts to look for scape goats and finds that the rating agencies seem to have overrated lots of municipal securities. 

Okay, so then some congressional committee starts to investigate the rating agencies for incompetence. This looks good to the public and guess what...the rating agencies say "Wait a minute...they are blaming us for helping them keep their interest costs down.  We just did what they wanted us to do." Okay what to do.  Guess what. The rating agencies decide to go honest. They reduce the credit rating of the federal government for the first time ever.  In effect they were saying as in a famous Jack Nicholson movie, "You don't want to hear the truth. You can't take it." 

The only saving grace is that as things stands today, the federal government can print money forever.  Consequently, it can pay its bills in dollars that are worth something, be they municipal or federal obligations. 

People in the government are always changing, no one has to take responsibility,  and they can take all their time blaming everyone else when something goes wrong.

There is no doubt Roosevelt was a great man.  But to this day the crash of colliding viewpoints hasn't figured out how to truly raise the standard of living.

More on this subject will follow...

Friday, February 1, 2013

OPPORTUNITY- YES EASY- NO (ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN DECEMBER 2010)

Most professional investors use pretty much the same approach to investing assets. They try to ignore the trend of the market, don’t waste their time on economic forecasts and overweight a sector, industry or company plus or minus a few percentage points.
It’s been well shown by the performance of index funds that outperforming the markets, year in and year out, is one heck of a difficult task.

Without going into detail, I’ll summarize the market in one quick sentence. There is ample opportunity to win if you are either smart or lucky. The key word is opportunity.

Over the years I have successfully invested my own money by buying securities, both for trading and investing. I’m happy to share with you, for whatever it’s worth, some of my more rudimentary thoughts about making money.

1. KNOW YOUR RISK LEVEL

2. KNOW IF IT’S JUST A GAMBLE

3. NOT BELIEVING THE TREND OF CURRENT EARNINGS PER SHARE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN VALUE

4. NOT BEING ABLE TO COMPARE FEELINGS OF VALUE VS. FEELINGS OF THE CHART

5. POSITIONS CAN BE SMALL

6. BUILD ON SUCCESS

7. ONLY DO WHAT YOU THINK IS RIGHT

8. NOT ACTING ON A THOUGHT WHEN YOU HAVE IT

9. LACK OF PATIENCE

10. NOT WAITING FOR A THOUGHT TO COME

11. ACT ON FEELINGS WHEN YOU GET THEM

12. KNOW WHY YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING

13. GAMBLE A BIT MORE

14. LOOK AT ALL DIFFERENT CHARTS

15. CORRECT MISTAKES – RIGHT OR WRONG

16. WORK A LITTLE HARDER ON THE FACTS

17. YOU MUST ACT IN ORDER TO SUCCEED

18. IF YOU CAN, RATE YOUR FEELINGS – WEAK, MEDIUM, STRONG

19. IF THINGS DON’T GO WELL, WRITE DOWN WHY NOT

20. VALUE IS NOT THE STORY, TREND AND DIRECTION OF EARNINGS IS


21. WHEN THE CHARTS SEEM TO READ A DIFFERENT STORY FOLLOW THE ONE WHICH IS MOST LONG TERM
22. YOU DON’T HAVE TO SELL THE WHOLE POSITION

23. SMALL GAINS DON’T MAKE YOU RICH


24. WHEN YOU MAKE A LOT OF MONEY TOO FAST, TAKE PROFITS

25. WHEN A COMPANY MAKES THEIR NUMBERS AND ACHIEVES THEIR GOALS YOU REWARD THEM BY STAYING BY THEIR SIDE, WHEN THEY FAIL YOU LESSEN POSITION

26. TRIPLING YOUR MONEY MEANS NOTHING IF IT'S ONLY SMALL PERCENTAGE OF YOUR ASSETS
27. ONLY TOTAL RETURN COUNTS

 

Shepard Osherow. All Rights Reserved