Thursday, December 31, 2009

Puff of Smoke

"It's Lao's time."
--Lee (Enter the Dragon)

As we open the door into 2010, I still sense a pretty good chance of another deflationary wave lower. Given US debt levels that have only increased over the past year, it seems straightforward to speculate about a domestically led deflationary mechanism.

Increasingly, however, I wonder whether the mechansim might be situated in China. China's planners have been stepping on the economic gas pedal and signs of overcapacity are growing. Moreover, urban Chinese real estate markets are sporting that familiar bubblicious feel.

Centrally planned systems inevitably misallocate capital in a big way. If China's planners have mistakenly allocated enormous sums of capital toward facilities, raw materials, and, yes, US debt that they 'shouldn't' have, then the bust that follows will almost certainly resonate globally in a deflationary fashion.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Anti Social

Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee it's good to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey disconnect the phone
--The Beatles

James Turk questions whether sovereign debt defaults signal the end of socialism. Doesn't seem eminent to me, but he's correct that insolvency of socialistic systems is inevitable.

He captures a few nice quotes about socialism/statism worthy of record for future reference.

"Socialism is workable only in heaven where it isn't needed, and in hell where they've got it."
--Cecil Palmer

"The State is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else."
--Frederic Bastiat

"The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."
--Margaret Thatcher

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism in the equal sharing of miseries."
--Winston Churchill

Would like to have specific cites for these...

Forecast Forethought

"Personally, I'd give us one chance in three. More tea anyone?"
--Captain Marko Ramius

Professor Kostohryz reminds us of the lack of value in making predictions for the new year.

I also liked his approach to scenario analysis. He assigns a 65% chance of a self sustaining recovery and a 35% of a double dip recession. While that would seemingly tilt his financial choices toward the bullish side, he also notes that the consequences of the double dip would be drastic. As such, this is keeping him in cash till he sees the odds more in his favor.

Nice lesson in a 'weighted average' probability assessment--weighted based on the severity of being wrong.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

He Said, She Said, Op Ed

She went to home economics just like all the other girls
Making chicken a la king and peanut butter swirls
But she knew in her heart there had to be something better somewhere
--Don Henley

Why are missives that appear in Op-Ed sections labeled opinion and not fact? Primarily because opinions are contestable.

For instance, opinion writers like this one can make claims about events (e.g., the first major wave of banking deregulation was done by the Reagan administration), or about cause and effect (e.g., no serious bank crackups from 1945 thru 1970s were due to a tightly regulated banking system) that don't have to be defended by data or by careful reason.

Were such claims submitted to intellectually honest scrutiny, they are unlikely to be viewed as valid.

As such, opinions tend to be easier to generate than more reasoned forms. Less work.

One reason why I'm not particularly fond of verbal debates is that they nearly always reflect battles of opinion. It is particularly difficult during conversation (at least for me) to have command over the thought process or facts necessary to justify claims in a valid manner.

Writing, however, puts claims to the test. Written claims become subject to self-scrutiny and to the scrutiny of others.

Well reasoned outlets are careful to admit only those writings that withstand intellectually honest review.

Op-ed outlets don't do this, which reduces their value to the critical thinker.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Up Escalator

Now - the mist across the windows hides the lines
But nothing hides the color of the lights that shine
Electricity so fine
Look and dry your eyes
--Joe Jackson

Bonds have been getting sold. Although not huge in absolute terms, 10 yr yields have risen nearly 20% since early December. From where I sit, the technical picture suggests higher rates, as a multiyear downtrend appears may be reversing. Moreover, the pattern has a reverse head and shoulders-ish look to it.

It goes without saying that higher rates are a negative for an economy dependent on stimulus and credit.

What might be moving this market? Another $trillion spending bill, raising of the debt ceiling, and Senate passage of the health care bill for starters. All of these suggest more credit demand by the gov't, and lenders are raising the price. It's also hard not to view these initiatives as inflationary.

A move above TNX 40 (4% 10 yr yield) will likely grab significant attention.

position in USD

Saturday, December 26, 2009

At the Arcade

They worship me and all I touch
Hazy eyed they catch my glance
Pleasant shudders shake their senses
My warm momentum throws their stance
--The Who

After the Senate's early Xmas Eve morning passage of its health care bill, President Obama served up some glad tidings in a press conference (click the video link here). Those who accept the claims made here are not engaging their brains.

The president clearly paints the insurance industry as primary bad guys here. To the extent that industry participants do actually possess pricing power, much of it comes from regulation. For example, current regs prohibit interstate competition.

If we focus on the 'problem' of rising health care costs, then there are other factors contributing at least as equally, including out of control malpractice process, presence of federal programs and subsidies (currently at ~45% of US health care expenditures, and a design that favors a 3rd party payment system--which removes consumer motivation to shop for value.

The bill on the table does nothing but elevate these factors to a higher level of relevance.

I found it amusing that the president equates this bill with the most significant piece of 'social legislation' since Social Security in the 1930s and Medicaid in the 1960s. Those two programs, of course, have generated a pile of $30+ trillion of unfunded liabilities--and growing.

Near the end of his remarks, the president offers that this bill, should it be voted into law, will prevent us from 'dooming' future generations from rising health costs, reduced health coverage, and exploding deficits.

Yet, only fools would not conclude that it is precisely this future, one of squalor, that is the odds on favorite should this bill come to pass.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Long Throw

"Of all the ideas that became the United States, there's a line here that lies at the heart of all the others."
--Benjamin Franklin Gates (National Treasure)

It has long been understood that individuals are prone to cede some amount of liberty and freedom to an abusive government before pushing back. When scribing the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson was careful to note such:

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

However, when that breaking point is reached, notes Jefferson:

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Ben Gates, I think you nailed it...

The abuses and usurpations are mounting at an accelerated pace. I find it difficult not to wonder whether the health care issue pushes things over the top.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's Only Natural

Their prophet says, "Submit." Jesus says, "Decide."
--Sibylla (Kingdom of Heaven)

How do you view the natural state of individuals?

Do you believe that the natural state of individuals is to be free, where individuals are at liberty to pursue their own destinies as they see fit?

Or do you believe that the natural state of individuals is to be restrained, where individuals must conform to the will of others?

A strong view in either direction is likely to lead person down completely different paths in life.

The Founders were strong in their view, and it led them to amazing achievements.

Media Melodrama

I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
And now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
--The Beatles

My sister tosses another log onto the firey debate about media bias. The general argument has been with us for some time and usually follows a common sequence. First one or more media outlets are identified that purportedly present limited viewpoints on a story that merits multiple perspectives. Evidence is then offered in support of this claim (ironically, such evidence often seems quite one sided itself). Finally, it is often suggested that something must be done to change this bias, or that a particular outlet's pattern should be emulated.

One issue with this train of thought is the underlying assumption that media outlets 'should' be unbiased in the first place. In markets, supply follows demand. If consumers of media content favor drivel over sound thought process, then that is what suppliers will deliver. And, if you agree with the claim that there has been a general decline in critical thinking among US citizens, then it should be no surprise that providers have segmented to cater to particular taste preferences for biased content.

If there is an unmet need for balanced, thoughtful content, then opportunity exists for entrepreneurs.

Particularly on the web, some innovators can be observed pursuing such an objective.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


In violent times, you shouldn't have to sell your soul
In black and white, they really, really ought to know
--Tears for Fears

If you seek understanding of the Depression from the a classical economic perspective, there's none better than Murray Rothbard's work. Rothbard was a student of credit expansion and contraction (a.k.a. booms and busts), and his apolitical style is fresh and fun to read.

In this missive, Rothbard refutes the claim that the Depression was a consequence of 'free market capitalism' gone awry. As he notes, markets were not free during the Roaring Twenties runup into the period. Bureaucratic policies, such as ultra loose credit from the Fed, blew a bubble that ultimately burst. Subsequent intervention by bureaucrats to 'fix' the bust merely extended the corrective period.

Indeed, as Rothbard notes, never in previous US history had there been such significant intervention, nor had there been such a drawn out depression.

History often rhymes...loudly.

See Rothbard (1963) for his seminal cite-laden work in this area.


Rothbard, M.N. 1963. America's Great Depression. Princeton, NJ: D Van Nostrand Co.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Time Passages

It was late in December, the sky turned to snow
All round the day was going down slow
--Al Stewart

Nice comparison graph of where the S&P stands versus two other prolonged market downturns. Note that we're only halfway thru the 20 yr time scale. And that during both the 'Depression' and 'Japan' comparison series touched -80% at least once during the 20 yr period.

What do all 3 of these periods have in common. Massive credit expansion followed by a bust, a.k.a. deflation.

position in S&P

Distraction Action

"You see, boys forget what their country means by just reading The Land of the Free in history books. Then they get to be men and they forget even more."
--Jefferson Smith (Mr Smith Goes to Washington)

Following nearly two decades of informal development and two years of formal drafting and revision, bureaucrats quickly pushed the Federal Reserve Act thru holiday thin House and Senate votes just before Christmas in 1913.

Fast forward 96 years and we find the Senate trying to jam thru a $trillion health care bill. A final vote is scheduled for, yep, Christmas Eve.

When politicians seek to push bills thru holiday periods, they often want to exploit distraction.

By many measures, The Federal Reserve Act has proven to be one of the most consequential pieces of legislation enacted in United States history. Distracted citizenry has paid dearly for chronic inattention.

Does history repeat with the health care issue?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weird Science

Henry Donnelly: "I'm not going to stand here and listen to this baloney."
Carmen Donnelly: "He won't, you know. He doesn't stand for baloney."
--Weird Science

At last week's global warming mtg in Copenhagen, President Obama once again proclaimed that the 'science' of global warming is not up for debate.

This, of course, is not true as nearly every claim offered by global warming proponents is contestable.

The purpose of science and inquiry should be pursuit of the truth. The truth is an idealistic construct that will likely never be completely elaborated. Thru iterative learning process, however, progress can be made.

When doors leading toward inquiry and reasoned debate are closed, then science ceases to exist.

What is called 'science' is instead propoganda used by bureaucrats to pursue political agendas.

Mainland Movement

"To seek safety, one must go into the heart of danger."
--Leroy Green (The Last Dragon)

Many folks point toward the 21st century as belonging to China. On the surface, it seems 'obvious.' A billion in a half people now in the 'developing' stage of economic activity. Economically, China's growth has been on a moonshot. Multi-consecutive years of double digit economic growth has vaulted China's economy into the #4 slot in the world.

Few people, however, seem to inquire about the factors behind China's quick rise. Let me offer a couple.

Cheap credit world wide. Low cost borrowing has goosed world demand for stuff, as well as investment in Chinese productive capacity.

China credit. China has been recycling funds received from others into extending even more credit to borrowers.

Centrally planned supply. China is a communist country that operates a centrally planned economy. The planners have 'decided' that China should become a world power, and they have been channeling resources toward export driven industries.

On the surface, the planners' mercantilistic strategy appears smart, as China's positive trade surpluses are the envy in the world.

What we know based on history, however, is that central planners chronically misallocate resources over time. Planners have to get two things correct: properly allocating resources for today, and then continually adjusting those resources based on the dynamics of tomorrow.

This is a tall order. My sense is that China's planners' will fail at some point, with consequences that will certainly spill over to the world.

Currently, there are growing signs of over supply in many Chinese sectors. Yet China's planners keep adding capacity and buying commodities such as steel, copper, and oil to support them.

This has the makings of a socialistic bust that, should it occur, will send deflationary waves that abroad.

no positions

Friday, December 18, 2009

Herd on the Street

"Hey, check out the Dukes over there. They must know somethiing. Let's get in on it."
--Floor trader (Trading Places)

Why is herding such a dominant social phenomenon? We see it in market behavior, where buyers are higher and sellers lower. We see it in fashion trends, political movements.

Some suggest it's in our genes. Survival instinct at work. Just as animals bunch together, we perceive strength in numbers.

But we're not like other animals. What separates us from other organisms is our sense of self-awareness. Reliance on our limbic systems is rarely necessary because we have the capacity for reason.

Reasoning permits us to process information and make rational choices. We are in charge if engage our brains. If we don't reason, then we are prone to follow others--thinking that they must 'know something.'

If our primary MO is to tag along with the pack, then we are destined to follow the herd over a cliff at some point.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Risk Reversal

I'm at the carpark, the airport
The baggage carousel
The people keep on crowding
I'm wishing I was well
I said it's no occasion
No story I could tell

The dollar seems to be getting its groove on. The technical picture suggests a trend reversal underway.

All of those carry traders who have been borrowing dollars over the last 6 months to buy risky assets must be praying that this doesn't morph into one mother of a short squeeze.

Should such a scenario come to pass, it will likely be an interesting last couple of weeks in 2009.

position in USD

Stranger Than Fiction

Confusion never stops
Closing walls, and ticking clocks

It's been years since I've read a thick fiction book from start to finish. Why do that when our current reality reads like the wildest of fiction stories?

Time has named Fed chair Ben Bernanke the 2009 Man, er Person, of the Year. Time knows how to pick 'em. Some past choices include Hitler, Stalin (twice), and Khomeini.

Minyanville writers suggest that this event may mark the top in the perceived importance of central banking. We can only hope.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Playground Retro

Daniel LaRusso: "You told me you fought a lot."
Mr Miyagi: "For life, not for points."
--The Karate Kid

Liberals have been bashing Senator Joe Lieberman, primarily because he has wavered in support of the Left's favored health care proposal. This particular tirade includes calls for boycotting charities that sport connections between Lieberman and big pharma.

Politics drips with hypocrisy. It is frequently observed that a particular bureaucrat (e.g., Joe Lieberman) has ties or connections to a particular interest group (e.g., big pharma) and subject to influence from that group. Typically, however, those folks doing the observing are tied to a different interest group (e.g., the Left) and are seeking to impart their own brand of influence (e.g., vote for the health care proposal that we like) on that politician.

One must conclude that the Left isn't upset that Mr Lieberman is subject to influence from interest groups, but that he currently is not kowtowing to the Left's influence.

As long as we operate a government that allows bureaucrats to allocate economic resources, then politicians are likely to have an 'interest.' And interest groups will fight each other like kids on the playground in an effort to influence politicians for a piece of the pie.

Banking on Bullion

"And you can take that to the bank!"
--Senator Vernon Trent (Hard to Kill)

Central banks had been selling gold since $250/oz. Now they're buyin' 'em at $1100+. Not sure where this ranks in terms of contrarian indicators, but central banks actions have been quite fadeable over the yrs.

position in gold

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

House Call

Only the shadows ahead barely clearing the roof
Get to know the feeling of liberation and relief
--Crowded House

Looking for a 30 second summary of the mechanism behind the housing bubble? Check out this commercial for Century 21 circa 2005.

Pretty nice explanation of the thought process...

Rollin' Up the TARP

When I'm working, yes I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's working hard for you
And when the money comes in for the work I do
I'll pass almost every penny on to you
--The Proclaimers

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner proclaims that US gov't will see profits as big banks pay back TARP funds. Don't hold your breath for a dividend or capital gains check in the near future.

As usual, such a proclamation does not tell the whole the story.

The TARP project was only one of many initiatives floated to keep the financial system from coming unglued (think massive bank run). The cost of those other initiatives, such as gov't backing of bank deposits and printing dollars to shore up bank balance sheets, amount to $ trillions.

US citizens will not be getting all that back anytime soon.

position in USD

Monday, December 14, 2009

Con Air

"On any other day, that might seem strange."
--Cameron Poe (Con Air)

On 60 Minutes last nite, President Obama claimed that he 'did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street.' I did the LOL thing when I heard the sound bite.

His record, of course, indicates that he's been bailing out Wall Street since the day he took office. $Trillions have been channeled toward the big banks under this administration's watch. This includes boatloads of free money offered by the Fed so that the fat cats can mend their balance sheets risk free.

The chunky contributions that Wall Street made to the president's campaign are difficult to ignore as well.

Perhaps the president is seeking to counter those in the press who are assessing his actions rather than his words. He's trying to talk a good game. And the president knows that many folks love to listen to him talk.

However, the extent to which the public (and the press) give free passes to statements like this seems a nice proxy for how far capacity for critical thought has fallen.

Generation Gap

People try to put us down
Just because we get around
Things they do look awful cold
I hope I die before I get old
--The Who

I'm not sure we can remind ourselves too many times about the basic economic problem we face. Income, although it's measured in dollars, constitutes a certain quantity of economic resources earned thru labor or effort. We might chop a cord of wood, for example, and sell it for $30. That $30 reflects an amount of economic resources equivalent to that cord of wood we labored to produce.

Our problem then becomes what to do with those $30 worth of resources. We have two basic options. We can consume them, thereby elevating our standard of living today. Or we can save them--i.e., we forego consumption today, which compromises present day standard of living in order to add to our standard of living in the future.

What if we want to elevate our present-day standard of living beyond our income of resources? Then we have to find individuals who have saved some income and are willing to lend their saved resources to us. They may be willing to do this if we promise to pay them back with some extra resources (often termed 'interest') along with their original principal in the future.

The longer we elevate our present-day standard of living beyond our incomes, the greater the chance that we will have to settle for a lower standard of living in the future. This is because we will need to allocate more of our future income of economic resources towards paying off debts to others. Essentially, we have borrowed resources from the future to live in the present.

If we reach a point where we are incapable of paying off our debts, then this means that resources are lost to the future.

This is what is meant when it is suggested that our current behavior threatens the livelihood of future generations.

Keep thinking this basic situation thru until you get it. Once it sinks in, then you will need no 'experts' to tell you what the problem is.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Government Work

"You're either very smart, or incredibly stupid."
--Brill (Enemy of the State)

As unemployment doubled in the past couple of yrs, where have jobs and salaries grown? The government sector, natch. The average government salary is over $70K while the mean in the private sector is about $40K. Six fig gov't pay is way up.

When the chips are down, count on the State to snatch more off the table.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

View from 1932

"I have to believe that when things are bad I can change them."
--Jim Braddock (Cinderella Man)

I'm making my way thru Garet Garrett's The Bubble That Broke the World. Written in 1932, it was Garrett's attempt to explain to the everyday person the causes behind the economic collapse that had engulfed the planet.

In addition to the wonderful writing style (Garrett wrote for the Saturday Evening Post at the time), a primary strength of this book is that it was written while the dust was still in the air following the collapse. As such, it was not subject to the revisionism that often accompanies accounts written long after the fact.

Indeed, the small amount of time between event and assessment makes Garrett's grasp of the situation all the more remarkable and important.

I would recommend chapter 1, Cosmology of the Bubble (the fabu pyramid analogy for public spending projects), and chapter 2, Anatomy of the Bubble (how credit expands in the banking system and how speculation driven by credit ultimately unwinds to cause a collapse), to anyone seeking to understand the dynamics of intervention and the boom/bust cycle.

It is often said that those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. Garrett's word tosses another straw onto the giant pile of evidence to support this claim. Change the date on this book, and it describes the most recent bubble that's breaking our world, and government errors in dealing with it.


Garrett, G. (1932). The bubble that broke the world. Boston: Little, Brown, & Company.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Looking for Clues

Samuel Gerard: "Newman, what are you doing?"
Noah Newman: "I'm thinking."
Samual Gerard: "Well, think me up a cup of coffee and a chocalate donut with some of those little sprinkles on top, while you're thinking."
--The Fugitive

Since making a ton of sales a couple of weeks ago in the pharma names, I've pretty much unplugged from granular tick watching for the time being. Relative to overall assets, my financial market risk profile is as flat as it's been for quite some time, consisting of 2% stocks (residual pharma exposure), 2% currency (long the dollar), and 2% short (token S&P index short).

I can't help but wonder whether growing strength in the USD portends a downside resolution to the sideways tape action. An awful lot of folks have the dollar carry trade on, meaning that they're short dollars and long risky assets of all shapes. If (big if) those folks decide to take risk off and cover their dollar shorts before year end, then we could be looking at the mirror image opposite of the fabled 'Santa Claus' rally.

One would 'think' the technical action in the dollar, which finds it trying to reverse a multi-month downtrend, is an early step in this direction.

Am not acting on this idea currently, but trying to stay alert for clues that further validates (or invalidates) such a scenario unfolding.

position in S&P, USD

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mortgage Meltage

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together
--The Byrds

Heading into year end finds me collecting personal finance thoughts. The biggest move for me this year was, well, moving. I bought a fine little brick house built in 1925. After plopping down a decent sized downpayment, I financed the remainder as a 15 yr fixed mortgage at a respectable 4 5/8% interest rate.

Even with this low rate, however, the $194,100 principal would result in a $75,000 interest expense if I stuck w/ monthly coupon payments over the life of the loan. Given my growing desire to be totally debt free, I started out of the gate with 2x monthly payments. Before the end of the summer, I was at 3x. It was great seeing that principal and interest chunk lower.

In early fall, I began modeling payment strategies that could have this mortgage paid off by the end of 2010. Funded in large part by early IRA withdrawals, I made two large lump sum payments over the past two months. As the books close on 2009, my mortgage principal stands at about $108K--a 44% reduction from the original principal. By chunking things down at this rate, I've saved about $50K in interest expense.

I'm now setting my sights on finishing this off by August. I plan on funding one more large sum payment from my IRA early next yr--first want to make sure I have this year's tax consequences under my belt and understood.

Based on my current plan, and God willing, I have 8 more payments to make.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Requiem for the Dollar

Bergman: "Where's the gold?"
Joe Moore: "In the heart of the pure."

Masterful piece by Jim Grant on the dollar and the gold standard. One of those 'must reads' for people seeking perspective on monetary systems and their centrality to standard of living.

Perhaps my favorite concept from Mr Grant's missive: A proper gold standard promotes balance in financial and commercial affairs. A pure paper systems promotes and perpetuates imbalances.

Until we reestablish the connection between money and a reference standard like gold, and remove central banks from the system, we'll wind more instability into the system.

This imbalance creates more and more potential energy that at some point will be irrepressible in the opposite direction as the system unwinds toward a balanced state.

position in gold, USD

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Aye, Captain

Thomas Andrews: "From this moment, no matter what we do, Titanic will founder."
Ismay: "But this ship can't sink!"
Thomas Andrews: "She's made of iron, sir. I assure you, she can and she will. It is a mathematical certainty."

Following on to the previous post, President Obama's stated today that the US must continue to 'spend its way out of this recession.'

Big ship. Certainly indestructible.


"All ahead, full!"

The Crying Game

First there are kisses, then there are sighs
And then before you know where you are
You're saying goodbye
--Boy George

President Obama continues to chastise Republicans for opposing his administrations' spending programs. He frequently suggests that it was primarily GOP actions that 'caused' our current economic problems, and that now this group refuses to be part of the 'solution'.

There should be no doubt that Republican politicians have contributed to our economic malaise. But this has been a bipartisan effort that spans many administrations over multiple decades. Pointing fingers at the other side of the aisle seems to be (using the president's words) 'waxing political' to the extreme.

At the root of our problems are debt and spending. The present administration's programs do nothing but elevate previous behavior along these lines to unprecedented levels.

Those who can't reason this thru may be sipping too much political kool aid.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gold Giveback

Now who can you turn to
When it's all black and white
And the winners are losers
You see it every night
--Bryan Adams

It appears that the widely anticipated correction in gold has arrived. The short term parabolic rise in the Gold ETF (GLD) was snapped last Friday on big volume with some follow thru today.

How this plays out, of course, is anybody's guess. Nervous trader types sitting on gains will likely eye the 50 day moving average (currently at GLD 107) as one reference point. Then comes the breakout points at 104 and the big enchilada GLD 100.

Just as higher prices encourage buying, lower prices will drive more selling.

I continue to sense lower prices are in the cards, but my feel has been wrong as rain for months.

position in gold

Day of Infamy

"Why the hell is the Navy practicing this early on a Sunday morning?"
--Danny Walker (Pearl Harbor)

Pearl Harbor Day is today. This morning, when a newsperson noted that the Day of Infamy occurred 68 yrs ago today, my knee jerk reaction was that she did the math wrong, that it was longer ago than that.

I suppose since this event occurred a generation before I was born, it still seems a bit like ancient history to me. To this day, I imagine those periods in black in white. And I remain captivated whenever I see color footage of WWII. It just doesn't jibe w/ my paradigm.

Speaking of having to revise my mindset, I've also changed my view on the validity of US involvement in WWII. I now believe that we did not have to participate. We had been escalating committment long before Dec 7th and there's a good argument (and some evidence) to suggest that FDR 'needed' us in the war by the end of 1941 for various reasons.

If one believes that individual freedom is the most precious of life's gifts, then the only valid reason to fight is when one's personal liberty is under direct attack. This liberty is expressed in three areas: your life, your wherewithall to produce, and your property. If someone seeks to coercively appropriate of any of these 3 areas from you, then you are justified to defend your liberty accordingly.

This is what the Founders did, making the American Revolution one of the few just wars in history.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Slip Kids

I've got my clipboard, text books
Lead me to the station
Yeah, I'm off to the civil war
--The Who

Yesterday I had the privilege of tagging along with my nice Grace, my nephew Jack and their friends at Redsfest. Being around these kids is one of the best things that's ever happened to me.

Watching them grow up, I'm struck by competing feelings. On the one hand, the talents and capabilities demonstrated by these kids suggest to me that they'll be quite qualified as tomorrow's decision-makers. On the other hand, we're digging huge economic and fiscal holes that they'll somehow have to claw themselves out of.

It will be their capacity for hope and improvement versus the remnants of our selfishness and ineptitude.

Here's Gracie's interview as the world's biggest fan.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bringing Heat

"Jimmy, I've been a scout for a long time. and the number one rule is, arms slow down when they get old. Now, if I call the office and tell 'em I got a guy here almost twice these kids' age, I'm gonna get laughed at. But, if I don't call in a 98 mile per hour fastball, I'm gonna get fired!"
--Dave Patterson (The Rookie)

To label Ron Paul as the lone voice in the wilderness that is Capitol Hill is not quite correct. Senator Jim Bunning unloaded on Ben Bernanke during yesterday's confirmation hearing.

Let's fast forward to the last paragraph of Sen Bunning's remarks:

"From monetary policy to regulation, consumer protection, transparency, and independence, your time as Fed Chairman has been a failure. You stated time and again during the housing bubble that there was no bubble. After the bubble burst, you repeatedly claimed the fallout would be small. And you clearly did not spot the systemic risks that you claim that the Fed was supposed to be looking out for. Where I come from we punish failure, not reward it. That is certainly the way it was when I played baseball, and the way it is all across American. Judging by the current Treasury Secretary, some may think Washington does reward failure, but that should not be the case. I will do everything I can to stop your nomination and drag out the process as long as possible. We must put an end to your and the Fed's failures, and there is no time better than now."

Mr Senator, that's a Hall of Fame performance review!

Color By Numbers

So we sailed on to the sun
Till we found the sea of green
And we lived beneath the waves
In our yellow submarine

This missive offers a color coded map comparison of the unemployment picture in December 2007 and August 2009. The darker the colors, the greater the joblessness.

Nearly a double in unemployment in a year and a half or so.

Imagine the colors if the data included all those without work.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mountain Climbing

I've got a good job
And I'm newly born
You should see me dressed up in my uniform
--The Who

Today President Obama hosted a 'jobs summit' with expressed intentions of determining ways to create more jobs. Some suggest that this effort is nothing more than political granstanding (such an accusation cannot be thoroughly refuted).

Genuine or not, this effort can only bear fruit if the outcomes find government backing away from the situation and letting the system cleanse itself. Our economic system is currently burdened by excess capacity and a dependence on consumption that has been fueled by debt. Market forces seek to retire capacity and reduce consumption and debt via more savings. A natural consequence of this condition is that jobs will be lost (many would not have been created in the first place were it not for the artificial boom that preceded this bust).

Large-scale sustainable employment will return once the system comes back into balance.

The longer we delay this cleansing process, the further out into the future it will be before meaningful job growth returns. Moreover, government actions to add more capacity, consumption, and debt to the system are likely to destroy, not create, meaningful jobs that will be most accretive to future standard of living.

Do you think any of President Obama's focus groups offered this up as a prudent solution today?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Taking Liberty

It's my own design
It's my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most
Of freedom and of pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody want to rule the world
--Tears for Fears

Every now and then you encounter an article that really jumps out at you. This was one of those for me. Frank Chodorov nicely differentiates between economics were there are firm laws and politics which is 'the art of ruling.'

He also walks thru the progression of the United States. Unlike its predecessors, the US was carefully founded to 'prevent the new American State from acquiring the self-destructive habit of every State known to history, that of interfering with man's pursuit of happiness.'

Despite the precautions, Chodorov notes that the 'ink was hardly dry' before those eager for power began reinterpreting the design in favor of larger central government. The 16th Amendment passed in 1913 'completely unshackled the American State' with powers for unlimited taxation that would usurp liberty.

The quality of this writing finds me wanting to read the volume from which this missive was drawn, The Rise and Fall of Society, which was written in 1959.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fire & Ice

Movin' in for the kill tonight
You've got every advantage when they put out the lights
It's not so pretty when it fades away
Cause it's just an illusion in this passion play
I've seen you burn 'em before
--Pat Benatar

As if on cue from the previous post, ran across this market-oriented missive on the global warming data dance.

Take a look at the two temperature graphs included in the piece. Even if we focused on the second 'published' graph (which conveniently omitted 30-40 yrs of temperature data at time of publication in 2001) and that temps representing 1400-1900 were estimated in a valid manner, anyone with knowledge of process variation and cycles should observe nothing alarming in this series. At most, it appears we have a series approaching the upper end of a cycle. No special causes (man-made or otherwise) are evident.

As suggested by this article, socialistic motives behind folks who side w/ the global warming argument are certainly plausible and cannot be readily dismissed.

Cold Shoulder

Dean Yeager: "You seem to regard science as some type of dodge, or hustle. Your theories are the worst kind of popular tripe, your methods are sloppy, and your conclusions are highly questionable. You are a poor scientist, Doctor Venkman."
Dr Peter Venkman: "I see."

A bunch of emails have surfaced suggesting that scientists 'fudged' data and manipulated peer review processes to bias conclusions in favor of the man-made global warming thesis.

That scientific processes are biased to favor a particular viewpoint should not be surprising. Kuhn's (1962) seminal work demonstrated that science is a social process and subject to influence.

I've been involved in academic research and publication for over 10 yrs now, and points where bias and influence can make their way into the process are straightforward to observe. Selective data collection, opinionated reviewers, and grants/funding with an 'interest' exemplify areas where subjectivity and manipulation can enter the process.

Because many people tend to view 'science' as objective and unbiased, they can be hoodwinked by entities seeking to legitimize projects and programs in the name of science. Politicians trot out studies and scientific 'experts' who favor a particular point of view under the pretense that these views are fact.

Were government not in the wealth re-distribution business, then there would be little need for such public display. Moreover, if individuals quit outsourcing their brains to so-called experts and began thinking more for themselves (early blog post example related to global warming here), then the power of reason and critical thinking would reduce dependence on a process subject to human influence and bias.



Kuhn, T.L. (1962). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.