Monday, March 30, 2009

I say, I say, I say

Two antennae meet on a roof, fall in love and decide to get married. The service wasn't up to much, but the reception was excellent.

Did you hear about the oyster who went to a seafood disco last week? He went out onto the dance floor and pulled a mussel.

This lorry full of tortoises collided with a van full of terrapins. It was a turtle disaster.

We call our Grandad "Spiderman". He hasn't got any super powers - he just finds it difficult to get out of the bath.

I phoned the local builders today, I said to them 'Can I have a skip outside my house?' He said, 'I'm not stopping you!'

I got my wife a vibrator for her birthday. She's done nothing but moan ever since.

For those looking for a market view based on technicals..



I give you the 'quadruple confirmed evil knievel formation'.
(INDU is the bloomberg ticker for the Dow Jones Industrial Index - 'the Dow')

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday 29 Ride

Not too much to report on the first lengthy ride in a month. After a lapse of 6 weeks or so, it was good to get back in the saddle, if a little tiring over the last few kilometres. I was definitely feeling the distance in my legs today. We headed out on the Tama and then over Takao before returning via Tank Road.




View Larger Map

The Butt of Clinch

Clinch & Davis

Hancock-san

Hancock & Austin

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Daniel Hannan



Awesome

Friday, March 27, 2009

Stan figures out how the treasury system works

If you're thinking too much you're not riding fast enough

If you are interested, I would recommend the following titles in order to begin to get an understanding of professional cycling and the controversy that surrounds it. Given my interest in the sport, I've read these and was engrossed by each of them. The truth is out there. The last one is simply an inspiring true story.

Is it a bird, is it a plane..



No! It's Super-Milly.. (nice haircut Dad).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'll need some wagging room

Dilbert.com

Migration

Missing the bigger crisis



Outraged at AIG bonuses? Read this Dear A.I.G, I quit.

In the UK, Sir Fred Goodwin's car and home were vandalised.
"Enough. The howling for punishment must be curtailed. It is distracting policymakers from framing a response to the crisis." ftalphaville

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Capitalism vs Socialism

"An economics professor at Texas Tech said he had never failed a single student, but had once failed an entire class.

The class (students) insisted that socialism worked since no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism."

"All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A."

After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who had studied hard were upset while the students who had studied very little were happy.

But, as the second test rolled around, the students who had studied little studied even less and the ones who had studied hard decidedthat since they couldn't make an A, they also studied less. The second Test average was a D.

No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around the average grade was an F.

The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling, all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for anyone else.

To their great surprise all failed. The professor told them that socialism would ultimately fail because the harder people try to succeed the greater their reward (capitalism) but when a government takes all the reward away (socialism) no one will try or succeed."

Taken from the comments to this post about financial parenting advice..

Robbery

"The plan involves ensuring up to $100bn of government funding is matched by private investors, with the monies combined and leveraged up, in some cases to by as much as 20:1, with the help of the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), to buy pools of unwanted assets.

Professor Stiglitz, speaking at a conference in Hong Kong, said that the US government is essentially using the taxpayer to guarantee the downside risks, namely that these assets will fall further in value, while the upside risks, in terms of future profits, are being handed to private investors such as insurance companies, bond investors and private equity funds.

"Quite frankly, this amounts to robbery of the American people. I don't think it's going to work because I think there'll be a lot of anger about putting the losses so much on the shoulder of the American taxpayer." telegraph

Hesitant

"I get the distinct feeling that the market will have the ability to prop up the pricing of these firms beyond my ability to remain negative on them.

In fact, I may cover at anytime, without notice.

In other words, I view myself as one who is capable of being squeezed.

Despite this tomfoolery, it is 100% clear that no one knows what anything is presently worth. On one hand, it seems that the economy is in a great depression, due to the large unemployment numbers and other data dumps coming out weekly. On the other, people are still in line at starbucks waiting for 6 dollar, 8 syllable drinks, with amex in hand.

So…who knows.

Personally, I don’t think the government will do very well at solving our problems. Something about the past 50 years of failed attempts that makes me think that.

I think the real economy will need to flush out a lot of weak hands before we can really start growing again.

But….I’ve never seen 5 years worth of tax revenues tossed at a problem before. At this point, it seems that the government has gone “all-in”, and is hoping for a queen or a 9…on the turn or the river.

So, to sum it all up….after a nice run of trading, I’m starting to get the feeling that I’m losing my edge here. My disdain for the interventionist policies of the Federal Government may be clouding my judgement, and keeping me from understanding that the Dow can go to 15,000 in a horrible economy, via the hands of a nonstop printing press.

In conclusion, if the market continues reacting positively to the Obama administration opening its mouth, I will realize that I am finally out of touch with the market. At that point, I will move to cash until either myself or the market has successfully detoxed.

In any event, I see no reason to be chasing stocks higher here…especially those with absolutely unpriceable balance sheets." andy swan

Yep.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Japan Home Prices

"Property prices declined 3.5 percent, erasing two years of gains that followed a 15-year slump." bloomberg

The conversation about buying here will continue. I still ask 'why?'.

ReALLY bemused

I must admit to being a little shocked at the huge rally overnight. Its bemusing watching the market trade headlines. I'm being repetitive I know, but this looks like a bull trap to me. Expect positive markets for the Spring, but the greater the upside at this time the worse the next leg down will be.

Geitner's 5 big misconceptions
The trouble with the economy is that the banks aren't lending. The reality: The economy is in trouble because American consumers and businesses took on way too much debt and are now collapsing under the weight of it. As consumers retrench, companies that sell to them are retrenching, thus exacerbating the problem. The banks, meanwhile, are lending. They just aren't lending as much as they used to. Also the shadow banking system (securitization markets), which actually provided more funding to the economy than the banks, has collapsed.
The banks aren't lending because their balance sheets are loaded with "bad assets" that the market has temporarily mispriced.
The reality: The banks aren't lending (much) because they have decided to stop making loans to people and companies who can't pay them back. And because the banks are scared that future writedowns on their old loans will lead to future losses that will wipe out their equity.
Bad assets are "bad" because the market doesn't understand how much they are really worth.
The reality: The bad assets are bad because they are worth less than the banks say they are. House prices have dropped by nearly 30% nationwide. That has created something in the neighborhood of $5+ trillion of losses in residential real estate alone (off a peak market value of housing about $20+ trillion). The banks don't want to take their share of those losses because doing so will wipe them out. So they, and Geithner, are doing everything they can to pawn the losses off on the taxpayer.
Once we get the "bad assets" off bank balance sheets, the banks will start lending again.
The reality: The banks will remain cautious about lending, because the housing market and economy are still deteriorating. So they'll sit there and say they are lending while waiting for the economy to bottom.
Once the banks start lending, the economy will recover.
The reality: American consumers still have debt coming out of their ears, and they'll be working it off for years. House prices are still falling. Retirement savings have been crushed. Americans need to increase their savings rate from today's 5% (a vast improvement from the 0% rate of two years ago) to the 10% long-term average. Consumers don't have room to take on more debt, even if the banks are willing to give it to them.

In Geithner's plan, this debt won't disappear. It will just be passed from banks to taxpayers, where it will sit until the government finally admits that a major portion of it will never be paid back."

Read these too..

Treasury’s Toxic Asset Plan Still Leaves Many Questions

Kitchen Sink 2.0

Making the PPPIP squeak

What to believe if you believe Tim Geithner is very clever

Geithner plan arithmetic

Gaming the Geithner plan

Monday, March 23, 2009

TILT

Seeing for Brad Pitt in the mirror

"The latest AIG bailout came.. ..at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya."

"The best way to understand the financial crisis is to understand the meltdown at AIG. AIG is what happens when short, bald managers of otherwise boring financial bureaucracies start seeing Brad Pitt in the mirror. This is a company that built a giant fortune across more than a century by betting on safety-conscious policyholders — people who wear seat belts and build houses on high ground — and then blew it all in a year or two by turning their entire balance sheet over to a guy who acted like making huge bets with other people's money would make his dick bigger."

"They had some back room somewhere where a bunch of Indian guys who'd been doing nothing but math for God knows how many years would come up with some kind of model saying that this or that combination of debtors would only default once every 10,000 years," says one young trader who sold CDOs for a major investment bank. "It was nuts."

"His tool of choice was another new financial instrument known as a credit-default swap, or CDS. In its simplest form, a CDS is just a bet on an outcome. Say Bank A writes a million-dollar mortgage to the Pope for a town house in the West Village. Bank A wants to hedge its mortgage risk in case the Pope can't make his monthly payments, so it buys CDS protection from Bank B, wherein it agrees to pay Bank B a premium of $1,000 a month for five years. In return, Bank B agrees to pay Bank A the full million-dollar value of the Pope's mortgage if he defaults. In theory, Bank A is covered if the Pope goes on a meth binge and loses his job."

And there's more.. much more :)

Read on at The Big Takeover via RollingStone.com

Friday, March 20, 2009

Here's something to think about:

"How come you never see a headline like 'Psychic Wins Lottery'?" Jay Leno

US Economy gunned down!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Have your assistant's assistant book now..

The CEO's guide to Jetting

An introduction to commercial air travel for CEOs only.
No minions, lackeys, or "regular" people allowed.

Chapter 1
Welcome Aboard

Chapter 2
The Airport

Chapter 3
The Flight

AIG/RBS bonuses/pensions

"The main problem is the conflict between the sanctity of contracts argument, and the need to protect the taxpayer. The AIG beneficiaries (like Goodwin at Royal Bank of Scotland) are in a privileged position. They worked for a private sector company that the public sector has rescued. Had normal market forces been allowed to work, the companies would have gone bust and they would not have received their bonuses (or full pension, in Goodwin's case). Had they worked for the public sector from the start, they would never have accumulated such a bonus/pension in the first place. They have only achieved such a unique status because their companies were deemed too big to fail (for systemic reasons) and because the companies were run so poorly. Neither seems a good reason for asking the taxpayer to cough up.

What about the unfortunate example that breaking a contract, or imposing a tax would set? Windfall taxes have been levied before, so there is a precedent (even if such taxes are not a great idea). But the argument that we would discourage entrepreneurship seems very dubious. Do we want to encourage the type of people who would worry about not being compensated by the taxpayer when they run their companies into the ground?" buttonwood

Well made points that I hadn't considered. I like the logic of this argument. Wise words. The fundamental question remains though, how is that so much risk was parked in one place and nothing was done about it, either at an internal risk management or external regulatory level. Stable door, horse bolted.

And then there is this.. House Sets Vote on 90% Tax on Some Executive Bonuses

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Just wear one

"Natasha Richardson is believed to be critically ill after a skiing accident." BBC

This is exactly why you should wear a helmet. Sorry to preach, but there is no excuse to not wear one. If you don't have one use this as an excuse to buy one today. $33.58!

Obviously my thoughts and best wishes go to Ms. Richardson and her family. Here's to a full recovery. Get well soon.

UPDATED.
"British actress Natasha Richardson has died from injuries sustained in a skiing accident, her husband Liam Neeson's publicist has said.

Richardson, 45, who was a member of the Redgrave family, fell on a beginners' slope at the Mont Tremblant resort in Canada on Monday. Neeson said that the family were devastated by the death of their "beloved Natasha". She died in a New York hospital where she had been transferred." BBC

What heart-breaking news. Terribly, terribly sad.

'Looks Shouldn’t Matter'

"By Toru Fujioka, March 18 (Bloomberg)

When Yumiko Iwate’s pay was cut last year, she and her female colleagues all agreed there was only one thing to do: find a husband.

“I want to get married soon, hopefully by the end of this year,” said Iwate, a 36-year-old employee at a mail-order retailer in Tokyo. “The recession made me realize I’m not going to make as much money as I expected, and I’d be more stable financially if I had double income to fall back on.”

“I know women before my generation worked so hard and pursued their careers so they could prove they’re just as good as men,” said Reiko Kubo, 25, who bought a good-luck charm at Tokyo Daijingu shrine. “They didn’t have to depend on men and that’s cool, but it’s not the path I want to follow.”

Recessions have encouraged the Japanese to wed before. Marriages rose when an asset-price bubble burst in the late 1980s and again after the technology crash in 2001.

Japan’s husband hunters are pursuing relationships the way they might search for jobs: They interview at agencies -- dating agencies, in this case. They attend networking parties or just let friends know they are ready for commitment.

Iwate started her quest in December by writing New Year’s cards to 170 acquaintances from junior high school classmates to fellow dancers at salsa lessons, asking for help finding an eligible bachelor. Her five co-workers are in on the hunt, introducing each other to potential partners and putting sticky notes on the most useful pages of the “Complete Guide to Marriage Hunting” from “an an” magazine, a weekly publication for women in their 20s and 30s.

The issue included articles telling readers that, while it’s acceptable to choose a husband by occupation, “looks shouldn’t matter because they’re not essential to leading a married life. You need to consider men you normally wouldn’t date.”

It also cautioned against playing hard to get: Being coy “is strictly forbidden; men want to seriously date women who act natural.”

Business is booming at Green, a marriage-hunting bar in Tokyo’s nightlife district of Roppongi. Men pay 11,340 yen ($115 per visit to have waiters set them up with women, who get in free. The bar is booked solid on weekends, and membership is up 26 percent this year, according to owner Yuta Honda.

Meanwhile, Natsuko Ono, 25, is sparing no expense to find a man. She said she’s spent 370,000 yen so far, mostly for a professional portrait and registration at a matchmaking agency.
“It sounds like a lot of money, but if you consider that it’s a way to find a husband, it’s a reasonable investment,” she said while scoping men at Green."

Be careful out there..

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sit, Rotate, Write

Gettysburg

"Old Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


New-New Gettysburg Address:

Four or five years ago our Investment Bankers helped bring forth on this continent, and around the world, a new banking system, conceived in Leverage, and dedicated to the proposition that all persons working for Investment Banks can create enormous Wealth for themselves with almost no Risk except to Taxpayers.

Now we the Investment Bankers of Goldman Sachs are engaged in a great Scam, testing whether that Nation of Bankers can get paid without Tipping Off the Taxpayers to that Scam.

We have come to cash our checks.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this, for we have Houses in the Hamptons requiring upkeep.

But, in a check-clearing sense, we can not Cash Our Checks so long as AIG cannot make good on the credit default swaps we purchased to Hedge our Leverage. Thankfully, the brave men of Goldman who struggled to Attain Positions of Power in Treasury and the White House have consecrated it, far above Barney Frank’s poor power to detract from our AIG Contracts.

The Small Investor will little note, nor long remember, how completely screwed He got, but we the Investment Bank of Goldman Sachs can never forget what they did to provide us this cash. We thank them for the $8 billion Their Government is paying to AIG in order to Make Us Whole.

We here highly resolve that The Little Investor shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under Goldman Sachs, shall have a new birth of Leverage Without Risk -- and that government of Goldman, by Goldman, and for Goldman, shall not perish from the earth."

Jeff Matthews

Monday, March 16, 2009

Detroit

On their website, the photographers write, "Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes...the volatile result of the change of eras and the fall of empires. This fragility leads us to watch them one very last time: to be dismayed, or to admire, it makes us wonder about the permanence of things."

Detroit's beautiful, horrible decline

After a rally, a 50% sell-off..

"Felix sees numerous signs of an impending rally: Sentiment is deeply pessimistic. The rate of change on (most) down days is declining, even as prices fall. And, there's lots of money around. But this rally will be for nimble traders only, affording "those with too much in stocks to sleep well an opportunity to lighten up."

People need to understand it is a different world today. We will not go back to the world as we knew it."

barrons


"Investors should also follow Obama’s advice and ignore day-to-day gyrations. Extreme volatility is common in bear markets, while day-to-day swings are driven by raw emotion rather than rationality.

It is possible that the extreme sentiments in the US body politic reached their cathartic moment in the confrontation between Stewart and Cramer, and that we will come in time to link the incident with the bottom of this bear market. But on balance that looks unlikely. The mere fact that markets could bounce so sharply this week suggests that confusion still reigns and we are still in a bear market. And that is entertaining for nobody."

FT

Of course

"Often, over the years, I’ve been asked by passers-by in the street to name the best car in the world. I’ve never known quite what to say because my mind has swum with all the options. The fact is, though, there aren’t any options at all. There’s just one island of brilliance in a sea of also-rans." Clarkson

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gervais & Elmo



He's mad.

In the papers..







Japanese ski dump

"Step inside, have a seat, and you're surrounded by a realistic view of a ski jump. Place your feet onto the "skis" painted onto the floor, give yourself an imaginary push and you're off into a fantasy world of ski-dumping.

Look at that — you're in the right position for maximum speed! Why would somebody doll up a toilet stall like this? It's an advertisement in Japanese ski resort bathrooms for Coca-Cola's Georgia Mac Coffee, with the brand messaging emblazoned on the toilet paper holder and the back wall."

dvice via geekologie

It's all about the money..

Speed limit may be cut to 50mph on rural roads
"Research has shown that the change would save up to 250 lives a year."

Swindon branded 'reckless' for speed camera ban
"Councils are obliged to pay for camera upkeep but the money from the fines goes to the Government."

Motorway lighting to be cut despite risk of more accidents
"Lighting will be turned off late at night on hundreds of miles of motorway despite an admission from the Highways Agency that a small increase in crashes is the likely result."

Speed is not to blame
"..treat people like idiots and they will behave like idiots, but treat them as responsible and they will behave with responsibility."

I've linked to the first article previously, but the topic bugs me. Talk about a 'nanny' state. Speed cameras are for safety and switching road-lighting off is 'green'. Yeah right. Pfft.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Entering the bull trap

"Our housing market has played out right to the script. While there are some at Rodrigue's 'fear' stage – those that need to sell, but can't – for the most part I think it's fair to say that Joe Public is still very much 'in denial' and thinks that things are about to 'return to normal'. In other words, we are entering a bull trap – just as we did in 1991, when there was a brief rally before further declines. We are nowhere near capitulation. That is still to come."

"Prospective buyers must realise that interest rates are being held at artificially low levels. What happens to house prices when rates are forced up, as they inevitably will be? What then? What happens to all those who are on the brink now, but just surviving? What happens to those on tracker rates, who haven't yet felt the crunch because their monthly repayments have fallen so low? What happens to first time buyers and buy-to-let landlords in a high-interest-rate environment? That is when we get Rodrigue's 'capitulation'."

"House prices remain out of kilter with what people earn. No matter what the government does, they will head lower until they reach a level which people can afford, which history has shown to be about three times earnings. And they will probably overshoot this to the downside because of the scale of the preceding boom and the oncoming bust. There is nothing anyone, not tycoon nor politician, can do to stop this inevitable course. All they can do is delay it." UK house prices will plummet



"At first, nobody was allowed to live in it. Then nobody could live in it. Now, nobody even wants it.

In the US, the residential property foreclosure crisis is reaching a point at which the final vestiges of common sense, let alone morality or social justice, are breaking down. Half a decade after the real estate boom, there are places in America where you can’t – you literally can’t – give a house away.

Nor are sales keeping pace with supply. Sales of foreclosed homes rose by 4.4% in 2008. Availability doubled." You can't give them away


Step away from the estate agent's window.

The empire strikes back



and it doesn't end here.. Jim Cramer on the Daily Show on Thursday night.

Matt.. nuff said.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Assuming you are paid in US Dollars

TOKYO is currently the most expensive city in the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit, part of the Economist Group, has released its Worldwide Cost of Living survey, and the Japanese capital climbs from last year's seventh place to first.

The table's figures represent a weighted average of the prices of over 160 items found in 140 cities, from a loaf of bread to a luxury car. This year’s survey shows substantial changes from last year's because of recent exchange-rate fluctuations. For example, when the data was actually collected in September 2008, Oslo was the most expensive city in the world (as it was the year before). But the depreciation of the Norwegian krone since then has dropped the city to fifth place.

By the same token, London, which was third last year and eighth when the data was collected, is now ranked the 27th-most expensive city in the world, thanks to the pound’s fall. It is cheaper than New York for the first time since 2002.

On the other hand, the strengths of the dollar and the yen have made American and Japanese cities comparatively more expensive in the last five months. This accounts for Tokyo's rise to the top of the ranking and Osaka's surge to second place. But despite the fall of the euro, Western Europe still dominates the table and supplies seven of the top ten cities. Chicago, Los Angeles and New York are the dearest American cities, in joint 23rd position. At the other end of the table, Karachi replaces Tehran as the cheapest city.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Iditarod

Monday, March 09, 2009

Nationalized Citibank (NSFW)

Geometric tease

Problem

This morning as I was buttoning my shirt, a button fell off. After that, I picked up my briefcase, and the handle fell off. Then I went to open the door, and the doorknob fell off. I went to get into my car, and the door handle came off in my hand. Now I'm afraid to pee.

===

There was once a stockbroker who had made a ton of money off the stock market and decided to retire to a ranch in Montana. One day he was out in his front yard planting some flowers when he sees dirt flying up behind a truck. The truck pulls into his driveway and a farmer gets out of his truck.
"Hi, my name is Bob. I'm your neighbor. I live about five miles away and I came to invite you to a party I am having tonight."
"What kind of a party is it?" asks the stockbroker.
"Oh, we're going to do a little dancing, a little fighting, a little eating, little drinking, and then, a little screwing."
"That sounds great,' said the stockbroker. "What should I wear?"
"I don't care," said Bob. "It's just gonna be the two of us."

'There will be blood' or will there?

Harvard author of The Ascent of Money and financial crisis guru Niall Ferguson interviewed by the Globe and Mail on a trip to Ottawa. Some snippets..

"I was more struck Putin's bluster than his potential to bite, when he spoke at Davos. But he made a really good point, which I keep coming back to. In his speech, he said crises like this will encourage governments to engage in foreign policy aggression. I don't think he was talking about himself, but he might have been. It's true, one of the things historically that we see, and also when we go back to 30s, but also to the depressions 1870s and 1880s, weak regimes will often resort to a more aggressive foreign policy, to try to bolster their position."

"I do think they're wrong. I think the IMF has been consistently wrong in its projections year after year. Most projections are wrong, because they're based on models that don't really correspond to the real world."

"Those big crises, the ones that we have lived through, were bad. But this seems certain to be deeper, and more protracted."

"It reminds me of a wonderful headline that the Onion had last year, in about October. The headline was, Bush calls for panic. I love it because it completely called the situation. There he was calling for panic ... to make people come out of denial. I've been talking a while about this being the Great Repression. It took ages, ages, for people to realize this thing had fallen apart."

"I thought it was a mistake at the time because it seemed to me crazy to ignore asset prices. Why differentiate? What's the difference between pricing a loaf and pricing a house? Why do we care about one and not the other? In fact, we should probably care more about the price of a house than the price of a loaf, certainly in developed societies."

"I'm a little nervous about how this will play out in the next one or two years … After all, this is the land of permanent election campaigning. Congressmen are saying to themselves, ‘ how am I going to campaign? I don't want to lose my job. What's my line going to be?' It's going to be very tempting to say ‘American jobs for American workers.' It's a pretty good slogan."

"The biggest fault lines in the global system are in Asia. They may also be in Eastern Europe. That's where things are going to be really unpredictable."

"eople just have to get over the fact that their wealth wasn't worth what they thought it was in 2006. Whether it's their stock market portfolio or their housing. If we simply go back to where we were, in 2005, that's surely not the worst thing that could happen to us."

Hmmm.. pretty good interview that can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

Bored in Romania



"He says: "I was just bored, this wasn't anything special. We all do this - we sing, while we're driving."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Understanding the Financial Crisis

Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Berlin. In order to increase sales, she decides to allow her loyal customers - most of whom are unemployed alcoholics - to drink now but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).

Word gets around and as a result increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Taking advantage of her customers' freedom from immediate payment constraints, Heidi increases her prices for wine and beer, the most-consumed beverages. Her sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic customer service consultant at the local bank recognizes these customer debts as valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for undue concern since he has the debts of the alcoholics as collateral. At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert bankers transform these customer assets into DRINKBONDS, ALKBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then traded on markets worldwide. No one really understands what these abbreviations mean and how the securities are guaranteed. Nevertheless, as their prices continuously climb, the securities become top-selling items.

One day, although the prices are still climbing, a risk manager (subsequently of course fired due his negativity) of the bank decides that slowly the time has come to demand payment of the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. However they cannot pay back the debts.

Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations and claims bankruptcy.

DRINKBOND and ALKBOND drop in price by 95%. PUKEBOND performs better, stabilizing in price after dropping by 80%. The suppliers of Heidi's bar, having granted her generous payment due dates and having invested in the securities are faced with a new situation. Her wine supplier claims bankruptcy, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor.

The bank is saved by the Government following dramatic round-the-clock consultations by leaders from the governing political parties. The funds required for this purpose are obtained by a tax levied on the non-drinkers.



Finally an explanation we can all understand... thanks Daddy Mitra

Fat Bike


Susitna 100 from indieAK films on Vimeo.

2009 Susitna 100, a 100 mile endurance race in Alaska.

Road speed limit cut to 50mph


Steady 50, originally uploaded by Mark L Edwards.

"THE government is to cut the national speed limit from 60mph to 50mph on most of Britain’s roads, enforced by a new generation of average speed cameras." Times

Why not just make it zero?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday night special

Sweden



Asked to bailout its GM-owned automaker, Saab, the Swedish Prime Minister just said "No."

"Voters did not pick me to buy loss-making car factories.”

At last!

"General Motors Corp.’s auditor Deloitte & Touche said formally Thursday that there is substantial doubt the struggling auto maker can remain a going concern, putting an official stamp on the company’s dire condition and forcing GM to seek waivers from lenders.

The comments came in GM’s delayed annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Auditor Deloitte & Touche cited GM’s continuing losses from operations, its negative net worth and an inability to generate the cash needed to run its business." wsj

Skewer-ed

Thursday, March 05, 2009

FAIL

From Russia with... bungee?

"It’s new fun in some Russian cities, to jump from the bridge with the rope in a big group"
Click for more pics.. via kottke

The Peridoc Table of Awesoments


As usual, click the picture to view in bigger size.. via dapperstache

One Letter Away?

From our North Yorkshire Correspondent, "Spoke to an Irish distributor (of golf equipment - ed.) today, he complained about the current economy in Ireland, so I said it can’t be as bad as Iceland. He commented that there was only one letter difference and about six months."

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Wall Street on the Tundra

"Iceland’s de facto bankruptcy—its currency (the krona) is kaput, its debt is 850 percent of G.D.P., its people are hoarding food and cash and blowing up their new Range Rovers for the insurance—resulted from a stunning collective madness. What led a tiny fishing nation, population 300,000, to decide, around 2003, to re-invent itself as a global financial power?

“You have to understand,” he told me, “Iceland is no longer a country. It is a hedge fund.”

A hedge-fund manager explained Icelandic banking to me this way: You have a dog, and I have a cat. We agree that they are each worth a billion dollars. You sell me the dog for a billion, and I sell you the cat for a billion. Now we are no longer pet owners, but Icelandic banks, with a billion dollars in new assets.

Icelandic businessmen, when they bought something they did it very quickly. Why was that? That is usually because the seller is very satisfied with the price.”

When you borrow a lot of money to create a false prosperity, you import the future into the present. It isn’t the actual future so much as some grotesque silicon version of it. Leverage buys you a glimpse of a prosperity you haven’t really earned."

Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair

The risk of buying cheap stocks is that they can just keep getting cheaper

Even the 'value' investors can't beat this bear.

The median price of a home sold in Detroit in December was $7,500.

Jim Rogers Buys Land, Starts Farming.

$300 crude oil could be one year away or three years away, but certainly not much more.

Top 50 most admired companies.

Mob roolz

"Sir Fred must keep his pension for all the ordinary people who graft and earn a salary for a week's work, and live on what they earn from month to month. He must keep it for all those people who in years to come might accidentally come into the public spotlight and find the might of the State ranged against them just to allow some politician to look good for five minutes. This well-heeled banker must keep his absurd, inflated rip-off of a pension for the ironic reason that by doing so he defends justice against those who would trample on it.

Sir Fred's is obviously a different case. But the same principle applies. Justice depends on defending the rule of law. And the rule of law is never more severely tested than when it is cited in defence of an unpopular individual. Not a penny, Sir Fred. Don't give up a penny." times

Couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bloomberg headline



This scrolled past my screen earlier.. bit concerned that it was 'automatically generated'.

Happy Square Root Day

Have fun, the next won't be until the 4th April 2016.

Japan's Crisis of the Mind - NYT

"Japan is a mess. This is largely because we have become a nation of bureaucrats. What passes for national policy is the sum of various ministerial interests, often conflicting or redundant, with jealously guarded turfs and budgets.

We became a nation with lifetime employment, a corporate system based on stable cross-holdings of shares, and a large middle-class population in which people are equal and alike.

The “egalitarian” Japan was a creature of the 1970s, with its progressive taxation, redistribution of wealth, subsidies and the dampening of competition through regulation. This all seemed to work just fine until our asset-price bubble popped in the 1990s. Today, the hemmed-in Japanese seem satisfied with the knowledge that everyone around them is equally unhappy.

Much of Japanese innovation has involved perfecting what others have created. Over the past two decades, the answer has largely been paralysis. Japan’s ability to imitate outside models was mistaken for progress. But if progress is defined by pursuing a vision of a desirable future, then the Japanese never progressed. What we had was a concept of order and placement, which is essentially stasis.

In Japan, bureaucratic rule offered security and predictability — in exchange for personal freedom. The problem is that our current political leaders can’t keep their side of the bargain. Employment security can no longer be guaranteed. The national pension and health plans seem to be insolvent in the long run. People feel both insecure and unfree.

We have run out of outside models to imitate. We must start from scratch, embracing an idea of progress that is based on innovation, ambition and dynamism. Doing so will take risk — and extraordinary leadership. But the alternative is to continue stumbling down a path of decline."

Masaru Tamamoto is a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute.

DBA Equity

"The way we produce our food has been organized at a scale that has ruinous consequences, not least its addiction to capital. Now that banking is in collapse, capital will be extremely scarce. Nobody in the cities reads farm news, or listens to farm reports on the radio. Guess what, though: we are entering the planting season. It will be interesting to learn how many farmers "out there" in the Cheez Doodle belt are not able to secure loans for this year's crop."

"The alternatives -- i.e. what we're trying now -- is to further delude ourselves into thinking that we can run WalMart and the suburbs by some other means than oil. Despite all our investments in these things, we won't be able to run them by other means, and the news about this had better get out before enormous disappointment turns into titanic rage. If Americans think they've been grifted by Goldman Sachs and Bernie Madoff, wait until they find out what a swindle the so-called "American Dream" of suburban life turns out to be."

cfn