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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

the christmas collection

Yes Virginia, there is a spec list.Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the mindless prattle of the media and the hordes of salespeople pushing inferior products and approaches to markets and life. They do not believe what is not from the lips of maria or cramer. They think that nothing can be which is not spoken on television or delivered in 4 color glossy brochures. They would have you believe, Virginia that all minds are little and that eagles are earthbound. Unfortunately in this great universe of ours, with virtually limitless knowledge available merely for the price of exploring, there are way too few willing to invest the effort and time to develop the intelligence needed to even begin to grasp the wonder,beauty and magnificent nature of the world we live in. There are a few groups of men and women who investigate, read learn explore, test, count and celebrate their discoveries.The spec list is such a place.

Yes, Virginia, there is a spec list.

It exists as surely as the market opens at 9:30 and bob prechter is bearish. The open discussion and exploration of markets, of books, of music, horse racing , math of a higher nature, and of course BBQ. How dreary the world would be if we didn’t have such discussions, if we didn’t count out our theories and swap ides with some of the best minds of the day.It would be as dreary as if there were no virginias or victors. There would be no boundless optimism, no randian faith in ones own ability to achieve ones dreams, or to recover from whatever disaster life might throw our dreary as if there were no voodoo profs with bike rides and bqq lessons, no yale with silly jokes and beautiful stories, no mr e with ice cold logic and liberal baiting, no wizz with constant technical advice and back door one crossman to drink with and tell stories late at night, no omid to assess the middle east for us,no david hillman to laugh at my stupid jokes and look like kenny rogers, no jack to bring his years of experience to bear as the prez of the book ideas, or musical suggestions, no trading and investing discussions, bbq recipes from higgs and mcnabb...we would have no enjoyment and learning save what we found on our own The eternal light with which the search for knowledge fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in the spec list. You might as well not believe in ben franklin.You might watch for us and not see us, but that doesn’t mean we dont exist. At the soldiers and sailors club at 37th and lex, the starbucks on rush street, the shanty on the edge of the chesapeake, the inside rail at keeneland, in the university libraries, on the squash courts and football fields,atop floats in the mardi gras parade,hunched over chess boards and checkers games, in front of bloombergs and pcs, we are there.Just because we are not on morning squawk or paraded through barrons every Saturday does not mean the list does not exist. The lack of full page ads touting the spec list in technical analysis of stocks and commodities does not mean the speculators of the list are less real.....just that they toil and explore out of the public eye with no desire to tout their success.

You can explore the meaning of life and markets and never discover it if you stay among the accepted readings and viewings. The writings of the abelsons, the magees, the oracle of omaha and other such, along with the talking head prattling of cnbc, cnn , the false gods of technical analysis and friendly trends are places where many search for the rhyme and reason of it all. They ignore louis l amour, patrick o brien, francis bacon, they setle for the background noise of endless disagreeing commentators instead of beethoven, bach, gershwin,coltrane. They look for life’s secrets in tuedays with morrie and dr phil, ignoring cervantes, shakespeare and galton. Only faith in ones self, an unending quest for knowledge, an appreciation of the beauty , wonder and romance that is life, a belief in the markets and a free society to unlock the secrets of it all. An open mind, a searching heart, a hunger for knowledge, a desire to succeed and an ability to get up from life’s little failures are the hallmarks of the spec list. Is it all real?..Ah, Vrginia, there is nothing more real abiding and meaningful in the world than the quest for knowledge in the company of friends.

No spec list? Thank whatever god you do or don’t believe in that there is and those of us fortunate to belong have expanded our knowledge, gained friendships to last a lifetime a source of inspiration, poetry, market knowledge, poker and horse racing strategies, music and literature..and of course BBQ. We probably cannot claim the 10 times 10,000 years the new york sun granted santa, but hopefully it endures as long as minds search and hearts hope for a better, more meaningful life. So long as knowledge is discovered and shared, music inspires, books enlighten and bbq is eaten, there will be a spec list.

Happy holidays

Each year at this time, I take a shot at warping yet another holiday tale into a speculative fable, and this year shall be no different. We have in the past twisted the night before Christmas and yes Virginia there is a Santa clause with mildly amusing results and so the tradition continues.This year we shall look a the holiday classic ‘it’s a wonderful Life”. As you surely recall in the classic film, george baily in utter frustration over the trials, tribulations and broken dreams of running a small savings in loan in Bedford falls decides to end it all by leaping off the snow covered bridge into the turgid icy water below. At the moment before his final, fatal leap, Clarence the angel shows up to save him, showing him how much better the world was with george a part of it, and the difference he made in so many other lives….

Join me now as journey to the bridge, a lonely speculator, staring into the icy waters, contemplating the leap. Tired of the long hours, the pressure, the constant stress, the loneliness of fighting the market mistress, he takes one last long gulp from the Maalox bottle in his jacket pocket and climbs the rail to take a final plunge….enter our angel one Clarence ( Dow). Unlike the movie angel, our Clarence(dow) isn’t looking for his wings but reenters the earthly realm with hope of a nice 23 claret and perhaps another shot at business machines inc in the teens as his reward for saving this poor struggling soul….

Before you jump, my good lad, implores our angel, twirling his cold tipped cane to emphasize his words, lets look at what the world would be like without you, what kind of world would exist if you didn’t spend all your days buying to early and selling too soon, churning up stomach acids being long vol in a low vol world, what kind of world would endure if you didn’t continue selling the crack spread, buying cheap debt or sweating out expiration date short the 1190 puts as the market collapses closer to your position… is not just you my good man who suffers if you choose to end a life in front of quotrons and spreadsheets, but countless say nothing of my own shiftless descendants who need the dividends from dow jones stock to keep them in caviar and champagne…..come with me now and peer into a world with no speculators, no one to risk capital to provide liquidity, price risk and capital for new innovations…

A farmer out in the heartland of America comes in at days end in early spring, tired from plowing, planting and overseeing his operations. He sees that corn is selling at near record prices. He knows that if he can sell the corn he just planted at such a price, he can pay off the debts accumulated over prior years bad crops..he leaps to the phone and calls Chicago to forward sell his crop but in the pits at the board of a trade a few lonely brokers stand staring at each other, picking their teeth with trade cards and discussing the cubs game..there is no one to take the other side of the poor farmers trade..he wants to sell. None of the other commercial interests have instructed their brokers to buy…who wants to buy at record prices? There are no locals, no speculative off floor traders to buy his crop in hopes of breakouts…the farmer shall have to pray that he gets a good crop, but not so good that prices fall to record lows over the next 4 months…..

A young couple goes into the bank to discuss a mortgage. They have good jobs and are embarking on hat they hope will be a long and joyous adventure together through this mystery called life. They enter the Potter Savings and loan, hoping to negotiate mortgage on the perfect little house on the edge of town. They are expecting their first in a short time and wish to have extra room and a yard for junior to play. The bank would of course love to accommodate them, with the standard 20% down payment, no prior credit lapses and a nice high interest rate. There’s no way for the bank to continually expand its lending capability and profits by selling off loans into the speculative market for it simply doesn’t exist….Mr Potter knows that he will have to keep this loan on the books for the full mortgage term and needs to maximize his return and minimize loss potential by squeezing as much rate and collateral out of the young couple as possible..So much in fact that their dream of home ownership must be abandoned. This scene is played out all over America and apartments flourish, Clarence (dow) shows our speculator, where he recalls single home communities with playing fields and lovely homes full of hopeful young families. There is a certain relationship between deposits and loans available and with no secondary market to sell off mortgages, lending is constrained to only the very best risk with the highest down payments…..The government has set these guidelines to ensure the safety of the banks and there is now around them..

A pension fund manager of one of the worlds largest corporations reviews his portfolio and knows that if he can find a way to increase his exposure to equity, he can earn a higher return than on the bonds and bank cds he holds. He can offer higher retirement benefits to tens of thousand of loyal workers, the men and woman on the front lines, on the factory floor, the sale floor, the mailroom..he can offer a better way of life to these thousands of people. To do this he needs to offset the risk off being wrong so that in his desire to help, he doesn’t harm….at the merc the phones rings in cavernous silence..there is no one there to take the other side of his trade,,,the building is but a large empty warehouse on lasalle street, gull of cobwebs and discarded patches of red and yellow trading jackets no longer needed in a world free from speculation…the retires will have to make do with whatever benefits he can pay from holding treasury bonds until maturity

Speaking off the government…these fellas have some problems in our brave new world as well. Without the wild eyed speculative boys from Chicago, debt issuance is pretty limited as the only buyers are those willing to buy and hold paper until maturity. They have been forced to sell off all those lovely assets. Yellow stone national park now features over 2million acres of parking, condos and resorts, all to allow visitors to the wholly owned theme park, a subsidiary of Disney and dream works inc, to witness the amazing animatronics recreation of bears, wolves, ride the amazing old faithful water ride that has a scientifically recreate splash effect from an engineered geyser….next year they will be opening the Yosemite rock wall experience where you will be able to climb actual recreations of half dome in miniature scale,,the real half dome long ago be leveled off and turned into a unique condominium complex…one department of the federal government prospers in this brave new world of no speculation,Clarence(dow) points out to our friend…the IRS is in over drive seeking new funds, collecting back taxes and creating new ones to keep the government afloat.

To the mall off this brave new world..there is of course a sears, a montgomery wards ..wait wards they went bankrupt….not in a world of no speculative capital to finance new stores and new ventures or expand old ones..there is no saks, no abercromie and borders, no barnes and noble,,, certainly no circuit city or blockbuster..therefore there is no price competition to eliminate older unproductive enterprises. You may shop at sears, at monkey wards or a few mom and pops…but all the stores have pretty much the same stuff at the same prices. There is no need for an electronics store…there was no venture capital to create ipods, video games,dvd’s or vcrs. You can get a nice TV, perhaps a hi-fi to play your record albums. With no speculative capital to create new ventures and products, there is no need to expand creativity to hold market share, the consumer is locked into very limited choices….

Look around this world with no rooms full of specs wheeling dealing, buying and selling at lightening pace. Personal computers re limited to very high end IBM machines..they saw no need for computers for the masses and there was no money for bill gates or steve jobs to prove them wrong..who after all but a speculator would take a chance on two potheads in a garage building a computer for everyman? There is internet beyond limited academic and government use as it required billions of dollars of pure speculation to get the internet where it is today…phones are limited to ATT…there was no junk bond money to finance Mci or sprint ..without the access to capital (speculative) that milken made available to steve wynn, vegas stops at the old desert inn. In new york, there is no financial district, just the bowery and waterfront. The museums are dark and empty, unfunded by wall street grants…Chicago is just a brutally cold city of stockyards and shipping docks, no downtown, no rush street…companies that stumble are dead as there is no base of capital investing in distressed turnarounds..great ideas go unfunded as there is no IPO market, much less venture capital.

Enough of the world at large Clarence(dow) says to the dejected speculator. Without speculation what becomes of your old friends the spec..let us visit them in the new world…the chair is of course, a college professor in new England somewhere, dismayed that there is no tennis in the long cold winters, the wizz is seen homeless wandering Harvard square punching endless sequences of numbers into a tattered calculator, muttering incoherently of deviations and sequences….crossman is an overweight sporting goods salesman in Peoria with a wife of gargantuan proportions and 7 kids..mcnabb has been forced to actually get a job,,haag is teaching 7th grade music and looking forward to conducting the annual holiday concert, mr e owns a combination haberdashery and burger stand in Newark….Depew a lonely race track tout wandering the back roads of Kentucky looked for a mispriced zachar, the world's most overeducated nanny,ross miller teaching business math at chino state community college and penal facitlity,larry williams an out of work volunteer emt and firefighter in moose fist montana,pam editing in children’s book in a suburb of Detroit, forced to have a few smallish poodles rather than the collection of beautiful newfies you yearns to own…carstens a truck driver for an Oregon paper mill, lackey a bicycle mechanic and part time Sunday school teacher in east armpit Georgia(he wanted to go to florida but ran out of money before he got to the sunshine state…) and Melvin..poor Melvin, tending bar in a strip joint at the edge of town, trying to read the latest hard case novel by disco light reflected off of flashing sequins, pouring drinks for hard men who want to drink hard liquor and get drunk fast so as not to reflect on the lack of means and method to chase their dreams…..(in a prime example of the law of unintended consequences famous grouse scotch in so longer available in the us but rebel yell bourbon at 3.99 the gallon flourishes)…

No, my speculative friend, come down off the rail..the world is a far better place when it contains you and your like…those who wish to offset their risk my sell it to you, you provide the risk capital to make ideas realities, to rescue firms in distress, to create jobs, invent george benard Shaw so eloquently put it “All progress is unreasonable..therefore all progress is the result of the actions of unreasonable men”..and you my brave young speculator are the prime example of the unreasonable…you risk your capital and your thoughts on an idea, you provide liquidity and price discovery where there is none, industries where only dreams were….the world is far better for your existence…now please my good man, begged Clarence(dow)..if nothing else before Melvin gets too comfortable at the strip joint and refuses to rejoin reality…..our man, invigorated and gals to find himself again part of the world reaches in his pocket and finds,,,yes..its zuzus trading slip..with triumphant shouts of joy we hear him run off..Hello Wall Street, merry Christmas merc, happy holidays you miserable old cboe……..

And every time a bell rings, good old Clarence ( dow) enjoys yet another sip of his 23 claret

Happy holidays specs……

the grinch

Every spec
down in specville
liked trading a lot
but the grinch
who lived just north of specville
did NOT

The grinch hated trading
The whole market, each and everyone
He didn’t even think it was fun
It could be he had bought up some losers or a flamer
Perhaps he had been trading on tips from old cramer
Maybe he had a socialist daddy and mommy
But mostly I think he was just a damn commie

But whether it was his purse, or just his mind that was a wreck
He stood there before the open hating each spec
Deep in his cave he hated each one he could see
And dreaded the open of the NYSE
For he knew that the specs down in specville below
Were ready to trade and try to prfit from order flow
And they re checking their charts and running their stats
Look at them trade the filthy damn rats
He snarled to himself that this really must stop, they must trade no more
I must find a way to keep those trades from reaching the floor

For at the open he knew

All the specs, the girls and the boys
Would holler and yell, and make all that noise
They would yell and they would holler as they keyed up a trade
Or as the market moved, Mozart and cole porter would be played
The noise, the noise, the noise, the noise He could not stand
They were just too loud as they picked and they panned

And after they would sit down to plot the next day
Each of course doing it a different way
They would count and they’d plot, they would graph and they would chart
10qs and 10ks,stats and TA would be taken to heart
they would talk and they would chat and beat each idea to death
the grinch would hate traders until his last breath

but what he hated really the most of it all
was the buying, the selling of both large cap and small
trading of options and futures and forex and grain
winners bought smiles and losers bought pain
but they bought and they sold, they sold and they bought
all day long each other and the markets they fought

they would trade! and they would trade! And they would trade!
Every damn day the trend they would fade
The more the grinch thought of the specville and specs
He knew these markets he must wreck
For centuries he thought I ve put up with it now
I must stop traders from trading!..but HOW?

The he got an idea
An awful idea
The Grinch got a wonderful awful idea

I must dress up and get into town
I ll tax and I'll regulate and close them all down
I ll write movies and books, and even tv shows
And show all the people that capitalism blows
I ll talk and the talk and look just like a spec
And from inside their system I ll wreck

So headed for Dc to wreck the whole fed
While passing through MD he saw two specs,Tim and old fred
Sitting in a dock bar arguing about stuff they had read,
Talking about stocks and girls and swilling down beer
The grinch snuck around the two quickly with fear
Thinking “though Im the grinch my livers not strong
Starting with those two would really be wrong”

On his way to Chicago to give the merc and the cboe a whammy
He ran into another spec of some note, little spec pammy
Nothing to see here he said, no need to even look
Run away now, little spec pam, and perhaps I ll have andy beal write you a book
He saw them all there,Jason and ryan and brian and all the other chi town speculators
They were all there, the breakout boys , the arbs, and even trend faders
He closed the cboe,closed the board of trade, even the merc home of the spooz
He closed them each, he closed them all,now they cant trade, they cant win, they cant even lose

Now to new york to close out them all, the nyse,amex and even the pits that trade oil
There was no one, not even one spec who could the grinchs grand plan foil
No more of this trading, no more of this buying, none of this selling
No more screaming in the phone, no one in the pit yelling
I ll take their computers, their charts and their graphs,why..I ll even take their stats
Ill take their colorful trading jackets, flaming pink pants and even their lucky trade hats
No more systems or averages, I ll leave nothing not even a candle stick or even a band
There will no more trading, we ll remove all the profit and all will be grand
No one, no man, no woman or spec these markets will be saving
Why,Not even krisrock with all his ranting and raving

I ‘ll close them all all over the land, and do without a single care
Even in Weston, I ll close down the bold one they call chair
And even spec steve and Duncan and doc, the dude and young tim
From the east to the west, Europe and even the pac-rim
I ll stop all this trading and close all the markets I find
No more of this profiting from your courage and mind
No more coaxing reward from great risk
Because all the markets,all of them, away I will whisk

And the specs will fall quiet all over the land ,no trading no more
Not even carstens or florida dan,no on the wire , not on the floor
Not even the two professors, not ross and not the bbq voodoo
nothing even the gambler or the listmaster can do
From rollert to sogi, from Nigel to ari and lackey back to young ott
From zussman to rudy, fromm north to south, east to west how silent they will have got

Back to his cave toting his load went the grinch
Closing these markets was really a cinch
I have the numbers,their charts and their q’s, theres nothing to count anymore
I ve taken their systems and books,closed the web and even the nyif store
No more brokers,buyers or sellers, no funds neither mutual nor hedge
No breakouts ,flags, stochastics,%r flags or patterns..not even an ascending nor descending wedge
No roe, roi,,current assets,debt to equity,no ratio of p over e nor value of book
No trading slips, no order screens,trading desks, all the these I closed or I took

He looked down from his cave at Specville as morning was breaking while evilly humming
Because soon the specs would rise and see no trading day was forthcoming
They are just waking up and I know just what the will do,they will stand their and sob
Now they cant trade, they cannot sell nor buy..they might even have to get a real job
And that’s sight and a noise I must hear,So he stood with his hand to his ear
It started out low and started to grow,first a slight murmer but now near a roar
Bbut the sound wasn’t sad, there was no sad sobbing, and the grinch shook to his core
Because all thos psecs down in specville were

How can this be thought the grinch, how can they put in an order
There are no electronics, no internet, no brick,and no mortar?
I took their charts, their graphs,their stats and fundamentals
There are no markets, not stock, not bonds, not oilt not even grains nor even lentils
But the sounds of the market across across the land, a thousand bida t a half, sell the jan sevens
The specs of specville were buying and selling, the sound rose to the cave and beyond to the heavens

How can this be he pondered for hours,that trading goes on withoutall their stuff or their places
And then it dawned on the grinch as clear as the focus on spec faces
Perhaps trading wasn’t just noise and pointless selling and buying
But perhaps about the courage of specs to take risks, risk falling but keep trying
Perhaps trading was about providing markets to feed one and to feed all, a way to earn profits, to learn and to grow
That all the specs in spec land had learned to love risk and studied their craft with great care
Learning that the meaning of life,was just perhaps, about the courage to live and the courage to dare
That spec bet on the markets was really a bet on themselves in ayn randish type fashion
That these specs of spec ville lived unlike most others, they lived with great passion

They say the grinch burned his communist manifesto that great day
And rushed right down the mountain and entered the fray
Sold a few bonds, bought a little oil and went long a few spooze
He learned out to trade, he learned how to win and he learned how to lose
He learned how to arb, which trend to follow and which trend to fade
Into the trenches he learned the meaning of life and learned what it meant to TRADE
He learned to never quit searching nor trying,That living was learning
That traders,especially in specville, use their heart and their wit to do all their earning
He would have highs and he would have lows, win great victories and suffer great blows
Somedays flush with piles of cash, others having to count his fingers and toes
But our grinch learned that day, and went on to a life spent as a hard working trader
Out of his cave to a mansion he moved and thought that all in all nothing could greater!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here we are, Early December. That can only mean one thing. That’s right dear readers it is time for Tim's annual holiday classic. Each year, for some twisted reason know only to myself..Well to be honest I don’t even know why I do it, I bastardize, plagiarize as just generally rip off some well known beloved Holiday yarn giving it a speculative, capitalist, libertarian and just plain weird spin. I of course insert characters from the spec world and sometimes from the real world to make it entertaining to all..or just because I think its funny. I like to do this early in the month so everyone has time to print it off in time for holiday bedtime reading. Surely even Mr., brooks needs a holiday classic to read this time of year eschewing those classics his kids love, the NRA manual and Bambi-He's What's for Dinner. The quest for a new story gets harder every year..We have done Yes, Virginia, It’s a Wonderful Life, naturally the night before Christmas and my all time favorite of them all, last years immortal yet easily forgettable rewrite of the grinch who stole Christmas. This year, I shall tackle the Granddaddy Christmas tale of them all..A Christmas Carol. And stand it firmly on its head

Our hero, Ebenezer Speculator sits at the end of the trading day, marking to mark his current positions. Good day for his egg nogg crack spread (long one, long one milk, short two bourbons) broke even on his march candy Cane short but as always the long Fruitcake trade settled heavily on his p and l. It seemed to him that he had been doing this forever and the watching of green and red blips fall across the screen seemed to be a non productive way to spend his days. I should be ding something productive with my life, something that adds value to the world, he thought to himself.” Feeding the poor, promoting world peace, teaching white men to dance, something that would add real and permanent value to the world. Sure, I am making money and all that and I employ a few people and helped others learn the tricks of the trade and make money. But what real value do I add to the universe sitting here greedily racking up profits for my own benefit while others fail and starve around the world. Surely, I could be a more productive member of society is some way.” At that point his nephew Fred burst through the door in his Cleveland Indians baseball cap, excited with the sprit of the season. “Quick, Uncle” he cried, “ housing starts are down, mortgage defaults are up and the world is awash in debt. We must short, we need to sell calls. Tis the season for economic collapse and profits all around!” Ebenezer look at his nephew and chided him for thinking only of profit for himself and not the plight of the poor around the world.”Bah Humbug. I am tired of all this buying and selling, selling and buying for no purpose other than to fill my own purse.”

The thoughts stayed with our hero as he made his way through the streets. He noted the homeless with their dire condition. He gave generously to the faux Santa’s ringing bells over little kettles, giving freely of his cash so they could continue the good work of forcing winos and degenerates of all forms to sing hymns to get a chicken supper and providing child care so the crack mamas could get to the corner and not worry about the fate of their little ones. He noted all the dregs and depressing things of the human condition. Of course had he lifted his eyes from the gutter he might have seen the towers of steel and glass that provided jobs for literally millions, the apartments full of people who earned their living through productive effort and cared for their families and raised their children to understand the value of education and hard work. He didn’t see the procession of cabs, buses and trains that provided cheap transportation to the public at a profit, or the store windows full of consumer goods, clothes, electronics and appliances that were sold at a profit to give us entertainment sustenance and make out lives easier while providing jobs for millions around the planet. That of course would negate the need for the rest of the story so he trudged homeward, eyes cast down not seeing the triumph of efforts and capital spread before him.

As he took his supper along with a generous glass of Irelands finest he read over the headlines of the evening papers. War here, war there, hunger, pestilence, disease. He knew that he must somehow find a way to make a difference in the world.

He awoke with a start to the clatter of chains and a soft moaning that grew increasingly louder. He recoiled in horror at the sight of a ghost, the ghost of his old trading partner when he first struck out on his own, the ghost before him was that of none other than Karl Lenin Marx Marly. They had separated after a few very profitable years when Jacob driven by the guilt of his wealth and desire to save the world. He had died in Outer Somalia when he was fried and eaten by a pack of savages who vastly preferred deep-fried ex day traders to the food presented by the various aid agencies. They were horrible fat(this was 2001. there was a excess of deep fried ex-day traders around) little men who dispatched of our crusader in quick order with a nice merlot on the side.“Karl,” cried our hero,” you have been dead now these many years. Why do you torment me at this hour? I must sleep as I have many fundraisers to attend this weekend for many liberal charities with heavy overheads and bizarre cost structures.”

“I am here Ebenezer to save form the mistake you are near making, the same fatal mistake of mistaking charity for a productive use of your time and effort..The type of mistake that leads to one being served up with a nice merlot deep in the darkest parts of the world.”

What chains are these you wear?

“The chains of every stupid do good welfare handout, government inspired relief programs that squelch the natural instinct of man to improve himself that I ever supported. The chains of every relief program that I ever collected money for only to have the cash sucked up in more fundraising drives and salaries for those who told us we were saving the world while what damn few supplies we ever sent to the poor were seized by roving warlords and midlevel bureaucrats. Tonight you shall be visited by three ghosts each with a lesson and warning for you. Take heed Ebenezer, take heed, lest you share my fate. The first shall be upon you at the stroke of midnight.”

As the ghost fade, or hero blinked in disbelief and swore he must be hallucinating. It must have been bad oysters or too much whiskey, a dream, nothing but a bad dream .Not as much of a nightmare of any his marriages, but still a bad dream. Back to bed, back to sleep he told himself.

At the stoke of midnight the first visitor did indeed arrive. Clad in pink slacks and a teal sports coat, he roused Ebenezer by smacking him firmly over the head with a copy of dimson marsh and stautons triumph of the Optimists, a most weighty tome capable of rousing one for sleep or knocking one back into it as the case demanded. “Come and see the past, of the profound impact on world history that speculators and investors have made.” With a flash they were gone into another time and another place. “But that’s me, as young man sitting at the ancient quotron cold-calling strangers to get business. Me, with no gray hair, no bifocals. Look at me so young and foolish thinking of nothing but making money.” And he watched himself as time and space compresses as I can do because its my story, watched himself in those first few years as a young salesman peddling stocks and bonds for companies no one had ever heard of, Golden Nugget, MCI, Microsoft, Amgen, Netscape. He watched as he helped raise money for companies that transformed the world with their technology and their medical devices and drugs. The specter whacked him now with Stigler Statistics on the table and they sped though days past seeing whole new industries, airlines, automobiles, computers created. Created with money raised in financial markets made possible by the liquidity provided by traders and speculated. Men who speculated to raise their standards of living and endowed educational institutions and libraries that made it possible for others to expand their knowledge, not with a hand out but an opportunity. He saw the million per cent a century return of the capital markets raise standards of living virtually around the globe and for the first time he began to realize that maybe, just maybe business and capitalism did far moregood than harm. Another smack to the head with a copy of Galtons Art of travel and he saw the history of other approaches, the complete and total failure of communist and socialist systems over the years and around the planet.

With a thump they land back in our hero’s apartment. “Why show me these things spirit. Surely in spite of these things I saw, I can still do more good acting out of charity than avarice.” With another smack of the optimist tome. Our spirit departs leaving Ebenezer crumpled to the floor.

As the clock strikes one, the second ghost, the ghost of speculative now shows. He looks disturbingly like Kenny Rogers and is wearing some sort of cheese apparatus as headgear with a twinkle in his eye like David Hillman might have if he ever did actually find someone incredible to actually agree to marry him..Oh wait that did happen and Hillmans been twinkling ever since. The spirit yanked Ebenezer from the floor, stuck a gin and tonic in his hand and off they went.

First to nephew Fred’s where he sat around with his boon companions and fellow traders Jason and Ryan. Jason sighed wearily: this market is killing me. After today’s trading debacle I m only up 913% for the year. I tell you I’m getting desperate..” Ryan was quick to agree ‘ If this keeps up next year I ll only be able to go to outer Mongolia and the north pole. I may actually have to skip paying a fortune to slip into communist dictatorships that are sworn enemies of the US. The horror of it all!”

“Guys”, said Fred, I am worried about Uncle Ebenezer. Why just yesterday I went into his office and showed him some great housing shorts and an ingenious way to be short stocks and long volatility at the same time. He didn’t pay any attention. He was too busy writing checks to the sierra club and the feed Sally Struthers s foundation! He’s losing his drive and mumbles all day of doing good.”

“Enough of the gloom” shouted Jason. “We shall go now to Melvin B’s and drink copious amounts of beer and then gather around a brightly decorated cell phone and call Chesapeake slim and berate him for his nefarious bad habits of drinking, smoking,and gambling, to say nothing of chasing women with Kentucky accents and only buying stocks under book value. It is after all, a holiday tradition.”

With the splash of a lime in a fresh G&T they were off again. They looked upon the voodoo prof and Elena living in Deltaville, va living a life of trading teaching and boating, said aforementioned Slim on his island, wring strange documents and perusing vague financial documents, mandatory glass of Famous grouse at his side enjoying the benefits of a capitalist society that allows a man to marry as many times as he likes and still figure out a way to pay for it, they saw the wiz and the Weston crew, trading and living lives, raising families, gaining knowledge as well as profits that enabled them to enjoy the fruits of their efforts, they passed over Hawaii where Mr. Sogi continues to trade and dabble in business enjoying the companionship of his incredible wife and the Pacific surf, Scott brooks , stalking profits all week and innocent fuzzy animals all weekend. All of them trading and investing in the markets, using the profits they reap for the betterment of themselves and the ones they love.

Thump back into the apartment, the spirit snatched way the gin and tonic mumbling about being in a hurry to get back and make dinner for Paula and departed. Before Ebenezer could compose himself the clock struck 2 and the last spirit appeared. With an I pod full of Cajun rock and roll tunes, a U of C bobcats sweatshirt and smelling of small town Chesapeake breezes he hurled Ebenezer into the future, a future where capital markets failed, there was no innovation. The poor die first and frequently as there are no innovators figuring ways to ever cheapen the cost of food and clothing, disease was rampant as the government stepped in and removed the access to capital markets and the profit incentive, no new drugs were discovered and those that remained were expensive. Energy costs were prohibitive as there was no capital to develop new alternative source or search for new discoveries of oil and gas. There were no new jobs created and the taxes collected to support the ever-declining system ensured that business could not expand and create new opportunites. It was a bleak world, one without the hope for improving the lives of ones self and loved ones. There were no traders or investors to put money into new ventures, no speculators to provide liquidity or generate profits that create jobs and support families. The only wealthy folks were those that worked at charities paying themselves fine salaries to collect what little money remained to dispense to those less fortunate..Which of course is everybody but you and I.

“This my friend”, spoke the spirit as he sipped a rare 30 year scotch from some obscure Scottish village” is what happens when there are no markets and no traders.” And he was off, back to fight the battle of the neighbors light pole.
“What a fool I have been” cried Ebenezer.” Thinking of my self as non-productive because all I did was trade an invest. How could I fail to notice that I have provided jobs for dozens of employees, taught many to make money in the market and support their families and put their children through school, or that the money I invested helped to create new technologies and industries, providing jobs and opportunities for literally thousands.”

He dashed to the window and cried to a young boy passing below.” You boy. What day is this” Saturday said the boy, Christmas eve” “Thank the gods I haven’t missed it..Boy do you know the newsstand around the corner. Take this 20 bucks and run round there and fetch me today’s Barron’s, FT and NY times. I must prepare for the next weeks trading.” Of course this being modern times and not dickensian London the kids was never seen again most likely spending the twenty on cheap booze and porno. We can only stretch our fiction so far. later our hero had to go to the newsstand himself to obtain copies and make his way over to starbucks to sip a large (grande,venti my butt. It’s a large coffee) coffee

An Ebenezer spent a nice Christmas with good friends and family, chatting with Jason, Fred, the voodoo prof and all the specs about trend and trades in the market, ready to return with a new zeal and new appreciation for the life of speculation.

“Heck,” he though to himself.” I may even call Slim and see if he’s got any of those weird little cheap stock ideas. It is after all the holidays.”

Best early wishes to all for a wonderful Holiday season and a may you trade well and learn much in the new year.

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