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Thursday, November 20, 2008

latest thoughts

One is reminded that it has been far too long since I contributed so much as a word to this space. All the way back to the sweltering days of summer the space has lain vacant of new thoughts and ideas, frivolities and ramblings. The baseball season and indeed even the hallowed time of the World Series has passed wordlessly. Why, you might ask if you actually gave a shit whether I wrote here or not? Neglect, I suppose. Writing for a living has been a blast and I find I do not take the time I used to just to write for myself. But tonight, I shall again return to my pages, free of censor and unbefouled or besmirched by an edito (note” the ones I work with on a daily basis are actually very good but its such a great line I had to use it).r.
Summer is indeed gone and the flowers are all dying. It was another good one. There were the usual misadventures and boating excursions and escapades. They seemed a bit more subdued this year, The War of Tic Tac and Peru continued unabated until late summer when some sort of mysterious ceasefire occurred and the battle has fallen silent. I suspect some sort of nefarious drug is being used but since TT would swallow any combination of pills anyway, we shall never know. New York was a frequent excursion where as always I managed to liberally mix business and pleasure. I traveled I beached, pooled and enjoyed the living shit out if it as always. Ah summer you fickle slut. Dancing in with hit days and warm nights, endless waves , sweaty cans of beer and frosted gin and tonics. You brings us fast boats, bikinis, star filled nights and so many pleasures and vices that make life such a journey of pleasure. Like all true women of a certain morally causal attitude that I have come to adore, you stay far too short a time before moving on but what a delight while you tarry with us.

Now, fall is among us and the leaves swirl through the roadways in the colorful annual dance that bids fond farewell to summer. The night air sweeps in crisp with the foreshadowing of winter on its wings. Soon it shall be upon us that most evil ex wife of a season. Although there will be moments of incredible beauty and even sensuality hidden in winters icy cloak, at heat she remains an icy foul hearted bitch of a season that tears at your soul with cold snow dripped fingers and cuts through your loins with icy northeast winds. There is only one thing to do at such time. That’s right, fuck it I m going to Florida! Give me the warm embrace of the luxurious sands and the welcome feeling of the warm winds upon my soul as the sun casts its protective warmth on my face. I ll be back for the worst of winter, but I ll spend December in Florida pretending the bitch does not exist and sleep untroubled by frozen dreams.

Lt us tackle the foul tasting subject of the stock market and economy before we move on to more pleasant subjects like fetid bowl movements and mid life circumcision. When this shit started last year I wrote that the persistent government intervention would make this all much worse. Big fucking surprise they have done exactly that. Had we just stepped back and let these fucking rocket scientists and idiots that make up Wall Street. The greedy shits who bought too much house based on a pipe dream a mentally challenged six year old could see was false as a strippers tits would have lost their houses, They are losing them anyway. The greedy scum sucking mortgage assholes who sold them that dream would be waiting tables. They are. A bunch of Wall Street firms would have gone under. They have. The market would have dropped 50% or more. It has and will continue to do so. Had we not not in our governmental wisdom intervened this all would have been over. Like new growth after a fire, there would have been new companies emerging by now to keep the financial markets vibrant. The larger regional banks that did not participate in the toxic rancid stupidity created by their larger brethren would have stepped in to fill the void ny now. We would be recovering. The market would have worked. It would have been painful, but could it possibly be worse than the ass raping we are currently seeing the market? I think not. We have trashed the balance sheet of the central bank, sold the soul of our constitution to Goldman Sachs and the greedy cocksuckers that created the mess in the first place. Now the line is forming for money. Please. Let us sell our souls for federal money. Take my hear, my soul , my balls and my brains . Just give me the money. You stupid fuckers should be fired and run out of town. You ruined your banks and brokerages. You fucked up the auto industry with stupidity and greed. For that matter fuck that pious son of a bitch from the UAW. Give me a god damn break. No concessions? Fuck you then, no job. This is the biggest rip off of not just our money but the character of our nation itself. We are nationalizing our financial industry s well as others. They strip away our rights for own protection with the patriot act and now they steal our very birthright to “preserve the financial system.” Listen you miserable ass wiping motherfuckers; you cannot get away with this. We are going to revolt. Right after the Simpsons, or maybe at halftime. It seems Jefferson is tight and a prosperous people will never preserve liberty. We will change as a nation as a result of this and I wonder what we will become.

As for the market itself there is a fortune to be made over the next several years. I see companies that are profitable trading for less then 3 times E/EBITDA. I see an ever growing list of companies that sell for less than cash in the bank. We are fast approaching the depths of an ugly bear market and there is money to be made. I am buying DAR, HDNG, DOW,ASH and other like a crack addict at a rock convention. I am shorting bonds because anybody that thinks we wont have to turn on the printing presses to pay for this clusterfuck is dumber than me with a naked woman in the room. I am hedging every thing I do. You have to. There is a fortune to be made but the trick is not to lose one while trying.

Let us move on to more pleasant subjects. It has been a good sports year so far, or at least interesting. I remain an Orioles fans for reasons that escape my tortured soul. Every time I am ready to give up on this wretched franchise and walk away to a better team to exhort, they do something to reel me in. Appointing McPhail to run the team and then letting him do it may actually work. We have a decent core and a lot of talent in the farm system. I tool several trips to Bowie this year and the double a club has some serious talent that is a half season or three away from coming up to the bigs. The Weiters kid has the tools to be one of the great catchers There may be brighter days ahead. Of course, just as we got some light, the damn Devil Rays got great. .They may have lost the Series but that is a very talented young ballclub. Add them to the yankees and goddamn scum sucking whale shit slurping red sox as perennial obstacles for my beloved birds. Torre made it to the playoffs while the Steinbrenners did not and the Cubs broke Chicago’s heart once again. It was baseball and I look forward to its return.

Navys football team is playing well and is bowl eligible already. They didn’t beat Notre Dame but they gave them a run for it. Maryland has been the surprise. They were not supposed to be this good. If they beat Florida State Saturday they have a pretty good path to the ACC title. The ravens are much better than expected. The kid Flacco appears to be the real deal and the defense is just plain fucking mean. The combination of violence and half dressed women on the sidelines continues to be one of those things that make the fall and winter a little easier to tolerate. Be even better from a beach bar in Florida next month.

It has been a great book year so far. Doc Ford has shown up as have all of parkers characters. All of my favorites have been prolific this year and the UPS guy is a regular delivering the new ones hot of the press on a regular basis. I have made several journeys to the book thing exchanging literally crates of books. Right now I am reading Michael Dobbs fictional trilogy based on Winston Churchill and they are a seriously good read. There has even been a release of unpublished Bukowski material. Andrew Greely had a new one and I almost went to mass after reading it. There are more in the next month and I intend to take bunch to the Sunshine state with me. Needless to say much of the depth of the cold shitty wet, nasty ass winter that awaits my return will be spent reading.

AH women. The saga of that continues in an unending circle and circus. Women, you foul, wonderful, evil, delightful, heartless, loving, repulsive , attractive, frigid, sexy creatures. The very bane and cause for my existence. Why must you always try to change me after we meet? How can you look at me , drink in one hand, cigarette in the other, playing poker while talking to my bookie on the phone all the while sitting in my apartment that I faithfully clean every Christmas and think I am going to change? Once again a contender for the one has turned into the Nag trying to change what she liked about me in the first fucking place. But onward I plunge. Faint heart never won fair lady and it doesn’t get laid very often either. I may never find her, the Lauren Bacall Dorothy Parker hybrid of my dreams, but I shall continue to search. It may perhaps be somewhat quixotic to do so but at least instead of dueling windmills I shall be undressing attractive women. Seems like a reasonable crusade from this seat.

The journey continues. The stream of this thing we call lie continues unabated until it no longer does. We do not when it ends or what comes next. Like the mind of a woman it is unknowable. What matters then must be the journey. What a cornucopia ( I can use that now. It is almost thanksgiving) has been laid before us. Drunken nights and summer days. Good books and great music. The smiles of our children, the laughter of our friends. First time sex and goodbye kisses. Coffee in bed on a winter morning. Fast boats and slow cruisers. Scotch and steak. First love and broken hearts. Fond hopes and bittersweet memories. They are all the fabric of our lives and we weave the tapestry as we progress along the way. I briefly contemplated the idea of growing up not too long ago and taking it all seriously. I cannot. I will not. I much prefer the childlike approach to life. In his book, The Last lecture, randy pausch said that one of the most important decisions you will make in life is whether you will be a Tigger or an Eeyore. I choose Tigger with abundant bouncing from misadventure to adventure. If tears be the occasional price of laughter then I gladly pay it. If the cost of drunkenness, bit it on booze, women, knowledge or beauty, is a hangover then I pay that price happily. Life is a gift f undetermined time and value beyond understanding. To grow up and approach it a mature somber fashion strikes me as pure idiocy.

It is for friends that I shall give thanks next Thursday. I am cooking this year. The kids and all those demented young adults they call friends shall descend upon my abode demanding copious amounts of free food and drink and I will revel in it. At some point however I shall raise my glass is a quiet toast to my friend, even those who insist of getting married and having babies thereby reducing our quality drinking time. From the Chicago crew to the new Yorkers, from tic tac to the talented blonde. Mr and Mrs tire Guy (dude you so married up), the bible pusher to the shacked up freeloader, the curmudgeonly options guy to the shaky electrician, from Kent Island to California and back again, it is you my friend who add the spice to this adventure. It is for you and to you that I give thanks.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Without them there is no us

Ah, the 4th of July, Independence Day is upon us once again. The smell of charcoal will waft across the nation as back yards everywhere become a monument to mans eternal desire to cook meat over open flames while consuming malt beverages and yelling at the kids. The streets of our towns and cities will be bedecked in red white and blue. There will be parades and old soldiers will suck in that gut and wear their uniform proudly down Main Street once again. High school bands will march sharply and play badly and politicians will wave at the crowd. There will be fireworks all over the country form NY harbor to Armpit Alabama there will pyrotechnic celebrations of our nations founding. I ll be right there with as always. I have a bunch of firecrackers in the closet, a few roman candles and bottle rockets to shoot up the neighborhood on Thursday. We are into gin and tonic season and I ll have a few of those as I celebrate my PETA (people eating tasty animals) membership by grilling up the largest steaks I can find. There will be friends and family, boats and fireworks and all the trimmings as we celebrate the 4th Kent island style.

I will, as I always do, stop and think of all that has gone into our 232 years of existence as a nation. So many have given so much to make and keep us a great nation. One of course think of the military, the soldiers, sailors and marines who have fought ot preserve our cherished freedoms. From the scare citizens who stood on Concord green, hearts beating wildly beneath buckskin as they held a musket in sweaty hand to the scared GI who mutters a quick Hail Mary before leaving the green zone the commitment and sacrifice they have given our country is staggering. I talked to a friend who returned today form visiting Normandy. He talked of the raw powerful emotion he felt looking at the beaches and cliffs those young men assaulted and took. He wept at the cemetery where so many of those young men found their final resting place. Our military won our independence form Britain over 200 years ago and has protected and preserved our status and place in the world ever since. There is no thank you large enough. Without them, there is no us.

I have written before of the contributions of businessmen to our nation. These are often overlooked as men of business are too often vilified and perceived as bad, or even evil. But the contributions of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, The Rockefellers, the Bill gates and even the Warren Buffetts to our society cannot be ignored. In the name of profit and gain they have spurred technological innovation and industrial revolution. They bought light into our homes and automobiles into our garages. Beause of them we can fly across the globe, have microsecond access to just about anything form a laptop computer. They have provided jobs and contributed generously to build schools, libraries and cultural centers across the United States. Again, without them, there is no us.

Then there is the other businessman who makes our nation great. The little guy. Maybe he owns a tire shop and repair center that provides 7 or 8 jobs. He keeps his customers cars maintained and safe, saving them money and possibly their lives. Perhaps she owns a small accounting service helping others deal with intricate financial and tax problems. Or a restaurant that serves thousands of people a year good food at decent prices. Dozens of people will be employed at such a place, form youngsters with their first job to the middle aged waitress who is raising a couple of kids and works hard to give you the best possible service and dining experience. Small business owners have ink stained hands form their printing press, grease under their fingernails that will never come out entirely, they have sunburn from long days providing landscaping and yard services. They have eye strain from late nights reviewing budgets and payrolls. They live on a curious mix of Mylanta , Hope and energy. They make our r communities better places to live; they provide countless jobs, pay endless taxes and are the financial support for thousands of local charitable and cultural organizations. Without them, there is no US.

Then there is the so called average men and women. They go to work at a variety of jobs each day. The manufacture the products we sue, they provide services to make out lives better. They raise their kids to be better educated than they are and hopefully have an even better life. They spend the money that supports business and industry.hey pay the taxes that make the country function. They go to church and pray for a better world. They socialize with friends and neighbors and share each others burdens and joys. They may live in Wheatfield, Mo or the upper east side of New York City. They are us. Their daily efforts to make their own lives better is what makes the country a little better and a little stronger as the years go by.
I know we are far from perfect. There is no perfect man and no perfect nation. I know that the rest of the world is not that fond of us at times. We are perceived as arrogant and materialistic, spreading the gospel of hip hop and coca cola around the globe. Of course, if the citizens of the governments that despise u sdid not WANT hip hop and Coke, we would not be successful at this. There are more peole who are free on this planet because of us. Without us Europe would be either a German Dictatorship of a Soviet colony. Here would be no communist China. They would be part of the Japanese Prosperity Zone. Latin America would be Spanish and Portuguese America. We have never gone to war over territory. We have never annexed a defeated foe. We have taken the sons and daughters castoff by ther nations and turned them into Americans who have given the world far more than the world has given the United States. Perhaps we are not perfect, but I will take out imperfections over dictatorships and theocracies that still dominate many of the governments of the world.

Many decry our culture. Yes, I am afraid we did give you McDonalds and MTV. We also gave you jazz and Ernest Hemingway. From our lands came Faulkner, Twain, Updike, Kerouac and Mailer. Yes, Brittany Spears is our fault. But we made up for it with Bogart, Sinatra and Katherine Hepburn. From the American soul came the blues and rock and roll. Elvis, Dylan and Robert Johnson all are cut from American cloth. Charlie Parker, count Basie and Miles Davis may be well loved across Europe but they are form the United Sates and their sound and culture was born and thrived here. True we are responsible for the genetic cesspool that is the NBA, but we also give you baseball with Babe Ruth , Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Cal Ripken. Our sports are not reserved to the upper classes. A baseball game can be enjoyed by anyone with a ticket, or on a radio while changing the oil or a local tavern television while enjoying a cold adult beverage with a few friends. The good and the great that has come out of our nation far exceeds the average or bad.

The United States of America. Born of a desire to be free to govern, worship, think and live the way each wished. Expanded by the speculations of Thomas Jefferson and the explorers who sought knowledge and land. A land where risk taking and speculation to better ones life is encouraged and supported, where an uneducated immigrant can someday see his sons and daughters attend world class universities. A country where you can, through your own vision and hard work, be who you want and live how you want to live. A place where you are responsible for you own life, but your neighbors are quick to help. A nation that is always first to respond to a disaster whether at home or in a far off land.
We are not perfect. But I still have not seen anything better. The single most important export of the US has been our concepts of freedom and principles of Liberty. It is a nation founded built and protected by the individual efforts of its citizens. It is the land of the free and Home of the brave because of the men and women who are born here, immigrate here and live here. They are US

So be it the backyard grilling burgers and hollering at little Johnny to stop squirting the damn hose all over everybody; or on a terrace in Manhattan; by the lake in Chicago, in the wastelands of Wisconsin with a G&T in hand and gleam in your eye;a boat on the Chesapeake with beer and bikinis in great abundance; or wherever this 4th of July finds you. Remember for a moment to raise a glass in honor of all those who served, who lived, who built, learned, worked, raised kids and strived for a better life. In their strivings, we have found a better nation.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ramblings from the train

Heading back form an eventful trip to the Apple, sharing a crowded Acela Express I find that I am an ready to be out of the city. I love New York but having to dress like an adult is something of a pain in the ass. Two days of having to wear big boy shoes is wearing thin. I need my faded cut offs and flip flops to feel comfortable and myself again. I went to the bull and bear at the Waldorf last night and have to agree it is a lovely bar. Wonderful old style New York décor, great bar conversations, decent drinks and a running ticker tape to keep track of the world. Of course it should be wonderful for $17 a fucking drink! Give me red eyes and cold gin in a plastic cup with a savings of about 13 bucks a drink any day. I stayed at the Double tree hotel on 51st and Lex and while the location was perfect, the hotel itself was far from it. The hotel surpassed the Algonquin for the smallest room I have ever stayed din. It was beyond tiny. Damn good thing I was traveling alone since the room was not big enough for any wild drunken sexual romps without serious injury to one or more of the participants. Over 330 dollars for a room that would fall short as a closet in a lot of places is a bit much.

The number of foreign tourists in the city is staggering. I heard half a dozen languages tossed around the bar last night. This is not necessarily unusual for me but I was still sober at the time. The one benefit of our government’s heartfelt desire to turn our currency into toilet paper is that all those wealthy Europeans and Asians who hate every ounce and fiber of the American Being and Persona can come over and swizzle scotch at a substantial discount. It is a great time to be selling week old hot dogs and stupid tee shirts in NYC as all the vendors seemed to be doing a brisk business in tourist crap and bad food. A strange world where everyone hates us but rushes to buy the tackiest crap we can sell them.

As for the market, what can I say.?It sucks. It has sucked and by all indications it will continue to suck. This is the Linda Lovelace of stock markets. Oil just will not go down. They raised the price in China and no one cared for more than a few hours. Demand is not going away. An economy that is growing at 10% needs fuel. The tow choices are coal and oil. Both a e higher and probably going to stay that way for the future. I was berated wildly last year for buying ICO and JRCC as they both went down initially. Both are up multiples of the purchase price now and the gain has more than justified the waiting. Food prices are high and getting higher. The Midwest flooding has ruined the already tight grain supplies and this will filter across a wide variety of food oriented commodities. I am not happy about this at all. First cigarettes went up because of Gov RockandRoll Dumbasses tax hike, scotch went up as the dollar fell and now a damn hamburger is going to increase because of flooding and an energy policy that has raped our food supply to make inefficient ethanol. Is this a great country or what?

Financial stocks continue to have a tough go of it as well. Key Corp and Fifth Third were thought to be conservative banks. Until they blew up this week. FITB had to raise a$1 billion to clean up its mess. KeyCorp needed $1.65 billion. The fact that banks can continue to get capital is simply amazing to me. This has to either be foreign money hoping to gain control of the US banking system or some of the dumbest rich guys in the history of the world. Investor s are giving ore money to the same idiots who caused the problems in the first damn place. Bad loans,. Securitized crap, securities they didn’t understand but put a few billion into to gain 50 basis points, the mistakes are almost ludicrous. And now they are raising billions like they had cured cancer.I once thought of changing my name to Tim.Com and doing an IPO. Now, I think I will become TimBancorp and sell a few billion of perpetual preferred stock to fund my next few marriages. The financial system has deep problems and the poor consumer is screwed some many ways right now they must fell like a gang banging porn star who just found out they are doing another take of the pile on. Higher food, higher energy, home price falling. What direction will we get fucked from next? Here’s a clue. Interest rates are starting to rise. I continue to think that only an illiterate deaf mute kamikaze could be aggressively long the US stock market. Of course there are lots of those around. We call them mutual fund managers.

At least it is summer. Last week Richard Ford the noted novelist wrote a piece in the NY Times lamenting summer as the season that disappoints. Like the character in his books it seems that the season falls short of his expectations. Actually I would suggest that Mr. Ford falls short of summer rather than the opposite. Ford is a brilliant writer bit I tire of the life as serious of failed hopes and everyday despairs. As I age I find that I prefer the characters of Richard Russo. The residents of Mohawk know that they grabbed the shitty end of the stock and have been beaten with it in many cases. But they embrace themselves as who and what they are and find a way to get the enjoyment out of life the angst ridden seldom find. You are disappointed in summer? Guess what? Summer is real fucking disappointed in you , pal.

Summer is a season of opportunities. We have suffered through dealing with the moody bitch ice queen that is winter, drudging through snow drifts on sun shortened days, winds that bite like the words of an angry wife wondering just where the hell you have been until 4 am. We have endured the flirtations of the nipple flashing virgin that is spring with her sexy promises but delivering only a peek and a peck pf what summer can deliver. Summer is the denim shorts and halter top clad, bare foot dancing girl of our dreams. She will dance the months away if you only ask.

If you sit and wait for summer to come to you, you will be disappointed. But if you get off your ass and go get it summer will be what you want it to be. There are days of great weather, there is boating ( I will even include you “we have the right of way and could you slow down because the noise hurts muffys ears “pain in my ass rotten shit sail boaters here), there are hammocks under shade tress and lemonade, docks bars and gin and tonic while the band plays rock and roll under the sweaty night sky, there is pace ball in the Bronx and at the yard. They are going t play nine at Wrigley and at fen way and 26 there stadiums this year. This of course does not include the minor league parks all over the country. There is golf if you like dressing up like schmuck and chasing a little white ball. Tennis. Swimming. Little kids playing in the sprinkler. Ice cream sodas. Cold beer. Burgers and dogs on the grill. Sleeping off a hangover on the beach trying to match the rhythm of the waves to the ones pounding in your head. Watching the girls walk down 5th avenue in sundresses. Watching the girls at Redeyes wearing damn near nothing. Fishing in a stream or a lake, trolling in the bay for rockfish
It doesnt matter what it is you want, Summer can deliver. But you have to get u off your dead ass and go get it. If you spend all your time whining about the heat or focusing on the everyday the you god and fucking well deserve to miss out. Can you really give a shit that the laundry isn’t put away when the Yankees and birds are playing at the yard and there is a smoking band at the deck bar. Is dusting more important than screaming across the bay at 75 mph on a clear day basking in the sun and the speed? Which would you rather do? Cut the grass and clean house or join a bunch of friends for a raft up at conquest beach, spending the day swimming in the river, drinking beer and laughing your ass off? Me too.

There are things we have to do. Even I know that. There are articles to write, the markets will be open even if they are going down with the regularity of a fat girl at closing time in a tequila bar, and we all have to earn a living. But seriously, save the mundane shit for a rainy day. Play ball, Start your engines, hell ,hoist the mainsail if you must.

But if summer disappoints you, it is your own damn fault. Shes right over there beckoning at you to come play, to dance, to live. If you sit there and wait for her to come to you, like most other things in life you will be sorry.Its summer. Get off your dead ass and go live a little.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

latest thoughts

I confess this new career thing is even better than I expected. Writing for a living and managing money for a few select clients is working better than even I ever imagined. On the money front I can hold cash without it affecting my income, I can short stocks without 16 different legal approvals; and trade options withut a decree from on high cosigned by six separate archangels. The writing thing has been wonderful. To write each day and get paid for it is a dream come true, something I never expected and enjoy more than I have words to express. The morning commute to the living room is relatively quick, the coffee is much better than the office and sweat pants are considered appropriate attire. The only thing I have missed is writing just for the hell of it with no assigned topic or deadline. I have not been able to write about island life, sports, or the markets in my own unrestrained voice just for the hell of it for time reasons so I am going to do so now. I find myself with a modicum of spare time (provided I ignore my children’s impassioned pleas to finish their tax returns anyway).

First, the stock market. To this market I can only say “Ipse Cummingo mingere minxi mictum vos”. Loosely translated from the Latin, “I piss on you”. This market is a joke. The rally of late is predicated on things not being any worse than they have been. Sweet freaking Jesus, if they were any worse the financial system may have collapsed. Subprime related losses are going to total almost half a trillion dollars! The fed has sold out Main Street for the benefit of Wall Street, debasing the currency and ignoring potential inflationary pressures to prop up the balance sheets of major financial institutions. They have created new ways to allow banks and brokerages to dump assets onto the public balance sheet and access taxpayer cash to offset bad investments and stupid loans. The economy is just horrible. Orders are falling, backlogs are down and inventories are rising. The consumer is in debt up to his and her eyeballs and for the first time in years they cannot refinance the family castle to pay down their credit cards. There is currently more mortgage debt than home equity in the United States and the number of houses in foreclosures is growing at a rapid rate. Business is off at UPS and Federal Express as both consumers and corporations cut back orders. Retail sales are vapid at best. Consumers are broke and as they account for 70% of our economy I can’t see any reason for a sustained rally. Today’s 3% rally on moderate volume smacks of a short covering inspired bear market rally. Even if I am dead wrong here I think the risk of being fully committed to stocks carries too many risks for the idea of a margin of safety to exist. I am willing to miss this run up to protect capital. There appears to be very little common sense being used on Wall Street these days when it comes to the overall economic and financial matters, as well as a total lack of fear. Bottoms are accompanied by fear and loathing not cheerleading and bottom predictions. The bullish arguments are laughable. Anyone who does not clearly see that the recent pullback in gold and other commodities is deleveraging by hedge funds in light of recent volatility is not looking close enough. Anyone who thinks that the bank write offs are at an end has just simply lost their mind. Yes, eventually they will write all this crap down too far and it will create an opportunity. I particularly look forward to moves like that of UBS to separate the bad assets into separate vehicles as this will create huge pools of underpriced and unloved mortgage assets that no one wants to own, reminiscent of the Texas bad Banks of the late 80s and early 90s. But that time is not now. Small community banks will thrive and benefit from the tighter credit conditions and steeper yield curve. But not yet. Patient investors will see one of the best buying opportunities of their lifetimes. But it is too soon.

I went to opening day yesterday for the first time in years. Along with Mr. and Mrs. Tire Guy I headed up to the yard to watch the birds take on Tampa. The team was as bad as I thought it would be but we had a blast at Pickles and after an extended tour of Baltimore parking garages the NGF (new girlfriend) joined me. Any day at the ballpark is a good time. A day at the park with a beautiful woman is a great time. The team is a s bad as I had feared. However, for the first time since Davey Johnson was fired there are signs of hope around the yards. Instead of just signing whatever over the hill high priced free agents were available, Peter Angelos handed the reigns over to Andy McPhail to start a real rebuilding process. It was hard to see Eric Bedard leave. It will be even harder when he pitches against us this weekend. It will be hard to see Brian Roberts get traded before mid year. But he will, hopefully to the Cubs since they are one of the two teams I am hoping to see in the World Series. A rebuilding year is hard to take from a wins and losses perspective. However, it makes going to the ballpark more fun than going to watch a team that is bad with no prospects. Now instead of watching overpriced over aged talent screw up the game, we can watch for the improvements that have positive implications for next year. Can Adam Jones learn and get better at a major league level? Can Nick Markakis add the 10-12 home runs and 20+ RBIs that take him from good to great? Can Daniel Cabrera throw strikes two games in a row? Does Hernandez’s glove make up for the offense we give up? Can Melvin Mora get hot enough at the plate so we can trade him for a young third baseman who can play defense as well as hit? Does Adam Lowen live up to his seemingly limitless potential? How long before Luke Scott takes his bible and his pistol back to the minor leagues? The wins and losses will be awful but at least there are reasons to watch the games. I am going to cheer for the Orioles to get better, the Twins to outlast Detroit and sweep the goddamn miserable shit eating red Sox in the ALCS and face the Cubs who will have crushed the damn you for 1969 you miserable bastards New York Mets in the NLCS.

The final four is upon us as well. For the first time the four number one seeds will face each other. This promises to be weekend of incredible college basketball. Look at the matchups. UCLA –Memphis is the first game. UCLA’s young star Kevin Love is having an incredible tournament. He is averaging 21.8 points a game and 11 rebounds. Can Joey Dorsey shut him down, or at least slow him down? Freshman derrick Rose of Memphis shredded the much vaunted pair of Texas guards. Can he do as well as the UCLA tandem that already play at an NBA level? Can Memphis make free throws? Will Coach Ben Howlands defense shut down the free wheeling Memphis offense? The edge here is UCLA but Memphis has been shutting up critics for the entire tournament. North Carolina was my preseason pick to win it all and they are in position to do exactly that this weekend. How will the saga of Roy Williams coaching against his old team play out? Can Kansas find a way to stop Tyler Hansborough, who is averaging 21 points and 9.5 rebounds a game? Can Brandon rush step up and have the huge game he need sot for Kansas to have a chance? Wll ty Lawson play to early season form? The edge here is Carolina who has scored an average of 93 points and beaten opponents by an average of 25 points so for in the big dance. The dream matchup here is North Carolina and Memphis in the final. Not coincidentally, it is also the one that saves my bracket!

Spring is upon the island. It may be just me but the Narrows seems to have an air of anticipation about it these days. Although the nights remain somewhat chilled, the days are warming and you can feel the hint of summer on the way. There is talk about who is putting their boat in the water when and what changes they are making. I confess to some concern that the Tic Tac kid is lightening his boat after some of the airborne adventures we experienced last year. Boating is not supposed to include passengers in the fetal position praying for mercy while we are looking down on the bald spots of guys in another boat! Tic Tac is the only guy I know who needs FAA clearance to leave his slip! Coming out of Annies Steak House the other night I could see the construction of Red Eyes new stage in preparation for another summer of bands and bikinis parading across the docks. There was just a hint of high performance gas and roiling BBQ smoke from the food stand in the air. There are steamed crabs and fresh rockfish in the near future, long nights of dock bars and music, the multiple colored summer sunsets on the narrows and all the things that make the island one of the best places on the planet to be in the summertime.

Another sure sign of spring is the fast approaching Keeneland expedition for the Blue Grass Stakes. The annual gathering fo friends and assorted degenerate gamblers and desperate drinkers is one of the best trips of the year and it is now less than two weeks away. We will suffer from the absence of the Kentucky Colonel who is apparently inconsiderate enough to schedule childbirth during racing season. The group will be a little smaller as Texas Tim bough his now wife, then fiancé, last year, and is not allowed to associate with us anymore .The Iowan is suffering from dementia bought on by excessive consumption and promotion of ethanol and other corn based biofuels and is unable to attend. However, as always Crossman and I will be there to provide entertainment and the Bet the Pink Mets fan will be there. The voodoo prof is putting in an appearance and the listmaster, with his iron Curtain contingent are scheduled to show up. So is “fuck it just sell more” Thompson from Chicago. For the first time ever in the multi years of the event (without checking bail slips and bar tabs I cannot recall exactly how many years this trip has continued) I will be bringing a girlfriend. Naturally, the degenerates have started a pool on how long before she flees in terror. I have the over on this one. She’s already seen me with a snoot full of Irish on St Patrick’s Day! We will have a great day at one of the more scenic and historic racetracks in the country, have great food at deShays and drink too much at McCarthy’s and put yet another memorable After Dark trip into the memory books.

Life could not be better right now. In a lot of respects I am living my dream and fully aware how lucky that makes me. Both kids are doing great, working and doing well in school and I have resisted the urge to dispose of my son’s menagerie while he was at work. For the first time in recent memory there is actually someone I like and care about enough to call a girlfriend. Spring is here and summer is coming. Baseball is back and it looks to be the best final four in memory. Life is an adventure and right now I seem to be on the sunny part of the trip.

Friday, January 11, 2008

So far the year has started off with a bang. A lot going on around the island and of course the market is generating its own special sort of BANG. 2007 is fading into the rearview mirror and it was quite a year. Between the island crew and the after dark specs one never lacks for adventure. The year featured the usual assortment of trips with a lot of airplanes and at least one flying boat (many thanks to the tic-tac kid. I never knew a boat could get that far out of the water without a catapult!). Chicago and Kentucky figured heavily into my travels, as they seem to do every year. Melvin B’s is gone now a casualty of urban renewal and it will be missed. We have plotted the overthrow of the financial system at the outside café bar, consoled each other over women, markets and bets gone bad and I have many great memories of the joint. It was the coldest racing weekend in Kentucky that I can remember but that little fact did d not dissuade us from our usual weekend of degenerate behavior and wild eyed gambling. We did tone it down a touch this year since Hesselsweet bought his lovely bride to be. Jason bought Wendy as well but I am pretty sure she just ignores us all. New York of course was a frequent stop and we started the year in Naples Florida enjoying the warm weather, old friends and at least one difficult damn woman. The tire guy married up- way up- at years end. There were great times with old friends and a lot of new ones found along the way. The kids both continue to do well and I haven’t threatened to kill my son in at least a month now. They are both working, going to school and thriving. The markets were horrendous for much of the year, especially in value and special situation stocks as financing for transactions died off quicker than one of my relationships. No real contender for the next incarnation of the one true love of my life but the interview process was as much fun as always. I spent time with several very attractive intelligent women but none who could fill my eyes with what I now call the Hillman Twinkle. It was one hell of a year by all counts. The local sports scene was a bit dismal with the Orioles and Ravens having terrible years, the terps going out of the tournament early and the Maryland football team average at best. As usual Navy was a bright spot, beating army and going to a bowl game and playing some very exciting football.

On to 2008. The market is just horrible right now and I don’t think it gets better real soon. The next three weeks feature a string of earnings reports from financial companies and that does not bode well. In addition to the continuing stream of mortgage and credit write downs, home prices are still falling and the yield curve is not steep enough to allow profitable lending. Its ugly. It will be interesting to see if the technology report in late January, early February will give the market any legs whatsoever, I think we may actually get to my long term oversold point down around 1275 on the S$P before this over with. That level will set up one of the best buying opportunities we have seen since 2001. The plain truth is that as difficult as this environment is, not all mortgages are going to default and real estate is not going to zero. There is going to be a stopping point to the carnage sometime in 2008 and it will bet time to buy. The small local banks that trade down below book value but have positive earnings and sound balance sheets with high capital ratios and adequate loan loss reserves will be incredible bargains. There is a life cycle to this part of the industry. The small banks proliferate during boom times and after the bust comes the shares fall to lows like we are seeing right now. The larger institutions begin to buy the smaller competitors to acquire their clean loan books and reserves. A wave of consolidation moves through the banking industry, good times return to the economy and new local banks begin to spring up again. The last time we saw this was after the banking and S&L crisis of the late 980’s and early 90’s. Many of the local banks sold below book and it was about as much fun as I have ever had in this business. We were buying stocks at or below book and 10 times earnings that were taken over at twice book and 20 times earnings. It was easy money and it was extraordinarily low risk. We are coming back to that type of market and I cannot wait. I am also looking at the trading side of some of the midsize banks such as SOV to buy one-year calls once I think the slide is slowing down. WM calls look like a buy here as well as it is inevitable that someone steps in and buys them. On a sell off At the money, or slightly in the money long term calls will be a good bet. Banking aside I think the pendulum in the market will continue to favor growth stocks that can generate cash internally. It will be a bit of time before the financing needed to fuel a value revival will come to pass. Growth stocks to me are trading and surfing instruments but the surf is roiling and boiling so it will be a good time to surf in 2008. The dollar will probably stay weak and energy will stay strong so international and energy stock will provide some trades for the year as well. I am going to play special situation and activist stocks by selling puts when the market sells off and collecting the premium. It seems to be the way to make money in that corner of the market right now. The on factor that will loom large as near the third quarter of this is the dividend tax reduction that expires in December. Should that not be renewed and a democrat is winning the race for the White House we will see what I think will be the largest sell off of my life time. It is very much a traders market right now. With the exception of the little banks I have a hard time buying stocks for the long term when I think the short term could take them much lower. Buckle up. This could be as much fun as boating with the tic-tac kid when he’s been fighting with his girl friend!

So on now to 2008. There will new adventures, new books, new ideas all through the year. The Orioles will suck (news on the wire that they are probably trading the bus ballplayer on the club to the Cubs. Think I might be a cub’s fan this year. At least they are trying to get better!) ,s always, the Ravens will get a new look, Maryland basketball will be interesting and Navy turns a new corner with a new coach. There will be sunsets and setbacks, celebrations and defeats, first kisses and sad goodbyes. Some will be born, and some will pass on. There will be fast boats and slow summer evenings, rainy nights and hot summer days. Tic Tac will hit awake sideways and fast Freddie G will hit a few stationary structures in and around the bay ( he will have a tough time topping last years sandbar adventure however), Shorty will have a few poker games, I will do something stupid involving a ditch or a woman (lets hope there are no dog stories this year), we will laugh a lot, maybe cry a little at times but is should be one hell of a good year.Life has all its up and downs as we all know and 2008 is positioned to bring with it more than its share on both a professional and personal level. I look forward to it all. It should be a year full of life, full of surprises with opportunities to live life the way it should be, greedily and with great abandon.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

don't think Obama can win it all?

here is the bet to make on

short obama, long any dem at 60 long mccain, guilliani, huckabee and romney for total cost of 39..

make 61 if one of four repubs win +43 on obama short lose 60 on any dem total gain 44

if dem besides obama wins..40 on dem trade + 43 on obama short total gain 44

obama wins make 40 on any dem, lose 43 on short + 39 on repubs total loss 42

two out of three win..only an obama victory is losing trade