Saturday, May 23, 2009

News media ignores politics at what cost to you?

You know, of the many things that disturb me about the current Administration and the Democrat-led Congress, the most scary has to be the lack of attention being given to their actions by the major media. Seriously, since the election of President Obama the media has fallen asleep at the wheel. At least if you compare the coverage and criticism given to the last 5 Presidents and Congresses.

Take for example the flip-flop of President Obama. He has stated repeatedly that the Government is not in the business of running various private businesses. Yet he has ensured the firing of a CEO of a car company, taken ownership positions in dozens of banks and 2 automakers, and has traded bailouts for ownership in multiple industries. Which says nothing of the mandates on how several of these once private businesses are going to be run. Yet the media is quiet.

Then there is the on-going flimflam of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has gone from stating that she always opposed torture and waterboarding, to have been found to have been aware and silent about the aggressive interrogations, to denying knowledge, to deflecting the nature and degree of her knowledge. She has even gone so far as to accuse the CIA of lying – though she still has yet to officially form a single complaint of their supposed actions. Which stinks of covering her ass as she is caught playing polispeak and sucking up to polls. Yet the major news media downplays the entire event.

Hell, the major news media has all but ignored the most obvious of actions by the Obama Administration and the Democrats. I mean President Obama directly told the American public he is going to virtually triple the national debt with his budget, and the major news media didn’t blink. He directly looked out at America and said he is going to spend some $63 billion dollars a year on a healthcare plan, that does not even exist in an outline – and the major media looked away. And when the Democrat-led Congress violated the Constitution by enacting retro-active penalties and destroying the power of contracts, the news media sat quiet.

How is it that all these things are happening in the Government and the news media that loved to assault President Bush is so impotent today? Why would they allow this?

Perhaps the fact that the major news media companies spent millions to elect President Obama has something to do with this. Perhaps the fact that the downtrend in traditional media sources has accelerated with the bad economy, and thus now has them on the line for the next set of bailouts is a factor. Or maybe they just want to be a part of the groups controlling the direction that the Government is taking.

No matter which way you look at it, the result is the same. The general public is being distracted with arguments about American Idol, as liberties and laws are being subverted. This is all in the name of the greater good, but such is the path to Hell paved.

You can’t even say that they are acting in the best interest of the nation, because when President Bush made decisions with America potentially under threat of imminent attack the news media pounded him at ever turn. So it may be more fair to say that they are acting in the best interest of their profits, and political power base, as opposed to the benefit of the nation.

Politics has not been a major issue of popularity in this nation since the late 70’s. And as interest has waned, the size and reach into private lives of the Government has grown. Which is always a bad thing. But it is far worse when the people that are supposed to be helping the public are busy trying to help themselves.

None can serve 2 masters, and do so well. The media is no different. Their division in primary goals lead them to lose ground to the internet. Now they have focused on one purpose, self-preservation at all costs. They have rallied under the banner of Democrats, at an unknown cost to you and me.

Some may think I am making too much of all this. Some may think this is minor. But I will ask you this. If any of these things occurred under President Bush, do you in all honesty think that the major news media would have sat back and said nothing? Since that answer is no, why is it a good thing that they are quiet now?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stimulus plan in Binghamton, New York

Recently I read about a part of the $787 billion Stimulus Plan President Obama has spent, that affects my town of Binghamton, New York. The funds that will be coming to the city is just over $850,000. Not a huge sum, but in a small town like Binghamton it’s a lot.

This money is part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Obviously this is intended to improve neighborhoods across the nation. In Binghamton, the local press did a story of how 8 buildings are to be condemned. In addition some unnamed amount of funds are to be used to pay for apartment housing. Sounds good yes?

Not exactly. First consider this. The only housing project I am aware of going on in downtown Binghamton is student housing. And that was paid for before the Stimulus Plan. So where is the money going?

Another question is how much does it cost to tear down a building? If we look at just the 8 buildings that were detailed in the newpaper then that means around $100,000 per building. The average home in Binghamton does not cost that much. In fact you can easily buy a home in the range of $60,000 – which is including the increase in housing prices that has been going on for the last 6 months at least. So it would seem there is some waste there.

Separate of that is the question of what impact removing these houses has. Of the buildings identified, the neighborhoods are some of the worst in Binghamton. The homes on the same streets are in horrendous condition. The people there are lucky if they can be considered part of the local middle class (not the national average which is way higher). So fixing or removing 1 building is suddenly going to improve the neighborhood?

And this is in the face of the fact that every time there is a strong rain (which is frequent here) several areas have flooding, in part due to the poor drainage system, which cause traffic and health issues. It is in the face of the fact that 1 in 3 (if not more) storefronts in Downtown Binghamton is empty – and has been for the last 5 years I have lived here. In fact there are dozens of empty buildings in the downtown area right now. Not just the storefront, but the entire 4 or more stories of building. Which includes space that easily can be or is apartment space.

What stabilizes a community is jobs. Not short-term projects like tearing down a building, but a full-time consistent job. It gives the people in the area the funds to improve their homes, and buy furniture. It creates a feeling of anything but despair and disdain. It provides opportunity for a better life of a family.

What do apartments in a vacuous downtown mean? Nothing. Beyond students that only live in the city seasonally and would like to be closer to the bars, there is no benefit to citizens. There are no new jobs that are nearby for students, or citizens, to work at. There are no grocery stores close by. Nothing is centralized beyond the bars. Oh and 4 banks plus the sports arena. The framework for a thriving downtown it is not.

I’m not saying that the condemned buildings don’t need to be torn down. They do. But the limitiations on how the money from the Stimulus Package can be spent seem to be more waste than benefit. Because the decreasing numbers of citizens in Binghamton will not reverse itself with 8 more abandoned buildings no longer standing. Adding more aparment space in a town with ample cheap housing does not improve the standard of living. And none of this employs anyone (except the bars downtown).

It just makes me wonder where the stimulus is in the Stimulus Plan? Because the window dressing in Binghamton does nothing but anger me. I’m not paying a mortgage on top of my actual mortgage to watch a building be torn down and politicians claim that this rights the ills of the entire town. I’m just not that stupid.

How is the stimulus money being spent in your town or city? Is it actually creating real jobs? Is it improving the lives of people around you? Or are you finding that your $120,000 (approximately your share of future earnings for the entire stimulus plan including interest) is just going nowhere fast?

I really would like to know.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Investing vs. Trading - the Alcoa example – the follow up

Back on the 14th of April I decided to make an example of the position I own in Alcoa to demonstrate the difference between trading and owning. At the time I stated

“So here is the experiment. Just for the sake of mental masturbation, let’s assume I sell the stock today for $9.25, a gain of $1.77 or 32% net. In exactly 30 days we will say I will buy the stock back at the then current price. Let’s see if this makes sense. And then in another say 6 months from the theoretical buyback date we’ll take a look at the value then (if the stock does not hit my actual target). We can then evaluate which plan has created the best gain, net and not percentage.”

Based on the examplew above I would have sold the AA position for $9.25 from my cost basis of $5.55. The 32% total takes into account the cost of the trade and the taxes on the profit. Because of the 30 day rule the position could not be bought back until May 14th. Which would give me a repurchase price of $8.74 as of the close.
The difference is .51 cents or roughly 6% less than the sale price of April. Thus if we add in the 5% cost to repurchase the stock, the net added gain to me is 1%, granting a total gain of 33%.

While that gain is very respecatble, especially in a down market, having just held the stock my return to date is 70% at the time of this post (AA is currently $9.43). Had I made the sale for the trade and repurchased the position my current gain would be 3% (including the cost to repurchase the stock giving me a net cost of $9.18).

So in comparison, holding the stock would have me currently with a 70% gain, minus tax and sale cost becoming a net 40% gain. Trading the stock, with a repurchase, gives me a net 36% gain. While the difference may not sound large, it is taking net profit out of my pocket.

This also does not factor in the fact that if I had not repurchased the stock I would be out 6% of profit. If I purchased the stock one day later I would have had to buyback the position at $9.03, which including commission would plce me at a loss on the current price and drop my profit to 31%. And if for any reason I was unable to purchase the stock until today, I would be losing even more of the initial profit in the stock (a repurchase cost of roughly $9.90 net or a loss of 7% dropping the profit to 25%).

All of this ignores the fact that I had the option, if I held the stock, to have sold it at $10.50 – a 90% gain or a net of 60% as of the close May 6th. Not counting the fact that I recall the stock having an intraday high of $11. That is a home run in a bad market and horrible ecomonic environment.

Still the stock has not hit my first target of $15. So I have no intention of selling yet.

But the question is if trading a stock is better than buying and holding. In my opinion, buy and hold is always better if you have sound fundemental reasons for purhasing the stock in the first place. As this example shows, the net gain is better under all circumstances, by holding the position. Only luck could allow a better net return, potentially.

This is of course a theoretical example. Actual returns and strategies may result in differing returns. Objectives of your portfolio may be substantially different than those posed in this example. Any portoflio decision should always be discussed with professional.

But at least you may have a bit more insight to the question of investing versus trading. I hope this has helped.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Chrysler - the bad bet of President Obama

You know what's really sad about the economy? What really angers me about the bailouts? The way that the Obama Administration, Congress, and the Bush Administration have all wasted our money.

Yes even the anointed President Barack Obama is complicit in the waste of money that has been the bailouts and stimulus package. While President Bush started this waterfall of taxpayer money, and Congress has failed in every respect on these matters, President Obama has jumped in with both feet on making this a costly mistake since day 1.

Chrysler has now declared bankruptcy. They told America they would back in November of 2008 when they didn't get the full bailout they requested, along with the rest of the U.S. automakers. Rather than allowing the automakers to do the inevitable, the Government has thrown away our money in amounts that are near incomprehensible. Chrysler alone is responsible for some $10 billion of our money that will now not only fail to send our kids to school, or buy new homes, or build new businesses, but has effectively vaporized.

Of course there will be a cheer from Democrats since the American Government now owns 8% of Chrysler. What a bargain. They paid more than top dollar for a miniscule percentage of ownership, that currently is worthless. But don't worry, the Government can always buy more with your taxes and printing as much money as it wants. Your kid didn't need college anyway.

This is not a joke. I'm being serious. President Obama announced to the nation, along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, that the only way to save American jobs and fend off a depression was to keep the automakers out of bankruptcy. That was a big part of the $1.29 trillion that President Obama spent in the first 100 days. Yet bankruptcy is what has happened.

Can you imagine $10 billion dollars? Does it make sense? Imagine a stack of dollar bills that reaches to the moon and back, with lots of money left over. That's how much money just disappeared.

Had the Democrat leadership just said no, and allowed the car makers to fail there would be that much more money available to help people survive this outcome. There would be that much money ready to help new smaller businesses to pick up the pieces of the failed companies and create new jobs and innovation. But the Government knows better than you or I. The Government can manage everything better - though facts to the contrary abound.

Think about this. If the Government is wrong about the billions it gave Chrysler, which has been proven by the bankruptcy, what else is it wrong about? That a depression will not be the outcome of this action? That they wasted more of our money on bad ideas than AIG, the automakers, and most of the major banks combined? That the total of the Congress and the President have less knowledge and acumen in the world of business than your local paperboy?

Each of the political parties is culpable in this mess. They all have played their part in creating this fiasco over the past two decades at least. But I must say that all the polispeak of President Obama stands out the most. Because the buck stops at the President, and his assurances are the ones that have failed the biggest right now.

I am pissed off because of in my forced ownership of Chrysler (via the bailouts using my cash like yours), I gain nothing. Had I made the choice of what to do with my money, I would have kept it in my pocket. Or gone out to a small dinner and helped the economy. Or added it to my investments (though future taxes on those investments would surely be more than the some of money I started with). I might even had given it to charity (though the tax on that gift might have been more than my charitable gift now that President Obama raised the taxes on that too).

Simply put, the President and the Democrat-led Congress made a bad bet. If they were a publicly run corporation I'd have shorted their stock long ago. But instead of their stock price going down, national unemployment is continuing to rise, my tax bill is increasing, I'm paying a mortgage of other Americans on top of my own mortgage, and I get to fear for my ability to maintain just what I have. Because they made their bets with my money, and yours.

This will no doubt be spun to blame everyone but the current Administration and Congress. There will be no end to the flowery views of future green cars and some abundant productivity in the future. But the fact staring us all in the face is that all those dreams would have been just as true, and likely, without an extra $10 billion in debt for the nation.

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