Monday, December 29, 2008

The Year in Review

I would write my own "year in review" if I could write stuff like this:

The CEOs of the Increasingly Small Three auto makers return to Washington to resume pleading for a bailout, this time telling Congress that if they can reach an agreement that day, they will throw in the undercoating, the satellite-radio package AND a set of floor mats. ''We're actually LOSING MONEY on this deal!'' they assure Congress. Finally they reach a $13.4 billion agreement under which the car companies will continue to provide jobs, medical insurance and pension benefits, but will cease producing actual cars. The agreement will be overseen by the federal government, using its legendary ability to keep things on budget.

You know who can? The Great Dave Barry. New stuff from Dave only comes a few times a year, so you better go here to read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Some folks think I can't dance...

...well this proves them wrong.

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Vote for Andrew Kennedy, he's nothing like Ted!

When I left Connecticut in 1993, The Players, the comedy group I was in, replaced me with a guy who is about 100 times funnier. His name is Andrew Kennedy, and he makes his living as a stand-up (and cutting lawns). He is also a super nice guy. So, please vote for my friend Andrew at Comedy Central's Standup Showdown.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Did the Yankees overpay?

I was having lunch with my friend Budd Bailey today, talking about how the Yankees are the only team feeling comfortable spending the big $$$ on players, knowing they will have big revenues next year from the new stadium. We were wondering how Scott Boras is going to feel for advising his clients not to grab the big deals that came early, as more teams pull their offers off the table, as happened with Texiera. And, again, we wonder what the heck Manny was thinking!

The Sports Economist has a couple interesting articles recently about baseball. The most interesting is a story about the Yankees luxury tax payment for 2008, which EXCEEDS THE PAYROLL OF THE RAYS!! There is also a calculation speculating that for what the Yanks will pay in luxury tax during the course of CC's contract, they could have BOUGHT THE RAYS!

Is this a crazy world or what?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Next Xmas I'll just have dental surgery!

People love to visit Chicago. Wrigley Field, great museums, Rush Street, Second City, that ridiculous giant softball, ribs at the Twin Anchors (Positively No Dancing) has so much to offer. It is such a shame that during my latest visit I enjoyed none of this stuff, as O'Hare airport offers none of the things we love about the Windy City.

Maybe I shouldn't bother writing this. Everyone who has traveled at all has their own fun story about being trapped in O'Hare. Mine started with a 3:40 AM bus ride to DIA, where I was to take a 6AM flight to Chicago, then on to Buffalo in time to watch the Bills with my old friends back home. Early flights always leave on time, right?

As we are about to board, there is an announcement that the hose broke while fueling the plane, so there would be a short delay while they cleaned up the spill. No problem, I have 1 ½ hours to change planes. Then, once we're on the plane, the “tug” that pushes the plane from the gate breaks, and they have to summon another. While we wait for that, a guy on the plane turns as white as the ice at HSBC Arena, has a racing pulse, and needs to be taken off the plane. By 7 he's off, but then it takes another 20 minutes for someone to show up to close the airplane door again. After a stop for de-icing, we take off at 7:45. That gets us into O'Hare at 10:30, 20 minutes after my connecting flight, probably the only flight to leave O'Hare on time all day.

I”ll keep this brief and summarize the rest of the fun. The next 2 flights to Buffalo get canceled, as Buffalo is experiencing the kind of weather that made it famous, so I and my new best friends, all of whom were trying to make the same trip, spend 4 ½ hours waiting in line for “Customer Service”, then are told all kinds of crazy stuff and put on standby. One girl gave up and went downtown and took the train. The flight at 7 (which didn't leave until 8:15) had a waiting list of 78 people. I was #40. I start at 29 for the 9:45 flight, yet somehow catch a break and get the last seat on the plane (NO, I didn't kill 28 people in Chicago, although I considered it!), which left at 11:15. I wave a quick goodbye to Jody and Dan (who by now have probably built a home on the C concourse), my friends in suffering for the day, and get on the plane after on 12 hours of bad food, screaming kids, and that constant sound of mumbled announcements and beeping carts. Buffalo never looked so good.

It all ended with the fun of a 2:30 Am cab ride, being taken to Mom's on un-plowed roads covered with snow drifts, by a Middle Eastern driver who fishtails the town car all over the road. I should be driving him in this weather!

At least I made it to Ted's Hot Dogs for lunch, which is worth all the trouble.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What was I thinking?

A few weeks ago, the people who run Active Minds, a company I work for occasionally that puts on seminars for senior citizens, asked me to write a curriculum about the financial meltdown. Without thinking much, I did what I usually do when someone offers me money to do something, and said "yes".

This would be for a program that lasts 1 hour, including introductions and questions. That means I
need to fit the whole mess into about 50 minutes. Shortly after hanging up the phone, it struck the hell am I going to squeeze this mess into 50 minutes? And it keeps getting bigger each day as I write it.

And I wasn't even drunk!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


It started about 13 years ago. For some reason I re-wrote "The Night Before Christmas" and emailed it to the few freinds who had email at the time. Now, well, so many people look forward to the uplifting messages in my poems, that I can't stop. So, last year I started this blog to share it with the world.

Hope you enjoy. And if you want to read a few older ones, scroll down a bit. I put up links to where you can read them.


T’was the night before Christmas, I was sitting around
Wondering how much my investments were down
The market’s decline has shown no abatement
And I’m just too frightened to look at my statement
Those bank stocks I’d bought had dropped through the floor
Most of them just don’t exist anymore
Based on the size of my 401K.
I’ll be working until my last breathing day

The awful economy had got me to thinking
Why not invest in booze and take up hard drinking?
I went to the cupboard to pour me some Jack
When up on the roof I heard a loud whack
Something had landed with a great crash
I hoped nothing was broken ‘cause I had no cash
Then down the chimney and into the fire
Fell a familiar figure in weird red attire
A guy I’d not seen since I was a child
Yes it was Santa! Oh how I smiled.

But then I noticed he wasn’t the same
As the Jolly old guy who each Christmas came
His hat had turned brown, his coat badly worn
His toe poked though his boot where the leather had torn
Even worse than his clothes, it was so sad to see
Was a big giant frown where his laugh used to be
He looked worried and tired, his clothes all a’tatter
I said “Welcome Santa, is something the matter?”

Santa shook his white head and let out a sigh
I saw that his pants had ripped near the fly
He came over to me and gulped down my drink
“’Is something the matter?’ What the hell do you think?
I’m flying around, looking like this
Because this year at Christmas everything is amiss.
There’s no money for me to finance the toys
That all other years are for girls and boys
Who’ve been nice all year long, and thus are deserving
Because of the screw-ups of my Finance Elf Irving.
He put all our money in things that were risky
Hey, how ‘bout another glass of that whiskey?”

I poured him another, and he threw it right back
And pointed inside his empty toy sack
“I’m broke, downright busted” he said with a groan
“And there’s isn’t a bank that will give me a loan
I could go to Congress to seek funds from voters
But I’d look like those putzes at General Motors
Irving, that schmuck, put us deep in the hole
With a no-interest mortgage on the North Pole
But that’s not the worst of his many messes
He got us in something called “CDS’s”
And as bad a move as that one may seem
He lost all the remainder to a Ponzi scheme
And the wife keeps on asking ‘how is it he gotcha
In investments that clearly are so farkakte?’
But Irving insisted” he said with a frown
“They’re backed by real estate, they can’t go down”

Santa picked up the bottle and refilled his drink
“So this year, with the giving, it’s your turn, I think.
For years I’ve brought gifts to make folks feel great
It’s time for the people to reciprocate
So please write me a check” he said with a cough
“And my seven reindeer and I will be off”

I figured he’s kidding, it must be a goof
And what of the animal count on the roof?
“But Santa, your reindeer, I thought there were 8”
“I was hungry “he said “Blitzen sure did taste great
Now give me a loan, and up we’ll be going
I’d like to get south before it starts snowing”

He just stared at me and wiped off his snout
Santa’s come to me for a bailout?
“Santa, I’m sorry about your fiscal health
But you see, I’m pretty tapped out myself”

Santa glared “OK son, now take my advice
Don’t stiff the guy who knows if you’re naughty or nice
Who might be so desperate he would resort
To telling your boss about your expense report”

And in a flash, I did change my mind
“Santa let me help you out of this bind”
So I gave him a loan in a large amount
Used one of those checks from my Visa account
He grunted and turned, and then off he went
With money on which I’ll pay 20 percent.
He yelled from his sleigh, as his whip gave a crack
“Don’t hold your breath til I pay you back”

Yes folks, just like that, it happened so quick
A big Christmas shakedown from Good
Ol’ Saint Nick.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Just in case.....

you don't like the xmas poem, here are a couple videos that are sure to amuse.

What's up with newspapers?

As a newspaper junkie, it was regrettable earlier in the year when I finally stopped having them delivered to my house. The Denver Post kept switching more of their features to on-line only, so I decided they must want me to read it that way. And the other paper I used to pay for, The Wall Street Journal, was bought by the evil Rupert Murdoch, and pays the epitome of evil Karl Rove to write a column, so I wasn't going to pay for that when I can read it on-line for free through school. If the papers are losing me, they are truly in trouble.

In the past few days, the Rocky Mountain News has been put up for sale (more likely to be folded), the Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy, there are rumors the Detroit papers may stop printing on some days, and the New York Times sought a mortgage for it's new building.

But, here is what I don't understand: The Times has a print circulation of around 1 million a day, but it's web site gets 60 million hits a day, about 20 million of them unique visitors. So, how is it with 20 million eyeballs a day visiting the site, the Times can't make a profit from publishing on-line? I'm guessing other papers have similar ratios.

My guess is that newspaper advertisers were being over charged for years. Most internet ads only pay when someone clicks on one (that's certainly the case on this blog), meaning they are interested. Newspapers used to be able to charge for a lot of eyeballs that weren't connected to a human who had any interest in the product. Now, only ads that get action produce revenue. Better deal for advertisers, but it exposes the folly of the old style of billing.

I hope I'm wrong, because I have a lot of good friends working at papers, but I think we'd all better get comfortable taking the lap top into the bathroom in the morning.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Old XMAS Poems

I've been re-writing "The Night Before XMAS" to share with my friends every years since 1995, longer than I have known a lot of the people who now enjoy the poem. So, I thought I would share a few of my better works from the past with those who either never saw them, or want to relive a simpler time when Americans could afford to buy xmas gifts.

If you want to see last year's, you can just click back a year ago in this blog....that's why I started it. Since I didn't want to stretch out this blog with a bunch of long poems, they are published and sharable at Google Documents.

If you think I only make fun of Bush, and am not fair and balanced, then read this classic from 1997.

To see what happened to Santa as Y2k approached go here.

And, I wrote this one in 2005, shortly before I turned 50.

Ah, the Classics. Enjoy. The new poem will be up by Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Xmas Dream

As I conjure my annual xmas poem in my head (expect to see it by next Tuesday), I will spill the beans on something I've always wanted to do, but never had the cojones.

Here's the plan: I get a Santa Claus suit, a good one so the full beard covers my face. Then, on a night during the xmas season like this coming Saturday, when there are lots of xmas parties, I drive around in nice neighborhoods, looking for houses with lots of cars and lights. I find a good party and crash it....who is going to throw Santa out of their xmas party!!! I let out some mighty "HO HO HO"'s. I drink their booze, eat their food, and fondle their women just long enough, not staying too long so that they can figure out that nobody knows me. Then,it's back in my sleigh (or Subaru actually), and on to the next house. Then, I look for the story in the next day's newspaper about a mysterious Santa.

Maybe I should write this idea up as a sequel to "The Wedding Crashers".

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New auto ad

Don't know who produced this, but it is brilliant.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What If The Students Paid Me Directly?

It is nearing the end of the fall semester, which makes for a lot of nervous people here this college town. Many of my own students are frantically attempting to compensate for slacking off most of the fall, suddenly concerned about their grades.

I still find the grading process the most difficult part of teaching. I don't like disappointing people, but that is my job when it comes to handing out some grades. I think I'm pretty easy on my students, yet many don't seem to agree.

I am hired by Front Range Community College to teach the classes and distribute these grades. But, what if I was hired and paid directly by the students? Would I be tempted to hand out A's to everyone, so that they would be happy with me and continue to employ me? Tempted......maybe "compelled" would be the better word.

This came to mind as I read today's story in the NY Times about how the ratings agencies contributed to today's financial turmoil. They were paid to rate securitized debt by the issuers of the debt. To keep the money coming in, and the customers happy, they just kept stamping AAA, even though the entire investment community was trusting them to provide valuable information. This is clearly a conflict of interest, and the agencies pretty much decided in favor of their own short-term profits over their fiduciary duty.

This is similar to the failure the accounting firms who audited the likes of Enron to do their job, pressured instead by the client to deliver the desired opinion. The ratings agencies deserve to get the same treatment that Arthur Anderson got.....pursued legally and run out of business for not doing their jobs.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Great Story I Just Read.

I am currently reading, very slowly in small snippets, Silvia Pettem's "Positively Pearl St.", which is a history of Boulder's main drag by Boulder's most prominent historian. I came across a story that is so good I had to share it.

In March of 1975, Boulder County Clerk Clela Rorex began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. State law at the time did not specify that marriage must be between a man and a woman. In protest, a local character named Ros Howard applied for a marriage license to wed his horse Dolly. "If a boy can marry a boy, and a girl can marry a girl, why can't a lonesome old cowboy get hitched to his favorite saddle mare?" he asked.

Howard, a local writer and radio personality at the time, claimed in his book that his request was turned down because his horse was only 8, below the age of consent. That would be a great story, were it the truth (and it is the ending I will use when I tell this story on the Banjo Billy Bus). In fact, the law did state something about marriage being for "persons", and Dolly did not qualify as one.

By the way, Howard "protest" was all done in good fun, for laughs and publicity, a reminder that we should never lose our sense of humor no matter what side of an argument we take.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Life By the Pound

There is a very interesting story in today's NY Times about the British health care system. They have appointed a commission to do benefit/cost calculations on expensive treatments, particularly ones that will extend life for fairly short periods of time. The story begins with the decision to deny purchase of a treatment that would cost $55k and extend a patient's life by 6 months.

As the cost of health care continues to rise, these are the types of difficult decisions that societies will have to make. I often tell my students that they will have to decide how much life my generation is entitled to, as the current Medicare system will be come far too expensive as new treatments extend life, health costs continue to climb, and we Baby Boomers enter the system. (I suggest the best decision will be not to cure us but to give us really good pain drugs...we are the "just say yes" generation!)

Here is one particularly interesting quote from the story:
After consulting a citizens group, the institute decided that the nation should spend the same amount saving or improving the life of a 75-year-old smoker as it would a 5-year-old.

A few months ago I wrote about my outrage that one of my students was in danger of losing his job and having to quit school because he is sick. This kid is a productive member of society trying to become more productive....which everyone would agree is good for both him and our society. But, he is in an income trap where he can't afford health insurance, but makes too much money to be given it for free. Meanwhile, both of my parents enjoy excellent coverage via Medicare.

Now, think about the efficiency and logic of the above paragraph. We are willing to spend almost unlimited amounts in this country to extend the lives of seniors, whose productive years are behind them (sorry Mom and Dad!), while letting those who are productive, or will be, fall through the cracks of our system. And, based on the above quotes, the English also agree that it is willing to spend as much as someone in their later years as on a child. On a strictly economic basis, this is crazy.

I am not advocating killing off the elderly. I am, however, attempting to point out the difficult moral and economic decisions that will have to be made if we want to prevent most of our national income being spent on medical care. Does is make sense to spend more on extending the life of a 90 year old than on keeping younger people healthy? And for how long and at what cost? Meanwhile, we are so "moral" that we won't even allow people who are in great pain and want to die to do so, yet not so moral that we make sure every kid in this country has proper care.

These are tough decisions that will have to be made, but will be delayed until the problem becomes a crisis. No politician wants to talk about this stuff.

Monday, December 1, 2008

People are stupid.

When I teach beginning Economics, I point out to my students at the start of the course that these basic theories are based on the idea that people are rational. But, of course, we all know the truth....PEOPLE ARE STUPID!

Take football players for instance. With the notable exceptions of Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle and Packers President Mark Murphy (a friend from high school who I know to be very intelligent), football players have to be some of the dumbest people on earth. Plaxico Burress is the latest example. He carries an illegal concealed weapon in a city that is on an anti-gun rampage, then takes it out in a bar for some reason, and manages to shoot himself. If that were the only stupid thing done by a football player this year, it would just be hilarious. But these guys are constantly getting themselves in all kinds of trouble, threatening their huge paychecks with dumb behavior. And they all supposedly went to college!

But, let's not leave out the rest of us. I personally spent 3 hours yesterday watching a particularly stupid group of football players called the Buffalo Bills, who are so stupid they don't know where the end zone is. What does that say about me, wasting my day watching the stupid be stupid?

Then there's Black Friday. This is perhaps the stupidest thing Americans do all year, other than vote, and I think more people shop on Black Friday than vote. The marketers and the media have convinced millions of morons that they HAVE to be at Walmart at 4AM. So what if workers get stampeded to death.....there are bargains to be had. Are cattle even that stupid?

And here's a beauty from today's NY Times: In New Jersey, where they call a toxic waste dump "The Meadowlands", they built a commuter railroad station, but put no place for the commuters to park. What do you expect from a place that is almost totally paved yet calls itself "The Garden State"?
I could go on and on.....I haven't even mentioned General Motors or loaning $700k to people making $14k .....but I have to go fix a broken light switch with the power on.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

No Wonder I Always Feel Dumb!

Forbes Magazine released their list of the best and worst educated cities in America this week, and it turns out that I've been surrounded by smart people for much of my life. Number 1 on the list is my current home of Boulder, Number 2 is Ann Arbor, where I got my MBA, and Number 7 is the Southern CT, including Stamford, where I lived for 3 and 1/2 years, until I could no longer stand being surrounded by Yankees fans.

It is quite an experience to live in a town full of smart people like Boulder. Your bartender is likely to be conversant in far more than local gossip and sports trivia, your waiter might be working on a PHD (yet unable to get your order right the first time), and the guide on that silly bus that looks like a hillbilly shack has at least one Masters. And the woman who walks dogs for a living in my neighborhood has a PH.D in Anthropology.

When I go to the rec center to work out, the conversation is not usually about muscles or football, but politics, literature, or the feasibility of alternative energy. Where I go for happy hour, you can find a guy who is designing a new city in Africa, and a guy who graduated #1 in his class at Johns Hopkins. You get smarter just be having a beer in this town.

Of course, if I was actually getting smarter, I would be able to stop rooting for the Buffalo Bills! No such luck!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Best Thing About XMAS

What's the best thing about Christmas? No, it's not the barking dogs version of "Jingle Bells". Nor the fruitcake. Not even 4 hour airplane rides jammed with disease riddled overweight Americans and their screaming infants.

No, by far the best thing about Christmas is Dave Barry's Holiday Gift Guide, full of the kind of gift-giving ideas that might otherwise be overlooked. Every golfer will want the Uroclub, and what new parent can do without the Restroom Baby-hanger. And I'm just hoping that someone will get me the talking fly swatter.

At my age, with no kids, having to travel across the country, I am far more annoyed by Christmas than excited. But I still look forward to 3 great holiday traditions: Getting drunk with my friends at Friday's on Christmas Eve, bowling on Boxing Day, and new material from the great Dave Barry.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The end of insanity?

My favorite definition of insanity is 'doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results". There are no two better examples of this than the US policy toward Cuba, and our ridiculous war on drugs. Both have gone on for a long time, been expensive, destructive to ourselves and those in other countries, and not even come close to achieving their goals. The New York Times today has an article about a report being released that recommends we stop the insanity.

Our policy towards Cuba is an outrage. Not only has it been a complete failure in its goal of bringing Castro to his knees (oh, wait, he will be dead soon, so I guess we win), but it has impoverished the entire country, and helped deny those who might wish to overthrow him any of the assets they might need to pull that off. It is based on sucking up to the formerly powerful monied Cuban exiles in Miami, who are supposed to deliver Florida's electoral votes to whichever candidate promises to be tough on Castro and get their families stuff back when Castro is gone (ain't gonna happen!). This MUST end. In fact, it should be reversed. The best thing we can do to get Cuba out of communism is go there in large numbers, spend money there, let the people see that Americans are good people, and live a great lifestyle that communism can't provide. As we spend money there, a middle class will develop, and they will get rid of communism. I'd even put a major league baseball team in Havana.

Meanwhile, the war on drugs continues, wasting our tax dollars to tell people they can' do what they want with their own bodies and lives, causing violent crime in our cities, and throughout the Americas, and destroying our constitutional rights with it's intrusions. The reports of drug murders in border cities like Juarez are astounding. Yet, the number of addicts in this country has not declined in 20 years. There has got to be a smarter, cheaper way to approach this.

If Obama wants to bring real change, he will read this report and act on it. Let's stop the waste, the stupidity, the violence, and mostly , the insanity of carrying on with programs that have been nothing but expensive, wrong-headed disasters.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ben Bernanke is "House"

Every week on the popular Fox show "House" a patient is brought in with a series of symptoms that make no sense to normal doctors. The misanthropic Dr. House and his team try to diagnose and treat the patient, but they are invariably wrong at the start, causing the patient to get even worse. The team of docs each offers unique cures. Meanwhile, the patient is lying about where he's been, what he does, and who he does it with. The situation deteriorates, the patient wretches, convulses, even sweats blood. By 45 minutes into the hour show, the patient is near death.

Does this sound familiar at all? It sounds exactly like what is happening in our economy today. The sick patient comes in beyond normal help, with unusual symptoms like over-leveraging, sub-prime mortaging, deflation, recession, and a manic-depressive stock market. Dr. Bernanke and his team, who know that not treating the patient at all will cause severe pain, have no textbook treatment for this new disease, so they decide to treat everything. Unique cures are offered by the bad assets, save the mortgages, inject capital, leaches....but the patient continues to get worse, it convulses and has seizures. Is it now somewhere between 8:30 and 8:45 (that's mountain time....check your local listings) in our episode of "Economy House"?

The good news is that House, or a member of his team, usually has an epiphany while doing something unrelated to the patient's treatment. The patient is then saved, and lives happily ever after. Unfortunately, as one of my students pointed out this morning when I first used this analogy, some of the patients on House don't make it.

By the way, if you haven't watched "House", I do recommend it, if only for the outstanding performance of Hugh Laurie as House, perhaps the most unlikeable main character ever on an American TV show. Where did he learn to be such an awful person? Perhaps by appearing in the classic Britcom "Blackadder", where Rowan Atkinson hilariously portrays the evil title character. See Below:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

They stole my joke and made it real

Back in 1992, I was in a improv/sketch comedy group called The Players in Stamford, CT. One of the bits I wrote for our first show was an ad for Presidential Candidate Comdoms, each with the picture of your favorite candidate on the end. I don't remember the whole bit, but I do remember that the Bill Clinton condom was "for heavy duty use", and the Ross Perot "for when you're in, and out, and in, and out, and in....". The condoms were to "help you do what they'll do to the whole country if they get elected."

So, I'm watching The Daily Show last night, and the great Lewis Black is on with a bit about all the Obama crap that is now for sale, like commemorative plates. This included Obama condoms. But, unlike my skit, these are actually for sale. Watch the news clip below.

What should also be for sale is the W condom, for when you are on the bottom, because nobody F..'s UP like George W. Bush.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An insider view of the Detroit Bailout

Nice little article here from the Daily Beast by Walter McManus, a U of Michigan Economist who covers the auto industry and used to work in it. I particularly like his idea that Detroit management is individually smart but collectively dumb.....certainly no doubt about the second part.

Oh, and I believe that Budd Baily and I once had dinner at the Waffle House in Gainesville, FL that he mentions, while listening to "Your Cheatin' Heart" on the juke box. And if the Waffle Houses did go out of business too, would that be a great loss?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Can I get some of what this guy is smoking?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the head of the UAW thinks that the fact that US auto industry is in trouble is not their fault.

"This industry is in a crisis situation not of its own making," Ron Gettelfinger said in an interview Saturday afternoon with The Wall Street Journal.

The UAW president said the industry's predicament is a direct result of an unprecedented drop-off in auto sales that started with high gas prices this summer. Eroding consumer confidence to make big-ticket purchases was fueled by a credit crunch that limited customers' ability to buy a new car or truck and forced the companies to spend more money then they were bringing in, according to Mr. Gettelfinger.

Right! That's why Toyota and Honda are also near bankruptcy......oh wait, THEY AREN'T!

The auto industry, and by that I mean management and unions, is making a last ditch attempt to have the taxpayers support their unsustainable business model. After they have repeatedly resisted efforts to raise fuel economy. After they created a business model based on $1/gallon gas forever. While paying union members to sit on their ass and do nothing when not needed. And they want us to support this lunacy?

Our new President loses all my support if he falls for this crap, but since the unions helped get him elected, I fear he will prove what I said at happy hour on Friday to some true Obamalievers (at considerable physical risk)....that he is just another politician.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Manny must be crazy

The Dodgers offered Manny Ramirez, who is 36, $45M over 2 years, and Manny turned it down. Now the Dodgers have taken the offer off the table.

Manny may not be paying much attention to the world around him. The economy is crashing, and those financial firms who ponied up the big bucks for the luxury suites that help pay his salary have gone under. Meanwhile, as the NY Times points out today, with the US auto industry near bankruptcy, a huge chunk of ad revenue to all sports is threatened. Where does Manny think more $ is going to come from? And who is crazy enough to pay an aging hitter, even one as good a Manny, who has a habit of not giving his all and being a butcher in the field, more than that? Even the Yankees aren't that stupid.....maybe I should put a ? at the end of that?

Call them back and say "Si" Manny, before it's too late.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Great read from Micheal Lewis

If you are a baseball fan, you know Micheal Lewis as the author of "Moneyball". He first became famous, however, for "Liars Poker", about his brief stint on Wall Street in the 80's. He has written a rather long but excellent article in Portfolio about the sub-prime mortgage mess.

Here are just a few quotes from the article to tantalize you;

In Bakersfield, California, a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $720,000.

big Wall Street investment banks took huge piles of loans that in and of themselves might be rated BBB, threw them into a trust, carved the trust into tranches, and wound up with 60 percent of the new total being rated AAA.

We always asked the same question,” says Eisman. “Where are the rating agencies in all of this? And I’d always get the same reaction. It was a smirk.”

Very scary stuff! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Freidman on Detroit

In case you missed it, Thomas Friedman does a great job of summing up the US Auto Industry situation today. Friedman is a big believer in the power of innovation to make the world better off......which means he thinks Detroit is full of bone-heads. Read his column here. Oh, and if you were someone looking for a stocking stuffer for a tall, thin guy for xmas, Friedman's new book might be a good choice.

There is a comment on the previous post asking how I like the Daily Beast. This is a fairly new site that is, I think, trying to be the future of what will replace the newspaper when they die. It provides a front page full of summaries of various articles from a variety of sources, and video clips as well. And, it has it's own unique content. It got a real boost a few weeks ago when Chris Buckley moved his weekly column there after his dad's magazine gave him the boot for endorsing Obama. It's definitely worth checking out, but it may lead you to waste all day reading the stories it has collected.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A few post-election thoughts.

Isn't it great to turn on the TV and watch ads for beer and boner pills again! If we could ban cigarette ads from TV, why not political ads....they are far more toxic!

This is totally tasteless and inappropriate, but I bet if the Daily Show weren't on vacation this week they would have been able to pull it off: I couldn't help thinking yesterday, while watching the Obamas show up at the White House, how hilarious it would be to have had the theme song from "The Jeffersons" playing. "Movin' on up...."

So, it appears that everyone on the McCain team is now bashing Palin. Makes you wonder then, who was it in the campaign who thought it was a good idea to put her on the team. Someone had to be in the room saying "We need this woman to appeal to the base. So what if she doesn't know anything." Are we going to have to wait for the books to come out?

I imagine I am not the only one suffering from news burnout right now. From the conventions until last Tuesday I was reading 3 papers online, plus the WSJ in the bathroom, plus 2 polling sites, plus checking Intrade, and also the Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. Now, the trill is gone, and I'm back to the front page, the sports section and the comics.

And, if you haven't had enough election results, The Economist, the world's greatest magazine, allowed it's readers from around the world to vote, and set up a worldwide electoral college. See the results here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Faced banker talks about the bailout.

Our murder mystery company did a show for a birthday party last night. The bill was paid by a very nice guy who runs a small bank here in Colorado.

After the show, we had a talk about the state of the financial world. He also filled me in on the details of how the bailout is playing out in the banking world. He says that the government is forcing his bank, and other banks in good shape, to take money in return for 10% of his stock, and limiting what salary he can take. However, since his bank is in good shape, the money is being put in his hands with the expectation that they will then buy up some weak banks, after which the government will buy the bad banks bad assets.

Does that sound convoluted to you? Because it sure does to me. I thought that bailout money was supposed to encourage more credit availability. Of course, before this conversation, this guy had spent 3 hours enjoying the open bar he was paying for, that was about 5 feet from his seat for dinner, so I'm not sure he was doing as good a job of explaining this as he would like (which is why I am not using his name here). The dude was pretty faced.

I'm not sure what to make of this. He did say that they wanted to do this instead of re-creating the RTC, which bought up all the banks during the S&L problem almost 20 years ago. He seemed to think the RTC was a better idea, and that he is getting screwed for having to take on the money and restrictions, when his bank is sound.

The good news is, the economy hasn't hurt this dude too much. He probably paid about $4k for the party, and presented his girlfriend, the birthday girl, with a beautiful full-length mink. I really wish I hadn't spilled that glass of red wine on it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

They can't be saved!

There is a lot of talk about bailing out the US auto industry, and it is just crazy. The have already been granted $25B in government loans, supposedly to be used to switch to more fuel efficient cars, with at least another $25B on the way. But today, Ford and GM both announced losses in the 3rd quarter, as expected, along with the fact that THEY EACH BURNED THROUGH ABOUT $7B IN CASH!!! And, since they are private, we don't even know what horrible numbers Chrysler is putting up!

Based on these numbers, and the weakness of the formerly Big Three before the economy went totally south, I don't see how $50B in loans can turn this situation around. They will take our $50B, and be back with their hat in hand next year, and the year after that.....until they finally go bankrupt. Let them take their medicine now, restructure, and maybe turn themselves around. Giving companies this badly run our money is just insane!

OH MY GOD....Sarah Palin is at my door wearing only a towel! I think she wants to borrow a map of Africa.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama Destroys Economy!

Obama gets elected, the stock market tanks.....must be his fault. IMPEACH!

I'm guessing maybe Obama woke up yesterday morning, realized the state that the world was in, and said to Michelle "My God, what the hell did I do!" Getting elected is going to seem easy compared to he job ahead of him.

Andrew Young had a great line on Colbert last night. He said that the world was so screwed up that nobody else wanted to run it, "so you dumped it on us".

Finally, it is still unknown whether Al Franken won his senate race in Minn. Minnesota elected a wrestler as Gov., and this country has sent legions of bad actors, football players, and baseball players (anyone seen a recent interview with Jim Bunning....he may be the dumbest man I've ever seen!) to Congress, yet comedians are, as Woody Allen once said, not allowed to sit at the adult table. This is crazy. I guarantee that it takes twice the mental abilities to be even a mediocre professional comedian (like Franken) as it does to be an actor or athlete. And wouldn't the possibility of a spit take during a speech be a bonus!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Land of Opportunity

I never thought I would live to see a President who was not a white male. I was a kid when blacks were fighting for their civil rights, 12 when Martin Luther King was killed. Though it was clear that each generation was less racist than the previous one, I still never thought there would be a black President in my lifetime. Despite the big leads in the polls, I still had my doubts about the outcome of this election.

No matter what you think of Obama, or who you voted for, this is a proud night for America, a night when we can show the world that we do live up to our principles, that all men are created equal, and that this is truly the land of opportunity.

And if you are a conservative lamenting this outcome (Dad!), you can take from this, as I heard Bill Bennett say this evening on CNN, that no group can now claim an excuse for failure.

It's been hard to say this during the last 8 years, but tonight I am extremely proud to be an American.

Now, Mr. Obama, the pressure is on. You have a Democratic Congress to work with, so you should be able to get done what you want. Don't screw it up like your predecessor!

Interesting perspective at The Big Picture

There is a very interesting perspective on market behavior over at The Big Picture today. Are the markets rallying today because it signals the end of the Bush years? That appears to be what they think. Take a look at the charts.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Politicians: The Smart Investment

A student of mine today told me that he made a bet (didn't say where) on McCain to win the election, getting 170 electoral votes. Said that was the Vegas line. I was not aware Vegas was taking action on such things, but that seems like a pretty good bet. The leading polling analysis sites have him losing pretty big, but covering the spread. I wonder what Hank Goldberg thinks of that line.

Meanwhile, had you been a wise investor, you would have taken your money a year ago and invested in either of our Presidential candidates. Obama is currently trading at about $9.10 on an contract you could have bought a year ago for $.80 on Intrade. The contract pays $10 if he wins. And a similar contract on McCain could have been purchased for less than $.40. Right now it is selling for around $1, but had you sold it after the GOP convention, you could have gotten over $5. McCain's chart for the past 2 months looks even worse than the Dow's.

Either way, you would be far better off than if you had your money in the stock market, or gold, or real estate, or bonds, or......well, you get the idea. So why didn't we see any of the so-called experts on CNBC say "We've purchased a diversified portfolio of candidates", or "We're long Obama, short Guliani". THAT would have been good advice!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Return of the Good John McCain

In case you missed it, you can watch John McCain on SNL last night below. This is the guy that I like, with a sense of humor, a fun guy. He really seems to be enjoying himself here. If this is a last ditch desperate effort to win the election, it is a lot better than the fear-mongering negative ads, and having the Hockey MILF talk about who Obama had lunch with 5 years ago.

Oh, and when I went to Hulu to get the video, an Obama ad played!

In other show biz news, I saw the movie "W" last night. Strange choice by Oliver Stone. It obviously wasn't intended to be historically accurate, as he inserted a bunch of w's famous malapropisms into private conversations. Yet it wasn't a parody. And some of the casting was week, particularly Jeffrey Wright, who completely lacks Colin Powell's presence, and Thandie Newton, who was horrible as Condi Rice. Richard Dreyfus, however, was brilliantly creepy as Cheney, and Josh Brolin made you forget he was acting as the Great Decider.

Finally, you will see Tina Fey again as the Hockey MILF on SNL. But, you should really be watching her excellent show "30 Rock". Catch old shows at

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Won't we all miss those political ads?

It's almost over. By that, I mean the barrage of negative ads, people accosting me with stickers, and ridiculous robo-calls. It is not so great living in a swing state!

My, how quickly things can change. Earlier in the year the Federal Reserve was raising interest rates, worried about inflation. Now, the fear is even more dire: DEFLATION! Sounds like it would be great if prices all went down, but it is far more dangerous than a bit of inflation. Read the story in today's NYTIMES.

Halloween here in Boulder is a huge deal. I was performing in a murder mystery at the Boulderado in downtown Boulder last night, playing a ventriloquist. So, before the show, the dummy and I went out and walked around the Pearl St. Mall for a while, in character. What a riot! If you wanna see a confused face, watch a 4 year old go face to face with a ventriloquist dummy. And after the show, I managed to catch the Naked Pumpkin Run. Halloween is definitely the best holiday!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

So Many Socialists!

We all know by now that Obama is a socialist, as well as being a Muslim and a terrorist. It only figures then that well known socialists like Warren Buffet, Colin Powell, and The Economist magazine are endorsing him. Read the Ecnonmist's endorsement here.

Random thoughts for today.

If GM and Chrysler do merge, will the new company be called Dumb and Dumber?

The Hockey MILF is now talking about Obama's connection to Rashief Khalidi, a Palestinian professor. Turns out McCain was involved in funding the guys group back int he 90's. Clearly, they are desperately trying to play the "Obama is a Muslim" card without coming out and saying it directly......what should we call that, "indirect lying"?.

Phillies finished off the Rays last night in an excellent 3 inning game. Based on how long it now takes to play an MLB playoff game, maybe they should consider holding all of them over several days, so kids can stay up and watch.

The series ending last night means that no Halloween parties will be ruined this weekend by having the game on, as one I attended back in 1986 was. It was the night of the famous Bill Buckner game, and I was at a the house of legendary partier Dennis Ward (dressed as "The Thing With 2 Heads"). Everyone knows that having the TV on at a party kills the party, but no one was going to turn this game off, not when the Bosox were about to finally win the series. There was a woman there, dressed in a Mets uniform, who was cheering wildly, or obnoxiously to many of us, as things went wrong for the Sox. Never bothered to find out her name, as I'd always hated the Mets, and I didn't much like her at the time. Well, a few years later my best friend Budd, a lifetime Sox fan, meets this woman at a party (she was not wearing the Mets uni at the time). They have been married now for, I think, 17 years. Good thing Budd wasn't at that Halloween party!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama's tragic mistake?

Obama will be doing a half hour commercial on Fox, NBC and CBS tonight in prime time. I think this is a possibly fatal error. With as long as this race has gone on, I doubt Americans want their favorite show, or particularly the World Series, delayed with by yet another political ad. Obama could do more to alienate voters, at a time when he is far ahead, then to help himself. If Obama loses, this will be why!

Speaking of Obama's ads, they have appeared in very creative an unusual ways. I was watching an episode of "Life" on Hulu yesterday and Obama had the 15 second ads that run there. I understand he has an ad somehow in the latest Madden NFL video game (sorry, not a gamer so I can't say how it's used exactly).

I have Dish, and there have been a couple ads running that are regular length, but with a bug in the corner that says "click enter for details". If you click enter, it takes you to another channel, where you can view a more complete explanation of Obama's stand on the issue.

So far, I haven't seen or heard of McCain using any of these techniques. Of course, Obama has so much more money to spend, he must need to find new ways to blow it.

One week and it's finally over!

This Presidential campaign has been going on for....what 23 years? Seems like it. Anyway, I couldn't agree more with the sentiment of Wyatt Cenac on the Daily Show.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Nardelli and You....

I got this email from my friend Bill today. Bill worked many years for his father's company that was sold to Home Depot a few years ago, and now spends his days trading the money he got from the buyout. He doesn't think much of HD or it's management....and he probably didn't think this would show up on my blog, so he didn't spend much time on spelling, caps or punctuation. He is referring to Robert Nardelli, current CEO of Chrysler and former CEO of HD.

What a success story- passed over for CEO at GE because of being a moron BUT!- becomes ceo of hd and spends 39 billion in acquisitions which are sold 3 years later at 8 billion-shit canned at hd with a package of 168 million to walk out the door. becomes ceo of Daimler and us as taxpayers are being asked for 10 billion (on top of the 25billion loan from congress) so they can marry up with gm who has had a failed business model for 50 years and he will walk with another 76 million

The bailout of the financial industry is an unfortunate necessity, forced on us because the entire economy is dependent on a functioning financial system. To bail out GM and Chrysler is just plain pissing away money. These loser companies, badly managed for years, lacking in leadership, creativity and innovation, want our money in hope that combining the two of them will somehow turn around their decline. While the financial crisis may be driving the final nails in their coffins, they have been headed for bankruptcy for about 4 years, since the price of gas hit $2.

The US auto industry has been run by chimpanzees for years (that is probably not fair to chimpanzees!). These guys all think the same, and still have not changed their mindset of 40 years ago: that big cars are the only cars worth building, and that foreign car companies are just interlopers they can get their friends in the government to drive off. Funny, but those foreign companies may have lower profits this year, but they are not on the brink.

Bankruptcy was created for companies to re-create themselves, and that is where we should let these dinosaurs go. Only then will they take the measures necessary to turn themselves into 21st century companies....or, go extinct. Either way, giving them taxpayer money is wrong on every level.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Variety of Polls at

Want to know how Al Franken is doing in Minnesota? Or Liddy Dole down in North Carolina?

At you can check poll numbers not only on the Presidential race, but races around the country for Senate, House and Governor. On the front page, you'll see a "map chooser" feature. Just click on it and choose what type of races you want to see, then hold your mouse on the state or district of interest. Outstanding feature.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Comedians for McCain?

I perform in murder mysteries here in the Boulder area, which is almost always great fun and little money. The show we are doing this year includes as part of it's plot a 3-way election for mayor. A few weeks ago, we decided to include a debate, during which we used just about everything the 4 national debates provided us as comic fodder. We had a riot.

Unfortunately, most of the material was provided by McCain and Palin. The debate begins when one of our candidates suspends his campaign to get to the bottom of the murder that happened before dinner. "Joe the Plumber" is mentioned constantly. I refer to another candidate as "That one". And that's just scratching the surface.

My guess would be that most of the professional comedy world is voting for Obama. No matter what else they believe, folks in show biz are offended by the GOP's stance on things like gay rights and censorship. However, the problem for the comedy community is that Obama just isn't very funny. He speaks beautifully, has great posture,looks good all the time, and hasn't said anything so far that comedians can really get their teeth into. Even worse, he is apparently faithful to his wife.....even Fox News hasn't alleged he isnt. And how much mileage can you get out of his ears?

So, if Obama is elected, what are these guys going to do for the next 4 years? Oh sure, they might get some good stuff from Joe Biden traveling the world running his mouth non-stop. And perhaps Dave Barry's theory of the White House sapping mental capacity from it's inhabitants will cause him to do something really stupid within a few months. But right now, McCain and particularly the Hockey MILF (was she perhaps McCain's gift to Leno, Letterman and all the other comedians who he's palled around with over the years?) are providing most of the material.

These guys have been on easy street for the past 16 years. Between Clinton's sex drive and w's stupidity and incompetence, not to mention the Dark Knight Cheney, their political jokes have arrived gift wrapped in the NY Times every morning. Will an Obama administration force the comedy writers to work harder? Will it destroy the late night comedy industry (possibly leading to a taxpayer bailout?)?

Looks like, just as for the economy in general, there are tough times ahead in the laughter biz.

Friday, October 24, 2008

This makes so much sense!

Everyone should read this article from today's NY Times. And check who wrote it together: John Kerry, Newt Gingrich and Oakland A's GM Billy Beane! Now that's bi-partisan!

Crazy Al said what?

In case you missed it, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said this yesterday:

I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms. And it's been my experience, having worked both as a regulator for 18 years and similar quantities in the private sector, especially 10 years at a major international bank, that the loan officers of those institutions knew far more about the risks involved in the people to whom they lent money than I saw even our best regulators at the Fed capable of doing. So the problem here is, something which looked to be a very solid edifice, and indeed a critical pillar to market competition and free markets, did break down. And I think that, as I said, shocked me,"
Here is what I think Al missed: these guys weren't working with their own money. If the guys on Wall Street who ignored risk management were investing their own money, they would have behaved differently. Instead, they work in a system that hugely rewards big short term returns with massive bonuses. And, they will never have to give the bonus back. So, why wouldn't they take crazy risks with other people's money? The system is set up to reward that behavior, and the punishment when it comes crashing down is too small to counter the upside. In fact, they were acting in their own self-interest, just like Al's hero Ayn Rand would have wanted.

Monday, October 20, 2008

This is just wrong....our health care system that is!!!

If you don't believe our health care system in this country is not only wasteful, inefficient and overly expensive, if not just plain immoral, take a look at this portion of an email I received today from one of my students, who has previously served in the military.
Two weeks ago I started to feel ill. I had head aches, low grade temperature, and a cough. I assumed it was a cold or the flu and took some old medications. Last week it started to get worse. Still had all the original symptoms but also started having muscle ache, and felt very tired. I went to the V.A. hospital in Greeley and they told me that I made to much money to be treated for free and that I would have to pay. I do not have the money or insurance to pay for treatment. I also tried an income based clinic in Loveland with the same results. I called a P.A. that I used to work with and told him my symptoms. He told me that it sounded like I had pnemonia or bronchitis but couldn't be sure without running tests. He said it was likely that if it was pnemonia it was the viral form since my sputum is not showing any coloration. In any case he told me to treat it like the flu (rest, fluids, and stay away from others because it is contagious), and if it gets any worse try the E.R. since they can't turn down life threatned patients. I have been missing work and school, and without a doctors note I can not prove that I am actually sick, which I very am
So here's a kid who served his country, and is now working hard to make money so he can pay for school, where he is also working hard to make a better life. What does he get in return? Screwed!!! This is just so fucking wrong it makes me crazy (sorry Dad, but I can't describe our health care system without use of the F word).

Our health care system doesn't need the ridiculous tax credits that McCain proposes, or even the moderate changes Obama proposes. It needs to be blown up and completely rebuilt. We pay twice as much per capita, and almost twice as much of our GDP for health care in this country as every other country in the world. And we get worse results. The richest country in the history of the world makes it's former soldiers have to choose between education and health care?

And we want to be the world's moral leader?

Hilarious Palin stuff

I don't know who produced this, but I'd sure like to. Ed Ayers, who is not a domestic terrorist, sent it to me. Click here to see the Palin Oval Office.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The "Voter Fraud" Fraud

It appears that the McCain campaign has now decided that they can't win unless they play as dirty as possible (this from the party that likes to promote moral values). So, they have concocted and are now desperately attempting to sell the idea that Obama is the leader of a voter fraud ring that is attempting to destroy American democracy. ACORN is now worse than Al Queda.

This is all nonsense. In fact ACORN has never been convicted, or even indicted for any voter fraud. Some of it's workers have, but the prosecutors in those cases say the workers were committing fraud on ACORN, to get paid for not doing their job. There is no evidence of any plot to promote illegal voting. Don't believe me, then go get the real facts from

This is part of the GOP's plot to suppress voting among minorities by claiming voter fraud is widespread. Like so many claims you can hear on Fox News, there is no evidence to support this claim whatsoever. It seems that the GOP believes that only those who are registered as Republicans should be allowed to vote.

The real fraud here is not coming from ACORN, but from the Republicans.

The behavior of the McCain campaign gets more disgraceful every day. Here in Colorado we are recieving robo-calls full of lies. Do they really think anyone other than Fox News fans cares that Obama served on a board with William Ayers, who is, by the way, a respected college professor. If you want to call him a "domestic terrorist", the let's also call w "drunk driver George W. Bush". The McCain camp says this showed bad judgement, like palling around with Thomas Keating?

In general, the flood of negative ads from both camps is disgusting. For some reason, many of us thought that this campaign could be run on the issues. Obama still runs some positive ads, but he has the money to run as many ads as he wants, and he has definitely upped the venom level. McCain has less cash, and apparently has decided that the issues people care about are not going to win it for him.

In other news, kudos to Sarah Palin for being a good sport on SNL last night.....or does she not understand they have been making fun of her?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dead Cats have gotten bouncier

I enjoy teaching my students some of the more stark phrases used in the financial industry. One of my favorites is "dead cat bounce", a phenomenon that occurs when a stock or the market takes a big plunge, then bounces up just a bit the next day. This is based on the idea that if you dropped a dead cat, it would bounce slightly before lying there dead. (Another for these times is "Don't try to catch a falling knife")

Monday, when the market was up in a big way, one of my students asked if that might just be a dead cat bounce. I said that it would have to be a dead cat full of super balls in order to bounce that high. Well, the same guy comes into class yesterday and says "that was one hell of a dead cat bounce". He's right. As I write this, the markets are now below their lows from Friday, having lost more than the big gains on Monday. In these days of wild volatility, even dead cats are effected.

There is a lot of stuff going on here. The economic news is not good, and most economists expect 6 months to 2 years worth of recession. The credit markets are working a bit better, but still not normally, causing fear among investors. Hedge funds and mutual funds are suffering withdrawls, which is causing them to sell, which causes more withdrawls......and so it goes. Hey, at least the price of gas is going down.

So here is the best financial advice you will get today: If you need gas today, don't fill your tank. It will be even cheaper tomorrow.

Meanwhile, if you wonder who won he debate, the traders at Intrade have bumped the price on Obama up to 86%, about 4 points higher than 24 hours ago. Are we really going to have a black president in my lifetime? Amazing! But there are still 3 weeks to go. I would suggest that the Obama campaign may want to take some of that huge pile of cash they have accumulated and send Jesse Jackson on a 3 week cruise to the South Pole.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thoughts for the day

PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!!!! If I see one more lying, full-of-shit negative campaign add, or get one more recorded phone call full of lame-ass allegations, I am going to lose it! And I'm talking to all of you politicians on both sides, and even moreso to you assholes running the ads about all the crap on the Colorado ballot!

On a more civilized note, how about those Rays! You would have had to be a real baseball junkie to know much about these guys before the playoffs (other than their third baseman is one letter away from being a really hot chick!), but these guys can play.

Meanwhile, a sabremetrician (that's a baseball stats geek, for those of you who are normal) named Nate Silver is getting a lot of press for his work with political polling. He is pretty much trying to apply the same statistical analysis methods he used to predict at the beginning of the season that the Rays would play the Dodgers in the World Series to the election. His web site is called FiveThirtyEight.

Silver currently has the likelihood that Obama wins at 95.8%. Meanwhile, the traders over at Intrade have Obama at 80% (a contact that will pay $10 if he wins now costs $8). All of which might make tomorrow's debate interesting, in that McCain has to pull some really amazing rabbits out of his hat. His "Obama is a terrorist" smear campaign doesn't seem to be working.

And in Canada, it's looking good for the Conservatives, but they will still have a minority Government. I bet you didn't even know they were having an election, you ethnocentric bastard!

And speaking of Canada, it's hockey season!!! WOO HOO! Hockey would probably be the only thing the Sarah Palin and I have in common. And Sarah, remember, Philly fans also booed Santa.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I was quoted!

I have no idea how my name appeared in Jerry Zremski's article in today's Buffalo News. Oh, and thanks Jerry for the great dinner at Aji.

For the whole story of what I meant in that quote, see the previous post.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What happened to the John McCain I used to like?

I used to like John McCain. Really. Didn't agree with him on everything, but I always thought of him as one of the more sane Republicans, one who was reasonable, not buying into every crazy idea the far right wing of his party was putting forth. Hell, he was even a victim of Karl Rove's slimeball tactics. And he always had a great sense of humor. I'd have loved to have a beer with him.

Where did that guy go? He's not the guy running for President. The John McCain I thought I knew was the guy who accurately called the religious right "agents of intolerance". Surely he wouldn't choose a hilariously unqualified running mate just to appease those same people.

The John McCain I knew had some integrity. He wouldn't base his whole campaign on questionable claims made in an increasingly slimy series of negative ads. He wouldn't hire Rove's disciples to organize the slime. He wouldn't rile up the right wing crazies to the point where they became scary. He would run on the issues.

The McCain I liked is the guy who opposed Bushes tax cuts because they would boost the deficit. He was the guy who, even though he supported what I thought was a stupid war in Iraq, said that the Bushies were doing a bad job of running the war, and called for Rummy's head.

The McCain I liked was a straight talker. Where did he go?

The guy I see running for President isn't that guy. One of his strengths as a candidate should have been his appeal to the middle. But he blew that when he ran too far to the right to appease the Rush Limbaugh crowd. He changed his tune on the Bush tax cuts, embraced the Christian right and pretended to believe what they believe. He hired Rove's guys, and went negative early and often. His straight talk got crooked.

Here is what I really don't understand about his badly run campaign: Did he not understand Dick Nixon's sage advice "Run hard to the right to get the nomination, then run hard to the center once you have it"? Instead, he followed the Rove prescription of working the base. So, he kept running harder to the right by choosing Sarah the Moosedressing Mom as his running mate. It appeased the right, but turned off the rest of the country, including educated, intelligent Republicans. Now, his claims to be a maverick are weakened because so many of those things he did that opposed is own party he has now backed off.

This is actually quite sad. As a result of this campaign, a man who had the respect of most of the country may end up with almost no respect. Even those far righties who he has sucked up to don't really like him (mostly because people like me did), and the rest of us are really embarrassed for him.

Now that I've dissed him, I do give him kudos for finally telling his bloodthirsty crowd yesterday that Obama deserves their respect. That was the John McCain that I liked. I hope he comes back soon.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A great idea that probably won't happen.

As I write this, the Dow seems to be falling at a rate of about 50 points every 15 minutes. Folks on CNBC are wearing their "Dow 10,000" hats, which they got in 1999 when the Dow first hit that number, a number it has dropped below today.

Below is a piece written by Barry Ritholz of The Big Picture, a blog I have recently discovered and now check daily. He suggests he will vote for the candidate who makes this speech. Don't hold your breath Barry!

My fellow countrymen:

These are indeed extraordinary times. The country is in an economic crisis, housing has been in freefall, we are clearly in a recession, and now credit freeze is worsening. We are living through what future historians will call The Great Financial Crisis of 2008.

Times such as these call for extraordinary leadership. Unfortunately, such leadership has been in precious short supply in Washington D.C. Our government has been reacting to events, rather than pro-acting. Its been all crisis management -- putting out fires rather than preventing them. We have been on our heels, playing defense. That is not leadership; that is not considering possible events, and planning accordingly.

It is time for this leadership vacuum to be filled.

We have made some positive steps: A $700 billion-dollar bailout plan was passed by Congress last week, and while flawed, it is a first step. It is the biggest bailout bill in America's history. But now is not the time to sit back and wait for results. We need to consider the next steps that must take place as a follow-on to this rescue plan, as well as contingency plan in case things do not go as we hope. Pray for the best, but be prepared for the worst.

We need a "Plan B."

I propose the following: As of this morning, I have sent invitations to our nation's brightest financial and economic thinkers. It doesn't matter if they are in academia, or the private sector, or in government. It matters not to me if they are a Democrat or a Republican or Independent. Your country needs you, and I hope you will answer the call.

It is time for us to get on the offense.

What is needed now is for the intellectual capital in this country to be put to good use. We have many of the world's finest universities, we have unparalleled genius amongst our populace. Rather than merely rely on a hastily crafted on-the-fly plan, improvised in response to the eruption of crisis, its time we used our brains. We need to be both optimistic, and at the same time, we must always have a contingency plan. A great nation such as ours deserves at least that much.

What we need is our generation's economic equivalent of the Manhattan project. That's what helped the United States and her allies develop the A-bomb and to win WWII.

For the past 8 years, we have ignored our greatest strengths. We have disdained reason and science. We have lived in an imaginary fairytale land, where home prices never went down, where inflation and unemployment were low, and economic growth was strong.

That turned out to be a phantom dream, based upon an illusion.

We now know that much of the growth of the past few years was based on these faulty premises: That we could borrow our way to a better lifestyle, that our financial institutions could speculate their way to profits, that we could deficit spend our way to prosperity. My friends, that is not how you achieve economic greatness. We need to strengthen the economic engine of the United States in every way we can. To do that, the president of the United States needs to take counsel from the wisest men and women in the land.

I invite my opponent to participate in this, to sit side by side with me, and receive counsel from these experts together with me. Whichever one of us win this election next month, he will need to hit the ground running. This crisis is bigger than the election, it's more important than either one of us. It's of great significance to the country, indeed, to the world. (Far greater importance than you would have guessed from the response from the present White House).

In the absence of leadership from the White House, it is incumbent upon the two men seeking that office to show the economic leadership that has been missing.

We are challenged to rise to this occasion. When presented with great challenges, America has always responded with greatness of our own -- and this is one of those times. We are being tested, and we must succeed -- not with just a barely passing grade, but with flying colors and honors appropriate for a great nation.

Given the extent of the financial crisis, and the extraordinary amount of resources that we must bring to bear upon this, in order to prevent this recession from spiraling into something far, far worse, we must leave no stone unturned, no idea unexplored, no action unconsidered.

As a nation, we have weathered terrible crises before: The Depression in 1929, World War 2, Recessions and economic disruption, the attacks of 9/11. The United States has been tested, many times in her past, and has always risen to the occasion every time. The Great Financial Crisis of 2008 is merely another one of those tests that allows the country to demonstrate what its people are capable of -- what we are made of -- what makes us Americans.

This will not be easy. Sacrifices will have to be made. For a period of time, we must put aside our our own self-interest and work together as one nation. There is no room for partisanship. There is no time like the present to embrace our future. And there is no country like the United States of America.

God bless you, and God bless America.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Goshdarnit isn't Sarah cute, but where is that w guy?

One of the students in my Thursday night class works at a Branch of Wells Fargo. She tells me that people have been coming into the bank all week to take their money out, because they are worried. Runs on the banks are what made the Great Depression GREAT. This begs the question "Why isn't someone on TV, maybe a leadership figure, reminding Americans that their bank accounts are insured and safe up to $100k (now, I guess, 250)"? Don't we have a guy who is supposed to lead in emergencies.....what's his name now....I know it...oh yeah, it's w.

Nice work, Decider! I'm pretty sure you will go down in history as the Crisis President, and I don't mean for dealing with them brilliantly, but for failing to pay attention to anything until it reached crisis level. Is that what they teach at Harvard Business School? Glad I went to Michigan.

I only managed to catch about 15 minutes in the middle of the VP Debate last night, which is pretty much about the limit of listening to Sarah Palin talk. My impression of the Moosedressing Mom (I just made that up...feel free to spread it around!) is that her responses to questions sounded like what my students do on tests when they don't know the answer........they write down everything they do know in hope that they will get some credit or hit the answer by accident. If she had said one more "folksy" thing like "goshdarnit" I would have had to shoot the tv.

Meanwhile, I guess, by the fact that Obama is now trading at 68% on Intrade, Joe Biden didn't shoot himself in the foot last night, which would usually mean also shooting himself in the mouth, as his foot so often ends up there. I wonder if Joe watched FDR's televised debate against Abraham Lincoln in preparation.

I can't believe we have to endure another month of negative political ads on tv!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


With the VP debate tonight, every source I check regularly on the internet has Obama ahead by a comfortable margin. Intrade has him at 64% to win, more than he was ahead after the DNC.

So, what can cost Obama the election? 2 words: Joe Biden. At this point, everyone but the true believers ( I guess that would be true believers in creationism!) know that McCain's choice of Sarah Palin is a huge mistake, and that she is totally unqualified for national office and completely ignorant of national and world issues. The smart thing for Biden to do is say as little as possible and let her talk. He doesn't want to look like he is belittling her, or intimidating her. Everyone knows he knows more than she does. And the more she talks, the dumber she sounds.

And, what is the one thing Joe Biden is unable to do? SHUT UP. The guy is more in love with the sound of his own voice then....well I am! His inability to shut up is the one thing that can save the McCain campaign. Obama should have his wife or someone in the front row holding a small "Shut up!" sign.

The real question is will Palin show up tonight, or will the McCain campaign pull a fast one and send the much smarter Tina Fey instead. If you haven't seen the 2 bits where she impersonated Palin on SNL, go to Hulu and watch. Brilliant!

Are you ready for digital tv?

Thank you Gordon Kapes for sending this one to me. Hilarious!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Let's not lose our sense of humor....

Thanks to Fiona for the this rather humorous explanation of the economic situation from Australia. Sorry, it wouldn't embed, so click the link and enjoy!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Black Monday

Black Monday......That's what your kids will be calling today in future history classes....that is if there are still schools in the future.

Maybe a better word for it would be "Financial 9/11", as Congress just committed an act of terrorism on the world economy. It will be far more damaging to the country than 9/11 (except for the fact that 9/11 probably got w re-elected, which was also a tragedy), but this time we were done in by a self-centered, leaderless Congress, a Congress that showed America whose jobs they really care about.....THEIR OWN!!!! This attack was preventable by it's perpetrators.

Frightened of losing their jobs because most Americans think that Congress was voting on a big handout to rich traders, Congress voted to do the easy thing instead of show leadership and have the courage to explain to voters why today's bill was important to them. And what will they do next week when the same voters they were pandering are unemployed because their employer lost access to credit? Pander again, no doubt. Blame Wall Street. Blame the other party. But vote for me, because I listen to the stupidest people in my district!

NO, you won't see any leadership from the "no" voters, no attempt to be rational. Just pandering to the lowest emotions. These guys are now just as culpable in the upcoming economic disaster as the scumbags who created the problem.

I had the same feeling watching the events of today that I had just a bit over 7 years ago as I watched the Towers fall: this is so bad that it is going to change everything for the worse. Unfortunately, I was right then. I sure hope I'm wrong this time.

That party on Wall Street

A couple months ago Bush was caught on video off-the-record saying Wall Street had a party and now they have a hangover. Last week one of my students asked why we had to suffer the hangover. My reply was that while w's analogy (would w understand that word?) was apt when he made it, now it is more like they had a party and puked all over the house we all live in, and we have the choice of cleaning it up or living in vomit.

This morning it strikes me that it is more like Wall Street came to a party at our house, puked all over, and set the house on fire.....and we damn well better get the fire out fast!

On a brighter note, the weather here in CO has been fantastic this September, the leaves are changing and it is beautiful, the Buffalo Bills are 4-0, the Yankees and Mets both missed the playoffs, the Cowboys lost at home yesterday..........heck, other than the destruction of the world economy, it's been a great month!!!

By the way, yesterday I was watching the Bills at The Lazy Dog, a sports bar managed by a Bills fan. During half-time there was a drawing for prizes. First prize was a Budwiser T-shirt. Second prize was an investment bank.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thoughts for today

With the financial turmoil apparently resulting in a deal this morning in Congress, maybe it's time to enjoy this short column by Tom Wolfe, author of the fantastic book "Bonfire of the Vanities", about the current status of the Masters of the Universe.

On a sadder note, I will be watching "Slap Shot" this evening, in tribute to the late great Paul Newman. Newman, Russert,'s been a bad year for great and classy guys. I guess all of us no-talent scumbags can feel safe.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Why we need action.....

The headline of the NYT story is the main reason Congress needs to make a deal today! Without credit, our economy will stop working!

The Faith Based Economy

The story in the WSJ about WAMU's takeover states that the bank had lost $16.7B in deposits in recent weeks. Most of that money was likely not at risk because of the FDIC, but depositors lost faith and took out their money anyway. This is why Congress needs to act now to pass a program that makes sense to Joe Public. Loss of faith in the financial system is what made the Great Depression great, a mistake we can't afford to repeat. That is why the FDIC and the SEC were invented in the 30's, to restore faith in the system and allow credit markets to work again.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Bailout....choosing the lesser of 2 evils.

One of my students asked yesterday what "we" would get out of this bailout. A good question. And I think the problem many people are having is understanding how the pain in doing nothing may be worse than the pain of that huge $700B price tag, and that it is not just a gift to the rich.

We are stuck in a situation where we have to choose between and expensive bailout, or running the risk of another depression. Most of us don't like the idea of bailing out a Wall Street that got high on risk and leverage, and now is making us clean up its mess. However, I think many fail to see how important the financial markets are to the whole economy, in other words, our jobs, homes, student loans. The availability of credit is vital to all of these things.

Certainly, the original package that was proposed was seriously flawed. First, it was a classic of the Bush Admin...."give us all the power and trust us". It included a clause that the Sec. of Treasury would have absolute power and no oversight. We've seen how well giving the Bushies this kind of power has worked out, how they squandered out money in Iraq and after Katrina on no-bid contracts with cronies who had no idea or experience doing the job. So there has to be some checks and balances on what is going on.

Secondly, we have to make sure that there is an upside for our risk, that these bad debts are not bought at a too generous price. The taxpayers either need to get equity, as with the AIG bailouts, or make sure these securities are priced where there is an upside. Also, the guys in charge of making this mess have to lose their jobs, and without giant severance packages. It looks like something is going to be done in that regard, as even Bush has now agreed to limits on executive pay.

Finally, financial regulation needs to be modernized. This problem is not in the regular banking industry, which is regulated in the risks it takes. If other institutions are able to put us in a situation where we HAVE to save them, then we need to have oversight on this institutions. And that regulation should include stiff penalties for those who violate the rules.....I'm talking about jail time for anyone who runs an organization that needs government help!

I told the student that what he will get is the likelihood there will be jobs for him when he graduates, mortgage money when he wants to buy a house, or money to borrow if he wants to start a business. Without working credit markets, and faith in our financial system restored, all that is threatened.

Sure, we all hate the guys who caused this, and that includes the people who were supposed to be watching the store. As part of this deal, all the big time execs on Wall Street, and the regulators who didn't regulate, should be put in stockades and pelted with rotten tomatoes....that would make me feel better. But to do nothing and let the economy collapse would cause us way more pain in the long run.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Big Picture

One of the best services a blog can provide to readers ( or in the case of The Tall Thin Guy, reader) is to point out good places to find info. Thus the various links on the right. So, in these bizarro economic times, may I introduce you to The Big Picture.

Manchester United......AMERICA'S TEAM!!!!

Like all good American sports fans, I was watching the Manchester United-Chelsea football match this morning on Fox Soccer Channel, and I noticed who Man U's big sponsor is: AIG. Since we American taxpayers are now the owners of AIG, I say GO MAN U!!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Problems explained

For an excellent explanation of what the current mess is about, visit the Freakonomics blog and look for today's posting.

I'm really popular at school this week....

Suddenly, being the Economics teacher makes me the popular guy at school! Yesterday, I left the house with 1 hour left in the trading day and the Dow down less than 200. When I got to school an hour later ( I ride my bike 16 miles to get there!) turned on the computer, my cry of "Holy Shit!" turned some heads. Next thing you know, I'm late for my class because everyone wants to ask me if the end of the world is coming (I don't think it is, but we are going to have a rough couple of years).

Clearly, a credit crisis threatens our whole economy, which is why the Fed and Treasury are trying to shore it up. The dilemma is that the people who screwed this up should surely be made to pay, but we may have to bail them out to keep the rest of the economy from collapsing. Better a couple hundred billion in bailouts now than another Great Depression.

That is the other question people are asking me: are we headed for another depression. First, many who ask have no idea how dire things were then. Unemployment of 25% (6.1% not), a 25% drop in real GDP from 1929 to 1933 (We aren't even technically in a recession yet!), 25% drop in CPI (we just had a slight drop in august) caused by the Fed allowing the money supply to shrink ( no way Helicopter Ben, student of the Depression, is going to allow that). Also, back then there were none of the safety mechanisms, like the FDIC, that exist today, most of which were started as a result of the Depression. So, NO, we are not going to slide that far.

But, if we didn't have those "faith keeping" institutions like the FDIC, we could. During the Depression, when real estate values plummeted, folks walked away from the from, stuck the bank with the property, which took down the bank and all it's depositors, which caused a run on the banks and a lack of any money for capital expansion. This time, the damage so far is mostly on Wall Street, where there has been a bit of a run on the investment banks, which is what has closed them, but ordinary people are not lining up to get their money out of the bank before it goes under.

I think we are headed for a few bad years as this works it's way through the economy. But remember, we got whacked double this year: The financial crisis, and a big leap in fuel prices, and most of us are still working and driving around. The world economy will slow for a while, but you can't sustain the type of growth the world has undergone for the past 10 years without a pullback.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Can someone explain to me.....

.....what the hell the Microsoft commercial with Jerry Seinfeld that I just saw is about? I don't get it at all. I thought they were selling shoes.

No wonder Google is kicking their ass!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The market v the pollsters

Most of the polls had Obama and McCain in almost a dead heat before the DNC, with Obama getting a bounce from the convention that McCain should get back from the RNC (unless his ridiculous pick of Sarah Palin blows up in his face). However, it is fun to check out what the traders at Intrade think. This is a site where traders trade futures on events. You can currently trade on things like how hard the next hurricane hits and where, whether Palin makes it through the week as VP nominee, whether the US will attack Iran, and a whole bunch of other stuff, including the presidential race.

The traders still have Obama at a 61% chance of winning, with not much movement from the convention, or from the Palin choice. In fact, he is at about the average of where he has been all of August.

This doesn't mean that he will win for sure, but it seems to conflict a bit with numbers the pollsters are putting up.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain's choice is insulting!

How can we see McCain's choice of running mate as anything better than an insult? He has chosen a woman with absolutely no credentials for national office. Two years as Gov of a state with less than a million people? Come on!

The Republicans want to talk about Obama's lack of experience, then do this? The Republicans oppose affirmative action, but nominate a clearly unqualified woman, just because she is a woman (and not a bad looking one either!). I expect most women will be insulted by this choice, as it is obvious that the GOP thinks women will vote for anyone with the same plumbing.

This plays well with the GOP faithful, but if you are an undecided voter, how could this possibly make you think that McCain is showing good judgment here? How could you possibly think he is putting the country ahead of politics, as he wants you to believe his record shows?

Bad choice, particularly for a guy who would be the oldest Prez. in history.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Usually I would rather visit the dentist than listen to politicians speak. But Obama's speech last night has to rank with one of the great speeches in US History, at least in style. Certainly the fact that he is a great speaker doesn't mean he would be a great Prez, anymore then the fact that w is a horrible speaker is what made him a complete failure as Prez. But, if I were McCain watching that last night, I would be filling my shorts over the idea of having to share a stage in a debate with that guy.

To me, the most interesting thing were the crowd shots, and particularly the black people in the crowd. The looks of pride and joy, and the tears, particularly from older blacks who were alive 45 years ago when MLK made his great speech, and are now seeing Dr. King's dream coming true. It should make us all proud of the progress we've made in this country in 45 years. Sure, race relations aren't perfect, but look where we are now. Truly historic!

I know a few of you who read this blog where in the crowd. Please leave your comments, or email me them and I will post them.

Oh, and one more thing: Michelle Obama will be the hottest first lady ever!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I'm doing this joke first......

With the Republicans headed for St. Paul for their convention next week, you have to ask how they are going to manage the crowd of GOP congressman who will be lining up to get in to the Larry Craig Memorial Men's Room at the Minneapolis airport!

There, wanted to do that one before Jon Stewart does!

By the way, a gay friend of mine who lives in DC told me Mark Foley once hit on him!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC Photos

Hoping this works. I am embedding a file from Photoshop Express.