Thursday, August 30, 2012

I KNEW I Had Seen Him Before


...and now.

As Paul Ryan accepted his party's nomination for Vice-President of the U.S. in Tampa last night, computerized fact-checkers monitoring his speech began exploding like Chinese firecrackers.  Here is what fried the hardware.

The jaw-dropping performance earned a special nod from Andy Borowitz.

Remarks Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, "anyone who hoped Ryan might elevate the debate should be bitterly disappointed."

[update, 09-04-12--]

Andy can't help it.  There is just too much material here.  Not only does Paul Ryan run 7-minute-per-mile marathons, but he moonlights as a Navy Seal.  Check out this special assignment.

© The New Yorker

Monday, August 27, 2012

When Day Traders Occupied Wall Street

"They were Maschler's bandit army, the rejects of Wall Street, the city college kids from the backwaters of Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx, the ones who didn't stand a chance at a big bank like Goldman or Morgan.  Dumb boiler-room mutts--but they had a secret weapon:  Josh Levine.  With Levine creations such as the Watcher and the Monster Key at their fingertips, they could out-trade the very best in the business.  They could grind Goldman to a pulp. They could make Morgan cry."  [page 100]

It was about time.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Quote for the Week, Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2012

The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.
--Thomas Jefferson


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Quote for the Week, August 19-25, 2012

“I don’t want to be one of those émigrés of 1917, sipping wine by the Mediterranean and waiting for Russia to get better so I can come back. I have no choice but to do it myself.”
--political activist Maria Baronova

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Hedgies and the Banks

As guarantors of MainePERS--and of all the benefits that MainePERS will pay out now and forevermore--we taxpayers have an interest in how the MainePERS investment portfolio performs.  The better the performance, the less we will have to pay out of the General Fund in the future to address pension liabilities.

Here's the problem.  MainePERS has adopted a passive, indexed investment style, which works great in bull markets, but underperforms in bear markets.  MainePERS does not try to time the market.  We ride stocks up, then ride them down.  Financial-sector stocks were big winners in the bubble-licious mid-00s, but have been losers since.  As of June 30 of this year, we still held 926,049 shares of JPMorgan Chase (valued then at over $33 million) and 2,616,812 shares of Bank of America (worth over $21 million).

A year ago we took a look at how three noted hedge-fund managers were handling their investments in Bank of America ("Duck, Duck, GOOSE!").  Unlike MainePERS, these guys DO trade in and out.  When they sense that a firm's business is about to sour, they don't wait for public disclosures from company executives.  They take the money and run.  By the end of 2011 all three had liquidated their entire positions in Bank of America's common stock.

Second-quarter 13-F filings with the Securities & Exchange Commission have just been made public, so we can once again look over the shoulders of the hedge honchos to see what they are doing.  Here's the rundown:

David Tepper, Appaloosa Management LP

Bought almost 7.5 million shares of BAC in Q1, then changed his mind (oops) and sold almost half in Q2.  Cancel that rebound in BAC's business.

John Paulson, Paulson & Co. Inc.

Still has BAC warrants.  Established a new position in JPM (4 million shares) just as the firm was disclosing a trading loss of $5.8 billion (double oops).

George Soros, Soros Fund Management LLC

Exited JPM completely (over 600,000 shares).  Remains BAC-free.  Smart man.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quote for the Week, August 12-18, 2012

"The longer Congress continues to dither, the greater the likelihood of cascading structural impediments to growth and job creation. This can be seen in how much harder it is for those who are struggling to maintain even routine activities, while those who are substantially better off have become way too cautious, preferring to self-insure by holding large balances of cash rather than hiring and reinvesting in plants and equipment."

--Mohamed A. El-Erian, in a Washington Post op-ed

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer Snapshot

Mt. Katahdin from Katahdin Lake outlet
August 8, 2012
[photo: Cathy Hazelton]

Kudos to Huber Resources Corp. for the donation earlier this year of this priceless waterfront to Baxter State Park.
[MaineToday coverage here.]

Watch Katahdin Lake Land Donation on PBS. See more from MPBN News.

painting by 19th-century artist Frederic Church from the same spot

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Quote for the Week, August 5-11, 2012

If both factions, or neither, shall abuse you, you will probably be about right.  Beware of being assailed by one, and praised by the other.
--Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Passages: Icon and Iconoclast

Gore Vidal (1925-2012)

Author of Lincoln, Burr

Antagonist to Bill Buckley