I Never Liked Dick Bove






I usually try to be a little obscure in the daily blog titles.


The problem with getting older is that the long term memory really does stay intact and the ability to forgive and forget becomes diminished.


Now, I don’t really have anything against Dick Bove, per se, but in the past he has been as ever-present a talking head as you could ever imagine.


Shit for BrainsNow, I don’t want to you to get the wrong idea. Just because there is an image entitled “Shit for Brains”, this is in no way a representation of what I believe is present in Dick Bove’s head. After all, that wouldn’t be fair to the long and storied history of excrement.


For me, I first took notice of Dick Bove when his bald pate and perfectly trimmed beard seemed to be on CNBC every morning and afternoon giving his take on the financial institutions that he followed.


Afterall, he was a financials analyst and we were on the precipice of what would turn out to be the market cataclysm of a lifetime.


And he was the best, right?


I mean, why else would he be featured so regularly amd prominently? And you certainly would want the best to either re-assure the investment community or warn them, as appropriate.


Before I go forward, lest you think that all I plan to do is blast Bove, I would like to give him some credit for his forecasting ability. Although it was a rocky road, taking more than 2 years for the markets to recover most of the ground it lost following the 2007 meltdown, Citigroup is nearly at Bove’s price target of $45.


Granted, it’s price was significantly helped by last week’s 1:10 split, but that would be like splitting hairs.


So while Bove was continually telling the investing world that Citigroup was a solid company and that its dividend was in no jeopardy, Wall Street just burned as his talking head kept talking, oblivious to the air being sucked out of the markets.


Of course, Bove has had his credibility questioned before, in the most important of ways; the losing side of a lawsuit that was based on the accuracy of one of his calls. No reason to dredge the details of that up.


The New York Times last year characterized him as having bounced from firm to firm.


So this is the best they can come up with to assess the financial sector?


Yet for some unknown reason….


Wait, I know the reason. No one on Wall Street has anything resembling a memory.


So, they still listen to this guy. They  still invite him back.


Yesterday he did his damage again.


He used a classic terrorist strategy, perhaps pulled from Bin Laden’s recently discovered diary.


And I’m not talking about the entry when Bin Laden wrote “Fatima’s so pretty, but she doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I just want 2B friends”.


No, he focused on the strategy to go after soft targets.


And what more soft of a target is there these days than Goldman Sachs?


They can’t catch a break on anything. Imagine, they actually offered Hugh Grant the Charlie Sheen role in Two and a Half Men over Lloyd Blankfein.


As if that wouldn’t have been bad enough, Ashton Kutcher? Really?


That’s really kicking a guy when he’s down.


Bove spent the day spreading fear about Goldman and the Department of Justice.


Isn’t that the modus operandi of terorists? Fear? Soft targets?


And Charlie Gasparino was bold enough to predict that Blankfein wouldn’t last another 2 years.


Exactly how many eternities is 2 years in Wall Street years?


Anyway, you know what happened.


Goldman took another beating and you guessed it. I own Goldman shares.


What used to be about 10% of my portfolio is now about 8% and not because I sold shares.


In the aftermath of the Rajaratnam guilty verdict, Bove believes that the Department of Justice has some blood lust. He has a populist image of people wildly celebrating in front of the White House at the mere thought of Goldman convictions.


Personally, I don’t think DOJ will be going after Goldman with quite the zeal that Bove believes. The economic consequences of crippling Goldman, even in the short term has tremendous trickle down. Not good when the boss is in re-election mode.


Although the people at Goldman are deservedly called the smartest in the room, they still may need some help on this one. It isn’t easy getting out from under the grip of a terrorist


My advice? SEALS. Navy Seals.


 


 


 


 




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We are a Fickle Species

It’s sometimes very hard to understand human nature.


Without a doubt, there were still so many untapped Osama bin Laden jokes sitting out there, just waiting to be told, Tweeted and re-tweeted.


But then came the jury verdict. Even before the results became known, the Raj Rajaratnam jokes started to flow and only my own two similarly themed Bin Laden jokes could be found anywhere.


RajaratnamThey both had to do with Bin Laden’s body floating ashore someplace. I thought they were pretty funny, but no real traction because despite an admirable week’s length of attention, we’d moved onto the next and newest thing.


So at least for today, it’s going to be Rajaratnam, the butt, and apparantly I mean that both figuratively and literally of many weight related jokes.


And no, the above photo is in proper proportion.



Look, I wasn’t immune from posting a few of my own, despite my allegiance to the Bin Laden line of banter. We all want our share of the attention that is so fleeting.


And I thought of that a little while, just how fickle we really are.


Does that explain why “Buy and Hold” is a dead strategy amongst most everyone? It seems that at least when it comes to the stock market, the word “investor” may not really have much meaning.


In fact, if funds transfers would be executed and closed in the amount of time that it really should take, instead of the standard 3 business days, “Buy and Hold” would likely be re-defined in terms of minutes or hours.


I think back to the days when I used a broker and we would hold on to stocks through cycle after price cycle. Profits vanished, re-appeared, vanished again.


Since we didn’t take losses often, at the end of the day, it still felt a if the ventures were successful, but they weren’t. Really. They weren’t. All of those opportunities were squandered.


So now that I’m on my own, I’ve become very fickle, trading as often as necessary, but I’ve kept a little piece of my dignity.


I’d decided a while ago to keep the company of a finite list of stocks.


I call them my “Old Reliables”. Like a sailor’s girl in every port, although I prefer to think of them as “Sister Stocks” and I believe that God has ordained me to make them fruitful and multiply.


Each one of my favorites has a place and time. Occasionally, like Bin Laden, apparantly, I’ll bring in a new “Old Reliable” and cast another out. After all, there’s only so much male virility herbal concoction that I can ingest.


But the door is rarely irrevocably closed.


AIG is one of those Sister Stocks, an “Old Reliable”, even though it had been in the pennysphere and but for a 1:20 split, would still be at a price far below anything that I would purchase, other than to sell put contracts.


I first owned AIG back when it was American General. I didn’t own shares for a decade or so. It was noble at one time to own American General.


But now, I delight in AIG. It goes up, it goes down. I sell call contracts, I buy call contracts. I lose my shares, I get new shares.


Do I love AIG? Yes. I do. But I especially love these weekly options.


I was happy to see its decision to proceed with a much smaller “re-IPO”, as it’s been coined. I posted on Twitter yesterday that Ben Mosche was worked too hard and has too much of an ego to let AIG go so cheaply. I also believe that Geithner thinks AIG is a buy and not quite the sell that everyone was banking on.


Am I sad to see it go, if it does? No, I know it will be back.


Does that make me fickle?


Why am I asking so many questions today?


Simply because so many of our fundamental bases have been questioned in my lifetime, although each generational span probably goes through the same process.


It’s just that the process keeps speeding up, somewhat like Moore’s Law, to the point that the one time good as gold standard is like yesterday’s day old fish.


As I look at Laszlo, my dachshund, I am envious. His world and his species, are constant in their thinking and relationships.


Best of all, he’s very flexible.


But I suppose if we led the same kind of life and had the same flexibility, there might never be another generation to take us to the next unrecognizable level.


For at least today, I’ll look forward to more Rajaratnam jokes, hope AIG stays just slightly below $32 and doesn’t mind being put on the options block again next week.


 


 

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Why Speculation is Good

I don’t particularly care for speculation. But I do like speculators.


It’s somewhat akin to the expression “Hate the sin, love the sinner”, but that’s actually very hard to do, so I don’t even try.


John McCain, back when he was a decent human being, before his recent decision to try and return to that state once said about Osama bin Laden, “May God have mercy on his soul, because I won’t”.


You’ve got to like that. Too bad he went to the dark side. Come back to the light, John. Come back.


In a humorous aside, it turns out that God does not cover the seas.


Anyway, it wasn’t always that way. There was a time that I thought speculation was really the way to go. How else could you escape “The Man” holding you down?


There was a time that I thought I could outsmart the harness race track.


Then another time it was the casino and roulette.


There was even a futures period of my early life. Ironic that futures were in the past. Copper, Gold, silver, financial, wheat and corn.


Loser, loser, loser, loser, loser and loser.


Today’s blog is borne out of laziness. It’s essentially a re-hash of “Greed is your Friend”, a chapter in Option to Profit, which I will shamlelessly plug here.


So buy the book. $14.95 at respected retailers, $19.99 elsewhere.


Always go for the respected. I won’t miss the price difference.


SpeculationI now think speculation is great. Let the naysayers say that speculation has driven up the price of commodities. Gold, oil and all of those other things.


I say good for them and good for us, the end users.


Just about the only way to get us to change behaviors is to exact economic costs. What will get us to drive less? You got it. Higher gas prices.


Maybe increasing sugar prices will result in less Type 2 Diabetes.


And as used to be said on late night television “And maybe monkeys will fly out my butt”.



But I’m not a macro-economic kind of guy. I know that at some point there would have to be adverse effects on the economy, but I find that people who claim to look at the big picture, rarely do. That includes me.


All I really care about is me, and of course my readers loyal enough to buy the OTP book (another shameless plug). Mostly though, it’s about me.


And for me, speculation is great, as long as it’s others doing the speculating.


It’s on the greed of others that we prey and pray.


That’s the basis behind selling options to others. Those using leverage, seeking to hit it big with as little skin in the game, as possible are the ones that let me sleep soundly at night.


But there’s another impetus for today’s blog and that was the endless carping about Microsoft yesterday.


Just about everyone imaginable was chastising Microsoft because its stock price has been pretty range bound for the past decade. The geniuses refer to a Microsoft investment as “dead money”.


Those opinions even came from people that I respect, despite the fact that they were pretty harsh in their comments.


I tend to disagree.


But I do that as a matter of habit, anyway.


Back in the old days, my disagreement might be manifested by letting air out of tires. I always found that the diagonal combination of flat tires was most effective.


Since then, I’ve grown up. Plus, now I can just hire someone else to get their hands dirty, instead of my own.


But in this case, Microsoft has been very good to me.


It has reliably delivered a 2-4% monthly premium on its near the money options, while increasing its dividends. That 10 year chart that was shown on CNBC just made me feel that much better.


I’m a pretty analytical kind of guy, as my wife will attest as she tries to tear me away from any given spreadsheet. I continue to like Microsoft, not for its growth prospects, Uh duh, but for its prospects of my growth.


One Twitter poster, @stockguy** (identity withheld, good luck trying to figure it out), I’m talking to you, in an attempt to denigrate the call writing strategy, said something to the effect of, “well its alright for you, it may pay the rent, but for traders, it’s not enough”.


I guess my 1500+ trades a year doesn’t make me a trader and a 24-36% annual return isn’t good enough.


I don’t really think he meant it in a derogatory way, but it’s like technical analysis, you can interpret it any way you please. Besides, isn’t that what makes a market, or so they say?


Just to be clear, I’m not saying that I get 24-36% annual return. That figure looks solely at the options net income generated from trades, Microsoft being just one example.


In my responses, I got a little more detailed with numbers, as my “rent” is pretty high and using his line of thought, I may as well go and get another 5 or 6 houses, because I can, just from options premium income


Hmmm.


The problem with living in this neighborhood is that you can’t readily find someone to let the air out of someone’s tires, so you have to resort to words.


At any rate, the inference was that a “trader” is only satisfied with home runs.


A quick look at baseball statistics shows that the great homerun hitters were pretty great at at least one other thing.


Striking out.


And if you know anything about math and real life, it’s much harder to recover from a strike out in the stock market than it is to strike out.


Option to Profit teaches a way to actively manage your account, get a nice steady return and best of all, sleep at night. I guess that’s another plug, but I promise not to do so for at least a month starting tomorrow.


No homeruns. OK, maybe an occasional, but really in the stock market, homeruns are either dumb luck or insider trading. I wasn’t a genius because I held Green Mountain Coffee and had not yet written call options on it, prior to its gapping up past $65.


Dumb luck.


I certainly didn’t know anything about the Strabucks deal.


I’ve never won anything in my life so I don’t count on luck and I’m too embarrassed to evacuate my bowels in front of a prison cellmate, so I’ll stay away from any semblance of insider trading.


So to paraphrase the Dos Equis guy, “Be greedy, my friend. Be greedy”.


 


 

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What Makes Microsoft Run?



Apologies to Budd Schulberg, he probably never intended for Steve Ballmer and Sammy Glick to be mentioned in the same breath, so I won’t.


They may share some of the same lineage, but the comparison probably ends right there. On the other hand, reports of the behaviors of a young Bill Gates may have been more akin to the ruthless and one track minded Sammy, than Steve Ballmer ever could have been. But these days you would never know that, as he is busily placing fine netting over everything that moves.


Sammy GlickAs a stock, I love Microsoft, even though the investment universe looks at it as “dead money”. A look at the charts would indicate that Microsoft has been a pretty staid kind of stock, sort of like the shirts that Gates sports.


But today is a perfect example of why I love Microsoft, although its corporate name would have been far better suited for one of those e-mail spammers that has an herbal remedy to cure the Micro-soft condition that afflicts men of my generation.


Reportedly, Ballmer and company are about to part with about $8 billion to buy Skype.


Details aren’t out yet whether it was at a “Buy it Now” price or auction, as eBay still owns a piece of Skype.


There are lots of great minds out there and mine is not one of them, yet what we have in common is the asking of a simple question:


Huh?


Does Hotmail need to be jazzed up? You probably would need a Haitian Voodoo Priest to reawaken Hotmail.


The prevailing wisdom is that Microsoft would have been better off buying $8 billion in silver.


Although that’s not likely to happen, even though it could easily dip into its coffers for that type of pocket change.


But I for one, am glad that silver was not on its radar.


The problem with a ludicrously funny suggestion is that if the price of silver started to climb again, Microsoft’s stock price might actually make significant strides.


I, for one, don’t want their stock price going anywhere.


I have owned Microsoft off and on for a couple of years. It pays a dividend that keeps going up. But much more importantly, it trades in a very tight range following the March 2009 stock market rebound and pays a nice options premium on near the money call contracts.


Microsoft has become my 2.5% monthly annuity.


I love the boredom.


The nice thing about this purchase is that if it doesn’t add anything to Microsoft’s bottom line, and in fact, is written off for its full amount, it means nothing.


Conversely, if it adds to the bottom line, it means nothing.


If Microsoft spins it off, it means nothing.


Do you see the trend here?


I find great meaning in nothing.


To this day, I’m still not certain how Microsoft makes so much money.


Yeah, I understand the operating system and the little ca-ching that comes with each PC sale, but my understanding of that still comes while I pound away on Office97 and fire up my diesel powered Netscape 4.0 browser.


But I still don’t care how they make their money, as long as they just stay staid.


Was Sammy Glick boring?


BallmerHow about Ballmer?


For my portfolilo, I’ll take Ballmer any day, and besides, Hollywood is much more likely to make the Steve Ballmer story than the Sammy Glick story.


After 70 years, I think Sammy has nothing left in him to make him run.


 


Microsoft on the other hand can chug along forever under everyone’s radar all the way to my bank.





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Mother’s Day Traditions – From Blankfein to bin Laden

One good Mother’s Day tradition is that historically, the following Monday tends to be a good day in the markets. That’s certainly one type of tradition I’d like to keep going.


Mothers DayThat’s especially true if my short call options are out of the money, which most of them are right now, with the notable exception of those on the Ultra-short Silver ETF.


Another tradition, but this time one that ended, was the annual embarrassment Osama Bin Laden would be subject to, as he had difficulty distinguishing between his daughters and wives.


It’s a good thing that we found him, otherwise we’d never know when this one would have come to an end.


We’d still be at the mercy of the Al-Qaeda propaganda machines.


Thank goodness we had the help of our Pakistani friends.


I never thought that I could commiserate with Bin Laden, but I feel for him. Tough problem, but glad to see that it’s resolved, in a mutually beneficial way.


On a downside however, with the attack on the Bin Laden Compound, I’ve lost 12 loyal Twitter followers.


What I really admire, though, is the ever forward marching presence of capitalism. The latest rumor is the Al-Qaeda will be funding a remake of the classic, “Gone With the Wind”, entitled “Sunk to the Bottom”. Reportedly, Leonardo DiCaprio has already signed on as a young Osama Bin Laden and James Cameron is commited to the project.


Only natural that these two should pair up again after already celebrating the sinking of the Titanic.


Given its difficulties in the markets these days, it’s also rumored that Goldman Sachs will be bankrolling the effort in an attempt to diversify their brightest and best.


More on that later.


With 2 weeks left to go in this options cycle, I’ve been looking for weekly options opportunities now that E*Trade has finally offered weekly options to its offerings.


I did sell some more BP options this morning after making a few cents on last week’s option contracts. This week, it also goes ex-dividend on Wednesday, so I’m hoping to double dip and then do it all again on the final week of the month.


As I look for opportunities, I’m struck by how moribund Goldman Sachs has been. The brightest guys in the room must be pretty embarrassed that they can’t even seem to get caught in an upwind draft and ride on the market’s coat-tails these days. I can almost envision an elderly and bent over Lloyd Blankfein with remote control in his hand looking at videotapes of himself during the golden years.


Very sad.


I don’t think that Blankfein, the Spiritual Leader of Goldman Sachs, has the same issues with his daughters, if any, and wives, if any.


I also don’t think that he’s in fear of Navy SEALS busting into his condo, but Bin Laden probably had a high comfort level, as well.


One thing we know for certain, neither Bin Laden nor Blankfein will be celebrating next Mother’s Day as the spiritual leaders of their organizations.


And the world will be safer.

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Life is a Paradox

The epic paradox, the statement by Pinocchio, “My nose will Grow now”, has always captured my attention.

By always, I mean ever since this morning when I tried to find an illustration for the”paradox” theme of today’s blog. I was actually considering using a mathemetical paradox that illustrates how 5 = 4, but I thought that would require far too much thinking for everyone involved.

That one really blows my mind and calls into question the very validity of certain mathematical operational theories.

Frankly, I couldn’t care less about Pinocchio, for all I know, he doesn’t even exist.

Why we spend so much time of that which doesn’t exist is beyond me.

But that is the essence of a paradox. It’s existence is outside of the universe of reality, yet somehow exists within that reality.

Spending so much time in the unreal reality can be very profitable, though. Just look at the trade in non-existent securities.

Welcome to the world of the short seller.

In many societies selling what you don’t own is a crime. There may even be a Commandment against that sort of thing.

While not a paradox, per se, philosphers and theologians have long asked why it seems that the wicked prosper while in this life.

Take the example of those selling sliver short. They own no silver, sell what they don’t own and are dancing all the way to the back.

ParadoxTaking that to one further step of lunacy are the holders of the levearged short silver ETF. Now, admittedly, I’ve been one of those for about a week and am not complaining about being part of the paradox. Those shares are up 70% in 5 trading days.

Not only selling what you don’t own, the people selling the security may not even own the silver and then, just for kicks, let’s double the ante.

Instead of 2 times zero, the result is 2 times whatever.

I’m not saying that  this is wicked behavior, for I certainly like to think that I lead a reasonably virtuous life. Albeit a bit more wealthy than 5 days ago.

Short sellers have long been reviled. If the general population knew what a short seller  actually was, they would be right up there with lawyers for the top spot in the derogatory joke category.

Something’s missing, though.

Oh, yeah. The silver.

Also missing is the common sense that would realize that the raising of margin requirements would at the very least have a short term adverse effect on the commodity’s price. Especially in market fundamentals were already taking the price in a downward direction.

Also missing are all of the silver touters who were profiled on TV insisting the the price was still poised to move forward. They’ve been replaced by those that have insisted that they were well prepared for the inevitable bursting bubble.

Prepared, perhaps, but out of sight. These people seem to be very good at deconstructing prophecies. Simply evaluate present circumstances and work backward to see what position would have predicted the now known outcome and profess to have held the position.

Paradox, stupidity, blinded by greed. Take your pick, but it’s amazing how quickly the Bin Laden story has been displaced by another bursting bubble.

And no one is clamoring to see photos of the holes being blasted through silver or the pieces of paper that puport to have a right to silver, and then some.

  

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Why I Love the Modern World

What’s in the Szelhamos Portfolio?








Today is a perfect example of everything that’s right with the modern world.


Normally, I’m pretty much of a stay at home schlub. I’m not even sure if that’s really a Yiddish word or not, but I can’t describe myself as a stay at home dad, now that my kids are out of the house.


Fortunately, they haven’t figured out that a locksmith could help them get back in.


But that’s not the point.


Today is one of those days that I will be out of the house most all day. No, not because it’s Cinco de Mayo. I have no idea what that celebrates, except I know that it’s not something that I celebrate.


Although I may be a schlub, I do make most of our family income by trading, while I sit and stare at the computer and the TV screen. At least I’m not a worthless schlub and I have taken on more of the cooking chores, because I feel my Sugar Momma deserves some culinary delights.


But ever since we got Caller ID on the TV screen, I don’t even have to turn my head anymore. If only La-Z-Boy would finally put a chamode in their recliners, then I’d be really poised to suspend most voluntary body functions. At least until the closing bell.


Green AcresJust to be clear, there are some things about the modern world that I don’t like. The very idea that there will never be another new episode of Green Acres starring the original cast is just inexcusable.


Yet somehow, we manage to go on.


I also miss some of my childhood candies, such as Bonomo Bars, that have had 50 years to make their return, but have not.


Although my teeth are probably grateful for that, the rest of me remembers the joys of trying to devour the razor sharp pieces.


But there’s no reason to dwell in the past, reliving such things as having Green Mountain Coffee shares exercised from me $25 ago.


Instead, let’s focus on what’s great about the modern world.



The fact that I could write this blog while stuck in traffic is one of the pretty cool things. Although when you enter into my state, you are greeted with traffic signs warning drivers aginst texting, it says nothing about blogging.


But better yet, during the day, even going from meeting to meeting, I’ll be able to make trades just by going to that wonderful Droid my sons convinced me to get.


I may, however, cut down on my superfluous Tweets tomorrow.  Luckily, they also convinced me that the unlimited data plan was worth it, because it has been.


One thing about the modern world, before I go on, that I don’t like, is the propensity to change the meanings of words. One prime example is “unlimited”, as in “unlimited data”. Putting a limit on  unlimited seems wrong. Although I do understand the concept of throttling. That’s just like continually getting smaller and smaller portions when you go to the “All you Can Eat” deals at Applebees.


Who knows what kind of mammal has ribs that small?


But still, the good outweighs the bad, especially since I don’t eat ribs.


Someday, this modern world will figure out a way to impant a cable TV receiving chip in my eyes so that I can always be connected, as I disconnect from the reality of the world that is trying to intrude on my preferred reality.


Not being glued to the screen robs the chance to get up to the second worthless news.


I also must admit, that in the 10 days or so that I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve grown to like the postings of a number of people, some of whom are really pretty funny. I will miss the constant real time updates, although I’ve pruned my “Following List” down by 50%.


Since I make it a strong rule to never use public restrooms, I’ll have some difficulty keeping up with the Tweets.


One thing that I really like about the modern world is how fast everything moves. Specifically, I love how fast the stock markets moved.


Without dealing in percentages, imagine how many years it would have taken to double the Dow Jones in the 1950’s. Imagine how long it used to take to recover from any kind of drop in prices. A generation is the answer, as that wa not a rhetorical question.


These days, you blink your eyes twice and your favorite stock has run through a couple of up and down cycles and then some.


I own shares in Mosaic, Rio Tinto and Freeport MacMoRan. Despite that heavy load, my portfolios are still well diversifed. But those stocks gyrate like wild, yet still manage to stay in a range.


Never would have happened that way when Arthur Burns was Chairman of the Federal Reserve.


Man that guy had great hair, but most will admit that things really picked up after a bald Volcker took the reins.


Since then, baldness has been the modern day version of hair.


My full headed mane speaks poorly of my keeping up with the times. I’ve been trying as hard as possible to increase my stress levels, thinking that may cause some exfoliation, but now that Bin Laden has started on his journey to meet his 72 virgins, I have less to worry about.


And it’s a good thing, because I’ve been spending too much time worrying about these past few down days.


I know that it will soon change course, but what if the new modern world end up just like the old times?


At least Green Acres would be back.





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Looking for Inspiration

Most mornings I’m up at 6:30 or so.

That gives me plenty of time to have coffee, read the New York Times and check on the pre-opening bell news.

For some inexplicable reason, I slept in this morning. But not only did I sleep in, I missed the opening bell for the first time in a couple of years.

As I’m hurriedly trying to make up for the time that can never be recovered, I’m not getting much inspiration. I haven’t, though, checked the Obituaries yet.

tortureSo far, the predominant coverage in the Times is the role and value of torture. I prefer, “harsh interrogation” methods.

Although I’ve been searching, I haven’t been able to find any derivitive trades off of torture. Those must all be privately held companies.

Torture, I suppose, comes in many forms.

The picture to the left is entitled “Chinese Torture”. That kind of torture may also come in the form of their IPO offerings. I believe that the ingenue pictured was a RenRen friend.

That’s why I’m so proud that I have no friends in my Facebook account.

But I have had my share of tortuous trades in the past.

Some of them were in companies that had the dubious distinction of being the largest percentage loser for its year.

I once owned L.F. Rothschild, a scion of investment banking.

Look that one up. It’s too painful to relive.

It is also painful to not have time to accept the fact that the market will be opening way down. That’s the problem with sleeping in. It was a little bit of  a shock to see that the market was down 100 points before I even had a chance to fire up the computer.

Much less have any coffee.

I did get one trade off so far. I bought back some Textron $26 call options. That’s the second time for that particular trade for the May 2011 cycle.

But as I watch those shares of ZSL, the leveraged silver short shares, I kick myself for having covered those shares, as well.

Missed opportunities can be tortuous as well, but still, I’m not likely to give up any valuable information.

My real concern this morning is that I’ve noticed a very substantial decrease in the number of new Osama Bin Laden jokes hitting the internet.

I’m not much of a historian, but I think that the last time he died, that marked a market top and sudden reversal in fortunes.

I may be wrong on that count, but I’m willing to stand by it, as I watch my own fortunes fall this morning.

At this point, as we approach noontime, and man, it’s great to not have to work, I’m still not getting the inspiration I need. There really doesn’t seem to be anything special about today. No unique character, no defining theme.

Sometimes it’s nice to have a moment of boredom intrude on the rapid fire lives we live.

I’ve decided that for today, I’m just going to sit back, continue sipping away at the lukewarm coffee and wonder what happened to that piece of Cheesecake Factory dessert that was in the refrigerator.

That’ll keep me occupied for the rest of the day, at least until my wife gets home.

That’s when the harsh interrogations begin.

 

 

 

 

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A Day Here, a Day There

I won’t quibble over a day here or there.

International dateline, questionable reporting, time differences, you can take your pick.

I was born on at 3:30 AM on April 7th in Hungary, but in a logical world, now that I live in the U.S., I should be celebrating my birthday on April 6th.

I don’t. That would be stupid, albeit, logical.

Yesteday, May 1st, we learned of Osama bin Laden’s death. One of my kids joined the OBLthrong at the White House, the other donned his National Guard uniform and sent me a photo.

I already have the days’ newspaper wrapped in plastic.

Was the glorious day on May 1st, was it April 30th? Who knows and who cares?

But it may by no means be coincidence that Adolph Hitler’s date of death was reportedly April 30th and officially reported May 1st.

Sure, as a child I remember all of those wierd Lincoln and Kennedy similarities.

This is different.

As Americans, we have often been immune from the sense of relief and pure joy when evil dies.Fortunately, 3000 miles of ocean, a strong military and an abiding sense of justice has kept us safe for most of our history.

We haven’t had to endure the daily evils of the likes of Idi Amin or the long list of others.

Even though it’s been almost 10 years since the World Trade Center attacks, we’ve taken some solace that the evils guys probably never were able to close both eyes at night.

Even though it appears that Bin Laden’s final home was more luxurious than the caves we had been hoping that he had been living in, I don’t think you ever really get used to the unexpected sound of overhead explosions.

To some, it may be inappropriate to compare Bin Laden to Hitler. Since I never met the vast majority of my family because they perished during the Holocaust, I feel like I can take a pass on any complaints.

It’s akin to why some people can get away with Gangsta rap lyrics while others can’t.

The only difference between Bin Laden and Hitler is that Bin Laden was deprived the opportunity to carry out his master plan.

If not for the United States and its dogged effort to find Bin Laden, the  “spiritual” leader of al Qaeda (talk about an oxymoron), they would have been far more devestation.

In their tortuous logic, these terrorist zombies will claim that if it were not for the United States there would be no al Qaeda.

No on knew better how useful it was to them to have the United States and Israel be considered the enemy than the leaders of the Arab world.

The longer they could divert attention to the great “Satans” the less likely they would be to suffer the wrath of their own people.

That world is changing.

Democrarcies never go to war with one another.

The Middle East is on a precipice. Just a tip in the right direction and true democracy may overwhelm the region.

The outcome? Once the people see the lies fed to them by their own governments for generations, they are likely to be even more angered by all of the lost opportunities to be part of the civilized world.

In fact, they are likely to discover that neither the United States nor Israel are evil. Only their previous ruling regimes could rightfully take that honor.

Even the “beloved” Saudi regime knew all too well that the more it fomented chaos elsewhere, the less likely its own legitamacy would be questioned.

They realized that 50 years ago.

They, nor anyone else, had love for the Palestinians, but as long as they could stoke the fires against the Israelis, the longer they could delay that fire encroaching on their own turf.

But the winds have changed.

April 30th, May 1st?  Doesn’t really matter.

Today, I feel more safe and more optomistic than in a very long time.

I haven’t even checked my portfolio even once, now an hour into the open. Talk about a shift in winds.

As my brain is aging, there’s only room for a limited number of “where were you when…” kind of memories. I’ll have to displace something to make room for where I was when news of Bin Laden’s death was announced.

It happened to come on the birthdate of my uncle who died as a relatively young man, having  physically survived Aushcwitz, but not otherwise.

For me, yesterday was a little bit of a birthday present to him from Adolph and Osama.

For the rest of the world, it also meant a pre-emption of the closing 30 minutes of Trump’s Celebrity apprentice.

As the Passover Seder song says, if all that would have been done for us was to deliver us from The Donald, “Dayenu”. It would have been sufficient.

But the gifts kept coming.

Sorry, Mark McGwire, I no longer remember whgere I was when you hit your 62nd.

And so it goes.

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What would Cash Do?





Whenever I’m at a point in my life that I feel that I need direction I find myself often looking at the bracelet on my wrist. It’s a simple, very unassuming bracelet with just four simple letters: WWCD?

What would Cash Do?

 I know that this is supposed to be a financial blog but sometimes it’s not.

Yesterday was one of those days and it’s spilled over to today. I’m not thinking about the kind of cash that you need to do everything in life. The kind of cash it takes to buy things, like stocks or food.

Johnny CashThe cash that I’m talking about is Johnny Cash.

As much as I admire Johnny Cash as a modern day Saint with a voice from the heavens, I must admit that I’ve always been a little squeamish about the lyrics to one of his songs:

“But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die”

Just how sick and demented is that?

But then my idle mind wondered that if I had the ability to bring someone back to life,who would it be?

By the way, once that person is returned to life, you would also be required to watch him die again.

Now who would you choose?

There was a lot of discussion yesterday about the ethics or morality of revenge.

Obviously, the framing of the question is underlied by the wording. Is it revenge or is it justice?

By the same token is it morality or ethics that are at issue when discussing whether it is appropriate to be happy about the death of another human being.

Admittedly, there is some shame to being happy about the death of anyone, but that shame probably pales in comparison to the shame that should be felt by the people saddened to see the evil die.

You know that there are plenty of those people and they are certainly not thinking about the dilemmas attendant to those thoughts.

Most of us have differences with them. For example, I have a hard time referring to Osama bin Laden as having been “martyred”, especially since he tried using his wife’s body to intercept bullets meant for him.

Or perhaps he just wanted to share his martyrdom.

Oh, that’s nice.

Yesterday, was obviously a very unique day for most everyone within reach of civilization.

Think about the wonderful events in your life. I’m not suggesting that this was one of them, but it’s only natural to want to replay or relive those wonderful moments.

So in a pretense that there’s actually something related to the markets in today’s blog, I played  a trade of Mosaic that I had entered into just this past Friday. I bought back the call options that I had sold then and am now ready to re-sell those same options for the third time in 2 weeks.

Mosaic

In this 2 week chart, Mosaic is unhanged, but in that period it had plenty of2% moves, each of which gave nice opportunity to cash in on sales and repurchases of call options.

That’s the kind of replay that brings happiness to me. I would never get tired of that trade and that’s why I love Mosaic. Did I mention the profit involved?

But yesterday’s events muted any of my attention to the markets. The rest of the world seemed to be distracted in precisely the same way. There was no relief rally, just a quiet day in the trading pits.

In a world where evil behavior can be so easily rationalized, the behavior of the market was quite healthy today. The fact is that the market didn’t need a relief rally. It just needed a breater.

And we needed that breather, too. We needed the opportunity to revel in the good news of the day.

There’s nothing like unmitigated joy to to help you forget about everything else.

Both of my kids made it to the White House last night for the impromptu celebration.

So instead of spending the day trading or looking for opportunities, I thought how in a world where everything seems to be caught on video these days, it seems eerily empty to not have video of the Special Ops attack on bin Laden’s compound.

How we all would have loved to replay that video.

Instead, I have to be left with the fantasy of choosing someone to bring back to life, just to watch him die.

I tried to think about that before going to bed last night, but all I could really envision was the sight and image of bin Laden cowering behind his wife.

That’s a sight that the entire world should see.

My guess is that the Arab world might agree that the only virgins bin Laden should be entitled to are the ones who played Dungeons and Dragons for 200 or more consecutive hours. And to top it off, he would get twice the normal allotment.

Is it justice or revenge?

I’ll have a helping of both, thank you.

But as I think about it, it is with great humility that I have to disagree with Johnny Cash.

I think I would rather see that image of the coward bin Laden using his wife, the human shield, in a pathetic attempt to avoid justice.

That sight would be so much sweeter than going the Cash route.

Much more moral, too, as if anyone cared.

 

 




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