Monday, March 26, 2012

Hanging Around For Justice

In Japan, generally speaking ,it is 'shame' which keeps people on the straight and narrow. In Douala (Cameroun), it is apparently something else altogether per this article. And THAT was a purse!!  Kleptocrats and cronies in the West take (and China) note....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Farewell Dynegy

So farewell
then Dynegy,
highly leveraged
wholesale supplier
of electricity.

One can endlessly generate
apt puns:
"Ohm my God, DYN has a reVolting balance sheet!"
"Lenders finally switched-off the credit to DYN
"DYN 'Lights out' really hertz equity holders..."
"Creditors pulled the plug on DYN..."
"Investors shocked by short-circuit in DYN"
"Bankruptcy will be transforming for DYN"
etc. etc. etc.

But my catchphrase -
for you (& replicants) shall be:
"The light that shines
twice as bright
burns for half
as long".

For once you
aspired to 
be more like 

your wish 
has finally
been granted.

(with apologies to Private Eye & EJ Thribb)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Another One Bites The Dust (Updated)

Things, people, ideas believed to have integrity now seemingly compromised...(the updated and expanded version)

The "risk-free" rate
LIBOR as a Benchmark
Public Sector Pensions
HFT as a Beneficial Provider of liquidity
Diversifying properties of Hedge Fund's
Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity 
Celtic Rangers
Macroeconomic Forecasts
John Paulson
FRB Open Market Operations
Standardized Educational Testing
Swiss National Bank
A Relaxing Cruise
WTI as Oil Benchmark 
Olympus Corp.
Payment Protection Insurance
HM Revenue & Customs
Sony Playstation Network
Social Mobility
Actuarial Return Assumptions for Pension Funds
Ryan Giggs
France   AAA
Boob Jobs
David Einhorn
Nuclear Power
Deepwater Drilling
Tiger Woods
Professional Cricket
Professional Cycling
High-Frequency Trading
Professional Baseball
Professional Tennis
Municipal Bond Underwriting
The Catholic Church 
Track & Field Athletics
NCAA Sports
US Congress
UK Parliament
Analyst Research
Credit Ratings
Newtonian Physics
The Stock Market
The Food Pyramid
Incentive Stock Options
Reinsurance Brokerage 
Lou Dobbs
The Mortgage-Backed Securities Market
Hedge Funds
Social Security
Government Balance Sheets
Tooth Fairy

Errr ummm Professional Wrestling is starting to look good by comparison - at least it makes no pretensions to be anything other than it is. What's left?

Friday, March 09, 2012

Get Shorty 3

Irony amuses me. Maybe not as much as tannic satire, or creatively-apt word-smithing, but as a close of cousin of hypocrisy, it stands apart from mere smile-inducing happenstance or serendipity. Most of my efforts are admittedly sophmoric and rather feeble. And even if they weren't wooden imitations, they certainly couldn't compare to the surreality of people's own flaws and foibles.

For example, Rand and Hayek were, unbeknownst to most of their disciples, rather contented beneficiaries of Medicare. Or that the wholesome-imaged founder/CEO of Wholefoods, John Mackey was caught with his trousers around his ankles, perennially-posting potshots against competitor Wild Oats under a pseudonym on Yahoo! message boards. Or how, according to former IMF Economist Per Kurowski, the very Basel II risk-weightings meant to limit the risk of banks actually turbocharged the feedback loop encouraging banks to gorge themselves on now-risky Euro-Area sovereign debt. Or that Daily Mail journalists were phone-hacked by their fleet-street rivals at Murdoch's NOTW. All amusing in their way.

But what separates the merely humorous from the absolutely riotous is when irony glaringly overlaps with hypocrisy (as highlighted by The StreetWise Professor who knows more than a thing or two about market manipulation).  Such was the case when this lawsuit was filed in December by a West Coast Private Equity Firm alleging conspiracy, fraud and market manipulation by a cabal of larger-than-life characters involving several grifters, felons, a haplesss Forbes blogger, Bulgaria, and centrally and most amusingly ZeroHedge, that popular blog well-known for conjuring and lambasting ummm ... errrr ..... yes, fraud, conspiracy and market manipulation. You couldn't make it up if you'd wanted to. It's a long but illuminating accusatory read, but rewarding for those who persevere. And it serves yet again to highlight the omnipresence of conflicted interests that should cause all readers to carefully consider carefully their sources, and critically examine such sources' underlying motivations.  

The Elmore Leonard version ("Get Shorty III"? or "Getting Shorty Again") loosely-based on the same will no doubt be out soon.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

SPORTS LATEST: (In Extra Time) US Federal Rangers 0 - Stanford Rovers 0

Reuters reports in late breaking news that neither side has been able to hit the back of the net during regulation time. The referee ordered players back onto the pitch to continue their battle in extra-time. The Feds most potent weapon failed to convert numerous opportunities after being continually dogged by Stanford defenders. Stanford played most of second half short-handed as player-manager Alan Stanford was taken injured and declared unfit to play as a result of apparent abuse whilst in the locker room. He did, however, manage a high-five to his trainer following the whistle at regulation time. Given what's at stake in the match a draw would be a massive victory for Stanford, and most embarrassing for Rangers, given their numerical and home-pitch advantage.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Does Your Financial Guru or Doomster Resemble A Cult?

Does your financial Guru or Doomster resemble a cult? To satisfy your curiosity, it might be worth taking  simple test that will give you an idea whether what you thought was innocent objective altruistic financial advice and unbiased analysis is actually something more nefarious that wants to control your mind, your trades, and empty your bank account.

1. Does your Guru always make out like he's right?
2. Does you Guru paint a picture that the other [non-disciples] are always wrong?
3. Is there any exit from the Guru's philosophy without following the philosophy?
4. Does the Guru's group use its own "Cult-speak"?
5. Does "group-think" dominate, suppressing dissent and enforcing conformity of thinking?
6. Is Guru's advice irrational at times, contradicting previous or other tenets of Guru advice?
7. Does Guru's philosophy suppress disbelief?
8. Does Guru's philosophy denigrate competing ideas, schools of thought, and other Guru's?
9. Does Guru make personal attacks upon critics?
10. Does Guru believe non-followers need "fixing"?
11. Does Guru insist that his interpretation is the only correct way?
12. Does Guru and his disciples make you feel that by following you are "special"?
13. Is Guru's philosophy an unquestionable dogma, sacred science, or infallible ideology?
14. Does Guru's philosophy appeal to perceived unquestionable authorities ?
15. Does following Guru confer a feeling of "instant community"?
16. Is your Guru inconsistent and does he speak contradictory messages?
17. Does your Guru use personal testimonies of the success of earlier converts to validate advice?
18. Is your Guru self-absorbed?
19. Are there potential dual purposes, hidden agendas, ulterior motives, in Guru's advice?
20. Does your Guru readily admit when he is wrong?
21. Does your Guru undertake deceptive recruiting and/or aggressive promotion?
22. Does your Guru's ideas implant phobias and self-doubt into your psyche?
23. Is Guru and his disciples money grubbing?
24. Are you pressured to change your beliefs and adopt the Guru's beliefs?
25. Does your Guru hold ideology and dogma higher than experience, probability and logic?
26. Does your Guru ascribe unexplained or contrary events to mystical manipulation?
27. Does your Guru demand your faith, trust (and money?)
28. Does your Guru use thought-stopping language and thought-terminating cliches and slogans?
29. Does Guru use affiliate front groups, hidden promoters, or disguised propagandists?
30. Does your Guru imply his belief equals truth?
31. Does your Guru make use of double-binds?
32. Is your Guru held accountable for his performance?
33. Is your Guru a charismatic leader?
34. Does your Guru prevent you from trusting you're own mind?
35. Does your Guru claim to have the panacea for market problems or all market conditions?
36. Does your Guru see he world through permanently tinted lenses?
37. Does your Guru make you think you can't make it without his advice?
38. Does your Guru use unchallengeable sources of information?
39. Does your Guru inflate his experience or make bombastic grandiose claims about performance?
40. Does your Guru employ black and white thinking?

Score Key:
Add up  your "yes" answers and compare to the table below.

1 to 8        Probably Safe and reasonably selfless like Gandhi
9 to 17      Heard of one Werner Erhard & EST? Self-improvement with a dark twist.
18 to 26    Think of L. Ron & Scientology - Weird and NSFW.
27 to 35    Jonestown...plausible fringe idea gone horribly horribly wrong. Watch what you drink...
36 to 40    Put on your trainers & trackies and prepare for a Slim Pickens ride on Hale-Bopp

Friday, March 02, 2012

Contrapreneurship For the Lazy Ex-Financier

Making money the old-old fashioned way (manufacturing or providing a service to fulfill an under-fulfilled need) or even making money the old-fashioned way (honest-to-goodness lying, cheating, defrauding and/or insider-trading) has become either far too difficult in an era of heightened due-diligence, or is fast-becoming too legally precarious for most people (and many professional investment managers). But all is not lost. Some niches remain robust and ripe for the opportunist demagogue. Here's a shortlist of some easy and attractive money-spinners for anyone sufficiently lazy and light on conscience.....

1. Create a Financial Doomsday Website (with on-line retail affiliate),, UnderTheMattress.Com, BoomersGloomers&,,, all have the right cache to attract sufficient sympathetic eyeballs to get some sort of business rolling. The beauty of this is that you can sell all manner of related merchandise to your loyal following of paranoiacs – things such as Miracle-Fibre Dirt-repelling T-Shirts (with your logo) since in the feared dystopian future there will be no electricity to run your washing machine, and your gold or oil will clearly be too precious to trade for something as frivolous as new clothes. There are many teats to milk with this too. You can also sell off-the-grid technology, water-purification technology, surveillance and defense equipment, seeds and agricultural implements, remote seaside cottages with fishing rights in black-fly infested Labrador, as well as offering time-shares in your Swiss-bomb shelter (complete with bullion storage and assaying services).

2. Create a “Talk-My-Trading-Book” InfomercialAdvertorialSocialMediaWebChannelSite
We've come a long way since Wholefoods CEO John Mackey was busted dissing WildOats on Yahoo a message board.  Propaganda and disinformation are far more professional now, whether it is through commissioning of bespoke reserach reports or, in the macro world, through creating websites(s) with the right advertorial view. Conjure a good name. TheMacroChannel, SmartestTrades.Com, Best Informed Investor, Real Macro Research, AlphaSeeker, Divergent Perspectives, Deep Market Insider, Daily Dose of Macro, Base-Nine Scenarios or anything like that will do fine so long as it sounds professional. Get a front man and a web-designer. Pepper it with cross-links. Then use it a platform for talking your book. Be certain NOT to disclose your conflicts of interest, or if you must do, then bury them somewhere obscure in the smallest fine print possible. Be outrageous and provocative. Do NOT be held back by your lack of education or your degree from an on-line university. Do NOT be held hostage by the truth. Exaggeration and mis-information are your friends providing they are wrapped in plausible garb, and presented by a white-toothed, well-groomed spokespeople with conviction (and a book-deal). Whatever you do, DO NOT give attention to competing theses or points of view unless they are soundbytes by Al Sharpton, or someone from Brussels who looks shifty “and don't speak good English”.

3. Create Yet ANOTHER Online FX Bucket Shop
It is a fact that most retail spec FX traders are losers. I do not mean that in the pejorative by implying they are losers as in worthless human beings, rather just that, statistically, they are overwhelmingly long and wrong or short and caught-out, which when leveraged 100-to-1 is a ticket-to-paradise for whoever sees the flow and holds the account. Indeed, considering the average gross casino take in Vegas or AC is less than 5% across all games, systematically taking the opposite side against your retail FX Customers probably yields an edge considerably larger without the overhead and headaches. All you need is a fiduciary-sounding name containing “FX”, preferable a three-letter meaningless acronym, a colourful GUI, and some adverts featuring formula-one race cars (sorry NASCAR fans – wrong demographic) a few bikini-clad models, and you're off to the races (no pun intended).

4. Create a Stock-Market Trading System & Newsletter With a Cool Sounding Name 
Since most people have more difficulty, and know less about, choosing stocks than they do about choosing a bottle of wine (something that sufficiently mystifies most ordinary people into a state of ordering by colour or choosing the prettiest label), ANYONE who sounds authoritative, boasts of preposterously monstrous returns and statistically Madoff-like Win-Loss ratios will find a ready-made clientele desperately in need of help, to churn-and-burn. In areas of such confusion and innocence, people (especially trusting Midwesterners) NEED to be told what to do, and when to do it. It doesn't matter that the Pinata Method or the Fortune-Cookie Method would do equally-as-well, if not better. Some pointers are in order for the newbie contrapreneurial tipster: (1) Make it momentum-based. It just sounds better. Reversion, contrarian, or counter-trend sounds like an incurable disease or that you're a communist trouble maker; (2) Emphasise Trend-Following. Ameica is a don't rock-the-boat culture from its immigrant roots (despite current political polarisation). People have a natural tendency to want to fit-in and they want to be part of the trend. And, since most people possess sheep-like tendencies, they want to follow, and do not understand the power of contrarian thinking. (3) Choose Small-Cap, Low-Liquidity Near-Dead Stocks . And that's it. Now all you need is a website, purchase some banner ads on a relevant high-traffic site. Oh, and one more thing. If you really want to clean up, make sure you can borrow the stock, and do so BEFORE selling it to yourself from different accounts at different brokers. Then, sell your longs slowly to the pigeons as they come in to buy your recommendations, and buy in your shorts as they sell dispiritedly sell their longs. And to think some suckers actually WORK for a living...

5. Promote and Trade PennyStocks
There are sufficient number of people in the world who sadly equate the raw price of the stock with its implied value, the same way they are drawn to 99-Cent Shops. If cheaper is better when buying flatware, why not stocks? Why would one buy just 1 share of Berkshire Hathaway (symbol=BRK-A $11,910.00) when one can buy 1,000,000 shares of Acme Superconducting Solar & Oil Exploration Research (Symbol=ASSOL) at $0.0119 cents???!? Dearie me. While this may be an intellectual affront to some of you ex-fixed-income guys, it is precisely these qualities that you will value and a cherish in a customer as a newly-minted penny-stock promoter. If you have a guilty conscience. Look at the bright side: you are redistributing the wealth from those that obviously have no ability to do so, to those that have only less of an ability, but will spend it on all manner of wonderful things with beneficial trickle-down effects such as Bentley's, Beach and Ski homes, and for the truly talented promoter, a shiny used least until the Feds catch up with you, if they can.

6. Write a Cantankerous Financial Best-Seller
This has been popular a popular way to raise your profile, and there are no shortage of topics or plausibly-culpable villains that will provide colourful and readily-marketable material. The Fed, Bankers, Congressmen, Lobbysists, Economists, Madoff, Detroit, Paulson, ex-Presidents, China, Japan, Insider Traders, Research Analysts, The Rating Agencies, Landlords, The Mafia, Immigrants, Rich People, McDonalds, The Plunge Protection Team, Real Estate Agents, Hedge Funds, Arabs, Jews, Oil Companies, Drugmakers, The Weather, Robert Mugabe, Sunspots, The Kennedy Dynasty, Saddam Hussein, and best and most stealthily of all, my fav, the Canadians, all make for excellent scapegoats for people to read about, rage and avoid introspection. NB: Avoid dissing Ronald Reagan (no matter how culpable you think he is) if you want to move the merchandise. NB2: Avoid blaming the readers themselves. HL Mencken made the mistake of rubbing his readers' noses in it, and he was completely and wholly despised thereafter since no one want to be told “I told you so”. So if you want to write (and sell copies) of another or a sequel, heed this important advice.

7. Author An Aspirational “How-To” Financial Book
There are many verticals in this already crowded but always buoyant market. And it is not very difficult- just look at Suze Ormond – so long as one slaps a suitably optimistic and aspirational title on the jacket. Some suggestions:
“10-Step Plan To Successful Insider Trading ”,
“Using Friends & Family to Build Your Own Expert Network”,
“Investing for the Very Very Long Long Long Run”,
“How to Get Truly Rich Without Luck, Brains or Money”
“Gold Coins and Precious Metals Investing for Dummies”,
“Chant Your Way To Financial Freedom: The Best Mantras and Affirmations To Help You Realize The Rewards You Deserve”,
“Rich Dad, Richer Dad, Richest Dad – Lessons From My Millionaire Father A Trustafarian”
“The How-To Book of Writing Successful How-To Books”,
“Pessimism is for Losers: Riding the Next SuperCycle to Dow 100,000 1,000,000”,
“Winner's Guide To Day-trading: Surfing the Momentum Wave”.
“From Tenement to Bel-Air in Twelve Months: How I Made Money in Real Estate (And YOU Can Too!)”
“Channeling Graham & Dodd – Investment Tips From Beyond The Grave”.
(NB to Publishers – These have all been copyrighted!!)

8. Give “5-Minute Abs” "How-To" Trading Seminars
“Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day...teach a man to fish and you'll feed him for a lifetime”. Fishing is hard work of course, and ignoring the fallacy of composition with this parable, there appears to be no shortage of people who want to become self-sufficient the 5-Minute Abs Way, by attending your “Trading For Winners” Seminars or Seminar-Lite (sm) that you will give at cheesy airport hotel conference rooms all around the country. You can teach them about “CANSLIM”, golden crosses, gaps, volume surges, can't lose set-ups, Donchian channel break-outs, FX Carry, and perennially shorting the Euro and USD, so they can “earn BIG returns” and “make millions in up and down markets” in order to fulfill your their dreams. And for the true sheep, you can offer them your daily premium alert service where (for a not ungodly sum) you TELL them what to do – at least until they piss away all of their stake.

9. Become a Rage-a-holic Presenter on Fox News
There are few things more objectionable in the realm of non-violent crime than cynically preying upon the financially-ignorant for parochial gain. But toying with the real emotions of frustration and bewilderment that an increasing percentage of the American population feel in the face of globalization, increasing inequality, and falling real incomes, for financial gain and media market share, must certainly be one of them. But if you have little shame and even less scruples, then becoming a rage-a-holic media personality is a viable option. You'll probably have to start local, on radio, and work the graveyard shift. You'll need to hone an outrageous and angry persona , perfect the art of distorting facts, practice using innuendo, smear and ad-hominems against opponents and mis-characterization of their opposing arguments to discredit them in the minds of your listeners. It is arguably more difficult than selling Pennystocks, but for the truly misanthropic, far more rewarding.