hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Arthur Silber - Power of Narrative
. . .But I still have to pay an electric bill, my Internet provider, and ... well, food and stuff. After I've paid for that, I'll be close to totally broke. I mean, except for about a hundred dollars, I'll be totally broke. . .

. . .Have a listen to Leontyne Price singing "O Holy Night." That comes from one of the most beautiful Christmas albums I've ever heard: treat yourself to it. And Cyrano imploringly says: "Keep the Friskies away!" (C'mon, don't sue us. It's just his opinion. Besides, we're judgment-proof.). . .

Violet Socks - Fundraiser to keep my health insurance from being cancelled
I have been scrambling like mad to earn money this fall, but work is the slowest it’s ever been in my entire life. I’ve taken on every kind of job I can, tried to sell stuff, etc., etc., but there is just nothing moving out there.

The main thing I have to pay is my health insurance, which is crappy and has gigantic coinsurance but is better than nothing. And so here’s the deal: at this point I’m exactly $652.23 short of what I need to cover the premium and keep things going into January.

That’s the amount I need to raise somehow: $652.23. If any of you happen to be flush this month and feel like throwing some Christmas cheer my way, I would be beyond grateful for any contribution you can make. . .

. . .I’ll post updates here on the status and let you know when (fingers crossed) the goal is reached. If I can raise this money I will be so overjoyed and relieved, you won’t be able to stand me. I will host a virtual Christmas blog party to celebrate!

John Wildermuth, Chronicle Staff Writer - Benioffs pitch in to help homeless S.F. families

Susie Madrak - Catch 22
So they can’t find the money that’s missing, they just know it isn’t mixed in with the money that’s left. . .

Tell me again why companies in bankruptcy are allowed to choose the people who oversee their bankruptcy?

Corrente (Lambert) - Excellent interview with David Graeber

Juan Cole - Top Ten Things Americans can be Thankful for 2011 (US troops out of Iraq)

Informed Comment - Support this Site! (annual fundraiser)

Glenn Greenwald - Blog news (annual fundraiser)

Elizabeth Goitein - Bradley Manning

David Goldstein (McClatchy) - As U.S. troops leave Iraq, what is the legacy of eight years of war?

Paul Krugman - Receding Inflation In Britain

If there's one good thing about the MF Global debacle, it's a timely reminder to be wary of listening to the ratings agencies:

AZAM AHMED, BEN PROTESS and SUSANNE CRAIG (NYT) - A Romance With Risk That Brought On a Panic
. . .Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s had applauded Mr. Corzine’s effort to overhaul the firm, a move that included ratcheting up risk.

“We consider the most recent strategic plan of the new C.E.O. Jon Corzine to be sound,” S.& P. said in 2010, while acknowledging the plan “will incrementally increase the firm’s risk profile.”

. . .A week later, Moody’s cut its rating on MF Global to a notch above junk, pointing to the European debt holdings.

The reversal angered some executives at MF Global, who felt it was disingenuous for the agency to change its mind so suddenly. . .

It's also a reminder that being clever, being rational, and even being right do not necessarily entitle you to great wealth through exploiting the perceived irrationality of others.

Andrew Tobias - The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need
p. 171:

. . .David Dreman, author of The New Contrarian Investment Strategy, writing in Barron's, made a good case against random walk. He pointed out that stock markets have always been irrational and concluded that a rational man could therefore outdo the herd. "Market histort gives cold comfort to the Random Walkers," he writes. "`Rational' investors in France, back in 1719, valued the Mississippi Company at 80 times all the gold and silver in the country - and, just a few months later, at only a pittance."

It is true, I think, that by keeping one's head and sticking to value one may do better than average. But it's not easy. Because the real question is not whether the market is rational but whether by being rational we can beat it. Had Dreman been alive in 1719, he might very reasonably have concluded that the Mississippi Company was absurdly overpriced at, say, three times all the gold and silver in France. And he might have shorted some. At six times all the gold and silver in France he might have shorted more. At twenty times all the gold and silver in France he might have been ever so rational - and thoroughly ruined. It would have been cold comfort to hear through the bars of debtors' prison that, some months later, rationality had at last prevailed. A driveling imbecile, on the other hand, caught up in the crowd's madness, might have ridden the stock from three times to eighty times all the gold and silver in France and, quite irrationally, struck it rich.

Fast-forward 281 years to the dot-com bubble. One very smart Wall street trader I know took a slam-dunk shot writing naked calls on Amazon.com, meaning that he pocketed $50,000 or so for taking on a minuscule risk for a week or two - the stock, already wildly overpriced, would have to rise more than 50 points in a week for him even to begin to feel any pain. He was completely right and Amazon stock soon fell precipitously - but not before a final for-the-record-books spurt that totally wiped out every penny he had worked his whole life to earn. He didn't jump - but he thought about it. . .

Question for debt-as-indulgence, prosperity-through-thrifty-idleness types: How is it possible for Japan to have a debt/GDP ratio of 200%, a deficit of 8% of GDP, interest rates of less than 2%, and inflation of less than 2%? Not suggesting that US follow a similar policy, but how could such a thing even be possible, if the deficit-hawk view of the world is correct?

Comments: Post a Comment