Monday Morning Fish Wrap: Watch Out for That Revolving Door!

A modest 101C proposal to curb revolving door corruption: candidates must first take a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the jaw.  Those still standing can go through.

The Fish Wrap: a less-than-frequent mish-mash of interesting articles and tidbits, vaguely organized around personal finance, investing, news, and maybe the odd recipe or two. Sometimes sorted by topic, like in a cookbook that has chapters for different kinds of recipes. The former head of H&R Block worked in the upper echelons of the IRS, the Internal Revenue Service. The former head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, left to work for RapidScan systems, after ensuring during his tenure that airports throughout the country would be irradiating travelers with "safe" backscatter ray machines (that was before Rapiscan would lose "market share" to L-3). No conflict of interest there, not one bit. Monsanto/ADM/Syngenta/Bunge and … [Read more...]

Stupid Labeling Tricks

Good wholesome delicious whipping cream and kefir

    What's not to like from organic whipping cream and kefir? Kefir will keep your gut well-populated with new lactobacillus and saccharomyces probiotic bacteria. Be like Turkish an Greek shepherds, drink a daily glass of kefir with your morning bread and olives, and live well into cantankerous old age (without getting into a border war over a little island.) Organic whipping cream is delicious in coffee, whipped up on strawberries, and guaranteed to come from happy cows.  Or mildly contended or even irritated cows. Hard to know what they're thinking as they're getting  their boobies yanked on milked by humans. Whatever. Labels are confusing though.  On the heavy cream from The Fresh Market:  "Our … [Read more...]

Fiscal Cliff, Shmiscal Cliff

Not-so-subtle reference to the federal budget

So, the U.S. economy didn't do a Thelma-and-Louise dive off that cliff, thanks to the heroic efforts of the elected nobility in Congress. Yawn. Haven't paid that much attention to it, that is, until this very act of dashing off a post on the subject. Compared to the daily challenges of getting by, making a living and raising a family, the antics of the federal government just seem like carnival attractions distractions. Some people's income and dividend taxes went up, most everyone's payroll tax went back up a bit.  More allowances for 401(k) to Roth 401(k) conversions, some breaks for college students, and most importantly for some DC lobbyists, more milk-and-honey tax credits and giveaways for special interests. Pork … [Read more...]

The Good Life in 1958 (or not)

What passed for worthless late-night infomercial products in 1958. We've come a long way, baby!

To quote Will Rogers, things ain't what they used to be and probably never was. According to the American Enterprise Institute's blog (AEIdeas) in the good old days of 1958, workers had to toil and slog for months to be able to afford spiffy consumer goods like toasters and TVs that today are available for a mere pittance. Hat tip to the Weakonomist for catching the post on AEI with Priced In Labor: The 1958 Sears Catalog Seems that the writers on the cornucopian writers at AEIdeas are as guilty of confirmation bias as that dastardly "mainstream media" that right-leaning pundits are fond of lambasting. Toasters and record players (or the iPods of today) make up a slice of our quality of life, not the sum total. Quoth the … [Read more...]

Sallie Mae, What A Tramp…

Me Top Dog.  You... not.

Whilst Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC) are languishing in  penny-stock purgatory, SLM Corporation (Nasdaq: SLM), or Sallie Mae as it's commonly known, is doing just fine, thank you very much. A former government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), SLM Corporation enjoys tidy profits of over 12% on yearly revenue of around $6 billion, reasonable returns on equity,  and a nice little 2.97% yield (for you dividend hounds). On the face of it, SLM appears to be a decent good place to invest  (more on that later, things are not what they seem). Sallie Mae, Flying Low Under The Radar Chances are most people have only heard of Sallie Mae in the context of Freddie Mac, Farmer Mac,  and Ginnie Mae, fuzzycute monikers for grossly inefficient … [Read more...]

Political Entrepreneurship, or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Obamacare (Part II)

Top Accident and Health Insurers

  Continuing on with a two-part series on what defensive strategies to take in dealing with the new or modified reality of Obamacare. Part 1 can be found here. Definition of political entrepreneurship, by author Thomas DiLorenzo as quoted on Wikipedia: "a political entrepreneur succeeds primarily by influencing government to subsidize his business or industry, or to enact legislation or regulation that harms his competitors." He says, in contrast, the "market entrepreneur succeeds financially by selling a newer, better, or less expensive product on the free market without any government subsidies, direct or indirect." Cui Bono? In the context of political entrepreneurship, or entrepreneurship alone, it's just about the … [Read more...]

Investing In Fatties, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Obamacare (Part 1)

"Doctor's Visit" - Jan Steen, 1663  (not that we'll ever see house calls ever coming back)

Obamacare is on its way, no two ways about it. In fact, let's just stop calling it Obamacare, and call it for what it is, GovCare.  Purported conservatives in the political swamp are learning to defend this provision or that measure or this footnote within this mammoth thousand-page (or two-thousand page, whatever it is) piece of ordure legislation, cherry-picking as it suits.  And for good reason, from the logical perspective  of the politician.  Whatever the majority of the people want, give it to 'em:  shovel out the pork and bacon drippings with both hands, lard it up, baby! And people do want it, apparently.  Maybe not all of it, maybe only this bit or that bit, but in the end, it's like getting only a selective part of a … [Read more...]

Thinking of Speculating in CORN? Think again…

HEAD TO HEAD...

Sure is hot this summer. Temps have ranged from 110 t 117 in Tulsa this past week, depending on thermometer thermometer you trust. The drought is hitting its stride in its second year. Farm ponds are drying or have dried up completely, hay pastures are crisping up to a nice golden brown, and beef is selling for as little as two bucks a pound hanging weight, as ranchers are giving up on feeding expensive hay to their cattle.   Or expensive corn, for that matter. Corn prices, on the other hand, are spiking fast enough to give Chicago pit traders nosebleeds -- or woodies, depending if they're on the long side of the trade. The brutal heat and lack of rain are have a terrific impact on corn yields all across the fruited plains.  … [Read more...]

Coffee Break: Government’s Business Sense and Auto Stocks

GM stock's one-year chart

Continuing with a series of short blog posts on anything that I can write about in between bouts of writer’s block and indecision, filling in the nooks between longer and better-crafted blog posts. Other examples of 101C coffee breaks can be found here and here. ************************************************************************** As if we needed one, here's a reminder from earlier this month of how inept governments are at conducting business. Dateline July 2nd: Government Motors:  As GM shares near record low, taxpayer loss on bailout rises to $35 billion To quote Lando Calrissian, this deal's getting worse all the time.  General Motors (GM) shares fell to a fresh 2012 closing low of 19.57 on Monday. The stock hit 19 … [Read more...]

Bonuses and Incentives

Totally unrelated portrait of Russian/Soviet Poet Anna Akhmatova

  Interesting article from Stratfor  - Why US Bounties Fail. The United States Government, through the State Department, has a program where bounty money is disbursed to credible informants that aid in the arrest of wanted terrorists. The bounties can range as high as $30 million, as was paid to the people who turned in Saddam Hussain's sons Uday and Qusay in the Iraq war.   In addition, the informants' entire families are relocated to safe locations under a sort of international witness protection plan. The problem with this program, as laid out in the article, is that it's not been very successful. The review process for approval sounds convoluted enough, with committees and subcommittees and advisory … [Read more...]