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...]

Sunday Morning Fish Wrap: Habemum Papam!

pio per culo photo

We have a Pope? No, not really. The picture caption is just a very clever play on words in Italian.  And even though we know that if you have to explain a joke, it's no longer funny, we're all about edification here.  So here we go. Pio is the Italianized name for Pius, a common Pontiff monicker. The phrase Pigliare per il culo could be translated politely as "making a fool of" or "taking for a ride", or more crassly and literally, "to grab by the ass" (Spanish speakers will recognize culo).   Pigliare is the Tuscan dialect version of prendere, or "to take".  Hence, Pio is a contraction of the verb's conjugation in first person singular: piglio (pronounce like a double L in spanish: pillo).  Hence: Pio Perculo. See? If you … [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...]

Sunday Morning Fish Wrap: Revolving Doors

"Harvest - 1915" by Zinaida Serebriakova ---- because the subject of political lobbying and body scanners is an ugly one, but this painting is most beautiful.

In a post a few days ago, the focus was on political entrepreneurship. Specifically, how some companies and organizations have inveigled themselves into the political process and are profiting handsomely by it. The head of H&R Block wound up at the IRS, Monsanto's executives are making tracks at the USDA, Justice dept, and the FDA, and Goldman Sachs at Treasury.  The revolving door is spinning like a top. For just one little example, look at Rapiscan and L-3,  the makers of the those odious scanning machines that allow TSA agents to ogle naked passengers.  Airline passengers are virtually disrobed by these scanners courtesy of Michael Chertoff, former head of Homeland Security, and later gainfully employed by RapiScan, … [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...]

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...]