Serious Studies

Things To Watch Out For This Year


The storm clouds have gathered. Hell, it's raining. But that doesn't mean we have to be stupid. So I've decided to avoid, deride and abjure the following group of bad actors that right now are circling in the mist:

First, the Executioners. There are those, mostly from Wharton, for some reason, who believe that every problem in the business universe can be solved by firing people. While this does solve some problems immediately after we leave fat city, it begins to pale as a strategy well before those who are addicted to it decide to put down their quick fix. I'm going to keep a keen eye out for these types and see if I can leave them at the station after the rest of us have departed for better climes.

Next, Revisionistas. These are the guys who are working real hard to avoid accepting the blame for what has happened, and are spending most of the time repositioning themselves and their cadre. We know who's to blame. Everybody. But in the end? I'm going to regard these losers as I would a bunch of teenagers caught with a bag of weed. It's usually the guy who protests his innocence the loudest who's the dealer. 

Rear Admirals: Of course there are those who were very happy in the last iteration of our economy. They'll be out in force trying to kill the new one. Did you know that Franklin D. Roosevelt was responsible for the Great Depression of the 1930s? Neither did I. But these guys do. Know why? Because if Roosevelt was a bad guy, the fellow who's being compared to him right now must be too, right? Look, friends. If there's one thing we know, it's this: over the past decade or two, we've been spun. Let's not get twirled by the same spin doctors again, now that for the most part the only spinning they should be doing is down the drain. 

Insecurity Analysts: Bozos to the left of us! Bozos to the right of us! And still we fight on. The job of an analyst is to look at a specific company and run models. Their models are fraudulent, stuck together with bad glue and yet they continue to analyze, because they are analysts, and that's what they do. Inherent in their deal is that they look at each company they cover as if it existed in a bubble. Why? Because their job is to analyze  and so on and blah blah blah. If they won't shut up, it doesn't mean we have to listen. If I never hear another learned opinion from one of these guys it will be too soon. 

Economists: See above. 

Ostriches: They live all around us, their butts in the air, their heads in the sand. A lot of the time they're in charge of budgets, but they can also be in any cornice of the corporation. And while doing business as usual is a good thing, a nice look around at the operating environment doesn't hurt, either. Ostriches are scared, impatient and likely to run for the horizon at the slightest perturbation. They make me nervous. Nervous is bad. 

Weasels: In spite of all appearances, there are those who always believe, perhaps as a demented part of the American dream, that every horrible eventuality carries with it the seeds of tremendous opportunity. Perhaps it does, for Warren Buffet. For the rest of us, this not a time for greed and getting over on our fellow citizens. I partially blame business magazines, many of which now sport huge cover stories about how 2009 is going to be A GREAT YEAR FOR YOU! It's not. My goal is to live through it. I'm not looking for a huge upside, and I've got a real gimlet eye for anybody offering me one. 

Rastas: Don't worry. Be happy. Ridiculous, right? On the other hand... We've already got the dreads. 

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I believe it was Jimmy Carter who said incredulously that Brezhnev lied to him. Imagine that, that during the cold war a Soviet leader might not shoot straight with the west.

Of course we were lied to, spun, manipulated. And the beuaty is, most of us wanted it that way.

To paraphrase Colonel Frank Slade, I always new the right thing to do but it was just too damn hard.

It's trouble when courses titled "Situational Ethics" have roster waiting lists.

We knew, we just looked the other way.

Through the years, we've always had commanders, and we've always had leaders.

Commanders that had bite controlled the leaders. Leaders that had bite controlled the commanders with the Supreme Court and the ACLU.

When are enough rights, enough? When the tail wags the dog? When the commanders are afraid of the leaders?

Today's world has Doctor Spock's footprint stomped all over it.

Our commanders have insight into most problem situations; but, if they're not palatable to the leaders, the leaders simply countermand the commander.

All we need to look at is the path our leaders have led us down through the years to today.

Sparing the rod and spoiling the child results in sharp corrections such as--"BOOT CAMP"!

Automatic pilot doesn't work on take-off's and landings--beware!

Bing: So which good actors you suggest us to look for? you pretty much named every animal in the zoo, I can not think of someone you spared. Thanks.

I like lions and tigers and bears. And geckos, like Buffett.

Gosh what a stirrrrring commentary, makes me want to fire an anal-istic type guy named Rear Admiral Roosevelt, the minute he pulls his head out of the sand and weasels his way into my office with next years budget forecast on investment returns.

2009 won't be a good year for anybody, cause we are still falling and we haven't hit bottom yet...the goverments idea that we can spend our way out of this mess goes against all the time my wife came home with a new fur coat and told me about all the money she saved us by buying it,,I finally had to tell her that we couldn't afford to save any more money like that.

The big lessons according to your list are to eschew financial experts and eschew entrusting our coin of the realm to them. Bravo. Why not personally mind our humble dollars as we do our babies instead of rushing them out to Day Care?

On the other hand as Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, has recently reminded us our deposits are not based on a gold standard, not even on paper money. All we've really got are electronic accounting entries. A hostile hack and delete on one institution would be like a bottom can removed from a supermarket display stack. Okay, another bottom can.

I wonder what the "group of bad actors" will be talking about if instead of money limping and staggering, it actually goes poof.

Such interesting times.

So, what is wrong with us? how come we let this to happen? who is to blame? how can this be prevented? are we condemned to make the same mistakes over and over? if so, what is all about it? how can we keep the weasels, ostriches. rear adms, etc etc away from power, from being the "deciders"? what mechanism has to be place in order to prevent this debacle again? please somebody help me!!!!!!!

Geee...this is a long list to watch out. I rather stick to my list:
Keep the bottle close all year long.

So Bing, these personas you describe, don't you think they were always there? Are you saying to just beware these character's traits and subsequent affect on our times?

Don't knock a good analyzer, they can save your butt if they did their job right...hard thing is to spot them in the sea of bad analysis.

You also stated in Throwing the Elephant (my favorite of yours BTW) that nothing really matters anyway, so what's wrong with a little Rastafarian attitude?

I'm gonna go play my new Strat through my new Line 6 amp, and do my best to not care about it all...tomorrow is another working day...

I guess it's all semantics. And words can't mask reality... whatever the heck that is.

In the month of December, I earned zero revenue while expenses held steady. There were reasons for that, some of them even planned.

Since the start of the new year, I've been busy making the rounds of my most steady customers and making money for a change. These customers are all in the aerospace sector.

Out of the three clients so far visited, all have hiring freezes in place. Two of them have laid off all on site contracting staff, numbers in the hundreds and mounting.

Locally Boeing is laying off a few thousand in mid-management.

And everyone is holding their cards very close to their vests and keeping their wallets in their pockets.

Tough times... getting tougher.

Oh... I should have titled that comment "Making the Rounds of the Executioners."

There is a Buddhist proverb that fits this situation perfectly; 'if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him'.

Mencken said "We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine".

Anybody who pretends to know the way is full of sh*t. Nobody knows any sure way out of this mess.

Saint Augustine said 'Do what you will and love god' (no. I'm not even remotely religious, but I think it's a good aphorism for at least attempting to move forward without obviously evil intent).
Yes, I know there's a lot of room for personal interpretation here.....but I think on the continuum from purely selfless actions to pure evil, most of can think of which end the likes of Madoff, Cheney, Mother Teresa, Bing or Hitler would fall.

Mike the only way outta this mess is to move forward...period...onward through the fog...pass here and go on, you're on the road to heaven...kumbaya already...I'm with ya Bruther...

Here in Charleston, West-by-god-Virginia, just down the road from one of the few plants in the world to produce methyl isochyanate (the Bhopal chemical), we frequently hear a siren go off (something like an air-raid siren) that tells us to "shelter in place." Sheltering in place is the chemical version of hiding under your desk and putting your head between your knees far enough to kiss your ass goodbye. Seems like most people, in response to the current climate, are hunkering down (aka sheltering in place).

We may just need a Rastafarian weasel to lead us out of this place, since someone like that might be one of the few actually moving in any direction. In the words of Colonel George Taylor at Omaha Beach: "Listen to me men, there are only two kinds of men on this beach. Those who are dead, and those who are about to die. Now lets go inland and die. Get off this beach."

Hunkering down is no way to live. Keep moving forward, because we're all going to die at some point anyway.

Bing: I think that what happened is that, somehow at some point (January 2000 maybe ??), the lions, tigers, bears and geckos you said you like, gave those bad actors the steering wheel of the car and pretty much let them drove it at high speed without regard of safety and the road rules,they crashed the car. The lions, tigers, bears and geckos were just passengers, maybe getting drunk and having a good time while the "bad actors" were driving at a dangerously high speed. I do not think they alone are the ones to blame, It takes two to tango. And this is true not only for the U.S. of A. but for the rest of Planet Earth. Every actor, every animal is needed to make this a livable and fair place to live.

It's hard not to enjoy Bing and the contributors to this blog.

Why try, Paul? Just go with it.

Ostriches, yes. So what's with the pic of an emu?!?!

Emu? It was under "Ostrich Images" on Google!

This will be my last entry so please excuse the length. I started watching the markets a year and almost a year and a half ago when the dow was at 14000. I just happened to get interested through the efforts of a good friend of mine. I have witnessed the whole downfall we have had on a day by day basis at my old job which is how I first happened upon the Bing blog. Seeing this downfall has been among the most interesting and educational things that i have ever seen. Side note: I love FDR, but if you are a free maket capitalist, that man is not your choice, but i digress. I honestly believe that what I learned is worth far more than Warren Buffet can even shell out. I learned that humans are inept victims of cycles. Economists are just like weatherman, they aren't looking at something that is in their control or even complete understanding. I have always found economists and weatherman completely useless. I go outside and know the weather well enough, I go to the store and I know the economy that matters the most to me. I'm in Arizona so hooray for the weather. A twelve pack of pepesi costs 5.99 so boohoo for the economy. I make 7.50 an hour which isn't alot at all, but I might as well be Warren Buffet. HAPPINESS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MONEY. Cliche maybe but true to me nonetheless. Warren is a miserable old miser who disowned his own granddaughter for offending "high society." What a putz. Nothing is of more value than your own family. To me the real dow is love. If your love dow is low you can have all the money in the world, all the whiskey in Ireland, and all the pot in Amsterdam and have nothing, whereas a guy like me who makes 7.50 working between 40-50 hours a week at a convenience store has everything because I love myself and my girl. Studying market movement was just a lesson on sociology more than economics. Human cycles. Love is all that really counts. So I'm done with CNBC with CNN money and with the bing blog, not that I don't love Bing, but because money is bullshit and it is now to me finally boring. I'll go back now to being the wonderful ameteur songwriter I am, and kick the dust off my guitar and keyboard. Peace to all!

We will miss you until your return. Bye for now, Josh.

BYE Josh, By Josh

Don't give up kid, the world is mostly slime and you figured it out at a young age,,,that puts you ahead of the game already,,,so you don't make a lot of bucks,,,,we all started out that way even warren...
The quality of your life can never be measured against anyone else's and you shouldn't try to measure it with anything but "your own yard stick"....

Think you got it tough,,,look around you...lots of people haven't the brains to think the thoughts you do,,and ,,come to conclusions like you do...

It ain't how much you earn, it's what you do with it after you earn it.

Just recently a blacksmith gave 3.5 million to a Neb. University
never had much of an education himself but believed in learning.

The memorable comment about the man was:

"He lived by his needs and not by his wants"

We could all use some of that advice...

Hope to see you around


Unlike Josh, I'm never giving up. That means the bad guys win. Not only am I not giving up, I've got two kids that I've brainwashed into thinking war is bad, hippies are good, and right-wing government is the devil's work! I realize that I'll probably go to hell for this, but at least I won't have to buddy around with George W. Bush or quail hunt with Dick Cheney. My battle cry is: Keep kicking against the pricks!


Thanks for sharing your parting thoughts. You are absolutely correct of course that wealth has nothing to do with happiness ... unhappiness maybe. A passion for money as the root of nasty things is proverbial.

I hope though you won't do the pendulum swing into hating it. When we're putting in 40 or 50 hours a week anyway to pay our bills, it's only reasonable to watch for opportunities of more pay which can trim working hours and free up more time for what's truly important to us.

I envy your gift of songwriting and understand enough about it to know it can be a wonderful catalyst in searching into "most interesting and educational things." Although your explorations down one road failed to satisfy, I sincerely wish you unqualified satisfaction down another.

- Ed

To Bing: Love the ostrich picture! In addition to the characters of whom we need to be careful, I must add each one of us. Ourselves.

To Josh: May your girl always love you as much as she does now, and may your songs make you both happy. Takes me back to an earlier time in my own life. My girl (now my wife of 26 years) loves me as much as ever, but our lives are so hectic, I wonder what happened. The world can be a rough place We each must find our own inner happiness. Please come back and share your thoughts now and then.

Josh: and your point is.....? You and the likes will come back as soon as things improve, no human being can live with just love and a nice family and beautiful songs, it takes money, dude, lots of money, it does not give you happiness but it really calm your nerves and worries!!!!! Love is good but it does not protect you from weather, cant eat it or drink it

Josh I hope you will be back, Jack is right you do have vision and insight that I enjoy reading.

Hey yeah, I worked a long time for minimum wage and piecework making shoes, before going corporate in a still humble way compared to the moguldom discussed on this blog...those moguls need worker bees like us...

So anyway, good luck to you, as Zappa said, "Music is the best..."
- Mary from the Bus, Joe's Garage

So here is the zoo as I see it in Company X:

The Elephants invoke the Lions, Tigers, and Bears.

The Lions Tigers and Bears invoke the Badgers.

The Badgers do what they do...badger the Worker Bees.

The Worker Bees go make it happen, stinging the rest of the zoo animals so they run in the desired direction.

Just my take...

Bing: you mentioned that you have decided to "avoid, deride and abjure the following group of bad actors that right now are circling in the mist:" and you go on describing executioners, revisionistas, etc, etc, so the question is: why did you have to wait for the storm to take that decision? was not a long overdue action to take? so means that in good times this actors are good to be around?



Josh...sounds to me like you've got your head screwed on straight. You're quite correct; there's no end to acquiring the stuff we think will make us happy (and no mistake about it, the greed that drives markets, and individuals, has very little to do with achieving actual happiness). I'm sincerely glad you're enjoying your life in the 'here and now'.

.....everyone's quick to rationalize the triviality of money when there isn't any.

This may be all well and good. but it really sucks to be Ford. Everyday their common stock has gone down by a couple of percent.

So that's my recipe for happiness in this market: open a margin account with some on-line trading house and start shorting Ford (F). Just make sure that you dump your entire position before they declare bankruptcy.

And, Insert Name Here, you're very quick to denigrate any thought that might trivialize the importance of money to happiness.

Ivan, shorting a stock is most certainly a legitimate investment strategy, but a part of me is always delighted when the shares go rapidly the other way.....the potential upside risk is unlimited, yet the potential gains are quite finite.

Sort of like watching the animal planet....everyone enjoys seeing the nasty old crocodile get stomped by an elephant about the time its getting ready to enjoy a tasty baby wildebeest. Doesn't nearly happen often enough....but nonetheless very satisfying.

Yes, Bing, it shows up under "ostriches" on Google Images. It shows up under "Emus" too. Look closely. Stare into its eyes... It's an emu.