The Deipnosophist

Where the science of investing becomes an art of living

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Location: Summerlin, Nevada, United States

A private investor for 20+ years, I manage private portfolios and write about investing. You can read my market musings on three different sites: 1) The Deipnosophist, dedicated to teaching the market's processes and mechanics; 2) Investment Poetry, a subscription site dedicated to real time investment recommendations; and 3) Seeking Alpha, a combination of the other two sites with a mix of reprints from this site and all-original content. See you here, there, or the other site!

01 February 2009

Nigh time to end the same old thing

Business sucks. Not just business in its economic sense but business in its practical applications.

S requested I help obtain a new computer for her; I convinced her to go with a new Dell laptop (she does not want an Apple), largely because Dell has (had?) a reputation for offering the latest and greatest technologies. That mission, though, seems a thing of the past, as repeated visits to the Dell website revealed only tried and true parts, and not the latest and greatest I sought; nonetheless, I configured online from the options Dell does offer. And when satisfied, I went to purchase and apply a discount coupon, and hit a brick wall; the software would not accept the discount coupon. No problem, I would call the company sales team.

You can guess what happened next. A pre-recorded message stated, "Everybody is busy; please call during regular business hours (which I had); try again; and... Goodbye." And then Dell disconnected the call.

"Goodbye"...? You must be kidding. Dell is as hard-up for sales as the next (computer) company; I am a customer wanting to buy now. Why does the company not want my business? Well, screw Dell; plenty of other companies happy to receive my business, especially now. (Please forward my comments to any Dell mucky-mucks you might know, and have them contact me.)

But as I reflected on this incident, I realized it to be a fractal impression of the state of American business today; for example, too reliant on voice mail (punch x for --) that (purposefully?) frustrates the consumer's objective. I realize I will anger my Libertarian and Austrian school friends, with what I am about to say, but...

The time has come for change. I do not propose the economy be planned centrally a la erstwhile Soviet grand plans, but the same old same old cannot continue. I realize my thesis to be arguable (Please argue!), but we, as a nation, as a people, are bankrupt -- financially, morally, ethically, politically. And so the need for change. Now.

I left Wall Street for many reasons, but its willingness to prostitute itself for a buck was chief among them. The news last week that bankers paid themselves $18.4 billion of bonuses disgusts me, but is only more of the same. That the monies likely came from you, me, us taxpayers weakens my Libertarian resolve for the invisible hand. I share Maureen Dowd's disgust when she says,
"At least the old robber barons made great products. When you make money out of money, unmoored from morality and regulators, it must unhinge you. How else to explain corporate welfare queens partridge hunting in England, buying French jets and shopping for Lamborghinis? Mr. Obama was less bracing than during the campaign, when A.I.G. executives were caught going to posh retreats after taking an $85 billion bailout. He called for them to be fired and to reimburse the federal Treasury... That’s not enough, not with the president and Geithner continuing to dole out what may end up being a trillion dollars to these “malefactors of great wealth,” as Teddy Roosevelt put it... Anyone who gave bonuses after accepting federal aid should be fired, and that money should be disgorged to the Treasury."
This cannot go on, must not continue... and yet it does. And in all walks of life. Consider the vote for change that the election of President Obama represents. Yes, I too fear the realization of the Democrat's plank, spend, spend, spend. But how would that differ from what has occurred during the very recent past? And perhaps, just perhaps, President Obama sees a future different than most of us can envision, sour grapes Republicans especially. Frank Rich recounts only some of the latest examples of buffoonery by the GOP, aka, the Grand Obstructionist Party...
"The current G.O.P. acts as if it — and we — have all the time in the world. It kept hoping in vain that the fast-waning Blago sideshow would somehow impale Obama or Rahm Emanuel. It has come perilously close to wishing aloud that a terrorist attack will materialize to discredit Obama’s reversals of Bush policy on torture, military tribunals and Gitmo. The party’s sole consistent ambition is to play petty politics to gum up the works. If anything, the Republican Congressional leadership seems to be emulating John McCain’s September stunt of “suspending” his campaign to “fix” the Wall Street meltdown. For all his bluster, McCain in the end had no fixes to offer and sat like a pet rock at the White House meeting on the crisis before capitulating to the bailout. His imitators likewise posture in public about their determination to take action, then do nothing while more and more Americans cry for help. The problem is not that House Republicans gave the stimulus bill zero votes last week. That’s transitory political symbolism, and it had no effect on the outcome. Some of the naysayers will vote for the revised final bill anyway (and claim, Kerry-style, that they were against it before they were for it). The more disturbing problem is that the party has zero leaders and zero ideas. It is as AWOL in this disaster as the Bush administration was during Katrina. If the country wasn’t suffering, the Republicans’ behavior would be a laugh riot. The House minority leader, John Boehner, from the economic wasteland of Ohio, declared on “Meet the Press” last Sunday that the G.O.P. didn’t want to be “the party of ‘No’ ” but “the party of better ideas, better solutions.” And what are those ideas, exactly? He said he’ll get back to us 'over the coming months.'"
"The coming months"... Say, what?! Get with the program, Republicans. We are in a very bad situation, with a lot of hurt yet to come. So get f**king real. Stop playing games, throw out your old playbook of partisan politics, and no more same old same old. Try something, anything, everything... until something sticks. Perhaps, as Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) recently said, 'This is not so much a recession, as the economy resetting itself at a permanently lower level.' That would be sad, but the sooner there, the better for us all.

We all are in this mess together. Only together will we find a way out.
-- David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist

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