@JohnKasich And so it begins… #tcot #ohtcot

Posted May 3, 2009 by mmusa
Categories: Uncategorized

In a statement, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, “Ohio doesn’t need a governor from Lehman Brothers, a governor whose only concern is the wealthy and the well-connected and who has spent the last several years making money in the same financial sector that led to the economic collapse we are facing.”

Noting that the income tax raises 34 percent of the state’s revenue, Redfern questioned whether Kasich plans to replace it “a massive tax increase on working families or by completely eviscerating Ohio’s investment in education and health care?”

So much for no more politics as usual. That’s OK. The greater the cause, the tougher the battle.


Susan Boyle — don’t change

Posted April 24, 2009 by mmusa
Categories: Culture

Tags: , ,

By now it seems everyone near any electronic communication has seen and/or heard Britain’s Susan Boyle. But from the beginning, the story line has been how her appearance and “sophistication” have been at odds with her voice. Much of our world is, of course, obsessed with looks so it’s not surprising, though still disappointing.

And, on its face — pun intended — it is proper to be concerned about appearance. People should present themselves well. Boyle did that. But just because Simon Cowell, probably a millionaire a few times over, and the other “sophisticated” judges, and much of the audience, perhaps thought otherwise is on them, not her. Now, that she has gotten her hair done differently and changed her wardrobe a bit is fine. But please, Susan, don’t let the world change you from what I saw in you.

My first thought when she began to sing, besides acknowledging the strength of her voice, was to recall the memory of my mother, also from England. It wasn’t how she sang, though my mom had a good voice. It wasn’t how she looked; mom had a bit more flashy way about her. But how I took Susan’s voice was as a bridge from today to the past and how Susan represented that classically British stiff-upper-lip determination that has gotten them through so much over the years. In particular, as regards to my mother’s time, WWII.

If you knew my mother, you would have realized the serious mistake Hitler made in attacking England. She lived through the dreaded buzz bombs, narrowly missing death when one bomb fell near her air raid shelter but failed to detonate. They lived on little during the war. She often talked about eating blood sausages — yeah, they’re as they sound. But, despite the deprivations and tragedies of war, her brother was killed near the end of it, she joined her friends and family many times when they would get together to go dancing, exemplifying the indomitable British spirit.

That’s Susan Boyle. You saw it in her eyes when she was almost daring you to doubt her. I think, too, you saw this realization of what Susan represents in Simon Cowell’s reaction. His eyes gave it away while he listened and when, after her performance, he called her a tiger. I think he saw in her the reason, as it has been said, there will always be an England.

Some have speculated this has been a setup, a publicity stunt. I certainly hope not. But if it was, then shame on them, just like it was on the judges and the audience in their initial reaction to Susan Boyle. But for now, I will not allow cynicism to take away from the moment. Here’s to Susan and all the Limeys — a term used with affection. To them, as my mother would say as if in a toast, “Hold your glasses high!”

Goldman Sachs, from Semgroup to Long-Term Capital Management?

Posted March 28, 2009 by mmusa
Categories: Finance, Stocks

Tags: , ,

In Forbes April 13 edition is a story about last summer’s oil spike. Semgroup in Tulsa bet big on dropping oil prices. As it turned out, the bet lost $2.4 billion; it has since filed for bankruptcy. Nothing is proven but as Forbes put it: “There is evidence of a malevolent hand at work: oil price manipulation by traders orchestrating a short squeeze to push up the price of West Texas Intermediate crude to the point it would generate fatal losses in Semgroup’s accounts.”

And: “people familiar with the events insist that Citibank, Merril Lynch and especially Goldman Sachs had knowledge about Semgroup’s trading positions from their vetting of an ill-fated $1.5 billion private equity deal last spring.”

And remember when GS said $200 barrel oil was on its way.

Goldman says, according to Forbes, any oil price manipulation allegations are “without merit.”
But this idea of GS having knowledge of a company’s market strategy and then allegedly benefiting from it rang a bell.

In “When Genius Failed,” the story of Long-Term Capital Management, Roger Lowenstein noted that as LTCM was becoming undone it was looking for a savior and thought it found one in GS. “The two firms quickly struck a deal, conditional on Goldman’s raising the money and on Long-Term’s passing an inspection, a customary process.”

Part of that inspection Lowenstein described thus: “In Greenwich, Goldman’s sleuths, who had the run of the office, left no stone unturned. Long-Term’s staff couldn’t keep track of who the Goldman people were, so many were rummaging through the hedge fund’s files. A key member of the Goldman team … according to witnesses … appeared to be downloading Long-Term’s positions … from Long-Term’s own computers, directly into an oversized laptop (a detail which Goldman later denied).”

“Brazenly playing both sides of the street, Goldman represented investment banking at its mercenary ugliest,” wrote Lowenstein. “To J.M. and his partners, Goldman was raping Long-Term in front of their very eyes.”

Maybe this is just how most business is but if true it certainly seems like a lousy way to run a railroad, so to speak. There’s nothing wrong with making money, unless it’s made in an unethical and/or unlawful matter. Even if it “happens all the time” it’s still not right.

We may find out more in April when former FBI director Louis Freeh is expected to release a report on the Semgroup matter.

Too big not to fail

Posted March 27, 2009 by mmusa
Categories: Culture, Economy, Stocks

Tags: , ,

As noted below (in December, on an earlier version of this blog), I was in favor of helping GM get through this mess, within limits. GM and the country have reached that limit. Throwing at it the amount of money it probably needs, on top of the ridiculous amounts of money the government — that is, the taxpayers — is or will be tossing around, is just too much. It will be tough for GM to reorganize under bankruptcy but it will be tougher in the long run for all of us if we go into even more debt as a nation.

And while we’re at it, if we’re going to regulate anything, let’s ban the phrase “too big to fail.” It’s truly become an excuse to not face the market music. This is not a slam on GM or any other company. Sometimes a company can make all the right moves and still fail. But just as a business can ride high on the market (I’m assuming good products and services here), it must accept the consequences when the market changes. If it is unable or unwilling to adapt, so be it.

“Too big to fail” has essentially become “too big to care” or “too big to change.” What it means today is that a company became, in effect, too big to succeed. It lost its way, for whatever reason. Companies let employees go when they are unproductive and/or unaffordable. The taxpayers have to do the same for companies.

Detroit and Washington

Posted March 17, 2009 by mmusa
Categories: Economy, Politics

The Senate was dead wrong in turning down the American auto companies. Now senators get their spines back? And for what? To seal the coffin for American icons GM, Ford and Chrysler? Way to go.

The financial system needed help. And the car companies do, too. This whining about rewarding bad choices, calls to let them fail and citing polls is a joke. Most of them — i.e. congressmen and senators — have made bad choices, haven’t exactly been succeeding lately and polls say people think they’re a failure but that hasn’t led to their resignations. And most of them are rich so it’s easy to “take a stand” on something that what hurt them much anyway. Too bad they can’t be so principled when it comes to the right to life!

mmusa is no big fan of Michigan or Granholm, but she was right on in calling the Senate vote unAmerican: http://tinyurl.com/5krlu8.

But where does it stop? is the cry. Right here. No other industry in America is so pervasive. After this, let it go. If the financial markets can function smoothly and the car companies have been helped, then it’s up to management and workers to get things going again. But if the car companies are hung out to dry, everybody loses, except for those in Washington.