Tough Times. Tough Decisions


Tough times do call for tough decisions.

We first heard that from Standard and Poors back in April.

No one listened, although the markets were spooked for a few hours on that day until the realization came that expecting a working and communicative political system to be at the root of any solution to our growing debt was probably just a joke.

It was certainly unrealistic, even though it wasn’t that funny.

Then, 4 months later, perhaps as much as 20 months ahead of schedule, they made the tough decision to downgrade U.S. debt instruments.

So this past Friday, the much awaited Bernanke speech at the annual Kansas City Federal Reserve meeting in Jackson Hole could probably be distilled down to its very essence.

Tough times call for tough decisions.

Bernanke Flips the BirdThe Chairman of the Federal Reserve re-iterated Standard and Poors’ “take home lesson”. A broken and dysfunctional political process would stand in the way of any solution to the economic issues that have been ailing us for these past few years. Not only would it stand in the way, but it has been.

In a nice Ivy League sort of way, the kindly gentleman from South Carolina, whose grandfather was described in the New York Times as having been a “Torah reader”, figuratively flipped Congress “the bird”.

Maybe literally, as well.

Either way, deservedly so.

With a somewhat surprising mid-afternoon market surge taking place well after Bernanke’s words, I found myself being assigned shares of Freeport McMoran, JP Morgan and Mosaic.

For the first time in 2 weeks I was being faced with the opportunity to pick up some new shares or add to existing positions at still “bargain” prices. Unless I missed a really explosive upside movement, as I did with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, I never mind being assigned. There always seems to be plenty of new opportunities to pick up something and exploit the greed of those who would buy the call options I’m selling.

I like exploiting others.

At the moment, before the markets open, I have my sights set on shares of Halliburton, Lockheed, ProShares UltraShort Silver, Chesapeake Energy, Goldman Sachs and British Petroleum. Who knows, if JP Morgan or Freeport take an early hit, I might even buy those back.

But those will be easy decisions.

The tough decision facing me right now is what topic to focus on for this blog.

So many to choose from.

Of course, there’s always the opportunity to finely dissect Bernanke’s words, but they still haven’t fully understood his 2010 speech. I doubt that I’ll still be around pumping out this drivel a year from now. In fact, Bernanke himself may not be around in this capacity a year from now. Give or Take a few months.

There’s also lots of opportunity to exploit the weekend’s top story, Hurricane Irene.

Fortunately, other than a few ripped out trees in our neighborhood, we had no damage and kept our power throughout.

My Sugar Momma, who is a mental health specialist and is a volunteer member of the Red Cross Emergency Preparedness system spent some time at two different shelters that had been set up for the event, housing mostly Eastern European seasonal workers who were evacuated from Ocean City. Things were so well coordinated that she was able to come home to spend the night. Besides, for the evacuees, this was like vacation. There was no stress nor mental anguish for them. For once during their stay in America they weren’t being expolited. It was party time for them.

So, no Hurricane Irene storyline.

Finally, and I know that I spoke about Dick Cheney the other day in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Cheney” blog entry, I just couldn’t resist one more go at it, especially after hearing his latest quote.

“Heads are going to explode in Washington”.

Based on his past hunting history, that comment may be literal, so I would stay away from open windows.

Reportedly, among the bombshells contained in his new memoir, “In My Time”, Cheney, the Vice-Preident who shot his hunting friend in the face and then exacted an apology from his pock faced friend, claims that General Colin Powell undermined the Presidency of George W. Bush.

Doing so wasn’t terribly difficult.

In fact, words, especially when uttered by George W. Bush, seemed to always undermine him somehow.

Now, I can’t be certain that General Powell never expressed his private opinions to others or expressed some concern with the quality of intelligence and the decisions made based on faulty intelligence. It is, though, hard to believe that a career soldier, a 4 star General, would do anything but follow the lead of his Commander-in-Chief.

Even so much as to be the fall guy for an Administration that had no credibility other than what resided in a well respected soldier.

On the other hand, Dick Cheney probably did more to undermine our Constitution than anyone since Jospeh McCarthy.

Although he is a hero to many and will take credit for the lack of domestic attacks sine 9/11, basing it on a trampling of civil rights, it’s very difficult to logically agree with Cheney since it is still an age old impossibility to disprove a negative.

No one will ever be able to prove that the lack of domestic attacks over the past 10 years has or hasn’t been related to enhanced interrogation, The Patriot Act or an impossibly large number of non-fatal heart attacks by a single individual.

I tired of the various comic routines focusing on Cheney a long, long time ago. At some point they just stopped being funny. Even though Joe Liberman has no shortage of detractors, what an incredible difference between two Vice-President wannabes. As a former Attorney General, I would have no doubt that Lieberman would have been an advocate for protecting human rights while protecting our borders.

Can’t prove that either, though.

But I will be thinking of Dick Cheney when the market opens in the morning.

I always do so when contemplating buying Halliburton shares, which incidentally, but not coincidentally,  goes ex-dividend on Tuesday. I love picking up shares right before their ex days and selling call options on them.

I remember all of the negative press going Halliburton’s way over the years, specifically due to Cheney’s tenure as CEO.

Years ago, I thought that I was going to go into business with a one-time mentor and friend, but the contract offered to me was really nothing to be excited about.

In fact, it was downright evil, unless you’re a big fan of indentured servitude.

Being the mentor that he was, he taught me one last thing.

Business is business and friendship is friendship. They’re two very different things.

We never did go into business, but we remained friends and he never shot me in the face.

And so it was with Dick Cheney, except for the shooting in the face part.

No, we’re not friends, but I didn’t let my dislike for his aura of evil get in the way of the business aspect of investing in Halliburton. I’ve always loved Halliburton and it’s treated me very well.

The lesson here is simply that “Profits are profits and disdain is disdain”.

We can agree that making money makes the tough decisions so much easier to make. Plus, you can use those profits to buy buckshot.

Now, one easy decision will come tomorrow. When it comes down to deciding whether to watch the Cheney interview or instead watch some Comedy Central re-run.

Any re-run.

When you get right down to it, Hurricane Irene, though it took lives, didn’t do anywhere near the damage that was expected. Bernanke, for however things work out for us in this economy, is above all, benevolent.

Cheney? Not so much on either account.

But in a spirit of compromise, I’ve positioned my La-Z-Boy directly under the leaking roof and will yell out all of my PIN passwords while enjoying “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” episode for the 30th time.




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