Achilles and his Heel

Whether you favor classic Greek mythology or good old fashioned American superhero fantasy, there’s a heel or a piece of Kryptonite that’s bound to spell doom and spoil all of your hopes for mankind..

KryptoniteWas there ever a single episode or comic book story about Superman that didn’t contain some kind of Kryptonite or at least its metaphorical equivalent? It was so predictable. There was always something to stand in the way of justice reaching its just destination.

For me, the image conjured up by the designation “super-committee” has to be on par with the mythical heroes of generations past and generations lost.

Just imagine. A collection of seemingly normal people, collected together forming their very own band of super-heroes. As if one super-hero wasn’t enough, surely only good things can come when the many are united as one.

This august group of super-patriots assembled to save our way of life from the predatory grip of a growing and deadly deficit.

Surely, we weren’t Greece and we weren’t the Weimer Republic.

The task ahead of this Deficit League was no less than that of Superman faced with saving the world from impending doom as an earthly sized asteroid with our name on it hurtled through the vacuum of space in our direction.

A couple of months ago the expression “kicking the can down the road” got quite hackneyed, but that’s just what the not so super super committee has done. The only question left for our imaginations is how long and winding the road will turn out to be.

There are lots of jokes about committees and their outcome products. A camel has been described as the design work of a committee of experts. Those jokes are the corporate variant of the “How many X does it take to do Y” joke.

Those jokes never get old, but this one did and on top of that, it was never very funny in the first place.

Question: “How many super-committee members does it take to get nothing done?”

Answer: “Twelve.”

See? I told you it wasn’t very funny.

And there was no product, to boot.

Instead there was the hope that there was a possibility that a solution to the deficit issue might be found sometime in the future.

Now that’s funny.

Seems like the super-committee took a lesson from the European Union and the European Central Bank and tantalized us with the possibility that there might be a plan for a plan sometime in the future.

That kind of certainty sure spells “this is the right time to invest in stocks” to me. Where do I throw my money and how much will you take off my hands?

But like all super hero stories, there was a need for drama. No one wants a story where good wins against a trivial challenger.

The super-committe members suffered the effects of their own unique brand of Kryptonite. Their mortal enemy was the very thing that gave them strength,

Their ego and politics itself.

Given the hype and the belief that the super committee would come through with a judiciously arrived deficit reduction package, the market should probably have discounted the high probability of failure.

It doesn’t take much of a leap of faith into contrarian territory to know that there was no way that the super committee could molt out of its own skin.

I mean, just how do you stand up to ego and the politics of the moment?

In a world where Newt Gingrich is the candidate with momentum, at least at the moment, anything should be possible. But whereas there may have been an antidote to the Kryptonite that sucked the life out of Superman, there doesn’t appear to be any antidote to the butt sucking that “Realpolitik” demands.

While some super committee members can’t see a way to extricate themselves from the Norquist “No Tax Pledge” their committee objectives were bound to be unmet.

Yet the market, despite the conventional wisdom, didn’t see this one coming from even a few feet away as the deadline neared.

Despite the big market move to the downside today, I wasn’t overly distressed.

With assignmenrts of some shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Riverbed Technology and all of my Sallie Mae holdings, today was a good day to pick up bargains.

It’s entirely possible that they’ll be even greater bargains tomorrow, but I couldn’t resist pulling the trigger today.

In fact, I could barely wait a minute after seeing the inital 190 point drop.

Part of my eagerness was because I had a 9:45 AM flight Monday morning on yet another Southwest Airline flight without a Wi-Fi connection. I’ve been on 6 flights in the past 2 weeks, each one teasing me with the rollout of W-Fi to the fleet, yet none had seemed to make it to my air chariot.

So I made quick trades before they closed the cabin doors and I would be shut off from the sweet flow of data for 90 minutes.

As it turned out there were more shoes to drop, but I repurchased my Riverbed Technology shares at a lower price, added to my Freeport McMoRan and Textron holdings and re-established a positions in Visa and Caterpillar, at much lower price than their earlier assignments that I took just recently took.

Not bad for 15 minutes on the less than intuitive E*Trade interface on my Droid telephone.

By the time the plane landed, any angst over the 300 point drop was eased by silver’s fall and the ProShares UltraSilver’s rise.


Before my scheduled meeting, at which I thought it might be rude to whip out the smartphone or netbook, I had a chance to sell options on the new Textron shares and about 20% of the ProShares piece.

In the meantime, there was just a bit of angst over Amazon, which was getting whacked yet again.

This time, the Twitter stream was filled with negative comments about the new Kindle Flame, even coming from those that ordinarily spout Bezos messiah-like chants, the kind that used to be reserved for Steve Jobs.

One 140 space story had anectdotal evidence of a USPS employee saying that he never so so many product returns when Apple released a new product.

That sort of thing can’t be good for a stock’s price. That’s the kind of hard data and fundamental analysis that’s so desperately needed.

Whoever thought that Amazon’s heel would turn out to be Apple? But Amazon will recover, it just may need to remind people that its core business is immune to Kryptonite.

The equivalent would have been if someone actually came out and said that Green Mountain Coffee was insipid, if made properly and even worse, if not. If you thought that Starbucks was Green Mountain’s Kryptonite, you’d be on the wrong track on the basis of product competition. No one compares the products. They just wonder what will be left when Starbucks pulls the rug out from under its agreement with Green Mountain.

That one would be hard to recover from.

But the same thing was said after the first round of accounting improprieties was alleged. Green Mountain recovered and then some and lived to see another day and another round of allegations.

Heels heal and Kryptonite, like all radioactive elements has a half life.

The same can’t be said about the egos of our politicians and the need to perpetuate their elections, at all costs. There doesn’t seem to be any resolution and there’s not enough spin to counter the dizziness and disgust.

Maybe we should just let that asteroid do its worst and move on.