Saturday, May 30, 2009

Two things on Sotomayor

Honestly, I don't have much to say about the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. I am almost certain that she will be confirmed; I only hope that the Republicans that question her spend more time with good, well-researched questions that allow the nominee to show her judicial acumen (while also presenting the opportunity for great follow-up, which the Republicans NEED to do) than with grandstanding, in stark contrast to the Dems of the last 8 years.

But there are two things that NEED to be done in these proceedings:

a) The case of Ricci v DeStefano, which will play a prominent role in the hearings, needs to be framed as a case of plain old discrimination--not reverse discrimination. As subtle as the difference may be, it needs to be framed as such time and time again that Sotomayor did not so much as lift a finger for the plaintiff as the acceptance of racial preference was being played out in her court. "Reverse" discrimination is a liberal concoction that somehow makes the whole exercise more palatable; the game should not be played on a left-leaning field. Let the judge defend her lack of actions and the Dems vote on those actions on a public, current case of classic DISCRIMINATION. I doubt it will be a tripwire, but it will be interesting to watch her navigate that field nonetheless.

b) I understand, via Powerline, that Frank Ricci, the plaintiff in the above case, may be called to testify in the nomination proceedings. . .when one of the people who were bypassed for promotion is Hispanic. THAT'S who should be called to testify before the court. I don't care if he's a dyed-in-the-wool leftist who has slept with an action figure of Walter Mondale since he was a teenager, the Republicans on the committee MUST get the hispanic who was wrongfully treated on the basis of nothing other than race at these confirmation hearings. It would be great if he just so happened to talk about how much "empathy" he felt Sotomayor displayed toward his situation when his promotion was denied--which is probably wishful thinking, but it's not out of the box of reality. Regardless, though, the face of the Ricci case does not need to lend itself to cries of "racism": if the left wants to play that game. . .well, two can play that way.

Seriously, only today's Republican party could not see that angle.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Time for a little fun

Again, tonight, going off into a world that I have no business hangin' around in:

The stock market.

First, some background: I am stunned that anybody is playing in the market nowadays. I just don't understand how all the frightening indicators out there are being ignored as the market is back to pre-Inauguration Day levels. Unemployment is high and is expected to go higher; at least some of the 19 banks that were "stress tested" are going to receive bad grades; and perhaps most importantly, this administration has shown a complete disregard for contract law. (Read THIS if you haven't already, courtesy of HotAir). Yet, the surge goes on--I don't know how, but so she rolls.

And I have not let the surge go unnoticed. In fact, I have thought seriously of hopping into the market since back in the fall. As the market was spiraling downward, I knew that there would eventually be a bottom, and that from that bottom there would be some sort of opportunity to make money. And I'm always looking for an opportunity to make money.

So my interest was piqued. Below, in no particular order, are some of the stocks I have eyed, the reasons why they drew my interest, and a quick-look at what I would have experienced had I ACTUALLY put my money where my mouth is:

: First up was USO, an ETF (I don't know what that means) that loosely tracks the price of a barrel of some form of sweet crude oil. Do I really need to tell you why I was interested in this in the fall? After summer prices that saw crude near $150, by October crude prices were lower, going even lower--and just as sure to rebound. USO never got as high as did the raw barrel of crude, staying about $30 lower than the headlining crude prices. As I started tracking USO, it was around $50. That was a no-brainer don't buy, as I figured that we hadn't come close to the low on USO.

And I was right. I came "this" close to buying it at $30, but couldn't figure out how to buy an ETF. (I still haven't) And I was ticked as it surged the next two weeks up to $37, way out of range for a buy in my world. But incompetence sometimes pays off, as the value did not stay that high for long (in fact, $37 is the highest value it's had in 2009), working it's way down to a year-low of $22 6 weeks after that peak. Of course, 6 weeks after that low-for-2009 value, it had regained 50%. Since then, it has been pretty rocky, finishing today at right around my initial buy-level of $30.

Now I feel that the price of crude is going to shoot through the roof in the next 6 months, so there is potential in this market. However, I must warn you: USO is not a straight up-and-down shadow of the price of crude. There are stockpile issues and end-of-month dumps that I still haven't really figured out. So, in short, while crude may be an awesome market to get in to, USO may not be the right vehicle.

:: Next up was Bank of America (BAC). What got me looking here was an article on either Motley Fool or Minyanville that said, as BAC was hanging around $5, that there was every reason to believe that it would rebound to at least $20 by the end of the summer. SO I started watching it, and it actually went down shortly after I read that article. I shoulda bought it, but I have personal reasons for being very skeptical about investing in BoA. But had I done it at my self-imposed $4 buy level, I would be a happier person today (okay, at least wealthier). The stock went on a tear in March, spending a little time in April above $10, before falling to the sub-9s until today, when again it shot up towards $10.50. I have no idea what will happen later this week when the stress test results actually are made public, but with BoAs announcements over the weekend and today, I believe the stress tests are already factored in to the selling activity. I guess $20 by the end of the summer isn't out of the question. . .but me buying it at $10 and change is.

::: Next up was Sprint (S). I was initially turned on to this stock because I read about how a lot of Obama's team are vested in the success of Sprint (it was one of the reasons why I boldly predicted on my brother-in-law’s facebook page several months ago that the deadline for the end of analog TV was going to be pushed back--a prediction which I'm happy to note came true), and I know how this group of folks works. As it first came to my eye, it was hangin’ at around $3, heading for an eventual low of $2.18. I don’t really know when I would have purchased it, but probably around the date they announced the delay of the digital crossover (early Feb), at which point it was pretty close to $2.50. Today, that same stock closed at $5.

I really don’t have an outlook on Sprint, since my interest in it was so one-dimensional. I know one thing for sure: I don’t know enough to put any money into it.

:::: Finally, we have Ford (F). I know, investing in a big 3 car company? Well, think of it this way: after each of the big 3 got slapped around in front of Congress multiple times, Ford was the first company to say that they weren’t going to need “too much” help from the government. The date of that statement? Late January, and the stock was holding at about $2. Today, it is just under $6. So again, there was money there for my taking, but I was too shy to pull the trigger.

Anyhow, that’s my record to date. And no, I’m not just talking about my winners here--literally these are the only 4 stocks I’ve really taken more than a casual glance at since I started watching the market.

Of course, now my window has closed. I am so concerned about the aggressive manner in which Obama’s team has acted these last few weeks that I just can’t believe anyone like me would put their money into an economy that is increasingly being put under the control of Geithner.

Which makes my next statement even crazier: IF I was foolish enough to put money in this market, I’d be giving a long, hard look at AIG. Did you know they’re up over 400% from their lows of early March? And they’re still really, really cheap--which is both a good thing and a bad thing. (You can’t sell a stock for a buck--you just have to hold on to it. So if you buy something for $1.50, you have to hope it goes north, because you won’t be able to get rid of it if it heads even just a little down) Again, a “company that is too big to fail” is a company that won’t fail. I don’t like the concept, but that’s the truth.

. . .at least for now. Read Albert Bozzo at for the immediate future of regulations on banks that are “too big to fail.” And then tread very carefully with AIG.

Or anything, for that matter.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Has it come to this?

I am going to write about something that I have NEVER thought to write about before:

The Miss USA pageant.

By now, you might have heard about Carrie Prejean, a contestant in that event representing California. A beautiful gal with a good head on her shoulders, in the Q&A portion of the competition she was asked by Perez Hilton about gay marriage.

Her answer, in which she said that she thought marriage should be between a man and a woman, supposedly drew boos from the crowd, but in this clip on youtube, I hear a lot more applause than I do boos--in fact, all I hear is applause and a general mass of noise that could not CLEARLY be described as booing. Anyhow, I'll allow that there were probably a smattering of boos in there--the point isn't really central to my writing today.

What definitely DID happen, however, was that her answer drew the ire of a whole bunch of people. Hilton called her a "dumb bitch", Keith Olbermann took a predictably low-minded route in attacking her personally (calling her a "boob" and giving entirely too much time to a "journalist" who spends almost 3 minutes throwing names and attacks around like an 8 year old on a playground, actually saying that he "knows for a fact" that Carrie Prejean used to be "Harry" Prejean--and that's not even the most immature thing he said!)--even pageant organizers have taken a decidedly anti-Prejean tack. For a few days there, Prejean could literally have turned on a TV or opened her mail and heard and seen about nothing other than her--and in not the most flattering light.

But she is no shrinking violet, this Miss Prejean. She is brave, and for that she should be held in high esteem. Which, of course, means that she will continue to draw the most dispicable of attacks from people on the other side of the ideological aisle from her ON THIS ONE ISSUE.

I admire her courage. I wish her every success in the future.

But I fear for the young lady. I hope she has a permanent security detail attached to her.