On the “Gun Debate,” the Second Amendment, & What No One Wants To Talk About

Since I transitioned Stone Street Advisors from a financial blog to Stone Street Advisors LLC – providing research & analysis services for institutional investors and the like – I’ve shied away from getting into political debates.  Once an issue becomes prevalent, the majority of people have their minds’ made up based upon limited information, usually fed to them through various forms of grossly over-simplified media “reports” or info (read: opinion) from friends/family.  There is generally no use trying to sway the opinion of these people, it’s just an exercize in futility; there are no facts, figures, statistics, or well-researched/constructed arguments that can change their minds.

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Which is Worse, Lawyers Lying in Public Pleadings For Political Gain, or News Publishers, Too Lazy To Fact Check, Publishing The Lies As Gospel?

*This is a guest post from a friend of Stone Street Advisors who prefers to remain nameless. He has over 25 years of experience in investment banking (particularly M&A and equity raising), private equity, and strategic advisory services. He has undergraduate and MBA degrees from top schools and extensive experience dealing with turnarounds since the early 1990s. Enjoy! –Jordan*

The bankruptcy case of American Airlines has aroused much discussion, and
particular concern amongst unions. In fact, there are several recent cases,
such as Kodak and Hostess that are causing similar concerns about the
futures for existing union employees, their pensions and health benefits, as
well as the pensions and benefits of retirees.

The pension and health benefit issues are a particularly difficult issue for
many companies these days given the low returns (due to low interest rates)
on investments, and particularly for those companies that have become
smaller over time and have to support a large retiree base.

In the AMR case, however, I believe the Transport Workers Union of America,
and their attorneys have sunk to a real low. Either that, or their
leadership really has no ability to distinguish fiction from reality. They
have really crossed the line in trying to deal with their situation.
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Analyzing the Popular Proposals for Mortgage Principal Writedowns, Part III

Two weeks ago we began a series of posts written by The Managing Partners of Peterson Bliss Advisors, analyzing the popular proposals for mortgage principal writedowns and their the effects thereof. In that first article, we examined:

• The numbers quoted in the proposal as stated in the media
• The issues surrounding the stated numbers

In the second:

• The costs to the Borrowers
• The costs to the Taxpayers
• The costs to the Banks (and eventually the Taxpayers) and Timing

In today’s third installment, we start to round-up the debate and discuss:

• The “fairness” of the proposals
• The most recent proposal from banks to a “finite number of current borrowers”
• The ultimate solution to the decline in home values

Enjoy reading and please leave your thoughts in the comments section, as we know this is a rather contentious issue. –JT

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Weekend Musings: On Models, Non-farm Payrolls and ADP

“All models sweep dirt under the rug. A good model makes the absence of the dirt visible.” Emanuel Derman

There’s been a lot of talk buried in the reaction from Friday’s job report and the disparity between the BLS’s report and the ADP report; some people say that it’s irrelevant and offer up a misguided list of reasons. Others seem to recognize that the ADP number is meant to be used as an input into the overall picture and not the end all to be all when it comes to “forecasting” the NFP number. Continue reading

A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

Much has been written about Goldman and the Timberwolf deals since the now infamous “shitty deal” showdown between Senator Levin and GS officials last fall. In reading the majority/minority report issued last week in its entirety, there’s a few things that really stuck out to me. Continue reading

Obama Is Lying To Us Right Before Our Eyes (Again)!

Obama just claimed in his speech at GW University that “tax cuts” somehow “cost” us $500 billion/year for the next decade.  I’m not sure how a lack of revenue can somehow be semantically transformed into an expense (cost), but putting logic, reason, facts, and basic accounting aside for a second, I’d just like to peel-back some of Obama’s baseless rhetoric and look at some cursory facts I was able to confirm in literally under 2 minutes.

In this same speech, Barry discussed how we need to return to the fiscal discipline of the 1990′s, you know, when we ran a balanced if not surplus budget.  Last I checked we’ve spent the past ~10 years involved in at least two wars (or “wars” depending on your definition), whereas in the 1990s, once we left the Gulf after Desert Storm, we really didn’t have any major large-scale war efforts (I don’t think Bosnia or Kosovo compare to our current wars by any financial metric).

So, two these two Obama-isms, I present the following easily-obtainable data and chart:

Clearly, around the turn of the century, our Defense budget was around $350 million/year.  By 2010, that had more than doubled to $800 million/year, no thanks to the ongoing and of questionably sane military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  At this rate, our 2012 Defense budget is going to be ~3 times what it was in 2000!

And Obama is blaming our current budget deficit on tax cuts?

HUH!?!?

**This is not intended to be an in-depth examination of Government spending, but simply instructive as to the sort of bogus rhetoric our Government feeds us every day.  Such rhetoric is rife with cognitive bias (quite intentionally), in this case, among others, seriously framing error.

Dean Baker On Unemployment, Other Recent Econ Data: Only in Washington would this be hailed as good news…

So goes Dean Baker’s comments on the most recent BLS jobs report.  While virtually every media outlet I follow (pretty much all of them that matter, and then some) hailed the report as positive for the economy, anyone who actually went through the numbers (Calculated Risk did this as well, sans the colorful rhetoric) can see that all is not nearly as rosy as politicians, the media, and the Fed would have us believe (emphasis mine, as usual):

Those who know arithmetic were a bit more sceptical. If the economy sustained March’s rate of job growth, it will be more than seven years before we get back to normal rates of unemployment. Furthermore, some of this growth likely reflected a bounceback from weaker growth the prior two months. The average rate of job growth over the last three months has been just 160,000. At that pace, we won’t get back to normal rates of unemployment until after 2022.

That’s a long time to make ordinary workers suffer because the folks who run the economy are not very good at their job.

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A Closer Look At Arbitrary Numbers & Taxes

In the past week I’ve read at least 4 popular authors talk about increasing taxes on “the rich,” a group defined by – for reason(s) completely unbeknownst to me – one of two thresholds, either $250,000/year or belonging to the top 1% of earners (somewhere around $400,000-$500,000/year/household).  I have no problem increasing taxes on the SUPER rich, say, over $1,000,000/year, but to suggest that we should increase taxes on almost every successful doctor, dentist, lawyer, and small-to-medium business owner in the country seems a bit ludicrous to me.  Those who don’t make this magical $250,000/year may consider this outrageous, but many people who make that much, while certainly not poor by any stretch of the imagination, aren’t living anything like the opulent life of the guy in the DirectTV commercials.

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Mark Cuban Says ESPN Has A "Twitter Problem." Huh?

Mark Cuban – owner of professional basketball team the Dallas Mavericks – has a curious post out this weekend, wherein he claims that ESPN and its anchors have utterly failed in embracing twitter and using it to drive traffic to the network’s website (and I suppose to a lesser extent, it’s channels).  His words, emphasis mine:

Today, sports news finds millions and millions of sports fans first via twitter. Unfortunately for ESPN.com, they don’t control any ad space on your tweet stream.  ESPN no longer makes a penny from the first sports news you receive. Thats not good for them.

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