Friday, December 31, 2010

A Holiday

Even though the stock market is open, it's a holiday for the common man, hence I will take off today: no post.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

We Survived 2010

Despite all the high paid pundits and bloviators, 2010 was NOT a national disaster. Roubini, Meredith Molotova and that ilk were wrong. The stock markets made good gains. The economy stopped going down. Unemployment stopped going up. Massive new defaults have NOT occurred. The corporate bond market rallied hugely. The commercial real estate market stabilized and has rallied some.

Not all is good.

Housing prices are bouncing along the ground: no rebound is in sight, but price levels are rather affordable so further large drops will likely be temporary foreclosure rinses.

Europe is still sorting out possible solutions ... and ignoring the obvious solution, viz. becoming a United States of Europe.

Farmers & miners are making fine profits after decades of suffering; and people are griping about that.

Congress continues to be a comedy show ... or is it a cage match? No serious debate occurs regarding what kind of nation we want to be and become.

Obama is playing in Hawaii; he's now had two years in office and has shown zero ideas or leadership.

The Republicans want to turn the financial and corporate Vikings loose to raid on all of us.

The Democrats wants to turn all of us into government employees.

Neither party talks about a vision - an eschaton - for America in the 21st century.

How can "reform" or "change" be discussed rationally without knowing the end point for our path? How can "reform" or "change" be discussed rationally without knowing where we are now?

Our "leaders" have lost their way. Is any Teddy Roosevelt or Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan on the horizon? Nope. Those people has visions of where they wanted to lead the nation; they had good understanding of what the problems were in their time.

I will give you two metaphors for a paradigm of what America need to do.

First, from John Bunyan's great book, Pilgrim's Progress. The pilgrim recognized the problems where he was and knew where he wanted to go, viz. to the great city of salvation. He struggled along a path with many, many traps and pitfalls and evildoers. This book was read by the great leaders who created and saved America: Franklin, Washington, Lincoln. Its allegory applies now.

Second, from science and the work of Richard Feynman (cf. the book, A Path Integral Approach to Quantum Mechanics or his seminal paper, Feynman, R. P. (1948). "The Space-Time Formulation of Nonrelativistic Quantum Mechanics". "Reviews of Modern Physics" 20: 367–387. A particle - ANY particle, with its beginning and end states set, combines all possible paths (and I do mean all - over all of space and time) to take the optimal path.

The metaphors here are definitive, spanning faith AND science: The US people - and especially its leaders - must study where we are and have vision where we want to be, and then choose the optimal path. We must combine epistemology - the study of knowledge - with ontology, the study of being - to find our path. True leadership does not come from the technocracy; it's not from technology. It's not from sloganeering. Good Leadership - the adjective is crucial - is really applied metaphysics: it applies knowledge of where we are and where we want to be in the future, then chooses the optimal path.

All these ideas are from the classics of the past 2,000+ years: Aristotle, Bunyan, Feynman. They knew these concepts that drive both the physical world and the world of the minds of men. We don't have to invent them; all we - the people - have to do is read, learn and do. Three little action verbs have the answers.

Read, learn & do.

Next year I will start with a series of posts on reform.

Word of the Day

"Zaftig" - adjective [$100] slang
Zaftig means 1. (of a woman) having a pleasantly plump figure; 2. full bodied, well proportioned. [from Yiddish 1935-40 literally juicy, succulent]
Sentence: That great beauty of the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe, had a zaftig build that modern culture might regard as fat. That's just wrong. Men - heterosexual men - are hard wired to like curves. The modern culture of excessive thinness is learned behavior from the fashion magazines that have been dominated by gay designers, who prefer boyish figures, for decades. That culture needs to be rejected; it harms young women and causes much unhappiness and pain as people try to do the unnatural. Some fat is good.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Still Moving Snow

The Bunker is not yet cleared of snow, but after today it should be all systems normal. News flow is sloooooooooooooooow. Krypto has no trades. Mrs. B is looking for good buys in municipal bonds.

In short, I have nothing enlightening to write today, so will shut up.

Word of the Day

"Pococurante" - noun, adjective [$100] a T. S. Eliot word, from Italian; plural is "pococuranti". Also, "Pococurantism".
Pococurante means (noun) a careless, indifferent person; (adjective) caring little, indifferent, non-chalant.
Sentence: A pococurante and his money are soon parted.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lack of Memory

Most media outlets do disservice to their viewers when putting on "experts" and pundits. Why? They seem to almost never check the track record of predictions and forecasts given by those people in the past. This is particularly true for economists and bears. After the panic of 2008 and the Obama bust in early 2009, we heard endless screeds by pundits like Roubini and Meredith that the markets were going to get worse as another wave of disaster was coming. Hello? It didn't. A huge rally followed.

Similarly, a few years ago when copper prices hit $4, then dropped a lot, Gartman pontificated that we would never see $4 copper prices in our lifetimes. Uh ... copper prices are now about $4.30/lb.

When oil prices were approaching $150/barrel, pundits said it was demand, not hedge funds and pension fund buying. That was demonstrably wrong as US gasoline demand numbers at the time proved, but the bloviators kept on bloviating. And then oil collapsed as the beefers sold.

Facts do matter. And people need to use their memory to calibrate pundits and experts. They are not wizards or seers. There are many Nobel laureate economists. They use that credential to claim some authority, and get paid for giving speeches and writing popular opinion articles and to give interviews. Yet they disagree. That means the credential is either for work unrelated to their opinions OR is meaningless and no value in assessing the quality of their opinions OR BOTH. In both cases, you can recognize that it adds nothing to evaluating the correctness of their opinions.

You've got to do some thinking yourself and read. Get facts - hard facts. just listening to the blatherers and bloviators will lead to terminal ignorance. Don't be a cabbage watching only the Boobatron [aka TV] for your information. Do some work yourself and read. And use your memory to calibrate the pundits.

Word of the Day

"Torpor" - noun [$10]
Torpor means 1. a condition of mental or physical inactivity or insensitivity; 2. lethargy, apathy
Sentence: Don't let you mind wallow in torpor watching the Boobatron for hours - read !

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ice Planet

A dimensional warp occurred and I now live on the Ice Planet. Wind, very cold, snow everywhere. Very beautiful in the woods.

One foot down and about 8 hours to come. At least it's fluffy stuff. - light to lift & throw.

Now the work begins ...

First mission: clean a path for the dogs in the backyard.

No word of the day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Signs and Portents

Ancient peoples would probably say that the Lunar Eclipse last night was a sign of ... something. Good or Bad omen?


Europe is covered with snow & ice. They have shown much hubris for years, thinking their computer models can foretell the future. Is Europe being punished?

Ms. Market continues dancing on the table. Will she tire soon, or keep taking off pieces of clothing, one at a time? All good things must come to an end.

Bunkerman continue to ride that bull elephant to the next waterhole. He's often seen picking fruit off tree as he passed, putting it into storage baskets for the next tough period. You'd expect that from Bunkerman - he has a backup to his backup.

The Street wants to get back to its old antics. I saw an announcement of a new multi-billion private equity fund. Street paymasters are looking for loopholes and winks to go back to the gross pay practices of the past.

The public? Joe & Jane Public seem to want to enjoy a good Christmas.

2011 brings many, many deferred decisions closer. Confusion seems to reign - no one has a clear idea of where to lead the nation. Fragmentation and sloganeering dominate the public debate.

Somehow a vision needs to be elucidated and transmitted to the people, a vision that they will understand and accept as an END POINT for where to lead the nation. The END POINT is an eschaton - the end of all things and time - where we want the nation to BE in a decade or two.

We know where we are now. At least those who look as data and facts do know. A friend sent me a link to an illuminating, fact-filled talk by Elizabeth Warren:

I recommend it highly. The nation is troubled.
What is our desired END POINT - our national eschaton?
Simply, to be a happier people. What brings more happiness? Peace, prosperity, security, fraternity. Not for one person or a few, but in the aggregate for all. Aristotle (cf. Nichomachean Ethics) would say such aggregate happiness would arise from some optimum midpoint between two extremes. That would be the place of virtue. The extremes to avoid are destitution for some and extreme concentrations of wealth and power for some. The former people suffer with great unhappiness, while the latter embody wasted resources and diminished returns of happiness. A balanced society is the optimum.

A society with maximum freedom for the great majority, a strong safety net for the unlucky or unendowed, and a strong barrier to prevent a few from sucking all the resources of the nation to themselves, like a black hole sucks matter.

With the BEGINNING POINT known and the END POINT fixed, our mission is to find the optimum path to get there. Analogous to a Feynman Path Integral in quantum mechanics - yes, that's how Bunkerman thinks - we need to examine all paths to find the optimum. The wave functions of many will cancel out, but some will add up and show us the path to our desired END POINT.

Free Fraternalism is name (lol its most recent name) for the ideology that provides the optimum path to that happier society. With that ideology, the people can work independently, or with some leadership, to cause the nation to enter this optimum path to the desired eschaton.

Think of this a bit like the journey in Pilgrim's Progress. Many lures and dangerous places are on the journey, but with a strong belief in the principles of Free Fraternalism and a bit of help from true leaders, the people can eventually arrive at its eschaton: a freer, happier, more secure nation with ties of fraternity among its people.

Running out of time. I'll write much more on reforms needed and how to get there with Free Fraternalism.

Word of the Day

"Susurrus" - noun [$10] literary, a T. S. Eliot word
Susurrus means a sound of whospering or rustling.
Sentence: Are the winds of change making that susurrus among the people? Let's hope so.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Slurp, Slurp, Slurp

That's the sound of the CEO hogs feeding at the trough. They are back to their old antics: using the corporate treasury to prop up the value of their stock options & other executive compensation. How?

From the WSJ (Dec. 18 online): "$92 billion: How much companies spent on their own shares in the third quarter of 2010. U.S. companies are finally finding a use for some of the nearly $2 trillion in cash sitting on their balance sheets. In the three months ended September, they spent a seasonally adjusted $92 billion on share buybacks, up 71% from the previous quarter and the highest level since the beginning of 2008, according to the Federal Reserve."

That's $92 billion they are not using to do their jobs, viz. to grow the company and improve its operations. That's $92 billion spent to buy stocks at HIGH prices. In late 2008 & 2009, corporation sold billions in stock to raise money to improve their balance sheets ... at LOW prices. Did any of these CEO-CFO "brains" buy back stock at LOW prices? Nope.

They SELL LOW and BUY HIGH. They refuse to hire good people to improve operations. They (mostly) don't do R&D to create new products.

Stock buybacks don't help the investors in a company; all they do is subsidize the SELLERS - those getting out. This behavior is utterly foolish and stupid, yet the cossetted Boards of Directors approve it. Why? They are part of the same clique in the Ruling Class who think only of their own pay and perks. Use the corporate treasury to pad their compensation? Sure, why not. After all, they all do it.

Compensation policies should SUBTRACT any benefit from stock buybacks from earnings baselines for executive pay.

A reform that could help shareHOLDERS act to improve corporate governance: Mandate secret proxy votes. This would give mutual fund firms the freedom to vote their best interests without extortion threats from corporations to pull 401K business, etc.

We get lousy, corrupt corporate governance because corporate elections are conducted SOVIET style, with the corporation knowing how one votes. Ballot secrecy preserves truly free elections. Give us ballot secrecy in ALL corporate proxy elections.

And we need public pressure to "out" these CEO-CFO hogs and harshly criticize their actions. Free Fraternalism does this. The ideology and practices of Free Fraternalism can bring real change to help the common man and retain his freedom. This is true reform.

A Book Worth Reading

The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, Edited by David J. Garrow [ISBN 978-0-87049-527-4] The University of Tennessee Press: 1987], I purchased this book at the recommendation of the person running the gift shop at the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. It's a jewel - a diamond - a valuable first hand account of that singular event that propelled Civil Rights onto the national stage. Read it. Learn how a group of intelligent women organized and obtained help to run a bus boycott that led to a Supreme Court decision wiping out segregation laws. Learn how they nonviolently fought State oppression and corruption. And learn the truth behind the legends. This event is extremely poorly portrayed by the modern press.

Tea Parties: read this book. You have more power than you realize, BUT you need to adjust your practices and organize better. You need to get the common man & woman behind you by seeking true reform for ALL. Don't be a tool for the billionaire vikings. Support true reform for ALL.

Word of the Day

"Sectary" - noun [$10]
Sectary means a member of a religious or political sect.
Sentence: Tea Party sectaries need to adopt Free Fraternalism to become a majority party in the US. Modify Libertarian ideas to avoid being a tool for the billionaire vikings; Freedom works, but freedom for the dominant to enserf the common man is one freedom that must be curtailed. Free Fraternalism does that.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Improving Returns

Many people have two pockets for their retirement money: tax deferred retirement accounts like IRAs and 401Ks and savings that has already been taxed, such as bank CDs and brokerage accounts. I'll skip ROTH IRAs for now as they are a hybrid (and not relevant to the main point of this article).

How do you manage this dual nature? What investments do you put in which pocket? This is not an easy question. Today I'll address one aspect of it.

Taxes do matter; for this analysis I'll use a 28% Federal tax rate. That's the AMT rate. I will leave State income taxes out; incorporating them is rather obvious, but since state tax rates vary widely, you have to do this part yourself.

A municipal bond portfolio that yields 5% will produce $5,000 for every $100,000 invested, after Federal taxation, which is zilch for most municipal bonds. For a taxable bond portfolio, one would need a yield of almost 7% to recover the same 5% aftertax yield. How to calculate this? Take the 5% and divide it by the decimal equivalent of 100% minus the tax rate, viz. 28%, which quantity is 72% which has a decimal equivalent of 0.72: 5% / 0.72 = 6.94%, almost 7%.

[NOTE: using the widely applicable 25% Federal marginal tax rate produces a 6.67% effective rate and the point still works; if your Federal marginal tax rate is 15%, stick to taxable fixed income investments.]

Investing at 6.94% in taxable bonds would give you a LOT of risk today (those are junk bond levels), but investing in municipal bonds at 5% is rather easy and can be done with solid A and AA rated bonds of good quality.

Therefore, much of the fixed income portion your retirement fund - my Krypto Fund - should be put in the taxable pocket and be invested in municipal bonds yielding over 5%.

This strategy must be tempered a bit due to the relative illiquidity of municipal bonds. You should do this only for the stable base portion of your Krypto Fund, which is in fact what Krypto does do. This portion is the part you do not expect to need to use to re-balance.

By using municipal bonds this way, you will increase the return of your Krypto Fund a lot. You're getting effectively 7% in fixed income, not the 5% available in corporate bonds. That extra 2% is a lot. Another way to think of it is this: I target a 5% taxable withdraw rate as readily achievable over a long term in the Krypto Fun with minimal risk of every running out. Getting 7% effective taxable return on a big part of the fixed income investments provides me a 2% per annum cushion that could be reinvested as reserves for unforeseen costs or big market pullbacks like 2008-9. That's good.

By the way, the rest of the taxable pocket for your Krypto Fund should be heavily geared to stocks for which low capital gains tax rates apply. This also gives you an edge for your returns for your Krypto Fund.

Word of the Day

"Syncretism" - noun [$10]
Syncretism means 1. the combination of two different forms of belief or practice (or art); 2. the fusion of two or more original different inflectionist forms.
Sentence: Long term retirement investing practice is necessarily a syncretism of the taxable and the tax free worlds of investments. One needs to combine the two worlds optimally to obtain the highest return for desired risk levels.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Obama and the Hogs

What a disgrace!

To solve the problems of the economy, Obama decides to ask ... the CEO hog corps. That's vomitous! They are part of the problem. They grind down and fire thousands of common man & woman employees, and then pay themselves millions upon millions for doing just that.

They move plants to Mexico, China, India, etc. and then re-import the products tariff-free. The profits? They leave overseas in tax havens. And then, of course, they pay themselves more and more for gutting the US domestic economy.

They lobby for more immigrant visas, yet use their low pay to hold down wages of US engineers, etc. More students would go into engineering in college IF the pay and job security was better. Yet those very immigrant visas help make pay and job security worse. The "solution" for an engineering shortage makes the problem WORSE. Of course, it makes corporate profits and CEO pay higher.

Big corporate CEOs and the entire executive suite of these corporations are cluster hogs at the trough. They just can't get enough, yet are always doing something to grind down the common man, and lobby for more laws and ways to do it.

Obama wants their help ... huh? For what?

My guess ... for campaign contributions for 2012. And to co-opt them onto his team. Maybe to signal to them he wants what they want. More power for the Ruling Class. Heck, that big tax benefit he proposes to give them 100% deduction for new equipment is anti-worker, but helps the CEOs grab more pay.

They are all part of the problem. These "solutions" to the nation's economic problems, devised in DC and by the Ruling Class, are all subterfuges to give themselves more income & power. Don't trust any "solution" unless it has real input by persons from the outside - outside of DC and the Ruling Class.

Grrr. And of course the media sycophants cheer that passel of hogs as they devise more ways to slurp down everything.


Bought some more municipal bonds yesterday; got about 5.25% yield to maturity on some bonds offered at 92, rated AA. Good deal. We'll keep nibbling ... with patience.

Word of the Day

"Groat" - noun [$10] a T. S. Eliot word
Groat means 1. a silver coin worth four old pence; 2. (archaic) a small sum (don't care a groat).
Groats (noun, plural) means hulled or crushed grain, esp. oats.
Sentence: The meeting of Obama and the CEOs won't produce a groat of help for the common man.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More Moves and Reasoning

Yesterday I described the budding "screaming buy" market for municipal bonds. That doesn't mean any municipal bond. You have to use the best weapon you have - your mind. The human brain is man's greatest weapon and resource. It always stuns me that so many don't use it for investing. Many people spend more time analyzing the best buy for a new washing machine, but when buying a stock costing 10x as much, they ... just listen to a bloviator on TV or a big mouth at the "country club".

One should read the news and follow some of the financial commentary - they bring interesting outlooks and have some hard-to-find data on places like China. I listen, but don't obey like a trained dog. I listen and let the ideas bubble around my head and think. For example, traveling in Alabama I saw an interview by Jim Chanos, the famous short seller. About Chanos - he's, of course, a perma-bear of sorts. But he often has real facts to base stock specific thinking. Often he's early, and yes, he can be wrong. But listening to his data and facts helps.

I listened to what he had to say about the huge real estate building booms in China. Hmmm ... does "real estate boom" ring a bell? Those always blow up eventually; the one in China has gone on ... for years. Combine this with what we know about Red Chinese corruption and ... the little birdie is chirping. Watch out stocks requiring more and more growth in those areas. They've had a multi-year run. Don't be a pig.

Mrs. B's Sky Fund (a portion of The Krypto Fund manged for educational purposes by Mrs. B with my help) had bought CLF, an iron ore company, and MT, a steel company, in the summer when the beefer* boobs trashed them in a Viking raid on Euro fears. CLF now shows a 50% profit and MT shows a 25% profit. But their charts seem to indicate struggling patterns and those stocks are very, very dependent on Chinese demand for building buildings. Uh oh ... time to take some profits. Those were sold yesterday.

[*beefer = Big, Evil Fund - a financial Viking - scum of the investing world, bane for individual investors & traders, looters and piranhas in the markets].

Now consider AAPL - Apple. That stock has been a huge winner for Sky Fund, and is now a rather large position. It's up way over 100% from the dip buy of Mrs. B a while ago. My normal rule is to sell 1/2 of a stock when it's doubled. Then we have the remaining 1/2 for free. APPL has had lots of good news and I really like the company; its products are revolutionary. But ... what's next? Why take a big risk? The beefers love to raid that stock, particularly after earnings. January will be prime raiding season. And without more new products and good news, the beefers will surely bail out. Time to sell that 1/2 and get the remaining ride for free. That was done yesterday.

This money goes to cash to fund municipal bond purchases. I expect to be a steady buyer. Every morning Mrs. B and I will be looking over lists from her broker to try to buy good bonds. What's a good bond in my opinion? That's for a later blog post.

Word of the Day

"Preternatural" - adjective [$10]
Preternatural means outside the ordinary course of nature; supernatural.
Sentence: No preternatural skill or knowledge is required to be an above average investor. Just follow simple rules such as for Krypto Fund, pay attention and think. You'll be kicking beefer butts in no time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Biscuits & Gravy

That's a fine Southern or Country style meal one can get in diners & truck stops in a swath across the southern & middle parts of the US. I admit it's not my favorite breakfast choice at those places [I usually order ham & eggs with home fries], but the metaphors one can draw from it are wonderful.

Hud, the lead character in the eponymous movie, said, "Let’s us put our bread in some of that gravy while it’s still hot!"

Often I modified that to this: "Let's stick our biscuit in that gravy while it's still hot."

Today, the fitting line is, "The gravy's getting warmer, reach for the biscuits."

Meaning, yields in municipal bonds are approaching or surpassing the 5% line of demarcation for buying them.

Why 5%? Because that's about how much one can draw from well-diversified retirement funds like Krypto Fund over the long term, yet maintain the fund balance and purchasing power. If you can invest the fixed income portions of the fund at 5% aftertax, you are locking in a fine retirement return that is equivalent to around 7% pretax.

For months I've been selling stocks, real estate, TIPs, and gold+silver (ETFs and stocks), taking profits as those rose and rose. I put all that money into money market funds to WAIT. Why buy bonds at 3% - that's locking in a loser. Cash balances in Krypto Fund have risen to 15% - a lot in a category that normally should be zero. I don't make crappy long term investments just because there are no good buys out there. The maxim is, Buy LOW, sell high. If you don't wait for the "Buy Low" part, you are being stupid and/or gullible and/or foolish. You are letting your emotions rule. You are listening to some foolish "perfect markets" theorist who says timing doesn't matter. Don't listen. WAIT for good investments in fixed income.

Now my waiting and patience is being rewarded. The wait was not long, just about a year. But waiting means I don't lose 10% of my investment on the recent large falls in bonds prices. With coupons in the 3-4% range, I'd lose 2-3 years of coupons by barging in to buy overpriced bonds with the money from the "Sell High" part of the maxim. Wait. Waiting pays. Buy LOW.

Now I see municipal bond offerings daily from Mrs. B's broker. We look them over, discuss them (yes, this is part of Mrs. B's investment education) and nibble. We stick our biscuits into the warming gravy.

This buying process will likely take months. I expect municipal bonds prices to be weak, as that boondoggle Federal program to stupidly subsidize "Build America Bonds" dies at year end. That program creates huge losses for taxpayers. The buyers of those taxable bonds were mostly tax exempt institutions, yet the Federal taxpayer gave the municipalities at 35% subsidy to lower their interest cost. Almost none of the subsidy is recovered in tax payments in taxable bonds. Why? The DC Ruling Class just wanted to shovel money to the Wall Street underwriters.

Mmmmm ... warm gravy, getting warmer. I have my biscuit ready.

Word of the Day

"Perspicuous" - adjective [$10]
Perspicuous means 1. easily understood, clearly expressed; 2. (or a person) expressing things clearly.
Sentence: "Buy Low, Sell High" and "Sell High, Buy Low" are perspicuous maxims for investment success once one recognizes the actions need NOT occur at the same time. "Wait" bridges the buying and sell actions to favorable times & prices.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Back in the Saddle

After an enjoyable business trip throughout Alabama last week, I'm back and looking forward to giving the hogs a smack in their snouts. While traveling I read an article that the executive suite has their snouts in the trough, slurping down bigger and more expensive health care plans ... for themselves, of course. And paid by the company, of course. Joe & Jane Worker ... keep getting their health plans cut and their co-pays increased.

Why are the best paid and most able to afford these premium plans getting them for free? And those least able to afford them getting less and less? Simple, it's greed. The hogs in the executive suite get their pals on the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors to award them more ... and more. And then they grind down the common employee with less and less to pump up earnings.

Of course, the gold-plated health plans are tax deductible, even under the Obama plan. Not even that plan gives any semblance of fraternity or equality. It's simply a disgrace for corporate governance and for US tax policy.

Free Fraternalism would cure this with simple policy: all corporate health plans must be equal for all employees - no exceptions. Enforcement would be a 100% excise tax on any executive plans that provides better benefits for them. See how simple principles let one govern with transparency and ease. Let the highly paid spend their own money for better care.

Free Fraternalism - the Right Way.


Krypto wants me to sell some US stocks - not a lot, just part of Sell High, Buy Low. The buy part will be municipal bonds. We are now seeing good quality municipal bonds yielding over 5%. I'll be buying them steadily as available.

Also, prices for TIPs have dropped fast. Krypto sold all those at higher prices. We will re-buy them in phases when the long term TIP rises over 2% real return or the ETF gets to about 105. This re-buy will be slow as I want to average in.

Simple investing: buy low, sell high; and sell high, buy low. Remember, you can and should WAIT in cash for part #2 of each of these rules.

Word of the Day

"Kleptocracy" - noun [$10] a Big Al word.
Kleptocracy means government by those who seek chiefly status and personal gain at the expense of the governed.
Sentence: Who can doubt that the US government AND the governance of most US large corporations are kleptocracies?

Monday, December 6, 2010


I'll be traveling on business for the rest of the week, making new posts this week unlikely unless something big happens.

Deficiency at the Deficit Commission

What is the huge missing piece in the proposal of the Deficit Commission?

Leadership is making the all Federal employees bear a fair share of austerity. Including Congress. Had the commission had a majority of persons from outside the DC Ruling Class, you can be certain it would have included something like a 20% pay & benefits cut for Federal employees with the cuts concentrated at the top of the pay scale. They are grossly overpaid, having received years of inflation and step increases while the common man & woman have borne pay stagnation or cuts, and large benefit cuts.

The same applies to Federal contractors. When a company has troubles, it goes to suppliers and demands price cuts. The Federal government has huge purchasing power - why didn't the Deficit Commission propose cuts in all contractor costs?

The answer to these glaring failures is simple: the Commission was almost all DC insiders, they are part of the problem.

Create a truly independent commission - with a supermajority of persons outside of government and outside of DC (and NYC and LA and Chicago). Get people who have experience in cutting costs.

And require ALL spending cuts come before ANY tax increases. Otherwise we will simply see the same old shell game: more taxes, no spending cuts implemented.


Is anyone amazed that with almost 10% unemployment and 17% underemployment, that a Democratic President has NO plan or program to help create jobs? Barry is a complete cluster FUBAR, with no ideas or leadership. The People chose badly. Remember who touted him as the great savior, and disregard them in the future.

And More

Uh ... with all the handwringing and anguish over QE2, has anyone bothered to look at the FACT that the monetary base is LOWER than it was a year ago. That's tightening, not easing. Battleship Ben: your shells are falling short, add more powder. Accelerate the buying of those Treasury securities.


Krypto wants me to sell some gold; that sector is now overinvested due to recent gains. I'll do it via a gold stocks fund. Proceeds to cash to await better bond prices.

Word of the Day

"Irrefragable" - adjective [$10] an Eliot word (i. e., from readings of T. S. Eliot)
Irrefragable means 1. (of a statement, argument or person) unanswerable, indisputable; 2. (of rules, etc.) inviolable.
Sentence: That the Deficit Commission was poorly and fatally constructed by Barry is irrefragable as it was dominated by the Congressmen who are part of the problem.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What is to be Done?

That's the title of a famous book written by Lenin in 1902, that outlined a shift in revolutionary tactics that led to the Soviet Revolution in 1917, less that 15 years' later. This week's blogs for Monday & Tuesday listed the Good & Bad of Republicans & Democrats. Wednesday decribed the Composition of the Ruling Class. Yesterday I describe the Power Struggle that must take place. And today I provide the ideology that would win this Power Strggle with the Ruling Class.

That ideology is Fraternal Libertarianism, of course. Considering the disasters caused by applications of Libertarianism in recent decades as well as my own proofs of the inherent flaws of Libertarianism, I will rename it Free Fraternalism. Propagation and acceptance of this political economist system as the core of a political party would capture the entire vital center of the American electorate; a solid majority. The other parties would be rendered asunder and left as mere rumps of extremists. The political revolution would be similar to that which occurred before the Civil War, when the Republican party was formed from part of the old Whigs and part of the old Democrats.

Why would a party adopting Free Fraternalism rip off and collect parts of the R's and D's? That easy. Below I largely repeat the "Good" parts of the R's and D's, BUT AS BELIEFS OF FREE FRATERNALISTS.

Beliefs of Free Fraternalists

Free Fraternalists have, or at least sometimes have, an inherent distrust of increasing governmental power and raising taxes.

Fre Fraternalists tend to trust the private sector for solutions and have faith in the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith that private sector evolution will solve all problems over time with economic growth. Thus they have an inherent bias towards economic freedom, supporting free use of private property.

Free Fraternalists tend to favor conservative, slow evolution of social values and reject actions by government to impose social values on free people. Just leave us alone, they would say.

Free Fraternalists tend to favor governmental power in the context of promoting the commercial system, including money and credit.

Free Fraternaists favor a strong military and a strong US to project power over the world to promote freedom; they distrust treaties and both rightwing and leftwing dictators and Communists.

Free Fraternalists oppose using governmental power to increase power of labor unions. For example, they support the current secret union ballot requirement over "card check", which would permit union goons to extort public 'yes' votes from individuals.

Free Fraternalists think much of governmental bureaucracy is a colossal waste of money and creates massive "red tape" that hampers economic development.

Free Fraternalists believe the US is a force of good in the world.

Free Fraternalists have some true empathy for poor and marginalized persons and correctly recognize that much of this is simply bad luck. Luck has huge effects on how jobs, small business and careers turn out.

Free Fraternalists want to even out this inherent volatility of life in the US; to do "something" to more equalize "happiness" across people.

Free Fraternalists are street fighters - they believe strongly that their "party" is correct and will do almost anything to win.

Free Fraternalists want those who are receiving the most benefits of life in the US to pay a larger share of the cost of supporting the US.

More of Free Fraternalism

The core ideology of Free Fraternalism is fraternalism: the top of the wealth distribution helps the bottom. Not equality - simply some help. And this mandate of aid also serves to cap the power of the top, and prevents them from becoming a ruling aristocracy. The two boundary limits provide stability: formation of an oppressed class of the poor is prevented as is the formation of a aristocracy. The great center core of the population of the common men and women is completely free.

One can visualize this as a trimmed mean: professionals and students in statistics know that an average calculated by dropping the top & bottom of the distribution's sample gives a more robust, stable estimate of the mean.

Free Fraternalism gives complete freedom to the huge bulk of the people with boundaries. The top and the bottom of the wealth distributions have boundaries. Not hard walls, but soft walls - cushions: Some wealth of the top is used to help the bottom.

How much wealth of the top 20% would be needed to raise the wealth of the bottom 20% to just the 20 percentile level? Frankly, I'd guess not much. Probably a lot less than current governmental transfer payments. Certainly not enough to come near leveling the top 20% back to the 80th percentile.

That huge center 60% of the people would gain a huge amount of freedom; the unfortunate and unlucky would have a solid safety net; the wealthy could live without worries over eventual confiscation of all their wealth. The great center would live without fear that some bad luck would lead to destitution. Aggregate human happiness would tremendously increase.

Yes, Free Fraternalism is the key for winning the Power struggle with the Ruling Class.

Let's all become Free Fraternalists.

[For more on the theory of Free Fraternalism, aka Fraternal Libertarianism, see my blog posts of April 9, 2010 and January 29, 2010]

Word of the Day

"Tropological" - adjective [$10] from Tropology - noun [$10]
Tropology means the figurative use of words; 2. figurative interpretation esp. of scriptures.
Sentence: View From The Bunker makes frequent use of tropology, particularly in its pejorative names and descriptions of people in the Ruling Class. They sure act like Hogs at the Trough.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Power Struggle

The Ruling Class was dissected in this blog yesterday - who it is and what it does and how it got its power over a few decades. In summary, the Ruling Class in America is a synthesis of wealthy people who seek power and educated people who seek power. They use that power to control government to move it in directions that increase their incomes and power. They hide their actions under a blanket of mind-numbing complexity in laws and regulations and procedures.

The major communication media are willing partners. Their parasitical coexistence with government gives them special access to "news" and broadcast spectrum; in turn they serve as the propaganda bullhorn for the Ruling Class. Why else would Davos get the nonstop coverage that it does?

The people's struggle now - as many, many seem to recognize now that we've lost control over our own government - is how to vanquish the Ruling Class and get power back to the people.

"Tea party" groups are a start, but they need to recognize that many are being manipulated and partly controlled by billionaires in the Ruling Class who want new rules to permit them to increase their wealth & power.

Elections are crucial. Winning primary and general elections with honest candidates having the backbone - courage - to stand up to the Ruling Class in DC and the State governments and to say NO! NO MORE! Many governmental procedures require consents (implicit or otherwise) of many groups. Getting right thinkers' into power and their noncooperation will gum up the works - throw sand in the gears. They can force the Ruling Class to begin to negotiate and back down. Once the Ruling Class is stopped, the rollback can begin.

Incremental success is crucial. Once some success occurs, more and more people will likely recognize that they can take back their government and then join the movement. The movement needs to by-pass traditional media, but not ignore them. Blogs, web pages, social networking, small meetings and major rallies can work better IF used to pressure traditional media to get onto the bandwagon,. Their own profit motive will help that process.

The people need to elect a few honest people to government at all levels. Then they need to be strident and serve the people. Oppose ALL the devices of the Ruling Class to keep and get more power and income. Expose their sleaze. Call their press sycophants what they are: tools of the Ruling Class. That hurts them; they need an aura of credibility to sell ads and get viewers & subscribers. Fight and don't give up. Don't compromise. Demand what's Right!

This is really a 21st century class struggle (Common Man vs. Ruling Class), but I'm not going to use that term, as many, many people in the US have a negative reaction to that name. Fine. Why be dogmatic? Power Struggle is perfectly good name, too, and is more specific, too.

The movement needs an ideology for unity. An ideology lets people act in concert without direct coordination and cooperation. The ideology acts as a virtual bond between disparate people across the nation: it's like a long range force that permits a correlation of actions of otherwise independent people.

What is that ideology to be?

Long term readers can guess, but I will write about it tomorrow.

Word of the Day

"Trope" - noun [$10]
Trope means a figurative (e. g. metaphorical or ironical) usage of a word.
Sentence: Bunkerman's favorite trope is "hog"; it metaphorically fits the Ruling Class, all those overpaid CEOs and Wall Street leeches. Just imagine a passel of hogs slurping down they can get at the trough, jostling with each other, oinking away in delight and eating everything in sight. It fits perfectly.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Composition of the Ruling Class

For quite some time I've defined the Ruling Class as the Rich & Powerful. Those are necessary conditions, but those criteria just tell us what people in the Ruling Class have .. not who they are. Human populations are distributions over many, many attributes: size, weight, the many dimensions of intelligence, capacity for love, and for ruthlessness, among hundreds or more. Not everyone who is Rich is in the Ruling Class. Perhaps even most are not. And what do we mean by "Rich"? Having lots of money? Nope, illiquid property could qualify. Or perhaps lots of "capital"? That's better AND it would include human capital - the value of one's education and technical skills. Lots of people in DC are not rich in money terms, but have lots of human capital AND have great power ... and they like using it.

That's a key criteria - willingness to use the money or power ... to tell everyone else how to live and to increase their own wealth & power. Let's call that attribute Ruthlessness.

Many people who are "Rich" live quiet lives, helping people in tough situations, helping communities, helping their children, helping nourish art & science, etc. And they don't even want their names emblazoned everywhere like some god or have their butts kissed regularly in some black-tie gala.

And many people with great human capital are not devoted to getting more money income. Some simply want to have "enough" and then spend their lives proving theorems or writing books or whatever. Getting a book award or a medal is plenty ... some simple recognition that their efforts are appreciated.

Others .. want to use that capital (money OR human capital) to tell common man how to live ... or to become a new Duke or Baron over the common man .,. or to be seen as the enlighten Prince with many courtiers asking a "by your leave" for permission for ... almost anything.

The New Ruling Class

WW I and WW II completely re-ordered world power bases, wiping out the old aristocracies, and the scientific, media and computer revolution have hugely increased the ability of government to ... govern. A Ruthless component of highly educated people saw Government as a means to increase the income on their human capital. And in government they would have a power base to protect themselves from outside forces. These people, with the connivance of Ruthless wealthy persons, have slowly taken over the US Government since the 1960s.

One can see it in the steady growth in the bureaucracy ... the increasing number of super-grade governmental executives ... the pay and benefits for these people ... and the power they command. Universities are addicted to Federal grants and many, many professors are part of the hive, too. They need grants to fund their research and will lend their human capital to help to increase governmental power. Is their any wonder why "studies" always find a need for a new program or policy, or support an existing policy?

Big Corporations are a fertile feeding ground for the educated to get better income on their human capital. As are law firms. And then the Ruthless among them want more .. and more. The pay is excellent and they they are invited to sit on councils and committees. And go to Davos. And influence their like-minded colleagues in government to send more of the people's money to their corporations and law firms. Why do you think that all stimulus money for large projects require lots and lots of studies done by consultants? That's how they pay off their brethren in the Ruling Class.

Think tanks in DC are part of the Ruling Class, too. The Rich fund these to lobby and generate polices that they want to impose on the people. The Think Tanks hire lots of highly educated people who want to be well-paid to create these policies ... to impose on the people. The same is true of the huge Foundations funded by the Rich.

Lobbying groups also create lots of highly paid jobs for the ruthless educated persons: the education lobby, the various corporate lobbies, the many other policy lobbies - all create jobs and power for the

The Ruthless among the educated persons are a critical part of the Ruling Class. Without them, the Ruling Class would be unable to .. Rule. The educated component also connive to make government incredibly complex - so complex that outsiders can't understand what's going on. That complexity is like a castle wall - a huge barrier to entry to protect the monopoly on governmental power for the Ruling Class.

People need to recognize this group ... they are also hogs at the trough. The new health care law has 2,000 pages for a reason: the Ruthless educated persons wrote it that way so they will have power over everyone. This is why tax laws are thousands of pages, why education rules consume volumes, why government contract bidding rules are voluminous, etc.

What about so-called independent commissions or independent studies? Look at the composition, who is doing the bulk of the work? Is a majority of the people truly independent of government - true outsiders? If not, distrust them. Just say No. Truly independent outsiders can give good advice and find answers. Ruling Class drones will not.

Two prime examples: (1) the Deficit Commission - almost all Congressman with absolutely no sources of independent information or thinking, and (2) the world climate commission (aka IPCC) - all members are addicted to governments grants or are Foundation trolls or are actually governmental representatives. Of course they "get the right answer" and try to censor dissent.

The people need to eject and dissolve all these chains on their lives; tear down these castles of the Barons of the Ruling Class. A friend of mine sees all that has changed in the US since the 1960s and wonders: Has there has been a Coup? If one looks at the beginning and the end, it would look like a coup has occurred. My conclusion is that we have experienced slow power struggle - the new Ruling Class, created by merging Rich & Powerful with the Ruthless educated persons, has taken power in the US. They now try to rule over the common man & woman and take more and more control and wealth from them.

A quote from poem, Four Quartets: The Dry Salvages, by T. S. Eliot fits: "We've had the experience, but missed the meaning." These changes have happened slowly for decades; we've noticed the changes but the meaning has been obscure until the cumulative change was very large over our lifetime. We all remember the freedom we once had .. and how prosperous the US once was. Let's recognize NOW what's happened and start changing the US now to become the great place it once was.

Tomorrow & Friday: How to do it.

Word of the Day

None today - out of time.