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Investment advice for Ron Paul

December 30, 2011 Comments off

Rocky never provides investment advice. But for once he’ll violate this  rule and offer some advice to Congressman Ron Paul.

Members of Congress must file financial disclosure forms which show all of their assets and investments. Rocky studied Rep. Paul’s portfolio from 2003 to the present. http://www.legistorm.com/memberdisclosure/413/Rep_Ron_Paul_TX.html

Ron Paul’s portfolio violates every principle of sound money management. It is not prudent. It is not sensible. It is volatile. It is speculative. And it may give a window into Ron Paul’s perspective on the economy and free enterprise.

From 2003 to the present, Ron Paul’s stock portfolio owned only gold stocks. He owned some real estate. He had some cash. And he owned mutual funds that make money ONLY WHEN the stock market declines. He did not own any gold bullion. And more recently, he purchased more gold mining stocks and added to his bearish bets on the stock market using leveraged bearish funds.

In 2003, the value of his portfolio was between $860,000 and $2,300,00. (The disclosure form only provides a range of  values.)  In 2010, his portfolio grew to $2.4 million and $5.5 million.  (Gold stocks have declined between 15% and 30% in 2011, so his portfolio has declined commensurately. He will declare that loss next year.)

So, over an an 8-year period his portfolio has appreciated by about 12%/year. (And after this year’s losses for gold mining stocks, it will be a bit less than that.)

Not so bad, eh?

Nope!

If, instead of being such a wiseguy, he had instead just purchased gold bullion, his return would have been 55% better — returning an impressive 18.5% per year!  (It’s very strange that Ron Paul doesn’t own any bullion. And a skeptic might wonder whether he owns bullion, but failed to disclose it.)

[Disclosure: If one extrapolates the profile of his portfolio, one must conclude that he either nailed the bottom of the gold market, or he has really lousy long term performance. Remember that (even after this 10 year old rally) gold has appreciated at only about 5% for the past 30 years, while stocks have returned about 11%, and long bonds have returned high single digits. More troubling, however, is the notion that a  President of the United States would personally profit from a DECLINING stock market and a declining economy! Even Barack Obama’s assets include some S&P Index Funds….]

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How to prepare for financial armageddon? (Bring your own socks)

September 20, 2011 1 comment

In light of the ongoing European financial crisis, Rocky is pleased to learn that the European Central Bank now provides visitors to their headquarters with a “hard hat” at no cost! However, they do ask visitors to  “wear socks.”

No mention is made whether visitors must empty their pockets of spare change upon entering.

For a full text of the ECB’s dress code, see “What to wear” at:

http://www.ecb.int/ecb/visits/how/nep/html/index.en.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Hasselhoff, Baywatch & California finances

May 16, 2011 2 comments

A recent article in the Orange County Register reminded Rocky of the glory days from  Baywatch , (the most-watched TV show of all time.)

The newspaper article explained that being a REAL lifeguard may be a better gig than being a TV lifeguard!

From the newspaper story: “According to a city report on lifeguard pay for the calendar year 2010, of the 14 full-time lifeguards, 13 collected more than $120,000 in total compensation; one lifeguard collected $98,160.65. More than half the lifeguards collected more than $150,000 for 2010 with the two highest-paid collecting $211,451 and $203,481 in total compensation respectively. Even excluding benefits like health care and pension, more than half the lifeguards receive a total salary, including overtime pay, exceeding $100,000. And they also receive an annual allowance of $400 for “Sun Protection.” Many work four days a week, 10 hours a day.

The article continues: “On face, the compensation packages for these guards are staggering. But take into consideration the retirement benefits being paid to currently retired lifeguards and lifeguards who will retire at these pay levels in the future and the problem is further compounded. Lifeguards are able to retire with 90 percent of their salary, after only 30 years of work at as early as the age of 50.”

The entire story can be found here: http://orangepunch.ocregister.com/2011/05/10/lifeguarding-in-oc-is-totally-lucrative-some-make-over-200k/44783/

[Disclosure: Although Orange County generously provides a $400 “sun protection” allowance, Rocky notes that they do not yet provide a plastic surgery allowance. Pamela Anderson wannabes should take note…]

Calculator batteries & tax returns

March 22, 2011 1 comment

IRS data show an epidemic of  “math errors” on personal income tax returns. 

During calendar year 2007  the IRS  counted “only” 3,885,505 mistakes. Yet in calendar year 2010, they counted 10,554,735.  That’s a shocking 272% increase in arithmetic mistakes. The full IRS data set can be found here: http://www.irs.gov/taxstats/article/0,,id=207345,00.html

The IRS says math errors “include a variety of conditions such as computational errors, incorrectly transcribed values, and omitted entries identified during the processing of returns.”

Rocky wonders whether the epidemic of errors is due to the widely reported declining math skills of Americans. (“One-quarter of students at undergraduate and graduate levels believe that 1 divided by 5 = 5.”) Or perhaps it’s due to the increasing use of Turbotax (thanks to Treasury Secretary Geithner.)

[Disclosure: Rocky always changes his calculator batteries before starting his tax return, and highly recommends this practice for other law-abiding citizens. The IRS data did not disclose how many of the math mistakes identified were in favor of the government!]

Reduce the deficit: sell the White House

January 12, 2011 Comments off

Zillow.Com is a nice website that “values” properties across the country. But sometimes Zillow gets a little too cheeky.

Their “zestimate”  for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is $251,617,000. For only a monthly mortgage of $1,036,276, you can enjoy 16 bedrooms and 35 baths in this 55,000 sq. foot mansion. (Built 1752).  See: http://www.zillow.com/homes/1600-pennsylvania-avenue-washington_rb/

Zillow says the White House market value declined  25 % since the peak of the housing boom. Hence Rocky believes  it’s a great time for value-oriented condo-developers to swoop in. (“Great views, working fireplaces, bullet-proof windows, great yard for the kids and dogs….)

[Disclosure: Rocky continues to shop for a nice vacation home, but he hates DC’s muggy summer weather.]

The pet insurance crisis

February 17, 2010 3 comments

While the rest of the nation watched Sadie, a Scottish Terrier, win Best of Show at last night’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Rocky lamented the growing population of uninsured pets.

“How can such a wealthy nation turn its back on underprivileged pets?” asked Rocky, as he swerved his car to avoid an unwanted, discarded furry stuffed bear on the shoulder of his local highway. “It’s a national disgrace.”

The Times of London recently featured some harrowing tales of pet health insurance claims. The full story is here: http://timesbusiness.typepad.com/money_weblog/2010/02/the-10-most-bizarre-pet-insurance-claims.html

These animals were the lucky ones because they live in a country with socialized medicine. The uninsured American pets never made the headlines — instead they seek medical care in dark alleys and makeshift clinics, staffed by unscrupulous get-rich-quick quacks. Or they just suffer in silence.

From the Times of London:

1. Alfie, a greedy chocolate Labrador, ate a wooden spoon while his owner was baking cakes. Having mixed the batter, the owner noticed that the mixing spoon was missing and saw that Alfie was showing signs of discomfort (and apparent guilt). He took the distressed mutt to the vet, who located the spoon in pieces in an x-ray and later operated to remove it.

2. A cat required an operation after swallowing a set of five rubber witch’s fingers. The costume fingers, which were part of a little girl’s Halloween get-up, had to be surgically removed.

3. A claim was received for medical treatment for a staffie called Busta who ate a rubber duck. The dog had been playing with its owners’ children when he swallowed the squeaky bath toy, which showed up clearly on the x-ray (pictured above).

4. In another case of a dog’s eyes being bigger than its stomach, a bulldog ate most of a wooden chair. When his owners came home, they found what was left of the chair in splinters, and the dog pining for a trip to the vet.

5. A Jack Russell terrier was playing with children in the garden and bit off more than he could chew when he swallowed a rubber chew toy. It was removed – and he bounced back.

6. An English springer spaniel got very unlucky when he impaled himself on the stick he was carrying. The dog was playing fetch in a local park, stumbled and dropped the stick, which caught his neck and punctured his throat. He was rushed into emergency surgery and made a complete recovery.

7. A hungry Labrador retriever was out with its owner on a fishing trip when he took the bait – and swallowed a fish hook.

8. A curious mongrel ate a whole pack of ibuprofen, causing a headache for his owner, who rushed him to the vet for treatment. The dog was put on a drip and kept under observation (reducing a potentially inflammatory situation).

9. A female Schnauzer was operated on after eating several sanitary pads.

10. A male Vallhund – a breed favoured by the Vikings – received treatment after being bitten on the lip by a rat.

Are you now, or have you ever been?

February 11, 2010 13 comments

The other night at dinner, the discussion turned to inter-racial marriage. A relative at the table made a comment directed at Rocky’s daughter — and Rocky (perhaps impolitely) asked the guest to refrain from making such comments in his house, at his table, to his daughter. (Rocky respects everyone’s right to an opinion, however, there are also boundaries on indoctrination of one’s children, and the guest’s comment stepped over Rocky’s line.)

Rocky’s exact words were, “I find your comment extremely offensive. Can we please not discuss this.”

Needless to say, a heated argument unfolded, where the guest claimed that Rocky was not “listening” to the guest’s “entirely reasonable” exact words. Whereas, Rocky claimed that the guest was oblivious to the unspoken meaning of the words, and in any event it was disrespectful to lecture his daughter after Rocky expressed discomfort with the subject.

As the temperatures rose, the guest’s wife, suddenly blurted out, “Rocky, you know what you are? You’re a … [dramatic pause] … a DEMOCRAT!”

In the interests of full disclosure, Rocky is not now, nor has he ever been a member of the Democratic Party. Yet — that the word “Democrat” would be hurled as an insult towards Rocky speaks volumes about the current political climate, and even more about his guests’ respect for those who hold different opinions.

[Disclosure: Later that night, as Rocky tucked his daughter into bed, his daughter asked, “Daddy, are you really a Democrat?” Rocky’s answer, “No, child. But I also know that neither you nor I need lectures about personal matters. If I want a lecture about the ‘right’ answers to life’s questions, I can always visit the blogosphere.”]