Thursday, February 26, 2009

Money in Checking Accounts

Think there is a problem? This is the 5 year chart showing money held in demand deposit accounts. It's obvious where the financial crisis started, and rather stunning just how elevated it is months later. This is not the sign of a healthy financial system.

Upcoming NBA Games

For the remainder of the season, I intend to see 4 NBA games in Indy. I work about 5 blocks from the Conseco Fieldhouse, and with 7pm start times, I can work late and just walk over. This will be easy as the weather warms up. I'll see the Pacers player the Blazers, Heat, Spurs and Cavs. Obviously, I am holding out for quality teams and marquee names.

Here's part of why the NBA is hurting. I'm going to buy nosebleed seats for the cheap ticket price, and at halftime, walk down to the lower level and snag some good seats since attendance is so low now. For $10, I'll get a great view for half of the game. The last game had official attendance of 13K. That's like those online ads that say Derek Jeter's IQ is 140. I'd put that at 9K in reality... if they are lucky. Someone is going to do a weird promotion soon to put asses in the seats because they'll figure out that a free seat will get more concession and merchandise sales than a family of 4 paying $40-80 for 4 nosebleed seats.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stimulus, Bailouts, Backbones and Hysteria

Inspiration can come in many forms. Sometimes it is disgust with leaders that moves a person not just to shake their head but also their fist. Sometimes it is a discovery of someone courageous enough to create a random website. Sometiems it's taking caffeine pills. Sometimes it is listening to "Con Te Partiro" over and over again.

On this blog, I have repeatedly described myself as a libertarian hawk. I love my country and believe it was founded by folks trying to carve out a place of their own where they were free to worship and maybe, just maybe have a better chance at life than peasant chess pieces to land barons and Kings in the Old World. After spending time outside of my country, I came to learn that while I have problems with certain aspects of America, I know I am blessed to live here. Much of what I believe we should be doing now in the face of the tough economic situation is in a belief that these zombie banks, home occupiers with no equity, and crony capitalists in power should be allowed to go down in flames so new players can emerge.

The US needs to find a way to honestly break down what big banks are financially stable, what banks are zombies and what banks need help but are wobbly. Once we find out what big banks are zombies, we sell off their good assets to smaller players in chunks, and the bad assets go down the rabbit hole of a resolution trust the sequel (our S&L crisis solution). Some banks have to disappear. I'm looking at you Citi. There are some healthy banks out there that never touched CDS, RMBS, MBS, and the alphabet soup of crap assets. Right now, there are plenty of big investors who have money earning 0-3%, who would buy some troubled assets for pennies on the dollar if they yield over double digits and can be triaged and rehabbed. This is like credit card companies selling off bad debt to those debt collection companies, except this involves oil producing Arabs buying bad debt with their hoards of US T-bills. After this si all said and done, we must have an anti-trust bloodhound who will never let a bank get too big to fail. Show some backbone and say f-you to the bankers, citizens of Washington. It's your chance to show some change in behavior.

Speaking of Washington, the stimulus bill, when St. Barry first discussed it last November, was an infrastructure bill which would put people to work fixing America. It is now just a 800 billion bar tab for Democrats to shovel money to their voters.
First, $100 billion as tax credits to people who don't pay taxes. Uhhhhh, what the heck? This is just taking wealth from future Americans and giving it to people who don't make money now (the economically challenged). Anyone can get a job right now; it's just not the job you want, and it pays shit. That's a recession.
$20 bil in food stamps. More welfare. This stimulates nothing but the local 7-11.
2.8 bil in expanding broadband in rural areas (another 2.8 bil in more broadband expansion). Come on, this is a joke, expand dental care in rural areas 1st, broadband 2nd.
Dept of Health and Human Services gets 20 bil. probably for condom demonstrations and planned parenthood baby killing, sorry, it's not a baby until the moment in a TV show when a successful white woman decides to keep it by saying "No, I'm keeping my baby".
$70 bil in education spending. People, let's get one thing straight, we can spend all of the money we wnt on education, but it is not going to make people smarter. We spend far more than those pesky Indians and Chinese yet we fret wehn test scores are not even with their scores. Maybe it's the way we teach, maybe it's our kids, maybe it's how we do not demand kids to learn like we used to. Let me add that the diploma mills across the nation are just a racket perpetuated by industries in regions that require a bachelor's degree for a job. Did you know investment bankers used to be from either the Ivy League or the mailroom? Yeah, something changed in the 80s.
$11 bil to housing assistance programs. This is a joke right? This is after all of our other housing assitance programs proved to be a bad enabler of the housing bubble.
$5.1 bil to community development grants for states and cities. Good to see ACORN get paid off.
$79 bil for state budget and education needs. Wait, more education spending??????? If states have a hard time with meeting budgets, they need to either cut spending or increase taxes. One or the other.
$90 bil on federal medical assistance and $20 bil in incentives for medicaid/medicare providers to use technology to save money. So the cost of paper files makes my MD visits and procedures so expensive? It's not that they save my life or improve my health? Hmmm, I guess I should not be surprised that my grandfathers are 85 and 86 (far older than their dads lived to) since now we have technology for their health care, not say innovation in surgery and drugs.

I don't see much in the way of infrastructure money (there is some) that will put people recently laid off back to work doing something like what FDR tried and failed to do in the 30s. I do add up 400 bil in dumb ass non-stimulating bits of pork. Way to go St. Barry!

Obama's bailout of degenerate 0% down homeowner/gamblers gets a good quick response by an articulate guy here. My objections are few but pointed....

1. What about the 1/3 of America that rents and has been priced out of homes because they didn't get up to their eyeballs in debt or lie? When do we get help with rent?
2. What about the 27% of America that has homes paid in full? Real homeowners.
3. What about homeowners current on their mortgages?
4. Why are we going to make Americans slaves to "their" homes? This ties people more to homes that the banks own, leaving our economy inflexible as workrs are not as economic mobile as they would be renting. This is just a way to stabilize the banks revenue streams.
5. Why is every single homeowner with an ARM portrayed as somoene who had no clue their payment would increase after 2-3-5 years? Not all are like that. In fact many use ARMs to keep payments down as they hope their home appreciates and they can refinance or they sell before the rate jumps.
6. Last I knew, ARMs were resetting to low low rates because LIBOR and Treasury rates were very very low. ARMS have not been the problem they were expected to be because of the tie to LIBOR or T-bill rates. It's negative amortization ARMS that are the problem.
7. What about cleaning out the bad homeowners so thatthe hoems can sell at a cheaper price to people who can afford them? This keeps homes occupied.
8. Since when did losing your home make you homeless? You just become a renter......

so let me repeat, why are we bailing out people who went the neg am route because they wanted to pay as little as possible for a big house they couldnt really afford in the hopes that the home would appreciate a lot and they could sell for a profit?

Do you remember when we were running out of OIL, WATER, RICE, CORN, WHEAT, URANIUM, and evey other commodity? Wasn't that just 12 months ago? Like the media calling for the exhaustion of all resources, I am skeptical of them calling this the great depression 2.0. That would be a slap in the face to all of the elderly who survived the Great Depression. Especially if those elderly people enjoyed world class health care and lived long enough to still be looking for work at 81. Life is a bitch.

Fixing the NBA

The NBA has an amazing amount of top talent in the league at or near their primes at this moment. Some regular season games feel like playoff games with their level of play and intensity. Sadly, this does not translate to TV viewers or butts in seats. The celebrated Celtics-Lakers finals in 2008 did not even match the ratings of the Kobe-Shaq years when LA would take on chump teams. The year before, Lebron James' first Finals did not yield big ratings. Nope, he's not MJ. Then again, MJ killed the league by making it so much about one person that the rest of the NBA suffered. Ticket sales are down, and teams are in trouble. The league faces huge changes if it wishes to remain in business. As a fan of the glory years, I have a few suggestions to help the league.

Fan Friendly Moves

Children under 9 are free. Yeah they'll lose some seats, but with most games starting at night, it's not like they'll lose a lot of revenue. In the end if kids can get in free, some parents might go just for themselves and drag junior along and with a free seat maybe buy some food and soda. For the TV problem, in the playoffs, two games of every match up have to be scheduled for the daytime-afternoon, including the NBA Finals. No Finals game tips off after 8:10 pm. You know why so many 20-somethings remember Magic's baby hook shot in 1987? Because the game was in the afternoon. I still rmember the moment Magic hit that shot, and I was 7. All star game becomes US vs. the World and is moved back to an afternoon time. This is more of a marketing gimmick. Who cares about rhe All Star game? No one. Make it US vs. the World and people might see if we can take on the World's best 12 players. The great thing is that now there are at least 12 great foreign guys in the NBA.

League Structure
The NBA contracts 4 teams to start: charlotte, atlanta, memphis and the clippers. Move New Orleans to Seattle and make them the Sonics v. 2.0. Suddenly every team gets to pick up 1 player. Yeah, 48 guys are available but only 26 get picked. this elminates the 5 worst guys off those teams and by the addition of those 26 guys, knocks off another guy from each team. Suddenly every team gets to pick up 1 player. Yeah, 48 guys are available but only 26 get picked. This elminates the 5 worst guys off eliminated teams and by the addition of those 26 guys, knocks off another guy from each team. Maybe some guys get signed as FAs to other teams. Raise the league minimum age to 20 for US and foreign players. No more draft picks that sit the bench for two-2 years not helping the team that drafted them and then they sign elsewhere and make an impact (see T-mac and Jermaine O'Neal). Teams would have solid 8 man rotations instead of playing Russian Roulette with their subs.

Salary - Revenue Sharing
Hard salary cap. League minimum budget as well. No more max contract BS. Change the salary structure to 3 and 4 year deals. Contracts are guaranteed only 60% or so. Yes this is a takeaway to lazy ass players that sign big deals and slack off. On the other hand, it's a boon for hardworking players who continuously improve. They can earn more and more as they improve. Role players and slack ass jerks will not kill teams cap figures and will give greater flexibility to teams one guy away.

Quality of play would be better since contracts are only guaranteed for 60% or if the last year can be nullified by the team, benches would be deeper, Seattle has a team back in their good arena with fans happy to have a team back, and you remove the awful fan bases of memphis, atlanta charlotte & the non-Laker LA fans. You could move this to 5 teams and throw in Sacramento or NJ (I'd prefer NJ be eliminated). People will watch more with daytime playoff games and night games that start at 8pm. People will come back with their kids if the kids come free.

Post Coming

Between fuming with Wall St, flipping off Obama for not changing anything except more handouts, marvelling at my 42 inch HDTV, playing my Nintendo Wii and PS2, and enjoying time with my wife, I have not had time to blog, sorry all 3 readers.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Super Bowl 43

After digesting this Super Bowl for a week, I feel like I understand how it all happened. I work with an office located in Pittsburgh. It made for a quiet day that day as my phone was not ringing at all the day of the parade, and even Monday morning was quiet. I had to watch more game clips, listen to the post-game interviews and then come to some conclusions.

1. This wasn't the best ever, and it wasn't a snooze fest for 3 quarters like some jackasses are proclaiming. The first half was very good, ending with the best defensive play in a SB ever. The 3rd quarter was a snoozer as both defenses adjusted better than the offenses. The 4th was a 4th to remember similar to last year. All around an entertaining game that had me placing my hands on my head for almost the entire 4th quarter.

2. Ben Roethlisberger is the reason the Steelers won. The defense was suprisingly porous, the O-line was terrible, the running game non-existent, and most of his WRs useless. His drive was an Elway-Montana style drive ending in a TD (not this Brady pussy FG stuff). This is legendary play and erases the memories of his stinkbomb in SB 40. I love the description of Big Ben as a "mobile Bledsoe". So fitting and so true. He still has some upside despite already having 2 rings and a crazy adjusted yards per attempt average.

3. Santonio Holmes played the way a first round pick is suppose to play in a big game. He made great catches and had great field awareness. This is why you draft a guy high. The blazing speed and agility is a big part of it, but you're hoping that playing at a big football program in bowl games has helped make him cool under pressure in big games.

4. Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner were breathtaking to watch. They have this great connection, and Warner tosses the fade up to Fitzy so well. It's automatic now, and I am confused as to why teams don't double Fitzy inside the 5 (or anywhere). Fitzgerald had the best defense in the NFL gameplanning to stop him and he still showed up in the 2nd half. He manages to go up, get to the ball at its highest point, and then keep his hands on it after contact with defenders or the ground. It's reminiscent of a young Randy Moss, except he is much more physical than Moss ever was.

5. The Steelers went to a relaxed D in the 4th and it nearly blew the game. They backed off, played 2 deep safeties, and watched as Warner carved them up. Dumb dumb dumb. Tomlin better thank Big Ben and Santonio non-stop. They won that game, not him and Dick Lebeau's D schemes.

6. Kurt Warner now has the 3 highest totals for passing yardage in a SB. He's 1-2, with 1 win by a yard and 2 losses that are complete ball kickers. We could easily be talking about a guy 0-3 or 3-0 in SBs. It shows just how slight the margin of victory is.

7. Harrison's INT return was interesting because no one thought to just knock him out of bounds. Why not just push him out? It was a play where anticipation built as he rumbled down the field. Great finish, and yes he was in.

8. John Madden and Al Michaels did a great job. Madden was great at showing how the Pitts o-line was terrible and missing blocks, great at explaining how the Steelers were giving up the middle of the field, and tough on Harrison when he needlessly knocked over that Cardinal for the personal foul. Michaels was excited at the right times (unlike gus johnson), and had some very good lines. His entire call of the Harrison return was perfect for capturing the moment. The shock of the INT, the slow start, the convoy of blockers, and then the crash landing in the end zone.

9. Anquan Boldin was pretty quiet with his 8 catches. A lot of underneath stuff. One big rumbling catch. If he is unhappy he is only paid 4 mil a year, then he will be elsewhere. This is a by product of him being selected in the 2nd round while Larry Fitzgerald was the number 3 overall pick. Those slots determined their extension numbers.

10. The NFL could not have asked for a great cap to a wild season. The NFL has had some exciting games since the Rams vs. Titans match up. Let's hope this continues. Back and forth games with intense 4th quarters make for fun watching if you do not have a team in the SB. Crappy games just leave us hoping for funny commercials.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Super Bowl XIII: Steelvers vs. Cowboys, January of 1979

Super Bowls rarely have wonderful storylines on both sides of the face off. Last season saw the remarkable run of the Patriots come to an end in the Super Bowl. The Giants were a widlc ard team that got hot. Two years ago, it was Peyton Manning's first Super Bowl, and the Bears were just happy to be there. Thirty years ago, the storylines on both sides of the ball were amazing as America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys, rumbled with the Pittsburgh Steelers with their Terrible Towels and Steel Curtain defense. Both teams had marvelous seasons. Both teams were top 5 in defense and offense. Both team sported many all pros and future hall of famers. These teams had meant a few years back in the Super Bowl and played a hard fought game. This matchup would pit two QBs who would retire with a combined 6 Super Bowl rings between them. Even though there was all of 1979 to be played, this was the game for the decade. Whomever won this would be considered the team of the 1970s. NFL Network has aired several SBs this week, spotlighting famous games. This is a review of that game in all its glory.

Before I get into specifics, here are some general observations. The kickers stink. Pitts' kicker was 12/26 during the season. All players look small, and the run game seems less about power than it does about skill in blocking (pulling, trapping, etc). This might be because linemen look more like tall broad guys than 300 lb oafs. It's funny to hear Tony Dungy as a back up in Pittsburgh's secondary. Bradshaw and Staubach are both mobile, both evade the rush and both throw on the run well. Both look smaller than prototypical QBs of today. Only 30 years have passed, and the game looks extremely different. Like every Super Bowl with the Steelers, the Steelers fans are very very loud.

Dallas has the first drive, and young Tony Dorsett looks good. He has great foot speed, good cut moves, and sets up his blocks well. Dallas uses a lot of pre-snap motion, uses the pro set often, and sends plays in from Landry using guards. Yes, they changed a guard every play. They kill a methodical drive of runs trying to use a trick reverse play. Dumb. This is too cute for the SB. Pittsburgh gets the ball and Franco Harris si the opposite of Dorsett, slow, not a quick runner or cutter. Both teams use lots of pro set and FB runs. They both run a lot w/o a lead blocking back. On a 3rd down, Bradshaw converts in the face of a blitz with a great read. Both teams use only 2 WRs and a TE even in passing downs. A busted screen pass turns into a deep bomb to Stallworth. Bradshaw shows great touch in dropping it into Stallworth's hands and a great grab by him.

Dallas sues shotgun and the announcers call himt he only QB in the league to use it effectively (at age 36). Landry calls all offensive plays, Bradshaw calls all plays for the Steelers and has since his rookie year. Amazing to think of in this age of coordinators. Staubach has some great reads on the blitz, and his mobility helps evade a fierce rush. The Steelers are quick off the edge. They get coverage sack. Here's why: no zone, secondaries double each WR and single up the TE or RB in the flat. There is no hole in the zone read. Danny White is Dallas' punter, and the annoucers hint at a QB controversy between him and Staubach. Lots of scuffles and chippy shots between players. These teams do hate each other.

There is no Dallas pass rush, and even when they blitz, Pittsburgh picks it up well. He makes soem good reads and then follows it up with a throw into double coverage for an INT. The Steelers and Cowboys O-linemen show good discipline. There are no dumb ass false starts, blocks are held for the entire play to allow for cut back lanes, and they pull well. Randy White is a D-linemen but looks like he'd play LB today. Scary. Dallas finally gets to Bradshaw and causes a fumble. Bradshaw has a good pocket most of the time.

Newhouse and Bleier are FBs that act more like FB/TB hybrids. Both get a decent chunk of carries and catch the ball on routes. Refs seem to let the DBs make plays and be physical with WRs. There seems to be a "let them play" attitude. Shell and Blount make great plays for Pittsburgh. On a blitz, Staubach gets the ball on a medium out route to Hill, and he takes it to the house. Great throw as he is drilled. The replay shows two defenders clobbering Staubach. He was about 200 lbs. Small for today, yet he takes a pounding and has wheels at age 36.

Dallas starts to get to Bradshaw more and makes him move around. They are stunting a bit more now. Witht he athletes they had on the line, I am not surprised. Dallas strips Bradshaw and gets a TD out of it. Pitts is throwing the ball a lot because Franco can't run for shit. Franco seems ot have bad balance and also seems to go down at first contact. He's like the Shaun Alexander of the 70s. Dallas blitzes, it fails miserably and Bradshaw hits Stallworth, who takes it 75 yards for a TD. Stallworth has 3 catches for 115 yards and 2 TDs.

Dallas has a better return game than Pittsburgh. Their special teams seem better. The Steelers get great penetration from their front 4 and Ham and Lambert have good lateral movement, which allows them to make plays as their linemen suck up blockers. Hidden play alert: Dallas sacks Bradshaw which forcesa FG attempt which just misses short and to the left, hitting the crossbar. Dallas moves the ball throught he air with soem good covnersions and Staubach softly puts a lollipop into Dorsett's hands as he gets drilled, but Dorsett picks up the 1st. Staubach kills the drive with an INT into what looks like 5 black Steelers' jerseys. BS roughing penalty for a hard tackle gives the Steelers the ball near midfield. Bad Call.

The Steelers workt he ball down the field, with Bradshaw hitting Swan often. Swanny is compared to a Russian Ballet dancer with his leaps. He does time his jumps very well. Bradhaw gambles on a roll out with a soft throw to Bleier in the end zone near the end of the half. Bleier makes a great catch. Dallas runs out the clock, and heads into the locker room trailing the Steelers 21-14. The first half could be summed up in a phrase "big plays". Dallas has scores from a fumble recovery and a great run and catch by Hill. Pittsburgh has 3 TDs from Stallworth's great work and an INT and return (and BS penalty) that gave them a short field.

The 2nd half opens up with the defenses playing much better. Dallas in a strategic boner keeps going to Newhouse instead of Tony Dorsett. Even dumber is the fact that Newhouse is back from a leg injury and obviously not as effective as Dorsett or his own back up (Laidlaw). Bad move. Dallas has moved to using a moving pocket on soem passes to neutralize the Pitts' rush. Staubach has a great scramble with a juke move that gets him an extra 4 yards. He scrambles at the "proper time". I want to note that he's moving this well at age 36. In comparison, Steve McNair retired by 35, and looked made of stone in early 30s. He did not have the agility or fluidity of his early days like Staubach still had at 36. The announcers say that Staubach credits his longevity and conditioning to working out 2 hours a day in the gym in his garage. Yes, the QB of America's Team works out in his garage. Another side note is that Dallas only had 3 players who had played fro another coach. Wow, just wow.

Both teams are not moving the ball much. Some big 3rd down stops. Dallas uses the shotgun, but it involves 2 RBs on the wings. It helps vs. this rush. On a 3rd and 3, Dallas runs. Yes, runs for it and converts. This would not happen today. Dorsett is great on the edge, reads his blocks well and makes good choices on when to cut it inside. Dallas misses out on a TD when Billy Jo Dupree whiffs on blocking the only remaining Steeler who could have tackled Dorsett. This leads to the play. Out of a timeout, Dallas calls a beautiful play action pass to the TE, Jackie Smith, he proceeds to drop it. This is the most recognized drop in SB history. Dallas kicks the FG and the 3rd ends at 21-17.

Bradshaw leads Pitts downfield with some help from a dropped INT, a pass interference call, and savvy play on 3rd down. He played great on 3rd down this game. Note: only one rookie started for either team this game. Franco gets a TD through a huge hole. On the following kickoff, Dallas fumbles and Pittsburgh punches it in with Bradshaw going for the jugular. He calls a great slant and guns it to Swann, TD, game over. Dallas closes the gap with a TD, recovered onside kick adn another TD, but Pittsburgh won this game with better execution. They did not kill drives with turnovers as often as Dallas, did not have horrendous drops in the endzone or 3rd down, and played a great game on defense in the 2nd half.

Even though the Steelers pushed the game to 35-17, this was closer than that, and keep that in mind when people say "35-31, it wasn't that close of a game". Going into the 4th, it was 21-17, and both defenses had tightened up. Some argue Staubach was one of the greatest QBs of all time, but no one ever speaks up for Bradshaw. Look at the comment down this entry for why Staubach could have been the greatest of all time if he had not gone to Navy. Bradshaw put up good numbers for his time, and won 4 SBs. In 2 of those SBs, he carried his offense because Franco sucked in SBs 13 and 14. I always like to put that out to New England fans who consider Brady a top 5 guy. Let's wait until he's 38 and retired before we start debating GOAT merits. Right now, in my opinion, he's in the Bradshaw-Aikman level. Great QB on great teams. Back to this game, very rarely will you see SBs that pit teams with a great rivalry that is from their back and forth titles in the same decade and previous meeting. Hopefully for the NFL, a rivalry like this may develop in the near future. Let's cross our figners and hope.

Also... Steelers to win and cover today in Super Bowl 43.