Thursday, October 16, 2008

Triple Insanity Wednesday

So you've all heard the popular definition of insanity that everyone loves to quote and talk about all the time, that insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results. Well that in a nutshell describes John McCain's approach to the presidential debates this fall. Wednesday night was the third and final debate between the two candidates, and there was John McCain, doing the exact same thing he's done with the last two debates -- I mean, saying the exact same things, harping on the exact same points, using the exact same words, even making those same dam facial expressions all the way throughout. Never mind the fact that McCain has roundly been judged the loser in now all three debates, and his position in the upcoming election went from pretty close to even before the first debate to slightly behind afterwards, to even more behind after the second, and at this point of course he is already done and yet still he will surely slide a bit further after this week. The man has no clue. None. As much reservation as I have about electing a man with literally -- literally -- no experience to lead our country through the greatest financial crisis and likely deepest economic recession in generations, it is obvious that John McCain has no clue whatsoever how to run a campaign, and his actions throughout the last month or so belie the fact that the man simply has very, very poor judgment. He would not make a good president, and pretty much everyone knows it at this point.

Can you imagine continuing to harp on what a maverick he is and how he stands up to his own party again in Wednesday night's debate, even after being roundly denounced and laughed at for that whole business over the past few weeks, and watching his stock slip in the polls to nearly unrecoverable levels? Would you ever continue to push this liberal Democrat idea of buying up all the bad mortgages in this country to essentially bail out all the imprudent borrowers at the direct expense of the millions of smart and reasonable Americans in this country who didn't drink the mortgage Kool-Aid over the past several years, even when he first announced it last week and the public reaction was somewhere between malaise and downright hatred and anger? Can you even conceive of continuing to sit there with that disgusting shiteating grin on your face all the way through a third debate, even when by doing so in the past two debates you have made yourself seem like just about the most unlikeable individual this side of all of Barack Obama's fraudster and racist friends? I mean, can anyone possibly be this much of a downright fool? Yes my friends, I give to you John McCain. I already called it last week, but stick a fork in him. He is finito.

So that is insanity #1 from Wednesday. Insanity #2 is the stock market. In one foul day, almost all of Monday's record gains were wiped away. Just like that. This was the worst day in percentage terms for the stock market since a week after Black Monday in 1987, with all three major U.S. indicies plunging 8-9% on renewed recession fears. The S&P 500 index, comprising 500 of the largest companies in the country, did manage to make a fresh 5-year closing low, with the Nasdaq ending just a fraction of a point above last Thursday's 7-year closing low and the Dow a mere 1.5% percent above its 5-year lows from last Friday.

For anyone wondering why this happened on Wednesday, I can lay it out for you real good right here. First, the morning saw the retail sales report for September be released by the Commerce Department, a monthly indicator of sales trends as compared to the previous month at the nation's largest retail chains. And the number was pretty abysmal. Down 1.2% just since August, which may seem like a small number, but if you extrapolate that kind of slowdown over a year, for example, we are looking at a 14.5% decline in retail sales year over year. Now nobody is saying that's going to happen over an entire year, but take it from me, down 1.2% in retail sales in any given month is an unusually large number, and it reflects the fact that astute market and economy watchers already know: when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the debt markets in this country and around the world began to seize up, that set off a chain reaction in the market and in the economy that essentially led many people and companies to significantly curtail, if not outright freeze, their spending. Period. The economy was already weakening over the past few quarters in this country, but September absolutely saw the bottom fall out of it. The best thing I can liken it to is 9-11, when again the entire country basically freaked out for a week or so, staying glued to their tv sets and not going to the mall or the grocery, and companies halted spending decisions for a few weeks at least while we all figured out what was going to happen. September was a massive shock to the economic system this year with all that happened in the financial world, and I have some bad news for you: October will clearly be worse. Remember, September was a plenty shaky month for the stock market, but in the end the Dow only declined 5.8% for the month thanks to a 4%+ rally on September 30, with the S&P 500 losing 8.2% for the month. But just look at what has happened so far during October. From those already low levels to start the month, the Dow has declined an additional 21%and the S&P 500 down another 22.1% as of Wednesday's closing levels. As the rest of the economic numbers for September are released, they are all going to be just as ugly as the retail sales report, and then next month when we start to see October's numbers, oooooh boy is that gonna be fugly.

The other big reason for the market's sick decline on Wednesday is a much simpler one: George Bush gave prepared remarks on the economy from the Rose Garden at the White House, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke publicly about the economy in New York City. And guess what? Every time those two clowns open their mouths, the market tanks!! I already mentioned this in an earlier post, but does anybody remember how carefully former Fed Chief Alan Greenspan used to choose his words when he spoke publicly, about anything? Greenspan if nothing else was fully cognizant of his sway over investor sentiment and his ability to cause sometimes extreme and even unwarranted reactions in global stock markets. Why the shit is this so hard for Ben Bernanke to figure out? Listen, there are ways to say that the U.S. economy is not on solid footing, and there are ways not to say it. Greenspan was Fed Chairman through at least two bona fide recessions, he led us through 9-11 and the incredible disruption and in fact shutdown of the U.S. stock exchanges for a week following the attacks. The man always found the right way to impart what he wanted to impart to us. And sometimes that meant not speaking at all, even when the public was clamoring for him to. Good Lord do George Bush and Ben Bernanke have no clue whatsoever, absolutely none, and the market (and thus all of us) pay the price for it regularly. Did Benny Boy really need to come out yesterday and the New York Economic Club that the U.S. is spiralling into a deep recession? Was that absolutely necessary? We all know it already -- for fuck's sake, the guy has told us this exact same thing now on maybe five out of the last seven trading days -- so is there really anything to be gained from saying it yet again on Wednesday? With no positive spin, no idea in his speech of a brighter future, nothing. It's like I am half-expecting him and Bush to one day rip off their masks and actually be Osama Bin Laden and Mohammed Atta or something. You couldn't talk this market down any worse than Bush and Bernanke have already done over the past month if you tried, and they are getting just what any moron with a 50 IQ could have predicted. Hopefully the two stupidest and most confused men in America will keep their fat fucking mouths shut for a couple of days here and give stocks a chance to find their own bottom. What a bunch of fucking fools.

Which brings me to the last -- and easily the greatest -- insanity from Wednesday: the Phillies are going to the World Series!! The jubilation that I and every single one of my lifelong Philadelphia fan brethren feel today is something that simply cannot be fully shared or imparted to anyone who isn't from the area. Riggs made an interesting post a few days ago where he likened Philadelphia sports fans to the rest of the fans in the Northeastern part of this country. Now while I totally agree that the fans in Boston, New York and Philly all share certain characteristics, I have to take exception in that I think Philadelphia fans are different from all the rest. First and foremost, we are far better fans than the dickheads in Boston or New York. I mean, it's not even close. We are far more knowledgeable about the games and the teams, and we simply bleed our teams' colors much moreso than anyone say in New York does. The desperation and adoration level is similar between Philadelphia and Boston, but the bottom line is that Boston has now had at least two or three or four bona fide dynasties among their sports teams, while Philadelphia hasn't even had one period that anyone would ever even mistakenly call a dynasty for any of its franchises. For crying out loud, just last year the Phillies became the first franchise in all of professional sports to lose 10,000 games. And that kind of history has a real effect on the psyche of the fandom of a team, and this is where Philadelphia fans really stand out.

I will say it one more time -- nobody, but nobody, loves their teams like the Philly fans do. Nobody. Strange as this may sound to all of you non-Phillyites out there, that is precisely why we boo our players when they let us down. Now I'm not saying that that is right, but rather just giving an explanation as to why it happens. We as a collective are so championship-starved, so fucking hungry for a title, so downright desperate, that we literally drive ourselves crazy thinking about it. I had about five girly chat windows open with various Philly fan family and friends, all throughout Wednesday night's beatdown of the Dodgers which clinched the Phillies' first World Series berth since 1993, and the tension and nervousness was palpable in almost every chat throughout the game. Even with that four-run lead in the 9th and perfect 45-for-45 Brad Lidge coming in to close it out, we were as much afraid as we were excited. Shit, I've wanted to say so much about the Phils in the NLDS here but have almost completely avoided even mentioning them for the past week or so out of fear of jinxing them. I know it makes no sense, but such is the life of a boy growing up as a Philadelphia sports fan for his entire life. So Wednesday night's entry into the World Series, knowing that we will have a fully-rested and almsot unscoreable-on Cole Hamels starting Game 1 one week from Wednesday, is just about the best news I've had all year, in a year that has been for me at least full of mostly bad news.

Philadelphia needs this championship, I'm telling you. This isn't New York, or Boston, or LA or any of the other teams with solid sports franchises year-in and year-out. This is Philadelphia. We need to jump on these chances to take it all down whenever they come up, because they just don't come up that often. Our last championship came on a sweep of the heavily-favored Lakers for the 1983 World Champion 76ers. 25 years is farrrrr too long for a city this big with four major sports teams to wait for a title. This year we have to make it count.

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Blogger 1Queens Up1 said...

Great game last night, and im looking forward to an awesome world series. Think they'll do a '93 Phillies reunion at one of the home games?

You forgot to throw Paulson in there with Bush and Bernake. Its the trifecta of doom.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Yeah I left Paulson out on purpose, because at least he has spoken his way to a several-percent rally (albeit short-lived ones) on a couple of occasions over the past month or two. Bernanke and Bush, on the other hand, it's like they schedule a speech and the market automatically sheds 5% just thinking about what's coming.

10:18 PM  
Blogger KajaPoker said...

retail sales down three months in a row. hasn't happen since 1992. swell.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Astin said...

I nominate ME as the dude in charge of the economy. Of course, I'll say the wrong things, like "You're all fucked. Wait until the Christmas retail numbers suck harder than ever! THEN you'll know what a crash is." The bottom is months away, expect volatility and maybe a wee bit of calm in between.

Shall we talk about dry shipping numbers? No? Okay...

As for the Phils... I hope they win the Series this year so the Jays can get Gillick back. If Philly wins it, he'll have nothing left to do there and look for the next challenge, which will be to build up the team he first brought to World Series Champion status. Hey, didn't we beat the Phillies that 2nd time in those back-to-back years with Gillick as GM?

11:41 PM  
Blogger 1Queens Up1 said...

Did you listen to the post-game rewarks where Gillick thanked former GM Ed Wade? The man who single handidly ruined the Phillies for no less than 10 years???

Ironically they ship Wade to Houston and the Phillies make it to the WS in 3 years. Amazing.

12:21 AM  
Blogger RaisingCayne said...

I completely agree with the sentiments regarding Bernanke's public statements being wholly incompetent. But significantly contributing to this, and something that's often and easily overlooked, is the fact that Alan Greenspan was a freaking genius! I recall my old college finance professors communicating anxiety about what was going to happen when he left the role. While it's completely fair to hold Bernanke to a high standard, his predecessor set the bar really freaking high!

12:34 AM  
Blogger BWoP said...

The last time the Phillies were in the World Series, I was starting my freshman year of college.

Funny how life has and hasn't changed in that time span . . .

3:11 AM  
Blogger goooooood girl said...

Good good good......

7:09 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

God I wish my wife would stop posting her picture all over my blog comments.

7:27 PM  
Blogger Riggstad said...

I left out the "we are the best fans in the world part" to allow for some legitimacy, or at least believeability of my bi-partisanship (for lack of a better word)

Bottom line is, there are no more loyal, smarter, or passionate fans on the planet.

Ship the World Series! I hope its the Rays and not the Sox.

I'd rather see 15-9 games than 10-1 games :)

8:30 PM  

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