Monday, June 21, 2010

"Parenting Advice," Defending the World Cup, Holidays & Posed Photos, and Summer TV...

"Parenting Advice"... Here's a question... what is it about parents and parenting that causes people to constantly offer unsolicited advice?  Or at least to play the "I have been there before and you have no idea what you are in for" card over and over and over?  Seriously...as new parents, Brielle and I are constantly bombarded by this 24-7 message from a few friends, some family, and almost all strangers.  Why?  What is it about parenting that causes this "know it all" attitude?  If anything, shouldn't the ups and downs of parenting reinforce a more humbling "the only thing I know for sure is that I don't know anything" stance?  Is it that existing parents are just angry and frustrated and thus need to do the old "you'll see...you have no idea what you are in for" talk-down thing to other people to make themselves feel better?  Think about it for a second...does this exist in any other form?  When you got into college, did complete strangers say, "college...wow...no idea what you are in for...you'll find out..." and then offer gobs of unsolicited advice?  Or, if you announced you were buying a new car, would friends say "oh, the new car experience...good luck sleeping...you have no idea what you are getting into...omg...you are not ready...it will change your life!"  I mean, the drama around parenting is utterly ridiculous.  Here's my take:  first, what's the big deal anyway?  Hmmm...let's do the math...um, there are roughly SIX BILLION other people who have been born that are alive on this planet right now.  Doesn't that make childbirth and parenting about the most ordinary, least-rare thing on the planet?  Second, I am not going to pretend I know more than anyone else...because I don't!  Now that I am a parent, when I meet other prospective parents I will simply say, "congrats, and good luck" and maybe "here's a book that worked for me" if I am asked for advice.  It's not my place to say anything more or to pretend I am an expert.  It's nonsense.  So please, if you meet me on the street, how about a few words of encouragement, or even some rock solid advice?  Just spare me the "you have no idea what you are in for" speech.  Besides, you don't even know me!  So how could you possibly know what I am or what I am not ready for??  That may come off a little harsh, but you get my point.  There is definitely the presumption from some people that what they are doing is so incredibly unique that they have to talk down to others about it.  And that's a shame.   But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak...  There are many friends and family members who provide solid advice and guidance without the posturing, and for that I am thankful.

[Incidentally...what's my favorite advice/commentary?   Things like... Roll with the punches. Trust your instincts. Enjoy the ride. You'll be fine.   And the worst?  Here's an example:

Parent X:  You have no idea what you are in for.  Really. (Then in sing-song voice) But you'll find out soon enough...
Ben:  Yeah, ok, you are probably right.  Thanks.
Parent X:  I mean, especially as a guy...you have no clue how your life will change.  It's not about you anymore!  (Sing-song voice)  No more football and free time on Sundays... (Back to normal voice, serious face)  I mean, you realize everything changes, right?
Ben, trying to ignore this conversation is happening right now:  Um, yeah, I got that.  Thanks.
Parent X:  (Very serious face) It's nothing you can prepare for.  You.  Just.  Don't.  Know. What's. Coming.  It's a lot of work.  But good work, ya know?  You will get used to it.  Eventually.  But you can't possibly imagine what it's like.  Until it happens.  (Happy face)  But it's amazing.  (Serious face) But your free time is gone.  Forget reading.  And free time.  And workouts.  (Serious face, usually with a finger point) Are you prepared for all that?  (Wave hand in dismissive fashion)  Probably not.  I'm just telling you... And the diapers and the crying and the...
Ben, bemused smile:  Uh-huhn.  Yup. 
Parent X:  (Serious face, furrowed brow) The rewards totally outweigh the work.  But it's hard.  Get used to not sleeping.  And did I mention you are gonna find out that yourlifewillchangeinsomanywaysthatyoucan'tevenimagine that youarecluelessabout and totallynotreadyforatall?  (Happy face) I am soooo excited for you guys!  But you have no idea...oh my god...wait, what kind of stroller did you buy? 
Ben, gouging out my own eyes with a salad fork at this point and cradling my head in my hands while rocking back and forth and pulling my hair out while nevertheless forcing a smile:  Yeah...awesome...thanks.  Great seeing you.  

And by the way, can I just ask the question...what does "get used to not sleeping" mean, exactly?  Do I join the Navy Seals and practice sleep deprivation?  Do I ship off to Guantanamo and get myself water-boarded?  What exactly am I supposed to do with that tidbit of advice??  Does it make any sense?  The inverse is equally funny..."get your sleep in now!"  Ok, thanks...yes...I will immediately quit work and hibernate until Brielle gives birth.  I will sleep for 3 straight weeks and grow a Rip Van Winkle-type beard and wake up refreshed and with a reserve of sleep and ready to parent!!  Thanks for the heads-up!  Yeesh...]

Defending the World Cup... I'm sorry, I love the World Cup.  First, and foremost, how can you go back to watching our "American" sports with the constant commercials after watching an entire soccer match without?  (Aside from halftime, of course.)  No wonder the NBA sucks today...with TV timeouts every friggin 90 seconds, how can players ever get into a rhythm or a flow?  This is little talked about, but probably true.  And speaking as someone who rarely experienced a TV game as a ballplayer, I can tell you that it did mess with your flow versus a non-TV game the few times I was in them.  Second, three cheers for soccer, a sport dominated by...gasp...passing.  I love it.  Third, the open green space, the passing angles, the chess-like movement of the players on the field...they all just relax me - something like watching fish in an aquarium.  There's a peaceful, beautiful flow to the game which stands in stark contrast to America's most popular "fast food, I want it all and want it now, stop/start, quick burst" sports.  Soccer is like the old saying...It's not the destination, it's the journey.  Meanwhile, Americans are so focused on the destination ("goals...where are the goals...why don't they shoot...why not more scoring...they need more goals") that they completely miss the beauty of the journey.  And shame on us for that.  Yeah, there are plenty of things Europe and South American -for example - have screwed up (and it's certainly fun to poke fun at the French team and their World Cup squabbles), but soccer is one of their best gifts to the world.  Just like jazz is America's original contribution to the world, and it takes an ear to appreciate it and it's maybe not as fun or exciting or as in your face as "American Idol" or MTV, it is nevertheless a thing of beauty...and so is futbol.

[Side Note:  despite my argument this video from The Onion is pretty damn funny.]

Speaking of sports... I wanted to be excited by the NBA Finals... I really did.  And I thought long and hard about why I was just not as into it as I was as a kid... My thinking is this:  it's not only the experiential difference of being a kid versus being an adult that makes me appreciate the mid-80's NBA so much more.  I think it's also the result of total media over-saturation.  When I was younger, there were so few games on prime time, so few highlights, so few interviews, that key moments from then - when they happened - are absolutely seared into my brain.  They were rare and special, no replay necessary.  And so my brain took extra care to appreciate them.  Look, it's just human nature, isn't it?  I might love pizza...and when I have pizza once a month, I savor every damn bite.  It's otherworldly, amazing, rare, special...all of that.  But when a truckload of pizza gets delivered to my place each night...well...um...I am suddenly not so into pizza.  What am I really getting at?  Cable TV and the internet - in other words, 24-7 constant access and bombardment - has had the effect of rendering Kobe and KG and Boston/LA the opposite of special.  I hear about them all day long and it turns me off.  My brain can't help it.  Men know this to be one of the great secrets of women... they play hard to get so you'll chase what you can't have... and we fall for it every time.  The NBA and sports in general used to be "hard to get," or at least not available whenever you want it - the opposite of the girl who came on a bit strong and made herself available to you "on demand" causing you to lose all interest!  There is no answer here - just an observation.  But sports have diluted themselves by their constant availability.  Yes, you are too easy, NBA Finals and the NFL Draft and the Superbowl and the World Series.  Sorry to tell you this, but I am no longer interested...and you brought it on yourself. 

Call me the Grinch...But I Hate Forced Holidays & Posed Photos... A few blogs ago I ranted against posed photos.  The point was that the very act of herding people together to interrupt what they are doing and to force them to smile destroys the fun or the conversation they are actually having and makes them usually resent the photographer who is stealing that moment.  It's artificial and unnecessary, in my opinion.  Turns out that I feel the same way about "forced holidays."  There are always parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, siblings, etc. (you know the ones...) who guilt the others into attending all holiday functions at all costs... and invariably, what happens when everyone is together?  Those holidays almost always prove anticlimactic, don't they?  [Side note:  And don't you just love the requisite toast, "I just want to say...it's so nice that we could all be together...on this day..."?  In my view, if you are talking about being together then you are not really together!  In the same way that if you have to ask people to stand together and smile to document the great time you are having, then you are not at that moment having a great time - you are interrupting that great time to take a damn silly photo!]   Anyway, I am being overly dramatic for effect here, but my point is this...those times that we were all guilt-ed into being together and sitting around and making small talk because a relatively arbitrary measure of time (the modern calendar) tells you that day is "special"...those times are probably not going to prove to be - when you are lying on your deathbed looking back - the best moments of your life.  Instead it's the unforced moments...the unplanned and spontaneous great days that just come together...the random snippets of life...that always seem to resonate in hindsight.  Don't they?  Everyone knows what I am talking about here.  So why the nonsense...why the obligation and the guilt and the "forced, posed photos" of life?  I will never, ever understand this...

Summer television... Does anyone else find it ridiculous that there is now a summer television "season?"  Isn't this just another sign of our laziness and inactivity (mental and physical) as Americans?  Remember when summer was all reruns that no one watched because you were either outside all day (adults and kids), traveling, working, etc, etc?  Now there's a summer television season all its own?  That's just crazy.  Another sign of the modern-day Fall of Rome... 

Microwave Mysteries... been meaning to mention this for a while...so there's a microwave in the kitchen at work... sometimes (most times) people open the door instead of hitting the "off" button and the time is thus not reset.  So I can see the "time remaining" from someone's microwave session.  The mystery...why is this number off by so much each time?  I mean, yeah, if it said 5 seconds that would mean you probably heard some kind of popping sound or burning smell and pulled your stuff out 5 seconds early, indicating your initial time choice (1 minute, 2 minutes?) was not so far off.  But when I see things like 3:27 left on the microwave on a regular basis, I have to ask myself "wtf?"  Is the microwave chef guessing that poorly on the time it takes to warm up a bowl of oatmeal? (1 minute, btw)  I find this to be a great mystery.  How can you be 2 minutes and 48 seconds off your "warming up the food" guess?  That's just nuts to me...

Going back to parenting for a second... I have been thinking about this a lot lately.  And this is a little harsh but just might be true - I have seen it firsthand as a high school basketball coach.  One of the real pandemics of our time seems to be the overly involved, constantly hovering "helicopter" parent.  Why is this so common these days?  Just my opinion...but...well, if your own life is completely un-fulfilling, maybe you feel that procreating justifies your existence (which it shouldn't - there is more to life than that...), and maybe you feel that the "success" of your kids becomes your subconscious pet-project and thus becomes a measure of who you are as a person.  And maybe you turn all the resources at your disposal towards that kid and smother that kid as a weird counter-action to all the things wrong in your own life and probably do more damage to the kid than not as a result... I dunno, just a guess.  But here's the thing...kids are not a friggin' project like a garden...there's no blue ribbon for "prize tomato" or anything.  So, for all those prospective helicopter parents...get a dog, teach him how to do frisbee tricks.  By leaving parenting to some other, more balanced, sane people, you'll be simultaneously letting coaches coach and letting teachers teach, which might be nice.  Schools wouldn't be sued as much, there'd actually be a 2nd place trophy instead of the umpteenth runner-up so no one feels bad, etc.  In Po Bronson's great book NurtureShock, he talks about the need to be honest with kids.  He argues for telling your kid - when proper - "hey, you were not that great today - maybe you game/cello/acting needs more work..."  Sounds like the anti-helicoptering...and wouldn't that be refreshing?

Weird segue, but speaking of overpopulation...don't you feel sometimes like the world is just smarter than us?  that Mother Earth will always manage to humble us as humans and balance the scales of population and the replacement rate of population in ways we can't even imagine?  Even as we manage to live longer and longer, there's just more and more to worry about...aluminum in deodorant, elevated levels of obesity, sodium consumption, the unknown effect of wireless radiation from cell phones and cell phone towers, people driving and texting, mercury levels in fish, the hoax of sunscreens and how many cause more cancer than prevent... It's just amazing.  Try as we might, it seems the world will always be a step ahead of us in terms of unknown dangers to humans and what the "killers" of the future will be... And climate change might be the biggest one of all.  Something tells me we're not gonna win this battle.  Maybe in hindsight, 500 years from now, despite all our innovation, people of the future will know this as the Age of Icarus or the "Icarian Age."  (google "Icarus" if you don't get the reference...)

Some random thoughts... been thinking a lot about words and word origins for some reason lately... for example, in the same way that Chinese food is probably called food in China, I wonder what the Romans called a Caesarian Section before the time of Caesar?  Also, there are so many interesting Latin words used today as root words because they mean stuff like "sharp-toothed" or whatever.  But my question is this...the first time a Roman saw something with a sharp-tooth, how did he know what to call it??  Also random...there must be stories of "near miss" famous phrases out there... Something like the rough draft that never was. Or the script that didn't quite make it.  Don't you think there is a really bitter screenwriter out there who argued like crazy that Colonel Jessup's line should have been "You can't possibly fathom the reality of the situation"?  Or a bitter dude working in a gas station who argued for "wipe on, wipe off" and thought "wax on, wax off" was stupid?  Or the A-Team writer who fought against the re-write and wanted Mr.T to shout "I pity that dope!"  I'd like to see that version of "where are they now" or at least an SNL skit honoring the "Almost, but not quite" Hall of Fame... Last thought...you know how they always trot out a kid on late night TV who can hit a golfball at age 2 (like Tiger) or who can sing like an opera star?  I think Tiger is the rarity - invariably these "child prodigies" don't make it, so essentially the parents get their 15 minutes of fame with the kid and that's that.  But do you know what would be a useful skill that would also be of lasting benefit that would be great to see on late night TV?  Show me a two-year old who can empty a dishwasher!  Or do laundry!  Or vacuum!  You can't tell me that stuff is any more difficult than teaching a kid to hit a dimpled ball a hundred yards down a fairway... Anyway, that's all for now, I am off to teach Baelyn how to wash a car, look for us on Jimmy Kimmel in 2012!  

All the Best, 
Ben

Morning Note...


Futures ~145bps higher on the back of China’s announced renminbi/yuan appreciation this past weekend.  Most pundits agree that China’s move is bullish for global markets, both as an indication of confidence in its own economy and as a vehicle through which the Chinese consumer will now have increased buying power.  As a result, global commodities are bid higher this morning, and multinationals that might benefit from sales to China are also indicated higher.  Regarding Europe, stabilization there seems to indicate an inverse relationship between equity market performance and 2010 World Cup performance from traditional powers France, England, and Spain.  Spreads have tightened, the EUR/USD is stable over $1.23, European stocks have been outperforming the S&P, and banks look forward to mid-summer stress tests.  In other news, Nomura takes down 2010 & 2011 GDP forecasts to +3.1% and +2.5% respectively.  Increased chatter – reported both by Barron’s and CNBC – on the risks of higher 2011 taxes (needed to pay for the 2008 bailout) leading to potential recession.  In merger news, ACGY and SUB NO agree to merge.  AIPC to be acquired by Ralcorp for $53/share.  EFJI also announces merger agreement with Francisco Partners. 

Looking ahead, there is a fair amount of economic data expected this week, including German and Eurozone PMI, U.S. Durable Goods and Jobless Claims, and New Home Sales.  Also, the FOMC meeting and rate decision is due for 2:15pm Wednesday.  In earnings news, we’ll get data from JEF, CCL, WAG, ADBE, and JBL tomorrow; RAD, BBBY, and NKE Wednesday; and LEN, DFS, RIMM, and ORCL Thursday.  The G20 meeting is set for this weekend, and there will be plenty of talk about bank taxes and currencies, and probably zero substantive action.  Expect more news and headlines on financial regulation, as a bill is expected to be delivered to Obama for authorization pre-G20.  The WSJ reports that the fight is intensifying, especially on the issue of derivatives.  Also look for a potential bond offering from BP to cover the proposed escrow account needed to pay damages.  In other commentary this morning, Meredith Whitney on CNBC said state and local government job cuts will continue to dampen growth in the economy.  Senator Shelby said the cost of either reforming or unwinding FNM and FRE would be $500 billion to $1 trillion. 

Here’s a good summary of the Chinese currency landscape from JPM:

China Currency Adjustment
·         Early Sat morning (ET), the PBOC announced it would move to boost the yuan’s flexibility; “The global economy is gradually recovering. The recovery and upturn of the Chinese economy has become more solid with the enhanced economic stability. It is desirable to proceed further with reform of the RMB exchange rate regime and increase the RMB exchange rate flexibility”.

·         Why did it happen?  Amid signs that the global economy was healing, pressure has been rising on China to resume the gradual appreciation of its yuan, which has effectively been pegged at 6.83 per dollar for the last two years.  Rhetoric from US officials demanding an adjustment was especially acute in recent weeks, w/some lawmakers threatening to enact legislation labeling China a currency manipulator and demanding an investigation (an official Treasury report about int’l currency manipulators was delayed some months ago largely to give China some time to take action).  W/the G20 leaders summit coming up next weekend, China is effectively preempting further criticism of its exchange rate policy. 
·         Was this expected?  Yes and No.  Pressure had been rising on China to take action and permit the resumption of a modest increase in yuan value.  There was some chatter that action could come around the Washington-Beijing strategic economic talks of a few weeks back, but nothing ever occurred.  Recent comments from Chinese officials have suggested that they would be holding tight on the yuan for the time being (even as recently as last week, reports indicated that China wouldn’t succumb to pressure around the G20), w/the recent Europe sovereign crisis providing them greater cover to hold the line (this was a Sat WSJ headline, written prior to the PBOC announcement: “China appears increasingly unlikely to move on its currency before a G20 summit”).  Bottom Line – this action was expected, but not until a bit later this year.  
·         What does this mean?  In and of itself, probably nothing immediately, but it is important in that a process has been started that will lead to a gradual appreciation (the last “managed float” resulted in a 21% gain in the yuan from ’05-mid ’08).  China didn’t announce either a 1x appreciation of the currency or a widening of the yuan’s daily trading range and ruled out a large increase in the value (and in fact issued a second clarifying statement on Sun which ruled out a large 1x increase).  We will have to watch each day to see how the currency moves in the market.  Since the yuan will be referenced to a basket of currencies (whose composition isn’t know although will most likely include the euro), if the euro continues to sink, the yuan may actually wind up falling in value vs. the dollar (which would only cause US pressure to rise meaningfully further).  A Bloomberg survey on Sunday of 14 economists revealed that on average people think the yuan/US$ will climb ~1.9% this year to 6.7. 
·         International Reaction – finance officials from around the world welcomed the move (inc. Geithner), although US Sen Schumer, who was one of the people leading the charge in Congress to place legislative pressure on China, said the Sat statement was “vague and limited”.  Sen Grassley said Congress would continue to urge the White House to maintain pressure on China
·         Market Impact – the move could help combat Chinese inflation and will ultimately lead to a more balanced Chinese economy (i.e. more domestic consumption vs. exports).  The WSJ thinks risk assets in general could respond positively to the move, esp. commodities.  Chinese equities could rise as they will be worth more in a rising yuan environment.  Bloomberg says Chinese airlines and commodities firms in particular will climb as their costs to purchase overseas will fall (most commodities are denominated on global markets in US$s – if a yuan can buy more dollars, these companies would benefit).  Regional Asian currencies (many of which are pegged as well) could rise, along w/commodity currencies (esp. the AUD).  The US$ could weaken slightly and TSYs may get hit as well (China won’t be accumulating as many reserves to plow back into Treasuries).  The euro could slide.  China’s communiqué on Sat was pretty upbeat in general about the global economy, something positive for assets of all sorts. 

BTIG’s Mike O”Rourke also had this to say:

This announcement is well timed in advance of next week’s G20 meeting.  There is (as there should be) notable external and internal pressure for China to revalue (allow revaluation) and take the  next steps towards developing that middle class and internal consumer market.  As the Great Recession has exhibited, too much dependence upon the U.S. consumer is a great risk.  It is not very different from a company being reliant upon a single customer, and as that customer goes, so does the company.  China has made incredible strides since its entry into the WTO in 2001 and has probably sped its urbanization up by a factor of years through this exchange rate policy.  The fact is, however, that it is artificial and cannot be sustained indefinitely without creating greater imbalances and thus leading to a more painful unwind.  We should not forget that the Dollar has been strengthening versus most major currencies for the past 7 months.  As such, so has the pegged RMB.  Accordingly, this may be an optimal time to enact their shift since the RMB will again be managed versus an undisclosed “reference to a basket of currencies.”  In addition, with the domestic issues of wage inflation of recent concern in China, now RMBs will be going a longer way. 

The membership of the G20 expects China to continue its process of evolving into the global economy’s developing superpower.  With great power comes great responsibility, and this is China accepting its responsibility (on its own terms).  It is good to see China has returned to its pre-crisis path.  In the long term, investors should be salivating at the prospect of China advancing its consumption.  In the near term, the nation is simply returning to its previous path and this move was widely expected.  We believe the timing is primarily political but appropriate, and that it is a victory that the politics did not undermine the process.  As a result of the gradualist approach and the fact that this has been expected, most of the early reaction in the markets will likely be more excitement than substance.

Here are two other tidbits of anecdotal importance:  First, this is from the BCAP retail trader -- I spent all off last week traveling around the country marketing with different accounts.  We saw hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds and everyone in between.  I must admit I was a little surprised with sentiment.  On a scale of 10 being super bullish, 5 being completely undecided/ambivalent, and 1 being uber negative .... I would say the average investor was probably a 3.3 on the sentiment scale.  Second, the CFTC is reporting that euro short positions plunged 44% in the most recent week.  According to Reuters, currency speculators almost halved their bets against the euro to 62,360 contracts from 111,945 contracts in the prior week; all this short covering may have played a role in the recent euro rally. 

Barron’s positive on CVS/WAG resolution.  TC, VMC upgrade at UBSS.  BofAMLCO ups IP, PLCM.  CITI ups DRH.  CSFB ups KFRC, RHI.  WEFA ups MPW, PLD.  BofAMLCO cuts RKT.  CITI cuts OPEN, FE.  GSCO cuts LAZ.  Moody’s cuts APC.  Barron’s positive on 4 U.S. steel stocks:  X, NUE, STLD, AKS.  Positive drilling results reported by END and FRG.  LINTA to split off Liberty Capital and Liberty Starz.  NSTC wins $4M contract in Israel.  WSJ reports VZ may begin paying dividend in 2012. 

Asia higher overnight.  Europe roughly 1% higher.  EUR/USD $1.2376.  Oil +220bps.  Gold flat.  USD -15bps. 

S&P 500 PreMarket 8:30am (last/% change prior close/volume): 
FANNIE MAE                  .375      +7.14% 825419
FREDDIE MAC                .422      +5.42% 332610
CIT GROUP INC              39.45    +4.48% 300
AK STEEL HLDG              14.50    +4.32% 54065
LIZ CLAIBORNE               5.37      +4.27% 1000
FREEPORT-MCMORAN    68.52    +3.98% 326665
US STEEL CORP             44.90    +3.43% 186527
AMGEN INC                    57.084  +3.41% 103517
MBIA INC                       6.66      +3.26% 1100
MICRON TECH                10.31    +3.1 %  60100
CABOT OIL & GAS          37.56    +3.10% 300
MOODY'S CORP              21.75    +3.08% 225
NOVELLUS SYS              29.31    +3.02% 1300
AMERICAN CAPITAL        5.70      +2.89% 5500
XEROX CORP                 9.70      +2.86% 2900
PEABODY ENERGY           42.43    +2.84% 7100
MASSEY ENERGY CO       32.17    +2.78% 3389
HESS CORP                   57.72    +2.74% 2583
WILLIAMS COS INC        21.99    +2.66% 399
STANLEY BLACK &          57.44    +2.59% 500
ZIONS BANCORP            24.60    +2.59% 1468
MANITOWOC CO            11.25    +2.55% 3450

Today’s Trivia:  Of the 19 World Cups that have taken place, how many have been won by the host nation?
                                                                                                                                                                        
Yesterday's Answer:  There is no definitive answer, but most penalty kick studies show that 75% result in a goal.   

Best Quotes:  Be Careful for What You Wish

In the US, we must start to get our fiscal house in order. But if we cut the deficit by 2% of GDP a year, that is going to be a drag on growth in what I think is going to be a slow growth environment to begin with. If you raise taxes by 1% combined with 1% cuts (of GDP) that will have a minimum effect of reducing GDP by around 2% initially. And when you combine those cuts at the national level with tax increases and spending cuts of more than 1% of GDP at state and local levels you have even further drags on growth.

We need to cut our fiscal deficits. We need to reduce the size of governments. But let's make no mistake that it will be painless. It is necessary that we begin as soon as possible so that we can do it at a reasonable pace before the bond markets force us to move at a pace which will be even more painful. Be careful what you wish for.

I still maintain that we have better than a 50% chance of a recession in 2011. I wish it were otherwise.

-- John Mauldin