Trying To Catch The Big Trend Change

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Trying to catch a stock when it changes trend is a tough game to play, but if you are able to time it just right, that can be when you get the biggest move.

Way back in October of last year I noted that the $FXI looked like it had bottomed and was getting ready to break out. Since then it has gone up roughly 20% and shows no signs of slowing down.

When you get a macro move like this, one that you think will last for a long time, the first thing you want to do from a trader’s perspective is look for stocks that might benefit from that move. Sometimes you will find stocks that are first movers, going lock step up with the macro move. But you also want to look at stocks that may be changing their trend in relation to that macro move and haven’t broken out yet, but are setting up nicely.

That is where I think $BIDU is right now.


$BIDU has been in a large down channel for almost a year; however it is now consolidating in the upper range of that channel just below the trendline which corresponds to the 200 day moving average (ma).

Moves that correspond with a breakout above more than one resistance factor, in this case the downtrend line and 200ma, are often more explosive and last longer than other moves.

On a breakout with good volume above the $113.50 you would look to get long BIDU with your first target level being around $134.50, which corresponds to the previous channel high. If you put a stop in at $107.50 you are setting up a 1:3.5 risk to reward trade; or even better if you choose a tighter stop.

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The Secret To Being Creative

It’s not nice to steal.  Unless you are a poet, an artist, a musician, an architect, a writer, or you do anything that requires even a modest amount of creativity.  Then it’s not IF you steal, but HOW you steal, that makes all the difference in the world.

That is the basic thesis of the fantastic book by Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative.

Kleon argues that almost nothing in this world is “original” and that generation after generation of artists have built upon what has come before them, adding their own unique flavor and signature along the way, which can produce something that is both derivative, yet interestingly unique.

One of the most obvious areas where this exists is in popular music, which is littered with examples of artists who have “borrowed” from past influences.

Take almost any British band from 1962 to 1969 and you will find that they drew heavily on the chords and structures of the American blues artists.  And even the least bluesy of the British Invasion bands did their share of “appropriating.”  It’s said of The Beatles that if you took the vocals off of their first three albums you would swear you were listening to Buddy Holly.

However, the thing that kept most of these bands from being blatant rip-off artists was their sense of honor and homage to their musical forbearers and the ability to add something original in the process.  That Kleon asserts is the right way to “steal.”

“The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from.” —David Bowie

When I first started blogging, my biggest fear was that I would create content that was un-original.  I went go out of my way to NOT read other blogs, or books, or anything else for fear that subconsciously I would repeat what others had already written in my posts.  However early on I came across this blogging “secret” from Josh Brown;

Excerpting: Blogging is essentially a derivative form.  From a foundational standpoint, it makes use of article excerpts the way early Hip Hop was built on soul music samples and rock song break beats.  Most financial blogging is predicated on the blogger being able to tease truth and meaning out of traditional articles and reporting.  At its core, financial blogging is taking third-party market data and journalism, often from mainstream outlets, and using it as the basis for further comment, disagreement, or elucidation.  There is plenty of room for your original writing but if you’re not building around the constant news flow then you’ll quickly find yourself running out of things to blog about.  You will also become irrelevant as the reader is looking for news reaction and analysis, not just the cloistered remarks of a disconnected Man Apart.

…and BOOM (which in itself is derivative), it hit me.  The way to create an interesting blog was not to starve yourself and then hope for diving inspiration from your reclusive (and probably drunk) muse, but to consume as much as you can and then write about it in your own unique voice, adding original content where needed.

Kleon’s book just reinforces that idea in a way that is very simple yet powerful.

Hat tip to the wonderfully eclectic site Brain Pickings for bringing this book to my attention.

Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative (Amazon)

Financial Blogging Secrets: The Bible (The Reformed Broker)

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When The Retail Investor Comes Back This Is How They’ll Do It

Yesterday I did my regular Monday “hit” with Marc Mandel of “Business for Breakfast.” We talked about the current state of the market, why you can’t anticipate moves, and how the retail investor can come back into the markets with an edge.

(click image to play audio)

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A Little Ditty About Stocks And Expectations

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“Get my stuff and get the car right now,” my wife yelled at me, “I’m going into labor.”

“Oh, come on now honey, are you sure?” I replied.

“What do you mean ‘am I sure?’ My water just broke.”

“But are you sure? Maybe you just spilled something on yourself?”

I actually said that. To my nine month pregnant, hormonally super-charged wife.

Technically I should not be alive. Fortunately I know how to duck and the can of hair spray she hucked at me missed by a mile.

My first child was within hours of arriving but I was not ready for it. I had no idea what to expect. And even if I thought I had an idea of what to expect, there was no way that I could really be sure how I would react when the reality of the situation hit.

Yesterday was a tale of two different stocks and two different expectations.

On one hand was $AAPL, which had an 18% increase in revenue to a record $54.5 billion. Profit also set an all-time high coming in at $13.08 billion.

On the other hand was $NFLX, which had $945 million in revenue with a profit of $8 million.

In after hours trading $AAPL dropped 10% loping off $50 billion in market value, while $NFLX stock surged 30% adding $1.6 billion in value.

And if you contrast the fact that $AAPL is a technological juggernaut, that not only owns, but created most of the high end gadget market, while $NFLX is transitioning out of a dying business model into an ultra-competitive one, it makes the price action in these stocks even more baffling.

But the key to unravel this mystery is expectations. It’s all about expectations and the reality of how earnings come in relative to those expectations. It’s why gaming earnings is one of the most subjective things you can do in the markets and one with almost unlimited risk.

As we proceed through this earnings season it’s good to remember the examples of $AAPL and $NFLX in order to decide if you really want to hold stocks going into their announcements on what is basically a coin flip.

And if you absolutely have to trade earnings, make sure you hedge your position risk with options, or better yet, use lower risk strategies like spreads as a proxy instead.

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The Only True Edge You Have In The Markets

Everybody is looking for it.  It’s what can make the difference between you becoming a billionaire market wizard or a ridiculously pathetic financial washout whom your family is so embarrassed of that they make you sit at the kids table during Thanksgiving dinner.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic here, but there is no doubt that most consistently profitable market participants have achieved that status by finding an edge.  An advantage. Something that tips the scales in their favor, even if ever so slightly.

“Edge” is hard to quantify and it can be transitory at times.  Way “back in the day” the edge many Wall Street participants had was the ticker tape.  It was the high-speed internet of its time and gave those that had access to it a demonstrable advantage over the public.

But investors who focus on a technology based edge, no matter if it is a ticker tape machine, a Quotrek, or Level II quotes, will eventually lose that edge once the tools they are using become more ubiquitous.

And one of the big mistakes that investors make is assuming that an edge in another area translates into an edge in the markets.

One of the best days of my life was December 24th, 1999— the day I bought out my partner in my previous business.  He was a former best-friend who had turned into a complete idiot and unethical A-hole, and I was so glad to be rid of him.  He is now on the run from criminal and civil prosecution in Mexico, but that is a post for another day.

The biggest issue with my ex-partner was that he always wanted to pull every free dollar out in salary which limited our ability to invest back into the company.  Now that he was out-of-the-way I was in total control and could begin to implement my growth plan.

Let me repeat that…..I was in total control.  I was the sole arbiter of what we should or shouldn’t do.  No committee meetings.  No banging my head against my intransigent partner.  My word was law, and I reveled in my new-found unilateral powers like some banana republic strongman.

The first decision I made was to expand our warehouse facilities which would entail purchasing about fifty thousand dollars worth of new equipment; a sizable investment especially after having just paid off my former partner. However I happened to find a local liquidator that had the same equipment I needed, in barely used condition, for half the price.  Not one to miss out on a twenty-five grand discount I jumped all over it, placing an order and taking a crew over to pick up the merchandise.

Once at their offices I cut a check and was given direction to their distribution warehouse where we could load up.  When we arrived the docks were teaming with trucks and workers loading up merchandise like worker ants, but what really caught my eye was an old bum who seemed to just be hanging out by the shipping door.

He was dressed in dirty overalls and had a rough sunburned complexion that suggested a life full of manual labor.  He gnawed on the stump of a long extinguished cigar with his few remaining teeth, occasionally spitting out bits of grizzled tobacco leaves on the ground.  He seemed out-of-place amongst the scores of young men in their crisp blue coveralls working the docks and I wondered why they let him stick around.   No matter….

My guys began backing their truck up to the dock and just as it was about to make contact, one of the dock workers yelled out “whoa, whoa…stop…stop!”  But it was too late, the tailgate and the dock were one….with a broken cabinet door in between them.

The door had been laid flat on the dock making it nearly impossible to see from more than five feet away. Unfortunately, about five inches of it stuck past the edge of the raised concrete platform and had been smashed by our truck.  Whomever put it there had made a big mistake, but since it was obviously done by one of the liquidator’s employees, well, it was on them I reasoned.  But they didn’t quite see it that way.

“Dude, what were you doing?” the foreman yelled to my guys.  “I told you to stop! Didn’t you see that you were going to back into that cabinet door?  You just cost yourself a hundred bucks pal.”

“Wait a minute,” I yelled brandishing all my dictatorial power.  “Your guys put that door there and there is no way anybody could have seen it, so don’t blame us.  We’re not paying for your mistake.”

“Don’t screw with me,” I thought to myself.  “I just bought out my partner.  What I say goes.  I just dropped 25K baby, and I ain’t paying a dime for that cabinet.”


Just then I noticed the bum on the dock; he walked over to the foreman, mumbled something into his ear and turned and walked away, disappearing into the warehouse.

“You can take this back to the sales office and they will give you a refund,” said the foreman, handing me the bill of sale for my new equipment that had already been marked “paid-in-full.”   Twenty-five thousand dollars worth of equipment.

“Are you crazy?  You’re not going to sell me equipment because of that broken door?  I’m buying twenty-five grand worth of stuff,” I shouted.

“Just take the receipt to the office and they will give you your check back.”

What a bunch of A-holes.

I stormed back into the sales office, sure  that someone in there, perhaps a salesman wanting to protect his commission would see what was happening and put a stop to this silly game.  I mean this was ridiculous.  I’m 25K guy!


But nobody said a word.  Even as I continued to chirp away at them, nobody said anything, they just reversed the transaction, cancelled my order, and gave me back my check.

Finally in desperation I said, “Okay, this is stupid.  I want to talk to the owner.  I want him to know that you imbeciles are throwing away a twenty-five thousand dollar order because of broken cabinet door that was your fault anyway…..”

“The owner already made his decision,” a voice from behind me said.

“What are you talking about,” I said as I spun around, coming face to face with a petite, but very lovely young lady wearing the liquidator’s logo on her shirt.  “Um,” I stammered….

Deciding to take my tone down a few notches I continued, “I’m sorry, but I haven’t even seen the owner.  The only people at the dock were your workers…….and some bum.”

“Dirty overalls, chewing a cigar?” she said.

“Yeah, that was the guy!”

“The owner…..and my grandfather,” she smiled.

Smacked down!  Bitch slapped!  Getting my head handed to me…..yeah any of those sayings pretty much could have described that moment.

My edge was that I was the sole owner of my company.  Whatever I decided was the way things were.  If you didn’t like it you could go pound sand.  The problem was, my edge was no edge in this situation.  That dirty, crusty, cigar chomping “bum” of an owner had dealt with smartass punks like me too many times to remember.

I thought I was the big swinging dick with my 25K order, but he could give a crap about my order and probably had that much in hundreds stuffed in his pocket.  I was in his world and no matter what I thought should happen, no matter how much I yelled, screamed, or protested about the way things should be, he had ultimate control over the way things went.

That is the market in a nutshell.  It doesn’t care about what you think.  How much money you have.  If your kid has needs a kidney transplant or if you wife just left you for the milkman.  It is a world unto itself and you have no ability to exert any power or control over it no matter what you do.

The only edge you have in the market; the only true, sustainable edge you have is your ability to set and follow your rules.

The market can never lop 50% in value off a position you’re trading if you always obey your 5% stop-loss rule.  It can never catch you by surprise if you only trade when you are fully prepared.  An earnings surprise can’t ruin your P&L if your rule is “don’t trade earnings.”  A macro economic event will never put you underwater if you only stick to day trading.  And so on….

Every trader or investor should have an iron clad set of rules that they stick to.  That’s your edge.  Your only edge.

Your rules are like Kryptonite to the markets and following them will ensure that you will have longevity and more than a fighting chance to be successful over the long-term.

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Love And The Pursuit Of Apple

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I was in love once. It was during my high school years that I fell in love with a beautiful redhead. Well, as beautiful as one could be in the 80’s. But no matter, I loved her.

I was fixated on her, obsessed almost. I would spend my whole day thinking about her. Watching every move she made. And trying to figure out what the hidden context was of everything she said to me.

I wasted almost four years acting this way, and though my heart was true, she didn’t feel the same way about me. She was in love with another. A college “man” who played guitar in a punk rock band.

They eventually got married, had kids, and then he left her for a flight attendant. It serves her right. But I’m not bitter…..

Years after I graduated from high school I happened upon my old yearbooks. I took a moment and began to browse through them, reading the inscriptions left by my classmates. And after I was done I wanted to slam my head in a car door.

What a complete idiot I had been. I spent some of the best years of my life pining away for my redheaded goddess. In fact, if you had looked up the definition of “pining” in the dictionary during that time you would have seen a mildly pathetic picture of me. And yet I missed all the other opportunities that were surrounding me.

In my yearbook were written such wonderful and sincere words from all types of girls. Tall girls. Short girls. Pretty girls. Smart girls. Funny girls. Sweet girls. But I never noticed any of them and only focused on my quixotic quest to win the love of my carrot-topped beauty.

A lot of traders these days seem to take the same approach when it comes to Apple, Inc. ($AAPL). They obsess over every move the stock makes. Every bit of news catches their attention. Every analyst’s recommendation is poured over and dissected in great detail.

But in this process they overlook other, better stocks that they can trade with a lower risk. For example, last week as $AAPL was going nowhere fast, they could have made a relatively easy 7-10% in Micron Technology ($MU).


Once you drop your fixation with $AAPL you will find that there are many other opportunities in the market, you just have to look for them. If you have trouble, I do a chart post every Monday morning where you can get some ideas, and $MU was one of those ideas last week.

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Divorce, Facebook Style

Last year, right around this time, a good friend of mine went missing.  He just vanished, without a trace.  None of the events leading up to his disappearance seemed unusual or out of the ordinary.  There were no clues, not even a “goodbye” note left behind to indicate what his fate might have been.

The debate among our mutual friends about what could have happened to him went on for months, but nobody had the slightest idea.

I had known Cory for over thirty years.  We had first met in middle school and continued on to the same high school, where we spent the next four years together on almost a daily basis.  But as we got into our mid twenties our lives started to move in different directions, and I began to see less and less of him.

From time to time we would connect at the odd get-together or reunion, but we really didn’t make too much of an effort to stay in touch.

I liked Cory, and because of all our shared history, whenever we did get together we would fall back into our old rhythm just as if no time had passed since we last met; but despite that, I wouldn’t say we were “close.”

However, in the last two years since he had signed up for Facebook I was able to follow along with the events of his life, including the activities of his three young children and his wife of seventeen years.  And slowly but surely we began to “touch base” more often, albeit in a virtual way.

And that was why his disappearance was even more puzzling to me…..

Oh, did I mention that he disappeared from Facebook?

One day I went to post something on his timeline and he was gone.  I couldn’t find him. He wasn’t listed among my “friends” anymore and my inquiries into the “search” bar came back empty.  I didn’t have his phone number or email address, nor did I know exactly where he lived, so for all intents and purposes he was gone, having slipped the surly bonds of Earth, or at least the social network.

Then about six months later as I was perusing my “wall,” the most miraculous thing happened. As suddenly and unexpectedly as he had disappeared, he reappeared. In what could only be described as a “Lazarus-like” event, he came back from the “dead” with the following photo and caption….


 Having strawberries and champagne with my sweetheart right now.  Life is good!

“Honey…..,” I yelled out to my wife.  “I found Cory.”

“What?” she replied.  “Where?”

“On Facebook.  He’s getting divorced.”

“What, how do you know that?  Did he say that on Facebook?”

“No, but he’s posted the ‘strawberries and champagne’ photo.”

“Oh,” she said.  “His poor kids…….”

I’ve seen this phenomenon before with a number of my male Facebook friends. Suddenly, out of nowhere the “strawberries and champagne” photo goes up online. It’s the universal code for “I’ve left my wife and I am playing out some contrived notion of what romance is supposed to be with a chippy half my age.”

Trust me, when you’ve been married for seventeen years and you have three small kids, chances are you’re not all of a sudden doing “strawberries and champagne” with your wife.

Although not as common, I have also seen the analog variation of this post from some of my female Facebook friends.  It usually goes like this;


Out with my girls tonight, rocking the Appletini’s….

When you see this come up on a mother of four’s Facebook wall on a Wednesday night, you can be pretty sure that the divorce papers are in the mail and she is already sleeping with a personal trainer named “Vinny.”

And you can almost tell how bad the divorce is going to be by the type of picture that is posted.  If they post a photo of various cheeses, meats, crackers, and olives in between two glasses of Chardonnay, with a view of the Caesar’s Palace in the background and the caption, “Luxuriating with my baby before our spa treatment in Vegas,” somebody is going to get taken to the cleaners big time.

One of the sad character traits of my gender is that at times, especially when it comes to matters of the heart, we can be ridiculously cliché’, to the point where even if you are blind without a cane you can read the signs a mile away.

Back in the 80’s my aunt fell in love an Australian man, moved to his home country, had three kids, and built a life together with him.  I hadn’t spoken to either of them in over twenty years when one day my mother mentioned that my uncle Charles had taken up “crewing.”

“Apparently he is really getting into it,” she explained to me.  “He goes to the rowing club and practices three days a week.”

“Really,” I said.  “So how long has he been cheating on aunt Cynthia?”

“What?  What do you mean cheating on Aunt Cynthia? Why on Earth would you say such a silly thing like that?”

“Mom, he’s forty-seven.  He hasn’t exercised a day in his life.  And now, all of a sudden he is into crewing?  C’mon, do the math.”

“Oh, that is just stupid talk.  There is nothing unusual about a grown man deciding that he wants to get in better shape and then doing something about it.  Stop being so negative.  You have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Okay, fine.” I said.

Two weeks later my aunt called to say that she was packing up the kids, moving back to the US, and starting divorce procedures against my uncle.  It turns out that he had been cheating.  With a twenty-seven year old woman.  Who happened to be a member of the Australian Olympic crew team.  Wow…who’d have known….???

Social media didn’t create this phenomenon among men, it just allowed it to scale and replicate in a predictable pattern.  Once the “strawberries and champagne” post goes up, the script is pretty standard going forward.

Their status immediately goes from “married” to “In a relationship,” hyperlinked of course to the new love of their life’s page, and all timeline posts prior to meeting their “soul mate” are “scrubbed.”

Then it gets weird.  And by weird I mean, bizarre.

Usually a string of random, airy, and forced pseudo-poetic posts materialize over the next few weeks….

Sometimes in life we look for things we shouldn’t.  And it takes someone special to show us that what we want, what we desire, what we yearn for is right in front of us.  I’m so thankful for all my friends, and family, and loved ones who are there to support me and the special people in my life.  Often we get lost in the hectic pace of this crazy world and I’m blessed to know now how to be at peace with that world, thanks to my new best friend and partner.  Life is good. I love you all and can’t wait for you to join me on this new journey in the next chapter of my life.

Then comes the profile picture update, which prominently shows them and that new “best friend” of theirs, usually in a low-cut mini-dress and heels.

What bugs me most about this, is how this new person is just foisted on you without any explanation, context, or heads up.  They just appear, as if they were perpetual, having always been there.  And nobody else seems to seems to care.  They just put up comments like, “Dude, so happy for you both,” or “So glad you are in a good place now in your life.”

Dude, I’ve been your friend on Facebook for two years and I’ve known you since sixth grade. I know you have been married for seventeen years.  I introduced you to your wife.  I was at your goddamn wedding.  I threw the bachelor party for God’s sake.  At least message me and fill me in on the backstory bro!

Imagine if there were four couples who had spent the last ten years going out twice a month for drinks and dinner.  Then one night, out of the blue, with no warning, one of the guys just shows up with a new lady who is so young she gets carded by the cocktail waitress.  He doesn’t say anything about her, or who she is, or why she is there, or why his wife, your friend, and the mother of his children is suddenly gone.

You want to be nice, but she doesn’t know the history.  The nicknames.  The inside jokes.  All the little subtleties that make a relationship special.  And you end up just staring at her with a vacant smile on your face, knowing that in six months she will be a memory anyway.

That’s the real world version of what too many of my friends seem to be doing on Facebook these days.  I get it….it’s their life.  I don’t have to like it.  I don’t have to endorse it.  But I guess I have to accept it.  However, there’s no way in Hell that I am going to accept a “friend request” from their transitory relationship placeholder.  Even I have my standards.


What Virgin Upper Class Can Teach You About The Market

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A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to fly Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class to London. It was a sublime experience.

Within two minutes of stepping on the plane I was fully reclined in a leather seat with a cold Red Stripe in my hand as attendants offered me “snacks” from the tapas menu. Everything about the experience, from the in-flight massages to the state-of-the-art entertainment system was incredible.

Even though the flight lasted over eight hours, the warm vortex of pleasure I was immersed in made it seem as if it just lasted minutes.

A couple of years later I flew to San Francisco in coach and just happened to have the spawn of Satan sitting in back of me. In addition to reaching around the side of my seat and pulling on my hair he made sure to continuously kick the back of my chair the entire length of the trip.

Even though the flight was less than an hour, little Damien made it seem like it lasted for days.


This is a great example of how different time frames and our perceptions of what is happening in those time frames can change based upon circumstances. And it’s no different in the markets.

For example, let’s take a look at the daily chart of the S&P 500.

S&P Daily

This chart looks sweet. After jumping about sixty-five handles when the fiscal cliff deal was announced, price has consolidated right under resistance just like you would want it to. That tight range gives you a great risk/reward area to not only trade off of in the case of SPY, but also to gauge the overall health of the market.


But now let’s look at a longer term chart.

S&P Yearly

Here we see a monthly chart of the S&P 500 going back about fifteen years. This chart is not so sweet.

You’ll notice that there is a double top, with the first occurring from roughly late 1999 to late 2000, and the second occurring in the infamous year of 2008. The area in-between the blue channel lines is the resistance that those tops have created, and it’s going to be tough to get through that area cleanly.

The idea scenario is that we move sideways for a few months before trying to break through that channel. We could even pull back to the black uptrend line as well and still be set up to make a run to all-time highs.

Of course the market is going to do whatever it wants, but it’s good to analyze it from different timeframes and perspectives to better understand the overall picture and adjust your trading accordingly.

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What bclund is, is the intersection of markets, trading, and life (with some punk rock, pop culture, and off-beat humor mixed in). Check out “The Best Of bclund” to get started.

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I Hate To Say “I Told You So.” Well…No I Don’t.

Right from the start I knew the Occupy Wall Street “movement” was a joke.  Not the message, just the people who made up the movement.

It was clear to me that they were just a larger, media magnified version of the guys I knew in high school who played video games in their parent’s basement every day and told each other “we should start a band.”  I knew a lot of those guys.  Most of them are still in that basement.

The “Occupiers” have been my personal bête noire over the last year and I have written about them and their idiocy numerous times including “Thoughts On Economic Injustice In America,”  “So You Want To Reform Wall Street?  Okay, First Let’s Talk About The Real Once Percenters,”  “R.I.P Occupy Wall Street – What You Didn’t Learn From The Vietnam War,” and my personal favorite, “Occupy Chalk Street.”

Over the holidays GQ Magazine came out with their “Least Influential People of 2012” list, and I was delighted to see my favorite group of ne’er do wells on the list at number twenty.

OWS Losing
Abbie Hoffman reincarnated….with an Iphone.

In order to grasp how amazing their inclusion on this list is you have to understand that Jim Nelson, the editor of GQ, is a dyed in the wool, hardcore liberal who has spent the better part of the last decade mercilessly castigating almost every conservative politician in the pages of his magazine.  If there was even one scintilla of worth left in that “movement” he would have still championed them…but of course there isn’t.

And you’ll have to forgive me for the tardiness of this post, but when the list first came out I was so busy living a productive life, contributing to society, working with my family and friends to build a better community, and basically doing the opposite of the OWS crowd, that I just didn’t have the time free to write it.

The Least Influential People of 2012 via GQ Magazine.

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When You Dance With The Devil…..

The first time I ever set foot in Europe there wasn’t even one single penny in my pocket. Walking down the jetway at Charles De Gaulle airport towards the luggage carousel there were no Francs, Liras, Pounds, Marks, or even a goddamn Kroner in my pocket.

“What….???  There is no way you can do that,” my mother warned me a week prior.

“You have to get at least some money or travelers checks or something,” she yelled as hot embers of parental frustration shot out of her ears.

But I didn’t say anything.  I just stayed cool. Ryan Gosling cool.  I had the abs back then so the analogy works.

“Oh Mom,” I said in a way that only a cocky twenty-five year old could, “I love you.”  And with that I kissed her on the head on my way out the door.

And instead of listening to my mom’s sage advice, I traveled halfway across the globe, my only financial resource being a thin, embossed piece of plastic with a magnetic strip on the back.  My bank’s ATM card.

If you squint, you'd think this was me.
If you squint, you’d think this was me.

I wasn’t worried though because I had an agreement in place with my bank.  One I had talked about with them in advance and understood very well. You see I had agreed to allow them to hold on to my money, and in exchange they agreed to pay me interest and make my money available to me at tens of thousand of locations all over the planet.

Sometimes they charged me a fee for that convenience, and though I would have rather not paid it, I understood it, and had agreed to it.

As happens in all relationships, we had our squabbles and we didn’t agree on everything, but at the end of the day I knew that there was nobody holding a gun to my head and I could “break-up” with them any time I wanted and go my separate way.

As it turned out, I was able to get whatever money I needed, whenever I needed it, in any country I went to with just that little plastic card.  I also bought my mom a nice box of chocolates, but some jerk in customs confiscated them because they had nuts in them.  Whatever!

Americans have a schizophrenic relationship with banks.  We can’t seem to decide how we feel about them.  At times we view them as evil behemoths, wrenching obscene profits off the backs of the consumer and embodying all the worst aspects of the capitalist system.  But at other times, when they are on the brink of collapse, we rush in and prop them up…..only to later sue them when they return to the practices that made them profitable in the first place.

We treat them like the societal version of one of those clown “bop bags” you begged your parents for at Christmas.  As long as they are “up” we want to knock them down. They keep on coming back, and we keep throwing punches, knowing somewhere deep down inside that not only can we never actually knock them out, but that we really don’t want to.

They are our financial crack dealers and we love them.  We go to them willingly and with open arms.  We can’t get enough of them, no matter what their “product” does to our lives. And that’s fine.  But for the love of everything in life that is wholly, can we please stop playing the victim card?

Bozo the evil clown banker.
Bozo the evil clown banker.

John and Jane Doe (not their real names) are good friends with my family and during the recent real estate boom they bought a house. A five bedroom, 2,500 sq. ft. house for no money down.  Zero.  Nada.  Bupkis.

Their house almost immediately increased in value as the real estate market went parabolic, and as their equity increased they ATM’d every penny out of it along the way.  And when they got to the point where they could no longer afford their mortgage payments, they just stopped paying them.

To make matters worse, they cut off communication with their lenders when “past due” notices started to show up.  Then they ignored the calls from their realtor who could have worked with them to get a short sale done.  And they didn’t participate in the loan modification programs because they thought they were “rigged.”

Instead they sat in their house for two and a half years and didn’t pay a dime of their mortgage. And when it looked like they were about to be foreclosed on, they did the only honorable thing they could and hired a lawyer to try to sue their lender for “unfair foreclosure.”

As news of the mortgage lenders settlement came out yesterday, along with it came the shrieks and bellows of “housing advocates” claiming it is unfair.  My measured and considered response to that is “shut the fuck up!”

Yeah, we all buy the “crack” but let’s at least talk honestly like grown men and women about what’s really going on here shall we?

We are not talking about the banks coming in and trying to foreclose on some poor widower who has diligently paid her mortgage for twenty years, because her payment was a day late.

We are talking about financially irresponsible idiots who thought they were getting a free ride on the gravy train of the housing boom, getting kicked out of the houses that they never had any business buying in the first place, because they did not hold up their end of the bargain.

Plain and simple.

Banks and lending institutions are businesses, not charity institutions.  They are here to make money.  They serve themselves, not some greater “Kumbaya” good.  Yet you can use them to your benefit, but you gotta follow the rules.

You can’t willingly go to them and borrow money to buy a house you have no business owning, borrow more money from them to underwrite your new RV, boat, four-runner and five-star vacations, stop paying your mortgage and live rent free in your house for months on end, and then sue them to stay in your house because they “rubber stamped” the foreclosure process.

You just can’t do that.

If you don’t want to play by the rules, don’t get in the game.  Don’t get a mortgage. Don’t use a credit card.  Don’t borrow money.  But if you do, remember, when you dance with the Devil doesn’t change, the Devil changes you.  And you can’t sue him for doing it.

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About Brian Lund

About Brian Lund

Great father. Good friend. Decent writer. Lacking husband. Solid drummer. Sometimes funny. Often A-hole. Terrible poker player. Too smart. Punk rock. Work in an ice cream shop.

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