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Mark Bern, CFA  

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  • Peak Cars [View instapost]
    Good point! I noticed the discrepancy between the two earlier but recalled my days in college when I was single and owned two cars. I worked full time while in school and could afford it. But, to your point, when people can no longer afford it, the number of "extra" cars could drop and we could go through a period where the ratio of cars to drivers would shrink closer to 1:1 or even less. I remember taking a job in D.C. and living in the suburbs. Both my wife and I worked, but we could only afford to own one car until I got a few raises later. I rode the bus for years. Perhaps more Americans will opt to do the same.
    Jan 17, 2010. 06:43 PM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Tuesday's Massachusetts Vote Huge For Both Parties  [View instapost]
    Great catch, Maya! I would have missed some of the interviews if you hadn't posted this. I just loved the last one, "I'd go for whoever says they're going to put aside this health bill and concentrate on the economy," he said, "work on that side of things."

    That just about sums up much of the angst in America today. Why are we so focused on the health care issue when what we really need is more jobs?
    Jan 17, 2010. 06:35 PM | 5 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Peak Cars [View instapost]
    Oh, John - You know this is only temporary. Americans are not going to give up their way of life that is centered around their cars. The only way that the line does not turn back up is if Jay Leno decides he has enough!
    Jan 17, 2010. 06:21 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Poland's Economy Is No Joke [View article]
    Peter - Another very inspiring article! All true Americans need to think more like the Poles. We need to develop and elect leaders who are honest and willing to let the free markets and courts clean up the messes created by waste, greed and poor management. The markets are far more efficient at expunging excess debt and waste from the system than the government will ever be. Thanks again for your thoughtful contributions and good luck in your Senate race!
    Jan 17, 2010. 06:13 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Poland's Economy Is No Joke [View article]
    You are so right in stating the obvious. Both parties in this country are corrupt and the career politicians are interested only in getting themselves reelected.

    For a refreshing alternative that just might work (and we really need it to work) go to It makes a lot of sense once you let the concept soak in.
    Jan 17, 2010. 06:08 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Foreclosure Filings: 2009 Not Pretty, 2010 Expected to Be Worse [View article]
    Crazy as it may sound, we self insure. You need a fairly large pool of properties over which to spread the risk, but so far it has worked out to be cheaper for us this way. We are considering insurance on some of our higher value properties, though.
    Jan 17, 2010. 03:22 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Illusion of Economic Growth Accompanied by Massive Government Deficits Coming to an End [View article]
    I suspect that the photo is probably the result of a graphic artist with too much time on their hands.
    Jan 17, 2010. 03:11 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • States in Major Tax Revenue Trouble [View instapost]
    Absolutely! I own a couple that the banks didn't want. I guess they did the risk/benefit analysis and decided the right-off would serve them better. They had loaned more than the property had been worth and the previous owner left things in bad repair. After they paid us, went through bankruptcy procedures, paid for repairs, additional taxes, closing cost, etc., they would end up losing more than if they just let us have it. On the other side of the coin, I've had more than one bank realize late in the game that they wanted the property after all and ended up paying us a premium to get it back. I like those!
    Jan 17, 2010. 10:31 AM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Pub Power [View instapost]
    I read somewhere that the sales of spirits generally increases during recessionary periods. I guess there is something to the old adage "drowning you sorrows."
    Jan 17, 2010. 10:25 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Equities Update: Biggest Drop So Far This Year [View article]
    It's an ugly market and reminds me of halloween, so I just thought it appropriate. When things get better, I'll remove the mask. Look for the unveiling around 2019. By then the difference may not be appreciable.
    Jan 17, 2010. 10:23 AM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • How Can the Economy Recover if Banks Aren't Lending? [View article]
    The TBTF banks are mostly basket cases hiding their true asset values in the closet. They carry REO on the books at values recorded in 2006. As long as they don't sell them, they are not required to take the loss. They carry CDOs and MBOs on their books at values they calculate internally (read: at whatever they need to look solvent and profitable). They are counting on an economic recovery so that those same values will increase enough for them to stay in business. They are playing a waiting game strategy because that is all they have left. Hide, lie, and smile big for the camera, please!
    Jan 17, 2010. 10:18 AM | 6 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Pub Power [View instapost]
    I can't help or hurt the indicator much from a personal stand point. We don't eat out much and I don't drink much either. I like to cook and my family likes what I cook. We keep outings to celebrate special events. Not that I matter much in the big picture.

    But from the graphs and the few experiences I have recently in eating out, I would have to recommend against buying restaurant stocks. I'm not sure I would trust the indicator to help in the investment strategy area any further than that.
    Jan 16, 2010. 11:52 PM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • FCIC Traveling the Wrong Path [View article]
    Yeah, but it would give them a thrill! That one is one-way, but what I had in mind for Congress....
    Jan 16, 2010. 11:43 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Foreclosure Filings: 2009 Not Pretty, 2010 Expected to Be Worse [View article]
    We haven't assessed damage at all the properties yet, but we had only minimal problems on those we've looked at. Most came through in good shape, so far. We tried to winterized the vacant ones before winter set in this year. It really helps. But I doubt that the banks are taking such steps. I know that often we find problems in houses when we first take possession and have to remedy those situations quickly. It is usually either squatters or water leaks. Many abandoned houses have not been properly maintained for years prior to abandonment, so the often deteriorate quickly when vacant.
    Jan 16, 2010. 11:34 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • FCIC Traveling the Wrong Path [View article]
    I'm not a pessimist. I'm really not. Normally I'm a very optimistic sort of guy. But I have lost nearly all faith in the leadership of our country. Instead of running the country, the President has continued his campaign. Transparency in government? We won't get that until we throw all the career politician out of office and replace them with honest, decent American citizens who want to do what is right for this great nation. We need to restrict the federal government more to the things that can't be handled by the states; something more in line with what was intended by the founding fathers. I don't think our leaders understand what true transparency is. Perhaps we should give them the opportunity to see and believe as in the photo linked below:
    Jan 16, 2010. 11:24 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment