If you think finance is dry you really haven’t been paying much attention. We have just had one hell of an entertaining week people! The 10 yr had been slowly creeping up, sending the refi market into the frozen zone and then, Pow! Europe jumps back into the scene with Italy’s messy politics that sends a shiver through the financial markets and investors headed back to the warm arms of Treasuries and mortgage prices resuscitate the fragile refi market for us.

Who do we have to thank for this? A comedian apparently. Compliments of Bloomberg:

“In any other country, Silvio Berlusconi would have been a mortally wounded candidate. He is appealing a conviction for tax fraud, facing trial on charges of prostitution with a minor, and the last time he was in office in 2011, he stepped amid fear that his clumsy handling of the economy would cause the country to collapse. But in Italy, it turns out, none of those factors are fatal.”
“A big question following the Italian election is whether the emergence of a new force, in the form of the Five Star Movement led by a frizzy haired comedian named Beppe Grillo, has the potential to redraw the country’s political map. At heart a protest party—Grillo first entered politics by organizing nationwide protests he called “Go F— yourself days.”

He followed that with his ever popular slogan “Throw the Rascals Out!”

Mr. Grillo’s Five-Star Movement won 25% of the popular vote and is poised to seat 163 lawmakers in Italy’s two house of Parliament. With 54 seats in the upper house, the Senate, his party is big enough to force Italy’s leading coalition—led by the center-left Democratic Party—to form a government only if it can forge an alliance with Mr. Grillo or with its arch-enemies, the center-right coalition of Silvio Berlusconi, which by all accounts he has no intention of doing. The failure to form a government with a secure parliamentary backing could throw the Italians back to the polls for another try. An outcome that Mr. Grillo says would represent a last chance to enact their antiestablishment, pro-change platform (also anti-austerity which is really what got the bond holders of the world to buy Treasuries. Thanks Grillo!

So all of this is to say that this comedian sparked the rally in rates that is sending us back to look for our friends who need a refi! You have to love the Italians!

But the Italians are not going to have a chance to out-do us. Today, the people we elected to represent us, are FINALLY holding their first meeting to discuss the “Sequester”…you know, the package of random and very unpopular budget cuts that were planted in order to make it painful enough that our friends in Washington would solve the budget issue prior to the deadline. No chance! The cuts will go into effect tonight at midnight because the House is “Adjourned” (aka winter break or some such thing) and the Senate is having a photo op…oops I mean an meeting about not doing anything at all.

So here we are, in the same place we have been for months. Maybe we need our own “Throw the Rascals Out!” slogan.

Ok, its Friday so I can’t leave you on such a negative note. Entertainment has two sides to it-the purely ridiculous and the sublime. Here is one for the sublime: the CEO of Groupon was “let go” yesterday. His (unconfirmed) but forthright and actually clear-headed letter to his employees follows~

People of Groupon,

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that’s hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.

You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I’m getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we’ve shared over the last few months, and I’ve never seen you working together more effectively as a global company – it’s time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.

For those who are concerned about me, please don’t be – I love Groupon, and I’m terribly proud of what we’ve created. I’m OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I’ll now take some time to decompress (FYI I’m looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I’ll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.

If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness – don’t waste the opportunity!

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