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Special Five Things You Need to Know: Houston? We Have No Problem

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"And then we got a housing issue," he said. "Not in Houston," he added.

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Kevin Depew's Five Things You Need to Know to stay ahead of the pack on Wall Street:

"When a Linkhorn had finally taken bush parole, fleeing his Scottish bondage for the brave new world, word went on ahead: Watch for a wild boy of no particular clan, ready for anything, always armed. Prefers fighting to toil, drink to fighting, chasing women to booze or battle: may attempt all three concurrently."
- Nelson Algren, A Walk on the Wild Side

Whenever I happen to hear President George W. Bush speak, I know it won't be long before I am overcome with the uncomfortable notion that there's a bit of Linkhorn blood in the man, something strangely, and deeply, at odds with itself: A genealogical trait struggling at once to hide itself even as it can't resist peeking out, menacingly, perhaps in the form of damp underarms and a trickle of cold sweat running down his back, just to rattle our cages a bit.

Of course, I can't prove this. But the way I see it, we're already waist deep in a new age of facts based on theories, of truths assembled from half-baked rumors and innuendo, so I'm on reasonably safe ground. This, after all, is the Age of Self-Evidence.

So this intuition about Bush's Linkhorn heritage... no... this recognition... acquires its Self-Evidence by virtue of my own lineage: it takes one to know one.

I am not a Linkhorn... per se. But there are several generations of McCoy blood - of the infamous feuding Hatfields and McCoys - coursing through my Appalachian veins. "They" say the McCoys carry a rare, inherited disease in the blood, one that can lead to hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts. I have always believed this to be just an ugly and vicious rumor about my people, probably spread by Hatfields, but hearing Bush speak, perhaps one man's rare blood disease is another man's personal Linkhorn.

"There's no question about it," Bush said last week at what he thought was a closed-door fundraiser in Texas. "Wall Street got drunk, that's one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras. It got drunk and now it's got a hangover." Linkhorn to Linkhorn, Wall Street got drunk. That's a kind of unvarnished and unpleasant "plainspeak" politicians - and especially U.S. presidents - aren't ordinarily known for. Naturally, the video of his remarks made it to YouTube.

Those remarks condense a hardcore truth right down to its simple, ineluctable core, and everything would be right and good had he stopped there. But there's no stopping a Linkhorn once the juice gets spilled from the bottle. Bush continued on, and the Linkhorn in him couldn't help but put on a show and poke a finger in someone's eye: "And then we got a housing issue. Not in Houston - evidently not in Dallas, because Laura's over there trying to buy a house today."

Now Laura Bush buying a house may have some small thing to do with there being no real estate problems in Houston and Dallas. But it probably has more to do with the fact there are scores of energy-related businesses based in those two cities (see partial list of energy companies based in Houston below).

Leave it a Linkhorn to brandish the imperviousness of oil-stoked Houston and Dallas real estate markets before a crowd of well-heeled sympathizers only a week before the U.S. taxpayer scrapes together a cool $25 billion to bail out the now-explicitly guaranteed bunglings of Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE). And, leave it to a Linkhorn to misread the signals and stay at the party too long. That's another disastrous trait the President and I share.

By some weird coincidence, a strong Texas woman, a woman of good and decent breeding, once imparted to me profound words of wisdom, words I've never been able to force myself to follow, mostly because my blood runs hot with a debilitating fun gene that demands constant attention and reinforcement. She said, "Always leave the party while you're still having a good time."

Even as I can see the axiological worth of that viewpoint, my strategy, nevertheless, has always been to ride the bull to the breaking point, until I taste the dusty crunch of dirt and rocks and become just one more of the fallen.

Always taking the high down to the low. Always crossing the threshold separating good judgment from bad. Yes, Linkhorn to Linkhorn: Go on, ride that bull, Mr. President. Ride it to the end.

Partial List of Publicly-Traded Energy Companies Headquartered in Houston

ATP Oil & Gas (ATPG)
Apache Corp. (APA)
Atwood Oceanics (ATW)
BJ Services (BJS)
Baker Hughes (BHI)
Cabot Oil (COG)
Cameron (CAM)
ConocoPhillips (COP)
Diamond Offshore Drilling (DO)
EOG Resources (EOG)
ExxonMobil (XOM)
Frontier Oil (FTO)
Haliburton (HAL)
Marathon Oil (MRO)
National Oilwell Varco (NOV)
Noble Corp. (NE)
Noble Energy (NBL)
Parker Drilling (PKD)
Petrohawk (PK)
Rowan Co's. (RDC)
Smith Int'l. (SII)
TEPPCO (TPP)
Transocean (RIG)
Weathorford (WFT)

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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