Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Is this finally it? and other thoughts...

---Forget about the impeachment hearings and the information being uncovered there.  Forget about the ridiculous actions in Ukraine led by Trump and his foolish camera ready henchman Guiliani.  Drop the focus on Trump also calling on China to investigate the hapless ne'er do well Hunter Biden.  In starting a new war in the Middle East, Trump has trumped himself.  His thoughtless and uninformed decision, made in a mere phone call, to trust that the Turkish autocrat Erdogan would preserve stability in Syria as the U.S. withdraws has led to a full scale attack on the Kurdish population.  These U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS and vicious elements of the Assad's Syrian autocracy had been staunch and capable partners.  Now Russia is back in again, likely supporting Erdogan and Assad, and at least 150,000 Kurds have been displaced in the last week.  The number of casualties is unclear at this time.

Sound complicated?  Has anything in the Middle East ever been simple?  In just a week's time, an offhand decision by Trump not vetted by the military or the professionals in the State Department(which clearly excludes Pompeo who has been at a Christian leadership conference in Nashville) has turned recent relative stability into chaos. If he is interfered with, Erdogan is now threatening to send another wave of migrants into Europe, notwithstanding the country's membership in NATO.  The assault on the Kurdish areas is massive and ongoing.  Executions of Kurd fighters have been filmed, too gruesome for network television.  By the time any truce has been arranged by Trump, the avowed peacemaker, the damage will be done.  Mike Pence has been dispatched to resolve the crisis.  Nitwit to the rescue!

---There is another Democratic debate tonight, if this is what these gaggles of cross talking aspirants can be called.  Biden will be in focus as a result of Trump's repeated attacks on him and his son.  Sanders general health will be watched.  Warren will likely intensify her attacks on successful American companies.  In fact, the airing of this debate had been overlooked here until a few hours ago.  Watching baseball still may be attractive, if this team from Washington is capable.  Should the obvious comment be made?

---The Showtime series "The Circus:  Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth" is generally entertaining, at times insightful.  The next episode will be a challenge.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Thoughts on October 9th --- age, luck, intuition...

---Not to be morbid, but there are days, not infrequent, when one of the most interesting parts of the New York Times are the obituary pages.  There are lengthy obits of people not so well known but important, with plenty of history to cover.  Today there is Beverly Watkins, an Atlanta based blues guitarist who worked since the 1950's with bands backing various blues and soul artists, and played in bars at nights for many years while "cleaning houses and offices and working at carwashes during the day".  She had her first album at 60, and won an award for best new artist at age 62.  Another is about Gunter Kunert, unknown here, who was an East German writer of satiric novels who was allowed by that government to spend 1972 as a guest professor at the University of Texas.  Calling himself a "cheerful melancholic", he later emigrated to the U.S. and taught at several other colleges.  Then there is Wayne Fitzgerald who spent a successful career making the opening sequence of movies and t.v. shows, including some of the most famous soap operas, no doubt watched by my grandmother, her "stories".  The most fascinating one today is about Pierre Le-Tan, a Paris based artist who did everything from "The New Yorker" covers to advertisements for chic French brands, covers for books by well known writers, and paintings that hang in museums in Europe.

Only very rarely do I find an NYT obit of someone that I personally knew, but at times of people that are related to others that I had contact with, often in business.  My age must have something to do with these observations?

---Along that tangent, while watching the financial and market news these days I occasionally notice people that are related to people that have been part of my circle in the past.  Today that observation was almost certain.  A fund manager at a mid-sized but highly regarded asset management firm was being interviewed on CNBC this morning.  Her parents worked at MHT.  Her last name matched.  She looked like her mother, good thing, and hair was identical.  She had the slight but unmistakable accent of someone who grew up in Minnesota.  I listened to her comments carefully as my inclination was that she was astute.  Another example, a senior fund manager at a major east coast asset manager is related to friends from the 1970's.  I never knew him, but I was making a pitch at this firm when he was much younger and in attendance with others.  Researching today a company based in Louisville, I noticed that his firm was one of the major holders.  Guess he should have some long term insight?

That said, there are some investors still around that were known relatively well;  Miller, Danoff, Pohl,  Gendell, to a lesser extent Cooperman and a few others. Watching what they do is of interest, but not necessarily what is followed.

---The financial markets remain volatile, and unpredictable as a whole.  Investors and analysts on news programs have opinions:  "Europe is where to invest now";  "Value stocks are back";  "Emerging market bonds are an opportunity, or not";  "Health care is a demographic imperative, must buy";  "Small caps are dangerous, no flexibility in a downturn";  and on and on.  Only thing to do is invest in personally researched companies and ignore the chatter, my thought for the day.  BUT, dry powder is important as is diversification.  These are just reminders to myself, back to that age thing!

Luck helps. I like to call that intuition

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Whatever... ramblings off my medication

---So called "senior economics reporter" Steve Leischman on CNBC today lauded stocks with substantial buybacks and solid dividends, as did a previously unheard of portfolio manager who said that her portfolio was recession proof because of that approach.  Hmm, nothing those companies can think of to reinvest in?

---On the same channel, Jim Cramer used the decline today of Stitch Fix(SFIX) as an example indicative of a pending economic and market downturn.  An unattractive market may be developing, the last two days certainly have been brutal, but SFIX is not indicative of anything.  It is a made to order apparel company that identifies as a technology company.  Katrina Lake is a charismatic leader who can charm some investors, but opinion here is that it is a hustle, if not a hoax.  Charmed two years ago here, rode some ups and downs until finally getting out breakeven and wasting time.  Almost sounds like a relationship!

---The HBO program "Succession" continues to be a compelling and perplexing fictional drama.  It's clearly based on a Rupert Murdoch type character and associated family members, sans a Wendy.  Oh well.  The number of characters to follow can become daunting, but the financial wheeling and dealing is realistic at times.  That was watched last night while taking a break from the Washington and Milwaukee wild card game, a perfect break as the real tension in that game was the last two innings.  Washington is my new team.

---Is anyone else annoyed by the Iphone software that does constant spell check on what is written.  Pauses are met by word guessing by the software which seems to be driven by words used, places seen, people mentioned, and phrases in former writing.  It is especially aggravating when, while quickly writing something, I only later see that spell check overrode what was intended.

---Payments system stocks invested in recently have seriously faded.  Buying the dip was ill timed.  The stocks remain attractive longer term.  My basis is not at this time.  Average down or wait?  Did add another today, PAYC, plus IBKR.  Go figure.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Signs of market downturn, other thoughts...

---Watching various payments related stocks under pressure makes me wonder.  Do they foretell an economic slowdown?  Paypal, Salesforce, Adobe, Master Card, Square, and Visa seem to be under pressure.  Most have been strong performers over the last year, and have business models that do not lead to any significant credit or trading market risk.  They represent activity.  If  flow slows, their tax on the economy does as well.  As stocks, five remain attractive.  Square is a mystery, at this point either a huge opportunity or an ongoing bust.  As barometers of the economy at the moment, these names are worth watching.

---Ken Burns series "Country Music" has been entertaining to watch.  Trying to cover a subject like this is going to get multiple positive and negative reviews.  Music fans can be highly opinionated, an understatement.  Episodes three and four were exceptional, from this perspective, and the later ones had to cover the merger of country and pop, not easy to deal with some of the easy listening for many observers.  My knowledge is worse than spotty.  In 2003 I spent six weeks in Texas after breaking out of the bank.  In talking about music with a new friend there, she said that her favorite singer was George Strait. When I asked who that was, she was astonished, absolutely beside herself.  Living in New York was my excuse, but she did not accept that or think it could possibly be true.  I found it hard to believe that she grew up on her family owned 400,000 acre ranch even though she dressed and cursed like a cowhand.  Hard to imagine, but found out that was true as well.

---The so-called Trump fiasco regarding Ukraine and the Biden's is dominating the news cycle.  Impeachment proceedings are beginning.  Somehow this does not interest me.  Let's simply focus on getting a bipartisan infrastructure bill through Congress as soon as possible.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Oh my, the UN speech and more...

--- President Trump's speech at the U.N. today was similar to a campaign trail speech in content, but with the curious flourishes that writer Stephen Miller adds for eloquence and historical significance.  While commenting on that is not necessary as readers have their own opinions, at times Trump's words veered seriously into advice for other leaders in a way that could be seen as borderline offensive.  It seems that there are no borderlines that can't be crossed for Trump, except the one with Mexico.

---Until today, the stock market remained without real trends, stable but fully valued some say.  The comments on trade today roiled the markets a bit, the hostile remarks about fellow major member China were almost without precedent at a U.N. presentation(although commentators tried to excuse that because he said a nice word about Xi), and getting specific about an individual stock, Micron Technology, was highly unusual in this setting and must have made the managers of that company cringe.  The market was broadly negative.

---Undeterred, a new speculative position was added today.  ALKS is a U.K. based drug developer with some interesting patents.  It has not performed well recently and is near a 52 week low.  Still, among their top 10 mutual fund holders there are only two index funds, the remainder are discretionary funds that choose to own it, some reputable firms.  Among analysts, ISS-EVA, one that is followed here, has an outperform rating, one other firm has buy rating that's a year old and there is a sell from stodgy Credit Suisse.  An intriguing story seen today is that the firm holds the patent to Naltrexone, an old drug that has been used with modest success for addiction therapy.  Now some say it has significant pain relief attributes, while not being an opiate. The company is balking at further development while some in medical circles are eager to use it.  The current stock price clearly has little or no value ascribed to this patent.  Speculative position, but as usual I find a "reason" for my actions.  Or should that be "rationale", since this type of informed betting is an enjoyed activity, and of course not an addiction!

---More talk among Democrats in the House about impeachment proceedings.  Trump would actually enjoy that.  More ways to rile up the base against the elites.  No matter what they find, few Republicans will peel away from Trump unless there are credible reports of incest or bestiality.  That will not happen.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

More random thoughts...

--- The New York Jets are in trouble again.  With their supposed star quarterback Sam Darnold out with mono for the forseeable future, in yesterday's game an incompetent beanpole named Siemian came in and sprained his ankle, and then came the unheard of  Luke Falk who managed to stay in the game, seemingly an accomplishment.  Darnold has never been the heralded team leader that the media talked up, just an average player with a "whatever happens" attitude.  They need a quarterback.  Is this possibly the time that a team, meaning the Jets, would have the guts to pull Colin Kapernick out from his informal ban from the game as arranged by Roger Goodall and most team owners?  Other athletes say he stays in shape and is ready.  Nike would like that, as well as many players.

---Here I have been digging through three old photo albums salvaged from my parent's house more than a decade ago.  When there are finds that might be interesting to others as well as me, they are headed to Facebook, as some readers have seen.  There were many more photos lost when a bag was stolen at LaGuardia baggage claim at that time.  I saw the culprit, but was not close enough and she was fast. The ones that are being posted now get some attention.

---Steven Schwarzman of Blackrock was on CNBC and on Bloomberg Markets for interviews this morning.  His comments are interesting from a business perspective but, like Ray Dalio recently, he points out that 40% of Americans are just getting by, not poor but living paycheck to paycheck lives, and that's long term problem that eventually will seep into financial markets.  No answers but at least he didn't say that Trump was on the right track as he did a year ago.  Not long on humility, he remains focused on business results and most of his comments were poignant, a few self serving.  In another life, I was in a group meeting with him at JPM.  In that kind of private setting he was a first rate comedian.  Not kidding!

---Today's equity market held in for modest gains, but the broad market no longer reflects general investment performance among discretionary mutual funds as the results vary widely.  One can assume that's the same for individual investors.  Staying active here, some days just looking, others trading a bit.  The bet here on Macy's came crashing down today, still a gain now but barely.  Added a few more shares, but could bail completely if today's turn is indicative of something that I can't see.  Added a bit to farfetched FTCH.  It's working so far.  Chipotle ramped again today with its announcement of adding carne asada to the menu.  That's real sliced steak, sirloin, ribeye, and more.  Added incrementally to Ebay and Goldman Sachs, but sold full positions in Yum yesterday and in Bausch Healthcare today.  Yum promptly rose 2% today while Bausch fell 1%.  Short term perspectives like that are not useful but after a trade it's impossible not to notice.  Yum seemed fully valued and with a long term capital gain to protect, that decision was made.  Bausch was recently added after United Heathcare was sold.  The decision to quickly sell Bausch was based on the realization that I am a lousy investor in healthcare, other than a few lucky biotech successes, and should stick to ETF's for that sector.  Had enough of this market jabber?  Me too.  One more note.  The five largest holdings across portfolios here are Apple, Google, Costco, Berkshire Hathaway, and Amazon, in order of size.  They are closely watched.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


John Bolton, the Where's Waldo man of every White House photo during his tenure, is gone.  He's fired, I resigned, who cares, the hard core militarist is no longer there. Now if  Peter Navarroist would just disappear along with his widely discredited views on trade among most economists.  Someone else could possibly explain to Trump that his tariffs penalize American companies and workers. Then Will-Bur Ross could leave as well, taking his ass with him, after telling the authority under his purview to endorse Trump's moronic forecast that the hurricane would hit Alabama.

Trump is unpredictable, crude, and uneducated, but eliminating these folks may be beneficial to him, and perhaps the country.  Melania has now taken a stand against vaping.  Be Best.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

And now a word from your...

Recently there have been pronounced declines in payments related stocks such as Paypal, Square, Salesforce, Master Card, Visa, and American Express.  That said, they have all been decent performers year to date, some stronger than others.  Does this foreshadow a decline in economic activity?  Or is it just that the stocks are backing down from momentum driven valuations?  Something to ponder.  Chipotle and Shake Shack are getting crushed today.  McDonalds solidly down too, and Yum Brands(KFC, Taco Bell, etc.)is sliding as well.  Are consumers expected to go back to cooking?  Edgy times despite the gains this year.  The market seems to be looking for an overdue correction.  Are these the signs in stocks owned here?

A radically oversized investment in Macy's here based on the value of their real estate has finally turned around in a major way, at least for now.  Even a bet on PYX, once again, is looking much better, and maybe soon will lead to securities lending interest as it did last year.  Bet on FTCH is positive now, no matter how farfetched, as a comparison is made here to AVP, Avon Products, which is simply a global distribution network reaching into emerging markets and that was leftover from the former "calling" company.  AVP has done well, up 29% since March purchase, stock not lipstick.

Will betting on a GE turnaround be a losing proposition once again here, or will this time be different.  Bet made and doubled down, finally turning for real?  MU up more than 100% since June bet, and GLD down today which is a positive turn for the moment.  Still can't believe that I gave up on ROKU $110 ago. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

From 1999 to 2019, has anything really changed?

Much of the market talk is focused on consumer spending, which makes sense as it is widely suggested that it represents 70% of the U.S. economy.  As the consumer goes, so goes the stock market.  There are many other issues of note that are discussed by the pundits, a favorite being the shape of the yield curve.  That's a bit more problematic.  The well known formula for determining stock price is based on return on capital over cost of capital.  What is the formula when there is no cost of capital?  Does that require new math?

CEO's speak confidently on business networks and assure us that they will take advantage of artificial intelligence, cost saving new technologies, cybersecurity innovations, and more sophisticated risk management systems.  They know their lines and read well.  A few are brilliant, many are not.  Is this 1999?  "Twenty years ago today..."

We will surely benefit from a bioscience revolution that is only in its earliest stages.  DNA coding will help us do what?  Health care costs will drop dramatically as surgery can be guided remotely by whom? 

As summer ends, reality sets in. What are the real job numbers, college payments are due, and what are the best new car models?  So much to think about.  Fortunately we have a leader for whom thinking is not a problem.  He doesn't do it.  He simply reacts.  He says "it's his way of negotiating".  We can understand that.

If investing in the stock market required understanding all of this, it would be impossible, and that's ignoring global systemic issues that cannot be predicted.  So the Oracle still rules.  Invest in good companies that can be understood, have moats related to products or brands, financials that make sense, and competent leaders.  Simple really. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Call center blues...

With reported unemployment levels well under 4%, is it possible that those boring, modestly paid, call center jobs are scratching the bottom of the barrel for workers.  India is no longer the call center location of choice as the pay was too low for their growing economy, and management there was difficult.  The Philippines brief run as a preferred location was brief for some reason. More and more companies seem to be locating call centers in Texas, Oklahoma, and southwestern states.  Competency does not seem to be a criteria for employment, wherever located.

Today, working with a call center in Oklahoma, to get my online subscription to GoDanRiver.com up and running, was a minor nightmare, and unsuccessful, a bad dream that ends badly.  The newspaper is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the venerable Buffett firm that owns local newspapers all over the U.S.  Having received a letter confirming my subscription and approving debiting my account, it still does not work.  There is still "your five free articles this month are complete. To subscribe...".  It is impossible to believe that this person who was trying to help was looking at the same screen that I was.  He argued with me, saying it works, don't you see it.  When I asked to speak to a supervisor he refused, saying "I am very competent", and when he talked fast his accent was difficult to understand.  I tried this over a year ago, did not work. Again, did not work after 18 minutes on the phone this morning.  Is it me?

Today as well, tried to finalize a master securities lending agreement with Fidelity.  There is one in place with Schwab and it has been useful.  Interest rates have at times been extremely high for less liquid securities. I know the risk, and understand financial analysis.  The Fidelity call center individual suggested that I fax back the agreement in its entirety in order to get the agreement in place, and gave me a little lecture on why Fidelity does not trust the U.S. mail.  Could he have been an off script overly friendly trainee.  I suggested that he send me a return UPS envelope as Schwab had done.  He wanted to talk more.  Maybe he will send what is needed, and here's hoping that the opportunities seen now are still viable.  No big deal.

My optimum remote broke a few days ago. It was old, and this has happened before.  A new one was picked up a the local Optimum store a few miles away. The directions for set-up were unclear, both in content and in text.  The print was so small on the instructions that they were almost impossible to read, and yes my eyeglasses prescription has recently been updated.  With this call, lo and behold, after 20 minutes on the phone there was success.  It was then that I decided to tell this fellow that recently I had been getting a pop-up from Optimum that was asking for information, and it seemed to be unusual, you know as in needing an immediate response or my service would be stopped.  He wanted to talk about it. Politely trying to tell him that this is something he should tell others, as it looked exactly like Optimum branding, he did not get it.  The pop-up showed up again a few hours ago.  You can lead a horse to water but...

An unknown company had a call center in Danville and that closed... what does that say?  Is it me?

Friday, August 09, 2019

Loose ends...

---Reading about the amazing life of Toni Morrison, there was one completely unexpected fact. In 2008 and 2009, she and Fran Lebowitz toured together as a talking tandem.  That's a combination that was not expected.

---Apple's decision to enter the credit card business seems odd on the surface, but then again maybe not.  Teaming with Goldman Sachs, not remotely known for retail banking, the card will be available widely.  Subprime credits are being accepted.  Huh?  Apple products are not cheap, but they are ubiquitous.  Would a consumer rather plop down an Apple card or a United Miles one.  Chase Freedom, Discover, or Capital One Quicksilver?  The cachet of an American Express card is long gone, and so are most of its once unique attributes.  The rewards on the Apple card could be interesting, and it will be a brand extender.  Question here is, do they really care about making money on this business and how much of the credit risk will be absorbed by Goldman?

---The stock market is hard to decipher at the moment.  Recently sold a large position in the old style conglomerate 3M as they just sit and do nothing, sold Morgan Stanley as see more downside than upside now, bought Kraft Heinz after their collapse yesterday thinking how could things get worse, added to Square and to Salesforce(CRM) as these payments technologies are creative financial intermediaries without credit risk, and added to a beleagured position in recent IPO of LEVI. Get out the weak hands and it will pop is my thought.  Am I doing real investing or do I just have too much time on my hands?

---Those seeing my activity on Facebook, Messenger, Blogger, and e-mail would probably say the latter.

---Bought some over the counter CBD oil today.  Oh, my knee hurts and anxiety abounds.  There is no THC in this now widely used hemp derivative, but some say there is a hint of a good feeling at times.  My doctor says it's just a placebo effect.  That might be nice.

Monday, August 05, 2019

"Mama told me there'll be days like this"

Today was not a good day for the equity markets.  They were almost uniformly down significantly .  Across five accounts with multiple investments, there were only three in positive territory today.  They were GLD, LYFT, and WORK, aka Slack Technologies.  Two closely watched barometers of the economy are Master Card and VISA.  They are a function of expected flows in economic activity, have no credit risk, and they were both down around 4.7%.  Many mid-cap tech names were crushed and the QQQ as a proxy for tech broadly was down 6%.  Overall there was no shelter.

Tariffs are a tax on the global economy.  They will soon become a tax on middle class Americans.  Competitive currency devaluations stop capital investments in their tracks.  Build walls, plow under the fields, punish multinational American companies, and use trade as a form of hostile diplomacy.  It puts a man in the spotlight who craves nothing more than attention.  His understanding is limited, but his so-called base could care less.  Democrats think that talking policy will reach his base.  Good luck with that.

Interesting is not the word for this. 

Sunday, August 04, 2019

A personal way to look at the Democratic candidates...

This will be a different look at the field of Democrats who want to run for President.  None of what follows is an endorsement or indication of ultimate preference here.  It is personal opinion.  First, here are the most interesting candidates, based on not saying the routine stuff.  And they are:  Pete Buttigieg for being able to say the expected in an articulate and unexpected way;  Andrew Yang for his comprehensive look at a future economy and what it may mean, always tying back to his guaranteed income;  Marianne Williamson for saying strange things that often make sense;  Tulsi Gabbard for an approach to foreign policy that is unique, at times refreshing, at others a bit scary;  and Michael Bennet for monotone plain spoken common sense, almost boring bipartisanship that surprises at times.

The least interesting candidates are, hands down, Bill deBlasio and Beto O'Rourke for their entitled manner in delivering random opinions, based on trying to say what will get a headline or have a remark be one for the history books and television forever.  They are completely unconvincing.

Leading the completely BLAH category are Cory Booker, Julian Castro, and Kristin Gillibrand.  They pound the table on the obvious, and have absolutely nothing new to say.  Booker is well regarded by some, but seems here to be orchestrating every move without taking any risk.

Those that are presumed to be the leading candidates, Biden, Warren, Sanders, and Harris, are respectively too old and backward looking; a compulsive attention seeker in the thrall of her own ambition;  too old, too rigid, with no comprehension of how to fund his goals; and one who moves seamlessly from clear sighted comments to mistakenly stepping on a rake.  Classifying Amy Klobuchar has been difficult, and she seems to still be working on it herself.  She is clearly from Minnesota, that I know.  Each of these, despite comments here, are viable candidates.  Nobody's perfect, never were never will be.

For those not mentioned, you may be deemed lucky.

This comment is subject to revision daily!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Tulsi, Kirsten, Andrew, Russell, Jeff...

---Presidential primary Democrat Tulsi Gabbard has sued Google for placing too many of her political ads in a spam folder over six hours in June.  Gabbard, like Kirsten  Gillibrand, has a history of anti-gay comments, but she is pretty much sticking with them as a candidate.  Once Gillibrand became a New York Senator she had a change of heart from her previous vehemence.  Gabbard is also supportive of Assad of Syria and opposes all U.S. intervention overseas.  She is a whack job, but articulate and presentable, and has an impressive background.  Now that many candidates are placing ads on Facebook, it should be noted that here they are all, regardless of party affiliation, marked as "hide ad", and depending on my mood categorized as either "irrelevant" or "spam".  Could that be Gabbard's problem, since she chose to advertise heavily at that exact time.

---Russell Crowe's performance as the totally unsympathetic character Roger Ailes in "The Loudest Voice" is completely convincing.  Why he accepted this role, who knows?  Apparently this is well researched and meant to be a true representation of Ailes, and who could imagine he was so much of a bizarre creep, sexual predator, and obsessive paranoid. His wife is made for him, even more of an extremist in every way.  This afternoon "A Beautiful Mind" was watched, the 2001 film in which Crowe played John Nash, a brilliant mathemetician who suffered from schizophrenia but eventually won the Nobel Prize.  Crowe's performance was exceptional in this true story as a character who was completely sympathetic.

---New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is back in the news again for his pay to play style of political fund raising.  The Democratic Party, in general, has worked for years to distance itself from the type of politics that depended on labor unions and public contractors that characterized the party at times in the past.  Cuomo unabashedly continues that tradition in New York.  As head of the MTA, he oversees multiple major infrastructure projects, not unlike his highway projects upstate a few years ago.  A New York Times article today details his fundraiser's actions, one step removed from him.

---Politicians on both sides of the aisle are looking for ways to define the major tech companies as anti-competitive monopolies.  These are global businesses.  European politicians are already taking their tolls, reasons not specific in the least.  Now various states in the U.S. are joining in, and Congress wants in.  For the Republican President, the rationale seems entirely political.  Silicon Valley is not exactly pro-Trump, and Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, which has not tried to emulate Fox New or Sinclair Broadcasting.  How this plays out is unknown, but accidents can happen.

---"The Year of Living Dangerously", watched last night, was far better than remembered.  Unclear what tonight may bring, and Mets and Yankees are both off tonight so no natural sedative.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Robocalls and more...

---For the last two days there has been a robocall whose recorded voice is kind enough to warn me that there has been a complaint about misuse of my social security number.  It advises, "so before we call the FBI and your social security benefits are suspended, call..."  That is more than a nuisance, it should be criminal.  Old folks could pick up that recording and feel the necessity to respond.  Since I am not an old person, the call must have targeted me by mistake.  Oh, I forget, not so young here.

---While not old, I am prone to be dazed by the cacophony of events these days.  The President offers to help negotiate disagreements between India and Pakistan?  Russian jets apparently enter South Korean airspace and warning shots are fired.  Chinese jets in coordination with the Russians fly in the "air defense identification zone".  This apparently relates to Japanese Prime Minister Abe seeking parliamentary approval to invest in military capacity.  South Koreans and Japanese are not exactly palsy walsy.  The Trump administration moves to cut back the number of food stamp recipients, removing 3 million people.  Sonny Perdue, our agriculture secretary calls it a loophole in which welfare recipients are allowed to receive food stamps.  That's a loophole?  Many states have found a way around that rule to the benefit of the elderly, disabled, and poor.  Under the federal law, a family of three that has an income of $27,000 should not receive food stamps.  So much for states rights.  Now Iran has seized a British oil tanker, not harming the crew but putting it under their control.  Britain has said it will take all appropriate measures but in four days has not figured out what they are.  The U.S. is sending more ships to the region.  Is that enough to think about for one day?  Our President is mainly focused on four junior women members of Congress, as he sees attacking them as a winning move for 2020.  He has an uncluttered mind.

---The Mets are too frustrating to watch and the Yankees too far ahead to create any tension, so with network television unwatchable I am restarting the Sopranos.  Halfway through Season One, Two and Three on the way.  Uncle Junior is a viable character in Season One and Christopher is already a fuck up.  Dr. Melfi and Tony talk. Some is remembered for sure, but much of the nuance is not.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Short takes...

---The Saturday NYT article on Li Na being inaugurated into the Tennis Hall of Fame was worthy of attention.  When she started playing seriously, much of China did not even know what the game was.  There were no tournaments in China at that time, but her development attracted government control with limited support.  She persevered and eventually won two majors, French and Australian Opens. Today there are 11 tournaments in China, and a growing contingent of international players.

---Watching the British Open on Saturday, the announcers had a proclivity to ascribe certain shots and their outcomes to luck.  Of course luck is involved in any sport, but for the most part the skill must be there for luck to happen.  For example, Shane Lowry, an Irishman, hit a shot out of terrible rough, landed it in front of the green, after which it bounced to a hill at the corner of the green and rolled down to within a foot of the pin.  These are experienced links players and I submit that Lowry intended for that outcome and it was not just happenstance as suggested by the chuckling announcers.  Just an opinion.

---The PYXUS International Inc. annual report was received today.  They are the successor to Dibrell, Dimon, Alliance One, etc.  Annual reports of this weight and length with attaching proxy statement are almost things of the past, but not with PYX.  They tout leaf tobacco business with a 4.9% increase in volumes and in Canada its increase in local hemp recreational product, "targeted to reach over 140,000 kgs annually." That's a bit different from Arlo Guthrie singing "flying into Los Angeles, bringing in a couple of keys."  A new joint venture opened a new facility in North Carolina for industrial hemp extraction.  Ready for a conversion?  PYX trader here and it has been good to me.

---Facebook Messenger is buzzing today, while often silent.  Forget the naysayers on FB, it's an effective way to communicate.  Of course I don't discuss very personal issues or lay out passwords, or slander anyone, never have.  What me worry?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Various comments...

---Discovered that the golf channel is 224 on Cablevision.  Links golf was a diversion today.  The rough is punishing, but it is an interesting course.  A guy from Kentucky is in the lead at the British Open in Northern Ireland, did not grow up on the links courses.

---The equity markets are stable in the aggregate but it is a challenging time to invest.  There are no clear trends.  Netflix fell 10% today to $324.  That was a big hit to one account, but with a basis of $14.75 it is accepted. ROKU is a stock that is followed with regret.  It was identified in December last year as an "opportunity" based primarily on price action.  In fact, I had no real understanding of what the company did at that time, and there was little public information.  It was bought in the low 30's and rose to the mid-40's in January.  Then it fell back into the high 20's.  Afraid of an inexplicable loss, it was sold when it rose back to the mid-30's.  Today it is at 108. Ugh.  Added to Fidelity Floating Rate High Income, that's a money market fund for junk bond companies with a yield more than 6%.  It will need to be watched.  Started a position in BHC, Bausch Health Companies, as a focused health care investment and sold United Health Care, UNH, just bought two weeks ago, with a gain, but looking more closely it appears to be an unfocused health conglomerate with pharmacy risk. Well, it is.  All of this is both investing and entertainment here.  Better than an online casino.

---It is interesting to watch the comments on Facebook, as many of those "friends" are from or related to my hometown.  It is in a conservative area, but also diverse in its own way.  Recent exchanges among others there have shown what divisive times these are.  While all folks seem well meaning, some of the opinions are evolving into harsh dialogues.  Some of it is surprising.

---Watching Lilyhammer on Netflix discs.  It stars Steven Van Zandt as a New York mob boss who goes into witness protection in a small town in Norway.  Some subtitles, some in English, for Sopranos fans it's worth a try.  For Springsteen fans as well.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Today's comments...

---The 1970 film "Woodstock" was watched over the last two days.  It was the expanded version that was edited by Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmiller, both destined for later renown in cinema.  The film focused on both the music and the crowd, as well as the overwhelmed promoters.  The length of some of the performances must have been meant to replicate an actual experience of being there.  Ten Years After got ten years.  At its best, in retrospect, the film represents the height of the idealism of the counter culture years.  Some of the performances remain exceptional. A few are tedious.  Interviews with those attending are a look back 50 years in time, got that "cat".

---The ticker tape parade for the U.S. women's soccer team in New York was a well orchestrated event.  Two bobbleheads stood out, riding floats with the women.  Mayor Bill DiBlasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, one a presidential primary hopeful and one an aspiring candidate still in the closet, rode on floats with the players waving to the crowd with their own little flags.  Why not just meet the players at City Hall and give them recognition?  Why did they seek the attention?  Could it have something to do with national television?  Certainly not?

---These online colleges advertise "certified" degree programs.  Go to college in your pajamas and meet no professors or fellow students, and, as one says, "complete your degree as quickly as possible."  The latest television ads are for Independence University, and if you sign up you get a "free" laptop computer.  Then there's Grand Canyon University, the largest Christian university in the world with 70,000 people enrolled online now, and 20,000 on campus somewhere in Arizona.  Jerry Falwell's spawn now have Liberty University online and Pat Robertson has Regent University online.  There's the granddaddy of them all, University of Phoenix plus Southern New Hampshire University, both of which look slightly more legitimate, and that does not imply that students necessarily learn anything.

Complicating this further, many well recognized colleges have joined in such as Purdue, Penn State, Boston University, and Arizona State.  How is the integrity of all of this protected.  How do these organizations know who is actually taking the tests and doing the work.  They do know who is paying them, and the courses are not cheap. 

Some of these outfits like ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges have been shut down, but Kennedy Western PhD's are still out there.  This all seems like organized fraud here, perhaps an old fashioned point of view.

---Advertisements for intermediaries proliferate,  Some are reputable apparently, like Home Advisor.  There are intermediary sites for mortgages, lawyers, insurance, and doctors(knee pain?).  As opposed to benefiting the consumer, they are all just taking another slice of the pie, in amounts that are not transparent to the consumer.  For some, if the quality of their ads is indicative of their recommendations, keep the "knee pain."

---It's nice to be in the stock market these days.  Still adjusting investments, and in the aggregate reducing exposure.  Some bets still work out well.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Sports comments...

--- The match today between the 15 year old tennis prodigy Coco Gauff and a veteran of the women's tour who I had never heard named Paloma Hercog was entertaining, although not so riveting always such that breaks were not taken here.  Tennis can be such a mental game at almost any level above general competency and Gauff is an incredibly quick player who already seems to be a mental savant of the game.  Being 15 may help, as who thinks then.

---Hercog was strangely deficient for such an experienced player.  She is over 6 feet and uses that as leverage for a powerful serve.  Her second serve is a twist that can have a massive jump, one of the best remembered among those in the women's game.  What's amazing are two deficiencies.  She, at times, makes no attempt to bend her knees adequately on ground strokes and does not seem to  know how block and direct volleys.  She chips.

---Coco's intensity is real.  She took advantage of these shortcomings. She never looked like she was going to stop, but there were a few times mid-match when I wondered...

---It's another classic Mets season.  They are good enough to be competitive with anyone but are held back by weaknesses.  They have may have the best starting pitching staff in baseball, but among the worst relief corps.  They have some capable hitters but most are not fearsome.  Their overall defense is mixed, but they have what I think must be the worst shortstop in baseball, Ahmed Rosario.  He does not have many errors because he never gets to the ball to make them.  He has no intuitive positioning.  He glides back away from balls he is moving toward, heroically getting his glove on the ball and his uniform dirty.  At such a key position, it is impossible to see why he is there.

---Before yesterday's Mets game, their incredibly capable utility player as well as batting average leader Jeff McNeil went to the Nathan's Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest and was interviewed there.  He was not a contestant, but is said to be a connoisseur of franks, and has one at every stadium before every game.  It's an American game.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Tonight's "Capital Fourth"

Once known as the Fourth of July Celebration in Washington, D.C., this event has now been hijacked by Trump.  It will be interesting to see how much of a political event it will be.  Will there be some normalcy or will it become a campaign rally Trump paid for by all American citizens.  Gag.

For those who have been in Washington in the summer, hot and humid cannot adequately explain how stifling the air can become.  Built on a swamp surrounded by water, it can be miserable, and people are already assembling for the 8pm start.  Nerves could be frayed by the time that the concerts begin.  Will the crowd assembling to "honor America" not be totally there to honor Trump?  Seriously, one could wonder whether there could be some divisiveness?  Will all performers be tame or will some have not too transparently veiled comments about the Commander in Chief?  They signed on well before the event changed.  When Trump begins his campaign speech, will some in the crowd boo him?  Will the flyovers be flawless?. The biggest and longest ever, of course, fireworks display is a made for television event,  For the people there, who knows. This will not be one of his rallies where all people come just to hear his unique brand of self adulation and nationalism.

Currently, at 5pm, the D.C. weather forecast includes a possible storm, lightning, and high winds.  With all of the security due to Trump's role, the crowd could be trapped.  In other news, Joey Chestnut won again. Gag.

Here's hoping it all goes well.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Questions for tomorrow...

--- Is the "Special Relationship" between the United States and Great Britain now characterized by Donald Trump and Boris Johnson?  Could they become blood brothers?

--- What does the equivalent of $13 trillion dollars of global sovereign debt, now issued at negative interest rates, imply?  It means, for example, that an investor could lend a country $10 million and at the end of ten years they get less than the that back.  That sounds like free money.  It creates a need for returns that sends investors into equities, as well as real estate or alternative investments available only to institutions and major fund managers.

--- Finding new investment opportunities is difficult in this environment.  Will investors soon back off?  A few stabs at new investments recently here have had mixed results here.  Poor investment choices in SAIL and GNW turned around meaningfully last week but remain underwater. Verdict still out, way out, drowning still possible.

---New investments in AVP and AIG have, on the other hand, been bizarrely positive.  Everyone remembers that credit crisis dog AIG but AVP, that's Avon Products.

--- Why does John Bolton show up at the edge of so many photos with Trump?  Is it like "Where's Waldo", is he just showing off his mustache, or does it imply that he is at the edge of reality?

--- Will the new programs "City on a Hill" on Showtime and "Euphoria" on HBO become "must watch" television?  Second episodes of both tonight.  It's possible.


Friday, June 14, 2019

The coming debates...

"Political debates are sort of like stock car races --- no one really cares who wins, they just want to see the crashes.  If there aren't any crashes, everyone votes the event a total bore."  Molly Ivins, 1986.

The Democratic Party's first presidential primary debates are headed for chaos.  The two debates of 10 candidates each are obviously unwieldy.  A mixed bag of journalists will be running the events, and apparently the news reader Lester Holt will be on both panels, moderating one of them.  There is no single moderator for the second debate.  The ability of those assigned to these roles to make themselves invisible facilitators is highly questionable.

On top of that, it is not impossible to imagine that those potential candidates that did not make the cut will do something elsewhere on another network.  They will be pitched, and why not.  Fox would enjoy making that contribution.  The enormous potpouri of comments coming out of this will be a gift to Republican editors of Trumpian advertising.  In the meantime, other Democrats that have not yet jumped into the fray of chances for publicity will come out of the woodwork subsequently.

Is this too cynical?

Other news today is that Sarah Huckabee Sanders has decided to resign.  Her persistent lying on behalf of Trump will not be missed.  Her family will now be stuck with her.  Kellyanne Conway has been cited for violating the teethless Hatch Act, not a rule, just an act.  Louise Linton, Steven Mnuchin's wife, said yesterday that "it sucks being hated."  I will not attempt to comment on that other than wonder what she expected.

Trump continues to have trouble with the truth, while some Democrats talk about impeachment as a viable alternative.  Opinion here is that would only strengthen Trump's hold on his supposed base and be something that he would enjoy ranting about.  They should instead smother Trump with kindness, and constant concerns about his mental health.  He is clearly not a stable individual and his handling of foreign policy is ruinous.  Many commentators seem to have given in to the view that it is all just Trump's way of negotiating, art of the deal blah blah... "stable genius" in Trump's words, "unstable minimally educated narcissist" in the view of some observers.

Meanwhile, back at the pass, the professional hate advocate Stephen Miller and Trump's personal attorney Barr seem to be the two voices that Trump hears.  At least two more former Trump girlfriends have come forward or been unearthed for their 15 minutes.  We learn now that Hunter Biden was hired for his legal skills not only by Ukraine but also China. Melania's heel collection grows.  I need a scorecard...

Eventually there will be "crashes".

Friday, June 07, 2019

"The Night Tripper"

Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John, left us yesterday at age 77.  History here following him is lengthy.  After buying his first album that was commercially unsuccessful, "Gris gris, by Dr. John The Night Tripper" when it came out in 1968, I had the chance that same year to see him at the legendary Georgetown nightclub "The Cellar Door".  That club was so small that you could have back and forth talks with the musicians between songs.  He talked briefly about the origins of his songs but was almost uncomfortable when not performing.  His performance was stunning to me at the time, piano playing unique and gravely voice sincere.

He played at every New Orleans Jazzfest and I usually arranged to be there on the weekend that he played in the years when there between 1982 and 2008, there about half of those years.  While he primarily stayed in New Orleans, he did play in New York from time to time.  One vivid memory was in 1987 when my parents were visiting.  My mother, a fan as well, stayed with the pregnant Kathy while  I made reservations for my father and me to see Dr. John at a club on East 20th St., in doing so saying that due to my father's age and eyesight it would be nice if we could be close to the stage.  We drove into the city in our only car at the time, Kathy's 1972 BMW 2002.  We arrived at this small club, white tablecloths on tables and were seated directly in front on the stage, basically the best seats in the house.  My occasionally deranged father said upon sitting down that it was because he knew Dr. John.  Anyway the experience was special, and after that it was "a fact" that my father was fast friends with the musician.

He performed at other clubs in Manhattan from time to time, memory imperfect on which ones were seen but some definitely were. The last time that I saw Dr. John was at a Levon Helm performance at the Beacon Theater on the upper west side of Manhattan, maybe in 2012.  That was after Helm had been through a serious health scare for a year or more, cancer, and well after "The Band" had disbanded.  That show went on and on with many musicians not advertised showing up on stage.  Patti Smith was one that I remember, but the biggest surprise was Dr. John.  A lengthy "What a Night" followed.

And it was.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Presidents and their approach to the rules of golf

This may be an odd comment, but these kinds of thoughts can occur during sleepless nights.  The classic novel "Golf in the Kingdom" by Michael Murphy is seen by some as the best book about golf ever written.  One thing it constantly stresses is that golf is not golf if the rules are not rigorously followed in an unqualified way.  Golf is a test of character.

Among modern era presidents, Eisenhower was perhaps the most dedicated golfer, and as a rigid military man he followed the rules. Kennedy was not known as a golfer, and his back probably prevented the effort.  Johnson had no knowledge or interest in something so "trivial" that didn't directly involve power, women, money, progressive politics, or war.  Nixon was rumored to play some at his San Clemente ranch but that was probably a myth propagated by his lying minions.

Now come the real Presidential golfers.  Ford was an exceptional athlete in his day and could play relatively well, but in public appearances on the course his main reputation was for hitting spectators with errant shots.  To my knowledge Reagan was not a golfer, did not understand the game.  Then came the first President Bush, who played the game like a track meet, 18 holes in a little more than two hours. He followed the rules and almost ran after his wayward shots.  In fact, he was not a bad golfer at all,  just an impatient one.  Then came Bill Clinton, not an athletic man, who took up the game regularly to appear presidential.  He followed no rules, improved every lie, threw balls out of the rough, didn't count wild drives, and putts that were within two feet of the hole were considered gimmes.  He did like being outside and, despite his intelligence, did not seem to comprehend the rules of golf as part of the game.

Moving on to Bush number two, he seemed to play golf for relationship purposes more than pleasure but he knew the rules but did not fidget if his playing guests did not follow them.  He wanted them to enjoy the outing in whatever way they chose.  Perhaps he accommodated them at times by redoing his drive along with them.  Probably.  Obama was a gifted athlete but not a golfer by heritage.  As President he enjoyed the game as a way to be outside and away from the office and the press. His game was basically bogey golf with some bright spots and was generally rule bound unless it slowed the pace of the round unduly.  In his second term he play a lot of golf.

Now we get to Trump, probably the golfer as President with the best swing since Eisenhower.  He brags about his scores and his many investments in golf courses.  It has come to light recently that he is not especially rule bound.  There is a commercial on some television program featuring Bill Murray counting his score--- it can't be replicated here but he goes through his strokes on a hole, quite a few, and then says "that's a five".  Trump has a fine swing but his scores are mostly fiction by the real rigid rules of the game.

What a surprise.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

What we don't want to know...

Does Trump want to know that Haiti is run by people from Syria, that it is a middle east run nation on our doorstep.  Of course Trump knows nothing. Since Duvalier, the Syrian population has grown and it runs most businesses in that country.  They support the elected President, and once again it is a brutal regime.  It is a tourist destination for men, in the sense that Thailand was once for men.  Only the very wealthy, maybe ten Syrian families, run this impoverished country.  Jovenal Moise is their puppet.  Where is the New York Times on this?

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Mixed bag of comments...

---Today Cedric Klapisch's film "Chinese Puzzle" was watched, and it was better than remembered when it was seen at the town theater in 2014, and I liked it then.  The third film in this trilogy finds Xavier in Manhattan, and the depiction of the city is exceptional, both thematically and visually.  With quirks like Schopenhauer and Hegel showing up to give the protagonist advice, plus multiple characters in large and minor roles that are all interesting, and two especially capable child actors, the two hour film seems to end too soon.  How it all tied together is sort of brilliant.  With large portions  set in areas of lower Manhattan that are so well known here, it was personally compelling. Yeah, still liked the film, a lot.

---As a sporadic but committed viewer of the four major golf championships, the PGA title event seems off kilter this year being played in May.  As has been the trend in professional golf, players with no personality are among the leaders, talk about Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth.  At least Justin Thomas did not make the cut but that was the fate of the character Bubba Watson as well.  Tony Finau, a recent favorite, is not in contention.  Tiger Woods did not show up, well he was there but probably still rattled by the broad ill will hoodoo coming his way after his widely publicized photos receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump.  Apart from his cozy relationship with the man, it reminds us that there are few redeeming characteristics of Woods other than his exceptional golf game and commitment to physical fitness.  No prior description of this award suggests that he deserved it. He left New York immediately to head back to Floridan on his massive yacht.  It does appear that his commitment to good works and charitable giving is on a par with Trump.

---New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio has joined the Democratic presidential rave.  While advocating some good causes and implementing a couple, he is a limited man who has also shown himself to be for sale.  What next, will John Edwards attempt a comeback?

---From afar, events in Venezuela seem dire, and prospects poor.  Nicolas Maduro was the bad guy to Hugo Chavez's good guy, if that routine could be imagined.  His only driving belief is to stay in power, as there are no longer many buses left to drive. This country is being, maybe already has been, destroyed.  An estimated three million people have already walked over the border.  The supposed opposition leader is Juan Guaido, but as in much of Latin American history the "good guys" are the elite, members of the privileged class.  Maybe six months ago, one news organization, not remembered which one here, did interviews with Guaido in Venezuela.  One was at his home and was sort of like a lifestyles of the rich and famous tour as well as an interview focused on the situation there.  The house would not have been out of place in the best neighborhoods of Miami.  Guiado is not exactly a man of the people.  His call for the people to rise up last week was a complete flop.  In fact, the military seems to have the same rationale to hang on as Maduro.  They have food and protection.  Outcome unclear, but this will end soon.  Russia cannot be seen as supporting the starvation and destitution.

---The stock market is holding up, but it is now a trader's market.  Volatility leads to opportunity but fragility exists.  Companies that have the most recent meaningful price increases are most vulnerable to sharp downturns, especially mid-sized companies in the tech space.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

By default...

"A professional writer, by definition, is a person clothed in self-denial who each and almost every day will plead with eloquent lamentation that he has a brutal burden on his mind and soul, and will summon deep reserves of "discipline" as seriatim antidotes to any domestic chore, and, drawing the long sad face of the pale poet, will rise above his dread of his dreaded working chamber, excuse himself from the idle crowd, go into his writing sanctum, shut the door, shoot the bolt, and in lonely sacrifice turn on the Mets game."    ---   from "The Patch", among previously unpublished writing of John McPhee, published 2018.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The last baseball game

Generally speaking, there are two times each year when the game of baseball might be focused on.  First is at the beginning of the year when hopes are that the Mets might have a good team.  The second is in the fall playoffs, especially if a favorite has evolved into contention.  Barely hanging onto this first period now, thoughts about baseball while pretending to sleep led to a memory of my last participation in organized baseball, with uniforms, umpires, and people in the stands, such that they were.

That was 1961, in a game between the Little League all stars of the north side and south side of town, as determined by a river.  The game was played at a field somewhere on the north side that was well maintained and had bleachers that were permanent.  Representing the south side, I was the lone participant from my team, Jaycees.  In the minor leagues, third and fourth grades, of my year we had been in contention.  At the next level, fifth and sixth grades,  we had been second tier, meaning we won some games but never against the best teams.

My positions varied.  In minor leagues it was either pitcher or first baseman.  In the majors, it was pitcher or right field.  As a pitcher, my strong point was varying the speed of the pitch.  In little kid terms, I threw the ball hard enough but was no Don Drysdale.  As a first baseman, understanding the game was important so I was not bad.  As a right fielder I was dismal.  How do you pay attention out there?

I was not a starter in my last game.  As it progressed we were losing and my value was questionable.  Our pitchers were not doing that well, so one of the coaches, Buddy's father I think, took me out along the sidelines in the shadows above first base for a warm up of sorts.  He exhorted me to throw it hard, but in that near dark area I was afraid that he would not be able to see it so I held back.  Looking back it is easy to see how laughable that was.  I did not enter the game as a pitcher.

The game came down to the final possible out.  We still had a chance but were maybe two or three runs down. I was the only player that had not yet played for the team so the coaches did what they felt was the right thing to do, and it was the last thing that I wanted.  They put me in to pinch hit.  The pitcher was throwing the ball harder than anything I had ever faced.  Had he been held back.  My only goal was to get my bat on the ball in any way possible.  I fouled the ball once almost directly right before striking out.

Organized baseball career over.  I did play successfully in an informal softball league in 1970's Louisville, having learned to love playing left field, looking forward to any chance.  And for some reason I had turned into a left handed hitter with some power.  What an American game.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Short takes...

---Elon Musk sent a tweet today calling out Jim Cramer on some issue.  That allowed the blowhard Cramer to act like he was a player of consequence.  Musk is losing it for some reason, as he takes issues raised about Tesla personally.  Meanwhile his SpaceX achievements are just bizarrely remarkable, out of this world.  Wish I could go back in time and offer some investor and public relations advice.

---The media ready economists, pundits, and some pols look at the solid first quarter GDP growth and the opportunity for job and wage growth as signs that all is well with the world.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, aggregate numbers do not reflect the broad problems with this society.  What kind of jobs and what kind of wages?  $15 an hour, whoopee we're all gonna die.  Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Capital is the clearest intelligent voice in the investment community on this issue.

---Citibank was for years viewed as bank of fiefdoms, such that mismanagement was rife.  Little has changed it seeems.  After almost two years, today I finally was able to get a credit card that was no longer needed cancelled.  Phone calls endured, documents sent, and for the last two months tortured by daily robo calls on the issue that left a number to call that was answered by robots.  Today, finally I hope, the disheartening calls were finally put to an end.  Believe it or not, I just kept saying supervisor, then yelling supervisor into phone, and finally some kind of grace intervened.  Just 30 more minutes on the phone and finally the calls for Kathy will stop.

---And now for today's the mattress saga, highly abbreviated.  It is unclear if quality mattresses are made anymore, or at least offered for sale here.  After an autumn foray with Raymour and Flannigan, a Long Island furniture empire with all of the integrity of Fifth Avenue camera shops, the corporate  Macy's nearby was determined to be the answer.   Stearns and Foster was purchased in December without regard for getting a bargain, and what was meant to be ultra firm would may have passed muster in Motel 6.  Returned that in March for a supposed major upgrade but still not quite right, and last night it just imploded at 4am.  So a long day of phone calls and transfers followed and resolution seems unclear near term.  Corporate rigidity, rules, and scripted responses.  The "craftsman" can come on Tuesday(Wimpy)  I may as well have been talking to India.  A time stamp message was left on my attorney's machine, silly maybe?.  American quality?

---Meschiya Lake's short Jazzfest video today with baby daughter Scoots and her hubby is worth watching.  They are so happy.  Find it if you can.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Trump consistently does awful things.  This is not what our country is, but it is what resentment has created.  How this sorts out is unclear.  All of the stats about the economy are averages, and do not take into account a material part of the people that are not doing that well.  And many of them, of all things, support the dismal Trump.  This can be explained of course, but explanation is not needed.  A touch of empathy would help, and big dose of plain old historical knowledge would as well.  We now have a relatively uninformed country.  Or is it just a strange unique American style of nihilism that has overtaken a portion of the population.  That would have at least premise of a thought process behind what's happening rather than just a television dazed population that doesn't read much more than menus. 

That's getting out of control.