Saturday, March 31, 2012


What an odd addiction this is. From this perspective the Facebook family just forms itself. Within a year this follower went from a handful of followers to quite a few, and almost all from my hometown - almost all people that I have not seen in 40 years.

It's fascinating. When someone does not show up with glib, sadly racist, really humourous, self-deprecating, self-posturing, or other comment for a week or so, it's easy to wonder if they are ok - And hope that they are!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mojo Nixon, Sirius XM

New to Sirius XM radio outfitted in a car, a wonderful discovery has been Mojo Nixon's weekday 4pm to 6pm show on Channel 60. That's the Outlaw Country channel. Mojo, born aka Kirby McMillian in Danville, Virginia, combines rough country music, really oddball funny country music that is great, and the Rolling Stones and other groups that bought into the country vibe. So far there has been no bad country music at all, no pop Nashville, no Alabama rock bands, none of that unattractive pablum.

Mojo remains tethered to his hometown, today mentioning the Martinsville races near "30 miles from his hometown Danville" as well as playing some country song by someone about Riverside Drive. He also calls Louisville as the winner against Kentucky tomorrow, something dear to my hopeful heart, but he uses language that I have no problem with but would not put on this blog.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Financial markets will still slip

No news, but there is nothing to stop profit taking. Even gold is coming down. Contrary to all of the gold watchers, one could think that just means a back off of confidence in ANY financial asset. This could be temporary. Banks rise and techs fall. How does one read this.

Something about this does not feel right.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Back broken on middle east war exploits

The massacre of women and children last week by a U.S. soldier was the end of any U.S. general populace support for the war efforts in the Middle East.

After the carnage in Iraq that now continues and will erupt into a full scale civil war within the next year, the transparent corruption of the government that we prop up with billions in Afghanistan, the "Arab Spring" that now has a combustible situation in the very important Egypt, and the international community's inability to do anything other than watch the awful killing in Syria, it is understandable that this atrocity by a U.S. soldier would be the event that would shift opinion. All of the focus on why this happened is irrelevant. It happened.

While there is a widely held view that Iran should not become an armed nuclear power, there is no appetite for U.S. direct involvement. Heck, Pakistan is far more dangerous in many ways and already has over a hundred nuclear warheads, ready to go. We have no more control over that country and what may happen there in a few years than we do over Iran. Iranian leaders say things that are close to insane, but as a country they are far more educated and secular than Pakistan. Pakistan is a country traditionally run by a handful of incredibly wealthy families who fight with each other for control. When their cartel breaks, all hell will break loose(sorry for the cliché, but liked the cartel/hell rhyme).

There is no time in recent history when it is more important to work with our allies, bring in Russia and China to the consensus, Israel too, and calm down this Middle East situation. I think that the lightweight Republican candidates, all of them, should just shut up and let our country's leadership, state department, intelligence services, and military just do their best to bring some calm to a situation that needs diplomacy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Financial markets now in for a stall out

It's been too good. Best guess here is that we are now going to settle down, maybe retrace a little, and certainly not keep the trajectory going up in the near term. Most economic data is relatively neutral at the moment and there is national political uncertainty and geopolitical uncertainty that requires caution.

Is the retail money now flowing in, looks like it? That could keep the show going on if it is, but from here it also seems that some smart retail money is beginning to leak out of favorite small caps.

No prediction here, just the usual speculative and cautious comment.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nick Kolakowski's "How to Become an Intellectual"

Or as the title goes on "100 Mandatory Maxims to Metamorphose into the Most Learned of Thinkers".

Anyone who reads ENS knows that this is spontaneous commentary, not one of a studied book or film reviewer, a trained economist, a focused polemicist, a record setting stock picker, or a fanatical sports follower. All far from it. Here there is just a generalist avoiding television.

I say that because making comments about Nick Kolakowski's book is fraught with self- consciousness. He is a friend and the son of two long time college friends, still my close friends, one of whom was a college roommate. Maybe I should just stop here.

That would be appropriate if this wasn't a terrific book, but it is. It evolves from an opening half that is a combination of satire, cynicism, and astute observations, to a second half that is a primer on appropriate etiquette for whatever generation is now being processed and appropriate knowledge to be learned for a fulfilling life.

Let's start with one sentence, page 13, "The urge to learn and become a true autodidact are what constitute the basis of an intellectual mind." After double checking that my understanding of the word "autodidact" was correct, this set the tone for the book.

It is easy to take this book personally. That was my mistake at the beginning. Maxim 1, "Carry an Intellectual Book(at all times)" immediately brought to mind the oft told story of young Bill Clinton at Oxford carrying around a paperback of Blake poems in his back pocket - always the poseur I guess as well as, perhaps, the intellectual. Whenever heading into NYC on the LIRR, I always carry my shoulder bag with books, magazines, and writing pad, books intellectual and not so much, like now by Duane Swierczynski and Colum McCann - odd combination obviously.

Maxim 1 is investigated here just as an example of the thoughts that emerge as one reasonably well read generalist goes through Nick's maxims. There is Maxim 19 about disliking an author in which, in a related way, the writer uses as an example someone pounding on a bar and saying that "Ken Kesey's 'Sometimes a Great Notion' is a far finer piece of writing than his 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." I say "Something Happened" by Joseph Heller is far more nuanced and insightful than his incredibly humorous and popular "Catch 22".

That's what this book does to me. It says something and I respond. Not exactly some jazz call and response pattern, but maybe related.

In various instances, many instances, "How to Become an Intellectual" refers to books, not really a coincidence. Here there is an addiction to books, among other things. They are everywhere in our house as others point out although younger daughter seems to have a growing problem with the same behavior. Den shelves around the major fireplace are well ordered, but the living room renamed the computer room long ago, two of the bedrooms, the ping pong room in the basement, and another long ago named "library room" in the basement that is painted bright red with a wall of bookshelves are all full and out of order. I envy Geoff Dyer's description of his large and orderly collection of books on shelves that he built with his father. I feel more like a hoarder than anyone with the pretense of being an "intellectual".

This commentary could go on and on, for no reason. I enjoyed reading Nick Kolakowski's book that clearly comes from a talented writer, a well read and thoughtful person with a good heart and a fine tuned sense of humor. The last three Maxims - "Learn One New Thing from Everyone", "Analyze Ideas, Not People", and "Know When to Say Nothing" are to this commentator the author's foundation.

---more to come I hope--what's next

NCAA tournament - Kansas gets home area advantage as #2 seed

It's halftime in the UNC/Kansas semi-final and, at least from this perspective, one can't help but wonder how UNC has the #1 seed and #2 seed Kansas, with the next door St. Louis setting, more or less gets the home court advantage. The crowd is overwhelmingly Kansas. That's not trivial.

Kentucky and Louisville next weekend is a dream match up, too bad it's not the finals. Louisville is certainly the Cinderella of this year's tournament as they played their way into a half decent seed with the Big East tourney win in four games in four days. Kentucky is an amazing team, and it will take every bit of Louisville's intense defensive harassment plus some magic mojo from the hometown of Muhammad Ali for Louisville to contend with that talent.

As for now, it would be unusual for Kansas to keep up their first half shooting percentage, but it would also be unusual for UNC to win without their star point guard and their best defender and rebounder having turned his ankle in the first half -- back to my chair.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Louisville jumps

ENS does not follow much of college basketball until the end of season gets underway and only then seriously when it gets down to the 16. This freshman guy Bohannon(sp?), Siva, and the two Smiths, one from Queens and one a younger brother of the crazed Knicks player J.R. Smith, are a group force for Louisville.

This afternoon the Louisville team was getting hit by the most picky fouls by the officials and the Florida players were doing these fall downs on the most tiny touches and getting the calls. Anybody who was anybody on Louisville had three or four fouls in the early part of the second half and team playmaker Siva fouled out with over three minutes remaining. Pitino complained early and got a technical which led to a four point boost to Florida in the first part of the second half.

From here, it just seemed like that the players on the floor knew who the better team was, and that was Louisville. They played tough defense as always but Florida also just lost their momentum. Maybe they were tired out by the effort to fight Lousiville for most of the game. That young freshmann Bohannon that somehow got away from his hometown Cincinnati was exceptional today just as he was on Thursday night, and he played the fourth quarter with four fouls.

On to the final four with a likely match up with the mighty state rival Kentucky in the semi-finals in New Orleans. That will be one to watch.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Beautiful day in Central Park, March 23, 2012

Mid-seventies, cool breeze, slightly overcast, and just enough humidity to make those masochistic mad bikers and joggers sweat furiously - just a perfect day in Central Park. Trees are in bloom, the elm archways are intact, and the sheep meadow and other major fields are still protected and fenced off, building their strength for the summer season.

Wandering around it was easy to put my mind into that of a tourist, thinking what an amazing place the park is in the middle of such a massively intense urban center. My mind did not need to wander far to coalesce with others, as tourists from how many countries, 20 or 30 or 40 or 50, who knows, wandered around as well. All were snapping photos and looking both baffled and content. Is this New York City?

With major fields still getting ready for summer, the major rock formations were the gathering places for those not inclined to sit on benches. I joined others on a large multi-faceted rock with room for my own space, read a book at times, and at other times just observed the scene and listened to the different accents and languages, from deep South U.S. to Eastern Europe, China, and Brazil.

Call it occupy Central Park, a place of world peace, today, March 23, 2012.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Louisville wins, old times revisited

Louisville's win tonight over Michigan State was the best game, from a completely personal point of view, that I have seen in a long time - on the edge of my seat even as they seemed to be in control. Who is ever really ever in control of a top tier college basketball ball game until the last minute or two.

Living in Louisville both during the Bridgman/Cox/Murphy era of the mid '70's and the Doctors of Dunk era of the late '70's was the most intense vicarious basketball experience of my life. When the 1975 team that included Junior Bridgman, Alan Murphy, and Wesley Cox lost in the semi-finals of the NCAA tournament in the last seconds of a game to UCLA with the lone white boy missing free throws and Cox muffing an inbounds pass under their basket, it led to the worst basketball depression of my life, a month of recovery required, something that I vowed never to repeat.

Then came the Doctors of Dunk era led by Darrell Griffith who reached the pinnacle of his basketball career in college. He could leap from beyond the free throw line for a dunk over guys 8 inches taller than he was. Amazing, and I was there in Freedom Hall to see it many times. They won the NCAA tournament in 1980 led by Griffith, the McCrays, but spiritually led by two Georgia young men, Wiley Brown and Derek Smith. So cool, they led the team by communicating in "pig latin" aka "ackbay orday" and other plays that mystified their opponents and made the team laugh. What a time.

Louisville won a title again in 1986 with Billy Thompson, Pervis Ellison, Milt Wagner, and others and while I watched from New York there was not the same identity.
I was still a fan.

I am a fan again this year, whenever they play with the passion, joy, and simple honest swagger of those 1970's days. For tonight, it was a real treat.

A political conundrum, won by no one

What is discussed here is nothing new. How are political divides created in which people of all stripes vote against their own best interests.

The most obvious example is the tea party insurgence, however dispersed it is, and its antipathy toward the recently passed health care legislation, higher but not overly punitive taxation of the really wealthy, and any consumer protection rules.
There are parts of each of these laws or proposals that are overreaching, but the net benefit to many tea party supporters far outweighs the negatives.

It is a documented fact that many tea party and dedicated right leaning voters feel completely entitled to all benefits from the government, some that are under attack, from disability insurance, to pension guarantee benefits, to medicare without higher premiums, and medicaid with no investigation of transferred wealth to other family members. They believe it's their right.

On the so-called liberal side of the big divide, voters go with their vendetta against the big businesses that make our economy work and can lead us out of this all too slowly improving economic stagnation. We will never get through this unemployment catastrophe without some embrace of the power of big business. It's sort of odd. Everyone can cheer on Apple and Google, cool titans of market cap and almost monopoly capitalism, but sneer at Exxon, JPMorgan Chase, GM, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, and others that are also mainstays of our economy that buoy employment and invest in new enterprises and research.

Where this leads us is into the clutches of the political operatives, whose goal is to polarize our country. They are exploiting primal fears that overide any sane examination of the facts. This is no mystery. There is a loss of optimism in this country. We can't repair roads, build bridges, have presentable airports, and come up with enough jobs to seed potential broadly in the younger generation.

Voter decisions are being influenced by observations and biases unrelated to even their own self interest. Some would say it's a revival of spirituality on one side. Others would say it's a new wave of anti-capitalism on the other.

"Here comes old flat top
He comes groovin' up slowly
He got joo joo eyeballs
He one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker
He just do what he please...

One thing I can tell you is
you got to be free
Come together, right now
Over me...

Come together right now
Over me..."

Lennon and McCartney

Eyes Not Sold - free of the politicos, free to come together, free of the ideologues, free to work out, and it will be work, a path that recreates the potential of this unique, inclusive, and creative country.

Sort of an idealistic comment I know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tebow a Jet, a no or a go, not a throw, hopefully not just a show

I clicked the publish button on the last post on Tebow and went back to watching the last seven minutes of Jeremy Lin winning another Knicks game. Lin had scored two points in the first three quarters as he passed the ball to mostly a few inept teamates, J.R. Smith in particular, and got beat up as he penetrated. Carmelo Anthony continues to underperform in a major way, but is well behaved and team oriented under new coach Mike Woodsen. Lin scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to help the Knicks escape with a road victory against rival Philly. He is no longer the hero in the headlights, but look at what he does when it counts. How long can he stand up to the beatings is still my question.

Then back I went to the sports headlines. Aghast, the Jets did sign Tebow. Tony Sporano, the new offensive coordinator who likes wild cats and spread offences, is obviously happy. If anyone can shake the public piousness out of Tebow it will be Rex Ryan. Why, because Ryan has a sense of humor and Tebow projects none of that. Can he lead Tebow to loosen up within a system, still be a creative football player, respect his receivers, and cut back on being a religious show off too.

Real message to Tebow - laugh a little and throw the football better and all will be possible. Keep your beliefs. Keep your charity. Keep more of it to yourself. It's between you and you seem to know who.

This may work. The team chemistry and the fan chemistry are the litmus tests. That's the real wild cat.

Tebow does not belong in New York, please

The effort by the New York Jets to hire Tim Tebow has hit some sort of pay or contractual snag. Thank goodness. He really does not belong in New York.

That's not because he's a real gamer, an unusual winner, and a team player. It's simply because his overt and almost pompous religious pose is not New York. "Pompous" is the wrong word, but that is how some will perceive it here. Despite his good works and his devotion to his faith, this area is too multi-cultural and too honestly cynical to warm to Tebow's attention grabbing God focused antics.

Sure he would be great when the Jets needed the wild cat offense to befuddle opponents. He would be a capable and composed back up to the erratic Sanchez, who is unlikely to ever be the franchise quarterback that the management pretends that he is. Tebow would never be that franchise quarterback either, because he is a terrible passer by any measure. He can make a few great throws, but on the whole his receivers will all be totally disheartened, having to make all the effort on catches with very few delivered perfectly.

Whoever even started this Tebow dialogue in Jets management should have their head examined, for the team and the fans. Here's hoping he heads off to Jacksonville or some Santorum voting place in the so-called heartland.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Support family and local businesses

This comment is so cliched that even American Express and Chase use it in commercials for their business credit cards. It's almost second nature to many people who simply prefer knowing who they are doing business with. How can anything be added to this thought.

Let's use Applebee's as a starter. For anyone with taste buds not fired up by adult beverages, the food is not that subtle and not that interesting. Adding bourbon flavoring and salt, add hot sauce, or a dose of heavy creamy salad dressing is their way of fancying up the food. The advertising and their hook is "being part of the neighborhood". In many places, taking local memorabilia and local sports symbols, making them part of the decor, and looking for waitstaff hires that represent the area superficially succeeds in accomplishing their marketing mission.

Here's the problem with that. First, much of the food is just shipped in fast frozen and microwaved in back to exact specifications to replicate just cooked food. It is really just fast food perfected. Through focus groups, studies of food trends, and marketing expertise they have determined what their "target market" will eat, and they nuke it up. There is really nothing wrong with that at all for those who like it, but a certain personal touch is perhaps lacking. Actually some people, myself included on a few visits, think the food is close to awful. That was an excuse to order another glass of wine or something like that, their real money maker. Shake it.

Second, there is nothing genuinely "neighborhoody" about a restaurant that sends all of its profits to some distant corporate headquarters and pays many of its workers minimum wage or modestly more and compensates its local managers at well less than exorbitant salaries while they work long hours as "exempt status" employees, meaning no overtime. Applebee's and most of its corporate cousins create wealth elsewhere.

That's corporate America and there is nothing wrong with it legally or ethically in a strict sense. It is not ideal for a community. What is ideal is for local businesses to grow, reinvest, and spend money in the community that it serves. What is ideal as well is the pride that local businesses take over the long run in knowing and serving their customers, and that cuts both ways, in a good way.

Our primary restaurants, our butcher, our drug store, our deli, our fish market, are all local businesses. That's not by some political or ethical design. They are just better and we know, like, and trust the people.

There are commercial areas that defy local options. We have one large locally owned grocery story that has competitive prices called North Shore Farms and we shop there at times even though it is not so convenient and parking is tough. The Whole Foods has many products that are not carried there. The King Kullen, a Long Island standard supermarket, is closest to us. Some distance away, Costco is simply the best bargain there is for many products by far if you have a little storage space and they are creative marketers, selling quality products and at times ones that you can't find elsewhere.

The genesis of this comment is that we went to HarborQ last night, a barbeque restaurant in a neighboring town on Long Island Sound that is the quintessential barebones family operation. Younger daughter recommended it. The food was not assembly line, some terrific, some ok but items on the menu that we wish we had chosen, and we felt at home immediately. It's that darn people thing. It felt real. Like so many places in ethnic areas of New York City and like almost all of New Orleans before Katrina, it was relaxing.

Supporting family and local businesses is not just good for the community, it can be soul nourishing.

HarborQ doesn't accept Amex or Chase cards, only cash but they do have a fee free ATM.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Unlikely Norfolk State gets added to VA/NC area bball comment of yesterday

Norfolk State joined NC State and VCU as original home area regional teams to register an upset, and what an upset. Missouri was ranked number 2 in its bracket but also #3 in the national polls. Norfolk State may not have been in the top 100 if there were such a thing.

From what little that I saw of the game, mainly the last five minutes, they played in a completely unintimidated aggressive way, not just all heart but showing real talent. The most interesting aspect of the team from this perspective is that the coach and eight of their players are from New York City's outer boroughs, meaning not Manhattan.

Their best player, freshman Kyle O'Quinn who despite the name has no ethnic reason to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, hails from Jamaica, Queens, sort of an edgy area and that would be a polite way to say it. He had one scholarship offer to college and he took it with a promise to pay them back with his performance. DONE.

Now here's another interesting team to follow. The odds are long, but no matter what happens they have already won.

Friday, March 16, 2012

11 seeds VCU and NC State show bball mettle of an area

In these early stages of the NCAA basketball tournament, neighboring Southern state capitals are the upset winners. The usual adjective before winners in sports jargon would have been "surprise", but that was certainly not the attitude of people in Richmond and Raleigh. #11 seeds VCU and NC State advance against tough opponents. In fact, VCU's victim, Wichita State was viewed by some on those post game tv shows as a possible breakthrough team to the final four - egg on at least one broadcaster's face now.

Not that the fans(or teams) were overconfident. Fans are always nervous and often sandbag about their team's chances. In both towns, however, the hopes had to be high. I'm not in either place but know the area well. VCU had their famous and unlikely run to the final four last year and has by all accounts one of the best young coaches in the country. NC State has a new coach and seems to be peaking at just the right time. Their tough defense and rebounding fought off everything that UNC and the referees could throw at them before a last second loss in the ACC tournament.

So from New York to my home areas of Virginia and North Carolina, keep it up teams, do what's possible, and make your fans sweat. Then win.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Follow-up from yesterday, NYT's Goldman obsession

From today's coverage, the New York Time's vindictive coverage of Goldman Sachs became more clear. From the over the edge hysteria of it one could almost assume that Gretchen Morgenson is directing it all.

Publishing the op-ed piece yesterday attacking Goldman was obviously viewed as a SCOOP by the NYT. Today's Times had their "scoop" as the front page lead story, the business page lead story, the entirety of page B6 in the business section and half of page B7, four stories in all recapping the op-ed piece written by a little known Vice President at Goldman, a company that has thousands of them(Yes, his business development title was Executive Director, a useful honorary term for business development overseas but his grade was Vice President). Referred to by the Times as a "Golden Boy", he was described by his colleagues quoted by the WSJ as a quiet hard worker who rarely voiced opinions.

The Wall Street Journal(WSJ), undeniably the leading daily business journal in the U.S., devoted one mid-C1 section to the story, 11 paragraphs.

One long standing characteristic of Goldman is that they were always tenacious competitors with everyone else on the Street. Since with their depth of talent they were often better, they took and controlled lucrative deals away from others more often than others did from them. So Goldman has plenty of New York finance types who love to see this as another example of their comeuppance. Maybe some are related to the New York Times, a paper that is never shy about turning their news in any section of the paper into angled exaggerations or semi-editorials.

Goldman has always had many loyal clients of all stripes. In the last two years they have probably lost some not due to the lack of desire to do business with them but due to the possible criticism they may get from dealing with this "tainted" firm. That is Goldman's biggest challenge today, damage control from the NYT's assault.

Their behavior through all of this financial difficulty has not been without fault for sure, but they have plenty of company, just about the entire crowd. The mystery of the NYT's obsession is what should be investigated now, not the resentments of a relatively low level vice president whose career had definitely stalled out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The New York Times op-ed Goldman comment -Balance?

As I read this completely one-sided self-aggrandizing harshly negative opinion piece about Goldman Sachs, there were many questions: who is this writer? an executive director is one below a managing director which is below a partner. How did he get such ink out of nowhere?; how long ago did this dramatic culture change come about? the opinion references observations "over the last twelve months" and the writer was certainly reaping the significant benefits of Goldman employment for the previous 11 years. cultures don't radically change on a dime or even in a decade, my friends, and are long lasting creatures; Goldman's was a tough but exceptional one; so does our writer have an "ax" to grind, a resentment to seek counseling about, or the capacity to see the opportunity that the New York Times represents a "paper of record" that will soak up anything negative that he sends to them about Goldman.

What I was thinking about as I read this was the Duke Lacrosse team story of six or seven years ago. The NYT relentlessly exploited the story in a one-sided way for over six months, with that lead coverage woman printing attacks almost every day and every, that's every, self -righteous lame sports columnist weighing in regularly. No sure evidence of anything but an unattractive and overly raucous party, but the NYT had nary one article suggesting anything but a heinous crime that fit the perfect story of privileged white boys assaulting and humiliating underprivileged black women. WHOOPS, the woman was a criminal, a drug addict, and chronic liar, her accomplice remained silent after supporting her for a few days, and the prosecutor turned out to be an attention seeking lying politico, acting criminally, and was disbarred. Sorry Duke lacrosse players, sorry fired coach, sorry sullied institution, but that sorry NEVER came from the NYT. It just skulked away.

Why did this event come to mind. The NYT has been the lead attacker of Goldman for three years. Many investment banks got caught up in the mortgage banking collapse and some thrift banks whose names are well known created the vast majority of the trash product. The investment banks packaged and sold the securities in both good and bad ways, mostly to supposedly informed institutions. Many were involved. Why has the NYT been so relentlessly focused on Goldman.

Some of Goldman's acts were clearly deceptive but it is unclear whether they were illegal. They have been fined, their reputation has been damaged, and they are, it's just my best guess, seriously working their way out from this.

What Mr. Smith the writer observed likely has some truth in it, but I guess that it is the truth that he chooses to report and does not include the truth that would not support his argument. There are bad eggs in every institution. Young people working 12 hours and often more a day joke around, say stupid things, try to act macho, they are easy to pick off for quotes. Some departments have managers for jerks and go a little rogue in their braggadocio.

In huge companies that run on creativity and subjectivity, ideas and communications, not every thing is said correctly or handled correctly. It would not be hard for someone to cherry pick enough inappropriate comments to write an opinion like Mr. Smith's but it should not condemn an entire organization, but that's just what the NYT wanted.

I could go on and on, and I guess that I have. NBC evening news made this their lead story. This is not NEWS.

---While my firm was a client of GS many times from the last part of the '80's to the early 2000's and I informed GS securities analysts about public information related to the company, I have never had any other affiliation with the firm.

Local economy much better, but still not back

A couple of months ago here, there was an observation that this local suburban area had revived from the dismal days of 2008 and 2009. It was simply based on the observations that there was considerble traffic in both our little town and the next one over and that parking was difficult to find. Then a thought clicked in my mind that there was a tremendous difference in the number of folks at the best local diner and same for the deli. It was reported here that all was finally well.

Several days ago I met with my long time painting contractor, a family business, who knows everyone here well. We need long overdue work done on one room and a few other odds and ends. He came over promptly, looked over the job, and agreed to send me an estimate in a day or so. I asked when he would be available and the answer was next week.

That led to a "how's business" question from me, tactless maybe, and he said everything is still down but not as bad as a couple of years ago, just never really recovered though. "The diner is off 30%, the deli is off 40%, so and so business on our main street closed(so and so is eleven stores in the last twelve months or that's what he told he me). The fact that this well known boutique painting enterprise was available immediately was perhaps more telling.

So my more updated positive conclusion a few months ago was premature. Maybe I was comparing it to the absolute wasteland of 2009 and not thinking back to 2007. Maybe there's still the traffic and activity but most people are spending a lot less.

I should have remembered the comment here five months ago about the time in the fall when I took the LIRR train at 6:53am that had been packed every weekday morning for the 18 years that I was on it. I had the pick of the seats that day, no jockeying for position, or being forced to sit in a middle seat next to a person with a big bacon and egg bagel and coffee balanced on his briefcase. Those don't look like days to be repeated anytime soon, and the money does not come back into town on those night time trains like it did in the past.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Super Pac Sugar Daddys' clout

Seeing the effect of the current Supreme Court's ruling on "non-direct donors" to political campaigns, one could wonder whether even with their withering wisdom and bias they could have imagined a campaign being so heavily influenced by a handful of people. I am not talking about the candidates.

These influencers are the Super Pac donors. Each of the four Republican primary candidates has benefitted, some with more diversification and depth than others if those are words that can apply to any.

Certainly the Las Vegas tycoon Sheldon Adelstein's contributions to support Newt Gingrich's must represent at least 80% or more of the money to that Super Pac. It has been said that Adelson's ardent support of Israel is the reason for this, the feeling that Gingrich is most aligned with his thoughts, and that's certainly a big part of it. We can't forget though that Obama's corporate bashing and threats to penalize any supposed excesses led to a collapse in the Las Vegas convention business in 2009 and 2010 and Adelson has been known to be ruthlessly dedicated to the success of his businesses. He must genuinely prefer Gingrich, but with his wealth he is also making a statement to any eventual nominee about what they need to do to get his further support.

Based on most media reports, Romney has ten to fifteen super-supporters, each of whose contributions have been more than $1 million, maybe much more. They are reported to be former colleagues at Bain, other Wall Street leaders, and wealthy members of his faith. None have seemed to want to take a public profile on the largesse. At least no one person dominates his Super Pac, but that group is likely to 60% of more of the contributions and maybe that's a conservative guess.

The Super Pac representing Rick Santorum is far far smaller than those of Gingrich and Romney, but like Gingrich he has one Super Donor, maybe two. The public one who founded the Santorum Super Pac is Foster Friess, a really successful growth investor over many years with his most well known fund being the Brandywine Fund. At the few investor conferences where his and yours truly's paths crossed in the 80's and 90's, he was incredibly gregarious, always surrounded by people laughing at his jokes, and he was an both an entertaining and informative speaker. Who would have guessed as an observer then that he was capable of being a Santorum supporter, a born again moneybags.

Ron Paul's Super Pac is similarly "modest" like Santorum's. A highly successful, far right eccentric thinker and billionaire named Peter Thiel has contributed 75% of the Paul Super Pac funds. With Paul's ardent following, one would have expected a much greater percent coming from the small contributions of true believers. He must be like the Greatful Dead of old, traveling around the country with the same entourage - "this is my 21st, did you catch him in Maine?"

Of the four candidates, the profile of the Romney Super Pac is probably what was expected in the minds of those justices and politicians who publicly supported this already highly questionable practice. That three of the candidates fates have been significantly in the hands of one donor is an extreme outcome.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

New car does not fit in garage

What kind of post is this?

Our new car which dimenson wise is the same size supposedly as one of our other cars is too big. Our garage is a 1970's sort that is meant to hold anything, or so we thought. Our new car is not remotely the largest that that could be bought. With the side mirrors it is just too big. It fits, but only with an arduous effort to get it out.

That's a big deal here, as we have had vandals in the past mess with us. They have seemed to have some grudges against us and our youngest. We'll cram it in there if we go on trips, but what a surprise. Other neighbors leave cars out and now we will as well.

Santorum and Palin ALERT

Yesterday Columbia University published results of a study that said "oceans are acidifying fastest in 300 million years". Surging levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere forced down the pH of the ocean 10 times faster than the closest historical comparison. "If industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace, we may lose organisms that we care about -- coral reefs, oysters, salmon." Oysters and salmon, that's getting serious!

These scientists at one of the nation's finest science universities are not experts to just blow off as promoting something false. If they found a different conclusion they would publish that as well. Do Republicans know any scientists? Generally speaking, scientists are not politicos. They focus on test results and try to understand them.

I of course don't come close to understanding what these test results mean, but it does not sound good. The anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-smart people segment of the Republican Party can just bury their heads in the sand but most of us want to understand this even if we are not Al Gore type narcissists.

Santorum can take pride in those old fogey bishops who rail against any type of contraception after having hidden the pedophilia epidemic in their church for many years, and Palin can boast about her religious piousness despite being a ruthlessly competitive pol who is mostly interested in accruing wealth.

Stay uninformed, why try to know anything, they seem to say to us? Just listen to the simple stuff, vote for us and buy those books.

Friday, March 02, 2012

A nod of the head

People my age, complete strangers, acknowledge each other by a nod. Not a nod to sleep but a nod of recognition. I was there, I know. It's comforting in its way, launching us off to whatever is next. To me the bond is irreplaceable.

Breitbart dies, only the web flow cares

Andrew Breitbart has died at 43. That's sad for his family and we wish condolences.

A Tulane graduate, he knew how to party hard, no one goes to that city without being inculcated into the culture and inoculation is not neccessarily the result.

Breitbart's website was in many instances repulsive. He looked for angles out of context. He loved being controversial. He added little to our culture that was constructive.

Do I have an opinion? Yes.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Shopping for a car follow up - Honda, Lexus, Audi, Hyundai, Nissan, Buick, etc

As a follow up to the 2/17 comment "Shopping for a car", the quest is over. There is one correction to that post that must be made. The salesmen that I met over the last three weeks were for the most part really nice people. Apart from the ogres mentioned in the previous post, they were pleasant regular folks who did not push anything that was inappropriate. They were just doing their jobs in the way that their institution requires. Even the sign out which usually involves a pitch for all kinds of add-ons:("crystal fusion coating"; "xylilon x4 protection"; "lo-jack"; "laser diffuser" etc.) - you get the picture, the final moments were low key and the sales guy just expected a turn down on all of this sticker inflator stuff.

I enjoyed meeting the group , and whenever sometime in the the distant future for us or near term future for the young adults a car is needed, I know who to contact.

Now the challenge is adapting to the technology of the car which is like a computer on wheels. It talks to me, responding to questions, directions, weather, and more. For the moment I am totally intimidated.

Olympia Snowe's step down seen as a watershed event for the Republican party

Is the Republican party disintegrating or is it consolidating into a formidable hard right force? Olympia Snowe's decision to not seek another term in the Senate is an existential moment for this once proud party of ideas and debate.

There is no real debate now. Their Presidential candidates are cyborgs. The Republican Senate is led by the limited, highly political Mitch McConnell who is no doubt supported by his attention seeker wife and serial failure at administration of anything Elaine Chao. McConnell, the former Louisville city manager, or whatever the title was, is uniquely unqualified to be a powerful force in this leading global economic and political power, not up to the task of being the potential Senate Majority Leader again, and the few Senators with the gumption to buck the trend are demoralized - hence Snowe's decision.

The American political scene is in chaos. This is one more example. Predictions are not really possible.