Thursday, April 27, 2017

Vice News

The Vice News program at 7:30pm on weekdays here on the East Coast has become a must watch show.  It touches on the major news of the day briefly, news that does not need to be repeated to anyone with interest who has a radio, cellphone, television, laptop, or desktop.  Dispensing with that in a few minutes it moves onto well done news segments narrated by young and diverse journalists. That in itself is refreshing, but the choice of stories to cover is often eye opening.  Tonight there was a segment on a disease that is killing bats in enormous numbers, as much as 80% gone in the eastern half of the country. According to the program, bats are a major natural killer of insects that destroy crops.  This disease continues to spread west.  One more bit of information to be concerned about for sure, but information is good.  Unpredictable segments occur most nights, and it is a relief from the DT's dominance, Trump pun intended.

This half hour segment, sometimes maybe just 22 minutes, provides new information most nights. There are no advertisements on HBO of course, so the times when they have less material are still the equivalent of the ever boring network news 22 minutes, that time that has news readers tell viewers what most already know, a summary that is still checked here when convenient, and is concluded with human "interest" stories that provide no information at all.

Around ten years ago a good friend of mine, a particularly focused friend when it came to news of importance and social issues, suggested that the Daily Show was by far the best news program to watch.  That surprised me at the time, but I understood what he was saying.  The standard networks were lame, but PBS still seemed vital and more focused.  Now PBS, due perhaps to funding issues that may soon be exacerbated, is each night a series of panels, often with repeat and predictable guests.  Their best segments are about international news, which is produced by a globally focused network that they interact with or support.  PBS is now watched but often interrupted by the change to HBO after the first half hour.

Problem solved here now.  The second half hour of PBS can now be watched on the public news channel on Long Island at 6:30pm. the first half hour on the Manhattan public news channel at 7pm, and then Vice News at 7:30pm.  That means forfeiting that opportunity to watch Lester Holt, David Muir, and Scott Pelley, each of whom make somewhat more than $5mm a year to read and look good. It is clear now that these programs are to the networks just a cash cow being milked for residual benefits as they replay some of the same news night after night.  On both CBS and NBC, Dr. Dao of the United beating and drag out in the aisle has been seen almost nightly for over a week and a half. He should talk to the Emmy's for a nomination.

Point is that the networks are not investing in their old mainstays, PBS is limited in its financial and message reach, and HBO is forward looking and almost surreptitiously very cool.   Maybe openly.

AMT still widely misunderstood

In articles on the Trump tax plan today, NYTimes writers Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Alan Rappeport repeat the myths of the AMT.  They are surely relying on sources for the analysis rather than their own research, and they misrepresent what the hopefully doomed tax regulation has done.

They write, "...alternative minimum tax, a parallel system that primarily hits wealthier people..." in one article and in another article just Rappeport writes that "the alternative minimum tax makes it harder for very rich individuals to game the tax system and pay less tax."  This law was implemented in 1982 and for its first 30 years was never indexed for inflation.  In 2012 an Obama rule began to require indexing but only with that year being the base.  Having railed against this regulation here for many years and doing the research, the law penalizes taxpayers with income beginning at $150,000 if they live in areas with high state and local taxes, and has no impact at all on at all on taxpayers with incomes over $750,000.  Those at the higher end of that range are certainly wealthy people but the tax has no impact on the wealthiest, including the vaunted or reviled 1% in most areas.

NYT reporter Neil Irwin accurately points out that the AMT is so complicated that without hiring a tax firm or a capable accountant it is hugely time consuming to calculate and even with the best tax preparation software the job will not be completely done.  It is also incredibly annoying that to most people the calculations required are inexplicable.  It is by that measure an anti-democratic rule. While the Trump tax plan has both outright flaws and many potential ones, doing away with the AMT could only be greeted with "good riddance".

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Trump administration tax plan

The Trump administration released a brief overview of its tax plan today as prematurely promised.  Any comment on this would be premature as well, but better to write something as a quick reaction before the media has turned all comment into a hash that get mashed into mush by Spicer's responses.

---A 15% corporate tax rate is too low.  20% might be a reasonable compromise if there is a housecleaning of  existing exemptions, exclusions, and other tax breaks.  A rate of 15%, down from an average corporate rate of 27%(nominal top rate is 35%) would be too much for corporations to digest efficiently so much of it would just go to stock buybacks, dividend increases, and higher compensation for upper management.  Less than 20% of Americans have any substantial exposure to the stock market, so equity market gains as a result of these actions would not benefit most consumers or the middle class.

---This could lead to an effort to push as much personal income into business income to get the lower rate, especially at 15%.  This would be a variation on the completely abused "carried interest" tax break that hedge fund owners still benefit from in a huge way.

---A lower tax window for repatriation of overseas assets could be an obvious way to deal with a need for capital investment and infrastructure investment, both public and private.  Dealing with this issue in a constructive way is long overdue.  In some cases those overseas profits have been fairly taxed already in their overseas jurisdictions and in other cases they have not been.  There is no way to do this in a way that will please everyone, but biting the bullet and getting this issue at least partially behind us means taking action.  It should be noted that a meaningful amount of these overseas balance sheet assets will stay there regardless of incentive, as they are there to reinvest in manufacturing, servicing, and research for the regions that they are in.

---Fortunately, the  twit Paul Ryan pushed "border adjustment tax", aka a tariff, has fallen out of favor at the White House.  Maybe Trump discussed it with his friend Xi.

---On the individual front, elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax is long overdue.  It is outdated and has never been adjusted for inflation, so it is essentially an upper middle class tax burden that never touches the wealthy.  When Bill Clinton had a budget windfall due to the tech boom, the AMT was already lame, but he refused to touch it in his last year in office in order to burnish his reputation for sound fiscal management by making sure that he had a budget surplus. That was typical Bill Clinton.

---Eliminating the 3.8% additional capital gains tax that is supposed to partially fund the Affordable Health Care Act could be considered positively as a reaction to one-offs that are just more taxes, all really just put into the same bucket. Negatively it can be seen as simply part of the overall attack on Obamacare.  Specific reasons for additional taxes can lead to abuse by the politicians, just as overuse of executive orders can lead to an exaggerated pattern for others to follow.  Who would want an immigration enforcement  surcharge?  On the other hand, causing millions of Americans to lose their health insurance could be called cruel.  Two sides to this seen here.

---There is no explanation yet of the three tax brackets proposed, but simplification of the tax code could be positive.  The gap between the first level of 10% and the second level of 25% is huge.  It will be interesting to see those brackets, and it is impossible to comment on without that information.

---Complete elimination of the estate tax is so transparently driven by Trump's personal agenda that it should be laughable.  Now we are forced to take proposals like this seriously.  The estate tax as currently written is far from perfect but to grant complete license to Trump, Schwartzman, the Koch's, and other billionaires to exploit the U.S. economy with abandon and without acknowledgement of their benefit from this country is not right, as well as not being sound tax policy.

---Raising current estate tax minimum levels would be a good thing for small business owners and would be a positive change.  For a family to build a business that they have constantly reinvested in and then for  their heirs to need to sell it to pay tax is a result of an overly assertive government that is behind the times on valuations of firms and their real estate.

---Increasing the standard deductions for individuals could be a positive for the middle class and lower middle class that would not seriously impact the budget.  Details are needed to say anything more.

That's it for a quick comment that could be outdated in a day or two.  This will require legislation and that needs to be seen.  Can the Trump administration put it together and can Congress pass anything that is not filled with even more complexity than already exists?  Good question on the first and unprecedented on the second.

Monday, April 24, 2017

What will Trump bring this week...

Last week it was positive comments about Marine Le Pen, a call to Turkey's Erdogan to congratulate him on the vote allowing him to establish an oversight free autocracy, and his remarks following polls that show his approval numbers flagging, which he viewed as positive when considering that all mainstream news was "fake news, not true".

Donald Trump should not remain President for four years.  His careless spontaneity, never ending campaigning for himself, and total lack of insight into foreign policy are degrading to the office.  Any hope that he will change is wishful thinking, dangerous thinking.  What eventually happens is unknown, but something inevitably will.  Whether that's sane people in his own adopted or hijacked party standing up to him, or a decision that he makes that defies logic and causes a huge problem or worse, this will not continue for four years.

Is this just "wishful thinking", or an accurate prediction?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"The Man Who Wasn't There"

This film from 2001 was watched tonight.  It was new here, and stumbled into on a night when a good film was needed.  It's an unlikely Coen brothers film, with Billy Bob Thornton, Francis McDormand, James Gandolfini, and Scarlett Johansson among others.

It is a noir crime drama set in a San Francisco suburb in the late 1940's.  The pace of the film is steady. Nothing is rushed.  Thornton, as the main character, is a stoic low key barber who speaks as little as possible but aspires to a better life.  This aspiration evolves into a story that includes blackmail, murder, cooked books, an unfaithful wife,  a major car wreck, two trials, and an execution. The overall story hangs together in a straightforward and not completely predictable way.  I doubt if it is seen by many as a great film, but it was engaging enough for tonight.  Overall it was a grim tale.

It was on Starz and will no doubt be shown again in the coming days.

Trump visits Walter Reed

To remind the public of what a fine person he is and to create a distraction, Donald Trump visited Walter Reed military hospital to pin a purple heart on a wounded soldier who had been shot in Afghanistan.  His leg had been amputated.

The soldier was not caught smiling in the photos.  His wife, standing next to an uncomfortable looking Melania, did smile.  As Trump awarded the purple heart,  his words were "Congratulations... tremendous."  Trump's vocabulary is limited, but those words seemed out of place.  Thanks for the soldier's service in the military would have been more appropriate.  The photo was taken in front a windowed room that had memorabilia in it, most prominently a large photo of Trump.

One could surmise that Trump was thinking about himself, posing.

Friday, April 21, 2017

"not quite Whitey Bulgar"

That title was a quote in an article forwarded to me by a friend.  It was in reference to that Georgetown friend, Scott, who was part of the Slug's post one or two days ago.  It has been chronicled here before.

There were many other places that we went.  Two more that others are less familiar with are worth mentioning, at least to keep my fingers agile here on the keyboard.  The first was an Irish bar area in the Bronx in the late 1960's that was a late night cataclysm.  There was bar after bar down a street at the bottom a slightly rolling hill.  When ordering a beer, you were given a chip next to your glass that meant the next one was free.  More often that not when ordering another one, a chip was again placed down.  It was an Irish drinker's paradise.  I am one quarter Irish.  My quarter was satiated that day.

The second was what a few others may have experienced.  That was La Boeuf a la Mode, a French family owned restaurant that was a half block from the upper east side apartment building that was Scott's lifetime home. His parent's had an account there and even as a child, whenever he wanted he could walk there and get a meal, lunch dinner whatever.  It was like a second home for him, and if meals count it was his home, away from his somewhat delinquent parents. The restaurant owners treated him and anyone with him in a special way.  The menu was beside the point.  What do you want was the question.

 He took me there often on that post Europe visit and other times.  In a twist, friends from Louisville were visiting in the early 1980's, extremely wealthy people who had an apartment on Fifth across from the Met who I knew through my tennis club in that cloistered city, and after drinks they asked where to go.  I suggested La Boeuf and took them there, and they were stricken with delight with this hidden bistro. Those "friends", never seen again, most certainly used that as their surprise place many times, immensely knowledgeable about Manhattan that they were.

Dinner on the way here soon, suburban oriental fusion of sorts.  It's ok.

The flower girl

That title should be "woman" and she is one of Kathy's caretakers.  She comes in the mornings from time to time and, now that is springtime, she takes K out in the wheelchair to pick flowers.

In this pristine area there is abundant opportunity.  An estimate here would suggest that at least half of the homes have residents who spend more than half of the year in Florida but maintain complete gardening attention around us.  Then there are those who have houses here just for the school district but actually live in Queens ethnic neighborhoods.  The point of this is that there are few people around to care if a few of their flower are chopped off for a vase in Kathy's view.

The flowers are spectacular now.  There are daffodils, lilies, tulips, daisies, and a few other multi-flowering plants. The combination in a vase becomes a nice scent and attraction to the den where K spends much of her day.  More importantly it is an outing for fresh air, and with a purpose.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Slug's, a legendary jazz bar

In the fall of 1971, I returned to the States after a three month seat of the pants cheap and wonderful vagabonding trip around most countries in Europe with two friends from college.  They lived in New Jersey and went straight home.  Being in New York City upon arrival and with no reason to head back to a hometown in Virginia, a call to a Manhattan born and raised college friend led to an invitation to visit.

There had been several visits to New York with him while in college but just for a night or two.  This time he welcomed me to settle in at a sub-floor in his parent's high rise building where they had a massive apartment with large window views of the East River.  Where I stayed was a combination storage area and servants quarters, perfect.

He was adrift like me, and had decided to got to law school.  He had time.  One of our night's outings included a trip to Slug's, a jazz bar downtown, very downtown, on East 3rd Street between Avenues B and C, alphabet city.  At this time there were no streetlights in that area, few cabs dared go there, and street traffic was minimal(it was still that way in the '80's when I moved here but somewhat accessible to A).  The walk there was a bit unnerving with no pedestrian traffic and no cars around.  It was a place where only people who knew what they were doing and where they were going had a chance of being safe. Looking a few yards short of being a homeless person could be helpful.  That may have been me after that long trip.

How my friend Scott knew about this place so well is unknown.  He was completely comfortable there, even known, as I was soon after the music took hold.  We had arrived at around one in the morning and left at near daybreak.  It is an experience long remembered.

Today that club is much more than a footnote in jazz history.  It opened in 1964 and closed in 1972.  I have no idea who was seen the very late night that we were there, but during the club's time everyone, important including Miles played there.  It can be thought that I went to Joe's Palm Room, Chez Allard, Fillmore East, the 17th street Tramps, Pete Fountains, the Dragonette, the first Quattorze, the Cellar Door, and many other fine intimate places, but Slugs is perhaps the most unlikely for me and the one that is still vibrantly alive in history today, as it will stay.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Doctor's visits

Over the last two days we have had three visits to doctors, all part of a normal schedule.  They were each handled efficiently, meaning no long waits.  One was completely easy and two were tedious as it's a new year, the first appointments in 2017, and forms filled out previously needed to be completely redone.  Since they already had all of information from before, this was mildly annoying.

There was no news.  The old adage of  "no news is good news" could apply, but of course there is always the hope of an "Aha" moment from a doctor who would recommend a new medication that would be beneficial.  That did not happen.

Overall it felt like a great deal of effort for no benefit.  The best thing that can be said is that those "necessary" appointments are done for the moment.  This is the upbeat comment for the day?

Postscript:  medium rare New York strip steak and salad tonight, plus sauteed spinach and sauteed broccoli, both with whole garlic which K loves, from a local restaurant as well as some pasta marinara.  That's the reward for duty done.  Still cooking here and making the usual mess.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"The New Yorker Today"

As a long term subscriber to "The New Yorker", I am addicted to the style and content of the magazine.  Some of its regular contributors are "must reads" as soon as the magazine arrives each week.  Now there is an almost overwhelming additional benefit.  "The New Yorker Today" shows up via e-mail most days.  Can someone remind me when this started?

Articles in the published magazine will be included, but new articles, updates, and even a new cartoon show up on "Today".  This is quality writing and news daily, such that a new softer desk chair may be needed.  This may force me to buy an IPad, belatedly is too weak as a modifier.  What a bargain this magazine has become with this regular feed of new material and thoughtful comments on completely current news.

With a few exceptions, equity market remains relatively stable

Market averages today were driven by some major declines in a handful of names.  The largest individual stock positions in portfolios here are not surprising --- Apple, Google(the Alphabets), Johnson and Johnson, Visa, Costco, and Facebook.  JNJ took a hit today that was noticeable.  Among the next tier of large exposures are GE, Kimberly Clark, Lockheed Martin, JPM, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and smaller caps Insteel, Hexcel, and Valmont Industries.  Goldman Sachs was whacked today after what on the surface looked like decent earnings.

When names like those two that were hit today take such material declines, it sets the overall market on edge.  An investor does not want to buy a stock one day that looks like a market leader, and then see it create a large loss within a few days.  It is a diminution of their portfolio that can likely be absorbed, but it can also be an aggravation that is taken like a personal insult.  It creates caution in the market.

JNJ and GS are both long term positions here and prior gains make today's declines feel like a normal part of ownership.  For more active traders, it could sting.  We watch for more reactions in the next few weeks to any earnings misses, wondering how punishing the market will be.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

"Sully", the film

This film was watched here yesterday.  For the most part it was an unremarkable film but good enough to sit through.  What was most interesting was the way that the National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB) questioned Chesley Sullenberger about the flight, suggesting emphatically that he had the capacity to reach either LaGuardia or Teterboro rather that land on the Hudson.  While the NTSB disputes that account, the film unequivocally shows hostile bureaucrats berating the hero pilot for his actions.

Ultimately Sully is vindicated, but not before being put through significant stress and uncertainty.  As a family man with bills to pay and not exactly a perfect marriage as this is presented, it is a difficult time for him that the world could not see. What is noteworthy about this is that the film was released in September 2016, two months before the election.  Government bureaucracy was depicted as the villain in the film.  A producer of the film was Steve Mnuchin, at the time Trump's fundraiser and now the Secretary of the Treasury.

Is this all just a coincidence?   Who knows...

Wall Street Journal weekend edition reviews of books

The Weekend Edition of the WSJ has two sections each week that, between the two of them, almost always offer up some interesting reading.  Those two sections, "Review" and "Off Duty", cover myriad topics, much of which is not related to business.  The Review section includes a "Books" section, that is a good counterpoint, or simply an addition, to the vaunted Sunday New York Times Book Review.  The reviewers may not be as high profile, but the writing is fine.

Five pages of the review section this week covered books.  The most interesting review was of "The Gatekeepers", by Chris Whipple which looks the history of the role of the White House chief of staff. In this telling, James Baker as Reagan's first chief of staff comes across as the most effective while his Reagan's second, the ex-Merrill Lynch boss Don Regan is viewed as one of the worst.  The following from the review, by Clark Judge, about Carter's administration was interesting.  "Jimmy Carter acted as his own chief of staff for the first two years of his presidency, with disastrous results. This was the period in which famously oversaw the schedule for the White House tennis court.  Then he made Hamilton Jordan his chief---which may have been worse.  Jordan, an assistant from Mr. Carter's days in the Georgia governor's mansion, devoted his tenure to drinking, womanizing, and insulting members of Congress."  Many of us may remember Carter's obsession with detail and the fact he surrounded himself with Georgia loyalists, Bert Lance included.  Despite his many good intentions, Carter's management style lost him the job.  The commentary on the Chief's continues to the Obama years.

That anecdote is quoted with the hope that it is representative of the type of entertaining and engaging information that is in this book.  The reviewer suggests that it is.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Stable equity market not convincing

The four market days of this week were ones of minor leakage in the U.S. equity averages.  Given the gains over the last five months they were not significant, but there are concerns that they could be a harbinger of what is coming.  Why is that?

Some major banks reported today and on balance there results were fine.  Wells Fargo was a laggard but that was expected by anyone who was not a securities analyst.  Costs associated with going through the mess that they created with their customers are substantial and that will be a drain for the remainder of 2017 at a minimum.  That will be priced into the stock soon and from an investment perspective will not material going forward.  What was not forthcoming from the various bank's managements was any substantial expectations for growth near term.  They are smart people for the most part, and with a President as quixotic and uninformed as Trump they clearly could not make any predictions with confidence.

Yesterday Trump told one of his chronic meetings in which he drags CEO's to his offices to coax their camaraderie with his mendacity, Trump told the participants that bankers should not worry about Dodd Frank as all regulations will be eliminated, and replaced by "something else".  That was followed be his usual fifth grade series of positive adjectives.

Whether health care law, immigration, tax reform, NAFTA, and foreign policy in general he unabashedly lets us know that he knows next to nothing.  He is a minute to minute man, no sixty minutes.  Why would the stock market take comfort in this?

The risk/reward in U.S. equities is now off  kilter.  The upside is limited and downside with Trump "leadership" is not.  The market is, in general, afraid to turn to a correction, afraid to miss the next move up which would be possible under normal circumstances due to earnings stability, growth in tech and finance, and the unbridled innovation in the engineering and science centers of the world. Yet the weight of Trump and the manipulators, incompetents, anti-science nitwits, and syncophants that he has appointed is huge.  To slightly modify that, some, though too few, of his appointees are intelligent people and may be beginning to gain some ground.

Still, here it seems that there will inevitably an event that will send the market into a serious tumble, something that will not be the "range bound" scenario droned on about on CNBC.  At some point Trump's no nothing reassurances will be dismissed for what they are, pure day to day bull.

Here new investments have been minimal with the exception of a bump in the existing GLD position today.  So called "geopolitical worries" are troubling.  See Trump above.  Otherwise it is steady sailing with the prospect of rough seas ahead.  Given my background which is decidedly not sailing, maybe it should be said that I am up two games in the third set but my first serve is gone and my game has become chipping backhands.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The travails of Barclay's CEO Staley were not unexpected

Today both the New York Times Business section and the front page of the B section of the Wall Street Journal had articles on the embattled CEO of Barclays Bank James Staley.  This is a long look back.

Shortly after the merger of J.P. Morgan and Chase Manhattan in the year 2000, Jes Staley was named head of the asset management division of the new JPMorgan Chase.  At J.P. Morgan he had most recently been in charge of the Private Bank.  In my capacity as head of Investor Relations for the combined firm, he was one of the bank's business leaders that needed attention.

At a securities analyst meeting in 2001, Jes had the first impact on my responsibilities.  He rose to answer a question that was asked by an investor, and gave a lengthy rambling answer that was more self promotion than a corporate statement.  After the meeting, I approached a Vice Chairman who was one of my two bosses and questioned Staley's approach.  As was Marc's style, he just looked skyward for a moment, then nodded and said nothing, which was his way of saying he understood what I was saying but that he would not comment or stray from the corporate line.  In his mind it was part of what must be accepted after CEO Bill Harrison's massively dilutive acquisition of J.P. Morgan, and not worth discussing.

Given Staley's stature in the organization it was my job to introduce him to analysts or investors if they expressed an interest and if they were important enough to spend time with.  With some members of management with higher profiles, my job was to recruit significant investors to come in, but with Staley I was hesitant.  It became clear that my concern was justified when I began introducing Staley to investors.  Jes could not tolerate anyone questioning anything he said.  Normal one on one meetings with market participants were usually a back and forth, with it being understood that there would be areas of questioning in which no complete agreement was possible, nor should there have been.  Staley did not understand that.  If someone questioned his strategy or his view of the business, Staley would incessantly try to convince the guest that he, the business manager, was right. It was difficult to conclude a meeting and get out of his office unless the visiting investor would more or less concede that he understood in a way that would at least partially imply that he agreed. More than once I apologized to an analyst for the tone of a meeting.

Since that time I have marveled at the career trajectory of Staley.  There must have been talent that I did not see.  He was well connected and extremely ambitious, but it was hard to understand from afar how he had managed to impress and work so well with Jamie Dimon.  Eventually, that's a long eventually, he apparently did not as he left JPM in 2013 a "management reshuffle".  Today I read in the Wall Street Journal that he then "joined BlueMountain Capital, a hedge fund that had profited a year earlier from the widely reported 'London whale' debacle that left J.P. Morgan with more than $6 billion in losses."  To some that was a completely weird outcome. Staley went from there to Barclays in 2015.

In his career success, had Staley changed from what was remembered?  Based on events now, apparently not.  His inappropriate efforts to unmask whistleblowers at Barclays demonstrates a variation of the mindset of his that was completely familiar.years ago.  It's amazing that he has reached the level he is at and ultimately unlikely that he can succeed there.    

Monday, April 10, 2017

Television time

On most nights there is a need to check around for something interesting to watch on television.  It's relaxing, and after reading or doing desk work for major portions of each day my mind is ready to be entertained or informed without too much effort.  Often it's work to find something of consequence that fills the bill, but tonight there is too much.

Last night's season finale of "Homeland" was a good dose of television, and as always that show left me hanging.  What a chaotic end to the season, but it all made sense as a set up for another set of shows. Tonight is too full, as PBS begins a three night "American Experience" about the origins and course of WWI, beginning at 9pm each night.  It's a another look at the war to end all wars, two hours each night.  Conflicting with this is the new third season opening episode of "Better Call Saul" at 10pm.   Jimmy McGill is back.  That may seem like a frivolous choice, but the question becomes which one, PBS or AMC, will replay tonight's episode sooner.

If it is as well done as expected, sticking with World War I, aka "The Great War" is likely.  AMC is will no doubt replay tonight's "Saul" show just before next week's second episode, or that's expected. It's not often that such choices need to be made.  If really lazy is how I feel, it could be McGill.

Saturday, April 08, 2017


Days here have a schedule surrounded by random territory.  Most nights at about this time or later the question is asked "what did I actually do today?"  To answer for today, why not do that here as an exercise for this site?  I will.

As almost always unless my body cries no, waking up somewhere around 7am is part of the plan, but as late as 7:30 can work. Slowly getting my act together and into my sweats, I headed downstairs to the kitchen to immediately have coffee, either cold in the fridge from yesterday or making a new pot. Today required fresh.  While that was brewing, glasses of orange juice and cold water were poured.  Muffins for everyone's breakfast, English, blueberry, cranberry orange, other, etc., were then cut up and readied for the toaster oven.  Then I sat at kitchen table with my coffee and a magazine for a blessed 15 or 20 minutes by myself with the coffee waking me.

Activity began as others arrived and I put one strip of bacon in the frying pan for tasty grease, muffins in the toaster oven on low, and cut up fruit for K, usually like today watermelon, cantalope and banana.  Today I had a bowl of watermelon as well.  The container purchased yesterday was huge.  Then eggs, today fried with my usual condiments, pepper, green tabasco sauce, and fennel pollen.  Anyone reading gets the idea...   breakfast is my responsibility and I take it seriously.

After breakfast the newspapers have arrived and I sat as always in the living room reading for at at least an hour, often more, with a note pad nearby as jotting down the day's requirements and chores as they came to me slowly.

At around 10am I went upstairs to wash, change, and watch the market or listen to public radio depending on the day.  On Saturdays it's radio.  Then back downstairs to the computer for email, favorite web sites, account management, etc. and before you know it, it was lunch preparation time. Portions of deli sandwiches from yesterday were warmed up and as well as Manhattan clam chowder for me and modest servings of cauliflour rice, macaroni salad and potato salad for K.  We talked a little and as always there was a magazine or part of the newspaper at my elbow.

All of the above could be said for almost every day unless there are doctor's appointments or visits.  It is a routine.

This afternoon I watched part of the Master's golf tournament in the den with K.  She has no interest other than me being with her(and her with me on my part) and as I sat with my feet up on the hassock and watched I was pulled into the tournament.  One of my life accomplishments is that the holes of Augusta are almost all familiar.  I never had a chance to play there but have watched the tournament for so many years, often with my father in his time, that the course is no stranger.  It was entertaining for awhile but I nodded off peacefully at some point.

Another meal beckoned.  Tonight we ordered takeout from an old favorite that does not deliver, but since we had capable help it was possible.  This was a big event, from a terrific but far from fancy Greek seafood restaurant in town.  K had broiled flounder cooked much better than diner style and I had a whole grilled bronzini to look up at me.  That was a big treat, using knife, fork, and hands to get at all of the meat and crispy skin.  With a grilled octopus appetizer, freshly baked pita, and freshly made hummus, plus green beans cooked with onion and tomatoes, we had an unusual feast.  It led to an extensive post meal sorting of the leftovers before help was able to take over.

Then as always, it was upstairs with K at around 7 to watch PBS newshour, and get back into the sweats.  She falls asleep shortly after 8 and the aide takes her to bed in what is now her room(with aide), formerly a large guest room.  I stayed in the large bedroom, moved to the sitting area and watched a somewhat silly film that was surprisingly entertaining for the first hour.  It was "War Dogs", totally new to me but it was a moderately successful film from 2016.  Often I snack on some Kirkland mixed nuts or some Utz ripple potato chips while watching television... healthy right?

After 10pm I came downstairs to the desktop where now I sit writing this post for diversion and getting to the point where falling asleep may not be difficult.  That's it.  Tenses are no doubt mixed up in this post but the day is almost over and it has been covered...

And tomorrow...

Friday, April 07, 2017

Hillary Clinton starts talking again...

HRC is back at it.  It is easy to wish that she would stay away.

Her comments about why she lost the election have little merit, except the one about James Comey and the FBI's supposed ongoing investigation of her e-mails.  The point really is that her campaign should not have been so poorly run that she was at such a point of vulnerability.

Her campaign manager was a talented syncophant without a widespread network and she failed to campaign in key states like Michigan and Wisconsin that were taken for granted.  She could comment on that, but of course she did not.  Of course it's just human nature that she has no insight into her own destructive campaign style, as she went into every major rally or presentation holding up her hands and talking too loudly as if the crowd was there for her personally, as if she was some magnetic personality.  The crowds and voters were there for her policies and beliefs, not for her as a favorite person or her role as a compelling leader.  She never wanted to understand that, preferring to bask in the glory of the campaign role.  She apparently still does not understand how she was her own worst enemy in the campaign.

If she aspires to now to resurrect herself as a major spokesperson for the Democratic party, that is just a selfish move.  Back off.  Give others a chance.  This is the time for new Democrats that people can learn to recognize, and for others to take up the fight against Trump.  HRC, you have already lost to him.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

"Locked In", by John F. Pfaff

This book was reviewed in the most recent New Yorker and it seems to be important, at least directionally on the scale of last year's "Evicted".  The book has not yet been read here but Adam Gopnik's critique of this book about mass incarceration is compelling on its own.

To quote Gopnik, "So what makes for the madness of American incarceration?  If it isn't crazy drug laws or outrageous sentences or profit-seeking prison keepers, what is it?" (All of those are important but the Gopnik quote continues)  "Pfaff has a simple explanation:  it's prosecutors.  They are political creatures, who get political rewards for locking people up and have almost unlimited power to do it."

Whether reading local news here or from my hometown, I am often astonished by the convictions and more so by the sentences.  The premise of "Locked In" was understood intuitively, but to some extent subconsciously.  The book addresses this important issue explicitly, while still commenting on the many surrounding problems.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Trump and golf on magazine covers

Probably due to the upcoming Masters, both the current Economist and New Yorker magazines, in my hands at least, have covers with Trump playing golf.  The Economist cover is exceptional in a way that those Brit links players will most appreciate, although I do as well, while the New Yorker one is mocking with a humorous look at the brutal truth of Trump.   Take a look if you have access.