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.