Monday, July 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Robocalls and more...

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

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

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

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Short takes...

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Various comments...

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Today's comments...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 05, 2019

Sports comments...

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Tonight's "Capital Fourth"

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

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

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

Here's hoping it all goes well.