Happy National Margarita Day!

These are just the beginning.

This is a real holiday! IFO has never had tequila, but this is tempting.

So, yes, if you feel like celebrating National Margarita Day, or just Washington’s Birthday, which we lost to PC several years ago, but it still GW’s birthday today, so party on!

However, this is a serious blog, with serious financial information. The company reminding us of this holiday is named Pura Vida Spirits Company.

It is pure Texas – with operations based in Mexico and Texas. One of the founders is a former ZZ Top player! The newsletter linked above is named “Andale” Spanish for “get moving!” Pronounced: AHN dahlay.

My classmates in Las Cruces New Mexico, just 40 miles north of El Paso, Texas, used to yell, “Andale” when our lookouts saw the school principal and fourth grade teacher coming down the hall back to our classroom. Oh, that brings back memories.

But back to the present. Keep an eye on Pura Vida, the founders have big plans. They are expanding beyond their basic tequila to other distilled drinks. But before we go there, let’s applaud their website’s copywriters. For example, their aged tequila, Añejo,…

This extra aging process allows our Añejo to darken and mature resulting in a tequila that is extremely smooth, complex, and delightful.

A lot like you.

Are you sold? But wait, there’s more. According to the Houston Business Journal, in an exclusive, subscribers-only story:

Exclusive: Houston tequila co. to launch full line of liquor

A Houston-based tequila company is expanding to a full liquor line in the next three years. It will eventually carry a Mexican whiskey, Dutch gin and Cuban rum.

The managing director and founder is Stewart Skloss, a man of many, many companies. No, company is NOT public, yet. And given how many private companies he is involved in, it may never be, but keep an eye on him and la Pura Vida.

IFO can see one of the big beverage brands scarfing them up as soon as the full line of liquor is online.

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South Carolina Republican Primary election

From Scott Adams’ blog via The Conservative Treehouse.

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Is it time to buy stocks now?

We hope you are all making your lists and checking them twice. What company or companies are you going to buy when the time is “right?”

Are you in love with the CEO? Is the business unique and strong? Does it pay good and rising dividends? How old is the company?

If you want to get into the weeds, how much debt does it have? Is it doing stock buy backs?

Let’s address the last question first: stock buy backs. In spite of near-universal condemnation of the practice, company boards and some investors still act as if that is really a good practice.

Here’s a link devoted entirely to stock buybacks. Good information. Delves into the nuances. Be sure to Google the term “stock buybacks” for some insights.

On balance, IFO does not like this practice. Do your due diligence before you make up your mind. One red flag: buy backs purchased with borrowed money! Other names for borrowed money: debt, leverage.

While waiting (we haven’t traded any stock for weeks), check out some website we have listed in our Blog Roll. Here’s one discussion from Dividend.Com’s Feb. 15 note. Quick summary: it’s not time yet.

For background from one of the best: Donaldson Capital. He says the “correction” is just noise, and backs it up with good analysis. Note to Julie, “If you are reading this, this may be the best start for your son for learning about markets, etc.

Don’t be fooled by the “volatility” — in this case wild swings both up and down. That really IS noise. Also, if you start reading more and more analysts saying “this is a real correction, don’t buy now, more bad news is coming,” etc. that may be the time to consider buying.

Remember: buy low, sell high?

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The problem in Washington DC

What is wrong with the VA?

Just got off the phone after ranting to the poor phone answerer in U.S. Repr. Greg Walden’s office in Wash DC.

I had two complaints: 1. Couldn’t send the email I wrote in response to the representative’s recent email newsletter. 2. The contents of the representative’s email newsletter totally missed the problem he was attempting to address.

You decide. First the offending newsletter (edited for brevity and clarity), then my reply which somehow could not be sent to his office:

“The scandals and mismanagement that have plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are unacceptable. And it is a personal priority of mine to bring back transparency and accountability to the VA.  That’s why I am proud that the U.S. House has passed several pieces of legislation in recent weeks to help our nation’s veterans.

To start, the Veterans Employment, Education, and Healthcare Improvement Act focuses on cutting red tape for veterans as they look for jobs, education, and medical services. It would strengthen the GI Bill program as well as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, expand successful PTSD programs, and protect veteran-owned small businesses. Importantly, this legislation has support from American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America.

I believe decisions about veterans’ benefits should not be controlled by an agency in Washington, D.C. That’s why I also supported the American Heroes COLA Act, a bill that would expedite the VA’s processing of certain benefit claims and appeals, as well as put in place an automatic cost of living increase for our vets.

In order to turn around its worst performing medical centers, the VA needs to first acknowledge its problems. I believe a third bill that I recently supported, the VA Medical Center Recovery Act, is a step in that direction. The bill puts in place clear definitions and metrics for the VA to measure how their medical centers are serving veterans, and gives the agency the tools to intervene when a medical center is failing.

Under this bill, a “rapid response team” of top managers and medical professionals would be deployed to failed facilities with the sole task of taking over and taking charge. The team would be able to cut through the broken bureaucracy by having direct access to VA Secretary Robert McDonald and his top officials, ensuring that decisions are made quickly and at the highest level. We need to take away the VA’s excuses for failure and force them to be accountable, and this bill will help get us there.

Of course, it is a failure on all counts when we lose a veteran to suicide. You might remember that last year when Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act for American Veterans. This piece of legislation helps expand mental health and suicide prevention programs within the VA.

I’m pleased to let you know about a similar bill recently passed by the U.S. House, the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act. According to a study by the VA, women veterans are nearly six times more likely to commit suicide than non-veteran women.

Best regards, Greg Walden, U.S. Representative, Oregon’s Second District”

My reply:

“Thanks for trying to help, but MORE MONEY and MORE LAWS are how we got here! The bills you mention do nothing to help veterans – they just expand the VA and its hangers-on. They do nothing to fix the VA, they just add more people.

I don’t see a path to improving VA management. Whistleblowers still can be punished, bad VA administrators can still get raises, bonuses and promotions to new places, veterans can still be ignored or forgotten. Does that “rapid response team” consist of VA employees?

More money and more laws is how we got where we are today. Find someone who knows how to run a hospital system, hire that person, give the person CEO authority and a deadline. And stand back.

Sincerely,”

Well, my dear readers, what do you think?

N.B. For more information, start by googling: Veteran’s Administration.

N.B. II – My dad and uncle used VA services extensively years ago, and neither one complained to me. Plus, a local Marine veteran told me he was quite satisfied with the services he got, though he had heard of problems.

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Economics for child geniuses

Building is fun!

And now for something completely different.

A couple of days ago, a lovely person came on this site. She commented in the “About” section here that she wanted to have some recommendations for books for her son.

He needed to enhance his natural entrepreneurial talents because he had already started to show his genius for business when he was three years old!

Below is my reply, slightly edited,

“You are so fortunate to have such a brilliant son! He seems to be genetically programmed to be a highly successful businessman.
 
“Please accept my apology for taking so long to answer your comment, but I really had to think about it. First, I don’t know of any books that would be pitched even to young adults, much less the 9-12 yr old market, that would do your son any good. They have a tendency to be preachy and PC. Most are written by liberal arts people who have no clue about how businesses operate.
 
“A few suggestions: Biographies of businessmen are good and written for the general public, i.e. your son. He’ll ask you about words he may run into that aren’t clear to him, but that will just open up opportunities to discuss the content. Horatio Alger stories are good, I think.
 
“Let him try “The Cathedral and The Bazaar” by Eric S. Raymond. It is “The most important book about technology today, with implications that go far beyond programming,” according to Guy Kawasaki. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.
 
“You are right to start with some IFO posts on basic investing – they are geared toward my timid, widows, so I worded them very simply. The stock market is the end result of entrepreneurial activities. All of the great companies started small – many in garages, long before the companies went public. Search my site for “garage!” The founders wanted to “make” and to “do.” Just like your son. Money was the last thing on their minds, except as a means to the end.
 
“Another idea I had is that you could take him down to a Scottrade or Charles Schwab-type brokerage office. Schwab has fabulous customer service, but has a tendency to want to give advice. Scottrade does NOT give advice. You place an order online and it goes through. If there is an office in your town, you can always call or go in person to chat with the people there.
“Just let your son ask them questions. They will love it. We who love our work are all missionaries! I’m a reporter and you can’t shut me up about the benefits of local newspapers to their communities!
 
“Also, I recommend that, if possible, that your son  he get a job as soon as he can. All of my kids did, though only my two daughters understood about savings accounts as a tool for giving them (some) control over their lives. Each child has been amazingly different.
“My son loved his paper route for the computer and guitar it got him, plus the cookies and positive reinforcement he got from his customers when he went collecting. My daughters, OTOH, didn’t like collecting – they were so goal-oriented they hardly paid any attention to their present lives.”

Can any readers here recommend books on business for young, talented, hard-working kids?

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Do you hear the people sing?

Laura Ingraham played this song to open her talk show today, following  Donald Trump’s great victory in New Hampshire. I defy you to read and listen without weeping.

I do recommend that all political warriors watch the entire production. you can find several full versions on YouTube. Revolutions have a way of getting out of hand. Remember this.

 

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It never rains, but it pours

“It never rains, but it pours.” One of my favorite sayings. Used to apply it when we all lived in Zurich. We’d go for weeks at a time with no social life, no visitors, no good weather for family outings.

Then, boom! Auntie flew in for a visit, the sun came out, an ETH party invitation came and an old college friend dropped in in the space of a week.

This week is turning out to be like that. I just got a lovely writing assignment, the butcher called to tell my my 1/4 grass-fed beef is all aged, packaged and frozen, my language class has entered an intense phase, and I have a board meeting coming up.

See? Never rains, but it pours. At least my laundry is done, dried on the outside line, taken down, folded and put away. And there’s bread in the freezer. The opera in Neweport this weekend was fabulous – The Pearl Fishers. Would be happy to see it again.

Anyway, I may miss a few posts this week. However, you have an alternative, which I highly recommend. The Conservative Treehouse is a place you should be visiting regularly. It’s thought-provoking and dynamite.

And on an investment note, it may be getting time to buy new stocks. Do you have your buy list made out?

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Vacations are good

Not as pretty as my dentist, but still … you get the picture!

After a quick, staycation plus a couple of days at the coast, we’re back at the wheelhouse here. What a fun time it has been! While the roller coasters have been exciting, the stock market and the political scene have been a constant, wearying round of ups and downs.

The only thing that has kept me stable has been my effort to learn a new language. It has engaged my entire brain, leaving no room for the roller coasters. Here are two examples of how language learning can take over the entire brain:

A few years ago my dentist told me I needed to get a root canal. Now, I have not accepted the Needle of Numbing since I was 22 years old, when a numbing shot caused my heart to race. Now THAT scared me!

The dentist was Swiss, so he had no problem drilling without giving me novocaine, or whatever, as long as I didn’t move. He was cool, too! As he worked, we discussed my favorite topic even then – politics! He liked Barry Goldwater!

Whenever the pain got bad, I would think, “No matter how much this hurts, it can’t kill me, as painkiller to the heart could.”And the pain would diminish. Also, the dentist adopted the brilliant practice of saying, “Just about five seconds more.”

Again, the pain would diminish. And I’d leave the office with no numbness and not returning pain a few hours later as the drug wore off. A win-win, IMO.

Back to the recent past. I laughed as the dentist and her assistant shuddered at the thought of me not getting a shot. Of course, I had prepared. Took an aspirin a half hour before the procedure started. Fired up a CD-player with earphones in my ears.

The CD was a song sung in Ladino, the beautiful language of the Sephardic people who had left Spain in 1492 and spread throughout the world, always keeping their culture and language alive.

If I listened very carefully to the CD, I could understand the songs. Then, I was interrupted from my reverie by my dentist saying, “Okay, that’s it. We’re done.” What??? Huh? Angrily, I accused her of secretly giving me a shot.

She vehemently denied that. And, truly, I realized I didn’t feel numb. But, I also hadn’t felt a thing. My expectation had been that it wouldn’t hurt much, not that it wouldn’t hurt AT ALL!

My second language-learning experience was scary. Again, I had a CD, but this time I was learning a completely new language. I had a 45-minute drive to Portland once a week, so I thought I could avoid wasting time, listen, and learn on the way.

I got all set up, but had to stop at the grocery store before heading up to the city. I got back into the car, fired up the CD, started to back out of my parking space — and nearly hit a parked car behind me!

My brain had been totally engaged in trying to answer a question on the CD in the new language. I ripped the earphones out, turned off the CD and never tried that again. I had listened to Books on Tape with no problem, but trying to respond by pulling words out of my brain was an entirely different mental exercise.

So, there you have it. The power… and the weakness, of the brain.

Note re: the market. Stay on the sidelines. Think of the cash you are accumulating as earning 3% to 4% by NOT being invested in a stock whose price is declining by that much.

For the math-challenged – say, the stock goes from $100 to $80 dollars. You still have $100, so you have “made” $20! Even more than 3%!

However, if you have followed my advice to get good dividend-paying stocks, you are earning a higher percent because the dividend stays the same while the price goes down. Win-win. Ah, life is good.

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What leader does Donald Trump remind you of?

Another parallel: Moses and Trump got big crowds at their events!

A few days ago a friend read a newspaper editorial to me arguing that Donald Trump was a classic case of a person with an inferiority complex. It compared him, unfavorably, to Obama.

That made no sense at all. But it was funny, so there’s that.

The argument appeared to be that if someone appears to be self-confident, he is hiding an inferiority complex. So, um, does that mean that a timid, meek person actually has a superiority complex?

But this nonsense did cause me to think about leadership and Trump. To my great surprise, the name that popped up in my mind was … Moses! Yes, THAT Moses. Moshe Rabbeinu. BTW, the link provided is a bit iffy. I suggest reading Exodus, et seq.

Before you go away shaking your head, consider these parallels and possibilities:

  1. Moses had some failures and issues as a young man. He killed a guy who was mistreating a Hebrew slave. Moses had to get out of Dodge in a hurry.
  2. Trump had some companies that went bankrupt. He had to revamp his approaches to real estate deals in a hurry.
  3. Moses’ life style, as a man who had grown up in Pharoah’s court, was quite different from his fellow Hebrews. A life of ease and luxury, no doubt.
  4. Trump’s life style has been, to say the least, very different from about 99.9% of the American population. No ease, since Trump is famously hardworking, but certainly luxurious.
  5. Moses’ first difficult job was to confront Pharoah and win.
  6. Trump’s first job as a presidential candidate was to confront the Republican and Media Establishments and win.
  7. Moses then had to convince the Hebrews to get out of Dodge, i.e., leave Egypt and slavery for a life of independence and free will.
  8. Trump has to convince most Americans to vote for him in order to gain a life of independence and free will.
  9. And for a bit of Gematria: both men have five letters in their names, though the consonants in Hebrew MSS for Moses and TRMP for Trump, sum to quite different amounts. Moses = 640, while Trump = 1440. I have no idea what that may or may not mean, just thought you would be interested.

Here is when it gets interesting. Let’s say Mr. Trump becomes the President. For a possible look back into the future, note what Moses had to go through.\

  1. The were really happy when they got out, but almost from the very beginning, the Hebrews complained and whined. Often during their 40 years in the desert, they said they would be better off back in Egypt! “At least we’d have food!”
  2. Moses, and G-d, too, nearly lost patience with them more than once, but always relented. The Hebrews were their children, after all!
  3. The Hebrews had a terrible time learning how to be free. Eventually Moses told them that not a single person who had lived in Egypt would not enter the Promised Land. Only their children would be allowed to enter.
  4. They also had a hard time obeying the 10 Simple Rules (Commandments) Moses and G-d wrote for them, including having only on god and observing the Sabbath. One time they went so far as to collect gold from themselves and make a Golden Calf! Boy, were their leaders mad! Many of the idolators came to a very sad end.

Well, what do you think?

N.B. Obama’s name, with a weak two consonants, only sums to 42 – a famous number to Douglas Adams fans, but otherwise meaningless.

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Market moves, and other observations

Marcus Tullius Cicero

The markets are still volatile.

After speculating about “who” might be making this happen and coming up with a few “theys” who might be responsible, I’ve been mulling this question some more.

And… found another “they.” This is a good one, but not as tin hatty as most. Could it be brokerages?

Think. Cui bono? Or, as we say in English, “Who benefits?” Or as Wikipedia says, “to whose profit?” This phrase is attributed to Cicero, described by the Encyclopedia Britannica as a

Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, and writer who vainly tried to uphold republican principles in the final civil wars that destroyed the Roman Republic.

As an aside, my DDMIL derided him as a bombastic, bloviating blowhard. She was a liberal, educated in the late 1920s. Kind of the way my professors (late 1950s) viewed Polonius in Hamlet. I wonder who the intellectuals are making fun of these days?

American educators have been distorting history and literature since long before modern times. But maybe academe has always been iconoclastic, ironic, sarcastic and uber- sophisticated, eh?

I’m not sure of the Latin for who loses, but let’s try, Cui patitur? Who suffers? or better yet, and easier to understand, Qui perdide beneficia? Who lost benefits?

Wow. Those Romans! They had a saying for everything, although Google Translate and I made up the last one. I’m surprised it isn’t in the list of Latin phrases.

But in a market of trades, it is possible to have a win-win, or a win-lose, or, of course, a lose-lose. But in a volatile market, with wild price swings – Who benefits?  Traders. Every buy and every sell means a commission for a broker.

Big losers, or sufferers, would be the ones who got caught first in the bear trap, then in the bull trap. Nobody talks about the bull trap, but if you sell a stock that afterwards rises in price, I’d say you lost the difference by not owning the stock as it went up.

Investopedia defines a bear trap –

 A false signal that the rising trend of a stock or index has reversed when it has not. A bear trap prompts traders to place shorts on the stock or index, since they expect the underlying to decline in value. Instead of declining further, the investment stays flat, or slightly recovers.

I’d define a bear trap as selling when you think the price is going down further, but then it doesn’t. You’ve “sold low,” classic definition of a novice. A bull trap would be buying when you think the price is sure to go up, “Now’s the time to buy!” Um, no.

This is why I have been counseling my readers to sit tight as the volatility plays itself out. And I certainly hope not one of you places short sales! Big, almost guaranteed loss if you don’t have lightening fast reflexes, ability to trade instantly, and can correctly guess price directions.

Either way, if the price changes the “wrong way” – one that you did not expect, you lose.

So, buyers and sellers suffer in volatile markets. Traders benefit either way. Let this be a lesson to you.😉

 

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