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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Dow dropping. Advice? Start reading headlines

Gloomy Gus. From Pinterest.

The economic news headlines are too numerous even to post, but we’ll give you a few at the bottom of this gloomy post.

Just check out the latest earnings reports, news of employee cutbacks, executive shuffles/ removals, project delays/cancellations.

It looks as if the economy is coming to a screeching halt. All the political and Fed news is masking the on-the-ground realities, except for the “back pages” of the business papers, both online and hard copy.

Get ready for a possibly hard landing. Start saving, stop spending, stock up on useful items, seeds, non-perishables. Pray.

Just a few straws in the wind, headlines only:

Noble Energy cuts 2016 capital budget, dividend in half

Stocks Slip as Fed Signals Renewed Worry

Apple’s Stalled Growth Puts Focus on Prices

Facebook Profit Tops $1 Billion – o.k. this is an outlier. There’s never 100% bad news!

Ebay Reports Another Drop in Revenue

Houston developer holds off on proposed downtown tower

‘Strong’ year for Umpqua Bank, despite slight quarterly miss

Well, get the picture? Don’t sell any of your longterm holdings, unless you need the money and the cap gain isn’t too bad.

A possibly good sign: when IFO becomes bearish, this is often a sign that the decline is over. She’s always late to the party!

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This isn’t funny – Iran visits France on Holocaust Memorial Day

Photo by Caroline Slifken, Budapest, Hungary Holocaust Memorial.

“Why is France commemorating the Holocaust with Iran’s president?” asked an editorial on Fox News on July 26, 2016.

Written by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Paris-based Europe Office and Marceline Loridan-Ivens, a survivor of Auschwitz, who bears the number 78750 tattooed on her left forearm, the editorial wonders whether French President François Hollande will invite Iranian president Hassan Rouhani to attend services that commemorate that shocking episode in European history.

“January 27th is not just the date that Auschwitz was liberated,” they wrote.

It is also the day that France, along with the rest of the world, thanks to a U.N. resolution, marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, dedicated to recalling the victims of the Nazi genocide and preventing similar crimes against humanity.

Two beautiful sentences in the heart of the article capture its essence:

We already knew that the Iranians are clever, shrewd analysts of world events, skillful diplomats. But until now we didn’t appreciate their dark sense of humor.

Highly recommended reading. Never again. Am Israel Chai!

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Uh oh, ESA may be in trouble

Cute little guy, eh? The bird, described in the current issue of the journal Avian Research, has been named Himalayan forest thrush Zoothera salimalii. Photo by Per Alstrom HT: MSU Today

Researchers at Michigan State University report the startling and surprising news that “a new species of bird has been discovered in India and China.” It is the delightfully and poetically named Himalayan forest thrush.

But, but, but the Endangered Species Act was passed back in the 1970s because we (the world) were losing species right and left. Soon there would be no plants or animals left unless we stopped the madness!

The madness of people existing, multiplying, living, working, growing food, making things and building stuff! Oh, the horror! Plants and animals can’t live with people around, can they??? But discovery of a new species casts a bit of doubt on that theory, doesn’t it?

Wait – there’s more. Maybe we don’t have to worry after all. Today marks the Tenth Anniversary of Al Gore’s prediction of disaster. Yes, Jan. 27, 2016 was the predicted date of our demise by … Global Warming! Note the date of the linked article, please.

In the same article, by Rush Limbaugh, showing the value of remembering history, he writes, “Now, the last time I heard some liberal talk about “ten years” it was 1988, Ted Danson. We had ten years to save the oceans; we were all going to pay the consequences, which would result in our death.”

This is history squared!

These ten-year predictions by Hollywood celebrities just show their ignorance. Real predictors go out way farther, out where most people don’t expect to be still alive, so the predictors can’t be caught, tarred and feathered.

National Geographic had a scary undated article about melting glacier ice that predict that one in Peru “will be gone by 2100!” I believe, but can’t confirm, that that number has already been debunked. Maybe I’ll leave that for your homework today.

Now, all we have to hear is that we are having record cold weather in NYC … oh, wait.

himalayan-forest-thrush-bird

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Media must know history to report properly

Flak jacket. Looks kind of medieval, doesn’t it?

One of the outstanding qualities of Rush Limbaugh is that he not only remembers history accurately, he also generously shares that knowledge with his listeners. The brouhaha today about Donald Trump‘s withdrawal from a coming candidate debate illustrates this quality well.

On the other hand, one of the other top news stories today has brought forth casual misrepresentations of history by nameless news readers.

Let me explain.

Granted, Rush has more time to develop his narrative. The news readers get from 10 to 30 seconds per news story – headline reading really – to tell the story. But that just makes their job more difficult, not impossible.

Rush explained who the players in the political drama are, how they interact and interrelate and how he, Rush, fits into the picture. This is all necessary because Rush has taken some serious flak from listeners who thought he should show total unadulterated adoration for their candidate and none for the others.

Fine, but Rush has a long-running show with a successful recipe which he developed after ignoring advice by people who knew better for how to do his own show. He hasn’t budged from that formula. He is still the radio talk King.

Rush said he knows, likes and respects the players: Roger Ailes, Ted Cruz, Megyn Kelly, Donald Trump, and others. Then he explained some history, including Donald’s book, The Art of the Deal, which Rush seems to have read more than once. It’s how Rush, himself, operates! So, he understands.

However, make up your own mind. All I’ll say is that Trump hasn’t just built a brand, he has also constructed, and runs, the current narrative. What other politician has had the brains or courage to do that? Last night, a Trump admirer on the Web, after watching the press briefing, said Trump “has balls of steel!” All caps. I’m still laughing.

Now, on to the other story. “Ammon Bundy, other protesters arrested in Oregon”

I suspect most of my readers have been following this story of ranchers advocating for property rights in Malheur County in the southeastern corner of Oregon. It is a long and complex story relating to federal ownership and leasing of grazing land in the Western U.S. That’s not where I’m going today.

A news reader on the radio this morning referenced, “other anti-government protests like Ruby Ridge and Waco” as he read the story about the arrests. An interesting juxtaposition, don’t you think? How about pro-property rights, pro-religious rights?

Waco was a case of  U.S. government agents making an unprovoked attack on followers of a non-mainstream religion after the months-long siege, and subsequent killing and incineration of men, women and children.

US Attorney General at the time, Janet Reno, said “she took full responsibility” for the attack. At first, I cheered, thinking Reno was going to resign, but no such luck. Just what DOES “take full responsibility” mean? Hmm?

Ruby Ridge, according to the excellent 2003 Slate article linked here, was a “1992 stakeout and killings” of some of  Randall Weaver’s family and a friend by U.S. Marshalls. Again, an attack by government agents after a siege.

So, the news reader was wrong. The Malheur case is the not the same. Facts to date are not clear. But the killers in all of these cases were government agents.

So, rather than the current meme – anti-government, I’d prefer “anti-middle-aged-white men” (with a few women and kids thrown in for good measure.) The prime target has been middle-aged white men and the “government” turned on them first.

It is white (and colored) men who have been fighting in our (government-sanctioned) wars. It is white (and colored) men who have designed and built our factories, cars, ships, planes, railroads (here ‘colored’ includes Chinese laborers). It is white (and colored) men who have tilled and harvested our fields. Here, ‘colored’ includes Hispanic campesinos.

Guess it all comes down to “control.” Those in government demand utter obedience to their dictates. If they tell you to kill, go kill. If they say, do what I say, do it!  At some point, not now, I will address the bleating response some give of “if you don’t like it, then change the law, or vote for somebody else.”

Not now. Now, I mourn the deaths of independent men who dared to stand up to what they saw as a threatening, unlawful, unfair, armed power.

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Portugal gets a new President: Trump lite?

Very interesting trends in Europe – press not paying attention. Probably that’s for the best. This man, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa appears to be right for Portugal right now.

Note: he say’s he is a man of the Right, but he has been a highly popular television commentator for years. He hopes and expects to heal wounds and build bridges.

Take a look:

http://www.euronews.com/2016/01/24/portugal-presidential-election-marcelo-rebelo-de-sousa-wants-to-heal-wounds/

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Day Four: US Govt Shutdown continues

This plane can’t take off!

Public transportation, government office buildings, schools, highways, every “public” service, read: government service, has been shut down in much of the Northeastern U.S.

Where is the outrage?  Where is the panic, fear, anger, discomfort, yea, even the snark?

Does this mean most government operations are unnecessary? Or does it mean that many services viewed as needing coercion to pay for them, actually would be paid for willingly BY THE USERS?

IOW, most services I listed above could easily be freed from government rules, regulations and monetary subsidies (paid for by taxation, rather than by users and supporters), and become private companies, paying, not receiving taxes, or private foundations.

One of several possible ways: freewill contributions via local support organization. Our local tax-supported library has a private non-profit foundation attached to it.  The group is set up to receive contributions via bequests, individual contributions, money from fundraising efforts. Members coordinate with librarians to determine what service or product is needed. Bookshelves, remodel, and so on.

And, note, the library is a Carnegie library, set up via a program established by mega-rich steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. He wanted towns to build free libraries. Bill Gates has similar philanthropic tendencies.

You are aware, I hope, that there are private water companies? Artesian Resources Corporation (ARTNA); California Water Service Group (CWT); Pure Cycle Corporation (PCYO); Aqua America Inc (WTR) and The York Water Company (YORW).

York Water Company was founded in 1816!

There are also private trash haulers, electricity producers, bus companies, railroad companies (though admittedly, railroads have traditionally hated human passengers and preferred freight). All of these have been or are tax-supported entities.

Volunteer fire departments are a treasured American tradition, though a modern trend is toward governmentizing those services. There is no reason for this. People do not need to be FORCED to pay for fire protection. Believe me.

ALL schools were private or parochial (Lutheran, Episcopalian, Baptists, Catholic, etc.) until about 100 years ago. No tax support. Some local districts did ask voters for property tax support just to build a new schoolhouse. All other funds came from the parents. At many private schools, poor parents are not required to pay tuition.

This is why we aren’t having a panic as the DC government and numerous school districts have remained shut down.

Lesson for today: see how many private services you know about that some people believe should be governmental agencies! You may be surprised.

 

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