There is a lot I don’t like about our president.

However, his tweet this morning reveals one of the things I love about the guy… that with new data, he can bypass a bunch of time-wasting politics and thrust a critical issue into the limelight in a moment’s notice:

I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!

What’s the new data?  Maybe someone told Trump the deficit projections… driven in large part by almost $6 TRILLION in military spending since 2001?

I’ve long thought we spend a ridiculous, INSANE amount of money on the military.

We can pretty much bury the entire planet knee deep in nukes… do we really need to spend some 20% of budget on more superfluous weaponry?

Spending half as much… even a third as much… would still make us the biggest military spender in the world.

Good for Trump to bring this issue front & center…

… which is sure to confound both his greatest skeptics AND supporters!  :)

The market is getting rocked by giants swings of volatility.  When it goes up, everything is just the b-e-s-t ever!  And when it goes down, everything is just the worst, worst, worst!

It’s hard not to get caught up in the wash.

Two fundamental emotions drive investing and the stock market:  Greed and Fear.

Greed that you want even more… and fear that you’ll lose everything.

We had an interesting debate the other night:  What’s stronger?

For my money:  Greed.

Because the people involved in the stock market are a self-selecting group… they are, by nature, aggressors.  They want better food… better clothes… better cars… better houses.

So the natural bias of the people that make up the market — over the long run — is up.

That thought gives me a bit of comfort as we watch the market chunk lower.

In many ways, Gordon Gekko did have it right, right?

P.S.  I think this also has to do with ever-increasing population as well… as in, the more people we have, the more things that get bought, benefiting public companies.  But this concept is for a different post.  :)

Stan Lee (a.k.a. Stanley Martin Lieber) passed today.

I tried to think of the right thought.  I have such terrific memories of diving into brand new comic books… but “thanks for the memories” just didn’t seem appropriate.

I was always entertained… but that seem to miss the significance of Stan Lee’s work.

So here’s what I know about Stan Lee and the teams of talented people he worked with over the years:

They knew how to create, no, craft a character.  Even with incredible superpowers, you could somehow identify with them and their situations… your frailties were their frailties… your fears were their fears… your hopes were their hopes.

My earliest hero was Spiderman… but later in life I branched out to just about every character he crafted…

… because I had something to learn from each.

So, ultimately, I want to thank Stan Lee for being a teacher and the greatest storyteller in my life.

Excelsior!

Apple announced earnings today… they beat on top and bottom lines… and even though iPhone unit sales missed by a tad, average sales price crushed expectations.

Sounds good, right?

Not so fast.  Apple is DOWN almost 6.5% in the after market.

Yikes!

Turns out guidance came in a bit light.

And, Apple said it was going to stop reporting on unit sales, which — supposedly — signals to analysts less volume going forward.

Here’s what I think:

WHAT IS EVERYONE CRAZY?!

Apple just reported 40% earnings growth.  That’s right — 40%.  That’s spectacular for any company… but a company Apple’s size?  That’s p-h-e-n-o-m-e-n-a-l.

To put valuation in perspective:  Usually your P/E matches your earnings growth.  So if you are growing at 10%, you have a 10 P/E.  So if you’ve grown earnings by 40%, you should have a P/E of 40.

But that’s not the case for AAPL.  Apple has a trailing 20 P/E… or, even more amazing, just a forward 14 P/E.  Which means there is a case to be made that AAPL is undervalued… it could be trading 100% higher… or even 200% higher in some circles.

Further, with a company like Apple — that is, consistent… steady… predictable — is light guidance really an issue?  Especially given that Apple usually gives lighter guidance… and has been doing so since the days Steve ran the company?

I think not sharing iPhone unit totals is the real issue… and it’s not with investors… but with analysts that are tasked to create projection models.

Fair enough, it will make their job harder.

But, seriously, Apple is consistent… steady… predictable… AND growing earnings at 40%… and, btw, growing revenues at a whopping 20%, too… their job is already pretty straightforward.

So here’s what I also think:  AAPL may initially go lower… but at some point the investment community is going to say, “It’s the #1 product in the world, produced by the #1 brand in the world.  40% earnings growth means they continue to knock the cover off the ball.  Most of the macro economic indicators are still intact.  Uhm, are we daft?!”

That’s when the momentum will shift… and we’ll see AAPL move higher.

And, despite what will seem like a stock-crushing open, I think it could happen sometime tomorrow.

UPDATE:  Well, uhm, maybe next week.  :)

There’s a lot of noise in the market.

But there’s usually a lot of noise.

By definition — at any point in time — 50% of people think there’s enough bad in the market to sell their shares to the other 50% who thinks there’s good.

Can’t have a market otherwise.  That’s why I always scoff when someone refers to “easy” trading periods.  It’s never easy.

What helps guide you through the noise is whether your fundamental investment thesis is still intact.

Is mine?  I think the two biggest drivers of corporate profits — which drive the market — are the price of oil and interest rates.  Let’s see where they stand:

* While oil took a little run to the upside, I wouldn’t call it misbehaving.  In fact, it’s shed much of its 2018 gain

* Interest rates are spooking everyone… but 10-year is sneaking back down… and Trump’s on fire about the Fed messing things up — so much so that a few Fed governors have had to reiterate that they won’t, uhm, mess things up (i.e., “will still be accommodative for quite a while”)

* Sentiment is negative.  While that’s not comfortable, as a contrarian I prefer this

So, for me, at least right now, the noise is… just noise… and what we’re seeing is some healthy “letting some air out of the balloon”… which we like… so it doesn’t pop.

 

P.S.  A great example of “noise” was Caterpillar earnings.  They beat top & bottom line.  But everyone was fretting about China and tariffs… and the stock got pounded… even though if you read their commentary, you find CAT itself wasn’t so worried about the effect of China or tariffs on its business.  Here’s some commentary from their 10/23/18 earnings call:

* CATERPILLAR SAYS FEEL GOOD ABOUT EQUIPMENT DEMAND IN CHINA NEXT YEAR

* CATERPILLAR SAYS EXPECT BUSINESS TO CONTINUE TO IMPROVE IN 2019 VERSUS 2018

* CATERPILLAR SAYS CONTINUE TO EXPECT INDUSTRY SALES IN CHINA FOR 10-TON-AND-ABOVE EXCAVATORS TO BE UP ABOUT 40 PERCENT FOR THE FULL YEAR

* CATERPILLAR SAYS EXPECT IMPACT OF 25 PERCENT IMPORT TARIFF ON ADDITIONAL $200 BILLION CHINESE GOODS TO BE ‘QUITE MINOR’

These are all good things, right?!

I have to hurry this post because Microsoft is about to announce earnings.

For the first time in many years, Microsoft’s earnings are incredibly relevant again.

As many know, MSFT is in the process of successfully reinventing itself… to be a big-time cloud competitor.

Their earnings after the market closes today are important because the market is in desperate need of some kind of clear signal… either that things are still ok in tech land… or they’re not.

It just so happens MSFT is announcing before Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook… which means all eyes will be on their report.

Now, Microsoft has a reasonable stage set.  Adobe reaffirmed guidance last week… which I believe single-handled stopped the market from another 5-10% slide… since everyone was/is feeling like we’ve driven off a cliff… given tariffs… and global tensions… and interest rate hikes… and Trump acting decidedly unpresidential most of the time.

And Netflix killed their earnings, too, which even though it doesn’t seem like it, also helped provide some footing in this decidedly negative market.

But some disturbing things are still happening.  iRobot (IRBT), makers of my favorite electronic device in the world (Roomba!), killed their numbers, too… and the stock was still hammered today… simply because they cited some potential tariff impact… even though they still raised guidance.

What the market wants — craves — now is more assurance… that the consumer is still spending… that interest rates, while increasing, will increase in a slow and measured pace… that oil isn’t going to spike… that tariffs are having a positive effect somewhere in the food chain…

… essentially that the foundation for investment is still sound.

A good report from the once most dominate and influential tech company in the world… that has clawed its way back into relevance… could turn everything on a dime.  Stay tuned!

UPDATE:  Earnings were solid.  Beat on both top and bottom lines.  Stock was up almost 5% at one point in the after-hours market.  (BTW, Tesla TSLA also reported and nailed it… it’s up over 10% in after hours… and ironically they mentioned tariffs and it doesn’t seem to be impacting the pop.)

I was OVERJOYED by this headline:

Trump says each Cabinet secretary should slash 5% of their budgets after he pledges to cut spending

Remarkably, even one of the slipperiest* figures in politics, Kellyanne Conway, said something COMPLETELY INTELLIGENT:

“He’s asking them to cut the fraud, the waste, the abuse,” White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway said on Fox Business Network. “Cut the fat, not the essentials.”

I think Trump should have asked for 10% — in business that’s considering an easy and smart cut as it forces you to really examine all of your projects and cut the worst performing one — but 5% is fine to get this party started.

 

*  Sorry for tongue-tying word but that describes her perfectly.

We had to be clean shaven in high school.  So when I went off to college, one of the first things I did was grow a mustache.

Longer (as was the style) in the 70’s and 80’s… and shorter for the last few decades… it’s been with me ever since.

Until today.

After 40 years, I’m not sure why I picked October 17, 2018 to shave it off.  Maybe it’s because I was meeting with a bunch of entrepreneurs at Draper University today… and was admiring how all these kids were stepping way outside their comfort zone to take on something new and risky.

And then I thought, I should do something new and risky, too.

For me, that’s not starting a business or investing or such, I do that quite often.

Nah, for me, it had to be something I haven’t done before… or at least something I haven’t done in a looong time… which I believe 40 years qualifies as.

And, so, out came the razor… !

Happy Face with Moustache

 

P.S.  As you can see, the haircut is the same.  ;)

This shouldn’t be news.  On CNBC, no less.  It’s an embarrassment.  Grow up and be presidential, Donnie.

Trump-Stormy News

A few years ago a proposition went on the ballot to add a $1 tax per pack of cigarettes… with 100% of the tax going to support medical research for smokers.

The logic was simple:  If you choose to smoke, you should also be responsible for the health care costs you will inevitably have.

The tobacco industry fought this by creating an ad that had nothing to do with the issue at hand.  It was like an ad that read, “aw, but don’t we all like puppies and kittens?”

It’s happening again.

The California Teachers Association — one of the largest lobbyist groups in California — has created a shell organization called “Kids Not Profits”… in order to disguise their efforts to torpedo anyone that challenges their dominance…

… a dominance that corresponds with California schools going from one of the top systems in the country to one of the worst.

The ads the Teachers Association are running make it sound like the non-union people trying to fix our school problem are all “greedy billionaires who want to kill puppies and kittens!”

P-l-e-a-s-e!  Come on, people… let’s use some common sense… the last thing anyone interested in making a profit would want to do is get into the education business, especially at the grade school and high school levels.  It’s just not a good money investment.

It is, however, a great people investment… which ultimate corresponds with a great community investment… which is why it’s called philanthropy:

the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.

On the other hand, let’s call a spade a spade:  The Teachers Association DOESN’T protect teachers… it protects the massive layer of administrative bureaucracy above teachers… those same administrators that now control one of the largest educational budgets in the United States… and those same administrators that have — literally — DESTROYED public education in California.

The California Teachers Association should call their new organization “Administrators NOT Teachers or Kids”…

… because all the money goes to the incompetent administrators, leaving bare nothings for kids and teachers.

Apparently California is using tax dollars to advertise against a proposition on the California ballot to repeal a gas tax.

Yes, that’s right:  Using more tax money to make sure we can tax more.

Sorry but that just doesn’t sound right.

Politics.  UGH!  Just fix the problem instead of throwing more money at it!

After trading sideway for a few weeks — while the rest of the market was going up — Facebook (FB) started its end-of-quarter / ramp-to-earnings run last week… hitting a high of almost 172 just a few days ago.

Things tried to knock the stock backwards.  Earlier in the week some key execs left the company and FB open sharply down, only to rally back even stronger.

And on Friday news of a data breech hit, again hitting the stock hard.  While it hasn’t rallied back yet, it did close nicely off its lows.

My take on these seemingly bad news events?

Zuckerberg and Sandberg don’t lose people they don’t want to lose.  If some execs exited, there was probably a good business reason for it.

And, while a data breach is always concerning, it was only a small % of actual Facebook users and dealt with demographic-type of info — available in lots of places — nothing even close to sensitive passwords or credit card-type info.

The breach was so benign, security experts say there is no need to even change your password (about 1:30 into the linked video).  THAT’S about as benign as it gets.

On the flip side, Facebook says they think they jumped on it fast enough to stop anything from even happening… so in a race between companies and hackers, FB’s response time — including disclosing the problem — seems to have been outstanding… exactly the kind of response the government has been looking for.

So, this is the kind of bad news that I think presents a good buying opportunity.

With this said, I do think there’s a good chance FB will see some more weakness based on bad news circulating in the press this weekend.  However, I’m less worried about that downside risk than I am about missing the next leg up… because I believe there’s a better chance big money investors will find FB’s suppressed stock price irresistible going into earnings over the next few weeks.  In fact, the action over the last few weeks suggests they’ve already started to pile in.

Please remember that it was just a scarce few months ago FB was trading at 218 on its way to the 240 level.  At Friday’s close of 164 and change, FB is now trading at crashed levels.  And this is for a company that thoroughly dominates their space… with about the best financials on the planet.

Also, please remember that FB’s earnings last quarter were actually pretty good… they beat MONSTER expectations, which was no easy feat.

What tanked the stock was ultra, ultra conservative guidance… which is the way Wall Street says a big earnings beat could be in the making… which sounds like a good news thing to me.

[This is an Apple iPhone Tech Support post.  Totally skip it unless two-step activation has locked you out of your iPhone… and if it has, this may be one of the most valuable posts you ever read!]

I’m writing this after about 10 hours of the most horrible customer services experiences I’ve ever had.  EVER.

I’m telling my story in hopes that Apple fix this… and to save others from the horror I went through.

Background:

I lost the ability to make or receive calls.  WIFI still worked so I was able to get text and email, which actually masked the problem for the first day or so.

Verizon said it had to do with upgrading to 10.3.3, that it could be mucking with the digital antennae or something, and that the solutions was to backup, wipe the phone, reinstall, then restore the backup.

So, I called Apple Support.  They concurred with Verizon and started walking me through the process.

What Apple Support did NOT do, however, was ask me if I was using two-step authentication AND whether I had a second trusted device.

Turns out when I turned on two-step authentication, I thought it was only naturally to designate my iPhone as my trusted device.  Sounds reasonable, right?

WRONG!

This turns out to be DEATH.  And incredibly irresponsible of the Apple Support folks that helped me!

Because when I wiped my phone and reinstalled from scratch, it meant I had to reactivate my iPhone with Verizon… but Verizon requires that I enter in my Apple ID and password and, as the second step of the two-step authentication, the six-digit code that Apple would send to my — you guessed it — inactive device!

I went down Apple’s recovery path… and the automated Apple process told me it would take a few days to add a second trusted device… “for my protection.”  When a few days came, it said it would take a few more.  Then a few more.  Then it said a WEEK!

Before I continue, I want to say that these time estimates were a BIG FAT LIE.  It just kept pushing the date out on me.

And, I want to say it doesn’t matter that Apple was doing all of this “for my protection”… I use my phone for work… and it can’t be non-functional for even a few days!

I literally almost gave up and just bought a new phone… because, after TEN (10) hours of Apple Support help, I wasn’t any closer to a solution.  And — please listen to this, Apple — I was damn close to considering an android, too.

I have no idea why I called Apple Support one more time.  Maybe because I was bleary eyed and wasn’t really thinking.  Maybe because I just wanted to yell at someone.  Maybe because I own Apple stock and just couldn’t believe I was really hung out to dry here.  But I did call one more time, and spoke to Ginger L… and — TO MY INCREDIBLE SURPRISE — she actually had heard of a clever work around for this situation.

And, what do you know, IT WORKED!

Bless Ginger L., she should be CEO of Apple!

Apple, PLEASE FIX THIS.  No customer should ever, ever, ever endure what I had to go through.  PLEASE!
The Ginger L. Solution:  How to activate an inactive device when Apple two-step authentication insists on sending the activation code to the inactive device

*  Plug your iPhone into a computer that has iTunes on it.

*  Log into iTunes and back up iPhone to the cloud or your computer.

*  Restore iPhone to a new phone… initialize phone just like it’s a new one (i.e., chose language, what time zone, WIFI, etc.)… BUT — AND THIS IS KEY — do NOT enter your Apple ID, keep choosing options that bypass Apple ID.

*  Activate your account (in my case, I had to call Verizon).

*  Test that your phone can send & receive calls and text messages.

*  From a computer, log into AppleID.Apple.com.

*  Enter Apple ID and password.

*  Apple will try to send you your second-step authorization code to Message but that won’t work yet.  Click the “I didn’t receive my code” link and choose the “Send text message” option.

*  IMPORTANT NOTE:  Respond to any other text messages you see… because once you restore your backup, you will lose those newly downloaded text messages.

*  Enter code and from your computer and follow the links/instructions to turn OFF two-step notification.

*  Plug your iPhone into your computer and from iTunes restore your backup.

*  Activate your iPhone again (again, for me  with a call to Verizon)… which may require you to enter your Apple ID and password… but WON’T require Apple sending you an second-step auth code to an inactive phone!

There, I just saved you 10 hours of customer support misery!

Dear President Trump–

I may be the only guy in American that loves what you are doing with tariffs.  (Please see here and here and here.)

And I love that you’re turning up the heat.

But, if you want to win this in our lifetimes OR until another president takes office (whichever comes first), you need to enlist the support of the rest of the commercialized world.

This might be difficult since you’re trying to create a level playing field with them, too…

… or, said another way, you’re hammering the rest of the world into submission as well.

But maybe you can pitch a win here.  Something like, “look at what we’re doing to China… so you know we can easily do that to you, too.  Net-net is you’re going to lose a little to us, it’s inevitable.  But opening up China isn’t… unless we go to China together… and if we do go together, we’ll both really, truly gain a huge new market, second largest in the world!”

To make this work, though, it has to be China vs. THE ENTIRE WORLD.

That’s because China is too proud to be “defeated” by just the U.S… and going it alone only forces them to act more defiantly… which includes them dragging things out in hopes of a political regime change… regardless of how long that takes.

So the only way to get this done in a reasonable time frame is to turn up the heat on the rest of the world… THEN, as a group, approach China.  This will allow China to compromise with dignity… because it won’t be perceived as a fight, rather, that “everyone” came together and “mutually” agreed to change, uhm, all the rules.

No loss of face for the Chinese.  100% victory for the world (and the U.S.).  Wrapped up before the next presidential election.

Tough timing but that’s what you have to do to bring this home.

Break a leg–

–Royal.

I read a business headline that almost made me cry with happiness:

“Federal workers’ raises canceled.  Trump says pay should be based on performance.”

(Source:  Palo Alto Daily Post, August 31, 2018)

I read some more on this and I almost cried in agony with the statistics that were cited:

When salaries and benefits are combined and averaged, public-sector workers earned $129,200 in 2016 while private-sector employees earned only a combined $70,700.

(Source:  AMI Newswire, September 12, 2018)

That’s a lot of crying!

Federal workers earn almost TWICE as much as private counterparts… and don’t even get me started on the productivity of the public sector vs. the private sector.  

And people wonder why our country is in such debt.  Jeez.

I also read where Trump may be reconsidering this wage freeze — because of the upcoming elections — for political considerations.

DON’T BACK DOWN, DONALD!  Automatic pay raises… that have nothing to do with job performance… that have been going on for year after year after year… while our national debt continues to spiral out-of-control… IS INSANE!

Future raises absolutely, positively should be earned, jut like they are for the rest of us in the real world.  I am now officially pissed that my tax dollars are going to fund such an idiotic compensation plan.

DON’T BACK DOWN, DONALD!

Sadly here is another farewell post.

My brother-in-law Scott died last week of a massive heart attack.  It was unexpected… though, it shouldn’t have been… he had both high blood pressure and high cholesterol… but, more significantly, a family history of heart disease.

Both arteries were totally blocked.  In this day and age, you would think someone would have told him to get a scan or something.  But that didn’t happen, making this situation extra tragic.

Scott led a simple life… simple in that, among all the people I know, he really knew what the meaning of life was:  Just laugh as much as you can.

That really was his goal in life.  He certainly was a hard worker… and a responsible person… and had his views on politics and the way things should be.  But Scott didn’t care that you thought he was a hard worker, a responsible person, or politically adept… as much as he just wanted to make you laugh… that was always his pay day.

Helping this was a contemporary and absolutely razor-like sense of humor.  More often than not, Scott was the source of laughter in whatever group he was in… a solemn church function or a rowdy boys’ night out.

In a world that’s sometimes not so easy, he was the kind of guy you wanted to be around because, regardless of your situation, he made life a bit more fun for you.

That was his gift to all who knew him… and to all that will miss him greatly.

Until we meet again.

 

I like guns.  But I don’t like the NRA… in the same way I don’t like most lobbyist groups.

I also like the military.  But I don’t like military spending… by some estimates a whopping 20% of our deficit-growing American budget.

To put that in perspective, we have enough nukes to bury the world many times over.

To put that in more practical terms, we spend more money on the military than the next SEVEN countries COMBINED.

So the last thing we need is more hawks in government.

Yet, Jeff Bezos just donated $10 million to a relatively new organization called “With Honor,” dedicated to electing military vets to office.

As our budget spirals out-of-control, I can’t think of a worse time to elect a more biased group of government officials.

I can’t tell if the flag has “codes” or not.

We appear to have them, but then I’ve also read where the Supreme Court overturned Flag Codes as unconstitutional a few years after the Pledge of Allegiance was deemed a violation of religious freedom, at least for non-military personnel.

Regardless, there are some things that I do know:

*  Kneeling is considered to be one of the most respectful acts in the world.

*  Colin Kaepernick’s protest was passive and peaceful, exactly what we all want to see in a protest.  He didn’t overturn any cars.  He didn’t bash the front windows of shop keepers.  He didn’t use hateful language.  He was just one guy in a sea of guys and all he did was kneel instead of stand.

*  There are lots of violations of Flag Codes that seem to go unmentioned, including the flag used in advertising (Section 8.i… there goes all the 4th of July marketing!) and the most ironic:  “The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”  (Section 8.c)  So everyone in a football stadium standing to respect the giant, HORIZONTAL flag covering the field is, in fact, disrespecting the flag.  The Kaep anger, in context, seems a bit hypocritical, no?

*  The NFL didn’t even require players to come out for the National Anthem until 2009, so it’s not like it was a long-standing traditional (pun intended!).

…AND…

I also know — as an employer — employees shouldn’t be doing personal things on company time.

So, ultimately, I don’t know why there’s a controversy.

If Colin Kaepernick — or any other American — wants to protest something… a freedom that we’ve fought wars over to protect… they should be allowed to do it peacefully… on their own time.

If they want to do it on company time, though, and what they’re protesting is not part of the job description, then they have the freedom to not do that job.

The NFL should have outlawed political expression after Week 3 of Kaepernick’s protest a few years back… in the same way they outlawed commercial expression in the 80’s… and it was a good thing they did, else every NFL player would look like a walking advertising billboard by now.

So maybe what everyone should really be upset about is why Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, makes $40 million a year and can’t even put out a simple camp fire in his own backyard.

This is a post intended for Stanford Zetes… about the passing of a brother.  Feel free to read but you’ve been warned.

Bill Buckingham, my Grand Little Bro in the Zete House at Stanford, passed from pancreatic cancer after almost a five year battle.  He was just 57, a youngster as far as many of us are concerned.

The service was stunning, an outpouring of love and respect for Bill… we should all have such a well-deserved send off.

Of course I wasn’t surprised by it, Bill was a stud. Pledge Putnam said it best, he really was the definition of SoCal cool.

My Great Grand Little Bro Pledge Burke Dempsey was also stud enough to send a family portrait… see below… five generations at the Zete Luau… like it was yesterday, eh?

Zete Lineage -- 5 generations!

(Pictured above:  Knowlesey, me, Kip, Bill, and Burke.  Is that Mordy and Cubes in the background?)

Bill’s children gave a heart-wrenching send off… and included in one of the stories was our infamous Zete “eeeeeewwwwwwwww” call… apparently Bill used it from time to time (as I think we all do)… and when I asked his daughter after the service if she knew where that came from, she said she didn’t. She gave me a HUGE smile when I told her it was a Stanford Zete thing. “Now it all makes sense, he loved his time at Stanford and he always used that sound when something really happy happened.”

A final thought: Sitting in this cavernous, cathedral-sized church, with all the religious significance present in abundance and a holy, biblical spirit enveloping us all… as the service was concluding and the conclave of holy men beckoned us to look toward the heavens and raise our voices in a final, glorious hymn… all of a sudden, like out of no where — and I’m dead serious about this — a different song popped in my head… one that I haven’t thought about in a very long time. It was irreverent and blasphemous… and risking eternal expulsion, I said fuck it and sang:

A Zete he died, he went to hell
and climbed the fiery hill
He perched himself on a red hot coal
and smoked a lousy pill
And when the devil saw him there he said ‘be of good cheer,
for you’re among your brother Zetes
we’ll open a keg of beer!’

It just seemed like the right way to send off a good Zete… and a good man.

Bill’s passing shall not be forgotten.  We came into this world as a bunch of Zetes… we’re damn well sure going out as a bunch of Zetes, too.

In TKΦ.

Trump just announced a $6 billion subsidy package for U.S. farmers affected by tariffs.

I won’t say I know all the in’s & out’s of this… but I do know we cry foul — loudly — whenever we find other countries subsidizing products or industries.

Why do we even need subsidies?  With all the hunger in the U.S., you’d think farmers would be growing stuff that could also be sold at home.  Even I know about the importance of crop rotation.  And the fact that subsidies aren’t part of a free market.

You know that phrase, “you either love ’em or hate ’em”?

That only half applies to Trump.

You can certainly hate him.  But I believe he’s not lovable.

You can, however, love the things he is doing… he’s getting stuff done at a pace we haven’t seen before.  And when it’s the stuff you want to get done, it’s inspiring to watch.

But, I don’t believe he’s lovable.  He’s immature and a blowhard.  That’s a hard combination to love.

Even when he’s trying to support someone — as in loyalty to a friend or group — he still feels swarthy and slimy and comes off as totally disingenuous… like he’s only doing it because there’s something in it for him.

What does this mean for politics?  I think I’m done electing politicians.  I can’t wait for the next true business candidate, one that I hope is as decisive as Trump… that cuts through the b.s. red tape like Trump… but that doesn’t act like a petulant 5-year old like Trump.

Was looking at some product info and it started out with possibly the best description of kids and parents I’ve ever read:

Kids, especially teenagers, are astoundingly moronic, impulse driven idiots that are typically completely ignorant of their own mortality who spend their time traveling in packs looking for opportunities to trump each other’s stupidity.

Parents, especially American ones, are overwhelmingly paranoid, obsessive, overbearing blowhards that misidentify harmless coming of age behavior and experiences as threats to their child’s well being while ignoring real threats to their mental and physical health such as television and run-amok consumerism.

Painful but true!

Dave Price, co-founder and Editor of mid-peninsula’s Daily Post, is my new hero.

He’s written pieces in the past such as, “Remember When Government Was Frugal?” (July 9, 2018).

I just read today’s opinion piece, “We’ve Got Lots Of Money And Need More!”

It’s about how Redwood City is rolling in surplus cash… yet, City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz (who makes a healthy $280K a year), apparently is pleading poverty by trying to put a sales tax increase on the upcoming ballot.

What?!

The city has banked an almost $60m SURPLUS over the last two fiscal years — with most likely another healthy surplus coming in this fiscal year.

In other words, Redwood City is most likely sitting on about TEN TIMES what the potential tax hike would raise.

Worse, the city administration is trying to pull the wool over residents eyes by saying the tax increase will be necessary “to maintain rapid 911 emergency response times.”

Poppycock.

The TRUTH is that the extra $’s ARE NOT for current services and salaries, but rather, to FUND OUTRAGEOUS PENSION PROGRAMS…

… namely, that employees retiring at age 50 get 90% of their salary as a pension.

Wow.

Yes, that means that Ms. Melissa will get over $250K per year in pension.

I understand RWC needs to offer competitive salaries and performance bonuses, but I can tell you firsthand Silicon Valley doesn’t dole out CRAZY pensions like that…

… because no responsible business would ever saddle itself with that kind of CRAZY FUTURE DEBT.

But our city governments seem to do just that.

And they’re using the scare tactics of “less emergency services like police and fire” to get votes.

And they’re doing that because, as Dave Price said in his article, imagine how the vote would go if people knew the REAL REASON… paying irresponsible boondoggle pensions.

I’d vote against it in a heartbeat.

The next downturn is going to be brutal for city governments that have been kicking-the-can down the road… seemingly like Redwood City has been doing.

You would think they would have learned something from the last great downturn that we had just a few short years back.

(Thank you, Dave Price, for bringing this issue to light.)

Facebook has a lot going for it.  But one of its glaring weakness over the years is ZERO penetration into China.

Turns out dictatorships don’t like things like free speech.

Ironically, as much as FB gets slammed for privacy concerns, Facebook defiantly stood up to the Chinese government in 2009 when the Chinese demanded the release of private information from the company.

This was no small act:  For their privacy stance, the Chinese government blocked Facebook into the world’s most populous country… essentially halving their business opportunity.

THAT’S putting your money where your mouth is.

But, in a weird twist of fate, when many companies are getting slammed for the earnings impact of a US-China trade war, this isn’t an investment risk for Facebook… because they have no Chinese exposure.

And — it gets better — one of the expected outcomes of the trade war is a more level playing field, which (you guessed it) may mean Facebook becomes unblocked. 

If that happens, that could be a massive growth driver for FB earnings over the next few years.

Yet another reason why this trade war isn’t all bad.

The other day I wrote a scathing piece about Trump being a lap dog for Putin.

Today I read a blatantly pro Trump article trying to make sense of the Trump-Putin summit.

I didn’t like the writing style — felt like someone that didn’t have full command of the English language.  I also thought he was reaching, conjecturing, and defending in a less-than-credible way.

But I kept reading the long piece… almost voyeuristically… awaiting a train wreck of logic and bias… and — surprise — I found myself thinking that some of what the author was saying had merit.

I don’t like the way Trump represented America at the summit.  And I certainly don’t like all the inane backtracking he’s done in the wake of the summit (“whoops, it should have been ‘wouldn’t’ instead of ‘would,’ my bad”).

However, Putin is a very bad guy.  The Chinese may want to dominate the world, but it’s business related… they are as capitalistic as we are.  Putin doesn’t give a hoot about capitalism or business or democracy or freedom.  As cold-war as this sounds, I believe Putin’s idea of domination could devolve into annihilation.

So maybe Trump played him in the only way he could?  Lull the dictator with a war-mongering bias into a false sense of superiority?

Maybe?

Wow.  I’m now officially confused.

There was a great Peter Sellers movie in the 70’s about a person that, through random events, began influencing the world.

The wonderful thing about the movie is you never knew if his character, Chauncey Gardner, is a messiah-like figure with an extraordinarily simple but powerful message… OR just a simpleton who got lucky spouting innocuous kindergarten phrases.

Similarly, I can’t tell whether Trump is a lucky, haphazard idiot… OR some kind of seat-of-his-pants savant tactician.

Here’s what I do know:

His style is immaturely unlikable and highly, offensively, DANGEROUSLY divisive.

But he’s getting things done — including some things I absolutely despise… but also a few things I really care about — like no other President I’ve seen in my many decades on the planet.

Maybe this is just what it feels like when old, crusty, inefficient, and ineffective things get fixed?