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Saturday, November 11, 2023

Biden family transactions revisited

"Moral clarity" is a phrase I heard recently and it comes to mind when sorting out these troubling times and who's done what for whom and why.  In the case of the $200,000 (or $240,000) sum(s) transferred between the Biden brothers, there is absolute clarity someplace.  We just don't know where it is yet.

The money transfers under scrutiny, either represent a legitimate extension and repayment of a loan, or they don't.  Much seems to hinge upon a trust account established by a Delaware law firm used to transact business on behalf of ___________ and that's the question....who?  

Rep. Comer and company seek to prove that the trust fund was used to launder money for the benefit of Hunter Biden, his Uncle and partners -- and ultimately to compensate the elder Joe Biden.  

The White House and their acolytes seek to prove that the trust account in question was controlled exclusively by Joe Biden and simply used as a conduit for the funds extended by Joe Biden to his brother, in the form of a personal, interest-free loan.

Neither side has definitively proven its case.  Only one side can be correct and that's the missing clarity.

Image by wirestock on Freepik


Saturday, September 23, 2023

Biden family storm potential

Image by vecstock on Freepik
If President Joe Biden didn't have enough to worry about with epic low approval ratings, a massive border crisis, rampant inflation, unclaimed cocaine deposits in the White House and a deeply polarized Congress, the corruption charges levied against NJ Senator Bob Menendez yesterday reminded me of the President's other smoldering problems...  

#1.   "10 held by H for the big guy?"  According to an article from the Washington Post Fact Checker, an email from one of Hunter's business associates proposes a profit allocation of 20% for each associate except for Hunter's Uncle Jim Biden, who would get 10% -- and a remaining 10% allocable to the "big guy" which would be held by Hunter.   

The email author has asserted that the big guy actually refers to Jim Biden, not Joe Biden.  However, one of the other business associates in receipt of the email, said that's false and that it actually referred to Hunter Biden's father.  Who's telling the truth?

The project was a flop and so there's no financial benefit (at least from this venture) that inured to the benefit of whomever the big guy is, but the whole Jim Biden--Big Guy explanation is odd.  If the email author and business partner was already proposing a 10% allocation for Jim Biden, why would he propose that his nephew hold another 10% for him?  Why escrow this 10% kicker with Hunter instead of just paying Jim Biden 20%?  And is there a history of these business partners calling Jim Biden the big guy?   

#2.  The second problem is an allegation that if proven, could become equally injurious to President Biden's administration.  The allegation is that the Justice Department may have deliberately impeded the investigation of Hunter Biden's tax problems.  That allegation is supported by two highly credible IRS sources.  If this can be proven, President Biden would presumably allege he knew nothing of it and sack Justice officials on the order of President Nixon's firing of Archibald Cox in 1973 to thwart impeachment.  Of course, if it is proven that Joe Biden did know of investigation obstruction; let alone approved of it, he's finished.  

I hasten to add, that's a big "if" and it's too early to credibly draw such a conclusion.  Yet, if problem #2 has legs, America would sadly witness corruption at least as serious as the famous cover up of a third rate burglary.         

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Saturday, September 16, 2023

A late summer rant and a rave


Image by macrovector on Freepik

1. Let's start with a new movie called, "Dumb Money".  After watching the trailer for Dumb Money and seeing a couple of ads, the experience raised a question in my mind....is it OK to criticize a film one has never seen?  Logic dictates that the answer is no.  Call me illogical.

What turned me off initially was the commercial touting how the film"...gives a riotous middle finger to the capitalist swine on Wall Street."  My, how deliciously Populist.  The film creators have obviously positioned Dumb Money as a paean to the little guy fighting against the evil asset managers, punctuated with an F-bomb per minute, until the digitally-wired counter culture decks the big money guys holding a large short position.  

Yes it happened, but I'm tired of class war art.  In this case, people will make a lot of money by trashing Capitalism and its adherents.  Quite a paradox.

2. Let's end with a positive take on American Express's new method to redeem cardmember reward points.  In the old days, if you wanted to cover a portion of your card charges with points; you had to go through this ritual of scrolling through transactions and applying points individually by transaction, in order to obtain the credit against your balance of charges.  Not anymore!  

One click and the entire value of your points is credited against your next bill.  No more trolling and scrolling through your transactions and applying points by transaction to obtain the credit.  Stupendous.   





Monday, August 21, 2023

Parsing the out of office reply

We all use it, but how should we use it and when?  I'm talking about that automatic email feature known as an "Out of Office" reply.  

Let's ignore the when consideration for now; but it's the "how" behind the usage of the out of office reply that piques my interest today.  I received one recently that reads exactly like this with nothing added before or afterward:  

"I'm ooo."  

That's it.  I'm ooo.  First, imagine receiving a voicemail greeting like that -- spoken exactly the same way followed by a beep to record a message.  As a caller I'd be speechless.  

Now consider, that you need something from the email author of that "ooo".  You might reasonably conclude after receiving this sorry example above that he/she: 

a) doesn't know when he/she will return 

b) doesn't wish to be bothered and 

c) doesn't care enough about the email recipient to mention an alternative in his/her absence.

I understand there's been an increasing desire among many in the workforce to have a clear delineation between work time and personal time each day, but that desire shouldn't trump common courtesy, or common sense.  

Here are two simple guidelines for composing that out of office reply:

1.  Give the reader some idea of when you'll be back on the job and reading your emails, or at least the frequency with which you plan to pay attention to email in the coming days. 

2.  More importantly; give the recipient an alternative.  Mention either another email address of someone who can handle a need for action, or if you want to handle responses yourself; invite the sender to text those urgent matters to your cell phone.

Within an hour of posting my little screed above about out of office replies; I received an excellent example of one that allows me to close this post on a positive note.  Here's an "ooo" done right:

"I am currently out of the office on vacation the week of 8/21 and will be back at it on Monday 8/28.   I will be checking email at least once a day and will try to get back to you timely for anything that is urgent.  Send a text for anything especially urgent.  Thanks"

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Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Normandy reviewed

Last month I walked the beaches of Normandy and in so doing fulfilled a longing first realized as a young boy during the 1970s while reading about D-Day and Operation Overlord.  

That longing was stoked in 1998 after viewing the film Saving Private Ryan with it's horrific, albeit accurate, depiction of the slaughter and ultimate triumph of American forces at Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944.  





The structures occupied by German soldiers firing MG-42 machine guns @ 1200 rounds per minute from the top of a ridge, were not visible to me while walking the beach.  The view of those remaining machine gun nests, my Guide instructed, are part of another tour (disappointing).

My feeling while present on those beaches was one more of awe - for example, seeing the 100 foot cliffs the Rangers scaled at Pointe Du Hoc - than the raw emotion I felt while walking the nearby Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial (below).  

If you've ever spoken with veteran who's experienced combat and suggest that he is a hero, he will likely answer that the real heroes never returned.

       


  

Saturday, March 11, 2023

And the debate winner is....

 

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Although I was intrigued today by an article in the WSJ from Mike Edleson and Andy Puzder, I will not share my views about ESG investing.  Is it moral or amoral?  Sensible?  Profitable?  Suffice it to say, one can make a reasonable case for or against ESG investing depending upon measurement criteria, objectives and definitions.  

I will however express my views about another equally polarizing topic: foods and beverages!  I won't equivocate on that topic.  Here's a tasty sample of seven culinary flashpoints that are suitable for socially-acceptable debates.

Pizza & Hot Dogs

Possibly America's favorite food, I must have thin crust pizza with cracker crisp qualities and zesty toppings (toppings is a whole topic for another post).  To my friends in Chicago; please forgive me, but what you call "Deep Dish Pizza" is actually a satisfying tomato casserole with too much dough.  However, Chicago can lay claim to the finest hot dogs (and I agree, no ketchup on a dog allowed).  For store bought beef frankfurters; I'm partial to Hebrew National brand.

Bacon

Make mine crisp.  This iconic cut of meat from the hog's belly should not be served limp, chewy, or with visible fat globules.

Coke vs. Pepsi

Talk about polarizing debates!  Cola devotees might never patronize both giant beverage makers, but I do.  Diet Pepsi is not only wildly superior to Diet Coke, but I find Diet Coke almost undrinkable.  Regarding Coke Zero vs Pepsi Zero -- I'll give Coke the edge.

Gluten

Follow your Doctor's or Nutritionist's advice.  Gluten doesn't affect me.

Peanuts

When did this onslaught of Peanut allergies begin?  Why did it begin?  I love these little legumes and Virginia Peanuts are the best I've found.  Please do not serve me the un-salted type and consider serving Peanuts really cold.  That chill factor is something I learned from a dear friend with a serious taste for chocolate covered Peanuts.

Charcoal and Smokers vs. Gas Grilling

For purposes of taste comparison -- there is no comparison.  Charcoal is best.  I sometimes hear the argument about the speed of Gas Grilling, to which I normally respond, "What's your hurry?"  The same principle applies to smokers vs. gas grills -- smoking is well worth the wait.

Orange Juice

There are few things in this life I find as gratifying as a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice.  Unfortunately, every substitute for the fresh variety I have found distasteful.  Take McDonald's, I've long believed that their orange juice is the worst-tasting item on the breakfast whole menu.

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Friday, February 24, 2023

Because it's not theirs to change

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This week 
there was controversy stemming from a publisher's decision to edit versions of children's stories written by the late Roald Dahl.  The edits, whether inspired by Netflix (who according to Forbes purchased the rights to Dahl's work) or the publisher Puffin Books, sparked a public outcry and PR nightmare.

The publisher curated an alternative version to the original work from Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, (a story later adapted to make the film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), ostensibly to remove insensitive terms.

There are several reasons why this ill-conceived, if well-intentioned attempt at inclusiveness -- a term becoming increasingly elastic -- failed miserably.  I'm not discussing the evils of censorship today.  Altering original art work to appeal to others is ill advised for another reason.....it's not theirs to change (and doing so can backfire).  

One can obviously own the legal right to another's intellectual property, or the physical manifestation of it, say an oil painting.  Yet, just because one has the enabling force of law to alter someone else's original art, doesn't make it right, or sensible, to add a few personal brushstrokes to a classic.  Let me illustrate with an example.  

There's an iconic rock n' roll song called, "Fortunate Son", which was a protest song written about the Vietnam War and recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival ("CCR") in the late 1960s.  It's a great song.

Now, imagine that I purchased the rights to that song and decided to publicly release a NEW version with lyrics, more to my personal liking.  My justification might be that I want the song to appeal to Conservative listeners; so we need to update the original lyrics.  

We'll leave untouched, the original arrangement, tempo, time signatures etc. but using the wizardry of modern sound engineering, we'll just tweak the vocals by dubbing in my new lyrics.  

I rewrote those song lyrics below by crossing out some original words and adding new ones in bold font.  I kept the syllable count of each line exactly the same.  If you read the altered lyrics below, it won't take long to understand why changing someone else's popular artform to impart one's own worldview, is a bad idea and likely to mobilize intense opposition.  

My apologies in advance to John Fogerty who wrote the song and to CCR fans everywhere. I offer this wordsmithing below only to make a point.  I "own" my edits and nothing more.  Now cue the song, click MORE and let's rock!   

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Holiday thoughts in 2022 (good feelings)

 Greetings 

I'm grateful for many things this holiday season and I'm posting a few of the less obvious ones below:

  • Arby's limited time hamburger offering.  Yes, the Deluxe Wagyu Steakhouse Burger is so good, I've written to an Arby's executive urging his organization to make it a permanent menu item.
  • John Authers' Bloomberg column.  Mr. Authers wrote for the Financial Times for years before moving to Bloomberg.  He's funny, reliably prolific (not sure how he pumps out his rich articles almost daily) and especially well-rounded -- Finance & Economics (obviously), Sports if a bit heavy at times on soccer (sorry 'football'), Music, Film and History.
  • An unnamed community organization that allowed me to scale back my involvement with grace.
  • A glorious week off to do things of the sort I'm doing today -- reading, writing, cooking, listening to music CDs (yes, I still use that medium without apologies -- right now I'm enjoying k.d. lang's "recollection") and later I'll be streaming RUSH videos at ridiculous hours of the evening.
  • It's with personal satisfaction I include Carvana's service for their streamlined process to buy and sell a used vehicle, without ever setting foot in a dealership.  

Last but not least, I'm reminded that "Jesus is the reason for the season".



Sunday, May 22, 2022

Adding it up: too much commercial time

Like a pebble in your shoe that won't go away; I've long been annoyed by the amount of ad time viewers suffer through while watching broadcast TV and Cable TV.  Internet streamers and social media viewers are not immune either.  More on that score in a moment.

The increased viewer burden is not your imagination.  See Toni Fitzgerald's Forbes article, "Yes, You Are Seeing More Commercials Than Ever Before".  The theme was echoed by Gerry Smith of Bloomberg in his 2019 piece; "TV networks vowed to cut back on commercials. Instead, they stuffed in more"  

The unabashed Capitalist in me hastens to add that the ad industry is an essential component of a robust consumer-based economyThis post is about advertisers and media platforms practicing reasonableness and a more viewer-considerate methodology.  

We all land on web pages that hijack the viewer with an unwanted solicitation blasting on the screen before one can even view anything relevant.  We're often ambush-surveyed too, with that vapid net promoter score question (but that's another post).  

Now consider streaming TV by way of one example from my personal entertainment viewing habits.... watching YouTube.  I love the free access to music videos and movie shorts on YouTube and in exchange, I willingly watch and listen to ads that appear in-between songs and film clips.  It's a fair tradeoff.    

However, here's the worst example of viewer ad intrusion that I can think of.  

A shot of my recent YouTube music video selections below....

Imagine that instead of me watching one of my prized music videos, you're watching a football game with seconds left on the clock.  Your home team is down by 2 points but has the ball on fourth down 40 yards from the opposing team's goal line.  Next, your field goal kicker watches the snap go to the holder and then instantaneously --- your TV screen converts to an ad for motor oil.  

That's essentially what YouTube often allows to happen to viewers watching a music video.  The artists are performing beautifully and at some point, DURING THE SONG -- they cut to a mini commercial.  Fortunately, it doesn't happen often; but it needn't happen at all.  

I was taught to offer a solution or try to help matters after you grouse about something; so, here's my post-grouse attempt...

 YouTube could easily increase ad time between songs instead of inserting mini ads during the song (or film clip).  The platform could realize the same amount of ad time, without the obnoxious interruptions to the viewer.   





Friday, December 03, 2021

Food with purpose

Many times I've driven past the military vehicle and large sign in front of Mission BBQ with curiosity, but never enough to actually go in and check it out.  Today I did so; and I'll be back.  

My dining companion explained that the franchise began out of efforts from two military veterans who'd served together in the Middle East.  He went on to explain that at noon -- which was moments away -- we'd likely see the place stop normal activities to observe the national anthem.  It happened at noon sharp and it was great.

My whole experience began by walking into a pleasantly rustic environment with loads of military and patriotic memorabilia all punctuated by a wonderful smoky aroma from the BBQ.  This is an organization that gives back and is quite serious about its mission.  However, the whole thing would collapse if the food fell short of the brand and purpose but it doesn't--some of the best BBQ I've had and each table is equipped with six -- yes count them -- six different BBQ sauces.  What more could I want?

Mission BBQ public website


Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Price Is Primary - a new book from Jonathan Hoenig

There's nothing conventional about investment manager, author and media personality, Jonathan Hoenig.  Even the name of his hedge fund Capitalistpig, defies comparison.  

Years ago, I recruited Jonathan Hoenig to speak at financial industry events and then I began to notice his frequent TV appearances on Fox business programs.

Characteristically, in his new book with Stuart HayashiPrice Is Primary: how to profit with any asset in any market at any time Mr. Hoenig challenges several fundamental principles that some retail investors hold as immutable, even if professional traders do not.  

Consider dollar cost averaging; Hoenig argues instead that an initial purchase of a security should be your largest one, then on the basis of rigorous observation and disciplined use of rules, one should quickly pare losses or "let the winners run."  Rebalance your portfolio?  No, not a strategy he embraces.

Similar to some of his prior published work, Mr. Hoenig fuses elements of Objectivist philosophy and history to the art of investment management in some imaginative ways that may animate traders and non-traders alike.  The book is easy to read and worth a look.


  


Friday, September 03, 2021

A fiscal adult on the 'other' side of the aisle

One wouldn't expect to find a lot of bipartisanship concerning the federal $3.5 trillion spending bill -- and there isn't much to be found -- but courage and reason came shining through in this piece by Senator Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia. 

(Source: Wall Street Journal). 

Why I Won’t Support Spending Another $3.5 Trillion

The nation faces an unprecedented array of challenges and will inevitably encounter additional crises in the future. Yet some in Congress have a strange belief there is an infinite supply of money to deal with any current or future crisis, and that spending trillions upon trillions will have no negative consequence for the future. I disagree.

An overheating economy has imposed a costly “inflation tax” on every middle- and working-class American. At $28.7 trillion and growing, the nation’s debt has reached record levels. Over the past 18 months, we’ve spent more than $5 trillion responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Now Democratic congressional leaders propose to pass the largest single spending bill in history with no regard to rising inflation, crippling debt or the inevitability of future crises. Ignoring the fiscal consequences of our policy choices will create a disastrous future for the next generation of Americans.

Those who believe such concerns are overstated should ask themselves: What do we do if the pandemic gets worse under the next viral mutation? What do we do if there is a financial crisis like the one that led to the Great Recession? What if we face a terrorist attack or major international conflict? How will America respond to such crises if we needlessly spend trillions of dollars today?

 

Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation. A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not. While some have suggested this reconciliation legislation must be passed now, I believe that making budgetary decisions under artificial political deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions. I have always said if I can’t explain it, I can’t vote for it, and I can’t explain why my Democratic colleagues are rushing to spend $3.5 trillion.

Another reason to pause: We must allow for a complete reporting and analysis of the implications a multitrillion-dollar bill will have for this generation and the next. Such a strategic pause will allow every member of Congress to use the transparent committee process to debate: What should we fund, and what can we simply not afford?

I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs. This is even more important now as the Social Security and Medicare Trustees have sounded the alarm that these life-saving programs will be insolvent and benefits could start to be reduced as soon as 2026 for Medicare and 2033, a year earlier than previously projected, for Social Security.

Establishing an artificial $3.5 trillion spending number and then reverse-engineering the partisan social priorities that should be funded isn’t how you make good policy. Undoubtedly some will argue that bold social-policy action must be taken now. While I share the belief that we should help those who need it the most, we must also be honest about the present economic reality.

Inflation continues to rise and is bleeding the value of Americans’ wages and income. More than 10.1 million jobs remain open. Our economy, as the Biden administration has correctly pointed out, has reached record levels of quarterly growth. This positive economic reality makes clear that the purpose of the proposed $3.5 trillion in new spending isn’t to solve urgent problems, but to re-envision America’s social policies. While my fellow Democrats will disagree, I believe that spending trillions more dollars not only ignores present economic reality, but makes it certain that America will be fiscally weakened when it faces a future recession or national emergency.

In 2017, my Republican friends used the privileged legislative procedure of budget reconciliation to rush through a partisan tax bill that added more than $1 trillion to the national debt and put investors ahead of workers. Then, Democrats rightfully criticized this budgetary tactic. Now, my Democratic friends want to use this same budgetary tactic to push through sweeping legislation to make “historic investments.” Respectfully, it was wrong when the Republicans did it, and it is wrong now. If we want to invest in America, a goal I support, then let’s take the time to get it right and determine what is absolutely necessary.

Many in Washington have convinced themselves we can add trillions of dollars more to our nearly $29 trillion national debt with no repercussions. Regardless of political party, elected leaders are sent to Washington to make tough decisions and not simply go along to get along.

For those who will dismiss my unwillingness to support a $3.5 trillion bill as political posturing, I hope they heed the powerful words of Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who called debt the biggest threat to national security. His comments echoed the fear and concern I’ve heard from many economic experts I’ve personally met with.


At a time of intense political and policy divisions, it would serve us well to remember that members of Congress swear allegiance to this nation and fidelity to its Constitution, not to a political party. By placing a strategic pause on this budgetary proposal, by significantly reducing the size of any possible reconciliation bill to only what America can afford and needs to spend, we can and will build a better and stronger nation for all our families.

Monday, August 09, 2021

More news you can use....

from Nicole Nguyen.  Check out this article about consumer reviews on Amazon. 

I love the way that online commerce has democratized consumerism through usage of online reviews -- positive ones, negative ones and those that are simply informational.  

(Unfortunately, fake reviews and paid reviews continue to be a problem and Ms. Nguyen writes about that issue here).  

Computer vector created by pikisuperstar - www.freepik.com

Since the impact of negative reviews on sales is well understood; some merchants will essentially bribe the author of a negative review to delete their review, or harangue them with multiple e-mails.  

Fortunately, Amazon product reviews can be submitted anonymously to avoid unwanted merchant contact.  The article behind this post, provides the steps to take. 


Thursday, August 05, 2021

News you can use -- today's WSJ -- Tech section

 Columnist Ms. Nicole Nguyen shares an easy way to digitize your vaccination cards -- instead of a photo copy that might be harder to find.  Check out this article.  You'll find instructions for both iPhones and Android phones. 


Friday, April 30, 2021

Calling the market peak -- REVISITED

 Greetings!

Based upon feedback I received from one of my valued seven readers, what follows is a refinement of the views expressed in the previous post about market timing.  

Recall we're talking about predicting the direction of the equity market as a whole, or a large swath of it like the S&P 500 --- not individual stocks.

I didn't mean to imply that one cannot utilize deep experience and technical analysis to correctly predict a stock market peak (or trough) some of the time.  

There's an old saying that even a broken clock is right twice a day.  

However, who's consistently made these bold calls with enough accuracy to "beat" the market?  If you accept the proposition that the answer to that last question is nobody -- why would one ever wager more than they could afford to lose by trying?  

Vector created by pikisuperstar - www.freepik.com

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Think you can call the market peak? Think again.

I know most of my limitations.  I learned awhile ago, for example, that I'm not a stock picker.  I also learned that trying to predict the stock market's trajectory is a futile and dangerous exercise.  

One financial adviser whom I've known for decades (disclosure: we've been lifelong friends since childhood) addressed the oft-asked question -- When-will-the-stock-market-crash? -- in his recent client newsletter.  David C. Hoelke is a Minneapolis-based adviser with Focus Financial who wrote...   

"The chances of individuals guessing when the stock market is going to crash is approximately the same as my guessing when the sun is going to explode.  Since I can't reasonably hazard a guess, I prefer to go about my day without worrying about the sun exploding."


Animals vector by rawpixel.com - www.freepik.com

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The people and story behind the Biltmore Estate

The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan 

Still the largest private residence ever constructed in the U.S. at 175,000 square feet; Biltmore Estate continues to hold public imagination.  I'd always thought mistakenly, that Biltmore was built at the behest of the family patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt (aka "The Commodore").  

In fact it was his grandson, George W. Vanderbilt, who acquired some 125,000 acres in North Carolina's western countryside among the Blue Ridge mountains, upon which the mansion was constructed. 

One alert, as other reviewers noted, this book has less detail concerning the construction process, materials, architectural features and maintenance requirements of the structure, than one might've expected from the title.  

A fuller indication of Ms. Kiernan's narrative focus is revealed by her subtitle, "The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home".  

For some stunning modern day visuals of the Biltmore estate (now part of a mere 8,000 acres at Ashville, NC); have a look at the Biltmore Company website found 🠊here.  

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Justice Alito speaks out at national lawyers convention

Justice Samuel A. Alito gave a virtual address to a lawyers convention on Nov. 25th.  

A little over 30 minutes; I'd recommend the YouTube video below, to anyone trying to understand why some Americans feel strongly that basic rights enumerated in the Constitution like Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Assembly are being tested.   

This is not, IMO, a dry legal lecture for lawyers.  Rather it's a clear overview of recent actions by the courts, legislators and special interests and how those actions may collectively dilute protections sought by the Framers.  

Example: the uproar over Nevada's COVID restrictions (overturned on appeal) that prohibited religious gatherings of more than 50 people (regardless of precautions that could be taken), while permitting a percentage of capacity as the governing measure of people able to patronize a casino; even if that percentage equates to more than 50 people.

In any event; the video is worthwhile viewing....




Friday, November 13, 2020

Avoid Shopworn Business Phrases

 I’m guilty. Whether at the office or via conference calls, I’ve used clichĂ©s repeated so many times by so many business people, that the phrases lack impact and often convey unintended impressions, or at least, a serious lack of imagination. Nothing here is dangerous; usage is not fatal, but for your consideration, I’ve listed my top five abused business phrases....

1.      “Let’s get the low hanging fruit” – This relic is normally meant to convey the speaker’s opinion on prioritization. Pursuing whatever he/she advocates; will presumably result in a higher success rate because of fewer barriers. Be wary when you hear it. Often you’re closer to the orchard and your gut may tell you that more fruit hangs high, has already been picked, or already rotted, than the speaker knows (or cares to admit).

2.       “It is….what it is” – Of course. What else could it be? If you wish to say we must reluctantly accept the current state and move on; just say that. Unfortunately, use of "it is what it is"....is not confined to business. Even Jerry Seinfeld does his bit to ridicule those who use this one in every day life.

3.    Here's another classic clichĂ© and one typically used to answer a very simple and honest question like, how are you? I'm referring to the standard, cringe-worthy reply, "I'm living the dream". It might been amusing the first five times one hears it....but after that?

4.      “Let’s think outside the box” – This one, without exception, is my most loathed idiom because: a) it’s incredibly old and b) its usage reveals that the speaker trying to catalyze freethinking lacks creativity -- which defeats the purpose of using it to inspire others. 

5.      “Our people are our most valuable asset” – PU. How many mission statements, speeches and ads, include this syrupy old slogan? It’s usage automatically invites skepticism. Why not post examples that actually demonstrate an organization’s commitment to employee well-being, as opposed to spewing a ubiquitous platitude?

www.freepik.com/photos/business"​>Business photo created by pch.vector - www.freepik.comption






Monday, October 26, 2020

A dried pasta revelation

Growing up, we ate pasta frequently in the Maddente home.  I still enjoy it; but all I'd ever learned about this staple is that it's a mortal sin to over cook it.  I never could discern any significant taste difference among the many different dried pastas on the market.  

Recently; I've learned something new.  Extrusion methods matter.

Food photo created by timolina - www.freepik.com

Here's a parallel.  Ever heard of "Steel Cut Oats"?  I used to think that's an either slightly pompous or at least a haute description used to sell oatmeal.  

I'm going to rethink that assumption and try steel cut oats.  That's because I've stumbled upon a dried pasta called "Bronze Cut" which is a reference to the metallurgy involved with the device that extrudes and cuts the pasta.  

For those interested in the science and engineering behind this alloy for pasta making purposes; here's an article.  For the rest of us, suffice it to say that the bronze cut process produces a noodle that's less dense and more porous.  It simply tastes better and it adheres to sauce (or sauce adheres to the pasta) ….better.  That's all I know.  

It costs a little bit more; but worth it.  Bon Appetit!  

Thursday, July 02, 2020

A real estate CEO moves to TX

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Last Saturday, a CEO named Peter Rex published an opinion piece in the WSJ that attracted a fair amount of attention on LinkedIn.  The article is entitled, "I'm Leaving Seattle for Texas So My Employees Can Be Free (You'll probably hit the pay wall if you don't have a WSJ subscription.)  

I believe you'll find the views expressed in this piece reasonable and factual -- but unfortunately -- not widely promulgated by traditional media.  🙉


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The downside of low interest rates

Columnist Jeff Sommer published a piece called, "Dealing With the Dark Side of Low Interest Rates" in the May 17 edition of the New York Times. Mr. Sommer’s take is refreshing.  Monetary Doves and Pols on both sides of the aisle typically ignore the ill effects of low interest rates on conservative investors and senior citizens who receive abysmally low returns from their fixed income investments.  

Mr. Sommer points out that in an ultra low rate world, retirees and those approaching retirement, are left with three poor choices... 

“Live on less, dip deeply into savings or take on more risk…”. 

A steady trough of cheap money and easy credit induces bad decisions that impact all of us.  As mentioned in this space over five years ago, a perennial ultra-low rate environment coupled with lax credit standards, was one of the factors that enabled the masses to over leverage and buy homes they couldn't afford before the housing bubble burst.  
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We hear much about the economic benefits of low interest rates including increased capital investment and consumer spending; but there's also a down side.  

Asset bubbles and inflationary pressures strike us all when the cost of credit stays too low, too long.  Yet, it's still easy to find pundits and politicians who always advocate for lower interest rates.  Cheap money.  Who's not for that?

As for the once unthinkable prospect of the FOMC taking short terms rates below zero (a scenario also cited in Sommer's column); it was comforting last week to hear Fed Chairman Powell publicly tamp down the likelihood.  

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The public courtesy award goes to Ricky Gervais

A few winners at the Golden Globe Awards on January 5th decided to sermonize the public, even after host Ricky Gervais admonished them not to do so.

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The majority of us don't tune in to the Golden Globes to watch Stars advocate for a cause celebre.  It's not a free speech issue; it's a public courtesy issue.  Want to speak out about Abortion?  How about Gun Rights or Gun Control?  OK; but please choose an appropriate forum.  Yes, actor Charlton Heston spoke out in 2012 but he made his Gun Rights remarks at an NRA convention, not the Golden Globe Awards.  Big difference.

There's no shortage of outlets to express one's political opinions on one's own time and Golden Globe Award viewers deserve to hear from invited artists, not crusaders.

Mr. Gervais is an intellectually honest Progressive who was speaking to his peers that evening because some of them insist on pontificating about matters having nothing to do with why they are being recognized.  He told them...

"So, if you do win an award tonight; don't use it as a platform to make a political speech."  

Then Mr. Gervais added....

"You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything," 

Bravo! 
  

Monday, September 09, 2019

Viva Espana


John Maddente photo
My wife and I recently returned from a vacation in Spain.  I haven't posted in months and it's a pleasure to share some beauty and love that we witnessed. 

Let's start with the Spanish people themselves.  They are as warm and courteous as I'd heard and quite tolerant of Americans seeking assistance.  They're also, by and large, very well dressed! 

A word about our tour guide, Mr. Federico GarcĂ­a Barroso.  Mr. GarcĂ­a Barroso is, and I don't often use this word to describe others -- remarkable.  He's the kind of man who can brighten lives simply by doing what he loves to do, which is sharing his knowledge of Spain's rich history and art.  

An accomplished guide, Mr. GarcĂ­a Barroso is also a lover of music and a fine tenor.  At the closing dinner for our travel group, he sang four songs.  One in French, one in Spanish, one in English and one in Italian.  Like I said....remarkable.  Here's a taste...CLICK HERE.

The treasure trove of art in Spain including sculptures, paintings and of course, architecture, has always been a source of pride for the Spanish.  An example; the Basilica known as the Sagrada Familia the construction of which, began in 1882, is one of the most stunning edifices I've ever seen.  Spanish authorities are working diligently to complete its construction by the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect, Antoni Gaudiin 2026.

Below you'll see a photo -- untouched and taken only with natural light -- of the interior.  I was amazed by the columns alone, which resemble giant trees in a luminous forest.  The tops of the columns literally "branch out" to support the top structure.  We learned that Gaudi's work contains rich symbolism of the natural world and the divine.  These columns are part of his expression. 

If you have the opportunity, please visit the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.   


John Maddente photo