Starting Five

We’re No. 1!

Yesterday the USA took the lead among all nations for most coronavirus cases reported (and we ain’t lookin’ back!). If you’re scoring, or gasping, at home, the tally at the top now reads:

USA………….. 85,000-plus cases

China………. 81,000-plus cases

Italy………… 80,000-plus cases

We’ve come a long way in just a week, and let’s give credit where it’s due: Donald J. Trump. Oh, and remember what he said one month and one day ago, on February 26?

“You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be close to zero.” 

Not so much.

Shutting off flights from China? Smart. Not testing anyone entering JFK or Newark from Europe, specifically Italy? Catastrophic.

I recall CNBC’s Jim Cramer around the second to third week of February opining that if he were a young reporter, he’d head out to JFK and interview passengers getting off flights from Milan to see if they had been screened in any way. Prescient.

Times Square usually only looks this way during or after a blizzard

Meanwhile, I remember walking through the Times Square subway station transfer area at rush hour three weeks ago today. Thinking of all the humanity rushing past me, commuters on their way to Westchester, Long Island and New Jersey, travelers from other continents making their way to JFK or Newark. And I remember thinking then, If it’s already here, there’s no stopping it now.

New York, with 39,000 reported cases, would rank as the fifth-most contaminated country behind only the USA, China, Italy and Spain right now.

The Death Calculus

I wanted to address a comment—by the way, I truly “appreciate” (Curb reference) the comments from everyone, particularly since I’m no longer on Twitter—from Kurt yesterday regarding the data on ways Americans find to die each year that don’t receive the hype that the coronavirus has.

The more I thought about it, the more these two thoughts reigned: 1) While Kurt has a point, let’s wait until the coronavirus goes through a full one-year cycle here (March 1, 2020 – February 28, 2021) to consider it alongside these other mortality figures and 2) I don’t recall anyone doing this sort of comparative calculus after 9/11, an event that claimed 2,996 lives.

You wanna talk about “the cure being worse than the disease,” let’s talk 9/11. We lost 3,000 people that day (the coronavirus should top that figure some time in the first week of April), we all knew that it was a one-time event, or not viral, we knew that it was highly preventable (if FBI higher-ups had simply listened to their field officers), and we even knew that no sovereign nation had perpetrated it. In other words, it was a crime and not an act of war.

In Iraq alone, we’ve lost 1 1/2 times the soldiers that were lost on 9/11 and oh, by the way, Iraq played no role in the attack. The Iraqi people have lost an estimated 150,000 people due indirectly to 9/11. I’m not even figuring the Afghanistan conflict into this.

But more than debating, yet again, the righteousness or malicious intent with our invading Iraq, let’s return to the original point. Did anyone say, in early October of 2001, Yo, we lose 10 times more Americans to the flu, what’s the big deal? No, instead we got a full dosage of Alan Jackson songs and a second helping of patriotism.

Curious, eh? Part of this is due to the fact that in 2001 we weren’t all up in each other’s social media grills minute by minute. Yes, the internet existed, but it wasn’t quite directly pumped into our veins the way it is now. I wake up, I check The New York Times coronavirus updates and see how many new dead there are in the USA. I can check back once or twice again before I hit the pillow and they will have updated the figures. We’re all living inside a Black Mirror episode these days.

Nineteen years ago, this same newspaper provided obituaries/profiles of every 9/11 victim, but they rolled those out over a matter of months. We are simply more triggered more often now (another reason I jumped off Twitter).

But my fundamental question remains: If America was willing to spend nearly $2 trillion to avenge an attack that was entirely perpetrated on one sublime September morning in the northeast, an attack that left nearly 3,000 dead, why wasn’t anyone then comparing the damage to other means of death in the USA annually? Oh, and yes, I get the irony of the “stimulus” package (it’s a relief package, people) that passed yesterday costing about the same.

Unprotected Sects

In Louisiana, a state climbing up the coronavirus rankings so fast that it would make Casey Casem howl with delight (currently 9th), the right reverend (Far Right reverend?) Tony Spell welcomed 1,000 congregants to his Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge on Sunday.

Against the governor’s orders. Pelican Staters have been ordered not to congregate in groups above 50.

In the faith versus fate debate, there’s a part of me that is all for this. There’s really no faster way to eradicate stupid, without resorting to violence, than to allow the evangelicals to congregate all they want in the midst of a pandemic. Am I against religion? Let’s think of it more as me being in favor of freedom of religion.

I’m reminded of this scene from True Detective, early in the series, when Rust and Marty visit a tentpole religious service. And Rust observes, “All these people speeding to a red light” and “I think it’s safe to say none of these people are gonna be splitting the atom.”

Is it right to make fun of the ignorant? Of course not. You know what’s worse? Taking advantage of them. Which is what Tony Spell and, yes, Donald Trump are doing.

By the way, my “landlord” observed this morning that this virus, particularly in densely populated cities, is probably far more difficult on poor people. And then, after a few moments, “Isn’t that always the way?”

A light comes on. Maybe this is why President Trump doesn’t care half as much about the virus as he does the economy. A plague that eradicates both the old AND the poor? He’d call that heaven-sent.

And if we have to lose a few doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants and lab techs along the way? Well, that’s just the price of progress.

Buying Boeing? Boing!

On Monday shares of Boeing, which had been up above $300 all of last year and through January and most of February of this year, were available for $91. Think about this: as recently as February 25th, Boeing (BA) shares were selling for $320.

The good folks at MH Capital decided to dip their beak in the waters and purchase some. Like, a lot. Either Boeing was going to go the way of Lehman Brothers (a stalwart American company that just vanished into thin air during a financial crisis) or it would experience a (government-abetted) recovery.

So, again, on Monday, shares of Boeing? $91.

Yesterday? Shares of Boeing were selling for $182.

Now, I’m no New York Times editorial board member, but if you can add 1 + 1 and also 9 + 9, I think the math comes out to… yes, that’s DOUBLE. A two-bagger, Susie B.? In just four days.

We’d love to say that we held onto Boeing for the entire ride, but we didn’t want to be hogs (“Hogs get slaughtered”) and got out, mostly, after a 33% gain. Who knew it would keep soaring upward… like a plane that actually works?

Anyway, it’s a volatile market. There are great opportunities here. Buy low. Sell high. Everything else is window dressing.

Stars 80

Two famously feisty folks turn 80 years old today: House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi and actor James Caan.

We’ll always admire Nancy for standing up to the Tangerine Tantrum and we’ll always appreciate Caan’s Sonny Corleone for standing up for his sister. Of course, one of them was/is a little better about controlling their rage.

12 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. I understand the logic used to purchase Boeing.

    Question, though: Do you ever think about the morals (I don’t think this is the term I’m looking, but hopefully it gets me closer to my point than not) of the company before investing?

    Boeing deliberately misled officials and customers on the safety of their planes, which led to deaths. And now their CEO has the balls to come and say he doesn’t want government help in exchange for equity.

    I don’t question your ethics (or anyone else’s) if you capitalized on Boeing’s stock jump. Who knows what I would have done if I were sitting on a large sum of cash to invest when there was blood in the streets (yes, still blood in the streets). But I am really just curious how much that part plays a role in your strategy of allocating capital. Hate the game, not the player.

    • It’s a good question. I think if a company makes a product that I strongly don’t believe in, such as cigarettes, I won’t invest. I’ve avoided bank stocks for years because of TARP. The honest answer about Boeing is that I had not looked into it that deeply in terms of the venal nature of their deeds. In general, it has been a good company.

      What’s the old saying? “Behind every great fortune lies a tremendous crime,” is something like that?


    • Every investor has to choose where or even if they “draw the line”. I think (could be mistaken) jdubs won’t invest in fossil fuels or other companies that damage the environment. My list of “NEVER, EVER, EVEN IF I COULD BECOME RICHER THAN OPRAH) companies & businesses that will never see a dime of my money are tobacco, alcohol, pot, health insurance, & certain companies helmed by disgusting, greedmongering, lying sacks of shit (such as VW, one of many).

      IF I find out a company’s founder/CEO/President is a huge supporter of Trump, that also now is a block. Unfortunately, I think some of my stocks now fall into this category but I bought them long before 2016 & don’t want to take either the gain (which would knock me into another tax bracket) or loss so I just keep holding & feel bad about my lack of conviction &/or desperation to make & keep as much of my investments for my ever-closer retirement.

      What about you, Jacob – what won’t you invest in?

      • Susie. B.,

        Perhaps sadly, I’ll have to refer to the saying JW just wrote: “Behind every great fortune lies a tremendous crime.” At some point, I sorta think you have to just play the game the way it was set up to be played.

        Outside of cigarettes, I don’t think I’d have any limitations of buying into something if the price is right.

  2. So, jdubs & Ackman showing this bear market’s who’s BOSS! 🙂 Thrilled for you jdubs & yes, that’s technically a 2-bagger although I don’t start using the “bagger” term until 4 times the money (the previous are “double” & “triple”). 🙂

    Anyhoo, I was chomping at the bit all morning, waiting for your appearance as I’ve got a few comments! (BTW, “chomping at the bit” is something that some horses actually do but not so much because of being raring to go. 😉 )

    Did you see the map that showed which states are showing the biggest jumps in unemployment filing? Maine is one of the top TWO & yet, has only around 150 COVID cases. I’m thinking their jump is due at least partly to winter weather. I wonder what their numbers normally look like in Feb-Mar.

    How much do YOU think China is LYING about their COVID numbers? Their population is more than 3 times ours & yet…

    I almost choke-spit a mouthful of Diet Pepsi yesterday when reading that the local denizens of various “2nd homes of the rich” towns/areas are now all screaming for those rich city folk to “STAY AWAY! WE DON’T WANT YOUR CITY VIRUS!” I don’t have a lot of sympathy for them as they or their ancestors made a deal with the devil years/decades ago & here is part of the “bill”. How much of these areas’ community services & incomes come from these seasonal folk? Property taxes, building & maintenance work among other jobs, the revenue from what these people spend in those communities. They can’t “put the bridge up” now.

    The largest problem with just allowing “Darwinism” to work itself out (re : that church-going horde) is that they DON’T JUST COME INTO CONTACT WITH EACH OTHER! No, they put ALL our lives at risk for their selfishness. BTW, I’m betting many of that congregation are “pro-lifers” so I wonder how many are onboard with sacrificing granny, mummy & pops, etc to save the DOW &/or their manicure appts? What’s that, Lord? Can I spell “HYPOCRITE”?

  3. One more thing – the 1st of my dividend stocks announced this morning a DIV suspension after next Monday’s scheduled div is paid. Sigh. I know this will be followed by many others but this one was fast! It’s TPR, which when I bought in 2009 was “Coach”. Thanks to all the divs over the years, my adjusted cost basis is only $2.30 so I’m still green, but, well, sigh.

    PEP is the drink of “Amazonian investors”! 🙂 And if I hadn’t mostly run out of investment cash, I would have placed a limit order at $97. It didn’t quite get there at its 52-week low last Friday, but it may still as this nightmare drags on.

  4. So, it was “fake news” when I said “one more thing”… 🙂

    (This is my 4th day working from home & while I’m so very grateful I can still keep working, the only thing I really like about it (well, besides the paycheck) is the “commute”.) 😉

    What do YOU think of the “Save us from Depression” bill having the cash being phased out for folks with income LAST YEAR (or 2018) over $75K & completely out if over $99K? I am not happy one little bit. Is the assumption these MIDDLE CLASS folks are ALL still able to work & not desperately need some money now? In my county, $75K barely qualifies you for mid-middle class. Plus, what do you think is going to happen to taxes & health insurance rates after this? So, these people not only don’t get a hand-out now but will have to PAY for it next year & for years to come! And yes, I’m one of “these people” but my income is far far below the top 5%. On one hand, I don’t begrudge the desperate newly unemployed people for receiving the help. On the other, many folks making more than $75K LAST year also don’t have jobs right now.

    Which brings up my next item – how many working adults who experienced 2008-2009 learned the lesson about the necessity of having an EMERGENCY FUND?
    I’d say 20% or LESS! Unless they experienced a health crisis during the last 12 years there is NO EXCUSE! Well, maybe that’s too harsh, but come on, TWELVE YEARS to fatten that fund up!

    Finally (ahem, for now), I laughed at a headline I saw this morning – ” 5 stocks to Invest Your Stimulus Check”. LOL, if you actually GET a check, you need that money for essentials. The folks who would want to invest, aren’t getting a check!

  5. I pass no judgement here, as I have money in retirement accounts that I pay no attention to and don’t even know what’s in them. Irresponsible, as I’ve no doubt lost a lot of money in the past month. And immoral, as I may own funds invested in industries I find indefensible.

    But I want to push back on two ideas -1) that to ‘play the game’ you have to invest in businesses of which you disapprove, and 2) that everyone should have built up a nest egg after 2008.

    1). There are socially responsible funds that explicitly avoid the kinds of industries you don’t want to fund or profit from. They may not be “four-baggers,” but I think they have had reliable if not spectacular returns (I don’t know – I haven’t bought or tracked them).

    2). In 2008 people didn’t just lose money in the stock market – they lost homes and jobs. Some have spent a decade clawing back toward stability. They don’t live extravagantly, but they haven’t had anything left over to sock away.

    My two cents.

    • Hi Dray, the people who lost their jobs & houses back in 2008-09 SHOULD have been the very 1st group to start saving an Emergency fund. Excluding major health issues, 12 years is a LONG time to claw back. The economy has been healthy & unemployment low. Unfortunately, those at the lowest economic level in this country (due to lack of education or skills or good location or personal “challenges” such as addiction or just unwillingness to work) will suffer the most but that is true in non-crisis times too.

      I truly don’t mean to come off as some arrogant ass but I have LOST COUNT over the last 12 years where I’ve heard/read of & actually spoken with folks crowing how they “have to live their life NOW & the future will take care of itself”. Meanwhile, folks like me who have been saving & investing (oftentimes to the detriment of current “fun”) have been ridiculed. I too have done many things wrong over the past decade but I am TIRED of working & sacrificing only for the ignorant & UNPREPARED to once again get a handout AND FOLKS LIKE ME WILL HAVE TO PAY THE BILL! My income is far from high & my networth is (well, was) a result of MY WORK & SACRIFICE (& some luck too).

      I recognize that this is an unprecdented time in all our lifetimes & to prevent TOTAL HEALTH & ECONOMIC COLLAPSE,, unprecedented measures need to be taken. However, penalizing (AGAIN) the middle class is unfair. Meanwhile, real estate “investors” are getting an even BIGGER TAX BREAK in that so-called “stimulus” bill. It’s OUTRAGEOUS!

    • Perhaps down to a farthing…

      I resemble those folks in No. 2. And you’ve seen me working at a No. 2 job. And while I agree that some of us have been simply working to return from The Sunken Place, it’s also true that if we had any $$ left over to invest, there’s been no better time to invest in our lifetimes. It’s not about being the monocle guy in Monopoly, but simply understanding that, like a tsunami wave, when the tide goes out that far, a wave of unprecedented proportions is about to come back. And yes, you’d have thought I’d have learned by now to not make big wave references per the stock market.

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