Tuesday, December 26, 2017

So Long Rooster, Hello Dog.

“If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.”
― Woodrow Wilson

So we come to the end of another year. 2017 was the Year of the Rooster. 2018 is the Year of the Dog. The Earth Dog to be more specific. Last one was in 1958. The year of Sputnik and the invention of the microchip. 2018 should be interesting.

Now it’s time to grade my 2017 predictions and go back out on that limb for 2018.

Here’s what we said about 2017:

1. This one is easy…Alabama wins the National Championship
Close but close doesn’t count. Congrats to Clemson. Grade: C+

2. E-commerce retail sales will exceed $450 Billion
The final numbers aren’t in yet, but I think we will exceed $450 Billion. Grade: A

3. Oil prices go up a bit but remain under $60
Pretty accurate forecast. Grade: A
(Dec 27: A last gasp push..and the price briefly went over $60 before backing off...so this grade drops to C+)

4. The Cleveland Indians beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
The Dodgers got there but the Indians really let me down. Grade: B-

5. GDP growth at 3%
We’re going to get close, but for the year will be under 3%. Grade: B

6. Moonlight wins Academy Award for Best Movie
Yes. Grade: A

7. New England beats Dallas in the Super Bowl.
New England got there and won. Dallas, Atlanta…same difference… B+

8. Going out on a limb here, but the next Supreme Court Justice will not be a white guy.
Whiffed on this one. Grade: F

9. Significant M&A activity in the final mile delivery space
Not really. I still think it will come eventually….Grade: D

10. Trump gets a lot done in his first year and drives the mainstream media crazy.
Welp, he got some things done and he definitely drove the media crazy….Grade: B+


Now the fun part. What will 2018 bring?

1. I am going with Alabama again to win the Natty. Just can’t bet against Saban.

2. GDP growth tails off in the second half of the year. A shortage of workers and the mid-term election cycle put a damper on the economy.

3. The Post wins Best Movie. How could it not?

4. I think oil prices just bump along at current levels, maybe down a bit.

5. China will handle N. Korea.

6. The Democrats win big in the mid-terms.

7. We finally pass an infrastructure spending bill.

8. The Mueller investigation goes nowhere, but keeps on going.

9. Big news on the UFO question.

10. The Dodgers meet the Astros again in the World Series. Dodgers win. (And, of course, New England wins the Super Bowl. Doesn’t matter who they play.)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Christmas Bucket

I got a day away from it all this past week. No work, no TV, no internet, no phone calls, emails or text messages. Just me and my bucket and my bed.

I guess it’s just part of the holiday season and my wife’s willful participation is said holiday season. You see, she likes to shop and hang out with her friends and co-workers, meet and greet and press the flesh. In the meantime, I stay in my little bubble. The office, our house, the property, the dogs. Limited exposure, frequent hand-washing, avoiding the sneezing, coughing unwashed masses… and, as I result, I stay pretty healthy. Most of the time.

She started throwing up and out (both ends) and running a fever on Sunday. Frankly, I thought I did yeoman’s duty in the emptying of buckets, fetching clean towels, fluids and more toilet paper; administering over-the-counter medicines (which had, at best, placebic effect on the moderating of her various aches, pains and un-ending bodily excretions); and, in general, being a sympathetic and comforting caregiver, present at all times, assuring her that she was not going to die.

By late Monday my wife was still miserable, but agreed that she was not going to die. The worst was over. There was no more worse to come out and she just lay there on the couch watching Hallmark Christmas movies, the dogs around her enjoying the warm stillness of a sick person’s body.

And then I started to not feel so good. A bit of a headache and nausea. OCD that I tend to be at times, I decided to work out. We have an exercise room with a treadmill, elliptical, and some free weights. After working up a sweat on the treadmill I started to hit the weights and then had to think better of it. Went to the bathroom, the first of many trips to come over the next 24 hours. Resumed the workout, only to take another break shortly thereafter for the same purpose. Deciding that perhaps rest might be advisable, I cut the workout short, cleaned up and decided to go sit with the wife and watch Hallmark Christmas movies.

After about 15 minutes of a Hallmark Christmas movie I felt really sick. And I knew it was more than just the Hallmark Christmas movie that was making me sick. I told my wife that I needed to go lie down. And, thankfully out of the fog of her sickness she suggested that I take “the bucket”. I said, “Not necessary, just a headache and some nausea. I’ll be ok.” She rallied herself and threatened me with “Take the bucket, I am in no shape to clean up your mess…”. So I took the bucket.

Good thing I had the bucket. I got really sick. Good thing it’s a big bucket. Seriously, I got really sick. And for the next 24 hours: no work, no TV, no internet, no phone calls, emails or text messages. If I had not been so sick, it would have been a great vacation. Just me and my bucket and my bed. And my dogs. They abandoned my wife and crawled up around me; now a sicker, warmer body I suppose.

Apparently this bug is making the rounds. With the holiday season upon us this is going to get worse before it gets better. Schools around here are closing. Too many sick kids. Emergency rooms are filling up with people who think they are dying (they are not…well…maybe some will). Someone suggested that perhaps this is just God’s way of slowing us down during the holidays and forcing us to take time for reflection and meditation. I don’t think so. If anything, I think it’s the Devil delivering his version of Christmas cheer to one and all. Forget the Christmas wish list. Just keep a bucket close by.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Jerks and Taxes

Those of you who are old enough or just Steve Martin fans might remember his movie, “The Jerk”. It was a stupid, but in my opinion, very funny movie. In one scene Steve Martin’s character, Navin R. Johnson, is totally excited when the new phone book is delivered (yes, phone books used to be a thing). He jumps around yelling “The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here! ….”. And then finds his name in the phone book and proudly points to it commenting that he is now somebody. Spoiler alert, a nut job also randomly finds his name in the phone book and…well…watch the movie.

The is sort of how I feel about the new tax plan. The jerks on the right are excited about their new tax plan and the jerks on the left hate it because they are bound and determined to hate anything the right wants to do. So with Republican majorities the Senate passed their version and the House passed their version. We don’t know exactly what the final version will look like, but we have a pretty good idea. Maybe it’s better than what we have now. There will be winners and losers, but “tax reform” it is not. Not even close.

The monster that is our tax code scares the hell out of politicians and even most economists aren’t really sure what to do about it. They have their ideal models and how things should be assuming this, that and the other. But, considering where we are and how money is earned, spent, saved, invested, taxed and given away...how much do they rock that boat and who wants to do the rocking?

For me the elephant in the room remains government spending and the way we just keep adding to the national debt. The “new tax plan”, whatever its final version, will not fix this problem. As I understand it, they are betting on GDP growth plus they have baked in some “adjustments” in the future which will increase taxes for certain groups. So over time we begin to chip away at the debt. That’s just plain bad management. But, if you can print your own money, why not kick the can down the road? And if getting re-elected is more important than doing the right and responsible thing, why not kick the can down the road?

The New Tax Plan is here! The New Tax Plan is here! And the Jerks are still in charge.

“Page 73 - Johnson, Navin R.! I'm somebody now! Millions of people look at this book every day! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity - your name in print - that makes people. I'm in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.” - Steve Martin’s character from the movie The Jerk.