Stocks won’t be delivering double-digit returns for quite some time yet. Why not? Let’s do a little macro-analysis.
Why are so many Capetonians not willing to ration their own water?
Over the last few weeks a drama has been playing out in Cape Town. That drama has been called Day Zero, a moment in history when 4 million citizens will be time warped from all the benefits of modernity, to a mediaeval existence where life was centered on drawing water from a well in the town square, economic productivity was based on subsistence, and “life was harsh, brutish and short” to quote Thomas Hobbs in his famous book Leviathan published in 1651.
Here’s one way of looking at what we are doing, and how ridiculous it is.
We are a family that needs a car. We have a car. It is not the best car, sort of middle of the road. It gets us there and back, sometimes breaks down, but overall it is adequate. Other families have better cars, faster, more roomy, and so on. But ours is the most luxurious by far.
Look out below!
Here’s another bizarre twist to the saga of the Mexican border wall. Donald Trump wants it to be see-through. “Transparent”, as he calls it. Why? Here is the answer, straight from the President’s mouth:
“As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them – they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over. As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall. But we have some incredible designs.”
I try to avoid the subject of Donald Trump. However, right now I am just so disappointed that I have to vent.
In cricket, when a new batsman comes on the international scene, he is normally quite successful in his first few games, and makes big scores. After that, he either settles down to be just very good, or in rare instances, spectacularly successful throughout his career. Often he fizzles out and disappears forever.
The following rambling treatise is a concise treatment of the thoughts that went through my mind in the last week or so, during which the President of the United States of America, in his wisdom (or lack of it) announced our withdrawal from the Paris Agreement — an agreed initiative to combat an existential threat to the entire planet.
To put his decision in perspective: let us imagine that an alien force is threatening to take over our planet, in fact, they already have started to do so. They are ambitious, they plan to wipe out the entire human race. All the nations on earth get together and devise a plan to combat this threat. They will all work together, and the stronger ones will help the weaker ones. This is a good plan, and they all agree to it.
I was driving in a four-lane (two in each direction) boulevard, in the left lane, preparatory to turning left onto I75, In front of me was a bald guy on a Harley, I think a “Lowboy”, if I understand the designation correctly. I had been in his vicinity for about 20 minutes, and I had been thinking that, by his behaviour, he was a novice rider.
He was now exhibiting another such behaviour, by riding on the yellow line, all the way to the left, almost on the shoulder. My own motorcycling philosophy is to ride in the middle of the lane in traffic; pretend I am a car. Besides, the lines are slippery when wet, so making a habit of avoiding them is a good thing.
Anyway, he was going slower and slower — something that he had been doing before — the traffic light ahead is red, maybe he’s not confident about stopping? or about taking off? But it’s still about 300 yards ahead, clear road, and it’s going to turn green any second.
Jenna and I went out for Christmas Eve dinner at Ruth’s Chris, pretty decent steakhouse, if a bit on the expensive side. We were given one of those tables for two that they reserve for times when they are very busy — they have a long upholstered bench along a low wall, one person sits on the bench, one sits on a chair. In these situations, Jenna always sits on the bench, she likes to look at the other diners, and I sit on the chair, I like to look at her.
This time there was a problem. The couple next to us, we presumed man and wife (not so, we quickly discovered) were sitting next to each other on the bench, with her handbag next to him, more or less halfway into the space that Jenna would have liked to occupy. After a short conversation, he moved the handbag, Jenna squeezed past, and now I was looking three people in a row: my lovely wife, a large, loud, balding Stranger, and his bemused companion.
“I bet you like the Beatles!” he bellows at his companion. OK. This is more or less a first date. They are not married. Their relationship is quite new. Just germinating, you might say.
“Yes, I do. How did you know that?”
“I have a PhD in People!” he roars.
He’s already bored with her and starts a conversation with the couple on his other side, an older couple. They start the usual snowbird routine.
“Where are you from?”
“I’m from St Louis, Missouri”, he announces. “I love it there. Have a house there. I come to Sarasota in winter. I stay in her house.” Gestures with his thumb. She looks at him with the expression of a high school cheerleader who has just wandered into a lecture on quantum mechanics when she was expecting Home Economics.
“I bet you’re from Philadelphia!” announces our Stranger.
“Why, yes, I am. How did you know that?”
“I have a PhD in People!” he shouts.
An Open Letter to Netflix:
On Saturday, I received a DVD from you — something that I always look forward to with great expectation. This was: Inspector Lewis: Series 2: Disc 1. Even better!
With great excitement, I loaded it into my DVD player. Loading, loading, loading….it was not loading. Something wrong. Drat. Wait… Let my try it in my PC’s DVD drive…
It spins up — almost came alive — then… CRACK! Like a pistol shot. Grinding noises. Tinkling sounds. Grinding noises get worse.
I open the DVD tray. It opens halfway, then I am able to retrieve a fragment of the precious DVD.
Shut down the computer. Remove the DVD player. Open it up, which is a lot harder than it sounds. All the fragments of Inspector Lewis tumble out on the towel that I had the foresight to spread.
I carefully pick out every last fragment from the DVD player, and reassemble it. (The DVD player, not the DVD. That would be impossible.) This is a lot harder than taking it apart. Eventually I have it all together, except for one screw. I find it on the floor after a short search, and replace it. Then I toss the DVD player in the garbage.
The previous paragraph really has nothing to do with Netflix, it’s just to give you some idea of what kind of person I am.
My question now is: Do you want me to mail the fragments back to you in the envelope you supplied? I am concerned that your automated systems may be damaged by these shards of plastic.
This is an ancient story from the San people of Africa (slightly adjusted) that can be read as a parable for our present times and troubles.
Elephant and Rain got married. The animals were excited: this was a real power couple. They both enjoyed the attention, paparazzi and all, but it wasn’t long before their egos got in the way of their relationship.
Elephant insisted that he was the original Big Man of Africa, that he was the most powerful. Rain, elegantly dressed in a rainbow, in turn insisted that she was the real Giver of Life, and without her everything died. That would make her more powerful than her husband. Couples therapy got them nowhere.