Luck & Good Fortune

Countering the White Supremacist narrative

It is hard not to listen to the common sense spoken by Larry Elder. From a man who grew up in one of America’s most underprivileged and violent neighborhoods he puts up an interesting argument to the hollowness of today’s biased media. I’m glad liberal Rubin keeps getting this guy on. Elder has a talk back program where he has invited Rev. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters on his show and they’ve refused every single time. His answer is that they have no solid facts on the views they push. Telling.

The idea of Nazism and hatred is abhorrent beyond words but believe that if these groups are doing it legally then those who think they shouldn’t be prepared to change laws that curtail their own civil liberties. Let the hollowness of their arguments be shot down by common sense. Giving these protestors a voice doesn’t enhance their cause. It gives the rest of us a window to see how little they matter.

TM is no MT

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Theresa May (TM) is no Margaret Thatcher (MT). The fact their initials are the opposite of each other is almost as eerie. Some look at the second ever female UK PM as a sort of MT Mk.II. TM isn’t. In fact her total lack of judgement to host this election is made even worse by the fact she isn’t resigning her position. Is she was the CEO of a multinational and presented a strategy that caused such damage to the brand as this election has she’d resign. Period. TM channeled the wrong MT (Malcolm Turnbull) in the election campaign who also suffers from the same belief of thinking he is more popular than he really is.

TM sold this election as a victory for her party yesterday. Her lack of humility was telling. Apparently she will “provide certainty’. Losing 12 seats while her arch enemy won an extra 29 doesn’t ring “mandate” from the people. Enlisting Arlene Foster’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to make up the numbers is patchwork and she knows it. This sign suggests that they can push hard on policy positions.

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The DUP want a soft border with the Republic of Ireland effectively diluting a hard Brexit, no change to same sex marriage or abortion laws, immunity for British soldiers in legacy cases, no border poll and a bump in its share of budget appropriations to offset a drop after Brexit. A mixed bag for May to negotiate.

While the election was interesting in the decimation of UKIP and the drubbing of the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon (who also sold it as a win), this was May’s Stalingrad. She thought she’d crush the Comrade Corbyn but didn’t bet on the resilience, resolve or resurgence in those who wanted to have a second shot at ‘Remain’. Now she leaves the Tories in a winter of discontent.

TM, you’ve lost your legitimacy – time to go.  MT would tell you the same.

A reminder of credit ratings and ability to pay – both awful

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An astute market’s person sent me an interesting chart (above) from the IMF highlighting that US companies have added $7.8t in debt & other liabilities since 2010. The ability to cover interest payments is now at the weakest level since 2008 crisis. When looking at credit ratings for US companies over the last decade, the deterioration has been marked. For all of the turbo charged low interest rate environment set by central banks, the ‘real’ state of corporate financial health on aggregate continues to worsen despite near full employment, record level equity markets and every other word of encouragement from our politicians. However if this is the state of the corporate sector at arguably the sweet spot of the economic cycle I shudder to think the state of potential bankruptcies that will come when the cycle takes a turn for the worse. This is a very bad sign.

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The golden rule of customer service

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Customer service! What is it? How well do we know our customers? In my case it is a Mr Kamimura, a diligent garçon at Aux Bacchanales in Kioi-cho, Tokyo. No matter what mood you’re in he has an innate ability to make you forget and laugh at yourself. In my case today new shoes are causing blisters. He saw me with bandaids at hand. Sensing what was wrong he scribed “blister” in my latte. A small thing perhaps but isn’t it amazing how something so simple, not discovered in any manual can keep a customer coming. The coffee is pretty good too so it’s a win-win. I’m fascinated how in today’s smartphone gazing culture how as humans were actually missing out what really matters.

A happy tale(nt) among all the gloomy headlines

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Amid all the gloom and doom in today’s headlines, it is sometimes nice to reflect on what goodness there is in the world especially those who are given an opportunity to shine against all of the self-entitled people that live among us. Gustavo Dudamel is a Venezuelan composer who brought together the undiscovered talents of kids from Venezuela’s least fortunate areas and through the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar made magic. What these kids, who in many cases hadn’t a lick of musical training, transformed into well – judge for yourselves. It is astonishing that in a world of virtue signaling, these kids took an opportunity through benevolent philanthropists and knocked it out of the park because they saw that persistence, hard work and fun can be turned into a talent rather than moaning for someone to feel sorry for them. Bravo. How could you not feel pride? Even if you aren’t a fan of classical music I won’t be the least bit surprised if you end up buying an album.

Jill Stein for President? Thank you famous Hollywood actors – we forgot to listen last time

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Once again Hollywood celebrities have made a last ditched effort on video to appeal to the college electors to vote for someone ’eminently qualified’ i.e. not Trump. They said  “we’re not asking you to vote for Hillary Clinton”. So I guess we’re left with Jill Stein, Gary ‘Aleppo’ Johnson and Evan McMullin who gained less than 5% of the national vote combined. The most annoying aspect these champagne socialists reveal is the same condescending way they suggest they and the  electors know better than the people. Celebrities have next to NO idea about how the real world works save for the likes of Mark Wahlberg who has been active telling celebrities to shut up. He grew up in the poorer neighborhoods so at the very least has some level of understanding of the minds that rejected the establishment.

However this idea that somehow celebrities can empathize with Bob, an out of work metal basher in Ohio who has 3 kids, a mortgage, has foregone seeking medical help for his chronic back pain because he can’t afford it and a wife who works 3 jobs to scrape by amazes me every time. These are the people that voted for Trump because he promised hope (knowing it wasn’t guaranteed). They weren’t stupid. They’d been fed 8 years of empty promises and their lives have not shared in the wealth of asset bubbles the well heeled have. Should electors (who are likely not to be on Struggle St.) ignore the wishes of voters who voted with their conscience expect civil unrest. They’ve nothing to lose. Their dreams will be crushed if the result isn’t carried

Look at equity markets, look at inventory data – consumer and business confidence is bouncing because that is the American way. They’re entrepreneurs at heart and they sniff opportunity again. They want a slice of the dream. An overload of liberal policies and regulations took that away. Are electors going to overlook the market moods? Can you imagine if HRC was made President? Markets would tank. The dollar would puke and the idea that 4 more years of failed Obama would ensue?

Let’s think for a minute about the outcomes outside the presidential race on Nov 8. The Dems lost the following in the 2016 election:

60 seats in the house

10 in the senate

14 governorships

This was a huge repudiation of Obama and his  ineffectiveness to a growing number of voters. This was a vote of no confidence in more ‘Democrat’ rule where the party lost the very people its charter proclaims they represent and protect. Voters thought otherwise.

For electors to overturn and reject voters wishes they are supposed to represent requires the greatest levels of arrogance and condescension of democracy.

The chance of Trump not taking the Oval Office are slim but beware the consequences of electors stealing the election outcome from the winner. Sure liberals would argue that it was constitutional (and they’d be right) but Trump is no Hitler and the idea that a bunch within 500 odd people can seek to overrule the wishes of 64mn based on pure unproven fiction is about as undemocratic as you can get. Blame Russia? Even Putin would blush at these theatrics of such empty propaganda were they to happen in Russia. Nyet!!!

#WhiteLash – I was awaiting the identity politics brigade

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I was waiting for the diversity brigade to troll out the stereotypes. #whitelash seems to be the key one being wheeled out to show ‘wealthy white American males’ deliberately voting for Trump to punish Obama and black America. Seriously? 50% of eligible voters didn’t show up. I would argue that that anyone of that persuasion was unlikely to have voted for Obama in the first place in Nov 2007 or Nov 2011. To think that all of these white Obama supporters had a sudden brain snap? Trump saw a rise from Romney’s record in both Black (6->8%) and Hispanic (27->29%) while Hillary Clinton saw a reverse vs Obama of Black (93->88%) and Hispanic (71->68%). Listen to Farrakhan smash Obama for ignoring his own people before the election. Was the landslide solely driven by whites?

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President Obama was put into office twice by blacks, Hispanics, whites and other minorities. 200mn people or 62% of America is ‘white’. He won fairly and many of these white folk would have had to vote for him to make it happen.

Could it just have been that Obama’s policies were not delivering? Sure he was given a Hail Mary pass from the Bush Administration with the financial  collapse, a messy Congress but for all of the claimed achievements, middle income Americans have continued to see their wealth and livelihoods shrink. More people than ever before have had to take on more than one job to make ends meet. America’s Research Group (ARG), which has been tracking consumer shopping trends since 1979, says that 26 million Americans are juggling multiple jobs and only earnings $27,000 average. These people are supporting 2-4 kids and 68% are women aged 28-38 working in retail or call centres.. 47% of Americans can’t raise $400 in emergency cash without selling something according to the Fed. One bank survey showed 34% of American’s had ZERO savings while 69% had less than $1,000 in the bank. It was growing helplessness.

Even if richer ‘white’ folk voted for Trump on the hopes of lower taxes do you blame them? If I offered to double your taxes will you embrace me or punch me in the nose? It isn’t anti-Obama so why does the press consistently move to turn it into identity politics? Could it be that those suffering didn’t see that another 4 years of Obama-esque policy under Clinton with the prospect of even higher taxes was an appealing choice given they were still under a rock since 2008?

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Something that intrigued me the entire election was the heat maps. When you clicked into the individual states, it would mostly be red, surrounded by blue splodges around the main city centres that were blue. If there was ever a sign of how the ‘hicks’ were feeling this was it. I remember reading a paper from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) which said that small businesses were being crushed under the weight of endless regulation. Small businesses (I am one) by their very nature are self-regulating. You have fewer options with frivolous expenditure. Many claimed that Obamacare

Forbes wrote recently,

“The Politico/Harvard survey found that over half of Americans believe that it has become more difficult to get ahead financially for low-income people, and nearly the same percent believe it is also true for those with middle-incomes. Looking ahead, only 18 percent are optimistic and believe the economy will pick up over the next 10 years compared to 21 percent who believe the economy will slow down. About half of Americans foresee more of the same.

The NFIB Small Business Economic Trends monthly survey of small-business owners reports a strikingly similar sentiment with more owners expecting the economy to worsen in the next six months than improve. Owners’ outlook for expansion is equally dismal as few find it a good time to grow and expand. The gloomy sentiment is not surprising with GDP growth averaging 1 percent over the last nine months.

Small-business owners’ lack of enthusiasm is exacerbated by the myriad of cost burdens and uncertainties that impact their business. NFIB’s 2016 Small Business Problems and Priorities survey found that five of the top ten most severe problems affecting small-business owners are tax related. The highest ranked problem is the cost of health insurance followed by unreasonable government regulations.”

Obamacare (in force since 2010) has put small businesses at a significant disadvantage when competing against larger businesses because the latter can more easily absorb higher health insurance costs. Numerous small businesses have had to cancel their health insurance benefits completely, dumping a growing number of employees into Obamacare exchanges. This is not only bad for the employees, it’s horrible for the businesses, who are now losing quality job applicants to large corporations that offer better benefits, according to the Level Funded Health poll. The survey found 56 percent of the 2,500 small businesses polled say they are losing quality employee candidates because of the rising costs associated with employer-provided health care plans under Obamacare.

Before 2016, many of the time-consuming regulations for small businesses with 49-100 employees weren’t enforced. This was to give businesses more time to prepare for the rules. Now that many small businesses are going to be forced to comply with myriad health care rules and regulations they have been able to avoid in the past, many experts are expecting the number of Department of Labor audits to increase, which will exacerbate the confusion and costs being imposed on small business. More regulations, additional costs, the risk of fines,  being audited and greater difficulty competing with larger companies for quality employees just compounds the ability to succeed.

So no matter what the spin in statistics and fact checking in the presidential debates the impacts at the coal face are as reported above. Life is getting tougher for the engine room of the economy.

Let’s move the identity politics from the map and focus on people making legitimate choices about their vote. America’s economy is not providing such economic luxury that affords frivolous decisions among those ‘white’ voters. Perhaps the shocking 50% turnout was in part laid blame to the Democrat-biased mainstream media which effectively sold the idea that HRC was a shoe in. She wasn’t – she may have won the popular vote but she might have won the presidency had the people out of touch with the outer communities got up and voted. Perhaps the scandals both within the DNC (the revelations on the Bernie Sanders screw over) and outside (e.g. Clinton Foundation, FBI investigations) reviled people more than a vulgarian who made inappropriate comments about minorities and locker room filth. Then again when porn sites receive more traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined every month perhaps the offended sensibilities were all on the outside. Like I mentioned yesterday, Trump had an army of closet voters who probably felt social pressure not to reveal their inner feelings outwardly.

On a lighter note, when are all those Hollywood stars off to Canada? I’m wondering whether the selfie loving Trudeau would allow them in for fear of stealing his limelight? Well we know how some celebrities (sorry…errhem… Your Majesty) have not shown the same enthusiasm as you them Prime Minister Trudeau.