Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Daily Note -- March 10, 2020

Updates Throughout The Day

1:47 p.m. March 10, 2020: the Italy numbers are out. Best report we've had in days. A snapshot in time doesn't mean a whole lot but if a) this number is accurate; and, b) the trend continues, it speaks volumes about the infectious disease process of coronavirus. Remember: the northern region of Italy was severely quarantined about two days ago; the entire country was put in lockdown yesterday.

10:18 a.m. March 10, 2020: what a difference the mindset can make. Here, we have a crisis, the coronavirus crisis. Imagine how a politician, let's say President Obama, would address it. Then imagine, a business, let's say President Trump, how he would address it.

  • stress calm
Not both:
  • one would confidence, perhaps even bullishness sooner than later; look for opportunities; take reasonable precautions; propose sweeping tax changes to help the blue collar workers
  • the other would exude "woe is us"; we deserve this; we need to hunker down; circle the wagons; take outlandish precautions; wear cardigan gloves;
I am simply blown away how President Trump reacts to this. Some months ago he started talking about another tax cut; most pundits said that talk was DOA; at best, it was premature, by a year or so. But now, a crisis. Connect these two dots.
  • Trump is talking about raising the minimum wage
  • Trump invites business CEOs to the White House, immediately
Can you connect the dots? What question(s) do you think Trump will be asking the CEOs. He won't be telling them what to do; he's asking them what the consequences of certain actions might be.

In addition to seriously considering raising the minimum wage, he is seriously considering cutting the payroll tax. I've talked about that before. If there is one tax that is incredibly regressive and harmful to the average blue collar worker it is the "payroll tax" -- withholding, social security, Medicare, union dues, miscellaneous state and local taxes.

Most agree that a Democrat president proposing that to a GOP congress -- 50/50 chance of success at best. But a GOP president proposing that --wow, it would be very, very hard for a congresswoman representing blue-collar Brooklyn, for example, to vote against helping out her constituents, especially when said congresswoman is up for re-election. It's only March. Let's look at the calendar.
  • DNC convention, late July. GOP convention, late August. 
  • March: float some balloons
  • April: staffers work with congressmen/women
  • May: submit the proposal to the US House
  • June: US House votes yea/nay; 
  • July: US Senate considers it if it passes the House 
  • September/October: two full months before the election
  • coronavirus? history by September/October
  • by the way, everyone suggested Trump would miss his GDP targets this year; now, someone/something to blame. LOL
I'm way beyond my headlights here, but I got going and couldn't quit.

9:24 a.m. March 10, 2020: wow, this thing (coronoavirus) is already over. I stopped by Schwab this morning to deposit some cash, and then do some buying. While waiting I was forced to watch/listen to CNBC but talk about an upbeat feeling. Regardless of the ankle biters, the big story is that this is over. China is actually talking about getting back to normal and banning flights from the US. LOL. Right now, from the Chinese perspective, the US is doing worse than China with regard to the number of new cases. On top of that, the number of new cases will skyrocket as more testing kits become available. By country:
  • Italy: still waiting for today's numbers. Even if Italy has things under control now, it will take two weeks for the numbers to show that.
Cruise ships: a reader wrote me this morning to let me know that CBS had a segment on seven (?) cruise ships off the coast of Florida and folks were boarding. Speaks volumes. Look at the numbers from the best case study we have so far, the Diamond Princess:
  • 3,711 passengers and staff
  • 700 test positive
  • 6 deaths; not one death in anyone less than 70 years of age;
  • it would be interesting to know how many deaths one sees on an average cruise ship of 4,000 people, or if the numbers too low for one ship, over the course of a year; from The [London] Telegraph:
Not surprisingly, cruise lines are loath to talk about people dying on their ships, but it happens. There are an estimated 200 passenger deaths a year – actually remarkably few given the 21.7 million people worldwide that cruise each year.
Original Post

After Bill comes out with his confession (LOL): Hillary attempts to one-up him. From The Babylon Bee

Here's the thing ..... LOL. That is absolutely the new catch line -- I hear it everywhere ... Geico to Cherry Vanilla Coke -- Pocahontas will fade away but "here's the thing" will live on forever. Well, maybe not forever, but longer than she did. LOL.

Wow, I'm in a good mood. Cash position build in last few days due to dividends. Off to Schwab this a.m. to continue to build positions in non-energy companies.

First things first: Starbucks -- a love-hate relationship. For about the last year or so I've been going to Starbucks almost every day, sometimes twice a day, to blog. But then about a month ago, I quit Starbucks completely. I have gone back twice in the past month, both times on the weekend. Haven't been there once during the week in the past month or so. Instead, it's McDonald's. I'm lovin' it. There are days that I prefer the ambience of Starbucks but McDonald's is a much, much better place to actually get work done.
Then I saw this yesterday: Starbucks learns the cost of virtue-signaling. Bottom line: Starbucks inside-restaurant foot traffic has dropped since they announced their no-hassle policy for freeloaders.
In May 2018, in response to protests, Starbucks changed its policies nationwide to allow anybody to sit in their stores and use the bathroom without making a purchase. Using a large panel of anonymized cellphone location data, we estimate that the policy led to a 7.3% decline in store attendance at Starbucks locations relative to other nearby coffee shops and restaurants. This decline cannot be calculated from Starbucks’ public disclosures, which lack the comparison group of other coffee shops. The decline in visits is around 84% larger for stores located near homeless shelters. The policy also affected the intensive margin of demand: remaining customers spent 4.1% less time in Starbucks relative to nearby coffee shops after the policy enactment. Wealthier customers reduced their visits more, but black and white customers were equally deterred. The policy led to fewer citations for public urination near Starbucks locations, but had no effect on other similar public order crimes. These results show the difficulties of companies attempting to provide public goods, as potential customers are crowded out by non-paying members of the public.
Wow, that hit home. I go to an upscale Starbucks. We don't have a homeless situation in this area, at least to any great visible extent. But for the last six months before I left Starbucks, there was a young homeless man that occupied my favorite chair day in and day out. I did not mind so much but the body odor was overwhelming. When he walked in, I generally left. If he was already there when he arrived, I left before ordering anything. I had forgotten all about that. Then this Sunday past, at Starbucks, a different young man, sat down in the chair next to me. He did not look like a typical Starbucks (paying-) customer; he immediately took out his iPhone and started texting "to beat the band," as they say. I was absolutely surprised when he got up to order something. I thought he was another freeloader. For a minute there, I thought I had misread him. He came back with his free cup of ice water. Yup, just as I suspected. I can only imagine how big this has gotten in some areas of the country.
It's definitely the right policy; I have no problem with the policy, but it does have a cost. I would argue that Starbucks can afford the cost, but it is a gut check for Christians. There is a difference in my mind between loitering and being homeless. 
Bernie: is done. Turning point: doubling down, tripling down on his support for Cuba's Fidel Castro was the turning point. The only question is how he will "drop out." On top of everything else, the unions don't want to lose their health insurance which Bernie has said will happen.

Schumer: avocado toast. And he's not even from California.

Coronavirus: Italy is out of control, but the most recent data suggests ... "if one ignores the numbers coming out of Italy, this thing is over." Having said that, it won't be over in Italy for at least two more weeks. Again, the numbers coming out in the EU (and in many other places in the world) can be traced back to Italy. This is absolutely fascinating -- the coronavirus story. On so many levels. We'll post the numbers later.

Government stimulus: wow.

Texas, #1: number one in the commercial building, jobs. Talk radio talk. I will try to find the link. Beats out both California and New York. I think this was for the entire year:
  • $1.41 trillion  added to the US GDP in one year; US 9.2 million American jobs supported;
  • I see this everywhere driving around Texas, from north Texas (DFW) to San Antonio

I haven't lost a nickel in the market. Link here.

Disclaimer: this is not an investment site.  Do not make any investment, financial, job, career, travel, or relationship decisions based on what you read here or think you may have read here.

OXY: wow, there is so much going on, I can't keep up.


I continue to enjoy Alexa. At night, when I jump into bed, get out my iPads (yes, plural), put the iPhone on the little desk next to the bed, and arrange all the remote controls (radio, television), etc., I then lay back and talk to Alexa. Once in awhile I might ask a question, or ask her to "play" Fox News but 99% of the time, it's all about the music. The only challenge is trying to figure out what might interest me. I try very, very hard to find "new" stuff.

Last night: Etta James. Wow, I never new her catalogue was so incredible. Her life story (wiki) is .... well, let's just say there are a lot of similarities between Etta James and Amy Winehouse. But she more than redeems herself with her music. And, again, wow, what a catalogue.

Sometimes Alexa will throw in a song that is not being sung by the singer one has requested. While listening to Etta James last night there was a song that I swear was sung by Janis Joplin but a google search suggests Joplin never sang this particular song, but YouTube has multiple music videos of Etta singing this song. It was enlightening to do a google search with Etta James Janis Joplin. I think I kept some of those links. I will post them later.

Guess The Name Of The Pianist

On another note, no pun intended,

At 1:20 in this video, does anyone recognize the pianist? Somehow he looks very, very familiar. The comments to this video do, indeed, provide the answer.

I was wondering whether it might only be me that could not name the pianist -- he looked very familiar. I sent this to my wife: she knows everything and she really knows everything about old movies. She was stumped. She thought the pianist had some of the features of an early Sid Caesar.

Rhapsody in Blue, George George Gershwin 

Rhapsody in Blue entered the public domain on January 1, 2020, although individual recordings of it may remain under copyright.

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