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Monday, September 05, 2016


Playing a No Trump Contract

People are always asking me about the coming election and who I will vote for.  I am keeping my option open to ultimately hold my nose and vote for Trump, but that's definitely not where I am now.  If a pollster called, I would say that I will be voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, and that is certainly my expectation.  Actually, if Mr. Johnson can get into the debates, I think he would have a real impact, given the negatives attaching to both the major party candidates. But that's all a pretty unlikely scenario, and the Clinton and Trump campaigns will do all they can to keep both Johnson and Stein (the Green party) out of the debates. Clinton knows that Stein voters are attracted out of her base, and Trump should know, whether he does or not, that Johnson voters will be largely disaffected Republicans.  In fact, I would make the case that Johnson is actually the only true Republican candidate in the race.

Of course, lots of folks believe that voting for third or fourth party candidates constitutes a "wasted vote."  Let's talk about that.  I have done lots of thinking about this concept.  One thing that's for sure a wasted vote is a vote that's not submitted.  So if you don't go to the polls, that's for sure where you've wasted your vote. A second example is where you vote for a candidate you don't like as the "lesser of two evils."  Maybe that's ok where there are only two candidates running, but if there is a competent candidate running, it's a mistake to ignore him or her just to make sure some despised candidate loses to another more benign, but still incompetent or dishonest candidate.  For the life of me, I don't understand why reasonably solid Republicans like Meg Whitman would endorse Hillary Clinton.  If you can't stomach Trump, I get that, but that's no reason to endorse such an ethically challenged opponent.  So a conservative in that predicament should be endorsing Johnson, and a liberal or progressive in the same fix should be endorsing Stein.

I don't think Trump has the chops to be President.  It's beyond ridiculous that we haven't seen any of his tax returns yet (they can't all be under audit).  His daughter would be a more acceptable candidate.  It is an indictment of the primary process that he won the nomination.  Well, maybe someday I will explain to my readers how I really feel.
A movie Trump should be forced to watch on an endless loop for about two weeks is "Brooklyn," a beautiful story about a shy Irish immigrant to America who meets  and ultimately marries a nice Italian boy in the title borough. Yes, I know it's a chick flick, but it's hard to watch it without being captured.  It brought to mind the wonderful histories penned by Oscar Handlin (who we used to call the "Big O" in college), lacking footnotes since he relied almost exclusively on original source material, but reliably depicting the immigrant experience in ways we could all understand.    

Another rewarding screening was the HBO 8 part mini-series, The Night Of... which depicted the misadventures of a New York Muslim adolescent facing a charge for a murder he did not commit.  Though the plot was predictable enough, what was not was the incredibly high quality performance of all the actors and in particular, the renowned character actor John Turturro, here in a featured role as a small time attorney who solicits his clients on Rikers Island  and ends up as part of the defendant's team in the case.  His closing argument is both realistic and poignant, not to mention crucial in the attempt to offset his partner's earlier blunder.  Turturro has so often been among the most memorable elements of so many pictures, no matter how incidental the role. Recall his work in The Big Lebowski, Rounders, and The Good Shepherd, just to name a few. 
I mostly enjoyed my visit to San Diego in August.  The weather was perfect as always, the restaurants were fine as always, and the bar scene in the Gas Lamp District featured very good music and good whiskey too at reasonable prices.  Fiesta is a pretty decent Mexican restaurant, which you would expect in this city.  But I also had an acceptable Italian meal at Chianti, and at a new Indian restaurant that opened on G Street.

As for the bars, the dueling piano bar in the District is Shout and I would recommend it as the next best thing to a Howl at the Moon.  On a Friday or Saturday night, you may have to wait on a considerable line to get in.  The best music I heard was in Patrick's Pub, where there was a sensational blues band on Thursday, the 25th and a great rock cover band on the 27th.  They also had a pretty good selection of single malt scotches and bourbon too.  San Diego is one city where you just have to get out of your hotel.  

I wish I could say the same for Portland, Oregon which I visited for the first time in July.  There may be good restaurants there, but you couldn't prove it by me - we couldn't get into any on a Friday night, which tells me there just aren't enough. The trolley ride to the airport was a malfunctioning disaster. The weather was San Francisco like cold.  Not my kind of town.
I've been spending most of my jazz money at Birdland, which is my favorite NY club by far, and this month, you can go every week and see a terrific show, starting this week with John Pizzarelli.  There will also be a Coltrane retrospective this month.  Last week, I went with other satisfied friends to a Charlie Parker birthday celebration that featured my favorite current sax player, Vincent Herring, with Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Helen Sung on piano and Lonnie Plaxico on bass (another fave).  It was one of those nights where we would have happily stayed for the second set if we didn't have to get up for work the next morning.
If you're worried that the stock market is levitating on Federal Reserve life support and is due for a precipitous fall somewhere along the line here, you are not without cause for concern.  The Fed, of course, is not alone among central banks propping up their economies with aggressive monetary stimulus that is long overdue for normalization.  A point we have made here ad nauseum is that however counter intuitive, normalization would actually improve economic growth by adequately compensating savers and investors, and giving banks a reason to lend. Lower for longer interest rates are killing the insurance industry and other providers of capital.  It is also shrinking the middle class and adding to wealth inequality, not that I worry so much about that, but it is ironic that the people who do care cheer lead the Fed's policy that causes the opposite result from what they insist they want.
I am still trying to decide whether to continue recording my stock transactions here, especially following the adoption of the DOL's new Fiduciary Rule.  I make it a point to remind readers that Musings does not dispense investment advice, but in this age of regulatory zealots, you can't be too careful.  If I do decide to catch up (and we haven't posted the second quarter transactions yet) it will come in the next post, whenever that might hit.     

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