Never Say Never!

The world is in the middle of the 100th Anniversary of WWI.

That war was known at the time as the “war to end all wars”. Little did the world know then that neither had we—the allies—won and/or that they—the Germans—never accepted that they had lost.

WWI pretty much resumed 20 years later in 1939. Because of the failure of the Versailles Treaty, hyperinflation in Germany in the early 1920s followed by the depression (in part due to extreme reparations) the political flood gates were opened to an extremist called Hitler.

WWI began with the German Scheifflin Plan to bypass the French border, but the plan failed, largely because there was insufficient blitzkrieg at that time. Quickly, things bogged down into trench and artillery warfare in which both sides fought back and forth over as little as 1000 yards at a weekly cost in the tens of thousands of lives.

Looking back one hundred years at several gruesome historical sites of mass slaughter recently helped clear my mind of current issues but also cast an interesting perspective on the past, present, and future.

The past: the degree of insanity, stupidity and lack of sensibilities of the political and military leadership on all sides at the time perhaps exceeds anything in history including WWII.

The present: the political leadership currently in the developed world appears to be unconsciously trying to rival the degree of misdirection during WWI.

The future: Unless Europe and the US come to grip soon with the type of free fall of political and military leadership which led in the 1920s and 1930s to hyper- inflation in Germany, depression everywhere in the 1930s, and WWII in the 1940s, we are bound to experience something like a repeat of those catastrophes.

Obviously, there are also many differences between today and the past. But, deep down, when political, economic, and military behavior and leadership become so distorted and misdirected, as they are all over the world today, conditions get so tangled and distorted that humans lose all perspective and judgment and end up killing everyone that comes within their gunsights.

Optimists say never again can that happen—human experience makes that impossible.

Sadly, memory becomes confused and distorted.

Best to say “never say never”, and get to work unpeeling the tear inducing onion of reality we are struggling with today.

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Not for Nervous Eyes and Minds

Most of us are cringing with embarrassment, aggravation, and concern about how the Trump Administration is shaping up: from his failure with Health Care to his ‘care-less’ treatment of the world, including his own constituents and supporters.

One thing that stands out with particular significance is how Trump deals with failure and criticism: denial, deflection, and rejection of fact.

He has consistently demonstrated that he cannot accept the reality that he has any blemishes or faults. There are many facets to extreme narcissistic disorders. One of them is the inability to see and/or accept reality.

One of the biggest threats we all face today is what happens if (or when) the charges regarding Russia close in tight AND when (not if) a showdown arises with North Korea, particularly if those events come close together.

The BIG concern is that he may not be able to see reality [good or bad] about his role in either or both issues.

To date, he has attempted to deflect every issue as someone else’s fault.

Is it possible that the psychological profile he presents is so risky that he could— unknowingly—take risks that might not only literally be his end but also the end of the world as we know it.  His disease is such that he may be deranged to think that “if I cannot have it, the world will end for me and thus it may just as well end for everyone else too at the same time.”

Yes, this is a very scary, crazy thought process. And, crazy is very hard to predict and control.

While the Russian dragnet continues, North Korea threatens more every day/month.

Every congressperson and Senator owes it to all their constituents to reflect hard on these admittedly extreme concerns.

What If There Are Simply Fewer Canaries?

Some of us have been trained all our lives to try to read tea leaves. When one is out in a sail boat it is important to smell the wind and weather both for safety and fun. The canary in the coal mine can save lives. Looking over your shoulder on city streets at night can save your life.

Also as a professional investor I am always looking for signals that may indicate changes in the world that might have a bearing on what one should think about what is going on out there.

Since about the first of March we have noticed a significant reduction of traffic in midtown Manhattan. Uber trips that routinely took 25 minutes now regularly take 12. The mid-town Manhattan bridge traffic that backs up everything around the east side at 59th Street has been surprisingly less congested. And, more evidence has been piling up. It is not constantly less traffic but the overall impression over about a month is that there has been noticeably less auto traffic. This view is buttressed by a number of friends and at least a dozen taxi and Uber drivers.

WHY and HOW?

To my knowledge there have been no special holidays, new traffic regulations or other significant changes in the economic climate in NYC. Several people have wondered out loud whether it might be related to concerns about conditions in the White House and DC. While that may be conceivable, it seems highly unlikely at this point.

Then yesterday an Uber driver made an interesting observation. He said he has been unusually busy particularly with picking up people above 125th street where they had parked inexpensively after driving into the city. He thinks that the ability to get ‘a taxi or uber’ in out of the way locations, where taxis have always been sparse, has so improved and the costs are so low that more people are simply no longer driving into mid-town.

If that should ultimately prove to be the case, it would be quite a wonderful development for the city and all of us that move around in mid-town as part of our daily lives.

NYC should love that development and encourage more like it.

Uber, though they deserve no one’s help or sympathy because they are so arrogant, would gain ever more support for being an important change agent in  transportation needs of urban living everywhere.

Feedback with any relevant observations would be very interesting. Fewer canaries in the coal mine either tell miners there is no risk OR that disaster may be just ahead because if the canaries are already dead, why?

And, if anyone can talk to a person at Uber, it would be interesting to know what they think and what their computers must already know.

Perhaps people are avoiding the environs of Trump Tower??