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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Annual Thanksgving Malarkey

So at long last the Holiday season is just about upon us .I know the malls and stores started playing Muzak versions of Rocking Around the Christmas Tree before we even sent the little ghosts and goblins out to extort candy from the neighbors but to me the Holidays start with Thanksgiving. It is one of the most perfect of holidays with excessive amounts of good fattening food, oceans of wine, lot of laughter and of course football in the extremis. I am not a fan of the retail rush to Christmas. In fact I hate it. There is no evidence it increases sales or profits and in fact it irritates me to the point I want to slap the crap out of fat guys with beards and short people wearing green on general principle. It’s just annoying. As my old partner in the door to door book business used to point out the rest of the year I’m just a grouchy a-hole but this time of year I become some sort of happy-happy ho-ho mother something or another.

I write this every year a day or two before the actual day occurs. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Eve and generally I start cooking the night before. The stuffing gets made and there are onions to sauté, celery to chop and sausage of several varieties that need to be fried and mixed into my savory creation .There will be butternut squash to whip and sweet potatoes that cry out for roasting and smashing. Others will be getting their junk touched by aggressive TSA officials at the airport, or perhaps posing for suitable for framing portraits of their nether regions in one of the new scanners, as the travel back to hearth and home for the occasion. Many others will be enjoying the spectacle of lights a twinkling…brake lights that is as they endure the back up of turnpikes, beltways and interstates on their way back to the bosom of family and friends. Still others will be jammed into trains and buses as they head home for the company of those they could not wait to escape when they left home in the first place.

It can be a special time. It is a chance to renew acquaintance with the obnoxious cousin you have pretty much hated since birth. We share apple pie and the opportunity for Mom to suggest we need to lose weight and change our hairstyle or pester us about grandchildren we have no intention of bearing. Doubtless Aunt Juniper will pass out in the rocking chair again this year have consumed too much of her the fruit of her namesake berries and it’s a safe bet Uncle Herb will pinch your wife on the ass again this year in an annual ritual of shameless buttockal groping. Its a magical time to eat drink and remember exactly why you never liked your second cousins third husband and rediscover all the ways your particular family puts the fun un dysfunctional.

All joking aside it is a time for families and for gratitude. We have a bunch of family and friends coming to Chez Melvin this year and we would not have it any other way. There will be wine, there will be pie, a giant turkey bird and all the trimmings my warped little mind can think of to enjoy throughout the day. There will be football.Above all there will be gratitude for all we have and the life we are so lucky to live and share together. We find much to be grateful for this time of year and here is just some of my list.

How can we not be thankful for the magic that is life itself? We lose track of it all someday but life brings so much to love, to savor and to enjoy. It is critical that we do not let the day to day garbage makes us lose sight of all that makes life so simply wonderful. There are full moons, sunsets and as I have discovered thi year sunrises you can see without staying up all night (more on that later). We live in a world that has books full of knowledge, adventure dreams, hope, answers, questions, poems, relaxation and inspiration. We have music from the soul solacing sounds of Mozart and Beethoven to the gut crunching guitar licks of Stevie Ray and JJ Cale, We can enjoy the melodical pattern woven by John Coltrane and the lyrical twisting of a Lyle Lovett (how can you not love a line like “I’d ride my pony on my boat) song. There is food of every description from steaks on the grill done to a sizzling perfection to seafood fresh from the bay and everything in between for us to enjoy and fuel our journey through the days.

More than ever I am grateful for friends of all stripes. We live in a land of slow breezes, fast boats and quick laughter here on the island and I have been blessed with incredible friends. The mix of people I am fortunate to call friend ranges from the married up tire guy to the Mr Clean look alike firefighter, form the goat and the shacked up freeloader to the bread man, from tic tacs and meatballs to cupcakes and wedding planners ,crack babies to shaky electricians and just about everywhere and everyone in between.

Friends goes beyond the island as well. There is everyone from the irascible curmudgeonly options trader to the cheese head and they have all added much to my life. The world’s only Iranian Jew was just here for a visit just before he went into viral celebrity for a brief but good visit. The handicapper is in NYC running stock market cartoons and projecting some sort of lines on charts, the spread trader stops his fun filled journeys to war torn nations and famine stricken banana republics long enough to check in from time to time. The Wiz and the Professor are still doing exactly whatever it is they do to hammer on the markets and the chairman still does his best to deflate ballyhoo and avoid hoodoos of all stripes. The counter count, the chartists chart and the opinionated opine and I am happy to call them all friend. They have added much to my life and my world.

Of course I am grateful for my children even when I am contemplating locking them in a dank dungeon full of James Joyce novels and leaving them in there until they can rationally explain Ulysses to the average person. My son’s twisted sense of humor and sarcastic mannerisms hide a sharp mind and a kind heart. I probably do not tell him enough but I am proud of him and the success he has already begun to achieve in his short time here on the planet. His mind naturally grasps the concept of business and profits and he is wise far beyond in 22 years in the ways of commerce. My daughter still has her too loud infectious and a voice that climbs a decibel with every sip of wine. She is adamant about being a teacher and has shown a perseverance and determination to reach the goal she set for herself. She has vercome the five years of being sick, worked her way through the first few years of school and is now at 26 finally a full time student closing to reaching her goal of being broke and happy as an elementary school teacher. I am plotting to get Tim Hewson to immigrate and marry her so I don’t have to pay the extras for the rest of my life. I figure it we are going to have an Ayn Rand loving libertarian school teacher in the family we might as well add an Irish trader with good taste in booze and books. I love watching the two of them continue to grow and learn to love life. Now I f I could just get my son to read a book.

There is an addition to the list this year. There is now a seven year old step daughter in the mix and the madness here at Chez Melvin. This energetic young Mensa candidate is either going to keep me young or wear me out in short order. She is a blonde haired, earlier rising sweet heart of a girl named for an Irish cattle stealing Queen and she is a welcome addition to the family. As a sign of her extraordinary intelligence he adores Lisa already, is getting used to her step brother and is altogether unsure about myself. Told you she was smart! She is a reader, with a sharp mind and loving heart who adds much to our family mix.

With a stepdaughter of course comes the person for whom I am most grateful this year. After giving up on the concept of ever finding someone who could put up with me it actually happened this year. I met the one person I really think I was destined to be with for life and maybe even beyond. I will spare all..okay some..of the romantic sappy stuff but when I look into Erin’s eyes I am sure I have had my last first kiss. We met in May, married in September and I cannot imagine my life without her ever again. She is everything I never thought I would have in my life. I was not looking anymore but the universe put her in my life and she has become my world. Above all this year I am thankful for my wife and the love we share and the grand adventure of life we have before us.

Life has its bumps and bruises. Almost nothing is going to go as planned. Life is unpredictable. Quit bitching about it and enjoy the journey. No matter your circumstance of current situations there is much about life for which to be grateful. There are raucous nights and quiet Sunday mornings. We have grand symphonies and party time rock and roll. Here is knowledge to be gained and lessons to be learned. There are bright sunny days for play and majestic rolling thunderstorms to watch in awe. Life is here like or not. Learn to embrace it, to enjoy it and above all to be thankful for it as this holiday of gratitude comes upon us this week.

I will lift my glass to you my friends on Thursday. I wish for you to have laughter and love, a thirst for knowledge, a zest for life and above all a sense of gratitude for the many wonderful moments that make up our lives and I thank you all for being a part of my life.

I am off to pour a glass of wine and begin to slip into my happy happy ho-ho state of mind

Monday, November 01, 2010

Election Eve Thoughts

So here we are the day before election. I am sitting here with the tube on a business channel and the internet running as on any other business day. Over the weekend I watched some football as well as a little bit of the World Series. The news is all about the election and the run of hate and demagoguery filled commercials have become quite taxing on the old brain. This election cycle appalls me. I hate what I am seeing. I love politics but hate what I am seeing develop around me. The overriding question in my mind is simple. What the fuck have we done to our nation?

Everyone is divided along party lines. The Dems adhere solidly to their platform and party leaders statements and beliefs. So do the Republicans. The Tea Partiers are pissed off but a lot them have no clue exactly why they are pissed. Everybody is repeating the party line and it does not appear that anyone is actually thinking.

Here is the problem as I see it. The GOP thinks that we should have more freedom for business and less taxes. I agree. However their definition of freedom applies only to those who think like they do. While deregulating commerce they want to control my personal life. I struggle with why you can support one freedom but not another? You want my business practices to be outside government control but think you should be free to regulate who consenting adults sleep with or with whom they choose to spend their life. The Democrats get a lot of the individual stuff right but think there should be a surcharge on success. The Democratic definition of fair means taking my money to pay for your lack thereof. Freedom means free folks. The logic of both sides has holes a five year old could drive a Tonka truck through with relative ease.

Which brings us to the Libertarians and some elements of the Tea Party. They have a lot to say with which I agree but I have a question. Why is that every time I listen to a libertarian candidate and talk to hard core party members I am left with the impression of a bunch of fucking goof balls who think freedom is best expressed by getting high on whatever is available and doing whatever you want regardless of the consequences. Look people I get legalizing pot. However legalizing crack is just fucking stupid okay? It should be obvious even to a stoner that free speech and free press does not apply to kiddie porn .No laws is not freedom ;its anarchy. Your freedoms end right where they hurt me and mine. Take your basic platform, add some common sense and we can talk.

Lets start with assumptions of what freedom means. First start with a basic. I do not owe you shit and you don’t owe me shit. What your daddy did to mine, or the color of our skin or religious practices do not incur a debt on either of our parts. If I fuck up, lose all my money and end up living under an underpass its not your fault or problem. If, out of the kindness of your heart, you choose to extend a helping hand I appreciate it. But you do not owe me anything. If your parents had more money than mine at the time of our birth it just means that I have to study harder, work harder and make my own way. All we are owed is a level playing field. If you have nicer uniforms and better equipment that’s life and I have to deal. That may not seem fair at first. However glance at the back of your birth certificate. There is no fairness guarantee. Freedom means you have a choice to do what you can with what you have to make your life what you wish. It does not mean fair in all things. Life is inherently unfair. Make the most of it anyway.

Lets now talk about business. My conservative friends think that business should be unrestrained. Basically I agree. However this does not mean that corporations should be able to do whatever they wish. Make a profit by all means. Invent, innovate, produce and add to the worth of the nation. However if you treat your employees like shit or make products that harm ,you should not be allowed to prosper. If you are dumping crap into stream and rivers that kill people I am kind of thinking you should be punished for this. If you lie to sell poor or unhealthy products this should not make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. If you want freedom and less regulation you have to accept the responsibility that goes along with this.

If you bet on red and it comes up black do not appeal to your personally purchased legislators to bail you out with money that came from my neighbors and I. You bet wrongly, thank for playing, you lose go, the fuck home. If you make a product that is not as good as a competitors or another country can produce it cheaper do not ask for my money to keep you in business. It’s not my problem. You are in business and have to accept the risks and responsibilities that come with business.

This responsibility extends to consumers as well. Use a little common sense and quit suing or seeking to punish corporations for your dumb ass mistakes. Coffee is hot okay? If you spill it in your lap its going to burn a bit. Giving a bite size toy to a toddler is just fucking stupid so act accordingly. Guns are dangerous, particularly if you leave them loaded where kids can find them. Fast food will indeed make you fat if you eat the crap every day. Booze and cigarettes are not good for you. I am an enthusiastic user of both and would haunt any family member who sued the cigarette companies of vineyards after my death. It’s a choice I made with an awareness of what I was doing and the risks I was taking.

This next is a big one. Lets take the handcuffs of apathy and dependence on government off the invisible hand of Adam Smith. A basic tenet of free markets is that bad companies with poor or obsolete products will be driven out of existence by the marketplace. Hey folks. WE are the market. You and I. Set aside the question of bank bailout for a second. All of us are pissed off by the banking crisis aren’t we? The why do any of us have checking accounts or other products at banks like Citi and B of A that were at the very heart of the mortgage mess? All of us profess to want to shop at local stores rather than Wal Mart but none of us are willing to pay higher prices to do so. We all bemoan the childhood obesity problem but most of us will hit the McDonalds drive through to get the kids six greasy nuggets and a bag of fried potato goodness along with a giant cup of flavored sugar water to wash it down when we do not feel like cooking. I have news for you. If we keep buying their products and using their services then the end result is not the fault of big evil corporations. It’s ours.

Listen people, corporations are not inherently evil . They make most of the stuff we use everyday. They create jobs, invent stuff that makes our lives better and in general do more good than harm. They are not a piggy bank to tax to pay for all your pet projects. Taxing capital and investment income is stupid and non productive. Now corporations keep in mind that along with the freedom to make money comes a responsibility to both consumers and the folks who work for you. Business works best when all three, capital, labor and consumer benefit. If you lose sight of this we reserve the right to quit buying your stuff and laugh as you go out of business. If you really lose sight of it we reserve the right to petition the courts and throw your ass in jail.

Now, politicians, listen up for a minute. The gross domestic production of the US economy is not you personal checkbook. It is our money. We need it to feed our kids, educate our families, build businesses and create jobs for our community. We need the money to invent new products, find new innovate ways to produce. We need it so we have a way and means to create art, write new books and play new music. We need it to do whatever the hell we want. It is our money NOT yours.

While we are at it lets get a few things clear. You have no right to tell me how to live my life. As long as it does not harm someone else leave me alone. I do not really give a shit what my friends and neighbors think about what I read, what I drink or who I sleep with. I do not want to hear that this insults some segment of the populace. I especially do not want to hear that this is not as God intended. GOD IS NOT RUNNING IN THIS ELECTION. I will settle my differences with God at the appropriate time but since I doubt your ability to interpret the wishes of an omnipotent and omniscient creator is any better than my own please quit telling me what he or she thinks of my life. That’s between God and I and doesn’t really involve you.

Next our tax code is an abomination. What the hell are you thinking? Our tax code only serves the purpose of keeping legions of lawyers and accountants in nice cars and good scotch. Lets just have a nice little flat tax and a national sales tax. Not only is that fair its transparent as hell. Nowhere for your eventual successors to hide new taxes the way you can now. Moving the national sales tax up a couple percentage points is something a second grader can understand. Now I realize that take a whole bunch of power away from you and gives it to the voters but if I may : THAT’S HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO WORK! It is government of the people, by the people for the people not a bunch of politicians using the fucking tax code to get what they want and cover up their mistakes.

Speaking of mistakes lets talk about war for a second. No one likes war. I am however aware that people being the idiots they are it is occasionally necessary. Let’s review something for a second. War has to be declared by Congress. Lets stop sending troops in harms way without a declaration of absolute war. We keep sending our young men and women off with asinine rules of engagement and then are shocked when we get our asses whipped by enemies who do not care if they kill 100 as long as one of them is an American. War is neither limited nor politically correct. If you are not willing to fight total unlimited war with all our resources and total victory as the only objective let’s just stay home next time. Those are our sons and daughters you are killing. Please show as much concern for them as your do the cousins of our enemies or the inhabitants of a nation hostile to the United States. I know they are faceless names on a casualty list to you but they are our children, friends and loved ones. Declare and destroy or please just do not bother. After conferring with both liberal and conservative friends on how to destroy society instead of sending young people to bleed and die just send the offending nation the following and allow them to self destruct from within:
1. Rap records
2. Pornography
3. Video Games for their Kids
4. Jerry Springer DVD’s
5. Do it yourself Incorporation Kits
6. Ayn Rand Books
7. Michael Moore Movies

It is real simple. I want to live in the land of the free. More importantly I want my kids and their kids as well as so forth and so on to live in the land of the free. We, as individuals, corporations and legislators need to accept both the freedoms and responsibilities of freedom. We need to tolerate each others freedoms. If you are opposed to gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person. If you are opposed to right wing versions of Christianity do not bother attending Sunday Services at Liberty Baptist Church. Do not abuse your freedom by doing things that hurt other people. You should have a right in the privacy of your own home to guzzle all booze you want. You do not have the right to get behind the wheel afterwards. You have the right to believe what you want. You do not have the right to force me to believe the same. I will die for your right to think and believe as you wish. I will kick your ass if you try to get me to accept them as my own against my will.

When asked the result of the Constitutional Convention Ben Franklin famously answered that we have given you a republic if you can keep it. We can. Take a deep breath. Forget the rhetoric and political bullshit. Get your hand out of my pocket and your version of morality out of my home. I do not owe you and you do not owe me anything. Any assistance we choose to give each other is of our own choosing. Government does not have the answer to our problems. We do. To truly be the land of the free requires an acceptance of the responsibilities that accompanies that freedom. It requires that we tolerate others choice in life as long as they do not harm us. I don’t give a shit if they offend you but as long as they do not harm you to be free we have to be tolerant. It requires you accept responsibility for your actions. The success and achievements are yours to celebrate but so are mistakes and bad choices yours to endure.

You take care of you and yours and I will take care of me and mine. We will let business do business as long as they accept their responsibility to the consuming public and their workforce. A little responsibility and tolerance and a decreased dependence on those power hungry idiots dumb enough to run for federal office and the republic can be saved, and more importantly preserved for those who follow us. Quit indentifying with a particular party or group, take a good look around at what we have done in the last fifty years to our nation. Partisan politics on both sides have taken us to the brink of losing what our forefathers gave us so many years ago. Take it back before it’s too late.