Category Archives for "Random Walk"

Nov 22

Where have I been?

By kevin | Random Walk

It’s been forever since I posted . . . at least three years. After years of blogging quite regularly I moved my hat and coat to Russell Investments where I am presently a Managing Director looking after retail marketing in the US. Which means I mind my manners and do my editorializing there. But the time will come and when it does . . .

Jan 15

Just Riffing Along

By kevin | Random Walk

Throwbacks, cranks, and fans of great sports names everywhere rejoice that there is a guy named Rob Gronkowski kicking butt and taking names playing tight end for a team called the Patriots.  What could be more 1950s than that?

Okay let’s see.  Uncle Mittens works in the private sector from 1976 to 1994 and runs for office from 1994 to 2012.  Unless I’m wrong, that’s 18 years pillaging American businesses and another 18 years campaigning on why that makes him the right guy to be the next Senator / Governor / President.  How ’bout we call it a tie.

Phone call for Captain Joe Hazelwood, there’s an Italian cruise company looking for a new ship captain.

You know, now that I think of it, a career of loading up companies with unsupportable amounts of debt in order to enrich a small group of already rich people while bankrupting the company and throwing working stiffs out of work really does sound like a perfect qualification for President.

And let’s not let the passing of Judge Joel Tyler go unnoticed.  Thanks to his ruling, not to mention his brilliant rhetorical flourishes  like “this feast of carrion and squalor,” “a nadir of decadence” and “a Sodom and Gomorrah gone wild before the fire,” that masterpiece of cinematic excellence, the movie classic Deep Throat, went from a crummy 49th street theater to a cultural touchstone.

It’s kind of weird to think that even today, the most qualified person on the national stage to be President of the United States is probably Hillary Clinton.

Speaking of the wreck of the Edmund Fitz Costa Concordia, Coast Guard Commander Nicastro now says  “The captain probably sailed too close to the shore, but we need to wait for the results of the investigation.”   Ummm, errrr, ya think? Have you looked at the pictures?

And can we have a warm round of populist applause for the beloved and now former governor Haley Barbour who on the way out the door to resume his man-of-the-people career as a highly paid lobbyist, speaker, and SuperPac board member “granted clemency to 215 convicts in his last few days in office, among them more than two dozen who had been convicted of murder or manslaughter.” Way to go dude!

Tim Tebow resurrected his career, carried the hopes of believers everywhere, and thrilled/appalled football fans everywhere with his gutty performances across nine games.  Tom Brady put on a clinic.  What does it mean?

Okay, I’ll bite.  If being a former captain of industry (even if it was 18 years ago) is such a brilliant qualification for being President, who was the last office holder to claim the same credential? Give up?  George W. Bush.  And before him?  Warren G. Harding (Hoover was an engineer, not the same thing). While reasonable people can disagree, I don’t think either of those guys, or Hoover either for that matter, score highly on anyone’s list of best Presidents.  In a US News survey we find that . . .

Franklin D. Roosevelt has held his title as top president since 1982 with the same four following to round out the consistent top five: Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson.

Joining Bush in the bottom five this year are Franklin Pierce, Warren G. Harding, James Buchanan, and Andrew Johnson, who is at the very bottom for the second year in a row.

The survey, which ranks presidents using 20 different factors, shows Jefferson was the most intelligent president, Richard Nixon was the worst at integrity and avoiding crucial mistakes, Lincoln had the best overall ability, and Washington was the best leader. Here’s the full list: 

1. Franklin D. Roosevelt

2. Theodore Roosevelt

3. Abraham Lincoln

4. George Washington

5. Thomas Jefferson

6. James Madison

7. James Monroe

8. Woodrow Wilson

9. Harry Truman

10. Dwight D. Eisenhower

11. John F. Kennedy

12. James K. Polk

13. William Clinton

14. Andrew Jackson

15. Barack Obama

16. Lyndon B. Johnson

17. John Adams

18. Ronald Reagan

19. John Quincy Adams

 20. Grover Cleveland

21. William McKinley

22. George H. W. Bush

23. Martin Van Buren

24. William Howard Taft

25. Chester Arthur

26. Ulysses S. Grant

27. James Garfield

28. Gerald Ford

29. Calvin Coolidge

30. Richard Nixon

31. Rutherford B. Hayes

32. James Carter

33. Zachary Taylor

34. Benjamin Harrison

35. William Henry Harrison

36. Herbert Hoover

37. John Tyler

38. Millard Fillmore

39. George W. Bush

40. Franklin Pierce

 41. Warren G. Harding

 42. James Buchanan

43. Andrew Johnson

In defense of the Captain and Crew of the Costitanic, Cristiano de Musso, a cruise company spokesman, said the ship had not deviated from the course it follows “52 times a year.” You know, now that I think of it, that’s exactly what I would say too!

Phone call for Haley Barbour, it’s Willie Horton.  He says “way to go dude!”

Just spitballing here, but I think it’s safe to say that all those ardent Reagan fans competing to follow in his footsteps as the next GOP President of these United States have firmly put aside his famous 11th Commandment . . .

The personal attacks against me during the primary finally became so heavy that the state Republican chairman, Gaylord Parkinson, postulated what he called the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. It’s a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.

Nov 12

It Just Doesn’t Stop

By kevin | Current Affairs , Random Walk

This just in, three out of four Perry supporters didn’t even know we had a Department of Engerrry.

“Republican primary voters see Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich as the presidential candidates most qualified to lead the military and handle a crisis abroad.”  Democratic voters see Romney and Gingrich as the most likely candidates to know where Europe is . . . and Cain as the most likely to know what “a broad” is.

Something you won’t hear at the debate tonight: “Imagine what the Deutsch Mark would be trading at if Germany had stayed out of the Euro!!!”

The SEC has just announced that eight employees have been disciplined over the Madoff unpleasantness.  Three received stern looks, two were sent to bed without their dinner, one was made to “take a time out”, another was required to write “I will not speak out of turn” 500 times, and one had the clean erasers after school.

Note to Candidate Perry on the eve of the Foreign Policy Debate in South Carolina: The one that looks like a boot is Italy.

You heard it here first.  There is going to be a 60 minute special on Sunday that will dare to suggest that all those members of Congress — you know, the ones to whom the ’33 act, ’34 act, The Insider Trading Sanctions Act of 1984 and the Insider Trading and Securities Fraud Enforcement Act of 1988 don’t apply — are trading ahead of the public based on “material non public information.”  Repeat after me, “I’m shocked, just shocked . . .”

I have to admit that I didn’t see the Gingrich upsurge coming. Nothing screams “values” like serial affairs and marriages, an academic pedigree, and a massive Tiffany’s bill.

File this in the “I’m shocked” category.  From the New York Times (so it must be true).

Halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, on a former cattle ranch and gypsum mine, NRG Energy is building an engineering marvel: nearly a million solar panels that will power about 100,000 homes. The project is a marvel in another, less obvious way: Taxpayers and ratepayers are providing subsidies worth almost as much as the entire $1.6 billion cost of the project. Similar subsidy packages have been given to 15 other solar- and wind-power electric plants since 2009. The government support — loan guarantees, cash grants and contracts that require electric customers to pay higher rates — largely eliminated the risk to the private investors and almost guaranteed them large profits for years to come. The beneficiaries include Goldman Sachs . . .

I know, right? A government program that is rigged to deliver risk-free rates of return on the order of 25% per annum and Goldman Sachs winds up with all the money?  Like I said, shocking.

Why is it I can’t stop giggling at the thought of Michele, Mitt, Rick, Herman, Ron, Newt, and the other three guys I can’t remember “debating” foreign policy?

Why is it that the first names of the current crop of GOP hopefuls reads like the starting line up of The Little Rascals?

Far too many athletes (and coaches) diminish themselves, their team, and their sport over the course of their career. Joe Frazier was not among them.

Nov 09

Just the Other Side of the Debate

By kevin | Current Affairs , Random Walk

I’m looking at the WSJ on my iPad.  Immediately underneath the headline “Herman Cain: “I have Never Acted Inappropriately” is a picture of the soon to be former PM of Italy and just below that is a caption that says “Italian bond yields jumped to staggering highs in a chilling replay of the market volatility that preceded bailouts of Greece, Ireland, and Portugal.”  Holy smokes, you mean it’s Herman Cain’s fault?

Just spitballing here, but when you wind up and pitch the idea that there are three agencies you want to do away with, you might want to have on the tip of your tongue which ones you have in mind Rick Perry (R) Three Times a Charm.

Phone call for Marco Rubio.  Next.

Was it just me or did Michele Bachman (R) God Told Me To Run, look like she had recently hit the tanning bed?

Phone call for Mr. Cain, It’s the shark you jumped on line two. “For every one person that comes forward with a false accusation, there are probably thousands who will say that none of that activity ever can from Herman Cain.”  Really?  Did you actually think about that before you said it?

The best part about having never once played fantasy football is that I’m not kicking myself for taking Peyton Manning first this year.

Best job in the world? GOP candidate. You get to not just make up the craziest sounding shit, but you get to say it out loud on television and people will cheer wildly. “I can see Russia from my house!” Manic applause. “I’m going to cut three agencies just as soon as I remember their names!” Standing ovation. “I’m going create a tax credit for evil dwarfs who can spin straw into gold.” Pandemonium. “Our scary black man is better than their scary black man!” Grown men weep.

All those who thought that the latest episode of Glee where some of the characters went all the way went too far raise your hands.  Anyone?

Well this is embarrassing, three different appellate courts have now turned back GOP-led challenges to Obamacare, the latest led by a rock-ribbed conservative Reagan appointee who wrote in the majority opinion, “The right to be free from federal regulation is not absolute and yields to the imperative that Congress be free to forge national solutions to national problems.”

Overheard: Gary Hart, Larry Craig, John Edwards, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, President Clinton muttering to themselves, “Why didn’t I think to say ‘Look at all the people I haven’t had sex with’? Crap.”

For those keeping score at home, it’s all Europe all the time and the game is only in the third inning.

News flash, GOP Super Duper Committee members announce they are now for tax increases! Is it just me or does eliminating the deduction on second homes worth more than $1.5mm in exchange for reducing the top bracket from 35% to 28% sound more like a tax cut than a tax increase? Kind of the fiscal equivalent of “For every one person that comes forward with a false accusation, there are probably thousands who will say that . . .”

And this weeks entry in the Reality TV hall of fame: “I’d like to use a friend on that one. Ron, what’s the name of that agency I want to kill?”

Note to the bankrupt GOP party (no, the party actually is out of money with no real prospects of paying off its debts) from someone who has voted GOP in the past and would be willing to in the future, “Do you think you could take the office of the President just a little bit seriously?”

One of the best books I’ve read this year: Citizens of London.  A must read for anyone with even a passing interest in WW II.  Brilliant book.

I keep trying to find something pithy to say about Joe Paterno, Penn State, college football.  Right now the best I can come up with is that the last college football game I watched was in 2004 at the recently departed Husky Stadium. Now I’m embarrassed that I even check the scores. Blah, blah, blah, billion dollar television contract, blah, blah, BCS, blah, blah, bullshit. The world would not in any meaningful way be impoverished if the entire shitbread enterprise called intercollegiate sports was shut down next Tuesday.

Paging Kermit the Frog, it’s the GOP on line 3.  Next.

Sep 08

I Can’t Help Myself (again)

By kevin | Current Affairs , Random Walk

History channel on line two for Governor Perry.  You might want to rethink referencing Galileo in support of your anti-Science point of view. You know, the father of modern astronomy and the guy the church declared a heretic for claiming that the sun was the center of our galaxy?

Did anyone get the license plate number of the Texas truck that ran over former candidate Bachman?

To file in the “coincidence or not?” column: The same day the local fish wrap reports that the few Americans that still have health care effectively can’t use it due to high deductibles and copays and low coverage we find that the local health care monopolist, Regence, is being excoriated (big word for Republican voters) for screwing not just their customers, but even non customers!

Best line from the GOP no-bate: Perry: “Your mother wears combat boots.” Romney “Yeah, well your mother does too!”

Bond investors have the over/under on Greece defaulting at 91%.  There’s a snappy line in there somewhere I just can’t think what it is.

Schadenfreude on line one for Governor Perry.  You didn’t really go on television and complain about how slow FEMA was in responding to the fires in your state? Did you?

This just in from, Eric Cantor blew out his C2 and C3 changing direction on disaster relief offsets.  It turns out that only applies to disasters hitting states that went for Obama. Who loves you Rick!!!

Equal opportunity here, I didn’t think for a minute that Obama calling for a joint session of Congress on Sept 7 was a political stunt.  Did you?

It’s probably just me but you might want to rethink that $2 gas gambit Michele.  Hello? Hello?  Anyone there?

Another one for the “Huh?” column: An evangelical using the words “the science isn’t settled” in connection with, well, really anything.

Candidate Perry (Romney, Bachman, Santorum), it’s the department of Myths and Legends on line three wanting to know if they can cite you on “the earth is 6000 years old” for chapter five of the Texas standard science text.

Is it just me or is the sight of angry old white people cheering wildly when Candidate Perry says that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme just a bit creepy?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.  Seven candidates walk into a bar and start a debate . . .

Jun 30

What I Wish David Petraeus Said

By kevin | Random Walk

Opening Statement
General David H. Petraeus
Confirmation Hearing: Commander, ISAF/US Forces–Afghanistan
29 June 2010

Mr. Chairman, Senator McCain, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. And thank you for the rapid scheduling of this hearing.

I am, needless to say, humbled and honored to have been nominated by the President to command the International Security Assistance Force and US Forces in Afghanistan, and to have the opportunity, if confirmed, to continue to serve our nation, the NATO Alliance, our non-NATO Coalition partners, and Afghanistan in these new capacities.

[Yesterday I had a completely different job and I’m still stunned that we’re even having this conversation, but that’s the way these things go.]

At the outset, I want to echo your salute to the extraordinary service of Senator Robert Byrd. With his death, America clearly has lost a great patriot.

[I can already hear people sharpening their knives.]

Continue reading

May 17

And Suddenly We Bought A Car

By kevin | Business , Decision Making , Random Walk

So my wife and I were driving from point A to point B last Saturday.  Just a regular day running errands and spending time with each other.

Honest to God, no kidding, I have not been thinking at all about getting a new car . . . though I have to confess that I never loved the Camry Hybrid we have been driving and always felt like I made a mistake selling the Acura TL. Anyway, I say to my wife, “Do you ever think about getting a new car?” Gloriosity, she has!

There is an Audi dealer about five blocks from where we are so we go and poke around and drive an A5 coupe. Stunning to look at and very nice but pricey given the performance level. The one with all the goodies costs as much as a small town. There aren’t any used ones.

Very much out of character, we leave without buying one (as it turns out, this is the third time in the past ten years that we went to look at an Audi and bought something else which is weird and too bad because I really like Audis and would very much like to be like Jason Stratham).  Instead, we wind up home looking at everything we can think of on the web.

It turns out we actually have some decision criteria . . .

  • Coupe: We think that means two doors and an emphatic statement that we are now a) Empty nesters for sure, and b) Too cool for school.
  • All wheel drive: Well you never know, it might rain in Seattle, and it is always possible that after a 30 year hiatus, we might just decide to head to the snow and do some skiing. It could happen.
  • High fun factor: Antithesis of the Camry Hybrid.
  • Good economics: We don’t need to do this so there needs to be something compelling (like free money).
  • Good story value: If there isn’t a good story in here, what’s the point?

Basically something more fun that a four door hybrid (a very low bar to step over I might add).

There aren’t that many coupes out there at all if you think about it.

Audi A5
Infinity G37
Hyundai Genesis
Jaguar XK
Aston Martin
BMW 3 or 6 series
Mercedes CL
Ford Mustang
Chevrolet Camaro
Dodge Challenger
Cadillac CTS (coming soon)

There are probably some others (Bently comes to mind) and there are some four door coupes as well (we’ll get to that in a minute), but that’s what we looked at on our dueling iPads.

A bunch of those you can just cross right off the list for cost reasons. This is a car, after all, not a vacation home. The Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet never made the list.  Too retro, too boy racer, too much. I didn’t want another Corvette or anything in that category either.  Cars like that are a hoot to drive three or four times a month for several miles without a break.  We also looked at other AWD cars not in two doors, kind of. Never for a second did we think about a SUV.

Basically it was looking like a two horse race between the A5 and the G37x.

There are almost as many Infinity dealers in the US as there are BMW motorbike dealers and they are slightly less convenient. We motored up to the one in Kirkland and low and behold they had a nice collection of G37x’s right out front. Very nice car it is.

For those not in the know it is a two door coupe with a stupidly powerful V6 engine, all wheel drive, and enough computing power and navigational gear to launch a first strike. I think there is a Predator Drone option as well. Various buff books have called it the best this and the most that.  It’s a fine, fine ride. In a pinch you can put your pet gerbils in the back assuming your luggage needs don’t exceed a laptop, credit card, and toothbrush.

We drove one.  We looked at all of them in detail. I really wanted to love it but I didn’t. Not really sure why. Just like I really wanted to love the A5 (a beautiful car with abusively priced options).  In the end, the dream of the racy coupe with two gigantic hard-to-egress doors and go-fast ergonomics got trumped by my creaking bones and sybaritic tendencies.

Meanwhile, I kept looking over at the G37 sedans . . . essentially the same car with two more doors, lots more headroom, and the possibility of transporting two more bipeds in relative comfort.  By this time my wife was talking with the sales guy about a Coupe with a particular interior color she fancied and I finally suggested that we go over to the sedans because they had a couple just like that.

For about the fifth time, one in the lineup kept whispering to me: A G37x in Lakeshore Slate with Stone interior, all wheel drive, Navigation package, and upgraded wheels and tires that come up to my waist. Our sainted car salesman (Ken, who just this week sold his 1000 Infiniti working at this dealer which is something indeed) tossed us yet another set of keys and off we went. We barely made it out of the lot and kind of looked at each other and it was done. The car had us at 2500 rpm.

Being a well known expert at decision-making I would give this about a six on a scale of one – 10. We had a decently clear idea about our preferences. We had a solid frame on the problem. We gave ourselves interesting choices. We did some research. The fact that we changed one of the major preferences at the last minute (expanding coupe to include the four door variety) brought other cars into play that we didn’t then go test drive, but what the hell. Ken made us an offer that was not insulting (remember we’re trading in a Camry Hybrid, the 2010 Torts Award Silver Medalist, tossed from the top step by British Petroleum).  Robert, the F&I guy made us a smoking deal on stuff to keep the paint and interior spiffy and then papered the whole thing in about twelve minutes. Bye-bye Camry, and hello rocket ship.

One day of ownership later, I can say with complete confidence the following:

The people at Kirkland Infinity were just superb, led by Ken.  It’s all part of the brand, but the difference in customer experience shopping for a luxury car and anything else is stunning.  Ken has been at this same dealer for eight years which is even more remarkable than the thought of Sarah Palin shooting a moose.  This sort of thing just doesn’t happen.

Ken, and people not named Ken, continually make an effort to a) communicate that “you’re family now” (in a really good way), and b) are constantly trying to figure out how to do something helpful. I was only sorry I hadn’t brought our laundry to be done.  I know I’m going to get a survey but let me cut to the chase and say that the folks at Kirkland Infinity get a 10.

Infiniti has ridiculously cheap money these days (there was a free option actually).  It’s like I couldn’t afford not to.

The car is all kinds of fun to look at, sit in, and drive.  I. Must. Drive. Slow.

May 04

It’s All Obama’s Fault. Or Not.

By kevin | Random Walk

It’s been an interesting ten days for Obama (and the rest of us) . . .

Oil rig blows up, sinks, and unleashes a torrent of oil. It is Obama’s fault because he authorized offshore drilling and / or he didn’t respond quickly enough or in the right way.

A couple of FBI guys blow the tail on the Times Square bomber and Emirates doesn’t read their email. Still, in 54 hours we grab prime suspect number one before he leaves the country, manage not to read him his Miranda rights (that will never happen again) and more arrests have begun in Pakistan and elsewhere. It is Obama’s fault for not being in Time Square to personally apprehend the guy and/or direct the bomb squad, because the FBI lost site of the guy, and because Democrats are soft on terrorists.

“Ahmand in the dinner jacket” comes to town in the middle of the once every five year nuclear non-proliferation summit and makes a spectacle. It’s Obama’s fault for letting him in the country, for suggesting that talking to the guy made sense, for not allowing the Israelis to bomb Iran, for not being tough enough, and for not figuring out a way to isolate Iran even though Russia and China, and we know they do what we want, won’t go along.

Arizona detonates the national debate on Immigration (among other things). It’s Obama’s fault for not being born here, for being a socialist, for not having an answer, for not being able to tell Congress what to do and get them to do it, and for being a racist.

Lindsey Graham throws a shoe, first on Climate / Energy and then on Immigration. It’s Obama’s fault for being partisan, for not being able to work with the GOP, for not letting the GOP run everything even though he was the one that got elected by a landslide, for not being born here, and for having an agenda.

American Idol turns in another dumb week, ratings suffer, and Simon Cowell is even harder to fathom and stomach. It is Obama’s fault because Idol is on Fox and everything is Obama’s fault on Fox.

The only thing Obama and the Administration knew they were going to have to deal with going into last week was the UN. They could guess on Arizona. And I didn’t mention all the other inconsequential things like running two wars, trying to figure out if Europe and the Euro are going to incinerate and launch a full scale sovereign debt crisis, hosting the Navy football team, and the hundred other things that show up on his daily briefing that none of us know about.

Point one: To all the people who think Obama isn’t acting fast enough or up to your liking, get a clue. It’s been a bit of a week. In retrospect, the same could possibly have been said about W at Katrina but I still say he handled that one poorly (and there was advanced notice and a lot of it). Yeah, he signed up for the job but if you have to admit there have been a few things vying for his attention.

Point two: Everything is not Obama’s fault. Increase the budget and resources 100 times and a couple of flat foots can still blow a tail (just to pick one item). They got the bad guy. Yeah, not on the first trip wire but the backup systems worked. The same cannot be said for BP. Not to be too tart here, but in response to the conservative meme that government can do nothing well, and certainly nothing as well as private enterprise: I would score this one Government 1, private enterprise 0 in the overall competence category, at least in the HOLY %&^! category for this week.

Apr 29

Why Don’t I Think The Lost iPhone Was Really Lost?

By kevin | Random Walk

In case you missed this or don’t care, tech blogger gizmodo recently came into possession of a prototype of the latest blockbuster to be next gen iphone setting off a first class 21st century brouhaha.  So why bring it up here? As an exercise in decision-making, three thoughts . . .

Thought 1: John Stewart just devoted nearly nine minutes to poking Apple and its iconic CEO in the eye on this.  Possible second order implication: Steve, you jumped the shark.  Does it really matter or is it possible this is all a cleverly thought out publicity stunt?

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Thought 2: Given that the phone in question was “disguised” in the shell of the current generation phone, tell me again how this happened?  I mean really, how many iphones get left in a bar on a daily basis?

Thought 3: Hey Gizmodo, how you feeling about the decision to take this thing public? The short term spurt in readership has to be a rush. My guess is whatever inside line you had to Apple isn’t looking so good right now.

For more on the fun, here are some links . . .

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