Welcome to my inaugural (no intent to distract you from the Presidential “Inauguration”) blog post! You may ask yourself “What is a blog?” I ask myself that and Alyson, a member of our office staff and our “communications” expert, assures me it is perfectly “legal” and may or may not be “advisable”!
You all know already or will find out at some point that I am known for talk time. I got that from my mom. I justify that as a contributor to a long happy life since she passed away just prior to age 96! And I admit that in recent years, especially last year 2020, my talk time has been enhanced!
So it took me some time to consider what this blog purpose is...and I have come to the conclusion that it is likely to cover a wide range of topics as I go on. Since there is a regulatory compliance review required before it is posted, it will NOT become a personalized investment or Q&A forum.
After giving it some thought, I will start with “Let’s Get Real” as a theme for 2021.
Let’s Get Real about Financial News Sites. I am disappointed daily by virtually every financial news site common in my industry. Just since the first of the year, I saw a headline on the morning of January 4th that said, “Stocks are surging on this first day of 2021 trading”. But upon further looking at the actual markets, stocks (DOW30) were up only .35%. That is a bit of a stretch to be referred to as a “surge”. On another occasion I heard an investment professional tell us that the market breadth was significantly improving, but a different article presented an analysis that over 3000 stocks that trade on the NYSE were being traded with “smart computer trading algorithms”. These algorithms identify stocks that have shorter term price cycles which the algorithms can “sense” and “trade” on without human intervention. This is not your older brother’s stock market! (Sorry, but “older sibling’s stock market” is too hard to remember.)
Let’s Get Real about Fraud. Fraud has multiplied dramatically since COVID-19 showed up. Emails that look just like they came from your bank ASKING YOU TO CONFIRM YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION. Or from some vendor from whom you previously purchased something asking you to pay a “delinquent” bill...simply call this number and PROVIDE US CERTAIN INFORMATION AND WE CAN CORRECT OUR RECORDS. Going online before Christmas and searching for special gifts for your grandchildren and getting a message from your computer saying “this site does not appear to be a safe site” but going to the site anyway because the items were so unique! Responding to this incoming threat: Hi! I am Fred and I am in your computer as you read this. If you do not believe me here are three characters of your password xxx. Your family, boss, Pastor or the authorities may like to know just what websites you routinely visit (even though not true) so it would be in your best interest to respond to my request for money…. And as it turns out I got several of these simultaneously from 4 others with names other than Fred and the addresses from which they came looked normal, not easily identified as “spam”. Whatever happened to sending letters? Really?
Let’s Get Real about Social Media and Big Tech. Social media in general and the large tech firms whose profit models are based on collecting our information and selling that information on to other service providers, retailers, etc. in my opinion are a direct personal threat to all of us using them. One day after I had purchased an item or two on eBay (OK, it may have been model train stuff) I opened Yahoo Finance to see how the stock markets were doing and I saw ads for the exact items I had just purchased the day before! That was when I announced I was removing myself from Facebook and Twitter. If information about the items I searched for could be showing up that fast on other websites’ ads, I questioned how fast other intel gathered about me could be circulating too. When I started to announce I was deleting my social media a few of my friends responded with something like, “Good luck with trying to do that!”. As it turns out, it was not easy nor could it be completely accomplished. Facebook admitted that while I could shut-off any collection of new data, that old data had already been “collected” per the signup terms that I had “agreed to”. Outside entities such as Google, and several others, had been “skimming” information from my Facebook account since the beginning and while termination would supposedly keep them from getting anything new, I would have to communicate directly with Google to request they destroy any information they had collected.
My advice to my relatives who send me photos of the little “cuties” that I love is to use EMAIL! These social media photos are permanently “etched” into these platforms! While we believe they are not harmful, do we realize that we may be saying we are not at home for the weekend, will return Sunday night, kids go to such and such a school, or have playdates with some friend, etc? Now, via social media, we give a lot of information away without recourse or chance to remove...Really?
Let’s Get Real about Truth. “Truth” is an elusive topic. Truth is extremely hard to find in our media driven world today. I listen to as little biased news as possible, which means, unfortunately, that all the majors are out. Finding “facts” from the major news stations requires being committed to actually doing research on what is stated as “fact” on your own.
Some of you know that my interest in the COVID news includes downloading virus data from the state websites for Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. I know, pretty extreme, right? But I would argue that it is perfectly logical to me since the public media coverage is total garbage. Since public debate on this topic appears to be “censored”, you can do your own research but the path is fraught with obstacles. A few months ago, I read an interview in a science journal repeated on a supposedly “just the facts” news site called “SmartNews”. The head of a COVID Research group in the San Diego area that focused on the immune system issues related to the virus was interviewed about her lab’s research results at that point. I learned some very interesting things about our immune system capacity which oddly enough I don’t find published in my go-to read, Model Railroader. After a few days I thought I would share that with some friends of mine….hmmm, no longer on the article list on SmartNews which was understandable since they do not seem to have a way of recalling old articles. Oh well, I used Google to search for “interview on COVID research with San Diego lab” which led to various “spin-offs” of similar intent with NO result...could not find it. Hmmm...not too long after that I heard an interview with someone from the American Association of Emergency Room Doctors (that is at least what I remember) who discussed how emergency rooms were totally in the dark when the virus first hit but now he said it was a matter of taking 5-6 steps and they had a very clear sense of what treatment the patient needed. There was virtually no communications between medical facilities at first and now they have the global medical experience to be very effectively treating patients. A few days later, attempts to recover a record of that live interview was unsuccessful. Really?
I have added 3 attachments for your reading pleasure…REALLY!
Let’s Get Real about this blog. As I said in the introduction and you will notice from reading the 3 attachments, the “Let’s Get Real” theme can cover a considerable span of topics.
2021, in my opinion, likely to be a year of rapid “disruption” and the beginning of what may be the next leg UP for economic “activity”. I am not sure yet about “growth”. There will be a lot of hype in various sectors of the stock market, disturbances to the American “traditional” cultural norms, continuing discord between those who want to foster a “global” business entitlement to lowest cost of materials and labor and those who want to focus on our domestic supply chain and work force “recovery”, serious potential shifts of attention driven by “value of the dollar” fears and related emphasis on digital and commodity assets, and I haven’t even mentioned the fallout of corporate censorship, the huge government “hack” to critical systems in our country, etc.
I sense a considerable amount of “fear” among people and much of it appears to be misdirected and leads to mistrust. We need to fine tune our “common sensibility” and I hope to provide some stimulus for that through this blog site. I surely do not intend to offend anyone, nor will I be advocating for anything other than trying to get to conclusions based on “common sense”!