Every year since 2002 I have closed out the year with my satirical look at the world through the eyes of a professional investor poking fun at what has transpired in our global society during the year we are about to turn the page on. At the end of this commentary, I will provide links to a few old versions of this series (to the extent they still exist on the internet). 2013 has brought forth its own unique series of unexpected news, celebration, joy, disappointment, tragedy and political intrigue. I hope that 2014 will be a year of health, happiness and prosperity to all of the members of my family, clientele, students, co-workers and readers. So without further ado, here is my List of 10 Things I Won’t Miss About 2013 (and never want to hear about ever again), in no particular order:
- SELFIES – If George Eastman was not already spinning in his grave from the bankruptcy of his namesake company, then the explosion of “selfies” or self-pictures using digital cameras are sure to do so. Frankly, I think the concept of selfies hit a new low at the Nelson Mandela funeral. To be honest, the last selfie that I think had any value – monetary or social – was Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait with a Straw Hat from 1887. That was just about the time that Eastman Kodak was starting to become the Facebook (FB) of its times.
- TWERKING – I do understand that when American teens started to dance to rock and roll in the 1950s, when the late Dick Clark was hosting American Bandstand, that society had to deal with a cultural shock. Does fast dancing really shock you as much as Miley Cyrus twerking?
- AFFORDABLE HEATH CARE ACT – What a disaster this has been. It is hard to put a lipstick on this pig of a government program. The Affordable Health Care Act or as Americans refer to it (lovingly or not) as Obamacare was a failure in its design, polarizing in its enactment and totally botched in its execution. We have yet to see the worst of Obamacare when the back end of the system fails and millions of people are without health care. I wonder if Nancy Pelosi has read the law yet.
- BUM COMMERCIALS – Every year there is a commercial or series of commercials which are so annoying that you want to throw a brick through your brand new smart television when you see it. This year’s award goes to Kimberley-Clark (KMB) for its series of flushable wipe commercials where Cherry Healey talks to people about their bums. What Cherry does not tell you about is the environmental and plumbing disaster that these flushable wipes are causing. At least the civilized world can now claim fresher cleaner bums for when we get taken to the hospital so that mothers around the world won’t be embarrassed.
- AFFLUENZA – Please understand that our son passed his New Jersey and New York Bar examinations after graduating law school and now works as a law clerk for a judge. For that we are proud and thankful. However, in what is one of the biggest miscarriages of justice that I can recall; a Texas judge sentenced a teenager to probation for intoxicated vehicular manslaughter because the judge bought the defense’s argument of Affluenza. While the defense attorney deserves kudos for this creative, yet provocative defense, the judge should know better. Giving a choice between being rich or poor I would prefer rich. However, affluence does not grant special privileges in a court of law. The judge, District Judge Jean Boyd, should be removed from the bench.
- TAPERING – Wall Street and its related media had an obsession, no addiction to the likelihood that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) would cut back on its Quantitative Easing or QE Program in what was referred to as “tapering.” The hidden message was that the FOMC was addicted to some sort of monetary drug and the market would experience withdrawal pains once the FOMC did taper. Low and behold, when the tapering was recently announced in December, the equity markets rallied. Why was that? To put it simply, the implication of tapering was that the economy was improving. An improving economy means more jobs and economic growth. Taper all you want Mr. Bernanke and Ms. Yellen.
- CRONUTS – You splice together the genetic makeup of a donut and a croissant and voila, you breed a Cronut. Just when you thought that we were beginning to embrace the obesity and diabetes problem in this country, we take a few steps back with the Cronut. This county is so whacky that, Dominique Ansel Bakery has actually trademarked the Cronut. I wonder what Obamacare covers for cronut consumption related conditions.
- BITCOIN – Unfortunately, this is not going away anytime soon. However, for 2013, it was the Fad / Bubble of the Year. Let me be very clear about my opinion of Bitcoin. I believe that Bitcoin is an illegal currency which is not backed by any sovereign issuing authority. Hence, there is no backstop of the full faith and credit of a nation or gold reserves or other natural resources. We have gone to great lengths in this and other countries to prevent money laundering. Bitcoin enables illegal enterprises to launder their money in an untraceable method. I would not accept Bitcoins for my business or efforts of my labor. I would gladly accept Greenbacks or Loonies or Pound Sterling or Yen. My bank won’t take Bitcoins to pay my mortgage and I don’t expect that it will in the future. The final chapter for Bitcoin is already written but most people have yet to read it. That final chapter is the same as that of Intrade, but we may have to endure the Bitcoin craze for a bit longer.
- AFFLUENZA – PART II – TESLA – I recently went to the Short Hills Mall in our hometown of Millburn, NJ, with my middle son. At the mall, there was a Tesla (TSLA) showroom. The Tesla on display at the mall showroom was very uninspiring and way too expensive – close to $100,000. As it turns out, a few days earlier, I was interviewed on Bloomberg Radio by another Milburn, NJ resident, Betty Liu (who just like me, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania). At the time of the interview, I was not enamored with Tesla cars, whether or not they were spontaneously combusting. Furthermore, the company’s stock was, in my opinion, way too expensive, like its cars. In fact, I was much more impressed with the not-so-affluent and inconspicuous consumption acquisition of the Ford (F) Focus that I purchased for my daughter earlier this year for about $22,000.
- GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE’S WEIGHT – Leave This man alone. I am talking to the late night talk show and morning zoo radio hosts. This man has done a great job in New Jersey after having to clean up a major mess left by the Garden State’s former Governor, Jon Corzine. Corzine of course went right from his role as governor to help sink MF Global. Christie is one of the leading contenders for the Republican Presidential nomination and is trying his best to get his weight under control, so stop picking on him.
10 Things I Won’t Miss About 2002 (no link available)
Disclosure: At the time of this commentary Scott Rothbort, his family and/or clients of LakeView AssetManagement, LLC was long KMB and F stock although positions can change at any time.
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