CSotD: 401ks, SoBs and the jive in the java

Fears of the coronavirus sent the Dow into a freefall, as Rob Rogers depicts it.

Though let’s keep our values straight here. The fact that many people are very sick and quite a few of them are dying isn’t what made the bull market fall.

It’s the fact that factories in China are closing to prevent spread of the disease, causing shortages of parts and materials, while shopping there has also slowed to a crawl, hurting sales.

It’s not about people. It’s never about people. Nothing on Wall Street is about people.


Joe Heller suggests that it’s about people in the sense that it impacts their 401k’s but to the extent it’s about people for that reason, it’s only about silly people.

Keep your hands off your 401k. If you have to pretend to be a Big Broker and fool around on E*Trade, use some different money, the same source of play money you use when you go to Vegas and lose it there.

Not your retirement. Leave that the hell alone.

Well, with this proviso: Answer your mail once in awhile. Go have a look now and then.

Don’t do anything to them, but according to a very scary story on “All Things Considered,” if you don’t check in on your nest egg once in awhile, the state can confiscate it.

Though you should be adding to your 401k once in awhile and it should be checking in with you, which ought to be enough.

But it’s not a toy and if you play with it, you’ll probably screw it up.

Anyway, it’s a long term investment.


Here’s what happened to the Dow Jones yesterday. Scary, scary!!!


But here’s what it looks like over the past year, and it’s still a tad up. Maybe you’d have preferred some nice bonds with guaranteed interest rates.

However, there’s no reason to think a dip related to the coronavirus is going to suppress the market for very long.

Here’s what it looks like since Dear Leader took office, and he has a right to crow over the growth.


Particularly if nobody notices what the market has done since Obama took office, at which point Trump’s claims begin to resemble a case of the rooster taking credit for the sunrise.

Not that you can’t find individuals for whom the timing sucked, mind you, but for the average person, this dip in the Dow means absolutely nothing.

Investing hint: If you don’t wet your knickers over irrelevant blips, it isn’t so hard to get the knots out.


Meanwhile, back at the dialectic

Speaking of not understanding markets and systems, Dave Granlund’s attack on Bernie is one of the gentler slams.

New York State required economics in senior year social studies, but I don’t remember spending a lot of time on Marx and Hegel, and I certainly didn’t read their actual works until college.

So it’s not such a terrible thing that people don’t understand the difference between communism and socialism. It’s like not knowing the difference between a gasoline engine and a diesel, or a pie and a cake or, say, movies and television.

Pies and cakes are both desserts, and so they’re the same thing. And people often have brandy or coffee after a meal, so pies, cakes, brandy and coffee are all the same thing.

The issue being that, if you screw around with your 401k every time there’s a blip in the market, you might ruin your own retirement, but it’s not likely to change mine.

However, if you vote based on thinking that feeding hungry children is the same thing as setting up a system of government-controlled collective farms, that might have a wider impact.


Dan Wasserman finds a bit of humor in the kerfuffle, given that whatever Putin thinks of Bernie, we know someone who thinks Putin is just the greatest guy in the world.

There aren’t a lot of conservatives quoting this part of what Bernie said on 60 Minutes:

I do not think that Kim Jong Un is a good friend … I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.

His point — 30-some years ago — was that, despite the unacceptable authoritarian regime Castro imposed, a lot of people were better off under him than they had been under the equally repressive dictator, Fulgencio Batista, whom Castro had overthrown.

Batista being one of several tinpot dictators of whom the apparently apocryphal quote was aimed, “He’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

I first heard it said of Trujillo, but it apparently goes back at least to the senior Somoza, and has been applied as well to Franco, who not only wasn’t ours but wasn’t even in our hemisphere.

The point being not who said it first but why it applied to so many very bad people.

The larger point being why we embraced them.

The ultimate point being whether commentators, columnists and editorial cartoonists have a moral obligation to seek the context in which things are said.

Which effort I would contend is the difference between commentary and propaganda.

Anyway, given that Dear Leader has praised not just Putin and Kim but Duterte and Xi, it seems a dubious attack point.


I’m not a Bernie fan this time around, but RJ Matson has a point, in that Bernie has benefited from the contention and funding issues amongst his opponents.

Preferring Bernie is beginning to look like damn faint praise.


Reporting from the road

Mo has gone on hiatus, but, wherever she’s off to, her creator, Ann Telnaes has noted from her own perch on the highway that it sure takes a lot of unnecessary plastic get a cup of coffee in your hotel room. (Click here for the full animation)


As someone who rises before room service, I’ve often contemplated the same issue, and wondered if I’d care as much if the coffee thus produced wasn’t such absolutely undrinkable crap.

Please explain this song to the youngsters

9 thoughts on “CSotD: 401ks, SoBs and the jive in the java

  1. Telnaes, and many other people who legitimately care about our environment, need to learn the difference between plastic and cellophane.

    Key point: Cellophane is an organic product and is biodegradable.

  2. Knowing there’s a difference isn’t the same as telling it apart each time. I think I’ve seen the “goodies” wrapped in each. Plus, you have the additional waste — biodegradable or not — of only wanting the creamer but unwrapping the straw, napkin and sugar as well.

  3. During a recent ER visit, I contemplated the sheer mass of plastics used in hospitals. I’m sure that has led to better survival rates. It is a conundrum.

  4. nancy o, I guess times have changed. Our company’s recycling firm _adamantly_ refused to take cellophane, and they officially kvetched on the few occasions when we erred.

    OTOH, when the city started single source recycling, I asked about the “cellophane ban” and they said, basically, “No problem.”

    One can only hope that that corporate recycler has re-educated itself.

  5. nancy: That may be true, but how much “cellophane” that’s used today is still made with cellulose as opposed the LDPE or whatever that’s used in plastic bags? I suspect that the term is kind of like Kleenex—formerly a brand name, but mow referring to all thin plastic wrap stuff.

    Supposedly the machines that recycle plastic can’t handle plastic bags because they get stuck in the machinery (as do plastic straws).

    And then I’d heard about cities sending whatever they collect in “one bin” recycling off to China.

    I carry my canvas bag around and try to tell myself that it’s helping somehow.

  6. Mary Ella: I’ve heard that China recently stopped receiving our plastic. Here’s one company that’s proposing using a material made of vegetable starch: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/eco-friendly-designs/a-zero-organic-and-bio-compostable-bags-with-inspiring-art?ref=discovery&term=a-zero

    As you can see, they’ve more than hit their target. Another that’s not nearly as successful is proposing coffee cups and flatware made of — soda crackers?? https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ecoviche/ecoviche-ecological-solution?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=soda%20crackers

  7. Here’s the Sierra Club’s take, though their objection (among more substantive ones) that it’s made from wood somewhat makes all packaging bad.

    Bear in mind that John Muir was a preservationist rather than a conservationist, which made his relationship with Theodore Roosevelt contentious despite their mutual love of nature.


    As for the China recycling issue, I suspect it was similar to the issue in the Philippines where they were not just getting bags and bottles and cellophane but pure garbage, including dirty disposable diapers. For my part, I put my plastic, glass and cans in the no-sort bin but run my cardboard out to the center myself since a single bottle with a little beer in the bottom can ruin the whole load of cardboard.

    It’s not easy being green.

  8. As for Maxwell House, I went back and forth between the ad and the song, but decided to go for the song.

    I’m sure Mississippi John Hurt will forgive me. Okay, I’m not sure, but I’ll take the chance.

    But if I ever have to choose between him and John Sebastian, it’ll come down on his side.

Comments are closed.