I discovered Bagatelle in the summer of 2015. I simply typed ‘filet mignon NYC’ on the Google search bar and Bagatelle came up among the first results. French cuisine, check. Great selection of drinks, check. Great location (Meatpacking District), check. Blow your eardrums atmosphere, check. It was like Lavo, without it being Lavo. The perfect blend of classy and debauchery while enjoying dinner or brunch. I went there quite a few more times throughout the years since, my last visit being in early 2020 just before the COVID lockdowns. I kept checking later that summer for any sign that they might re-open, at least for outdoor dining since they had considerable sidewalk space that had already been restricted to traffic. It would have made a great experience for Bagatelle to have a few tables outside during the summer of 2020, a great compliment to the area’s other dining spots such as Serafina and Pastis. However, it never reopened. And it is now in the process of becoming an auto dealership for some electric vehicle company (as if there should be any other option besides a Tesla).
Legend has it that it is coming back. Maybe, hopefully, please, pretty please with crème brulee on top. With a glass of sangria on the side to reminisce the exquisite filet mignon that so effortless came apart as my knife sliced through its most tender spots. Accompanied by a portion of mashed potato orbiting the steak, along with a fresh garden salad, made this spot quite an experience in and of itself that I have not been able to find an equal to (the closest being the steak at Peak in the Hudson Yards… but there will be another post about that in the near future). So, hopefully it comes back, in all its former glory and then some. And if and when that happens, there will be an exhilarated blog post about that momentous event.
But until then, I’ll share bits and details of the other places I have gone to throughout the city as we regain some of that pre-COVID normalcy. This city is back, with all its refined tastes, memorable sounds, daring views and the amazing drinks that enhance the experience that much more.
I’m going to try to keep this short. The social contract that is kept in place by the laws that ‘we the people’ consented to have to apply to everyone. Equal protection before the law.
But when it becomes obvious that some laws apply to some while those same laws don’t protect others, and it is painstakingly obvious that the difference in treatment is due to the color of their skin, then the social contract doesn’t apply anymore.
If peaceful non-violent protests, since the 50’s and 60’s, didn’t result in equal protections, then what is happening today shouldn’t surprise anyone.
If the laws that should protect the rights of people of color are not respected, then it is clear that the social contract isn’t working for them. Therefore, why should they adhere to a system of laws that doesn’t afford them the protections that are implicitly there for people with a privileged skin color?
Peaceful protests were done. They tried that. The law is still applied differently. The protests morphed into louder actions… to bring attention to the fact that the social contract doesn’t work for them. When there are two bodies to a contract, and one side’s terms are freely enforced and protected while the other side must constantly fight for their terms to be respected, in a court that heavily favors the first party, then the other party to the contract will wise up to the fact that the court is not being fair. So why continue the facade of playing by its rules?
The social contract has to work for everyone… or it won’t work for anyone. And yeah that sucks for the innocents who are caught in between during this modern civil war, being fought on the streets and on our mobile screens. But the peaceful conversations were tried, and instead they were answered with warrantless intrusion on properties, chasing down an unarmed person, and kneeling on a person’s neck. And people of color died in each case.
Something radical must happen… something like: don’t make a class of people feel inferior before the law, because then the law stops meaning anything except that it is a canopy of shade that the privileged can hide under while everyone else has to suffer the storms of inequality.
I don’t often get brutally honest on this blog but events this week compelled I write about it. Hearing friends are sick Monday, and two dying on Wednesday, another on Thursday (all due to COVID), and then attending a zoom wedding on Friday… followed by my own fears given my battles with COPD since 2015, I felt that I ought to express some blunt truths that we are still in the process of fully comprehending.
This is NOT the flu. This is nothing like the flu. COVID-19 is not some glorified version of the flu. The seasonal flu doesn’t perform an all out assault on the body’s respiratory system, and then for shits n giggles destroy other vital organs as well. The flu doesn’t result in mass graves in the Bronx, or require hospitals to bring in refrigerated trucks to store the bodies because the morgue has run out of space. The flu does not by-pass someone’s immune system and make them feel like they’re normal, showing no symptoms, no fever, no cough, no short of breath, all the while they are contagious and spreading it with every breath, every time they talk, every time microns manage to leave a small area of air that their mask doesn’t tightly cover. No… the regular seasonal flu does NOT do these things. But COVID-19 sure does; acting as a silent serial killer that makes anyone and everyone a potential host and spreader.
COVID-19 flourishes whenever there’s a weak spot, an opening where a micron-sized droplet can carry the virus and then be inhaled by someone even 15 feet away. How big is a micron infected particle? 0.14 microns. How big is a micron?
Smaller than a red blood cell. Released every time one speaks, breathes, coughs or sneezes. Even with a mask, the microns escape from where ever there’s an air opening that the mask isn’t covering.
The two friends who died Wednesday had each learned Monday they had COVID. No underlying condition, no immunity compromised, no respiratory issues. One was an essential worker delivering food in the city, another was a medical supply driver. Both wore masks (not the ones I made). Upon feeling fine since all of this started happening in March, they suddenly felt a tightness in their chest which they couldn’t ignore. Upon getting tested and admitted in the hospital, they were intubated and could no longer breathe on their own. By Wednesday their heart’s gave out due to lack of oxygen and what is known as a “cytokine storm”. This is not the flu.
The family friend who passed on Thursday had an underlying heart condition, but had beat cancer twice in the past and still appeared functional to work before applying for retirement next year. He could even play soccer this past summer with his grandkids, something even I can not do. He stayed home, his wife worked at a restaurant, they practiced as much social distancing and cleanliness as possible…. and yet a COVID micron particle got to him. And the assault on his respiratory system and heart was too much. This is NOT the common flu.
What makes this more dangerous is the sheer evil of how this disease operates. It can assault one person and give them every symptom, or appear benign in another while making them think they are healthy enough to go out and about without a care in the world, cleaning hands, wearing masks, and yet they can still let out micron particles in the air, which then travel around until it’s inhaled by someone nearby. It can even linger in the body for days, causing no symptoms, until suddenly, within hours, it can compromise the entire body. The common flu doesn’t do this.
Without a meaningful testing and tracing system in place (which itself can be a topic for another blog post), anyone and everyone can be a host and spreader of this silent serial killer. Whereas we have vaccines and treatments against the common flu, we have nothing to fight COVID-19 once it’s in the body. Preventive measures aren’t enough because the microns in the air are invisible and the average human will not take serious that which it cannot visually see. Even the anti-body tests are not as reliable as thought which is why doctors stress that we continue social distancing even if someone has the antibodies.
My point is… we don’t know who has COVID or not. A place, whether indoor or outdoor, full of apparently healthy, masked, people is no guarantee that there isn’t one asymptomatic spreader in that area. And whereas the seasonal flu can kill dozens of people in the US in a year, COVID has already killed 70,000 within 5 months and the number is still expected to rise, perhaps even accelerate as lockdowns start being rolled back. We have a common flu vaccine… we don’t have one for COVID-19.
While this creates for an uncomfortable and uncertain situation going forward, we ought to demand that our governments do more. They had the legal right to enact the lockdowns, but then they should compensate the people by means of some sort of universal basic income with a system in place that automatically goes to the people. Bypass the banks and their predatory lending schemes (because that part didn’t work out so well for small businesses), and get the money to the people and then fund a proper universal healthcare system so that no one is left behind. What COVID-19 has shown is that all it takes is one spreader to infect a community… and we can’t expect everyone to act in their best interest since all it takes is one careless act in the most minimal and accidental way to let out these micron particles in the air shared by everyone.
However, as dark and dreary as my post sounds, the truth is that this will pass. Eventually. We must abandon the “every man for himself” mentality that capitalism has encouraged. We are all a part of a community, giving and taking, thanking and pleasing, forgiving and understanding. Empathy and cooperation have more lasting value than the chase and race for the material goals that those in power want us to seek. There is nothing worth “keeping up with” if it fosters a sense of harmful competition, where we’re made to feel less if we don’t compare with those who have given in to mindless and short-sighted trends. Each of us is capable of making our own successes, of creating with our hands and minds works and ideas that can benefit others. We’re all together now, globally interconnected and under one atmosphere and upon one earth. Let’s watch out for one another, even if doesn’t immediately feel worth the effort.
“A return to normal” is the common notion that a majority of people believe and express in social media. ‘Normal’ is what got us here, and that ‘normal’ needs to replaced and will be once this is all over. Because when the statistics start going down, when it looks like we kept at or below ‘the curve’, the lingering truth will be that we can never really trust anyone that was above us in the economic or political scale. The whole system needs a reset or else this will happen again. A silent killer against whom we have no defense, borne out of human behavior miles away, and which makes friends, family, co-workers, all become potential threats to our lives whether they know it or not. While that Reset happens ( to its fully required degree) to appear like it is up to chance, the fact is that either we will act as a species to make it happen, or nature is going to force us into it.
We can’t trust our employers because they can’t trust their superiors and industry partners because they can’t trust their local politicians because they can’t trust their federal politicians to give them the truth. Anyone who thought they had a reliable job in the beginning of February suddenly received a rude awakening half-way through. No one was safe. Even essential workers must now be forced to choose between continuing work to get a paycheck or risk exposure to this silent killer… and without access to healthcare or an actual COVID-19 test that South Korea was able to make for their citizenry per capita, workers can’t trust that their bosses will do the right thing. Even when bosses/employers do the right thing and close up shop while paying their employees, that generosity can’t last for more than a handful of weeks. And workers and their bosses can’t trust that their government will provide for them since even a system designated as “stimulus” can’t do something as basic as making itself ready to give the money and the loans to the people and businesses who needed. Bottom line… we can’t trust them.
Without trust, the social contract means nothing. In fact, all contracts mean nothing because the courts are closed to hear most cases. The bottle-neck in lawsuits to come when this dies down will be another mess on the economy as more workers wait to see who they can find at fault to collect money from.
Without trust in politicians, we can’t trust the value of our money or that it’ll ever be there when they say it will, or that it will be enough. If it’s true that the COVID-19 numbers are being fudged, then we can conclude our leaders are systematically lying to us in a disorganized manner.
A reset to all of this is to call for a new system or carrying out of a globally interdependent economy. This “every-man-for-himself” idea of American individualism (and spread around the world) doesn’t work when all it takes is one individual to disregard the rules which then results in dozens and then hundreds and then thousands to be affected by one person’s decisions. I don’t refer to contagion of the virus; I refer to people in power who singlehandedly make decisions that affect thousands of other people. Leaders may reject facts, and therefore their subordinates also ignore these inconvenient facts, which then leads to policy makers having to work with ‘alternative facts’, which makes businesses and private ventures operate under false pretenses, which then makes them either hire or fire workers who don’t have access to the facts except through what they are fed via television. A few people operating with the wrong assumption or belief of the facts can have massive implications for thousands of people, and yet, those individuals operate that way because they are beholden to their shareholders, board of directors, or whoever is pulling their strings. These individuals have to deliver on their fiduciary obligations to save their asses first, never mind the effects on other people.
A true reset requires collaboration rather than competition. The yearning to be better than someone else may have its rewards, but the result is that more people are on the losing side and they lose more as they adjust to what the winner has decreed. If only the Chinese wet market industry didn’t put profits over people (and rewarded for it by the Chinese government), then perhaps there would have been more regulation or at least less of an incentive to use bats and wild animals from which zoonotic diseases can originate.
And as the breakout continued, rather than admit to a problem and quickly shut down movement, instead of taking economic losses, the response by the Chinese government was too slow to respond and even went so far as to punish anyone who’d raise an alarm. All to protect their economic interests as a supply chain leader in the global economy.
That same mentality spread throughout the world as government leaders sought to initially downplay the severity of this silent killer, all so that they could keep business going because a shutdown meant loss of tax revenue. And ultimately, it’s America that will suffer greatest since it has been obstinately underprepared to administer healthcare to its people, where tying their healthcare to their employment now looks idiotic in retrospect because how are people supposed to depend on their healthcare providers if they have no job to provide access to those benefits?
We need a reset. Competition doesn’t work. Not at a global scale where resources are finite. Where truth is a commodity that few have access to. Where the levels of trust are meaningless and where a select elite few can dictate what the masses will get, if anything, to turn the economy back on. Collaboration is vital, and accountability must go back to the hands of the people. Perhaps it’s too idealistic… but being stuck at home, waiting on answers from people I don’t trust, watching how every major industry’s bluff is about to get called, makes me cynical in believing that perhaps this time it’s different. But many thought the same after 2008, and yet the perpetrators of that crisis only got bigger and more powerful.
For that reason, I’m shorting the market through SQQQ, getting more bitcoin, and sticking with stocks of companies that are looking for solutions that eliminate the human element. AI, machine learning, and cloud computing.
The truism we have all believed is that if you work hard, you will get ahead. Taking Government money would be seen as a sign of weakness, of economic parasitism, and that taking your losses was a sign of maturity. That may work on an individual scale, but because corporations have been given the rights of an individual (Citizens United, I’m looking at you), suddenly it’s become necessary to give every industry the help that seem reserved for just the lower classes. Mom n pop need to take their losses and close up shop, but corporations need taxpayer bailouts to keep business open. Capitalism’s bluff is about to get called; that government has to be there, ready to intervene and inject liquidity in times of crisis. But when decades of economic/political philosophy are invested in reducing government’s power via regulations and oversight, then the result is a grossly underfunded and unprepared government that is ill-equipped to deal with a global crisis like a pandemic.
And yet… it has no choice but to step up and play its role as ‘lender of last resort’, the printing press for that mighty dollar, to effectively throw money at the problem and hope that market forces of incentives, supply/demand, and risk/reward, will yield the solution to our problems. The solutions may be found… but the truth is that none of it should have been needed in the first place if we had had a properly funded and intellectually armed government that could be ready to marshal its powers to fulfill its obligation, per the social contract, to take care of its citizens against foreign threats.
If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that capitalism doesn’t work for everyone if it is hell bent on declawing government’s power to regulate and oversee various industries. Just as the Chinese government looked the other way as the wet markets in Wuhan made profits for the party elites, the American government spent more time focused on deregulation and cutting ‘waste’ in resources that are now vitally needed to help everyone in every industry.
If the airlines were more regulated, they wouldn’t have wasted money in stock buybacks, only to come crawling to government for a loan.
If movie studios and theaters didn’t use every trick in the book to make successful movie franchises look like losses on paper, maybe they’d actually have some cash stowed away to keep their employees paid rather than demand a bailout.
If real estate had learned its lesson from 2008, they wouldn’t have leveraged themselves buying up and flipping as speculators on properties with tenants who are now NOT going to pay rent… which they shouldn’t be paying in the first place at current market levels, then maybe they wouldn’t be in such a cash-poor position they find themselves in.
Common among these is that the constant drive to rid themselves of government intervention are all done in pursuit of the mighty profit. Capitalism requires that they be accountable to their shareholders first rather than their employees (who could also become shareholders but are often denied the opportunity). That system works well when everything is working fine and the profits keep coming every quarter… until a pandemic strikes and suddenly everyone is expecting a bailout from the very same government they spent years draining it of power and devaluing its currency. It was $750 billion in 2008’s initial TARP bailout. It is now trillions, and more on the way, to get out of this one. Maybe the truth is that capitalism doesn’t work for everyone… and that the only way this can work is if those green government-printed permission slips in your wallet have drastically lower purchasing power within the next few years. But everyone at the bottom needs it to buy food and to pay bills first. The ones at the top will need it, and use it, to buy up more hard assets first BEFORE the inflation starts hitting everyone… and the cycle will repeat.
Short answer: the pain is about to get worse before it gets better. And our ‘leaders’ think the rest are too scared to handle the truth. Short the broader market, buy SQQQ, and have some exposure to AI tech and cloud computing. That is all.
Fear is the worst self-serving force of the human species. In regards to the coronavirus, all we know is that we don’t know how bad it can be because we don’t know how to treat it. Furthermore, we don’t know what we don’t know about what the governments know regarding the true impact of this still little-understood virus (try reading that sentence again). When we don’t know the nature of what we know is hidden… fear takes over. And it feeds into more fear.
Fear can also be a good investment opportunity. When there’s fear, there’s overreacting. Overreactions tend to cause price swings that do not make sense. When we see stock prices of JP Morgan Chase, Apple, Microsoft, and even safe stocks like Waste Management all drop, it forces one to come to their senses and set aside fear, if only for a moment. Is society going to go back to the Stone Age? Are we suddenly going to drop our iPhones? Will we get unplugged and never touch a keyboard or go online ever again?
As more people adjust their daily activities in order to avoid crowds, more people are staying home… and even working from home. Students can also complete classes and assignments online. Banking and entertainment can still be done online. These realities factor in to the coming recovery of cloud infrastructure stocks and just about every other company that has its foot in the cloud. Therefore… take a moment to stop, think, reject fear, and accept that there’s opportunities in the long run.
We don’t know what we don’t know…. but what we do know is that even at its worse case scenario, the coronavirus is still not as deadly as previous viruses that actually killed more people in less time. This is all fear-driven… and do not let it control your life or your finances.
It basically breaks down to this: if Universal Healthcare becomes a reality, it is the equivalent of a MASSIVE stock buyback program. Here’s why: if and when government completely takes over healthcare administration in the US, as in Medicare for all, then every single business and corporation in America will no longer have to spend money and resources to provide healthcare to their employees. The government will take care of it. With all that cash suddenly loosened up, corporations will either reinvest that cash into expanding or improving operations, or they will pay down remaining corporate debt (which will improve their cash flow), or they will implement stock buyback programs to boost their stock prices. It is a win-win.
Furthermore, at the ground level where the middle class workers exist, they will no longer have to play a monthly premium for their healthcare plans. That means no monthly payments, and no deductible to have to worry about. Suddenly, they have more cash to use at the end of month. Which they can use to either pay down debt, or to stimulate the local economy as consumers, or invest that money in the stock market. Win-win!
Therefore, if Trump wins reelection, the markets will continue to go up because the market does like Trump for the useful idiot that he is. But if Sanders or Buttigieg win, markets will go a lot higher with the implementation of universal healthcare which will make government pay for healthcare while corporations do what they do best with the money they have now that otherwise would have had to have gone to healthcare for employees; they will invest it either in themselves or in stock buybacks.
In other words… GET INVESTED! The party is far from over.
This will be quick. Since many first-time investors use Robinhood as their online broker, they must know that they do NOT have the ability to short-sell stocks (short selling is the practice of making money when stocks fall in value). Because stocks appear to be hitting new highs each week, eventually prices have to take a pause and head back down. How does one make money on Robinhood with the expectation that stocks will go down?
SH and SOXS are two ETF’s (exchange traded funds) that go up when stocks go down. SH is primarily geared to go against the direction of the broader S&P index. So when the S&P goes down, SH goes up…. and vice verse. SOXS is an ETF that goes against the trend of technology sector stocks of the S&P. When you hear news that stocks like Apple, Amazon, Google, or Intel are going down, SOXS goes up.
Therefore, with stocks at current high levels, perhaps it’s a good time to look into putting in some money in ETF’s like SOXS and SH to make money when stocks go down.
Questions? Let’s hear them. And as always, feel free to reach out about how you can be invested to make money on both directions of the market.
With stock markets plunging this past week, the conventional wisdom is saying that we are due for a sharp pull back in equities, citing various factors such as a potential win by the Democratic Party in the 2020 elections, and even the coronavirus being blamed for disruptions in the supply chain of global manufacturing. At any other time in history, these two factors would indeed spell an imminent period of market doom and gloom. However, the bear case has nothing against the bulls because the bulls and their stalwart enablers refuse to stop the party that they have the power to keep going.
What we have in this modern era is what investors lacked in decades past: data, artificial intelligence, and loose monetary policy. Basically, ever since practically everything has been put on an electronic grid, it has generated massive amounts of data. From shopping trends to viewer activity and internet browsing and even key-logged activity from your mouse and keyboards, everything that we do and see and touch and pinch on a screen is being collected and aggregated, mined and analyzed, which is then fed through the artificial intelligent algorithms which make sense of the data. The output is predictive models, quantified to precision leaving little room for human error and guesswork.
Therefore, everything that we do, or that we are going to do, or that we don’t even know yet that we want to do, is already known by the corporations that can afford to analyze the data we freely give them. They know the future… and have the power to keep it going. The added ingredient to make it that much more easier is loose monetary policy. Central banks worldwide virtually print and loan out money at low or zero interest rates, making it cheaper to encourage consumers to stimulate the economy with easier access to credit. Despite this having the potential for creating runaway inflation, all the loose cash in the system is welcomed because who in their right mind is going to turn down free money?
Parties, by their nature, keep going because the food being served keeps tasting better, the drinks are easier to imbibe, the desserts are more succulent than the last, and the music just doesn’t stop (ever been to brunch at Bagatelle?). More guests keep coming in, and they bring their friends, and therefore the food and drinks and music needs to get better, tastier, and louder, because more people are joining the party that just doesn’t want to stop. And anyone who dares to say that the party ought to be toned down is quietly asked to leave… or if something is wrong with the food, or the drinks begin getting watered down, or the same song sounds like it’s been played too often, anyone who points these things out is also asked to quietly leave or is outright ignored. The party needs to continue because it just feels too good to ever show any sign that it’ll end.
The party isn’t over because the data is showing that the people want more of it, even if it means ignoring all the red flags. Investors want profits, shareholders demand accountability, and the board of directors are not going to say ‘no’ to free money, freshly printed by the Federal Reserve, willingly injecting financial dopamine into everyone’s drinks. Therefore, cash flows will continue to increase, profit margins will get fatter, and those with the data will continue to mine it for information on how to make consumers keep coming back for more.
Politicians aren’t going to say no to free money by corporate donors, nor are any one of them willing to take the thankless responsibility of being the lonely voice telling their constituents that they need to cut back. The party needs to keep going… because no one wants it to end because no one wants to be the last one stuck with the check.
Because of this, even a win by Bernie Sanders, or an epidemic, like coronavirus, are not enough to stop the party. Artificial intelligence is already being put to use to assist doctors in finding a cure or vaccine for coronavirus. AI is also being put to work to improve efficiencies in an economy where there is more equal distribution of wealth. Deregulation by policy makers is creating an incentive for more efficient use of labor and resources, which also requires better AI tools. Because of this, the party will still keep going strong. There may appear a few pauses and pullbacks…. but so long as monetary policy remains free and loose, the markets will continue their rise and the party will continue.
For this reason, and others to be expanded upon in my blog, it is wise to get invested for the long term. The party has to continue, and you’re due your piece of the pie and your share of the festivities before the music stops.
My Current long term picks: NVDA, OKTA, MU, TSM, WM, MSFT, SPLK, XLNX