Category Archives: Commentary

The Putin Effect

I wouldn’t normally post about politics, finances or the economy, but something in today’s newsletter from EnsoWealth struck a chord. We will need to be nimble, prepared and patient. COVID, supply chain issues and inflation are already wearing us down, but with Putin’s invasion? There’s a disturbance in the force, and I’m exhausted. Fearful too.

The Markets

Markets were reassured by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC)’s actions last week.

The FOMC met on March 16 and did exactly what most people expected them to do. They raised the federal funds target rate by a quarter point. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the Fed expects to continue to raise rates and reduce its balance sheet during 2022 to lower inflation.

The bond market appeared to give the Fed a vote of confidence. The yield on the two-year UST, which is the maturity that’s most sensitive to expectations for future rate hikes, rose from 1.75 percent at the end of last week to 1.97 percent. The yield on the benchmark 10-year UST also increased, but not by as much.

Randall Forsyth of Barron’s reported, “…moves in the Treasury market add up to a marked flattening in the slope of the yield curve, a classic signal the market foresees a slowing of real growth along with an eventual diminution of inflation pressures.”

In an ideal circumstance, the Fed would engineer a “soft landing” by pushing demand for goods down just enough to quash inflation without causing the U.S. economy going into recession. However, the Putin effect is making the Fed’s job harder. Fed Chair Powell stated: 

“…the implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the U.S. economy are highly uncertain. In addition to the direct effects from higher global oil and commodity prices, the invasion and related events may restrain economic activity abroad and further disrupt supply chains, which would create spillovers to the U.S. economy through trade and other channels. The volatility in financial markets, particularly if sustained, could also act to tighten credit conditions and affect the real economy…We will need to be nimble in responding to incoming data and the evolving outlook.”

Improved clarity around monetary policy reassured investors last week. Major U.S. stock indices rallied with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gaining 6.2 percent, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 5.5 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite up 8.2 percent, reported Ben Levisohn of Barron’s.

Weekly Focus – Think About It 

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

—John Donne, writer and poet

Best regards,

Noah Jacobson, CFP® 

* These views are those of Carson Coaching, not the presenting Representative, the Representative’s Broker/Dealer, or Registered Investment Advisor, and should not be construed as investment advice.

* This newsletter was prepared by Carson Coaching. Carson Coaching is not affiliated with the named firm or broker/dealer.

* Government bonds and Treasury Bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. However, the value of fund shares is not guaranteed and will fluctuate.

* Corporate bonds are considered higher risk than government bonds but normally offer a higher yield and are subject to market, interest rate and credit risk as well as additional risks based on the quality of issuer coupon rate, price, yield, maturity, and redemption features.

* The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. You cannot invest directly in this index.

* All indexes referenced are unmanaged. The volatility of indexes could be materially different from that of a client’s portfolio. Unmanaged index returns do not reflect fees, expenses, or sales charges. Index performance is not indicative of the performance of any investment. You cannot invest directly in an index.

* The Dow Jones Global ex-U.S. Index covers approximately 95% of the market capitalization of the 45 developed and emerging countries included in the Index.

* The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market.

* Gold represents the 3:00 p.m. (London time) gold price as reported by the London Bullion Market Association and is expressed in U.S. Dollars per fine troy ounce. The source for gold data is Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (FRED), https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/GOLDPMGBD228NLBM.

* The Bloomberg Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998.

* The DJ Equity All REIT Total Return Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones.

* The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), commonly known as “The Dow,” is an index representing 30 stock of companies maintained and reviewed by the editors of The Wall Street Journal.

* The NASDAQ Composite is an unmanaged index of securities traded on the NASDAQ system.

* International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability and may not be suitable for all investors. These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging markets.

* Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods.

* The risk of loss in trading commodities and futures can be substantial. You should therefore carefully consider whether such trading is suitable for you in light of your financial condition. The high degree of leverage is often obtainable in commodity trading and can work against you as well as for you. The use of leverage can lead to large losses as well as gains.

* Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance.

* Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

* Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.

* The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee it is accurate or complete.

* There is no guarantee a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

* Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss.

* Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.

Vladimir Putin’s Rewriting of History Draws on a Long Tradition of Soviet Myth-Making (Smithsonian)

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Filed under Commentary, Opinion

Up Against the Firing Squad

I haven’t posted in ages. Busy battling COVID fatigue, publishing a new collection of poetry—Little Palace of Illness, revising my third JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventure, Nothing Comes After Z (slated to publish in early summer), raking our eucalyptus forest and working on Saints and Skeletons, a memoir of my years in Mexico. In between all that, I try to keep up with the outrages of climate change, racial injustice, and American politics and policy. I don’t usually comment publicly about this stuff, but this news bite I read this afternoon on the Huffington Post slays me:

SOUTH CAROLINA ADDS FIRING SQUAD TO EXECUTION METHODS The South Carolina House voted to add a firing squad to the state’s execution methods amid a lack of lethal-injection drugs — a measure meant to jump-start executions in a state that once had one of the busiest death chambers in the nation. Condemned inmates will have to choose either being shot or electrocuted if lethal injection drugs aren’t available. [AP]

Philly
Firing squads  as we know them began with the invention of gunpowder and firearms and became the standard method of execution for militaries across the centuries. Although guns are more lethal than ever before, in the 21st century firing squads are out of fashion. Many countries have banned them, and the countries where firing squads are still legal are slowly abandoning them as a form of execution— except ours.

Typically, death by firing squad is a military form of execution, the go-to method of dispatching soldiers. Using a firing squad makes punishment a communal event. The offender is killed by his or her peers, using weapons the soldiers all use in combat, reinforcing the community over the individual offender.

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In the US only four states, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah, and newly voted in—South Carolina use firing squads, although Wyoming and Missouri are open to using firing squads as well. It’s cheaper and more effective for the sate. In most other US states, execution by firing squad is considered “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore in opposition to the 8th amendment.

My mental image of a firing squad is of the blindfolded captive tied to a stake with a row of uniformed agents of a fascist state taking aim. . .or men, women, and children lined up in front of a ditch. . . or rival gang members slumped against a blood stained wall. A firing squad is the act of barbarians, megalomaniacs, power mongers, not the act of a civilized state. This is one more indication the US lacks civility.


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Filed under Commentary, Opinion

United We Stand by Cliff Zyskowski

 

Certain days in our lives leave a permanent imprint, like a hot poker brand on cattle, a tattoo, charged with total recall, like it happened just yesterday.

United We Stand

9/11 I’m visiting clinical sites in Vallejo. My psych tech students are completing their internships at an out patient treatment center for folks with dual diagnosis. Autism, bi-polar, schizophrenia, developmental delays, head injuries: the students get to experience a patch work mental health quilt of many varied sizes, shapes and colors.

Ziggy cries out, “Why did they do this?” as we all watch the horror play out on the big screen TV in the day hall that morning. He has Down Syndrome. He is sensitive. He is a caring, loving human being laid to waste by tears as the story of the epic destruction of those twin towers unfolds.

Several of the participants begin to pace the perimeter of the room, their anxiety building, their coping strategies pushed to the brink. A staff person ushers Artie into a side conference room.

“Breathe Artie. Your breath like the ocean, remember? Breathe in the relaxation, breathe out the tension. You can handle this,” she implores. He’s hyperventilating, sweating, eyes open wide, piercing, pupils dilated, biting his hand, rocking back and forth at an increasing rate. She pages the off-site nurse for a PRN medication.

“I knew those Commie Pinko Fags were coming to get us. I heard them scheming last night. Their time has come. Our time is up…we’re next,” exclaims Josh.

Josh has paranoid schizophrenia. He’s hiding under a chair in the far corner of the room. Silently screaming in his mind’s eye, rubbing his head along the underside lip of the chair.

Mitch, the director, enters the room with authority. Turns off the TV. “Break up into groups of five. Today’s discussion: addressing our greatest fears. What is it that scares us? How do we cope with what we can’t control? How have we overcome obstacles in our past? How do we muster the courage and conviction to face our fears head-on? Meet back here at 10:30 before break.” 

Divided We Fall

July, 1966 Hot, muggy, Mid-western summer day. No breeze off the Lake. Mom rounds up us four kids from the yard into the house early before lunch. Me and my best friend Vinnie had planned on riding our Schwinn bikes down Rumble Hill to visit the old man with his roost of homing pigeons.  Not today.

“The blacks are marching past Portage Park to Norwood Park. They say 800 people will pass by our neighborhood and walk right past St. Monica’s church down the block from us. We’re all staying inside. People been throwing rocks at the marchers. I won’t let any of you kids get hurt. We’re not causing any trouble.” Not today. She looks worried, scared, pale. We obey without a fuss.

There are no black folks living in our neighborhood. This is the summer of the Chicago Freedom Movement. Martin Luther King is marching for equal housing rights. I’ve never even met a black person. Dad says when they move in, we move out ‘cuz, “They cause the property values to crash.”

“But isn’t your favorite baseball player Ernie Banks, a black guy?” I ask him.

No comment.

While Mom shakes Jiffy Pop with one hand and stirs the cherry Kool-Aid with the other, my curiosity runs rampant. I sneak downstairs and climb out thru the basement window. I hear hundreds of voices singing in the distance. This Little Light of Mine, We Shall Overcome, the voices gather strength, rising louder and more boisterous as the throng approaches the corner of Nottingham and Carmen Avenues and the steps leading to the entrance of St. Monica’s Church. Nobody out in the streets but them. Vinnie’s mom, Mrs. Funsch, peers out between the drapes of her front room window. I’m hiding in the bushes across the street from the Rectory. MLK, the man himself, approaches the church entrance. He silences the crowd by raising his right hand, palm open to the sky, as he surveys his followers with steely determination. Gesturing with both arms raised to the heavens, he gets down on one knee and says, “Let us pray.”

“Almighty Lord,” he cries out. “Hear our prayer,” respond the marchers, all genuflected on one knee.  “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, thy kingdom come thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

Heads bowed to the earth, prostrated on one knee, the congregation recites the Our Father…the same prayer I recite every night before bed. I find myself praying along, flushed out of the hiding brush, bent on one knee, “. . . forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, Amen.”

They pray, they feel, they sing, they kneel—just like us. My cup runneth over with faith in humanity.

Smile a Little Smile

Fall 1969 Summer of love passes. The annual 8th grade fall dance held in the basement of St. Monica’s rectory. I’m a nerd. One of three classmates wearing horn-rimmed glasses. Teacher’s pet. Too smart for my own good. But I made the basketball team. Tom Kowalski felt sorry for me and gave a fellow Polack a chance. In class, I sit behind Joanne Arcaro, 8th grade cheerleader. I whisper her a few answers during the math exams. Sister Felice proctors the tests. She is deaf.  

Joanne believes in me somehow. When it’s time for the last slow dance, she comes up to me and grabs my arm without a word, pulls me across the room to the middle of the dance floor. The 45 drops onto the Magnavox turntable playing Smile a Little Smile for Me. This isn’t one of those tightly held slow dances. Sister Jeanette wouldn’t allow such behavior. For the first time, I feel like a man—a woman asked me to be her dance partner. I find a cure for my case of nerd fever.

tenor.com

For the first verse, we alone take center stage. She looks straight into my eyes, smiles, as we rock back and forth in unison to the song’s chorus, breathing as one, the class nerd making waves with the babe of his dreams. Loving kindness endlessly travels through time captured by a memory.

Orange sky over Bay Area

Birds, by the thousands, drop dead from the orange.
  Ravens chant Nevermore.
A robin picks at a toasted worm, upended
  from the parched terrain.
Bees labor back to the hive with ash-laden pollen.
Sunflowers strain to lift their heads to the sky.
  There is no sun.

My mask blocks the virus, filters the smoke,
 hides the shame we face:
  Profit over Planet.
“They muddy the waters to make it seem deep.”
What legacy will we leave our children?
“You guys just stood around while
watching the West Coast burn?”

Who will unite ranchers, developers,
  conservationists?
Who is prepared to build a coalition,
a consensus among polarities, concerning issues of
Black Lives Matter,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
gun control,
global warming?

“We are the first generation
to feel the impact of climate change
and the last generation
that can do something about it.”

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

              Save the Earth,
             Value its worth,
             Before we dread
         The sky bleeding red.

 September 9th, 2020 The Day the Sky Bled Orange

Cliff Zyskowski
playing John Hiatt’s Have a Little Faith at Sonoma’s Farmer’s Market

Cliff Zyskowski is a retired psychiatric technician and a Chicago native now living the good life in wine country. When not hashing out a long-winded memoir, he plays the piano for inspiration. His work has appeared in The Bohemian and The Sonoma Sun.

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Filed under #vote2020, Commentary, Fire Season, Guest Bloggers

THE WHOLE WORLD IS A TELEPHONE BOOTH

 

This week, poet, Dominic “Nick” Triglia, shares his unique experience of the October firestorm.

Nick says this about himself:

I was born a “blue baby” in 1950 at the old hospital on Spring St. in Calistoga.  The owners of the hospital always told me I was the last baby born there.  When I found out they were wrong, I changed it to: I was the last good lookin baby born in the hospital.

I wore the blue uniform of the Postal Service for 34 years. I love blue skies, the deep blue sea, blue movies, listening to the blues, and drinking red wine.

Nick is also a producer of poetry events in the Upper Napa Valley

 

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atlasobscura.com

The Whole World Is a Telephone Booth

15 items or less

express lane

in heavy traffic

woman shares

answers to questions

near the

National Enquirer rack

 

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“We packed the RV

then unpacked

got another advisory

my brother in the urn

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put back in the house”

Mom takes him back

to the RV

can’t decide

to take him or not

Dad said to leave him

“he’s only ashes anyway”

Mom said, “yeah

but that’s all I’ve got

of him, he’s goin.”

 

Unknown

khan.com

 

 

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Message Machine

She left his message

of not being home

“to leave a message”

on the phone

seven years

since his passing

his voice lets you know

that he and she

are not at home.

Evacuated

she calls their number

hears his voice

calls five times a day

said  “if he answers

I know our home

is safe from the fire”

Each time she listens

to his recorded voice

she kisses the receiver.

 

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greifhealingblog.com

 

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Smoke over the Napa Valley October 2017.       Marina Torres

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Filed under Commentary, Fire Season, Poetry, Students

When Will We Ever Learn?

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Novelist Nathaniel Robert Winters shares a poem today. Find his work at Amazon.

 

 

 

Custer Died For Our Sins

Western train throws a loud whistle

but bison won’t be moved

car screeches to a whiplash halt

 

Buffalo hunters emerge

bringing down great beasts

too many to count

a hole appears

showing the endless tracks beyond

 

Locomotive belches black cloud

starts slowly, picking up speed

white way west

 

Lakota Nation weeps

 

One hundred fifty years later

it is not tracks that scar Dakota land

but a pipeline

oil way south

 

Lakota Nation still weeps

 

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Filed under Commentary, Poetry, Students