[written Sept. 18, 2001]
I woke up Monday for the market open, after hearing all weekend about how famous investors like Buffett and CEOs were not going to sell any stock, and in fact were going to buy some at "bargain" levels. The line going out was to buy a hundred shares of a stock to help support the market. To prove to the terrorists that we are strong. A report came out that bin Laden may have heavily shorted the market prior to the terrorist attack. Some "daytraders" were claiming anyone who would short stock would be in effect helping the terrorists.
The market gapped down huge, tried for a rally before mid-day, and failed, falling back to near lows of the day by the close. The Dow ended up having its biggest point loss in history, and the NYSE volume topped NASDAQ volume for the first time...ever? NYSE volume also set an all-time record.
So reality hit the market. The official line was that if you tried hard enough, you could make the market go up. Now, just wait, once those weak hands sell out, the market should squeeze, and people will buy back hoping not to miss the bottom.
Anyway. Before this terrorist attack, which to the stock market represents future uncertainty, something markets never like, the situation was already bleak. What I think is going on is the hope that things would improve in the second half of 2001 faded away completely after the terrible economic numbers, continued corporate warnings, and Greenspan's surrendering tone. In terms of equities, it means that money is being pulled out of mutual funds and thus out of the underlying stocks. It means that their bases of support are weaker, and thus their prices can't be maintained. The terrorist attack only exacerbated the weakness in stocks. I think the Naz will reach its bottom before the Dow does. The Dow is just getting started I would think.
But all that's not why I'm supposed to be writing this. The thing is, I don't hear anyone blaming companies for running themselves badly and for not coming up with innovative, marketable products and services. I know venture money is hard to find these days, but even the companies WITH money are trying to cling onto it as much as possible. Companies are acting like deer in the headlights. They never saw any of this coming apparently and they won't do anything about it except cut, cut, cut. There are some exceptions...I kinda think IBM might be onto something, since it's made the huge leap of actually incorporating Linux into its services. Linux is like the plague to most companies, and while I don't think Linux is the cure-all, and I'm not a Linux advocate, I'd have to say that using a free, open-source OS, is definitely not a dumb move in these times where not everyone can afford Microsoft, Sun, Compaq, etc.
What pissed off a lot of traders I knew was not only that investors were being told to all buy into this selling, but that the Wall Street analysts like Abby Cohen who had outrageously high targets for the end of year indices can now get off the hook by saying the terrorist attack interrupted the great economy. Look at this site, which shows how Abby had an end of year target on the S&P of 1500, set just a month ago. She just changed it again in light of the attack. If you watch the coming weeks, you'll see analysts back off their predictions and people will never know the slight of hand the analysts just pulled.
And while I'm watching the market, plenty of people on TV and IRC are talking about how we should stop Arabs and Muslims from coming into our country altogether, and all that other crap that mostly comes from anger and rashness but also perhaps from a small seed of prejudice. They don't necessarily talk about how Americans in general could improve from all this, as responsible people who value security and democracy. They blame the CIA, government, the military, our diplomats. They never blame themselves. I'm not saying we caused this, I just think from any tribulation, there are things to be learned about improving oneself.
So then I go to the gym to play some basketball and lift weights. Now, there's always this one kid there, a kid who's a total punk. He dresses the part of a baller with attitude and who shouldn't be messed with. And he talks...a LOT. You try to guard him, you put a hand up in his face, he whines. You try to block his shot, he calls a foul if you tap him. It's not like this is the NBA. It's not like this is an organized event. It's a fucking pickup game in a random American gym. What's worse is that he is naturally talented with footwork and moves, but he doesn't TRY. He parks his ass on the arc and never moves. Sometimes he doesn't even run the floor. He complains very loudly, and if you mess up, he lets you know that you suck. A complete pain in the ass to play against. Everyone agrees. He's the epitome of the trash talker who has no skills to back it up. You know that he's never had to play on a real team where they wouldn't put up with his destructive shitty behavior. You know that he has other problems in his life like stupidity, ignorance, and disrespect.
You look at the good bball players who show up at the gym. They may dress like he does, but they do not act like he does. They're always working hard, they congratulate people for good plays, and they generally just keep everything rolling. They don't make people feel like shit. They also, of course, know how to play basketball fundamentally.
As for me, I've never had coaching, and I don't think I really have any talent, so everything I do is whatever I've been able to learn on my own. I am nice to everyone and always congratulate people. To me, I'm just there for a pickup game, and everyone has different skill levels, and it's about how hard you work at the end of the day. I know I'll never be a really good player, but working hard is something I can do no matter how bad I am.
I just know that kid will amount to nothing in his life. Unless someone whips him into shape. Like the military. Or a counselor. He sees problems in everyone else but never in himself, which is why he is so vocal about others but totally neglects his own faults. Another example of Americans not taking responsibility for themselves and placing the blame on others.
So on virtually a daily basis, this is what I see around me. My parents aren't like that, of course, since they grew up in times where they HAD to be responsible. I know I'm not always responsible myself, but I never blame anyone else.
I'm not being the old codger who thinks kids need to stop making that infernal racket, or yelling at the TV because of lying politicians. Hell, if you want to fuck up your life, go ahead. But don't blame it on others, or take it out on them. Because that's when I seriously get pissed.
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