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Endless trade wars. The New (Idiotic) Reality in business and the stockmarket. Useful aggravation-saving tips.

Earnings are weakening because of the China Trade “War.” Goldman Sachs estimates a 6% drop in earnings as a result. I think it will be higher, as both sides figure new creative ways of hurting each other.

I’m sad for my friends starting businesses that involve Chinese manufacture. They’re in major limbo.

The Trade “War” won’t be solved anytime soon. It’s hard to figure out what we actually want from the Chinese. I’m guessing they’re having the same problem.

We are doing a fantastic job pis*ing them off. We tell we want them to cut their government subsidies to industry. Yet — in the same breath — Trump gives a $16 billion bailout to U.S. farmers hurt by China’s trade moves.

Maybe I’m stupid, but isn’t a “bailout” also called a subsidy?

We also do a great job of tweeting and throwing insults. Demonizing the guys you’re trying to do a deal with is not happy making. Or deal making.

Companies say they’re buying less away from China, as they find some other country that can make their stuff cheaper. Good luck with that one. Places like Vietnam are jammed.

China used companies like Nike and Apple to employ many Chinese, bringing millions of Chinese out of poverty —  one of the greatest economic accomplishments of all time. In contrast, don’t get me started on New York City’s yawning potholes.

Maybe China could stop selling us production materials (like rare earth minerals) used in iPhones and other technology things? That would drive prices through the roof.

This whole Trade War is senseless. Yet it’s The New Reality, as our Administration finds even more creative ways for the Chinese leadership to lose face.

All this stuff — the endless trade war, the earning decline, the Administration’s irrationality — are all baked into the stockmarket — for now.

I’m not optimistic for the summer in stocks. As prices fall (because no one wants to buy big-time) I’m snagging some more of my favorites, like AAPL and LADR (now yielding 8.5%). I’m also heavily into cash and doing time consuming chores, like selling my California house (a.k.a. The Western White Elephant).

Amazon to be worth $3,000

Today Piper Jaffray said Amazon will eventually be worth $3,000. That’s a nonsense prediction. Maybe they’re angling for Amazon’s business? Maybe they have a lot of clients with heavy loads of Amazon in their portfolio (like I do). Or maybe they bought something and it actually arrived the next day?

The good news is that Amazon will be up today and maybe reverse some of its recent losses. I’m hanging in. Here’s the past two years:

You can read more on the $3,000 prediction here.

Useful stuff

+ Rebooting always works — your iPhone, your printer, your laptop.

+ Voice recognition on the iPhone works spectacularly. Try hitting this button

Talk to it. It’s magic. Much faster than typing.

+ Expedia is great for car rentals and finding hotels. But book the hotel and your airline directly

+ My Mercedes salesman is 74 and has worked 23 years selling Mercedes cars. The company has never once asked him what his customers are saying about their cars. To wit: Susan’s new Mercedes lacks proper cup holders and a place to put her iPhone. It also complains that its memory is full when I bring my iPhone along. Time to listen to your customers, Mercedes? Want more? Email me.

Am I happy I stayed away from:

+ Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. No assets. No regulation. Just pure speculation. I prefer tulips.

+ Chinese IPOs. Most have failed — are below their opening price.

+ UBER, Lyft, etc. Yuch. Do I want to own something that will  never make a profit?

+ Real estate in Turkey, and other developing places. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I hope Erdoğan doesn’t make Turkey another Syria, or Venezuela or Zimbabwe. I’m not optimistic.

+ Climbing Everest. Here’s what it looked on May 22. The photo shows mountain climbers lining up to stand a few minutes at the summit of Mount Everest.Photo courtesy Nirmal Purja’s Project Possible expedition.

Still obsessed with fires

+ Check your power strips. Are they frayed? Do you have too much plugged into them? Air conditioners and hair dryers are the worst.

+ Check your closet lights. Have you unscrewed the bulbs and/or replaced them with LEDs? Rule: If they’re too hot to touch, replace them. Replace MR-16 halogens with LEDs. Your room will be cooler.

+ Do you have several fire extinguishers? Are they placed strategically? Are they charged? Do you know how to use them? Hint: Aim down at the fire’s source.

Very useful reading:

How the Trump Tax Plan Will Affect Your Small Business

Click here. 

Favorite New Yorker cartoon

Someone else’s great cartoon

Still celebrating Passover (a.k.a. Pesach).

A Jew took his Passover lunch to eat outside in the park. He sat down on a bench and began eating.

A blind man came by and sat down next to him.

Feeling neighborly, the Jewish man passed a sheet of matzo to the blind man.

The blind man ran his fingers over the matzo for a few minutes, looked puzzled, and finally asked, “Who wrote this nonsense?”

Harry Newton, who played well yesterday and didn’t think about the market cratering. But then today it’s up.

James Comey wrote this recently in the New York Times. Hence, many of my readers won’t read it. That’s why I put it at the bottom of today’s blog. It is, however, one of more fascinating pieces I’ve ever read on Trump.

How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr
Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive this president.

People have been asking me hard questions. What happened to the leaders in the Trump administration, especially the attorney general, Bill Barr, who I have said was due the benefit of the doubt?

How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like “no collusion” and F.B.I. “spying”? And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being “frustrated and angry,” something he would never say to justify the thousands of crimes prosecuted every day that are the product of frustration and anger?

How could he write and say things about the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that were apparently so misleading that they prompted written protest from the special counsel himself?

How could Mr. Barr go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and downplay President Trump’s attempt to fire Mr. Mueller before he completed his work?

And how could Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, after the release of Mr. Mueller’s report that detailed Mr. Trump’s determined efforts to obstruct justice, give a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law? Or on resigning, thank a president who relentlessly attacked both him and the Department of Justice he led for “the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations”?

What happened to these people?

I don’t know for sure. People are complicated, so the answer is most likely complicated. But I have some idea from four months of working close to Mr. Trump and many more months of watching him shape others.

Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. Sometimes what they reveal is inspiring. For example, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle, a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened, before he could start lying about the man.

But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.

It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what “everyone thinks” and what is “obviously true” wash over you, unchallenged, as they did at our private dinner on Jan. 27, 2017, because he’s the president and he rarely stops talking. As a result, Mr. Trump pulls all of those present into a silent circle of assent.

Speaking rapid-fire with no spot for others to jump into the conversation, Mr. Trump makes everyone a co-conspirator to his preferred set of facts, or delusions. I have felt it – this president building with his words a web of alternative reality and busily wrapping it around all of us in the room.

I must have agreed that he had the largest inauguration crowd in history because I didn’t challenge that. Everyone must agree that he has been treated very unfairly. The web building never stops.

From the private circle of assent, it moves to public displays of personal fealty at places like cabinet meetings. While the entire world is watching, you do what everyone else around the table does – you talk about how amazing the leader is and what an honor it is to be associated with him.

Sure, you notice that Mr. Mattis never actually praises the president, always speaking instead of the honor of representing the men and women of our military. But he’s a special case, right? Former Marine general and all. No way the rest of us could get away with that. So you praise, while the world watches, and the web gets tighter.

Next comes Mr. Trump attacking institutions and values you hold dear – things you have always said must be protected and which you criticized past leaders for not supporting strongly enough. Yet you are silent. Because, after all, what are you supposed to say? He’s the president of the United States.

You feel this happening. It bothers you, at least to some extent. But his outrageous conduct convinces you that you simply must stay, to preserve and protect the people and institutions and values you hold dear. Along with Republican members of Congress, you tell yourself you are too important for this nation to lose, especially now.

You can’t say this out loud – maybe not even to your family – but in a time of emergency, with the nation led by a deeply unethical person, this will be your contribution, your personal sacrifice for America. You are smarter than Donald Trump, and you are playing a long game for your country, so you can pull it off where lesser leaders have failed and gotten fired by tweet.

Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.

And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.

James Comey is the former F.B.I. director and author of “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.”

  • Mike Nash

    Harry, great job of analyzing Trump. Yes, you’re right, he keeps degrading the people he’s supposedly going to need to make a deal with. It’s insanity! This would be bad enough to do in any context but as I’ve told you before the Chinese are all about saving face. Some say Trump is a genius who does not want a deal with China. That’s bunk! Trump is just stupid. He couldn’t strike a deal with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, he walked out of the meeting with North Korea’s leader, Vladimir Putin owned him in their meeting, Mexico has not paid for the Wall, there is no Wall, his tax “cut” was a sham and proved so unpopular that Republicans lost the 2016 mid-terms by a wide margin. He walked out of the meeting this week and said there will be no infrastructure. What has this guy done that has worked? NOTHING. How soon can Joe Biden start?

    • Secret Squirrel

      Bring it on. Sleepy Joe will get his butt kicked. My vote was not for Trump, it was to keep Hillary out of the office. The last thing we need is this crazy crop of current Dems in power ruining this country with stuff like the Equality Act.

      • Mike Nash

        You just made my point. In 2016 people did not vote for Trump, they voted against Hillary Clinton. THere aren’t gonna be any people voting against Joe B. Everybody loves Joe B, our next president. Trump will be in an orange jump suit two years from now. MARK MY WORDS, SQUIRREL.

        • Secret Squirrel

          Correction, everybody on the left loves Joe but the campaign is just starting. The only political people that will be in orange jumpsuits in 2 years are those who abused our intelligence agencies to spy on the Trump campaign. Now that a prosecutor has been assigned, the fun is just beginning.

          • Mike Nash

            You read too many Facebook forwards from far right wing sites. THere’s zero chance of what you described happening. BIDEN 2020! Trump will get spanked and then go to the slammer!!

  • bike20017

    Harry – being a true believer in the New York Times, I was surprised you didn’t include one of the most interesting pieces –, “America’s Cities Are Unlivable. Blame Wealthy Liberals.”

    Remember – “Fair and Balanced”. (Even if 90+% of U.S. journalists aren’t, they should try to be.)

    Try it, you’ll like it!