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Craziness and absolute power are a powerful brew

Craziness is a plus.

No one knows what he’ll do next. Except something nutty. The Iranians have wisely backed off. I would too. The bully has a lot of weapons and he can deploy what he wants, when he wants, where he wants, in his sole discretion.

George W. Bush invaded Iraq and made regime change. That didn’t go well. The Ayatollahs have obviously mulled on that one.

Saddam Hussein was “tried” and later hanged. I resisted showing that photo.

American presidents have far too much power.

This is an election year. What’s good for the market and for the economy is good for re-election.

All the economists (me included) are optimistic for the stockmarket and the economy.

I updated my portfolio. It’s in the right hand column on the web site. Click here.

Boeing is the classic cockroach stock

Boeing enjoys an endless flow of bad news. Today, two bits of bad news: The crash of a new 737 in Tehran and Boeing changing its mind and recommending simulator training for pilots on its grounded 737 MAX. This is big because it’s expensive. And Boeing didn’t want to force its customers — the airlines — into a heavy new expense — training.

Here are two photos of the crash site in Tehran:

It’s not good to allow to random people on a crash site to mess with the evidence. One theory says it was shot down. Another that the one engine just blew up into a fiery ball. Sabotage?There’s a video of the plane erupting into a ball of fire and then shortly crashing into an even bigger fiery ball.

Since Boeing’s high of nearly $440, the stock has been a good short — but not for the faint of heart.

There are a lot of investors who have infinite faith in the company. It is an American icon. Personally, I think Boeing’s stock will be closer to $200 by the end of the year. But I’m not shorting it or even buying puts. It’s too difficult.

Two helpful tools for surfing

+ EmailThis. Hit the little yellow button — on your browser’s top right. You’ll get emailed a clean — no ads — copy of the story you’re reading. EmailThis adds into every browser. For more, click here. 

+ Instapaper lets you file your favorite stories in the cloud. Click here.

I use both. I love both.

The Economist obituary is my favorite

This is long-time Moscow Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, who just died.

He was a real trip. Some words from the obit:

His instinct for holding on to his immense baronial power was somewhat surer than that. He built a new ring road, increased pensions, made the hot water work. And he rebuilt the place. Over the 18 years of his rule, from 1992 to 2010, he turned a drab grey Soviet city into a modern European metropolis, glittering with steel and glass towers and forested with cranes. He built a new financial district, Moskva-City, home to nine skyscrapers more than 60 storeys high. He ordered the tearing down of 1,722 Soviet apartment blocks in favour of something glassier. Elegant Manezh Square became an underground mall and an overground amusement park. Spires, turrets, baroque gilding, classical pediments, neo-imperial this and that, appeared all over town, sometimes all on the same building. On an artificial island in the river he placed a statue of Peter the Great, steering a frigate, which was taller than the Statue of Liberty. The same favourite sculptor, Zurab Tsereteli, also dotted sculptures of the mayor about. One showed him sweeping away all the rubbish from Moscow’s streets.

And so he did: scrap what he disliked, put up what he liked. Since Catherine the Great had left half-built her palace at Tsaritsyno, he finished it with an entrance pavilion, new decor inside and a whole new park of bridges and follies. And if, amid the symphony of wrecking balls, he demolished buildings people really cared about, such as the Art Nouveau Voentorg department store or streets of 18th-century houses, he could always put up facsimiles that were bigger and better. Talk of history and authenticity annoyed him; as at the birthday party, he preferred to mix it all up and dwell on mythology instead. At weekends he would rush from one dust-filled site to the next in his flat black leather cap, every inch the boss-man, the khozyain, gleefully replacing the past.

He sought official permission for some of these projects, but did not really need to. Two years after Boris Yeltsin appointed him, definitively elevating him from his humdrum past as a chemicals-industry researcher and commissioner for distributing vegetables, he asked for, and got, full control of all state holdings in Moscow. His doubts about capitalism were soon put to rest. From the rowdy beanfeast that was privatisation he ended up owning 1,500 businesses in the city and a stake in 300 more. By 1996 these brought in $1bn a year. As Russia stumbled out of Soviet torpor into a brave freewheeling age, he was running a city that accounted for a quarter of the country’s GDP and was soaking up most of its foreign direct investment.

Critics moaned about corruption, but he called that slanders and lies, and beat them hollow in court. He was doing a roaring trade with backroom quid pro quos, which to him was simply normal behaviour. If a bank advanced him credit, obviously he gave them a share of city business. If benefactors helped him, he got them Kremlin offices. Mafiosi hung around him, but he was shrewder than to use them directly. And the fact that many of his building contracts went to the company owned by his wife Elena Baturina, the richest woman in Russia, was nothing, they both said, to remark on. She made her own deals.

You can read the rest of this piece here.

I played tennis this morning and came home nicely exhausted.

— See you tomorrow. Harry Newton

  • JD

    I’m astounded by your viewpoint Harry. I guess if you are an immigrant to this country you can pick and choose what is acceptable to you . You can ridicule because you have nothing to do with it, unless of course you can make money from it. American Presidents have too much power? That is of course until the world needs a leader to stop Hitler, or his modern day equivalent, the leader of Iran. If Trump is a bully then so was FDR and Truman. Obama seeking to appease Iran sent a tribute in hard cash. Trump, after our embassy was attacked in Iraq sent them an entirely different message, one that got their attention. You come across as a vain free rider, who besides paying your lawful taxes does nothing to honor those do the heavy lifting and make this all possible.

  • bruuno

    Harry, I’m so glad our nation (actually our “enhanced” democratic system) would never “elect” nor support a head of state with personality disorders.
    And that both major parties subscribe to the Founders’ rejection of monarchy.
    We can all sleep better knowing that. Right?

  • Lucky

    So you would prefer another World Trade Center incident that killed over 3000 people? Maybe worse? If I lived in New York City I believe I would support our presidents not berate them for doing their job of protecting America. Maybe you should leave world news and disasters to reporting by the press.