Every year since 2002 I have closed out the year with my satirical look at the world through the eyes of a professional investor poking fun at what has transpired in our global society in the year we are about to turn the page on. You can access a complete list of all prior years’ articles at www.lakeviewasset.com. 2011 has certainly been a topsy turvy year no matter where you may call home. I hope that 2012 will be a year of health, happiness and prosperity for all members of my family, clientele, students, co-workers and readers. So without further ado, here is my List of 10 Things I Won’t Miss About 2011 (and never want to hear about ever again), in no particular order:
1. GREECE – Since the death of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE, Greece’s contributions to the Western World have diminished in importance. I would not say that the country was irrelevant but let’s just say that Greece was more valued as a travel destination than economic, political, academic or military powerhouse for many centuries. My father-in-law would disagree to some extent by saying that the advent of the diner was a valuable contribution to the development of the State of New Jersey. But, let’s not digress any further. All of a sudden, in 2011 the country of Greece became the single most important focal point in the global economy with the country’s fiscal mess a fulcrum between global economic collapse and prosperity. If I manage to hear about Greece again before I plan a trip with my wife over there then it will be all too soon.
2. THE PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE COMMERIAL – Every year there is some commercial that really gets on my nerves. While I can’t get enough of the Geico (a Berkshire Hathaway (BRK/A; BRK/B) company) gecko commercials, the Progressive Insurance (NYSE:PGR) commercials starring its Flo character are just too painful to watch or listen to. If you don’t believe me then see for yourself Thankfully I have Verizon FIOS (NYSE:VZ) and we can freeze, skip or fast forward through these commercials at will.
3. PROFESSIONAL SPORTS LOCKOUTS / STRIKES – So let me get this straight, professional athletes who get paid millions of dollars but work less than schoolteachers need to get paid more from their billionaire bosses. We have nearly 9% of the workforce unable to get a job in the United States but we should feel sorry for the NBA and NFL athletes who need to make that much more. Of course, we also can’t feel sorry for the owners, many of whom buy their sport franchises with pocket money and manage them like they are playing an EA Sports (NASDAQ:EA) video game.
4. ELECTRIC CARS – Here is the good news – they might be more energy efficient. I will emphasize might because I am yet to be convinced that they are when you examine it in detail. Here is the bad news – they are prone to spontaneous combustion. I will take my automobile fires the old fashioned way. That is by driving an old Ford (NYSE:F) Pinto and getting rear ended. Otherwise, I feel safe by sticking to gasoline powered engines in my cars. I do not think that the world will be charging up General Motors (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet Volts like they do their Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhones anytime soon.
5. OCCUPY WALL STREET – Your parents spent $150,000 so you can study art history or literature. Dad and mom want to enjoy time together after working hard their entire life so you can go to school, eat out at restaurants, drive a nice car and carry around the latest technological gadget. You graduate and dad says that you should get a job. Reading Shakespeare in your room or playing Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) games like Farmville on Facebook is not a productive way to spend your life. You could not get a job on Wall Street. You could not get a job on Main Street. So complain. Act spoiled and jealous. Blame Wall Street. Let me explain something to those OWS protesters. Without Wall Street, you would not have had the capital to: build schools; build roads and bridges; finance research for life saving drugs; and, produce heat and electricity. Those are a few examples that barely scratch the surface. Did Wall Street get bailed out by taxpayers? Some companies did and others did not. The world did not end though it might have deteriorated rapidly into financial and political chaos had the banks not been bailed out. Get over it. It happened. Life goes on. Move on with your lives. Do something productive. Help feed the poor, house the homeless or teach the illiterate. Just stop whining. If you don’t like it here in the US may I suggest you move to North Korea, Somalia or Syria where Wall Street is less pervasive. Thank your parents for their hard work and take a cue from them by working hard and not complaining. Repay them by doing something productive with your lives. One last thing, life is not fair. Some people get paid more than others. It happens. Just ask those athletes I talked about before. Accept it.
6. ANGRY BIRDS – It is like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Those Angry Birds. They are everywhere you look – in stores, the internet, on mobile devices. I have to wear, even indoors, a hat so that Angry Bird droppings don’t fall on my head. I thought Pac Man was just fine. For the sake of sexual equality Ms. Pac Man was OK too. The Super Mario Brothers can still be quite entertaining. I wonder if they had any sisters. Somehow in 2011 I was made to feel that my life was incomplete without Angry Birds. I like my life just fine the way it is and will stick with pinball.
7. JUSTIN BIEBER – What does Justin Bieber have that Ricky Nelson, David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy, Davy Jones, Joey Lawrence, Leif Garrett, and Zack Efron don’t have? Nothing but current media attention. That too shall pass and Bieber will be just wind up as another washed up teen heartthrob. He will either get a sitcom or star on a reality show. Time will tell.
8. QUIKSTER – What happens when you introduce a new product that nobody wants and jack up the price of a product that is a bit hit? You get a marketing disaster brought to you by Reed Hastings and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). Netflix ended last year at $175.70, rocketed to $304.79 in the summer and then collapsed to as low as $62.37 before rebounding a few points into the end of the year. I have seen plenty of company meltdowns that were caused by fraud or improprieties – do you remember Enron and WorldCom? Never have I seen a company disintegrate before our very eyes in such a short period of time that was caused by a management screw up as happened with Netflix. Did Hastings think that Netflix had the New Coke (NYSE:KO)? Even Coke learned this year that they could not pull a New Coke once again when they sent out holiday cans of regular Coke that looked like Diet Coke cans.
9. ANGELA MERKEL & NICOLAS SARKOZY – There was Lucy & Ricky, Ralph & Alice, Sonny & Cher, Fred & Wilma, George & Gracie. Now we have to deal with the Angela & Nicolas show. However, this comic duo affects hundreds of millions if not billions of lives around the globe. If Merkel’s girdle is on too tight then the markets go into free fall. When Sarkozy savors a fine Bordeaux then the markets will rebound. There are more unnamed sources in the European Union than one could imagine and each can move the markets by a few percent when they pass wind. Then again, who are we to criticize the Europeans? After all we have the Three Stooges running our government over in Washington.
10. DICTATORS –Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi (is there an accepted way of spelling his first and last name?), Ali Abdullah Saleh, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Kim Jong Il are all gone from power (or life). Adios. Good riddance.
Disclosure: At the time of this commentary Scott Rothbort, his family and/or clients of LakeView Asset Management, LLC was long BRK/B. AAPL, VZ stock, F warrants and AAPL calls— although positions can change at any time.
Scott Rothbort is also the publisher of the LakeView Restaurant & Food Chain Report, a newsletter focusing in on food, restaurant and agricultural stocks. You can subscribe at www.restaurantstox.com
You can access more daily commentary from Scott Rothbort, on Wall Street All-Stars.