Wednesday, November 23, 2016

DOW Breaks 19,000!

Ahah! The DOW has reached an all-time high! Obviously this is a confirmation that the markets support the new administration!

Well, not quite. Part of it is that the economy has been throwing off healthy signs for quite some time now,and regardless of the propaganda off the campaign trail, we continue to see an upward trend. This is what in cooking terms is "carry-over heat" where the turkey's internal temp keeps rising even though you've killed the heat in the oven (pardon the analogy, but 'tis the season).

Part of the rise is that finally, for good or ill, is that things are over. The markets have been doldruming in the mid 18000s for a while now, waiting for the decision. Every investment operation had an "A" envelope and a "B" envelope, depending on the results. A lot of groups didn't have much in the "B" envelope since it didn't look likely, but still, at least there was an envelope. So systems are locked in place.

The weird thing is that no one is really sure what the "B" envelope exactly means. The new guy is fleeing the sweeping declarations he made to get elected at something approaching lightspeed, and no one is quite sure if he means what he is saying NOW or if he's going to heel-turn again. The level at which people are trying to figure out who's REALLY in charge is high, and probably will be with us for some time. This happened with the younger Bush, who conventional wisdom said was the not the brightest soul, but had his father's advisors. And look how that turned out.

So we're probably in for a period of unsettlement in the markets (and everywhere else). If asked if I know where this will go, I can only shrug my shoulders - we're in undetermined territory. I expect the usual suspects will look at this as a sign the "All Will Be Well", but most of these doofs were the same guys who have fretted with every step of the last 10,000 points on the DOW under the last guy. Perhaps I will get to the point of having to write "DOW Breaks 29,000!", which would be kinda cool, but I have my doubts.

More later,

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Play: Totally Modern Shakespeare

King Charles III by Mike Bartlett, Directed by David Muse, through 18 December, Seattle Repertory Theatre.

A very political play, set in an England of the very near future, where Her Majesty Elizabeth II has passed on, and Charles, her greying son, is finally taking the throne. And the new King goes to loggerheads with the Parliament almost immediately over a measure that would restrict Freedom of the Press. The new king is against such a measure, even though it might get the Barons of Fleet Street off his and his family's collective backs, and refuses to provide the royal signature to make it a law (no Pocket Veto in England). The Prime Minister denies that the Crown has the right to withhold its signature. And we are off to the races.

Interesting enough, but the play is written in blank verse. Which is to say iambic pentameter. Which is to say it is written in that lyrical fashion in which Shakespeare himself wrote. Which means the result feels like something off the stage of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the histories, transplanted into the present say, with rhyming couplets to end a scene that use the words "cell phone".

And much to my surprise, the entire thing works. Shakespeare stalks the halls of Buckingham Palace, where Young Prince Harry evokes Young Prince Hal, even as he fears his fate is to be Falstaff, Kate Middleton is possessed by the spirit of Lady MacBeath, and yes, a ghost of a dead royal shows up. (Or maybe two. I wrote an essay back in college about whether the ghost of Hamlet was singular or plural - it applies here as well). The language among the Brit elites and the people flows naturally for all its poetic, non-rhyming nature.

Robert Joy, as the new King, sketches out a man unprepared, even at this point, to fully emerge from his parent's shadow and take command. And when he takes command, he does so armed with traditions of the past and a willingness to dig his heels in. Ian Merrill Peakes as the Prime Minister is surprised and frustrated by a suddenly intractable monarch, and Bradford Farwell makes for an opposition leader that could have been out of an old episode of Yes, Minister.

Of the family, Christopher McLinden makes a William that is his father's son, and Allison Jean White a bright-eyed, very aware Kate Middleton. Harry Smith as bad-boy Prince Harry engages in a Prince and pauper romance with Jessica (Michelle Beck), a revolutionary with a soft spot, capable of serving as a companion on Doctor Who. The play requires that Prince Harry hasn't encountered a lot of normal life, but that is a small concession for the romance, which will not end well.

The stage is set like Westminster Abbey, with stone ancestors pressing down on the action below. The centuries of monarchy (constitutional and otherwise) weighs heavy on the heads of those who are carrying it forward. Each side believes they are right, but things quickly get out of hand and a tank is parked at Buckingham Palace while King Charles by turns stands resolute and wishes for an easier task so soon in his rule.

In many ways the play was a wondrous cathartic experience, given the recent developments in these parts. The play was written pre-Brexit, but has the feeling of the continual stress and pull of ruler, oligarchy, and people rings true as it moves from the death of one leader to the coronation of another. It does evoke the LBJ play, All the Way, with its protagonist wanting to be validated, to be proven he is worthy for the position he holds. But unlike LBJ, the Charles is this play does not have the right tools and temperament to succeed.

Highly recommended. More later,

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Political Desk: After the Dust Settles

So, what do we have?

This time around, there doesn't look like much that is hanging fire. Due the nature of mail-in ballots, close races sometimes need to wait days, if not weeks, for resolution. But most of the spread of votes here are wide enough to make it clear at the outset. Should it shift radically, I'll update.

I got it totally wrong about the biggest item of the ticket. In fact, I got it completely backwards - Ms. Clinton lost the electoral vote but (at the time of this writing) is winning the popular vote. I regret nothing, and continue to think that Ms. Clinton would have been a better President. But for our little chunk of Pacific Northwest, we did OK. When I got here almost 20 years ago we were out of step with the rest of the country, then became one of the leaders for progressive government, and now we're out of step again. I can work with that. (Though I was kind of looking forward to the taco trucks).

One thing I do want to call out is that yelling at supporters of  Third Party candidates for the loss is kinda off-base. I can't see someone who supported Mr. Johnson's policies suddenly becoming a Democrat if Mr. Johnson had suddenly went away. And if you were so MAD at Ms. Clinton you'd vote for Mr. Johnson instead, regardless of his policies, you'd just as likely vote for Mr. Trump in protest or not vote at all. I also think, as a Sanders supporter, that we would be looking at a McGovern/Nixon level of destruction were he the candidate.

OK, let's see what the damages are (RED is stuff I had endorsed that went the other way):

Initiative Measure No. 1433 (Statewide Minimum Wage) YES
Initiative Measure No. 1464 (Campaign Finance Reform) - NO
Initiative Measure No, 1491 (Reduce access to Firearms) - YES
Initiative Measure No, 1501 (Protect Seniors from Fraud/Reduce Transparency) - YES
Initiative Measure No. 732 Carbon Tax) - NO (This one disappoints me. If it failed because it was "not good enough", now it is our obligation to make one the IS "good enough").
Initiative Measure No. 735 Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizen's United -  YES

Advisory Vote No. 14  House Bill 2768 - MAINTAINED
Advisory Vote No. 15 Second Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2778  - MAINTAINED

Proposed Amendment to the State Constitution Senate Joint Resolution No. 8210. (Move redistricting deadline) - APPROVED

King County Charter Amendment No. 1 Nonpartisan Prosecuting Attorney.  - YES 
King County Charter Amendment No. 2 Gender-Neutral Language. -  YES

President of the United States Donald Trump
US Senator - Patty Murray
US Representative, 9th District - Adam Smith

Governor - Jay Inslee 
Lt. Governor - Cyrus Habib
Secretary of State - Kim Wyman
State Treasurer - Duane Davidson
State Auditor - Pat (Patrice) McCarthy (This one actually makes me happy. I think we need a professional to muck out the stable after the last guy).
Attorney General - Bob Ferguson 
Commissioner of Public Lands - Hilary Franz 
Superintendent  of Public Instruction - Chris Reykdal
Insurance Commission - Mike Kriedler 

Legislative District No. 11 State Senator - Bob Hasegawa 
Legislative District No. 11 Representative Position No. 1 - Zack Hudgins 
Legislative District No. 11 Representative Position No. 2 - Steve Berquist 

Justice Position No. 1Mary Yu
Justice Position No. 5:  Barbara Madsen
Justice Position No. 6: Charles (Charlie) Wiggins

Court of Appeals, Division No. 1, District No. 1 Michael J. Trickey

Judge Position No. 14: Nichole Gaines Phelps
Judge Position No. 26: David Keenan
Judge Position No. 31Helen Halpert
Judge Position No. 44Cathy Moore 
Judge Position No. 52: Kristan Richardson
Judge Position No. 53: Mariane Spearman

Sound Transit (A Regional Transit Authority) Proposition No,. 1 Light-Rail, Commuter-Rail, and Bus Service Expansion - APPROVED (This is huge)

Kent School District No,. 415 Proposition No. 1 Capital Improvement and School Construction General Obligation Bonds - APPROVED

And with that the Political Desk returns to mothballs. Until the next time (duh-duh-DUH!)

More later,

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Play: In the Blood

Roz and Ray by Karen Hartman, Directed by Chay Yew, until 13 November, 2106, Seattle Repertory.

The first thing you notice is the stage backdrop - a chaos storm of chairs, rockers, cribs, and children's toys, all in shades of white. A preschool Guernica. It doesn't get any easier from there on out.

Roz and Ray is about the spread of the HIV Virus among hemophiliacs in the 70s and 80s. Roz (Ellen McLaughlin) is Dr. Roz Kagan, specializing in pediatric hemophilia. Ray (Teagle F. Bougere) is Ray Leon, father of hemophiliac twins. In the opening scenes, Ray is hailing Roz as a savior, as a new blood product will give his kids a shot at a traditional life. Moments later it is ten years later and he's standing outside the hospital with a sign, bellowing that Roz Kagan killed his sons. The play is linking those moments.

It is complicated. The encompasses a time when AIDs was burgeoning into our blood supply and our national consciousness. What seems to be a miracle cure for hemophilia turns into a nightmare, and the relentless forces of medicine and markets forces decision-making in real-time with no redemption for a wrong choice, and no chance for a right one.

There is something else going on as well - Roz and Ray hook up. Her marriage is falling apart and he sees her as the mom his kids don't have. And that snakes through everything as well. Like I said, it is complicated.

Bougere has the more volatile role, spinning on a dime to transverse the decades. Sometimes equally overwhelming and overwhelmed, his Ray is a force of chaos dedicated to his unseen kids. Roz is a sense of order, and goes from eager and overloaded to just tired and worn out over the course of the years, dealing with the plague among her charges, a plague she had aided in spreading. Remorse and responsibility stalk through the play, and if the writing is a bit earnest in places, it tries to bring things back to the crisis at hand.

Its a tough play, and jumping through time gives both a sense of inevitability and a feeling of closure. Both actors swing for the fences with their parts, and is a good, tight, play for the Rep.

More laterm,