Skip to content

Some tech investment picks. Keep moving. Don’t do anything stupid. And catching up on Saudi Arabia. A full plate.

Microsoft will report on October 24 (next Wednesday) after the close. Time to pick up some more. Here’s its nice trajectory this year:

Apple will report on November 1, after the close. Plenty of time to pick up a little more, also. The stock has been on a nice roll this year.

You get a little yield as well with both Microsoft and Apple.

My favorite yield stock is Ladder Capital. It’s now yielding 7.43% which is less than when I first recommended it. But since then it’s had nice run:

Netflix and Amazon were our two big gainers yesterday.

Useful tips

+ Keep moving. The gym. Biking. Walking. Jogging. Tennis. Swimming. Whatever it takes, you have to do something every day. Whatever you do, you must sweat. By tiring yourself, you raise your fitness, endurance and longevity.

+ If you make anything, put your name, product number and web site on it. That way people (like me) can buy more.

+ Watch traffic lights. I’m horrified how many cars run red lights in our peaceful town. But then, it’s New York. What do I expect?

+ Check your Spam folder. You’ll find important email you were expecting there.

+ If something computer, TV, Internet or phone no longer works, it’s most likely the cable.

+ Fidelity Active Trade Pro is a wonderful free piece of software that lets you keep track of your stocks and links to all your bank accounts and brokerage accounts and can give you a quick snapshot of what you are worth.

+ Check your spam folder regularly. The software police are increasingly aggressive about dumping my blog (and notes from Nigerian princes) into your spam folder.

+ Your bank has fine, free parking space for your tiny folding bike. Look carefully. You’ll see mine in the window:

New Stuff

+ My new Apple Watch Series 4 works well. I answered a call on the watch this morning. My caller said it sounded good. He didn’t know he was talking Dick-Tracy style on my watch. The watch is faster, and bigger, easier to read messages. The biggest benefit is being able to see who’s calling — before answering or having to fish your phone out of your bag. Great for the tennis court.

+ Amazon has a new Kindle. This one’s a beaut:

 

Says Amazon:

  • The thinnest, lightest Kindle Paperwhite yet—with a flush-front design and 300 ppi glare-free display that reads like real paper even in bright sunlight.
  • Now waterproof, so you’re free to read at the beach, floating on your pool, or in your bath.
  • Comes with 8 GB ($129.99). Or 32 GB ($159.99). I’d buy the bigger one if you want to listen to audiobooks from Audible (another Amazon company).
  • Now with Audible. Pair with Bluetooth headphones or speakers to listen to your story.
  • A battery charge lasts weeks, not hours. I haven’t tested it. But that’s what Amazon says.

For the new Kindle, click here. 

Favorite recent New Yorker cartoons

HarryNewton
Harry Newton.

Like everyone I’m horrified by what apparently happened to the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In my youth I was a journalist and traveled that part of the world. It could have been me. I have always harbored major disgust for the venomous, hateful form of Islam which Saudi Arabia exports to the world. Remember 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia.

Instead of attacking the root cause of the problem — Saudi Arabia — we invaded Iraq  and Afghanistan. And wasted American lives and American treasure. A couple of days ago, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times penned his thoughts on his friend, Jamal. Friedman makes total sense:

America’s Dilemma: Censuring M.B.S. and Not Halting Saudi Reforms
We have a national interest in Jamal Khashoggi’s saga by Thomas Friedman

I have three thoughts on the Jamal Khashoggi saga.

First, I can’t shake the image of this big teddy bear of a man, who only wanted to see his government reform in a more inclusive, transparent way, being killed in some dark corner of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by a 15-man Saudi hit team reportedly armed with a bone saw. The depravity and cowardice of that is just disgusting.

Second, I do not believe for a second that it was a rogue operation and that Saudi Arabia’s effective ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is very hands on, had no prior knowledge, if not more. And therefore, not as a journalist but as an American citizen, I am sickened to watch my own president and his secretary of state partnering with Saudi officials to concoct a cover story. The long-term ramifications of that for every journalist – or political critic in exile anywhere – are chilling. By the way, I don’t think they will get away with it.

This leads to my third point: How should America think about balancing our values and our interests going forward? The best way to answer that, for me, is to go back to the basics. I always knew that M.B.S.’s reform agenda was a long shot to succeed, but I was rooting for its success – while urging the Trump administration to draw redlines around his dark side – for a very specific reason. It had nothing to do with M.B.S. personally. Personally, I don’t care if Saudi Arabia is ruled by M.B.S., S.O.S. or K.F.C.

It had to do with how I defined our most important national interest in Saudi Arabia since 9/11. And it is not oil, it’s not arms sales, it’s not standing up to Iran. It’s Islamic religious reform, which can come only from Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.

By pure coincidence my first job as a foreign correspondent was in Beirut in 1979. The first two big stories I covered were the Iranian revolution and the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by an ultra-fundamentalist Saudi extremist preacher who claimed that the al-Saud family members were corrupt, womanizers and Westernizers.

That Mecca takeover terrified the Saudi ruling family. So, to shore up its religious credentials and protect itself, it made a sharp religious right turn in 1979, letting clerics impose much tighter religious controls on the society and expand exports of their puritanical Salafi Sunni brand of Islam abroad – building mosques and schools from London to Indonesia and from Morocco to Kabul, funded by higher oil prices.

This had a hugely negative effect on education and women’s rights and political freedom throughout the Arab-Muslim world – and the most extreme version of this fundamentalism, Salafi jihadism, also inspired the hijackers of 9/11 and ISIS.

I believe 9/11 was the worst thing to happen to America in my lifetime.

We can debate what was the right response to the attacks – Afghanistan, Iraq, the global war on terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security, or metal detectors everywhere. But we cannot debate the costs.

We have spent thousands of lives and some $2 trillion trying to defuse the threat of Muslim extremists – from Al Qaeda to ISIS – dollars that could have gone to so many other needs in our society.

And I believe that the roots of 9/11 came from two terrible bargains. One was that bargain between the Saudi ruling family and the kingdom’s religious establishment, where each blessed the other. The other was America’s cynical bargain with the Saudis, which went like this: “Guys, just keep your oil pumps open, your prices low and don’t bother the Israelis too much, and you can do whatever you want out back – preach whatever hate you want in your mosques, print whatever conspiracy theories you want in your papers and treat your women however you want.”

On 9/11 we got hit with the distilled essence of everything that was going on out back. Which is why this column, since 9/11, had been highly critical of Saudi leaders for not reforming their version of Islam, something that would require economic and social modernization as well. They would arrest religious extremists, but Saudi leaders almost never engaged them in a public war of ideas.

And so what most caught my eye about M.B.S. and made me most hopeful was his tentative willingness to engage in a war of ideas with his religious hard-liners, declaring publicly: “Do not write that we are `reinterpreting’ Islam – we are `restoring’ Islam to its origins.” He argued publicly that Islam in its origins was tolerant of other faiths and empowering of women and open to new ideas.

He seemed to be aiming to replace Saudi fundamentalist Islam, and its clerics, as the primary source of his regime’s legitimacy with a more secular Saudi nationalism – one, to be sure, that had a strong anti-Iran and anti-Qatar tenor.

Hey, maybe it was all just a fake to cover for a power grab and win Western support. But a lot of young Saudis I spoke to thought it was real and wanted more of it. On this question of Saudi Arabia’s most toxic export that had affected America and the whole world – jihadi Islamism – M.B.S. was doing and saying stuff that had real promise.

As veteran U.S. Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross recently pointed out in an essay in The Washington Post: “M.B.S.’s appointment of Muhammad al-Issa as the head of the World Muslim League has sent a powerful new message of tolerance and rejection of radical Islamist teachings. His visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, his commitment to interfaith dialogue and his calls for peace mark a significant departure from his predecessors.”

But now M.B.S.’s government also has Jamal’s blood on its hands. Should we all overlook that as President Trump is doing? We must not, and, in fact, we cannot.

For starters, I believe that the promise of M.B.S., however much you did or did not think he could bring social, economic and religious reform, is finished. He’s made himself radioactive – absent a credible, independent exoneration for Jamal’s disappearance and apparent murder. M.B.S. may be able to hold onto power in Saudi Arabia, but his whole reform program required direct foreign investment – and money has been flowing out of Saudi Arabia for months, not in. Now it will get worse.

Yes, I covered the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre. I know that money has a short memory. But Saudi Arabia is not China. There has been just way too much craziness coming out of the M.B.S. government for many investors to want to make long-term bets there today, which is too bad. It will weaken any hopes of future reform.

And here’s one more complication. Even if M.B.S. were pushed aside, if you think there are a 100 Saudi royals with the steel, cunning and ruthlessness he had to push through women driving, removing the Islamic police from the streets and reopening cinemas, you are wrong. There are not. All of these reforms had intense conservative opponents. This is not Denmark, and yet, without sweeping social, economic and religious reforms, Saudi Arabia could well become a huge failed state. Remember, one of ISIS’ biggest sources of young recruits was Saudi Arabia.

And by the way, if you think M.B.S. had a dark side, you ought to look under some rocks in the kingdom. You will find some people there with long beards who don’t speak English who believe the most crazy stuff about Shiites, Jews, Christians, Hindus, America and the West. And right now, trust me, they are applauding Jamal’s assumed murder.

So, once again, what do we do? I don’t have a simple answer. It’s a mess. All I know is that we have to find some way to censure M.B.S. for this – without seeming to attack the whole Saudi people and destabilize the country. And we have to make sure that the social/religious reform process in Saudi Arabia proceeds – whoever is in charge there. Because that is a vital U.S. interest.

But you can’t fix stupid. And when your ally does something as sick and as stupid as the Saudis apparently did in Istanbul, there is just no easy fix. But Trump might start by appointing an ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He has never had one – and it shows.

Friedman’s original piece is here. 

In case you missed yesterday’s blog, “Rethinking Enthusiasm …” which explains why I like technology, the Internet and the Cloud as a sound investment philosophy, it’s here.