“Ain’t no drama, like family drama, cause family drama, don’t stop!“
Color me hopeful.
My father died when I was six years old and my brother is nearly a generation older and didn’t appreciate my existence. There was one man in the family who took me under his wing, my Uncle. He would take me fishing and camping and include me in his family events.
This was nine billion years ago when fake wood Station Wagons roamed the earth. It was back in the day, when department stores had a husky department for chubbinel or fat boys. My uncle had a bushel of kids all near my age. They were like my sisters and brothers. I would take the bus, some 17 miles away to his home, a place I felt welcome. My cousins and I would dance to the latest 45’s records on their Sears Silvertone Stereo.
He was the most important male in my life. I wanted to be like him, have a house full of loving children. I think my love for station wagons and minivans today is due to my admiration of this man . As I grew older, cracks appears in the relationship with my uncle.
Whisper’s from family members hundreds of miles away. He would interview me about the cost of my clothes and this news made its way to the Pacific Northwest. I learned that I was spoiled,took advantage of my mother. At thirteen, I was larger and taller than my uncle. When I was 18, he did something unthinkable to my side of the family. When I challenged him, he hit me in the chest. (my body didn’t move) I didn’t hit him, but I think this scared him.
From this moment forward, I became a pariah.
All contract between me and my grown cousins ended. It was like a death. Then the rumors began…….. My uncle created a number of false stories about my life. It didn’t matter he didn’t know I where I lived or what was actually happening in my life.
From that point forward, my cousins and I only saw each others at funerals. At the meetings, I always felt a spark of days gone by at the sad events, leaving me hopeful . But it wasn’t meant to be.
Days, years, decades. Marriages, Divorces, Children, Grand Children.and of course Death. None of our parents are alive.
Last summer, I learned about the death of one my cousins. The last time we’ve seen each other was at the funeral of her mother. I called her older sister to get the date and time of the funeral. She said, she didn’t know. Other relatives from out of state asked if I had information, because they wanted to attend. After a couple of un-returned calls, I Googled her name.
I learned the services was being held at Funeral home less than three miles from where I live. We actually lived an hour from each other. The downside, the services was taking place the very next day. I contacted my niece and and asked her if she would join me. A grandmother, she was a teenager the last time she’d seen this side of the family.
While it was a sad occasion, I was actually looking forward to seeing this side of my family, my niece brought her son.
Entering the building, I noticed the elder sibling. As children she and I were close and I was greeted with a smile. From there it was downhill. Our reception was chilly. Nice to see you and why are you here!
Although, the services began at two. Most of the people arrived after three. I could feel the divisions within the family. Children, and Grandchildren. Not the loving family, I remembered. Perhaps it was all in my mind back then or perhaps we all too young to develop resentments. Even though I was an unwanted guest, I was happy being with my family.
Forever hopeful, I exchanged telephone numbers with the family and announced that we should make an attempt to stay in touch. I could feel my niece and her son giving me the side eye, like please!! The two of them teased me in the car! A couple of weeks later, I contacted a couple of the cousins and Melba Toast had more moisture than the conversation. It takes two people to have a relationship so…….
Guess, I’ll see you next funeral.
I think its normal to hold on to those special times/memories. However, those memories, moments in time that can cloud our realities. Forever hopeful, we sometines stay in fruitless and sometimes painful relationships too long because of a memory .
If my uncle was alive, I would tell him about the positive impact he had on my life. Those memories make me smile today. At the end of day, we have to accept what is. Not what could be. It takes two to build a relationship. Angry, I’m not and resentments are a waste of time.
My uncle was highly regarded by his children which is to be expected. What he said about me may have irreparably damaged any possibility of relationship with my cousins. My love for them is there and that has to be enough.
Kamala Harris made history as the first woman, first woman of colour and first person of South Asian descent to hold the US vice presidency.
A tiny, lush Indian village surrounded by rice paddy fields is beaming with joy, its descendant, Kamala Harris, takes her oath of office and becomes the vice president of the United States.
Harris made history as the first woman, first Black American and first person of South Asian descent to hold the vice presidency.
In her maternal grandfather’s village of Thulasendrapuram, about 320km (200 miles) south of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state in southern India, people were jubilant as they set off firecrackers and distributed food.
“We are feeling very proud that an Indian was elected as the vice president of America,” said Anukampa Madhavasimhan, 52, a teacher.
Calendars featuring the faces of Biden and Harris have been distributed throughout the village by a co-operative.
Harris’ grandfather moved to Chennai decades ago. Her late mother was also born in India, before moving to the US to study at the University of California. She married a Jamaican man and they named their daughter Kamala, a Sanskrit word for lotus flower.
Harris visited Thulasendrapuram when she was five and has recalled walks with her grandfather on the beach at Chennai.
“A local politician conducted a special prayer and villagers have been distributing sweets and letting off crackers since [Wednesday] morning,” said village shopkeeper G Manikandan, 40.
The scenes were in contrast to the sombre mood in Washington – locked down due to security concerns and the threat of the novel coronavirus – where Biden and Harris are due to be sworn in later on Wednesday.
Ahead of the US elections in November, villagers in Thulasendrapuram had pulled together a ceremony at the main Hindu temple to wish Harris good luck.
After her win, they set off firecrackers and distributed sweets and flowers as a religious offering.
Posters of Harris from the November celebrations still adorn walls in the village and many hope she ascends to the presidency in 2024.
President-elect Joe Biden has skirted questions about whether he will seek re-election or retire.
“For the next four years, if she supports India, she will be the president,” said Manikandan, who has followed her politically and whose shop proudly displays a wall calendar with pictures of Biden and Harris.
Ahead of the inauguration, special prayers for her success are expected to be held at the local temple during which the idol of Hindu deity Ayyanar, one of the forms of Hindu god Lord Shiva, will be washed with milk and decked with flowers by the priest.
“I wish her well, success and I wish after four years she [Kamala Harris] becomes the president of the US, that is my wish, sincere wish,” said Sheshadri Venkatraman, the temple administrator.
On Tuesday, an organisation that promotes vegetarianism sent food packets for the village children as gifts to celebrate Harris’ success. Separately, artist Sudarsan Pattnaik has created a sand sculpture featuring Biden and Harris.
Genesis Motors,the luxury division of Hyundai is on fire. The South Korean automaker is known for building quality vechicles with the longest warrenty in the industry. Their vechicles have garnered many rave reviews and awards. But few Americans know about the company or where to find a dealership.
In 2014, Genesis Motors was introduced without any stand alone dealerships. For many customers purchasing a luxury vechicle, the dealership is part of the experience. Consumer feedback indicates such facilities can indeed drive higher satisfaction.
Customers value a superior customer experience. Luxury brands may more frequently offer premium services such as loaner vehicles, upgraded amenities, and services such as valet pick up and drop off.
Most Genesis’s are sold at Hyundai dealerships. Imagine, buying a Rolex or an Louis Vuitton bag online and being told to go to the nearest Wal Mart.
Genesis has a Concierge service where one can purchase the car online and the car would be delivered directly to you. The Concierege service will pick up your car and leave a loaner should your car needs servicing. However, should your emergency warrent you taking your car directly to a service department, you only option is taking your sixty thousand dollar Genesis to a Hyundai dealership.
While Internet shopping is becoming the norm, it cant replace the touch or the smell, touch or experience of buying car. Even the best brouchere or video cant tell how a prospective will feel or fit in a vechicle. Without a brick and morter dealership, the Company loses the ability to upsell or crossshop.
In 2009, Hyundai Genesis was Hyundai’s first luxury car sold in the United States.
Unlike, Lexus and Infinity, Genesis wasn’t mearly a rebadged Toyota Camry or Nissan Maxima. The Genesis was engineered from the ground up as a luxury vechicle, the rear wheel drive car shared few parts with Hyundai and offered an 5.0 V8.
Edmunds.com said, “With badges removed, the Genesis could easily pass as a Lexus or Mercedes-Benz, although we doubt many brand-conscious people would give a Hyundai a second glance .
In its first year the Genesis won several awards, including the North American Car of the year. Consumer Reports said the 2009 Genesis was it’s Top Rated Upscale sedan.
In 2014, Genesis Motors was introduced without a stand alone dealership. The second generation Hyundai Genesis was rebaged, the G80. This car was sold in Hyundai Dealerships. In 2017, it was followed by the flagship G90. The G90 is Genesis full sized luxury car. Similar to the Mercedes Benz S Class and the BMW 7 Series. The G90 was only available online or through a few stand alone Genesis dealerships. Sales of the G90 was dismal ,selling fewer than three thousand cars in the US and Canada in 2019.
In 2018, the 2019 compact G70 was introduced . The G70 was designed by Audi’s former designer Peter Schmeyer. The G70 won several Car of the Year awards including Motor Trends Car of the Year, the 2019 North American Car of the Year. Like the G80, the $35,000 G70 was sold on the same floor as the Hyundai Elantra.
2021, Genesis introduced three new models. An all new midsize G80 sedan. The GV80 SUV and GV70 a compact luxury SUV (in dealerships this summer)
The GV80 is a hit, the SUV has received rave reviews from CNET, to Forbes. Car and Driver didn’t compare it with Mercedes, Audi or BMW they compared to the $200k Bentley and the GV80 is currently on their 10 Best List for 2021.
Hyundai dealers have resisted opening stand alone Genesis Dealerships. To build a stand alone Dealership could cost dealers millions in a Covid economy. That’s a large investment for a division that sold less than 22,000 cars in the US last year..
Last fall,Genesis said they were bringing two Electric SUV’s to market in 2021. The billion dollar question? Will there be a Genesis Dealership near you?
President Donald Trump issued pardons for numerous people on his last day in office; however, the list does not include the Oklahoma man known to many as “Joe Exotic.”Advertisement
Joseph Maldonado-Passage was convicted and sentenced to 22 years in prison for a murder-for-hire plot and for violating wildlife laws. The leader of Maldonado-Passage’s legal team told sister station KOCO on Monday that they were extremely confident about getting a presidential pardon sometime Tuesday and that the Netflix sensation remains positive.
They also had a limo ready to pick up Maldonado-Passage from the prison he’s at in Fort Worth, Texas, and take him to a secure location.
President Trump pardoned former chief strategist Steve Bannon as part of a flurry of clemency action in the final hours of his White House term that benefited more than 140 people, including rap performers, ex-members of Congress and other allies of him and his family.
The number of arrests connected to the deadly attack on the US Capitol continues to grow.
On January 15th Guy Reffitt of Wylie ,Texas (a Dallas Suburb) was arrested by the FBI. He is accused of obstruction of justice and unlawful entry.
The FBI complaint included seven still photographs taken from Reuters video and broadcast on FOX News that investigators said showed Reffitt outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 . Data from his cell phone also confirmed he was at the Capitol when a mob rioted.
On Jan. 11, Reffitt told family members he had to “erase everything” because the FBI was “watching him.
On the January 16th, the FBI ent to Reffits home where they found an AR-15 rifle and a pistol during their search of Reffitt’s home.
Reffitt’s juvenille daughter and adult male son told FBI agents, their dad threatended them both with violence if they turned him into the authorities. He told his son if he “crossed the line” and reported him to the police, he would have to “do what he had to do.”
“Are you threatening us?” the son said, according to the complaint.
“Don’t put words in my mouth,” he answered.
The son took his comments as a threat to kill him, the FBI said.
Reffitt also threatened to “put a bullet” through his daughter’s cell phone if she recorded him.
His wife quoted him as saying, “If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors. Traitors get shot.”
The court document states that Reffitt’s wife told agents he is a member of the anti-government Three Percenters movement.
The Three Percenters, also styled 3 Percenters, are an American and Canadian militia movement and paramilitary group described as having right-libertarian and far-right ideology. The group advocates gun ownership rights and resistance to the U.S. federal government’s involvement in local affairs. Wikipedia
At the start of the new year, my husband and I were reflecting about what we hope for our two kids both now and as they grow up. Rather quickly, we agreed that we just want them to be happy, whatever paths they take. It sounded nice when we said it, and it’s true. I would love my children to be able to live long lives filled with joy.
The problem? Happiness, as a broad objective, is a pretty bad goal.
Most humans don’t walk around in a perpetual (or even semi-regular) state of bliss, because life is hard and because our brains have something of a negativity bias. Also, many of the things we humans tend to think will make us happy actually don’t.
Here are a few more key reasons why trying to be happier doesn’t necessarily work all that well, and what the science says about what does instead.
And pursuing that fleeting emotion too directly can really backfire, said Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor and vice chair of psychology at the University of California Riverside and author of “The How Of Happiness.”
She pointed to studies that find that people who “overvalue” happiness — those who state that their happiness at any given moment says a lot about how valuable their life is — tend to be less happy or become less happy over time.
“So if you’re too preoccupied with becoming happier, you might spend too much time monitoring your own emotions … asking yourself, ‘Am I happy yet? Am I happy yet?’” Lyubomirsky said. You might feel like a failure when the things you thought would offer some expected degree of happiness fall short, she explained.
Another key point? It doesn’t make sense to be happy all the time. “The goal isn’t to be happy 24/7,” Richard Davidson, founder and director of the Center For Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told HuffPost.
“Well-being is a skill,” Davidson said. “It’s something that can be cultivated.”
Money helps, but only up to a point.
Poverty takes an obvious toll on mental health and can become part of a really vicious cycle. Financial stress can hamper mood, physical health and increase a person’s likelihood of being exposed to trauma. All of that can then worsen economic outcomes.
But ample research shows there is a point above which money just doesn’t have much of an impact.
In their recent study on the “how” of well-being, Davidson and his colleagues identified four key pillars, one of which is awareness. He described it to HuffPost as the ability to “show up and be present” as well as the “capacity to know what our minds are doing.”
And indeed, numerous studies have linked mindfulness to well-being. But Davidson and his colleagues emphasize that it is not necessary to develop a formal, sitting meditation practice. Instead, they urge people to get in the daily habit of simply closing their eyes and taking 10 deep breaths, or tuning in to sensations during menial tasks throughout the day.
“You can do these practices when you’re engaged in other activities of daily life,” Davidson said. “You can do them while you’re doing the laundry, while you’re walking, while you’re commuting, while you’re cleaning house … you literally don’t have to take another minute out of your day.”
A 2019 study even found that having a stronger sense of purpose in life is linked to decreased mortality. Researchers are still exploring why exactly, but one possibility is that people who live with a sense of purpose actually have less inflammation in their bodies.
Experts believe the pursuit of purpose is really what sets us apart. “Humans may resemble many other creatures in their striving for happiness,” wrote researchers in a 2013 study. “But the quest for meaning is a key part of what makes us human, and uniquely so.”
And it’s all about understanding your core values, or your “true north” in life, Davidson said.
It is also critical, however, to find ways to link the mundane parts of everyday life to those core values.
For example, Davidson said, you might feel that connection with your family really drives you. So notice how things you do around the home, like washing dishes, cleaning up after kids or a partner, or going to work to earn an income that contributes to your family’s financial stability, are really in service of that larger unit.
“Even the most mundane tasks,” he said, “can be deeply imbued with a sense of purpose.”
And again, how you think about that effort — and all of your efforts to improve well-being — matters.
“Focus on the positive practices, like gratitude or savoring or physical exercise or kindness,” Lyubomirsky told HuffPost, “but [do] not focus too much on the fact that you’re doing them to make yourself happier..
A big Public Health England study published this week found that many asymptomatic coronavirus patients still had antibodies protecting them from re-infection, meaning many may be immune without knowing it.
As the Government races to vaccinate as many people as possible against the coronavirus, some are wondering if they’re already immune to the disease.
This week Public Health England released a study which had followed almost 21,000 NHS workers for close to five months.
It found that those who suffered from the coronavirus and had symptoms had a 90 per cent chance of avoiding falling unwell again with the disease over the next five months.
When people who had caught the virus but had been asymptomatic were taken into account, that number fell to 83 per cent.
PHE’s Siren Study will now continue to see how long natural immunity tends to last for among people who’ve caught the bug.
According to an overview of multiple different studies into Covid-19, around one in five people who catch the virus experience no symptoms.
With 3.2million people having officially tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, according to Department of Health data, hundreds of thousands may have caught the bug and acquired immunity without suffering any symptoms.
Many others who believed early last year, when scientists thought the virus was still contained in China, that they had the cold or flu, may in fact have caught coronavirus and now be immune.
Here is a list of the telltale signs that you may have had Covid-19 and might as a result now be immune.
It should be remembered that people who have caught the virus don’t have a free pass to start living like everything is normal.
Professor Susan Hopkins, senior medical adviser at PHE and the Siren study lead, warned: “We now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected from reinfection, but this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection lasts.
“This means, even if you believe you already had the disease and are protected, you can be reassured it is highly unlikely you will develop severe infections, but there is still a risk that you could acquire an infection and transmit to others.”
“Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on.
Memory loss and brain fog
An unpleasant and in a lot of cases long term effect of the coronavirus is a kind of mental fogginess.
Many sufferers of long Covid have reported having trouble thinking clearly for months after getting over the first part of disease.
On Thursday Labour’s Andrew Gwynne said that his memory was “shot to pieces”.
The MP explained he began to feel “grotty and run down” in March, went on to display Covid-19 symptoms, and his initial illness lasted for about 12 days although he still feels the effects today.
The MP for Denton and Reddish told the Commons: “My condition is not as severe as it was even just a few months back, there have been real improvements, but it’s been a hard slog to get here.
“For the first seven months or so the exhaustion came back frequently and to the point where doing just simple tasks around the house brought me out in massive sweats like I’d run the London Marathon.
“I had lots of dizzy spells, I’ve never had vertigo before this, and oh the brain fog – in a job where you have to be razor sharp, my short-term memory is shot to pieces.
“I’ve had to learn to pace myself, trying to push my limits would set me back.”
According to Professor Tim Spector more and more people are heading to doctors complaining of issues with their tongue.
The King’s College London epidemiologist, who heads the Covid Symptom Study App, said that the disease seems to cause tongue changes including pain, discolouration, swelling or a strange texture.
“Seeing increasing numbers of Covid tongues and strange mouth ulcers,” Professor Spector tweeted.
“If you have a strange symptom or even just headache and fatigue stay at home!”
If you are suffering from tongue issues it might be because you’ve had Covid-19, or that you’ve got one of a number of other conditions which can be the result of poor mouth hygiene, smoking or an unhealthy diet.
Some coronavirus patients have suffered stomach aches for weeks after catching the bug.
The American Journal of Gastroenterology published a study suggesting the virus could cause digestive problems such as diarrhoea.
It analysed data from 204 patients in China, discovering that 48.5 per cent of them had tummy issues such as vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhoea when they were first hospitalised.
This is another symptom which may indicate you’ve had the coronavirus, a host of other conditions or simply too large a dinner last night.
This symptom is a relatively rare one, but still thought to impact around 3 per cent of the millions of people who’ve had the coronavirus.
Doctors warned eye infections may be another sign of Covid-19.
Chelsey Earnest, a nurse at the Life Care Centre in Washington, said that red eyes are the ‘single most important’ sign that patients have COVID-19.
Speaking to CNN she explained: “They have, like…allergy eyes.
“The white part of the eye is not red. It’s more like they have red eye shadow on the outside of their eyes.”
Other people have reported symptoms like conjunctivitis.
After weeks of lockdown in the depths of the winter, it may seem difficult to tell coronavirus linked fatigue with general burnout.
Yet sufferers of this common long Covid symptom compare it more to a ‘flatlining’ sense of exhaustion than typical tiredness.
The symptom can have a crippling impact on people’s lives and turn the simplest of tasks into a huge struggle.
If you’ve been finding yourself low on energy, then you may be one of 38 per cent of people a World Health Organisation study found had Covid linked fatigue.
The images of people struggling to breath on ventilators will be some of the most enduring of the pandemic.
While the horrors acute patients suffer in intensive care wards are well understood, research into the impact seemingly mild cases of Covid-19 can have on lungs is only just beginning.
A lot of people who were asymptomatic to begin with have found themselves struggling to breath in the months since being infected.
If you are finding it hard to catch a breath or if your partner has noticed you’re breathing more heavily than normal, then you may be suffering from Covid-linked lung damage.
Although not one of the tell-tale signs we’ve been told to watch out for during the pandemic, hair loss may indicate you’ve had the coronavirus.
Doctors have long linked unexpected balding with recovery from fevers.
Enid Child shared a picture of her hair loss months after both her and her son tested positive for coronavirus
The grandmother-of-four, from Pencoe, originally fell ill in mid September, and tested positive for the virus days after.
But it was not until she was referred to her doctor in November that she learnt her hair loss was linked to Covid-19, usually emerging in patients months after their diagnosis.
The 61-year-old said: “The photo I posted was one morning’s brush worth.
“That’s why I bagged it – I was going to my doctors to get my first lot of bloods to check my iron levels and the rest because my iron levels had dropped. My practice nurse was quite shocked when she saw me.
“She asked does it come out voluntarily. I just put my hand up – by then my hair was waist-length – and ran my hand through my hair and I got another handful.
She said ‘I think you better speak to a doctor’.
“The doctor phoned me that afternoon and that was when it was confirmed it was an effect of long Covid.”
She added: “My hair has gone really really thin. Yes it still covers my scalp and things but I have lost an awful lot of hair.”
Anxiety and insomnia
Another symptom that is not the easiest one to spot – given the mental strain many are under each day at the moment – but researchers believe Covid-19 can lead to anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Scientists from the University of Oxford analysed electronic health records of 69 million people in the USA, including over 62,000 Covid-19 patients.
Their analysis revealed that in the three months following a positive Covid-19 test, one in five survivors were found to get a diagnosis of anxiety, depression or insomnia for the first time.
That’s about twice as likely as for people without Covid-19, according to the researchers.
Hearing loss and tinnitus
In November a study was published which showed many people suffered from hearing loss for months after catching the bug.
Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University looked at the hearing problems affecting Covid-19 patients, both in the short and long term.
In the study, the team analysed 3,103 Covid-19 patients with tinnitus – a condition that causes a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears.
The analysis revealed that 40 per cent of the participants experienced a worsening of their tinnitus amid their Covid-19 infection.
And while the majority of participants had pre-existing tinnitus, a small number reported that their conditions as initially triggered by developing Covid-19 symptoms.
Another classic sign of Long Covid, and one which seems to sneak up on a lot of previously asymptomatic patients, is dizziness.
Feeling suddenly wobbly or unsteady on your feet may be a sign you’ve had the virus.
Dean Dobson was off for work for months due to a particularly bad case of long Covid.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever had to experience in my life,” he said
“At the end of February I was at work and I just started getting dizzy, unsteady on my feet, being sick, struggling to breathe.
“I went to the hospital and the doctor who examined me mentioned that people were panicking about coronavirus as it was first hitting the world about that time.
“But he said it was an upper respiratory infection and I was sent home to rest.”
The “he” is, of course President Donald Trump. And the everyone is, well, everyone — but in this case Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who has risen to infamy in recent years as the President’s personal lawyer
In the wake of his second impeachment at the hands of the House on Wednesday, Trump told people around him to stop paying Giuliani’s legal fees.
As CNN reported on Thursday morning:“Trump has been blaming his longtime personal attorney and many others for the predicament he now finds himself in, though he has not accepted any responsibility in public or in private, people familiar with his reaction told CNN. Giuliani is still expected to play a role in Trump’s impeachment defense but has been left out of most conversations thus far.
“Seeking to do a bit of damage control Donald Trump Trump aide Jason Miller tweeted this out:
“Just spoke with President Trump, and he told me that @RudyGiuliani is a great guy and a Patriot who devoted his services to the country! We all love America’s Mayor!”(It may be worth noting here that Trump has been de-platformed from Twitter.)
Miller’s denial aside, the withholding of money from people performing a service for him is a long-standing Trump tactic. It’s, well, sort of his thing
.As USA Today wrote in 2016:“Donald Trump often portrays himself as a savior of the working class who will “protect your job.” But a USA TODAY NETWORK analysis found he has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans, like the Friels, who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.”At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.”
What’s 60 lawsuits between people you owe money and refuse to pay! Trump’s attempts to penalize — in a pecuniary fashion — Giuliani is simply one of the latest examples of how, in the end, Trump casts out everyone who has ever been loyal to him.
Giuliani, who two decades ago was among the most popular politicians in the country and who, had he never gotten wrapped up with Trump, would have had a legacy as “America’s Mayor” following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, has forever tarnished how he will be remembered by the public.
Rather than the face of America’s resolve in the face of terrorism, Giuliani is now known as the steady presence at Trump’s side — sweating and spouting increasingly wild conspiracy theories while his hair dye runs down his temple .
And for what? To be cast aside and blamed by Trump for something impeachment for inciting a riot — that Giuliani could not have prevented had he wanted to?
Trump, you see, is incapable of self-reflection. Or of accepting blame. Therefore he is endlessly in search of scapegoats for any “wrong” that befalls him. Nothing is ever his fault. It is always the fault of those who have somehow betrayed him. And everyone — with the notable exception of those to whom he is related by blood and marriage — eventually betrays him.
The rise and fall of Giuliani would be tragic if the former mayor hadn’t had so much agency in his demise. Giuliani, having spent decades in the same New York City orbit as Trump, knew exactly who the President was — and is. Why then would Giuliani subject himself to the whims of Trump, knowing that, eventually, he would be the one to be pushed in front of the bus?
Relevance, mostly. Giuliani’s moment in the national spotlight had largely passed after his failed 2008 presidential bid. He had become the thing he feared most: A has-been. Enter Trump, who a) Giuliani had long known and b) needed all the help he could get. And so, Giuliani made the deal — relevance (and some form of power and influence) in exchange for spending the years he was close to Trump in a defensive crouch — waiting until it was his day to be the scapegoat. That day has now come. But none of us — least of all Giuliani — should be surprised. This is who Trump is. This is what he does.
When anyone thinks electric cars, Tesla is ususually the first car mentioned. Tesla is massive, it is the highest valued automaker in the world. Last summer Tesla over took Toyota in valuation.
Tesla’s electric engines are efficent, their cars are fast and fun to drive. The electronics in Tesla’s is currently like no other vehicle on the plant. Like your phone or your PC, Tesla’s receives electronics updates. Tesla’s battery range is superior to every electric car on the market. ( meaning you can driver further in a Tesla on a single charge than any electric car in the world, )
Tesla’s negitivives are plenty. While Tesla has the expertise in building electric motors and batteries. The dont have the experenice of building high volume vehicles. Unlike Chevy and the established automakers. Tesla has a poor dealer network and there are fewer places to repair Tesla’s.
When it comes to fit and finish, Tesla’s brings up the rear, Tesla cant hold a candle to the electric Hyundai’s Audi’s, Jaguars and even the Chevy Bolt.
When the Model 3, were coming to market, social media suggesting, Tesla was assembling the cars with duct tape and other rudimentary techniques used to bring to early Model 3’s to market.
The new Mustang Mach E, Ford Motor Company’s, first mass market electric vehicles are slowly hitting dealerships.
Ford Being a little Shady?
Darren Palmer is Ford’s Global Product Development Director for battery electric vehicles. Palmer, spoke to Autoblog about the Mustang Mach E , he threw a little shade, touting Ford’s century of manufacturing experience.
“The doors fit properly, the plastics and other materials color-match, the bumpers don’t fall off, the roof doesn’t come off when you wash it, the door handles don’t get stuck in cold weather.
The inside story of a black sheep hedge fund, their massive bet that shopping malls would crash, and how they proved Wall Street wrong.
By: Ian Frisch/Equire Magazine
Catie McKee, Dan McNamara, and their boss Marc Rosenthal had millions of dollars riding on Crystal Mall in Waterford, Connecticut. The trio worked at MP Securitized Credit Partners, a tiny Wall Street hedge fund, and they’d stopped by the typical middle class shopping center in search of signs of life: Who was at JCPenney? Claire’s? Hot Topic? ThriftBois? What was up at VAPE CITY or BrowArt23? They couldn’t help but notice there was something depressing about the place: discounts galore, emptiness in every direction, a foreboding aura that signaled the end was near. It didn’t look good for anyone hoping for the mall’s success. But Rosenthal, McKee, and McNamara weren’t betting on Crystal Mall thriving—they were betting on it failing, and spectacularly.
It was October 2019. The threesome was in the business of betting against—or “shorting,” in financial jargon—commercial mortgage bonds, specifically those heavily weighted with debt issued to shopping malls. A year prior, in 2018, the team made a $2 billion bet that a series of shopping malls, including Crystal Mall, would eventually fail. If retail tenants vacated and the malls’ landlords defaulted on their mortgages, MP stood to make a killing. They had taken many trips like the one to Crystal Mall over the past two years: this downtrodden mall after that one, seeing firsthand the shopping centers, once the heart of the American retail sector that, they were certain, would soon be underwater.
It was a proposition which, in the age of Amazon, couldn’t possibly be considered risky on its face, but in the minds of traders on Wall Street, the threesome was taking a contrarian view: The conventional wisdom stood to reason that the debt propping up these shopping centers was stable, at least for now, whereas the team at MP was convinced that the malls’ landlords would default on their mortgages by 2022—and, most importantly, that if they didn’t have their bet placed now, they’d miss the chance at a huge payday.
After a long morning casing the storefronts, the team headed down the street to Olive Garden for a late lunch. The past ten months had proved to be near-fatal for their firm. A year into their trade, they hadn’t yet made a profit—in fact, they were losing millions of dollars every month. By the time McKee and McNamara took their boss to Crystal Mall, investors had pulled out of their fund, the small team was struggling to source more financing, and they even found themselves in a war over their trade with two big Wall Street investment firms. Although locked in a battle akin to David versus Goliath, Rosenthal’s excitement was palpable. It was his first mall tour, and to see the struggling center first-hand reinvigorated the kind of macabre confidence that accompanies any short bet. “He was like a little kid in a candy store,” McNamara remembered. Rosenthal told his employees that he wanted to drive deeper into Connecticut, to check out another struggling mall. He pulled out his phone. “It’s only an hour away,” Rosenthal said, pointing to his screen. “Let’s go!” It was late afternoon on a Friday, so McKee and McNamara convinced their boss to save it for another day. The team finished eating and drove back to Manhattan, their conviction cemented that they were on the right side of the trade.
The shopping mall began with the suburbs. In 1956, the Southdale Center, America’s first indoor mall, opened in Edina, Minnesota, just outside of Minneapolis. Life called it “The Splashiest Center in the U.S.,” and praised its “goldfish pond, birds, art and 10 acres of stores all…under one Minnesota roof.” The famed architect Victor Gruen designed Southdale, and his inspiration came from a place of disgust. He hated what American suburbia had become, likening their roads, to The New Yorker‘s Malcolm Gladwell, in a 2004 piece, to “avenues of horror…flanked by the greatest collection of vulgarity—billboards, motels, gas stations, shanties, car lots, miscellaneous industrial equipment, hot dog stands, wayside stores—ever collected by mankind.” He hoped the mall, a centralized retail destination, would fix that. (It did, for a while, until the veneer of “mall rats” and Black Friday stampedes diminished the allure of malls.) The indoor shopping craze soon spread to every corner of the United States. Three hundred malls opened by 1970, mainly catering to homemakers. The women could pop down, buy all the things they needed for their household, and potentially snag a new outfit along the way. The trend continued and, by 2017, at its peak, America was home to over 1,200 malls.
None of this—the Southdale Center, Victor Gruen, or how the mall transformed suburban consumerism—was top of mind for McKee when, in 2013, at age 25, she was hired at MP Securitized Credit Partners as a commercial mortgage-backed securities credit analyst. She spent hours each day scrutinizing pools of business mortgages that had been bundled into bonds and were bought and sold on Wall Street. She was looking for good deals to buy into, but also hairline cracks that could, over time and under the right conditions, break open like a faultline, giving anyone with a short position a chance at a huge payday.
McKee grew up in Stillwater, New Jersey, population 3,893, to a mother who taught pre-school and a father who owned a moving company. A precocious student, she earned a perfect score on the SAT Math, captained the field hockey team, and enrolled at Georgetown University. “By the time she was five years old, she was already smart and stubborn,” Ed Abrams, McKee’s father, said. “I’d tell her things she couldn’t do, but by the time we were done debating, I was the one who had given up and was feeling guilty. I told her she should become a lawyer.” McKee instead pursued a career in finance. She interned at UBS Bank and then landed a position in the research department at Bank of America. She wanted to be a part of the action, but got denied a position on the trading desk. Then she met Dan McNamara; when he offered her a spot on the MP team, she didn’t hesitate.
Dan McNamara—a diligent and gregarious Bostonian, broad-chested and wide-smiled—had joined MP in 2013 from the French bank Société Générale, to oversee commercial mortgage-backed securities. “He was young and hungry,” Rosenthal said. “We knew he’d fit in.” The group spent the next few years building up their portfolio, mainly investing in distressed assets, until, one day, in 2017, a curious tip came across their desks from Eric Yip, the then-chief investment officer at the newly-launched hedge fund Alder Hill Management.
Yip, who was born in Hong Kong and had moved to New Jersey at age five, practically grew up at the local mall, where his parents owned a shop. He even worked at Banana Republic during college. He traveled around the country, sometimes with his family in tow, and investigated the shopping centers first-hand. He became convinced that they were destined to fail. (Yip declined to comment to Esquire.) By 2017, it was obvious to anyone with an internet connection that e-commerce was killing brick-and-mortar shopping—especially when it came to malls. E-commerce’s share of total retail sales tripled between 2007 and 2018, big-box tenants like Toys ‘R’ Us had gone bankrupt, the physical size of malls was bloated compared to the amount of foot traffic they obtained, and malls in second-tier markets (which were less likely to have an anchor of stable tenants) were declining faster than their urban counterparts. Credit Suisse was predicting that by 2022 a quarter of all U.S. malls would close. To many, the transition seemed almost too obvious to even point out, but not everyone thought to short its debt. In a January, 2017, research paper, Yip called mall debt a “toxic cocktail,” adding that many high-risk loans are “backed by malls that we believe are highly likely to become ‘dead malls’ over the next several years.”
Shopping mall landlords are just like your average homeowner; they need mortgages. Much of their mortgage debt has been packaged together by big banks with other commercial real estate mortgages (hotels, office buildings, etc.) into “securities” that are actively bought and sold on Wall Street through the $1.4 trillion commercial mortgage-backed securities—or CMBS—market. These securities bundle dozens of loans into one convenient investment (while offloading risk for the lender), a place where you can park your money and theoretically receive a steady return as the underlying debt is repaid. It’s kind of like buying a government bond, but instead of the U.S. Treasury paying back the debt, it’s landlords who own commercial real estate.
By the end of 2017, Yip had identified two specific securities heavily weighted with risky mall debt—and became the first to short them. News of Yip’s trade spread like wildfire, and McKee and McNamara saw merit in his hunch. “Our take was, ‘We agree with your thesis, but we think you are a bit early,’” McNamara recalled thinking of the trade, adding that, because much of the debt matured—that is, was scheduled to be paid off—in 2022, he thought it’d be a little while longer before the bonds started to crumble. Nonetheless, it was only a matter of time, McNamara and McKee felt, before the tenants left the storefronts vacant and the malls defaulted on their mortgage debts.
Before MP decided to jump in, however, McKee took a few field trips. She knew the nuts and bolts of the malls’ on-paper financials, but her instincts told her that, if she looked at the malls from a different vantage point, she’d see a clearer picture. She drove to Crystal Mall in Connecticut; Poughkeepsie Galleria, Crossgates Mall, and Eastview Mall in New York State; Emerald Square Mall in Massachusetts; and Chesterfield Towne Center in Virginia. She flew out to California and checked out Solano Mall. She hit up the Shoppes at Buckland Hills on the drive back from a skiing trip in Vermont, and scouted Concord Mills Mall while visiting her grandfather in North Carolina. “One mall had a community room, just a series of random desks. It was this weird, free WeWork,” McKee said. “They would rather give free space than list it as vacant.” (McNamara called this “occupancy fraud.”) On another trip, she came across an unattended trampoline with a bungee cord strapped to it—what she considered a glaring safety hazard. McKee snapped some pictures, but was quickly approached by a security guard who demanded that she delete the photographs.
Rosenthal and McNamara, meanwhile, convinced Josh Nester, MP’s residential mortgage specialist to visit Fashion Outlets in Primm, Nevada, 30 minutes south of Sin City. When Nester arrived, he instinctively took out his phone to take a picture of his rental car so he could remember where he parked before looking around to discover he was the only car in the lot. “I go in, and I don’t see anybody for five minutes—an employee, a customer, nobody,” Nester said. “I joked that I should’ve gotten hazard pay to go to this place. It was like something out of a zombie movie.
Then, in October 2018, Sears declared bankruptcy, and they decided it was time. Here was the scheme: MP built a position against two slices—called “tranches” in Wall-Street speak—of mall debt with, they thought, a relatively low likelihood of being repaid: CMBX.6 BB and BBB-, which were filled with roughly $2 billion worth of debt, an outsized chunk of which was issued to 39 struggling shopping malls. They bought credit default swaps on the block of debt, which amount to insurance policies on the bonds. If the bonds went completely bust—similar to, say, your house burning down—they would be owed their entire value in cash. But even if the tranches decreased in value, MP’s insurance would be worth more and they could sell the swaps for a profit. In any case, it was an asymmetric bet: the downside risk was confined to what they’d have to pay to hold the insurance, but the potential payout was many multiples of that amount—theoretically in the billions.
It fell to Dan McNamara to make the trade. He called brokers at Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Credit Suisse to buy the credit default swaps. The brokers were intrigued by the prospect of a short, but they told McNamara point-blank that they thought it was a risky trade. “I remember multiple people saying, ‘Are you sure, Dan? It’s still too early. You’re pissing money away,’” he said. MP, however, held to their conviction. They bought the swaps. In the 2019 research paper that accompanied taking their position public, they wrote that “defaults and losses seem to be imminent.” Now all that had to do was wait.
Things did not immediately go according to plan. When you’re short a stock or a bond, you’re praying for pain in the markets, and if the Grim Reaper doesn’t show up, you’re going to pay for it—especially if you’ve purchased credit default swaps. They’re an expensive bet because, as with any insurance policy, MP had to pay a monthly premium against the value of the CMBX.6 tranches, which amounted to tens of millions of dollars per year—a significant accumulation for the small firm, which only had $250 million to play around with. To make matters worse, if the value of the bonds increased, so too did their insurance premiums. Eric Yip, who had been in the trade at least a full year longer than MP, found himself in the grip of this reality. Alder Hill was bleeding money, and the hemorrhaging caught up with his fund. In September, 2019, Yip backed out of the trade, swallowed the losses he had accrued, and shut down Alder Hill. Another firm, Sorin Capital, also shuttered its fund that traded in CMBX.
Things didn’t look much better for MP, who, thanks to the crushing premiums, found themselves in a 37 percent hole by the end of 2019—a roughly $92 million loss.“It felt like we were getting kicked in the teeth every single day,” McNamara said. Things became contentious with their pool of investors, who began pulling their money out of the fund. “It felt like a run on the bank,” Rosenthal said. “I said, ‘I need you to have confidence in me that we are right.’ [Investors] were like, ‘I don’t care.’” The firm had to lay off three employees. It was a dark time.
But it didn’t make sense: on paper, the underlying bonds were getting weaker—the malls continued to struggle—but their value in CMBX, the index that tracks their price, was going up. “We felt like Michael Burry,” McKee said, referencing the trader spotlighted in Michael Lewis’ bestseller The Big Short. “We joked that we were sitting in our basement banging on the drums,” McNamara added.
This was because two large mutual funds, AllianceBernstein and Putnam Investments, were on the other side of the trade—literally. Someone has to sell you credit default swaps (insurance isn’t created out of thin air), and although MP’s brokers didn’t explicitly come out and say that the two mutual funds were the ones selling the insurance, everyone at MP knew it. It was common knowledge that AllianceBernstein and Putnam thought the malls would survive, and had invested heavily into the CMBX.6 tranches. In effect, they were keeping the price of CMBX.6 high through sheer perception—and the size of their bet, which was reported to be upwards of $6 billion combined. “They made up a huge share of the market, so they were able to push the price around,” McKee said, adding that she and McNamara went around to large institutional investors and pitched their side of the trade, hoping they’d flex their muscles in the market. “We needed more soldiers to fight this battle,” she said. But they were rebuffed. In their minds, it was too risky a position to carry.
Four months after MP dropped their CMBX.6 research paper onto the Street, AllianceBernstein, led by Brian Phillips, director of commercial real estate credit research, issued their own research paper (51 pages, full color, fancy graphics), titled, “The Real Story Behind CMBX.6: Debunking the Next ‘Big Short.’” They wrote, “The CMBX.6. The acronym has splashed across headlines and become a source of controversy on Wall Street, [but] our research shows that the American shopping mall is evolving, not dying.” McKee was enraged. “I spent all weekend looking for mistakes and bad assumptions,” she said. “I made bullet points and sent them around to other hedge funds.”
A war had broken out between the longs and the shorts, and much of the tit-for-tat played out passive aggressively in the press. In 2018, Reuters wrote that Putnam Investments had been “winning—to the chagrin of hedge funds like Alder Hill Management LP that are on the other side of the bet,” with Putnam’s portfolio manager Brett Kozlowski disclosing that the fund was generating six percent annual returns on their CMBX.6 investment. Remember: When you sell insurance, you get to collect cash premiums every month, so this profit was coming directly from the nay-sayers’ credit default swaps. By boasting about their returns, Kozlowski was effectively rubbing it in the short-sellers’ faces.
In 2019, after Yip closed his fund, Business Insiderpicked up on the battle between MP and the mutual funds, quoting McNamara as saying the malls were “massively underwater,” and that McNamara believed that Putnam’s exposure to crumbling shopping mall debt could be higher than their financial disclosures revealed. It got more pointed in a subsequent Debtwire piece. “The fundamental question is why has CMBX held up?” an anonymous source told the trade publication. “It has everything to do with two managers who have taken a different view and have an endless amount of money to support it.” (When I asked McNamara if he was behind the quote, he started laughing and said, “No comment.”) Shortly thereafter, AllianceBernstein’s Brian Phillips told The Wall Street Journalthat short sellers were peddling a “false narrative,” adding, “they are focused on momentum rather than credit fundamentals.”
McKee, McNamara, and the rest of the MP team started taking it personally. They spent many evenings in 2019 brooding over beers and cocktails at Valbella, an Italian restaurant on the ground floor of their office building. Rosenthal pulled aside anyone who was even remotely tied to the CMBS market and chewed their ear off on how they were right and AllianceBernstein and Putnam were wrong. For McNamara, the trade seeped into his personal life. He lost 20 pounds. His wife, Jessica McNamara, told me his stress was palpable: “It was hard to watch him come home every day and be so frustrated,” she said. On a family outing to Vermont, McNamara was largely absent, sneaking away to call investors and persuade them to stick with the fund. In October, Jessica learned that she was pregnant with their second child.
Meanwhile, McKee was becoming known on Wall Street as “The Queen of Malls,” and other bearish hedge funds began asking her for advice on shorting CMBX.6. “All I did was talk about malls all day,” she said. This included portfolio managers working for the infamous billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn, who, by the end of 2019, had put on a $5 billion short position, arguably the largest by anyone on Wall Street. This went against conventional wisdom at the time, considering that the value of the mall debt was going up, but once word got out that Icahn had entered the ring, the trade was taken more seriously on Wall Street. “That made a lot of people stand up and say, ‘Hold on, we should look at this,’” McNamara said.
Icahn’s team had reportedly discovered the opportunity from none other than Eric Yip, who, some say, convinced Icahn to do the trade. “He turned a cow’s ear into silk,” said Manus Clancy, senior managing director at Trepp, a CMBS analytics firm. (After COVID-19 proved Icahn’s trade serendipitously fruitful, Clancy joked on the company’s podcast, “It’s like LeBron [James] winning a $30 million scratch-off.”) By early 2020, a handful of hedge funds had altogether purchased $11 billion worth of credit default swaps on the CMBX.6 tranches—a sum nearly six times greater than the value of the debt itself.
Increased popularity wouldn’t necessarily solve MP’s problems, however. Their investors felt comfortable with their other investments, but many just didn’t want to be exposed to their shopping mall short. McKee and McNamara had an idea. They convinced their bosses to let them start a subsidiary fund to that of MP Securitized Credit Partners, which they would call the MP Opportunity Fund. It would focus specifically on shorting CMBX.6, and would be only for investors who had the conviction to stomach the trade. “It took Marc about two minutes to say yes,” McNamara said. They gathered up a handful of investors who agreed to lock-up their money with the duo for three years. “Dan said, ‘Look, we have gone to see these malls. We know them inside and out,’” said Jordan Konicek, McNamara’s friend from college. “I trusted him, so I put more than half of my 401(k) into it.” Another close friend of McNamara’s stuffed ten percent of his net-worth into the fund. McNamara also secured one large institutional investor, who put in more than $15 million. McKee, McNamara, Rosenthal, and Nester even put some of their own money into the fund. They couldn’t pull out. It was do-or-die. They were all-in on the death of the American shopping mall.
On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization picked up on a report that a “viral pneumonia” had begun spreading in Wuhan, China. By January 21, 2020, the first case of SARS-CoV-2, as the coronavirus came to be known, was detected in the United States. It was the beginning of a pandemic that would eventually claim, as of this writing, over 250,000 American lives and decimate the United States economy. But, back then, as a winter’s chill settled over New York City, McKee and McNamara had no idea that this once-in-a-century public health phenomenon would come to affect their trade so spectacularly. In fact, they were still worried that they would even be able to continue making the trade at all: the cash from their new pool of investors hadn’t yet been transferred into the Opportunity Fund’s account. They needed the cash to buy the new batch of credit default swaps.
In February, as stocks plummeted, the CMBS market started buckling under the weight of the impending pandemic. McNamara immediately called the largest investor of their new CMBX.6 short fund. “I need the money!” he pleaded. “I need the money now!”
McKee was freaking out, too. It was February 28, a Friday—a full month before COVID-19 would engulf the city—and she had taken the day off to move into a new apartment on the Upper West Side. Her new place was on the 8th floor and, after the first trip up, the elevator broke down. Her father and uncle had driven into Manhattan to help McKee and her husband, and everyone began schlepping boxes up the stairs. Her WiFi hadn’t yet been hooked up, so she couldn’t track the price of CMBX.6 or see if the money had landed in their account. “She was really anxious,” Ed Abrams, McKee’s father, said. “It was a crazy day.”
She ducked outside and frantically called Rosenthal. “‘We are going to miss it! Where is the wire?!” she yelled. “We are going to miss it!’” She was terrified that, if they waited too long, the tranches’ price would drop and they’d lose their opportunity to put on the trade.
“We are not going to miss it, Catie,” Rosenthal told her. “It’s going to zero, don’t you worry.”
The money came in just before the market closed. McNamara immediately called Goldman Sachs and used every penny they had to buy credit default swaps on the CMBX.6 tranches. “They didn’t think I was crazy this time around,” McNamara said. Everyone at MP was confident that the market’s fear of COVID-19 would make these bonds go bust—and fast. They were right.
Between March and July, as businesses struggled to pay their rent, CMBS delinquencies, according to Trepp, increased by a staggering 492 percent, the value of the hotly contested CMBX.6 tranches were slashed in half, and the brick-and-mortar retail sector was on the verge of going belly-up. Large retailers like Gap stopped paying rent; Neiman Marcus, J.Crew, Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor, Loft, Pier 1 Imports, GNC, and JCPenney (among many others) filed for bankruptcy; Victoria’s Secret was closing hundreds of stores and Lord & Taylor announced it was closing its doors for good and liquidating inventory; TJX and Macy’s recorded losses of $5 billion and $2.5 billion, respectively; foot traffic for shopping malls plummeted to basically zero; and, in April, clothing sales fell 79 percent, the largest drop on record. “The economy has declared war on your aunt’s wardrobe,” Scott Galloway, marketing professor at New York University, mused on his podcast Pivot. As for Crystal Mall, Simon Property Group, its landlord, defaulted on the mortgage and is planning on handing over the keys to their special servicer.
CBL & Associates Properties Inc., which owns more than 100 shopping centers in the U.S., prepared to file for bankruptcy. Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners, the largest mall landlords in the United States, took a more proactive approach and bought a stake in bankrupt JCPenney, effectively making the corporations both landlord and tenant. Green Street Advisors, a commercial real estate analytics firm, estimates that 50 percent of department stores in malls will close by next year and, according to Cushman Wakefield, as much as 2.4 billion square feet of storefront could become vacant by the end of 2022. CenterSquare’s Scott Crowe has a more pessimistic view. He thinks up to 80 percent of malls will eventually go dark.
In June, as the retail and lodging sectors imploded, putting pressure on the CMBS market to keep its head above water, over 100 members of Congress, led by Texas Representative Van Taylor, signed an open letter to the Trump Administration and the Federal Reserve, effectively asking for a CMBS bailout, imploring that a relief plan be devised “for these borrowers, who through no fault of their own, have experienced a significant drop in revenue on account of the COVID-19 pandemic and related governmental orders.” CMBS veterans disagreed with extending a helping hand. “It is bad legislation and wrong, plain and simple,” Ethan Penner, one of the founders of the CMBS market, wrote in a blog post on Medium. “Borrowing from the CMBS system became a forum for mostly the greedy and risk-loving, or the clueless, none of whom deserve a bailout.”
COVID-19 also revealed a dirty secret hidden in the crawlspace upon which many commercial mortgage-backed securities were built. A University of Texas at Austin study published in August claimed that banks knowingly inflated underwriting income for $650 billion worth of commercial real estate mortgages issued between 2013 and 2019, including by 5 percent or more for nearly a third of the roughly 40,000 loans. “A well-documented historical pattern is that fraud thrives in boom periods and is revealed in busts,” the university researchers wrote, adding that end investors were unaware of this hidden risk, a deception akin to buying a Ferrari secretly outfitted with a rusted-out Kia engine. It could be argued that CMBS had been a magic trick all along, with big banks one step ahead, luring investors to pick a card from a rigged deck. It took a global pandemic—an act of God—to reveal this financial sleight of hand.
As COVID-19 barrelled through the United States during the spring, imperiling small businesses and whole sectors of the American economy, Catie McKee and Dan McNamara tried to figure out how long they should stay in their trade. They took some profits in March for MP’s main fund, which still held a small CMBX.6 short position—all the pundits kept chatting away about a “V-shaped recovery,” which made them nervous—but, as the weeks went on, the CMBX.6 tranches kept trending downward. They had more time, and wanted to see just how low the bonds would go.
Across the battlefield, COVID-19 spelled disaster for AllianceBernstein and Putnam Investments, who, in a matter of weeks, saw more than $1 billion wiped from their balance sheets. Despite this, Gershon Distenfeld, AllianceBernstein’s co-head of fixed income, told Esther Fung of The Wall Street Journal in late March that they were still in the trade for the long term, with Brian Phillips adding, “We are running stress scenarios, ’08, ’09 type of stress scenarios, and we are still comfortable.” Putnam chimed in, too, saying that the fund “stands behind its investment thesis and has fully and accurately described that thesis and its risks to our clients.
CMBX.6, however, has yet to recover, and the BB and BBB- tranches are still down nearly 40 percent year-to-date. “Their failure to truly rebound off May’s all-time lows signals a continued expectation of losses,” said Paul Shapiro, index product manager at IHS Markit, the market-data firm that created the CMBX index. “Long positions have reached a crossroads, and must now decide to cut their losses and unwind at current prices, or see the trade through and hope conditions improve.” Brian Phillips, who butted heads with the short-sellers left AllianceBernstein in June after fourteen years with the firm. (Phillips said that his departure had nothing to do with the CMBX index.)
When CMBX.6 hit bottom in May, Catie McKee and Dan McNamara decided to sell their credit default swaps and reap the profits. MP’s main fund, which includes other investments, was up roughly 75 percent year-to-date, a staggering turn of fate after a tumultuous run that nearly bankrupted the firm. McKee and McNamara’s sister fund, which was all-in on shorting CMBX.6, had it even better. They saw 120 percent returns after it was all said and done, an ungodly amount of profit considering that many hedge funds saw their capital cut in half when the stock market crashed. In just three months, the scrappy team and their black-sheep idea had brought in well over $100 million in profit for the fund and their investors (before filling the hole created by the previous year’s losses, of course). Carl Icahn, for his part, took home $1.3 billion.
A righteous person would say that making money off the back of a global pandemic is at best opportunistic and at worst downright immoral—that the ghoulish deus ex machina that made short-sellers rich included hundreds of thousands of people dying and widespread economic devastation—but McNamara doesn’t see it that way, especially considering that MP placed their bet over a year before COVID-19 began. “We knew one day that the balloon would pop,” McNamara said. “All COVID-19 did was speed up our thesis—the pin that pricked the balloon.” As for McKee, she felt a tinge of regret that the pandemic was the reason that their trade worked. “The catalyst we were hoping for was the opposite of a pandemic or a recession,” she said. “People will say, ‘You got lucky with the pandemic,’ but I don’t like that explanation. I want to be right because we worked our asses off to find this opportunity.” Moreover, according to McKee, short-sellers who investigate these complex securities can spot inefficiencies in the market, and potentially prevent investment firms that handle, say, retirement accounts from getting burned. “[These mall bonds] were priced for perfection at the onset, as if they wouldn’t take any losses, but when you look ten years forward, it’s a whole other issue,” she said. “They’re way riskier than most people thought.”
On June 8, two weeks after MP exited their trade, McNamara’s wife Jessica gave birth to their second child, a healthy baby boy named Christian. “He’s got a big head, just like me,” McNamara said. He took a week off of work to be with his wife and sons. “It was one of the best weeks ever,” he said. “It was a surreal moment, knowing that the craziness at work was over and I could focus on my two little guys.”
In August, McKee and her husband, Will, went on vacation to Nantucket. They ran into a family friend, Jack, who had introduced McKee to a colleague when the MP team was scouring for investors to back their CMBX.6 short. The colleague, McKee said, “acted like I was some college-aged intern that needed career advice,” and declined to invest. Jack asked her how the trade had panned out. McKee told him it ended up being a home run. Will’s godfather, Barry McCarthy, former CFO of Netflix and Spotify, and in whose house they were staying, overheard the conversation.
“What’s the next big idea?” McCarthy asked McKee.
“I don’t have one yet,” she said.
“Well, when you find it,” he told her, “make sure I’m the first person you call.”
Republicans, you should not be allowed to speak about being shocked by President Donald Trump or the recent right-wing raid in Washington, D.C., for your words ring hollow.
You all should be forced to shut the hell up unless whatever you have to say begins with, “I’m sorry.” You should not be allowed to condemn Trump or attempt to distance yourselves from him unless you begin with, “I have helped him, and I’m sorry.” You should not be allowed to cast aspersions on the people who stormed the Capitol building unless you begin with, “I helped cause this, and I’m sorry.”
You’ve known what we’ve all known about your lord and savior Donald Trump from the beginning, and you didn’t care. You still loved him. You should admit it and apologize!
My Morehouse brother and University of Connecticut professor Jeffery O.G. Ogbar summed it up well in a recent dispatch, “Donald J. Trump showed the world that he was unfit for the job as president when he ran in 2016. A pathological liar, over the next four years he assembled a collection of unqualified, corrupt and odious characters who, in record form, were indicted, arrested, pleaded guilty, were convicted or resigned.”
Ogbar is also correct when he observes Trump “pandered to the worst qualities in people — their fears and ignorance.” Yes, Trump is a liar, racist, demagogue and madman. But you Republicans, you so-called conservatives, were just fine with it. You loved it all. Yes, you loved him deeply, supported him unfailingly, demonized anybody who opposed him and rode shotgun with that maniac for the last four years. Don’t stop now — KEEP RIDING! Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.
Stop using Trump as your fall guy now that he’s done. You ALL should apologize, because you all are guilty. You have behaved like closed-minded, mean-spirited, nativistic, bigoted opportunists and sycophants without conscience or confession openly and notoriously.
So-called conservative politicians (from the vice president to the Senate majority leader to state house representatives), businesspeople, public relations experts, television personalities, newspaper writers and everyday people — you are all guilty. You have either supported the insanity actively or stood by silently while it rose to a maddening crescendo. Trump isn’t the disease, he’s a symptom. You are the disease. You are the problem. He was just your hitman. He will leave office, but you and your nastiness will remain.
You now have the temerity to leave your political posts in Trump’s orbit at the end of his reign of terror? No, you should be forced to stay. You dare to open your mouth on the Senate or House floor to condemn lies challenging a democratic election? No, be still. You supported all the other lies. Support this one, for you caused it as well.
You feign outrage now and say you are appalled when you see the Capitol building attacked? Stop it! You have gaslighted those racist, neo-Confederate foot soldiers for years. You are their benefactors. You are their champions. You are their friends. Their acts are your responsibility and your shame.
No thinking person is surprised by this. We all see the contradictions. Police weren’t prepared for what they inevitably faced from the insurrectionists in Washington because they were white. They subsequently took it easy on them because they were white. White people are always given the benefit of the doubt in America. The next thing you know, a booted Bubba is sitting in Nancy Pelosi’s office with his feet on her desk, scrawling threats. DeQuan would have been dead before breaching the building. That’s on you, Republicans. Own it.
You cried bloody murder when Black people and their allies stood up or took knees for justice and decency after they saw their kin killed in the streets by agents of the state all over the country. You called for blood when a few buildings were damaged or looted. Know this: Taking a few things from a Target store is nowhere near the same as targeting the nation’s Capitol.
Your white supremacy and racism have prompted you to spend years glorifying the Confederacy, Confederate statues, memorials, villains and fabricated history. And now you have your brethren marching through the Capitol, largely unfettered, waving Confederate flags. This is what you, and you alone, have wrought.
You now want to blame Trump. You want to make it his fault, his responsibility, his legacy. No, it belongs to all of you! You have enabled him and the insurrectionists. You have made excuses and rationalizations every step along the way. You have condemned those who sought reason and humanity. You have painted those of us who fight against American racism as racists. You all are culpable. You all are guilty!
Now you say once again, “This is not who we are.” Yes, it is. This is exactly who you are. And it is who you’re going to be until you apologize and work on changing. Until you can sincerely do that — SHUT THE HELL UP!
Ricky L. Jones is a professor and political philosopher with degrees from Morehouse College and the University of Kentucky. He is also the host of iHeart Media’s award-winning “Ricky Jones Show.” His column appears bi-weekly in The Courier Journal. Visit him at rickyljones.com.