Metrics

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Photo by Black Ices from Pexels

Many of us fixate on numbers. We are concerned about our weight, net worth, credit card balance, retirement income, sales goals, cost of tuition, departure time for a plane etc. 

Listed below are some personal metrics that don’t merit any national or scholarly attention but amuses me:

43: Number of years that my wife and I have been married. It certainly has been an accomplishment to have been married this long. It is reported that 50% of all U.S. marriages end in a divorce or separation. To those who ask about the secrets to marital longevity, my only answer is to choose the right partner and I certainly did. She deserves 99.5% of the credit as she has had to endure my many moods and temperaments as I navigated the rapids of life.

46: This number represents my resting heart rate. It is a relatively low heart rate especially for someone of my age. However, I have always had a low heart rate. I have been test periodically to ensure that there are no issues. I can attribute much of my low heart rate to being active, particularly when I was younger when I played a lot of basketball and jogged.

1: This is the number of times that I have played golf on an 18 hole course. I did this when I was in my early 30s. I don’t remember what my score was. I do remember trying to hit onto a green that had a water hazard in front of it.

12: This was the approximate number of golf balls that I lost in the water hazard trying to hit onto the green.

1: This represents the number of times that I may have been impaired or even drunk from alcohol. This happened in 1994 when my wife and I were vacationing at a resort in Saint Thomas. I remember playing tennis for a little over an hour with the club pro on a very hot and sunny afternoon. ( I remember the tennis pro had gone to Penn and thought I was crazy to play at 3:00 p.m.) After playing tennis, my wife and I headed over to the resort bar. I was very thirsty…

4+: The number of pina coladas that I drank at the resort bar that may have slightly impaired my balance. Good thing that I did not have to drive. The drinks and the order of poppers (the food, not the drug) made me very mellow.

0: The number of times that I have dunked a basketball on a regulation 10 foot high basket. Besides being handicapped with an inability to jump very high, I also could not palm a basketball. This was a desired athletic fantasy that I was unable to complete.

13: The number of states that I have lived in, drove through or visited. With the exception of Tennessee which I may have been driving through for a half hour on the way to Asheville N.C., all states were on the East coast.

10/0 Ten represents the number of companies and small businesses that I worked for as an employee. Zero represents the number of companies that are still in existence. Now my involvement did not kill off these companies, There were one or two that I tried desperately to save. All died from either obsolescence, poor management or as a victim of a natural business cycle.

 

My Dad: I Hardly Knew Ye

Dad

My father, Edward A. Burleigh and me (Gloucester NJ)

I don’t remember a lot about my father. Memories of sixty years or more are very suspect. However I remember his last day…

He and my mother were going to a Valentines Day event in 1960 that night.  I was seven years old. My second grade class was asked to make personalized Valentine Day cards for their parents. I gave my mother her card early in the day. I vaguely recall that I was mad at my father. I don’t remember why. I did not give him his card. He may have wondered why. But as my parents were preparing to leave for the event, I had a change of mind and handed him the card. My father was not the sentimental type for cards and most expressions of affections. He opened the envelope, read the card, smiled at me and said “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” However I did not see my father again. That night, he suffered a heart attack and died.

There is no consolation for a seven-year-old boy when he loses his father so suddenly. However, I was so glad that I gave him the card. I did not want my last contact with him to be of rancor. I wanted him to know that I loved and respected him. He gave me a wink and smile as he left the house. That’s my final memory of my father.

My father was not a big man. He might’ve been 5’6 in height and weighed less than 150 lbs. However he was a very tough man. I had heard stories from his brothers, other family members and people who knew him that he was good with his fists. My father noticed one day that I came running back into my backyard to avoid some bully out front. My father told me that I can fight the boy or that I would get hit with a belt by him. Not an easy decision for me but I went out and fought the bully (to the bully’s surprise). To the best of my recollection, the fight ended in a draw.

He was a devoted family man, not just to my mother, myself and my younger sister but also to his brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces.  He came from a large family, five brothers and four sisters. An example of his devotion to family was told to me by one of my aunts. My aunt was going through a bad and abusive marriage. She had three small children, no job and no alternatives to leaving. One night my aunt’s drunk and abusive husband beat her in front of her kids. That got my father involved. He confronted and “resolved” the issue with my aunt’s husband and found a place to move her and the three kids.

My father did not have a high school degree. He enlisted in the Navy at age 17 and fought in the Atlantic theater during World War II. I have pictures of him in his youth. He always had a smile on his face and an arm around a buddy or girlfriend.  I had heard he was a very good dancer. I guess those genes did not get passed to me.

I vaguely recall that he worked a number of different jobs and that his last one was working shift work at the New York shipyard in Camden. Not surprisingly, I do remember watching Friday night boxing fights with him. He enjoyed fishing with his brothers. This may have been the only recreation he enjoyed. I don’t recall him having any interest in football, baseball or basketball.

 I think he smoked to excess, drank too much and did not take care of himself very well and I think this led to his early death at the age of 35. I wondered how happy he was. He always talked of going to California. He had a brother, Elmer, who lived there and my father seemed to have a bit of wanderlust.

I often wonder how different my life would have been if he had stayed alive. My father was very personable and outgoing. I was quiet and shy, just like my mother. My young sister, Sandra, at age 3,  was starting to show her bubbly personality and verve. Sandra may have inherited his personality gene. My father did share one similarity—-we both lost our fathers early in our lives. His father also died early in his life. His mother ran a boarding house and did laundry to support nine children.

I would hope that my father would have been proud of how I lived my life. Like him, I took care of my mother and sisters and protected them the best I could. He may have appreciated how I handled his death and showed the toughness he had as life threw challenges at me. I hope so. I’m Ed Burleigh’s son, I would not have wanted to disappoint him.

 

 

Clearing My Mental Cache

Items that may amuse, entertain, inform and inflame you…

Pickleball challenge

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The experience of finding an open court to play pickleball in the next few weeks may be similar to trying to find a dinner reservation on Mother’s Day. One might expect long lines, unexpected delays and the need to acquire a lot of patience.

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Just a thought: For pickleball to become more mainstream and garner national attention,  it needs a “bad boy” like Nick Kyrgios or John McEnroe to compete against Tyson McGuffin, Ben Johns etc. of the pickleball elite.

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While I agree that Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time, I don’t think he would beat Lebron James in a one on one game if both were in their primes.

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Book recommendation: Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby. An excellent compliment to the recent ESPN documentary The Last Dance.

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As an aside, I am old enough to remember seeing him play and I choose Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns as the greatest football player of my lifetime.

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I would not miss baseball if they did not play in 2020. I would miss college and pro football as well as pro basketball if they did not play in 2020. I am also under the opinion that the NBA should not bother resuming the 2019-2020 season’s games. Wait till November and start the new season.

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Old Paradigm (before coronavirus) “Hi neighbor, can I borrow a cup of sugar?

New Paradigm: “Hi neighbor, (through mask) can I borrow a roll of toilet paper?”

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Five Biggest Lies of the Pandemic

  1. “We all in this together.” (slogan used by just about every company in their ads since March.)
  2. “I don’t take responsibility at all.” (Donald Trump-3/13/20)
  3. The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA…(Donald Trump 2-24-20)
  4. It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” Donald Trump 2-28-20)
  5. The virus is not going to sink the American economy,”. “What is or could sink the American economy is the socialism coming from our friends on the other side of the aisle. That’s the biggest fear that I have today.” (Larry Kudlow Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 28)

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Just an observation but I wish Congress and the President exhibited the same energy, resources and urgency for small businesses and employees that the Federal Reserve did in supporting Wall Street, large corporations, CEOs and wealthy stockholders.

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Fox News just published their poll of suburban women. 33% of those women polled had a favorable view of President Trump; 66% had an unfavorable view. What is more surprising? (A) Fox News posted the results of their anti Trump poll? Or. (B) There are still 33% of suburban women with a favorable view of Trump?

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Though children are not able to attend schools in person, they are receiving a far greater and more impactful education in human nature, mortality, sacrifice and compassion.

 

Thoughts from the Bunker

As I write, I am reading stories of people unable to get needed medical care. A 73 year old woman has been sitting in a chair for over 29 hours with a high fever, coughing and experiencing breathing issues in  a New York City hospital emergency room. Hospitals are overrun with patients like her and do not have the beds and staff to help her.

At 67, I can’t promise wisdom but I can offer perspective and a little history. I remember times before computers, cell phones, the Internet, 24 hour news, cable TV and e-books. Back in 1960s, our biggest fear was an atomic war with Russia. School children endured air raid drills which was basically huddling under your desk and closing your eyes. I wax nostalgic as I now huddle at home and my worry is not radiation from an atomic bomb from Russia but catching a virus from China. Unfortunately this is not a drill and casualties are rising every day.

In 1960, I remember a young President who suffered some early growing pains like The Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba but grew steadily competent in the job. Even though I was only 10 at the time of the Cuban Missile crisis, I understood how his leadership and good judgment pulled us out of a major nuclear confrontation. He was assisted by a number of very smart people like his brother, Bobby Kennedy. Donald Trump is now being assisted by his inept son-in law Jarrod Kushner, who inspires as much confidence as Barney Fife in a fire fight. From JFK to Trump, how did this country deteriorate this fast in sixty years!

How did we slide downwards from a President who pushed this country to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade (and succeeded) to one whose major campaign promise (other than a tax cut for the rich) was to build an ineffective wall? Kennedy’s program landed astronauts on a target 238,900 miles away. Trump can’t deliver masks, breath equipment and other needed medical supplies to a battered New York City 225 miles to his north.

In our current crisis, we have a President more concerned about his television ratings than the number of people suffering and dying from coronavirus. His press conferences are replete with self praise, false information and dangerous life and death advice that his medical experts are forced to quickly disavow. He uses press conferences as replacements for his public campaign appearances in front of fawning audiences. At a recent news conference, he had a pillows huckster lecture the press instead of using the time to have a doctor or scientist provide guidance to a fearful public. Trump describes himself as a “war time President.” Trump is, like Mussolini.

Though Trump has garnered and deserved most of my ire, there are also too many in the public disregarding social isolation guidelines. Maybe if they can imagine themselves, their parent or other loved ones in a desperate plight like the 73 year old woman above, maybe they will act responsibility and Americans can start to move out of their self imposed bunkers and into the Spring sunshine.

Ruminations in Social Isolation

Just about every idea, plan, opinion, prediction, projection, analysis, budget, wish, timeline, piece of advice and future consideration that was made a month ago (or even yesterday) is no longer relevant.

For years anti-terrorist experts were concerned about the destruction and deaths associated with a dirty bomb being exploded in a major city like New York. Not sure anyone envisioned how much more destructive and deadly the coronavirus is compared to a dirty bomb.

The fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941 was more prepared than we are today. At least the country had FDR in 1941 for leadership, today we have Trump. For point of comparison, listen to FDR’s speech to Congress declaring war on Japan and Trump’s feeble speech from the Oval Office on the coronavirus outbreak.

How useless is money when there is nowhere to spend it and with the exceptions of food and other household necessities, no compelling rationale to buy anything?

The wise are focused on their health, families and friends. Fools are worried about their portfolios.

Does anyone else other than me find it macabre that Wall St analysts and other investors rejoice when the Dow swings upward at the same time deaths climb exponentially?

Doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, truckers, assembly workers, mail carriers and others have been drafted into a war they did not seek. Facing an invisible enemy in a front line of a battle, they are susceptible to experiencing the most casualties.

When will we start seeing ads on TV from lawyers soliciting lawsuits for coronavirus treatments and testing?

I can appreciate the prayers of the faithful asking God to help the sick recover from coronavirus and to protect doctors and nurses. But if God is all Good and Loving, shouldn’t He/She have spared tens of millions from infection and millions from death and destitution?

Ruminations

As I write, the Dow has plunged to 19898 and the S&P to 2398. Currently there are 8700 reported cases of coronavirus in the United States. Watching the evening news, there are increasing signs of panic. People who need tests and can’t get them. Lines of cars stretched miles as they await testing at mobile test sites. Streets are empty. Little traffic even in New York City. I turned on my cam for Times Square last night and noted the empty streets. Broadway is dark and restaurants are closed.

Some ruminations:

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I bet there is a think group or collection of scientists and medical people who have a very good estimate of how far this virus will spread and how many people will become infected, become seriously ill and die. I also bet that people running the Federal government and state governments also know and are circumspect with their knowledge as to not create any additional panic.

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Historians (if they are still around 10 years from now) will find that widespread mistakes and poor judgment led into millions of people dying and hundreds of millions of people being infected with the coronavirus. Currently there is little time and appetite to review the mistakes that have been recently made.  Another development they will cite is the lack of expertise and good judgment by many officials in the Trump administration.

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I would nominate and elect the governor of a state who has displayed the best results and judgment in protecting the citizens of his/her state. Forget debates and speeches, we need the best man or woman to rebuild the country and the economy. Joe Biden is not up to it. Trump certainly isn’t either.

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What will the level of panic be when test results show millions of U.S. citizens infected? When bodies lie outside nursing homes and morgues? When grocery shelves are empty as supply chains fail? When celebrities and other famous people die? When banks fail and ATMs don’t work?

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I feel like I’m living through the story of the 1959 movie On the Beach starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. In the movie, nuclear war has wiped out most of the world and the radiation clouds are approaching Australia where survivors wait grimly for the bitter end. “There is still time, brother.”

Zero Interest Rates, Zero Confidence

Disclaimer: I am not an economist nor possess any special knowledge of economics or finance.

As I write: the number of coronavirus infections worldwide is 169,552. 6,516 people worldwide have died. In the United States, approximately 3485 people have been infected with coronavirus. 65 people in the United States have died. Widespread testing has not taken place in the United States so the infection rate numbers are expected to rise dramatically.

The Dow Jones average is 23,185 or about a 21.5% drop from its high in February. The S&P is 2711 and has declined 20.1% from its high in February.

The federal reserve has reduced interest rates to 0%.

The following analysis represents my thinking and should not be used as a guide for investing etc.

What does this interest rate cut mean?

  1. It is the last remaining bullet in the Fed arsenal and intended to bolster the faltering stock market and economy, as I indicated in the summary above, Both indices have dropped over 20% since their highs last month. Many financial experts are expecting another 20-25% drop given the projected rise of the coronavirus infections and further disruptions to businesses and the U.S. economy in general. There are some financial analysts insisting that the stock market will come roaring back by the end of the year and recover much of its 2020 losses. I doubt it. One also needs to see the rate of recovery accomplished in China and Europe. If you have pulled out of the stock market and are now in cash, you are very limited as to how you can earn a return.
  2. Reflects the politicization of the Fed. President Trump has insisted on lower interest rates and just yesterday threatened to remove Chairman Powell from his job. The president is ever mindful that the November election is less than eight months and how a recession will adversely affect his chances of being reelected. Trump has done a very poor job of communicating what measures need to be taken and has miscommunicated the severity and urgency of this emergency. I would not be shocked that Trump would not be re-nominated as the GOP candidate if the country experiences higher than projected infections and death within the next four months. Seniors and retired people (part of the Trump base) will be panicked when their investment funds settle to significant losses.
  3. Trump’s priorities are investors and stock prices. He is leaving the dirty work of dealing with managing the pandemic and health issues to state governors and local communities. He has no choice. Trump has no bench of competent leaders or administrators to guide his actions. His “by the seat of his pants” decisions on travel bans have angered our allies and American citizens caught in Europe.
  4. Reflects the realization that the coronavirus emergency is not a two week or one month issue. There are no quick fixes and this virus will not disappear overnight. It is going to have a bad long term effect on the economy, corporations, small businesses and workers.
  5. Confirmation that the economy is not well and that strong measures were needed to prop it up. Seems obvious to me that many businesses are going to require bail outs in order to survive if the length of the coronavirus bands continue past May. Due to lower sales and cash flow issues, businesses will be forced to access available lines of credit creating capital and risk management concerns for banks and financial institutions. Airlines and the cruise industries are looking at 3-6 months minimum of travel dislocations and cancellations. Regrettably individuals who will become unemployed will also be accessing their available credit card lines of credit but they will not be receiving any bailout money from the government other than temporary unemployment insurance.

Stock Market Graph.jpg

6. The country is seeking a hero, someone who displays competence, communication skills and leadership. Don’t be surprised if the next serious Presidential candidate comes from a governor who protects his state and ensures that the necessary medical care and resources are available. (Cuomo from NY??)

 

The Only Thing We Have to Fear…

“I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. I 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1933

In my lifetime, I have experienced events that made me fearful. The first one that I recall was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. I was ten years old. I remember that we were on the brink of war with the Soviet Union. At school, we were all instructed on how to get under our desks, cover our heads and close our eyes. I believe there was a CONELRAD system which also provided an early warning if missiles were being fired. I remember they tested air raid sirens as part of the rehearsal. Fortunately we were led by a very smart president, John F. Kennedy and the crisis passed.

I have experienced stock market crashes (1987, 2008-2009), hurricanes with landfalls in New Jersey, urban riots (Camden), 9/11, and unemployment. Personally I have survived cancer scares for myself and my wife. I don’t like apocalyptic horror stories but I feel like I am in one.

That being said, I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced the type of chronic fear related to this coronavirus pandemic. Some of it may be due to my age and my susceptibility if I should be infected with the virus. This is so different. I don’t see solutions. I don’t see a quick end to this disaster. A lot of my fear and discomfort comes from factors other than my vulnerability.

The United States government and in particular the Trump administration have done a horrible job of communicating the status of the pandemic, the number of people infected and what steps are being taken to ensure the safety of the citizens of the United States. I think the Trump administration has made it a priority to focus on the effects to the economy.  To hell with people, “how do we both prop up the stock market and the Dow?” Where are the tests that people need to take? That should be the priority.

This is obviously a crisis that needs to be adequately addressed by scientists and medical personnel. Instead we have politicians literally falling all over themselves to politicize this catastrophe. This is a time when we urgently need smart and responsible leadership. Regrettably over the past month, I have seen no one with the credibility, leadership and communication skills to provide confidence to the public.

The media has also done a poor job. They are doing more to frighten people than they are to responsibly inform us of latest developments. I am tired of watching news conferences provided by local government officials and health agencies each time an individual is infected. They keep urging the public to remain calm but they do a very poor job of answering questions and providing guidance as to what the public may expect. Many officials appear reluctant to speak candidly and honestly about what they know.

Lord knows we desperately need a Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Unfortunately we are saddled with a Donald Trump and his administration that appears clueless on how to manage this crisis. My sense is that we have not even begun to experience the severity and breadth of this pandemic. We have no idea how long that we must remain vigilant. My sense is that the pandemic will be with us for a few years and that we need desperately for science to develop the necessary vaccine so that we can get back to living a routine life again.

My Life is an Open Book

“It is with books as with men: a very small number play a great part.”

 Voltaire (1694-1778)

When my father died at age 7, I had no older brother or sister for guidance. Essentially I had to rely upon my own resources as I grew up. I also lost my religion fairly early so I was neither a believer or reader of The Bible. I know that many people find comfort, guidance and wisdom from their religious beliefs. However I chose to go a different way. Reading was a critical element in my life. Books provided me entertainment, knowledge, guidance and perspective. I’m estimating that I have read over 5000 books in my life.

There were a number of books that inspired me in my personal life. There were stories (real and fiction) of people who overcame challenges and provided examples and lessons on how one should conduct their lives.

Here is a list of books that made a significant impression on how I view life, death, relationships and morality.

Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived by Lawrence James and Peter Barton

Learning To Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect life by Philip Simmons

The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts (I always encourage people just to read the first chapter which is powerful, if they can’t read the entire book.)

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Running to the Mountain by Jon Katz

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Eureka (A Novel) by Jim Lehrer

The Way of the Ronin by Bev Potter (changed my view on work and just being labeled an employee)

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

Winter Journal by Paul Auster

Chasing Death: How my Forthcoming Death Changed My Life by Eugene O’Neill

Stoner by John Williams

Levels of Life by Julian Barnes

All Quiet on the Western Front Erich Maria Remarque

Creating the Good Life by James O’Toole

Six Quick Observations from the 2-19-20 Democratic Presidential Debate

For full disclosure, I have watched all the Democratic Presidential debates. This debate was the most meaningful and all the knives came out tonight that were held in all the candidates’ scabbards prior to tonight.

  1. With each Democratic debate, the better the chance that Donald Trump will be re-elected. The longer the nomination process goes undecided, again, the better the chance that Trump will be re-elected. The debates and some of the inane questions presented by the debate moderators only hurt the Democratic candidates. Some of the questions were just meant to rile up the candidates. Case in point, questions to Amy Klobuchar for not knowing the name of the President of Mexico. Really?
  2. Elizabeth Warren should be the Democratic nominee. She’s smart, articulate, energetic and her verbal takedown of Mike Bloomberg was the template on how a candidate should confront and challenge Donald Trump in a debate and during the election cycle. She had the best debate performance tonight by far.
  3. Mike Bloomberg was very unimpressive. He badly fumbled responding to issues about “stop and frisk,” his support of Obamacare, non-disclosure agreement releases from his employees and failure to release his tax returns. The Democrats badly need his money—-just not Mike.
  4. Prior to this debate, I viewed Amy Klobuchar as the best candidate for VP. The ticket will need a strong woman with legislative experience and from a Midwest state. She exhibited some thin skin and loss of poise when pressed by Pete Buttigieg on her voting record. She does have a reputation for having a bad temper and it flared onstage. I noticed she stalked off the stage when the debate was over, not stopping to shake anyone’s hands. Maybe Pete is angling for the VP nomination over Amy.
  5. I sense 1972 again. The Democrats nominate a candidate who has a huge appeal to young people but who will frighten off more moderate and older voters. Say what you want about Bernie Sanders, he does exhibit a lot more energy and acuity than septuagenarians Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump. However, he’ll get crucified with the socialist label by the GOP and Fox. I think Trump will, in boxing terms, be able to “rope a dope” his way past Bernie in a debate. Warren won’t let Trump out of the corner.
  6. Joe Biden looks old. He had a decent debate. He attacked Mike Bloomberg effectively. But I can’t see him having the energy to run hard for the election. Good man. But time has passed him by.