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February 7, 2021 | Tuning Out the News

Rick Ackerman

Rick Ackerman is the editor of Rick’s Picks, an online service geared to traders of stocks, options, index futures and commodities. His detailed trading strategies have appeared since the early 1990s in Black Box Forecasts, a newsletter he founded that originally was geared to professional option traders. Barron’s once labeled him an “intrepid trader” in a headline that alluded to his key role in solving a notorious pill-tampering case. He received a $200,000 reward when a conviction resulted, and the story was retold on TV’s FBI: The Untold Story. His professional background includes 12 years as a market maker in the pits of the Pacific Coast Exchange, three as an investigator with renowned San Francisco private eye Hal Lipset, seven as a reporter and newspaper editor, three as a columnist for the Sunday San Francisco Examiner, and two decades as a contributor to publications ranging from Barron’s to The Antiquarian Bookman to Fleet Street Letter and Utne Reader.


This is a perfect time to catch up on the best of television, since so many of us are watching more of it these days, particularly on Saturday nights. I’ve been assiduously avoiding  all news for the last month or so and am faintly aware of the impeachment proceedings and Biden’s energy pipeline kill-shot only because they were mentioned by subscribers in the Rick’s Picks ‘Coffee House’.  My news embargo has been as tight as I, a lifelong news junkie and former newspaper editor, can make it. I canceled a subscription to the Wall Street Journal that had run for nearly 40 years, and I don’t even watch Tucker anymore, let alone network or local news.

Collateral damage from the red/blue color war still raging in America has so far amounted to the loss of two friendships, one of them stretching back 65 years.  When I was scheduled for chemo and radiation, this old buddy came down to Florida to see me through a horrific first week that was to have included massive infusions of metal-heavy chemicals and enough X-ray exposure to kill just about any living thing. At the last minute, I  opted instead for a surgery-only treatment at M.D. Anderson Center in Houston. This allowed my friend and I to spend the week taking epic walks on the beach, enjoying some of South Florida’s best restaurants, and discovering the hidden pleasures of Delray’s Asian massage parlors, his area of special expertise. My friend is from the theater world, the founder of one of the country’s most successful non-profits. He is a self-described anarchist, and his politics could not be further from mine.

‘A Killer of 450,000 Americans’

This was never a problem before Trump. In the end, though, with just a couple lines of text, the friendship was over.  No more dialogue, he texted, until I get “things” sorted out. “Things” undoubtedly alluded to my certitude that the election was stolen — an opinion that I had completed avoided in emails over the last three months. No matter, it seemed. This was an ultimatum to see things his way — or else. And so I let the dialogue end there rather than let fly with the kind of invective that would kill any chance of reconciliation. I even gave him the last word — a text that “my guy” had “killed 450,000 people” with Covid. And with that, the brightest, most articulate person I know became just another stupid horse’s ass.

Concerning the best of television, I stumbled on Netflix’s Ozark last night after tiring quickly of the highly recommended but much overrated Gomorrah. Although rated an astounding ‘8.7’ on IMDB, it is just a thinly plotted, garden variety shoot-’em-up involving warring mafia clans in Italy. Ozark, however, is a real class act. Its producer, director, writer and star is Jason Bateman, who brings a quirky kind of realism to every project he’s involved in. Here, Bateman’s character, a by-the-numbers financial planner, agrees to launder drug money in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, for a vicious Mexican cartel boss who’d marked him for death.

A ‘B&E Magician’

In episode three we meet the redneck Langhorne clan, including teen daughter Ruth, whom the local sheriff describes as a “B and E magician.” The scene where Bateman tries to recover a pile of drug money from the Langhornes ranks with the best television I’ve ever watched. In descending order, my other favorites are: Deadwood, The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Peaky Blinders, 24 and Billions.  All are far better than anything that has come to the theaters in recent years.  Who needs AMC, Marvel comic heroes and imitation-buttered popcorn when you can get the real thing practically for nothing at home?

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February 7th, 2021

Posted In: Rick's Picks

One Comment

  • Michael says:

    Hi Rick.
    I am saddened to read about your surgery and subsequent “political” cut-off by an old friend. I hope you are felling better and my positive thoughts and prayers for your successful post-surgery recovery.
    Yes, I had a similar experience with an old friend two years ago who was constantly complaining via email about Trump, especially my friend’s misguided belief that Trump and his family were working for the Russians. Knowing that I couldn’t convince my friend that Trump was a mere mortal and not the devil incarnate, I emailed back and said, “Well at least there is a silver lining in all of this. He is trying to bring some troops home from Syria and is working on a Middle East peace deal”. That’s all I said. I thought that I could help reduce my friend’s anxiety and anger by re-framing my friend’s opinion of Trump – specifically that no one is “all bad” or “all good” and that my friend should focus on the one or two positive things that my friend could agree with even though my friend thought that Trump was extremely bad for the country. My long time friend’s email response was: “We obviously are complete opposites and it was best to stop any emails (involving politics, philosophy or anything involving an opinion)”. I have not heard from my long time friend since then.
    In psychology this is call “splitting” – that is, when a person looks at people and things as either “all-good” or “all-bad”. This causes an unconscious psychic conflict and they tend to become hostile to anyone that challenges their fragile “world view”. Rick, I follow all your posts on Howe Street and you have that rare gift of being objective and above all a “critical thinker”. Your friend is a “judgemental thinker” and probably a narcissist. “Critical thinkers” are in very short supply these days in our “virtual” world built around “narratives” rather than facts. I hope you continue your posts and podcasts; they remind people like me to “stop and think”- to “critically think”, in the manner of the classical philosophers – rather than to react to “narratives” created by the mass media and the political class. Thanks Rick for all that you have given your readers.

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