Category Archives: Commentary

March 1, 2015

Dear friends, As I begin this essay the thermostat registers an attention-grabbing minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit.  When I peer out of the window nearest my (windowless) office, I’m confronted with: All of which are sure and certain signs that it’s what? Yes, Spring Break in the Midwest! Which funds? “Not ours,” saith Fidelity! If you […]

February 1, 2015

Dear friends, Investing by aphorism is a tricky business. “Buy on the sound of cannons, sell on the sound of trumpets.” It’s widely attributed to “Baron Nathan Rothschild (1810).” Of course, he wasn’t a baron in 1810. There’s no evidence he ever said it. 1810 wouldn’t have been a sensible year for the statement even […]

January 1, 2015

Dear friends, Welcome to the New Year! And to an odd question: why is it a New Year?  That is, why January 1?  Most calendrical events correspond to something: cycles of the moon and stars, movement of the seasons, conclusions of wars or deaths of Great Men. But why January 1?  It corresponds with nothing. […]

December 1, 2014

Dear friends, The Christmas of the early American republic – of the half century following the Revolution – would be barely recognizable to us. It was a holiday so minor as to be virtually invisible to the average person. You’ll remember the famous Christmas of 1776 when George Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas and […]

November 1, 2014

Dear friends, In a college with more trees than students, autumn is stunning. Around the campus pond and along wooded paths, trees begin to erupt in glorious color. At first the change is slow, more teasing than apparent. But then we always have a glorious reign of color … followed by a glorious rain of […]

October 1, 2014

Dear friends, If it weren’t for everything else I’ve read in the news this week (a “blood feud” between DoubleLine and Morningstar? Blood feud? Really? “Pa! Grab your shotgun. Ah dun seen one a them filthy Mansuetos down by the crik!”), the silliest story of the week would be the transformation of candidate’s mutual fund […]

September 1, 2014

Dear friends, They’re baaaaack! The summer silence has been shattered. My students have returned in endlessly boisterous, hormonally-imbalanced, self-absorbed droves. They’re glued to their phones and to their preconceptions, one about as maddening as the other. The steady rhythm of the off-season (deal with something else falling off the house, talk to a manager, mow, […]

August 1, 2014

Dear friends, We’ve always enjoyed and benefited from your reactions to the Observer. Your notes are read carefully, passed around and they often shape our work in the succeeding months. The most common reaction to our July issue was captured by one reader who shared this observation: Dear David: I really love your writing. I […]

July 1, 2014

Dear friends, Welcome to the midway point of … well, nothing in particular, really. Certainly six months have passed in 2014 and six remain, but why would you care?  Unless you plan on being transported by aliens or cashing out your portfolio on December 31st, questions like “what’s working this year?” are interesting only to […]

June 1, 2014

Dear friends, Well, we’ve done it again. Augustana just launched its 154th set of graduates in your direction. Personally, it’s my 29th set of them. I think you’ll enjoy their company, if not always the quality of their prose. They’re good kids and we’ve spent an awful lot of time teaching them to ask questions […]