JANUARY 19, 2021
A Photo and Interview Series by Barry Goldstein
In America, the inauguration of a Commander In Chief is traditionally a time of celebration. Politicians, special guests, and everyday Americans converge on the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol building to mark the swearing in of the next President of the United States. Full of pomp and circumstance, inaugurations are an important democratic ritual and a symbol of the peaceful transfer of power.
February 19, 2021
February 19, 2021
In January, shares of stock for the video game retail company GameStop shot up as traders in an online Reddit forum sought to block an attempt to “short sell” company's stock. Short selling a stock is a way that a trader can profi
In January, shares of stock for the video game retail company GameStop shot up as traders in an online Reddit forum sought to block an attempt to “short sell” company's stock. Short selling a stock is a way that a trader can profit from falling stock price. The story became a national sensation and brought the concept of short selling stocks to prominence.
But what exactly is shorting a stock, and how does it work? Matt Farkas is the head of fixed income at St. Germain Investments in Springfield. Farkas joined Zydalis Bauer to explain the complex subject of shorting a stock and what happened with GameStop.
Full disclosure: St. Germain is a sponsor of New England Public Media.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: In January, shares of stock for the video game retail company GameStop shot up as traders in an online Reddit forum sought to block an attempt to short sell the stock of the company. The practice of shorting a stock being a way that a trader can profit from falling stock prices. The story became a national sensation and brought the short selling of stocks to prominence.
But what exactly is shorting a stock and how does it work? Matt Farkas, the head of fixed income at St. Germain Investments in Springfield, explained the complex subject when he spoke with me recently. And full disclosure: St. Germain is a sponsor of New England Public Media.
Matt Farkas, St. Germain Investments: So, short selling you can think of it as it's a bet that a stock is going to go down in price and it's a way for an investor to make money on that belief. So, an investor could believe that ABC stock, it's currently trading at ten dollars, but really thinks the true fundamental value is five dollars.
So, what a short seller can do is go to his broker, borrow shares, sell those shares, and if -- at the current market price of ten dollars -- and if the short seller is right in the stock trades down to five dollars, they will buy back those shares to cover the essentially the loan that they have and they will make that profit of five dollars a share. So, if they're right and the stock price goes down, they make money. But importantly, it's short selling has...it's a risky thing to do because of the stock does not go down and it actually goes up in price, you start to lose money.
And unlike when you're buying a stock, investing a stock, the most you can lose is the amount that you can put into it, because the lowest the stock can go is zero. But there's no upper limit to a stock price. And so, you know, theoretically, your losses are infinite.
And so, short selling is certainly not something that I would recommend for the average person to do on their own. It's inherently very risky and it involves a certain amount of expertise around that.
Zydalis Bauer: Now, the GameStop stock frenzy has garnered a lot of attention in the past couple of weeks, where amateur investors organized against short sellers and caused them to have losses because they increased the stock market value of companies. Why has this garnered so much attention?
Matt Farkas: Yeah, I think it's garnered a lot of attention because it's such an interesting story, in and a lot of ways it's a modern story because it involves social media. Short selling has been around for a long time. And the situation that GameStop found itself in was what's called known as a short squeeze. And I can talk about that a little bit more.
But short squeeze phenomenon do happen in markets from time to time. So, that certainly is not new either. GameStop specifically is a company that some hedge funds had identified as a stock that was overvalued, at least in their belief. And they thought it was going to be going down, primarily because it's it's a mall-based retailers selling video games. And both of those areas are areas that I think long-term are challenged. And they ended up shorting this stock in a very aggressive way.
It happened to be noticed by a group of investors. And the investor really spearheading this actually has a local connection, believe it or not. He is a financial adviser, or former financial advisor, for a a locally-based national insurer. And this this gentleman really led the charge in informing people of this massive short position and was really successful in using social media to get his opinion out there, and get people behind his opinion, and really investing in GameStop in a massive way, which caused this short squeeze because as more investors bought GameStop, it pushed the price up.
Volkswagen actually went through this scenario, I think, in 2011. So, about a decade or so ago. A similar type of situation where there were investors that were really short, the stock, it was noticed and investors started to buy the stock in a big way, causing the short squeeze.
Short squeezes tend to be rather short phenomena, as we're seeing with GameStop. It's you know, we're a few weeks into this and the stock prices come down dramatically from its high points. And these things have a way of burning themselves out.
Zydalis Bauer: Are there any ethical implications and attempting to profit off of somebody's failure?
Matt Farkas: Shorting is a critical part to the market. There are definitely academic studies that point to markets that have participants that are betting on it going up in price, as well as down in price, improves markets. There's more investors as part of this, so there's better liquidity, so you can get in and out of those investments easier.
While I can certainly understand people viewing it as problematic or maybe even un-American or something like that, I understand those viewpoints. But again, they are critical market participants and actually do improve markets.
Zydalis Baue: Now, for people who have taken up an interest in the stock market, especially after recent events. What would you tell them to be aware of?
Matt Farkas: I would not call this investing. I would call this more akin to speculation. And speculation may -- you know, there's nothing inherently wrong with speculating. It's a part of the marketplace. And, you know, if done right, it can be can be effective. But speculation should be done on a very limited basis.
You certainly don't want to handle your 401k or your retirement funds as poker chips. It's really important to, if you're going to be participating in any type of speculation, you do it in a way that's very limited, in a way that if you do lose dramatically, it's not going to throw off your long term financial goals.
February 19, 2021
Civil Rights Activist Daniel Smith Reflects on Decades of Racial Justice Work Activist Daniel Smith is the son of a formerly enslaved person. Smith reflects on the nine decades of social justice work he's witnessed, from the Marc
Civil Rights Activist Daniel Smith Reflects on Decades of Racial Justice Work
Activist Daniel Smith is the son of a formerly enslaved person. Smith reflects on the nine decades of social justice work he's witnessed, from the March on Washington to the election of the first Black president to the renewed calls for social justice during the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
And more western Mass stories tonight....
The mayors of two of the largest cities in western Mass recently announced they will not seek re-election. Tonight, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse talks about his decision not to run again and his plans after leaving office.
Then, visit Maple Corner Farm in Granville where, despite COVID-19 restrictions, their opening weekend for cross country skiing and snow shoeing was a success.
Finally, shorting stocks made headlines earlier this month, when a group of Reddit investors threw Wall Street into chaos by betting big on stock for gaming retailer GameStop. St. Germain Investment’s Matt Farkas explains the complex subject of shorting a stock and what exactly happened with the GameStop saga.
February 19, 2021
At least two major western Massachusetts cities will see a change in leadership during elections this fall. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz have both announced they will not seek re-election. Both
At least two major western Massachusetts cities will see a change in leadership during elections this fall. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz have both announced they will not seek re-election.
Both mayors have guided their cities through some challenging times, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Connecting Point’s Ray Hershel spoke with outgoing Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse about his decision not to run again and what’s in store for the future after leaving office.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: There will be a change of leadership for at least two major western Massachusetts cities after this fall's elections. Mayors Alex Morse of Holyoke and David Narkewicz of Northampton have announced their intentions not to seek reelection. Both mayors have guided their cities through some challenging times, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Connecting Point's Ray Hershel talked with each mayor about their decision to step down and future plans. And his conversation this evening is with outgoing Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse.
Mayor Alex Morse, Holyoke: I always felt like a decade was a long enough period of time to to make a difference, to leave a lasting imprint in getting us closer to some of the goal posts and goals that we set out to accomplish 10 years ago. And I feel like in many ways, we've accomplished those goals.
And I think it's time and frankly, for a new perspective. And I think that's also healthy for democracy. Elected positions aren't lifetime appointments. And I think it's important to have new perspectives and new voices over time. I turned thirty-two in January and I'm excited about what's next.
Ray Hershel, Connecting Point: As you look back at your 10 years as mayor of Holyoke, Alex, what do you feel is your most proud achievement or your major accomplishments that you're most proud of?
Mayor Alex Morse: When I think about what I'm most proud of, it's standing up to make City Hall and the city of Holyoke an inclusive, welcoming place that focuses on equity. We now have a city government, From department heads to commissioners and volunteers, that reflects the diversity of our population.
One of the first things I did as mayor that remains to be one of the things I'm most proud of, is frankly opening up a needle exchange program that has saved countless lives here in the city of Holyoke to focus on harm reduction and tackle the obesity epidemic. I'm proud of the fact that we've made Holyoke a sanctuary city to protect undocumented immigrants. I'm proud of the fact that we closed the state's last coal plant and transitioned closer to one hundred percent renewable energy here in the city.
But again, really, it's opening up the doors of city hall to communities and people that didn't feel like they could be part of their government.
Ray Hershel: Well your last election, when you ran for Congress against Richard Neal was a bruising campaign and bruising election, obviously. You were quoted as saying after that election that you would consider running again. Is that an option for you at this point? Would you consider running for Congress again?
Mayor Alex Morse: I would say it's very unlikely that I would mount another campaign for Congress in the near future. I want to look forward, to continue giving back to my community. And I think I need a break from from being the candidate.
Ray Hershel: We all know what a difficult campaign that was and what a controversial one it was. In retrospect, as you look back at that campaign, Mr. Mayor, how much do you feel this whole issue with the controversy over UMass and reaching out to students there through social media impacted that campaign? Was that a game changer?
Mayor Alex Morse: Yeah, I think it impacted the campaign. You know, it was a it was a grueling 14 month campaign. We crisscrossed the district and I, you know, don't want to get caught up in the in the noise that happened at the end.
But I think we ended on a on a high note. I mean, we engaged thousands of voters. We got nearly forty two percent of the vote and got to know and build relationships and give a voice to many people that hadn't been part of government on that level. And I frankly ran because, you know, after being mayor for so many years, I wanted to help communities like Holyoke that have been forgotten about by our federal government.
Ray Hershel: Now, there are some serious issues and challenges, obviously, facing you over your next year before you leave office. Certainly one of them is the the COVID-19 pandemic.
At this point, how has that impacted the city of Holyoke in terms of public health, in terms of economic development? And where does Holyoke stand now, as far as COVID-19 is concerned, and getting your citizens vaccinated?
Mayor Alex Morse, Holyoke: Yeah, so we're all-hands on deck. Like a lot of local communities, the issue stems from the state on down. There's a lack of supply. Happy to see the Biden Administration moving quickly to supply states with higher supplies of vaccines. And we're doing the best we can to vaccinate as many people as possible.
But frankly, we're just waiting for guidance from the governor and from the Department of Public Health as to when we can really vaccinate other categories of folks. And so, unfortunately, it's been slower than we'd like and more restrictive than we'd like, in western Massachusetts, including Holyoke. You know, I don't think it's getting as much attention as eastern Mass. I'm grateful for folks in the state delegation for for raising their voice.
Ray Hershel: Certainly, one of the most difficult issues has been the the Holyoke Soldiers' Home in the seventy six veterans who lost their lives due to COVID. We are just learning that Governor Baker is going ahead with a bond bill to construct a new Holyoke Soldiers' Home, your thoughts on that and the need for a new home?
Mayor Alex Morse: It's long overdue. It's been divested from for years, and really happy to see that a plan is advancing to invest in a new facility. Thankful to the advocates that push to increase the number of beds from the preliminary plan that the state released.
And I also just want to note, a bond bill is great, but it's a bond bill. Once you get into a bond bill, you still need the authorization to spend that money. There is hundreds of millions of dollars in bond bills over the last decade that was never actually allocated to to be spent. And so, my hope is that it starts with a bond bill, and then quickly is authorized by the governor to actually spend that money and make a new home possible as soon as we possibly can.
Ray Hershel: And Mayor, as you get set to leave office at the end of the year, any final message, any thoughts for the people of Holyoke?
Mayor Alex Morse, Holyoke: Through the ups and downs, the challenges, the successes, I, just again, want to thank the people of Holyoke for trusting in me, for electing me four times to be your mayor. And I look forward to to continue giving back to my community and in other ways and watching this election in the months to come for my successor.
February 19, 2021
In his nine decades of life, Daniel Smith has witnessed some of the biggest moments in the nation’s racial history — from the grief and glory of the civil rights movement, to the election of the first Black president, and most rec
In his nine decades of life, Daniel Smith has witnessed some of the biggest moments in the nation’s racial history — from the grief and glory of the civil rights movement, to the election of the first Black president, and most recently the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Smith shared some of his life's memories with producer Dave Fraser, which included growing up in northern Connecticut and attending Springfield College.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: In his ninth decade of life, Daniel Smith has witnessed decades of the nation's racial history, from the grief and glory of the Civil Rights Movement to the election of the first Black president, and most recently, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
He shared some of his life's memories with producer Dave Fraser, which included growing up in northern Connecticut and attending Springfield College
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: On the campus of Springfield College in March of 2014, a special event was held that brought together three men, all of whom had attended Martin Luther King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington. One of those men was Dan Smith, a 1960 graduate of Springfield College.
Professor of communications at the college Martin Dobrow was the moderator for the event and recalls how Dan's story piqued his interest.
Professor Martin Dobrow, Springfield College: Dan is a constitutionally very modest person, who I don't think thinks of his own life as being anything particularly extraordinary. But to me, he's really sort of like the Forrest Gump of Civil Rights. He has just been everywhere.
This is someone who attended the march on Washington, who walked with Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery, who worked in Alabama at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. And some very -- you know, had some very harrowing encounters there. Ultimately, someone who attended the inauguration of Barack Obama.
So, he's really lived the trajectory of the American racial story in what to me feels like a pretty unique way. And so it seemed to me, really the vehicle for a great story.
Dave Frasert: Dobrow wrote about Smith last June in a story that appeared in the online publishing platform Medium. What makes this story even more unique is that at the age of 88, Dan Smith is the living son of a slave.
Professor Martin Dobrow: There had to be very special circumstances for this to happen. One is that his dad had to procreate quite late. Dan came into the world in 1932, so his dad was almost 70 at the time. And then Dan himself, you know, would have to live a pretty lengthy life. And that was obviously true back in 2014, and here he is still going strong in 2020.
Dave Fraser: Dan spent his youth growing up in Winstead, Connecticut. He was just six when his father was killed in a car accident, leaving his mother, Clara, to raise Dan and his five siblings in a town of not many black people.
Daniel Smith, Civil Rights Activist: We were always embarrassed and ashamed that we were descendants of slaves. You know, it wasn't until recently that people are proud that they were descended.
But when we grow up, I mean kids in school say, "oh, you're you're from a slave. You're just a slave."
Dave Fraser: Despite Dan's family history, he was able to get a good education in town. But as the only black kid in class, Dan had to learn to adapt to the white world.
Daniel Smith: I couldn't get a haircut in Windsor, because they wouldn't cut Black people's hair. So, I had to take a bus to Hartford, take a cab to the barber shop, and it cost me fifteen dollars.
Because that, you know, to me that was a lot of money.
Dave Fraser: After high school, Dan served a tour of duty in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He worked as an operating room technician, and it was here that he developed an interest in public health.
In 1955, when Hurricane Diane roared through northern Connecticut, Dan, who was an excellent swimmer, performed an act of heroism that is still remembered to this day, saving a drowning man from the turbulent Mad river.
Daniel Smith: The interesting thing was that everyone thought I had drowned or we had drowned. So, when I finally got home, I had to walk home. Got home, I walked in my mother's house and she said, "What are you doing here?" And she said, "The police said you were dead."
And I said, "No, I'm not dead." Then she said, "Well, put the insurance papers back."
Dave Fraser: The next year, funded in part by the GI Bill, Dan went to Springfield College. And even though his life was shaped by slavery and racism, he was able to push ahead.
He joined the wrestling team, sang in the Glee Club, and was elected president of the student council. In August of 1963, Dan, along with a white friend from Connecticut, drove to the nation's capital to participate in the March on Washington.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader: I am happy to join with you today...
Dave Fraser,: Although Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech was powerful, it was the speech of young John Lewis that resonated with Dan.
John Lewis, Civil Rights Leader: We must get in this revolution and complete the revolution on the Delta and Mississippi, in southwest Georgia, in the Black belt of Alabama, in Harlem and Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and all over this nation, the Black masses on the march for jobs and Freedom.
Daniel Smith: So when he came on, it was just spellbound. I mean, King was incredible, but John really spoke from the heart about getting things done now, don't wait.
Dave Fraser: Dan would take the words that were spoken that day to heart and follow his own dreams. He enrolled in the veterinary program at Tuskegee Institute, a historically Black university in Alabama.
Daniel Smith: I mean, it was a whole new world for me in Tuskegee. All Black community, we had one or two whites on campus. All the guys in my veterinary class at the time had witnessed some serious discrimination or violence. Either they had or their parents had. So, they've got a very quick education.
Dave Fraser: This career path was short lived. Because of his leadership abilities, Dan was encouraged to work towards the cause of Civil Rights.
Professor Martin Dobrow: That was one of those forks in the road. You know, two roads diverged in the yellow wood kind of moment in his life. And he made what was a powerful choice and, you know, wound up working very intensely with the Civil Rights Movement down in Alabama.
Had a couple of harrowing encounters while he was there, once chased within a few inches of his life by the Ku Klux Klan on a dark road in Alabama. And so, I think those years were very important to Dan, also a small chunk of his life, but an important chunk.
Dave Fraser: Throughout his life, Dan has witnessed decades of this nation's racial history, from the injustice of Jim Crow to the grief and glory of the Civil Rights Movement to the election of the first Black president.
Daniel Smith: When I was growing up, the talk within the Black community oriented white community and especially, they'd say "In 20 years though, we are going to be different." And when Obama was elected, Loretta and I went to Obama's inauguration. When he came on to make his speech, I mean, I was just crying.
The guy next to me who was white was crying. Everyone was was -- just it was so emotional. Loretta was crying, right? It was just so emotional because we all felt the same thing if this is finally here. But it has changed, and not for the better.
Dave Frasert: At age 88, there is no question that Dan has witnessed moments of national shame and shimmering possibilities. He retired in 1994, and in 2006 when his second wife, Loretta Neuman, at the National Cathedral, where Dan served as the head usher, escorting United States presidents into major national events. Today, at his home in northern Washington, he and Loretta are working on Dan's memoirs.
Daniel Smith: I think it's important for my memoirs, I hope we show, is the path I've taken from birth to where I am now. And the path that we're on.
My philosophy has always been life has no obstacles, only challenges. And although I've never had a fight in my life, I was always ready to do battle.