On Politics

     

 

 

Paradise in LA LA Land

More is revealed with each passing day.  You can count on it.  But what exactly the ‘more is of’ requires careful discrimination.  Is the ‘more’ merely more noise?  Or is it something of actual substance?  Today we endeavor to pass judgment, on your behalf.

 

Normally, judgment would be passed on a Thursday, but we are making an exception. [PT]

 

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Turn on, Tune in, Drop out

Back in the drug-soaked, if not halcyon, days known at the sexual and drug revolution—the 1960’s—many people were on a quest for the “perfect trip”, and the “perfect hit of acid” (the drug lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD).

 

Dr. Albert Hoffman and his famous bicycle ride through Basel after he ingested a few drops of LSD-25 by mistake. The photograph in the middle was taken at the Woodstock festival and inter alia serves as a reminder that monetary inflation has a considerable effect on the purchasing power of the US dollar over time. [PT]

 

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Interesting Times Arrive

“Things sure are getting exciting again, ain’t they?”  The remark was made by a colleague on Tuesday morning, as we stepped off the elevator to grab a cup of coffee.

 

Ancient Chinese curse alert… [PT]

 

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Dubious Picks

Unless this is part of another cunning negotiation tactic, the Donald’s recent cabinet nominations have to be considered highly dubious, to say the least. First he promoted Mike Pompeo from his CIA post to the position of Secretary of State – removing the eminently reasonable, and as we believe widely underappreciated Rex Tillerson. Pompeo is mainly known for sharing Trump’s irrational dislike of the  nuclear deal with Iran, which was pretty much the only laudable policy measure Obama implemented in his otherwise disastrous 8-year reign.

 

“Trump-Whisperer” (h/t Economist magazine) Mike Pompeo. To his hawkishness on Iran we would note the following: invading or bombing the country is pretty much an insane pipe dream (and it would achieve nothing but even more regional chaos); reimposing sanctions only fortifies the regime’s position, which can then blame all economic troubles on foreign enemies – besides, it is well-known that the population rallies to support the mullahs whenever they can credibly point the finger at foreign interference. Iran’s citizens are definitely hurt by economic sanctions, but they won’t blame their own government – instead they will increasingly come to hate the West. What else does Pompeo support? Here’s a brief list of things he has reportedly said in recent years: he is for “military action in Syria to remove Assad” (brilliant, get rid of one of the few remaining secular political leaders in the region – who does he think will take over from Assad? Peaceful professional head-choppers?); he’s perfectly fine with NSA mass surveillance (as we have often pointed out, there is no reason whatsoever to trust that this is not misused, and even if one naively assumes so, it paves the way for a future tyranny); along similar lines he demanded the “death sentence for Edward Snowden” (who we think is a hero for informing the world at a huge cost to himself about the unlawful mass surveillance Pompeo loves so much); and lastly, he thinks the Guantanamo Bay torture station should definitely remain in operation (of course Obama failed to close it down as promised). The guy is a neo-con warmonger/ Deep State swamp creature. Trump was allegedly impressed by his swagger.

 

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One and the Same

 

“God gave me my money.”

– John D. Rockefeller

 

Today we step away from the economy and markets and endeavor down the path less traveled.  For fun and for free, we wade out into a smelly peat bog.  There we scratch away the surface muck in search of what lies below.

 

One should actually be careful about quotes like the one attributed to Rockefeller above, even if it of course sounds good and is very suitable for the topic at hand. In reality he probably said something like it, but it is almost certain he didn’t say it verbatim (contrary to Mr. Blankfein, who is indeed on record for stating that Goldman Sachs was “doing God’s work”). We mention this because we have long noticed that the best-known quotes attributed to all sorts of long dead famous people – the ones one immediately finds on the first page that pops up when googling their names – are more often than not either garbled beyond recognition, or misattributed, or at times even completely made up. A genuine quote is a rare find indeed; at a minimum the most famous quotes have almost always gone through the Chinese horse-whisperer treatment (known as “telephone” in the US). What Mr. Dunne said about Rockefeller is rather more certain, since he put it in writing in the Chicago Evening Post in 1895 – albeit in his “Mr Dooley” voice, imitating an Irish accent. Dooley was a figure Dunne had invented for his satirical columns, the fictional owner of a fictional Irish pub located on the South Side of Chicago (so the quote actually read: “He’s kind iv a society f’r the previntion of croolty to money…”, etc.).  [PT]

 

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Fake Responses 

One month ago we asked: What kind of stock market purge is this?  Over the last 30 days the stock market’s offered plenty of fake responses.  Yet we’re still waiting for a clear answer.

 

As the party continues, the dance moves of the revelers are becoming ever more ominous. Are they still right in the head? Perhaps a little trepanation is called for to relieve those brain tensions a bit?  [PT]

 

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Demanding More Debt

Consumer debt, corporate debt, and government debt are all going up.  But that’s not all.  Margin debt – debt that investors borrow against their portfolio to buy more stocks – has hit a record of $642.8 billion.  What in the world are people thinking?

 

A blow-off in margin debt mirroring the blow-off in stock prices. Since February of 2016 alone it has soared by ~$170 billion – this is an entirely new level insanity. The current total of 643 billion is more than double the level of margin debt at the tech mania peak and 15.4 times the amount of margin debt just before the crash of 1987. [PT]

 

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Serenely Grows the Debtberg

We mentioned in a recent post that we would soon return to the topic of credit spreads and exotic structured products. One reason for doing so are the many surprises investors faced in the 2008 crisis. Readers may e.g. remember auction rate securities. These bonds were often listed as “cash equivalents” on the balance sheets of assorted companies investing in them, but it turned out they were anything but. Shareholders of many small and mid-sized companies learned to their chagrin that quite a bit of this “cash” had for all practical purposes evaporated when the markets for these bonds suddenly froze.

 

Surprise and shock at the sudden emergence of exotic securities in unexpected places at an inconvenient moment.

 

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A Finite Life Span

We have been promising to get back to the topic of capital destruction, which we put on hiatus for the last several weeks to make our case that the interest rate remains in a falling trend. Today, we have a different way of looking at capital destruction.

 

A Soviet propaganda poster extolling the virtues of the plan… a succession of such plans ultimately ended in economic collapse – eventually, not even basic staples could be supplied to the population anymore. It was easily the biggest bankruptcy in history.  [PT]

 

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Mnuchin Gets It

United States Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin has a sweet gig.  He writes rubber checks to pay the nation’s bills.  Yet, somehow, the rubber checks don’t bounce.  Instead, like magic, they clear. How this all works, considering the nation’s technically insolvent, we don’t quite understand.  But Mnuchin gets it.  He knows exactly how full faith and credit works – and he knows plenty more.

 

Master of the Mint and economy wizard Steven Mnuchin and his wife at the annual ritual greenback burning festival. [PT]

 

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Opportunities in the Junior Mining Sector

Maurice Jackson of Proven and Probable has recently interviewed Jayant Bandari, the publisher of Capitalism and Morality and a frequent contributor to this site. The topics discussed include currencies, bitcoin, gold and above all junior gold stocks (i.e., small producers and explorers). Jayant shares some of his best ideas in the segment, including arbitrage opportunities currently offered by pending takeovers – which is an area that generally doesn’t receive much attention, but seems to harbor quite a bit of potential.

 

Jayant Bandari at the at the Sprott Natural Resource Symposium in Vancouver in 2017.

 

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Something for Nothing

The world is full of bad ideas.  Just look around.  One can hardly blink without a multitude of bad ideas coming into view.  What’s more, the worse an idea is, the more popular it becomes. Take Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor.  It’s nearly as destructive as prescription pain killers.  Yet people chug it down with reckless abandon.

 

Looking at the expression of this Mickey’s Malt Liquor tester one might initially get the impression that he is disappointed. We assure you that is not the case – this is actually his happy face, he is probably just about to enter Nirvana. Countless taste tests prove it, see this comparison of the “entire bottom shelf” of malt liquors, or these cost-conscious routiniers. Not to forget, it comes either in cans or in shatterproof plastic bottles. [PT]

 

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