The Abyss

They don’t love him because he speaks for them, or because he entertains them.

They love him because through him they deploy the only strategy that seems to work any longer – the strategy of terror.

“Take care of us or we’ll blow our country up.”

Ignited by anger, driven by fear. The worse the corruption and criminality, the more heartened his supporters. They glory in the hand-wringing and hypocrisy of legislators and judges who step into line to ratify his conduct.

Through him they have power. They have meaning. They are seen. People have to pay attention.

We are become our own enemy. And the Madih resting at the bottom of the Indian Ocean smiles in delight.

Not All Lost

Spent a fair portion of the day yesterday in the Santa Clarita area. Both church services I attended focused on Thursday’s events at Saugus High School. When I returned at 7 PM for the vigil in Central Park, the park was packed with people – I ended up standing 200 or more feet from the stage.

I did the best that I could to support the speakers, several of whom teetered on the edge of emotional collapse.

I was heartened that both of the deceased children were memorialized. I’ve been to several cities after such shootings, and this was the first time the shooter was remembered as a loving, active presence in the community. I consider it a huge step forward.

Block-Head Chain

We may be losing the trade war in goods with China, but the virtual trade war is running nicely. It seems the US should soon resume its historical dominance in natural resources production…

Excerpted from the link:

Extracting a dollar’s worth of cryptocurrency such as bitcoin from the deep Web consumes three times more energy than digging up a dollar’s worth of gold.

There are now hundreds of virtual currencies and an unknown number of server farms around the world running around the clock to unearth them, more than half of them in China

Money for Nothing

One of the fundamental assumptions of free-market theory is that information is frictionless. A competitor introducing a higher-value laundry detergent drives innovation only if consumers know about the product. Renewable sources of electricity will be adopted only if public utilities can mothball their existing fossil-fuel-based generating plants – made more difficult when the bonds are still being paid off.

For much of the second half of the twentieth century, the American worker benefited from friction in the delivery of goods and services. That friction took many forms: shipping costs, brand loyalty, and legal and financial rules. Today, globalization of markets forces us to compete with much cheaper sources of labor overseas, and the laziness of American managers (as compared to German and Asian counterparts that invested in skill development) means that jobs bleed across our borders.

The last redoubt of friction is financial services. The Baby Boomers generation accumulated huge retirement reserves, and Reagan-era fiscal policies have driven government deeply into debt. The dollar is the currency of choice for international business. Finally, expensive real-time trading technology is a high barrier to entry.

To those that understood the dynamics, it was no surprise that in the fiscal year following the 2008 meltdown, financial services companies reaped fully half of the profits enjoyed by American business. The system was rigged in their favor.

Some information about the practices of the industry have been revealed by those investigating the collapse of mortgage equities and the Ivan Boesky pyramid scheme. Every financial advisor banks on insider trading. Their job is to build relationships that allow them to get their clients to the trough first when an opportunity is created. No outsider can hope to compete.

Now the World Economic Forum has weighed in on the dangers to this system of artificial intelligence. Substituting a relentless, unbiased algorithm for your investment advisor ensures that you will always be given the best deal available. Your loan may come from Malaysia instead of Wall Street, but the impact of that truth is to drive down costs in the financial services sector.

Yes, the interim will be messy as the trading algorithms expose instability and self-serving in our existing financial system. But the end result will be a system with far less friction. As promised in free-market theory, money will find those inspired to create value, and bypass those motivated solely by greed.

God and Guns

At the NRA conference yesterday, attendees were happy to assert that “Jesus loves me and my guns.”

No. There will be no guns in paradise.

Jesus accepts your fascination with Death, and recognizes that Death asserts its sway over you in our consumer society. But he also understands that your fascination is locked in the weapons that you worship, so that when you die it evaporates when the metal is reclaimed for something useful – like making surgical implements or machine fasteners.

Eventually part of you will get to heaven, but it will only be the part that “fears not,” as the Bible commands so many times.

Jesus forgives your fear, but is determined that it be separated from you so that you may enter heaven. That is the measure of his love for us.

The Self-Interment Option

As the Supreme Court appears poised to uphold Trump’s Muslim travel ban, my colleague at work mused (jokingly) that he was prepared to leave the country if they opened interment camps.

Given that the people I would really like to see interred are the racist ethno-nationalists, I tripped down the road to the realization that they are. They have bought weapons and fenced off compounds, claiming sovereignty on the grounds that their closely-held freedoms are violated by the modern welfare state.

The question is whether we can create some kind of financial incentive to speed the process of self-interment. Maybe relief from the Obama-care mandates? Or maybe we could dam some portion of the Mississippi river, flooding the basin for Richard Thiel’s “one-man, one-island”-state.

Not to distort Donne…

Trump Pump and Dump

A “pump and dump” scam is a method used by unscrupulous investors to take money from “get rich quick” investors. It was common in penny tech stocks during the ’90s, and is openly advocated by virtual currency (“E-coin”) investors today.

Pump and dump starts by sending the victims a notice that an asset is “ready to move.” A large purchase is placed to drive up market valuation. When the victims pile on to take advantage of the “opportunity,” the price continues to rise. The scammer sells back into the market, reaping profits. When the victims run out of money, the asset valuation returns to its original value, leaving the victims with nothing.

Now we might not be terribly sympathetic to the get-rich quick investors, but it is worth noting that Trump has a history of association with Mafia pump-and-dump operators. With him as president, they have a bold opportunity.

This one relies on the futures markets using a technique called a short-sell. Organizations wishing to secure the price of an asset will place an order today, taking the risk that the price will fall in the future. A virtual seller can reap a profit by taking the risk, hoping that the price will indeed fall so that they can buy the asset for less than the buyer paid for it.

As the futures markets have evolved, they have come to include almost every financial asset, include stock market exchanges.

Now imagine that you have a president that likes to make threats of trade wars. You notice that the market drops like a bomb on the day of the announcement, recovers for a couple of days, then tanks again when a new announcement is made. Investors that know the timing of the announcements can short the index, reaping profits each time the market falls.

Of course, we don’t need such imagination. We have such a president, who excels at saying alarming things that destabilize markets. Now add his association with mafia market manipulators, and you have to wonder…how much money is his family making (including the Kushners) each time an announcement is made? How much money is Carl Icahn making?