Where finance and media intersect with reality

In the Blind Spot (Gosplan, Falklands, Chelsea)

Screenshot 2022-04-21 at 13.33.17

Finance, Markets, economy etc…

  • Vanity Fair deep dives into the Dan Loeb school of activist investing.
  • Serena Williams, Lewis Hamilton join former Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton’s consortium to buy Chelsea football club.
  • Israel adds China’s yuan for the first time ever while cutting its dollar holdings in biggest currency reshuffle in a decade.
  • Rana Foroohar on the new Bretton Woods “friend shoring” system.
  • Record earnings for Tesla.
  • An opaque market is forming to obscure the origin of Russian oil.
  • The SEC is seeking comment on its proposed rule change to expand the definition of what it considers to be a “dealer” or “government securities dealer”.

    The proposal seems to be directed at high frequency trading and other “proprietary trading” firms, because SEC chair Gary Gensler has noted that “electronification and the use of algorithmic trading have made transacting in this market faster than ever before”. It will be interesting to see what the HFT firms have to say about it.

WW3 Watch:

  • The race to militarise the metaverse.
  • Here’s Russia’s entry to the kitsch propaganda music video battle.
  • A much less kitsch Ukrainian submission is here.
  • It’s 40 years since the Falklands War allowed Margaret Thatcher to distract everyone from the economy. But Argentinian claims over the islands haven’t been relinquished, and China seems to be supportive of them.

    And what does it mean that the FT is arguing in favour of reducing the UK military presence on the islands, just as its economy is on the up?

Gosplan Watch:

  • John Helmer’s Dancing with Bears blog reports that Yevgeny Ulyanov, a deputy leader in Russia’s modern day Communist Party, is quite keen on reviving Gosplan. Here’s a translation of what he said:

    I can’t believe I failed to register how big a thing the communist party still is in Russia. Not surprising, I guess.

    Nonetheless, I find it surprising that there was never an equivalent decommunisation programme in Russia after the fall of the USSR to that of the denazification programme by the allies post the Second World War.

From the “Fake News” zone:

  • Matt Taibbi does not rate the Washington Post’s exposé of the Libs of TikTok account.

Anacyclosis Watch:

  • Vanity Fair’s James Pogue hangs out with the new right and is befuddled by it. Worth a read.

    I feel there is something massive being lost in translation between our various modern tribal systems. And there’s possibly a lack of understanding about cyclical historical trends too. For example, when describing Curtis Yarvin’s philosophy about the media “cathedral”, Pogue notes:

    “Journalists and academics and thinkers of any kind now live in a desperate race for attention—and in Yarvin’s view, this is all really a never-ending bid for influence, serving the interests of our oligarchical regime. So I may think I write for a living. But to Yarvin, what I actually do is more like a weird combination of intelligence-gathering and propagandizing. Which is why no one I was talking to at NatCon really thought it would be possible for me to write a fair piece about them.”

    I don’t really understand why this is an objectionable viewpoint. Or at the very least why it would be taboo to discuss the possibility that the media space has gone collectively native on many issues. I personally kind of agree with the assessment, and I am about as big a champion of democratic principles as you can get.

    The root issue being critiqued IMHO is a sinister but extremely subtle type of endemic corruption across all sorts of industrial sectors. It’s a theme I tried to encapsulate in my long-running series on FT Alphaville which I dubbed “The entire economy is Fyre Festival”.  This corruption comes in the style of the boiling frog apologue, which is why so many people can’t detect it. Much like Libor traders or subprime bankers didn’t consider what they were doing to be ethically questionable at the time either.

    At the very least I think these are important points that need to be aired and discussed. It is nice, however, to see Pogue recognising that the anti academic movement being pushed by these “new right” circles (and I use the term “right” lightly because I don’t see these issues as strictly the concern of the right wing, and frankly I think the old political classifications are a bit redundant these days anyway) is far from anti-intellectual.

    The piece dwells a lot on the movement’s fondness for monarchic systems. Maybe it’s too much wishful thinking on my part, but I feel this is too simplistic a way to see things. I prefer to see the whole monarchic revival thing framed in the context of anacylosis. Nobody wants democracy to be annhilated. Everyone agrees democracy is optimal. But if and when democracy itself is corrupted — which is what the assertion is — there are only a number of options on the table to prevent that corruption from generating civilisational collapse.

    One is to try and fix democracy. This is firmly the viewpoint of Blind Spot contributor Tim Ferguson, who is popularly advocating for a policy of “Rationism” in a bid to rebuild the middle classes and with that the health of the democratic system. We will have more on how that works soon.

    The other is to allow the cycle to flow to the “benign monarch” phase — wherein a single leader is entrusted by the system to clean it up with a view to reverting it back to normal democracy mode as quickly as possible. Monarchy itself is not the end objective. Of course, this carries all sorts of Star Wars-related risk since absolute power corrupts absolutely. And we know from Rome what happened after Augustus. Hence critiquing Moldbuggism is fair enough in my book.

    What I find weird, however, is the reluctance to accept that the system itself might be on the brink. The standard counter-narrative seems to be that all criticism of modern democracy is fascistic by definition because there’s nothing there to fix and that it’s working perfectly. I find that naive.

    The piece also covers the “new right’s” view on academia.

    I, like most media people, thought Peter Thiel’s initiative to encourage students to drop out of university, was nuts when I first heard about it. But I now realise I was possibly the one that was ill-read on the matter. Thiel has been incredibly ahead of the curve on the malaise affecting academic thinking and practice. I think he makes a strong case. It’s certainly worth hearing.

    The whole thing reminds me of my mother’s experiences with the Polish university system during communism. I may turn the Tweet thread I did about that into a proper story at some point, as I think there are important analogies. But for now you can check it out here.

Coronavirus is still a thing:

  • Scientists investigating the mystery outbreak of acute hepatitis in children are probing a possible link to lowered immunity to adenovirus among infants during lockdown.
  • A photo from a contact in Shanghai of one of the life-supporting bundles he received while incarcerated at home. “Tonight Matthew, I’ll be having bananas.”:

Tidbits:

  • The producers of a film whose cinematographer was accidentally shot dead on set by Alec Baldwin have been fined and strongly criticised by authorities for failing to follow safety guidelines.

    I’ve only just caught up on the fact that Halyna Hutchins, a native Ukrainian, grew up at the Soviet naval base in Murmansk because her father was a nuclear submarine captain. Alec Baldwin, meanwhile, famously played Jack Ryan in the film Hunt for Red October, all about a nuclear submarine captain who went rogue on the Soviets because of his disgust at having to man a vessel designed for a pre-emptive nuclear attack.

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