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In the Blind Spot (Versailles, Dollar Standard, BrewDog)

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This edition of the Blind Spot Wrap was compiled by Izabella Kaminska.

Business, Finance, Econ etc…

  • Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, announces 12,000 job cuts. Says Google “hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today”.
  • Crypto lender Genesis files for bankruptcy.
  • Tencent reveals it fired 100 people for corruption.
  • SBF continued to insist FTX US was solvent. Then FTX chief John Ray decided he was open to restarting the exchange’s solvent operations.
  • The CEO of proudly “carbon neutral” pub chain Brewdog, claims pints should now cost £27.50 and many businesses won’t survive 2023.
  • Zoltan Pozsar of Credit Suisse pens an oped in the FT arguing that the monetary order is being challenged by de-dollarisation efforts and central bank digital currencies. China expert Michael Pettis presents a strong argument against the thesis.

    I’ve uploaded Zoltan’s full report so you can properly assess the argument if you so wish. I should flag that Zoltan offered me the opportunity to contribute directly to the report’s creation (on the back of my dollar neutrality thesis). Personally, I think Pettis makes many great points, and I generally agree with him that there is no imminent risk of dollar death. However, I think he overlooks the neutrality issue and the role that confiscation/sanctions risk  now plays in determining where foreign central banks/treasuries hold their reserves. The dollar won’t die, but the global reserve picture will become more diverse. Gold is already becoming more meaningful in that picture.

    All that said, Pettis is definitely right that trade-surplus producing countries face limitations in how creative they can get. One under appreciated option they do have, however, is using their dollars to pay off pre-existing dollar debts of emerging market countries in exchange for influence.

  • Iran and Russia announce they want to issue a new stablecoin backed by gold.
  • JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon says he still hates bitcoin but loves blockchain.
  • The BoJ leaves its policy of Yield Curve Control unchanged, and governor Kuroda tells WEF that he believes Japan still needs accommodative policy. But fund manager AllianceBernstein warns If the cbank sticks with its yield-curve control policy and liquidity continues to worsen “it may be time to consider stopping investing in the country’s government bonds altogether”.
  • Coinbase has no more interest in operating in Japan.
  • California’s high gas prices could be down to nobody wanting to open a new gas station in the state.
  • The New Yorker publishes a spotlight on the Getty Family’s Trust issues.
  • Goldman Sachs has a bad week after facing news the Fed is investigating its consumer retailing unit Marcus.
  • Trafigura takes a large amount of copper out of the LME.
  • Economist Tony Yates writes a piece about how CBDCs were not worth the costs or risks which goes viral.

    The piece basically reiterated the same argument the Blind Spot has been making for years.

Going Nuclear:

Media Matters:

  • Robby Soave obtains emails showing that the CDC had significant influence over covid moderation at Facebook and Instagram.

    Who doesn’t have a files series at this point? Perhaps Elon was right in predicting that Twitter would become a critical newsbreaking platform in its own right.

  • Media start-up Semafor says it is planning to buyout Sam Bankman-Fried’s stake in the group, which at $10m represented the biggest outside investment.

    As a journalist who is also trying to grow and expand an independent media outlet, I always found it strange how easily Semafor was able to find funding for itself. I figured, better connections. Bigger promises. Less independence. I remain the full equity owner of the Blind Spot, but, it’s worth flagging that as of February 1, I too have struck a deal with an outside party which should add some va va voom to the operation. All will be revealed shortly.

  • Declassified reveals that the National Endowment for Democracy has funded groups such as Bellingcat, Index on Censorship, Article 19, Finance Uncovered, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Versailles Court News:

  • DavosDeville brings you the WEF files.
  • Elon Musk starts a war with the World Economic Forum by asking in a poll whether it should control the world and over 80 per cent of people said no.
  • Elon Musk also engages in an active exchange with Public News’s Michael Shellenberger after he publishes a piece (with me as co-author contributing the financial bits) calling WEF a grift and a cult and arguing that its days are over.

    Michael Shellenberger is an environmentalist turned journalist (author of Apocalypse Never) who has long advocated for pro-growth environmental policy. His profile exploded after Elon Musk brought him in late last year — along with Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss — to search through the Twitter Files. Shellenberger focused his searches on the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story. 

    Some time ago, while I was still at the FT, I interviewed Michael Shellenberger for a podcast that ended up never being published. I still can’t really explain why. The “A Long Time in Finance” podcast (which the Blind Spot also collaborates with) interviewed Shellenberger in November. Suffice to say, we speak. I had been meaning to do a piece on WEF conflicts of interest ever since I was at the FT. It never went anywhere either. When Michael suggested we collaborate on a WEF piece, I figured why not. He’s got US freedom of speech laws behind him. While his style is definitely more tabloid than mine, he is a journalist with integrity. Seven million views on Twitter later… Michael thinks it definitely set a tone for the plethora of “end of Davos” pieces that followed from the mainstream media.

  • ECB staff are losing faith in Christine Lagarde and her board as inflation bites. At Davos, she appeared very pleased at not giving CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore any insight into her thoughts about the eurodollar exchange rate.
  • I have some thoughts about WEF, corporatism and succession.
  • Mutiny erupts among WEF staff over role of ‘Mr Davos’.

    The group behind this email refused to verify their identity. The Guardian went with it regardless. In reality, they could be anyone.

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