Tag Archives: us politics

At an Undisclosed Location

Biden is calling in Obama to campaign in Michigan (which should be a Democrat lock). But what is cute about this is that the campaign stop is to be at an “undisclosed location”.

Who does that?

Apparently, this is motivated by a desire to avoid the annoying Trumpsters who have been showing up at Biden rallies and mocking the old guy.

I’ve already written about why I think Trump will win bigly, however the events of the last few days – the Hunter Biden documents and videos, the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, riots in Philly and, tonight Washington, DC, the second debate – simply re-enforce that view.

People with a serious chance of winning do not campaign at undisclosed locations with former Presidents. They are out and about doing several events a day. These days, not pressing the flesh, but visible, confident, in charge. Biden is none of those things.

I am pretty sure Trump is going to win, but I am even more certain that Biden is going to lose.

Biden loses because he is a terrible campaigner and because he has not gained any traction for whatever it is he is presenting as vision for America. Leave aside his infirmities, he has not articulated anything which would make people want to vote for him. His voting base is voting against Trump, not for Biden.

The Trumpsters are out in force. Joyful, laughing, gently mocking “Sleepy Joe”. They are daylight contrasted with the Biden supporters looting Walmart in the dark.

Trump supporters are basically running spontaneous tail gate parties across America. Lots of people, no masks, have some fun, wave a flag, cheer for your guy. Biden and his campaign have no answer.

To avoid it they are running a “campaign event” at an undisclosed location.

Which is really all we need to know.

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Market Timing the Surreal

stock trading, COVID-19, Robinhood

Very smart investment gurus tend to agree: you cannot time the markets. That is, you almost never know where the top of a market is and it is nigh on impossible to pick a bottom.

Some go further and pronounce that picking individual stock or commodity is a fool’s errant and that simply “buying the index” is about the best you can do.

I tend to agree with this view except in the most extreme circumstances and then in only a few of those circumstances. For example, I don’t think the crash of 2008/2009 could have been predicted by any one who was not intimately familiar with the shitshow that was securitized mortgage lending and its implications for over leveraged banks. And, even per “The Big Short”, had you known all of that, the consequences for the overall market of what was essentially a banking crisis were far from predictable.

On the other hand, the bursting of the dot com bubble in March of 2000 was a matter of when not if and it was pretty obvious for at least a year before it finally burst. For a real bubble to form you need novice investors putting value on companies which have no earnings and you need people trading shares for the sake of trading. In the run up to the 2000 crash “day traders” were the new financial heros and people were raising a billion dollars to sell reams of copy paper or fifty pound bags of dog food online.

In the winter of 1928 Joe Kennedy, father of JFK and major stock market player, stopped to get his shoes shined. The shoeshine boy leaned in and said, “Buy Hindenburg”. Kennedy began unwinding his positions saying, “You know it’s time to sell when shoeshine boys give you stock tips. This bull market is over.”

I had a similar experience in late 1999 when a friend took out a mortgage on her condo to buy shares in the billion dollar online copy paper empire. She had a perfectly good job in retail garden supplies. Remembering Kennedy, I advised another friend that her Nortel was looking a bit overbought. As it happened she sold quite near the peak.

The 2020 equivalent of the shoeshine boy is the perfect storm is the free trading platform, robinhood.com. This is a nicely designed site where you can trade shares on your computer or phone. It has become very, very popular with younger, new investors. My late 1990’s day trading pals would have killed for this sort of interface and no brokers fees. It has spawned a whole host of reddit chats, twitter streams and countless YouTube videos on the excitement of swing trading. (One fun spot to watch Robinhood is the https://robintrack.net/leaderboard which shows which stocks the people on Robinhood are buying. It is a bit slow and buggy but a great front row seat.)

What is striking about the robinhood.com world is that it revolves around trading rather than any sort of “investing”. You hop into APPL in the morning, see if you can make a couple of bucks by noon and move onto the next thing. And Apple is a real, solvent, company.

Robinhood has been in the news recently because the herd has charged into the shares of a number of companies which are either in or near bankruptcy. Hertz Rent-a-Car dropped from $20 to $0.50 in three months as the market realized that with no travelers there would be no car rentals. Interestingly, we learn from robintrack.net that at $20 there were a little over 1000 users holding, as Hertz crashed the Robinhood users piled in, at $0.55 there were 44,000 and there are now 158,000. And many will have made money, lots of money, trading the gyrating price from $0.50 to back up to $5.00.

In the run up to the crash of October 1929, long after Joe Kennedy had pulled his money from the market, retail traders were coining it trading the “swings” on margin accounts. It didn’t matter what the company actually did, it was going up. The same “irrational exuberance” was a big feature in the dot com bubble.

Justifying the current trading frenzy are all sorts of snappy phrases, “You can’t fight the Fed” is a favourite. “V” shaped recovery is another. There is a sense that age of the dinosaurs, the Warren Buffets and the Carl Ichans is over, that fresh, app driven approaches to investing, and more importantly, trading have been unleashed.

The election and Presidency of Donald Trump created a sense that we had all stepped into an unanticipated world. At the best of times, Trump is unpredictable and the reactions to Trump are off the scale of normal political response. Then COVID and the huge economic uncertainty it has unleashed came crashing onto the stage. Then the George Floyd convulsion layered on another coat of unreality. In fact, surreality.

Day trading surreality seems entirely crazy but it is also a huge tell. Rail traffic has crashed but rails stocks are up, the US is officially in recession but the NASDAQ hit an all time high on Monday, all measures of the real economy are cratering but the stock markets are flying.

The thing about surrealism is that it depends on reality remaining fixed for its often intoxicating effects. Dali’s melting clocks are striking because they do not conform to how we know real clocks look and behave. Stepping away from a surrealist experience there is a snap back to reality. Sometimes you see that reality differently, but it is there nonetheless.

The Robinhood day trading, options fueled, herd investing suggests very strongly that a harsh, perhaps very harsh, snap back is pending. What triggers that snap back is unknown (and therefore impossible to time). It could be as simple a the closure of a bankrupt commercial mortgage fund or the end of banks mortgage deferrals. Whatever it is will be enough for retail investors to start liquidating their positions.

The lessons of the 1929 crash and the 2000 dot com bust were simple – get out early and be in no hurry to get back in. Right now the dinosaurs like Buffet and Ichan are sitting on stacks of cash. Just like Joe Kennedy was when Wall Street swan dived in October 1929. They got that cash by selling their shares to shoeshine boys and the bright lights at Robinhood.

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Consequence

I am old enough that I watched the Nixon Impeachment and the Clinton Impeachment. In both cases, it was hard to argue that there was not evidence of misuse of office. That evidence was marshalled by serious people in a set of televised hearings which, regardless of which “side” you were on, underscored the gravity of the accusations and the procedural, if not political, propriety of the process. In each case, there was a formal vote in the House of Representatives to commence the proceedings. The minority party was granted its full rights to put its side of the case.

This does not appear to be the intent in the Impeachment of Donald Trump. For details, it is well worth reading Sundance at The Conservative Treehouse.

This time out, the Democratic majority in the House seems willing to proceed on the allegations of an unidentified “whistleblower” who claims to have been told by others that Trump exerted pressure on the Ukrainian government to investigate Crowdstrike and whether or not Joe Biden exerted pressure (as he said he did) on the Ukrainian government to fire its Prosecutor who was looking into the affairs of a company which had hired Biden’s son, Hunter, for $50,000 a month to be a director on a Board which rarely met.

Trump – unlike Nixon or Clinton – believes that he has done nothing wrong and has released notes on the call as well as the whistleblower’s complaint. People will see what they want to see in these documents but there is a distinct absence of the smoking gun.

Which, apparently, does not matter to the Democrat majority in the House. Impeachment is a political act and the Democrats are apparently willing to use their majority to pass Articles of Impeachment irrespective of whether they in any way disclose a high crime or misdemeanour. The quaint legalisms of evidence, witnesses and actual misconduct have been thrown aside in an all out political hit on Trump.

I don’t think it will work. Partially for the reasons outlined by Conrad Black in his brilliant piece on why Trump will win big in 2020, partially because there is no public appetite for Impeachment.

With Nixon and, to a lesser degree, Clinton the public was scandalized by the President’s behaviour in office. With Trump, “un-Presidential” behaviour has already been priced in. Leaning on the Ukrainians, properly or improperly, is unlikely to fire up public indignation in the same way as a massive cover-up of a two-bit crime or Presidential blow jobs did. It’s a tough world and Trump is willing to throw America’s weight around. For his base this is a plus, for a significant majority of Americans it is very likely a non-issue, for Democratic partisans, it is just one more “outrage” in a string of outrages going back to Trump putting ketchup on his steak.

Impeachment is political and if Trump and his people are smart they are going to make it very costly for Democrat Representatives in areas where Trump is strong to turn up on the day the Articles of Impeachment are presented for a vote. This is good old retail politics. Taking the Trump rally machine into marginal Democratic districts and calling out the Representative. Astro-turfing the hell out of their emails and phone lines. Cutting deals with those Democrats one by one so that Pelosi gradually sees her majority dwindle and, perhaps, disappear entirely. (And Trump now has a pretty good idea of how to work with the US Senate and hold the 33 Republicans he needs to simply crush the Impeachment.)

This is the sort of straight, counter punching, fight Trump is good at. It gives him licence to let loose on the Democratic “leadership” for wasting the country’s time and not doing their legislative jobs. Trump will treat his Impeachment as a campaigning opportunity. He’ll be able to do this because the Democrats are proceeding with such an obviously political, obviously bad faith, evidence-free, hatchet job.

The consequence of the Democrat’s phoney Impeachment will, at a minimum, be the end of the Biden campaign and a huge reduction in interest in the ongoing Democrat Presidential Campaign. It will highlight the radicalization of the Democratic Party.

Trump’s road to victory in 2020 became a lot smoother when Pelosi’s intelligent, politically astute, resistance to Impeachment collapsed in the face of a confected complaint of the purest hearsay about Presidential actions which a large part of the country, now that they know about them will likely support.

Plus, and this is when it gets fun for Trump, between now and Christmas, there will be an Inspector General’s Report on the mis-use of FISA warrants to surveil the Trump campaign, the case against General Flynn will likely collapse and at least a few of the people involved in the ongoing FBI/DOJ/IC campaign against Trump will be indicted. With luck, some of those will cut deals to implicate higher-ups and, by Spring, the whole scummy Obama administration will be in the frame.

Trump will be insufferable and will ruthlessly mock the dim Democrats who thought this thin gruel would power a serious Impeachment.

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Impeachment for the Hell of it

Asking a foreign leader for assistance in an ongoing investigation is neither a high crime nor a misdemeanour. Releasing the transcript of that conversation and the so-called “whistle blower’s” complaint about that conversation is not a cover-up.

President Trump is an exceptionally lucky man. A less lucky man would be facing an intelligent opposition led by people of integrity who had at least some clue as to the workings of the American Constitution. Instead, he faces a group of idiots convinced that the impeachment provisions of the Constitution are there so the House of Representatives can kick a President out of office for pretty much any reason at all.

The spectacle of the Democratic Party “impeaching the “motherf*cker” out of pique will, I suspect, pretty much ensure Trump’s re-election. All of the potential Democratic nominees will have to at least pretend to support the bogus effort. Which will leave them trying to pretend that somewhere at the bottom of the pile of horseshit there really is a pony.

The by-catch on this lame effort is Joe Biden. Corrupt or not, Biden is going to have to explain how, somehow, his son secured a Ukrainian sinecure for which he was entirely unqualified. Bluster will not do it as he’ll have the other Democratic candidates gunning for him. I am not sorry to see Biden sink but, realistically, he was the Democrat with the best chance of beating Trump.

When the Republicans impeached but did not convict Bill Clinton it was a hugely partisan affair. However, the actual articles of impeachment – lying under oath and obstruction of justice – had been thoroughly investigated and there was little doubt that Clinton had actually done the deeds. A Democratic minority in the Senate, along with several Republicans, found Clinton not guilty. It was a partisan impeachment and a partisan acquittal.

Which the Trump impeachment most certainly is in the House of Representatives. However, the huge difference is that, unlike Clinton, Trump has not actually done anything wrong. He has not lied, he has not covered up. Which will make the baying of the House Democrats sound all the more partisan. Clinton spent a lot of political capital defending himself, Trump will likely accrue political capital simply by pointing out the worthlessness of the charges against him and the nastiness of his accusers.

There is every chance that, as the hollowness of the accusations becomes apparent, Democratic members of the House in close races will actually be harmed by the sheer partisanship of the attacks on the Presidency. Flipping the House and retaining the Senate are now well within Trump’s reach.

Of course, Trump now has the opportunity to let justice takes its course with the various FBI, DOJ and IC people who were involved in the Russia fraud and, with them, the nasty pieces of work who abused their positions to exonerate Hillary on her emails and misused the spying capacity of the United States to surveil Trump and his campaign.

Trump is a very lucky man indeed.

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Odd: The Lie Direct?

If a 68 year old woman collapses in a public place wouldn’t your first move be to take her to the hospital?

It is not as if Hilly felt light headed. She lost consciousness.

Why would you not take her to the hospital? Well the problem with hospitals is that there are a bunch of doctors and nurses who will make their own assessment of the patient. And, given the prominence of the patient, they will be asked questions by the press. (Update:¬†Apparently I was right when I wrote this. Campaign staff diverted from hospital to Chelsea’s.)

But if you take the patient to her daughter’s home and deal with the issues there? No independent doctors, no nurses, no press conference: just a lovely staged picture of an apparently well woman doing a selfie with a small child.

Then you can put out the pneumonia story as if, by some oversight, you forgot to mention it back on Friday when the diagnoses came through. Pneumonia covers a lot of ground and give you the excuse to keep Hilly out of sight for a few days.

I expect that Hilly has pneumonia. But there is a cause for that and the Clinton campaign is desperate to keep that cause secret. Which is what will finish Hilly if she does not have the grace to resign the nomination. Not the crime, its the cover-up. If there is an underlying and serious condition Hillary will have told the lie direct to the American people. The emails and the Foundation are complicated and while they should be serious are not well understood by the vast majority of the electorate.

But if Hilly told the lie direct about her health she will have proven she cannot be trusted. And that is the end of her.

 

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