Trump's Rival

Fri, 2017/05/26 - 2:25pm | Your editor

Jared Kushner, who is believed to push his father-in-law toward more traditional policies, is now in focus as a transmitter to and from Russia during the interregnum. Any loss of credibility for him or Ivanka Trump will boost the dark side at the White House led by Steve Bannon who presumably had enough street smarts to avoid babbling with the Russkis.


Harvard yesterday gave an honorary degree to a 2005dropout, Mark Zuckerberg, who left to found Facebook. He is visiting all 50 states (and has so far hit about half of them) in what may be the start of an alternative political movement to Trumpism. I hate to be a spoil sport, but I worry that Mr. Zuckerberg's taste for relgious alternative sources of power to businesses is almost as warped as Pres. Trump's. Mr. Zuckerberg is the child of Long Island Jewish rich parents who gave him a Bar Mitzvah party based on Star Wars, but may not have bothered to teach him much about Judaism. He is married to his childhood sweetheart, Priscilla Chan, who is of Chinese heritage.


In his talk about his current tour of the country at Harvard yesterday, Mr. Zuckerberg told the audience that he likes to sing the “Misheberach” blessing in Hebrew to his daughter by Ms. Chan. I immediately concluded, wrongly, that there is something wrong with the little child. The Misheberach blessing Zuckerberg sings is sung to the sick for healing. The test reads: May the one who blessed our Mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah; May the one who blessed our Fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; bless and heal the sick.”


So if that is what he is singing to a healthy baby girl, he is as illiterate in his religion as Donald “Two Corinthians” Trump is in Christianity.


More for paid subscribers from India, Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, Canada, Brazil, Ireland, Japan, the Dutch Antilles, Australia, Argentina, Sweden, Israel, India, Colombia, and Nevada.

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Oy, Oy, Oil

Thu, 2017/05/25 - 3:18pm | Your editor

Oy, oy, oil.

Here at Harvard the fundamental danger of Trump Administration dismantling of the US governing system has been a focus for talks to alumni by Prof R. Nicolas Burns of the Kennedy School of Government which I attended yesterday. Burns, a former Foggy Bottom undersecretary for both Republican and Democrat Administrations, warned that the 31% cutback in State Dept funding proposed in the Trump budget will hollow out US diplomatic capacity. Already only one undersecretary of state is in place, with 13 others in limbo.

The same kind of 31% cutbacks now face the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration from an Administration that hates their work. While the cutbacks may not survive at the FDA, the EPA is under real pressure. Not an obvious victim of the EPA cutbacks, the energy sector is suffering this week in the wake of this attack along with skepticism about the OPEC ability to slash output when the US is raising it. Oil prices fell 4% today which hit the sector's stocks, discussed below.

Proof that we need the EPA is the news from Mexico's Oaxaca state, the site of about 2/3 of all the country's offshore wind turbines. They are now leaking a stinky lubrification oil which has caused huge contamination. The site at Tehuantepec is run by Electricité de France. Earlier another site nearby run by Accione of Spain also caused contamination. The disasters may be weather related. Whatever the cause there is no simple way to move to clean energy without more research which has to be funded by developed countries, not by Mexico. Any US exit could cause an environmental disaster.

More on energy from Britain, the Dutch Antilles, Korea, Israel, India, Sweden, South Africa, Hong Kong, Colombia, and Canada follows. There will probably be a blog tomorrow as well. Monday which is Memorial Day will be a holiday, however.

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China Downgrade

Wed, 2017/05/24 - 7:16am | Your editor

Today Moody's downrated China on concerns about excessive borrowing.Its lower A1ccredit rating will hurt its growth rate because money will be come more expensive to raise, especially in the govt sector.


A brief note on Canada and South Africa follows.

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En Route

Tue, 2017/05/23 - 8:30am | Your editor

It was not an attack on nearby Liverpool, which gave the world the Beatles and British pop music, but on Manchester, and the performer was a transatlantic import, Ariana Grande. Yet the target was the same youth culture which my generation joyfully associated with Britain. This overlap is precisely why the Arena was a target, as the Bataclan was one in Paris. With 22 mostly dead, mostly children, and another 59 in hospital, this atrocity was aimed at young people and youth culture. Over 20,000 of them were at the Manchester Arena where the explosion went off.

Murderous Muslin extremists are peddling an alternative culture among adolescents who are growing up in the west, exposed to its liberating music and mores. So they attack what tempts their fellows.

Today my blog will examine a few bits of pop culture which is a target for the Islamist hardliners, because of its appeal to the younger generation. This is a form of cultural protectionism which is as deadly as trade protectionism,. I am off to Cambridge MA. We have news from Hong Kong, Japan, Finland, Spain, Canada, Ireland, Australia, France, and Britain. Read more »

Trump's Kvittle

Mon, 2017/05/22 - 12:47pm | Your editor

Your editor tomorrow will head for Cambridge MA for a college reunion to be followed by a family weekend in the Boston area with three grandkids. The blog will be intermittent this week and I will be mostly involved with real life. I missed my last round number reunion because my husband fell and hurt himself so I am making it up this year.


I will head for Britain in early June so my husband can vote in the June 8 poll. I had hopes of learning more about the Royal Bank of Scotland 2008 capital increase, over which over 9000 British individual and institutional investors in RBS were suing the bank and its ousted management. However over the weekend current management offered 80 pence in special compensation to those who had subscribed based on the misleading terms. This will of course further delay the eventual privatization of RBS (and Nat West C) by the UK Government. But we own the RBS non-cumulative preferreds, and we like the delay because Her Majesty is standing behind our prefs.

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Mencken in Barron's

Sun, 2017/05/21 - 12:01pm | Your editor

Just a day after I posted a commentary on how H.L. Mencken had forecast the Trump presidency, the same quote was used by Gene Epstein in his "Economic Beat" column in Barron's, a Rupert Murdoch publication which tends to support the Republicans. So they agree that the US may have elected "a downright moron" to the White House. Wall Street has noticed that there is a problem. Trump will not be able to pass the changes he promised: lower taxes, more fiscal spending on infrastructure, dismantling Obamacare and regulatory excess. Political risk is back in view big time.

About the only good news is that the US dollar has fallen back to pre-election day levels, which means exports will be higher and imports more costly. It also means that our basic strategy of investing in non-US securities has become more profitable. I guessed that the price drops outside the US on Thursday would reverse and by and large they did, so my moves paid off. More on this for paid subscribers follows. Read more »

Mencken on Trump

Fri, 2017/05/19 - 11:42am | Your editor

My Harvard classmate and fellow-Manhattanite Barry Berkman has found an H.L. Mencken comment anticipating Trump: “As democracy is perfected,the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”


Sex-fiends globally meet very different fates. Ex-Congressman Anthony Wiener is pleading guilty in a NY court to sexting an underage girl using the Clinton server. Roger Ailes suffered a fatal blood clot before he had to confront any of the women he had attempted to seduce using his power at Fox News. Swedish prosecutors have dropped rape charges against Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange after 5 years.

Mexico pre-emptively raised interest rates a quarter percent to 6.75% today. The Mexican index gained 1.5%, the top major market in the world today. More follows about Americas stocks, both industrial and financial; healthcare; IT; and funds and holding companies. It was the worst week for the dollar in a year unless something shifts in the next 3 hours.

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Macron vs Trump

Thu, 2017/05/18 - 12:56pm | Your editor

We could have done much better when the great unknown won the White House! Examining how deftly Emmanuel Macron has handled his becoming president of France without having any previous electoral experience shows the error of Trump's handling a similar opportunity. Macron went broad, inviting pols from across the spectrum to form his team. Trump did the opposite, picking a relatively uninspired team of classic Republicans without any taste for risk or innovation.

Ultimately that strategic mistake will destroy his Administration even without proof of illicit collaboration with Putin's Russia. But, alas, proof is also coming. If one is to believe Reuters, Michael Flynn and other Trump advisers during the last 7 months of the 2016 election campaign had at least 18 unreported telephone and email contacts with the Kremlin.


A blot on the right-wing conspiracy theorist and radio talking head Alex Jones came with its withdrawal of charges that Chobani yogurt had hired for its Idaho plant a child rapist and allegations that its products were infected with TB. Jones has withdrawn these charges on the air. He was also the source of claims that the Obama Administration had staged the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton CT and the charge that the Comet Ping-Pong pizza restaurant in Washington, DC, was the center of a child abuse ring.

When markets react to bad news that has been building up in the margins, they over-react. We are moving into buy-time big-time. Today sterling broke through the key $1.30 level and has higher to go.

More news from Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Britain, Denmark, Colombia, India, Hong Kong, Ireland, Switzerland, Lithuania, Italy, and Japan.

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Tromp l'oeil

Wed, 2017/05/17 - 12:18pm | Your editor

My clotheswasher continues to stall and the repair service will only order replacement parts if I pay in advance. It is not a matter of electronics and programming going bad, but a mere worn-out joint on the water-exit pipe, an old-fashioned defect.

I visited the Trader Joe's supermarket in Chelsea to see if it was worth shopping at. It was plain boring with more drink than my local purveyors offer. Now Lidl, (called Little), which opened around the corner from my sister-in-law's in London, is opening in the USA starting in the Carolinas and Virginia. It claims it will be up to 50% cheaper than competitors. While house brands can be cheaper than heavily advertised mass groceries, I don't think margins are that high at my friendly local supermarket. They are higher at posh Whole Foods Market and Morton Williams where one only buys things not sold more widely.

If price wars spread in the US grocery aisle it will help richer customer who can comparison shop rather than people in poor neighborhoods where there are no choices and no competition. And nothing will stop Amazon.


Stock markets are being hurt by worries about Pres. Trump's error-prone and mendacious behavior. US-linked foreign stocks are taking a hit along with Wall Street. The dollarwhich is now back to its pre-election level of last Nov. A senior subscriber recalls that when he was a little boy in the 1950s, his father used to lecture him on “the importance of priming the pump, spending money to give minorities and the poor a chance to achieve their potential.” He concludes: “Trump is becoming more unhinged by the day!”

The world's stock markets are now contemplating political risks from Trump's character flaws.

We have results from a couple of companies and one poll today. We have news from South Africa, Britain, Oregon, Hong Kong, Austria, Israel, Colombia, Canada, Austria, Ireland, and a few other place.

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Corpus Christi Judaica

Tue, 2017/05/16 - 1:03pm | Your editor

Last night we went to an exotic ecumenical event at the Yeshiva University Museum, a part of the Center for Jewish History. It was an exhibit of treasures from the collection of religious and scientific writings of an Oxford college.

They came from Corpus Christi, which sent along two recent presidents of the college to introduce the collection of what sounds like a misnomer, “Corpus Christi Judaica”.

This included pages from Maimonides' writings. And a textbook for teaching future British Anglican priests Hebrew. Plus a multilingual re-translation of the Psalms to second guess for the King James Bible the version by St Jerome.

It featured an early Ashkenazic “Siddur”(personal prayer book) which had been published in France in the 12th century and used by a Sephardic resident of Britain who wrote notes in its margins in Judeo Arabic (Arabic written with Hebrew letters). It is the oldest Siddur in existence and itself bridges a barrier within Judaism.

Accompanying the collection was a bishop's crozier from the the reign of James I which belonged to the founder of the college, Richard Fox (or Foxe) a firm Anglican who funded its collection with money extracted from recusant Catholics when he was Bishop of Durham. There were also two New York Episcopalian bishops with a copy of the crozier which had been given to the city at the end of World War I.

The scientific material was almost as exciting as the religious, because this was the period when Vesalius produced his anatomy and telescopes examined the moon, so you can compare what Galileo saw to what Hevelius could see 30 years later. There are also views of Halley's comet by Isaac Newton (who first insisted that there had been two comets.) And microscopic details on flies, bedbugs, and fleas. It also has an exhibit showing the descent of Louis XII of France from Adam, from a Bible donated by James Oglethorpe, the founder of the American colony of Georgia, and an early depiction of America on a map printed in 1540 in Antwerp.

The exhibit runs to August 6. The Bishops left when we did, taking the reproduction crozier back to wherever the Episcopalians keep it.

Reader BN, a former fund manager, wrote: “I've traded bonds on and off since 1981 and I always assumed that any prices quoted on the other side of a trade were exaggerated. Its startling to learn that such faked quotes are a crime.”

My note on Trump's delusions led TT, a supporter of the president, to cancel his sub and demand a full refund rather than a pro-rated one. When I refused he showed how classy he is by calling me a thief and a scam artist, and writing “F. you, you lousy liberal.” I cannot say I will miss someone at this intellectual level. But be warned. You only get to cancel future issues of this newsletter, not ones you already got, if you find my politics disturbing. This is how publication handle cancellations across the board.

The euro is up and the dollar is down because of concerns about Pres. Trump's sharing of an ally's information on ISIS with Russian the Russian Foreign Minister last week.


More for paid subscribers follows starting with a UK company report and news from Canada, Britain, Hong Kong, France, Japan, Israel, Australia, Argentina, Chile, and Spain.

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