Foreign Trumpish Chiefs

Fri, 2017/06/02 - 12:57pm | Your editor

It is sometimes hard to determine which country has elected the worst leaders. While the US is a contender for the booby prize other countries with misguided, under-qualified, or impulsive presidents or prime ministers include: Venezuela, Hungary, the Philippines, Brazil, Turkey, and Egypt. I also count the United Kingdom's Theresa May among the misguided heads of government.
Today Abhimanyu Sisodia comments on new moves by Narendra Modi of India who withdrew so-called large currency notes to crack down on tax evasion:

“The truth Indians now must admit is that Modi's demonetization hurt industries linked to finance. GDP growth in the last quarter [of fiscal 2017, to March 31] dropped to 6.1%, unacceptable given the 7% rate sustained over the years so the economy can grow. The ordinances were officially to prevent funding of terrorism, to recover “black” money, and stop counterfeits.

“Actually there was little fake money and terrorist funds haveincreased. Black money is mostly not in physical banknotes but in Swiss and Cayman Islands and Mauritius bank accounts.

“Modi continues to make stupid moves like the recent ban on beef-eating in India. You technically can still consume it but supply is so restricted you cannot buy cow meat. This came just before the month of Ramadan when Muslims, who eat beef, fast for 40 days! There were riots around India and cattle were slaughtered on the streets in Kerala and West Bengal in part to protect states' rights covering animal husbandry (and also against Hindi as the national language.) Goa simply refused to comply with the New Delhi order. Southerners eat beef as do Indians near the Chinese border. Low caste Hindus can eat beef if they can afford it. Rajputs and Kshatriyas (like me) and royals are allowed to eat anything they find when on manoeuvres so my caste can eat beef. A lot of Indians earn their living working with leather.

“Pro- and anti-beef-eating riots were started when students at India's premier engineering college, IIT Chennai, telecast pictures of themselves peacefully eating beef which discussing the new law. This highlighted a new attitude among intellectuals against Hindu jingoism. The next day the organizer was beaten up by a fellow Hindu on campus which is being treated as a fight between students by the college. Then students in Bangalore turned out in large numbers to consume beef and were confronted with what are called 'cattle vigilantes' who were political goons. Here the government locked up all the protestors from both sides.

“People are fed up with Modi's government simply making laws to suit their purposes. They officially said it was to prevent cruelty to animals and smuggling! In fact he has to pacify his traditionalist Hindu supporters by protecting cows and provoking Muslims, but in this case the official target was not Muslims.”


So Trumpian populism targeting environmental measures against global warming for allegedly hurting US jobs (already stretched because there are too few unemployed capable of working) has foreign parallels. Stupidity is widespread.


Today the US$ hit a 7-m low and the London FTSE index and the German DAX both hit record highs. The unemployment rate is 4.3% which is


More news follows from around the world including India, Britain, Denmark, Hong Kong, Germany, Israel, Canada, South Africa, Switzerland, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, Japan, Finland, Russia, Mexico, Guam, the Marianas, Portugal, Italy, Panama, Colombia, and Bermuda.


There will be a blog Monday. Then off to Britain for my husband to vote--not for either the Tory or the Labour candidate in E14, but for the Liberal-Democrat who supports remaining in the European Union. Britain is bad on giving non-resident subjects ballots. There'll be a blog Tuesday if I wake up in time. Have a nice weekend.

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Ivanka and Jared;Theresa and Donald

Thu, 2017/06/01 - 2:26pm | Your editor

Ivanka Trump's shoes are made in Huajian where the leader of China Labor Watch was apparently arrested Saturday by the authorities because he accused the politically-connected factory owner of violating Chinese laws by requiring workers to put in over 60 hours per week.

Meanwhile a Bloomberg Business Week investigation of Baltimore apartment complexes owned by the family of her husband, Jared Kushner, turned up poor maintenance and infestation, and harassing lawsuits and fines where these led tenants to attempt to leave. Ivanka and Jared are supposed to be the good guy globalists advising the US president.


With her lead in the latest polls at ~3% Theresa May is now at risk in the election next week. We are going to London so my British husband can vote against her over Brexit. May is showing signs of inexperience and misinformation which may result in a loss at the poll next week.


Warning that after seven years of economic expansion, the US risks getting into a recession soon, Andrew Balls, the chief fixed income officer at Pimeo said “valuations look fair and in some cases rich.” He expects lower return “on the equity side as well as fixed income.” He added: “we won't respon by increasing overall credit risk in the portfolios.” Pimco is a California-based bond fund manager we own stick in indirectly.


Reader DvN, who knows more about technology than your editor, replied to my Tuesday note about plagiarism among Yale students learning how to code that “in the working world almost no code is written fresh. [Using] many prefabricated toolkits, existing code is adapted to new taks, often with very small changes.” I think that still means students who are taking courses in coding need to learn to code.


Today's blog is late because my clothes-washer was finally fixed. We have news from Britain, China, India, Japan, Finland, Canada, Israel, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Mexico, and Brazil.

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Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky

Tue, 2017/05/30 - 1:21pm | Your editor


Let no one else's work evade your eyes.

Don't shade your eyes,

But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize!


Tom Lehrer's song about Nikolai Ivanovitch Lobachevsky springs to mind as the New York Times reveals that students taking coding classes to enhance their employability are not working out the codes assigned to them but copying them from the Internet or each other. To be paying Ivy League class fees to learn coding is itself a waste of money since you can do so off-campus for pennies on the dollar. To then cheat to avoid actually writing the code is an even stupider move.

It tells you something about the apparent best and the brightest among the millennial generation.

Yesterday's Times had a note about Donald Trump run in with the English College of Arms. Apparently the Mar-a-Lago coat of arms didn't go with the estate he bought from the heirs of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband, Joseph Edwards Davies, a diplomat. It turns out that Amb. Davies was given the coat of arms in 1939 based on his job and heritage. Mr Trump changed the bottom line of the crest from reading “Integrity” to “Trump and had the chutzpah to try to copyright it. But when he bought two golf courses in his mother's native Scotland the President was forced to remove the heraldry.



More today from around the world and a warning that there will be no blog Weds. We have news from Britain, Australia, India, Canada, Israel, Ireland, Hong Kong, Brazil, and Denmark,  We begin with quarterly reports.

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Happy Decoration Day

Mon, 2017/05/29 - 12:47pm | Your editor

Happy Decoration Day, as it was called when I was young.

My Boston grandchildren have a new Czech male au pair without any real sense of history. He doesn't know about Marienbad or Budweiser or Kafka—admittedly because they are all not real Czech language names or writers. He didn't react to my childhood memory of a Czech song I had been taught by a card-player friend of my mother's who was (poor dear) a Sudenten German Jew who had fought against the invading German tanks after the Munich agreement in the Czech cavalry (on a horse!) Maybe it was a pop song of the 30s rather than a folk song as I thought.

No reaction to Dubcek or Mazaryk (both of whom apparently were Slovaks.)

He was not even interested in my favorite Czech Catholic saint, St John Nepomuk, who died for the secrecy of the confessional when Bad King Wenceslas tried to learn what Queen Sophie had been up to. After being tortured and refusing to break the seal of the confessional he was tossed into the river in Prague.

So here is a Czech note for him and you all. Think about Jachymov, town where a great silver mine was discovered in 1517. Its name in German (nobody wrote in Czech 500 years ago) was Joachimthal. It was where silver coins were produced for the world, coins called Joachimthaler, later shortened to Thaler. When the infant United States named its silver currency, the term Sovereign for some reason was not considered acceptable. So they named the coin a dollar.

We owe Czechs not only beer to get fat on and spas to lose weight at, Kafka for nightmares and Nepomuk to protect us from snoops. We owe the Almighty dollar to them too.


There was a real company report today and enough news for me to do a blog despite Memorial Day. Another reason is the continued awful weather and the fact that there is another Jewish Holiday on Wednesday when there will be no blog. It is Shevuoth, or Pentecost, which celebrates the giving of the Ten Commandments 7 weeks after the Exodus from Egypt. We have news from Israel, Hong Kong, Ireland, Britain, Canada, Nevada, Mauritius, Russia, India, and funds which cover dozens of countries.

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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 »