It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Given how poorly states like California and Illinois have funded the pension funds for their own employees, one would think that this would stop dead in its tracks any plan to have the government assist in managing private sector funds too. The spate of recent activity, however, suggests otherwise.
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
“When they come for my gun, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands,” is a common refrain I often hear from the Neo-Cons when there is a threat, credible or otherwise, that the U.S. government is going to take their firearms.And, when I hear this crazy talk, I agree with […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Amidst all the revelations about how the American people, many of whom are absolutely convinced they live in a free society, have their telephone calls, emails, website visits, and who knows what else under surveillance by their own government, let’s not forget the massive infringements on financial privacy that have gone on for decades.Consider, for […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
So you’ve maneuvered the Obamacare website, plugged in your top-secret information and found out how much you are forced to pay to avoid a fine.And for some of you, it turns out you qualify for a government subsidy — making the premium sound like a bargain. But signing on that line to accept the government’s […]
The Largest Company in History:“The United States Corporation of Government (USCOG)”I follow global social and commercial networks, looking for entrepreneurial opportunities.Innovation surges when industry and government models change. Buggy whips. Landline phones. Railroads. The Soviet Union. Apartheid South Africa. All marked social and commercial innovation, both bad and good.We are witnessing a new form of […]
We’d like to give the banks in Australia some credit. They’ve finally gone and done it. They have caught up with 1960s technology. They’ve figured out how to use PIN numbers.How to only use PIN numbers, that is. They’re considering scrapping signatures on credit cards to cut down on fraud. Apparently, having to verify your […]
We put in a good-citizen call to the SEC the other day.“There’s a massive scheme to manipulate stock prices,” we told the friendly agent.“I have to tell you that your call is being monitored so that we can better serve the public,” he replied.“Oh, don’t worry about that. The NSA is tapping our call anyway.”“Are […]
Bitcoins are largely considered digital currency (or “crypto currency”) so you’d expect it to be treated like currency on a retail web site. But the Internal Revenue Service might not think so.
Politicians — elected officials — are street smart rather than book smart.If you care about influencing government policy it helps to know how they think.Forbes contributor Nathan Lewis argues that:“Too much is done today on the oral tradition. That is, literally, what it is. In this post-Gutenberg age, we have some better alternatives.“Thus, we need […]
Bitcoin has been making headlines for months now. Extreme price fluctuations have sparked a vigorous debate: Is it a currency or a scam? Is Bitcoin viable in the long-term, or are we witnessing a bubble waiting to burst?The answers to these questions are simple: Yes, Bitcoin is a currency, but we cannot know if it […]
The Silk Road was an undercover website where you could buy or sell illegal goods — drugs mainly. I believe passports were changing hands for about $6,000, and I understand weapons were also sold, but that was ceased in response to the spate of shootings in the U.S. over the summer. The essence of the […]
The market has selected different things as money throughout history. Some of these items have served as money in isolated places for specific periods of time — for instance, cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps. Cigarettes continue to be a currency in prisons if allowed, but if not, according to Wikipedia, “postage stamps have become a more […]
[Ed. Note: This article originally published on Jan. 24, 2013]Stocks up. Gold down. Bitcoin… waaay up.The S&P 500 busted through the 1,500 mark this morning. Stocks haven’t been this expensive since 2007… right before they got a whole lot cheaper… for a whole lot longer. Gold, meanwhile, dipped a tad. This, despite central bankers of […]
Now, this is sheer entertainment. The Chicago branch of the Federal Reserve has addressed the great monetary question of our day. A researcher has taken a detailed look at the prospects for market-based crypto-currency, with a special focus on Bitcoin. It concludes that Bitcoin is not a viable replacement for the dollar. The report includes […]
The standard version of how money came to be goes like this: First, there was barter. (A handful of nails for a pint of ale!) Then, along came various forms of money. An evolutionary derby eventually crowned gold and silver as the supreme money. And finally, credit (or debt) was born. This is the apex […]
2013 represents another turning point in the demise of the American Empire. If you view it in economic (rather than ethical or moral) terms, the high water mark of Empire was probably in the late 1990s.But the Internet bubble and bust marked an important turning point. It coincided with the birth of the euro, a […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
My community in the Deep South prides itself on friendship, community feeling, and an overall happy spirit. So it was a bit strange for all of this to be utterly smashed and obliterated in the course of a few calamitous weeks in which friend turned against friend, colleagues became antagonists and enemies, and families were […]
A new assessment of state pension obligations suggests the problem is even worse than it already appears.How much worse?EMPTY COOKIE JAR: Pension liabilities are worse than many states’ official figures indicate.Using a more conservative method of accounting for financial gains in the marketplace, there is a $4.1 trillion gap between assets and liabilities — known […]
I dreamed I saw Bernard von NotHaus, alive as you or me.Said I, “But Bernard, you’ve been jailed two years.”“I never was,” said he.Bernard has been the called the Rosa Parks of the alternative money movement. More than 10 years ago, he had this idea that he would make his own money — not the […]
Times are tough on Main Street. Still, cheap money flows to the top 1%, wherever they live. For example, the fall season for the art market has been solid. Foreign buyers can’t get enough unique pieces for their collections. The auction house Sotheby’s had its best night ever on Nov. 14, racking up $375 million in contemporary art sales.
While not to the level of contemporary sales, the impressionist market had sales of $244.5 million at Christie’s and $203 million at Sotheby’s.
“I’ve been an art dealer for 25 years, and what we can see season by season is that there are so many new collectors from all over the world,” New York art dealer Christophe Van de Weghe told The Financialist. He added that international collectors, especially from Russia, Pakistan, and India, are looking to add to their collections.
Foreign billionaires jousting for the art world’s top treasures is just one of the plotlines in Tom Wolfe’s new novel Back to Blood. Wolfe just couldn’t bash the art market enough in The Painted Word. By his own account, he wasted months researching this area to include in the plot of A Man in Full, only to not use the material. However, he returns to this fertile ground to weave the tale of Russian billionaire Sergei Korolyov donating $70 million in forged art to the local museum.
Last month, Sotheby’s was able to peddle Mark Rothko’s Royal Red and Blue for $75.1 million. This painting looks to me as if were painted with a roller from Home Depot. This is a piece that Wolfe’s alcoholic forger Igor could no doubt copy with ease.
“But if you mean, could I do painting like theirs…” an inebriated Igor tells reporter John Smith, “Anybody could!” Yes, he painted Malevich, Kandinsky, and Goncharova blindfolded… and no doubt while smashed.
One must say, Rothko’s colors are quite vivid, bringing to mind something Elliott Wave maven Robert Prechter wrote about the art market in 1985: “Bright colors have been associated with market tops and dull, dark colors with bottoms.”
At the Sotheby’s auction, a Jackson Pollock from 1951 went for $40.4 million. Now, I’m looking at a picture of this painting as I write and can only wonder… What?
Pollock, Wolfe writes in The Painted Word, was “a nameless down-and-out boho cubist,” but lightning struck when Solomon Guggenheim’s niece Peggy picked him out of a group of floundering painters. She put him on a monthly stipend, pushed him in the surrealist direction, “set him up on 57th Street with his first show,” summoned critics to write rave reviews, and so on and so forth. “Consummation was complete, and Pollock was a success before the last painting was hung and the doors were opened and the first Manhattan [Remember Manhattans?] was poured on opening night.”
“Pollock’s strength,” wrote critic Clement Greenberg, “lies in the emphatic surfaces of his pictures, which it is his concern to maintain and intensify in all that thick, fuliginous flatness which began — but only began — to be the strong point of late cubism.”
Say what? “Thick, fuliginous flatness”?
Is it just me, or are these works of art just squiggly (and, in some cases, straight) lines in various colors? But then again, maybe I’m just too relaxed. Researchers at Loyola University say that if abstract art baffles you, try going to the museum after, say, bungee jumping.
The latest issue of The Socionomist reports that the collegians conducted a study using 85 college students, having some watch a scary video, some view a happy video, some do a lot of jumping jacks, and others do just a few jumping jacks. Then the students were shown images of abstract paintings. The students were then told to rate the paintings as “inspiring,” “imposing,” or “stimulating.”
What they found was “only fear increased participants’ appreciation of the works’ sublime qualities,” writes Chuck Thompson. According to the Loyolaians,
“At its core, fear is an emotional mechanism that increases survival chances by motivating fight, flight, or freezing responses to threatening situations. Fear seizes one’s attention, halts current plans, and increases vigilance.”
Art can grab our interest only when it is able to “trigger our evolved mechanisms for coping with danger.”
The artist who most grabs the market’s attention is Picasso. Picasso’s work went through a number of phases that, to the mind of The Socionomist’s Alan Hall, reflected the social mood of each particular period. Picasso’s Blue Period portrays loneliness, despair, and poverty. Stock markets in France and the U.S. were down during this period and rebounded in the artist’s next phase, known as his Rose Period. His themes were much more pleasant during this period, and he used vivid colors such as in the Garç̧on á̀ la Pipe, one of his highest-selling paintings.
Cubism began in 1907 and continued to 1913. As the DJIA was hitting a low in 1907, “Picasso began a gradual shift to a more abstract style, first expressed in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, which signaled the nascent stages of cubism,” Hall writes.
The market in the U.S. and France went nowhere and Hall contends there were both bull and bear traits within cubism. After World War I, Picasso experimented less with cubism and reverted to traditional styles.
According to Wolfe, Picasso didn’t become Picasso until 1918 when, at age 37, he painted the scenery for Diaghilev’s Russian ballet. From then on, he was no longer the poor artist painting in an attic with a candlestick in one hand and a brush in the other. He became a social lion and remained that way.
Housing and stock prices crashed around the world in the late 1920s and Picasso entered his surrealist period, making pictures of morphed and distorted figures. “Much as he did near the 1920 low,” Hall writes, “Picasso fully shifted his style near the negative mood extreme in 1932. His distorted figures took on a bear-market roundness.”
In 1937, Picasso unveiled Guernica, his abstract portrayal of the destroyed Basque town. “The mural is a massive melange of chopped up, disturbing cubist images,” Hall explains. “Newspapers of the time reported that the initial crowds to view it wept bitterly.”
The greater the fear, the more abstract Picasso’s work became.
The Elliott Wave theorists see trouble ahead for the financial markets and brisk demand for abstract art.
I’m not sure what today’s artists are painting, But after a short swoon with the financial crash of 2008, art buyers are buying. Edvard Munch’s The Scream sold this May for $120 million. Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust sold for nearly $106.5 million in 2010. Nearly half the top 20 highest-priced art pieces in the world have sold since 2010, including works by Picasso, Rothko, and Warhol. This surely makes a certain dapper novelist dressed in white snicker and roll his eyes.
“Sometimes, art goes wild,” write Bill and Will Bonner in their book Family Fortunes. “An artist may struggle to survive, giving his paintings away for a bowl of soup or glass of wine.” But then father and son deliver the kicker. “Years later, for no reason that bears much analysis, the artist becomes a sensation. His works fetch millions.”
No reason, indeed, except that cheap money has to go somewhere. No matter where the money ends up, or where the rich guys live, the easy money seems to chase the same silly paintings.