by Shane Ormond
On Sep 19, 2019
The Federal Reserve rate-setting committee cut rates by a quarter point yesterday, in an attempt to create a protective cushion for slowing economic growth. (Now all we need is a protective blanket and a protective play center and the global economy is all set.)
by Shane Ormond
On Sep 9, 2019
The director of MIT’s Media Lab stepped down over the weekend, after it emerged he accepted millions of dollars in donations from Jeffrey Epstein and taken steps to hide them (because, ya know, child sex trafficking and stuff).
- Trade War Escalates: Trump Threatens a 25% Tariff on All Chinese Goods
- U.S Secret Weapon Rains Knives Down on the Enemy
- Jeff Bezos Wants to Live on the Moon
- Dystopia in a Box, Assembly Required
Trade War Escalates
Trump Threatens a 25% Tariff on All Chinese Goods
Earlier this month, it seemed like the Chinese trade negotiations would come to an amicable end any day now.
But after some unexpected pushback from Beijing, the U.S. is ratcheting up the pressure with tariffs of 25% on more than $200 billion of Chinese goods. (And a volley of aggressive 5 am tweets from our president, as is customary.)
Reportedly, the Chinese had heard President Trump was praising China’s President Xi Jinping on national television earlier this month. And interpreted it as a signal they had more wiggle room to negotiate. (Sorry China. Our president doesn’t deal in subtext.)
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He was in Washington yesterday, hoping to get negotiations back on track and prevent the 25% tariffs from being levied.
Negotiations will continue today, but the new tariffs went into effect overnight. And it’s becoming increasingly likely that some tariffs will stay in place even if this dispute is resolved.
President Trump has discovered a renewed passion for tariffs and he wants to scream it from the rooftops. (Or the next best thing: Twitter.)
In a (long) series of tweets at 5 am (can we get the president some chamomile tea or NyQuil or something?), the president said the U.S. will continue to negotiate but there is “absolutely no need to rush.”
China’s Ministry of Commerce has threatened to take unspecified countermeasures if the tariffs are not lifted. (Guys. An effective threat has to be specific. I’m going to break your legs, cut off your pinky, etc. Shows that you’ve really put some thought into it.)
Meanwhile, President Trump is already threatening another round of tariffs. (Like I said. He loves ‘em.)
Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House yesterday that he has plans to levy 25% tariffs on a further $325 billion of previously untaxed Chinese goods.
This would include iPhones and other mobile phones, clothing, laptops, and a bunch of other stuff I actually spend money on. (The tariffs didn’t bother me when it was just soybeans and snow blowers. I have no soybeans to blow.)
“I’m different than a lot of people,” the president told reporters. “I happen to think the tariffs for our country are very powerful.”
If the Trump administration decides to go ahead with these new tariffs, we could be seeing them come into effect in the next few weeks.
President Trump may not be in any rush to resolve negotiations. But uncertainty makes investors anxious. At time of writing, the DOW is on track for its worst week of 2019.
What’s your read on this? Strong negotiating tactics or reckless bravado?
Click here to email me and we’ll do that thing we do down in the comments section.
U.S Secret Weapon Rains Knives Down on the Enemy
It’s not every day I get to report good news about cutting-edge, experimental weaponry.
(It’s usually your stereotypical evil scientist junk — underwater nukes designed to flood the eastern seaboard or a bomb that makes your butt fall off.)
But today, the U.S. government announced a secret missile, purpose-built to reduce civilian casualties.
The Flying Ginsu missile is a modified Hellfire missile capable of pinpoint airstrikes but with no explosive payload.
Instead, the Ginsu (named after those knives that TV salesmen used to cut up moccasins with) rains down thousands of pounds of razor-sharp metal with pinpoint accuracy. (Which rather counterintuitively, dramatically reduces collateral damage and civilian casualties.)
According to one official, it’s as if the targeted person is instantly struck with an anvil from the sky.
The trademark-infringing Ginsu was developed to cut down on civilian casualties and counter a specific terrorist tactic of hiding among civilian woman and children.
According to officials, the weapon is so accurate that the Ginsu can execute someone in one seat of the car without killing any of the other passengers.
Officials also revealed that the Pentagon and the CIA have actually been using the Ginsu for years. (Though only for special occasions.) They’ve been able to keep the project secret until now.
But now that the 100-pound cat made of knives is out of the bag, terrorists on the Pentagon’s watch list might start taking measures to counter these attacks (hard hats?).
At the very least, it’s somewhat reassuring that our government is actually taking steps to not blow up kids and innocent civilians. Don’t you think?
Jeff Bezos Wants to Live on the Moon
Amazon founder and famous adulterer Jeff Bezos has announced plans to Amazon Prime a privately-built spaceship to the moon.
Bezos said that his spaceflight company Blue Origin will land a robotic spaceship the size of a small house on the moon. (I wonder what size the richest man in the world considers a “small house”?)
The ship will be carrying four rovers and a newly designed, souped-up rocket engine (and every copy of a certain issue of the National Enquirer).
The man who once wanted nothing more than to sell used books on the internet went on to say that mission would be closely followed by a manned flight to the moon.
“It’s time to go back to the moon,” said Bezos. “This time to stay.”
Which sounds cool and all. But then he just kinda walked off staged without giving out any concrete details about his plans, the mission, or the ship itself.
Which prompted this tweet by another power-mad billionaire with machinations on the moon:
If Jeff Bezos offered you a one-way ticket to the moon would you take it?
I might. I could claim a little plot of land. Give up this writing lark and farm moon rocks. Make a go of it as moon person, ya know?
ONE LAST THING
Dystopia in a Box, Assembly Required
This week we’ve been discussing an ongoing humanitarian crisis in China.
The Chinese government is rounding members of a single ethnic minority (the Uighurs) and putting them in internment camps, without trial or sentencing.
We’ve covered the “why” in a previous issue (because the Chinese Government are assholes, basically).
But the technology behind the “how” and the implication it has for the world at large is what’s truly terrifying.
Orwell, Eat Your Heart Out (Huxley, Take a Seat)
In order to facilitate this mass incarceration, China has rolled out a surveillance system unlike anything the world has ever seen before.
Uighurs living in the autonomous region of Jinjiang are subjected to almost 24-hour surveillance.
Cameras are visible on every street corner, hanging from the mud-brick building common to the region. They’re all over every store and office building, church and mosque, and hidden in secret compartments in train cars.
From the moment you leave your home in the morning to the moment you return in the evening, you are being watched… and tracked.
The Chinese government has developed an advanced facial tracking technology that can easily pick out individuals in a crowd. Using this tech, they are able to document every single thing you do.
That’s how they’ve been justifying locking up the Uighurs – by following their every step and carting them away as soon as they step out of line.
You might say: good, they’re catching criminals. But China has developed a strict set of laws to crack down on this one ethnic minority.
Failure to shave your beard: in the van.
Talking to a western journalist: in the van.
Worshipping the wrong god: in the van.
Forgot to pay for gun: in the van.
You get the picture. But even this doesn’t capture the potential danger inherent in this tech. Because the Chinese didn’t build it just to crack down on one ethnic majority in northwest China.
A Dystopia in a Box
It’s true that China has been developing this tech to survey and police their own citizens. But ultimately (because everybody needs to make a buck) they plan to roll this system out as a product.
They’ve already begun showing off this system to delegates who visit the country. It’s undoubtedly an enormously expensive project. But the Chinese offer some pretty generous financing with their dystopia packages. (They, more than most, understand the power of debt.)
While I don’t see the U.S. ever implementing this system, especially buying from the Chinese, there will be plenty of desperate and authoritarian countries that will look to this tech as a short cut to stability and control.
Specifically, there will be plenty of countries in Eastern Europe and South East Asia that will be more than happy to take China up on their offer.
The more they do, the more control governments around the world have over their citizens. And you know what happens when the world becomes more authoritarian.
The same thing that happens when governments start throwing folks in internment camps, without trial or sentencing.
Closing Data for 5/9/19
|S&P Index 500||$2,870.62||↓ 0.31%|
- Uber (UBER) falls 6.7% in its debut on the New York Stock Exchange.
- SEC approves creation of California-based national securities exchange, the Long-Term Stock Exchange (LTSE).
- North Dakota becomes 25th state to decriminalize marijuana. Scared of their parents finding out, they did so pretty quietly.
Click here to send us your comments and tell us what you think. Do you agree with us? Do you think our ideas are stupid? Bring it on. We can take it.
In yesterday’s issue, we covered the ongoing story that the big meat corporations are bowing to the pressure to include fake meat on their menus. Al from the Midwest thinks they’re making the wrong move.
I was born and raised in the Midwest. We grow crops and raise livestock.
YOU CAN’T REPLACE REAL MEAT!
Cattle and Hogs are the livestock of America. Most people I know will have a hard time accepting and eating lab-grown meat when they can eat real farm raised meat.
May be good for feeding alligators, lions and tigers but I can’t believe people would accept it.
I say it’s a bad stock play, but who knows? Tyson is getting in the game, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a winner. — Al J.
I can see where you’re coming from Al. You’re looking around you and everybody thinks this fake meat is crazy. (Also regular meat is insanely good.)
But I’d wager none of your friends have purple hair. Or a closet full of designer flannel. Or work in a billion-dollar tech company making apps for tracking your panic attacks.
Millennials may be a poorer generation than their parents. But they are about to surpass baby boomers as the U.S.’s largest demographic. And with that comes industry-shifting buying power.
These folks have different tastes and inclinations than previous generations (hence the “Millennials are Killing X Industry” articles every other day). And if you ignore that, you’re going to miss out on some (admittedly strange) investment opportunities.
I say, let’s find out what the little weirdos want and get rich giving it to them.
Editor, One Last Thing