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The Green Protocol: A New Vision for Crypto, Pt 2

By Ben Hunt | September 8, 2021 | 23 Comments

The Green Protocol is a set of rules for the tokenization of symbolic betting markets in positive social good.

I think this is how crypto saves the world.

Our first step on this new path? Let’s plant one billion new trees in North America over the next ten years.

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ZG-item-cap-black

Coming Soon to CBS

From the ET Forum ...

The Activist is an upcoming reality show that really shouldn’t have made it past the “there are no bad ideas” stage of development. It’s the most tone deaf, disconnected concept I’ve ever seen.

The basic idea is that the show will feature six activists from around the world and follow them as they “compete in missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events”. Think Shark Tank meets The Apprentice. Contestants will be judged on how much social media engagement they receive, and the grand prize is an opportunity to attend the G20 Summit in Rome.

Yeah.

Contestants will be judged not by quality of their work but by the quality of their Instagram captions.

The show and its marketing campaign present this very shallow idea of supporting activism and getting them mainstream attention. But the show isn’t prepared to follow through on helping create change. The prize isn’t money or manpower. It’s a chance to beg powerful people to pretend to care.

At its core, this show is not about activism and social change. It’s about social media attention. Just look at the judges! Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough have no experience in activism aside from Instagram posts and speaking at charity events. They’re not leaders of change. They’re mid-level celebrities who wouldn’t be out of place judging The Masked Singer.

The show has been justly lambasted on social media as literally everyone has a problem with the premise. It’s been called “performance activism personified” and it is. It’s encouraging participants and viewers to see activism not as something meant to enact change, but a way to get attention. It sets a standard that successful activism isn’t making change, it’s getting likes and views. It ignores the small, boring, and thankless work that is done on a grassroots level. The work we need to see more of.

We don’t need more beautiful people talking about how they use metal straws to save the sea turtles. We need more people who are willing to do the work. This show isn’t doing anything to help anyone and I, for one, will not be watching.

— Harper Hunt | September 16, 2021|

The Widened Gyre

From the ET Forum …

Yesterday, the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I read and heard several mainstream references to “the Widening Gyre”. It makes sense that yesterday would spur that sort of narrative connection, as the juxtaposition of the political images and texts from then and now is breathtaking. It’s amazing (and obvious), how polarized we’ve become over the past two decades.

But at this point – where the Widening Gyre is not happening but has already occurred – I think what we’re seeing is the Widened Gyre, where everything is autotuned to the poles of the gyre, including references to the Widening Gyre itself!

Case in point, on Twitter I am now routinely criticized for “contributing” to the Widening Gyre if I don’t engage in perfunctory political whataboutism on any topic that has a political dimension … which is to say ALL topics.

What is the Widened Gyre?

Yesterday, the most recent former president of the United States gave a paid speech to Moonies and then made a paid appearance at a sham boxing match where 58-year-old Evander Holyfield was knocked out in 90 seconds.

On 9/11.

And it will change no one’s politically polarized views. Not his supporters. Not his detractors. No one.

The Widened Gyre is a VERY stable equilibrium.

— Ben Hunt | September 12, 2021|

Oh, a Rhinoceros

A video made the rounds on various social media platforms last night and this morning. By now you have probably seen it. A young man presents his case for a mask policy to the school board in Rutherford County, Tennessee. He recalls the death of his grandmother by COVID and begins to express fear that this could happen to other people he cares about.

And that’s where most cuts of the video end. You see, the young man’s speech was interrupted by the shouting and snickering of adults behind him. Adults holding ‘Let our kids smile’ signs.

Source: Rutherford County (TN) Board of Education

Elsewhere on the internet, there is a very similar – and very different – trend emerging. It is a simple meme. You find someone who dies of COVID or asks for prayer or good thoughts after having downplayed the virus, the vaccine or masks only weeks or days before. Then you juxtapose their statements for internet points. If you’re in a particularly virulent version of this community, maybe you even post something vile on their family’s announcement of the person’s passing on Facebook. This is NOT cherry-picking. There are entire social media sub-communities and hashtags devoted to these memes.

We have written several times about the imagery of Ionesco’s landmark play Rhinoceros. I’m abridging rather thoroughly here, but the main conceit of the play is that the humans gradually change into rhinoceroses. But the shock of the story isn’t the devastation the beasts cause, rampaging about town. The shock is that, at some point, we are no longer shocked. We see the family, friend, neighbor or colleague we once knew and and say simply, “Oh, a rhinoceros.”

Many of us today will shrug and say, “Oh, a rhinocerous” to adults laughing and jeering at a child discussing his grandmother’s death. The Real Issue, you see, is that the child made a statement about the role of masks with inadequate information to justify his claim, and that might unduly influence local policy.

Many of us today will shrug and say, “Oh, a rhinoceros” to those who barge in on a family grieving the loss of someone they shared their entire lives and dreams with. The Real Issue, you see, is the good we can do by making an example of how wrong they were about COVID.

Maybe it’s time to remind ourselves that it isn’t normal for humans to transform into rhinoceroses.

Maybe it’s time to wrap up a little bit less of our individual and collective identity in Being Right About COVID.

Burying the Lede

For news junkies and the Very Online, one of the most well-traveled news stories over the past couple days has been the story of the “American students who are stranded in Afghanistan.”

The first version I read of the story came from this piece published by The Hill, although it borrows heavily from a piece published in the LA Times and San Diego Union-Tribune the same day.

Dozens of California students, parents stranded in Afghanistan after summer trip abroad [The Hill]

The key excerpt if you don’t feel like clicking over is here:

Dozens of California students and parents are stranded in Afghanistan after taking a summer trip to the country.

More than 20 students and 16 parents from the Cajon Valley Union School District in El Cajon, Calif., visited Afghanistan on summer vacation. Now they are among thousands of people who are waiting to leave the country amid the chaotic U.S. withdrawal that has caused political unrest across the nation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Cajon Valley Superintendent David Miyashiro alerted school board members on Tuesday that he would be meeting with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to discuss the situation, the Times noted.

Source: The Hill

However much of the headline or article you read, you will still arrive at the same two questions that roughly half of America has since yesterday: (1) What the devil were a group of students doing taking a summer trip abroad in Afghanistan, and (2) Why is one of the students’ parents talking about worries that they are missing class?

It’s the funny thing about news. We more or less define it based on the assumption that it tells the truth, and this article does. These students from California absolutely went to Afghanistan over the summer. They are absolutely stranded there. These are facts.

But at some point here, you have to feel like a writer without an axe to grind might have felt inclined to mention that the California students are LITERALLY REFUGEES FROM AFGHANISTAN WHO WENT TO THEIR OLD HOME TO VISIT FRIENDS AND FAMILY. And look, that doesn’t change that they are people just as deserving of our efforts to extract safely as anyone else. It just takes away the single reason the article went viral, that is, that a bunch of kids going to Afghanistan for summer vacation seemed pretty wacky.

The ability to influence our behaviors as information consumers isn’t confined to whether we are explicitly being told how to think about something. Narrative is just as easily communicated through the selective absence of information, through its placement on a page, and through editorial decisions regarding the volume and emphasis of its coverage.

So which explanation for this preposterous framing do you think is true? And remember, you can always pick more than one:

  1. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. They just didn’t think about the very obvious omission, or they didn’t do the basic research to inform it.
  2. They were terrified of getting canceled for maybe implying that refugee status was a relevant detail to the story.
  3. Clickbait. C’mon.

Join us in the forum which you think it is – or offer another explanation!

— Rusty Guinn | August 26, 2021|

C’mon, Australia

From the ET Forum …

An Australian Pack member living abroad published what I think is an outstanding review of the depths to which Australia’s Covid-zero policy has descended. Here’s the skinny:

We are a country that pulls things out of the ground, sells coffee to each other, and invests every dollar we don’t have in residential property. And that’s been fine until this point. Australia, more than any other country, has ridden a wave of prosperity over the last 30 years that resulted in a quality of life almost unsurpassed anywhere in the world. But it has bred complacency, and the country’s response to COVID has revealed this complacency and its worrying lack of urgency. We’ve convinced ourselves that we generated long-term prosperity because there’s something special about us; but a lot of it’s been due to luck.

Taking a step back, Australia’s approach to COVID implicitly includes the following: a comfort with severely curtailing its citizens’ liberties; the capacity to absorb and pay for economic calamities; a belief that its brand is strong enough to recover from the damage inflicted and to once again attract talent and capital; zero tolerance for risk or its citizens ability to manage it; and conviction that trust in authority will remain despite all the failures, hostility and dishonesty.

Daniel Bookman

— Ben Hunt | August 25, 2021|

Proof of Plant: A New Vision for Crypto, Pt 1

By Ben Hunt | June 23, 2021 | 39 Comments

I want to change the language of crypto from mining to growing. I do not mean this in a metaphorical sense. I mean a proof-of-plant method for literally growing cryptocurrency tokens as a representation of the value stored in the human cultivation of plants.

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In Praise of Bitcoin

By Ben Hunt | April 28, 2021 | 57 Comments

What made Bitcoin special is nearly lost, and what remains is a false and constructed narrative that exists in service to Wall Street and Washington rather than in resistance.

The Bitcoin narrative must be renewed. And that will change everything.

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Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

By Ben Hunt | May 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

More on Information Theory.

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Recent Notes

In Praise of Bitcoin

By Ben Hunt | April 28, 2021

What made Bitcoin special is nearly lost, and what remains is a false and constructed narrative that exists in service to Wall Street and Washington rather than in resistance.

The Bitcoin narrative must be renewed. And that will change everything.

Read more

Bitcoin Market Profile

By Brent Donnelly | April 28, 2021

ET contributor Brent Donnelly gives a crash course in Market Profile analysis and applies it to Bitcoin since the Coinbase IPO.

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Image of Wormwood, the father and slick car salesman from Matilda

Manheim Steamroller

By Rusty Guinn | April 26, 2021

When we talk about and plan for inflation in our businesses and portfolios, we are usually focused on direction and magnitude. We also usually abstract away from price volatility.

We shouldn’t.

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ET Podcast #9 – Make, Protect, Teach

By Ben Hunt | April 22, 2021

How do we change the world? Not through corporations and political parties from the top-down, but through free-thinking citizens from the bottom-up. Not as an alienated flock, but as a cooperative pack. Not with abstractions and transactions, but with making, protecting and teaching.

Let’s gooooooo!

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The Zeitgeist – April 19, 2021

By Ben Hunt | April 19, 2021

Here’s what we’re reading and working on this week at Epsilon Theory.

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Mailbag: ET Forum Edition

By Ben Hunt | April 16, 2021

We are now more than 900 Pack members strong on the ET Forum, with more than 1,000 posts contributed by smart, clear-eyed, full-hearted people from all over the world and all walks of life. Like you.

Here, I’ll show you. Here is some of the best and most thoughtful content on the internet today.

Here is the Mailbag that we need.

Here is the Mailbag that we deserve.

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What Do We Need To Be True?

By Rusty Guinn | April 6, 2021

Modeling common knowledge by analyzing missionary statements and their reverberations works. Except when it doesn’t.

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ET Podcast #8 – Leverage and Its Discontents

By Ben Hunt | April 2, 2021

Three blow-ups in three months: Archegos, Greensill, and Melvin Capital.

What do they have in common? Insane leverage employed to maximize private gain while socializing potential losses.

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A Tiger Can’t Change Its Stripes

By Ben Hunt | March 30, 2021

What do you get when you give a raccoon billions of dollars AND invisibility from regulators? Collusion and insider trading.

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Hot and Cold

By Rusty Guinn | March 23, 2021

Most of us are under the impression that a protracted conflict within China will increase national unity. Not this time.

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Office Hours 3.16.2021

By Harper Hunt | March 18, 2021

Our March 2021 Office Hours. Talking about our latest notes and podcasts.

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A Conversation with Howard Marks

By Brent Donnelly | March 17, 2021

ET contributor Brent Donnelly talks with Howard Marks about why traditional value investing is likely permanently impaired as a strategy and why Growth vs. Value is a false dichotomy. Boomshakalaka!

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ET Podcast #7 – Inflation Investing

By Ben Hunt | March 11, 2021

We’re going to Pack-source a slate of investment strategies for an inflationary world. Here are five tentpoles to organize and support that effort.

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The Best Way to Rob a Bank

By Ben Hunt | March 9, 2021

I think that the collapse of Greensill Capital has a lot of systemic risk embedded within it, particularly as the fraudulent deals between Greensill and its major sponsors – Softbank and Credit Suisse – come to light.

This is the first Big Fraud I’ve seen in 13 years with the sheer heft and star power to ripple through markets in a systemic way. Not since Madoff.

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A Freaky Circle

By Rusty Guinn | March 9, 2021

Excessive complexity in a deal or structure isn’t necessarily nefarious, but it also isn’t a good sign. The distraction and confusion you and I feel reading about these deals is usually not the problem.

It is the point.

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The Fed’s Kryptonite

By Peter Cecchini | March 4, 2021

An in-depth look at the interdependence of inflation, Treasury supply, and the Fed reaction function.

Bottom line: inflation is the Fed’s kryptonite.

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A Change in the Water

By Ben Hunt | March 3, 2021

Increasingly, the common knowledge of our investment world – what everyone knows that everyone knows – is that inflation is a problem and you should be focused on it.

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The Opposite of 2008

By Ben Hunt | March 2, 2021

In 2008, the US housing market – together with a Fed that thought the subprime crisis was “contained” – delivered the mother of all deflationary shocks to the global economy.

In 2021, the US housing market – together with a Fed that thinks inflationary pressures are “transitory” – risks delivering the mother of all inflationary shocks.

The ET Pack is going to figure this out … together.

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ET Podcast #6 – The Business of Wall Street

By Ben Hunt | February 25, 2021

Very little investing today is buying and selling shares of common stock in individual companies. Instead, we buy and sell what Wall Street calls “products” – mutual funds, ETFs, options, REITs, SPACs, etc.

Dave Nadig, who literally wrote the book on ETFs, helps us understand the history and future of the business of Wall Street.

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The Third Rail Switch

By Rusty Guinn | February 23, 2021

In the same way that narrative shaped a conversation about the role of police going forward in 2020, narrative can shape a conversation about the role of teacher unions and public sector unions more broadly. My money is still on the status quo, but I’ve been wrong before.

Read more

ZG-item-cap-black

Coming Soon to CBS

From the ET Forum ...

The Activist is an upcoming reality show that really shouldn’t have made it past the “there are no bad ideas” stage of development. It’s the most tone deaf, disconnected concept I’ve ever seen.

The basic idea is that the show will feature six activists from around the world and follow them as they “compete in missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events”. Think Shark Tank meets The Apprentice. Contestants will be judged on how much social media engagement they receive, and the grand prize is an opportunity to attend the G20 Summit in Rome.

Yeah.

Contestants will be judged not by quality of their work but by the quality of their Instagram captions.

The show and its marketing campaign present this very shallow idea of supporting activism and getting them mainstream attention. But the show isn’t prepared to follow through on helping create change. The prize isn’t money or manpower. It’s a chance to beg powerful people to pretend to care.

At its core, this show is not about activism and social change. It’s about social media attention. Just look at the judges! Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough have no experience in activism aside from Instagram posts and speaking at charity events. They’re not leaders of change. They’re mid-level celebrities who wouldn’t be out of place judging The Masked Singer.

The show has been justly lambasted on social media as literally everyone has a problem with the premise. It’s been called “performance activism personified” and it is. It’s encouraging participants and viewers to see activism not as something meant to enact change, but a way to get attention. It sets a standard that successful activism isn’t making change, it’s getting likes and views. It ignores the small, boring, and thankless work that is done on a grassroots level. The work we need to see more of.

We don’t need more beautiful people talking about how they use metal straws to save the sea turtles. We need more people who are willing to do the work. This show isn’t doing anything to help anyone and I, for one, will not be watching.

— Harper Hunt | September 16, 2021|

The Widened Gyre

From the ET Forum …

Yesterday, the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I read and heard several mainstream references to “the Widening Gyre”. It makes sense that yesterday would spur that sort of narrative connection, as the juxtaposition of the political images and texts from then and now is breathtaking. It’s amazing (and obvious), how polarized we’ve become over the past two decades.

But at this point – where the Widening Gyre is not happening but has already occurred – I think what we’re seeing is the Widened Gyre, where everything is autotuned to the poles of the gyre, including references to the Widening Gyre itself!

Case in point, on Twitter I am now routinely criticized for “contributing” to the Widening Gyre if I don’t engage in perfunctory political whataboutism on any topic that has a political dimension … which is to say ALL topics.

What is the Widened Gyre?

Yesterday, the most recent former president of the United States gave a paid speech to Moonies and then made a paid appearance at a sham boxing match where 58-year-old Evander Holyfield was knocked out in 90 seconds.

On 9/11.

And it will change no one’s politically polarized views. Not his supporters. Not his detractors. No one.

The Widened Gyre is a VERY stable equilibrium.

— Ben Hunt | September 12, 2021|