New Home 21

In Praise of Bitcoin

By Ben Hunt | April 28, 2021 | 56 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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“Yay, Environment!”

In Epsilon Theory-speak, we use “Yay, Good-Thing!” as shorthand for a narrative that takes a linguistic construction that we all agree is a Good Thing (something like “capitalism” or “freedom” or “democracy”) and turns it into a behaviorally powerfully argument for something that is decidedly not that Good Thing, but can be painted with other behaviorally powerful words into something that sorta kinda looks like that Good Thing if you squint really hard and you say the behaviorally powerful words loudly enough.

In rhetorical construction, “Yay, Good Thing!” is a variation on begging the question (in the correct way of understanding that phrase, where the conclusion is assumed in the proposition), or if you’re in marketing or sales you would recognize this as a variation of the assumptive close. The typically-but-not-always unspoken corollary to the “Yay, Good Thing!” narrative construction is “You’re not against Good Thing, are you?”, which is the linguistic stick to the “Yay, Good Thing!” carrot.

Socrates would call “Yay, Good Thing!” sophistry, and he hated the Sophists with a deep and abiding passion. Same. In the modern world, the Sophists are powerful government and corporate interests (aka the Nudging State or the Nudging Oligarchy if we’re going to continue in Epsilon Theory-speak), and the “Yay, Good Thing!” construction is their go-to narrative weapon in the Forever War of stripping away our autonomy of mind.

If you want to read more about our take on “Yay, Good Thing!” narratives, here’s the Epsilon Theory note that started all that.

Anyhoo … I was thinking about “Yay, Good Thing!” today because of how the “Yay, Environment!” implementation of this narrative device is being used to shape the politics of two issues that we’ve been writing a lot about recently: work and crypto.

“Yay, Environment!” is now one of the primary threads in the narrative-world battle over the future of work.

It’s a very powerful narrative thread. It’s a big reason why “Remote work is here to stay!” is winning this narrative war, and you are going to see a lot more “Yay, Environment!” rationalizations for remote work policies in the future.

Similarly, “Yay, Environment!” is now one of the primary narrative threads in the narrative-world battle over the future of Bitcoin.

Here’s the latest, from Elizabeth Warren, but you’re no doubt familiar with Elon Musk’s oeuvre here, as well.

And yes, this construction of “Yay, Environment!” does indeed speak the usually silent part – “You’re not against the Environment, are you?” – out loud. And yes, you’re going to be seeing A LOT more of this narrative. Not because it’s right. Not because it’s wrong. But because it WORKS.

It’s all just another weapon in the ongoing narrative war for Wall Street control and US Treasury visibility over Bitcoin.

— Ben Hunt | June 10, 2021 | 9:24 am

Fiat News in Action

It wasn’t enough for ProPublica to do actual news reporting by publishing these tax records.

The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax

No, they had to tell you how to think about their news reporting.

They had to turn news into Fiat News by constructing a metric of “true tax rate” based on unrealized capital gains, because … you know … the actual true tax rate just wasn’t damning enough for ProPublica’s purposes.

To capture the financial reality of the richest Americans, ProPublica undertook an analysis that has never been done before. We compared how much in taxes the 25 richest Americans paid each year to how much Forbes estimated their wealth grew in that same time period.

We’re going to call this their true tax rate.

What is Fiat News? It’s the presentation of opinion as fact. It’s an interpretation of factual events projected with the same authority as the factual events themselves.

Fiat News (in this case the opinion that wealth in the form of unrealized capital gains should be taxed) is to hard news (in this case the tax filings of the very wealthy) what fiat currencies are to hard currencies.

We write a lot about Fiat News. Here’s the money quote from the note that started it all, Fiat Money, Fiat News:

There’s really no such thing as “real money”, i.e., gold and silver as a medium for exchange or a store of value, in existence in the world today. That used to be the meaning of gold, but those days are long gone. Today fiat money completely and utterly dominates all global commerce and exchange. Why? Because it supports the existential aims of government: taxation (sovereignty), price control (stability), and liquidity provision (growth). Without the invention of fiat money, global GDP today would be at … I dunno, maybe mid-18th century levels? Something around there, I’d guess.

Fiat news serves exactly the same existential aims of government, just in a less overt (but more powerful for being hidden) fashion. There’s just too much at stake for status quo regimes, what with modern referenda like Brexit and national elections like we just experienced in the U.S. and are forthcoming this year throughout Europe, for regime institutions to do anything other than double-down in their embrace and promulgation of fiat news.

Ten years from now we will be awash in “news” to a degree that we can hardly imagine today. That’s what happened with fiat money, and that’s what I think happens with fiat news.

The exponential growth in fiat news is still ahead of us, not behind us.

Gresham’s Law: bad money drives good money out of circulation.

Hunt’s Law: fiat news drives hard news out of circulation.

— Ben Hunt | June 8, 2021 | 9:42 am

A Disturbance in the Force

Yesterday, one of Softbank’s largest portfolio companies – Katerra – filed for bankruptcy.

Katerra was at the heart of the relationship between Softbank and Greensill, and I think it’s the most viable path by which the Greensill fraud and financial crimes can be shown to be Softbank fraud and financial crimes.

You can read our full take on Greensill and Softbank here …

… but the skinny is this:

in 2019, Softbank put ~$3 billion into Greensill, turning it into the Vision Fund’s private bank. In 2020, Greensill lent Softbank portfolio company Katerra $435 million. When Katerra ran into trouble, Greensill wrote off the $435 million loan in exchange for 5% of common equity. LOL. A $435 million senior secured loan – which had been packaged and sold to Credit Suisse – was exchanged for a 5% equity position in a bankrupt company.

Credit Suisse has announced that they are filing suit against Softbank over this and all of the other Softbank/Greensill shenanigans. And in the WSJ article describing the Katerra bankruptcy filing, you can see how Softbank is going to try and spin this (all caps mine).

When Katerra ran into financial difficulties last year, Greensill forgave the loan. 

SoftBank, in turn, invested $440 million into Greensill, EXPECTING THE MONEY TO GO TO CREDIT SUISSE’S INVESTORS.

Instead, Greensill put the proceeds of the SoftBank investment in a bank it owned in Bremen, Germany, according to a bankruptcy administrator’s report. The report said Greensill had used money it received from SoftBank, including the $440 million, to boost its bank’s capital position and fund Greensill’s overall operations.

The Softbank defense is going to be that their back door pay-off to Greensill for forgiving the Katerra loan was really intended to be a back door pay-off for Credit Suisse, but that rascal Lex just kept the money. Who knew!

As always, the best way to rob a bank is to own a bank.

— Ben Hunt | June 7, 2021 | 11:41 am

Deadly Theatre

The Deadly Theatre of corporate signaling on Pride Month continues to run rampant, with feel-good rebranding pop-ups in all the geographies where this is a marketing advantage … and nothing in geographies where it isn’t.

What is Deadly Theatre? It’s a performance that is so deeply abstracted from its source material that it has become painfully, obviously artificial to anyone who is paying attention.

And yes, there’s an Epsilon Theory note on that.

— Rusty Guinn | June 4, 2021 | 10:34 am

Shot … Chaser

P&C insurer Lemonade (LMND) went public last year and now has a $5 billion market cap. They’re not just a sleepy insurance company, of course. No, no … they’re actually a cutting edge AI Company! TM.

They’ve deleted the tweet above and issued a classic non-denial denial on their blog:

Let’s be clear: 

AI that uses harmful concepts like phrenology and physiognomy has never, and will never, be used at Lemonade.

We have never, and will never, let AI auto-reject claims.

LOL. So their AI Jim textbot + video recognition program (I am not making this up) isn’t using phrenology and it can’t auto-reject claims. No, no … the supervisor will reject the claim. BITFD.

— Ben Hunt | May 28, 2021 | 7:47am

ZG-item-cap-black

“Yay, Environment!”

In Epsilon Theory-speak, we use “Yay, Good-Thing!” as shorthand for a narrative that takes a linguistic construction that we all agree is a Good Thing (something like “capitalism” or “freedom” or “democracy”) and turns it into a behaviorally powerfully argument for something that is decidedly not that Good Thing, but can be painted with other behaviorally powerful words into something that sorta kinda looks like that Good Thing if you squint really hard and you say the behaviorally powerful words loudly enough.

In rhetorical construction, “Yay, Good Thing!” is a variation on begging the question (in the correct way of understanding that phrase, where the conclusion is assumed in the proposition), or if you’re in marketing or sales you would recognize this as a variation of the assumptive close. The typically-but-not-always unspoken corollary to the “Yay, Good Thing!” narrative construction is “You’re not against Good Thing, are you?”, which is the linguistic stick to the “Yay, Good Thing!” carrot.

Socrates would call “Yay, Good Thing!” sophistry, and he hated the Sophists with a deep and abiding passion. Same. In the modern world, the Sophists are powerful government and corporate interests (aka the Nudging State or the Nudging Oligarchy if we’re going to continue in Epsilon Theory-speak), and the “Yay, Good Thing!” construction is their go-to narrative weapon in the Forever War of stripping away our autonomy of mind.

If you want to read more about our take on “Yay, Good Thing!” narratives, here’s the Epsilon Theory note that started all that.

Anyhoo … I was thinking about “Yay, Good Thing!” today because of how the “Yay, Environment!” implementation of this narrative device is being used to shape the politics of two issues that we’ve been writing a lot about recently: work and crypto.

“Yay, Environment!” is now one of the primary threads in the narrative-world battle over the future of work.

It’s a very powerful narrative thread. It’s a big reason why “Remote work is here to stay!” is winning this narrative war, and you are going to see a lot more “Yay, Environment!” rationalizations for remote work policies in the future.

Similarly, “Yay, Environment!” is now one of the primary narrative threads in the narrative-world battle over the future of Bitcoin.

Here’s the latest, from Elizabeth Warren, but you’re no doubt familiar with Elon Musk’s oeuvre here, as well.

And yes, this construction of “Yay, Environment!” does indeed speak the usually silent part – “You’re not against the Environment, are you?” – out loud. And yes, you’re going to be seeing A LOT more of this narrative. Not because it’s right. Not because it’s wrong. But because it WORKS.

It’s all just another weapon in the ongoing narrative war for Wall Street control and US Treasury visibility over Bitcoin.

— Ben Hunt | June 10, 2021 | 9:24 am

Fiat News in Action

It wasn’t enough for ProPublica to do actual news reporting by publishing these tax records.

The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax

No, they had to tell you how to think about their news reporting.

They had to turn news into Fiat News by constructing a metric of “true tax rate” based on unrealized capital gains, because … you know … the actual true tax rate just wasn’t damning enough for ProPublica’s purposes.

To capture the financial reality of the richest Americans, ProPublica undertook an analysis that has never been done before. We compared how much in taxes the 25 richest Americans paid each year to how much Forbes estimated their wealth grew in that same time period.

We’re going to call this their true tax rate.

What is Fiat News? It’s the presentation of opinion as fact. It’s an interpretation of factual events projected with the same authority as the factual events themselves.

Fiat News (in this case the opinion that wealth in the form of unrealized capital gains should be taxed) is to hard news (in this case the tax filings of the very wealthy) what fiat currencies are to hard currencies.

We write a lot about Fiat News. Here’s the money quote from the note that started it all, Fiat Money, Fiat News:

There’s really no such thing as “real money”, i.e., gold and silver as a medium for exchange or a store of value, in existence in the world today. That used to be the meaning of gold, but those days are long gone. Today fiat money completely and utterly dominates all global commerce and exchange. Why? Because it supports the existential aims of government: taxation (sovereignty), price control (stability), and liquidity provision (growth). Without the invention of fiat money, global GDP today would be at … I dunno, maybe mid-18th century levels? Something around there, I’d guess.

Fiat news serves exactly the same existential aims of government, just in a less overt (but more powerful for being hidden) fashion. There’s just too much at stake for status quo regimes, what with modern referenda like Brexit and national elections like we just experienced in the U.S. and are forthcoming this year throughout Europe, for regime institutions to do anything other than double-down in their embrace and promulgation of fiat news.

Ten years from now we will be awash in “news” to a degree that we can hardly imagine today. That’s what happened with fiat money, and that’s what I think happens with fiat news.

The exponential growth in fiat news is still ahead of us, not behind us.

Gresham’s Law: bad money drives good money out of circulation.

Hunt’s Law: fiat news drives hard news out of circulation.

— Ben Hunt | June 8, 2021 | 9:42 am

What Do We Need To Be True?

By Rusty Guinn | April 6, 2021 | 42 Comments

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

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A Tiger Can’t Change Its Stripes

By Ben Hunt | March 30, 2021 | 30 Comments

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 | 26 Comments

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

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Recent Notes

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.

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Office Hours – 2.16.2021

By Harper Hunt | February 16, 2021

Check out our February 2021 Office Hours!

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ET Podcast #5 – Gnostic Nationalism

By Ben Hunt | February 16, 2021

Every political movement has a political philosophy, and for Trumpism and MAGA it’s the Dominion theology of the charismatic/Pentecostal church.

Neither the rise of Donald Trump nor the attack on our Capitol can be understood without an examination of this faith and its constructed political narratives.

Believe it or not.

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Danish Food-Safety Expertise for the Win

By Ben Hunt | February 10, 2021

WHO leadership continues to be necessary part of the Chinese narrative machine.

It’s more than a disgrace. It’s more than a humiliation of the people who do good and important work through WHO.

It’s a betrayal of the entire world.

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Hammers and Nails

By Rusty Guinn | February 8, 2021

When we talk about bias, we usually think about a political bias. But the world of 2021 now supports persistent idiosyncratic biases and frames through which information is passed. How do we ensure that our information consumption habits account for this?

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ET Podcast #4 – Hunger Games

By Ben Hunt | February 5, 2021

What’s happening with Reddit and Gamestop and Robinhood is a revolution, but not the revolution you think.

This isn’t a “democratization” of Wall Street. You were played. Again.

It’s a revolution in Common Knowledge. And that changes everything. Again.

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Hunger Games

By Ben Hunt | February 4, 2021

You have been told that the odds are ever in your favor. You have been told this for your entire life.

More and more, you suspect this is a lie.

Over the past few weeks you have been told a new story. A brave story. You have been told that by banding together and acting as one, you can “democratize” the stock market.

Today, as you see the collapsing stock prices of the companies you supported, you suspect that this was a lie, as well.

What now?

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When Does the Game Stop?

By Peter Cecchini | February 1, 2021

What’s happening now in equity markets isn’t the product of some paradigmatic democratization of finance. It’s just another bubble that will end badly.

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Portrait of a Very Serious Investor

By Demonetized | January 29, 2021

The Very Serious Investor is quite disturbed by recent goings-on in illiquid, small cap stocks with high short interests. These happenings represent an assault not only on the Very Serious Investor’s livelihood, but his entire cosmology. People placing profitable discretionary trades in the financial markets when they lack even a single Ivy League degree. Imagine!

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The Invulnerable Hero*

By Rusty Guinn | January 28, 2021

No, the real story here probably isn’t about a revolution against Wall Street. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an opportunity to build a movement – right now – to transform it toward fair, free and open markets.

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The Zimbabwe Event

By Ben Hunt | January 27, 2021

The South African variant virus (501.V2) is not the immediate threat to the United States as the UK variant virus (B117). But 501.V2 has the potential to create a far more powerful narrative – vaccine resistance – that can have a greater market impact than the more pressing issues of B117.

More and more, I think the variant viruses create a tradeable event for markets.

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For Leon Black is an Honorable Man

By Ben Hunt | January 26, 2021

O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with the American dream that once was,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

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Off Wall Street and Off-Off Wall Street

By ET_Pro_Trial_June | January 22, 2021

Everything you always wanted to know about r/Wallstreetbets and Gamestop*

*but were afraid to ask

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