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Clever Hans

By Ben Hunt | 0 Comments

Part 7 of Ben’s Notes from the Field series reminds us that you don’t break a wild horse by crushing its spirit. You nudge it into willingly surrendering its autonomy. Because once you’re trained to welcome the saddle, you’re going to take the bit. We are Clever Hans, dutifully hanging on every word or signal from the Nudging Fed and the Nudging Street as we stomp out our investment behavior.

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Hobson’s Choice

By Ben Hunt | 7 Comments

“What do you mean you don’t make side orders of toast? You make sandwiches, don’t you?”

Bobby thinks he has lots of choices, but really he only has one.

We’re all Bobby today.

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The NFL Has a Gambling Problem

By Rusty Guinn | 20 Comments

The outcomes of NFL games are inordinately influenced by officials relative to other sports. This is not new. The narrative environment faced by the NFL in 2021, however, IS new.

I’m not sure they’re ready for it.

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Pin The Blame On The Scapegoat

From the ET Forum ...

On October 21, there was a tragic shooting on the New Mexico set of the film Rust. The TL:DR is that Alec Baldwin accidentally fired a prop gun that had live ammunition inside. This resulted in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured the director Joel Souza. That’s the basics of what happened. The full story is a bit more complicated.

The investigation is still ongoing, but recent facts have come out that paint a very damning picture. Rust was a film conceived of and produced by Baldwin. Now Baldwin has dabbled in producing since 1994, but hasn’t had any notable success. The project was low budget for modern Hollywood standards, and was considered an independent film. This meant they didn’t have a studio backing the project and instead funding came from individuals. And none of these individuals had much if any experience making movies.

This might explain why there was another big problem with the Rust production. There was a culture of complacency around firearms. Cast and crew would regularly take the prop guns, load them with live ammo, and shoot cans off set. Before October 21st, There were 3 accidental misfires where prop guns were thought to be empty. Several crew members complained to producers about the lack of gun safety.

To add another layer to this tragedy, most of the crew walked off set the day before the accident. I’ve written before about IATSE and their negotiations and possible strike. Well this is a clear example of what they were fighting for. Crew workers had to drive 50 miles to and from set every day. This is after spending 12-13 hours working in the harsh sun. The day of the shooting, members of IATSE packed up and left set. At least one producer forced them to leave. New non-union workers were brought on to replace them. 6 hours later Hutchins was shot.

Oh, and the Assistant Director who gave Baldwin the gun was fired from a set in 2019 after he mishandled a prop gun which misfired and injured someone.

As I said before, the investigation is still ongoing. Hutchins death was a tragedy and an accident. But it was a highly preventable one. And now everyone is scrambling to control the narrative.

The New Mexico Governor is saying that if the film industry doesn’t set stricter regulations to ensure set safety, then the state will. IATSE is blaming the producers and non-union workers who were present. They called the replacement of union with non-union “inexcusable”. In response, the remaining producers have issued a statement that they were “in good standing with all major production unions and guilds”. Then you have the California State Senator calling for the ban of all live ammunition on theatrical productions.

Everyone is trying to add their own two cents and put their spin on it. Placing blame, deflecting blame, and trying to get their 15 minutes of fame. Because the cat’s out of the bag. Film sets are incredibly unsafe and people can die. Now it’s time to see what the investigation finds and which narrative spin comes out on top.

— Harper Hunt | October 29, 2021|

Second Chance

From the ET Forum ...

They made a deal! IATSE was able to reach an agreement with studios and networks just 24 hours before the strike would have gone into effect. Now the deal must be sent to IATSE members for approval. If the majority of IATSE members don’t vote in favor of ratification, the strike is back on. While IATSE was able to get better pay across the board and better working conditions, a lot of members feel it’s not enough.

Meanwhile. A strike did happen somewhere else. At John Deere, more than 10,000 employees walked out of 14 facilities. This is an active strike that’s been going on for over a week now. And I haven’t heard much about it. I’ve heard a lot about the IATSE negotiations from friends, trade journals, and main news coverage. And that was about a potential strike. I’m finding out about an actual strike a week after it started.

John Deere didn’t have missionaries to bring their strike to the public’s attention. IATSE had celebrities like Jane Fonda and Seth Rogen posting in favor of the negotiations. They used the full power of Hollywood to get mass attention. I know what the IATSE strike would involve. I know who would be affected, what they want, and what the ramifications would be. All this with very little effort on my part. I didn’t have to seek out much information and when I did there were dozens of media sources covering it. The John Deere workers don’t have that luxury.

Without a proper missionary they are waiting for people to notice. And the only people who are, are people already affected by the strike. Most news outlets aren’t covering the story or aren’t giving it the same weight and attention IATSE got weeks before they entered negotiations. Without a face to put on the story, it just doesn’t get the same attention.

— Harper Hunt | October 21, 2021|

3 Strikes They’re Out

From the ET Forum ...

If you hadn’t heard about the potential IATSE strike allow me to catch you up to speed. IATSE is the much needed abbreviation for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. They’re the thousands of people who make movies and television. All those names in the credits, that’s them.

And they’ve had enough. The crew works horrible hours with no breaks. Imagine your call time to work was 6am. But you have to wake up at 4am to get there in time and set up. Then work continues non stop until 9pm. Go home, get some sleep, and do it all again the next day. That’s not counting overtime. And the pay is not worth it.

Now the IATSE is ready to strike. They’re looking for a few things. One is better pay that accurately reflects the work done for streaming services. Technically shows produced for streaming services like Hulu and Netflix don’t count as a series and workers don’t get the higher pay that entails. So Stranger Things and The Handmaiden’s Tale are TV enough to win Emmys, but not to pay their crew.

IATSE is in the sixth day of talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers right now. They hope to come to a resolution, but they also have picket signs ready. And if the strike does happen, Hollywood is in trouble.

Remember how all the movies and shows from 2008 were super delayed, short, and just really bad? That’s because of the writers strike. Now imagine if it’s not just the writers. It’s the lighting tech. The cinematographer. The grip. The boom mic guy. If they go on strike Hollywood is shut down.

The IATSE expects to reach an agreement within days. But just in case, don’t hold your breath for Season 2 of Emily in Paris.

— Harper Hunt | October 12, 2021|

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|

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

By Ben Hunt | 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 | 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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Through the Looking Glass, or … This is the Red Pill

By Ben Hunt | 1 Comment

The first ET note focused on Information Theory.

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Recent Notes

Critical State Theory

By Ben Hunt

This note is about the narrative process that makes it so politically difficult to say that yes, parents are responsible for their children’s education AND yes, our children should be taught the fact of embedded racism in our nation’s history.

And why it’s so important that we do so, anyway.

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Cursed Knowledge #6: F*ck Almonds

By Harper Hunt

Move over Hollywood! Almonds are one of the most lucrative and fastest growing industries in California. Unfortunately they’re not as good for us as you’d think.

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Prime Time in Crypto

By Marc Rubinstein

No one gives a clearer explanation of how financial institutions work than ET contributor Marc Rubinstein, and his primer on prime brokerage services (and its extension into crypto) is no exception.

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The NFL Has a Gambling Problem

By Rusty Guinn

The outcomes of NFL games are inordinately influenced by officials relative to other sports. This is not new. The narrative environment faced by the NFL in 2021, however, IS new.

I’m not sure they’re ready for it.

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The Mandarin Class

By Ben Hunt

I don’t think there’s anything illegal in how Fed governors trade their personal accounts.

No, I think it’s much worse than that.

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When Narrative Takes Flight

By Rusty Guinn

We find ourselves together now at the stage of the Widening Gyre in which your political identity now determines the reality you wish to accept about three days of moderate operational difficulties at the ninth largest global airline, as measured by passenger-miles.

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No Time to Die: China Banks Edition

By Marc Rubinstein

With $300+ billion of assets, Evergrande is big, but if you want REALLY big, take a look at the balance sheets of Chinese banks.

ET contributor Marc Rubinstein was there at the beginning when Chinese banks went public, and he’s here now to review the sector.

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How Lucky You Are To Be Alive Right Now

By David Salem

ET friend and contributor David Salem is back!

Here with his Constitution Day address at Middlebury College, David makes the rich tradition of academic speeches richer still, with nods to the Founders and Vitalik Buterin alike.

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The Uncontained Spark

By Ben Hunt

There is an uncontained spark in the financial world today, a spark that emerged from the unlikeliest of places, a federal courthouse in Florida.

It’s a spark with the potential to light a searing bonfire under Robinhood and Citadel.

#BITFD

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Zeroism and the Allocator Status Quo

By Matthew Edwards

ET contributor Matthew Edwards pushes back on seven rules that allocators often apply to new managers.

1) We don’t do crypto.
2) We only invest in what we know.
3) We never pay full fees.
4) We prefer fundamental investment strategies.
5) We seek strong alignment of interests.
6) We cannot be greater than x% of a fund’s total assets under management.
7) We require a minimum track record of X years.

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Unanchored

By Brent Donnelly

ET contributor Brent Donnelly starts up where he left off, with a new launch of AM/FX and a new riff on the classic ET note, “Snip!”.

In the immortal words of Hunter S. Thompson, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro!

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Whitestone Bridge

By Ben Hunt

Our true enemies on 9/11 – the Deep State of Saudi Arabia and the Deep State of Pakistan – are our true enemies still.

And we won’t defeat them until we bridge our petty divides.

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

By Ben Hunt

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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Cursed Knowledge #5: Hot Coffee

By Harper Hunt

The McDonalds Hot Coffee lawsuit is the archetypal example of nonsense litigation. But there’s a lot more to the story than most people know.

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Notes from Camp Kotok 2021

By Brent Donnelly

ET contributor Brent Donnelly with an end-of-summer compilation of the top–of-mind topics at Camp Kotok!

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Prophet of the Pandemic

By Luke Burgis

Sophocles knew it. Dostoevsky knew it.

Disruption to the biological order and disruption to the social order are one and the same.

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Afghanistan and the Common Knowledge Game

By Ben Hunt

When the State Department announced on August 12th that it was removing all remaining non-essential personnel from Kabul within 3 days and was considering a relocation of the US embassy to the more defensible airport, the fall of the Afghani government became common knowledge.

And that’s when everything fell apart.

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The Afghanistan Narratives

By Rusty Guinn

We are in the very early innings of the narrative formation around responsibility for the outcome in Afghanistan. Steel yourselves for weeks of gaslighting from every angle. Hooray.

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ET Podcast #13 – Wanting

By Ben Hunt

It’s the only question that really matters here in the Age of Nudge: why do we want what we want?

A conversation with Luke Burgis, author of “Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life”.

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Cursed Knowledge #4: The Olympics

By Harper Hunt

The Olympic games are known as a time of triumph and glory. The truth is that a lot more work goes into creating and maintaining that narrative than you’d expect.

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False Binary Choices

We seem obsessed with false binary choices. What do I mean – choices that aren’t really choices. Sort of like when your mom says do you want orange juice or apple juice? I don’t want juice. I want Soda. But that is not on the menu.

Do you want Brainard or Powell? Seems right in the zip code here. Like does this choice really matter? I don’t think so and the fact that markets are moving on these small binary choices that are meaningless seems like its becoming part of the weaponized narrative arsenal.

Take a look at what I mean.

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-11-23/markets-have-overreacted-wildly-to-the-powell-brainard-fed-drama?srnd=premium&sref=9XsJozxv

And btw, we’ve talked about this before.

— Harper Hunt | November 23, 2021|

Why Am I Reading This Now? 11.22.21

Recent major media stories that feel to us like they’re part of a larger narrative campaign.