The Lost Art of the Jawbone

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mundanewarrior's Movie Musings: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Duke (in his head): If so – well, we’ll just have to cut his head off and bury him somewhere.  Because it goes without saying that we can’t turn him loose. He’d report us at once to some kind of outback Nazi law enforcement agency, and they’ll run us down like dogs.

Duke (out loud): Jesus. Did I say that?

Duke (in his head): Or just think it. Was I talking? Did they hear me?

Gonzo (to the hitchhiker): It’s okay. He’s admiring the shape of your skull.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

When Ben writes “They’re not even pretending anymore!” it is usually because he is really pissed off about something. I’m not just talking about the vague irritation hiding just below the surface at all times, but the special kind. The kind that you have to earn.

Me? It’s an expression of disappointment. The practiced kind of disappointment that only a father to two young boys can have, because when the four year-old punches the five year-old in the back of the head for saying something mean about mommy, YOU come up with a better answer than “Boys, I’m, uh, really disappointed.”

There is little that is more disappointing than lazy propaganda. It is literally the only thing a politician does that requires cleverness of any kind (okay, maybe fraud and compromise, too), so its devolution into the broadcast of a political functionary’s internal monologue out loud on national television is pretty unfulfilling. Larry Kudlow at least has the excuse of continuing to play the character that he has always played on television.

Still can’t get over this gem from February.

I just want to say, though, as far as the US is concerned, when you look at this, I mean you’ve got a little higher headcount on the infections because of the cruise ship people coming off, we have contained this. I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight. We’ve done a good job in the United States.

Larry Kudlow to CNBC on February 25, 2020

But the Chinese Communist Party? Et tu?

China told citizens to buy stocks, boosting market — ‘We have the Fed…China has its state media’ [CNBC]

A front-page editorial in China Securities Journal said fostering a “healthy bull market” is important given China’s increasingly complicated international relations, intense financial and technological competition, and the challenge of controlling internal financial risks.

Chinese Stocks Surge as Individual Investors Pile Into Market, WSJ

Call me a dreamer. Tell me I’ve just got rose-tinted glasses about the good ol’ days. But I remember when “BUY MOAR STOCKS” would be a message buried in the subterfuge of the carefully orchestrated release of cartoonified macro figures and tangentially related analyses from state banks massaged to carry the trappings of independence. Now we’re just going to say the quiet part out loud? In an editorial? On the front page of the securities journal subsidiary of Xinhua News Agency, the state-run media arm of the CCP? With transparent cannot-miss-if-you-tried references to its implications for the security of the state?

It is almost as if the world’s political leaders are discovering that the usual dosage of common knowledge construction is insufficient to the operation of capital markets as a political utility.


  1. Great pic of Larry. To turn an old phrase: “The stimulus will continue until Portnoy goes back to DKNG full time” (and we have assessed the impact that legions of fans all rush to the exits at once). The market such as it is really is 5 stawks, maybe 6 and rubble below. Larry really is ageing in dog years as Ben pointed in May 2019…

  2. Social media is what changed it, IMO. There’s so much noise and so many people screaming now that nuance doesn’t work - you need to yell the loudest and boldest to get heard.

    Cramer figured this out early on. I’m sure many on ET are like me and have simply stopped watching TV for news and commentary because it’s all just loud sloganeering. But clearly it must work as that’s what gets the ratings.

  3. There is an arms race, to be sure. I’m not sure how much of it is that versus the words having to do a lot more work to support a more aggressive agenda, but probably splitting hairs in trying to apportion the responsibility!

  4. As a card carrying economist (based upon empirical sound raw data) I get real tired of being played from both sides of the political spectrum. I KNOW the rationale for the “playing”, most consumers of media unfortunately can’t separate the narrative from the factual underpinnings of the empirical sound raw date and information. We are going to continue get “played” until the music stops and we find the very fat cats sitting in the last chair having never moved. Without significant action now we should get ready to stand for a long time.

Continue the discussion at the Epsilon Theory Forum


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