economics

‘It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of Renaissance or of any past culture.’ –Jackson Pollock

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It was June 2020, and Mr. Hamamoto, a former Goldman Sachs executive who invested in real estate, was searching for a business to take public through a merger with his shell company. He had raised $250 million from big Wall Street investors including BlackRock, and spent more than a year looking at over 100 potential targets. If he couldn’t close a deal soon, he would have to return the money.

Then, around nine months before his deadline, bankers from Goldman gave Mr. Hamamoto an enticing pitch: Lordstown Motors, the fledgling electric truck maker that President Donald J. Trump had hailed as a savior of jobs. What followed was a swift merger, then a debacle that put two of the biggest forces shaping the financial world on a collision course.

Lordstown went public in October via a merger with Mr. Hamamoto’s special purpose acquisition company, DiamondPeak Holdings. A Wall Street innovation, SPACs are all the rage, having raised more than $190 billion from investors since the start of 2020, according to SPACInsider. At the same time, small investors have become a potent force in the markets, driving up the stock prices of companies like GameStop and lapping up shares of SPACs, which are highly speculative and can pose financial risks.

In Lordstown, those forces eventually collided, highlighting the uneven playing field between Wall Street and Main Street. Small investors began piling into Lordstown shares after the merger closed, attracted to the hype around electric vehicles. That’s exactly when BlackRock and other early Wall Street investors — as well as top company executives, who all got their shares cheaply before the merger — began to sell some of their holdings.

Now Lordstown is flailing. Regulators are investigating whether its founder, Steve Burns, who resigned as chief executive in June, overstated claims about truck orders. The heat is on Mr. Hamamoto. The company has burned through hundreds of millions of dollars in cash. Its stock price has plunged to $9, from around $31. Investors are suing, including 70-year-old George Troicky, who lost $864,201 on his investment, according to a pending class-action lawsuit.

And Lordstown has yet to begin producing its first truck.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

image { Jackson Pollock at work in his studio in 1950 photographed by Hans Namuth }

The panoramic view of the sky and the sun beamin’

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If you carry a double-O number, it means you’re licensed to kill, not get killed

An Amazon executive […] “We had beaten publishers into submission. When Amazon asks for a nickel, publishers know to give a dime. We aren’t there yet with the Whirlpools and the Samsungs. We’ll get them under our thumb.” […]

Mr. Bezos’s disdain for taxes […]

Amazon’s yearlong pursuit of a second headquarters […] got results — nearly $600 million in incentives from Virginia officials

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘any time it’s nice outside I spend one million dollars’ –@danielleweisber

Canada, one of the most real estate-obsessed nations on earth — and one of the least affected by the 2008 crash — is up 42+% in the past year alone.

Even in Ethiopia, where my wife grew up, a three-bedroom detached house in the capital can cost you $1+ million USD.

Until recently, most people’s house price paradigm looked something like this:

A house’s market price is the maximum amount that a buyer can expect to afford over the next 25–40 years. But because wages are flatlined and purchasing parity is the same as in 1978, the only rational explanation for this current price explosion is a giant debt bubble.

But what if the paradigm — the baseline assumption of what dictates house prices — is changing?

What if the newly-redefined value of shelter is the maximum amount of annual rent that can be extracted per unit of housing? […]

As reader Valerie Kittell put it: “Airbnb-type models altered the market irreversibly by proving on a large scale that short term rentals were more lucrative than stable long-term residents.”

We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift to corporate serfdom.

Stop enriching corrupt banks — pay off your mortgages and never look back. Parents and grandparents with means: Help your kids get a start in housing before it’s out of their reach forever.

{ Jared A. Brock | Continue reading }

Crypto Vegas

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{ large, printable PDF }

To see in his horrorscup he is mehrkurios than saltz of sulphur

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On Sept. 16, 2008, the day after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, the Reserve Primary Fund “broke the buck”: Its net asset value fell below $1 per share. The fund — often called the first money-market fund — held $785 million of Lehman commercial paper that was suddenly worthless. Although the paper represented only 1.2% of the fund’s total assets of $64.8 billion, demands for withdrawals escalated, and the fund lost two-thirds of its assets within 24 hours. This triggered a general run on money-market funds that stopped only when the U.S. Treasury issued an extraordinary guarantee of essentially all money-market fund liabilities. The episode underscored how important that $1 net asset value is to investors.

Certain cryptocurrencies known as stablecoins are today’s economic equivalent of money-market funds, and in some cases their practices should have us worried that they could break the buck, creating significant damage in the broader crypto market.

One such stablecoin is Tether. With a market capitalization close to $60 billion, it is almost as big as the Reserve Fund was in 2008. Each Tether token is pegged to be equivalent to $1. But, as with the Reserve Primary Fund, the true value of those tokens depends on the market value of Tether’s reserves — the portfolio of investments made with the fiat currency it receives.

Tether recently disclosed that as of March 31, only 8% of its assets were in cash, Treasury bills and “reverse repo notes.” Almost 50% was in commercial paper, but no detail was provided about its quality. “Fiduciary deposits” represented 18%. Even more troubling: 10% of total assets were in “corporate bonds, funds & precious metals,” almost 13% were in “secured loans (none to affiliated entities),” and the remainder in “other,” which includes digital tokens.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

oil on canvas { Picasso, Still Life with Skull, Leeks, and Pitcher, March 14, 1945 }

‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ Is Leaving YouTube After $760,999 NFT Sale

Long believed by others to be a copy or the work of Leonardo’s studio, the “Salvator Mundi” was purchased in 2005 by a consortium of speculative art dealers for under $10,000. Eight years later, after the painting had been restored and declared the work of the Renaissance master, Bouvier bought it for $80 million after enlisting the help of a poker player to beat down the price.

The dealer swiftly sold it on for $127.5 million to his then-client, Dmitry Rybolovlev. […] And while Rybolovlev later auctioned off the painting for an astonishing $450 million in 2017, to a secret buyer now widely believed to be Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he nonetheless alleges that Bouvier defrauded him — a claim Bouvier denies. […]

In the documentary, “The Savior for Sale,” an anonymous high-ranking French official claims that Prince bin Salman was adamant that the “Salvator Mundi” be displayed next to the “Mona Lisa” in order to solidify its place as an authentic Leonardo — despite ongoing questions about whether the work is entirely by the Italian master.

The French government ultimately decided not to exhibit the painting under the Saudis’ conditions, which the anonymous official says in the film “would be akin to laundering a piece that cost $450 million.”

{ CNN | Continue reading }

‘Académie française.— La dénigrer, mais tâcher d’en faire partie si on peut.’ –Flaubert

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Recognizing that most are not familiar with decentralized finance, or DeFi, details are in order. DeFi does not use an order book like regulated exchanges. Instead, it has over 72,000 liquidity pools. Anyone can be a liquidity provider to these pools or even start one and earn interest (more coins) for their effort. Traders use these liquidity pools to trade cryptos. The entire protocol is run by computer code called an automatic market maker. No humans are involved in the trading on these exchanges.

The largest decentralized exchange is Uniswap. To access it, one must use an electronic wallet away from a regulated exchange and connect it to uniswap.org. This exchange allows customers to trade several thousand different cryptos. Uniswap founder Hayden Adams tweeted that Uniswap executed $6.3 billion of trades on Wednesday, well above Coinbase’s first-quarter average of $3.7 billion. Uniswap experienced no downtime and no slow service. No customer lost money because the exchange let them down.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

oil on canvas on two joined panels { Ellsworth Kelly, Orange Red Relief, 1959 }

related { Around 4.5% of all bitcoin mining takes place in Iran }

related { Crypto-mining gangs are abusing the free tiers of cloud computing platforms — They have been operating by registering accounts on selected platforms, signing up for a free tier, and running a cryptocurrency mining app on the provider’s free tier infrastructure. }

Romans cleaned their clothes with urine

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Twelve years on, cryptocurrencies play almost no role in normal economic activity. Almost the only time we hear about them being used as a means of payment — as opposed to speculative trading — is in association with illegal activity, like money laundering or the Bitcoin ransom Colonial Pipeline paid to hackers who shut it down.

Twelve years is an eon in information technology time. Venmo, which I can use to share restaurant bills, buy fresh fruit at sidewalk kiosks, and much more, was also introduced in 2009. Apple unveiled its first-generation iPad in 2010. Zoom came into use in 2012. By the time a technology gets as old as cryptocurrency, we expect it either to have become part of the fabric of everyday life or to have been given up as a nonstarter. […]

Yet investors continue to pay huge sums for digital tokens. […] Their collective value has, however, at times exceeded $2 trillion, more than half the value of all the intellectual property owned by U.S. business.

Why are people willing to pay large sums for assets that don’t seem to do anything? The answer, obviously, is that the prices of these assets keep going up, so that early investors made a lot of money, and their success keeps drawing in new investors.

This may sound to you like a speculative bubble, or maybe a Ponzi scheme — and speculative bubbles are, in effect, natural Ponzi schemes. But could a Ponzi scheme really go on for this long? Actually, yes: Bernie Madoff ran his scam for almost two decades, and might have gone even longer if the financial crisis hadn’t intervened.

Now, a long-running Ponzi scheme requires a narrative — and the narrative is where crypto really excels. […]

are cryptocurrencies headed for a crash sometime soon? Not necessarily. One fact that gives even crypto skeptics like me pause is the durability of gold as a highly valued asset. Gold, after all, suffers from pretty much the same problems as Bitcoin. People may think of it as money, but it lacks any attributes of a useful currency: You can’t actually use it to make transactions — try buying a new car with gold ingots — and its purchasing power has been extremely unstable. […]

It’s conceivable that one or two cryptocurrencies will somehow achieve similar longevity.

Or maybe not. For one thing, governments are well aware that cryptocurrencies are being used by bad actors, and may well crack down in a way they never did on gold trading.

The good news is that none of this matters very much. Because Bitcoin and its relatives haven’t managed to achieve any meaningful economic role, what happens to their value is basically irrelevant to those of us not playing the crypto game.

{ Paul Krugman/NY Times | Continue reading }

related { Whatever Bitcoin Is, It Isn’t Acting Like Money }

‘Belonging is stronger than facts.’ —Zeynep Tufekci

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In February, after reading a Reddit thread about Dogecoin’s potential, Mr. Contessoto decided to go all in. He maxed out his credit cards, borrowed money using Robinhood’s margin trading feature and spent everything he had on the digital currency — investing about $250,000 in all. […] The value of his Dogecoin holdings today? Roughly $2 million. […]

He is also emblematic of a new kind of hyper-online investor who is winning by applying the skills of the digital attention economy — sharing memes, cultivating buzz, producing endless streams of content for social media — to the financial markets. These investors, mostly young men, don’t behave rationally in the old-fashioned, Homo economicus sense. They pick investments not based on their underlying fundamentals or the estimates of Wall Street analysts, but on looser criteria, such as how funny they are, how futuristic they seem or how many celebrities are tweeting about them. […]

These investors, mostly young men, don’t behave rationally in the old-fashioned, Homo economicus sense. They pick investments not based on their underlying fundamentals or the estimates of Wall Street analysts, but on looser criteria, such as how funny they are, how futuristic they seem or how many celebrities are tweeting about them. Their philosophy is that in today’s media-saturated world, attention is the most valuable commodity of all, and that anything that is attracting a great deal of it must be worth something.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘Try to be free: you will die of hunger.’ –Cioran

Apparently someone sat Elon Musk down and told him where Bitcoins come from […] The funny move here would be if Tesla Inc. had dumped all its Bitcoins at the highs. […] The source of value for Bitcoin is not its use as a currency or economic importance; the source of value for Bitcoin — for everything — is simple proximity to Elon Musk. […]

Mark Zuckerberg shared a picture of his pet goats on Monday, introducing them to the world as Bitcoin and Max.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

related { Tesla’s Musk halts use of bitcoin for car purchases }

‘Saints live in flames; wise men, next to them.’ –Cioran

For a few minutes during trading on Wednesday, for example, the price of Ethereum Classic jumped well above $100 on the Coinbase exchange. The digital token was trading at less than $80 at other venues, offering an obvious opportunity for investors to make money simply by buying in one place and selling in another.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

└| ∵ |┘

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There are more real estate agents than actual houses for sale in the United States.

Any given day, you’re likely to see about half a million homes for sale, and there are 1.5 million members of the National Association of Realtors.

{ NPR | Continue reading }

images { Jerry Lewis, The Ladies Man, 1961 | Georges Perec, La vie mode d’emploi, 1978 }

‘There are many people today who see that modern society is heading toward disaster in one form or another, and who moreover recognize technology as the common thread linking the principal dangers that hang over us.’ –Theodore Kaczynski

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if you want to build a global taxi service that people can hail from a smartphone app, one way to do it is to coordinate with the taxi commissions of hundreds of cities to get regulatory approvals and make sure that you comply with local requirements, and another way to do it is to completely ignore those regulations and just launch your app everywhere. The second approach might expose you to ruinous fines or shutdown orders or bad publicity or prison, but it also might work; you might end up so popular in so many places that the local regulators can’t ban you and will have to accept your proposed terms. […]

If you want to build self-driving cars, you will need to test them. […] [a] way to test them is to just send out a bunch of cars to drive themselves everywhere, without asking for permission, and see what happens. […]

Federal agencies say he’s breaking the rules and endangering people. Mr. Musk says they’re holding back progress. […] When asked to comment on the specifics of this article, Mr. Musk replied with a “poop” emoji.

{ Matt Levine/Bloomberg | Continue reading }

previously:

Driverify [cryptocurrency]: Developed by Tesla’s self-driving-car division. Cars mine Driverify with spare computing power while idling, and spend it bidding against each other for right-of-way if they arrive at a four-way stop sign at the same time (users can preprogram how aggressively their cars bid in these auctions). […]

Banned [by the SEC] because: in the Phoenix suburb where the system was being tested, a pedestrian and Driverify-equipped car reached an intersection at the same time. The car dutifully wired a bid, but the pedestrian failed to respond. The car interpreted this as a bid of zero and ran into her.

{ Astral Codex Ten | Continue reading }

related { NASA suspends SpaceX’s $2.9 billion moon lander contract after rivals protest }

‘The difference between investment banking now and 20 years ago is that now, the customers have bigger yachts.’ –GSElevator

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The horses in these online races are NFTs, or “nonfungible tokens,” meaning they exist only as digital assets. […] But unlike the vast majority of NFTs each digital horse constitutes a “breathing NFT.” […] “It can breed, has a bloodline, has a life of its own. It races, it has genes it passes on, and it lives on an algorithm so no two horses are the same.” […]

One player sold a stable full of digital racehorses for $252,000. Another got $125,000 for a single racehorse. So far, more than 11,000 digital horses have been sold on the platform.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

image { “Disaster girl” makes $500,000 in NFT sale of her viral meme }

If a crocodile steals a child and promises its return if the father can correctly guess exactly what the crocodile will do, how should the crocodile respond in the case that the father guesses that the child will not be returned?

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Patrick Mimran (born 1956 in Paris, France) is a contemporary French multimedia artist, composer, and the former owner and CEO of Lamborghini. […] In 1987 he sold Lamborghini to Chrysler and made, so it is said, «enough profit to be completely satisfied».

{ Wikipedia | Hamlet Hamster }

still { Con Artist (2009), a documentary about Mark Kostabi — not Patrick Mimran }

‘If you want to make money in a casino, own one.’ –Steve Wynn

In 1997, David Bowie issued “bonds” that enabled their holders to earn a percentage of royalties from his back-catalog for the next ten years. An owner of a $1000 “Bowie Bond” would receive a 7.9% coupon each year. Prudential Insurance bought the first batch for $55 million.

At the outset, these securities seemed like a safe investment. Bowie’s songs were played regularly on the radio, and his albums were selling well, even decades after they were published.

Royalties from his work generated a steady income stream that was likely to continue. Bowie Bonds received a triple-A rating from Moodys, indicating they were as safe as U.S. government bonds.

But as online music sharing grew in popularity, Bowie’s album sales declined, and the bonds started to trade at a discount.

{ Dror Poleg | Continue reading }

also { Supervising cryptoassets for anti-money laundering | PDF }

‘It’s not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing.’ –Norman Bates

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My favorite line from this 9 page long paper (citing another study): “greater gender diversity in boards leads to excessive monitoring of executives.” P. 5.

Monitoring of executives is what boards are supposed to do. So the problem is that women directors do their jobs.

{ Richard W. Painter | Continue reading }

unrelated { “Females were less likely than males to approach a person in public to obtain drugs through cash and noncash transactions. […] Females were more likely than males to acquire drugs through sex.” | Gender Differences in Drug Market Activities | PDF }

IMPORTANT BREAKING NEWS FROM PLANET BULLSHIT

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Nomura and Credit Suisse are facing billions of dollars in losses after a U.S. hedge fund, named by sources as Archegos Capital, defaulted on margin calls. […]

A margin call is when a bank asks a client to put up more collateral if a trade partly funded with borrowed money has fallen sharply in value. If the client cannot afford to do that, the lender will sell the securities to try to recoup what it is owed.

Margin calls on Archegos Capital prompted a massive unwinding of leveraged equity bets. Shares in ViacomCBS and Discovery each tumbled around 27% on Friday, while U.S.-listed shares of China-based Baidu and Tencent Music plunged during the week, dropping as much as 33.5% and 48.5%, respectively, from Tuesday’s closing levels. […]

Morgan Stanley sold $4 billion worth of shares early on Friday, followed by another $4 billion in the afternoon. […] Goldman liquidated more than $10 billion worth of stocks in the block trades [and] sold $6.6 billion worth of shares of Baidu Inc, Tencent Music Entertainment Group and Vipshop Holdings Ltd, before the U.S. market opened on Friday […] Following this, Goldman sold $3.9 billion worth of shares inViacomCBS Inc, Discovery Inc, Farfetch Ltd, iQIYI Inc and GSX Techedu Inc […]

Hwang, who founded Archegos and ran Tiger Asia from 2001 to 2012, renamed it Archegos Capital and made it a family office.

{ Reuters | Continue reading }

Archegos borrowed a mere five times its capital. Closely regulated Goldman Sachs is at nearly seven times on a risk-weighted basis. […]

Hwang himself was a walking risk factor. He admitted to wire fraud in 2012 and in 2014 was banned from trading in Hong Kong for four years.

{ Reuters | Continue reading }

Quantity Street by the grace of gamy queen Tailte

Cannabis Delivery Services are illegal in Maine.  Gifting Cannabis is illegal in Maine.  Don’t worry though! It is still legal for an Adult age 21/+ to carry 2.5oz of Cannabis Flower and up to 5 grams of concentrates!

So under your scenario you are in Maine vacationing, living, etc… and you lost your weed.  OH NO!  Who do you call? The INCREDIBLES.ME Psychic Service!  We have Psychics roaming all over Portland communicating with their deity, their spirit guides, and having religious moments of clarity. We can guarantee to find your LOST WEED!! (For a small, but very worth while fee!).

Just login to this site, and select the cannabis or cannabis products you lost, and give us your address. We will find YOUR weed and get it back to you ASAP. Fees vary based on the time it takes us to find your weed, the quantity of weed we have to locate, and the distance in which we have to travel to get YOUR LOST weed back to you.

{ Incredibles.me | Continue reading }