Crowd Funding

COP24 – checking cash, corruption and cars

It should come as no surprise that the COP24 summit is a time to put the money where the mouth is. Look at the numbers of the delegates from Africa to stake their claim of the wealth redistribution. Guinea has sent the biggest delegation of 406 people. In 2016 the country received over $10.7mn in climate grants. DR Congo’s 237 delegates garnered $45 mn in aid for climate mitigation projects according to the OECD. The Ivory Coast received $114 million in 2016 for environmental aid. Indonesia got $250 million in climate related aid in the same year.  Poland can be forgiven being the host nation to be 3rd place. It receives zip, much like the US and Australia. The COP summits are nothing more than networking events to collect cash from virtue signaling Western governments.

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Putting that in context of the representation amongst all delegates to their representative population, Guinea is at 15.5x. America at 0.1x. Guinea is 86 people lighter than in 2017. The Ivory Coast had halved its delegates on the previous summit.

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One has to question how efficiently these millions given away get to be spent on the intent. Take a look at Transparency International’s global 2017 corruption index. 180 is the worst. 1 is the best. Note the correlation of delegates attending COP24 to those countries with a higher prevalence of corruption?

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There is a touch of irony that the transport recommendations to/from Katowice airport made by the UNFCCC are all diesel vehicles. Not an EV in sight. Surely there was an opportunity to team up with an EV maker to co–sponsor the event? Did the 7,331 observers going to the summit pick up on this? Why didn’t they take advantage of the virtual attendance technology that was available? Better to be there and enjoy the banquets and political graft.

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Live free and negotiate

Save James

As Tasmania looks to remove gender from birth certificates, take note of a 6yo boy named James who is facing chemical castration when he hits 8yo in America.

The father claims his son has always identified as a boy when with him and has testimony from others that proves his stance. He always chooses to dress as a boy when with his father.

Yet his mother has dressed him as a girl since the age of 3, calls him Luna, enrolled him as a girl at his local school and takes him to social transitioning therapy which the courts are requiring his father to pay. The bills will be extended to transgender surgery and sterilization drugs when he is of age.

The mother is seeking to remove custody from the father – who challenges her assertion – for child abuse in her divorce proceedings.

Walt Heyer, author of Trans Life Survivors and former transgender female, warned a misdiagnosis could ruin the boy’s life. Heyer claims he was secretly cross-dressed by this grandmother as a young boy. He went on to say

The diagnosis is critical, because labeling a child with gender dysphoria can trigger a series of physical and mental consequences for the child and has legal ramifications in the ongoing custody case. Get it wrong and the boy’s life is irrevocably harmed…[and] hinges purely on the diagnosis of gender dysphoria by a therapist who wraps herself in rainbow colors, affirms the diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and dismisses evidence to the contrary,”

Putting an acrimonious divorce to one side, should courts be determining the life of a 6yo kid based on a therapist’s diagnosis? Has the therapist got decades of scientifically backed research and proof to back her assertions? Or is this a case of confirmation bias? If we think about it, a therapist’s repeat business thrives more from confirmation than rejection of gender dysphoria. This is also a question of ethics.

Coming out as transgender is one thing. If the child reaches an age when they are biologically fully formed and can decide for themselves then they should be free to choose. There is no question everyone should have equal rights under the law but allowing parents the right to chemically castrate kids at age 8 before they can possibly understand the ramifications of those actions is criminal.

There is no 100% guarantee every child won’t switch back to identifying as their birth gender, but once the hormone sterilization begins the child has been permanently damaged. What will James’ mother say if she is wrong about him? “Mommy’s sorry”? Legally she bears no risk.

Let’s pray the right thing happens for James’ sake.

Ocasio-Cortez’s DC dilemma

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One would hope that newly elected Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be quick on her feet when it comes to dazzling her colleagues. She is complaining she can’t afford a property in DC before her $172,500pa salary kicks in 3-4 months down the line.

She could do three things:

1) ask her multi million dollar gated mansion, rent-a-cop guarded Democratic colleagues to let her stay in one of the spare rooms. Obama has an $8.5mn 8-bedroom mansion in DC. Surely she won’t cramp them too much especially with Malia at college and Sasha likely to move out soon.

2) crowd fund for the 3 months which will likely win her millions  so she can buy a place of her own.

3) or in her own words to justify everything that costs money  – “you just pay for it”

How long will it take to learn from Chuck, Nancy, Maxine, Elizabeth and so on that some pigs are more equal than others? My guess isn’t very long. First world problems for someone with third world policies.

 

Musk to be investigated by SEC over tweets

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CM has always thought that Elon Musk is the ultimate salesman. CM has also wrote that the biggest risk to being a short seller was then”cult” status of the company. On any rational investment grounds the stock is ridiculously priced but as the old adage goes, “the market can stay irrational longer than you can remain solvent!

Tesla is a car company that is worth more than GM, Ford & FiatChrysler combined. One that trades at 5x Daimler in valuation terms, a luxury competitor that is in the sweet spot of its product line up and rudely profitable.

Back in June, Musk bought $35mn worth of shares in Tesla. The whole idea that someone is willing to fork out $75bn on a whim seems somewhat implausible. Is it safe to assume that all of 100s of lawyers, bankers and brokers would need a little bit of time to prepare the necessary documentation to cement such a ridiculous sum? Or is money now just so free and easy that a billionaire deploys a vault full of cash loaded full of Zero Halliburtons into a private jet after a few phone calls?

SEC enforcement attorneys had already been gathering general information about Tesla’s public statements on manufacturing goals and sales targets. Now SEC attorneys are investigating whether his tweets about securing funding were factual.

CM is not accusing Musk of insider trading albeit as a matter of course the SEC should investigate when he knew about his mega financier. One wonders how it is that we know so little about the buyer, the term sheet, the question of shareholder approval and how “secure” it is? Taking it private will remove the lens of quarterly reporting but it doesn’t remove the fact of how dreadfully the company is run or how amateur production is. Even if public scrutiny is removed, the problems of profitability don’t disappear and the need for funds, credit ratings etc if he taps public markets for debt capital remain.

If Musk pulls it all off and the company becomes a roaring success then CM will gladly eat a whole humble pie and openly admit it was wrong.

As to the SEC investigation let’s hope it has learnt the lessons of its bumbling incompetency over Bernie Madoff and doesn’t miss anything that might be bleeding obvious.

Politicians true colours come through via crowd funding

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What a joke. The spat between Senator Sarah Hanson-Young (SHY) of the Greens and Senator David Leyonhjelm (DL) of the LibDems over defamation is ridiculous. Yes, DL’s words were hardly statesman like and SHY’s double standards not withstanding the public deserves better. Period. Yet so vigorously are these politicians willing to defend YOUR supposed right to free speech that they want YOU to crowd fund it. Talk about principles in action. Supposedly if either loses they’ll crowd fund the penalties as well? Apart from the generous salaries ($200k) and perks (free cars, accommodation, flights etc) of being a politician they still unashamedly come to you to support their own stupidity. If it means so much to them they should back their rights of being offended or protecting free speech on their own dime. #UnfitToServe

Oi vey Australia! Time to develop innovation

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While the Australian school system seems obsessed dealing with LGBT awareness, gender fluidity and social causes, a day in the most up to date Israeli cyber park in the Negev Desert shows just how seriously the small nation deals with the real world and preparing future generations for it.

It should come as no surprise that Israel lives under constant threat. The Jewish State is happy to leave LBGT 20yr celebrations to rainbow flags on the beachfront in Tel Aviv. When it comes to education it is all about working kids hard to be competitive, hungry and innovative. Primary school students learn computer coding and mathematics. They don’t hold cross dressing presentations or participate in Family Day as a replacement for Mothers Day to show inclusiveness for minorities. Survival matters.

Those same primary schoolers learn even more skills when they hit high school. The government monitors 13yo kids for their cyber acumen to screen the best possible assets for the future. By 16yo the weeding out process is all but done.

The notorious IDF cyber unit 8200 is relocating to this cyber centre in Negev where over a dozen buildings are being erected to gather the finest innovators in the world. It’s a $50bn investment. Even the Israeli Defence Force standard cyber units will relocate there. As Israelis have compulsory military service from 18 years of age, the best and brightest get automatically assigned to these cyber teams.

The universities are collaborating with corporates and government. They work on real solutions that matter rather than shoot for research on questions nobody is asking. Companies like Intel are setting up R&D centres in Israel because the talent is there.

Australia may have a Department if Innovation & Science which has a billion dollar budget. The Israeli tech infrastructure organizers in places like the Negev encourage start ups. They award grants thru competitive processes based purely on merit. Instead of cutting grant cheques to all for participating in the Aussie “everyone wins a prize” mentality, the idea is that only the “best” idea out of 500 wins. The rest are forced to make more compelling arguments and work to secure alternative funding. That weeds out waste. If Australia just divvies out with fairness in mind, resources are misallocated and it is more likely the capital allocators are clueless.

The system is impressive beyond words. Listening to a dozen presenttions ranging across medical, cyber and agricultural fields, one cannot be thoroughly in awe of an early-thirties doctor from the neighboring university who has racked up 20+ patents for his inventions.

Then there is the tale of a 17yo intern who was given an asssignment to hack the vulnerability of a mobile phone manufacturer whose PR department lied through its back teeth to cover up a flaw in the system they boasted was secure. They cited the original hack wasn’t done over a secure VPN. In 3 days the 17yo kid hacked that too. Take about a face plant.

The same group told a large American corporate that it’s video streaming had a bug. Instead of admitting the lapse, the tech giant hunkered down and dug in its heels. They put a bandaid on it and were hacked again. They have managed to make a computer that is next to another but not connected in anyway, even via WiFi to make functions purely based on heat.

The answer is simple though. There are many cultural reasons why this type of education system works in Israel. While Australia has no hope of holding a candle to the Israelis there are huge lessons to be learnt about fostering a culture of individual excellence rather than move down the slippery slope that fails to prepare our kids for the future. It maybe too late.

Waking up to a horror of our own creation

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Some will say I am a pessimist. I’d prefer to be called an optimist with experience. At only age 16 (in 1987) I realized the destructive power financial markets had on the family home. Those memories were etched permanently. We weren’t homeless or singing for our supper but things sure weren’t like they use to be. It taught me much about risk and thinking all points of view rather than blindly following the crowd. That just because you were told something by authority it didn’t mean it was necessarily true. It was to critically assess everthing without question.

In 1999, as an industrials analyst in Europe during the raging tech bubble, we were as popular as a kick in the teeth. We were ignored for being old economy. That our stocks deserved to trade at deep discounts to the ‘new economy’ tech companies, no thanks to our relatively poor asset turnover and tepid growth rates. The truest sign of the impending collapse of the tech bubble actually came from sell-side tech analysts quitting their grossly overpaid investment bank salaries for optically eye-watering stock options at the very tech corporations they rated. So engrossed in the untold riches that awaited them they abandoned their judgement and ended up holding worthless scrip. Just like the people who bought a house at the peak of the bubble telling others at a dinner party how they got in ‘early’ and the boom was ahead of them, not behind.

It was so blindingly obvious that the tech bubble would collapse. Every five seconds a 21 year old with a computer had somehow found some internet miracle for a service we never knew we needed. The IPO gravy train was insane. One of my biggest clients said that he was seeing 5 new IPO opportunities every single day for months on end. Mobile phone retailers like Hikari Tsushin in Japan were trading at such ridiculous valuations that the CEO at the time lost himself in the euphoria and printed gold coin chocolates with ‘Target market cap: Y100 trillion.’ The train wreck was inevitable. Greed was a forgone conclusion.

So the tech bubble collapsed under the weight of reality which started the most reckless central bank policy prescriptions ever. Supposedly learning from the mistakes of the post bubble collapse in Japan, then Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan turned on the free money spigots. Instead of allowing the free market to adjust and cauterize the systemic imbalances, he threw caution to the wind and poured gasoline on a raging fire. Programs like ‘Keep America Rolling’ which tried to reboot the auto industry meant cheaper and longer lease loans kept sucking consumption forward. That has been the problem. We’ve been living at the expense of the future for nigh on two decades.

Back in 2001, many laughed me out of court for arguing Greenspan would go down in history as one of the most hated central bankers. At the time prevailing sentiment indeed made me look completely stupid. How could I, a stockbroker, know more than Alan Greenspan? It was not a matter of relative educations between me and the Fed Chairman, rather seeing clearly he was playing god with financial markets.  The Congressional Banking Committee hung off his every word like giddy teenagers with a crush on a pop idol. Ron Paul once set on Greenspan during one of the testimonies only to have the rest of the committee turn on him for embarrassing the newly knighted ‘Maestro.’ It was nauseating to watch. Times seemed too good so how dare Paul question a central bank chief who openly said, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

We all remember the horrors of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in September 2008. The nuclear implosions in credit markets had already begun well before this as mortgage defaults screamed. The 7 years of binge investment since the tech bubble collapse meant we never cleansed the wounds. We would undoubtedly be in far better shape had we taken the pain. Yet confusing products like CDOs and CDSs wound their way into the investment portfolios of local country towns in Australia. The punch bowl had duped even local hicks to think they were with the times as any other savvy investor. To turn that on its head, such was the snow job that people who had no business being involved in such investment products were dealing in it.

So Wall St was bailed out by Main St. Yet instead of learning the lessons of the tech bubble collapse and GFC our authorities doubled down on the madness that led to these problems in the first place. Central banks launched QE programs to buy toxic garbage and lower interest rates to get us dragging forward even more consumption. The printing presses were on full speed. Yet what have we bought?

Now we have exchange traded funds (ETFs). Super simple to understand products. While one needed a Field’s Medal in Mathematics to understand the calculations of a CDO or CDS, the ETF is child’s play. Sadly that will only create complacency. We have not really had a chance to see how robots trade in a proper downturn. ETFs follow markets, not lead them. So if the market sells off, the ETF is rapidly trying to keep up. Studies done on ETFs (especially leveraged products) in bear markets shows how they amplify market reactions not mitigate them. So expect to see robots add to the calamity.

Since GFC we’ve had the worst post recession recovery in history. We have asset bubbles in bonds, stocks and property. The Obama Administration doubled the debt pile of the previous 43 presidents in 8 years. Much of it was raised on a short term basis. This year alone, $1.5 trillion must be refinanced.  A total of $8.4 trillion must be refinanced inside the next 4 years. That excludes the funding required for current budget deficits which are growing despite a ‘growing economy’. That excludes the corporate refinancing schedule. Many companies went out of their way to laden the balance sheet in cheap debt. In the process the average corporate credit rating is at its worst levels in a decade. Which means in a market where credit markets are starting to price risk accordingly we also face a Fed openly saying it is tapering its balance sheet and the Chinese and Japanese looking to cut back on US Treasury purchases. Bond spreads like Libor-OIS are already reflecting that pain.

Then there is the tapped out consumer. Unemployment maybe at record lows, yet real wage growth does not appear to be keeping up. The number of people holding down more than one job continues to rebound. The quality of employment is terrible. Poverty continues to remain stubbornly high. There are still three times as many people on food stamps in the US than a decade ago – 41 million people. Public pension unfunded liabilities total $9 trillion. Credit card delinquencies at the sub prime end of town are  back at pre-crisis levels. We could go on and on. Things are terrible out there. Should we be in the least bit surprised that Trump won? Such is the plight of the silent majority, still delinquent after a decade. No wonder Roseanne appeals to so many.

A funny comment was sent by a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, lambasting Trump on his trade policies. He criticized the fact that America had sold its soul for offshoring for decades. Indeed it had but queried that maybe he should be praising Trump for trying to reverse that tide, despite being so late to the party. Where were the other administrations trying to defend America all this time? Stunned silence.

Yet the trends are ominous. If we go back to the tech bubble IPO-a-thon example. We now have crowd funding and crypto currencies. To date we had 190 odd currencies to trade. Of that maybe a handful were liquid – $US, GBP, JPY, $A, Euro etc – yet we are presented with 1,000s of crypto currency choices. Apart from the numerous breaches, blow ups and cyber thefts to date, more and more of these ‘coins’ are awaiting the next fool to gamble away more in the hope of making a quick buck. Cryptos are backed by nothing other than greed. Yet it sort of proves that more believe that they are falling behind enough such they’re prepared to gamble on the biggest lottery in town. One crypto used Wikipedia as a source for its prospectus.

Yet the media remains engrossed on trying to prove whether the president had sex with a porn star a decade ago, genderless bathrooms, bashing the NRA, pushing for laws to curtail free speech, promoting climate change and covering up crime rather than look at reporting on what truly matters – the biggest financial collapse facing us in 90 years.

There is no ‘told you so’ in any of this. The same feelings in the bones of some 30 years ago are back as they were at the time of Greenspan and Lehman. This time can’t be avoided. We have borrowed too much, saved too little and all the while blissfully ignored the warning signs. The faith and confidence in authorities is evaporating. The failed experiment started by Greenspan is coming home to roost. This will be far worse than 1929. Take that to the bank, if it is still in operation because you won’t be concerned about the return on your money but the return of it!