Trump

$450m for a painting? Maybe but 5 of the top 10 traded artists are now all Chinese!

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While one of Leonardo DaVinci’s pictures might have gone under the hammer for a record $450m (50% more than the previous record) last week,  the TEFAF Art Market Report 2017 shows that Chinese artists occupied 5 of the top 10 traded artists. Zhang Daqian traded almost as much as Pablo Picasso. Admittedly Picasso sales were down 50%YoY but even still the art market has continued to surge in an asset bubble everywhere world.

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So even since the heady days leading into the GFC art related exports are 100% higher than the post Lehman collapse shock and almost 50% higher than the previous peak. Imports showed a similar trend.

Art is usually unique. One offs. Trading of such pieces is also very sporadic. It is rare that a Monet or Chagall gets flipped inside a few weeks.

Perhaps the art world report’s best picture was this one. The political stage and how it will impact the art world?

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Surely art’s crowing glories often come from tortured minds which sees artists lop off their ears, smear themselves in excrement or provide more excuses to take illicit substances to come out with the next masterpieces. Interesting how a US Presidency can impact US based art dealers. Although the data would show otherwise.

Then again as much as the total value is trading higher in the art world, according to Artnet, the average prices have been trending down since 2015. The overall picture is one of general prices having peaked during July 2015 and by the start of 2016, they were back to the level seen at the beginning of 2014. Over 2016 prices have fallen to the level they were at between 2014 and 2015, roughly 15% higher than the market trough in November 2012, and still 6.25% higher than ve-years ago.

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Recall when the Japanese were snapping up Van Gogh & Monet’s during the bubble period. Has the art world sent a subliminal message?

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A long report but one full of surprising trends.

Forbidden fruit(cake) in the Fordbidden City

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Sun Tzu once said, “All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.”

Let us not mistake China for one second. China is the master of the long game. It knows Trump has a maximum of 8 years in power. Letting him dine in the Forbidden City, the first ever foreign head of state to do so, speaks volumes of respecting an unpredictable foe. Xi Jinping knows his adversary is not all about bark. Better to cater to his huge ego and make him feel he has their attention (which he does) and get him to work solutions in their favour now it is clear they do not have carte blanche to use the USA as a door mat as they did with the previous administration.

Recall Obama’s final state visit to China. Air Force One was met with no senior officials, no red carpet and no stairs. Obama had to climb down Air Force One’s emergency exit . No more telling display of complete lack of respect to the leader of the most powerful nation.

China built man made islands in contested regional waters and did so knowing it had a maximum of 8 years to extend its future power base. Even Australia was dim witted enough to lease a port to the Chinese. Yet it was done with military precision when it knew it could.

Now China realises that Trump is not kidding over North Korea and is doing his darnedest to get China to commit to removing the snake head or otherwise America will do it for China. China, as CM has written many times before does not want to lose the strategic buffer North Korea provides from pro-US countries. China knows it could turn the lights out (China is responsible for 80%+ of imports & exports to the hermit kingdom) on Pyongyang in a heartbeat. Yet as a priority it has not been toward the top of the list.

The flip side to China taking care of the North Korean solution could mean that the US gives it certain concessions elsewhere. Foreign policy is very often about ‘optics’. China taking care of North Korea would be seen as preferable to the world than an attack by the US. China wins only if China takes care of it by itself. America wins in either scenario. China knows it is vastly militarily inferior to this US so the idea that China rushes to defend North Korea is more bark than promise to bite.

So view the idea of allowing the forbidden fruitcake (a sop to the liberal media) to dine in the most treasured of places in China as none other than the ultimate display of respect that Trump has the upper hand (which he does) but at the same time allow China to extend the ‘timing’ of any action on dealing with the ‘Rocket Man’ to give maximum optic effect for Xi. Yes, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump must have been summoning The Untouchables – “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer” (Xi) vs “in my neighborhood they said you can get much further with a kind word and a gun than just a kind word!” (Trump).

The press might want to critique the President’s skill with chopsticks but they should focus on the fact that China put its most expensive national crockery on display to bring Trump over to their side in negotiations over regional problems. To that end call him a fruitcake all you like but this is a win-win for both supposed tyrants.

Trump thumped in Virginia

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The Republicans were thumped in the Virginia gubernatorial. The above map shows the VA result by county and the bottom the Nov 2016 turnout. 10% more Democrats turned out than Republicansthis time. While the result is not unprecedented for a first year sitting  President to lose a state like this it does point out that their fearless leader Trump is not untouchable and no vote is guaranteed no matter how much liberals whinge, social media or mainstream media whips up supposedly ‘fake news’! Indeed there is a point were languishing polling translates to reality and Trump can’t conceivably expect his charisma to carry any day. The people want results. Hillary treated the election like a coronation. Trump should be wary to think his fans will blindly follow him.

One point Contrarian Marketplace has made constantly is that ‘individual votes’ matter. Nothing is guaranteed and for all of the anger pointed at Trump’s win CM has said that the best thing to come from this president is don’t fall for a supposed divine franchise. If you don’t show you may get the opposite result. VA was a massive flip in seats – 14 – the highest switch from GOP to Democrat in 118 years. Indeed the masses can stew over the laziness of their own side or come to admit that his way of ruling is not carrying everyone along for the ride. It is early days but 2018 looks like it maybe far tougher if the Republican voters don’t get off their backsides and go to the polling booths or talk sense to their fearless leader. Like the cult of Musk, Trump must come to terms that Making America Great Again when in the top job requires results not rhetoric.

No fake news here. Just bad news for the GOP. #WakeAmericaUpAgain

Fox News – you should be happy a Democrat wants to run impeachment ads on your network

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Black mark for Fox News. On Monday the network said that it would no longer air an ad calling for President Trump’s impeachment paid for by a wealthy Democrat billionaire Tom Steyer citing, “Due to the strong negative reaction to their ad by our viewers, we could not in good conscience take their money,”

This is utter nonsense. Surely a network that beats the drum of pointing out fake news should allow free speech (that Hannity, Tucker Carlson et al) to reign. Indeed if the likelihood is that most of Fox’s audience is pro-Trump shouldn’t they see it as a) farcical comedy, b) a waste of time and money and c) supporting free speech.

It is hard to believe that the ad donor is so blind to be unaware of Fox’s political views nor Newscorp’s revenue collection policies. Indeed if the donor wishes to spend money and it is contractually signed off provided the content meets all “criteria” of normal (i.e. not lewd) advertising. In fact why not get Hannity to run the tape and poke fun at it on his prime time show? That way they could keep the hordes contented that free speech is indeed beautiful and they should entertain what the other side has to say regardless of how immaterial they may view it.

CNN had the “carp” story. Fox has the “crap” excuse. Moving right along.

How the fishy mainstream media keep getting stuck on their own clickbait – hook, line and sinker

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They can’t help themselves. There is not one attempt to be objective. The mainstream media is so fueled with Trump hatred that they won’t let facts get in the way of a good story. The full video of Japanese PM Abe emptying his fish food by tipping the box before POTUS followed suit was actually pointed out by someone progressive, presumably tired of seeing this biased one-sided reporting. Indeed he knows full well that the mainstream media risks alienating even their own ranks if there is no attempt to be impartial. Remember the “we got ‘em!” statement from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow referring to Trump’s tax returns? The insane thirst to play the man not the ball, which back-fired so badly that even the left turned on her for being so obtuse and showing that he legally paid a lot of tax.

Yes, the President has many short comings but trying to beat him up over trivial things like paying taxes or tipping a box of fish food only proves why trust in the media languishes well below his own sub-par rankings.

Therein lies the problem. It seems media is completely dominated by ‘clickbait’. Every journalist hoping that they get the ‘break’ which sends them to the top of ‘trending’. So regardless of content quality, a clickbait headline and heavily edited video is enough. Sadly it doesn’t take long for it to be disproved by some other video footage showing the opposite. Yet they never learn.

However the people that seem to trend are those who come from utter obscurity. Take former Arizona Police officer Brandon Tatum whose videos went viral because of the content. Over 70 million views of his first video. He now works at the Conservative Tribune.  Such was the ‘content’ that the media came for him, not him chasing the platform for glory.

Is it any wonder profitability of the mainstream media wallows. A strong driver for this blog was because I became sick and tired of one-sided reporting from both sides.

Yet I will never ask for likes or shares because that is for you, my audience, to decide for yourselves. That is the ultimate test of any product – a value proposition. If the growth of the blog doesn’t take off then it is a problem of content or the delivery. That is perhaps the most fascinating element of writing the blog – to see which subjects actually engage. It is growing, so to that extent I need to work out why, but I won’t be commentating on exciting topics such as fish food delivery do’s and don’ts.

Boy Blunder

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Is it any wonder Canadian conservatives call him Boy Blunder? It’s a struggle to see what he’s achieved. When he made a UN speech a day after Trump’s full house,  Trudeau had a two-thirds empty assembly to listen to him talk about all the irrelevant socially responsible UN sustainability goals achieved by Canada that will add zero to its economy. Isn’t it an irony to be following the “programmes” put forward by such an incompetent bunch of unelected and wildly overpaid bureaucrats who are not only hypocritical in the extreme but unaccountable.

One really hopes US defunding cleans up the warped and twisted mindsets at the UN to a body that actually has some worthy agendas rather than the group think that pervades its ranks. Trudeau reinforces what is so wrong with the UN. Hardly anyone showed up because they know he’ll just espouse the same rubbish they do. If they were truly behind his brand of politics it would have been standing room only.

The irony of Trudeau is in the fight for justice (aka Superman) the ethics commissioner must have kryptonite such is the reluctance of him and the Finance Minister Morneau to come clean with how their private businesses escape all the taxes they’re imposing on the rest of the middle class. MP Candice Bergen continues to tear strips off them but she is no Cat Woman.

The signals of true intentions on climate change…“don’t raise my fuel prices!”

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This was a poll last week in Australia showing the majority would prefer cheaper electricity than to save the planet. I recall a study before GFC and after it showing the relative rank of ‘climate change’ as a serious issue. It was a Top 10 concern for voters pre GFC and slipped to last place (out of 25) after it. Yes, human nature and the will to survive trumps everything.

So according to Rasmussen Reports,

The Trump administration is considering raising the gas tax for the first time in 24 years to help pay for a one trillion dollar infrastructure plan, but Americans unsurprisingly are not on board…A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 54% of American Adults do not think the government should raise the gas tax to help meet new transportation needs. Just 33% think the government should raise the gas tax, but 13%”

At least the $7,500 subsidies to buy EVs will be repealed next year. Not that it will save the government too much. A lot of people with Tesla Model 3s on order are banking on the tax break so if they don’t roll out quick enough their $25,000 car will soon be $32,500.