RANCHO SANTANA, NICARAGUA – “Don’t worry. The brush fires look worse than they are.”
That was the word this morning when we asked about flame control. The hills to the east of us are still on fire. Last night, we saw the familiar orange glow in many areas, but not the arc of flames we saw on Monday night.
“We’re very much aware of the threat,” said Rancho Santana manager Chris Curry.
“That fire you saw last night has been burning for a month. So far, it’s still up in the hills and hasn’t done any real harm. It burns off the dead leaves, but the trees are still alive.
“And if it heads our way, we’re prepared for it. We’ve cut a fire barrier around the property. And we’ve got a team of 50 guys who have been trained to fight the fire if necessary. We leave the water trucks full… They’re ready to roll out whenever we need them.
“I’m not saying that nothing can go wrong… but I think we’re as prepared as we can be.”
Facts of Life
Brush fires are real. They are “facts of life” here and in other parts of the world. Ignore them at your peril.
But what about threats in the “public space”?
Terrorism? Illegals? Currency manipulators? Unfair traders?
What kind of threats are these? What kind of facts back them up? Real facts? Alternative facts? Or no facts at all?
Yesterday, we waited for a tweet…
“Republican Health Plan sucks. SAD!” we hoped the president would say, adding: “Let people pay for their own damned drugs.”
It never came.
Instead, he said he was “proud” of the new plan, while conservatives in and out of his own party blasted it as a travesty.
Then, scarcely had a few minutes gone by when Mr. Trump tweeted that he was “working on a new system where there will be competition in the Drug Industry.”
Is this the working of a genius… hiding his plans, even from his own party? Or is it just Trumpismo, where the president appears to be fighting for the little guy… but it merely creates a diversion while the insiders pick his pocket?
What’s the truth?
We don’t know. We doubt he knows, either.
Our subject for today is truth. It’s hard to see. And hard to tell.
Most people never get the hang of it. We say “time will tell.” But often, even time can’t get the words out.
You listen carefully. All you get is a garbled message full of maybes and possibilities. There’s always a lot of noise between cause and effect… at least in politics and economics.
Drugs are expensive because the feds have put in place a system of subsidies and mandates where someone gets the drugs and someone else pays for them.
It’s a classic win-lose system. In 1960, the average family had a total medical care cost of about $150. Now it’s $16,000… and has been growing eight times faster than wages for the last 16 years.
The solution is simple: The feds need to butt out. But who wants to hear that?
Not the mainstream media. Not the drug companies. Not the ambulance-chasing lawyers. Not the insurance companies. And not the millions of people who get medical care at someone else’s expense.
Even in personal matters, lies are generally more appealing than truth, to teller as well as listener.
A lie, like smooth whiskey, goes down easy… and then it leaves the drinker with a little glow. No kidding. Researchers have found that when people hear what they want to hear, it releases dopamine, giving them a little buzz.
You have to be careful how you phrase it. “No, dear… that dress doesn’t make you look fatter,” may not be the winning lie you expected. But, generally, soothing lies are more warmly received than jagged truths.
It’s hard to tell the truth, too, because it’s not available. A raging brush fire – within sight – is about as “true” as things can get. But in the public sphere, there is no comparable truth.
Many people have commented on Donald Trump’s casual acquaintance with the truth. But he’s right. Even if he knew what the truth was, people wouldn’t want to hear it.
That’s why “alternative facts” are better than real ones: They get the response he is after.
And as for the news, only the local news – reporting on brush fires and traffic accidents – comes close to getting it right.
The rest is fake. Not in the sense that it is intentionally misleading (though it often is), but just that it pretends truth and knowledge that doesn’t exist. Here are a few recent claims:
“Trump wants fair trade.”
“The Fed will soon begin a tightening cycle.”
“Illegals add to America’s crime statistics.”
“Progress in the War on Terror.”
Any real truth to them? Not a word of it.
P.S. Tomorrow… a new way of understanding fake news.
BY CHRIS LOWE, EDITOR AT LARGE, Bonner & partners
Popular tech IPOs can be bad for your financial health…
The big news this week is that shares in Snap, the parent company of popular messaging app Snapchat, have bombed.
Snap went public last Thursday to much media fanfare.
The opening price was about $24 a share. It zoomed as high as $29.44 a share in the first day of trading. Now it’s fallen back to Earth with a thud.
At writing, Snap shares are trading at $21.44 – a 30% plunge from their high… and a 10% fall from their opening price.
But Snap isn’t the only popular tech IPO to trip up investors.
Today’s chart is of the gains and losses for investors in other high-profile tech listings in recent years.
As you can see, only 2 out of the 10 IPOs – Alibaba and Facebook – made money for investors.
The others were big losers.
– Chris Lowe
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Snapchat makes an app popular with millennials that allows you to send photos that disappear seconds later. Shares surged after its IPO. But on Monday, they plunged 12%.
Today, the mailbag debate over the pros and cons of the Trump presidency continues…
We know you are dubious about president Trump’s administration, and you have used your usual snarkiness to say so. However, to say that the Islamist terror threat is a “con-game” is a bridge too far. Tell that to the families of the 3,000 souls who died on 9/11.
– Scott M.
As you say, Mr. Trump may be as prone to error as any politician. One big one was in encouraging the haters and bigots. We increasingly see the results of this in headlines about some new violence or threat against religious, national or racial minorities –sometimes by people who are members of groups which have been victims of such hatred.
Mr. Trump may or may not be a bigot – I don’t know – but he has opened their cages, and they are again on the prowl. His travel restrictions and his Mexican Iron Curtain may be just the beginning.
– Chuck B.
I noticed that several people in the mailbag think you never have anything good to say and that you are never up-beat about Trump and the chance of his improving the economy.
That’s actually true in many ways. But the thing we many times leave out is human nature, and in this case the private sector – the main reason the economy is improving right now. The private sector can turn this thing around in spite of the government’s mishandling of everything and spending us into oblivion.
You are right about it being hard to be upbeat in our present situation. It’s hard for the oarsman to raise the beat when the slaves haven’t been fed and have no energy or incentives to do so.
– James B.
Your 3/3 Diary casually mentioned the Border Adjustment Tax. I hope you will give further thought to this tax. Every major and minor country in the world, save for five countries, imposes this tax. Of our major trading partners, we stand alone in not imposing such a tax.
Clearly, our government has not done the American workers any favors by the failure to impose such a tax. The continued export of U.S. jobs to other countries must end. We need to match our trading partners until such time as there is truly free trade.
– Stephen R.
In Case You Missed It…
Last December, Donald Trump sent a tweet that ignited a secret energy boom. And Bill’s longtime friend and colleague Doug Casey believes this is just the beginning of a major “supercycle”… One that could produce triple-digit gains for early investors. Click here to find out what this energy source is and how you could profit from this boom.