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Martin Armstrong’s latest on Dark Pools…real-dark-pools

Martin Armstrong continues writing his typewritten letters (from a detention center in New Jersey) regarding ongoing economic and political events. I’m no expert on Armstrong though if you’ve not heard of him, he was detained (imprisoned) for some seven years for contempt of court and only went to trial when the judge who had been detaining him was removed from the case by the NY Court of Appeals (source: wiki). There’s a pretty reasonable chance that Armstrong did nothing wrong other than crossing the State.

Oh and Armstrong had a number of models and forecasts he used to predict the market, some of which were apparently amazingly accurate. Who knows.

Armstrong’s latest letter is available on ZeroHedge, a finance-centered blog that has quickly become one of the most cited and popular finance blogs out there. Interestingly, the ZH writers are anonymous, taking on the names of various characters in Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. Recently, ZH took their site off of and moved it to offshore servers to further protect their anonymity and the site’s often whistleblowing content.

Getting to the point. The letter is about Goldman Sachs and what Martin calls the “club” on Wall Street. The “club” is a group of extremely powerful individuals who are out to make massive amounts of money via the financial system. Importantly, the “club” attempts to do this not by making better bets (as in, speculating), but essentially by rigging the system and creating the perfect trades. The “club” accomplishes this goal by controlling inside information.

The letter is pretty lucid and provides an interesting glimpse into what goes on behind-the-curtains of Wall Street. What struck me most about the letter is that Armstrong works to dispel the notion that there is some conspiracy theory across all central banks to control the world. What’s really going on is that the central bankers are trying to do their jobs and maintain economic and monetary order. Unfortunately, they are clueless academics. Martin realized just how impotent and lost the powers-that-be were back during the 1989 crash:

It had dawned on me perhaps when there was the 19889 Crash. I had carried two cell phones many times when the model was reaching critical turning points as it did in 1989. The markets were going nuts, and my one cell phone ran[g] that was used primarily for very special clients. it was one of the G5 Central Banks asking me outright what the model was showing and did I think they needed to intervene? As I was explaining the focus was in Japan and that there would not be any abnormal correction and thus there should not be concern about intervention, my regular cell phone rang. It was another G5 member asking the same questions.

What became very clear to me, was they truly had no idea what was taking place any more than the rest of the world. Everyone was struggling to comprehend the new world that was emerging. Communism seemed defeated, markets were crashing, and the general expectation was – Should we be rejoicing?

Most of the central banks have a lot of PHDs, with no real world experience. They have read books, but have not been in the trench to “feel” what it is truly like. This is why government employees rarely have anything worthwhile that will ever contribute to society. …

Armstrong has seen behind the curtain and knows that the authorities (in this case the central banks) are clueless, self-interested, and incapable of working together to effect change. Often, outsiders see these authorities and point out their ineptitude, understanding they are clueless academics. And that’s where outsiders go from insightful to crazy — they go on to conjure up theories of impossibly coordinated efforts by the same incompetent authorities.

In other words, it’s just like the South Park episode — Mystery of the Urinal Deuce.

So what is going on when we see Goldman Sachs making money hand over fist? Simple: they’re doing what they do best, exploiting their inside information, political connections, and their current monopolistic status on Wall Street. Is it all that surprising?

Max Keiser on Goldman Sachs

This interview with Max Keiser is fantastic. Keiser doesn’t hold back with regard to how he views Goldman Sachs as “scum” that has “co-opted” the U.S. government. He even goes on to say they are financial terrorists that effectively held the U.S. hostage by claiming that the world would end if they weren’t bailed out (essentially, Keiser is equating the likes of Hank Paulson, who was head of the treasury when the massive bailout was orchestrated and is an ex-Goldman CEO was basically working for Goldman in his role at the Treasury). And yeah, Max is an outspoken guy, but I have to wonder how many others out there on Wall Street are thinking something very similar but keeping their mouths shut (out of fear of retribution or whatever).

Regardless, you have to wonder: something is extremely wrong when an investment bank squeaked out of implosion a year ago thanks to a massive government bailout only to be the last man standing to reap the benefits of underwriting tons of equity as a quasi-bank-quasi-hedge-fund-with-supreme-access-to-the-U.S.-government and then makes enough money to pay all of their employees $300K+ in salaries/bonuses.

If that isn’t confusing, if that doesn’t make you scratch your head and say, “huh?” then just start looking around. There are a few people like Max, Barry Ritholtz, and, of course, Matt Taibbi (See his RollingStone article if you haven’t already) who are spreading the word.

And this isn’t about envy over a company being profitable. It’s about a company that is succeeding because they have massive influence in D.C. and with the Fed and Treasury. That’s not right. It’s not capitalism. It’s not a free market.

Ok that’s enough from me.

Michael Jackson’s Life a Disturbing Portrayal of American Culture

Note: I don’t normally get into celebrity deaths, but to say Michael Jackson was an icon would be an understatement. Despite any number of freak-things related to the King of Pop, he was still an amazingly talented individual who created some fantastic music. I can’t say he’ll be missed — he’s only missed insomuch as I could displace the good things about him from the bad. And that had become increasingly difficult if not impossible over the past ten years.

From Yahoo! Finance comes an article titled “Jackson lived like king but died awash in debt.” You probably already know the gist. Jackson created any number of fantasies, from his freak narcissim to Neverland Ranch. He lived a life of extravagance and died almost a half billion dollars in debt.

A few short descriptors that come to mind when I think about Michael Jackson:

  • He was an amazing talent and produced a veritable catalog of pop masterpieces.
  • His family was dysfunctional — often disturbingly so.
  • He went from lavish wealth to huge debt. He got foreclosed on with Neverland Ranch.
  • After things had started going downhill, MJ’s investment in the Beatles’ songs (owning the copyrights) kept him afloat. It has always struck me as odd that you could own someone else’s musical creation. Rent seeking off of intellectual property rights? Check.
  • Jackson was freakishly narcissistic and/or had an extreme case of body dysmorphic disorder, engaging in all sorts of plastic surgery endeavors that ultimately made him look alien/gross/non-human.
  • He had some serious demons with regard to his sexual identity. Whether he actually acted on these things or not, I don’t know — it doesn’t matter, really. He had problems and they related to his sexuality.
  • MJ was one of most obsessed-over celebrities ever. And look how that turned out — he made his kids wear masks in public.
  • He died young of a heart attack.

I submit that Michael Jackson’s life is one of the more disturbing examples of modern American culture. He was an extreme case, for sure, but his problems are not unique: too much debt, too much spending, rent-seeking off of other’s work, twisted narcissism, broken family, repressed sexuality, and dying young of a heart attack*, the end result of a life of stress and poor nutrition.

It makes me sad to make this connection, but it’s just too striking to ignore.

America, what have we become?

* I guess cause of death is yet to be officially ascertained, but we’ll roll with this for now.

“People are complicated!”

Love the latest xkcd comic:

people are complicated!

In three frames xkcd indicts central planning with the single line that, “People are complicated!”

Why is this simple truth so hard to understand? If people are complicated, so are all systems of human interaction (i.e. markets, government, relationships, etc.). And it doesn’t stop there, of course: all dynamic systems are complicated.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the simple-minded solutions of central planners fail to manage such unpredictable complexity. So why are they even trying?

Chance Wins…what-causes-it/

This bit by Seth Roberts reminds me all at once of Nassim Taleb’s work (Status quo, the fed turkey, works until it completely implodes), Seth Godin’s “This is Broken” idea, and the dinosaurs going extinct.

Who is flying this plane? Do they really know what they are doing? Does chance win over purpose?

Seth’s blog post is centered around the broken U.S. healthcare system — a system which suffers both from a burgeoning status quo as well as no means of introducing alternative solutions. In other words, it is entrenched.

And just like the dinos, when that entrenchment ultimately leads to social upheaval, the failure may be catastrophic.

A robust system must be dynamic.

Our system of human development is broken


When I read this latest from David Friedman, I couldn’t help but think of one word, “broken.” There are so many people, myself frequently included, who are wasting their lives doing things they loathe. Meanwhile, they engage in hobbies, “other worlds” where their talents and energies are spent doing things they enjoy.

What we have is a system that tries to make widgets out of human beings. When the human beings inevitably fail to enjoy their particular widget design, they resort to other activities to distract or make their corporate lives bearable. Everyone loses in this system because people are not deployed to their highest and best (and most fulfilling) use.

The system is broken.

I was reminded of this recently when someone I know in WoW as an unusually competent and charismatic leader, organizer, and player, mentioned the problem of “parental agro.” He is apparently a college student, possibly a graduate student, living with his parents. Older examples are friends in the SCA of whose abilities and energy I think highly, who made their living as school teachers or secretaries or the like—respectable jobs, but not particularly high status or high paying ones.

The pattern is not entirely surprising. It makes sense that an energetic individual who doesn’t find much outlet for his energies in his current career will direct them towards his hobbies. Adam Smith long ago observed that, in the British universities of the time, a professor got no benefit by doing a good job of teaching, since the professors were on salary rather than, as in at least some of the Scottish universities, paid by the students. He concluded that if the professor were naturally energetic, he would spend his energies doing something that might be of some benefit to him rather than doing his job, which would not. Nowadays we call it “consulting.”

“Their minds close and they turn around and go back to their lives.”…art-14-the-end/

I did a site search on Seth’s blog for “fructose” (On how to do these and improve your use of Google Search) as I was curious if Roberts had seen any negative impact to using fructose in his Shangri-La Diet. I wondered this because fructose is apparently sweeter than glucose, which per the SLD theory that flavor/calorie associations spur weight gain, might imply that ingesting fructose would actually cause weight gain (I was trying to tie this all together into Stephen at WHS’s recent post about sugar). Alas, apparently sugar-water using nothing but fructose works fine on SLD. I forgot that plain sugar water is tasteless regardless of the sugar used (I don’t understand how sugar is sweet, but sugar water is not, but it’s true)

Anyway, in a roundabout way I got to reading Roberts’ interview with Taubes (Only read the last two parts out of fourteen: need to find the time to read the rest!). It was at the end of this interview that Taubes made a fascinating comment about how people in the scientific community react to his research on insulin and carbohydrates. Specifically, these otherwise intelligent and reasoning folk tend to close their minds as soon as Taubes drops the “C word:” carbohydrates. One word shuts them down as they write off Taubes’ immense research by way of invoking the “Atkins diet” or any number of other “low-carb diets” that were all the rage a few years ago.

And I couldn’t help but think how this mental shutdown is what I’ve seen countless times with any person of religion — people who otherwise may agree with any number of points you make will completely shutdown on the invocation of certain words.

This is a fantastic example of rational people utterly failing to apply reason, and it is exemplified by scientists and people of faith, alike. Indeed, the common thread here is simply dogma. Interesting.

TAUBES I think that’s true, but there’s this contrary effect that happens. I said this in my lecture. The science I’m trying to get across can be accepted up until the point at which I say the the word carbohydrate, and then people shut down, and they think “Oh, it’s that Atkins stuff again.” Their minds close and they turn around and go back to their lives. Anyway, I look forward to seeing the interview and getting your book and reading it. I enjoyed this. Again, I like nothing better than talking about this stuff.

Birthday Shoes dot com

As regular readers know, I have a pair of Vibram FiveFingers Classics (Reviewed last summer). I’ve gotten a lot of use out of my VFFs, having worn them for CrossFit, short runs, sprints, frisbee, world traveling, weight lifting, and for everyday uses like going to the grocery store or any number of other activities. Suffice to say that I think FiveFingers are a fantastic product and allow me the freedom of barefootedness.

So it was with great joy that I recently procured a pair of Five Finger KSOs via John at Kayak Shed, which I just reviewed yesterday. What’s that? You didn’t see my review? That’s because it’s not on Rather, it is on my latest project, Birthday Shoes dot com, a site dedicated to being barefoot by way of consolidating information about the closest-thing-to-barefooted-footwear-available, Vibram FiveFingers:

Let me guess your thoughts. You think I’m out of my gourd to create a site about barefootedness, specifically one to support a product that is difficult to describe, a sock/shoe/foot-glove/ninja-shoe.

You might be right.

Five Fingers are just footwear: how great could this product be? Pretty extraordinary, actually. Why? Because they empower us modern hunter-gatherers to move about the earth and do things in accordance with our evolutionary design, which is to say, locomote a concrete, polluted and often trashy world wearing virtually nothing on our “birthday shoes” (Yeah, like “birthday suit!”) but a thin piece of rubber sole.

And though it might not be obvious at first glance, this is a very big deal. FiveFingers are important because they are designed to work harmoniously with our human nature. Sure, we all could entirely ditch any form of footwear, build up callouses on our feet, and roam the earth completely barefoot (Indeed, many do), but such a pure solution is also out of reach for most of us. By comparison, just as many pursue a “primal” or “paleo” diet by cutting out grains, sugar, heavily processed foods, and other modern food inventions, we still live in a modern world and aren’t hunting and gathering in a true sense, nor should we. There are fantastic benefits of modern technology; the trick is finding ways to marry our genetic hardwiring with our modern inventions.

FiveFingers go a long way towards that goal.

Birthday Shoes is an attempt to centralize information about Five Fingers, be a hub for different VFF experiences, display humans being human, barefooted or in their birthday shoes, and ultimately act as a sort of gateway-idea*, that can open the eyes of otherwise domesticated, corporate-dwelling, debt-servicing, and generally depressed people to a freer world, one more harmonious with our human nature.

In short, maybe I’m not that crazy after all, or at least, there is a method behind my madness. Check it out:

birthday shoes dot com

Recent posts at

* I’ve also called it a “trojan horse idea.” I can’t decide which way to describe VFFs is catchier. “Trojan horse” is kinda fun because the VFF is literally not unlike a mask or cover-up for our feet, hiding the reality of what is really going on. “Gateway idea” is nice because it uses the “gateway drug” definition — VFFs serve as a gateway or catalyst towards higher understanding about other things. Ah maybe I should just use both.

Acheiving the HGH Flush in a Workout


Rusty over at Fitness Black Book talks about how to know when you’ve reached a point where your workout intensity will have the lingering metabolism-boosting effect. The test is what he calls the “HGH Flush,” which is basically that point where you lose your breath and your skin is warm to the touch.

This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. One, I think I’ve unwittingly been measuring my personal workout success by whether or not I reached this HGH flush state. I just hadn’t quite articulated it. Two, a part of this that Rusty mentions is not to do too much. It’s here that I think back to my CrossFit experience last summer, in which I put on muscle and lost some fat, as well. Any CrossFitter knows that the workouts typically result in an HGH Flush by design and also are completed in less then 30 minutes. In other words, they are very intense but also brief.

Comparatively, when I was making a concerted effort at additional fat loss earlier this year, I’d occassionally reach the HGH Flush, but overall, I just did more workout volume. Perhaps this is why I didn’t see noticeable results despite an ample amount of effort (in both IF, diet, and exercise).

How to Tell If Your Fat Loss Workout is the Correct Intensity?

I look for a thing called the “HGH Flush”. I forget who coined this term, but this is just an indicator of a good fat loss workout. If your skin is slightly red and hot to the touch and you are out of breath after your workout, then you have achieved the HGH flush. Remember your PE teacher in Junior High making you “run lines” or pushing you until you were out of breath and your skin felt like it was on fire? This is the HGH flush which is an indicator that your metabolism will be increased after your workout and that your body will release a bit more HGH than normal (your body’s fat burning hormone).

Nassim Taleb is no friend of academics

Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s latest from Opacity, no 114 titled “Where is the evidence?” launches into Nassim’s current interest in how we know things given the lack of evidence (That is probably summed up poorly, but it is a focus on the absence of evidence/evidence of absence problem and humanity’s gross ignorance. Taleb mentions the concept in the hour long podcast at EconTalk if you’ve got the time to listen to it).

Taleb’s admonition of academia is brutal — he basically says Ben Bernanke and Larry Summers are “arrogant, formal-thinking civil servants, and Ivy-league semi-retards.” Don’t pull any punches there Nassim!

I’m still not convinced the admonition about negative advice is exactly right, but why quibble? (See prior discussion on Nassim Taleb and Expert Advice)

Finally, I’ve ordered two books by John Gray, who Taleb cites as the “greatest living thinker.” And to think I hadn’t even heard of the guy.

Note: If you are like me, and wants to be updated on Taleb’s latest posts to his non-feed-friendly blog, feel free to use this change detection RSS feed I created: Taleb’s Opacity Change Detector Feed.

I leave aside the confusion absence of evidence/evidence of absence–and the misunderstanding of the very notion of “empiricism”. It is a fact that in the real world of our daily decision-making 1) we do not have much evidence of most relevant things, yet we need to take action; 2) in most situations, “true/false” is never symmetric (one side is more harmful than the other), so the burden of evidence is one-sided. Which is why once these fakes “doing science” lose their tenures after the endowments (and charity) run out of funds, they will be barely fit to do anything in the real-life ecology. I wonder what you can do with an unemployed, say, academic orthodox economist. You could do better with non-post-academic cab drivers. Clearly those the most fit at dealing with “just evidence” will be idiot savants outside their evidence domain.

And I can expect that with the SP500 about 20% lower than here, you will see tenures unexpectedly evaporating. The silver-lining of the crisis, perhaps, with the de-academification of society.

So let me take this into more interesting territory, and express my anti-social-planner views. Even more that in Hayek’s days, the ecology of the real world is becoming too complex for Aristotelian logic: very, very little of what we do can be safely formalized, meaning asymmetries matter more than ever. Which puts the Western World today at the most dangerous point in its history: unless we get the Bernanke-Summers crowd out of there, it will eventually be destroyed by the machinery of arrogant, formal-thinking civil servants, and Ivy-league semi-retards.

Finally, beyond the current mess, I see no way out of this ecological problem, except through that tacit, unexplainable, seasoned, thoughtful, and aged thing crystalized by traditions & religions –we can’t live without charts and we need to rely on the ones we’ve used for millennia.

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