Week 18 of the Quarantine
GUALFIN, ARGENTINA – We’ve come up to the ranch to help round up the cattle. The vet came last night. A cheerful man, he teaches veterinary medicine at the university and does “coaching” on the side.
“When my mother died – I was very close to her – I got depressed… I couldn’t work… Nothing seemed right.
“But then, I sat down with someone who started asking me questions. And I saw that he was helping me get out of the hole – just by asking, not telling. Just asking questions that helped me see things differently.
“So now, I do the same thing. I help people.”
This morning, he’s down at the corral checking the cows, one by one.
The vet checking teeth
We used to leave them in the field and let nature take her course. But now, we’re using more modern methods.
Those that are pregnant will stay at the ranch through the hard winter months. Those that are not pregnant will be driven over the pass and down into the valley next week. They’ll spend the next five months rolling in the clover with the bulls down there.
Waiting for the vet
We’ll have more from the ranch tomorrow…
Today, let’s continue exploring Lord Byron’s formula for the cycle of empires. From freedom to glory… And when that fails… to wealth, vice, corruption… and finally, barbarism.
This is not a criticism, nor a prescription, nor a warning. We might just as well warn birds about gravity… or tell young people not to fall in love. Good? Bad? It doesn’t matter. It’s just what seems to happen.
You’ll recall our corollary, too: that you can tell where you are in the cycle by watching the monuments… and the gods.
In the glory phase, people are proud of what they are and what they’ve done. They honor their gods and their heroes with public monuments.
Later, they find new gods… and the statues come down. The monuments are unhappy reminders of the “olds” – old ways of thinking that are now embarrassing or reprehensible.
At a glance, we seem to be in the corruption stage.
The vice stage, we reckon, commenced with the introduction of the fake, non-gold-backed dollar in 1971. It took a while to find the gas valve. But once the feds realized what they could do with an almost-unlimited amount of money, well… the sky was the limit.
The federal government never ran a real surplus again. And then, with its no-limit credit card, it could squander $21 trillion on the War on Poverty… over $1 trillion on the War on Drugs… $7 trillion on the War on Terror… and, so far, $2.3 trillion (the CARES Act) on fighting COVID-19 and the Lockdown Recession.
The Federal Reserve’s easy-money policies also filled Wall Street with hot air. The Dow bounced against the clouds in 1999 (probably the peak of the “wealth” stage)… again in 2007… and then again in 2019. Each time, stock prices fell… and the Fed opened the valves even wider.
But each time, it took more hot air to levitate the bubble; the latest whoosh cost $3 trillion in the Fed’s new money… plus a $4 trillion deficit from the Trump team.
And more hot air is on the way. Both Democrats and Republicans are reaching for the controls… one with a $3 trillion bill already in Congress; the other still working out the details on one that, says the president, could be even “larger.”
And the more money becomes available… the more the swine figure out how to get it.
Corruption takes many forms. For example, there is a whole army of Deep State careerists, posing as “experts” and “advisors,” making their fortunes by pretending to have useful knowledge. The American Conservative magazine recently turned the light on one of these slimy creatures, Michèle Flournoy, the “Queen of the Blob”…
Flournoy may not be a household name anywhere but the Beltway, but… according to [Jonathan] Guyer, by 2017, she was pulling nearly half a million dollars a year wearing a number of hats: senior advisor for Boston Consulting Group (where she helped increase their defense contracts to $32 million by 2016), founder and CEO of the Democratic-leaning Center for a New American Security (CNAS), senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, and a member of various corporate boards.
She went from Beverly Hills High School to Harvard to Oxford, and then back to Harvard, before landing a political appointment in the Clinton Administration. In between government perches, she did consulting and started CNAS in hopes of creating a shadow national security council for Hillary Clinton.
When Clinton didn’t get the nomination, Flournoy and her colleagues supported Obama and helped populate his administration, supporting the military surge in Afghanistan and prolonging the war. She was called the “mastermind” behind Obama’s Afghan strategy, which we now know was a failure, an effort at futility and prolonging the inevitable. In fact, we know now that most of the war establishment was lying through its teeth. But that hasn’t stopped her from getting clients. They pay for her influence, not her ability to win wars.
There are thousands of Michèle Flournoys… lobbying… angling… bribing… putting cronies together with the politicians and bureaucrats who can grease their skids and wash their underwear.
And when the Lockdown came… and brought with it Washington’s Paycheck Protection Program and the Fed’s bond-buying authority… the Flournoys of the world must have felt like hogs with two snouts.
The good, the bad, and the ugly… the rich and sometimes, even, not-so-rich… all found ways to get into the trough.
Word came last week that rapper Kanye’s West’s clothing brand, Yeezy, got a forgivable loan… So did our old friend Grover Norquist, for his group “Americans for Tax Reform.”
Bloomberg has more examples:
Representative Kevin Hern pushed to make it easier for franchises to get federal loans. A company he controls did just that. So did businesses that operate in buildings owned or controlled by the Trump family.
Jacob Gottlieb, whose $8 billion hedge fund shut amid an insider trading scandal, is among Wall Street money managers who tapped the government’s $669 billion emergency program designed to help small businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic, according to federal data.
And there’s this from the Daily Beast:
…elite D.C.-area schools where both President Donald Trump and President Barack Obama enrolled their children: St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, where Barron Trump is a student, got between $2 million and $5 million; and Sidwell Friends School, where both Obama children graduated high school, got between $5 million and $10 million.
Was that the idea… to shuffle money to the elite under the smokescreen of a national emergency (created by the feds themselves)?
Maybe so. David Stockman helpfully compiled a list of a few of the 4.9 million beneficiaries of what he calls “the rottenest boondoggle ever conceived in Washington”…
The law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, whose chairman David Boies has represented powerful clients such as former Vice President Al Gore and Harvey Weinstein, among notorious others, received between $5 million and $10 million.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family’s business, Foremost Maritime, got a loan valued at between $350,000 and $1 million. Chao is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Perdue Inc., a trucking company co-founded by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, was approved for $150,000 to $350,000 in loan money.
Restaurant chains P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Chop’t received aid of between $5 million and $10 million.
TGI Fridays, which is backed by private equity firm TriArtisan Capital Advisors, received at least $5 million.
The Archdiocese of New York got a loan valued at between $5 million and $10 million, while the Catholic Charities of the Archdioceses of San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and Boston, among others, all received assistance valued at more than $2 million.
The Ayn Rand Institute, named for the objectivist writer cited as an influence on libertarian thought, was approved for $350,000 to $1 million.
Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in New Jersey, which is named after Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner’s grandfather, got a loan in the range of $1 million to $2 million. Jared Kushner’s parents’ family foundation supports the school, NBC News reported.
Niche movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse received a loan of at least $5 million. Theaters have been closed while new film releases have been delayed or pushed to streaming platforms.
Numerous news organizations received PPP loans: Forbes Media got at least $5 million; The Washington Times got at least $1 million; The Washingtonian got at least $350,000; The Daily Caller received at least $350,000 and The Daily Caller News Foundation got at least $150,000; The American Prospect received at least $150,000.
Political organizations also received loans: The Ohio Democratic Party got at least $150,000 and the Florida Democratic Party Building Fund got at least $350,000, while the Women’s National Republican Club of New York got at least $350,000, the Black Republican Caucus in Florida got at least $150,000.
The Fed, meanwhile, has its own “No Rich, Mismanaged Corporation Left Behind” program. So far, it’s helped such big names as Berkshire Hathaway Energy, McDonald’s, Southwest Airlines, CVS, AT&T, Boeing, Coca-Cola, ExxonMobil, Ford, Walmart, UnitedHealth Group, Philip Morris International, and many, many more borrow at lower rates.
And how about this… the feds have created a zombie trucking company. Here’s money manager Chris Mayer:
I was incredulous the day the feds bailed out YRC Worldwide – a crappy, overleveraged trucking company – on the pretense that it is critical to defense.
What a joke. There are several big American truckers in a great position to take YRC’s business… In fact, they had planned for it, invested in increased capacity…
And it was not a secret. People in the market talked about how YRC’s liquidation would be a $x billion opportunity for such and such…
Alas, it never came to pass. The feds bailed out YRC – the biggest non-auto, non-bank bailout in U.S. history – and this aging, decrepit, poorly run trucker continues its zombie life…
Barbarism lies dead ahead.
Like what you’re reading? Send your thoughts to [email protected].