BARCELONA – The streets were crowded last night.
On the main ramblas, so many people were strolling about that we could barely cross the intersection. Many of the women held a single red rose.
It was the Day of Roses and Books – Sant Jordi’s Day – in the Catalan capital city. Women are given roses to celebrate the slaying of the dragon by Sant Jordi (Saint George) in the 4th century.
Men are given books coincidentally, to recall the deaths of the two giants of Western letters, William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, both of whom died on the same day: April 23, 1616.
Fake news is our subject today. We open our eyes and see it everywhere.
Myths and legends – like political slogans, federal budget projections, and declarations of eternal love – are not subject to proof.
According to legend, the town of Montblanc in Catalonia had a dragon infestation. In order to keep the dragon satisfied, the town fed it one person every day.
And the person selected on the 23rd of April, 303, was – improbably – the town princess.
It was on this day that Sant Jordi, a Christian knight, showed up and quickly went to work. He drove his lance into the beast. The dragon was killed, its blood spilled upon the ground. And from the blood-soaked ground grew a red rose.
The story is probably fake news.
If the historians are to be believed, the real Saint George was not in Montblanc that day in AD 303.
Instead, he was in the ancient Greek city of Nicomedia, undergoing the kind of punishment that Donald Trump wants to give drug dealers.
Saint George offered religion – Christianity, to be specific. And Emperor Diocletian had declared war on Christians. He ordered that all Christian soldiers were to be arrested.
According to this account, George refused to renounce his religion and his head was cut off, making him a martyr to the cause.
Either a Fool or a Genius
History is jammed with fake news, too. The bare facts may be reported correctly. But facts lack all sense and meaning unless there is context.
In addition to the “what,” “where,” and “when,” you need a “why.” And the “why” is almost always so distorted by time, delusion, and wishful thinking that the meaning is more myth than reality.
Barcelona’s streets – at least in this part of town – are wide with a center strip for pedestrians, protected from the Mediterranean sun by sycamore trees on both sides.
Sycamore trees shade the pedestrian walkway
Buildings are handsome 19th or early 20th century constructions, many with elaborate overhanging balconies, often set distinctively on the corners and enclosed in stained glass.
Architecture is important here; the city is most-often remembered as the home of Antoni Gaudí, whose works are remarkably inventive, clever, and playful.
But when he began his career, it was not at all clear where he would end up. When he graduated from architecture school, his class director said: “Today, we give this degree to either a fool or a genius. We will see later.”
By the time he died in 1926, his peers had made up their minds; Gaudí was a genius.
(Later today, we are going to see his famous cathedral, the Sagrada Família… Stay tuned.)
From our brief inspection, the traditional or vernacular architecture of the city is fascinating in itself. The proportions are handsome. And the details are eye-catching and pleasant.
The dark wooden shutters, for example, are much more attractive than the white metal ones of Paris.
But what’s going on here? From balconies all over the city hang red and yellow banners.
Catalan flags, a symbol of the independence movement
“Ahh… there’s an independence movement,” explained a friend. “They’re asking for a separate government for Catalonia. They want to break away from Spain.
“And I know what you’re thinking… that they want freedom and independence so they don’t have to suffer the win-lose deals from Madrid. But you’re wrong. The separatists are like the originarios in Latin America. They want independence so they can impose their own win-lose deals.
“It’s not about liberty; it’s about control.”
We wondered what the history books will say.
Will they say it was a brave struggle for the rights of man, for “self-determination”… and an echo of the Declaration of Independence?
Or will they say it was just another political bamboozle, where a small bunch of zombies and cronies tried to get control of a government so they could rip off the public?
It depends how it turns out!
The victors write the fake news. If you want to be a hero, make sure you win. Otherwise, Gaudí would be a fool, we’d have a Diocletian Day rather than a St. George’s Day, and Barcelona would be celebrating the dragon!
MARKET INSIGHT: RETAIL IS BACK
By Joe Withrow, Head of Research, Bonner & Partners
Despite being left for dead in 2017, retail is the best-performing industry so far this year…
That’s the story of today’s chart, which maps the year-to-date stock percentage gains by sector.
As you can see, retail stocks lead the pack with a 14.6% year-to-date return.
Software stocks come in a distant second at 5.5%… followed by healthcare equipment stocks with a 3.8% return… semiconductor stocks at 2.8%… and tech hardware stocks at 2.2%.
– Joe Withrow
Prepare for a Thirty Percent Slide
Interest rates are on the rise. The yield on a 10-year Treasury note is nearing 3%. And according to one fund manager, that spells trouble for the U.S. stock bull market.
How to Bulletproof Your Portfolio
Investors are on edge as stocks whiplash up and down. Chris Mayer, one of Bill’s top analysts, understands that these are difficult times. He shares a few steps to bulletproof your portfolio for the volatility yet to come.
In the mailbag, conversation turns to America’s wasting disease…
Dear Mr. Bonner, as a brand-new subscriber (80 years old), and at a loss about what to do concerning my finances (which is nothing new for me), I must admit to a totally emotional response regarding your opening words in your Diary entry this morning about “how the feds are bankrupting America, why a stock market crash, a bear market in bonds, and a depression are now probably inevitable.” In this compassionless world, I sensed a great compassion.
Perhaps this is why I signed up for your journal: I may not be able to change my circumstances much, but after catching some of your observations over the last few years, at least I will be listening to someone who knows “the game” and cares.
– Christopher V.
The disaster of our national debt has indeed reached Code Blue status, well before Trump arrived. Obama’s profligate spending can hardly be held up as “the better way,” when compared to Trump’s anticipated trillion-dollar deficit spending. It’s easy to cut the budget when you decimate the military. The fact is, there’s no free lunch.
It’s the press and the Left which keep focusing on the porn stars and the Russian conspiracy BS, which, even if true, is only intended to embarrass the president when so much needs to be done.
This is counterproductive vindictiveness, pure and simple, because the “anointed one,” Hillary Rodham Clinton, got blindsided and beaten in a dramatic display of overconfidence and can’t let it go. Please don’t lower your standing by stooping to more snide and needless Trump-bashing. Your economic perspective is far more important.
– Gerard T.
Meanwhile, Bill’s Diary on “offensive ideas” is a hit with readers…
I’ve been reading your column for years, and you’ve never once “offended” me. Quite the opposite. Maybe you’re not trying hard enough.
– Marlow M.
You are absolutely right in that free speech is being stifled by political correctness, both in the U.S. and in the U.K. I believe that free speech is absolutely necessary, provided it does not incite violence or hatred. Everyone has a right to their views – and a right to air them without fear of reprisal. Universities should be places of open debate. Closed minds and safe places where one would not be offended have no place there.
– Eva L.
Great piece. One can never know what another might think is offensive, as we cannot read other people’s minds – thankfully, for a bit longer, we hope. Assuming one does not set out to give offense, if another feels offended, it is because of something in that person’s past experience or that is inherent to their way of thinking. It doesn’t make them “wrong” to be offended, but they should understand why they are offended. One cannot think clearly if one only reacts rather than observes and considers. You may find it offensive, but if that is a response to a bit of critical thinking and not an emotional knee-jerk, then a reasonable dialogue can still ensue about what was found to be offensive in the mind of one party to the dialogue.
It is indeed sad that so many are captive to their emotions rather than being observers of, and potentially masters of, their emotions when it comes to public discourse. It is not necessarily easy to become a skilled observer. But, like all valuable qualities worth pursuing, it is certainly more worthwhile than railing against someone that pushed an emotional button you have.
– Mike C.
This is probably the best, most soul-searching letter you’ve written. It makes me want to read more of Mr. Peterson’s work.
– Charles E.
If the boys at Google are getting upset, l can only applaud and say, “Keep up the good work.” Can you keep nudging and upsetting Zuckerberg? Stay strong.
– Ann S.
For me, today’s Diary was the best ever. Regarding Peterson’s alleged statement, “Thenceforth, he resolved to say only what he really thought,” I shall, from this day forward, attempt to do the same. Thanks for today’s lesson of life.
– Jerry K.
Right on, Bill! I, too, am a fan of Jordan Peterson for his pursuit of what is true, and have digested his latest book. After reading your newsletters for some time, I believe you are “cut from the same cloth.” Keep the insights coming!
– Richard F.
I’m sure you don’t give a twit about my opinions of your Diary articles. However, I feel an overpowering need, in my “offensive” fashion, to inform you nevertheless. First, I consider most of your Diary articles to be conceited claptrap, formed by your contemptuous and condescending view of most of us out here in “flyover land.” I do want to add, though, that this article today is very interesting and thought-provoking. Even enlightening. Thank you.
– Hal C.
The attack on freedom of speech began with the attack on profanity – specifically in religion, at first, then in sexual references. If we have true freedom of speech and print, such things should be freely referred to anywhere and at any time. And if one does not like someone else’s appearance, attitude, or opinions, one should be willing to say so in public and to accept the consequences.
– Chuck B.
Brilliantly excoriated, Bill! What needs to be added – if I may express my “truth” – is, “Freedom is not free.” Free speech, (and its limits, i.e., “Fire!”) came at a high cost – higher than our snowflakes (and other flakes on the Left and the Right) have any measure of appreciating.
What needs to be said is that the battle didn’t end with the Bill of Rights. It is every day and almost in every way. The “cost” may be physical, like fights and wars. It may be verbal and via propaganda – Lord knows, we see enough of that every news minute of the day! It is definitely psychological! We need more Petersons and fewer Pelosis!
– Lou S.
Glad to see you have discovered Dr. Peterson. He is a shining beacon of light against an ever-encroaching darkness coming from our universities. If he and people like him cannot burn their way through that darkness, then I fear we will, within the span of the next generation, abandon the principles of the free market, protection under the law, and the Bill of Rights.
It will not be pretty, that passing, but, like a swarm of locusts, will overwhelm a village protecting their crops. The Marxists are marching in ever-increasing numbers. And we keep paying the high-end universities to produce this swarm.
– Bruce L.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…
You should know that this isn’t for everybody…
That’s because it involves investing in one of the most controversial industries in America today. But it’s also a realistic way to turn a few thousand dollars into $1 million over time. Is it right for you?