YOUGHAL, IRELAND – There being nothing serious to report from the financial front…

…we go back to our sideline job: irritating our dear readers.

Slimy and Hideous

Yes, “Bad Guy” Theory is on the table. We were set to heave it over the side, like a fish too small to meet the legal limit. But after reading our reader mail… followed by a restless night of prayer, meditation, and hard drinking… we decided to look further.

And from what we can see, it is slimy and hideous.

“Bad Guy” Theory (BGT) maintains that there are some people who are good, and others who are bad.

The good ones think they can spot the bad ones… and that they have the right and duty to kill them, because… well… they’re up to no good.

Many readers believe BGT is essentially right; they know damn well who the bad guys are… and think your editor is an SOB for suggesting otherwise.

Writes one, referring to Muslims, Iranians, or Palestinians (we’re not sure which):

If they could, they’d kill you, me, and our families.

We have some personal experience with Iranian people. We lived in Paris for many years and knew, casually, a family of Iranians.

We had dinner with them once or twice, in their apartment in the 16th arrondissement. Never once did they go for our throats with a butcher knife. Nor was the wine poisoned. (The conversation was deathly… but not, as it turned out, fatal.)

Another reader thinks our suggestion – that even good people sometimes do bad things – was out of line:

You owe all of your subscribers an apology.

This reader was particularly annoyed by our implication that dropping an atomic bomb on civilians was perhaps not such a good idea. (We’ll come back to that in a minute.)

God Will Sort Them Out

BGT is as ancient as the Old Testament. Each generation, each culture, and each tribe has had its bad guys. The neighboring village. The nation over the mountains. Spartans. Queers. Yids. Reds. Bourgeois reactionaries. Mensheviks. Kulaks. Intellectuals. Gypsies. Heretics. Papists. Prods. Huns. Gooks. Kafirs. Insurgent Filipino savages. Rebel slaves. And bog-trotting, mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging Paddies.

They all deserved to die… and all got the death sentence. Not that they necessarily did anything wrong. But their thoughts… their beliefs… their intentions and motivations marked them as bad guys.

But how could you know what was really in peoples’ hearts and minds? Use the rack and thumbscrews to find out!

Or don’t worry about it. “Kill them all,” said the Count of Citeaux before the Massacre at Béziers in 1209. “God will sort them out.”

But wait…

…a lawyer put the question to Jesus: Does “Love Thy Neighbor” apply to bad guys?

Jesus came back at him with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A man lay on the ground, beaten and robbed. The good Jews passed him by… including a priest.

But a Samaritan – a bad guy! – came to his aid. BGT didn’t work, He implied; you would be judged on what you did, not who you were.

And it didn’t particularly matter what you had done in the past, either… What you did now and in the future were what counted. “Go forth and sin no more,” said He to the bad gal who was about to be stoned to death.

Common law, the idea that you should be judged impartially and according to common rules and “common sense,” also emerged from the swamp and blood of prehistoric life. It, too, turned away from BGT.

Justice was blind. Were you a Jew? Were you a Muslim? Were you a believer… or a sinner? It hardly mattered.

Instead, the judge wanted to know where you were on the night of the 23rd… That is, he wanted to know what you had gotten up to, not who you were.

“By their deeds shall ye know them!”

So let us look at deeds.

Million Sorry Souls

On August 8, 1945, Nagasaki, Japan was still intact. Its citizens were living on short rations. They were mostly old men, women, and children… The young men had already been drafted into the army.

If we had been able to look into their hearts and minds, we probably would have found that they wished the entire American nation would drop dead.

Admiral Nimitz ruled the sea. General LeMay was master of the air. And General MacArthur was already on Japanese soil at Okinawa.

It was because of them, they reasoned, that the Japanese were dying of disease and hunger – short of food, fuel, clothing, and just about everything else.

It was onto these people that Harry Truman dropped the second atomic bomb.

They were “bad guys,” said the U.S. press. They “supported the war,” said God-fearing Americans. Besides, it “saved our soldiers’ lives” said Truman.

Dwight Eisenhower, then supreme commander of the allied forces in Europe, disagreed. He recalled in a 1963 interview that:

…it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing… I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives…

William Leahy, the president’s chief of staff, wrote in his diary:

It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender… My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children…

Even the Uber Bomber himself, Major General Curtis LeMay, who had already scorched Tokyo with the most destructive bombing raid in history, was against it:

The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb… the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.

So was Admiral Chester Nimitz, who had beaten the Japanese fleet and chased them back to the home islands:

The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war… The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military standpoint, in the defeat of Japan…

And what about America’s top commander in the Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur? President Nixon recalled:

[General Douglas] MacArthur once spoke to me very eloquently about it, pacing the floor of his apartment in the Waldorf. He thought it a tragedy that the bomb was ever exploded. MacArthur believed that the same restrictions ought to apply to atomic weapons as to conventional weapons, that the military objective should always be limited damage to noncombatants… MacArthur, you see, was a soldier. He believed in using force only against military targets, and that is why the nuclear thing turned him off…

So what to make of it? Who were the bad guys?

You decide.

But keep in mind that for every person who thinks he can tell the good guys from the bad ones, there must be hundreds of broken bones… thousands of broken hearts… and a million sorry souls roasting in some ashpit in Hell…

… wishing they had never tried.

Regards,

signature

Bill

MARKET INSIGHT: AGE OF THE UNICORN

By Joe Withrow, Head of Research, Bonner & Partners

The number of unicorn sightings has skyrocketed in recent years…

That’s the story of today’s chart, as we map the number of new tech start-ups to reach a $1 billion valuation – known as “unicorns” in the venture capital industry – from 2010 through today.

Chart

As you can see, there are currently 139 tech start-ups with a $1 billion valuation. That’s up from just 18 “unicorns” in 2010 – a 672% increase.

The number of unicorns has spiked dramatically in recent years, thanks to the easy availability of private capital. Bonner & Partners’ chief technology analyst Jeff Brown tells us…

The historically low yields in “safe” investments like government bonds caused the invest­ment community to look elsewhere for opportunities capable of generating much higher returns on investment.

Hedge funds, institutional funds, mutual funds, and even family offices began to shift a portion of their assets over to early-stage technology in order to generate higher investment returns. These investment flows into technol­ogy companies led to tens of billions of dollars of new funds going into technolo­gy annually that never existed before.

With so much money flowing into the tech world, good technology companies have had no problem raising additional rounds of funding. There was no need to have an IPO, and most remained private.

– Joe Withrow

FEATURED READS

Death of a Unicorn
As Joe Withrow just showed, the number of “unicorns” – private tech companies with a $1 billion valuation or higher – has skyrocketed in recent years. But not all of these companies deserved their sky-high valuations. Here’s how one reporter brought down a unicorn.

Retail Isn’t Going Anywhere
Amazon’s e-commerce business has put pressure on “brick and mortar” retail stores. Some have even predicted the death of traditional retail. But now, research shows that these claims have been greatly exaggerated…

Banks Embrace Bitcoin
There’s been a development in the crypto market. Big banks are diving head-first into bitcoin trading. Jeff Brown, Bonner & Partners’ chief technology analyst, shows what this means for bitcoin and the rest of the crypto market.

MAILBAG

As Bill mentioned, “Bad Guy” Theory dominates the mailbag…

You gloss over the inherent – yes, it’s embedded in their book to kill the infidels – threat of Islam as voiced and acted upon by enemies of Israel and the United States. Your simple statement that Iran has not invaded another country recently consciously omits Iran being a state sponsor of terrorism, with Hamas being of like mind and action. If they could, they’d kill you, me, and our families.

I realize your writing style provokes thought, but you have reached a level of deceit by not fully framing the debate. It is quite simple. The U.S. is the good guy. The bad guys are those who threaten the free peoples of the world with violence.

– Martin M.

Today, you have crossed a line. To imply that the U.S. is the bad guy for using nuclear weapons against one of the most heinous regimes in human history, and that a regime vowing to wipe all Jews from the face of the Earth is more morally justifiable than the one that seeks to stop it, is quite simply unacceptable behavior on your part.

This is not just bearish carnival-barking on the eve of the emergence of the digital economy – the most powerful, productive force in the history of man. This is not just amoral indifference. This is reprehensible behavior. You owe all of your subscribers an apology.

– Steve C.

Bill, you’ve gone far too left. No doubt America has gone too far in some fights, and for the wrong reasons, but that doesn’t make all Arabs saints in the making. I would be interested to know what you would like to see Israel do.

Put out peace overtures [for 70 years]. Check. Allow Arabs to live and work in their country and enjoy and share the prosperity. Check. Allow Arab representation in their parliament. Check. Share Jerusalem. Check. Never hide behind their women and children in a fight. Check. Never launch suicide bombing attacks against children and civilians. Check.

You, as well as anyone, know what happens if Israel lays down its arms: no more Israel. I am surprised that you and I – of the same age, we agree on most things – can hold such differing opinions on a people who have never, and will never, enjoyed peace because their religion forbids it. Keep up the [mostly] good work.

– David H.

Iran’s not a “bad guy.” Iran hasn’t invaded another country recently. It just exports terrorism all over the world. Unqualified access to Iranian nuclear sites is necessary because the regime in Iran is the bad guy. It wants to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. When the U.S. threatens to wipe a country off the face of the Earth, then the U.S. is the bad guy, and Iran can inspect American nuclear sites.

– Todd B.

Bill, I often agree with you; but as of late, we are on different pages. I could respond to many of your statements, but I will just respond to this one: “Is it because the U.S. has already reached perfection… or because the Pentagon spends an amount equal to the entire Iranian defense budget every seven days?” When it does “damage,” Iran doesn’t care that it does it surgically, with as little civilian impact as possible. It is a state sponsor of terror the region over, and those terrorists are trying to maximize civilian casualties.

I realize that the U.S. military is inefficient, but it tries very hard to do what needs to be done, saving our soldiers’ lives and even the lives of the enemy. Iran couldn’t care less about either.

– Andrew F.

Bill, I’m nonplussed about your latest Diary. I looked up the 1953 coup d’état in Iran when they (a group of Iranian radical extremists) assassinated the opposition; it doesn’t sound too democratic to me. I’m sure that it was all a very complicated fight over oil and power.

Also, I wonder how it would go if you were given a couple of loaded AK-47s, and you were staying in your house when 100 people without guns (but sworn to kill you) began climbing over your gates and trying to kill you.

– Eldon A.

Iran has invaded the United States, electronically at least, via hacking… Yemen, Syria, and Iraq have invaded via support for people that our own leaders have proclaimed as enemies of those deemed to be our friends. But I believe they did so after our leaders did the deeming, not before.

George Washington was correct. We should stay out of the affairs of other nations, unless those nations attack us. Be friends to any who behave as friends to us. We should not make enemies. Our current and recent leaders don’t seem to believe this.

– Chuck B.

But other readers take Bill’s point on modern-day “bad guys”:

A lot of people will no doubt interpret your article today as an endorsement of Iran and spit nails at your audacity, when my reading of the article is as a condemnation of the power imbalance between the U.S. and Iran (and, logically, pretty well every other country on Earth) and the U.S.’s exercise of that imbalance in its exclusive self-interest. Far from being outrageous (to those who are outraged by any questioning of American power), the same reasoning could as easily be applied to Israel in its stance toward the Palestinians.

Of course, the Palestinian “mob” could inflict damage and injury on Israelis, but anyone who believes such a possibility is in any way meaningful in the face of armed Israelis might – and the proven history of using it – be sorely in need of psychiatric help.

– Dave H.

What? How dare you withhold moral judgment until examining the facts. Don’t you know it’s all-American to pick sides first and then decide who’s “good” or “bad”? The answer of course, to the “bad guy” question is that those who aren’t with us are probably just not very smart, and therefore, must be morally corrupted. And therefore, perfectly expendable.

P.S. Good piece. It’s sure to bring you lots of flak from those readers who miss the point – which, of course, makes them the “bad guys.”

– John F.

Thank you, Mr. Bonner, for saying those unpopular things that should make all of us very introspective. And thank you for your eloquence in doing so. There are aspects of conflict that we need to keep in mind. As the U.S. will someday learn, killing people only makes enemies of their kin, who have long memories. So, also, should the Israelis come to that conclusion.

There are ways to control rioters without killing them. For example, in the hippie days, I recall being sprayed with instant banana peel, which, except for those adept at walking on ice, changed a riot to a sit-in. Today, that technique could be combined with other control measures such as disorienting flashes of light. From early times, religions counseled against killing, but people in power ignore those strictures. Your thought-provoking essays lead the populace to see leaders in their true light.

– Gary H.