Wednesday Briefs – 14 April 2021

Follow populyst to receive this commentary in your inbox every Wednesday.

THIS WEEK: Most People are Very Smart; Back to the Border; Podcast: Lebanon in Crisis.

Read more

Wednesday Briefs – 31 March 2021

Follow populyst to receive this commentary in your inbox every Wednesday.

THIS WEEK: Suez – Container Shipping; VolTswagen; New York Coronavirus; Triumphing on the Venom of a Snake.

Read more

Peak Tesla?

This article first appeared in National Review.

Investors are finally beginning to hit the brakes on the sky-high electric-vehicle stock.

In the end, the needles that likely pricked the bubble were those used to inoculate millions of Americans starting last November. For the stock market, there was before November 9, the date of Pfizer’s vaccine announcement, and after November 9. The news that vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna were safe and effective fired a shot signaling that the pandemic would soon be controlled and that the economy would return to normal before long.

The market rotation since then has been rapid, with former leaders stalling or losing ground and former laggards recovering rapidly. Since that November date, the FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) stocks that led the way in 2020 have averaged a return of 3.1 percent, gaining mainly thanks to Google, which was up 15.7 percent (the FAAN without Google averaged a negative 0.1 percent return). Microsoft did better, up 5.5 percent. Zoom Communications and Peloton Interactive, the 2020 icons of work at home and exercise at home, were down 34.3 percent and 12.7 percent respectively. (Returns are as of the March 22 close.)

On the other side of the tracks, the old and unsexy names, which fell in March 2020 and could not sustain a decent recovery through the remainder of the year, have all soared. Since November, “ok boomer” companies Exxon and Valero are up 70.6 percent and 89.4 percent; Carnival Cruise, Delta Airlines, and Marriott International are up 98.8 percent, 52.7 percent, and 45.8 percent; Gap, Darden Restaurants, and Ulta Beauty are up 40.9 percent, 33.9 percent, and 46.5 percent.

But then there was Tesla. Tesla, the maker of fortunes and dreams. Tesla, the rocket, the star, the supernova. Continue Reading >>>

The Boom in Certainty

Sinclair Lewis called it “the sedate pomposity of the commercialist”. Now it has spread to many parts of society, not always in its sedate form.

Back in our final days as architecture students in Austin, our class had a farewell gathering with a professor who had been a valued mentor to several of us. As was habitual on such occasions, the professor was discussing with us the work of various architects when the subject of a newly-constructed building came up.

“I hate that building”, one classmate said flatly.

After an awkward silence, the professor mocked: “you mean, strongly dislike?” Off guard, the offending party protested that his use of the word was innocuous then and there. The professor conceded as much but explained that it was a visceral word, the kind of word that forestalls further discussion and that hardens the speaker’s and listener’s opinions. It is difficult to walk back or to change your mind from “hate”, and easier to do so from “dislike” or even from “strongly dislike”, he argued. His advice was to leave in one’s words an open path for retreat, in essence to never burn one’s rhetorical bridges.

This led to another discussion about certainty and about people who speak with certainty. The professor said that he had a reflexive dislike for certainty and that he felt a profound distrust towards people who speak with certainty. There is very little that is certain in life, he said, even among things of which we are convinced at a given point in time. Opinions change, science changes, research advances. New discoveries change our beliefs. Knowledge doesn’t just flow or evolve gradually like a river; it shifts laterally and sometimes suddenly like an earthquake.

Read more

Wednesday Briefs – 20 January 2021

Follow populyst to receive this weekly commentary in your inbox every Wednesday.

This week: President Biden; Trump’s Federal Judges; Foreign Policy Returns; Market Love.

Read more