Notes And Quotes From Recent Perusing

I said last week that Eric Cantor walked the plank because he was widely disliked, a big problem for a politician. Apparently I didn’t go far enough. Jonathan Chiatt in New York Magazine has compiled a list of Cantor detractors in “Everybody Hates Eric Cantor: A Roundup.”

It reports that the antipathy extended to his staff, “the biggest bunch of a**holes on the Hill.” A heady competition to win. Apparently even after they left Cantor for lobbying firms and think tanks they were still left with the Cantor taint. Of course, Democrats loathed him, as did his fellow Jewish legislators, but Chiatt shows he also alienated Tea Party and Establishment Republicans. Indeed, when a conservative dinner party learned of his defeat, Buzzfeed quotes attendee Brent Bozell describing the mood as “ebullient.” It must be gratifying to bring happiness to so many.

“The Price of Fame,” a new biography of Claire Booth Luce reviewed in the weekend Wall Street Journal, suggests she was a kind of spiritual grandmother of Laura ingraham, Ann Coulter and Wendi Deng Murdoch rolled into one. She was a playwright, editor, and mistress of power. Born poor she married money twice, most notably Henry Luce, the founder of Time, Life and Fortune. Additional liaisons included financier Bernard Baruch, a high ranking aide to Gen. MacArthur and, in her European Theater of Operations, Gen. Lucian Truscott Jr.

She was also a Catholic convert of the extreme conservative stripe and a Right Wing Republican member of Congress who, in 1944, could call her times the “tragic era” of FDR which had turned America into a nation of “hypochondriacs, introverts and psychotics.” No Greatest Generation guff for her. She also was a drug abuser and anti-semite. All in all, a charming portrait of a powerful American woman, but I think I’ll settle for the summary rather than plow through hundreds of pages of nastiness. I’ve got the daily news for that.

From Barron’s Midyear Roundtable, an assessment of the investing environment by 10 Wall Street heavyweights, comes a fairly gloomy outlook. Three of ten are in cash, bonds, gold or other hedges against disaster. Fred Hickey predicts “big trouble ahead.” Others are tepid about the prospects over the next six months. Meryl Witmer puts it this way, “It’s hard to see a reason for the market to move one way or another through year end.” She is told “that seems to be the consensus” of her fellow panelists to which she replies with the kind of savvy bred of long experience, “Then it’s likely to be wrong.”

Certainly gloom is not unreasonable as summed up by Bill Gross, the bond king and head of Pimco. He opines that there is little hope of growth ahead due to headwinds which “include an aging population, not just in the US but in Europe and Japan, and the technology revolution, which is good for productivity and profits but has displaced many workers. Without the consumer, capitalism can’t exist.”

That’s a sentence that we should all cross-stitch on a sampler and send to congressmen or CEOs who think tax cuts for the rich and less regulation are the key to prosperity. “Without the consumer, capitalism can’t exist.” Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party could agree on that.

Also from Barron’s, Randall Forsyth notes the desire of countries as disparate as Russia, China and Brazil to dethrone the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Couldn’t happen, you say. But he cites work by Jeffrey Gundlach of DoubleLine suggesting the dollar may be nearing its sell-by date.

According to Gundlach’s reckoning, the dominant currency changes roughly every hundred years. In the West, the ruling currency has been Portuguese for 80 years (1450-1530), Spanish for 110 until 1640, Dutch for 80 (1640-1720), French for 95 until Waterloo in 1815, English for 105 until 1920 and our own dollar is coming up on 95. Short the dollar, go long — what? Yuan, Ruble, Real, Euro?

Mix in the unsurprising collapse of Iraq into the latest war of religion and it’s enough to make you skip the beach and head for the bomb shelter.


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