The Bird Cage of Moscow

THE BELL, STAFFORDSHIRE – “It all sounds a bit like the man who jumped off the top of a skyscraper and said as he passed each floor on the way down ~ ‘So far, so good’…”

A reader responds to that theory we explored on Tuesday with a grim metaphor. In Games of empire (15 September), we took a look at one of the fringier possible explanations as to why US tech has rallied so hard in recent months. In short, it posits that the whole thing is one massive manipulation – sleight of hand from the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury, forcing market-makers to bid the price of certain stocks up to give the false impression that the stockmarket is still strong and that some form of economic recovery is underway.

I’m not 100% sold on the idea, as so much of it is speculation. But it’s one worth bearing in mind. Considering how crazy the markets have been this year for many years now, being imaginative is a trait investors should nurture.

Here’s another reader’s response:

A very interesting theory you published today in ‘Capital and Conflict’.

Perhaps the hidden reason for huge gains in the top US tech companies lies in the Presidential election shenanigans. Could the Donald have leant heavily on the US [Federal] Reserve and the top investing companies such as BlackRock to pump up investment in these FAANG companies so as to influence the US electorate, or, at least, the prosperous middle classes, that everything is going to be better with the Donald and thus ensure his re-election?

All of these points of influence are based in New York – that is, in Trump’s own backyard.

According to Gallup, some 55% of Americans own stocks, so goosing the market for a re-election win could make sense. Trump’s decision to measure his leadership in percentage increases in the Dow Jones makes you think if he could “mark his own homework” and ensure the market went up, he would.

Then again, the majority of stock ownership is owned by a much smaller proportion of the US population, so goosing the market would only increase the rich/poor divide.

And while New York may be Trump’s old stomping ground, they bleed blue out there. The state has voted Democrat for most of the 20th century and all of the 21st so far – the most recent exception being Reagan.

This is, in my view, one of the main stumbling blocks for the theory. If New York City is run by Democrats, and as the reader notes, all the points of influence required for the manipulation is there, then why would they want the market up? Unless the plan is to pull the rug at the last minute…

I asked what you would do next if you were in charge of such manipulation, and some readers played the reverse card and asked me the same question.

If the plan behind said manipulation is to give the appearance of a digital revolution while in lockdown, to keep the façade going you would need to push the market around as the lockdown narrative changes. So as lockdown ends, you’d want to manufacture, or enhance a rise in “real world” stocks – agriculture, car companies, logistics, manufacturing, commercial banking, etc. Ideally, this would work as a capital rotation out of the tech space and into the chosen stocks – which is what at least one proponent of the theory that I’ve seen expects to occur. Let’s watch.

Waiting to take off… forever

Reaching further into the postbox, thank you for your answers to yesterday’s request for beached aeroplane café names (Flying to nowhere, 16 September). If we see a boom in restaurants made in the husks of 737 MAXs, built to appeal to frequent flyers who can’t due to climate regulation… now’s the time to get the trademarks in.

How about “The Bird-cage of Alcatraz”?

If the idea took off the name of the prison could be substituted with a local one – e.g. The Bird-cage of Holloway (for the City Airport), Pentonville (Heathrow?) or Moscow (the Lubyanka?)

Sounds like the beginning of a glossy restaurant brand – I’d definitely pay a visit. (The Bird Cage of Moscow sounds like it could be an opera.)

Another reader writes in with further suggestions, and a book recommendation to boot:

Fascinating stuff! It reminds me (somewhat) of the Martin Amis book Money (published in the 1980s), where one of the characters has the idea for a restaurant based around an airplane, including the pull-down seat trays and airline-style food.

As for a name, I respectfully submit “British Cafetiereways”, or perhaps “Fresh Grounded Coffee”. My apologies, it’s early and I need more ground coffee. Thanks as ever for the extremely thought-provoking content.

Thank you for reading! Fresh Grounded Coffee is a winner. I remember reading several years back about a company called Plane Industries, which makes furniture and household items out of aviation goods – like chairs from engine cowlings, and tables out of 747 exit doors (my personal favourite was a drinks cabinet made out of a cluster bomb). Perhaps FGC Ltd could commission a few coffee grinders from them…

“Café McFly” and the somewhat inevitable “Mile High Café” were also suggested as names. As was the idea that the band Talking Heads remix “I’m on a road to nowhere” to “I’m on a flight to nowhere” for the “in-flight” music.

Most surprising of the responses I received, was that as it turns out, there’s already one of these cafés in the country!

There is actually a cafe just outside of Alton, Hampshire (UK) called “The Departure Lounge” which has the front end of an airplane behind it…  the cafe has been there for years – maybe someone had a premonition.

I need to pay this place a visit. The Departure Lounge is a great name as well – especially in the context of an ersatz flying experience.

Thank you for all your emails – I always enjoy reading them, and posting those that I can in this letter.

Back tomorrow,

Boaz Shoshan
Editor, Capital & Conflict

PS “Angry.”

“Anxious.”

“Shirty.”

A certain trillion-dollar company has recently begun driving a colleague of mine up the wall – it’s even taking a toll on his marriage…

Category: Geopolitics

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