Day: January 11, 2017

Vice President Rockefeller’s financial conflicts of interest

Tiny fact check: Americans didn’t “not care” about VP Rockefeller‘s business ties. He was appointed, not elected, as the VP of the also not-elected Gerald Ford. Ford was appointed by Nixon after Agnew resigned, then took office when Nixon resigned, then appointed Rockefeller as his Veep. As Veep, Rockefeller played a purely ceremonial role.

When Rockefeller did try to win nationwide elections, he lost. He ran for president unsuccessfuly in 1960, 1964, and 1968. Perhaps for this reason, when Ford ran (unsucessfully) to be elected to a second term, he chose the running mate Bob Dole, not Rockefeller.

Rockefeller’s only elected office was as Governor of New York, and he mostly liquidated his business interests (he was super rich but not especially concerned with making more money because he had more money than you can even imagine). When appointed to the vice presidency, he offered to put whatever personal assets remained in a blind trust but was told he was clean enough. Nevertheless, confirmation hearings dragged out for several months (August through December), largely because of questions about his family’s money.

If you’re curious why, of all the lies in Trump’s first press conference (about debts, russian businesses, what various newspapers wrote, etc), I picked THIS one, it’s because he knows full well that what he’s doing with his finances is indefensible, so he’s trying to convince us it’s normal and something we’ve already agreed to. It’s not.


Trump’s First Presidential Press Conference Rattles the Market

Chiron on Bloomberg right now: “stocks bounce off lows after trump leaves podium.”

Not being satirical:

bloomberg screencap

Angie says: Holy shit, I seriously thought you were being satirical.

Romie: Yep. I had to screencap it as evidence for MYSELF.

Schneider says: I think I’m gonna get a big bell and a placard and stand on street corners proclaiming the end is nigh.

Romie: The dow during the press conference:


Kim says: Why do you think it is?  Because everyone is glued to their TV and not buying?? That sounds weird…

Michael: Because markets are only as stable as the emotions of the stockholders. Uncertainty of any kind makes the more timid elements run for cover and trump, during his speech, created a lot of uncertainty. It spiked back up as other people swoop in to buy while it’s low, and then he came out again so it all repeated.

Romie: Pretty much what Michael said, yeah. If people weren’t selling and buying, it’d be a horizontal line. But listeners get emotional and some of them (typically day traders rather than institutional investors) want to react (and react fast to get the best price) if they think the sectors they’re invested in might be in danger. Then others see the price trend and react – or, increasingly, automated trading systems kick in and amplify small movements.

Specifically, here, I’d say: Investors tuned in expecting to hear Mr. Trump’s plan to disentangle himself from any conflicts of interest with his business that might ethically compromise him. When he started talking, and throughout his initial statement, he made it very clear that he doesn’t intend to do that; doesn’t think he’s required to do that; doesn’t think anyone actually cares whether he does that; and thinks the laws were written by people who worried politicians wouldn’t have time to run a business, rather than people who worried about politicians using the office to enrich themselves.

That introduces a lot of uncertainty, not only about how Trump will govern, but whether Trump will be able to stay in office (or at the very least avoid getting bogged down in scandal and lawsuits that will make it impossible for him to govern). Business, in general, dislikes uncertainty. (So for instance stocks almost always have a rally after an election, regardless of who wins, because the question of who is running things has been answered.)

Once Trump left the podium, he was replaced by a lawyer who spoke reassuringly about ways they are going to minimize the ethical problems of this arrangement, which are not as good as anybody expected, but are at least better than the confrontational “I don’t need to do anything and could still run my business if I want” approach Trump had taken. Stocks recovered a fair part of their drop because people stopped actively selling off and others were bargain hunting and picking up the stocks.

Then he came back to answer questions, where he talked about things like repealing the ACA as soon as possible (even perhaps without an immediate replacement), which hit medical and medical-adjacent stocks hard (last I checked, they were the biggest losers on the day), and faced more questions about potential scandals.

DNC docu-dump

Context matters. (I’m still bitter about the Dean Scream.)

For example, as part of the campaign, Russian hackers obtained emails from the DNC that were then sliced into small bits and put out on the internet through participants in the propaganda effort. In many of these instances, the real documents were misrepresented. For example, WikiLeaks released a number of May 2016 emails on the eve of the Democratic convention that made it appear as if the DNC was solely pulling for Clinton; in many online postings, the date was removed so readers would have no idea unless they searched for the original document that was written at a time when Sanders could not possibly have won the nomination.

– “Trump, Putin and the Hidden History of How Russia Interfered in the U.S. Presidential Election,” by Kurt Eichenwald in Newsweek

If you’ve ever wondered why, as somebody who voted for Bernie in the primaries, I’m not especially upset with the DNC, it’s this. I can accept when my side loses fair and square. Less so when it’s the other thing.

Incidentally, it’s not just 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. It’s pretty much all the NATO countries.

Also, as het up as I am about Russia, I really hope the press conference today is still about business conflicts of interest. That stuff is IMPORTANT.

P.S. I just heard a newscaster misspeak and say “Tex Tillerson” and I can’t say whether I prefer that or “Rex Tillerson.” I wish I had an x in my name, but Romex sounds too pharmaceutical.


Faienzax? Faeiouyenzax?

Suzanne: Xomie? Of course, there’s always Roxie, but that’s been done.

Nic: From now on you shall be Rojax Faienzax

Trick: I envision your evil nemesis: Ronnix Sxott.

Move Boston to Atlantic Time

“A newly established commission is expected to meet at the State House for the first time on Jan. 11 to study whether to move Massachusetts into Atlantic Standard Time all year. Moving the clock one hour ahead permanently would give us more afternoon sunlight in winter, and end the collective jet lag felt by the hour loss in March.”


Talking Points: Time zones in Legislature’s hands, Mass. economic forecast, and more,” by George Brennan, The Boston Globe