Reborn on the 4th of July!
Do Your Eyes Deceive? Whiskey Redux!
To long-time subscribers, the name is familiar. You’ve seen this before.
From 2004 to 2009, Agora Financial ran an e-letter called Whiskey & Gunpowder. We ended it about ten years ago because… Hmm… Beats me… We just had other things to do.
If you’re a recent arrival to Agora Financial… My compliments; you don’t know what you missed.
Today, we’ve got a decade of dry powder saved up.
Like the best of bonded, well-aged distillations, our Whisky is hard hitting…
Opinionated… And we’re bringing it back! After all, today’s media and markets aren’t what they used to be.
This isn’t your father’s America. (And it’s definitely not your mother’s…)
Now, more than ever, our watch has begun. We’re Whiskey and Gunpowder. So, step up to the bar for a Whiskey; and much more.
Let’s kick off with a couple of basics.
- First, this e-letter is free and FREE. Not only are we coming to your inbox at no charge, but we’re also FREEDOM-filled. The topics that we’ll cover are important to your liberty and happiness.
- Second, we will be opinionated. If you’re looking for lukewarm, politically correct jibber jabber, you’re at the wrong saloon, amigo. This isn’t a vodka bar… we don’t serve drinks in martini glasses… and we don’t cater to cheap palates. This e-letter reflects the hard-earned wisdom of the past ten years. It’s boldly opinionated in a blunt, American way.
- Third, feel free to forward this e-letter. Be generous. Send Whiskey & Gunpowder to friends, relatives, colleagues, e-lists, college kids, ships at sea… whomever/whatever. If you like an article, send it to someone. It’s no skin off our nose. Let‘er rip…
- Finally… Look for Whiskey & Gunpowder when it shows up in your inbox, and please open it. Our goal is to offer interesting, useful and (sometimes) even investable commentary. Preserve your wealth. Maybe make a few bucks. Live free.
We want you to read Whiskey & Gunpowder, learn something and move on with your day thinking, “Hmm…”
What IS Whiskey And Gunpowder?
Along those lines, perhaps you’re already thinking… “Hmm…”
You may be wondering… “Why Whiskey? Why Gunpowder? What’s going on?”
The quick answer is that “Whiskey” refers to the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s in western Pennsylvania.
The “Gunpowder” part comes from the Gunpowder Plot of British fame, 1605. (See the P.S. at the end for more background.)
Despite the name, rest assured… We’re not here to engage in armed insurrection, or to blow anything up.
Our mission is to offer useful news and informed commentary. If it burns like a raw shot of rye, or jolts you like the crack of gunfire, so much the better.
Our approach is derivative of current events. Sometimes, we’ll discuss things straight from the front pages. Other times, we’ll go into the dusty depths of history to illustrate what we’re trying to say.
We’re taking to the soapbox because, as you surely know, things are happening super-fast in today’s world. You blink and you can feel the change.
Social media, speed of information, extreme opinions, mass shootings, political correctness, autonomous cars, incompetent leaders in Congress (oh wait, somethings don’t change!)…and more!
With each swig of Whiskey you can rest assure you’ll get top shelf commentary and 100-proof opinions. Times are a changin’ and we’re here to help it all go down smooth.
Speaking of time…
We know that your time is valuable; so how much more “news” do you need? That is, you probably subscribe to all manner of newspapers or news sites, right?
Thing is… “the news” isn’t really the news anymore. I hope you know what I mean.
When you read articles, or watch what’s called “news” on television, there’s a lot of raw propaganda. There’s plenty of in-your-face advocacy, with not much broad perspective. Many talking heads are just shouting past each other, when they’re not shouting at you.
If you’re like me (even a little bit), you watch this so-called “news” stuff and cringe… Ugh.
Let’s discuss that last point…
There was a time when the front pages of local and national newspapers were loss-leaders to owners, in the nature of a public service.
That is, the real money in newspapers, not all that long ago, wasn’t headline news; it was in advertisements, especially the legal and classified ads. Front page news seldom paid the freight.
Until recently, the cash register of just about any newspaper was inside; the ads, etc. that generated profits. Front pages (plus sports section and/or comics) were simply a lure to get people to buy the overall package.
But recently, with the explosive growth of bandwidth, there’s a major problem for the business model behind distributing old fashioned news. There’s not enough paid advertising to go around. Some call it an “adpocalypse.”
The economy is only so big. There’s only so much ad money to spread around. A certain fraction of those funds used to go to news outlets like your old hometown newspaper.
These days, much of the advertising money is scarfed-up by platform giants like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc. Frankly, they’re totally greedy and want every dime. It’s why your local newspaper is either gone, or going out of business.
Just recently, for example, the owners of the Youngstown Vindicator announced that the newspaper will cease publishing in mid-August, after 150 years of operation. Obviously, we’re watching an era pass away.
Meanwhile, modern “news” (loosely defined) has transformed into an online profit center. And believe me; here at Agora Financial, we know all about online profit centers!
So what has happened? Publishers and editors of “news” now concentrate on click bait.
Shocking, I know…
In some newsrooms – think of the Washington Post and New York Times – electronic display boards show, in real time, how many “clicks” each story generates.
At many sites, staff are expected to write articles that cater to reader clicks, within highly defined editorial constraints. The idea is to tailor articles to draw even higher click-numbers.
So, what makes for “news” these days?
Well… let’s look at a couple of examples to illustrate the point…
It’s common knowledge that negative stories about President Trump draw lots of clicks. Indeed, negative stories draw clicks from both Trump-critics and from his admirers.
Some people avidly read negative Trump stories for the content.
Others avidly read negative Trump stories for the science fiction.
Just remember, though, when you read news about Trump… Much Trump-news is like watching professional wrestling. That is, you’re seeing something more like an exhibition.
With pro-wrestling, you actually have athletic people jumping around inside the ring; it’s not “fake” when a guy does a back flip off the turn-buckle. But despite the appearance of sport, wrestling matches are scripted and staged.
It’s not all that different with quite a bit of Trump-news. Between Trump on the one hand, and his adversary White House press corps on the other, you’re getting a “story board,” if not a fairy tale of good versus evil.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, consider first-term Member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). She has become a click-bait electromagnet.
For a rookie politician, AOC shows raw talent. Her stage presence is mesmerizing! She’s serious, award-winning click-bait.
Indeed, AOC is sort of the modern media counterpart to pitcher Vida Blue in his first season with the Oakland A’s in 1969 (which I remember well).
Like pitcher Vida Blue, AOC is a serious leftie – he, a ball-thrower; she, a political hurler. And like Blue, AOC came out of nowhere. But she sure can stand atop the mound, toss blazing zingers and just plain hammer that strike zone!
Point is… When a writer mentions Trump and/or AOC in the headline or lead, the story will draw clicks! That’s the real game being played in the alleged “news.”
In Whiskey & Gunpowder, we’ll go past the click-bait. We’ll do real news; or as close to it as we can get. That, plus our own brand of analysis… working to be thoughtful, and with due respect for your intelligence. (Plus, of course, the usual embedded ads which you can read if they intrigue you.)
What is our “brand of analysis,” you might wonder?
Well, we’ll do politics. You’ve seen that already!
Then, of course, Agora founder Bill Bonner is a gold-standard kind of guy. So, we do gold.
Plus, we’ll do energy, hard assets, and focus on “real” things, versus manufactured fluff.
We’ll also do tech. After all, technology is changing this world at breakneck speed. We’re not immune to that. And we’re NOT going to sit around the Whiskey bar with a single-load musket when a late model Smith & Wesson or Kalashnikov is nearby.
In terms of style, we can kick off straight down the middle, so to speak. We can discuss politics, and/or how the press drives politics; or markets moving on the Federal Reserve’s fake news, and rising prices for gold. Or we’ll regale you with insight on oil and gas prices, farm prices, China tariffs. All that, and much more.
Other times, we might begin with reference to the Peloponnesian War, or Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. But if we do that, it isn’t simply to describe what happened in ancient Greece, or to discuss Europe after the French Revolution.
If we cite Thucydides, or quote from Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace, it’s because an old historical or literary point might reflect profoundly on recent events.
For example, I was on an airplane the other day, sitting next to a man whose high school age son wants to join the U.S. Army. He’s proud, but worried.
“My kid was born a couple months after 9-11,” he said. “That was 18 years ago. We’ve been fighting in the Middle East ever since. How much longer will this go on?”
I mentioned that in 1985, I spent several months of my life in the North Arabian Sea, offshore Iran and patrolling the Strait of Hormuz. I was in the Navy back then, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64). And in fact, as I know from firsthand experience, the U.S. has been involved in the Middle East for several generations.
It reminded me of a line from an ancient classic, The Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides. “The longer a war lasts, the more things tend to depend on accidents. Neither you nor we can see into them: We have to abide their outcome in the dark.”
War in the Middle East? Hey, war is a dark room… The longer, the darker. There’s plenty more to discuss, but this is enough for now.
The idea here is to let you know that Whiskey & Gunpowder has returned.
Keep your eyes peeled for Whiskey & Gunpowder in your inbox.
We’re back and bold.
We’re sadder but wiser.
Welcome to Whiskey & Gunpowder. We’re pleased to have you at the bar.
Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder
P.S. – Why Whiskey & Gunpowder? The short version of “Whiskey” is that in the 1790s, settlers on the American western frontier pushed back against the nascent – yet already intrusive – U.S. government. The money-grubbing feds needed revenue to pay off Revolutionary War debt. So, Congress passed a law to tax people’s stills; the stills that produced valuable whiskey out of commodity-level field crops.
The tax on stills was vexatious. Indeed, few people out across the mountains, far from the East Coast, had any real “money” – silver, let alone gold. So, they took to arms.
To quell the uprising, President George Washington led three state militias west from Philadelphia to teach those deplorable hicks – in what became Pittsburgh – a lesson. Of interest, it was the first, last and only time a U.S. President ever took direct, operational command of troops. We’ll discuss it.
The short version of “Gunpowder” is that in 1605, a man named Guy Fawkes, and other like-minded conspirators, attempted to blow up England’s new Parliament. They opposed the reign and royal family of King James I, whose government persecuted Catholics. The conspirators wished to kill off everyone up who was part of the British government.
Mr. Fawkes was apprehended in flagrante delicto, planting gunpowder charges. He was promptly tried, convicted, sentenced, hanged, drawn and quartered. Today, the event is celebrated on November 5 in England with fireworks and fanfare. Very British, in a macabre sort of way.
On our end, we don’t want to get banned by Facebook or Google right out of the gate. So we’ll note that we don’t advocate burning down the house of the local tax collector, as happened in Pennsylvania. Or of planting 36 barrels of high explosive beneath the chambers of Parliament, as happened in England.
We’re reviving Whiskey & Gunpowder because we believe in life and liberty, along with personal freedom.
Again, have a great 4th of July… and we’ll be back at the barstool soon.