- Holiday travel alert: What’s the TSA’s pot policy?
- Michigan’s game-changing cannabis vote (and a crazy statistic)
- Two reasons stocks should be selling off today (but they’re not)
- Worthless economic numbers, Thanksgiving edition
- We’re not alone in defense of Julian Assange… the trouble with boycotting Big Tech… MoviePass, then and now… and more!
Of the roughly 2.5 million people traversing a U.S. airport on this Thanksgiving eve… there’s probably a not-insignificant number bringing cannabis with them.
And the likelihood of the TSA doing anything about it is vanishingly small.
The firm Stratos Jet Charters recently commissioned a survey of 1,001 travelers. Of that number, 38% of men and 23% of women reported bringing marijuana on a flight.
“It’s not necessarily illegal to bring pot onto a plane if you’re boarding in a place where recreational marijuana is permitted,” writes Joe Seyton at Reason. “Los Angeles International Airport, for example, allows anyone 21 and over to carry limited amounts of weed. But since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, the TSA’s policy is to report any weed they find to local law enforcement, even if there’s nothing police can do about it.”
Given the TSA’s track record, even that outcome seems unlikely: As we mentioned in 2015, undercover security testers snuck contraband — including simulated weapons and explosives — past the TSA’s systems on 67 out of 70 tries. That’s a failure rate of 95%.
“It would be a cliché to describe the rapidly accelerating acceptance of marijuana legalization across the United States as a ‘green wave’ – but it may be one of the most consequential political trends of the era,” writes Michael Tracey at The Spectator.
The most recent instance is the referendum this month approving recreational weed in Michigan — a first in the Midwest. Tracey points out the margin of victory for “yes” was 11.8%. In contrast, the margin of victory for the incoming governor, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, was only 9.5%. And that’s in a state Trump carried by a whisker in 2016.
That’s no fluke, not if you look back at 2016: “In Nevada,” Tracey writes, “‘yes’ on legalization received 63,203 more votes than Clinton, who won the state. Clinton also won the statewide vote in Maine, but received 24,033 fewer votes than ‘yes.’”
Soon, Michiganders like Duane Dalrymple will be able to light up without fear of prosecution.
He hadn’t smoked for decades — not since his days as a young adult in the military. “Then,” Tracey writes, “three years ago, after struggling with injuries from a car accident, high blood pressure, gout, depression — the works — his 19-year-old son badgered him into trying marijuana again.
“It worked absolute wonders. His symptoms seemed to recede like magic, his quality of life greatly improved and, perhaps best of all, he was able to wean off the battery of prescription pain pills that increasingly lead so many down a path of despair, addiction and overdose.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan for a decade, but the regulations are so convoluted that many people who could easily get a prescription don’t bother and resort to the black market.
All that goes away in a few weeks, once the state Board of Canvassers certifies the election results.
Don’t be surprised if cannabis becomes a focal point in the 2020 presidential race.
During 2016, Hillary Clinton hemmed and hawed about the issue. “It’s not an exaggeration,” Tracey writes, “to say that if she had taken the easy step of backing legalization, enough young, minority and even libertarian-leaning voters might have turned out to boost her margins in key states, including Michigan.”
But looking ahead, “Odds are good that the 2020 Democratic nominee will be an unabashed marijuana legalization supporter.”
Then again, as we suggested a few days ago, Donald Trump could easily take the issue off the table by ordering the Justice Department to leave pot enforcement up to the states. Doing so would give millennials one less reason to vote against him.
Meanwhile, what Tracey calls “one of the most consequential political trends of the era” continues to have enormous investment implications. And it’s not too late to jump aboard.
In fact, our penny pot stock authority Ray Blanco says this next week is an ideal time to act — for reasons he lays out when you follow this link.
Go figure: The U.S. stock market is staging a modest rally on a day when by all rights the relentless selling should accelerate.
At the close yesterday, the Dow and the S&P 500 had (once again) erased all their year-to-date gains, with the so-called FAANG stocks like Apple leading the way.
This morning brought word that Foxconn — Apple’s biggest assembler of iPhones — is slashing $2.9 billion in costs thanks to a “difficult and competitive year.” Another bad omen for big tech, right?
In addition, the major economic number of the day was a massive disappointment. Durable goods orders fell 4.4% in October, compared with expectations of a 2.5% drop. Even if you throw out the volatile aircraft and military sectors, the number was a bummer — flat, compared with expectations for a 0.3% jump.
And yet… The Dow is up half a percent as we write, the S&P 500 is up three-quarters of a percent and the Nasdaq is up well over 1%. Even AAPL is eking out a slight gain on the day.
Gold is up a few bucks at $1,227. Crude, which hit a 13-month low yesterday, is recovering smartly to $54.34 after the weekly inventory numbers from the Energy Department. Next week, we’ll have a thing or two to say about oil’s wild swings this year.
It being the day before Thanksgiving, we’re compelled to engage in our periodic ritual of dunking on one of the most useless economic numbers in existence.
The National Retail Federation projects holiday spending by consumers will jump 4.1% this year compared with last year.
You know how they come up with that number? They stop people in malls — asking them how much they spent last year and how much they plan on spending this year.
Off the cuff, do you remember how much you spent on the holidays last year? How likely is it the number in your head would square up with the one in your checkbook? Yeah.
Longtime friend of The 5 Barry Ritholtz, money manager and Bloomberg columnist, points out the track record of this survey — dutifully reported by the mainstream year after year — is horrendous. (A year after the Panic of 2008, the 2009 survey projected a 43% drop in sales from 2008; in reality sales registered a 3% increase.)
“Investors who don’t enjoy losing money,” Ritholtz wrote in 2013, “should ignore the media coverage of these misleading, inaccurate surveys with extreme prejudice.”
Another holiday number we always give the side-eye — the typical cost of Thanksgiving dinner as reckoned by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Every year, the trade group dispatches about 150 volunteer shoppers across the land to check grocery-store prices of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberries and so on. Conclusion? Feeding 10 people will cost an average $48.90 this year — allegedly down 22 cents from last year.
On a long-term view, the number has held relatively steady since a 13% jump in 2011.
Right. As we point out most every year, it’s in the Farm Bureau’s interest to come up with a lowball estimate made possible by factory-farmed turkey and store-bought pie crust — or as a reader told us in 2016, “a Monsanto-laced GMO special Thanksgiving dinner that glows under a blacklight.”
That said, the Farm Bureau’s doing something new this year — a separate survey of prices from the more popular food delivery services. The convenience comes at a 60% premium over the “regular” cost.
In any event, we reiterate what we say any time we pass along the official inflation numbers: Any resemblance to your own cost of living is purely coincidental.
“A standing ovation for Monday’s edition on freedom of speech and of the press,” a reader writes. “Love The 5. No ‘buts.’”
“Dave, you hit a home run,” writes a second. “Thomas Jefferson would be proud that you and others at Agora are still manning the rampart of freedom. I mean it.”
“Thank you for the eloquent, courageous and spot–on essay dedicated to freedom of the press and specifically the insiders’ war against Julian Assange,” writes a third.
“Our elites loathe having their collusive, dirty deals exposed and being embarrassed by truth. It is truly sad that Mr. Assange has been and will be further punished for simply filtering and disseminating information that we the sheeple were not supposed to have ever learned.
“I’m guessing that your essay will generate some angry replies with feigned outrage using the usual echo-chamber talking points. Then again, I’m hoping that most 5–ers are still free thinking enough to appreciate what I believe to be one of the finest 5s since its inception.”
Well, as long as you brought it up (and we suspect the outrage is sincere and not feigned)…
“Julian Assange does not have ‘immunity’ (to hide behind our witless Constitution) to commit high treason by working in league with our arch enemies (Russia), to expose our sensitive information, especially to use it against us, to attack an American politician.
“Forget arrest, a CIA hit should be sanctioned for him. He is the worst terrorist alive, akin to Osama bin Laden.”
Back to our fellow terrorist sympathizers: “I just can’t tell you how delighted I am that you too defend Assange and understand the threats to the First.
“All my old friends have bought into Hillary’s game, people whose own parents were threatened by McCarthyism.
“Thank you for being a rare voice of sanity and reason.”
On the subject of the unholy alliance between big government and big tech — and the threat that poses to freedom of expression — a reader writes…
“The problem isn’t the government or diabolical libtard techies from California. The problem is and always has been all the other slaves.
“They grow a special fondness for the terms of their bondage — to the point that it becomes the only thing they know, to the point that they’ve forgotten that they volunteered into the system. All one has to do is stop volunteering to use the platforms… deface yourself, leave the twits to themselves and use a different search engine, for goodness’ sake! Find a different way.”
The 5: Easier said than done, we daresay.
Few people remember anymore… but long ago, Amazon hosted WikiLeaks on its nascent cloud-computing platform, Amazon Web Services.
Then WikiLeaks became a household word with the State Department cables and the “collateral murder” video, and Amazon kicked WikiLeaks off AWS in late 2010.
Officially, Amazon said WikiLeaks had violated AWS’ terms of service. But the move came only 24 hours after Amazon got a nastygram from Sen. Joe Lieberman, then chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
We recall a few people gave up their Amazon accounts at the time. Daniel Ellsberg, of Pentagon Papers fame, was among those calling for a boycott. The Antiwar.com website took part in the boycott, removing its Amazon affiliate link from its homepage.
The boycott went nowhere. And under pressure from its readers and donors, Antiwar restored its Amazon link in early 2011. “The reason is simple,” wrote chief columnist Justin Raimondo: “It was dumb to boycott just Amazon when practically every banking institution and every hosting service in the country was caving in to pressure to refuse services to WikiLeaks.”
But in the years since, Amazon has looked less like a victim and more like a collaborator. In 2013, Amazon Web Services signed a $600 million deal with the CIA. This year, AWS is in line to snag a much bigger $10 billion deal with the Pentagon; the bidding specifications are such that AWS appears to be the only company that could possibly qualify. More than one observer has pointed out it’s no coincidence that one of Amazon’s new headquarters will be in Northern Virginia.
Amazon is in deep with the Deep State — far more than was the case eight years ago. Meanwhile, the Amazon affiliate link remains on Antiwar’s homepage…
“Not surprised the subscriber count is going down on MoviePass,” writes our final correspondent.
“My sister and her friend are longtime die-hard users. Saw a movie every week. Then the pass quit working. They called and got it reinstated on a movie-by-movie basis for a while and then it quit altogether.
“So if they block your access, then I guess it makes average usage go down…”
The 5: Genius, huh?
It’s hard not to think that MoviePass is to the FAANG phenomenon what Pets.com was to the dot-com boom 20 years ago.
And yet… pet food is sold online all the time now, and not only by Amazon. Just sayin’!
The 5 Min. Forecast
P.S. The markets are closed tomorrow and they’ll trade an abbreviated session on Friday. The Agora Financial offices will be closed both days.
Thus The 5 is going into its usual Thanksgiving-weekend mode. We’ll have our usual wrap-up on Saturday, but otherwise the weekday 5 will return on Monday.