Apple Inc.’s Mango Groves (Huh?!)

  • Media malpractice: The humanitarian outrage committed by Trump Obama
  • The business press’ strange priorities (All hail Apple’s mangoes!)
  • Budget crisis averted, political sham exposed
  • Who was trying to smuggle gold bars out of Venezuela?
  • The self-sorting of Americans, by politics and consumer products.

It was shocking news that hit the wires on Monday. And it was bogus.

AFP News Agency Migrant Children

“More than 100,000 children,” the story reported, “are currently being held in migration-related detention in the United States, often in violation of international law, the U.N. said Monday.”

The story was reported by France-based AFP — one of the “Big Three” Western news agencies along with the U.S.-based Associated Press and U.K.-based Reuters. Nearly every news outlet relies on at least one of these three providers to supplement their own original coverage. (Even your favorite “conservative” site.) Their reach can’t be overstated.

On Tuesday came the retraction. Or should we say, the dumping into the memory hole.

“AFP is withdrawing this story,” the newswire stated on Twitter. “The author of the report has clarified that his figures do not represent the number of children currently in migration-related US detention, but the total number of children in migration-related US detention in 2015. We will delete the story.”

There’s only one plausible explanation for a blunder of this magnitude: A big honking number seemed to reinforce a narrative, in this case about Donald Trump and migrants.

But the fact this humanitarian outrage occurred under Barack Obama? It must be buried.

Those of us who aren’t caught up in political tribalism remember when Obama was in office — and when principled leftists and libertarians accurately labeled him “the deporter in chief.” These days, folk who remind us of such inconvenient facts are accused by centrist liberals of “purity politics” and “whataboutism.” Or even of being in the tank for Russia.

Your editor has ranted periodically in recent months about the conduct of Big Media — a cri de coeur against a media culture that became hopelessly corrupted over the 20 years I worked in the business, to say nothing of the 12 years since I left.

Today, however, we’re joined by one of my distinguished colleagues with his own unique take.

“Ever since a Wired magazine cover story last year — identifying a 14-year-old Mexican girl as the ‘next Bill Gates’ — I have had enormous respect for the extrasensory powers of the mainstream media,” says George Gilder, tongue firmly in cheek.

George came aboard this summer at Agora Financial as our resident futurist. He’s the fellow who showed President Ronald Reagan a microchip and told him it would change the world. A few years later, in 1990, he wrote a book called Life After Television — anticipating the advent of the smartphone. (He called it a “teleputer,” but still — pretty good!)

When George decided to return to the newsletter biz after a decade’s hiatus, he sought to reacquaint himself with what the mainstream was reporting about his specialties — innovation and entrepreneurship. He did so to remind himself of his mission — to find the real story, off the beaten path, the story where the real riches are.

What did he find?

For starters, there was Fast Company’s annual issue spotlighting the “100 Most Creative People” in business.

George read the whole thing. “The most creative person, it seems, is Lisa Jackson — the lawyer who ran the EPA under Obama.

“She’s the one who banned carbon nanotubes in all consumer products. That move put my favored investment Seldon Labs out of business. We had a carbon nanotube-based water filter that was deemed good enough to be used by special forces in Afghanistan. Yet it fell short of Jackson’s standards for the U.S.

“From this triumph, Jackson has now moved on to Apple, creatively guiding a campaign to reduce their carbon footprint. In that effort, she is steering them toward investments in mango groves in Latin America.

“Pretty creative! Apple is apparently returning Silicon Valley to its original role growing fruit products.”

How about Forbes — the “capitalist tool” as it was known in its pre-internet heyday, when the late Malcolm Forbes was flying his hot-air balloons?

“I have written for them for some 45 years,” says George. “They will not let me down now.”

Alas, “their cover story was on the ascendant business empire of tennis star Serena Williams.

“Yes, at the same time China is implementing the Belt and Road Initiative and new space breakthroughs and 100 new cities — and boasts three times more IPOs than the United States… we have Serena’s fashions and forehand.”

George’s stack of reading material only got worse from there.

There was the Sunday New York Times business section with its feature story about a transgender employee at Goldman Sachs. Interesting, perhaps, but not especially useful if you’re trying to figure out where and how to invest.

Barron’s, meanwhile, had a cover story called “Easy Money Is Back.”

“I pummeled my head,” says George, “trying to recall some moment of ‘hard money’ madness. My mind blanked. There’s been nothing but easy money in our recent history of zero real interest rates around the world, with some $17 trillion of actual negative rates.

“The mainstream media are virtually worthless as a guide to investment,” George concluded — reinforcing what he already knew.

“They are preoccupied with a bankrupt Keynesian economic theory, an ingenious campaign to blame conservatives for bad weather and endless rotation of the kaleidoscopes of social issues.

“This is what separates us from the mainstream press. Rather than looking back, we will always have our eyes on the future of technology innovation — along with the best ways to profit from emerging megatrends.”

The megatrend George is most keen on right now, which you won’t hear about from the mainstream? It’s as mega as you can imagine: The internet as we know it is doomed.

If you or someone you love uses online banking… or smartphone apps… or social media… or if you have any money at all invested in Silicon Valley… George urges you to give this a look right away.

“Today’s internet cannot survive,” he tells us. “The next new paradigm could impact over $16.8 trillion in the world economy. And you could get very rich as it does.

“I’m talking about a looming ‘GLOBAL REBOOT’ that could change everything about how you interact with all kinds of digital technology, including how you earn money, spend money and invest your money for retirement.”

Did he mention the part about getting very rich? Follow this link to find out how. There’s no long video to watch.

Another day, another splotch of red for the major U.S. stock indexes.

They took a tumble yesterday afternoon after the president said U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods might jump if a “phase one” trade deal doesn’t get done.

The gloom has carried over into today. Dow 28,000 is a memory with the Big Board at 27,733 at last check. The S&P 500 is back below 3,100 and the Nasdaq back below 8,500.

Gold languishes at $1,468. Crude has perked up, back above $58 — on the high end of its trading range the last two months.

For the record: A “partial government shutdown” will not begin today.

We mention this only because a few weeks ago we said it was a live possibility if Congress and the White House couldn’t come to terms on a new budget.

Well, they didn’t come to terms on a new budget, but they did agree to a “continuing resolution” that kicks the can down the road till Dec. 20. The House approved it Tuesday and the Senate will likely approve it today.

Buried in that legislation, by the way, is a three-month renewal of the 2001 Patriot Act — ensuring Donald Trump continues to retain all the surveillance authority held by Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

All but 10 Democrats voted for the legislation. “Very cool way to resist Trump by ensuring he continues to have terrifying authoritarian surveillance powers,” said a snarky tweet from Evan Greer of the digital rights group Fight for the Future.

Given the overwhelming Democratic support for this bill, there are only two possible conclusions…

  1. Democrats don’t really believe their own rhetoric about Trump as an authoritarian-racist-fascist and it’s all for show.

  1. They do believe their own rhetoric, but they’re confident he’s been sufficiently neutered by the deep state that he’s no threat.

As a certain cable news channel used to say, we report, you decide…

Now for a gold story with so many unanswered questions we’re not sure where to begin.

So we’ll begin with the lead to this story from The Miami Herald: “Two Venezuelans charged with smuggling about $5 million worth of gold bars in a private plane to South Florida have cut plea deals with federal prosecutors to gain light prison sentences along with immediate deportation to Venezuela.”

Customs officers figured something was funky back on Sept. 20 when the plane from Caracas landed at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport and they noticed loose rivets on the plane’s nose compartment. They looked inside and found the gold beneath a metal panel.

The pilot has been sentenced to time served, and the passenger will likely get the same. The U.S. government will keep the gold bars. (Surprised?)

Prosecutors say thanks to the economic collapse under Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, there’s a black market in gold to generate U.S. dollars for the basics of life — like food and medicine.

“The prosecutor said the pilot and the partner were secretly hauling the gold for a fee,” the Herald elaborates, “but he declined to say who supplied the bars for the Venezuelan shipment to South Florida.” The defense attorney says only it’s not anyone in the Venezuelan government.

Something stinks to high heaven here — aside from the fact no one wants to identify who owned the bars in the first place (which seems like a relevant detail).

How can these two guys be deported to Venezuela when the U.S. government doesn’t even acknowledge the Maduro regime’s authority?

As you might recall, since January, Washington has recognized the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the president of Venezuela. Not that he, you know, lives in the presidential palace or anything — Maduro’s still there.

We’re not going to engage in speculation here. But we know damn well the official story isn’t the full story.

Cultural signpost: The political self-sorting of Americans now extends to their choice of consumer goods and services.

In September we noted how the CEOs of several companies were taking a stand in favor of more gun control. The CEOs of Levi Strauss, Uber and Twitter were among those signing a letter addressed to Senate leaders.

“Longer term,” we said, “it will be interesting to see what gun owners do, if anything. Switch to Wranglers? Take taxis? Stay the hell off Twitter?”

Turns out they’ve been doing so all along, according to The Wall Street Journal. This week, the paper picked apart data from the consumer-research firm MRI-Simmons going back 15 years.

“From 2004–2018, the partisan split within Levi’s customer base to the Democrats grew by 3 percentage points, while Wrangler’s customer base moved 13 percentage points toward the Republicans.”

It’s not just blue jeans, either: Democrats are tilting toward the NBA and Volkswagen, while Republicans are opting more and more for NASCAR and GMC.

For its part, Wrangler isn’t doing anything overtly political. But there’s all the rodeo imagery in its advertising, so its customer base is surely skewing rural and red-state.

The trend is likely to continue. Certainly that’s Nike’s takeaway after using the exiled NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick as a pitchman. As founder Phil Knight told Stanford business students this year, “It doesn’t matter how many people hate your brand as long as enough people love it.”

On that point, everyone would probably agree…

“On the topic of de-dollarization, I don’t think you mentioned the fact that just about all the world’s fiber-optic cables and internet wires have at least some routing through the territory of the United States,” a reader writes.

“So even if the U.S.’ target countries ditch the dollar entirely, it seems like the U.S. could still make life difficult for them. Would not a vast new infrastructure of wiring need to be built that bypasses the territory of the United States, and even possibly all the vassal Five Eyes countries?”

The 5: Good point.

We vaguely recall reading about plans for just such a “splinternet” a few years ago — involving China, Russia and maybe Venezuela. But we can’t find the right keywords to dig up the article just now, and our deadline fast approaches. Maybe another day…

Best regards,

David Gonigam

Dave Gonigam
The 5 Min. Forecast

P.S. One final note from George Gilder today…

“A few years ago, after meeting with presidents…

“After getting featured by Forbes, Fox, Wired and even Playboy

“You might say I ‘stepped out of the tech limelight.’ But when you see what I’ve been up to lately…

“Not only will you be shocked. And maybe even a little nervous…

“You’ll also be amazed. And excited. Because what I’ve spent the last few years researching is a potential worldwide phenomenon that could make you very rich. Follow this link and I’ll show you why.

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam has been managing editor of The 5 Min. Forecast since September 2010. Before joining the research and writing team at Agora Financial in 2007, he worked for 20 years as an Emmy award-winning television news producer.

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