One of the great tragedies of American history is that an incredibly talented Communist, comedian and comic, Zero Mostel, was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era.
If you’re pretty young or just historically challenged, being blacklisted meant that anyone hiring you was at risk of becoming the same unhireable outcast that you had become, because that would be construed as being a communist sympathizer.
There are probably other bad things that happened then, but Communists really were swines among pigs. As bad as the Czars and the Cossacks may have been, Marx’s heirs took their interpretation of the maniifesto to some pretty nasty places, like Minsk.
Communists were our enemy and they were an anathema to everything our freedom loving and capitalistic society stood for. The only thing that was a bigger anathema were the anti-Communists.
By virtue of that blacklisting, the world was deprived of so much of Mostel’s unique talents for so many years. Luckily, we did get “Fiddler on the Roof,” in Broadway and movie releases of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “The Producers” and coincidentally enough, “The Night they Raided Minsky’s.” before the end came.
“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” was one of my favorite movies. It also starred fellow blacklister Jack Gilford and was Buster Keaton’s final screen appearance.
The the song “Comedy Tonight” pretty much sums up all of the ingredients that can move our capitalist markets.
“Old situations, new complications….something erratic, something dramatic…”
Notice, not a single word about “The Beige Book.” or the “Michigan Consumer Sentiment Report.”
Yet today, there were none of those market movers in the mix.
Instead it was “losses tomorrow, profits tonight.”
Forget about red herrings like “Spanish bond sales receive better than expected reception” or “unexpectedly positive multi-family new housing starts.”
No one cares about those things anymore.
Seriously, we’ve gotten so far removed from actually caring about real economic data. I don’t know why they even bother with that stuff. We all know that the real Ben Bernanke was entombed years ago, as there’s no longer a need for central banking, but we still go through the motions of questioning his hologram a few times each year in front of congressional committees.
Today, the reality was that there was only one thing responsible for the sustained 300+ point gain.
And that was the news of the death of an anachronism.
The leader of communist North Korea, Kim Jong-Il, who was reportedly the single greatest customer of Hennessey Cognac, something that clearly would have bought a sneer of consternation to the eyes of Comrade Lenin, was dead.
As news came of his death, it also became known that Great Leader’s son, Dear Leader, will repose in the same manner as Vlad the Czar Slayer, in a glass enclosed case. Actually. by all reports Kim Jong-Il was small enough that perhaps he could fit into a cognac bottle.
That would make the roadshow for the Initial Public Offering of the Great Leader much easier and would have been perfect time for the release of Zynga’s new game “Kim Jong-Ilville.
Delightful image. At least the Russian heirs to the Soviet Union had the good sense to finally remove Lenin from his display of honor.
But with a 300 point gain in the market on Tuesday there really was nothing besides an historic death that could be pointed toward as being the culprit for the much whispered and anticipated melt-up.
As welcome as the death of a pariah may be, at least equally welcome is yet another day of absence of European news and rumors of news. Another day of respite from discussion of Hungarian mortgage arbitrage with the Forint and Swiss Franc and the fear that Germany would withdraw from the EU.
In the absence of anyything interesting coming from the other side of the pond lately, I’ve been finding myself in a ranting mood even though I’ve been pretty pleased with the portfolio tally at the closing bell.
The need to rant has been so strong that I couldn’t even bring myself to write about today’s trades.
If you have the slightest interest you’ll have to go to the Portfolio Transaction page to see what I was up to today.
Last week it was all about Dennis Gartman and his position on Gold.
Today he clarified his position by announcing “I’m neutral on gold at this point.”
Not to beat a dead horse, but “at this point” doesn’t do his clients any good for that wonderful period before “this point” when he cut them at the kneecaps.
Today, what really fascinated me was all of the discussion about how great the breakup of the AT&T buyout of Deutsche Telecom’s T-Mobile division was going to be for American Tower.
Fortunately, despite the fact that I often joke about my failing memory, that’s not really the case.
During my first week of blogging, back in April, I mentioned how I had cash available from having had my shares of American Tower assigned.
What was also mentioned was what spurred me to purchase shares of American Tower, which was a stock that I’d heard about in previous years from listening to Jim Cramer during the early days of Mad Money.
What spurred the purchase was the unanimous opinion among the experts that the proposed buyout was going to be very bad for American Tower, due to the presence of both T-Mobile and At&T dishes on many cell towers.
The obvious conclusion was that there would be no need for duplication of dishes, so American Tower would be losing leasing revenue.
Sure enough the conventional wisdom casued a kneejerk reaction and shares plummeted and stayed at those depths for the better part of a day.
On that day I purchased shares and immediately sold calls. The shares were assigned a few weeks later and I never had reason to pick up shares again.
In fact, as much as I hate to shamelessly promote my book, Option to Profit, the AMerican Tower events was used as an example if an opportunity created due to a market over-reaction.
What was most amazing was that just a few days after the consensus opinion, Morgan Stanley came out with an “overweight” position on AMT shares.
Aren’t you glad you pay for an expert?
Well, wouldn’t you know it, now that the buyout is scuttled, the same “Talking Heads” are pushing the thesis that this is great news for American Tower.
Same thesis. Different direction.
Today, American Tower was up about 4.5% compared to 3% for the S&P 500. Pretty impressive, although on Monday American Tower fell by nearly the same amount, well outpacing the S&P on that day.
Obviously, unlike the Dear Leader, I have no clue what the future holds, but i do know that the thesis was wrong the first time around, so I don’t have exceptionally high hopes for a turnaround performance this time.
The other thing that I know with great certainty is that if this had happened on the Pyongyang, after Gartman received his just punishment, something quite severe would have been meted out to the analysts and to those responsible for the analysts having their jobs.
There’s a good chance that whoever supplied the paper on which the analysis was printed would have been punished, as well.
Zero Mostel on the other hand, would have sung a song, cracked a few jokes and then proceeded to sell your shares back to you and those same shares to 20 of your closest friends.
So you tell me. Capitalist or Communist?
In the many years following the death of Zero Mostel the tragedy of the injustice toward him has receded into memory while his art continues to entertain, even though he was never officially rehabilitated.
Kim Jong-Il’s rehabilitation started today and he’s off to a great start for which your portfolio can be grateful.
Long die Dear Leader.