7 No Trumps – November 27th 2016

Playing bridge, backgammon or chess is not dissimilar to “playing” the markets. Every new hand, board or day brings something different; a new auction, a new gambit, a new strategy. However, in the world in which we find ourselves the markets have an unseemly edge; they are not always what they appear to be at first sight. The conspiracy theorists have been roundly derided, but then we find that LIBOR is being rigged, gold and silver are being manipulated, banks have sold worthless bonds and we suspect much other skull duggery besides. The “culprits” have been fined and a few scapegoats have gone to jail; known, in current day parlance, as “the cost of doing business”.

The media have barely raised a sweat in reporting these “misdemeanors”. For many outside the banking “cartel” LIBOR is probably a second derivative of Trebor a well know mint confection in the UK. Much of the interest these souls pay on their mortgages and credit card loans is based on LIBOR rates, so perhaps they should be more concerned. But no, life goes on in a virtual reality world created by the media enterprises and their not insubstantial backers.

The latest “news” is that there is a lot of “fake news” being reported. How else would the Don have become president elect and the Brits have voted for Brexit? And it’s all being funded by those pesky Ruskies, apparently. No I am not making it up but somebody is! Blame anyone but yourself… Let’s have a recount and a riot or two instead; ask yourself who’s funding that. The media have so brain washed the great unwashed that folk are losing the ability to think for themselves.

And one wonders whether we would have turned the White House into Trump Towers or voted for Brexit – or indeed joined the “Common Market” in the first place, if we had thought for ourselves and been able to base our decisions on reliable information and data rather than the Animal Farm rhetoric we have today. If only…rational thought is but a dream in a world of breakfast TV and “reality” game shows; and a dream held most dear by the classical economists who are still there, as ever, in Neverland.

We alluded earlier to markets where the playing field is often an uphill struggle; sometimes, but not always of our own making. In the world of bridge, “underhand” behaviour is much frowned upon, but it happens. In the original edition of “Moonraker”, the third book in Ian Fleming’s series of fourteen “classics”, Bond is tasked with finding out why a member of M’s club is winning so consistently on the bridge tables. He is cheating of course and Bond palms, and deals, a rigged deck so that Drax, the villain, can be taught a lesson. For the bridge aficionados, have a quick web search and you will find the hand and how it was played. He opens the auction with 7 clubs, an unlikely pre-emptive bid, Drax doubles the bet, Bond redoubles and Drax loses the then princely sum of £25,000; the price of doing business has risen substantially since then!

Today the hand would have been played in 7 No Trumps. That would be a “No” from each of the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian, Channel Four News, the Economist, the Washington Post and CNN. Ask yourself how could they have got it so wrong? How indeed and who said fake news? Come on own up!

Clive Hale –The View from the Bridge – November 27th 2016

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