My father invented the crouton and my mother is a belly dancer. Very. Weird. More on that in a minute...
In the early 90's, I was one of the first guys on my block to buy a computer. I am not proud of how I did that. I traded a 1972 Cadillac Eldorado convertible with a 500 motor for 3500 bucks to buy that computer. I have had to get ok with that knuckleheaded move for 20 years or so. Back in those days, there were no "browsers." You loaded every address by hand before the Netscape browser landed. When the first browser became available, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
The point to all of this- is that computers- place the world at your fingertips. An incredible amount of information, truthful and untruthful, can be found on a computer screen. Sometimes it is difficult to separate the truth from bullshit.
There are a few things that I am very good at. (1) Gambling in various forms which includes buying and selling (short) stocks and options. (2) I am a pretty fair judge of personal character and in so doing- I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. I really believe that most people are good people or at worst, simply misunderstood. (3) I am also very adept at spotting self absorbed people, liars, and charlatans. Fakes. I think my instincts for that came about as a result of listening to thousands upon thousands of liars for 25 years- some very good at the art. In fact, lying is so prevalent in our society that I believe that deceiving people became an epidemic long ago- probably in the 60's. Lying and dishonesty have become the American way of life. I do not think I am overstating this, in fact, that's why I recently changed subtitles on this blog. One caveat here- just because I've identified someone as a liar or most likely dishonest- does not mean that I will dislike them. (please see 2 above) I have grown old with dishonesty, I'm ok with it, and I no longer take it personally. However, I do perform due diligence on questionable statements that are important to me.
The other day I had a reader give me a link to a website run by a man named Mike Stathis. According to that website, Mike Stathis is a genius. He has accurately predicted every financial turn and whim since 2007. He has written many books and one of them is so good that it was actually "banned." Why would anyone ban a book written by a modern day Nostradamus? Who can ban the truth? I find all that very hard to believe but that's what his website says.
I toured Stathis' website and I began to look for credentials. Wiki no longer contains biographic material- in fact- the current wiki entry for Stathis reads like an ad written by Stathis himself which is quite possible to do given wiki's rules. Here is a wiki entry (2011) before the biographic cleansing took place. From Wiki:
Mike Stathis was born Moshe Stakinsky in Telaviv Israel in 1956. His
father, who invented the crouton, was a recent immigrant from
Czechoslavokia. His mother was a belly dancer of international repute,
her stage name Le BelliBouton. He is a distant relative of
Benjamin Hyman Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank (USA) as
his father's brother was Bernanke's sister's music teacher. Stathis
graduated the Hebrew High School in Telaviv and then attended the Kosher
Cooking Institute of Jerusalem, graduating in 1978 with high honors in
dinner pastries [B.C. summa cum blintzes]. ....He is presently employed
as an expert commentator on monetary policy and the economy by several
mainstream internet news outlets.
Just because your dad invented croutons and your mother belly dances- does not mean that you cannot be an economic Nostradamus.
Read that last line on the wiki bio. Do you sense bullshit? "an expert commentator" on
"monetary policy" by "several" un-named news outlets. So who are those
internet news outlets? That lack of specificity equals bullshit. That is what I call "weasel" language. Facts and the truth should always be easily verifiable.
Here is Mr. Stathis' site. http://www.avaresearch.com
Let me tell you a little story. In 2007, I had a jumbo mortgage originator (a million+) friend of mine tell me that the entire financial sector (banks) was going to collapse. He had all the inside info from places like Countrywide and IndyMac. This dude knew his shit and he knew how bad the banks were fucking up. Unfortunately when he told me all of this- he was blind ass drunk at a neighborhood party and I being a somewhat sober dude- thought he was overstating the position. Here is the lesson. Just because someone is blind ass drunk does not mean they don't know what they are talking about. Mark made gobs of money on the 2008 collapse. He was telling the truth. I couldn't capitalize on his information because I dismissed it as "drunk" talk. Too bad for me.
I have a process for weeding out bullshit and identifying liars quickly. Often, I find myself way out in front of everyone else. People often accuse me of being quick to judge others. Many years ago, when the idiot Bill Clinton got on national news to proclaim his innocence regarding Monica Lewinsky, I instantly knew he was lying. Hillary is just as bad as Bill, maybe even worse. Barack Obama is a different kind of liar. He likes to obstruct ( belittle, condemn, and make light of any accuser) ignore valid accusations (refuse to validate them) and then change subjects. That is his modus operandi. That is who he is. Watch him in the coming months. I guarantee that's how he will treat the myriad of scandals coming out of D.C. These are merely well known examples and illustrations and that's why I've used them here.
So how do you sort out fact from fiction on the internet? Snopes? Factcheck? Sometimes. The problem of course is the sheer volume and myriad of lies and deceptions that we are all confronted with on a daily basis. Most of the time they are harmless lies- and sometimes- they cost us dearly.
Here then is how I sort through all of today's charlatans and bullshit. First off, I question any speaker's motive privately and I am never predisposed to any assumption. For example, if someone is telling me something I ask myself the simple question, "What does the speaker gain if I buy in?" If you are Mike Stathis selling doomsday books- the answer is book sales and money. If you are Paul Craig Roberts- the answer is nothing. Paul Craig Roberts writes his blog and asks for nothing in return.
After I have satisfied that question, I can move on because this is an incremental process.
I know geniuses without credentials. If you are simply relying on credentialing to determine whether someone is lying or not- you would be wrong a significant amount of the time. However, if you try to find credentialing and cannot (degrees, work experience, success) that should be a cause for concern. If someone has no degree or a degree in anthropology but is trying to convince me that building 7 was a controlled demolition- I investigate allegations like that on my own.
Never, ever, assume anything. Because just about the time you conclude something based on a single piece of information or an assumption- you will be wrong.
Writers or speakers who cannot admit making mistakes or serious flaws tend to get my attention. When was the last time you heard some ego driven maniac like Obama or Hillary admit that they screwed up? The answer is never. They see self honesty and self disclosure as a huge and fatal flaw. They will always try to present themselves as perfect. Maybe they actually think they don't make mistakes.
The inability to perceive yourself as flawed is almost sociopathic.
Imagine for a moment if Bill Clinton had gotten on TV way back when and announced to the world that he had been involved in an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Imagine just telling the truth. The whole nation would have felt sorry for him and for her and the whole incident would have blown over in a week or two.But instead Clinton got on TV and lied to the nation. Absolutely shameless. Sociopathic.
Last but surely not least- I spent countless hours reading every book and article that I could get my hands on which dealt with body language and non verbal behavior. Not only did I absorb and commit everything to memory- I found a serious downside to all of it. I began to identify and confront people who I caught lying. Sometimes I was wrong. Over the years I have learned to just listen, watch, and be quiet.. Mostly when I hear someone spinning some fantastic yarn nowadays- I just let it be. I have to. I would drive myself crazy confronting all of the bullshit I read, hear, or see on a daily basis. I just don't have that kind of energy to waste.
Is Mike Stathis a financial genius? I doubt it.
I don't think it takes Nostradamus to know that the dollar's days are numbered or that this stock market is going to collapse. I tend to give greater weight to people like Yves at naked capitalism or authors/investigators like William K Black. These are real people with real credentials who are well aware of what a sham our economy is. There are a number of legitimate authors, writers, and investigators out there who are simply trying to educate people and build consensus.
I am not here trying to sell anybody anything. I have been wrong about many things- like how long the powers that be could continue to hide the fact that this country is bankrupt. Shit. I even thought Denver could cover the spread against Seattle.
The best any of us can do is try to uncover the truth and prepare accordingly. I think that's why most of us are here. We exchange information. The people with the best and most accurate information are the ones who are going to carry some wealth forward and survive the coming shit storm. I think a few of us know that they can't keep kicking the debt can down the road forever.