Little Dogs Suck
I don't like little dogs very much. Maybe it stems from the time I got attacked by a five-pound Chihuahua at a sleepover at Donald Prince's house when I was 13.
I mean, it was about as far from life threatening as you can get. The family thought it was hilarious as I bolted up the stairs to get away from the little yapping bastard. I'm a forgiving guy; I laughed, too. The incongruity of me running in near panic from that little dog probably did look pretty funny...
We drank beer in Donald's room that night and threw the bottles out the window, so I was never invited back. And it might've been for the best, because I know I only had patience for the dog to come at me two, maybe three more times. And then I'd say, "You know what, little dog? I'm just going to kick you in the face."
Maybe that's what happened last Thursday when we fired a hellfire at the Iranian convoy driving Soleimani from the Baghdad airport. Iran's been doing a lot of yapping lately. Maybe it was due for a kick in the face.
I'm just back from a little R&R in Mexico. And I'm also recovering from a crazy flu I got there that hit on New Year's Eve. I was still delirious with fever on Thursday. So I played catch-up over the weekend.
The big knock on this assassination — and let's not pussyfoot around, this was an assassination — is that it's another example of Trump going wingnut and implementing policy on a whim. Additionally, it pushes a potentially dangerous opponent toward retaliation that may be aimed at a U.S. ally, further isolating the U.S. from its allies.
We've Been Conn(ect)ed
It's not the Cold War anymore. This asymmetric warfare stuff challenges and changes the concept of deterrence. Proxy militias holed up in other countries ready and willing to do some really nasty stuff — how do you fight that? How do you fight sleeper terrorist cells? What is Iran's Quds Force?
If Iran is taking military/terrorist action by virtue of armed satellite groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and other groups in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq... I read that Iran might be supporting a "militia" of hackers in Bosnia...
Sure, the U.S. could spend untold money and time ferreting out these local militias, collecting evidence, whatever you gotta do... Or maybe a hellfire missile takes out the guy calling the shots for the Quds Force?
Whoever takes Soleimani's job has to be pretty sure there's a drone or two circling overhead with his name on them. Maybe that's what deterrence is now...
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I really don't know the answer to this. But as usual, I do have questions. I watched the talking heads on Sunday say that this assassination raises the stakes of war between the U.S. and Iran. Reporters on the ground were using terms like "razor's edge" to describe the ease with which it could happen...
I'm skeptical. I don't think troops on the ground is where this is headed at all. Because I don't think the ultimate goal here is for the Soleimanis of the world to lead their countries into glorious battle. I think they wanna see their names cheered in the streets for the little victories. It's about power. It's about cult of personality.
Apple, Iran, and the New Cults of Personality
So, like I said, I watched as much weekend news programming as I could stomach to get myself caught up after travelling and the flu. I watched football, too. And I must've seen a hundred of those Apple ads showing how the slo-mo function of an iPhone camera can transform regular folks into rock stars.
We've got people making millions demonstrating toys on YouTube. Targeted ads on Facebook decide elections. The president implements policy via Twitter. Video games will be an Olympic event maybe as soon as 2024. One tweet about Hong Kong from the Houston Rockets GM nearly derailed U.S./China trade talks...
The reach an individual has in today's connected world is simply amazing. All it takes is one viral video and you're an international celebrity. Get a few videos to go viral, and who knows? Maybe you too can carve out your own swath of the Middle East and have new followers flock from across the globe to join you.
And if you're a rich Middle Eastern prince, maybe you get a little audience with a guy like Soleimani, drop a little cash, and see one of your enemies' buildings on fire on the nightly news. People are lining up to see their name (or their enemies') up in lights.
This connected age is also a collective megalomania. We've got billions of little dogs jumping off the porch to run with the big dogs.
In a couple months, we'll be recalling the 20-year anniversary of when the internet bubble burst. This mobile internet-enabled rise of the individual at the expense of the institutions is the defining trend. Facebook and Twitter give you a voice. Comcast/Universal/NBC does not.
I am very keen on the stocks that support the individual, that help the individual manage his/her world. From how we exercise (Peloton) to how we order dog food (Chewy) to how companies interact with us (Twilio) to how we interact with the world (Twitter and Facebook).
I'm not telling you to run out and buy all these stocks right now (though I do like Chewy a lot, and Twitter has been putting in a nice base since that last earnings disaster). But do pay attention to the "cult of personality" stocks. This trend is far from over.
Until next time,
A 21-year veteran of the newsletter business, Briton Ryle is the editor of The Wealth Advisory income stock newsletter, with a focus on top-quality dividend growth stocks and REITs. Briton also manages the Real Income Trader advisory service, where his readers take regular cash payouts using a low-risk covered call option strategy. He also contributes a weekly column to the Wealth Daily e-letter. To learn more about Briton, click here.
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