By now most of us know the story of Captain Bligh and the mutiny that occurred during his watch on the HMS Bounty. It's a fascinating tale of men being pushed to the brink by a tough-as-nails and by-the-book taskmaster in an era of immense England pride toward its navy. Captain Bligh might be seen as a jerk in current society where discipline is a four letter word, but back then ship captains were the last and only word.
After being set adrift by most of the crew of the Bounty, Bligh and loyal sailors navigated to Timor against major odds. After getting back home to England, Bligh returned to the seas to bring back those mutineers. But the legend of William Bligh wasn't over yet and neither were his miraculous life and death power struggles.
Picked for his toughness, Bligh was picked to be new governor of New South Wales in 1805. The colony was like the wild west of America and even its army New South Wales Corps clashed with governors and their rules.
On the voyage, Bligh captained a smaller ship that was part of the convey ships. It didn't take long before Bligh clashed with the Capitan of the lead ship. At one point that captain shot a cannonball over Bligh's ship and when that didn't work ordered Bligh's son-in-law to shoot him. Well, very shortly thereafter Captain Bligh boarded the lead ship to relieve its captain of duty and once they arrived also took away land rights to 40 acres.
Once in place as governor, Bligh began implementing rules that upset the military although made farmers happy in part because these farmers had been extortion victims, overpaying for lots of things including rum. There was an eventual showdown and Bligh was deposed as governor in an armed coup. Yes, the folks he was supposed to have domain over took him to prison and stripped him of power.
Eventually Bligh was reinstated and those responsible for his humiliating removal from office returned to England for punishment. The main antagonists were given very light sentences in recognition that Bligh might have come down on them too hard. But, William Bligh was also promoted to rear admiral although he never again commanded a ship.
Today, there seem to be serious battles of wills in all facets of life, especially in business and politics.
A guy sets up a funky little clothing shop in Houston in 1973 selling polyesters socks and shirts, then 40 years later he is deposed by his board of directors and hand-picked CEO. Apparently, George Zimmer was looking to sell Men's Wearhouse but everyone else in management had other ideas, so that gave the guy with the cool voice a not-so-cool kick in the pants. Now Zimmer is channeling the spirit of Captain Bligh, plotting his triumphant return. No word on whether he'll make the new CEO walk the plank if he's successful.
A couple missed free throws got the Miami Heat another championship but Mickey Arison couldn't have been too happy yesterday. The board of Carnival Cruise split the two top jobs. Now, Mickey is the Chairman of the board and Arnold Donald is CEO. The later has extensive experience as an executive and founder Merisant, the maker of Equal sugar substitute. Mickey has an amazing track record until recently when it seemed each week there was another disaster and embarrassment. Consider, however, when he took over in 1979 and the company had three ships and $44.0M a year in revenue.
Today the company has 100 ships and $15.0B a year in revenue.
I'll Do It My Way
On the political front, President Obama played his best Bligh imitation, laying out the implementation of new climate change rules. While I'm sure he probably thought he had more in common with Frank Sinatra, aka Chairman of the Board, but Old Blue Eyes was too cool to sell his message by "dissing" others.
In addition to taking shots at those of us in the Flat Earth Society, President Obama pointed out his intent to kill coal and to pay the expenses of poor nations around the world to keep up with his vision.
(Emerging nations are coming on strong economically and would be nuts to eschew coal and fossil fuels in favor of wind and solar that will not be able to power their ambitions. There will be a payment from the government to make up the difference -a payment that could add up to hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars).
This is how it shakes out. Americans will lose hundreds of thousands of jobs, capacity to power the country to compete with those nations still burning coal, and transfer billions of dollars into the hands of elite solar power operators. This is going to be a disaster, although the reality is that coal has to be used for now or there wouldn't be any power. But the die is cast and maximum damage is the order of the day. Natural gas should rally through the roof, and global demand for coal means all our efforts will not put a dent in pollution.
By the way, back in the day those that believed in a flat earth were the overwhelming majority. They would be equal to all those scientists, recording artist, movie stars and self-proclaimed smart people that never sat on a pier watching ships become smaller as they traversed the curve of the planet. These days it's people that think there are a lot of factors for warming, and it's not a brand new phenomenon.
Moreover, it will probably be followed by a few thousand years of cooling. Maybe these modern day mutineers from conventional wisdom shouldn't be written off or belittled by the captain of our nation.
The worst post recession recovery continues to disappoint as first quarter GDP has officially come in below 2.0% to 1.8% as consumer spending, services, business structure investment, exports and imports were far less than initial thought. The news underscores the lone vibrant spot in the economy-housing, which wouldn't be robust without the investment community.
I'm not sure how this news impacts the Fed, but it's hard to argue the economy is strong. We can say it's floating along like driftwood, but that's never what America has been all about. Our economy is designed to be a super tanker with turbo power, and it's been long enough after the last wreck to be a powerhouse again.
That being said, the Fed cannot remove the punch bowl anytime soon, and I've said already it will not be any time this year. Yesterday the market edged higher on "good" news, so what will it do today on decidedly "awful" news?
I think we move higher again.