Episcopalian's Guide To Sex

The Daily Reckoning Presents: A DR Classique originally
broadcast May 14, 2001.

“No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.”

Charlie Rich

Throughout all of Christendom, no group has more
attractive churches – nor more fetching women – than
Episcopalians.

I say this after attending a service at the American
Cathedral of Paris – a huge edifice tarted up in the
ecclesiastical style of the 19th century.

Paris is full of Episcopalians. Sure, there must be
a few Baptists and evangelicals drinking grape juice
in some stifling basement in a bad neighborhood.
But, here on the swanky Avenue George V, hundreds of
Episcopalians (and a few Anglicans) gather each week
– and put on a great show. Episcopalians love Paris.
It is the world’s most beautiful city…and
Episcopalians appreciate it.

Baptists can put up with ugly churches, bad food and
teetotalism. After all, life is just a short passage
on their way to heaven, like a crowded subway car
you take to get to a good restaurant. You don’t mind
standing up for a while, if it leads to a cushy seat
in paradise.

But Episcopalians, unsure of the promise of heaven and
suspicious of the threat of hell, don’t like to
take chances. Enjoy the trip…who knows where it
leads.

Elizabeth and I had dinner at La Rotonde restaurant
at La Muette on Friday night. We sat outside,
admiring the trees, the people, the fragrance of the
nearby park and the soft light of late evening.

On the sidewalk, not far away, a young couple
enjoyed a long kiss, of the sort that would be
described as a “French kiss” in America. The whole
city seems alive, aroused, pulsing with new life.

Indeed, Paris is saturated with sex – drenched with
it, as though after a warm spring downpour. Hence,
today’s soggy letter. I know no more about sex than
I do about the stock market. But I have spent more
time thinking about it.

Last week, at the office, for example, sex was
forced upon me. I opened an e-mail which somehow
took me to a porn site. Those clever porno mongers
had figured out not only how to get me there…but
how to keep me. Each click took me to another site –
there was no way out. Finally, after a very long
time, I had to turn my computer off.

If information is really the key to success…people
looking at porn sites must have the best sex lives
of any creatures in history. My brief excursion into
web porno-land invited me to check out “Asian
Hotties”…teenaged something or others and “Yo
Mammas.” Neither race nor age was any barrier. “Old
Ladies” were just a click away at one point. And
another click offered “Animal Acts” (though, I
admit, I saw no place to click for “Vegetable Acts”
nor “Mineral Acts” – suggesting a gap in the market
and an opportunity for someone.)

Even the respectable press is in Full Disclosure
mode. An article in Figaro Magazine shows two
middle-aged Paris intellectuals – a husband and wife
team – in bed. Each has written a bare-all book. His
book features a photo of his wife’s derriere on the
cover. Hers provides readers with a blow-by-blow
chronicle of her sex life.

Sex never seems to go out of style. Still, fashions
change in sex just as they do in the stock market.
When the bull market was at its throbbing climax,
Ted Turner described deal making as “better than
sex.” Now that deals are more difficult to pull
off, sex seems to be making a comeback.

How often should you have sex?

“As often as possible,” comes the mob’s reply. But
Episcopalians realize that quality is more important
than quantity. Ask yourself, which would you prefer:
A single night with Bush foreign policy advisor,
Condoleeza Rice, in a wispy negligee…or a whole
month with “Stormin’ Norman” Schwartzkopf in full
battle gear?

In most Episcopal churches, you would get an even
show of hands for either choice. More is not
necessarily better. Like everything else about sex,
it depends on the context, the details, and the
nuances.

After all, the mechanics of sex are pretty simple –
everything you need to know can be picked up by an
18 year-old in just a few minutes. It’s the romantic
details that really matter. But, like fragile spring
wildflowers, these nuances d’amour are almost
impossible to grow commercially or in an open field.
Instead, they need a little shadow…and the dark of
night. Or they wither in the harsh light of day.

Your Episcopalian correspondent,

Bill Bonner
October 30, 2001 (Originally posted May 14, 2001)

Bill is on his way down to the Bordeaux wine country
this morning and unable to contact us…

He’ll have a report on Thursday.

In the meantime, here’s Eric, in the Big Apple…

*****

Eric Fry in New York:

– Week Three of the War On Terrorism and our bombing
campaign in Afghanistan appears to be testing the
patience of key Islamic allies. The diplomatic damage
wrought so far may not be irreversible, but we’re
quickly heading out into a treacherous no-man’s-land –
and that’s not a great place for America to be if you
are an investor paying 41 times earnings for S&P 500
stocks.

– Just maybe, U.S. investors are both underestimating
the difficulty of our new war against terrorism and
overestimating the prospects for economic recovery…

– You don’t have to be a bear to cut back on U.S. stocks
right now – just chicken will do. More than a few
investors flew the coop yesterday. The Dow slid 275
points to 9,269, while the Nasdaq tumbled nearly 4% to
1,699.

– Investors certainly do not lack for reasons to sell a
stock or two out of their portfolios. In fact, this is
shaping up to be the worst bear market in postwar
history.

– “The bear market in stocks commencing in the first
quarter of 1973 and running through the fourth quarter
of 1974 was THE worst in postwar history,” writes Paul
Kasriel. “Total market capitalization fell by about 48%
during that two-year period. The current bear market,
which commenced in the second quarter of 2000 and was
still in force in the quarter just ended, is running
apace of the 1973-74 debacle…

– But “one of the most important differences to
investors looking ahead is that the stock market
appeared to be significantly undervalued in 1974,
whereas it appears to still be significantly overvalued

in 2001.”

– But there may be a silver lining behind those dreadful
corporate profits. The Daily Reckoning noted last week
that in these uncertain times, companies might begin
building up larger inventories. We cautioned that any
such restocking could weigh on corporate profitability
near-term. But what’s bad for corporate profits may be
good for various commodity producers.

– So far this year, the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index
has fallen 28 percent. And many commodities, like
copper, sit on multi-year lows – victims of collapsing
demand. But a little inventory replenishment here and
there, and pretty soon you’ve got a rally on your hands.

– If at the same time, demand recovers somewhat, then
you’ve got a BIG rally on your hands.

– While keeping an eye on the commodity price trend, it
might be a good idea to keep an eye on the inflation
trend as well. During the first nine months of the year,
the CPI has risen at an annual rate of 2.8%, compared
with a 3.4% increase in all of 2000. But the fall off is
due entirely to falling energy prices. In other words,
the prices of many other items continue to rise.

– Is it not interesting, even mysterious, that the CPI
is not collapsing along with commodity prices? Mr.
Inflation may be napping, but he’s very much with us.

– As commodities trend lower, so have the “basic
materials” stocks like Alcoa Aluminum and Phelps Dodge.
As recently as seven years ago, this sector used to
represent 8% of the S&P 500 index. But now, Morgan
Stanley’s Byron R. Wien points out, the basic materials’
weighting has shrunk to only 2.5% of this index.

– “The relative unimportance of this sector has
virtually removed it from serious consideration by
portfolio managers,” says Mr. Wien, “but that is part of
the opportunity.” He thinks institutional investors may
be missing something.

– “[Morgan Stanley Dean Witter analyst] Wayne Atwell
believes that current conditions are setting metals and
mining up for recovery,” says Wien. “Metals prices are
depressed and drifting down to levels that he believes
will force companies to [shut down] production.” Mr.
Atwell expects more nickel, aluminum, and copper
capacity to be shuttered in the next one to three months
and inventories to be worked down throughout the supply
chain. Fresh on the heels of Mr. Atwell’s prediction,
Phelps Dodge announced that it would slash its annual
output by 16 percent.

– Elsewhere in the commodity complex, natural gas
rallied smartly last week after the American Petroleum
Institute announced a “surprising” drop in inventories.
November natural gas, which had been trading around
$2.70 per million British thermal units, finished the
week over $3.04. The Philadelphia Oil Service Index
jumped 17% last week, and has now soared more than 45%
over the last 30 days. Is this index trying to tell us
something? Maybe there’s less oil and gas around than
most folks think…

*****

Back in Paris…

*** Even a cursory review of the headlines this morning
yields a litany of “negative drivel” presented forthwith
for your amusement…

…layoffs skyrocketed 41% in September…California
reported the largest number of initial claims filed in
mass layoff actions at 54,267…

…Silicon Valley’s “Great Inventory Correction” is well
under way, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Firms
in the area have logged over $1.6 billion in inventory
write-offs this year…and that’s not including the
$2.25 billion already charged off by Cisco…

…Enron, high-tech scion of the old economy, reported a
$1.1 billion loss itself, on gambles outside its core
gas and energy business. Moody’s slashed its credit
rating…

…the FT reports the “surprise” slowdown in the U.S.
economy knocked $30 billion off the Fed surplus…the
House approved the sale of “Freedom Bonds” – a variant
of the WWII war bond – to help pay for its War on
Terrorism…

… yesterday the dollar experienced its worst drop
against the Euro in six weeks…Argentina defaulted over
the weekend on $38 billion in foreign-held debt and
then, says Bloomberg, hired Merrill Lynch to help them
sort out the mess…

…it’s the “‘worst economic downturn’ in 50 years” says
a headline in the BBC, “world on the brink”, says
another. “There are signs of ‘acute economic weakness’
in the euro-zone,” the article reads…”In Japan and
much of Asia – already in recession – there is no
prospect of immediate respite.”

*** hmmmn…good a time as any for Bill to get lost in
wine country, I guess…you’ll find a DR classique
below.