Episcopalian's Guide to Sex

“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.

“It’s so beautiful when spring comes,” Elizabeth said, respiring heavily, “it’s like falling in love or eating too much chocolate.” Last week, the city threw off the gray overcoat of the long winter and bloomed…

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
Paris, France
May 14, 2001

*** Two bits of good news had a depressing effect on the market on Friday. Consumer sentiment improved in April and retail sales were up. Investors worried that the good news would keep Greenspan & Co. from cutting rates tomorrow.

*** “Consumers are still living beyond their means,” happily observed one financial commentator. Consumer spending rose 3% over the last 2 quarters. But disposable incomes didn’t even rise half as much. They were up only 1.3% over the period.

*** How long can this continue? With more and more layoffs, much higher utility bills, more debts to service… and a rising cost of living – something’s got to give. Schumpeter described what happened to investors and consumers in the period following the ’29 crash. They stood their ground, he said, until, “the ground gave way beneath them.”

*** In all likelihood, Chairman Greenspan still sees enough signs that the economy is struggling to justify lowering interest rates yet again when the FOMC meets tomorrow. Of course, there are plenty of signs to justify not lowering interest rates, too.

*** For example: bonds fell again on Friday. If the bond market is the inflation barometer that many investors believe it to be, then the steadily rising yields on the 10-year bond indicate an inflationary high-pressure system headed our way. The 10-year now yields about 5.45%, the highest in about six months.

*** Both the Dow and the Nasdaq yielded ground on Friday. The Dow fell 89 points while the Nasdaq dropped 21 points. For the week the Nasdaq fell four out of five trading sessions and lost a total of 84 points to finish at 2,107.

*** Scott McNealy, the head of Sun Microsystems, does not talk like a guy who is confident that the worst has passed: “People are claiming that they’re seeing the bottom. I don’t know where they’re getting that data. They certainly didn’t see the cliff, so how in the world can they see the bottom?”

*** “While corporate profits in the United States seem to have reached a peak and will probably continue to disappoint,” writes the DR Blue Team’s Marc Faber from China, “in emerging Asian economies, corporate profits appear to have reached a major low… from which a recovery could actually exceed investors’ expectations.”

*** The latest Fortune magazine cover features a close-up photo of Morgan Stanley Internet analyst Mary Meeker behind the headline, “Can we ever trust Wall Street again?” Here at the Daily Reckoning, we’re tempted to ask: “Whoever trusted it in the first place?”

*** Fortune writes, “Mary Meeker was by far the most important voice for the Internet – and the notion that companies without earnings could transform the world and climb to the moon. That was then. Today Meeker, 41, has become something else entirely: the single most powerful symbol of how Wall Street can lead investors astray. For the past year, as Internet stocks have crumbled and entire companies have vaporized, Meeker has maintained the same upbeat ratings for companies on her list of ‘buys.’ Among the stocks she has never downgraded are Priceline, Amazon, Yahoo, and Freemarkets – all of which have declined between 85 percent and 97 percent from their peak.

*** “What you realize in talking to Meeker is,” continues Fortune, “the extent to which… keeping companies happy and giving investors honest stock advice… are now organically intertwined. She talks unashamedly, for instance, about how she used her research to help land banking deals for Morgan Stanley.”

*** No surprise then that lawyers representing Sagamore Hill Capital Management filed a class- action suit against Amazon, Morgan Stanley and others. Sagamore Hill invested as much as $35 million in Amazon.com convertible bonds, relying on what it claims were “untrue statements” and “omissions of material facts.”

*** The latest numbers from the Labor Dept., you will recall, show that people are working more and producing less. What kind of New Era is this? “The reality of the productivity explosion,” writes Floyd Norris in the NY Times, “was that it was concentrated in the information technology industry. Some of that rise was not real anyway, since the government’s statistical adjustments probably exaggerated the improvements in computers.”

*** But asking bureaucrats about productivity is a little like asking nuns about sex. They know it goes on, but they have no direct experience with it. Instead, it’s just a matter of conjecture…and perhaps a little bit repugnant. More below…

*** “Silver is elegant. Gold, beautiful. But when it comes to power, wealth and prestige, you can’t touch Platinum,” our resource man John Myers writes. “Yearly production is so low, even a small discovery can propel a company from the pink sheets to the front page.” John thinks he’s found a Canadian company ready for the front page. Watch this space…