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Area 51 OK; (Market) Area 50? Not Sure


Did you really think I would ignore this? If so I'm disappointed in you, and a little bit in myself.

Because as your risk shepherd, I am duty bound to protect my flock, and anything that threatens my lambs is a matter of solemn priority for me. If I have failed to make this clear, well, that one's on me.

So when the ionosphere exploded with news that aliens were arriving – not the kind that have turned into the biggest political football this side of the Dirty Dossier, but actual space creatures – and the call came forward to meet them head on in the famous (infamous) Air Force testing sight known as Area 51, I was certainly compelled to fully investigate the threat.

For those of you not in the know, the entire episode was socialized on a global basis through that infallible information forum known as Facebook. Late last month, an invitation was posted there to meet these extraterrestrial creatures in desperate engagement, and over 1.5 million patriotic souls answered it. The number is growing, and even now, perhaps hundreds of thousands of our fellows are making arrangements to either countermand the threat, or at least observe the spectacle.

Published reports have subsequently revealed that the whole thing was a hoax, perpetrated, with no malice aforethought, by a clever California resident named Matty Roberts (Matty R to his friends). The United States Air Force has not offered much in the way of comment, other than to: a) assure the public that it has matters under control; and b) warn everyone to just stay away.

But are you really gonna rely on the USAF's word alone? I mean, didn't they leave all those planes as sitting ducks in Pearl Harbor in '41 (strike that; it was the Navy that done that)? True, all of this is transpiring on the Golden Anniversary (plus one day) of our spectacular conquest of the moon, as led by a group of trained Air Force fighter pilots/engineers the likes of which grace us maybe once in a century.


But Armstrong is dead and pilot Mike Collins is living out his last years on an island off the Carolina Coast. Buzz Aldrin is making the rounds, milking his moon walk for all it's worth, and god bless him for that. He's still a feisty sumb!tch, who evokes images of an older version of George C. Scott's portrayal of General Buck Turgidson in the Stanley Kubrick's remarkable film: "Dr. Strangelove". But his wits are wandering, and I just don't feel comfortable trusting his judgment on this here alien invasion thing.

So, consistent with my mandate, I checked out Area 51 myself, located as it is in Lincoln County in the Southernmost portion of the Nevada desert. Didn't see much, and nobody would speak to me. But remember, I've been doing this risk management thing for a long time, and my professional judgment is that there's little to worry about. Earthling technology at its best can only reach Mars in the space of seven months, we have very advanced satellite surveillance, and I can assure you nothing is emanating from that quarter of the solar system. So, worst case, the hundred-eyed devils won't be here for quite a while, and if they can indeed menace us with a speed-of-light invasion, well, then, I don't think there's much that even the marshalling of all of Facebook's 1.2 Billion users (including several million cats) can do about it.

But I was never one to rest on the comforts of a clean, visible horizon. So I decided I'd better check out Area 52. Now, in mathematical (if not geographic) elegance, the Air Force does indeed have such a designation: for an even-more secretive aeronautical testing ground. It also is in Lincoln County, but (like house numbers on the streets of Tokyo) it is not explicitly adjacent to 51. It resides, in fact, to the North and the West, in what is known as the Cactus Flat Valley.

Didn't see nothing of interest there either.

But as long as I was in the hood, I thought I'd investigate Area 50, and it turns out that the Air Force doesn't even control such a region. Instead, it falls not even within the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense, but is jointly overseen by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States.

This, I find, is where the secret market experiments take place, and, try though I did, I was unable to even determine its precise location. Further, I'll save you the time and effort that I myself wasted, and inform you that a Facebook search of Area 50 will bear little fruit.

As a matter of divine coincidence, Facebook actually discloses its earnings this coming week, in a critical reporting season now 20% of its way to completion. Thus far, it's no worse than what modest fears suggested, and maybe even arguably a little bit better. The banks were hardly gangbuster, but they didn't ruin the party per se. Microsoft also clocked in with numbers which, if they failed to delight, at least did not over-much disappoint. There were some bad misses: NFLX told a story of pathos that broke as many hearts as did the ending of that (recently cleared) Kevin Spacey show, the name of which I forget. Boeing pre-announced a $4.6B write-off (they don't report until Wednesday and it will be anticlimactic), and investors took their actions constructively.

But as the big dog risk manager I offer the following admonition: Boeing better get those 737s back in the air soon, not only for the health of their valuation, but also because if we're wrong about this alien invasion thing, we're going to need it to be "wheels up" for every tin can we can mobilize.

The real drama of the earnings cycle begins this week, as, in addition to Facebook, we face the prospect of the leaders of Amazon, Google and even such critical backbenchers (oxymoron alert) as Nvidia taking their turns in the white lights. As mentioned in prior installments, I think that investor infrared missiles and projectiles will be trained much more directly upon back half guidance than they will on the actual results themselves.

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Attorney For Freedom