Moontower #134

Boomer contempt is widespread.


’m an 80s latch-key kid. Nobody paid us a second thought. We left the house at 8am on a summer morning, came home to the sound of “dinner” being yelled in a FOB accent (have you seen my last name?), and shut it down for the night after giving up on finding your friends in manhunt (they definitely cheated by going in the house). You hit the sack, au naturel sans shower, only to do it again tomorrow. A forgotten generation. Nobody even offered us counseling after the Challenger exploded on the roll-out TV in the school cafeteria.


Every generation thinks every other generation should take a hike. Whether we coddle them or send them to war, we seem to make every subsequent generation a villain and they are quick to return the sentiment.

But if the boomers are greedy ladder-pullers (a charge that feels hard to refute if I spend just 2 seconds on Nextdoor) we should look at how the hippies traded peace and love for trickle-down economics and stepped-up basis.

Strap on your helmet (another thing we didn’t have in the 80s).

A decade ago, I read Helter Skelter: The True Story of The Manson Murders. It was written by the chief prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi. It stands as one of my favorite books. It’s a long book, yet the grisly murder stuff is covered early in the narrative. The bulk of the book is about the investigation and trial. It’s a fascinating look at legal proceedings, fact-finding, media concerns, and the combative relationship between the LAPD and the LA County Sheriff’s Office (LASO).

If you know the story, you’ll recall that Manson, presented as a Christ-figure amongst his hippie followers, never actually committed murders himself. They had to build the case that he was effectively controlling the minds of his so-called “family”. The case relied on the theory that Manson was preparing his followers for a race war that he foresaw in the lyrics of The Beatles’ White Album, most notably the McCartney-penned song Helter Skelter.

The backstory, the lyrics smeared in blood at 10050 Cielo Drive in the Hollywood Hills, the celebrity victims — no wonder it was one of the most captivating murder cases in history. [Did you know that Trent Reznor recorded The Downward Spiral in that house? The property has been re-addressed to 10066 Cielo Drive and coincidentally my Instagram feed which follows the Million Dollar Listing LA cast informed me the property is currently for sale.]

Well, as I was exploring the Rebel Wisdom podcasts, I found an interview with Tom O’Neill, author of Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties. His 20-year labor-of-love project raises a provocative question — was Manson convenient to the US government?

It’s about far more than the murders when you consider how it tied to the government’s reaction to the counterculture’s anti-war opposition. Deepthroat later revealed the sitting administration’s conspiracies but the domestic tradecraft extended beyond Watergate. Its abuse of power was abetted by useful idiots who fell for propaganda and the type of fat cat who is always for sale. Its ham-fisted approach led to a war on drugs with societal costs that are more evident every passing day.

Is the chaos we sense today amplified by its contrast to a censored culture? A culture whose highest values have been order (I don’t have to tell you about US incarceration rates) and GDP. The unwinding of this mentality, embodied in social and redistributive reform, the rallying cries of boomers’ younger years, is triggering an allergic reaction to the dope they once willingly inhaled.

If the 60’s movements gave us a glimpse of a culture attempting to widen its values, the government pulled the blinds before we could see more. Read this excerpt from Jim O’Shaugnessey’s interview with Tom Morgan:

Jim: Watch the music videos from that time. Again the artists were at the forefront. They were the tip of the spear in this and the spear scared the shit out of the left-brained dominant society and the man, so to speak. Psychedelics were broadly being misused in many cases. But all of the elements required for a phase change to happen successfully were in place in the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies. The man, in this case, Richard Nixon, but everyone in control, and I’m speaking pretty specifically about the US here. But it happened in the UK too. And it happened in Germany. It was a global phenomenon. They made drugs, almost all of which are the non-addicting drugs, illegal. Fed max prison. They made an example of Timothy Leary. He became the scapegoat for like, having a couple of joints in his pocket? They didn’t even get him with any kind of psychedelic. You got to remember this guy was a tenured professor at Harvard, who was a well-thought-of psychologist. And, so they made an example of him because, now this is getting into kind of my take on this, people are terrified of what the implications are for being free.

The conventional keepers of the social “truths” shut it the fuck down. And they did that because they could. They did that because back then there was no global communication network like we have today.

People, for example, didn’t know that Franklin Roosevelt was in a wheelchair. They did not know that. Can you imagine in our day and age? Even trying to comprehend that is wild. So they were the keepers of the “truth” and it was a narrative that everyone believed.

In other words…power did what power does.

Now you are ready to hear the interview with Tom O’Neill. Have fun!

🎤 Manson & the Secret War of the 60s (video) (podcast)

I’ve been listening to several interviews about psychedelics and the history of drug laws in general. If I had to choose one to point you to it’s Dr. Peter Attia’s interview with psychedelics expert David Nutt.

It covers the risks of recreational drugs, the legal history of drugs in the US/UK, and critically the extent, origin, and impact of the opioid and meth crises.

It pairs well with the Tom O’Neill interview.

🎤 David Nutt: Psychedelics & Recreational Drugs (podcast)

More On Psychedelics

In the coming years, the clinical use of psychedelics for therapy is going to be an even more mainstream topic. The first psychedelics ETF was listed in Canada a year ago and there are at least 2 more listed in the US today. An industry is emerging. An industry that parses that industry comes with it. It’s always fascinating times when an activity gets liberalized so if you are interested go forth and explore.

But just a thought to keep with you. Seemingly more than ever, we are floating in a sea of grift and the shore is getting further away. This post was a bit of life preserver:

✍🏽 The Psychedelic Trojan Horse (22 min read)
by Alexander Beiner

It’s not anti-psychedelics. It’s about so much more. If you read it, you’ll think “oh that’s quaint” because you know its message is going to be swallowed whole by the corporate meme-machines. Instead of your brain as an egg in a frying pan, pharma will tell you that you are a chick finally awakening and breaking free of your mind-yolk prison. 180-degree flip. Gee, what changed?

If that’s a bit cynical, it’s because you forgot about this classic:

✍🏽 Geeks, MOPs, and Sociopaths in Subculture Evolution (8 min read)
by David Chapman

Sorry, I’m just the messenger. We chose to say “Moloch”1 5 times in the mirror long ago.


A personal thought loosely related. Take it or leave it.

Identity politics strike me as a collection of issues, many of which have important grains of truth in them, but become twisted and weaponized because that’s how you get attention. Attention equals profits and votes.

Imagine listing people’s attributes in a row of Excel. Societal narratives love to pivot every aspect of them into an identity or wealth field. It’s understandable since that’s what we can see. Correlations reinforce this. If you plot wealth or race against say “educational attainment” the story will be familiar.

But I think as a matter of policy, we need to think in terms of what area are we talking about in the distribution. I increasingly feel that the most wicked thing underlying the left tail of human outcomes has little to do with what is happening in the “average American” segment part of the distribution.

The left tail feels like it has far more to do with addiction and evil patterns of abuse. The idea that poverty is about a housing crisis doesn’t sound right unless you plot a course through addiction.

Housing crisis —> Fentanyl —> Poverty

Even then, this is a stretch if we are solving for roots and solutions. The housing and fentanyl problems are real as hell. But poverty is not a lagging indicator of these problems. It’s coincident. The difference matters because treating abuse and addiction is the direct response.

I was thinking about this as I was listening to the podcasts but also reflecting on personal knowledge of abused or addicted people. Many didn’t have a chance. It was the conditions of the inter-personal relationships, more so than their race or wealth that mattered.

Despite being the child of poor immigrants I consider myself insanely privileged — my parents loved me, they did not hurt me, they valued self-improvement and education, and they did so with their actions. I was born on third base.

Your upbringing is not your destiny but they are probably underrated. Sexual abuse and addiction are massively underreported. It’s happening right now. In your neighborhood. On your block. Whether you live in Hillsborough or somewhere the schools are 1s.

The identity stuff will overlap with what is happening in the left tails, but plain ole’ human sickness, especially the silent kind, I suspect has the higher R².

I’ve been binging the YouTube series Soft White Underbelly which interviews the invisible among us. I was talking to a friend, who let’s say went through a unique time. He felt that “hate” wasn’t the worst feeling he experienced. It was indifference. The sense that people are looking right through you like you’re not even there.

Check out the series. This particular episode will blow your mind. Tell me you cannot see how intelligent and tenacious this woman is. If I was dealt her hand, I wouldn’t have made it to this interview.

You will find a common theme in these episodes. It won’t take long to spot it.

Money Angle

Selling calls “for income” is not a thing. You can sell a call as compensation for risk but no professional options trader thinks of an option sale as “income”. They might mark-to-model and book the premium over “fair value” as theoretical edge, or simply “theo”. And even then we are talking about pennies. Just a tiny fraction of the stock price that they are long.

Nobody serious can claim the entire premium is income. I’ve discussed this before but if you’re stubborn here’s a few more angles to this.

A simple math example

You’re long a $100 stock.

  • It’s fairly priced because it’s 90% to be 0 and 10% to be $1000.
  • You overwrite by selling the 500 strike call at $45.

Did you earn income?

What if you sold the call for $55?

My problem with the “selling calls for income” crowd…they don’t know the difference.

Some people’s personal utility curves can make even a negative edge seem like an ok hurdle.

A courageous response to my question on Twitter:

There is no problem here. You take your $45 and move on with your life. If you get called away you make 5x, and if your stock goes to $0 you came out with only a 55% loss.

Umm, incinerating money when you think you are investing is actually what I would call a “problem”.

You make $445 10% of the time and lose $55 90% of the time. You are literally better off betting on roulette.1

If you overwrite a call that’s actually worth $1 at a price of $.95 because call markets are faded low for sellers, you are stuck with roulette odds. Factor in your brokerage costs (implicitly or explicitly) and effort.

I’d rather get a free hotel room.

Other framings

  • Instead of selling calls, you can buy less of the stock to have the equivalent delta and use the cash elsewhere.
  • You could buy puts and buy MORE of the stock than you originally intended.

You cannot think about selling calls without thinking of vol in some fashion.

Selling options profitably requires being able to tell the difference between these scenarios, properly accounting for what portion of the sale is “income” vs fairly probability-weighted premium.

If you can do that, go ahead and claim you sell calls for income. That’s the bar. Not “premium arrived in my brokerage account”. I’m trying to show that the decision to trade an option has nothing to do with income and everything to do with the proposition you are being offered.

The reality is that betting against mispriced options is a game of pennies or half- pennies. It’s low signal-to-noise. Realizing and validating the edge requires large sample sizes. If you are overwriting without a deep process you likely have no idea if you have edge and your sample is too small to know.

If that’s not clear, check out my version of trading 101:

Understanding Edge (10 min read)

Last Call

It’s only fair if I mention psychedelics to share some music.

I’ve been deeply enjoying all the projects of guitarist/vocalist Ripley Johnson:

🎸 Wooden Shjips (Spotify)

The enigmatically named quartet Wooden Shjips play a minimal, droning brand of garage-styled psychedelia with a noticeable Krautrock influence.

🎸 Rose City Band (Spotify)

Johnson’s songwriting and beautiful guitar lines take center stage, the veil of psychedelia notably drawn back. … Shimmering guitar lines are free to shine, buoyed by driving rhythms…arrangements and instruments drawn directly from classic country, resulting in songs with more than a hint of twang.

🎸Moon Duo (Spotify)

A psychedelic band with chilly electronic underpinnings and drones inspired by Spacemen 3, Silver Apples, and Suicide.

This is my favorite of his projects. It’s a duo with his wife.

I watch the music video for Sleepwalker at least once a day.

From My Actual Life

Yinh and I saw Tool last Sunday at Chase. They are amazing live. They ended their set with Invincible. I like that journey for you, so I found a decent fan vid from a Melbourne performance. Put your headphones on and enjoy.

As we left with my friend Matthew and his wife we saw who Tool apparently opened for…


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