By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
Nostradamus was a French physician
and, some say, prophet, whose 16th century writings continue to be a source of
fascination and television docudramas today.
believers claim that his quatrains (verses) foretold events that happened ' and
continue to happen ' hundreds of years later.
scholars, for example, point to quatrain XII 52, written about 1555 A.D., as
detailed prophesy of the 9/11 attacks:
Two bodies, one head,
fields divided in two,
And then to reply to four unheard ones:
Little ones for great ones, clear evel for them,
the tower of Aiguesmortes, worse for "Eussouis"
bodies are the twin towers. The four unheard ones are the four airliners. The
little ones were the passengers on United Airlines flight 93 who overtook the
terrorists and diverted the plane from another attack. 'Aiguesmortes' looks like
a combination of the French words for 'sharp' and 'death,' referring to the box
cutters used by the hijackers. And 'Eussouis' is clearly a disguised phonetic
version of the term 'USA.'
at least not too loudly. In the prediction game, these sorts of contrived
interpretations are fairly commonplace. I once read a research report that said
'interest rates to rise, if they don't fall.'
to bet that the interest-rate prediction came true. I'm also willing to bet that
the author of that out-on-a-limb forecast later reminded his readers or
customers of the accuracy of his rate prediction.
I wonder if
he also reminded them of the actual language he used in making his detailed
A writer who
uses unfathomable words like 'Eussouis' can interpret ex post facto
his writings and presentations however he chooses.
it must be tougher, if not impossible, to do that if using something as precise
as numbers carried to four decimal places.
Last week I
saw two instances of misleading and intentionally misrepresented institutional
investment performance. In both cases, the reports were extensive, detailed,
impressive, persuasive ' and misleading.
about culpability. That's a waste of time. There are enough loopholes ' and
financial regulators of varying (in)competence ' that if a firm wants to pick
the five best-performing stocks or mutual funds from the last five years and
pretend it actually owned them for its clients during that period, it can figure
out a way to do it.
shouldn't blame the toy company if the super-rocket pocket fisherman doesn't
automatically catch fish exactly like it does in the commercials. Use your own
reason and brain. Ask questions. Who else owns a nuclear-powered fishing rod?
Have they emptied the lake of fish?
Berra is supposed to have said, 'Predicting is hard, especially when it involves
the future.' I've seen plenty of people make lots of money or become famous as
predictors. But few actually made their fortunes or built great businesses on
the success of their predictions.
Nostradamus had to die before selling a lot of books.
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a
Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article
originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).