Posts from January 11th, 2010.

A Superior Grade of Astroturf

Two articles caught my attention today, the first a snippet about Peter Thiel, co-founder and former CEO of PayPal. I have been fascinated by Peter Thiel since reading his April 2009 essay The Education of a Libertarian. Mr Thiel has some ‘interesting’ views including regret for “the extension of the franchise to women”

It appears that Thiel, who is currently president of Clarium Capital Management a highly successful hedge fund, had a rough year. In 2009 hedge funds were up 24 percent on average but Clarium lost 10% of it’s value in December attaining a year on year loss of 25%. This man belongs on the Board of Directors of eBay.


An article on Benzinga “the stock idea network” written by a husband and wife team, Jack and Jill. Jill sells on eBay, and it shows. I quote:

The ones that profit most in this auction world are eBay/PayPal, the post office, and sometimes the buyer….The bottom line, as a consumer eBay is a great place to find deals but with some reservation. As a seller, unless you are getting your merchandise for free it does not seem to be a place where one can easily turn a profit.

Jack’s analysis is also insightful. I would need to quote the entire piece, which makes a lot of sense, particularly his synopsis of the stock performance over the last five years, so (as we say on eBay) go read it.

What is not mentioned is that the eBay seller’s playing field is not level any more, if in fact it ever was. When Jack says

“If everyone is rational then why on earth would you ever sell anything on eBay?”

he is sidestepping the issue of eBay’s continuing courtship of merchant level sellers, the Diamond Sellers, while simultaneously acknowledging the role very small sellers played in the boom times, as both buyers and sellers.

Diamond sellers get special fee deals, accommodations are made for them that smaller (not necessarily small) sellers only dream about. The potential for some profitability exists for them. Yet, when all is said and done, they still have to deal with the new eBay buyer, which requires a real investment in customer service employees. The added expenditure may vitiate any meaningful or realistic return on investment.

The Astroturf

I love words, the right words. Words, properly used, shade meaning, give a flavor or zing to reading. Some writers use words as a club, to beat the reader over the head with their assertion of superiority while others get lost in a swamp of malapropism, throwing out two dollar words like deckchairs for life rafts on the Titanic.

Skimming the second comment on the Benzinga article, from “Korey” I was struck by the dichotomy (def.#2) between such pearls as “faltering stocking price” and “the bulk of the article is riddled with logical fallacies with the intent to manipulate the reader.” Another example “Concluding an Ebay stores are a failed business” is delicously balanced with “the numerous ‘appeals to spite,” simultaneously blaming Ebay for his wife’s failure to properly calculate the cost of doing business and asking you to hate them for it, border on anti-corporate populist hate-speech.” I particularly adored the chiding (def.#1) tone of the final paragraph.

“I understand the dialectic the author attempts to create with the “Jack & Jill” format, but an article with such fallicious (sic) content, intent on scaring users and stock holders away from a company, has no place on a self-described stock idea network.”

Fallicious Indeed!
Is ‘Korey’ a club wielder, or deckchair tosser? A member of the legal profession or an utterly superior astroturfer, channeling the spirit of Jose Malabo in days past? I can’t decide, what do you think?

Y’all come back!

UPDATED 1/11/10 to add a screen shot of ‘Korey’s’ comment on Benzinga