Today's anecdote from Art Cashin has nothing to do with the fiscal cliff, the stock market, the economy, geopolitics or even the fermentation committee. Instead it is a deep tangent from all things financial: an amusing anecdote focusing on the life and more notably, death anniversary of one Rasputin, narrated in the way only Art can do. So while we await the inevitable 3:35 pm rumor that a Fiscal Cliff resolution is imminent, just like all those other 99 rumors in the past few weeks, which sent the market soaring before they popped, what better way to kill the time until the next algo driven buying frenzy than with stories of possessed, mad monks in tsarist, WWI Russia.
On this day (+2) in 1916, one of history's most celebrated but most inept assassinations began. In the retelling of most assassinations we hear how the victims might have been spared if....! You know the drill - if the guy guarding Lincoln's box had not gone for a drink or if the Archduke Ferdinand had not had his car forced up a side street, etc. etc.
But this assassination was more like Larry, Moe and Curly plan the Normandy Invasion.
The proposed victim was a semi-literate preacher who passed himself off as a Russian monk. Pre-dating some TV preachers, in an age with no TV, he preached that you needed God's forgiveness. And, to give God a wide enough target, it is necessary that you sin a lot. So, many of his convocations turned into what we might secularly call today - drunkfests or orgies. (But, he said God does need a large target.) Critics of the preacher called him "The Mad Monk". He called himself "Rasputin".
Anyway, Rasputin hit pay-dirt when he appeared to cure the hemophiliac son of Czar Nicholas II. Viewing the cure as a miracle, the Czarina demanded that all decisions be cleared with the miracle-maker, Rasputin. That made him the most powerful man in Russia, which did not sit well with the nobles. Thus, the assassination attempt. On this night Prince Yussupov, the Czar's nephew-in-law, invited Rasputin over for some late-night cakes and wine. Yussupov and his pals loaded the cakes and wine with enough cyanide to kill a regiment of Cossacks. And just for insurance they put extra cyanide on the knives, forks, plates and glasses. Then Yussupov sat down and made small talk with Rasputin. Over several hours Rasputin ate most of the cakes and drank all of the wine. Then he asked the prince if he had any more wine.