Saturday, October 17, 2015
My favorite optimist takes a peek at what happens when "policy makers" get their way:
The story is almost a textbook case of why top-down regulation can be so dangerous. It lets single-issue pressure groups set targets with no thought to collateral damage, and imposes regulation that inevitably gets captured by those with a vested interest. Regulation also often stifles innovation. We may never know just how much innovation in cleaner petrol engines was prevented.
In case you miss his point:
...................................................................life its ownself:
“When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.”
“When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.”
Friday, October 16, 2015
So my Sweetie and I ventured to the wondrous Midland Theatre last night to partake in the Arlo Guthrie show (billed as "Alice's Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour). In case you haven't figured it out from listening to Alice's Restaurant, Arlo is the consumate story teller; just one of those people you feel better for hanging around with. When it came time for the singing of Alice's Restaurant, clips from the movie of the same name were played. Turns out it was a true story. Officer Obie and the 27 8" x 10" colored glossy photographs with cirlces and arrows were real. The judge with the seeing-eye dog was also real. Both played themselves in the movie. The neatest part of the story was when Arlo explained how he and Officer Obie, who had not previously known each other, had nothing in common, and had no particular reason to like each other, eventually became "life long" friends.
He was great. The audience was well pleased. As a side note: Arlo's daughter, Sarah Lee, opened the show. She was a delight and clearly inherited Arlo's story-telling genes. If the "Alice's Restaurant 50th Anniversary Tour" comes to a neighborhood near you, do go.
Arlo closed the show with this song from father Woody:
Arlo Guthrie.............................................Alice's Restaurant
Ed. Note: We have been known to post this song over the Thanksgiving holiday. However, last night (actually "tonight" as this is being posted prior to the concert) we made our way to the fabulous Midland Theatre to see Arlo live and in person. Word has it that Alice's Restaurant is on the menu.
Markets are constantly in a state of uncertainty and flux and money is made by discounting the obvious and betting on the unexpected.
I've learned many things from him, but perhaps the most significant is that it's not whether you're right or wrong, but how much money you make when you're right and how much you lose when you're wrong.
-Stanley Druckenmiller, speaking about Geoge Soros
One of the most important lessons I've learned in the investment world is that stability breeds instability....Long periods of prosperity and success lead to greater confidence and to investors taking on more and more risk. Because it has paid to do so in the past, it will presumably continue to do so in the future....economic shocks can occur at any time for no apparent reason, other than the fact that things have apparently been going right for so long. Expect the unexpected.
-Gary Carmell, The Philosophical Investor: Transforming Wisdom into Wealth
Meanwhile, the times only grew harder. In Boston at midcentury, the rich grew richer and the poor grew poorer. Never before in New England had such inequality of wealth been known. The French and Indian War had ended in 1763, leaving in its wake a crippling depression. Massachusetts had sent more men to that war than all the other colonies put together. One in three men of age in Massachusetts went to fight. Boston was a city of widows and orphans.
The poor roamed the streets and huddled in doorways. A wooden almshouse had been built before 1661, destroyed by fire in 1682, and replaced by a brick almshouse, built near the Common in 1686. A brick workhouse, also run by the Overseers of the Poor, was erected in 1739, next door to the prison that housed, mainly, debtors. The Society for Encouraging Industry and Employing the Poor built the Manufactory House in 1754. At midcentury, the number of admissions soared, from an average of 93 a year between 1759 and 1763 to 144 between 1763 and 1769. Only the size of the building stopped the number from rising higher. At capacity, some 300 people lived in the almshouse every year; 600 more received poor relief at home. Hundreds more, refugees, were warned out of town, their names recorded in the city's Warning Out Book, where the number of names grew from an average of 63 per year between 1745 and 1752, to 100 between 1753 and 1764, to 450 between 1765 and 1774. The ranks of the poor swelled.
-Jill LePore, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinons of Jane Franklin
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Historic downtown Newark, Ohio is undergoing a bit of a change, infrastructure-wise. A century old combination sanitary and storm sewer has to go (an EPA mandate, but a very common sense one), and is being replaced by new, and separate, systems. The City has taken the opportunity to make other changes while the streets are torn up. You can see its shape now.
The changes around the Courthouse Square are significant. Much wider sidewalks, a new two-way traffic flow, narrower driving lanes, pedestrian-friendly cross walks, round-abouts at each corner. Unfortunately, there will also be way fewer parking spaces. The total project is now about 25% complete. The adventure continues. Here is what it looked like 45 days ago:
A brief essay on property taxes in England reminds us that the only unbreakable law of government is the law of unintended consequences.
"A wholesale reform of business rates would produce large windfalls for an undeserving group."
Be careful what you wish for.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Before Robert and the Professor had finished their first glass, Lazarus walked through the back door and strapped on his hollow-bodied Silvertone guitar. He faced the wall and began playing riffs with the volume turned low. Most of the customers didn't notice he was there. As he practiced, his band - all young white men - came in carrying speakers and instruments and began to set up.
"There's my Lazarus," said the Professor. "Notice how he's in the zone. In that place where nothing is distracting him? He's seventy-years-old, and he just keeps gettin' better. He could be playin' to fifteen people or fifteen hundred, and he'd be workin' just the same because when he picks up his guitar it's spirit for him. Its the feelin' that he's using a gift, and it comes from the inside."
"That's the way work is supposed to be, you know," the Professor said, chuckling. "You play what you're given. Everybody's got somethin', and instrument, a tool." Pausing, he leaned forward and whispered, "You use it. That's what's it's about."
-David Mutti Clark, Professor Brown Shoes Teaches the Blues
Let’s analyze something related: The price tag estimate for the Iraq war, which is directly related to the rise of ISIS, is a few trillion dollars. Let’s say $3 trillion in a war over a country of 30 million people, to use round numbers. We could have given every Iraqi man, woman and child
$1 million $100,000 and told them to buy a house in a safer place and called it good. Meanwhile, estimates for the GDP of Iraq varied by quite a bit when I googled, but if we go with $6,000/person, the cost of the war was in the ballpark of the net present value of the Iraqi economy at a good rate of return.
Now, obviously I’m not saying it would have been realistic to relocate 0.5% of the world’s population in 2003. What I am trying to do is put some perspective on the vast resources expended for…what, exactly? If it was to provide for the well-being of the Iraqis it certainly didn’t show. If it was to control their resources, well, we didn’t really get control of more than a fraction, and we could have invested wisely and gotten the financial equivalent of completely control of the resources of the Iraqi economy. If it was to enrich contractors we could have done even that more cheaply. Honestly, I’m left to conclude that it was about punching people because we wanted to. We shouted out “Who killed the Iraqis?” but after all, it was you and me. And now people are paying the blood price for that in the rise of ISIS.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
....................................................an interesting Governor.
Cultural Offering posted yesterday about Ohio's ballot Issue 3 yesterday. Kurt will be voting NO. Me too.
Jon Husted is currently Ohio's Secretary of State. His office is responsible for the wording of the issues on the ballot. Here is how he phrased Issue 3's ballot heading:
"Grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes"
We can have a reasonable debate about the propriety of legalizing marijuana. Needless to say, inscribing a private monopoly into the State's constitution has to be a bad idea.
More on the story here. Full Issue 3 ballot language here.
"The best way for liberals to advance their various causes would be to take a pledge to live the rather progressive lives that they advocate. Here are a modest Ten Commandments to lend them credibility in the eyes of the American people."
-Victor Davis Hanson, as excerpted from here
A wee sample here:
Private jet travel — the worst of the mortal carbon sins — of course would be banned, at least until we can transition into solar and wind aviation. Al Gore in the middle seat of Row 44, fighting to put his oversized carry-on into the overhead compartment, would be a symbolic act worth far more than all his heated and well-paid rhetoric.
By the third night the death count was rising so high and so quickly that many of the divisional homicide teams were pulled off the front lines of riot control and put into emergency rotations in South Central. Detective Harry Bosch and his partner, Jerry Edgar, were pulled from Hollywood Division and assigned to a roving B Watch team that also included two shotgunners from patrol for protection. They were dispatched to anyplace they were needed - wherever a body turned up. The four-man team moved in a black-and-white patrol car, jumping from crime scene to crime scene and never staying still for long. It wasn't the proper way to carry out homicide work, not even close, but it was the best that could be done under the surreal circumstances of a city that had come apart at the seams.
-Michael Connelly, The Black Box
Monday, October 12, 2015
The question arises: now that gasoline is so much cheaper than several years ago, what is happening to the extra money in consumer wallets (estimated at an average of $700 per year)? The conventional wisdom has been that we are paying down debt or saving. Not so fast, says Chase:
"The J.P. Morgan study sifts through data from 25.6 million holders of Chase credit or debit cards, allowing a more detailed look at spending habits from near the end of 2013, when gasoline prices were high, to early 2015, when they had bottomed out."
I would say that having access to the financial behavior of 25.6 million people, and having the computing power to make sense of it all, constitutes a significant advantage. For the record, Chase's computers believe we are spending most of the "windfall."
Back story here.
........................were to leave Earth tomorrow, would that be the end of "climate disruption," and would anything care?
Faithful readers might think I would take this opportunity to remind everyone that parts of what now constitutes the fair State of Ohio have, on more than one occasion in the past several hundred thousand years, been covered with glacial ice sheets, maybe a mile thick. And they would be right. Fair minded people, who take the long view, must surely agree that "climate disruption" is a constant part of Earth's history. Humanity hasn't been.
.................So, it turns out that the massive fantasy football (etc.) leagues are creating only a teeny number of winners. One version of the story is here. Of course, what else should one expect from a "skill game".
But the data says that if you're looking to make money, DFS is a losing bet for most people.
According to data put together at Sports Business Daily, a small portion of players take home the cash.
Should have figured this would happen:
The top players will risk $100,000 a day in entry fees. Why? Krejcik says that some tournaments allows users to enter hundreds or thousands of lineups in a tournament that has a fixed number of entries — meaning that players with deep pockets can enter 5% to 10% of lineups. In many tournaments, the top 1% to 10% of winners get the outsize payout, making all that investment worthwhile. He estimates top players get 30% ROI — not much when you're betting $100 but quite a bit when you're getting into six figures.
From the cheap seats, it would appear that the real winners are the TV stations raking in millions of dollars in advertising fees from a source that was non-existent only a few years ago.
Seth Godin explores why it is hard to stay on top:
Success means more employees, more meetings and more compromise. Success means more pressure to expand the market base and to broaden the appeal to get there. Success means that stubborn visionaries are pushed aside by profit-maximizing managers.
Full post is here.