May - 2017
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
1
 S&P +6.40
 USB -0.31
2
 S&P -1.10
 USB +0.24
3
 S&P -2.60
 USB +0.02
4
 S&P +2.30
 USB -1.03
5
 S&P +12.20
 USB +0.03
6
7
8
 S&P -2.70
 USB -0.16
9
 S&P -1.70
 USB -0.18
10
 S&P +2.00
 USB -0.07
11
 S&P -4.20
 USB +0.03
12
 S&P -2.40
 USB +0.26
13
14
15
 S&P +9.70
 USB -0.05
16
 S&P -1.30
 USB +0.10
17
 S&P -39.60
 USB +2.06
18
 S&P +6.10
 USB +0.01
19
 S&P +17.90
 USB +0.01
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31

May

20

 Quantifying Life by Dimitry Kondrashov   

A Modern History of Japan by Andrew Gordon


Tree Models of Similarity and Association
by James Corter

Scenescapes: how qualities of life shape social life by Daniel Silver

The Evolution of Communication by Marc Hauser

Python Programming by John Zelle

The Complacent Class by Tyler Cowen

The Mathematics of Life by Ian Stewart 

The Moscow Puzzles by Boris Kordemsky

Analysis of Longitudinal Data by Diggle et al

 War Paint by Lindy Woodhead

Adam Smith by Ryan Hanley

The Autobiography of Ben Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

Essential Demographic Methods by Kenneth Wachter


The Essence of Stigler
by Kurt Leube

Expected Returns by Antti Ilmanen


The New Libertarianism
by Michael Oliver


Out of Poverty: Sweatshops in the Global Economy
by Benjamin Powell

Statistical Models by David Freedman

May

18

My father was the most benevolent guy in the world. He was easy victim for every tarbeauxian gyp. Often a gypsy would agree to fix our roof for a seemingly low price, and one day later the material would wash away. Or a poor man would ask to borrow money from him for a worthy cause and he would empty his pocket. I must have inherited the trait of being gullible and easy to deceive without the good part about being benevolent. I didn't see that the story was from the Onion and the picture looked so realistic that I easily succumbed to believing it. To make it worse I posted it on twitter as a possible cause of the market's decline and looked like an idiot there also, and lost a large part of the credibility I had there.

Andrew Goodwin writes: 

That one was a play on the true historical incident involving Michael Jackson. If armed with the correct technology, it is far harder for a picture modifier to fool the viewer. Here is a link to an article I read yesterday about photo sourcing and source identification. The article touts an app that uses watermarks and timestamps. However, it also provides a useful list of tools to insure one does not fall victim to a gross deception perpetuated by a photo modifier.

anonymous writes: 

I show everything still saying long-term huge bull market. NO major top this year.

I have short term stuff saying buy into this now on weakness, as I said last night. This drop may be only half over, but it's time to begin adding to it.

One of the funds I run avoids short term, so I'm just riding it out there except to peel off some of the hedge down here and realize some profits from that. The other fund, not concerned with tax efficiency in that sense, much more aggressive. Covered the positions in short vol Tuesday, started re-establishing yesterday and continue to do so. This is a nervous time. There is a coup in progress in America, and it appears to be failing. This thing could go up as quickly as it came down with a vicious V-shaped bottom here (this would not surprise me given the underlying strength in this thing and the pervasive fear out there), or it could continue down, the drop only halfway or so done, but still in the time window to be getting back long this thing.

Rates are still in their 35 year bull market. The correlation to equities may be about to flip again in the coming weeks. I still think we're headed to a 1 big handle on the thirty.

Anatoly Veltman writes: 

You knew of course. What you couldn't fathom was that someone (The Onion, of all) could ANTICIPATE a decline in equity fortunes. I loved the line where Warren initially was on a hot streak… No less fascinating was to read the list this week on and on and on and on about stupidity, as if same had nothing to do with us listers. It seemed only Rocky hadn't chimed in, thoughtfully and busily setting up hedges (remember: Rocky never loses much). Ralph also hopefully lucked out depending on his definition of "on strength". A whole generation of specs hasn't seen a 5.1, let alone a 20.0 percent, correction.

anonymous writes: 

I have no worthy insights on the markets. The preponderance of my speculative (as distinct from investment) domestic equity exposure is in SPY calls spreads with the lower strike at 236, and which expire tomorrow. So my net exposure has fallen precipitously over the past 24 hours and I am sitting on my hands at the moment — neither buying nor selling. Similarly, my treasury bond exposure/gamma has shifted from bearish to neutral. I have not touched my speculative foreign stock positions. The market's reaction on election night defied conventional wisdom, and what is happening right now is being attributed to Trump, but is really Mr. Market doing what it wants to do, and finding a post hoc reason. By way of example, last week, at 6am, Bloomberg radio said (and I quote): "S&P Futures are down 4 after the president's firing of FBI Director Comey." The use of the word "after" shows the worse sort of bias, false attribution, and nonsense. The announcer could just as well have said, "S&P Futures are down 4 after five more people were murdered in Chicago" or "Down 4 after XYZ corporation reported earnings below expectation." I must decide whether, if the market goes down another 3% and I have no unique information unavailable to everyone else, am I a buyer or a seller? And then, if the market goes down an additional 5% and if I have no unique information, am I a buyer or a seller? I do not know my answer at this moment. And I am most certainly not predicting that the market will decline these amounts or I would be short. And I am not short.

This is a long-winded way of my weighing in on the conversation about "stupid" people. I don't know what "stupid" means. Every person has some negative traits and some positive traits. For me, the most amazing thing about Tiger Woods is not that he was an amazing golfer and a dismal husband who kept "stupid" texts on his phone. Someone was statistically destined to be the top 0.00001% of all golfers. The amazing thing about Tiger Woods is that his family recognized his innate rare talent and put him on a path that developed it, rather than force him to spend hours studying piano or reading ancient literature or working in a McDonalds. If he had not been put on this path, he might well be robbing liquor stores, smoking meth, or working as a Wall Street trader. There are surely hundreds of people who could have been as a good as Tiger Woods in golf — but their gift was not recognized and developed (for whatever reasons). Conversely, there are thousands of potential philanderers, but for whatever reason, they remained faithful to their marital vows. My point is simply that calling someone "stupid" is primarily a value judgment and reflects how one relatively values different things.

In Tiger's case, relatively values regarding career versus family — allows one to dub Tiger as stupid or not. I am not making any judgment about Tiger Woods, except to say that a similar analysis can be made about anyone who we label "stupid." And lastly, if you choose to be a philanderer, leaving texts on your cell phone may appear to be stupid, or it might be a gutless person's way of initiating a break up with one's spouse.

Laurel Kenner writes: 

As I was stock market editor at Bloomberg in the 1990s, I was an enforcer of the ludicrous practice anonymous described of attributing market moves to whatever explanation lies close at hand. Sadly, although the creator of that practice has been kicked upstairs, no one has changed it. My reporters and their sources knew it was all malarkey, and I was as lucky enough to have some education in statistics and behavioral psychology through the good offices of Chair and many eagles to whom he introduced me. I lasted only a matter of months after getting wise. I don't believe it was stupidity so much as ignorance. The danger is that the ignorant can so easily become pawns for those with a political agenda, as we saw this week with the anonymously sourced Trump story. The market's reaction was used to give credibility to the story. As anonymous points out, Mr. Market does what he does and will brush off impertinent descriptions. 

Stef Estebiza writes: 

Trump politics has been slowed down by the Democrats. With this new story (employee of Putin), we are at the mobile sands. So the fake news of electoral propaganda actually are only words left in the wind, and do not produce the results that the markets expect. Currently Trump is at check. We'll see if he'll be moving to checkmate #impeachment.

anonymous writes: 

I suggest the opposite is the case.

To extend the chess analogy, Trump is playing a positional game while the Dems howl about each pawn they take as their long-awaited victory.

They lost on SCOTUS and they are going to lose on the budget, taxes, health care policy, and eventually foreign policy.

May

18

 Carlo Cipolla's Five Fundamental Laws of Stupidity:

1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.

2. The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.

3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.

4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.

5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person

Here's a link to Cipolla's essay.

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

Many many thanks to AC. Cipolla's Guns, Sails, and Empires: Technological Innovation and the Early Phases of European Expansion, 1400–1700 (1965) should be required reading for anyone who wants to presume to understand our "modern" world.

anonymous writes: 

I have the most trouble identifying my own stupidity.

My swat drove home the lessons of liberalism and progressive taxation. It was in Mr Gallagher's 8th grade history class. Before class started, noxious Paul initiated a fencing match with me using pencils. It wasn't my idea but I did score the only point - with a leaden puncture to Paul's forearm. He promptly took his wound to Mr Gallagher, who summarily referred me to the vice principle's office.

Mr Curtis had me grab my ankles for three humiliating whacks. They didn't hurt so much as worry me that my parents would find out (they didn't). And it seemed unfair as I only attacked in self defense.

I won the skirmish but lost the battle, because the system was rigged pro "victim", even then. It would have been better, in a away, had I lost the fight. I wouldn't have snitched but would have learned about another kid to avoid.

Russ Sears writes: 

What I have observed is that some people are too stupid to realize that they are stupid. Studies show that those that do the worst overestimate their abilities on a test of just about anything, while those that do the best underestimate their abilities to test on just about anything. Socrates was right that the beginning of wisdom is to know one is ignorant. However, as his untimely death implies, he was wrong to point this out to stupid but powerful people. However the leaders should not be as Aristotle implies (perhaps as survival mechanism learned from Socrates experience), the most learned dictator, but the ones most capable of producing cooperation from all individuals talents. 

I was told that the reason most people do not know they are stupid is that they attribute their knowledge as being the most important, and therefore under-estimate the importance of their ignorance. Perhaps this is a form of denial, to justify their self-worth. The market's in general is brutally honest on what is "important". 

May

18

 Bitcoin is currently stalling out on transaction speed and will force the hand of the core development team to make adjustments.

At present, the miners are clearing (very roughly) 2000 transactions every 10 minutes, this is primarily due to the limit of the block size of 1 megabyte and the amount of transactional information they can place into that size.

There is a lot of hand-waving about the slowing rate of growth of bitcoin versus other cryptos and the glacial adoption of newer protocols is certainly a part of it. For my part, I am content that the developers are overly cautious as any bug in the implementation can crash the economy. Ethereum learned this firsthand last year after they lost millions due to a bug. That said, Ethereum is also a model about how resilient the cryptos can be in the face of lost confidence.

At some point, bitcoin will increase the size of the block above 1MB and punt the transaction problem down the road for a while, but it exposes one of the problems with it's design which is transactional throughput. Most of the cryptos out there have the same tree-based transactional design that at greater scale will eventually cause the system to come to a crawl under normal load, not to mention making them vulnerable to spam attacks.

There is some promise in a new way of guaranteeing transactional integrity without a tree in DAG (directed acyclic graphs). The concept is more of a mesh of (very) lightweight transactions, each of which is forced to validate two other previous transactions. This obviates the need for miners and makes every initiator of a transaction do the proof of work. This concept would scale far better than (what has become) the centralized miner model of the major cryptos.

I am aware of two cryptocurrencies being developed that use this model, Byteball and Iota, with Iota having a better marketing department. They are completely unproven, flawed, hoarded and still in development, but already have a solid following and are trading at what I'd consider high premiums. If they somehow reach critical mass without implosion there may be a big future in actual microtransactions, fulfilling the promise of cryptocurrencies years ago.

Andy Aiken writes:

Ethereum is on track to convert to a Proof of Stake transaction model sometime in 2018. Like bitcoin, ethereum is currently a Proof of Work cryptocurrency, in which transactions must be included in each new block being "mined".

As Jayson indicates, mining is highly computationally intensive. BTC and ETH mining requires special hardware, and consumes hundreds of gigawatts of power globally.

In a Proof of Stake (PoS) system, the network consists of nodes that reach network consensus on transactions without the computational intensity. The owners of the nodes (stakeholders) get a share of the transaction fees. A node could be run on an ordinary PC. There are currently PoS coins, but they are much less popular than bitcoin and ethereum.

On May 22, there is an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for Tezos, which will be Proof of Stake right out of the gate. Tezos claims to be a direct competitor to Ethereum for the mantle of next-generation bitcoin. I'm skeptical of this ICO since the issuance is uncapped. This means that interested individuals and institutions will be able to get a piece, unlike other recent ICOs (e.g. Blockchain Capital, a venture fund that issued its own coin) that closed within 5-10 minutes of opening. On the other hand, Tezos could raise billions of dollars while being years from developing anything close to what Ethereum has already developed.

Byteball and Iota are using an entirely different model and a unique distribution system. E.g., if you hold BTC, you can get an allotment of Byteball by providing some personal information.

Cryptocurrency is much like the auto industry of the early 1920s. The failure rate of new coins/businesses will be high. Regulatory agencies are barely present, there are many scams, and a gambling mentality at the cryptocurrency exchanges. But the opportunities appear to be commensurate with the risk.

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

AA may want to adjust his historical analogy slightly. The failure rate for automobile manufacturers peaked not in the 1920s but in the preceding decade. By the "early 1920s" the "Big 3" were already established.

The historical analogy that works best for me is the growth in the collectibles market pioneered by Joseph Segel. No one can question the Marxist measure of value for the objects that the Franklin Mint and others produced just as no one can quarrel with the enormous amounts of human labor, energy and computation that have gone into producing these current digital collectibles. One wonders what network of Quality Value Convenience will evolve out of all this buying and selling of precious man-made objects.
 

May

17

 The investigation of Iran-Contra diminished Reagan's authority with Congress and killed the second tax rate cuts.  This time the  appointment of a special counsel has saved a Republican President from himself.  The language of Mueller's mandate is to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and…any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation."  Those "any matters" are far more likely to be questions into the FBI's own conduct and those of the Obama DOJ than recordings of Trump plotting with Putin.  The delicious irony of all this is that a career civil servant, not the Republican Congress, has forced the President to return to trade and taxes and Israel and China even as the Democrats celebrate and convince themselves into that "the Russian connection" will be their winning issue for 2018.

We in the bleachers are doubling down on our U.S. Common stock longs.

Ralph Vince writes:

I'm with you Stefan. It's still a bull market, you have a volume bar buy signal tomorrow (a very short term thing) at any point lower than today's low (or for any of the next couple of subsequent days).

I may take some heat on it, but that's what must be done.

Shields up and let's go.

May

17

Dr. Janice Dorn was a well respected member of the Spec List for many years. She became a dear friend via e-mail and phone, though we never met. When she did not respond to my e-mail and her message box on her phone was full, I became concerned and checked the web. Her husband and two sisters had all passed away in the past couple of years. So I had no one else to contact to find out what might have happened. So I was greatly saddened this morning to find that she passed away on April 25th at the age of 78 from cancer. She will be greatly missed by me as she was a wonderful person.

Her obituary can be found here:

In Memory of Janice Bebe Dorn

October 13, 1938 - April 25, 2017 Obituary

Dr. Janice Dorn, M.D., Ph.D., 78, of Phoenix, Arizona, passed away April 25, 2017 peacefully after a courageous battle with cancer. Born October 13, 1939 in Canton, Ohio, she graduated from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine with a Ph.D. in Neuroanatomy and did her postdoctoral work in Neurophysiology at the New York Medical College. She went on to receive her M.D. from La Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez, then onto a year of clinical clerkships in Phoenix, Arizona as well as a Neurology Internship at The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Dr. Dorn subsequently trained in Anesthesiology at UCLA and also completed a Fellowship in Cancer Pain Management. After the conclusion of a Psychiatric Residency at the Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, she accepted the position of Associate Professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, The University of Missouri Medical Center at Columbia and The Chicago Medical School. She won numerous awards for teaching and eventually held the position of Director of International Clinical Research for a major pharmaceutical company that sent her around the world for nearly a decade searching for methods of life extension and optimal aging. After living in Scotland, Germany and South Africa, in 1987, she began her private boutique practice of Biological Psychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry and Psychoneuroendocrinology in Phoenix, Arizona.

Dr. Dorn held the following Board Certifications:

• Diplomate, General Psychiatry, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

• Diplomate, American Society of Addiction Medicine

As a Coach University graduate, in 1994, Dr. Dorn had focused her attention on trading, mentoring and commentary in the financial markets with emphasis on Behavioral Neurofinance, Mass Psychology, Trading Neuropsychology, Futurism and Life Extension. She is believed to have been the only M.D. Psychiatrist and Ph.D. Brain Anatomist in the world who traded actively and coached traders while writing commentary about the financial markets. She authored over 1000 publications relating to Trading and Investing Neuropsychology, Market Mass Neuro-psychology, Behavioral Neurofinance as well as Holistic Wellness and Longevity as she provided coaching/mentoring to more than 600 traders around the world. She also published two books, her first in 2008 entitled "personal Responsibility: The Power of You". She served in the position of Global Risk Strategist for Ingenieux Wealth Systems in Sydney, Australia. She became a sought after media personality, lecturer and trading coach.

Dr. Dorn most recently honored as a faculty member at The University of Arizona College of Medicine as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine. Her greatest joy was helping others grow & prosper. She was a lover of music, an accomplished pianist and dancer. As a long time advocate of health and wellness, she was also a multiple medalist in the Senior Olympics. She was predeceased by her longtime husband, Thomas McNaughton D.O., M.D. and will be missed by her family, friends, students and colleagues. Donations may be made in Janice's memory to a charity of your choice.

J.T Holley writes: 

She was a kind soul. She reached out to me during my divorce to ease my mind. The world lost an incredible mind and warm heart.

anonymous writes: 

One of the most perceptive people I've ever met.

Jeff Watson writes: 

I've been trying to contact her for months. She was a friend and helped me through a period of great difficulty. Requiescat in Pace.

Jeff Rollert writes:

She was one great lady, and a particularly impressive addition by Vic to our group. I will miss her a lot. There have been too many who have gone silent in my life over the last year. I'd like to ask the List how we replace them in our lives. There must be a practical way.

Russ Sears writes: 

Like Jeff, she helped me through a hard time, all the while she was suffering from impending death of her husband. She also helped me with some writing. She was always eager to help me with any idea I thought was clever. And loved to share her plans. But last contact I could not get any response to what projects she was working on. I had been trying to contact her but was getting no answer. Like Scott, I have a pit in my stomach from the loss. She will be missed. 

May

17

 I have no doubt that Elon Musk will be able to raise billions of dollars for his tunnel projects. However I would provide a polite reminder and cautionary tale that the Channel Tunnel (that connects England and Europe) cost 9.5billion BPS to build–double the original estimate of 4.7 billion.

The tunnel officially opened on May 6, 1994 to much fanfare.

The company filed for bankruptcy reorganization about 12 years after it opened for traffic.

After writing off a ton of debt and wiping out the equity, the company finally achieved profitability, and ironically bought out a bunch of competing ferry companies. Nonetheless, the company stock has produced a negative total return for shareholders since it was relisted post-bankruptcy. See: Groupe Eurotunnel SE.

Similar lousy returns were had by the public investors in most American railroads, subways, canals, and other massive capital expenditure/infrastructure projects.

I know. This time is different.

May

17

 What a mess.

Will Ralph's bicycle helmets be enough to protect our brokerage accounts or do we need more?

Please post any historical studies on how markets normally react to presidential impeachments through the various phases.

anonymous writes: 

At worst, if it goes forward, it will be like the impeachment of WJC, and ultimately go nowhere.
But more likely is that impeachment talk fizzles out after a few weeks like everything else the WaPo wrings its collective hands over.
 
It’s difficult to assess post hoc the effect of the WJC impeachment on the markets, since Russian debt default and LTCM failure were concurrent.
I remember that at the time, traders and CNBC talking heads were imputing the daily news of stained dresses and perfumed cigars as the reason for the sharp selloff.
The news of LTCM breakdown came late in the selloff, but now journalists and media figures talk about 1998 as if LTCM was on everyone’s lips from the beginning.
 
So maybe something else is afoot behind the scenes.  I regard this inordinate market reaction as a warning sign, similar to Feb. 27, 2007.

May

17

 The founder of the modern cow flesh trade Phillip Danforth Armour was born on this day in 1832 in Stockbridge, NY. The town then was the same size that it is now -  two thousand people.  Armour went to California when he was twenty and came back four years later with a fortune - what would be roughly $5 million now ($8000 then).  His next killing came when he got the contract to sell beef to the Union Army. 

Thanks to Nelson Miles, Roosevelt's "brave peacock", Armour and Swift are still seen as villains.  Miles was, what else, a Progressive Democrat; thanks largely to Miles' testimony as a non-witness,  the body counts of the last Indian War have the same accuracy as John Kerry's estimates of what our Genghis Kahn hoards did in Viet-Nam.  

The thing about PD Armour that intrigues me the most is his actions in the wheat market in 1897. In the spring of 1897, 28 year old Joe Leiter decided to corner the wheat market. Leiter had money as his dad was a partner of Marshall Field. The novice Leiter also had a great first trade in wheat, netting $500,000. When he started buying wheat in 1897, it was trading at $0.50 and his buying promptly ran it up to a dollar. (Armour was a seller of wheat). Since dollar wheat hadn't been seen since the Civil War, the farmers sold every grain of wheat they had in storage. Leiter was a hero to the farmers for his "Patriotism." Leiter happened to be a customer of PD Armour, as Armour owned many grain elevators with a capacity of a few million bushels of wheat. He also owned 7,000 reefer rail cars for shipping meat that could be used to ship wheat(or tie up rail lines,) if necessary. Leiter had 1.2 million bushels of wheat in Armour's elevators, which he exported during November of that year, emptying Armour's elevators.

Leiter had a few million bushels of Dec wheat (WZ8 Comdty) and intended on taking delivery which would have left Armour short because he had no wheat to deliver. Armour had his agents scour the country buying up every bushel they could get, plus he also bought wheat futures to cover his short position. Since it was late in the season, Armour had to charter tugs to keep the ice from blocking the waterways and Great Lakes clear so he could get his grain ships through. Armour also built the largest grain elevator in the world on Goose Island to store all the wheat. Interesting factoid…the elevator was built in 28 days.

 Armour got all the cash wheat he needed(he had been short 9 million bushels) and was able to make delivery of 9 million bushels of Dec wheat to Leiter. Incidentally, Leiter had to pay storage to Armour of 3/4 cent per bushel per month. In the spring of 1898, the US went to war with Spain, and the wheat market rallied. However, Leiter was forced to buy May wheat (WK8 Comdty) to keep his corner going. Armour had the wheat, and stuffed another million bushels of wheat on Leiter in May. Armour was hoping that Leiter didn't have the cash but he did have the cash, barely, and was able to hang on.

In March 1898, Leiter charted 21 ships and started exporting wheat. He began lightening up on his July wheat position, selling 6.5 million bushels. While he was selling his July (WN8 Comdty) position, he was attempting to corner the May wheat. Leiter went to Pillsbury and Peavey and got them to double cross Armour and not sell him any wheat. In the meantime, with the war against Spain, wheat traded up to $1.85 and Leiter looked golden. However, Leiter never thought of other variables and left his flank exposed. The wheat crop came in early and huge, and as much as 4.5 million bushels flooded into Chicago in May alone. Armour got Peavey and Pillsbury to re-double cross Leiter and sell him the wheat to stuff down Leiter's throat. The rest of the summer saw Chicago's elevators fill up to the bursting point. All the elevators in the country quickly became full of wheat. The crop turned out to be 650+ million bushels, the war with Spain was short, and the wheat price broke hard very quickly.

Leiter was long 15 million bushels of wheat in both cash and futures. To say he was hurting would be an understatement. His father, Levi, had to come out of retirement to bail Joe out. They ended up selling the 15 million bushels using the very wily Armour as their broker. Leiter never traded wheat again, and he spent the rest of his days being a dandy while hanging around at the track.

The moral of this story is that the cash grain market will always trump the grain futures market. This is very apparent when the front month goes into delivery near the contract expiration.

May

16

Dr. Janice Dorn was a well respected member of the Spec List for many years. She became a dear friend via e-mail and phone, though we never met. When she did not respond to my e-mail and her message box on her phone was full, I became concerned and checked the web. Her husband and two sisters had all passed away in the past couple of years. So I had no one else to contact to find out what might have happened. So I was greatly saddened this morning to find that she passed away on April 25th at the age of 78 from cancer. She will be greatly missed by me as she was a wonderful person.

 

Her obituary can be found at http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Janice-Dorn&lc=2107&pid=185227149&mid=7385739

May

15

 "A Demographic Theory of War: Population, power, and the 'slightly weird' ideas of Gunnar Heinsohn":

"What about America and Europe?"

"Except for its white population, which is falling, America is in demographic neutrality. Europe, however, is in demographic capitulation. Several European countries have birth rates so low they are committing demographic suicide.

Supposedly, the EU was formed because Europeans were tired of fighting. 'Five hundred years of war is enough,' they said. But there is a great lie here.

Why wasn't four hundred years of war enough? Or three hundred?

The real reason Europeans decided to stop killing each other is that they were no longer having big families. They had no more superfluous sons to burn on the battlefield. I talk about these things in my book. I will talk about them today, as well."

"Your book hasn't been published in English," I said. "A demographic theory of war and terror could be a tough sell to a military audience in London." Heinsohn smiled. "Generals understand. If you don't have children today, you won't have soldiers tomorrow.

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

Heinsohn's economic theories are interesting to me. He is another creditista - i.e. someone who thinks credit is the oxygen for the voluntary systems of exchange that human beings have spontaneously created. But I doubt he would let this amateur into the Otto Steiger club; they join nearly everyone else in the academic world in believing that central banks are somehow essential to commerce.

I don't think anyone can argue successfully with the "youth bulge" theory as it applies to street crime and mob violence; but I wonder if it explains much about how the really bad wars start. There were no "surplus" young males in France, Prussia, Austria or Britain in 1790. There were in Russia, but the Russians were brought into the several Napoleonic Wars by their allies; they were not the ones who started the official killing. There was no demographic bulges in Spain, Germany and Japan in the 1930s or in the United Kingdom, France, Austria and Germany, net of emigration, in the 1910s.

In any case, if demography starts wars, it does not pay for them. For that you need central government taxation and the central banks that can turn government credit into payment, which takes us back to Heinsohn's economics…..

May

15

 When one is trading from the screen, generally speaking, one will not know who is on the other side of the trade. The anonymity the screen brings reduces many inputs but increases privacy. When trading in the pit, one gets to see who fills the other side of the trade. One gets to see what all the other brokers and locals are doing, their actions, and their intentions. There are many visual and auditory clues one could pick up in the pit that just aren't available from the screen. With the screen, one gets anonymity, with the pit, one gets transparency.

anonymous writes: 

I have always found former pit traders' laments about electronic trading as self-interested, sometimes intellectually dishonest, and often hopelessly romantically nostalgic. The market's purpose, I thought, was to bring together the maximum number of buyers and sellers so they could freely engage with each other and find a continuous clearing price — not to have a pit local or broker skim a penny off of every one of my orders, charge steep commissions, and front run me, all while sounding sanctimonious about providing liquidity. . Admittedly, the smartest pit traders have now reincarnated as high frequency trading savants, who now skim a 1/1000th of a penny off of each of my orders, but most evidence suggests that overall transaction costs are lower than ever before.

Similarly, one can compare Social Networks/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to the old local social club, barber shop, church, town hall setting. As Jeff notes, one provides anonymity and the other gets transparency. But in contrast to Markets, I believe there is a bigger difference between Friends on the screen and Friends in real life. And here, just like the pit trader, I may be a dinosaur, but I prefer friends in Real Life.

May

15

 "Fredo, you're my older brother and I love you, but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever." -The Godfather

The Chief felt he was the only honest man in Washington. Wes McCain, the second best trader I have ever known next to Paul Derosa, always said that he had all his interns read The Godfather.

I think it might be a good supplement to Horse Trading, Turf Handicaping, and Frank Tarbeaux.

May

15

Value versus Growth Investing: Why Do Different Investors Have Different Styles?

Abstract:

We find that several factors explain an individual investor's style, i.e., the value versus growth orientation of the investor's stock portfolio. First, we find that an investor's style has a biological basis and is partially ingrained in an investor from birth. Second, we show that an investor's hedging demands as well as behavioral biases explain investment style. Finally, an investor's style is explained by life course theory in that experiences, both earlier and later in life, are related to investment style. Investors with adverse macroeconomic experiences (e.g., growing up during the Great Depression or entering the labor market during an economic recession) or who grow up in a lower socioeconomic status rearing environment have a stronger value orientation several decades later. Our research contributes a new perspective to the long-standing value and growth debate in finance.

Victor Niederhoffer writes:

This is why we count and do prospective studies versus retrospective ones, and why we eschew paying attention to work form Yale professors who average earnings over 10 years , many of which were not reported until 6months after the earnings were or were not reported, with retrospectively selected stocks.

Rocky Humbert writes: 

Vic, by your own admission and work, if the stock market declines massively this year, it increases the probability of a greater-than-average return in the future. And by extension, if the stock market rises massively this year, it increases the probability of a lower-than-average return in the future. Why don't you extend this logic (which is both fundamental and technical) to relative valuation (i.e. growth v value) ; perhaps because your data set is lacking one of the largest multi-year examples (1997-1999) in history?

Also please explain how dismissing Shiller (or anyone else's argument) strengthens your argument– which I interpret as being a blanket belief that "fast growing company stocks outperform inexpensive inexpensive slow-growing stocks." I can provide you with many strong academic studies that have documented this phenomenon in the past; as well as good studies that demonstrate momentum, small cap and other factors have historically outperformed. I would also like to better understand how you define a prospective study — since I find your use of the term confusing in this context.

As others have noted, this list has increasingly veered from its mission and why I joined; because the direction and rigor comes from the top, this exchange provides an excellent opportunity to reorient — unless you'd rather demur and focus on longevity.

Since when is this kind of thing true for future returns in a random walk? 

Russ Sears writes: 

The stock market declines massively this year, it increases the probability of a greater-than-average return in the future. And by extension, if the stock market rises massively this year, it increases the probability of a lower-than-average return in the future. There is a subtlety in this statement that I think should be pointed out, it is time. A quick hard drop increases the chance of a quick high return next year. However it is not symmetric with time. A large risk may lower expected return over a much longer period of time. Knowledge and therefore increases in wealth stays with us longer than destruction.

Victor Niederhoffer writes: 

Since when is this kind of thing true for future returns in  a random walk? 

May

14

I'm going out in a limb. I believe we are near an inflection point. I have no idea when it'll be over. It seems clear to me that it'll soon be President Pence.

I would consider a possible change when analyzing the markets. I would also consider the possibility that no tax package will get through until Trump issues are stabilized. If current challenges continue, next October could be interesting.

Discount all of this by your assessment of probabilities.

George Devaux writes:

James Carville - "It's the economy."

In the 8 years since the last recession, government expenditures (federal, state and local) have declined from 41% of the economy to 34%. The percentage decline resulted from flat expenditures by those entities combined with growth in other elements of the economy. Therefore, non-governmental entities have driven all of the growth in that 8 year period - a compounding rate of 3.6% per annum. That rate is pretty good for such a long period.

If government entities continue with flat, expenditures, the percentage share will continue to decline. That is fine with me. However, I expect that at least some governmental entities will increase expenditures. The result will be that the growth rate improves, and the growth moves toward the underlying rate of 3.6% in the non-governmental sector.

It appears that revenue flowing into the US Treasury is increasing. Inflows for state and other government entities may parallel the increase of flows into the US Treasury. If that is the case, the governments probably will increase their expenditures. The result will be a growth rate of about 3.6 % even without tax reform. Small adjustments in regulations will help.

Growth above 3% is an immunization vaccine for POTUS. Minus 2% - fake a heart attack and resign.

See the introductory quote.

May

14

Event History and Survival Analysis by Paul Allison is an excellent book showing you how to deal with events like death, unemployment, recidivism from jail, and stock market declines. It covers regression methods and multiple outcomes. Highly accessible.

May

12

We are moving past the inflection point, these stories if true will influence markets:

"The White House looks surrounded on the outside and divided on the inside… 

 "It’s total chaos,” said one former transition team official with close ties to the administration..

In the last 55 years of trading every time I have heard that same diatribe it has been a buying opportunity.

May

11

Recent performance of growth over value double 11% versus 5% last 10 years [source ] but why? Previously not the case russell growth versus russell value.

anonymous writes: 

I think it's due to where you pick the starting point out and perhaps the monetary environment. You may reach a different conclusion if you start the study in 1998 through 2008. 

May

11

From the cheap seats, I never really understood the "growth vs value" debate because it always seems to hinge on how you define "growth", how you define "value", and what your endpoints are. So basically it depends on what your initial bias is, which makes it rather a religious debate.

People will point to, for instance, AMZN and say "growth always leads the market", but that view benefits greatly from hindsight. Now the hot discussion is the positive skew of the distribution of returns, but of course that distribution has a positive skew, because it has a hard left edge. For small stocks I always called it "the ICBM effect"- you need to buy a bunch of them so you have a good chance of getting one of the 50-baggers.

I bought AAPL at $10 as a "value" stock and people I knew said I was an idiot. I sold it at $14 and thought I was a genius. If only I had had the foresight to know that I should hold it for another 16 years. Buffet is unloading Big Blue because while there appears to be plenty of value, there's not much growth. But he bought AAPL in the 90s in Q1 2016. Win some, lose some.

May

11

On healthcare, the actual voters wanted "repeal and replace", not just repeal. Even among Republican likely voters, few than half wanted complete repeal and "start all over", according to the most recent Rasmussen; and an equal number wanted "Go through the law piece by piece to improve it". Overall, the poll results were 54% for "piece by piece", 31% for "repeal only" and only 13% for "leave as is". Trump's judgment was proven correct: the voters wanted him to do something that was an attempt to "fix" healthcare.

On the question of churches in politics, his instincts were also in line with the likely voters. On the question of whether churches should be banned from politics, their response was 39% Yes, 52% No and 9% undecided.

Among Republicans Trump has a nearly 5-to-1 Approval ratio: 51% Strongly Approve, 11% Strongly Disapprove. The Never Trump "conservatives" are even outvoted by the 15% of Democrats who Strongly Approve. The overall result is 47% Approve, 53% Disapprove which are exactly 3% below what the beloved outgoing President's numbers were at this time last year. For a Republican President, who never ever wins the net approval of the "non-partisan" middle until they are faced with an actual ballot, those are more than satisfactory numbers.

May

11

While we're at it, will someone please show the Yale professors how to handle negative earnings so that they don't exclude these along with so many others that are not in the standard and poor earnings series he used, which used to report yearly six months after the end of the year if at all, perhaps using earnings price ratio?

Phil McDonnell writes: 

The use of PE ratios is very bad for historical studies. A simple mental experiment shows why. Suppose earnings result in a current PE ratio of 10. If earnings are cut in half the new PE will be 20, other things being equal. As earnings get smaller and smaller the PE rises to near infinity as earnngs approach zero.

When earnings go negative the PE suddenly flips from very large positive to negative. This causes the variable to go from a monotonic increasing to sudden negative.

At this point the Yale professor had no choice but to eliminate any such data.Using a slightly different variable of E/P eliminates the problem. It becomes a monotonic variable. When the E factor gets very small the E/P variable goes smaller. When E starts to go negative the variable goes negative with no loss of continuity. With this change there is no need to throw data out.

May

11

 For me the most important gain was realizing that the game was in the final stages, which creates a kind of freedom. You don't have the energy, drive, T, etc, to take on big risks, and in any case you shouldn't because it would be hard or impossible to start over after losing.

(Some will argue 50 is too young for these kind of thoughts, but as mom noted I am an old soul)

I once read an article by a retired journalist about his high school reunions. His best one was the 60th, because by then the ones left were done bragging about their big plans.

anonymous writes: 

A bit off-topic but the good Dr and the post-50 risk aversion he alludes to I am finding is quite pervasive. Nearly everyone I speak to wants to "just do this until I retire," or "I just want to work this job until I hit 62 and can begin getting SS, and live on the cheap from there."

And this is a very large swath of the population. In fact the big boomer bubble– who is either retired or mid-fifties now, is, by virtue of their age, nearly entirely risk-averse. The younger generation, perhaps even more so having never witnessed anything like an 80s or 90s style economy.

Just food for thought folks, being that I am not in the prognostications of anything business.

anonymous writes: 

I turned 60 last July. Although 3X/year sports injuries keep taking their toll on my old body, I keep chugging along. Yoga and open water swimming has been a lifesaver, probably cutting my recovery time in half. We're thinking of getting a house in Nicaragua, where the uncrowded waves have a siren song of their own. I have a bucket list in mind, and it is entirely surfing related. Before I die, hopefully I will get to surf Tavarua Fiji again, big Sunset Beach HI again, Todos Santos MX, Puerto Escondido Mx(Mexican Pipeline), Bali again, the Mentawais, Hossegor France, J-Bay, Bells Beach, and Durban. Plans and reservations are already in place for Tavarua next fall. Incidentally, Tavarua is the third best wave on the planet IMHO, and is the place that brought me closest to meet Charon. Bounced off a reef and picked up a staph infection that put me in intensive care for 10 days with my organs shutting down. Was it worth it? Hell yes. One thing that gives me thanks….my wife has bought into my bucket list and both of our lists easily mesh.

Stefanie Harvey writes: 

I am 48 so not quite there. This is the happiest I have been in my life:

- respected in my career
- happy in home life
- tolerance for bad behavior/drama has gone to zero
- integrating life experiences to solidify my values and philosophical base
- comfortable in my own skin

The one change– the body changes. Loss of estrogen means cardio vascular risk increases but it's easier to put on muscle. For men it can be loss of testosterone. My father got supplementary shots beginning in his late 60s until his death at 85. Exercise and healthy eating is a must for energy.

Make diet and exercise a priority. Create a system to eliminate distraction and decision fatigue. 

May

9

 I believe "African Studies", "Feminist Studies", "Women's Studies", "Social Justice", "HR Specialist", and so many more add no real value to the world.

Gordon Haave writes: 

I disagree, those majors also open up the opportunity for community activist type jobs.

Thurston Trowell writes: 

So people should get finance degrees and MBAs and go on to become analysts and managers of mutual funds and hedge funds, at least 88% of whom lag the markets each year? In your view, exactly how are these wealth sapping leaches on society diverting peoples' hard earned retirement savings into their own bank accounts and grand villas in Connecticut adding more "real value to the world" than the African Studies major? 

Scott Brooks reacts:

As usual, you jump to conclusions and ascribe things to what I wrote that I never said or wrote. It makes me think that you're part of the media who spins what people say to fit their desired narrative in order to demean those that dare disagree with their "exulted enligntened world view". Heck, it's almost like you're trying to smear and label me as some unworthy disgusting deplorable person.

But, that might only be the case if you were one of those media people. But let's look at what you said and deconstruct your faulty logic about the evils of financial people and what value to they bring to the world?

Let's keep this simple: How many people do these financial employ? How much revenue do they create from their efforts of adding value to the lives of other people (whether you see it as value or not…..people voluntarily see it as value since they keep giving these financial people money…..at least I know my clients do).

Personally, I employ 8 full time and 2 part time people, all of whom make very good money. I'd say that's pretty good. There are ~ 50 financial advisors flying to STL in a few weeks (on their dime) to spend 2 days with me so I can train them to better serve their clients, grow their businesses. Further, I will be training them on how to grow their staffing (creating jobs) as their businesses grow. I'd say that puts me and my services in demand. I'm the guy who donates money to the people who think they are doing good deeds in their communities. I'm the guy who pays the taxes that are forcibly taken from me to "support" (read: create dependence on the government) those poor souls (read: people who will vote for the polilticians who take my money and give it to the poor souls). I'd say that makes me pretty valuable.

As a matter of fact, I'd go so far as to say that the "do-gooders" of the world and they people they serve are completely dependent on the value I create so that I can donate to their services (or allow their "revered government" to take from me and give to them. Those with a degree in African Studies can do…….what? Hope to get a job teaching African Studies at some university to students who can do…..what? Hope to get a job at some university teaching African Studies to students who can do…..what? And so on, and so on, and so on, etc. etc. etc. And feel free to replace "African Studies" with "Feminist studies" or any other such worthless degree. If we eliminated African/Feminist/ studies (and other BS degrees) from universities….what would happen? I submit that the world would immediately become a better place. Of course, you may not like it because it would be a world filled with more financial people and businessmen and media types. Heck, we might even see the rise of the worst possible mashup of those things…….a media businessman who specializes in writing financial articles. 

Rocky Humbert responds: 

Shame on you. It saddens me that you, as a devoutly religious man, views the world in such mundane economic terms, rather than philosophical or existential terms. I suspect that hostile prose distorts your true beliefs. One's college major and one's college means little. Whether it's in physic or math or basket weaving. It's a piece of paper. And only to academics and archaically minded professionals does it have any meaning at all. How one conducts one's life means everything. Defining one's worth to the world is for only oneself and one's creator to measure. 

Russ Sears writes: 

Having a degree gives others insight into what the graduate values.

I will agree that the usefulness of what you learn can only be determined by the person using that knowledge.

Few art majors would have the ability or desire even if they had the skills to commit the time to engineering a bridge for example, but the engineering team may need an art major to enhance a bridge's aesthetics. 

May

9

Alan Millhone plays a game of checkers like I used to play with friends in squash. I always hit it so that my opponent could just run a little hard and get to the ball, never extending them to much or making them get out of breath. Alan when we played would ask me where I wanted him to move, then he would move there. He would refrain from taking an easy win to extend the game just enough to maintain the tension and enjoyment. It was very nice.

May

9

"More Robots, Fewer Jobs: Yes, robots are replacing workers. But there's more to the story"

But this is nothing new. I believe it is nonsense refusing technological advancements as a fundamental component of our society and welfare. Labor will adjust moving to higher added value activities and education will gradually improve to allow this process. It has happened for centuries.

May

9

There is a new paper: Most financial anomalies are statistically insignificant. 447 anomalies, plus whatever anybody tried that didn't work and got thrown in the trash. Multiple comparisons, regime changes…the physicists are laughing at us.

May

9

It was a pleasure meeting so many new spec listers yesterday in Connecticut. For those of you who enjoy the work of Elroy Dimson, here is a link to his new book Financial Market History: Reflections on the Past for Investors Today.

If any of you are in London on the 18th of this month you can sign up to attend his book launch reception at this link.

May

6

 This poem captures the zeitgeist of that wonderful time, late 70's, when I was coming up. Those guys that did all the coke and drugs didn't last. The athletes and the people with the bookie mentality were the ones who lasted.

Hamming the Bone by Michael Lee Rubenstein:

hand slaps shoulder knee rhythmically that’s called hamming the bone sitting on a street curb singing making up lyrics i got a transitor sister loves cossack named jake he rides Cherokee chopper all he’s ever known is hate he’s going down underground where a man can be a man wrestle alligators live off the land ebb flow i don’t know racing chasing hair-pin turning at 150 miles per hour downshift to 3rd spread the word sweet sour naked flower touching skin deep within defies all sin with a grin speed speed speed all i need i’m getting off coming on you tawny scrawny bow-legged pigeon-toed knock-kneed Don Juan Ponce de Leon Aly Khan all wrapped up into one going to have f***ing good time good time tonight i feel like an orphan mom and dad seem so far away tonight i feel like an orphan you make me feel this way hand slaps shoulder knee rhythmically hand bone hand bone

Odyseuss drifts job to job construction worker office assistant waiter whatever he does not understand how road to recognition works continues showing portfolio to art dealers but they react indifferently he does not know how to attain notice in art world begins to suspect there is no god watching over souls instead he imagines infinite force juggling light darkness creation destruction love hate Mom and Dad insist he can earn respectable income if only he will learn commodity futures like cousin Chris Mom says you can work down at the exchange and paint on the side a part of Odysseus wants desperately to please his parents he considers perhaps Mom is right for the time being maybe build up nest egg it seems like sensible plan he wonders why Dad and Mom never speak about money how to save manage they treat the subject as forbidden topic Odysseus has no idea what Dad or Mom earn or investment strategies Odysseus is about to make serious mistake the decision to get job working at commodity exchange needs deeper examination why is he giving in to his parents what attracts him to commodities trading is it Chris’s achievement and the money? does Odysseus honestly see himself as a winning trader or does it simply look like big party with lots of rich men pretty young girls is that where he wants to be why is he giving up on his dream to be a great artist does it seem too impossible to reach who makes him think that? is he going to give up on his true self? he halfheartedly follows his parent’s advice begins working as runner at Chicago Mercantile Exchange several friends including Calexpress disloyalty for entering straight world commodity markets are not exactly straight in 1978 clearing firms pay adequately hours are 8 AM to 2 PM over course of next 6 months Odysseus runs orders out to various trading pits cousin Chris rarely acknowledges Odysseus maybe Chris feels need to protect his image of success perhaps in front of his business associates Chris is embarrassed by Odysseus’s menial rank and goof-off attitude maybe Chris senses what a terrible mistake Odysseus has made

Chicago suffers harsh winter in February Roman Polanski skips bail in California flees to France in April President Carter postpones production of neutron bomb which kills people with radiation leaving buildings intact in October Yankees win World Series defeating Dodgers in November Jim Jones leads mass-murder suicide killing 918 people in Jonestown Guyana in December in San Francisco Dianne Feinstein succeeds murdered Mayor George Moscone in Chicago John Wayne Gacy is arrested

darkness descends upon Odysseus his heart is not into commodity business more accurately he hates it he loathes battleship gray color of greed envy he resents prevailing overcast of misogyny he meets many pretty girls yet most of them are only interested in catching a trader it is rumored numerous high rolling traders hire young girls for sole purpose of morning bl**jobs remainder of day girls are free to mingle run trivial errands commodity traders typically trash females it is primitive hierarchy Odysseus bounces from one clearing firm to another then moves to Chicago Options Exchange then Chicago Board of Trade on foyer wall just outside trading floor hangs bronze plaque commemorating all men who served in World War 2 Uncle Karl’s name is on that plaque Daddy Pat bought his son seat hoping to set him up after war Uncle Karl’s new wife wanted to break away from Chicago persuaded him to sell seat move to California Uncle Karl bought car wash outside Los Angeles with Daddy Pat’s support Mom and Dad encourage assure Odysseus commodities business is right choice they promise to buy him full seat on exchange if he continues to learn markets they feel certain he can be saved from his artistic notions the markets are soaring in profits cousin Chris is riding waves a number of Chris’s friends are sons of parents who belong to same clubs dine at same restaurants as Mom and Dad Odysseus is not alpha-male like Chris Odysseus is a dreamer painter poet writer explorer experimenter unlike Chris who has connections Odysseus starts out as runner then gets job holding deck for yuppie brokers in Treasury Dollar trading pit Odysseus holds buy orders between index and middle fingers sell orders in last 2 fingers arranged by time stamp price size in other hand holds nervous pencil he stands step below boss in circular pit in room size of football field full of raised pits everything is traded cattle hogs pork bellies all currencies gold numbers flash change instantaneously in columns on three high walls fourth wall is glass with seats behind for spectators thousands of people rush around delivering orders on telephones flashing hand signals shouting offers quantities every moment every day calls come in frantically from all around world space is organized chaos sometimes not so organized fortunes switch hands in nano-seconds it is global fiscal battleground rallies to up side or breaks to down side send room into hollering pushing shoving hysteria central banks financial institutions kingpin mobsters with political clout daring entrepreneurs old thieves suburban rich kids beautiful people pretty young females abound big guns suck in same air stand next to low-ranking runners everyone flirts sweats sneezes knows inside they are each expendable Odysseus is spellbound by sheer force magnitude he feels immaterial only grip is his success with girls it is not conscious talent he grins girls grin back Chris’s trader friends recognize Odysseus’s ability they push him to introduce girls to them it is way for Odysseus to level playing field he has no money or high opinion of himself he simply knows how to hook up with girls

1979 January Steelers defeat Cowboys at Super Bowl Brenda Ann Spencer kills 2 faculty wounds 8 students responds to incident “i don't like Mondays” in February Khomeini seizes power in Iran in March Voyager space-probe photographs Jupiter’s rings a nuclear power plant accident occurs at Three Mile Island Pennsylvania in May Margaret Thatcher is elected Prime Minister in England in Chicago American Airlines flight 191 crashes killing 273 people in November Iran hostage crisis begins 90 hostages 53 of whom are American in December Soviet Union invades Afghanistan 1980 in November Ronald Reagan defeats Jimmy Carter one year since Iran hostage crisis began

he meets good-looking younger girl named Monica on subway heading home from work he has seen her running orders on trading floor she is tall slender with long dark brown hair in ponytail pointed nose wide mouth innocent face she confides her estranged father is famous Chicago mobster Odysseus recognizes his name they talk about how much they dislike markets arrant disparity of wealth between traders and themselves Odysseus says i hate feeling of being so disposable worthless Monica replies yeah me too he tells her if i was a girl i’d prostitute myself to several handsome generous traders Monica acknowledges that’s an interesting idea but who? how? which traders? do you know? he answers yeah i know exactly who and how Monica says if you’re serious i’m in i have a girlfriend named Larissa who might also be interested i’ll call Larissa tonight following day Monica approaches Odysseus at work agrees to meet at his place after markets close that afternoon Monica and Larissa show up eager to learn more about Odysseus’s scheme Larissa is petite built like a gymnast giggly light brown hair younger than Monica he lays it all out for them cousin Chris and his buddies the money cocaine both girls are quite lovely he suggests they rehearse with him he will coach them on situations settings techniques girls consent for 4 weeks every afternoon they meet at Odysseus’s place get naked play out different scenarios he shows girls how to pose demure at first then display themselves skillfully fingers delicately pulling open labia spreading wide apart buns working hidden muscles he directs each to take up numerous positions tasks techniques then has them switch places he teaches them timing starting slow gradually building up rhythms stirring into passionate frenzy having two mouths four hands creates novel sets of possibilities one girl attends his front while other excites his rear he positions them side-by-side so he can penetrate any of all four holes he stacks them one on top of the other many other variations after reaching orgasm several times making sure to reciprocally satisfy their eager needs Odysseus dismisses girls until following day finally after month of practice Monica and Larissa feel confident proficient primed Odysseus arranges for girls to meet with 2 traders through Chris most traders have nicknames Twist who is hosting event is notoriously wild insatiable on opening night Odysseus behaves like concerned father Larissa and Monica each bring several dresses and pairs of shoes Odysseus helps them choose suggests Monica ease up on make-up he styles Larissa’s hair instructs Monica to call him when they arrive again when they leave he requests they return directly to his place Monica wears hair pulled back in French twist pearl earrings sleek little black dress black stiletto heels she stands several inches above Odysseus Larissa wears braided pigtails pink low-scooped leotard brown plaid wool kilt just above knees brown suede cowboy boots he kisses each on lips then pats their butts warns them to be careful mindful Monica winks Larissa giggles more than an hour passes as Odysseus sits wondering why he has not heard from girls suddenly reality hits he does not want to be commodities trader and certainly not a pimp this is not how he wants to be known or remembered Odysseus wants to be a painter and writer Monica and Larissa are good sweet girls whom he has misguided he calls Twist’s place Twist answers Odysseus asks to speak with Monica when she comes to phone he questions are you all right Monica answers yes we’re fine we’re having a fantastic time why are you calling what’s wrong he explains you were suppose to call me when you arrived i began to worry i think maybe this whole arrangement is a bad idea i want you to call it off and come back home i don’t want either of you to become prostitutes i love you both and don’t want to be associated with dishonoring you Monica says it’s a little late to call it off but we’ll see you when we’re done kissy kiss bye Odys another hour passes then another he frets wondering what they are doing after 4 hours as he is about to call Twist’s house again doorbell rings Monica and Larissa both giggling beaming Odysseus can spot they have a coke buzz Monica announces you should be proud of us Odys we got each of them off 2 times we left them stone-numb and tapped out the girls open their purses each slaps 5 hundred dollar bills unto table Monica says this is your cut Odys we both got a thousand for ourselves he replies i can’t touch that money we need to sit down and talk Monica demands no talking Odys take off your clothes he insists i’m serious Monica i’m never going to send you out again Larissa claims there’s no turning back for me i had too much fun Monica pleads come on Odys we’ll be good we promise now take off your clothes Twist and his buddy never attended to our needs i’m horny as hell Larissa where’s that little bottle of dust Twisty handed you

Chicago Monday night December 8 1980 Cal and Odysseus sit at North End they're on 4th round feeling buzz the place is lively adorned with holiday decorations Cal says you’ve changed Odysseus questions what do you mean? how? Cal says the commodity markets and your cousin and his friends they’ve changed you when was the last time you painted Odys? are you dealing coke Odysseus looks Cal in the eyes answers they’re so goddamn rich Cal you can’t believe it one drives a black Corvette Stingray another a goddamn Delorean anything they want they buy girls cars clothes condos boats yeah i’m dealing coke to Chris’s friends it’s my only leverage remember the Columbian dude Armando we met at tittie bar? i score from him and keep it clean Chris’s buddies pay up for the quality i don’t remember my last painting maybe the black painting i never finished after breaking up with Reiko Lee a girl falls off bar stool crashing to floor at other end of bar Cal says Odys, you better play it careful you’re messing with the devil got any blow on you suddenly bar grows quiet someone turns up TV volume they watch overhead as news anchorman speaks slow solemn camera pans splattered puddle of blood pieces of broken glass on steps to Dakota Building Cal looks to Odysseus John Lennon has been murdered Cal waits for Odysseus to say something tear rolls down cheek Cal glances away stares down at floor they drink in silence

Victor Niederhoffer shares: 

Another great read about the days of the pits.  

May

6

 TL;DR: Tax-Cuts actually raise tax revenue, especially from wealthy. Increase in debt during Reagan years was Congress outspending the increased revenue, not the effects of the tax-cuts.. Happy to see Sowell writing again.

"Tax Lies for the Gullible":

One of the painful realities of our times is how long a political lie can survive, even after having been disproved years ago, or even generations ago.

A classic example is the phrase "tax cuts for the rich," which is loudly proclaimed by opponents, whenever there is a proposal to reduce tax rates. The current proposal to reduce federal tax rates has revived this phrase, which was disproved by facts, as far back as the 1920s — and by now should be called "tax lies for the gullible."

How is the claim of "tax cuts for the rich" false? Let me count the ways. More important, you can easily check out the facts for yourself with a simple visit to your local public library or, for those more computer-minded, on the internet.

One of the key arguments of those who oppose what they call "tax cuts for the rich" is that the Reagan administration tax cuts led to huge federal government deficits, contrary to "supply side economics" which said that lower tax rates would lead to higher tax revenues.

This reduces the whole issue to a question about facts — and the hard facts are available in many places, including a local public library or on the internet.

The hardest of these hard facts is that the revenues collected from federal income taxes during every year of the Reagan administration were higher than the revenues collected from federal income taxes during any year of any previous administration.

How can that be? Because tax rates and tax revenues are two different things. Tax rates and tax revenues can move in either the same direction or in opposite directions, depending on how the economy responds.

But why should you take my word for it that federal income tax revenues were higher than before during the Reagan administration? Check it out.

Official statistics are available in many places. The easiest way to find those statistics is to go look at a copy of the annual "Economic Report of the President." It doesn't have to be the latest Report under President Trump. It can be a Report from any administration, from the Obama administration all the way back to the administration of the elder George Bush.

Each annual "Economic Report of the President" has the history of federal revenues and expenditures, going back for decades. And that is just one of the places where you can get this data. The truth is readily available, if you want it. But, if you are satisfied with political rhetoric, so be it.

Before we turn to the question of "the rich," let's first understand the implications of higher income tax revenues after income tax rates were cut during the Reagan administration.

That should have put an end to the talk about how lower tax rates reduce government revenues and therefore tax cuts need to be "paid for" or else there will be rising deficits. There were in fact rising deficits in the 1980s, but that was due to spending that outran even the rising tax revenues.

Congress does the spending, and there is no amount of money that Congress cannot outspend.

As for "the rich," higher-income taxpayers paid more — repeat, more tax revenues into the federal treasury under the lower tax rates than they had under the previous higher tax rates. That happened not only during the Reagan administration, but also during the Coolidge administration and the Kennedy administration before Reagan, and under the G.W. Bush administration after Reagan. All these administrations cut tax rates and received higher tax revenues than before.

More than that, "the rich" not only paid higher total tax revenues after the so-called "tax cuts for the rich," they also paid a higher percentage of all tax revenues afterwards. Data on this can be found in a number of places, including documented sources listed in my monograph titled "'Trickle Down' Theory and 'Tax Cuts for the Rich.'"

As a source more congenial to some, a front-page story in The New York Times on July 9, 2006 — during the Bush 43 administration — reported, "An unexpectedly steep rise in tax revenues from corporations and the wealthy is driving down the projected budget deficit this year." Expectations, of course, are in the eye of the beholder.

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

With defenders like Sowell, "conservatives" don't need any enemies. Tax cuts don't raise revenue; how could they? You said that taxes would be "cut". As Sowell finally explains, marginal Tax RATE cuts raise revenues. But they do so precisely because they do reward the rich. That reward is the price to be paid for making the country as a whole richer. To pretend otherwise is fatuous.

Lower marginal tax rates work because they reduce the incentives to cheat, especially for the rich. If you are only saving a few hundred basis points, there is very little reason to pay your lawyers to do tax planning - er, legally cheat. If the return is thousands (basis points on your overall tax rate, not dollars), that is an entirely different matter. The Reagan tax rate cuts were effective precisely because they gave the rich a reprieve from the Ford-Carter reforms that had made the high marginal tax rates real. Throughout the 50s and 60s the Roosevelt era Rates of Socialist confiscation had been invisibly moderated by the wonderful loophole of non-recourse financing tat the 54 Act allowed. But that all changed with the 1976 Act - which brought Venezuelan tax rates to bear and persuaded some of the rich to ignore their lawyers and play audit roulette by committing outright fraud. 

May

6

There have to be trading lessons, but even if there weren't any, it's still worth the read:

"Everything You Need to Know About Ejecting From a Fighter Jet: You want to avoid it at all costs. But when there is no other option, it can save your life"

May

6

 I was honored to be invited to speak at the Junto, and I'm sorry if my involvement had anything to do with ending that talk series. While some in the audience voiced complaints about the moderation, I was happy to defer to Victor and let him run his talk event however he liked.

I'm pretty sure I didn't give a time estimate of 40 years; I said that the previous history of growth suggested that there might be another transition to a faster growth rate in roughly a century or so. Yes it would be nice to have more data, but we'd be fools not to look at the data we have.

The forecasts in my book The Age of EM: Work, Life and Love When Robots Rule the Earth don't really depend much on when that transition would happen, they mainly depend on our society not changing too much between now and then. My book is also unusually clear, compared to other futurists book, to explicitly express my uncertainty, as overall probability estimates early in the book, and as qualifiers to particular forecasts throughout.

I certainly wouldn't claim that AI would be substantially more able to predict its future than can humans today. They might be able to do this if the world was held constant while their intelligence increased, but smarter AI will make for a more complex and harder to predict world.

May

6

 2 posts for plenty of thought:

"Did you know? The world population growth rate peaked in 1962/63 and has been falling to about half of what it was since then"

Children per woman, total fertility rate, 1955-2015

Ralph Vince writes: 

Who knows how quickly we will populate Mars, and how soon this will begin (these things come on much faster than anyone anticipates).

I posit tht population growth is a function of bounds, both economically, culturally, and geographically. When the hottest thing for a young person to do is move to Mars and start life, given the seemingly boundless opportunity out there, the picture will change dramatically, and these ancestors of ours will look back at such articles with amazement and a touch of humor.

May

6

I would not be surprised if the Puerto Rico default has a much larger impact on the markets globally than current expectations. I would also draw a number of similarities between PR and European peripherals, the primary being the inability to generate growth through weakening the currency. PR is in the straightjacket of the US$ and European peripherals wear the straitjacket of the Euro. Argentina does have some parallels, but they also had a currency peg which they allowed to float.

May

6

On June 30, 1865, the U.S. Treasury's net borrowings outstanding were $2.7B. This was 41 times what they had been on June 30, 1860 when the net debt outstanding was $.07B. The peak was not reached until the last bills from the war came in; that came in the August 31, 1865 statement, whose closing balance showed a total debt less cash on hand of $2.8B. (As Grant notes, in the last page of his memoir, after Appomattox he set out to hurry back to Washington to cancel the outstanding war orders.) The June 30, 1865 statement showed these balances:

1. Irredeemable Currency (U.S. Notes aka Greenbacks) - $.46B - Unlike the Gold Notes that were exchangeable on demand for specie, the Greenbacks had no accrued interest costs.

2. Immediate Demand Notes (aka "Gold Notes") $.58B - Average Annual Interest Cost: 5.3%

3. Debt Due in 5 Years or Less (Avg. Maturity 3 Years) $.70B - Average Annual Interest Cost: 7.2%

4. Debt Due in More Than 5 Years (Average Maturity 21 Years) $.95B - Average Annual Interest Cost: 5.8%

Even as they looked at the massive accumulation of debt and wondered how it could be managed, the Republican majority in Congress discovered that they were being snookered. The Constitutional Amendment to abolish slavery had been adopted by Congress in 1864; but it had yet to be ratified by the states. With 36 states in the country and only 22 states in "the Union", at least 5 of the secessionist states would have to be formally readmitted to the Union and vote to ratify the Amendment. In what would now be called "bi-partisanship", the Democrat President Johnson and the Senate leadership under Seward worked the cajole the former rebels into accepting the 13th Amendment. They succeeded; with the admissions and ratifications of Tennessee (April 7, 1865), Arkansas (April 14th), South Carolina (November 13th), Alabama (December 2nd), North Carolina (December 4th), and Georgia (December 6th), the vote of the required 3/4ths of the states was secured and the 13th Amendment became part of the United States Constitution.

The Republicans had not fully anticipated was how eager the Southern Democrats and President Johnson would be to adopt the the abolition of slavery. What they finally realized - as Florida negotiated for its readmission - was that the 13th Amendment was about votes in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College, not about abolition at all. With the final ratification of the 13th Amendment, the Democrat Southern states had gained an increase in representation; they now had more seats in the House and votes in the Electoral College than they had possessed when they seceded from the Union. Apportionment of these states' rights under the 1860 Census had been on the count of ALL all adult white and 6/10ths of all mulattos and blacks. (White, Mulatto and Black were the 3 racial categories in the 1860 Census form.) Now the Southern states had the added House seats and Electoral College votes that came with the full enfranchisement of adult Black and Mulatto males. The coming elections offered the Southern Democrats and their Copperheads allies a very good chance of taking immediate control of the House in 1866 and regaining the Senate and the Presidency as well in 1868. After all, many in the North were as opposed to emancipation as the Southerners had been; New Jersey, for example, had not even ratified the 13th Amendment.

If the Democrats regained control, they would do one or the other of two things regarding Federal finance:

1. The Congress would repudiate ALL the debts incurred during the Civil War; OR

2. The Congress would do an Alexander Hamilton and assume ALL the debts incurred during the Civil War, including the $1.4B owed by Confederate States of America and their secessionist member states

For the Republicans and the Democrats, the Congressional election campaign of 1866 became a referendum on the question of the debt. The Republicans argued that the price paid for the war, in blood and in treasure, would all have been for nothing. They hammered away at the theme that, if the Democrats were elected, the Federal government would repudiate the loans issued during the Civil War as being Unconstitutional; and the bondholders would get nothing. The Democrats did their best to dress up default as part of a populist cause: the poor striking back at the rich. To an amazing extent modern historians like Foner and Richardson actually buy that argument. They think "the people" should have been for at least partial repudiation i.e. paying off the debt not in gold but in greenbacks - non-redeemable, non-interest-bearing paper.

The voting public did not. To understand why is to begin to understand how different the world of the 19th century really was. The holders of U.S. debt in 1866 were radically different people from those who currently hold Uncle Sam's IOUs. Instead of the Fed and foreign central banks and U.S. financial institutions who are the present buyers and sellers, the owners of U.S. Treasury debt after the Civil War were the country's individual citizens. Jay Cooke's 19th century biographer estimated that Cooke created 3 million bond customers; even Foner, who despises Cooke, concedes that he had 1 million subscribers. That meant that, at the very least, 1 out of every 12 adults living in the North in 1860 were bondholders. Treasury debt ownership was as widespread as ownership of U.S. savings bonds was after WW II; but in 1866 "the public" owned ALL of the debt, not just the small denominations.

As a result, the Republicans won - bigly; and they learned their lesson about bi-partisanship. Congress set to work adopting still more Amendments to the Constitution and adopted a new standard for a state's readmission to the Union. In order to have its representatives seated in Congress , a state would have to ratify the 14th Amendment and approve its specific debt and enforcement debt provisions, including Section 4: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void."

By 1868 the Democrats were resolved that repudiation and race war would be their party platform. In his final State of the Union message Johnson announced: "This vast debt, if permitted to become permanent and increasing, must eventually be gathered into the hands of a few, and enable them to exert a dangerous and controlling power in the affairs of the government. The borrowers would become servants to the lenders, the lenders the masters of the people. We now pride ourselves upon having given freedom to 4,000,000 of the colored race; it will then be our shame that 40,000,000 of people, by their own toleration of usurpation and profligacy, have suffered themselves to become enslaved, and merely exchanged slave owners for new taskmasters in the shape of bondholders and tax gatherers."
———————

What the present period does share with the one after the Civil War is the insistence by the voters that the Federal debts be paid. And, then, as now, the smart money thinks that is impossible.

In the decades after the Civil War, both the voters and the smart money were both proved right. As the smart money had predicted, the debt was not, in fact, repaid; it was simply rolled over and gradually increased for the remainder of the 19th century. But, at the same time, the public was paid, and in full. The debts were not repudiated; and the dollar, instead of collapsing, actually gained in purchasing power. Even as the debt remained and slowly grew larger, the demand to own and hold U.S. Treasury obligations strengthened. Both "the people" and the smart money worldwide grew ever more bullish on the dollar and U.S. debt, as they discovered that dollars to paid out in the future were worth even more in goods and services than they were in the present.

This all happened because of one man - Ulysses Grant. By determination and sheer force of will, Grant forced the Congress - both Democrats and Republicans - to pass the legislation that did three seemingly contradictory things:

1. The money "supply" would be increased; contrary to the arguments of both Johnson's Treasury Secretary McCulloch and Republican Senator John Sherman, the greenbacks in circulation would not be "retired"; and the privately-owned banks in the country would be free to issue as many of their own Federal bank notes as they thought prudent.

2. All paper currency obligations - privately issued Federal bank notes and Treasury greenbacks - every piece of printing that the law recognized as legal tender for the payment of private and public debt - would be exchangeable for gold or (for small denominations only) silver coin. Redemption of their Federal bank notes from their reserves of coin would be the obligation of the private banks. Redemption of Treasury greenbacks, gold notes and bonds would be paid out of the Treasury's own specie (gold and silver bullion and coin) reserves.

3. The Federal government would keep straight books and would not spend more than it collected in taxes which would be tariffs only, no income taxes

Grant's reputation suffers to this day precisely because he won a victory in the debt and currency war that followed the Civil War that came with full and unconditional surrender:

1. By adopting the Scottish model of free banking, the United States acquired overnight a responsive and adaptable system of private lending and bond issuance that became the marvel of the world - one that stood in direct opposition to the central bank model that Europe was adopting. Within two decades American private banks and their depositors had become the healthiest in the world, strong enough to be able to bail out the Federal government in 1893.

2. By requiring all paper money to be as good as gold, the United States avoided the corruptions that the arbitrage of legal tender bimetallism inevitably creates. Thanks to the restricted authority given to the Federal government, the temptations for Congress and the President to muck about with the nation's currency and credit were successfully limited. As a result, credit panics were limited in scope and reach; even national crises were over within a matter of days, not years, because no institutions were too big to fail.

Grant's first legislative act as a new President was to sign the bill that Johnson had vetoed - the Public Credit Act : "(I)n order to remove any doubt as to the purpose of the Government to discharge all just obligations to the public creditors and to settle conflicting questions and interpretations of the laws by virtue of which such obligations have been contracted, it is hereby provided and declared that the faith of the United States is solemnly pledged to the payment in coin or its equivalent of all the obligations of the United States not bearing interest known as United States notes and of all the interest bearing obligations of the United States except in cases where the law authorizing the issue of any such obligation has expressly provided that the same may be paid in lawful money or other currency than gold and silver. But none of said interest bearing obligations not already due shall be redeemed or paid before maturity unless at such time United States notes shall be convertible into coin at the option of the holder or unless at such time bonds of the United States bearing a lower rate of interest than the bonds to be redeemed can be sold at par in coin. And the United States also solemnly pledges its faith to make provision at the earliest practical period for the redemption of the United States notes in coin."

By the time finished his second term, his financial system was so well-established and supported that no successor President - Republican or Democrat - dared to mess with the legislative structure he had created for the rest of the century. (The only comparable legislative success in terms of permanently reshaping American finance would be Roosevelt's New Deal.) The only small move made towards British ideal of a government monopoly over money was John Sherman's move to give the Bureau of Engraving sole authority to actually print the U.S. Notes for the individual banks; even this change towards sole Federal authority had to wait until 1877, after Grant had left office. (Grant had opposed Sherman's "reform" because he knew that this would create a supply bottleneck that would result in purely artificial "shortages" of bank notes. As the British had already demonstrated, allowing a single Note Department meant that all banks - both sound and unsound - could be prohibited from increasing lending in times of crisis.)

It was only after extravagance of the Spanish-American War and the foreign exchange crisis of 1907 that Congress once again decided that a new, modern "flexible" (sic) system of Federal government borrowing was needed. Teddy Roosevelt, the first Progressive Republican President, was all in favor because he wanted to raise the money for the Panama Canal. Woodrow Wilson, the first Progressive Democrat President, was desperate to establish an income tax that would extend the reach of the government and its central bank into everyone's private finances and give the Federal government the monopoly power to expand its own "money supply" at will.

Contrary to what is now taught, the U.S. did not "inflate" its way out of its debt crisis after the Civil War. Neither did it suffer the ruins of deflation that every college and graduate student who wants an A on his/her exams learns by rote. The purchasing power of "the dollar" grew as enterprise and invention made things and services better, cheaper and far more broadly available. The size of the U.S. debt remained comparatively enormous compared to what it had been in 1860 and before; but the growth of the country made it possible to carry that obligation with ease while maintaining the Constitutional standard for money that Washington and others had insisted on when they founded the country itself.

And now, after 3 World Wars and the bloodiest century in human history, all financed by fiat money and government debt-reserved banking, here we are once again - looking at Federal promises to pay of a size that, even a decade ago, was beyond imagining.

May

6

 At our little vineyard here in CA (not little when age adjusted), we planted some bird nesting boxes to tip the local ecology toward insect depletion. The Western Bluebird–an obligate insectivore–is a cavity nester:

OK it says they also eat berries, but I've not seen them feed on grapes. (If so the plan will change)

This year one of two nest boxes have been occupied by a nesting couple. The eggs hatched, and mom and (mostly) dad feed the babies insects and grubs all day. Parents and kids are now accustomed to me, as with this year's heavy rains there is much work in the vineyard.

But this morning I noticed a trail of ants–illegals– actually invasive Argintine ants–crawling up the post to the nest box. I worried that some or all of the babies died. But on opening the box I was greeted by 2 of the 3 fat babies.

Mom and (mostly) dad fly food in every few minutes, which explains these obese chicks. They compete for incoming food by chirping as loud as they can, and holding their mouths open so as to create the easiest target for their tired parents (one was going to reference nubiles surreptitiously flashing but…).

I had some Borax granulated detergent (thanks to 20 mule team and Ronald Reagan) which I poured around the base of the post supporting the nest box. It contains sodium tetraborate, which is good (in trace amounts) for grapevines, but deadly for ants. It may take a few days but the ant trails and nest will be dead soon.

As a conservative, I took responsibility for the nest box I installed. Even though the birds may not be 100% beneficial, in some ways I own them…even though these children have traits of socialists. But…libertarian too, right? If you don't chirp, don't expect to be fed?

I resolve this with my commitment to do all I can to help the chicks successfully fledge from my nest box. But during harvest season when birds can strip the vines clean, watch out. I net the vines and will shoot any birds preying on my grapes while perched on the net.

May

4

Harold Weaver, a friend of M.F.M. Osborne and me, a great man, just passed away.

I wrote a letter to his family:

I was despondent to hear of your father's death. He was such a great man and was very inspiring to me while at Berkeley. I read Osborne's biography which had many connections with the family. If you haven't seen it it , I could send to you. I moved from Berkeley some 50 years ago and and lost touch with Harold which was my loss. I wrote to him a few times after that but the Internet did not connect us. I would be happy to assist you in any way. I remember him as always curious and always ready to test a new theory. He must have lived to almost almost 100. But for him that was much too short. 

And I would add that he will always be remembered in the world of investing for his invention of the Weaver diagram. A way of expressing a 3 dimensional time series in two dimensions. You take two variables like stocks and bonds, and plot the first observations as a point, then you draw an arrow from the first observation to the second observation. It's a very effective in showing concentrations and divergences over time and angles between things such as

sp
/ bonds /

with arrows connecting. Somewhat like Poincare phase maps for orbiting planets, but applied to prices of assets. He audited my class for two years and his warm good humour was a highlite. I believe I introduced him to Art Jensen and we went out to dinner together. I will remember his as one of the warmest, most creative, and decent people I ever met. vic

A news release from U.C. Berkeley:

Pioneering Radio Astronomer Harold Weaver dies at age 99 

A Weaver diagram tracing the relationship between bond yield slope and stock prices

May

3

 I attended an Arthur Niederhoffer awards dinner at John Jay the college he co-founded that now has 18,000 students versus the 15 it started with. Immigration restrictions, evil and biased activities figured in every one's talk. And there was raucous applauds when someone demurred about some fine police action against perps that he was forced to take on Nov. 9 as there was for the new President who was a Chief of Attorney General Lynch's justice department who is even more compassionate than the Cattle trader.

Every person speaking made a point of their dismay, anomie about the recent Elect outcome. Every day one meets or hears about hundreds with similar feelings and beliefs. No where are these feelings more pronounced one would surmise than in our own Board of Governors who are meeting today.

No matter how hard they tried to do him in before hand with their Hot Markets stance and their certainty of 10 hikes after, their emphasis on the crazily flawed Cape Model of the Yale Nobelist, the market, the wealth keeps gong up. I say they pull out all the stops to give him a well deserved drubbing today.

Apr

30

 I am reading Walter Heiby's Stock Market Profits Through Dynamic Synthesis, before I prepare for my challenge match with J. Weisenthal at Central Park handball courts today and it's beautiful with 350 pages of tables and 65 graphs. It contains daily data on S&P, advancing, declining, unchanged, ny volume, active issues volume, active issues price, odd lot purchases, sales, odd lot short sales. Monthly data of mutual fund, purchases, monthly debit and credit. It's an admirable effort, and he thanks his father, his mother, and wife for taking an active part in entering all the data and giving him energy for the 40 years at least he's worked on it, (thereby falling short of Larry and the signer's 65 years). It brings to mind the panoply of eminents in Cradles of Eminence: Childhoods of More Than 700 Famous Men and Women: "My wife Eunice Heiby pushed the buttons of our first adding machine, my father who gathered many of the stats which were fed into our clrculators, he also helped perform many of the early calculations that became the basis of the growing body of knowledge that is now known as dynamic sythesis." His "mother, Laura that I owe whichever of these traits of tremendous energy and perserverences". He is very much like Galton on eminence.

Heiby's numbers and ideas are very valuable. They hold up very well except for the odd lot data. The monthly data are so sparse relative to market movements that any sort of tweaking will yield any conclusions so not as useful as the daily and the ideas. He like almost all his followers has no idea of multiple comparisons and the amazing ability of a few cuts of random data to come up with seemingly incredible results. If you cut 10 times from a normal distribution randomly you are likely to find a 1 in 1000 probability emerging, with exact figures given by the exponential distribution and best obtained today by simulation. So all his conclusions about when to get in and out are worthless and couldn't beat buy and hold but it's a noble effort, deserving to be in the valhalla of our field and aside from the high correlation of advancing and declining issues with price moves itself, the daily data is a nice template for further research.

Apr

30

 Westinghouse Electric filed for bankruptcy protection a few weeks ago. Westinghouse is the prime contractor, original equipment manufacturer, and financial guarantor of approximately $40 billion worth of nuclear construction. That construction is underway in Georgia and South Carolina. Depending on how it's measured, construction is approximately 50 percent complete. More than 50 percent of the money has been spent or committed.

Owners of these projects represent every utility operating in Georgia and South Carolina. Owners include every cooperative utility, municipal utility, and investor-owned utility operating in each state. By extension, every consumer living or working in either state will assume their pro rata share of construction liabilities.

Georgia utilities are also liable to the federal government for $8 billion in loan guarantees. These loans are in addition to any exposure to $2 billion in federal tax credit clawbacks.

Utilities and state regulators will be forced to make some tough decisions. Do they proceed with construction, do they abandon, do they defer, or do they implement some combination? There's no right answer.

Either way, it appears the states' captive customers will pay the price. If utilities proceed with construction, customers will face higher utility bills. In the first several years, those monthly invoices could be painful. However, over time, they will become palatable.

If utilities and regulators abandon construction, consumers will pay for all utilities' costs to date (this requirement is due to state Construction Work In Progress - CWIP policies). Unfortunately, captive consumers will gain nothing in return for their involuntary contributions.

Stakeholders are beginning to understand the depth of their predicament. Some are deeply concerned:

Unless there's a sovereign bailout, it's looking grim for utility stakeholders. It's difficult for the 10,000 or so highly skilled construction workers at both construction sites. It's sour for shareholders, communities relying on the plant's tax base, utility employees, state agencies, regulators, and consumers.

I take no delight in the Westinghouse meltdown. For me, nuclear power is an elegant solution to power industry challenges. It's clean, it's reliable, and, over the long term, it's economic. But, make no mistake. Nuclear power plants are sovereign assets.

Apr

27

 And yet when the Fed decreases its debt holdings, it is not somehow magically paying off the debt but only selling it to someone else. If that is the case, then won't the lovely future GD predicts depend on Secretary Mnuchin finding an extra $400B from somewhere other than Aunt Janet's piggy bank?

George Zachar writes: 

That's right…when the Fed stops rolling over its debt holdings to shrink its balance sheet, the debt will need 'fresh money' buyers.

The bear story is more debt on the market pushing up yields. The bull story is the presence of "natural" buyers needing "risk free" assets…a category that conveniently includes US financial institutions forced to buy them due to increasingly rigorous regulations.

Apr

27

 Faust thinks at least scientists at least acknowledge they have a huge incentive to tweak, or outright fake, statistical analyses to make results seem significant or to align with government priorities. Science marchers however treat research as something akin to religious awe rather than acknowledge its flaws. This tends to cause self-identified "science enthusiasts" to only accept science which supports their views.

"Another example is the vocal wing of environmentalists who got up one day and decided that genetically modified organisms were bad for you," Faust writes. "They had not one shred of evidence for this, but it just kind of felt true. As a result, responsible scientists will be fighting against these zealots for years to come."

"Harvard Instructor: Science March Was ‘Eerily Religious’"

Steve Ellison writes: 

I often say that a benefit of doing research and statistics in our field is that there is no "publish or perish", but only "a cruel but not unusual form of 'capital punishment'", as Richard Band put it, if we get something wrong.
 

Apr

27

 I recently spent a month camping on glaciers in Alaska near Denali. Usually the weather can be very bad. This year there was an unusual Omega Block of cold clear polar air that settled over Alaska keeping out all storms, clouds and snow. It pushed all the weather and storms south to California which had the wettest year in history. One of the issues in weather, as in trading, is timing. They knew the block would break but not when. It lasted over 6 weeks and then after a small storm reinstated for weeks more.

Trading patterns are complex like weather. A random sample can have long runs. Wykoffian blocking patterns undoubtedly can set up and last longer than many would expect. A question as with weather is whether the pressure gets diverted elsewhere. As stock meander in a range it seems like bonds have had some turbulence recently. I wonder if a similar dynamic is at work.

Jeff Watson writes: 

You correctly noted that the patterns can set up and last longer than one might expect. Carry trades last longer than one would think could be rational.
 

Apr

27

 A little paddleball doubles history…

Gale Michaels and Herb Olson were arguable the best doubles teams in the country during the game's heyday of the 70s. Bud Muehleisen and Charley Brumfield would have given them a run for their money, and Andy Homa and I squeaked by them to win the MSU Intramural doubles championships in about 1971, when MSU had the powerhouse players, along with U of M.

Homa and I beat them by the only viable, curious strategy, which was to play to Michaels. To me, Michaels was one of the best players to ever take up a paddle, so everyone else played to his partner Olson. However, in doubles in those days, with 20-shot rallies common, you could isolate a player, especially on the left side, and grind him into the ground. Even the great Gale Michaels. He finally tired late in the third rubber game to 21-points, and we won the championship jackets. I gave mine away for a date, as it was the only way I got one, even with those good paddle hands.

I don't think Michaels and Olson ever won the Nationals, probably losing the year they entered to either Muehleisen and Brumfield, or to the two-fisted McNamara brothers. Muehleisen and Brumfield were formidable, but Brumfield could not stick with Michaels, a two-time NCAA champion wrestler, who once chased him screaming out of the upper courts at the MSU intramural building. The McNamara brothers, Bernie and Bob, used two-handed backhands which were punishing but slow to the draw, and they intimidated their opponents to win. In the Flint, MI nationals in about '71, Bernie squeezed Andy's hand in the pregame handshake so hard it brought tears of joy to his eyes, as he replied, 'I'm a southpaw!' Bob slapped my face so hard in the pregame warm-up that it careened me against the side wall. With that, we served, and wiped the court up with them in the semis. The McNamara had already sent a photo of themselves holding the championship trophy into the Minneapolis newspaper declaring them the national champions, but they returned home with their shirttails between their legs.

Apr

26

In your very good article you leave out the most important thing that I know from visiting thousands of companies in my merger business.

All business owners existing and potential are motivated by their after tax returns. [The tax plan] will create an enormous stimulus to new businesses, and expansion of existing. The existing holders for stocks will also be much more likely too unleash their existing enormous gains, ( many I know and infinitely more sit on many millions of gains and won't sell because rates are too high ). Thus, there will be enormous growth in the economy and the market will go up, and regrettably tax revenues will actually increase. That's why joint committee will not use dynamic scoring. They should read Laffer and get out and talk to people who are mainly concerned with their after tax return which will increase by 25 % or so . Should create an immediate 10% increase in stock valuations. vic

Apr

25

 Wherever you live in the world, Slab City is at your doorstep. There are two reasons.

Nearly every airport on the planet connects to LAX in Los Angeles. From there, you walk down the hall to Mokulele Airlines and catch a $39 flight to the edge of Slab City.

Mokulele Airlines is the only one that services the Imperial County Airport, with six daily one-hour flights, and carries you up and out the smog, over the breathtaking Sierra Nevada Mountains, and skimming the Salton Sea, where the freckle-faced pilot points out the San Andreas Fault to her six passengers, and lands at the airport.

At the tiny Imperial Airport, you'll walk a hundred yards out to Imperial Highway in Imperial, CA, and catch the Imperial Valley Transit bus for an hour ride through the desert to Slab City. The bus will drop you at May's Groceries, and then you hitch or walk three miles east on Beal Road through the agriculture fields to Salvation Mountain and the Slabs.

However, what everyone has been doing for years, before discovering the $39 flights from LAX, is renting a Hertz car at the same Imperial County Airport. This is because the Hertz sign is larger than the airport one, so few realize it is also an airport. The Hertz location is pricey, but you may ask for a weekly rate. The manager and two twin girl staff will offer little in the way of advice, and not tell you the airport - like others throughout USA located near an international border - is 'haunted' by the CIA. Don't call ahead for reservations because Hertz rarely answers and have disconnected their old-fashioned message machine.

It's easier to take the $1.50 bus from the airport directly to Slab City, or to call one of the unmarked Slab Cabs, operated by residents, for an informative hour drive for twenty bucks straight to the Slabs.

Slab City is truly at your doorstep, and cheaper than ever.

Apr

25

Aka how to get in the news:

"Elliott Wave investor Robert Prechter says a Depression-like shock is coming"

Stef Estebiza says: 

"As I've explained here, Elliott Wave theory says public sentiment and mass psychology move in five waves within a primary trend, and three waves in a counter-trend."

Maybe the book is interesting, but Robert Prechter was very wrong in the past with his elliot theory. After the recent change that has seen rivers of money only for some, rates to zero and the central banks traders on the markets, I doubt that we can talk about investors, psychology and the public. The only mover of the market is the orchestrated national deficit > QE whatever it takes… 

Ralph Vince writes: 

Prechter himself is but a symptom of what is going on– this all-over asive,"low frequency," fear, as I have been talking about, and that is it biggest driver of prices here. This is not the "breath-stuck-in-your throat, 2008 kind of fear." Rather, a constant low frequency, ubiquitous background fear pervading everything.

Fear not only sells but it is both contagious, and it is relative. It has become so pandemic that we don't recognize how fear-motivated our actions are (and I contend it certainly IS manifest in the markets). Look at the rise on gun sales, the blue glove swarms, bike helmets, bottled water, political reactions (much of the "green movement" itself is fear-motivated), fear of losing people's jobs, credibility, etc.

Finally, fear, like volatility itself, though it can come on very quickly, dissipates slowly. This is WHY bull markets persist, and why the majority are never aboard early on succumbing to the contagion of fear.

This is the bass line guys, the bass line to what's goin' on in the world and hence capital markets as well, and if you listen to just the base you'll move just fine.

Russ Sears writes: 

It is with trepidation that I will disagree with both Larry and Ralph, but I must in principal. The "opposite" of optimism from belief in the individuals working together is not technical analysis, nor is it fear…those are but symptoms of the opposite of the force of human progress and wealth creation. No, the opposite is betrayal of the individual. It is when the markets thought were working for the good of their "team", turn out to be for example taking huge loans and buying lumber land in Canada, or helping individuals fill out mortgage loans pretending that these are same standards as the past, or perhaps at a higher level some branch of government that is to be "by the people for the people" is scamming the people or outright demanding more from the people. Yes there are the dot com bubbles and the East India Tea bubbles but these are not caused by over optimism of the human spirit, rather it is from a clear understanding the enormous progress in wealth creation is about to be made… which do occur… but just not how when or where the market was expecting.  

Apr

24

Reading the economic journal of 1935 one comes across a Henry Georgian article comparing the price of wheat to average wages in the 16th century. Apparently wheat had never been as high as that time, and it predicted with accuracy a coming recession. It would be interesting to see if grain prices today relative to wages in the rest of the economy are predictive either near max or minima.

Also a beautiful article on the first bar, pie, and circle charts invented by William Playfair in the 18th century "a rare instance of an innovation with no previous precedent". Playfair a man like Babbage with an infinitude of invention gives a beautiful acknowledgment that he owed it all to a brother who currently held the chair of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. A very Patrick O'Brian-esque touch.

Apr

24

 No one in the official world of literature really liked Timothy Snyder's book when it came out in 2010. The NY Times reviewer complained that Snyder had not given sufficient attention to the post WW-II persecution of Jews by Stalin. The New Republic thought he had failed to explain the differences between German military behavior in the West and in the East.

What Snyder did was go through the surviving archive records (mostly Nazi and Soviet) AND everything else written in English, German, Yiddish, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Russian, and French. He wanted to find out what had happened to the people living between Berlin and Moscow in the years between 1933 and 1945. By his calculation 14 million people who were not soldiers died in those there during those years. In addition, half of all the soldiers killed in WW II died on what is now called the Eastern Front.

Today is the anniversary of what is, by the tally of those years, a relatively insignificant event: 1943: The massacre of Janowa Dolina

Apr

22

"Billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones has a message for Janet Yellen and investors: Be very afraid"

Victor Niederhoffer adds:

I will wager the billionaire investor is not long.

Jeff Watson writes: 

Articles like this are why I ignore financial editorials. Fallacies like the Argumentum Verecundia (appeal to authority) should never sway a spec. One wonders why, since March 2009, the financial media never published articles that said stocks were too cheap, predicting the S&P to go up 250% from the bottom. One suspects that articles like that would never get printed as they would be good advice to the investor, but bad for the broker's bottom line. 

Apr

22

 To say nothing about in my specific field the absurd and damaging impact of wearing protective eye wear and other stuff in racket sports, but how soon will it be that the jock strap manufactures pay a royalty to all the sports associations and the Olympic committee like the eye glasses do to insure that we all wear jock straps as a requirement before engaging in sports.

Apr

22

 Just got to Esfahan today. A lot of tourists, mostly Europeans. Hotels are very full here. I read somewhere that Americans can not come into Iran individually, they must join some kind of a group.

In general, hotels in Iran are quite expensive: $70 and above for a 3-star hotel. Condition is not too bad but for the money there are much better hotels in other parts of the world. And no popular booking sites serve for Iran hotels due to sanctions. One almost has to call individual hotels to book. Or one may work with an agency which then works with another agency etc to book hotels. Difficult.

Surprisingly, women in Iran are very lively.

People aren't poor. There are many cars on the streets. Most cars are of old or unknown models. But there are newer Japanese or European cars.

Roads and sidewalks are in very good conditions.

Commerce, particularly in the form of bazaars, are quite extensive. Artworks are wonderful.

Larry Williams writes: 

I've spent a lot of time there. It is a repressed society, and two faced. Most want to get out. I brought out an entire family that are now good hard working thankful Americans. Sure, it's a nice place to visit (we were tailed by secret police (not so secret) most places we went. Arrested a few times and detained…long story. Too bad it is not Persia any more. Unliberated. The Gummint hates Americans. The people, I found, loved us.

Apr

22

The safest way to get good-quality extra virgin olive oil is to pay up for California oil. Second is to get Spanish oil from TJ's or another trustworthy source. A good way to balance the omega-6 in olive oil is to get walnut oil, rich in omega-3's, and make a vinaigrette or similar with the two, in something like a 3 or 4 to 1 ratio, olive to walnut.

Apr

20

 Take a look at the late, great Dell computer. I started shorting it in the late 1990s using a statistical/valuation methodology that was predicated on volatility and the near certainty of a substantial correction. I was correct in that I eventually made money, but the mark-to-markets (and "risk adjusted return") were dismal. I don't use that strategy anymore…

Remember also that nearly every company (GE being one of the exceptions but for the grace of the Fed) eventually disappears either through acquisition, merger, or bankruptcy. So if you only look once every decade or two, and leave a GTC order to buy everything down 50%, you are very likely to get filled. But you are also likely to own a portfolio of losers.

Apr

20

Wondering if anyone can recommend an index that tracks the performance (or lack thereof) of short-biased or dedicated-short hedge funds.

It looks like there were some indices from Credit Suisse in this category that were discontinued in early 2017, presumably due to bad performance. (The performance might have been even worse than it looks — I don't know how they treat funds that "stop reporting".)

Apr

20

 GDP figures are "man-made" and therefore unreliable, Li said. When evaluating Liaoning's economy, he focuses on three figures: 1) electricity consumption, which was up 10 percent in Liaoning last year; 2) volume of rail cargo, which is fairly accurate because fees are charged for each unit of weight; and 3) amount of loans disbursed, which also tends to be accurate given the interest fees charged. By looking at these three figures, Li said he can measure with relative accuracy the speed of economic growth. All other figures, especially GDP statistics, are "for reference only," he said smiling.

"Fifth Generation Star Li Keqiang Discusses Domestic Challenges, Trade Relations With Ambassador"

Li's metric—since dubbed the "Li Keqiang index"—has declined for four of the past six years, recording an especially precipitous drop in 2015.

But, argue the authors, there are other indicators.

"Is Chinese Growth Overstated?":

Our results are consistent with work by Rosen and Bao, who argue that Chinese statistical services have chronically underestimated the size of the service sector. Rosen and Bao's hypothesis is consistent with our finding that rail freight growth should receive less weight than the other indicators in the Li Keqiang index. Hence, as the Chinese economy becomes increasingly service-oriented, the (conventional) Li Keqiang index will likely send increasingly faulty signals about the state of China's economy. In fact, our estimate for Chinese growth shows an appreciable acceleration in 2016, even as the official growth rate remained virtually unchanged.

John Floyd comments: 

The breadth of Stefan's ken continues to amaze. These are interesting sources of information to put in one's quiver for looking at China and the linkages with related markets. I would add a few points in terms of the data, timeline, and broader market implications:

- Veracity of the data
- Chinese economy is likely to hold up into the Communist Party meeting later in the year
- Important question is beyond that. For example will China follow a Japan style pattern of secular stagnation?
- Various paths China can take will have significant global market implications.
- GDP numbers have merged, but the US is still the largest elephant in the room, and there has been recent cooling. 

Apr

20

 QE is over, it's back to the same old money creation we've had for centuries — an idea which has actually levered the resourceful potential of man.

Your going to see a car drive in front of you as you stand on the curb, and it will be sans driver.

Your going to see a man in a drone, in a park, lift off the ground.

These things are here, and united airlines isn't in the game. Or any of the others for that matter.

And faster than you can gobble un croque monsieur, they will collide in a 3d, computer controlled "roadway," obsoleting cars and every minor roadway, parking lot and driveway,and traffic jams will be viewed as lice infestations of the past.

But it will take some forward-thinking and planning here. Wasting a trillion-dollar is rebuilding these roads, airports, etc. on an infrastructure plan, is not the equivalent social investment as building the interstate system in the 19 fifties was. This would be a trillion dollar simply to maintain that which we currently have, when the future is about to take an Abrupt turn. That's where we are to be funding things with public monies, as that's where the enormous multiplier in terms of social benefit derived from money spent will be seen much as it was when we built the interstate system originally. To spend that money an existing infrastructure which will soon become obsolete, is equivalent to porkulus, on a diluted scale.

Victor Niederhoffer writes:

Mr. Vince makes a subtle point that I think he means. The most valuable thing in the world is a person. They can make tremendous contributions that all can benefit from. Julian Simon is very good on providing statistics for this. And it is no accident that standards of living are so highly correlated coterminously with population like during the industrial revolution. As to which causes the the other, it's mute.

Ralph Vince adds: 

It is a bad bet to bet against the likes of Jonas Salk. But for every Jonas Salk, how many others of equal insight go untapped throughout their lives?

The population of the earth in 1960, five years after his vaccine was announced, was about 3 billion. It is now 250% of that. For every Jonas Salk of 1960, we would expect 2 1/2 of them….and for every untapped Jonas Salk….2 1/2 of those as well.

And virtually every varlet and their harlot(s) who are not the equivalent of Salk posses some sort of potential to add to the cumulative progress.

Why would you bet against the resourcefulness of man? All bear markets, since the invention of the hand axe, have been short-lived compared to their bullish counterparts, and every single market top over those millennia have been exceeded (save for 3/1/2017…..yet).

To bet against the resourcefulness of man is silly, ultimately futile, and it requires one to time things perfectly. It is a far easier proposition to load up long as when things are selling off, and manage your powder to see it through to the next new highs.

David Lillienfeld writes: 

Two thoughts:

1. There's lots of infrastructure spending to be done to support some of the newer technologies to which you refer. And it's beyond broadband. Just air traffic control alone could use a shot in the arm (well, more actually). There's also the reality that people like to physically move. And the way the society is configured, tire's no doubt that will figure out ways to do so as efficiently as they can within whatever infrastructure exists. Until motivations like sex or control disappear (which seems unlikely in the life span most of us associate with being on the face of the good earth), keeping the existing infrastructure going will also have its benefits. The interest in sex, for instance, isn't disappearing anytime soon, especially among those in their teens, who will do just about anything to get away from the clutches, eyes and ears, of their parents. That takes infrastructure.

2. I recall at the 1964 World's Fair, there was the ATT building in which there were picture phones with an assurance that certainly within 20 years, they would be omnipresent. Didn't seem to work that way. Ditto GM and the future of transportation. I've heard about the new technologies coming into use for more than 5 decades. Yes, the technologies do make it into use. But it takes a lot longer than anyone at first thought likely. Remember commercial supersonic aviation? I don't think it was ever fiscally viable. The story of how RCA came to dominate wireless communications is a case in point. Eventually, the new technology did triumph, but it took longer than anyone had considered likely.

Plank's law comes into play and is part of the explanation, inertia and lack of understanding of the potential of the new technology is another. Remember Amazon in the 1990s when it was starting to hit at sales at Books a Million and the other retail outlets? It still took 15 years for Amazon to practice its hegemony—which represented the triumph of the net over physical bricks and mortar. And even now, Amazon is putting up bricks and mortar. Isn't the internet supposed to displace such things?

anonymous writes: 

Sure trucks and jumbos full-o-junk and folks crossing oceans will still be needed.

But technology gets here in less than half the time anyone ever thinks it will.

And if we're going to spend 1-2 trillion on infrastructure, rebuilding existing assets will not pay off the way they paid off when they were first built; that's only a little better than giving it away to teacher's unions and far-lefty organizations. The electronic infrastructure for tomorrow's transportation would be a much wiser investment than rebuilding existing infrastructure.

J.T. Holley writes: 

Bruce's "Glory Days" lyrics give a beginning of explaining why throwing money at fixing all the decrepit bridges in Pittsburgh is a bad idea.

Now I think I'm going down to the well tonight
I'm going to drink to I get my fill
And when I get old I hope I don't sit around thinking about it
But I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of, well time slips away
And leaves you with nothing mister but
Boring stories of glory days

That is all that throwing 1 trillion is going to produce. Eventually just "boring stories". It's just to pacify the unions, steel, and cement industries. The Rust Belt vote will be needed in the future. Hats the only forward looking that is taking place.

Apr

20

 A nice story that appeared on CBS news last night. "Living Stronger: Centenarian a fixture in NYC neighborhood by caring about others":

'If it's Saturday night at Pasquale's Rigoletto, it's Joe Binder with the mic. "That is what keeps me going, when I make people laugh," Joe said. He's been entertaining people most of his time on this Earth, but on this day, it's everyone else's turn to sing. Joe just turned 107.'

Here is an article about his secrets to a long life: "no grudges", glass of wine, singing/music, exercise/activity and socializing at the fore.

Apr

20

 All journalists will know The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. William Strunk was a professor at Cornell and my grandfather had the good fortune to study under him as did E. B. White. White later went on to compile Strunk's notes into this gem of a book, as well as write many of his own books like Charlotte's Web. My grandfather, an admirer of both gentlemen, always kept a copy close by and recommended I do the same. Recently, I found a used copy at a bookstore and purchased it for one dollar, though I felt guilty the price was so low. Though not quite 100 years-old, it nonetheless qualifies as time-tested wisdom.

Heuristics add to the style of trading just as they do writing. In that spirit here are some of Strunk's and White's rules along with ideas on how they apply to trading. The whole book can be read in a few hours and is well worth the effort.

Apr

19

It is a bad bet to bet against the likes of Jonas Salk. But for every Jonas Salk, how many others of equal insight go untapped throughout their lives?

The population of the earth in 1960, five years after his vaccine was announced, was about 3 billion. It is now 250% of that. For every Jonas Salk of 1960, we would expect 2 1/2 of them….and for every untapped Jonas Salk….2 1/2 of those as well.

And virtually every varlet and their harlot(s) who are not the equivalent of Salk posses some sort of potential to add to the cumulative progress.

Why would you bet against the resourcefulness of man? All bear markets, since the invention of the hand axe, have been short-lived compared to their bullish counterparts, and every single market top over those millennia have been exceeded (save for 3/1/2017…..yet).

To bet against the resourcefulness of man is silly, ultimately futile, and it requires one to time things perfectly. It is a far easier proposition to load up long as when things are selling off, and manage your powder to see it through to the next new highs.

Apr

17

 Pre-Suasion by Cialdini is a book that resonates with all who wish to influence. The shocking part is that it's all about what you can do before you create the message to gain influence. There are chapters on (a) the critical moment to establish influence, what he calls the privilege moments (a good time is after you've done a favor for someone) (b) how to gain attention for your message by opening with a situation that puts the listener in a framework where he's ready to assent especially with favorable or unfavorable fragments (c) how to focus attention with sex, threats, mysteries, changes in environment (d) how causality comes from focusing attention (e) the proper way to seat yourself vis a vis others in the room and when to talk (f) how to compliment the listener, (g) how to shift attention to a field where your listener is likely to give a yes, (h) how to elicit content with the universal principle of influence-reciprocity, liking, authority, social proof, scarcity, and consistency (i) a new category of influence for Cialdini not covered in his previous book Influence, the important of unity with the crowd, especially if you can get the listener to join in on the bandwagon, (j) how to make your influence last by creating actions that set them on the road.

Each chapter is self contained, starting with an anecdote from Cialdini's undercover work at high pressure sales meetings, then discussions of how to use the ideas consistently to gain influence, academic studies that support the method of influence, and then a lead into the next chapter as to how to gain even further influence read the next chapter. At the end of the book are detailed notes on the academic papers and further examples to hit the point home.

Cialdini does not place much emphasis on the economic value of the methods of influence he suggests nor its costs. Nor does he reference the studies of direct marketers like Caples who have tested numerous forms of influence, or the craft and lessons that advertisers have learned in their efforts to influence.

He is mainly concerned with how to influence listeners before the message in day to day activity, in business meetings, in politics, and somewhat in advertising. These are all good and the anecdotes he tells especially about hostages, and the Holocaust will rivet you and stay with you forever.

Needless to say, I find that all the techniques of influence are used in the market. We could start with the moments when key announcements are made for their greatest desired effect on the listener, the importance of focusing attention at the open or the close, the role of gurus and experts talking their book, the part of messages left unsaid, which Cialdini says is one of the greatest influences. There are many others.

I can heartily recommend the book on all fronts to anyone who wishes to know how the world works, who wishes to influence his family, business associates, voters, threateners, and or improve his market performance.

Apr

16

 For the Chinese Communists North Korea is now what Cuba became for the Soviets after Reagan's election. Their mangy dog on a chain in the yard has barked and snarled on cue but the new neighbor's response has been rather different than President Carter's. Since the dog has never economically earned what it eats, its only value has been as a "threat" to the Americans' sense of being "in control". It had worked, in the 1970s to Central America and Southwest Africa, in the 2010s to Japan and South Korea.

But now? China already owns North Korea as the Soviets owned Cuba. Taking it over would be as risky and useless as the Soviets taking direct control of Cuba in 1981. The U.S. simply would not tolerate it. The Cubans in 1980 had no direct means of threatening the United States; the Soviets clearly did. The North Koreans do not yet have the military capacity to threaten even South Korea with a nuclear bomb; they clearly have the missiles and bombers to reach Seoul, but their "bomb" is still far too large and heavy a payload.

The Chinese have just been told that the neighborhood is going to be dog-free, either with or without their help. There is no reason to believe that the North Korean hierarchy has any semblance of rationality; they live in a world of their own information and, in their view, they are now winning the war. The country has survived the terrible famine of the 1990s (itself a product of the Americans' treachery), and it now has nuclear weapons and missiles. (Just as the Iraqi scientists believed in their "progress", the North Koreans' technical people believe in theirs; you do not survive in a dictatorship by thinking that the truth is something that can exists independent of ideology.)

The Chinese have a choice.

(1) They can risk an economic war with the United States similar to the British open blockade of Germany after 1914. The U.S. Navy can effectively seal off all maritime trade with China while staying well out of the range of any land-based anti-ship missiles. The U.S. carriers can do that job just as the British surface ships did and be safe from any submarine threat. The U.S. can immediately confiscate all Chinese holdings of American securities just as we "froze" and then (after 1917) confiscated all German holdings.

(2) They can agree to the Americans' removing the North Korean hierarchy and even offer to help, with their price being the "demilitarization" of the peninsula. (The South Koreans are likely to be willing to accept that at least in nominal terms.)

(3) They can invite Trump to visit.

Apr

16

 If data matters, coal miners should worry. It appears another round of layoffs is in the making. Reducing regulations won't help. While regulations are an issue, they are not the industry's greatest challenge.

Here's some data to consider:

National power production increased year over year since 1949. It wasn't until 1982 before the first decline was recorded. Growth resumed in the subsequent years until production reached its peak in 2006. Since 2006, production ceased growing.

For 60 years, coal enjoyed between 44 percent and 57 percent of the power industry's market share. From a percentage point of view, the worst years were between 1971 and 1978 when market share hit their low near 44 percent. The best years were 1955, 1985, 1987, and 1988. The peak year occurred in 1988 when coal hit 56.97 percent

Since 1988, coal's market share has been in decline. In 2011, the percentage punched through 44 percent. In 2016, it sank below 30 percent. The trend is lower.

Percentages are one consideration. Raw production is another. Since 1949, the amount of power produced from coal (coal power) increased year over year. While there were minor declines, the general trend was upward from 1949 until 2005. Since 2007, the year-over-year trend has been in a steep decline. From 2005 to 2016, 20 years of growth had been erased leaving the industry at 1980 levels.

Politicians have it wrong. Most coal industry jobs were lost in the 1950s. Peak employment occurred in the 1920s. By 1970, 80 percent of the industry's jobs were lost. In 2003, employment numbers fell below 100,000. By 2011, 40,000 new jobs had been added; the industry was restored to 1992 levels. Today, it's returned to 2003 levels.

It wasn't regulation that killed employment. It was economics and efficiency. In 1950, the industry required 3.2 employees for each gigawatt-hour (GWh) of coal power produced. By 1955, that number dropped to less than 1 employee per GWh. By 1978, the number sank to 0.25. By 2003, it had bottomed out at 0.05 employees per GWh.

Here's a surprise. Since 2003, employee counts have been increasing. Today, counts are almost 50 percent higher than 2003 lows (.073 employees per GWh). As such, it appears the cost may be too high.
It appears the coal industry is gambling on the power industry. Specifically, employers may be gambling that wholesale power prices will increase. With higher power prices, utilities might be willing to buy more coal or pay more for coal. Either way, miners might earn more.

If the industry's gamble is wrong, there could be a problem. Either mining companies will cut fat or the power industry will do it for them. If higher labor costs percolate into a constrained power market, more power plants will be idled or retired. More plant retirements mean less coal consumed. Less coal consumed means fewer jobs.

Finally, it's important to appreciate that most members of the energy industry want government interference and regulations. The coal industry wants the government to force consumers to pay more. The power industry wants the same. The only stakeholder not wanting regulatory interference is the consumer, unless it's about regulating power plant emissions.

Notes:

Energy Information Administration (EIA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) were the source of most data and analysis used in this discussion.  Their data appears to have an error rate near five percent.

Reliable power production data for 1948 or earlier was neither available nor relevant. Production for 1949 was approximately 290 GWh. Today, it's almost 4,100 GWh. Pre-1949 data had to be insignificant.

In earlier years, coal was used for heating. Heating coal was not considered in this discussion. That omission represents a flaw that could represent an error that's greater than five percent, particularly in pre-1960 discussions.

Apr

15

 According to Fortune, PepsiCo is moving into the premium water business with LIFEWTR, a purified water that is pH balanced with electrolytes. I stumbled across it in the local college cooler, and later on YouTube as the ‘Lifewater Super Bowl Commercial 2017′. So, I asked the stocker how the beautiful designer bottles are selling, and he said, ‘Life crazy!’

PepsiCo already owns the ‘billion dollar water’ Aquafina, which a U.S. Marine helicopter delivered to me on the open desert recently thinking I was thirsty, so why would they compete with themselves?

The answer is that they are not competing with themselves. According to the PepsiCo CEO, LIFEWTR’S greatest equity is in the bottle. I translate that as the water costs pennies per the bottle that costs a ton, if the marketing of it is thrown in. The LIFEWTR labels feature a rotating series of creative, exclusive designs done by emerging visual artists. They are quite attractive, like Southwest art.

I finally broke down and bought a $2.00 bottle to seek why it’s called ‘Inspiration Drops’, per the YouTube of the Super Bowl commercial of it raining colored droplets over Manhattan (that cost the company $5.5 million for the 30 second spot).

What is in it? The bottle label offers no ingredients other than purified water. The first page of online searches insisted it is just electrolyte water with no additives. However, I had bought and tasted the top neck of the bottle before discarding the rest in the college bird bath, and knew it wasn’t true. The sensation of drinking the water is surreal: it sent me into a tranquil altered state like a designer drug, or like getting hit with a tranquilizer gun that we used on obstreperous apes in vet school. I felt relaxed.

The online information still insisted it was just plain old water, until I searched deeper down and finally found two added ingredients: Magnesium Sulfate and Potassium Bicarbonate. Magnesium Sulfate, commonly known as Epsom Salt, is used to control eclampsia in pregnant women, children seizures, and encephalopathy (severe brain function problems) in adults. It is an anti-seizure medication, as well as a laxative. Potassium Bicarbonate is a standard treatment for acidic stomach and high blood pressure.

The large print in life makes you happy, and the small print makes you sweat it.

Apr

14

Uncle Howie lost in the finals of 49 separate handball finals. Some of the ways he lost are detailed I Education of a Speculator.

Sweden's Museum of Failure is opening this June in Helsingborg, Sweden. The museum seeks to de-stigmatize personal and professional failure.

Apr

12

If I am not mistaken, yesterday's S&P 20 point decline was precipitated by some smoke near the airport where Secretary of State Tillerson was landing in Russia, later attributed to, I believe, a local burning some garbage.

Apr

11

 Our members who are professional traders often write about the feel of the pits and how that information is now missing from any calculations about particular markets. As politics tries to become more and more a matter of computer calculation, there is a similar information loss. The data from what your precinct workers were being told by individual voters is now being discarded in favor of census-based projections.

Here is a war story from the election that suggests that the professional politicians may regret the loss.

"They [Democrats] just didn't have the data or the intelligence. They were using predictive modeling without that human component of knocking doors. They missed it because they assumed they had it. The night of the election, the Democrat chair and I—we spent a lot of time together, so after we finished interviews we said 'you tell me what your polling is saying and I'll tell you what my polling is saying.' Because my polling was saying that Trump was going to win by 8,000 votes, and that's the RNC. It was right. His said 'we're going to win by 5 points.' So when you think you're going to win a state by 5 points, of course you don't invest. You just don't. It changes your compass."

- Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel discussing the vote in Michigan

Apr

10

 A few times in every generation a person comes along that makes a significant impact on the world. Rare or lucky are those that can do this. And then there are those that can impact the world in more than one field as if it was just another day at the office. Ed Thorp is one of those very special minds, and he has done this with ease, grace and a calm and confident demeanor for the better part of 60 years. For those that don’t know, Professor Thorp was one of the original Wall Street Quants that got his start in a very atypical fashion–casino gambling.  In his new book A Man For All Markets, released Jan 24, 2017, Thorp chronicles his whirlwind life and gives a full and complete answer to the question “How did you do it?”.

Thorp's first book was published in 1962 and was titled Beat the Dealer. It was the first widely distributed publication that gave a purely mathematical derivation on how a player could beat the casino at the game of 21. This book started the revolution of Advantage Play–the practice where people reverse engineer games of chance for profit.  As professor Thorp stated: “I dropped a pebble into the ocean, and it started a tidal wave.”

Thorp's original thesis on beating blackjack paved the way for inquisitive minds to think of new and clever ways to attack casino games for profit. Every year professional gambling’s most successful players converge on Las Vegas to attend Max Rubin’s Blackjack Ball. The gala is hosted by long time organizer and advantage gaming legend Max Rubin. Every attendee has beaten the casinos at their own games, in most instances for several millions of dollars.

Every advantage player owes their start in one way or another to Professor Thorp.  As long time player and gaming author Henry Tamburin puts it: “For me to say that I owe my successful blackjack playing career to Dr. Thorp would be an understatement. I’m not alone in forever being grateful to him for his intellect, research, and dedication to discover a mathematically-accurate way to beat the casinos at their own game.”  Henry is author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide that he published at the 888casino website.

Blackjack lobbies all over the internet use the conclusions derived from Beat the Dealer to help players improve on their own gaming strategies. At the 888casino, a highly reputable online casino website, the aspiring player can view Thorp’s original analysis in a modern framework using Tamburin’s Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide, and see if they too can beat the casino. One of the most vital aspects of Thorps analysis is that it can only be applied to live dealt versions of 21. This is true for both online and land based casino games. Some land-based and online casinos have blackjack video gaming machines with programs that use random number generators to determine the outcome. Thorp's work only applies to games that are dealt in the live section of casinos (online and land based) where played cards have been placed into a discard tray.

This accomplishment would be the crowning achievement of any person’s career.  Yet, Ed Thorp had no intention of turning off his analytical mind after one achievement. Thorp and Noble Prize winner Claude Shannon developed what internet users have deemed the world’s first wearable computer, which was used to beat the game of roulette. Thorp and Shannon developed the device while both were on faculty at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Thorp's early achievements in probability and predictive analytics provided the foundation for his equally earth shaking work in the stock market.

In the late 1960s Thorp took his understanding of probability and statistics to the biggest casino in the world, Wall Street. His main focus was identifying pricing anomalies in the securities market. Using his original research in the world of high finance, Thorp helped launched the first market neutral hedge fund in 1969. His concepts were also central to the creation of the derivatives market.

In his new book, Thorp puts forth a comparative analysis between casinos and Wall Street, where he concludes that gambling is a simplified version of investing, and explains how it’s possible to apply the same logic to both. Perhaps the biggest difference is that when you excel at making money in the stock market the “house” can’t ban you.

Thorp provides a thorough discussion of the risk involved in both endeavors. (He amazingly predicted the dangers of Long Term Capital Management, even foreseeing the Madoff debacle almost two decades before it happened. Where others saw opportunity for financial windfalls in the LTCM game, Thorp saw extreme risk, and the potential for fraud.)  

Thorp’s clients have been very happy over the years with his analytical approach to investing. In 1998 Thorp released a public statement stating that his personal investments have yielded in annualized 20% rate of return averaged over 28.5 years.  A number which one can safely assume is in the neighborhood of his assets under management portfolio.

Ed Thorp was honored at the 2017 Blackjack Ball. There he gave a speech where he discussed his truly remarkable life, and how it started with a trip to Las Vegas in the 1950s.  In a conversation with me, he elaborated on how remarkable his journey has been, and how supportive his wife Vivian was in all of his endeavors until her death in 2011. 

His life has come full circle. It all started on an off chance visit to Las Vegas decades ago, and now his story, and the lessons that he has learned is available for all to enjoy, admire and perhaps to be used as a guide for those that are on their own path to induce change.

At its core, A Man For All Markets is a personal look at the predictability of chance and how to walk the tightrope between risk and return. It’s a must read for anyone who wants a look into the mind of an out of the box thinker who has made a significant impact on the world in so many areas.  

Apr

10

 Milton Friedman - The Negative Income Tax - Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr.

In this 1968 interview, Milton Friedman explained the negative income tax, a proposal that at minimum would save taxpayers the 72 percent of our current welfare budget spent on administration.

Stefan Jovanovich writes:

My Dad helped Friedman embark on the way to making serious cash in his later life. Dad published "Free to Choose" and helped Friedman find the TV producer (who deserves much of the credit for the success of that series by damping down Professor Milton's inclination to be obnoxiously pedantic). The book royalties were excellent, but what really helped Friedman become semi-rich was the fact that the series made him a "name" for the trade show lecture circuit. The fees he earned were nothing like those the Clintons and General Powell and others later earned; but they were, for the time, major coin.

Since no good deed by a publisher goes unpunished, it will not surprise the List to learn that Friedman continuted to think he knew more about elementary and secondary education than Dad did. I remember listening to several conversations they had where Dad tried to persuade Friedman that his voucher system was both bad politics and worse pedagogy. "Milton, the urban schools were failing (they still are) precisely because the actual students had no incentives. The middle and upper class kids are paid to do well in school - by their parents; my son the bum knew that he would be rewarded for swotting away. But the kids in the ghetto have no such encouragements. They lose money by going to class. Their truant friends could be out on the streets hustling or, at the very least, enjoying the rewards of freedom. This is what has changed with "modern" education. They system worked in the past because poor kids had the greatest personal incentives. Being allowed to skip farm work and go to school only if you got good grades was a real incentive. For you and me, as the children of immigrants, there were huge personal rewards. We were the prize boys in the family. Our parents wanted us to go to school so that someone in the house could speak "proper" English; hell, my older siblings had to sacrifice some of their prospects so that I, the youngest child, could afford to keep going to school."

Dad's solution was simple: pay children for achievement test results. Pay every child for taking the test and then pay them more for getting better and better results. Once people understood that the system was here to stay, parents would be making certain that their kids went to school - if only, Dad said, so they could drink up the money the children earned. (This may sound cynical but it was, in fact, wonderfully charitable; there was nothing "society" could actually do about preventing children from being exploited by bad parents but at least the children would be learning the skills that would allow them to escape as adults.)

Friedman seems to me to have had a similar blind spot regarding "poverty". He was right, of course, about the poverty industry; it is appallingly wasteful and corrupting. But the solution was not to allow the poor to believe that they were somehow entitled to the money, which is precisely what a negative income tax would do. You could eliminate the "helping" bureaucracies and offer the poor incentives to do better by following Dad's scheme, by paying the poor for good conduct. But, if you simply handed over the money and used the income tax as the mechanism, you would be undermining the tax system itself. The experience with the Earned Income Tax Credit is proof of that fact; if you are going to have an income tax at all, you have to treat all income equally and apply the lowest possible rates, even to the helping and disability payments. If the poor pay nothing, they have a permanent incentive to remain officially poor.

Apr

10

 The Airbnb Anti Asian prejudice story has much to do with the rise of Wall Street. The Dutch settlers like the commercial interests of today were only interested in greasing the wheels of commerce. They time and time again ordered the authoritarian governor Peter Styvesant to allow freedom of speech and freedom of religion so it would enhance the number of settlers and increase commerce so that the Dutch East India's revenues would rise. This is always the case. Commerce enhances freedom in all its forms.

A good enumeration of all the dutch did to make Wall Street the center of World Finance in the 17th century is contained in the excellent book Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919.

Apr

10

 The most erudite thinking on how the Delphi was able to maintain their forecasting site for 800 years aside from the convention aspects of it was that their forecasts were always non-infirmable. The fixed income twins have continued in this tradition. Especially the Upside Down Man who says such things as "as long as the the 10 year yields does not breach 2.5 for two weeks the bear market in bonds has not yet begun in full." Can't infirm it, and if it ever is above for 2 weeks it will be way above so it starts out way in the money. "A decisive victory will be won" is how Delphi liked to say it to the supplicants.

Apr

10

Aubrey likes to sing. He's at the park today with The Bronx and all of sudden he starts whistling "standing on the corner watching all the girls go by". The Bronx asks him "which one is it". He says, "the one with braids".

Apr

9

Some historical context is necessary. Let us remember that much of the current Syria situation can be attributed to Obama's "red line" and his naive agreement to have the Russians remove all chemical weapons. Does anyone remember that? Let us also remember that the flood of Syrian refugees is a direct result of the former too. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could just "get along" and sing Kumbaya? Perhaps in our next life. But not in this one.

The missile strike is a calculated political signal; not a military one. It's how one sets the table for negotiations — not so much in Syria, which is now a lost cause — but much more importantly in North Korea and other places. And on that subject, Gordon and the others will surely change their views if and when Kim tests a Nuclear-tipped ICBM capable of hitting of San Francisco….

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

Kim and I may be hopelessly biased; we think the United States' only sensible policy in the Middle East is to insure the survival and prosperity of Israel. To do that, the U.S. and the Israelis have to choose which side of the ongoing civil war among Muslims is the better bet.

It is not a difficult choice; the Sunni majority countries are the only ones that are not absolutely focused on the destruction of the Great and Little Satans.

What the missile strike - by its size and focus - has done is show the Sunni countries (many of whom just happened to be visiting the White House recently) that President Trump is not someone who believes in military gestures. He is actually willing to break things permanently. That air base is gone.

The fact that the missiles were in the air as the President sat down to dinner with the one country in the world - other than the U.S. - that can destroy North Korea's nuclear threat is, of course, a mere coincidence.

anonymous writes: 

Just like everyone else, you're entitled to your opinion, but please excuse us for questioning another unilateral action in the Middle East that does little to serve US interests. If anything, I would expect it to accelerate nuclear programs in both North Korea AND Iran.

You should be asking yourself who gains from this action, and why Little Marco and McCain are ecstatic about the news. I understand that anything that helps Israel is probably fine in your book, but I find it curious that noone seems to be questioning why a rational actor like Assad would be gassing people on the verge of a peace process.

A civil war has been going on in the WH between the populist platform that Trump ran on, and the globalist policies of the existing state apparatus via the proxy of Kushner. Based on these recent events in Syria, Bannon being stripped from the NSC, and the latest news that he and others may be out completely, things are not headed in the right direction for anyone who actually voted for change last election.

And so it goes…

anonymous responds: 

Your conclusions about how North Korea and Iran will view this are interesting — but are diametrically opposite to how I and many others may view this.

One must ask the question, why would Assad use chemical weapons right now? This is very odd timing, don't you think?

The only plausible explanation was as a test of Trump. And Trump's response was a calculated signal to the world.

You can argue what the signal meant. And you can reasonably argue that it's a bad message.

But for me, it meant several (good) things:
1) International standards (Geneva Convention) matter and we are not going to rely entirely on the "international community" or the UN or useless financial sanctions.
2) Violating deals and treaties have real consequences. This is a signal to Iran regarding their Nuclear accord with Obama.
3) We are not afraid to use force and we will not be intimidated by the playground bully.

Ultimately, you have to decide whether there is good and evil in the world and if there is, who are the "good guys" and who are the "bad guys" in the world. I will readily admit (and here I am being an idealogue) that I am one of the good guys. And I want the good guys to prevail in the least bloody way. And that means carrying a big stick.
 

Apr

9

 Back in the old days, if the market opened at 9:30, and there was no news…but traders showed up 45 minutes before the open and the pit started filling up 25 minutes early instead of the regular 5, one knew with 95% confidence that the market was going to rally. There were also many changing noise levels and tone levels that offered predictive value at that time. Nowadays, such visual clues are gone and in the absence of the moods of the floor, what modern indicators are useful to predict rallies in this electronic age? And can those indicators be tested?

Apr

6

 He was a fine gentleman who was a master of tactics. He started out by playing checkers and was very good at it. He taught all my daughters every Saturday for many years. He, Tom Wiswell, Steve Wisdom, and I would play combo chess and checkers each week for 10 or 15 years. He always had a smile and was a master at fixing his car which he drove from the Catskills through rain or snow. He did not oppose admiring the opposite sex and loved to socialize during matches. I arranged for him to give lessons to the Soros's at my expense and he enjoyed teaching that whole family in their homes. When Nigel was visiting the two of them liked to play and Nigel usually was the winner.

When we watched him in matches, we begged him not to talk to all his opponents. But he liked to watch everyone else play and generally took about 30 seconds for each of his moves. His autobiography contains some of his greatest games.

He was always a gentleman and one time in the US Open in the finals Bobby Fisher fell asleep and would have lost in time pressure as he was hustling for 50 cents a game the night before. But Art woke him up, and thereby Fisher represented the US rather than Bisguier. He worked as a consultant for IBM and was always interested in the latest in programming. When he came to the office, he liked to make a few trades. And for some reason his trades were always winners. We will miss him dearly and all who meet him in the next world can look forward to a good board game with him.

Here is the obit of a fine game player and gentleman. His favorite player was Bronstein who he said was the best player ever. 

Apr

6

 My Papa used to walk to town (8 miles round trip) just to get a RC Cola and a hot dog whenever the weather permitted.

I stayed with him during the Summer months as a kid and would join him for the walks.

He used to exclaim looking over at the streams while walking "The cows are up and walking. Good day to fish" or "The cows are down and laying. No fishing today."

I generally followed his sage advice in my adult life. It really did net more fish. Still does when I go to smaller streams and rivers when there are stretches with cows on the other side of the bank.

I asked him later in his life if it was just an ole wise tale or if there it had any truth. He exclaimed that it was sound. He let me know that when then cows were up and walking they stirred up all the insects. Swatting more flies as well as making grasshoppers make last second jumps. The fish know this and get excited.

It might not be sound science but I bought it. More observations like this were things that shaped my mind. Trial and error. Looking at outcomes from different attempts. Keeping things simple to get positive results.

Duncan Coker writes: 

Great post on many levels, about spending time with your father, fishing, nature, observing and prediction. I was trying to guess the connection before reading and thought it might have something to do with sunlight causing the cows to move seeking shade. Sunlight means the fish might be looking up feeding and easier for an angler to see them.

Statistically brings up good example, A (walking cows) are good predictor for B (catching fish). On the surface this seems an odd correlation, not causation, and tempting to disregard. But there is actual another factor C (insects) that is the explanation. Statistically, the cows are easy to see, small insects not so much. Question is even if we don't know about C or can't measure, should we still use the A as a predictor even if it does not seem to make sense. For fishing the answer is defiantly, yes

Charles Pennington writes: 

My fishing experience was mostly gained in Georgia, fishing for largemouth bass. That maxim seems right to me. On very hot summer days, for example, both the fish and the cows are listless from the heat.

Another bass fishing rule of thumb is that bass are total suckers for spring lizards as bait. The problem is that it's easier to catch a bass than to catch a spring lizard.


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