Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Quote of the day

Matt Levine:
Here is some market intelligence for you: Don't insider trade in short-dated out-of-the-money call options! Come on. 

The Euro

FLG has long said that the euro is fundamentally a political, not an economic or financial issue. Megan McArdle:

It’s hard to see how anyone gets out of the euro without at least a deep local crisis, and quite possibly another round of global crises, as the chain reaction melts down markets around the world.

[...]

That doesn’t mean that it won’t eventually happen; I still think this remains a real risk. But if it does, public officials will probably be denying the possibility right up to the bitter, unpleasant end.
What makes McArdle's post interesting is that even though the creation, continuation, and dissolution of the euro is fundamentally political issue, it doesn't mean there won't be economic and financial pressures on and consequences of those political decisions.  FLG brings this up because it's easy to be confused, and many people are, that the euro is an economic issue because of this interaction.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Getting Older

FLG saw a picture of one of his high school classmates who is now a dead ringer for Truman Capote.  It freaked FLG out.

Melissophobia

A couple of weeks ago, FLG was sitting in his backyard, smoking a cigar, watching a swarm of bees around a tree.   It reminded him that when he was elementary school he was deathly afraid of killer bees.  FLG's memory is verbatim this explanation -- a dystopian killer bee future where everybody would be afraid to go outside.

That never came to pass, but then FLG was on the shuttle flight up to New York last week, reading the Wall Street Journal, when he saw this article.  So, there was something to the fears.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

FLG's Dream Pocket Square

FLG has a few of the very cool pocket squares from Kent Wang.  This is his personal favorite.  Some others are inspired by tapestries.  If Kent Wang ever offered a pocket square of this tapestry depicting the Battle of Gaugamela, it would be awesome and FLG would be the first to buy the damn thing.  

Time Horizons: Annie Edition

FLG hasn't seen Annie in decades, but it was on TV yesterday.

Assistant:  President Roosevelt called three times. He said it was urgent.

Daddy Warbucks: Everything's urgent to a Democrat.

Monday, August 11, 2014

FLG Didn't Know

Strategy Page:
Like Israel, Singapore can mobilize a force that can defeat any of its neighbors.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Time Horizons: Immigration

Krauthammer:
President Obama is impatient. Congress won’t act on immigration, he says, and therefore he will. 

Prime example of differing time horizons at work.  

Obama:  There is injustice happening now.  Something must be done about it now.  Potential future and second order consequences are not as important as the current and tangible problem.

The Right (and in this case the Right stretches, as Krauthammer points out, pretty far into moderately left leaning folks):  Potential future and second order effects of this type of action are far more important than the current and tangible problem.

This also highlights one of the aspects of the time horizons theory that FLG took a while to understand -- policymakers of both parties in a democracy are inherently more short time horizon oriented. 

FLG Objects

...on general principle to any list of best college campuses that doesn't include the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Quote of the day

McArdle:
We’re at the crest of a swelling wave of nostalgia for vast corporate bureaucracies, which are easier for vast government bureaucracies to heavily regulate without driving them out of business entirely.

God help us. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nest Egg Choices

Until recently, retirees with defined contribution plans (401ks for those here in the States) had to buy an annuity, which provided a guaranteed stream of payments for life, when entering retirement.   Given the low interest rates over the last few years, it doesn't surprise FLG that this has come into question.   If you happen to retire when rates are low, then you are pretty much screwed with low payments for life. 

Buttonwood mentions that independent advisers are now going to be helping retirees.  He's skeptical of all the conflicts of interest, but this really struck a cord with FLG:
When the government abolished the need to annuitise, it was hailed as a great populist move. I worried at the time that this was a mistake; annuity rates are low because bond yields are low and people live longer. If people think that they can beat what is, in essence, the risk-free rate, they will have to take risk. And who will they blame when the risk goes wrong and they run out of money in their late 70s, as will inevitably be the case for some people? Not the independent advice centre, one suspects
Assuming a retiree does some comparison, then the annuity rate should be the risk free rate.   Therefore, anything above that is by definition risky.

FLG's Personal Wealth Management professor suggested pouring enough money into TIPS so as to guarantee bare minimum nest egg at retirement and subsequent lifetime stream of payments.  Anything above that, which necessarily entails risk, would be gravy.   When you run the numbers in a extremely low interest rate environment like today with the a multi-decade retirement, the prospect of saving even a subsistence level nest egg is downright daunting.  But that doesn't change that doing anything else pretty much necessitates taking on risk.  And with risk, somebody is going to lose out.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

FLG's Currently Listening To

Celebrity Sighting

FLG saw Ezra Klein at Pop's Old Fashioned Ice Cream in Old Town Alexandria.

Now, some of you may be saying, Ezra Klein isn't a celebrity.  Okay, but FLG perused his list and Ezra's probably more famous than some of the others on it.  So, updating the list.

Patton's Speech to the Third Army

Patton was on the other day and FLG simply cannot resist watching the first five minutes.  

What struck FLG, however, is that most people probably think that is the actual speech verbatim.  It's not.  Or at least it's not the exact speech of that attendees recall.  Wikipedia has that version.  It's a much better speech.  The movie version would have been dramatically improved with these included:

All through your army career you men have bitched about what you call 'this chicken-shit drilling.' That is all for a purpose—to ensure instant obedience to orders and to create constant alertness. This must be bred into every soldier. I don't give a fuck for a man who is not always on his toes.
I don't want any messages saying 'I'm holding my position.' We're not holding a goddamned thing. We're advancing constantly and we're not interested in holding anything except the enemy's balls. We're going to hold him by his balls and we're going to kick him in the ass; twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all the time. Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing. We're going to go through the enemy like shit through a tinhorn.

Yes, yes.  I know that second part is in there without the foul language.  But if foul language isn't appropriate when you are about to invade Normandy to fight the Nazis and fight for fucking freedom, then I don't know when it is.

Really?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Birth Control Fervor

FLG is completely astonished by these types of statements:
“The women of America . . . are saying it: It is not our boss’s business, it is our business what kind of health care we need"

FLG always tries to see the logic on the other side of any argument, but this strikes FLG as almost self-evidently ridiculous.  It's not that anybody's boss is saying their employees can't go buy birth control.   The actual fact is that there are a few very religious bosses who are saying they don't want to buy certain types birth control for their employees.  That seems like a perfectly reasonable stance.  Employer doesn't buy it.  Employee can.  Problem solved.

The other side, which seems to be, I have a right to health care...The health care choices I make are between my doctor and me...That anybody would interfere in any way is a violation of my rights...misses that having a right to health care necessitates that somebody else pay for that health care.  Once that happens, isn't it just common sense that the somebody else doing the paying (your uncle, your employer, the government) then does have an interest in the health care choices you make?

Heck, let's set aside employers and instead go to the government paying for the service.  Remember when conservatives were concerned about death panels coming out of Obamacare?   There the interest is cost, not religious objection, but the point still stands.   Once somebody else starts paying for your health care, they have an interest in what they are paying for.   For the government, the controversial bits will be related to expensive end-of-life care. (In fact, at that time, FLG remembers liberal commentators saying that if individuals were unhappy with the amount of care provided by the government, then nothing would prevent individuals from buying additional care on their own.  He'll have to find the old posts.) For closely-held, religious companies, it's certain types of birth control.  FLG has a hard time seeing how this is some gross violation of individual rights.

Although, to be completely clear, FLG would be more sympathetic if this were about extremely costly procedures or medicines, but it's not.   He has a hard time believing that the aggrieved, who are in jobs with pretty good health care coverage to even worry about this issue in the first place, would be bankrupted by paying for this out of pocket.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Quote of the Day


12) What if my employer says it has a sincere religious belief in human sacrifice -- can he kill me?
Yes. If your employer has a deeply held religious belief in human sacrifice, they can strap you in a cage, reach into your chest with their bare hands to pull out your still-beating heart, then drop the cage into a fiery pit. It’s a tough break, but from time to time, the Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dark Pools & Charts


Matt Levine:
The naive reading of that chart is: "We have a lot of institutional investors and very limited predatory trading in our dark pool." But the correct reading of the chart is: "We have software that allows us to produce this chart." The chart is a perfectly self-referential object, demonstrating only that the chart exists. The chart is a chart of how much chart there is.

Monday, June 30, 2014

FLG is currently listening to



FLG has never really paid attention to the video before, but he noticed just now that the bar patio they are sitting on is the Wynkoop Brewery in Denver, which brews his favorite beer -- Rail Yard Ale.

Given this low rating, FLG must assume it doesn't taste as good out of the can as it does out of a tap.  Sawtooth from the Lefthand Brewery does pretty damn well though and FLG's favorite beer he can actually buy in the DC area.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Texting and Grammar

WaPo:
Overall, we found no evidence that the use of grammatical violations in text messages is consistently related to poorer grammatical or spelling skills in school students.

FLG is skeptical. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Too Much Emphasis On The Little Guy

FLG agrees wholeheartedly with this:
This is the sort of thing that drives me nuts. Of course "smaller investors are being penalized." They're being penalized all the time, in everything that they do. They get worse research, worse service, worse allocations, worse customer perks, worse everything. There are volume discounts on bonds, as there are on most things in life. Is this unfair? I really don't care.

Later on...
 The SEC's job is to regulate the financial markets. One way to approach that job would be to put a priority on optimizing market efficiency and stability. Another way to approach it would be to put a priority on protecting retail investors and preventing two-bit frauds. Obviously both are good but one is more important. If you think about bond market structure in terms of protecting the little guy, you will make one set of choices; if you think about it in terms of providing a stable liquid platform for massive flows of capital, you will make a second, probably somewhat different, set of choices. The second set of choices is probably right.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Time Horizons -- Development Edition

For those of you wondering, FLG still holds fast to his time horizons theory*, which was applicable again in this EconTalk interview with William Easterly.

Russ: Well, when you are steering the car, you dowant to know the GPS (Global Positioning System) to be very accurate. You want to get a measurement every second. So, the more often, the better. Guest: Well, the more often, the more often you are going to be very badly wrong. Because the short run data are just too unreliable. What those data are useful for are really to give you much more of a long run verdict. Which system is better: a system based on individual rights or a system based on technocrats and dictators? And there I think the long run evidence is very conclusive. The gigantic reductions in child mortality have come mainly in free societies, and not in autocratic societies. It came much earlier and much bigger in free societies than they came in autocratic societies. That's what I think the data is telling you. And so the data is really weighing in on this big debate that Bill Gates is completely ignoring and avoiding, about: Is the autocrat of Ethiopia actually a big part of the solution to development in Ethiopia? Or is he actually a part of the problem? I think the big long-run picture says he's actually part of the problem, not the solution. Russ: Well, we had an episode with Morten Jerven on the unreliability of data, often--in the long run and in the short run. So, one of my concerns is that in many of these poor countries, data collection--it's not so great in the United States sometimes. So in a wealthy country that has lots of resources-- Guest:Yeah. But it's not just the long run and the short run. You can't equate the two. The great saving value of the long run is that no matter how big the measurement error is--and it is very big--but if it's just unbiased and just sort of fluctuating up and down even by a large amount, over the long run that tends to average out. And so you do tend to get a more accurate measure even with measurement error when you go to longer run data. That's one thing this book really insists on repeatedly, is that to really get the right evidence for what's working in development and what's not. You really need to go very long run and not over-react to kind of short run episodes of improvements in either development or child mortality or whatever. Those are just really not reliable. But the long runis reliable.
----------------------------

* For those of you who are new around these parts, FLG's time horizons theory is an evergreen theme here and the short version is that conservatives place more emphasis on the long run and search for root causes while liberals place more emphasis on the short run and proximate causes.  This then leads to a few corollaries, but FLG is too lazy to list them all right now.

Fashion Circle

Most people think of menswear, if they think of it at all, as a spectrum.  Crappy, cheap stuff on one end and designer, expensive stuff on the other.  FLG, on the other hand, thinks of it more as a circle where the super-high end stuff ends up wrapping around to be more expensive, but worse than the cheap stuff, if only because it costs 100x more than it should.   For example, pretty much everything Givenchy on Mr. Porter looks like it should be in the discount bin for five bucks at Target.

FLG first became aware of this when he saw an interview with Val Kilmer about The Saint.  He was very particular about this sweater, which he wanted to be one where you couldn't tell if the person wearing it was a bum or about to board his private jet.

FLG was reminded of this today when he saw this picture of Lapo Elkann on the Sartorialist.  Now, FLG thinks Elkann's suit is awesome in this case, but if you do a search for Lapo Elkann on Google Images, you can see that he perfectly embodies the circular nature between extraordinarily expensively elegant and wearing an outfit that costs thousands of dollars, but looks like you just fished it out of a dumpster only moments before.  

Then again, Tom Ford says he considers Elkann to be the best dressed man on the planet, so what the fuck does FLG know?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Central Banks

Buttonwood:
In the old days, we did not know what the central bank was up to, and it was easy to believe that it had access to information of which we are not aware. Now it publishes all the numbers and we can see it's often wrong. Dorothy has found out that the Wizard of Oz is an old man behind the curtain.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Somm

The FLGs watched part of this last night.  Had some issues with Netflix streaming and decided to finish it up later, but it's pretty damn good so far:

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Not So Quick Round Up

A Conversation

FLG was on the metro.  Two women in their early-to-mid 20s were having a conversation.

Woman #1:  I was going to get him a flask with his birthday engraved in it.  But then I thought his initials.

Woman #2:  Didn't you say were going to get him something else?  I forget what, but not that.

Woman #1:  Yeah, I saw a great leather jacket, but it was too expensive.

Woman #3, a lady in her 70s or 80s leans over.

Woman #3:  Let me give you a piece of advice an old lady, probably younger than I am now, gave me back in nineteen-fifty-five.  If you want to give him a personal and thoughtful gift...

Woman #1 interrupts:  Exactly.

Woman #3 smirks:  I thought so, then give him a blowjob.

Every guy in earshot's head turned.  

Woman #3 continued:  I don't care if you give him one everyday.  You tell him his birthday gift is a blowjob, then he'll be happy.  If he wants a jacket or a flask, he can buy it his damn self, but I haven't met a fella yet who can give himself a blowjob.

Every guy in earshot's head nodded.

----------------

Questions from your Maximum Leader:

1) What food do you most resemble - physically?

Dunno.  A slice of pizza?

2) Assume that everyone has an ability that they could call their “superpower” what would yours be?

Does having the Force count?  If not, then telekinesis.

3) What is the earliest memory you have?

Wrote about that already.

4) A good day would be…

Any day FLG spends with his wife, girls, a Tiki drink, and a Cohiba Robusto.

5) A bad day would be…

When a full train breaks down on the Metro during rush hour.

6) Cameras on every single portable electronic device. Blessing or bane?

Bane.

7) Favorite Pixar character? Why?

Definitely Crush the turtle.  Dude is chill and old.

8 ) Tell me about one deeply held belief of yours that has evolved or changed over time.

That religion is bullshit opium for the masses.  Definitely changed on that.

9) Your favorite word?

Tie between defenestrate and hagiography

10) If I met you at a dinner party, what would you NOT like me to ask you?

To touch your junk.

11) Tell me something I don’t know

FLG has never gotten busy in a Burger King bathroom.

--------------------------------------------------
 FLG's intense dislike of fairness makes him want to buy this book:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Quick Round-Up

Unfortunately, FLG has been unable to blog, but he send himself some links to remind himself to post things.  Here are the results of that.  Btw, long-time FLG readers jonesing for some object sex posting will be happy.

Ross Douthat on the Left's problem with traditional masculinity:

I see a social revolution that has brought good and bad, intermixed, and whose supporters could profit from the realization that some of the human goods they seek are actually more clearly visible behind us, somewhere back in a cultural past they still insist they’re fighting to overthrow, whose actual details the darkness of forgetting has almost swallowed up

 FLG loved this one by Matt Levine on stretching the definition of index fund:
Oh I see. So Pax World Gender Analytics will subjectively rate companies on their commitment to women, Pax Ellevate Management will then choose a list of the companies that Pax World Gender Analytics rates highly, Pax Ellevate Management will give MSCI that list, MSCI will call that list an index, and Pax Ellevate Management will then invest its index fund in that index.

Last, but certainly not least, presenting the Autoblow 2.  FLG believes you may still be able to fund the project.   Check out the video. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Quote of the day

Michael Gerson interpreting Obama:
we will not, as others urge, enter nuclear bunkers and live as mole people

That part about mole people made FLG laugh out loud. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Quote of the day

Oliver Burkeman:
one of the most fundamental yet still under-appreciated truths of human existence, which is this: everyone is totally just winging it, all the time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Few Things

FLG was reading J S Mill the other day and found this sentence fascinating.    He is not quite sure why he hadn't noticed it before:
It is a bitter thought, how different a thing the Christianity of the world might have been, if the Christian faith had been adopted as the religion of the empire under the auspices of Marcus Aurelius instead of those of Constantine.

He also really liked this list of biases that afflict people when investing.

Lastly, FLG nodded his head in agreement with this piece.

It happens every semester. A student triumphantly points out that Jean-Jacques Rousseau is undermining himself when he claims “the man who reflects is a depraved animal,” or that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s call for self-reliance is in effect a call for reliance on Emerson himself. Trying not to sound too weary, I ask the student to imagine that the authors had already considered these issues.
...
In campus cultures where being smart means being a critical unmasker, students may become too good at showing how things can’t possibly make sense. They may close themselves off from their potential to find or create meaning and direction from the books, music and experiments they encounter in the classroom.

FLG reflexively and certainly unfairly places the blame for this on the Left, as this type of "critical thinking" is turned time and again against authority, history, and tradition.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Couple Of Things

Both dave.s and Withywindle have asked whether FLG still thinks NATO should be abolished in light of the recent Russia expansionism.  Short answer -- yes.

Longer answer --- In the short term, the existence of NATO seems to have benefit.  FLG believes that the existence of NATO, however, allows the Europeans to free ride off of the US for their security.   He believes that if NATO were abolished, then the EU could and would provide a similar protection for Eastern European countries.  And given that this was explicitly under the EU, it would necessitate the Europeans increasing their defense spending to provide for the collective security of the EU.   Moreover, as far as US involvement goes, there would be nothing precluding the US from sending some troops to Poland, etc, even in the absence of NATO.


So, to summarize, short term, it looks like NATO has value.  Long term, NATO is still a crutch for the Europeans and doesn't really have much usefulness.  

NATO delenda est.

On an entirely unrelated note, FLG was in a cab on the West Side Highway the other day when he saw a truck for Arethusa Farm & Dairy.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Break

This might be the funniest segment FLG has ever seen on The Daily Show.

FLG, like many people, has always had an issue with folks saying "kids these days" about shit they did when they were younger.   Now that he has kids he sort of gets it more, but he tries to fight it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Contraints

FLG has written before that the ultimate goal of the Left is a misunderstood form of Aristotelian leisure.  This ultimate goal, which  FLG believes most don't even fully understand themselves, manifests something like this:

there not only shouldn't be constraints on human desires, but the only constraints are economic and the present state technology. Both of these are theoretically rectifiable. It lends to the idea that the eventual and proper state of human life is one with no constraints on human desire. Therefore, any constraint is by definition an obstacle to be overcome. 

FLG found this interview with a White House economist fascinating because it so illustrates my point:
I agree that the 77 cents on the dollar is not all due to discrimination. No one is trying to say that it is. But you have to point to some number in order for people to understand the facts. And what it represents is the fact that women on average are put in situations every day that for a variety of reasons mean they earn less. Much of what we need to do to close that gap is to change the constraints that women face. And there are things we haven’t tried.

The pay gap isn't the best case for FLG.  The issue arises more when people on the left view the adverse consequences of bad decisions made by an individual eventually become, not the adverse consequences of a series of bad decisions, but rather unfair constraints in a some future decision.  Since FLG has trouble thinking of children as a bad decision, so it's harder for him to point to that as a major issue in this type of analysis.  But nevertheless, the decision to have children comes with a variety of long-term consequences, which are unavoidable and also fall differently, potentially disproportionately, on each parent.


FLG certain that we can't fundamentally change the adverse consequences of having children, and is deeply skeptical that the government should try to ameliorate certain of the second order effects.
 
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