Sunday, September 30, 2012

not in Bali

Returned home. Cracking trip. I'll be going back as soon as I can justify it... :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Everything is Incredible


But. Will it be able to buy Spanish bonds?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


"He badly underestimated, for instance, how little it would cost Republicans politically to oppose ideas they had once advocated, merely because Obama supported them. He thought the other side would pay a bigger price for inflicting damage on the country for the sake of defeating a president. But the idea that he might somehow frighten Congress into doing what he wanted was, to him, clearly absurd. “All of these forces have created an environment in which the incentives for politicians to cooperate don’t function the way they used to,” he said. “L.B.J. operated in an environment in which if he got a couple of committee chairmen to agree he had a deal. Those chairmen didn’t have to worry about a Tea Party challenge. About cable news. That model has progressively shifted for each president. It’s not a fear-versus-a-nice-guy approach that is the choice. The question is: How do you shape public opinion and frame an issue so that it’s hard for the opposition to say no.

Libya: One day it was “Why aren’t you doing anything?” The next it was “What have you gotten us into?” As one White House staffer puts it, “All the people who had been demanding intervention went nuts after we intervened and said it was outrageous. That’s because the controversy machine is bigger than the reality machine.”"

Obama’s Way - Vanity Fair - Michael Lewis


French and UK police baffled by killer's motive - Guardian

"I find it very strange indeed how little attention has been paid to the murdered French cyclist, and how easily it is presumed he was just a passerby. Surely it is as likely he was the intended victim and the al-Hillis the accidental witnesses?"

The Al-Hilli Conundrum - Craig Murray

"Al-Hilli was a Shia muslim and had been on pilgrimage to Qoms in Iran. What if it is indeed true that he was in possession of no especial nuclear or defence secrets to pass on to the Iranians, but the Israelis thought that he was? The Israeli programme of assassination of scientists involved in Iran’s nuclear programme is a definite fact. It makes as much sense as anything else at the moment, as a possibility.

I am not saying that is what happened. But the directions in which the mainstream media is being so strenuously pointed by official sources, like the massacre of an entire family over an inheritance, are certainly no more inherently probable. Certainly as we are now told all the shots were from one gun, for the assassin to get each victim in the head with none of them being able to escape, indicates real proficiency with the weapon and a very high level of training."

Conspiracy theories aside, isn't it usually the most simple explanation?

Bad Little Children's Books


"Well, as a paid-up member of these noble "weekend warriors", I must object and speak up for the much-mocked Mamil. First, as midlife crises go, how benign is this? The worst of it is that you annoy your partner because you want a pasta meal and an early night on Saturday – on account of your early morning 60-mile Sunday training ride. (With other Mamils: we ride in a bunch – that's our collective noun.)

You get fit; your legs become firm and shapely; you lose a few pounds. Is that so terrible?

Admittedly, your partner may find your explanation for why you have started shaving your legs either baffling or implausible. Then again, you have a hard time believing your own BS on this issue. It's just what looks "pro", so it must be done."

The humble Mamil: why we need 'middle-aged men in Lycra' - Matt Seaton

"I own my Mamilhood: I'm a middle-aged man in Lycra – and proud."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mean reversion

"Reversion to the mean is one of the most reliable concepts in finance. Paradigm shifts are rare. Usually when prices move out of kilter with their long-term trend, they eventually revert to their mean.

The concept has limits in an era when the response to the crisis has left short-term rates at unprecedented lows. But it would be dangerous to ignore it.

In the Netherlands, for which he has the longest time series, they hit a 495-year low in June. Ten-year treasuries in July hit their lowest yield since 1790.

The shortest-term rates have never been “so low, for so long, for so many”. Here the longest data are for the UK, where base rates are at their lowest in 318 years.

The Bank of England’s balance sheet is its biggest, compared with the size of the UK economy, since records began in 1830. And the US has its highest deficits in peacetime – the data go back to 1791.

Against this backdrop, is there any reason to expect charts to revert to their mean? Deutsche Bank’s market historian Jim Reid raises this question before unveiling the results of his mean reversion analysis, which suggests terrible underperformance for gold and oil over the next decade, along with poor performance for long-dated bonds, and equities."

Mean reversion awaits London property - FT

London prime property prices at risk? - FT

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ban Lifejackets

You should see drowning as a gift. Petition.

From London

Comic Conventions

Pictures from Curiosity

"Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a robotic space probe mission to Mars launched by NASA on November 26, 2011, which successfully landed Curiosity, a Mars rover, in Gale Crater on August 6, 2012. The overall objectives include investigating Mars' habitability, studying its climate and geology, and collecting data for a manned mission to Mars. The rover carries a variety of scientific instruments designed by an international team."

Hat tip Dominic

Friday, September 07, 2012

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Better Off

"In Tampa the Republican argument against Obama's re-election was pretty simple, pretty snappy: 'We left him a total mess, he hasn't finished cleaning it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.' I like the argument for President Obama's re-election a whole lot better. He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy."

While there is far more enthusiasm in Charlotte than there was among Republicans in Tampa last week, that exuberance among Democrats is far less focused. Republicans trained their sights on the economy, deceptively at times but relentlessly throughout.

This is where Clinton comes in. For the problem is not that Barack Obama does not have a record. It's that the record he has does not include the single most important achievement he could hope for: improving the lot of the broad swathe of middle America. It's the one area where voters trust Romney more than him and by far the most important issue in the election."

Bill Clinton makes the speech that Obama needed most - Guardian

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Economy ABCs

"1) the majority of new jobs are bad.

2) the economy has still not recovered all lost jobs, either in absolute #s or as a percentage of the population

3) so there are fewer jobs, and what new jobs have been created are worse. They pay worse.

4) The upper middle class job market has recovered, which is why those folks are no longer panicking and are telling you that the economy isn’t so bad as all that.

5) the failure to force the rich to take their losses and to break up the banks means that the same people who caused the 2007/8 financial crisis still control the economy and the government.

6) failure to restructure the economy to get off oil and over to an electrical economy means that the US (and the world) are caught in the oil price dilemna: any real recovery increases oil price and will be derailed by those high oil prices.

7) Europe, ex. Germany, is in recession.

8 ) the developed world is in depression, it never left depression. During depressions there are recoveries (such as they are) and recessions, but the overall economy is in depression.

9) China’s economy is slowing down. Since China is the main engine of the world economy, followed by the US, this is really bad. If it goes into an actual recession, bend over and kiss your butt goodbye.

10) Austerity is a means by which the rich can buy up assets which are not normally on the market for cheap.

11) the wealth of the rich and major corporations has recovered and in many countries exceeded its prior highs. They are doing fine. Austerity is not hurting them. They control your politicians. The depression will not end until it is in their interest for it to do so, or their wealth and power is broken.

12) The US play is as follows: frack. Frack some more. Frack even more. They are trying the Reagan play, temporize while new supplies of hydrocarbons come on line. Their bet is that they’ll get another boom out of that. If they’re right, it’ll be a lousy boom. If they’re wrong (and the Saudis think they are, and the Saudis have been eating their lunch since 2001) then you won’t even get that. Either way, though, they’ll devastate the environment, by which I mean the water you drink and grow crops with.

13) For people earning less than about 80K, the economy never really recovered.

14) If you’re out of work more than 2 months your odds of getting another job drop through the floor. If you do get one, odds are it will pay much less than your previous job.

15) Canada is undergoing austerity madness at all levels of government, and the corporations, with historically low tax rates, are not going to spend either. With Chinese demand for commodities dropping, expect a nasty recession.

16) Australia, having tied itself completely to China is about to reap the downside of that decision.

17) Wages are being systematically broken in the developed world. The rich do not believe they need you, except as wage-slave labor. You will all be company store slaves, paying rental streams to everyone to be allowed to continued to eke out a miserable existence.

18) Since the US sells protected works (so called “intellectual property”) you will continue to see a massive attempt to break anyone who doesn’t pay IP rent to the US. Some countries (Sweden, Germany, among others) are going along. But there are signs of rebellion. Apple may have won against Samsung in their ridiculous attempt to enforce patents on obvious solutions, but both Japanese and Korean courts threw the cases out. Paying rent to America, the hegemon, when the world system is working is one thing, paying rent when the world isn’t working is another.

19) Stirling Newberry says, and I agree, that none of this is stable, but it will last as long as the majority of the baby boom, the silents and a good chunk of the Xers still think they can hang on to their little piece of the pie, and screw everyone else. It will most likely break down in 2020/24, which is when the demographics turn. Young people today are completely screwed, they have astronomical student loans, no or shitty jobs, can’t afford a house and can’t afford to start a family. Note that the places where revolutions, peaceful or otherwise, are happening, are places where the majority of the population is young. Latin America, the Middle East.


20) The economic numbers you hear don’t mean squat. Headline inflation does not matter, ask yourself instead “what are my fixed expenses?” Start with food. Jobless claims #s cannot be compared to prior numbers because less people have the sorts of jobs that let you make those claims. For the #s to make sense you’d have to adjust them for the reduced # of jobs which allow claims. The unemployment rate has dropped even though there are, in absolute terms, less jobs, because people have given up looking.

21) The money the Fed floods into the financial markets (quantitative easing, among others) is mostly NOT getting to ordinary people, and whatever Bernanke and his apologists say, it was never intended to. It is intended to prop up financial actors, and keep the rich richer. It has done what it is supposed to do."

Some basics on the economy - Ian Welsh via naked capitalism

But don't worry, the iPhone 5 is on its way.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

What If

"The top layer, the orange one, that’s the Bush tax cuts. There is no single policy we have passed that has added as much to the debt, or that is projected to add as much to the debt in the future, as the Bush tax cuts, which Republicans passed in 2001 and 2003 and Obama and the Republicans extended in 2010. To my knowledge, all elected Republicans want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Democrats, by and large, want to end them for income over $250,000.

In second place is the economic crisis. That’s the medium blue. Recessions drive tax revenue down because people lose their jobs, and when you lose your job, you lose your income, and when you lose your income, you can’t pay taxes. Tax revenues in recent years have been 15.4 percent of GDP — the lowest level since the 1950s. Meanwhile, they drive social spending up, because programs like unemployment insurance and Medicaid automatically begin spending more to help the people who have been laid off.

Then comes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s the red. And then recovery measures like the stimulus. That’s the light blue, and the part for which you can really blame Obama and the Democrats– though it’s worth remembering that the stimulus had to happen because of a recession that began before Obama entered office, and that the Senate Republicans proposed and voted for a $3 trillion tax cut stimulus that would have added almost four times what Obama’s stimulus added to the debt.

Then there’s the financial rescue measures like TARP, which is the dark blue line. That’s almost nothing, as much of that money has been paid back
If we didn’t have all that? If there’d been no Bush tax cuts, no wars, no financial crisis and everything else had been the same? Debt would be between 20 and 30 percent of GDP today, rather than almost 100 percent."

The one graph you need to see before watching - Wonkblog

Monday, September 03, 2012

Mind. Blown.

via Dog House Diaries

Not the End

"Here’s the reality: The Secret Race isn’t just a game changer for the Lance Armstrong myth. It’s the game ender. No one can read this book with an open mind and still credibly believe that Armstrong didn’t dope. It’s impossible. That doesn’t change the fact that he survived cancer and helped millions of people through Livestrong, but the myth of the clean-racing hero who came back from the dead is, well, dead."

Lance Armstrong's Secret is Out - Outside

Need. Tech. Fix.

"These days I’m somewhat dismayed by the persistent chatter about building “addictive” products. When did addiction become an admirable thing to cultivate?

As members of the tech industry, we need to ask serious questions about the behaviors that we are promoting. Are we really helping people live better lives? Or, are we promoting suboptimal habits and aptitudes? At best, many of the products we’re building are time wasters. At worst, they’re the addictive equivalents of cigarettes — irresistible cheap thrills that feel good in the moment, but are destructive in the long run.

I believe that the purpose of technology is to take over the grating, tedious tasks that we have had to put up with for so long, so that we can live fuller, more interesting lives. In short, technology allows us to be even more human by becoming less mechanistic.

I’m not trying to be the crotchety, out-of-touch naysayer. Personally, I love LOLcats, Reddit, and many other services that could be classified as time wasters. The trick is moderation. The problem is that we, as a product design community, are purposely trying to create compulsions.

I don’t have the answers. I’m not saying that we should stop building. I’m just saying that we should take a hard look at ourselves and determine whether or not we’re bringing value to the world."

When did addiction become a good thing? - GigaOM

Know Pain, Know Gain

"In practice, that means five or six exercises done for just five to six super slow repetitions, or just 15 minutes of actual lifting. Some adherents, such as Dr McGuff, believe that just one workout a week is sufficient, while Mr Hahn and others prefer two workouts.

“High-intensity resistance improves blood pressure, increases the level of good cholesterol in your blood, lowers triglicyeride levels, maintains blood sugar, helps with insulin sensitivity and builds not only muscular strength but muscular endurance,” says Mr Hahn.

Dr McGuff, meanwhile, flags up the medical benefits of the high-intensity workout, which he says can help eliminate “diabetes, hypertension, gout, hypercholesterolaemia, and all the consequences of being sedentary and eating a diet of modern food”.

However, the workout’s proponents admit that while the method has many benefits, a high-intensity workout or any gym programme is unlikely to help executives completely lose those unsightly guts gained from years of eating expense-account lunches. For that, dietary changes are the most important ingredient."

Less workout, more work - FT


"It is a testament then to human ingenuity that we have now figured out how to provide as many calories as possible in our foods. We don’t even really need for our intestines to do much work, our bacteria either, or even our teeth for that matter. Our modern diets are a measure of our evolutionary success, or at least they would be from the perspective of our paleo ancestors who needed and wanted excess calories. They are not successes from our modern perspective. We now have too many calories and too many of those calories are of low quality. One in three Americans is now obese. Over the last thirty years the number of calories we eat has increased, but so has the number of those calories that come from highly processed foods. In this light, we would do well to eat fewer processed foods and more raw ones. This is not a novel insight (Such foods, after all, tend to have more nutrients such as B vitamins, phytonutrients and minerals and so are good for reasons having nothing to do with counting calories). But what might be novel is the realization that in eating such foods you could lose weight while keeping the precise tally of the calories you consume exactly the same. However, this realization comes hand in hand with another, namely that how much weight you lose depends on the biology of the plants and animals you choose to eat and who you and your microbes are in ways we are only beginning to understand."

The Hidden Truths about Calories - Scientific Amercian