Sunday, November 23, 2014

Okay, The Second Time Is Farce: Some Additional Taglines for the Karl Marx Credit Card

Following up on Thursday's "The Karl Marx Credit Card – When You’re Short of Kapital", a few of these taglines are hilarious.

Some years ago we pointed* out that Marx's use of the famous tragedy/farce line in his "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte" was probably swiped, without attribution, from Engels, link below, which brings to mind Proudhon's La propriété, c'est le vol ! (Property is theft!) which Marx said was itself lifted from Brissot de Warville.
(he hated Proudhon)

The early Planet Money contenders:
  • There are Some Things Money Can’t Buy. Especially If You Abolish All Private Property.
  • From each according to their ability, to each according to his need. For everything else, there’s #Marxcard.
  • The Marx Card – Because Credit is the Opiate of the Masses.
  • The Karl Marx MasterCard – When You’re Short of Kapital
And the rest, via NPR:
...MORE and MORE  and MORE

* Climateer Headline of the Day: Tragedy/Farce Edition

Tangentially related:
The Great Marx Debate
"Marx at 193"
Privatizing Marx and Engels (happy belated b-day Karl!)
Karl Marx Dabbles in the Market (and rationalizes his success)
Friedrich Engels: Global Macro With an Emphasis on Commodities
Karl Marx on Market Manias
Marx and Engels Meet The Jetsons

College Bound? Prep for the SAT With Kim Kardashian

From the New York Daily News:

Kim Kardashian’s butt on Paper magazine cover can help kids do math
Famous photo inspired SAT prep company Catalyst to teach geometry in a broad new way. Area of a circle is a crucial skill to learn when gazing upon the reality TV star's tush.
Here’s a cheeky way to do math.

Kim Kardashian’s naked butt broke the internet — but now it’s helping to fix students’ understanding of basic geometry.

Catalyst, a test prep company, is using the ultimate semi-circle in its latest pop-culture-inspired questions to get kids primed for the SAT. (See questions below).

Catalyst’s interest in Kardashian’s image from the cover of Paper magazine is not just sexploitation. It’s downright Platonic.

“Kim Kardashian’s backside is almost perfectly circular,” company founder Jared Friedland tells the Daily News. “As soon as we saw that, it occurred to me that we could teach three types of geometry questions.”

And as every eighth grade boy knows, Friedland is talking about circumference, angles and area of a circle. The median age of the test taker is 16...MORE
No comment on the median age of the (re)blogger.

Corrected: Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: How to Start a Startup-Lecture 18: Mechanics--Legal, Finance, HR, etc.

Very sorry, forgot the video.
Again jumping ahead, back on schedule Monday.
From Stanford University:


Annotated transcript.

Readings:

  • How to Work with Lawyers at a Startup by Mark Suster
  • Startup Company Lawyer by Yorim Taku
  • Useful resources - clerky.com, zenpayroll.com, zenefits.com

  • Previously:
    Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: How to Start a Startup-Lecture 15 With Andreessen-Horowitz Founder Ben Horowitz
    Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: "How to Start a Start-up"--Lecture 10
    Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: How to Start a Startup-Lecture 9: Marc Andreessen on "How to Raise Money"
    Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: "How to Start a Start-up"--Lecture 8
    Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: "How to Start a Start-up"--Lecture 7
    Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: How to Start a Startup-Lecture 6: Growth
    Peter Thiel at Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: How to Start a Startup-Lecture 5
    Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: "How to Start a Start-up"--Lecture 4
    Paul Graham at Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: How to Start a Startup-Lecture 3
    Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: "How to Start a Start-up"--Lecture Two
    Y Combinator's Online Stanford Class: "How to Start a Start-up"--Lecture One    

    Climateer Line of the Day: Everybody Hates Silicon Valley Edition

    Today's winner of the prestigious CLoD:
    “Fuck, I wish the Mission would just gentrify faster,” a 20-something acquaintance recently said to me, complaining about the bar scene in San Francisco’s artsy Mission District. “I’m not trying to step over a homeless guy just to pay $14 for a drink, you know?” 
    That's from The Kernel and although the Mission District is 50 miles up the peninsula from San Jose the quote nails the zeitgeist. Here's the story:
    The hidden cost of the on-demand economy
    part of the Kernel's Everybody Hates Silicon Valley series.

    "Investors: Damn Ubergate and Full Speed Ahead With Mega-Funding"

    And once they can go with fully autonomous vehicles* the bottom line jumps as well.
    From re/code:
    full speed ahead
    Did last week’s online outrage hinder the ongoing Uber mega-funding round? Apparently not.

    Investors still seem to be bullish on the ride-sharing company, despite the recent outcry about its trustworthiness and ethics, said multiple sources who have talked with the company during its ongoing pitches to raise a yet another enormous round of investment.

    This is for one big reason: Uber is telling potential investors that it expects a gross revenue run rate of more than $4 billion for 2014. The gross run rate is on track to more than double in 2015, to some $10 billion, added those who have heard the pitch.

    Uber itself keeps about 20 percent of that gross revenue, the total amount that it bills to customers, giving it about $1 billion or more in net revenue once costs are taken out.

    As such, the discussed valuation for the latest round is apparently now at $30 billion, several sources said. We’d previously reported $25 billion, although even higher numbers had already been publicly floated....MORE
    *...Uber will eventually replace the people who drive its cars with cars that drive themselves, CEO Travis Kalanick said today at the Code Conference....
    ...Asked about what he would tell the Uber drivers who will some day replaced, Kalanick said that day was still a long way off. But it's also inevitable, he said. "I'd say 'Look, this is the way of the world, and the world isn't always great.' We all have to find ways to change with the world." His statement came a day after the company boasted that its drivers could earn $90,000 a year....

    Don't Drink And Trade

    One of the funnier examples of the problems with mixing booze and technology.
    From Oilprice.com, 26 Sept. 2012:

    Broker Sent Oil Prices to Eight Month High in a Drunken Stupor
    On June the 30th 2009 oil mysteriously jumped by more than $1.50 a barrel during the night, to reach its highest price in eight months, the kind of swing that is caused by a major geopolitical event.

    The amazing, true cause of this price spike has now been released by a Financial Services Authority investigation (FSA).

    Although not authorised to invest company cash in trades Steve Perkins, a long standing, senior broker at PVM Oil Futures, had managed to spend $520 million on oil futures contracts throughout the night.

    On the morning of the 30th an admin clerk called Mr Perkins to ask why he had bought 7 million barrels of crude during the night. Mr Perkins had no recollection of the transactions, and it turned out that he had made the trades during a “drunken blackout.”

    By the time PVM had realised the transactions had not been authorised by a client, they had incurred losses of $9,763,252.

    Between the hours of 1.22am and 3.41am, Mr Perkins gradually bought 69 percent of the global market, whilst driving prices up from $71.40 to $73.05, by bidding higher each time.At 6.30am, presumably sobering up and realising what he’d done, he sent a message to his managing director claiming an unwell relative meant he would not be able to make it into work....

    "Money is the Crystallisation of time and Free Will"

    From the Financial Times Magazine:

    Douglas Coupland: 3.1415926535
    The invention of the hamburger was a way of homogenising cows. Take whatever you want from any number of animals (but one hopes cows), grind it all up and suddenly you now have a consistent and uniform beef unit: the hamburger “patty”. In this same manner, humanity took time as it was once experienced and converted it into seconds, minutes and hours. A second is basically a “time patty”, or “the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the Caesium 133 atom”.1 Romantic!

    Modern culture since 1900 has been about the relentless homogenising of anything that can be homogenised: pig by-products into hot dogs; coffee into Nespresso capsules; junk bonds into hedge funds.

    In this spirit of investigation I began to wonder, “What, then, does money homogenise?”
     . . . 
    The average person with a high school education uses 3,000 words a day and is able to recognise about 20,000. But when it comes to sequences and numbers, when does a word stop being a word? Examples: is the alphabet itself a word? Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz – we all know it. It ought to be. Is the sequence 1234567890 a word?

    We know that 1,000,000 is a word but is 1,000,001 a word, too? My high school maths teacher gave us all an extra point if we memorised pi to 10 decimal places and, of course, we all did, so is Threepointonefouronefive-ninetwosixfivethreefive a word? And if so, is it a different word from pi to nine decimal places?(Three-pointonefouronefiveninetwosix-fivethree.) Who would even know the answer to this?
     . . . 
    A few years back, I was cleaning out an old space that came with the house and, from inside a rusty paint can, I found a canvas bag filled with silver coins – silver Canadian pre-1967 dimes, plus a wide selection of older US coins. I don’t know what it’s like to find treasure but it must surely feel like finding a rusty paint can full of coins. I mentioned it on the phone to my mother, and she said, “Bring it over right now. Have you sorted them out yet?”

    “Yes.”

    “Dump them all back in the can. I want to sort them here.”

    I went to her place and she had a magnet ready to help sort them out (silver isn’t magnetic). It was my first money-sorting party in the Scrooge McDuck tradition and, in the end, the value of the coins came to $2,100. If my accountant phoned to say he’d found a tax break for $2,100, I’d be in a good mood – but it wouldn’t have felt like treasure. Good accountants should hide bags of rebated money all around your house. Imagine the joy they could bring to people....MORE

    "The Illusion Machine That Teaches Us How We See"

    From Nautil.us:
    A mathematician is using computers to manufacture award-winning illusions.
    The man sprang onstage dressed as a miner, complete with headlamp and pickaxe. After swinging the axe a few times, he proclaimed to the audience that he had discovered a “supermagnet”—a substance so strong it could attract even wood. A video screen above him appeared to prove him right: It showed wooden balls rolling up four ramps, seemingly unbound by gravity.
    The man was not in fact a miner, but a mathematician—Kokichi Sugihara, of Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan. He was competing in the 2010 finals of the annual Best Illusion of the Year Contest in Naples, Florida. And, as the video went on to show, the balls were not really rolling uphill. A look at the back of the ramp structure showed that pillars that from the front had seemed vertical were in truth anything but, and that the ramps were pointing downhill, not uphill. The demonstration (which won that year’s top prize) was an illusion, and Sugihara had designed it together with an unusual collaborator: a computer program.

    Sugihara didn’t originally set out to become a master illusionist. As a young mathematician in 1980, he was interested in robot vision and computer-assisted design. With those applications in mind, he created a computer program that could take a line drawing of a polygonal shape and come up with a list of three-dimensional objects that would create that drawing when projected onto a flat plane—akin to working backward from a shadow to the possible objects that could have cast it.

    To test his program, Sugihara fed it drawings of impossible-seeming objects, like M.C. Escher’s endless loop of stairs. He expected the program to reject the drawings, but to his surprise, in some cases it claimed to have found a solution: a three-dimensional object that looked just like the drawing. “I thought my software was incorrect,” Sugihara said.

    On closer inspection, he realized that what was incorrect was his assumption that these “impossible” two-dimensional objects couldn’t exist in the three-dimensional world. He started making paper models of his program’s designs, and gradually, the robot and design applications fell by the wayside—his program wasn’t ideally suited to them, he discovered. Instead, he dedicated himself to exploring the strange constructions that came so easily to his program, and that appeared so baffling to human viewers. He had built an illusion machine.

    Over the 34 years since then, Sugihara has used his illusion machine to create and build more than 100 illusions: impossible objects such as a solid model of Escher’s staircase, and intuition-defying motions such as balls rolling uphill. “Sugihara has come up with systematic ways of playing with what happens when the rules of the vision system fall apart,” said Arthur Shapiro, a neuroscientist at American University in Washington, D.C. Part scientist and part artist, his work is helping to elucidate the basic mathematics underlying how our brains construct our world.
    Klarreich_BREAKER-1

    ...MORE

    Friday, November 21, 2014

    "High-Frequency Traders Turn to the Online Ad Market"

    From BusinessWeek:
    In a red brick building in New York’s Chinatown filled with startups, a company uses custom computer programs to scout for opportunities, making millions of trades each day that generate tens of thousands of dollars in revenue. This company is not buying and selling stocks, bonds, or commodities: Its specialty is online ads.

    High-frequency traders have found a new market to exploit. A growing percentage of the billions of display ads that pop up on computer screens are sold to the highest bidder at online marketplaces such as AppNexus, Microsoft Ad Exchange (MSFT), PubMatic, Rubicon Project (RUBI), and Yahoo! Ad Exchange (YHOO). Before the ads appear, they change hands in a complex volley of electronic trades among websites, ad space aggregators, exchanges, data analysts, and ad agencies. Real-time bidding “tends to be fabulously complicated,” says Ben Edelman, an associate professor at Harvard Business School who studies online advertising. “The number of intermediaries in a single ad placement can be just extreme.”

    That web of transactions creates opportunities for arbitrageurs. Using computer algorithms, traders can scan the markets for price discrepancies, buying and reselling ads for small profits in a fraction of a second. “I see a lot of guys who buy from one exchange, and they sell to another exchange,” says Edelman. “Some buy from an exchange and sell it right back to that very same exchange.”

    Here’s a simplified version of how the process works. Let’s say Ford Motor wants to advertise to consumers who had shown they were in the market for a luxury car—women age 35-60 who searched for Mercedes on Google (GOOG), “liked” a story about BMWs on Facebook (FB), or looked on About.com’s luxury car page. In each of those cases, Ford or an ad agency it hired, such as Omnicom Group, could create profiles of the people it was looking for and connect to an online exchange where advertisers buy spots. Websites send information on available space and audiences to the exchange. When Ford sees the audience it is looking for, it can bid for the space. If it wins, the carmaker’s luxury sedan ad immediately pops up on the website spot. The whole transaction takes place in 100 milliseconds or less....MORE

    Dogbert, Le Grand Fromage

    From Dilbert.com:

    The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

    I must remember that line for the proper moment:
    "I spend more than that on soft cheese"
    No, needs more Gallic umbrage:
    "You insult me, Monsieur. I spend more than that on soft cheese."
    Add a soupçon of haughty and a pinch of supercilious with: Hah!
    "Hah! You insult me, Monsieur. I spend more than that on soft cheese."
    Bingo.

    CJR: "Virtual reality is journalism’s next frontier"

    From the Columbia Journalism Review's 'Behind the News' blog:

    Why newsrooms need to consider telling stories in a different way 
    Virtual reality is ascendant, and it’s time for media outlets to take notice. Why? Consumer access to VR devices is about to take off thanks to ambitious prototypes from Oculus Rift and, in the past year, several major projects have redefined immersion journalism.

    In September, The Des Moines Register released Harvest of Change, a detailed tour of one family farm in Iowa. In January, Nonny de la Peña and the USC School of Cinematic Arts debuted Project Syria at the World Economic Forum. Project Syria is a full-body experience that places viewers at the scene of a bombing, then allows them to explore a refugee camp. And October’s round of Knight Prototype Fund grants included support for a blockbuster collaboration collaboration between The Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Frontline, and Secret Location, an interactive digital agency. These organizations are working together to produce a documentary work focused on the Ebola crisis and will share best practices and strategies for producing virtual reality-augmented journalism once they’ve finished.

    These new forms of journalism are ambitious documentary enterprises, comprising many team members, cross-organizational partnerships, and potentially shocking prices to those familiar with prose journalism budgets. (Harvest of Change was produced for under $50,000.) But this work is also providing valuable, vital public services with remarkable emotional punch. Full-body journalism is a remarkable tool for encouraging empathy through what de la Peña calls “presence.”

    “It’s a pretty wild thing, she says. “I’ve put thousands of people through these things now and have had extraordinary reactions.” Project Syria was recently exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for five days. According to de la Peña, the exhibit was unadvertised and garnered more than 50 pages of guest book comments from visitors who donned the headset.

    Wide consumer adoption of virtual reality is now the horizon. Oculus Rift, the crowdfunded VR headset that was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion in cash and stock, recently released Development Kit 2 at a price point of $350. That smaller up-front investment makes it easier than ever for developers to test virtual reality projects. The company is also taking steps towards hardware that is readily available to consumers, offering a sneak peek of the Crescent Bay prototype in September. In short, it’s time to start strategizing.

    “Our reporters go to places where few venture or get inside,” says Raney Aronson-Rath, deputy executive producer at Frontline. “I’ve long held a curiosity about how we might take our viewers with us in a more visceral way, so that they can feel what it’s like to actually be there.”...MORE 

    Previously:
    “Immersive Journalism” Using Virtual Reality to Put the Viewer In the Story
    "Virtual Reality May Become the Next Great Media Platform.....
    "The Inside Story of Oculus Rift and How Virtual Reality Became Reality"
    Venture Capital: "Second Life Founder, Philip Rosedale, Is Quietly Creating a Next-Generation Virtual World"
    Seinfeld, Virtual Reality and Mild Revulsion
    The Paradox of Wearable Technology: Does this Computer Make My Butt Look Fat?
    Annenberg's Edison Project--"Technology, Media and Culture - the Best of Times or the Worst of Times?"

    On the Varieties of Capital Arbitrage

    An oldie (June 19, 2012) but goodie from Deus Ex Macchiato:
    There are only a few basic types of capital arbitrage trade. My first attempt at a taxonomy is:
    • The leveller. Here risk within the same category is treated unfairly, with some risk cheap or equitable, and some risk expensive. The leveller turns expensive risk into something cheaper. A typical example is the collateral swap. Say a counterparty has collateral which is good, but which doesn’t count for regulatory purposes. For a fee, that is swapped for something which does count. If the capital saving is sufficient, then the fee is worth paying even if the risk has not changed (or even has got worse).
    • The tranformer. Here something can be looked at in two different ways, with two different capital treatments. You turn the expensive one into the cheap one. A good example is doing a swap structured as a loan to avoid CVA capital.
    • The deconstructor. Here the parts of something are cheaper than the thing. Buy the thing and split it into parts. (The inverse trade, the constructor, is sometimes seen too.) CDO tranches fall into this category. The capital on the underlying assets in the CDO is often much smaller than that of all the tranches. If you own enough of the tranches, it can make sense to buy the rest and split the CDO apart.
    • The natural home. This is an arb between rules, where one set is expensive and the other is cheap (or non-existent). Most trades between banks and insurers fall into this category, as do banks offloading expensive risk, like CVA, onto hedge funds....
    ...MORE

    Sadly he hasn't posted since May 2014.

    Société Générale's Albert Edwards: "Are We Entering Final Stage of the Ice Age?"

    From Citywire's Wealth Manager:
    Société Générale strategist Albert Edwards has questioned whether the last phase of the 'Ice Age' for the global economy is upon us as the US sinks into a 'deflationary quagmire'.

    Edwards, a renowned uber-bear, points out that the Michigan Survey of inflation expectations has just collapsed for both one and five years, a level associated with extreme equity and bond market turbulence.
    The Michigan survey posted a sharp fall in November to 2.6% for both one and five-years from 2.9% and 2.8%, but what really worries the strategist is the significant fall in mean inflation expectations for the year ahead, slumping from 3.5% to 2.8%.

    Edwards explained: 'I have been warning for some time that policymakers have, until now, been pretty good at keeping inflation expectations elevated despite consistently undershooting their inflation targets at both the headline and core rates.

    'I think the bond market and investors are sniffing out the same failed policies we saw in 2004-2007. We are seeing yet another financial bubble and another Ice Age ‘lower low’ of inflation in this cycle. Investors are reasoning that when this cycle ends, as it surely will, then outright deflation seems a near certain outcome in the US just as it now knocks loudly on the eurozone’s door.'

    Edwards notes that 10-year implied inflation expectations, as measured in the bond market, have fallen to a three-year low of 1.85%, and he is very concerned that headline CPI inflation has run well below expectations for a considerable time....MORE
    See also Institutional Investor's Daily Agenda.

    Recently on Albert 24/7:

    Société Générale's Albert Edwards: "Focus on Yen/Dollar As It Rises To 145; Not Euro"
    Société Générale's Albert Edwards: There May Be Something Going On In China's Foreign Currency Reserves
    "Albert Edwards Says Watch Japanese Yen and Be Very Afraid"
    UPDATED--Société Générale's Albert Edwards Is ALIVE!

    Truth be told it's not really 24/7. More like every couple weeks but "Albert Fortnightly" doesn't have the same ring to it.

    The Coming Liquidity Implosion

    A couple times per year I dust off a quote I first used on these pages during August 2007's quant quake:

    Liquidity in Business and Markets
    'Liquidity is expensive but illiquidity is much more so, because it destroys the very existence of a firm"
    I don't remember if it was Johannes or Ernst, it was a long time ago that I read Manchester, quoting one of the Schroeder boys on the insolvency of Krupp. That line has stuck with me. Here's the book.
     
    And here's FT Alphaville
    The liquidity monster that awaits
    Fears are growing that the next crisis, if it should manifest, won’t come from any of the areas that spawned the 2008 crisis. To the contrary, it will emerge from areas we’ve not really had to worry about to date.
    The key areas those in high places are now worrying about: the taken-for-granted presumed liquidity of the system.

    This is an easy assumption for the asset management industry to make. For years investment banks have made a business of carrying liquidity risk on their balance sheets, mainly by internalising the inventory nobody else is prepared to hold. This sort of “we’ll buying anything just to make money from making markets” service as a result conditioned the buy-side to presume liquidity risk is something that just doesn’t really manifest anymore.

    As a consequence, liquidity — especially in the major asset classes like Treasury bonds and blue-chip stocks — is often taken for granted by the industry....
    ...MUCH MORE

    That 2007 post contained another interesting bit:
    Alexander Campbell at Risk: Over the Counter brings us a timely paper:
    According to this (fortuitously topical) paper, liquidity is hugely valuable: "a liquid asset can be worth up to 25% more than an illiquid asset, even though both have identical cash flow dynamics". Or, to put it another way, a sudden absence of liquidity could in effect mean a 20% drop in portfolio value, even if the assets - and their market prices - remain constant. Nasty.
    For more on the quantpocalypse here's MIT's uberquant Andrew Lo via the New York Fed:

    "What happened to the quants in August 2007? Evidence from factors and transactions data∗"
    (77 page PDF)

    If you want to take the other side, you can do a bit of intertemporal arbitrage and own the Warren Buffett holding period: "forever" or at least the old insurance investment line, "The only quarter to worry about is the next quarter-century":
    Riding the Liquidity Premium: Liquidity As An Investment Style

    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    "The Karl Marx Credit Card – When You’re Short of Kapital"

    From Open Culture, June 19, 2012:
    Is it a tragedy? Is it a farce? In the land once called East Germany, in a town once called Karl-Marx-Stadta bank called Sparkasse Chemnitz ran an online poll letting customers vote for images to place on their credit cards. And the hands-down winner was Karl Marx, an ironic pick given that … well, you don’t need me to explain why.

    In response to this selection, Planet Money has encouraged readers to post a tagline for the card on Twitter, using the hashtag #marxcard. Here are a few of our favorites so far:
    • There are Some Things Money Can’t Buy. Especially If You Abolish All Private Property.
    • From each according to their ability, to each according to his need. For everything else, there’s #Marxcard.
    • The Marx Card – Because Credit is the Opiate of the Masses.
    • The Karl Marx MasterCard – When You’re Short of Kapital

    Questions America Wants Answered: Alphaville's Pub Quiz Edition

    We'll just try to forget that I actually thought "Obese metropolitan oenophile punters" was a call for contestants.
    From the electron-stained wretches toiling in nameless/unbylined obscurity at FT Alphaville:

    Questions from last night’s New York pub quiz
    Thanks so much to everyone who attended last night’s pub quiz at Ainsworth Park in New York. Below we post all the questions we used. The winning team, which styled itself Lower Expectations, scored 45/60 in the first three rounds, and then 7/10 in the tie-breaker.
    See if you can beat them! The questions without the answers are first, followed by both the questions with the answers further down.
    FT ALPHAVILLE AND MARKETS PUB QUIZ
    Finance in fiction, TV and the movies
    1. In the movie “Margin Call”, the death of which character causes Sam Rogers, played by Kevin Spacey, to break down in tears?
    2. In which movie that ISN’T Wall Street 1 or 2 did Michael Douglas play a character with a job in finance — in this case an investment banker in San Francisco? (Hint: this movie was directed by David Lynch.)
    3. In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, what famous piece of financial advice did Polonius give to Laertes?...

    ...Economic and financial history
    17. Alfred Winslow Jones was the inventor of which investment structure?
    18. Which economist is famous both for the debt-deflation theory of recessions and for saying that the stock market had reached a permanently high plateau just before the crash of 1929?
    19. Name the former Wall Street CEO who said to Michael Lewis, in reference to Liar’s Poker, “Your fucking book destroyed my career, and it made yours”. He is also the executive who said, according to the book: “One hand, one million dollars, no tears.”...

    Don't Hate the Norwegians Just Because They're Better Than You: Passport and Currency Edition

    From Foreign Policy's Passport blog:
    Turns out Norway has more to offer the world than just melodramatic memoirists, stupid television, and really expensive beer. Also: pretty passports and currency.

    Norwegian authorities recently unveiled new designs for their national currency and passports. Both are elegant, minimalist designs that play on Norway's design heritage and natural beauty.
    The passport comes in three colors -- white, turquoise, and red -- for immigrant, diplomatic, and standard travel documents, respectively. A riff on the country's crest graces the cover.
    The interior pages deliver spare takes on Norway's most famous natural feature: its magnificent fjords. The design is evocative in its simplicity.
    And when put under a black light, the northern lights appear:

    ...MORE 

    See also the first space cowboy.

    Buffett Buddy 3-G Capital Has Coca-Cola In Its Sights (KO; BRK; HNZ; BKW)

    From ValueWalk:

    Private equity firm who has aligned with Warren Buffett in the past has commitments of $2.5 billion to start new fund
    What often kept The Coca-Cola Co (NYSE:KO) investor David Winters of Wintergreen Advisors up at night was that a private equity company, one affiliated with Coca-Cola’s largest shareholder, Warren Buffett, would take Coke private, change management and engage in cost cutting to improve company profitability. Cutting costs was something Winters had advocated for, but he wanted current Coca-Cola management to do the job so that existing Coke shareholders could benefit.
    Winter’s fears could be materializing.

    3-G Capital’s prime target Coca-Cola
    Well-known Brazilian private equity firm, 3-G Capital, who has affiliated with Buffett in the past on takeover deals, is in the process of creating a new fund to target companies in the food and beverage industry, according to a report in Veja magazine, Brazil’s leading news magazine.  And their primary target, according to the report: The Coca-Cola Co (NYSE:KO).

    Veja’s business columnist, Geraldo Samor, citing sources, is reporting that 3-G Capital’s Brazilian billionaires, Jorge Paulo Leman, Marcus Herrmann Telles and Carlos Alberto Sicupira and their 3-G Capital team, have approached leading investment banks and have already received commitments of $2.5 billion for the fund, which has a goal to reach $4 billion to $5 billion.

    In the past, 3-G Capital has had a taste for large U.S.-based food companies, including Anheuser Busch Inbev SA (ADR) (NYSE:BUD), as well as deals where they worked alongside Warren Buffett. This included the 2013 private equity purchase of H.J. Heinz Company (NYSE:HNZ), which Winters has cited as a potential model for a Coke acquisition. Buffett and 3G-Capital were again both involved as participants in the 2014 takeover of Burger King Worldwide Inc (NYSE:BKW), a tax inversion deal that moved the company to Canada....MORE

    What's Mooving: "NZ dairy land values soar despite milk price slump"

    See also "China's President Xi Visited New Zealand And Got A Very Warm Greeting".

    From Agrimoney:
    The price of New Zealand dairy land soared to its highest since the global financial crisis, despite the dent to farmers' income prospects from lower milk prices, although there is some evidence of a quality gap in demand.
    A dairy farm price index compiled by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (Reinz) showed values last month 34% higher than in October 2013, hitting their highest since early 2009, as the world was emerging from the worst of the world financial crisis.
    Even taking the August-to-October period, which covering three months is less prone to short-term volatility, the index was up 7.3% compared with the average for the July-to-September period, outperforming a flat performance for the country's farmland market overall.
    The rise comes despite expectations of a sharp drop in the milk price that producers will receive in 2014-15, a reflection of tumbling values on world dairy commodity markets which are being blamed on a retreat by Chinese buyers to running down hefty stockpiles.
    Prices at GlobalDairyTrade, the benchmark dairy auction run by New Zealand-based Fonterra, fell this week to a five-year low.
    Fonterra, which processes the vast majority of milk in New Zealand, the top dairy exporting country, forecasts a 37% drop in farmgate milk prices this season....
    ...MORE

    Peter Boockvar Calls A Bottom In Gold (Again)

    He's wrong.
    From Barron's Focus on Funds:
    Gold bulls are coming out of the woodwork as prices for the yellow metal rebound off four-and-a-half-year lows.
    Market pundit Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, an economic advisory firm, is the latest to call a bottom for gold.

    “I’ve tried to call the bottom in too many times over the past year plus. I’m doing so again today,”  he writes on Thursday morning.

    Boockvar references the Nov. 30 vote in Switzerland that could force the Swiss National Bank to added to its gold holdings never sell. While a poll this week showed popularity for the referendum is flagging,

    Boockvar insists that, regardless of the outcome, “the symbolism of the vote should not go unheeded.” ...MORE
    It's 'effin Monty Python Does Finance:
    Black Knight:     I am invincible!
    King Arthur:      You're a loony! 
     
    December futures $1190.30 down $3.60 after trading as low as $1176.20.
     
    Black Knight:  The Black Knights always triumph! 
     
    tip d'Chapeau: Rotten Tomatoes

    Here's the Deal: Your New Job Is Chief Investment Officer at a $1.1 Trillion Pension Fund. Now What?

    From Pension Pulse:

    Will GPIF's New CIO Rise to the Challenge? 
     GPIF Names Private Equity Executive as Investment Head:

    The world’s biggest manager of retirement savings named a private-equity executive as head of investment after the Japanese fund changed its strategy to seek higher returns.

    Hiromichi Mizuno, 49, a partner at London-based Coller Capital Ltd., becomes the first chief investment officer at the $1.1 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund from Jan. 5, the fund announced late yesterday. Mizuno, who joined the fund’s investment committee in July, will lead moves to reduce domestic debt and boost equity holdings to half of assets.

    The retirement manager overhauled its asset mix on Oct. 31, pledging to shift $182 billion into stocks as unprecedented quantitative easing by the Bank of Japan risks eroding the value of its bond-heavy portfolio. Mizuno’s appointment comes as a health ministry group debates changes to the fund’s governance, after a separate government panel called on it to move beyond a system in which decision-making power lies with the president.

    GPIF set allocation targets of 25 percent each for Japanese and overseas equities last month, up from 12 percent each. The pension manager will cut local debt holdings to 35 percent from 60 percent and boost foreign debt allocations to 15 percent from 11 percent.
    ...MUCH MORE

    In Other U.S. Senate News: "Wall Street Bank Involvement With Physical Commodities (Day Two)"

    Coincidentally following "Senator Franken's Letter to Uber".

    From the Senate's Permanent Committee on Investigations:
    Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building


    Agenda The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has scheduled a two-day hearing, “Wall Street Bank Involvement With Physical Commodities,” on Thursday, November 20 and Friday, November 21, 2014.
    After a two-year bipartisan investigation, the subcommittee will hold a hearing examining the extent to which banks and their holding companies own physical commodities like oil, natural gas, aluminum and other industrial metals, as well as own or control businesses like power plants, oil and gas pipelines, and commodity warehouses.
    The hearing will begin on both days at 9:30 a.m. in Room 106 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. A witness list will be available on Monday, November 17, 2014....MORE
    Here's the extended press release:
    Subcommittee finds Wall Street commodities actions add risk to economy, businesses, consumers
     
    See also the Committee's "REPORT: Wall Street Involvement With Physical Commodities" (403 page PDF)
     
    Earlier:
    Wall Street Bank Involvement With Physical Commodities (Day One)

    Corrected--Senator Franken's Letter to Uber

    Correction--we apparently had a problem with the Scribd version not showing in some browsers. That should be corrected now.
    Original post:

    The Senator chairs the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.
    If I had to guess I'd say he's trying to save Uber from itself.


    Here's a PDF version hosted at senate.gov (3 page PDF)

    Previously:
    Uber To Alter Communication Strategy
    And:
    After Car Attacked By Paris Taxi Drivers, Uber to Toughen Image With Umlauts
    San Francisco, CA (PRwëb) January 13, 2014-
    In a move designed to make Uber seem more "bad-assed and scary in a quasi-heavy-metal manner," the Goldman Sachs, Menlo Ventures and Bezos Expeditions-backed company officially changed it's name to Über on  Monday.
    "Much like Mötley Crüe and Motörhead, Über is not to be messed with," said founder Gärrëtt Cämp, né Camp...
    There are some others too, maybe not quite as light-hearted.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    "The Theory Of Reflexivity: A Primer For Today’s Market"

    This is where hard core bears, exemplified by David Rosenberg, got it wrong. Although they were probably right on where the markets would have gone absent fiscal stimulus and monetary machinations, when the stimulus came and the central banks acted they could not change their advice.
    Crazy.

    It's a dynamic system.

    Rosenberg did finally, after four or so years, get bullish but there are guys like Bob Janjuah who still haven't.
    Really crazy.

    From See It Market:
    The last two years of the U.S. stock market’s relentless bid has been, to say the least, at thing of wonder – especially for traders who have been around for more than a couple of decades. From the vantage point of many fundamental/macro analysts, it has repeatedly pushed the upper bounds of value and has yet to take time to even catch its breath. One can argue that the fundamentals looking forward combined with a very low interest rate environment and reduced share float through buybacks have efficiently discounted the risk premium.

    That said, it’s hard to reconcile the momentum of this market in the context of 2% – 2.5% economic growth with virtually flat median household income and shallow consumer credit growth. The market has also walked straight through any and all geopolitical risks as “noise”. I cannot remember a market performing so strongly with such a backdrop. To the extent it is or is not supported by fundamentals, it seems appropriate to look to other theories which support the market’s recent momentum.

    The basis of The General Theory of Reflexivity
    Although Reflexivity Theory is widely attributed to George Soros, it was originally developed as a sociological construct by William Thomas in the 1920s, known as the Thomas theorem, and built upon by sociologist Robert Merton in the late 1940s. The outcome of their work was to define the idea of the “self-fulfilling prophecy” where in predictions often lead component actors to behave in ways that make the “prophecy” become true. As defined in Wikipedia:

    “…that once a prediction or prophecy is made, actors may accommodate their behaviours and actions so that a statement that would have been false becomes true or, conversely, a statement that would have been true becomes false – as a consequence of the prediction or prophecy being made. The prophecy has a constitutive impact on the outcome or result, changing the outcome from what would otherwise have happened.”

    In the 1950s, philosopher Karl Popper took up the idea in his treaties on fallibility (the uncertainty of knowledge) where the act of studying a scientific phenomenon can affect the outcome. That is where a young George Soros was introduced to the construct while Popper acted as his mentor at the London School of Economics....MORE

    More Jeremy Grantham: "Calling the Next Market Top"

    Following up on yesterday's "Jeremy Grantham's Bubble Watch Update: 'S&P To 2250 Before It Crashes'".
    From Barron's "Wall Street's Best Minds":

    Jeremy Grantham Calls the Next Market Top
    The investing legend writes that the S&P 500 could gain another 10% before “crashing at it always does.”
    Editor’s Note: Grantham is founder of GMO, a Boston-based money manager. This is an excerpt of his latest two market commentaries. The full version of this piece is available on the GMO Website. 
     
    As you may remember, the January Rule serves as a kind of barometer for the behavior of the market in the coming year. Historically, when January was down, the rest of the year had over twice the declines than one would expect randomly, far more mediocre months, and a very sub average return. But it is far from perfect and it had the unusual problem this year of bumping into the positive signal from the presidential third year, which started for us on Oct. 1. 

    For the statistically-minded, or the trivia-minded, the four previous such conflicts between the January Rule and the Presidential Cycle were inconclusive but the simple rule would have been to end the January Rule enterprise on Sept. 30. This year was flattish by then and the new Presidential Cycle has gotten off to a good start since Sept. 30. 

    The Presidential Cycle Regular readers know the score: +2.5% a month for the seven months from Oct. 1 to April 30, in year three on average since 1932 (a total of +17%). This is now the 21st cycle. The odds of drawing 20 random seven-month returns this strong are just over 1 in 200 according to our 10 million trials. But 17 of the actual 20 historical experiences were up and the worst of the 3 downs was only -6.4%, so the odds of this consistency plus the high return would be much smaller. 

    The remaining five months of the presidential year have a good but not remarkable record, over .75% per month, but the killer here is that the remaining 36 months since 1932 averaged a measly +0.2% a month!
    With the seven months having returned over 10 times the average of the 36-month desert, it may seem like a no-brainer investment for those seven of us not intimidated by the obvious simplicity of the idea, but be advised that going into this particular cycle there appear to be more negatives than normal. 

    (Though many of the previous 20 occurrences may well have seemed that way to investors at the time. Who knows?) The negatives this time include the ending of the Federal Reserve’s bond purchase program. There is also talk of a rate increase early next year, given the recent recovery of the U.S. economy reflected in the improved employment report of early October (5.9% unemployed) and positive adjustments to the previous month’s employment numbers. Other negatives include the potential for escalation of several minor but intractable wars and the recent Ebola outbreak. 

    Some would mention the very substantial overpricing of the U.S. market (ticker: SPY ) at the top of the list but, surprisingly, overpricing has had no material effect on third-year returns or the particularly sweet seven-month subset: an average of 17% for seven months becomes 19% if cheap and 15% if expensive. Big deal. 

    Value, however, is very important for the other three years in which the cheapest 25% have produced a respectable return of +12%, and the other three quartiles are absolutely not worth having, all three together averaging almost exactly nil! More disturbing to me than the obvious overvaluation is the large and growing number of other negatives – technical and psychological – put together by John Hussman and other market experts. 

    Nevertheless, despite my nervousness I am still a believer that the Fed will engineer a fully-fledged bubble (S&P 500 over 2250) before a very serious decline. 

    The Prudent Investor As always, the prudent investor (unlike the political year three) should definitely recognize overvaluation, factor in regression to the mean, and calculate the longer-term returns that result from this process. More easily, such prudent investors can use our seven-year numbers, which have a decent long-term record measured when we have viewed markets as overpriced, as we believe they are today, and a better record measured in the periods after bubbles break. The other necessary ingredients to the investment mix are suitable measures of risk, and when these are added to estimated returns we believe efficient portfolios can be produced. On our data, with U.S. large cap equities offering negative returns (-1.5%) except for high quality stocks (+2.2%), with foreign developed and emerging equities overpriced (+3.7%), and with bonds and cash also very unattractive, investors have to twist and turn to find even a semi-respectable portfolio....MORE

    "Dark Energy Might Be Stealing the Glue Holding the Universe Together"

    In other news: "Kim Kardashian on Nude Photo Shoot: 'I Did It For Me'".

    If it's the Universe story you're after, it's at Motherboard.

    "Top Icelandic banker jailed for role in 2008 financial collapse"

    I still find it astounding that Attorney General Holder and his entire 113,000 employee Justice department found not one case they could charge criminally. Not one.
    From Euronews:
    The former head of the Icelandic bank Landsbanki has been sentenced to a 12-month jail term.

    Sigurjon Arnason was on trial for his role in the collapse of the financial sector in 2008.
    Two other of the banks executives received nine month sentences.

    The Landsbanki three were accused of manipulating the bank’s share price by lending cash to investors on condition they purchase stocks...MORE
    Throughout much of 2008 and 2009 we posted the rondo from Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 2 as "Music to Hunt Bankers By" often advising the brethren that outside of a few urban ecosystems, pinstripes make lousy protective coloration:


    UPDATED--Here's the Real Problem With Uber: You Can't Trust Them

    Update below.
    Original post:
    The first thing I thought of when I started digging into Uber:
    "From all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins – or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer."
    -Page ix of Rules for Radicals.
    That's Alinsky seemingly quoting himself and the way I read it he's saying the Devil challenged authority and won his own kingdom.
    That emulating the methods of Satan using any means fair or foul, including lying, cheating and stealing is the way to get riches and power.

    And that was the moment when I stopped thinking of Uber as frat boys making stupid boob jokes and started thinking of them as nasty little political operatives.

    If you're into this kind of stuff Rule 12 appears to be the approach Uber management favors:
    RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)
    I should note we are fans of Alinsky's tactical brilliance, oftentimes struggling to resist employing rule #5:
    #5 Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage....
    Jay Yarrow at Business Insider pointed out the real problem yesterday:
    ...However, in Smith's story, there was something that was more than just theoretical, and it's a good reminder of the scary power Uber has over its users.

    Here's what Smith reported: "The general manager of Uber NYC accessed the profile of a BuzzFeed News reporter, Johana Bhuiyan, to make points in the course of a discussion of Uber policies. At no point in the email exchanges did she give him permission to do so."

    If that's not clear, Smith is saying that Uber accessed the profile of a journalist to see where that journalist had traveled while using Uber. Uber did this without permission. For the thousands of people who use Uber, this should be the most alarming thing in Smith's report. 

    Uber knows where its users are going and when they are going there. That is powerful, potentially damaging data to control.

    An Uber spokesperson told Smith this was against Uber's policies: "Any such activity would be clear violations of our privacy and data access policies. Access to and use of data is permitted only for legitimate business purposes. These policies apply to all employees. We regularly monitor and audit that access."
    Here's more from Buzzfeed:

    “God View:” Uber Investigates Its Top New York Executive For Privacy Violations
    In the wake of a BuzzFeed News story, the transit company is looking into the official’s tracking of a journalist’s location.
    BuzzFeed News
    Uber said Tuesday that it is investigating its top New York executive for tracking a BuzzFeed News reporter without her permission in violation of what the transit giant says has long been its privacy policy. The company also published its privacy policy for the first time on Tuesday, though it said the policy had always been in effect.

    Uber took both actions in the wake of a BuzzFeed News story that revealed that the reporter’s ride had been tracked without her permission and that another Uber executive had suggested the company might smear journalists who wrote critically of Uber. The executive who suggested digging into the private lives of journalists, Emil Michael, said his comments were “wrong” and that he regrets them.

    Tracking customers is easy using an internal company tool called “God View,” two former Uber employees told BuzzFeed News. They said God View, which shows the location of Uber vehicles and customers who have requested a car, was widely available to corporate employees. Drivers, who operate as contractors, do not have access to God View.

    Early this November, one of the reporters of this story, Johana Bhuiyan, arrived to Uber’s New York headquarters in Long Island City for an interview with Josh Mohrer, the general manager of Uber New York. Stepping out of her vehicle — an Uber car — she found Mohrer waiting for her. “There you are,” he said, holding his iPhone and gesturing at it. “I was tracking you.”

    Mohrer never asked for permission to track her....MORE
    Finally, recovering V.C. Peter Sims in his viral September essay on trust, 'God View', information and Uber:
    Can We Trust Uber?

    Here's his Oct. 2 followup: 
    The Immaturity and Arrogance of Uber 

    Update: Senator Franken's Letter to Uber

    Dogbert on Focus

    From Dilbert.com:

    The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more


    Previously:
    Splitting the Bonus Pool
    From Dilbert.com:
    The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Uber To Alter Communication Strategy




    The Getty Museum Digitizes Art Catalogues From The National Gallery of Art; The Tate; The Art Institute of Chicago and Six Others

    From Open Culture:

    Read Free Digital Art Catalogues from 9 World-Class Museums, Thanks to the Pioneering Getty Foundation
    OSCI image ipad
    We’ve previously featured the various pioneering efforts of the J. Paul Getty Museum — from freeing 4,600 high-resolution art images (and then 77,000 more) into the public domain, to digitally releasing over 250 art books. Now they’ve put their minds to those rare, beautiful, and highly edifying specimens known as art catalogues. “Based on meticulous research, these catalogues make available detailed information about the individual works in a museum’s collection, ensuring the contents a place in art history,” announces their site. “Yet printed volumes are costly to produce and difficult to update regularly; their potential content often exceeds allotted space. One could say they are like thoroughbred horses confined to stock pens.” But now the Getty has offered a solution in the form of the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OCSI), creating an online platform for free catalogues — and not just the Getty’s, but those of any art institution.
    renoir catalogue
    You can access the first set of art catalogues released under the OSCI initiative here. As you can see, where the Getty goes, other institutions follow: The Art Institute of Chicago has released catalogues on the work of Monet and Renoir.
    ...MORE

    "Jeremy Grantham's Bubble Watch Update: 'S&P To 2250 Before It Crashes'"

    I may have gotten carried away in July's "If You Want to Make Serious Money Listen to GMO's Jeremy Grantham Right Now":
    This is one of those moments in the market that, well, here's career counselor Billy S:

     There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.
    -Brutus
    Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

    From Barron's Wall Street's Best Minds column:
     GMO'S Jeremy Grantham Doesn't See a Bubble Just Yet...
    That was reiterating the 2250 level Grantham had been talking about in May and was, because we happened to agree, one of the reasons we weren't too upset with the declines in early August and October.

    S&P 500: 2,049.83 Up 8.51, today's new all-time high 2,049.98.

    From ZeroHedge:
    When GMO's Jeremy Grantham says that he is "still a believer that the Fed will engineer a fully-fledged bubble" what can one say but, yes: it did so a few years back.
    Recall that back in May, Grantham so far accurately predicted that on the back of central bank liquidity, the overstretched market will stretch even further "at least enough to drive the market to its 2-sigma level of 2,250 and perhaps a fair bit beyond... And although nothing is certain in the market, this is exactly what I  believe will happen."
    In fact, his prediction so far has been spot on in terms of not only magnitude but also timing, accurately calling for the recent swoon and subsequent rebound. Notably, he also offered his forecast for when the bubble would burst which he timed as follows:  "then around the election or soon after, the market bubble will burst, as bubbles always do, and will revert to its trend value, around half of its peak or worse, depending on what new ammunition the Fed can dig up."
    So here is how the legendary investor predicts the upcoming timing of events in the near future, with a focus on the presidential cycle:
    The Presidential Cycle

    Regular readers know the score: +2.5% a month for the seven months from October 1 to April 30, in year three on average since 1932 (a total of +17%). This is now the 21st cycle. The odds of drawing 20 random 7-month returns this strong are just over 1 in 200 according to our 10 million trials. But 17 of the actual 20 historical experiences were up and the worst of the 3 downs was only -6.4%, so the odds of this consistency plus the high return would be much smaller. The remaining 5 months of the Presidential year have a good but not remarkable record, over .75% per month, but the killer here is that the remaining 36 months since 1932 averaged a measly +0.2% a month!

    With the 7 months having returned over 10 times the average of the 36-month desert, it may seem like a nobrainer investment for those seven of us not intimidated by the obvious simplicity of the idea, but be advised that going into this particular cycle there appear to be more negatives than normal. (Though many of the previous 20 occurrences may well have seemed that way to investors at the time. Who knows?) The negatives this time  include the ending of the Fed’s bond purchase program. There is also talk of a rate increase early next year, given the recent recovery of the U.S. economy reflected in the improved employment report of early October (5.9% unemployed) and positive adjustments to the previous month’s employment numbers. Other negatives include the potential for escalation of several minor but intractable wars and the recent Ebola outbreak....
    ...MORE

    See also Investment Week:
    GMO's Grantham: Presidential cycle 'sweet spot' points to US bubble

    "Uber has an asshole problem"

    Following up on this morning's "Uber Executive Suggests Digging Up Dirt On Journalists".
    I'd look for them to try a change in optics, this is really sleazy stuff but going forward, just because they don't act on their nastiness doesn't mean it isn't there, from the top down.
    Matt Yglesias at Vox:
    1. Uber vice president Emil Michael mused aloud about the possibility of the company conducting opposition research on hostile journalists, reports Ben Smith of Buzzfeed.
    2. Michael was especially concerned about Sarah Lacy's coverage at Pando Daily.
    3. Smith also reports that "the general manager of Uber NYC accessed the profile of a BuzzFeed News reporter, Johana Bhuiyan, to make points in the course of a discussion of Uber policies."
    4. This is the latest in a long series of controversies for the company, whose basic business model often puts it in conflict with incumbent taxi companies and regulators.

    Uber has an asshole problem

    When Uber got off the ground as a company, its business had an unusual problem. In many markets where it was operating, it was violating the letter of the law. And in essentially all markets where it was operating, it was violating the spirit of the law. That's because the "spirit" of the prevailing taxi regulations was, almost everywhere, wrong and pernicious. Alongside regulations aimed at promoting public safety, almost every city and state is burdened with rules designed to protect the incomes of incumbent taxi license holders.
    Uber's business was (and is) to destroy the value of those licenses by opening up the rides-for-hire market to a potentially unlimited supply of vehicles and drivers.

    It's a perfectly good idea for the world, but you never could have gotten it off the ground by asking permission first. Even where Uber's business didn't violate existing rules, it undermined the (pernicious) purpose of those rules and rules could always be changed to exclude it. Consequently, the company benefitted enormously from a "shoot first, ask questions later" mindset.

    But dispositions that are functional and useful in one context can become rancid in another. A conviction that the rules don't (or shouldn't) apply to you is fine when you're battling a taxi mogul who compares your business to ISIS. But it's extremely unattractive when you start talking about compromising customer user data for the purposes of blackmail. And it's completely insane when that kind of recklessness leads you to talk to journalists about the oppo tactics you're planning to deploy against other journalists.

    Time for Uber to grow up

    As Uber gets bigger and more established, its executives can look less like brash upstarts and more like assholes. Moves like hiring former top Obama advisor David Plouffe, show that the company is hardly on the outside looking in. It has a valuation of $18 billion, and clear aspirations to move beyond the ride business to a broader array of "urban logistics" operations....MORE

    Solar: SunEdison Saves the Day (SUNE; FSLR; TSL; TAN)

    With wind.
    Yesterday we noted the solars were down hard, right to chart support, and:
    If they can't hit the brakes very soon (today?) they are headed for multi-year lows....
    Here's today's action:
    FSLR    49.02 +1.07 (2.23%)
    TSL        9.98 +0.45 (4.72%)
    TAN     35.90 +1.29 (3.73%)
    SPWR   28.02 +0.62 (2.26%)
    And the reason for the activity? Sun Edison (SUNE $20.23 Up 3.62 or 21.79%)
    Major Wind Acquisition Makes SunEdison World's Largest Renewable Energy Developer

    I'm thinking this does not hold, there was no change in fundamentals but, as always that's just a guess.
    Here are two of yesterday's charts:
    First up the premier U.S. thin-film manufacturer:
    And the largest U.S. silicon photovoltaic manufacturer:
     
    FinViz

    McKinsey Quarterly Interview With Nobelist Robert Solow On Topics in Productivity Growth

    From The Conversable Economist:

    Robert Solow on Topics in Productivity Growth 
    For the long-run future of the U.S. economy, and indeed, the global economy, no subject is more important than the likely course of productivity growth. The McKinsey Quarterly celebrated 50 years of publication with its September 2014 issue. That issue includes a short interview with Robert Solow, with Martin Neil Baily and Frank Comes as interlocutors.

    Solow, of course, won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (commonly known as the "Nobel Prize in economics") in 1987 "for his contributions to the theory of economic growth." In a nutshell, Solow demonstrated that the accumulation of capital and of labor was not a sufficient explanation for the process of economic growth, and that a broad element of "technological progress" also needed to play a role. If that concept seems obvious now, it is Solow's pathbreaking work from more than half-century ago that helped to make it obvious. Solow is also one of the most gifted expositors in economics. Here are a few of his comments from the interview:

    Solow on economic forecasting:
    "As an ordinary macroeconomist, I have avoided forecasting as if it were a foul disease—as indeed it is. It’s very damaging to the tissues. So I don’t think one can say too much."
    ...MORE