Archive for the 'business' Category

Two little things

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

IBD asks a little question out loud, which is maybe a little notable. The other thing of the day is this Piketty business (here and here). Question: aren’t the places that do what he suggests the places that businesses and their owners avoid? And as for the portraits of the last and next 150 years, who’s he kidding?

Maybe just a coincidence, but…

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

National Post:

A Chinese court has ordered the seizure of a Japanese ship as compensation for the loss of two ships leased from a Chinese company before the two countries went to war in 1937. The 226,434-ton Baosteel Emotion, owned by Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd., was impounded on April 19 as part of a legal dispute that began in 1964, the Shanghai Maritime Court and Mitsui OSK said in notices on their websites. The move is the first time a Chinese court has ordered the seizure of Japanese assets connected to World War II…

The legal dispute over the ship comes as Japan and China spar over islands both countries claim in the East China Sea, and over Japan’s wartime aggression. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent an offering to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, following the visits this month of two cabinet ministers to the site that honours Japan’s war dead, including World War II criminals.

We saw massive Chinese anti-Japan demonstrations a decade ago based in large measure on WWII, so in one sense there is not much to see here. But you can’t help wondering whether this seizing of assets also reflects in part Ukraine syndrome, which also seemed to be on display in Chuck Hagel’s recent visit to China.

Science and the academy today

Monday, April 21st, 2014

The head of NAS:

diversity, of course, is nearly unheard of in the academy itself, where a hardened orthodoxy is enforced with increasing determination. The enforcement itself tells a story. No one has to enforce an orthodoxy on plate tectonics, quantum theory, or Andrew Wile’s proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. All of these were once controversial. Wile’s original proof was shown to be defective. He fixed it. The theories advanced by the accumulation of hard evidence and the rigor of the analysis.

In my own field, anthropology, I have lived through the replacement of “consensus” on the idea that the makers of the so-called Clovis spear points, which go back 13,500 years, were the first Native Americans. The “Clovis First” theory always had doubters but it dominated from the 1930s until 1999, when archaeologists in large numbers accepted the evidence of older populations. Likewise, there was a long-established consensus that Neanderthal and modern Homo Sapiens did not successfully interbreed–though here too there were always some dissenters. We now know for a certainty (based on the successful sequencing of the Neanderthal genome) that our species did indeed mix, and modern Europeans carry a percent or two of Neanderthal genes. In time, scientific controversies get resolved, often by the emergence of new kinds of evidence that no one originally imagined…

when the “anthropogenic global warming” (AGW) folks insist that they command a “consensus” of climate scientists, they fully understand that they are engaged in a political act. They intend to summon the social and political dynamics that will create a “consensus,” by defining the skeptics as a disreputable minority that need not even be counted. It is a big gamble since a substantial number of the skeptics are themselves well-established and highly respected scientists, such as MIT’s Richard Lindzen, Princeton’s Will Happer, and Institute of Advanced Studies’ Freeman Dyson. But conjuring a new “paradigm” out of highly ambiguous data run through simulation computer models is tricky business and isn’t likely to produce a “consensus” all on its own. What’s needed is the stamp of authority. And if that doesn’t work, just keep stamping. Or stomping…

There will be no end to this sort of thing because, as the French social theorist Pascal Bruckner has put it, sustainability is a secular salvation cult with a “seductive attraction to disaster.” It cannot give up on its apocalyptic narrative

And here’s a rather amazing story along a parallel track.

Meanwhile…..

Friday, April 18th, 2014

We have been very busy on business and other matters so these days we mostly just link to the thoughts of others who opine and write for a living these days. After all, in matters of religious wars, catastrophic AGW, China’s economy, US foreign policy, and the way you organize the US to maximize GDP growth, we have engaged many sides of the arguments and are now, after much research and discussion, pretty settled in our views. Doesn’t mean we can’t be wrong; hence doesn’t mean we won’t change our views. We’ve been doing this for 12 years, and seen stories come and go. But it’s boring the way the HCL (hard core left) have become so obviously rigid and reactionary (as Roger Simon describes them). Dialogue and debate, which seemed attractive a decade ago, are passé. So now it is very idiosyncratic what appeals on a current day: e.g., we saw the sad Everest news and it reminded us of Jim Whittaker’s talk at the 1964 Boy Scout Jamboree in Valley Forge (at which Lady Baden-Powell also spoke). Probably not much of interest to the broader world. We read Krauthammer and Will and also the smart fellows at Powerline and so forth, but what’s the point of ditto-ing these things? We’re all apparently “immoral, unethical, and despicable” in the eyes of our betters. Why bother responding? Perhaps better to take the advice of Thomas Kuhn, Charles Darwin and Max Planck, and just wait out the fools……

Some bads and a good

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

The faculty lounge and its allies have been in a long-term losing battle with reality on subject after subject, and it’s beginning to wear on them. Therefore, they would like you kindly to shut up and sit down. It’s the sign of weakness and a losing hand, but these folks can cause a lot more damage before common sense and a decent regard for our ancient human nature adequately reassert themselves over the current cultural rot. On the other hand, consider the tardigrade, a remarkable creature that for some reason suggests to us that the probability of life elsewhere in the universe has a near 100% probability.

Ad fontes

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Terry Teachout on TCM’s 20th anniversary in the WSJ:

On Monday it will be showing, among other things, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane,” “Gaslight,” “Gone With the Wind,” “It Happened One Night,” “The Maltese Falcon” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” You couldn’t ask for a more representative sampling of the best of studio-era Hollywood…Ever since its launch, the audience for TCM has consisted primarily of people who want to watch studio-era movies. While the channel has diversified its offerings over the years, it remains committed to accommodating the conservative tastes of its regular viewers, which is why it steers clear of the franker films that Hollywood started to release around 1970. Look at the schedule for the month of April and you’ll find just 20 films made after 1970, most of them forgettable mediocrities.

If you believe, as I do, that American film entered a new period of artistic maturity in the 1970s, you’ll find little to confirm that belief. Where are “Apocalypse Now,” “Cabaret,” “Chinatown,” “The Deer Hunter,” “The Godfather,” “The Last Picture Show,” “Network,” “Patton” and “Taxi Driver”? Not on TCM. Nor do its potential problems stop there. With under-30 moviegoers reflexively tuning out black-and-white films because they look old fashioned, how can a channel that specializes in the oeuvre of Gary Cooper, Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart hope to eventually replace its aging viewers

The Renaissance was marked by a return ad fontes, to the texts of Greek and Roman classics, and indeed the Reformation featured a return to an ancient text. Things can get lost for hundreds of years, like perspective in art, and then get rediscovered, to the great benefit of civilization.

TCM is not just entertainment; it is a course in American history. Unique in that it is the first time in history we have the voices and pictures of human beings of yesteryear speaking to us directly. In important cultural ways, the America shown on TCM is superior to that of the 70′s and thereafter — the 40-80% illegitimacy trend of the last four decades is a cultural disaster of the first order.

TCM should stick to its knitting, and not worry that kids might currently prefer 3D to B&W. Niche marketing is fine. More importantly, kids can grow up and perhaps discover that BS and malarkey aren’t a viable path to rewarding lives. In that sense, TCM isn’t just a view of the past frozen in amber, but a reminder that a better future culture is possible.

(Incidentally, both Scott Johnson and Mark Steyn would be excellent fill-ins for Robert Osborne, but TCM’s chairman emeritus might object.)

Worth reading today

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Kevin Williamson has a very amusing piece on the life in the Beltway. Many of Mark Steyn’s readers are also pretty good writers. Some anniversaries arriving: it’s ten years since Kill Bill (Sheriff Earl Parks and Esteban Vihaio are the same guy), and coming up on ten years in August since the forging of the Rathergate memos. Finally, we can report that from seeing college age kids talk that George Will’s statement on TV today is true, as political correctness morphs into absurdity (not that it was such a long trip).

Strange and getting stranger

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Ali, Steyn, Steyn, McCarthy, and Simon on the Brandeis debacle. (BTW, does Steyn have a twin brother? He seems to be writing at light speed these days.) And what about the incredibly weird BLM story from Nevada? Finally, can’t the MSM even photoshop competently? Good night and good luck.

Way too much time on their hands

Friday, April 11th, 2014

According to CNBC, the DOJ and FBI are investigating Herbalife, an MLM company, so, knowing that, you’re already forewarned as an investor. The company’s auditor is PWC, which we’ve used and found to be straightforward and highly professional. And we’re also a decade removed from Enron and Arthur Andersen, so one presumes the toleration of shoddy accounting practices in controversial companies is not common in what were once the Big 8. Finally, storied investors are on all sides of the Herbalife trade.

We were introduced to cash flow and revenue recognition problems in the ancient case of Stirling Homex‘s bankruptcy, which featured something called “unbilled long-term receivables.” Points for creativity, Mr. Stirling! In the case of Herbalife, it would be very interesting to know the length of the cash cycle from product creation to payment by the final consumer of the product, not just one or two L’s in the MLM. (Herbalife’s auditor is a successor to that of Stirling Homex.) So there is plenty of history to such issues and plenty of real experts on the case; hence it seemed an odd use of time for additional federal employees. Then again. Hmmmm.

Shoe, meet other foot please

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

WSJ: in a column about the 77 cents rubbish, we learn that 92% of work-related deaths are men. But it’s hazardous being a lady, particularly if you might get an honorary degree or join the board of a public company. (We’ve previously commented on both ladies here and here.) Question: what’s missing from these stories that we’d be hearing about nonstop if the shoe was on the other foot?

The musical fruit that kills……..

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Daily Mail:

Lord Simon said: ‘In a programme some months ago on the BBC it was stated that this country has the largest production of baked beans and the largest consumption of baked beans in the world.’ He asked Lady Verma: ‘Could you say whether this affects the calculation of global warming by the Government as a result of the smelly emission resulting therefrom?’ Lady Verma described his question as ‘so different’ but she appeared to suggest that people should think twice about over-indulging in baked beans or any food which causes flatulence. She added: ‘You do actually raise a very important point, which is we do need to moderate our behaviour.’

Hey, give up burgers too. HT: DC

Protean man, again?

Monday, April 7th, 2014

The strange myth that human nature is malleable by force of will is here again, and boy howdy! How tiresome. Here are some alternatives to Firefox, BTW (some add-ons too). If we had to guess, we’d say that the recent extreme and authoritarian developments of the anti-free-speech movement signal that we are closer to an end than a beginning, but we don’t have much confidence in that guesstimate. The source of our hunch is that, despite the brave face the media put on things, dreary reality can’t be abolished from the millions whose experience is the exact opposite of the approved media story line. We’ll just have to see what happens. Meanwhile, we’ve bought a dozen handbaskets just in case.

Miscellany

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Smith and Wesson has a market cap of less than a billion dollars. Meanwhile, the maker of this game just went public in an IPO with a valuation of over $7 billion. Go figure.

In other news, Wretchard explores the increasingly strange world of banned v. compulsory, which we noted in passing the other day (that’s the 1790′s BTW.) Chubby Checker has some thoughts on the subject.

Final point from the shameless plug department: Liz Smith wrote a fabulous review of this forthcoming book authored by a friend of ours. Buy it! (Janet Maslin is not a fan of his, so perhaps that’s an additional reason to buy it.)

GrubHub and Uber versus the ACA

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

Funny thing. We read the S-1 for the GrubHub IPO and we saw no reference to the difficult management task of supervising all the delivery guys. How can they be managed without a large central authority? And what about Uber? They’re likely to do an IPO, we’re told. But how can a company like this function without a big Taxi and Limousine Commission bureaucracy to scrub their every move? (France tried, unsuccessfully.)

Oh wait. In the case of GrubHub, the (mostly family owned) restaurants already have ways and relationships to do delivery; they’re just getting better use from them. And in the case of Uber, customer feedback is instantaneous; you don’t need Jack Welch to get rid of the bottom 10% of drivers, let alone some government bureaucracy. We thought the crew doing the ACA characterized themselves as hip and youth oriented; instead, they’re so old and outdated, with a 1917 model of economic organization.

Scenes from the nineties

Friday, April 4th, 2014

A company says it

believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

A guy mentioned by Roger Simon:

If the spring of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue

There certainly are a lot of angry people in the upper crust today. There are many reasons to dislike corporations, government, and crowds of all sorts.

April 1?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

The NYT actually ran this on 3/25:

I believed this legislation, signed four years ago this month, would free people to pursue their dreams, start new companies and not worry about the health insurance penalty. What I didn’t count on was that it would make things harder for me and my wife.

First, we were notified that we would be kicked out of our existing $263-a-month Anthem Blue Cross plan because it didn’t meet the minimum standards of the new law. No problem, I thought. The plans in the new Covered California exchange would most likely be better and cheaper.

But we were shocked at what we confronted. The least expensive premium for a couple like us in our 40s would be about $620 a month. And because our household adjusted gross income is likely to be over the $62,040 cutoff this year, it’s doubtful we’ll end up with a subsidy to help offset that price increase…

I have mild asthma. Normally it’s not a problem, but when I get a chest cold, it becomes severe. One recent day I found that I couldn’t breathe. My inhalers were all expired. I’d held off refilling them since my insurance would reduce the costs of the $58.99 inhalers only by a little more than $9. I knew from past experience that I probably needed a prescription for antibiotics, so I tried frantically to find a medical facility that would take our new Covered California Anthem Blue Cross bronze plan. When I did, they said it would be three weeks before I could see a doctor…

(Nelson developed a skin infection. I got an appointment at the vet’s the next day. They prescribed an antibiotic…The medication caused diarrhea so I called his internist at his vet hospital, PetCare, and she prescribed a probiotic. Nelson’s $40.42-a-month pet insurance…paid almost all of these costs…I was envious. My 11-year-old brown Labrador was getting the kind of treatment that I could only dream of. I wanted to go to PetCare. I wanted pet insurance.)…

It’s still hard to understand what coverage we have. It’s like trying to read tea leaves. Benefits descriptions can be contradictory and run nearly 200 pages long. One summary attached to my online account seems to say that if I go to the emergency room, I could potentially owe thousands of dollars. Another document suggests that I’m responsible for only $300. I’ve had two representatives give me two different explanations…the new plan has more coverage, including pediatric vision. But we don’t have children…

if you see a doctor outside your network, look out. We found this out the hard way. My wife and I both had to see a doctor in January. Our old policy and our new Covered California policy were both with Anthem Blue Cross, so a representative there told us to use our old ID cards for our visits since our new cards hadn’t arrived yet. We were covered, he assured us. At the medical center, we gave our ID cards to the receptionist, who accepted them as valid, and went in to see our regular doctors. But later we found out that they were not in our new network’s plan. The out-of-pocket cost for my simple 30-minute office visit: $303. My wife’s annual exam and a couple of minor procedures: $918.

We’re still waiting for quality health care that we can actually use, afford and understand

What a complainer this former WaPo reporter is! Doesn’t he know that if he liked his doctor, he could keep his doctor? Doesn’t he know that if he liked his plan he could keep his plan? Period! (It’s rather amazing to see a guy like this sound just like Ann Coulter.)

Let there be blight!

Monday, March 31st, 2014

AP:

if greenhouse gases continue to rise, the world is looking at another about 6 or 7 degrees Fahrenheit (3.5 or 4 degrees Celsius) of warming by 2100 instead of the international goal of not allowing temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius). The difference between those two outcomes, Princeton’s Oppenheimer said, “is the difference between driving on an icy road at 30 mph versus 90 mph. It’s risky at 30, but deadly at 90″…

more than 100 governments unanimously approved the scientist-written 49-page summary — which is aimed at world political leaders. The summary mentions the word “risk” an average of about 5 1/2 times per page.

Here’s a mental exercise. Picture the Princeton fellow wearing sandals and a sandwich board, standing at the corner of 53rd and Park in NYC. He’s saying: “the world is ending! the world will be 7 degrees hotter in 86 years! it is written! the computer has said so!” You might ask, what about Hide the Decline? What about a little skepticism? We all know that there has been some warming, and recently some cooling, and we all know that, on balance, CO2 should favor the former over the latter. But really, 7 degrees in 86 years because some guys’ computers said so? (Maybe you missed the subprime meltdown: GIGO from the smart guys.)

Let’s see. 100 governments unanimously approved this thing about what’s definitely going to happen 86 years from now if we don’t give those guys trillions of dollars today. Hmmmm. That’s reason to pause, right there. What would governments have predicted in 1913 about wars over the next 86 years? How about in 1 year from 1913? 86 years ago was 1928. If you were a stockbroker in NYC then, what might you have predicted about 2014, or 1929? Thanks, experts!

Final point. Gallup shows AGW is 14th out of 15 concerns of ordinary Americans. We’ll just have to see who is right.

Of cowboys and cow dung

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Peter Bogdanovich has a delightful piece on Scott Eyman’s new book about Duke Morrison, the American screen cowboy. One of the roles that transformed his career was about a tough cattle drive. Gotta get those cows to move their hind quarters quickly to their last roundup. That was then.

Sadly, this is now: Mark Steyn has a mooving commentary on America’s (and the West’s) current take on the bovine posterior. (BTW, if you’re interested in cutting government waste, every one of these horses’s patoots could be downsized.)

Unusual development in the SP

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

If you don’t have a narrative of your own, you’re using the other guy’s narrative. Roger Simon says why that’s a bad idea, both stylistically and substantively. One fellow who is breaking the mold is Rand Paul. Whatever you think of his other merits, he’s doing something very unusual for the Stupid Party: going on Smiley and West (where he got a lot of respect from the call-in audience BTW), going to Detroit and then following up substantively on that trip, and to Berkeley, where he apparently got a standing ovation for torching the NSA. In each case he sought pretty successfully to use areas of common ground with his audience. As we said, unusual for the Stupid Party, but then again not as stupid as focusing over and over on 2 or 3 counties in places like Florida and Ohio to try to eke out 334,000 votes to just squeak by in an election.

Picture worth a thousand words…….and from “must” to “should” in 5 years

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Here’s the picture. (It’s not even the faculty lounge that’s doing America’s business; it’s the freshman dorm.) Here are Krauthammer’s thousand words (747 actually). Krauthammer’s piece raises a very interesting point about how things have changed over the last five years. Five years ago, the world was told what it “must” do — over two dozen times in the Cairo speech alone. Now, as Krauthammer points out, the operative word is not “must”, but “should”. As a mental exercise, try to imagine yourself lecturing a billion or more people on what they “must” do. Hmmmmm…

BTW, it’s not as though there are easy answers to these logical responses by Russia, etc, to America’s empty bloviating at this point, but speeding to energy independence, reversing course on Iran, not cutting the military, empowering a red-tape-cutting task force on the economy, and using Google and Yelp and GrubHub as metaphors for health care rather than the USSR — these could be a start.