Archive for the 'business' Category

Centralization plus lack of accountability equals paradise

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

The paradise of centralization minus accountability: immigration, VA medicine, etc. It’s so odd that in our age of near-universal decentralization (Google, phones, Amazon, apps, etc) of information and transactions, the most radical centralization of 15% of the economy is occurring (with predictable results of course).

Neither a borrower nor a lender be?

Monday, May 19th, 2014

The FT reported that PE firms in Europe are paying 10.4x EBITDA now, versus 9.7x in 2007. The US PE prices look to be about 9.1x versus 9.6x in 2007. Debt ratios are 5.6x versus 6.1x in the good old days. 2007, eh? We recall the Bear Stearns conference call back then, when virtually no one knew what was coming over the next 13 months. Compared to 2007, the economic fundamentals do not seem as good today. What do these high PE prices portend?

Science, Fiction, and CAGW

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Science:

66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW,

32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming…

In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers…Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus.

Fiction:

Man vs. Nature is the predominant theme of the film, and I always tried to go back to that imagery. At the beginning when they find the fossils, it was important to me that they didn’t just find them—it was caused by our abuse of the planet. We deserved it, in a way. So there’s this rainforest with a big scar in the landscape with this quarry, slave labor, and a Western company. You have to ask yourself, “What does Godzilla represent?” The thing we kept coming up with is that he’s a force of nature, and if nature had a mascot, it would be Godzilla. So what do the other creatures represent? They represent man’s abuse of nature, and the idea is that Godzilla is coming to restore balance to something mankind has disrupted…

there’s a reason his name begins with “God,” I think. He is a god, really. He’s at the top of the food chain and probably King of the World, in a sense…the idea is that for all of time man has always found that there’s something out there for us to worship or fear

So two thirds of science papers took no position on AGW, let alone catastrophic AGW, but that’s not the headline, the 97% is. We thank the director of Godzilla for explaining why that is.

Guardian: “The kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian school girls…has shocked the world…Instability in Nigeria, however, has been growing steadily over the last decade – and one reason is climate change.” We’re closer to the end than the beginning of this thirties-like vacation from history, when the bad things were all imaginary. But the fools continue to tilt at windmills

The pneumatikoi of today

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Reading Steyn this morning (here and here) and various things the other day reminded us of something from a long time ago. We have today a modern reincarnation of the Gnosticism of old. The pneumatikoi have knowledge that lesser beings do not possess. Perhaps Wikipedia should be updated.

Perseveration

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

There are real and serious problems in the world (here and here and here for example). And yet there are fairly sizeable groups focused on nuttiness and/or matters that affect a vanishingly small number of people — and they’re often very loud about these things. It reminds us of head-banging or a fellow running around shouting with his ears covered; all the better to block out unpleasant realities. But it doesn’t work for very long…

The Spectator has a pessimistic take on all this.

Well, what did you expect?

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

WaPo editorial:

With a $1 billion oil rig the size of a football field, China has literally laid down a new marker in its ambition to dominate the South China Sea — and challenged President Obama’s “rebalancing” policy in Asia, only weeks after the president’s tour of the region. The rig is about 130 miles off the coast of Vietnam, in waters that Vietnam claims as an exclusive economic zone under international law. China’s claim is more tenuous, but it is backed up with a flotilla of some 80 ships that for a week have engaged in a dangerous contest of ramming and water-hosing Vietnamese vessels.

The message of the deployment is as simple as it is provocative: The regime of Xi Jinping intends to unilaterally assert China’s sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea without regard for the competing claims of five other countries or Mr. Obama’s newly restated commitment to uphold defense agreements with two of those nations. In that sense, the rig, like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is a fundamental challenge to the international order the United States has tried to preserve since the end of the Cold War.

China’s ambitions are described by an audacious map, dating from the pre-Communist era, that claims some 80 percent of the South China Sea and a number of island chains or waters also claimed by Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Indonesia, in addition to Vietnam. For years Beijing has talked with those countries and others in Southeast Asia about establishing a code of conduct for the sea, and it discussed the possibility of joint development of oil and gas with Vietnam a few months ago.

The move of the oil rig appears to reflect a calculation that a more aggressive policy will not meet meaningful resistance from China’s neighbors or the United States.

Wretchard: “The West is transfixed, stunned by its own toxic cocktail of lies. That we will wake up is inevitable. The danger is that if we remain asleep too long, the world may already be burning by the time we look out the window.” For most of two generations, the universities have been obsessed with creating a strange alternative narrative of the US and western history. They teach rubbish and worse. With some exceptions, only the geezers know the real story, and they are now mostly shouted down and persecuted by know-nothings.

Religion in these times

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

NYT columnist:

They have used a big part of this fortune to attack the indisputable science on climate change, to buy junk scholars, to promote harmful legislation at the state level, to go after clean, renewable energy like solar, and to try to kill the greatest expansion of health care in decades. Money can’t buy love, but it certainly can cause a lot of havoc. Yet, while these billionaire industrialists may win in the short term — the Republican Party, their toady, is likely to pick up seats in the House and may take control of the Senate as well — in the larger fight against progress and modernity the Kochs have already lost. Clean energy is here to stay, and no sane political party would try to take away the health care of eight million fellow Americans. Check that — they’ll try in both instances. According to one study, the Kochs have already spent $61 million on various front groups dedicated to the flat-earth proposition that the globe is not warming. But so far, the only return on that investment is a cohort of people flopping around in the waters of stupidity. About 44 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Tea Party-leaning voters believe there is no solid evidence that the earth is getting warmer, according to the Pew Research Center. Now, this is not 70 percent who think Donald Duck is really a platypus, though in a way it is. This is 70 percent who have been convinced that the actual hard numbers, that 9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in this century, are a hoax. It’s like saying, No, it was not 75 degrees in Atlanta yesterday — that’s just your view. What this shows is that you can buy a lie, but you can’t make that lie the truth. Over the last nine months, three exhaustive studies have shown that climate change is happening now, and will continue to unfold in real time, with record droughts in the American West, rising seas along the Atlantic coast, and global megastorms so catastrophic they will divert CNN from the missing plane. The climate experts in these studies are the gold standard — from places like the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society

The “indisputable science.” Hmmmm. Perhaps the fellow is correct about his conclusion (not!), but he certainly has quite an attitude about himself and any who dare disagree. We wonder what his explanation would be about the disappearance of the Medieval Warm Period, courtesy of one of his co-religionists.

Final Jeopardy

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

The answer the other night on final jeopardy was North Dakota. Of course the insane fiscal and regulatory policies of our current government, fueled by fantasies only the very young, the terminally hollywoodian, and the faculty lounge could find plausible, are putting the entire nation in final jeopardy. Rick Perry was wrong BTW. There needs to be a new cabinet-level agency in the federal government; its job would be to audit all regulations promulgated by the other federal agencies and, while allowing 1% of new ones to go forward, shrink the total of all prior and existing regulations by 10% per year. (Lest you think that is a lot, at the end of a ten year period, total regulations would be only cut by a little over half.)

Truth or Consequences

Friday, May 9th, 2014

It’s cold therefore it’s warm. “Consensus cannot be enforced” — therefore you’re a heretic. Truth is now the 11th planet in the solar system, therefore ????

No wire hangers! Ever!

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Henninger:

Oberlin College earlier this year proposed that its teachers “be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression”…In the Harvard Crimson, recently, an undergraduate columnist wrote: “Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice.” How would that work? “When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.” She explicitly cited for suppression the work of conservative Harvard government professor Harvey Mansfield…something has snapped…If it’s possible for the left to have its John Birch moment, we’re in it.

What the heck is going on? These folks have owned the academy, the media, and the popular culture for most of the last two generations, and all of a sudden they sound hysterical. What explains it? If you look back at the transcendent strangeness of six years ago, there is perhaps the beginning of an explanation.

This has been their moment to finally immanentize the eschaton, and it’s turned into a big mess. Many of us knew it would be a mess because we’ve spent a little time in the real world, but how could the faculty lounge and the media know this? So they see failure of their beloved utopian plans all around, and they’re yelling Shut Up! to every critic at the top of their lungs, as though somehow the critics were responsible for the collapse of a puerile worldview. The upside case for the country is the possibility they are yelling Shut Up! to their little internal voices of doubt. But conversion experiences don’t come easily, so things will likely get worse.

Eek, a mouse!!!!!

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

NYT

On rising sea levels, the new report went beyond warnings issued recently by the United Nations. That body’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in September that by the end of the century, sea levels could rise by as much as three feet globally if emissions continue at a rapid pace. The American scientists said the rise could be anywhere from one to four feet, and added that six feet could not be entirely ruled out.

News from 1968: “In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.” News from 1975: “How to survive the coming ice age.” News from 2009: “On shrinking islands, families are already being forced to flee their homes as climate refugees.” Eek, a mouse!!!!

Pro and con

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Interesting piece by Nigel Lawson. Here’s the CW of today, and burn the heretics by the way. And a response. We feel like we’re witnessing the medieval church from the outside.

Reality bites

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Bonior. And Dude! We have referred to the faculty lounge, but it’s more like the way college freshmen used to be. Read Steyn to get really depressed.

The gums of August

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

You know there’s a serious situation when not only VDH and Wretchard are alarmed at the feckless or non-existent US foreign policy, but so is the head of the CFR. In part we suppose this was to be expected, since the faculty lounge is all about words and not deeds; thus you get a red line here and an apartheid there and no matter. And it’s not just the senior faculty. The TA’s are writing both the blah-blah and the cover-up memos, and truth be told, they don’t know very much. So we’ve wound up in an easily foreseen terrible place, and in the next couple of years we will learn what China and Russia would do in a world unfettered by the presence of the USA.

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.)