Friday, September 24, 2021

Friday Morning Links

  • Although time-varying, the average discount for US value stocks over the period July 1963–June 2021 is about 21%, or put another way, US growth stocks typically sport a price-to-book value ratio about five times that of value stocks. From January 2007 to September 2020, the relative valuation moved from the most expensive quartile (specifically, the 22nd most expensive percentile) to the cheapest percentile in history (100th percentile); this revaluation explains more than 100% of value’s underperformance through September 2020. In other words, net of this downward revaluation relative to growth, value would have beat growth by a respectable margin. [Research Affiliates]
  • Based on current strip pricing, the Company will be in a position to continue to distribute special dividends, the size of which will depend upon the magnitude of excess FCF generated by elevated commodity prices in 2022 and beyond, and the relative return offered by other FCF allocation opportunities. On current strip, 2022 FCF is estimated to be $2.5 billion which represents over $7.50/diluted share and a 19% free cash yield based on a $40 share price.[Tourmaline]
  • New video from a Florida Highway Patrol car shows a state trooper run from a disabled vehicle they were responding to on Interstate 4 as it is being slammed into by a Tesla on auto-pilot. The FHP released the video Thursday of the August crash when a state trooper responded to a disabled vehicle in Orange County. According to the crash report, the trooper was out of his car to help move the other vehicle out of the road when the Tesla failed to move over. [link]
  • “I don’t think there’s long-term viability for five or six thousand private forms of money,” Mr. Gensler said in a virtual event hosted by the Washington Post. “So in the meantime I think it’s worthwhile to have an investor-protection regime placed around this.” [WSJ]
  • In order to promote market competition, four firms were created from the American Tobacco Company's assets: American Tobacco Company, R. J. Reynolds, Liggett & Myers, and Lorillard. The monopoly became an oligopoly. In 1938 Thurman Arnold in the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division began hosting hearings in the Temporary National Economic Committee to determine whether the four companies were further engaged together in monopolistic practices. That committee found that 3 of the 4 companies were guilty of the charges presented to the court. [United States v. American Tobacco Co.]
  • Many commentators and consultancies expect increasing fuel efficiency and the growing adoption of electric vehicles to cause refined produce demand to structurally decline. But this clearly isn’t happening. Trends toward suburbanization and the widespread avoidance of mass transit have offset these variables. Continued population and economic growth will also keep upward pressure on demand. These countervailing trends remain underappreciated by the market. [MMP]
  • Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about my raging non-alcoholism. “When you extinguish a learned habit, it doesn’t disappear,” Koob said. “All you’re doing is replacing that habit with a different habit.” Volkow compared my behavior to a binge. “It’s an automatic compulsive behavior,” she said. (Volkow is Leon Trotsky’s great-granddaughter and was raised in Mexico City, in the house where her great-grandfather was assassinated, in 1940.) [New Yorker]
  • Summers does not buy the notion that current inflation is the result of temporary bottlenecks. Whenever demand exceeds supply, the inflation that results is made up of a series of bottlenecks, each apparently temporary:  “If you thought demand was running hot relative to supply, you would expect there would be bottlenecks. You’d expect inflation to feed through selectively. And there is every reason to think we are going to see new bottlenecks. I read a story today that there is a bottleneck in Christmas decorations. Toilet paper is back to being a bottleneck. Thanksgiving turkeys. There will be new bottlenecks: the history of the ’60s and ’70s was that there was always a specific structural explanation for price increases.” [FT]
  • The Company stands behind the high quality of its PMTA, which we believe established that the products’ continued marketing would be “appropriate for the protection of public health,” the standard established by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. These products are crucial to improving public health by helping adult smokers migrate to less harmful products. TPB will continue to engage with the FDA and other stakeholders as we consider options moving forward, including a formal appeal of the decision and potential legal relief. The PMTA denied by this MDO included an in-depth toxicological review, a clinical study, and studies on patterns and likelihood of use. We believe the data demonstrated that TPB products do not appeal to never users, youth, or former users and that a significant majority of users of TPB products had completely ceased use of combustible cigarettes. The scientific literature on lower-risk nicotine delivery systems shows that these products can significantly improve public health by providing alternatives that are much less harmful than combustible cigarettes. “While we believe the FDA’s current conclusion is misguided, we will continue our dialogue with the agency in search of a path forward,” said Larry Wexler, President and CEO, Turning Point Brands. “As we explore options for appealing this decision, we are hopeful that the agency reaffirms its commitment to science-based decision making and to its announced Comprehensive Plan, which includes fully transitioning adult consumers down the continuum of risk in order to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with combustible cigarette use by preserving the diverse vapor market.” [TPB]
  • Yole estimates that the addition of one battery electric vehicle on the road is comparable to the electricity demand of a small family home. The calculation is based on an EV energy efficiency of 14-18 kWh/100km and daily driving distance of 60-80km, which comes to around 8-11 kWh/d. This compares with average daily household consumption of 10-15kWh. [link]
  • There is a compelling case to be made for favoring value stocks today. Among those, the energy sector remains the most compelling by a long shot. In addition to being cheap, it’s really the only sector within the broad market where insiders continue to be very bullish (the broad market, in contrast, continues to be sold by the smartest of the smart money). So it would appear that insiders believe oil prices are likely to breakout above critical resistance represented by the upper trend line of its long-term downtrend channel. It’s also very encouraging to see commercial hedgers in crude oil futures actually cover their short positions (or hedge less) as oil prices rise. This is fairly unusual. Just by glancing at the chart below, it’s apparent that hedgers typically add to shorts (hedge more of their production) when prices rise and vice versa. The fact that they are actually adding exposure as prices have risen over the past year or so would appear to be a signal that they, too, are betting on a breakout higher in oil prices. [Felder]
  • Imagine if Boston and Mexico City had a love child — that’s Buenos Aires (BA). It has the charm and character of Boston and the dense population of Mexico City. BA is a world-class city with 13 million people. That’s almost 35,000 inhabitants per square mile! It’s big for sure, but we found it both friendly and pretty clean. We booked a room in the San Telmo neighborhood, and spent our time in BA taking pictures of the architecture and relaxing in restaurants. [link]
  • "Wind is not produced on peak. This last summer, when we went across the summer peak, I had 3,000 megawatts of capacity of wind. How much did I have on the summer peak, back in August? No, no, no, I didn't have zero. I had a total of 63 out of 3,000. And we're investing all of this money in wind..." [CBS]

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Thursday Night Links

  • Before I was famous I had a whole bunch of jobs where all I needed was boots. People would look right past me, or if they did look at me, it was with a mean look. But when I got famous, people would look at me and smile and wonder where they knew me from. If they flat-out recognized me, they'd laugh and dance like they'd won a prize, and I'd just stand there and smile and feel warmth from their love. So the fame made the world, which is a real cold place, a little less cold. And as for my gambling, it's true I lost it all a few times. But that's because I always took the long shot and it never came in. But I still have some time before I cross that river. And if you're at the table and you're rolling them bones, then there's no money in playing it safe. You have to take all your chips and put them on double six and watch as every eye goes to you and then to those red dice doing their wild dance and freezing time before finding the cruel green felt. I've been lucky. [Norm Macdonald]
  • Not only was he funny, he was as based as you could be and still be a working comedian. And he had the courage of his lack of convictions: recall his bit long ago, at some ESPN awards show, with an audience largely composed of black athletes, at which he said (I’m quoting from memory here…) to Charles Woodson — the University of Michigan defensive back who had just won the Heisman Trophy — “well, they can’t take that away from you…unless you kill your ex-wife and a waiter.” The horrified looks on the faces of audience members said it all: blacks and whites alike largely suspected that O.J. had, literally, gotten away with murder, but to say it publicly in front of black athletes and the white people who worship them?  That was unforgivable. [Sailer]
  • I have long known in my gut that usual measures of social wealth, most of all GDP, are fraudulent, in that they falsely identify value where there is none. I have intuited we were all being lied to, and that those who assured us that ever more value was being generated by our society by what appear to be objectively valueless activities were, at best, hiding something. This outstanding book, by left-wing economist Mariana Mazzucato, explains what is being hidden, what hard truths are being avoided, and what she thinks we should do about it. And while I don’t agree with all her prescriptions, or with her rosy view of government competency, the first step on the path to self-improvement is admitting you have a problem. [link
  • The bigger picture things carbon capture, hydrogen, those are – those are harder steps for us to take one because our infrastructure's really not designed for those. It's obviously much easier for natural gas Transportation Company to be talking about hydrogen. It doesn't really fit with the liquids pipeline. The returns on many of those projects are not attractive right now. When we look at them, we're not a research and development company, we're an operating company. I don't think our investors want us to make large investments in speculative investments that may have good returns seven or eight years ago, if everything goes as planned. And so that's why we're kind of viewing ourselves in a low capital environment, which isn't a bad thing. We're not anticipating declines in EBIDA over time even though we're not spending a lot of capital. So if we – our expectation is, if we have a stable, slightly growing EBIDA stream and we're using our available cash for equity buybacks, which is our preferred return of capital method at this point, then we can be growing our cash flow per unit, which I think in the long-term is what investors want. And so that's what we're focused on. And buybacks are still our preferred method. We've talked about increasing distributions; we've talked about special distributions. Special distributions are laid out on the list. Buybacks are our preferred method. I won't rule out an increase in a distribution at some point, but that's – that's our view of capital allocation priorities right now. [MMP]
  • For more than 20 years, Swedish Match has been a pioneer in the transformation of its business model away from combustible tobacco, starting with the divestiture of its cigarette business in 1999, and later with its divestitures of pipe tobacco, premium cigars, and its non-US machine made cigar business. After conducting a thorough strategic review of its businesses, today’s announcement of the planned separation of the US cigar business marks the next chapter in this transformation, where smokefree products such as nicotine pouches and snus will play the leading role in building a stronger Swedish Match in line with societal trends. The intended separation of the cigar business provides even greater focus on building Swedish Match’s presence in the growing modern oral category, while also providing opportunities and greater flexibility for the stand-alone cigar business to execute its own strategic plans toward delivering strong value as an independent company. [Swedish Match]
  • The analyses that I have seen are pretty complacent about EBITDA. They take a >$3 billion level as a given and then assume that since CBB and CNSL's debt (which both trade close to par) create those enterprises at >5x EBITDA, FTR will do the same. The problem is that if the ice cube continues to melt, not only will EBITDA be lower, but it will probably be worth a lower multiple. In the 2x2 matrix of unsecured recoveries above, there's really only a line of realistic outcomes: low EBITDA, low multiple; or high EBITDA, high multiple. Unless you can have reason to believe that the decline in customer losses is about to stop, there does not seem to be a margin of safety in the unsecured debt. If 13% of customers (net - more after figuring churn) left over the past two years, they probably went somewhere, since they are not likely just canceling their internet entirely. There must be competitors in Frontier's markets that are better or cheaper and are eating their lunch. For all we know, the most alert or savvy customers are the ones who just left and it is the beginning of an S-curve of the slower to react customers leaving too. [CBS]
  • Although the benefits of primary COVID-19 vaccination clearly outweigh the risks, there could be risks if boosters are widely introduced too soon, or too frequently, especially with vaccines that can have immune-mediated side-effects (such as myocarditis, which is more common after the second dose of some mRNA vaccines,3 or Guillain-Barre syndrome, which has been associated with adenovirus-vectored COVID-19 vaccines4). If unnecessary boosting causes significant adverse reactions, there could be implications for vaccine acceptance that go beyond COVID-19 vaccines. Thus, widespread boosting should be undertaken only if there is clear evidence that it is appropriate. [Lancet]
  • As such, it may now finally be time to get bullish on green bud. The stocks have been absolutely hammered recently. This appears to have washed out the bullish sentiment towards the entire group that was engendered by the bubble in the stocks a few years ago. Furthermore, the washout in sentiment has sucked a group of very profitable and rapidly growing companies into its vortex even though they continue to post stellar results and their future is only getting brighter. [Felder]
  • Here are some examples I followed over the past decade: modern art, war, corporate governance, health care and big pharma, government, and fractional reserve banking. Having to go to college to get a job instead of taking an IQ test and getting applied vocational training is a Scam. That's 2/3 of GDP right there! You're going to pay a tax every time that you as principal have an agent doing something for you or when you have to engage with something that is a societal Scam. The size of the tax depends on the relative bargaining power - e.g. your alternatives - and your knowledge and ability to monitor the agent or your ability to use your own agency to get around the scam. On the far extreme, we have a literal tax, income tax, where we have no bargaining power and we get nothing in exchange for our single largest annual outlay. [CBS]

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Tuesday Night Links

  • In 1998, on O’Brien’s late-night show, Macdonald moved over a seat to make room for “Melrose Place” actress Courtney Thorne-Smith. Then he took over her segment. She was trying to promote her new movie, “Chairman of the Board,” with Carrot Top. “I bet board is spelled B-O-R-E-D,” Macdonald snapped at one point, leaving the host doubled over in laughter. [WaPo]
  • In a life of busyness and ambushes on our attention, dog walks air out the brain. Sometimes they might seem like an inconvenience, but only in the way G. K. Chesterton defined inconvenience—an adventure wrongly considered. Considered correctly, the daily dog walks are a regimen of escape and pause. They enlarge our sympathies and sweeten our disposition. They pry open the day when it balls up into a little fist. The walk is the basic unit of the human-and-dog commerce of unconditional love. We take care of George and George takes care of us. No matter how awful the day, or how awful I am behaving at any given moment, George doesn’t care. He finds me smoldering in my chair and dashes to my lap. Every dog is a rescue dog. [The Atlantic]
  • We’ve made significant progress in the months since, working diligently to better understand these products and, as of today, taking action on about 93% of the total timely-submitted applications. This includes issuing Marketing Denial Orders (MDO) for more than 946,000 flavored ENDS products because their applications lacked sufficient evidence that they have a benefit to adult smokers sufficient to overcome the public health threat posed by the well-documented, alarming levels of youth use of such products. [FDA]
  • While I’ve occasionally written about the crisis of the day, most of my intellectual output consists in defenses of radical libertarian positions. The Myth of the Rational Voter shows why markets far outshine democracy. The Case Against Education defends the abolition of public education in all its forms. Open Borders calls for full deregulation of immigration. My impending Build, Baby, Build advocates the full deregulation of the housing industry. Even my Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids has a libertarian stealth agenda: To get the people who read me, disproportionately libertarian, to be fruitful and multiply. [Econlib]
  • “Pittsburgh blue” or “Pittsburgh rare” is the lowest degree of doneness for steak in the United States. It’s meat that’s been thrown on the grill only as a formality—just a second or two on each side, keeping the inside completely raw. This practice originated in the Pittsburgh steel mills of the mid-20th century. Pittsburghers—or is it Pittsburghians?—would bring slabs of meat to work and slap those babies onto blast furnaces, which were kept at temperatures over 1000 degrees Celsius. The outside of the steak would instantly char, while the inside would remain cold and raw. [link]
  • At US$67 WTI, Cenovus was projected to generate CAD$7.5 billion of operating cash flow and CAD$5.7 billion of free cash flow. The recent increase in oil price (to $75/bbl) should significantly augment the cash flow if it holds up. The current market capitalization is CAD$23.6 billion and the net debt is CAD$13 billion for a total enterprise value of CAD $37 billion. (Or $30 billion in USD.) So, the FCF/EV yield before the latest increase in the oil price was around 15%. Also impressive with the mature Canadian oil sands giants is the level of FCF conversion. If Cenovus spends $1.8 billion on capital expenditure and has $7.5 billion (or more) in operating cash flow, that is 75% FCF/OCF conversion which isn't bad. Conoco got a lot of CVE stock when the 2017 acquisition took place (Conoco owns 10%), and they are selling it. When Cenovus was spun off in 2009, it traded for $25. Thanks to the long commodity bear market, it trades for a little more than a third of that price more than a decade later. Something else you may notice is that the enterprise value of Cenovus per barrel of net 2P reserves is about US$6. [CBS]
  • He was offered nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in nicotine patches (21 mg/day) and inhalators (15mg cartridges, six cartridges/day). He also used e-cigarettes continually (one 3 ml cartridge/day, 18mg/ml) instead of his normal cigarettes. In addition to parenteral nicotine, he inhaled 120-150 mg of nicotine daily after also borrowing e-cigarettes and inhalators from other patients. [NLM]
  • I advocate reading books in cluster – the author can be the clustering factor, it can be the topic, it can be the historical period – but you really get into a person’s mind if you re-read everything they’ve done within the span of a few weeks or months, and then watch them on YouTube, and just try to think about and write out notes, “What am I going to ask them?” One of the very best ways to read is to have your own podcast. You want to start with a problem or question when you’re reading. And again you want to read books together in groups, and you want one of the early books to make the whole thing real or emotionally vivid to you. If you travel to a place that’ll do it automatically, but if you’re not travelling you want the book to do it, so your early book choice is quite important. [MR]
  • Gensler fashions himself a progressive. He’s the first SEC chief to fully reject the “chairman” title in favor of the gender-neutral “chair.” (Mary Schapiro, the agency’s first female head, is still listed as chairman in her official bio.) He had his team contact The Wall Street Journal to ask for a correction when it used the old title, which the paper refused to make on grounds of editorial style. Gensler also resolutely refers to Satoshi Nakamoto, the unknown creator or creators of bitcoin, as “she” — as well as “Nakamoto-san,” out of reverence for the innovation. [NY Mag]
  • I think people take comfort in compartmentalizing specific signs that inflation is getting out of control by attaching a unique explanation to each event. It’s as though the specificity of each explanation eliminates the risk of things evolving into a trend. The spike in used car prices is because of the chip shortage. Grocery prices are higher because of meat processors. Housing prices are exploding because of migration from the cities. Labor costs are soaring because people are being paid to stay home. Uber prices are double or triple what they were because they need to stop hemorrhaging cash. Plastics costs have spiked because of the Texas freeze. Consumer goods prices are up because of logistics. In the end, the water is getting much, much warmer. The frog might take comfort in such specificity, but this chicken is getting out of the pot. [Doomberg]
  • I’ve found that there is an instant litmus test for trust in American politics. Any member of the squad, or any member of congress for that matter, could earn my trust tomorrow. And not any sort of fleeting trust, a permanent ride or die trust. The ‘I will take a bullet for you’ trust. To do so does not require any great or impossible action. They could do it in a tweet or an instagram story, and I know tweeting and making instagram stories is not something the squad finds difficult. The only thing any politician has to do to earn my trust is this: Just say just one fucking word of truth about 9/11. [seanpmccarthy]
  • The main reason restaurants weren’t already letting you order a single bacon, egg, and cheese from 50 blocks away for almost no charge is that it’s a terrible business model. Expensive, wasteful, labor intensive — you would lose money on every order. The apps promised to solve this problem through algorithmic optimization and scale. This has yet to happen — none of the companies are consistently profitable — but for a while they solved the problem with money. Armed with billions in venture capital, the apps subsidized what had been a low-margin side gig of the restaurant industry until it resembled any other Silicon Valley consumer-gratification machine. [Curbed]
  • The current state of George Floyd Square. The attached audio is just one minute of just one of three gun battles in George Floyd Square last night. I have lived adjacent to 38th and Chicago for over 20 years and I, as well as some neighbors I've spoken with, believe last night was the worst night of gunfire ever. But no one was murdered so it doesn't make the news. One person was shot but that doesn't make the news. Perhaps over 100 rounds were fired in 4 hours but that doesn't make the news either. [FB]

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Thursday Night Links

  • If you look at a chart of a “Real Asset”-heavy Oddball like Pardee, Keweenaw, Beaver Coal,or J.G. Boswell, they basically went nowhere in terms of share price appreciation for about fifteen years, from 2005-2020. Not for nothing, the beginning of that period was a time when “everyone had to allocate” to commodities. Would you agree with our thesis that over-investment in these types of industries has led to low profits and bad times, low profits and bad times have led to recent under-investment, and the current under-investment is going to lead to high profits and good times? [Oddball Stocks]
  • During a five-year renovation of Big Boy No. 4014, the railroad replaced unsound parts, converted from coal to oil, and installed Positive Train Control (PTC) electronics for safety. Just as Union Pacific successfully employs technology to allow Big Boy to ply the rails in modern times--while retaining the charm of a bygone era 80 years ago—the oldest financial institutions in America are constantly updating their technology while upholding their heritage as banking evolves. [Oddball Stocks]
  • If you’re reading this in your 20s, my biggest tip for cultivating more “power” in work relationships (aside from hanging out on the right Discords and buying the right, uh, NFTs) is to keep fixed costs of living so low you can say no to that bad contract without crippling yourself financially. Aside from when I lived in Palo Alto for three years (where I paid an unbelievable $1000 in rent), I never paid more than … ~$750 in rent in Tokyo. And, in fact, most of the time I was paying about ~$600. I was thirty-five before I finally felt like I could pay more without sacrificing my ability to protect work-freedom. (My obsession with maximally low-cost living was, most definitely, a pathology I probably could have shed a few years earlier.) [Craig Mod]
  • Now a bank account is not a security, but that is not because banks have found some clever loophole to avoid the securities laws that Coinbase can copy. A bank account is not a security because the securities laws, ever since they were written in the 1930s, exempt bank accounts. And the basic reason for that is that banks are subject to banking regulation, which is generally much stricter than securities regulation. You don’t have to file a prospectus, but you do have to meet capital requirements and have bank examiners and all the rest. A bank account is regulated as a bank account, so you don’t have to regulate it as a security. It must be tempting for Coinbase here to say “look this thing isn’t a security, this is just like a savings account at a bank, and that isn’t a security is it?” Which is quite right! But Coinbase obviously does not want to be regulated as a bank; it does not want to be subject to bank capital requirements (which require essentially 100% equity capitalbacking Bitcoin positions) or prudential regulation by bank regulators who like crypto about as much as the SEC does but have even more tools to crack down. [Matt Levine]
  • It is helpful to take today’s inflation numbers with a grain of salt because it makes the rest of the data⁠⁠—the figures that are adjusted for inflation⁠—a bit easier to explain. For example, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates that the economy has grown larger than ever before, and we are consuming more and better goods and services than ever. BEA data shows real GDP per capita—that is, output adjusted for inflation and population growth—is at an all-time high. I certainly don’t feel that the second quarter of 2021 was our most prosperous or productive quarter. When it comes to overall welfare as a consumer, I would take the economic circumstances of 2019⁠—and its ostensibly smaller consumption bundle⁠—without second thought. I bet you would too. If the official statistics miss quality changes and therefore understate recent inflation, then using those statistics for inflation adjustment will lead us to overstate progress in measures like real GDP per capita or real consumption per capita. This insight also casts doubt on the idea of a COVID productivity boom. [Alan Cole]
  • British agricultural prices began their drop in the mid-1870s for several reasons, from the development of US railroads and prairies to the advent of steamships, all of which led to the UK market being flooded with cheap prairie wheat. Meanwhile, in the US, high society shunned the families of the newly rich businessmen making their fortunes during the Gilded Age. East Coast high society was the jealously guarded preserve of families who could trace their ancestry back to the earliest Dutch or English settlers, and who socially ostracised the nouveau riche business magnates and their families. So, what were these newly rich families to do? They married into the British aristocracy as a means of establishing a social pedigree, whatever the cost. The trend likely started with the 1874 marriage of Jennie Jerome, the daughter of New York financier Leonard Jerome, and a younger son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, Lord Randolph Churchill – a union that produced Winston Churchill. Leonard Jerome settled a dowry of £50,000 on the marriage, which is about $6.5 million today if one adjusts by consumer price inflation (CPI) or around $30 million if the inflation adjustment is made using movements in real wages (aristocrats employed large retinues of servants). Two years later, Consuelo Yznaga, the daughter of Antonio Yznaga – who had made his fortune in West Indian sugar plantations before relocating to Newport, Rhode Island – married the heir to the Duke of Manchester, thereby proving that the highest social rank below royalty was not beyond the scope of an American business family’s daughter. The dowry settlement was £200,000 (about $26 million today CPI adjusted or around $130 million real-wage adjusted). Perhaps the most celebrated (or notorious) American-aristocratic marriage of the period took place at the height of the trend, in 1895, when the family of the US railroad magnate William K. Vanderbilt became allied to one of Britain’s most prestigious aristocratic families with the marriage of his daughter Consuelo to the 9th Duke of Marlborough. The dowry settlement was $2.5 million, which is a CPI-adjusted $82 million today, or over $400 million in real-wage adjusted terms: money that restored the family fortunes and, quite literally, the palatial Marlborough ancestral seat of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Figure 1 shows the percentage of marriages between British aristocrats and non-aristocrats (‘out-marriages’) for British males born in 20-year cohorts between 1700 and 1899, as well as the 20-year average real price of wheat in London 33 years later (33 being the average age at which British aristocrats married during the 18th and 19th centuries). The positive correlation between the decline in the price of wheat and the percentage of brides from landed families marrying into the aristocracy is striking, as is the rise in the percentage of ‘out-marriages’ to foreigners as wheat prices fell. [Mark Taylor]
  • Since Covid hit the headlines the running gag among myself and a couple online friends has been that everything on my vitamin and supplement shelf is eventually shown to treat Covid. The first OTC Covid recommendation was vitamin D and zinc as immune boosters, and NAC to keep the lungs clear. I thought to myself, “Wow, didn't know that about zinc or NAC. Cool!” I was taking them based on what I'd read in P.D. Mangan's “Best Supplements for Men.” It was a pleasant surprise that they would be associated with improved immune function. As time went on, more and more of my “stack” got mentions as Covid prophylaxes: selenium, berberine, citrulline, iodine. While it's a little bit funny, it shouldn't be too surprising. Everything's correlated. It stands to reason that the supplements that lead to strong, vigorous health are going to benefit the immune system. [@pdxsag]
  • It appears without substantial dispute that if deviation is not permitted the accomplishment of the purposes of the trusts will be substantially impaired because of changed conditions due to inflation since the trusts were created; that unless deviation is allowed the assets of the trusts, within the next 20 years, will, in all likelihood, be worth less than one-fourth of the value they had at the time of the donor's death. To avoid this we conclude that in equity the trustees should have the right and be authorized to deviate from the restrictive provisions of the trusts by permitting them, when and as they deem it advisable, to invest a reasonable amount of the trust assets in corporate stocks of good, sound investment issues. Through an investment in bonds and mortgages of the type designated by the donor, plus corporate stocks of good, sound investment issues, in our opinion, the trusts will, so far as possible, be fortified against inflation, recession, depression, or decline in prices. [In Re Trusteeship Under Agreement With Mayo]
  • "Inflation or deflation?" is a political question; you can't determine the outcome from modeling of macroeconomic variables without reference to what the people who control the central bank want. In the past when we have had deflationary episodes, elites were much more conservatively invested. The book The Framers' Coup (see notes) by Michael Klarman (brother of Seth) says that the supporters of ratification of the U.S. constitution were creditors who were "determined to suppress state debtor relief laws and inflationary monetary schemes." In other words, the wealthiest colonists with political power were fixed income investors. They felt that their economic interests as wealthy people would have been hurt by inflation, and so the overriding goal of the constitution was to prevent inflation and legal abrogation of debt contracts, while also preserving the existing balance of power between north and south and big and small states. Later on in the country's history, the rich were invested in government debt issued and also enterprises like railroads and canals that had big fixed costs and operating costs. Forget about owning equity in something that would go bust during the next panic, the old money wanted a first mortgage so they could get their principal back with reasonable interest. When money was sound, that really meant something. It even looks like deflationary panics were deliberate squeezes of the middle class, by the rich, who could relieve them of their assets at cheap prices at the height of the panic. In order for this to work, the rich had to be conservatively invested. Up until the mid-20th century, it was not even considered appropriate for trustee fiduciaries to invest in common stocks. It was only the inflationary post-war era that changed this, as limitations in trust instruments to fixed income investments became inconsistent with preserving the trust corpus. That conservatism is long gone. Our elite - the politicians and the people who back them - have continually upped the financial risk they take as real interest rates have fallen. [CBS]
  • “I want a labor market so tight that you don’t even have to cover up your tattoos to get a job. I want employers camped out in front of my office begging for my help in how to hire people getting out of federal prison.” [WSJ]
  • Some of the world’s biggest economies are seeing oil consumption turn the corner and even surpass pre-pandemic levels as falling Covid-19 infection rates drive a recovery in activity. Oil demand in China, the world’s top energy consumer, will be 13% higher next quarter than in the same period in 2019 before the pandemic, according to SIA Energy. Indian fuel sales extended a rebound last month, while American consumption of petroleum products just hit a record high. Europe has also just had its best August for gasoline demand in 10 years, IHS Markit said. [Bloomberg]
  • Smart people with low time-preference and good impulse control are generally just better at everything. They also tend to choose attractive, stable, and similarly smart mates, and their children carry less mutational load. Much of this is hereditary and is greatly boosted by a stable, pro-family environment. Of course, we're getting into crimethink here, so Cutler and Cowen deftly handspring to Education! as if handing out college degrees (and student loans) will turn the unstable and pathological into people like their neighbors. Not coincidentally, both men make a good living off education. [MR]
  • The US occupation of Afghanistan was rationalized based on an entire edifice of lies. At its foundation lay the lie of Nineleven. Above it towered the lie of fighting terrorism (while training and equipping the terrorists). Somewhere along the way the lie of aiding Afghanistan’s development into a vibrant, modern democracy with gender equality and other bells and whistles was added to this already stupendous structure (while the only actual development was that of the heroin trade). And, of course, overlaying all of the above was a truly staggering amount of corruption and theft. If you believe the official narrative, Osama bin Laden was a sort of latter-day Jesus who repeated the miracle of loaves and fishes except with skyscrapers, knocking down three of them (WTC 1, 2 and 7) using just two airplanes. Another of his miracles was to make an entire passenger jet, piloted by an amateur, pull some truly stunning aerobatics that no passenger jet has pulled before or since, then ascend unto heaven through a wall of the Pentagon, engines, seats, luggage, bodies and all, leaving behind a small charred opening plus a part of a cruise missile that apparently had been hidden on board and that was subsequently carried away wrapped in a tarp on the shoulders of some very nervous and displeased-looking gentlemen in office attire. [Orlov]

Rethinking Inflation

Last year our correspondent @pdxsag wrote up his notes on Grant Williams and Bill Fleckenstein's podcast interviews of Russel Napier and Lacy Hunt. I called his services, "siting through podcasts so I don't have to." Grant Williams has two new interviews on his own podcast with two guys that I already follow: James Davolos from Horizon Kinetics (he manages their Inflation Beneficiaries ETF, $INFL) and Harley Bassman (aka @convexitymaven).

First, some highlights from his interview with James Davolos:

  • [T]here’s another area that we’ve actually been working on at the firm, in some cases for 30 years, and also in particular in the past five years, which has been different areas within the commodity complex. There’s been a lot of changes compared to the past cycle. We looked at upstream producers in the commodity complex, thinking well, under an inflationary scenario they have to do well. We do differentiate fundamental outlook on these markets, which I think we can discuss later, but the biggest deficiency of these names, whether it be an upstream E&P company like a Chevron or a Barrick Gold or Rio Tinto or Vale or BHP, is that they are incredibly capital intensive, both in the sense that they have a lot of working capital requirements, and they also have a lot of balance sheet leverage to lever up an inherently low return on assets.
  • Basically what ends up happening is unless you time the cycle perfectly, you can have a really miserable experience going upstream into these companies, which should ultimately be inflation beneficiaries but very difficult to time the cycle. I think a lot of people have been hurt. Some good historical examples going back to the past peaks in these end markets. What we arrived at was a method of trying to look at asset-light ways of playing these hard asset end markets. Hard assets have been something that Murray and Steve and these guys have been focused on, as I mentioned, for decades, but particularly so in the last five to 10 years.
  • We begin with the hard asset mindset. What a hard asset is, is just simply a finite high quality asset that there is a very large base of fundamental demand for. Think land, raw land, or energy, precious metals, base metals. And there’s unique fundamentals to all of these hard asset end markets today that I think are really different from past cycles. But we begin with the premise of identifying these quality finite hard assets with a requisite amount of fundamental demand, and then trying to figure out a way to express that view in the most efficient manner possible in a portfolio.
  • What we arrived at is these asset-light companies, where they have exposure to these hard assets, but through a business model that has very little working capital requirements, has very low variable costs, and does not require and/or has zero leverage.
  • What this has created is these businesses that not only survive but can actually thrive during the down cycle. You never have the insolvency risk. You don’t have the necessity to divest core assets. And then you can compound in the up cycle. That’s why it’s a very efficient mechanism to play an otherwise volatile, precarious industry, rather than going into the higher beta, higher risk upstream names.

And then his interview (with Bill Fleckenstein) of Harley Bassman:

  • Why do rates have to go up? The Fed can keep them down. They kept them down post-World War II. Maybe that is what the plan is. They will just buy like Japan. They’ll just buy the bonds and balance sheet them and keep rates at one, one and a half. Even if we have 4% inflation, you’ll have a massive negative rate. That’s really the question here is that once you break the linkage of inflation to rates, a whole lot of things are possible. Now, the answer I think is this. Let’s say they have the three or four-handle inflation. Let’s say the Fed or the government or someone, I mean the government could do it by demanding that banks buy treasuries. They could force banks to do that because they’re regulated entities. So there’s a whole lot of ways for the government to keep rates at the current levels, if they want to. So what happens then, the other side of the balloon gets squishy, which means currency devaluation possibly. We don’t become the reserve currency of the world anymore, which seems unlikely, but whatever. There’s a whole other host of things that could play out where you keep a massive negative interest, real interest rate, which is unclear. But the usual game, if we weren’t the world’s reserve currency, we’d have a devaluation.

I've been thinking about inflation and hard assets a lot recently. "Inflation or deflation?" is a political question; you can't determine the outcome from modeling of macroeconomic variables without reference to what the people who control the central bank want.

In the past when we have had deflationary episodes, elites were much more conservatively invested. The book The Framers' Coup (see notes) by Michael Klarman (brother of Seth) says that the supporters of ratification of the U.S. constitution were creditors who were "determined to suppress state debtor relief laws and inflationary monetary schemes." 

In other words, the wealthiest colonists with political power were fixed income investors. They felt that their economic interests as wealthy people would have been hurt by inflation, and so the overriding goal of the constitution was to prevent inflation and legal abrogation of debt contracts, while also preserving the existing balance of power between north and south and big and small states.

Later on in the country's history, the rich were invested in government debt issued and also enterprises like railroads and canals that had big fixed costs and operating costs. Forget about owning equity in something that would go bust during the next panic, the old money wanted a first mortgage so they could get their principal back with reasonable interest. When money was sound, that really meant something. 

It even looks like deflationary panics were deliberate squeezes of the middle class, by the rich, who could relieve them of their assets at cheap prices at the height of the panic. In order for this to work, the rich had to be conservatively invested. 

Up until the mid-20th century, it was not even considered appropriate for trustee fiduciaries to invest in common stocks. It was only the inflationary post-war era that changed this, as limitations in trust instruments to fixed income investments became inconsistent with preserving the trust corpus.

That conservatism is long gone. Our elite - the politicians and the people who back them - have continually upped the financial risk they take as real interest rates have fallen. Now even the inner circle of central bankers with eight figure net worths are day trading to eke out more return on their capital. We just found out that the Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan was trading in and out of $FLOT, the iShares floating rate ETF, during 2020. We know that Pelosi likes to get super long the market as well. 

It always felt like someone in the Trump admin (Jared & Ivanka?) was repeatedly leaking info, trading on it, walking it back, and repeating for all kinds of economically sensitive matters. And of course Trump spent his career comically over-leveraged in the most leveraged industry of all, real estate.

As I said once, "0% inflation feels like deflation for people who have made commitments that depend on gradual currency devaluation." Remember Trump carping about the Fed and interest rates? How much of that was his reelection prospects, and how much was his own personal balance sheet?

So it starts to seem that the people in this country who make the decisions are not even interested in playing the old deflationary squeeze game because, even if their precarious balance sheets could withstand it, their political Mandate of Heaven probably couldn't. Plus, baby boomer rich are very unlike the old school rich - they do not like seeing things marked down on their net worth spreadsheet. (Every baby boomer has a net worth spreadsheet.)

If a big devaluation is going to happen, it would be best to own attractively priced assets that will grow earnings at least as fast as the currency is devaluing.

Luckily for us, a major inflationary shock is brewing at the same time that people allocating capital are under the delusion that electric vehicles have "disrupted" oil.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Guest writer @PdxSag shares his supplement regimen

[From our guest correspondent, @pdxsag. See his previous thoughts on his stack and physical fitness.] 

Since Covid hit the headlines the running gag among myself and a couple online friends has been that everything on my vitamin and supplement shelf is eventually shown to treat Covid.

The first OTC Covid recommendation was vitamin D and zinc as immune boosters, and NAC to keep the lungs clear. I thought to myself, “Wow, didn't know that about zinc or NAC. Cool!”

I was taking them based on what I'd read in P.D. Mangan'sBest Supplements for Men.” It was a pleasant surprise that they would be associated with improved immune function. As time went on, more and more of my “stack” got mentions as Covid prophylaxes: selenium, berberine, citrulline, iodine.

While it's a little bit funny, it shouldn't be too surprising. Everything's correlated. It stands to reason that the supplements that lead to strong, vigorous health are going to benefit the immune system. In fact, there is a school of thought that believes the causality mostly goes the other way: sub-clinical pathogens lead to a loss of health and vigor, which leads to the things we associate with aging. Keep the immune system strong, and good health will follow.

So, what is on my vitamin and supplement shelf? I divide it into three tiers.

Tier 1 are the supplements I categorically recommend to everyone. You really should get your diet and exercise fixed as well, but tier 1 supplements compensate for a lot of the short-comings in the modern diet. From the Pareto stand-point Tier 1 fixes 80% of your health for 20% of the cost and effort. These are my “Big 5 plus 1,” (now plus 2).

  • Omega-3: 600mg 1 or 2 times a week. I should probably double this. My wife and kids take 600mg almost daily during the school year.
  • Vitamin D: 8000 IU once a week summer, twice a week winter. I also do a Vitamin D Hammer the week before Thanksgiving. (Note: I strongly recommend you take it along side a magnesium supplement.)
  • Vitamin K2: 0.5 g once a week summer, twice a week winter.
  • Magnesium: I used to take 600 mg 2-3 times a week. I've kind of lost interest and take 600 mg once a week more recently. (I sort of listen to my body in that when I feel like I've lost interest in a supplement I don't force myself to stick to a schedule with it.) Do not take magnesium oxide, it is biologically inert.
  • NAC: 600mg 1 or 2 times a week (FDA has cracked down on this for reasons inscrutable. Sourcing is a little tough at present. I absolutely believe in it and may end up trying to source it in bulk powder form if necessary. It doesn't have a good shelf-life though. Hopefully this eases up now that other covid treatments are becoming popular.)
  • Zinc: 50mg 2-3 times a week, again not the oxide.
  • Selenium: 200mcg 2-3 times a week

Tier 2 are supplements that I don't often mention because most normal people are barely going to be able to muster tier 1. As such, there's little point in me discussing the virtues of tier 2. Additionally, most people I meet that talk a lot about vitamins and supplements are weird. It seems like they are often suffering from some sort of health problem that can't easily be distinguished from a psychosomatic disorder. I don't want to put myself in that category among my friends and acquaintances so I keep these to myself. They are important and effective, so they are definitely a part of my usual routine, even if I seldom talk about them.

  • Iodine: 300mcg daily (I mix it into the milk when I'm making yogurt which I eat for lunch almost every day)
  • Citrulline: 1 tsp daily, for vascular health
  • Collagen: 10g 1-2 times a week, for everything in the epithelium, which is a lot of things.
  • Whey protein isolate: 24g protein (5.5g BCAA's) only on work-out days; 1-2 times a week, if at all. This is popular with gym bros, which gave it a bad name in my book for a long time. However, as I have aged I have come to appreciate the body's endogenous anabolic effect get attenuated, so taking supplements that compensate for that becomes important.

Tier 2.5 are supplements I take because I've seen a lot of people talk about them positively, but I've never been quite sure they do anything noticeable. I usually take them for a while, then stop, then restart. Except for CoQ10, they are cheap enough I don't care too much that I might be wasting my money on them. If I'm wasting my money, I'm not wasting a lot of it, anyway.

  • CoQ10: 200mg 2-3 times a week, for mitochondrial health and possibly brain function
  • DHEA: 50mg 2-3 times a week, for sex hormones
  • Berberine: 500mg daily before lunch, for glucose and insulin control – insulin is pro-aging so anything you can do to attenuate insulin is good for longevity. This is probably a low-budget, lower-efficacy cousin to rapamycin. If one is old enough to pursue a rapamycin prescription that is probably the better choice. Rapamycin is not OTC, so berberine gets the nod here.

One thing to keep in mind is that as we age our bodies become less efficient absorbing and synthesizing nutrients. Tier 2.5 might be completely unnecessary for one in their 20's and 30's, of middling importance in one's 40's, and crucial in one's 50's and beyond. I also subscribe to the idea that an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure, so if I can take occasional small amounts of these supplements in my late 40's and early 50's hopefully I will be way ahead of the curve in my 60's and 70's.

Tier 3 are supplements that I don't presently take, but am considering adding them in some fashion because I see autists on the Internet whom I respect advocating them.

  • Choline: for liver health and clearing lipofuscin from neurons. These are both really important for longevity. This may end up being a tier 2 for me. Likely to gain importance supplementing as one advances into and beyond mid-life.
  • Niacin: the “flushing reaction” is my wild guess at an immune system response, which I believe a strong immune system is crucial. Probably going to be a tier 2.5.
  • Curcumin: chelates iron. Iron is the rate-limiting nutrient for many pathogens. Across the board, low iron levels correlate with greater health and longevity. Tier 2.5.
  • Lactoferrin: chelates iron, perhaps better than curcumin. It's expensive so I will need to study more. May chose to cycle this a couple times a year. It's most abundant in breastmilk, which from a first-principles stand point, speaks highly for this supplement.
  • Quercetin: another iron chelator. I had ignored this one previously because it seemed like yet another plant-based hormetic agent along side berberine and resveratrol. It has come up as a Covid prophylaxis, probably owing to its iron chelating ability. Whether it's better than curcumin or lactoferrin I have no idea. I'm not sure anyone else does either. They all seem to do the same thing. Maybe one chooses to cycle among all three, say, taking one for 8-12 weeks then switching to one of the others. Maybe one chooses whichever of the three is most cost efficient. Actually, if you really want cost efficiency, donate blood. That's free!
  • Stinging Nettle Root Extract: prostate health is pretty important to men over 50. I'm not there yet, but 50's are on the radar. While on the subject, let me say I have no intention of letting a urologist any where near my body unless I develop some sort of painful, acute condition. I believe their anti-cancer diagnostics are counter-productive. The nonagenarians I've known personally I cannot imagine allowed a proctologist anywhere near themselves either.
  • Fenbendazole and Ivermectin: On the same day I sat down to begin writing this post a mutual on twitter hypothesized that the over-reaction to ivermectin by the Chekas in the mainstream media might go deeper than Covid propagandizing. Ivermectin and fenbendazole are in the class of drugs, anthelmintics, which are quietly being studied for their anti-cancer properties. Prior to Covid I had actually heard of fenben and had it in the back of my mind as maybe something to take once a year as a cheap cancer prophylaxis for me and the Missus. As I said, an ounce of prevention... Seeing the gross over-reaction aimed at ivermectin piques both my skepticism and my orneriness that now I'm thinking these anthelmintics are, in fact, important enough to be serious about taking.

In closing, please be aware I'm just a humble guy with an audacious goal (another post for another time) that is skeptical about everything. If it were easy everyone would do it. If it were obvious we'd know it by now.

I've never met anyone that roundly beat Mother Nature and Father Time through sheer force of pharmacological will. My guides are the Pareto Principle: 80% of the results come from (read: can be had for) the first 20% of your cost and effort; and an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure. Almost anything you do is going to put you an order of magnitude above and beyond the average these days. You don't need to over-think it.

You definitely should not be worrying if you're doing it right. There is no right. There's only do no harm.

Be mindful of how your body feels. Do those things that feel like they make a positive difference. Maybe especially if they make you feel a positive difference. At the same time, be skeptical and don't let marketing materials sway your judgement. The supplement industry if full of snake oil and broken promises.

In the early 90's there was a hugely popular management book that introduced the concept of the technology adoption life cycle. It was "Crossing the Chasm," by Geoffry Moore. Briefly, its premise was there are innovators that are on the bleeding edge and don't care -- in fact, rather enjoy -- getting cut as it's the proof of being first and in front. Behind them are the early adopters that sift through the stuff that actually works and solves real-world problems. Even further behind them is a fickle mass market that adopts the Big Winners but almost never based on merit alone. That dislocation between what the early adopters embrace and what makes it into the mass market they called the chasm, hence "Crossing the Chasm."

I try hang out and among the early adopters to see what works for them and ought to make it to the mass market, if the mass market operated on merit. (Anthelmintics are a perfect example here of merit being insufficient to cross the chasm.) On the other hand, it's not lost on me that I am inserting my judgement as to merits and what passes them, a fraught exercise to be sure. Which takes us full circle to my original statement: be humble. Also known as strong convictions, loosely held.

Good luck and I wish you well.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Sunday Night Links

  • If seed oils are not officially proscribed by the FDA, Frito-Lay will pump you full of seed oils. If the food scientists raise the alarm that seed oils are disrupting our endocrine systems & making us feeble & bloated & androgynous, Frito-Lay will determine whether this creates a risk of bad PR or litigation that outweighs the losses from switching to a less-profitable oil. [extradeadjcb
  • Psychiatry is a load-bearing structure in the Western liberal order. There are lots of things that might fit into your model of sexuality once you’ve accepted the principles of the Family Proclamation - but the one thing it basically has to include is this: that the Western mental health establishment is extremely wrong & intellectually dishonest about sexuality. They’ve been actively & openly laundering moral/spiritual conclusions into the “scientific consensus”, with the connivance of the news media, the other “social sciences”, etc., for decades. And once you’ve called them liars & denied their priestly jurisdiction, you open up all sorts of “settled” questions about education, institutional science, history, mass media, medicine, the legal system, etc. There’s a reason people who question this one thing tend to fall down the rabbit hole. Sooner or later, the Church will have to confront this problem, but it will be a hell of a thing - a philosophical cleavage deeper than the 1st-century Christians’ blasphemy against Roman paganism. Our disagreements with the American Protestant consensus of the 1840s were comparatively trivial. It will eventually be impossible to hold these views & maintain a position as a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a manager - any position of authority or responsibility in which sexuality might become relevant (i.e. all of them). We’ll lose every member who is unwilling to say “the Church is right & every other Western authority is wrong”. Not only that, but without a compelling alternative epistemology, the sudden shock of losing everything that was solid & certain about the materialist worldview will drive some of our own people out into the schizo wilderness. Sources whom I will not cite tell me that the Church is preparing for this with great urgency. They are disentangling themselves from gentile financial & tech infrastructure - building parallel systems & bringing functionality in-house. They’re preparing for BYU to lose its accreditation, and thus its power as an economic catapult for our cognitive elite (not that that will matter much if we’re unwelcome in elite professions anyway). They’re preparing to lose a tremendous amount of tithing income (both due to mass apostasy, & the destitution of the Saints) without interrupting the work in the temples. They’re buying lots and lots and lots of farmland. [extradeadjcb]
  • Leftism is a pathology caused by the alienation from nature that technology allows. Leftists, the world over, are urban rather than rural, coastal rather than inland, young rather than old. The more alienated you are from the natural world, the more likely you are to be a leftist. Leftist impulses are actually very compelling if you assume nature is optional, or that it has been overcome. Wealth for everyone. Equality for all. Every last child is a genius. Universal basic income, free healthcare. There are no constraints, no practical problems. The people who aren’t leftists, are the people who understand what a bitter fight every last inch of progress actually is. Farmers, weight lifters, rank-and-file soldiers, many endurance athletes, many engineers, even (yes I promise) serious, honest academics. The para-religion at the heart of leftism is the belief in an eternal progress that you have to be on the right side of. This progress has long been slowing, and is now more or less over with. And now that it is over, you can see it with your eyes: leftism is dying. [eugyppius]
  • Honest question: what’s harder — landing on the Moon, or faking the Moon landing and getting everyone involved to keep the secret for 50 years? What’s the easier scam? Tricking a dozen senior military / intelligence commanders into paying you a billion dollars for bullshit, or getting a dozen senior military / intelligence commanders together to realize a billion dollar plan while pretending to be bullshitting? We’re really supposed to believe Elizabeth Holmes conned the Joint Chiefs and they just shrugged and moved on because they were embarrassed by it? [M Mabeuf]
  • There are two paths for a bedside nurse in the COVID era — keep working for a hospital or go work for an agency. Agency pay has gotten ridiculously high, so more and more nurses are quitting the local hospital, signing on with the agency, and then going to work for any hospital that can pay the agency’s rates. In exchange for going wherever the highest bidder is, they get huge increases in their take-home pay. No shame in that. The net effect, I suspect, is that the bargaining power of nursing labor is going way up, though with unequal gains; to benefit, you have to quit your hospital-employed job and be willing to go wherever the agency sends you. And then your open slot gets backfilled by another agency nurse from somewhere else! It’s a reinforcing cycle: As nursing shortages rise, nurses increasingly “work short” — i.e., caring for more patients per shift than is reasonable — or work more shifts per week than typical. That daily stress spurs many nurses to either leave the bedside for something more 9-to-5 (think outpatient clinics) or jump into travel nursing to at least get paid for the extra load everyone is being forced to bear right now. Agencies and travel nurses win, hospitals and hospital-employed nurses lose. You could also tell the story that the labor supply of nursing has historically already been constrained (though of course now more so), and that nurses have historically been underpaid from a supply-demand perspective, and that now it’s a more liquid market (with agencies acting as market makers), so the price for labor is rising. [MR]
  • In his book “The Rise and Decline of Nations,” Mancur Olson suggests a theory for why the Great Depression was so long lasting. (And why the current depression has been, too.) He thinks of the economy as having "fixed price" and "flexprice" sectors. The fixed price sector has monopoly or oligopoly prices set by either government, union, or collusive/cartel combinations. Fixed price also applies to raw materials with prices set by world markets. As with any collusive scheme, the cartel members in the fixed price sector benefit from abnormal profit while society suffers from below-equilibrium output. The flexprice sector is where prices are set by the free market, i.e. industries and sectors that are not just a racket being perpetrated. Macroeconomic discussions usually posit a free market with prices that adjust dynamically according to demand. But during deflationary episodes, the fixed prices in collusive sectors do not adjust downward and consequently become absurdly high, resulting in falling demand and then falling production. [CBS]
  • There I am in the lecture room with a couple of hundred med students. Our lecturer is preparing us for the clinic. Specifically, he is talking about surgery. All of a sudden, something I had never heard before pops up and out of his mouth. “500 mg of Vitamin C given before surgery will speed wound-healing”. Yeah. He said that. I was surprised. So, immediately I did what I have been known for over the years: I asked the pointed question nobody else seemed to want to ask. “Does anybody use Vitamin C before surgery to speed wound healing? I ask because I have never heard anyone ever talk about it.” Answer: “No.” A real “WTF” moment, if there ever was one. I mean, wound healing is one of the most important aspects of recovery from surgery. Infection is exactly what you want to avoid. So, if you could speed up wound-healing with low-toxicity Vitamin C, why would you not do it? [Contrary Warrior Health Blog]
  • I first took choline because I had misinterpreted Adelle Davis’s book on vitamins. I thought I needed high choline levels to balance out the B-complex I was taking. What I noticed, however, was that my concentration and memory improved. I was under a lot of stress at the time, unemployed and without a good place to live. Then, one day, I read how additional choline on the level of 3 grams given to MIT students improved their memory and recall of stuff without a particularly strong image or association. So, what I had observed in me was valid. Eventually the new “improved” choline, choline chloride, a liquid, came out. Choline chloride causes far less GI tract disturbance. Choline pills are choline with the carrier “bi-tartrate”. That’s what can cause gastric disturbance. Nowadays, I can’t find choline chloride, so I take the bi-tartrate form in several small doses a day. When I was living in Italy and wanted to make a good impression at, let’s say, a dinner with my Italian, I would take 3 grams of choline and some Hydergine or an extra cup of coffee. Wow! Really worked. Now, I find that my memory and my short-term memory, in particular, NEED choline or I will just sit there with a blank mind trying to hunt down that apparently forgotten item. [Contrary Warrior Health Blog]
  • Ivermectin proved to be even more of a ‘Wonder drug’ in human health, improving the nutrition, general health and wellbeing of billions of people worldwide ever since it was first used to treat Onchocerciasis in humans in 1988. It proved ideal in many ways, being highly effective and broad-spectrum, safe, well tolerated and could be easily administered (a single, annual oral dose). It is used to treat a variety of internal nematode infections, including Onchocerciasis, Strongyloidiasis, Ascariasis, cutaneous larva migrans, filariases, Gnathostomiasis and Trichuriasis, as well as for oral treatment of ectoparasitic infections, such as Pediculosis (lice infestation) and scabies (mite infestation).14) Ivermectin is the essential mainstay of two global disease elimination campaigns that should soon rid the world of two of its most disfiguring and devastating diseases, Onchocerciasis and Lymphatic filariasis, which blight the lives of billions of the poor and disadvantaged throughout the tropics. [Ivermectin, ‘Wonder drug’ from Japan]
  • America's departure from Afghanistan is a watershed moment, an irrevocable split between America the mighty and America the decadent. Much like in 406, when a fetid Rome could not stop the Germans from crossing the Rhine, America cannot stop its long slouch to the grave. If America had done the sensible thing, if it had shunned the advice of all its 'expert' advisors and set aside all moralistic qualms about its role in Afghanistan, if it had given up on the idea of nation-building, it might have scored a few successes. America could have filled a niche, much like the British Empire had in India, of being brutal but respected. The dusty hills of Afghanistan have played stage to a thousand ethnic rivalries: Pashtun against Tajik, Sunni against Shia, and so on. If America had entered Afghanistan with the notion of maintaining order above all else, the Afghan herder might have said to himself, 'Those Americans are brutal but they're fair. They don't favor Pashtun or Tajik. They keep the village fed and the trains running on time.' With this approach, America would not have been loved, but it could have been respected. It could have become the nation's strongest warlord, a king in a nation of petty fiefdoms; a suitable Douglas MacArthur type could have been earmarked for worship and tribute. But America wasn't content with law and order. It wanted liberation. And liberation meant education. It wanted to build a nation from the ground up - the Afghans be damned. America brought with it all of its neurosis and disorders and foisted it on the Afghan population. The rainbow flag, the transman birthing a child, woman bankers, no-fault divorces, social media, pornography, racial discord, liberal nihilism disguised as toleration - and so, America became a great unifying force for the Afghans - only not as America intended. The Afghan, in his barbaric simplicity, could not help but look at America and see it as a decadent and depraved society: he had always been told it was the Great Satan, and so it was. Even America's allies in the region despised America. How could they not? Even many Americans despise what our country has become. America had two decades to change tactics, to shift its focus to matters more temporal than spiritual, but America refused all opportunities. We are a theocratic empire more didactic than the Taliban. Our dogmas are plain: sexual, civil, and spiritual disharmony in all matters, a nihilistic defiance of mother nature and her laws at every turn. The Afghans were right to see us as their mortal enemies - America is the enemy of all people with genuine convictions. [@fritzpure]