Monday, May 2, 2022

Monday Night Links

  • "I make three assortments in fortune -- first-rate, second-rate, and third-rate fortunes. I call those first-rate which are composed of treasures one possesses under one's hand, such as mines, lands, and funded property, in such states as France, Austria, and England, provided these treasures and property form a total of about a hundred millions; I call those second-rate fortunes, that are gained by manufacturing enterprises, joint-stock companies, viceroyalties, and principalities, not drawing more than 1,500,000 francs, the whole forming a capital of about fifty millions; finally, I call those third-rate fortunes, which are composed of a fluctuating capital, dependent upon the will of others, or upon chances which a bankruptcy involves or a false telegram shakes, such as banks, speculations of the day -- in fact, all operations under the influence of greater or less mischances, the whole bringing in a real or fictitious capital of about fifteen millions. I think this is about your position, is it not?" [Alexandre Dumas]
  • The most pervasive delusion is the Halo Effect. When a company's sales and profits are up, people often conclude that it has a brilliant strategy, a visionary leader, capable employees, and a superb corporate culture. When performance falters, they conclude that the strategy was wrong, the leader became arrogant, the people were complacent, and the culture was stagnant. In fact, little may have changed -- company performance creates a Halo that shapes the way we perceive strategy, leadership, people, culture, and more. [The Halo Effect]
  • We conducted a study involving 20 bariatric surgeons in Michigan who participated in a statewide collaborative improvement program. Each surgeon submitted a single representative videotape of himself or herself performing a laparoscopic gastric bypass. Each videotape was rated in various domains of technical skill on a scale of 1 to 5 (with higher scores indicating more advanced skill) by at least 10 peer surgeons who were unaware of the identity of the operating surgeon. We then assessed relationships between these skill ratings and risk-adjusted complication rates, using data from a prospective, externally audited, clinical-outcomes registry involving 10,343 patients. [NEJM]
  • Democrats face deeper structural disadvantages and more fundamental problems with their coalition that could prove extraordinarily challenging over the near and long terms. You saw this fear bubble up when a piece written by little-known Democratic data cruncher Simon Bazelon stirred deep angst. It suggested Democrats might be “sleepwalking into a Senate disaster.” Its argument is that the 2022 and 2024 elections could produce a GOP Senate majority that’s filibuster-proof. The reason: the combination of the Senate’s right-leaning bias and Democrats’ travails with working-class voters, not just Whites but also possibly Latinos. [WaPo]
  • The Constitution gives red states a significant weapon to drain the copyright swamp, a weapon they could use at absolutely any time should they feel inspired enough. In 2020, the Supreme Court decided a copyright case brought by a photographer against North Carolina. The photographer alleged the state infringed his copyright on photos and videos he made of a shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina. The state raised the Eleventh Amendment (which restricts the power of citizens to sue state governments in federal court) as a bar against his claims. Media companies watched the case closely. In an amicus brief, Dow Jones (the publisher, not the industrial average) complained that if the state’s Eleventh Amendment defense prevailed, then the Court would “open[] the door for state-backed entities essentially to go into business for profit through the unauthorized exploitation of copyrighted material—whether as distributors, aggregators, or even purported authors of plagiarized material.” The issue was personal to Dow Jones because a California state agency had reproduced “approximately 6,700 articles taken from The New York Times, 5,400 from the Los Angeles Times, over 3,100 from The Sacramento Bee, and over 1,500 from The Washington Post” without compensation. Tragic. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of North Carolina, holding that Congress had not validly taken away North Carolina’s Eleventh Amendment immunity. Justice Breyer elaborated on the practical implications in his concurring opinion. “[O]ne might think that Walt Disney Pictures could sue a State (or anyone else) for hosting an unlicensed screening of the studio’s 2003 blockbuster film, Pirates of the Caribbean (or any one of its many sequels),” Justice Breyer noted, but “the Court holds otherwise.” [Revolver]
  • Cooper's gift in the way of invention was not a rich endowment; but such as it was he liked to work it, he was pleased with the effects, and indeed he did some quite sweet things with it. In his little box of stage-properties he kept six or eight cunning devices, tricks, artifices for his savages and woodsmen to deceive and circumvent each other with, and he was never so happy as when he was working these innocent things and seeing them go. A favorite one was to make a moccasined person tread in the tracks of a moccasined enemy, and thus hide his own trail. Cooper wore out barrels and barrels of moccasins in working that trick. Another stage-property that he pulled out of his box pretty frequently was the broken twig. He prized his broken twig above all the rest of his effects, and worked it the hardest. It is a restful chapter in any book of his when somebody doesn't step on a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around. Every time a Cooper person is in peril, and absolute silence is worth four dollars a minute, he is sure to step on a dry twig. There may be a hundred other handier things to step on, but that wouldn't satisfy Cooper. Cooper requires him to turn out and find a dry twig; and if he can't do it, go and borrow one. In fact, the Leatherstocking Series ought to have been called the Broken Twig Series. [Mark Twain]
  • Distributable Cash Flow ("DCF") was a record $1.8 billion for the first quarter of 2022 compared to $1.7 billion for the first quarter of 2021. Distributions declared with respect to the first quarter of 2022 increased 3.3 percent to $0.465 per unit, or $1.86 per unit annualized, compared to distributions declared for the first quarter of last year. DCF provided 1.8 times coverage of the distribution declared with regard to the first quarter of 2022. Enterprise retained $814 million of DCF for the first quarter of 2022. [Enterprise Products Partners]
  • It took a long time, but my study on masks has finally appeared in the prestigious journal Medicine. What is my study about? It is about whether masks decrease case fatality from COVID-19 (because less viral material is transmitted) or increase it. Increase sounds illogical? Ask yourself if you would wear the mask of a Covid patient. You probably wouldn’t, otherwise you could become infected by inhaling the viruses he or she breathed into the mask. My study, based on the U.S. state of Kansas, provides the answer: case mortality was significantly lower in counties without mandatory masks. Mandatory masking increased case mortality there by 85%. Even after factoring in the reduced number of cases due to masks, the numbers still remain 52% higher. Over 95% of this effect can only be attributed to COVID-19, so it is not CO2, bacteria or fungi under the mask. The reason for this is what I call the Foegen effect: deep re-inhalation of condensed droplets or pure virions which were trapped in the mask as droplets can worsen the prognosis. Each of these steps has been documented in the literature. This effect has now even been demonstrated in animal models. [Foegen]
  • Regarding mountaineering: you could climb 20,310' Mt. McKinley, but should you? The "Type A" variety of high agency people can fall into a trap where they do something simply because it is hard and unpleasant. So the highest peak in North America and third most topographically prominent on Earth hijacks the "success center" in their minds. Climbing McKinley costs ~$10k, takes three weeks, is crowded and dirty (Krakauer lamented in the 80s!), and runs serious risks like falling, avalanche, and altitude related injury. (It's also easy to fail to summit.) Climbing at extremely high altitude may as dumb as scuba diving. Here's an experienced climber whose friend died on Mt Shasta (only 14k'!) in California. While it would be fun to accomplish, an economist remembers that every human action competes with the universe of other potential actions. With $10k and three weeks, you could do some serious exploration of Japan, including an inn-to-inn hike between onsen with hot spring soaks and Japanese cuisine. You could live like a king for 10 days of skiing in Utah or Colorado. [CBS]

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