Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday Night Links

  • This ties in to the general theory of “life history strategies”: some creatures produce large numbers of offspring but don’t invest much in raising the children, while others produce just a few offspring and invest heavily in them. Creatures which invest heavily in their children will be more evolutionarily useful post-reproduction, so we should expect them to have longer lives; creatures which don’t invest much won’t gain as much fitness by living longer. At the extreme, we see organisms which spend their entire metabolic resources on reproduction, maximizing the number of young produced, and die shortly after. [johnswentworth]
  • A remark often bandied about today is Adam Smith’s to the effect that “[t]here is a great deal of ruin in a nation,” by which he meant that it takes a much greater set of misfortunes to destroy a nation, and over a much longer period of time, than we commonly realize. It is not actually true. The Wampanoags went from dominance and confidence to a point of no return in about 55 or 60 years. Suddenly they were losing population, and abandoning old values, too. Each problem fed on the other in a dangerous process. Once a people begins debating how much ruin there is in a nation, that process is already well underway. [Niccolo Soldo
  • China-based issuers have committed – and continue to commit – fraud on a stunning scale in the United States’ capital markets. Protecting individual investors from the devastating financial impact of these frauds requires a profoundly different policy and regulatory approach. That is because the U.S. and PRC legal systems are fundamentally incompatible with one another. The root cause of the extensive fraud by China-based issuers is the riskless reward China-based fraudsters enjoy when harming U.S. investors – i.e., the knowledge that our regulatory bodies are unable to inflict any meaningful punishments against the responsible individuals, and therefore deliver effectively zero deterrent to these criminal activities. A new attitude and approach is necessary to convert U.S.-based institutions that are currently enabling these abuses – particularly the U.S. member firms of the global auditors – into true gatekeepers who are strongly incentivized to ensure the integrity of the issuers’ financial reporting and disclosures. We respectfully submit two proposals that we believe will substantively improve the quality of audits of China-based issuers. [SEC]
  • If the chief justice is in dissent, however, the assignment power falls to the most senior associate justice in the majority. Clarence Thomas is now the most senior justice, so he will assign authorship any time he is in the majority and Chief Justice Roberts dissents.  Justice Thomas is something of an anti-Roberts. His lone concurrences and dissents are usually not incremental but adventurous, urging colleagues to break new legal ground or rethink old precedents. [WSJ]
  • People who don’t trust the government-run post office to deliver a local letter within 2-3 weeks can use this box to vote for a bigger government that will take over additional day-to-day functions within society and the economy. People who agree with Joe Biden that climate change is an existential threat to humanity can, instead of walking to the end of their own driveway and putting the flag up on their own mailbox, drive a CO2-spewing vehicle to/from the ballot drop box. They will, of course, vote for bold government action to cut CO2 emissions! [philg]
  • The complaint alleges that the State made a back-room deal with Philip Morris, the largest U.S. seller of premium cigarettes such as Marlboro, to fix cigarette prices at premium levels, effectively eliminating competition from discount cigarettes which have increasingly taken market share from Philip Morris. In return, Philip Morris agreed not to oppose the proposed cigarette excise tax increase of $1.10 per pack. Proposition EE would nearly double the price of cigarette brands sold by discount manufacturers, creating an unfair burden on value conscious Colorado consumers. Furthermore, only about half of the state-imposed price increase would flow through to the State Treasury. [EDGAR]
  • The American Heart Association (funded largely by manufacturers of polyunsaturated cooking oils) trumpets this conclusion as evidence that foods rich in saturated fats and cholesterol should be avoided for health reasons. Doctors, egged on by their Big Pharma patrons (read Dreamland by Sam Quinones for an excellent insight into just how deeply Big Pharma has corrupted our healthcare system), prescribe statins and other harmful medications to lower total cholesterol levels without differentiation between good and damaged lipoproteins. I can tell you that in a clinical setting, statin prescription always results in near-instantaneous declines in strength and overall health. Cholesterol-reducing medications are, in essence, euthanasia drugs. [Benjamin Braddock]
  • We are constantly bombarded with useless jargon from pundits and losers who look like they haven't seen the sunlight in several months. People with bags under their eyes from never-ending leering at the blue light emitted from their computer and phone screens; their bodies loosely resembling a malnourished ghoul that crawled out from under a sink hole in a lithium-ion waste dump, held together and powered by Ritalin and iced coffee. I look at them and think—what insight could these people possibly have to offer me? They are clueless! These people have no credibility, because they don’t pass the most important test. These people don't lift. They aren’t on the daily iron grind. They don't hit PR’s. They haven’t developed the unceasing hunger of progress like lifters have. Lifters put more weight on the bar, perform more reps, practice progressive overload—this is the true progress which shriveled up laptop progressives don’t understand. [Dark Iron Gains]
  • The young Alaska biologists of the 1970s who believed that wolves were good have been replaced by a new generation of young biologists, and some old ones, who believe that wolves must be intensively managed if their prey are to have a chance of surviving in greater than minimal numbers. And that's among the reasons why the pendulum in Alaska appears headed way, way back -- all the way back toward territorial days, when wolves were pursued with a vengeance. [link]
  • This is a very American story: a ship carrying goods from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico for Wal-Mart (including fructose in tanks to give them diabetes). The ship was owned by MBA types in Seattle, by people who had never done the job of a ship captain. My theory on this is that people who have not done the job they are asking someone else to do are unable to tell if their employees are lying when they say they cannot do something. The way they deal with this is to just demand an outcome and then see what happens. The type of person who is an employee (not entrepreneur) does not understand this tactic and desperately tries to do the impossible. So, under pressure to meet the schedule, the master of the El Faro sailed this forty year old rustbucket right into a hurricane and killed everyone on board when it sank. In the review of Exit 13A, we talked about John T Reed's writing, what organizations will ask people to do, and how they obtain the leverage to hurt their employees. In the context of the El Faro, the high agency person would lay down the law with the suits in Seattle and refuse to sail into a hurricane. (And also refuse to sail a rustbucket or work for shipowners who wouldn't think to cannibalize a sister ship for parts before it is scrapped.) But the real work of avoiding a situation like that happens long beforehand. Many people are not able to refuse an illegal or dangerous order because they can not live below their means and build up a surplus that would sustain them while being in between jobs or making a transition to entrepreneurship. [CBS]
  • Here's a mental inversion technique that will help put it another way - let's say you were the CEO of a new oil company that was being founded on Monday. If you were offered the chance to borrow $100 million at 40% interest to drill TMS wells, would you? As a distressed investor I see far too many managements go for broke rather than taking steps to save the company when storm clouds are gathering. [CBS]

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