Wednesday, March 06, 2013

An old story, updated

You have 2 cows.
You feel compelled to give one to your neighbor.


You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk.


You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk.


You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other and then throws the milk away.


You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.


You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.


You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyze why the cow has dropped dead.


You have two cows.
You go on strike, organize a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.


You have two cows, but you don’t know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.


You have 5,000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.


You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim that you have full employment and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.


You have two cows.
You worship them.


You have two cows.
Both are mad.


Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
Nobody believes you, so they bomb the crap out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows but at least you are now a Democracy.


You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.


You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive.

You have two cows.
They are indistinguishable from American cows.
You describe with typical Canadian modesty how much better yours are.

You have two cows borrowed from French and German banks.
You eat both of them.
The banks call to collect their milk, but you cannot deliver so you call the IMF.
The IMF loans you two cows.
You eat both of them.
The banks and the IMF call to collect their cows/milk.
You are out getting a haircut…

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

MSM: Mostly Symbiotic Media

Maybe it’s because I am now a cranky old man (You kids! Get off my lawn!!) but it seems to me that traditional media (broadcast and print) are in shameless symbiosis with the institutions they cover. You scratch my back with a story angle, I will give you access. This goes for politics, science, sports, business, whatever. It seems so shallow and selective, and it’s because those media live in fear due to their shrinking numbers. They have a lot to lose.

On the outside, where we can pursue our own interests and share what we learn as we go, theories can be test driven, stats can be crowd-sourced and analyses can be debated in virtually real time. The Mostly Symbiotic Media can’t touch that. They are left with arguing from authority.

I am waiting for one brave newspaper chain to attack the climate change cabal. The Intensely Political Climate Catastrophists of the IPCC use arguments and tactics that would get business leaders thrown in jail but which seem to get a free pass when used in the service of "saving" the planet. 

One simple example: we hear about the corrupting influence of oil money as it applies to so-called "climate deniers" but where is the investigative reporter who shows how much money is sloshing around the alarmist community, and asking what the impact might be? 

In another example, sports journalism in hockey is in danger of being left behind by advanced statistics regarding player performance in various on-ice situations. The stats guys (here is just one example) are outside the mainstream and their work is dismissed as irrelevant, yet the patterns that these analysts identify are relevant and persistent from season to season.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Buy when everyone else is selling

I follow the price of gold because gold is insurance against what governments do, debase their own currencies so that voters can be bribed with their own money.

In the long run, an ounce of gold has on average been the same as the cost of a really good suit of clothes.

In the short run, the madness of crowds sends the price of gold gyrating compared to other commodities. The chart below goes crazy around the time the US decoupled its currency from the gold standard in 1971 but the increasing volatility also coincides with various new forms of leveraged speculation in both wheat and gold.
You can't get rich buying insurance, but you may be able to avoid getting poor when the event you are insuring against actually happens.

And if you are buying insurance, why not buy it when it is on sale? Central Fund of Canada trades with the symbol CEF.A. All that CEF.A holds is a few billion dollars worth of gold and silver. When everyone wants gold and silver, there is a premium to buy CEF.A, often between 5 and 9% of the value of the bullion in the fund. Last night, the premium was 0.0%. Yesterday's figure can be found by scrolling down to Premium/-Discount at this link, which is live, so whenever you are reading this you are seeing last night's figures, not Feb 28 2013.

This is not investment advice, just an observation of a published fact.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Lessons of History (2) -- Is Progress Real?

This book -- The Lessons of History -- by Will and Ariel Durant, is well worth reading. It challenges me with historical perspectives that frankly I had no idea of and would not have troubled myself to go and get.

Today's question: Is Progress Real?  And of course, one must first decide "What is progress?" 

The Durants define progress as "the increasing control of the environment by life" and then narrow it to the individual by asking whether the average man has increased the ability to control the conditions of his life.

We may be more comfortable than ever, live longer than ever, travel further than ever. And yet, and yet...who here is going to say we have greater control than ever? 

I think we are more dependent and more naive than our parents. That's not progress.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Lessons of History (1)

Will and Ariel Durant spent over fifty years completing the critically acclaimed series "The Story of Civilization," and were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1968. 

Their short and charming publication "The Lessons of History" extracts lessons and insights from their lifelong research and presents them in highly readable essays.

A few sample chapter titles: 
  • History and the Earth
  • Morals and History
  • Character and History
  • Economics and History
  • Socialism and History
  • Government and History
  • Growth and Decay
The Economics and History chapter touches on how wealth becomes concentrated, and then distributed, over the centuries. Here is the closing paragraph:
We conclude that the concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution. In this view all economic history is the slow heartbeat of the social organism, a vast systole and diastole of concentrating wealth and compulsive recirculation.
That rings true.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

If someone told you the black line dots drive the red line...

The blue vertical lines are temperature extremes by year, in the US, since 1895.
The red line is the average temperature by year, in the US.
The black dots are atmospheric CO2 concentrations since 1895.

It's been hot. It's been cold. It's been mild, in between. 

Question 1: what's the trend? (please explain why you picked the starting point that you picked)

Question 2: does it look to you that CO2 levels are driving temperature up?

Question 3: does it look to you that CO2 levels are creating more temperature extremes?