Friday, February 27, 2009

How not to Govern

California (RealClearMarkets).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

PSA: Don't open PDF files if you aren't absolutely certain of their origin...

For people who use any version of Adobe acrobat reader. I don't usually forward this stuff, but I figure that given how ubiquitous PDFs have become as part of my web experience, and it's an exploit that Adobe is trying to fix, hasn't yet but is pointing out people are already taking advantage of the weakness "in the wild"... From InfoWorld:

"You have the choice of small loss in functionality and a crash versus your systems being compromised and all your data being stolen," the organization wrote. "It should be an easy choice."
Well, yeah.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thinking about making the Jump to becoming an Entrepreneur?

A backlog of links to post about is building up but I thought this link was important/interesting enough to pass along now (WSJ): So, you want to be an Entrepreneur...

I'd say it seems pretty accurate. The reality is that some people don't have a choice, but it's still useful to know what you're getting into. It's something that I'd recommend (probably not to everyone) but obviously besides the potential for tremendous financial reward, there's also the knowledge that nearly every economy/society is made by entrepreneurs.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Random Quote

"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis." - Dante Alighieri (via Overcoming Bias)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Them's fighting words...

Echoes from the past that ring true today as much as they did then. Milton Friedman's reminder: the true liberals who strive for change are not what we today call "Liberals" - but the economic "conservatives" of the world. The original state is one of government control. Economic conservatives may have lost the war of words but the war of ideas is not only being fought but won within the context of time.

Economic liberty is not only morally right, but it's the only alternative if we seek an end to absolute poverty. Hearing the economic ignorance of politicians butchering the case for free markets who supposedly represent the "right" is depressing. It's refreshing to listen to those like Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman who continue to possess a moral clarity, eloquence and consistency of purpose that is missing today.

Milton Friedman on the moral imperative of economic freedom and why our friends of the left consistently end up hurting those they they want to help:

Reagan paraphrased: There is one way to guarantee peace - "and that's surrender." (h/t Club for Growth)

Random Thoughts

I'm still hacking through the collections and processing phase of GTD, but I'll postmy summary notes soon. In the meantime - a few very random thoughts for the end of the day (TGIF):

  • If you use a good hands free and wireless phone at work (and especially one that has noise cancellation), at some point you'll give into the temptation not to call someone back and instead tinkle while you're still on the phone (though there's always the danger of forgetting to go back and flush).

  • "My Life Would Suck Without You" is a stupid and inelegant name for a song. The very least Clarkson could have done was shorten it to "Without You". It's almost embarassing to tell people that I like the song because I have to repeat the name. Catchy song though.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Issues on which Economists can find Agreement

The recent debate on the US stimulus package have been clouded by partisan economists bickering back and forth. Greg Mankiw notes that there are a great number of issues on which they agree:

  1. A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%)
  2. Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93%)
  3. Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90%)
  4. Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90%)
  5. The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90%)
  6. The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies. (85%)
  7. Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises. (85%)
  8. If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85%)
  9. The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. (85%)
  10. Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84%)
  11. A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy. (83%)
  12. A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers. (79%)
  13. The government should restructure the welfare system along the lines of a “negative income tax.” (79%)
  14. Effluent taxes and marketable pollution permits represent a better approach to pollution control than imposition of pollution ceilings. (78%)
Unfortunately, some politicians seem insistent on believing they know better (NY Post).

The Secret of Successful Kissing? Drool

Just in time for Valentine's Day. Via Instapundit who, in linking to Popular Science, says "and, really, isn’t that the first place you’d go for kissing advice?":

Can drooling make you a better kisser? Scientific evidence suggests that wet, sloppy smooches pack a bigger biochemical punch than dry kisses and thus may be more likely to lead to sex and reproduction, says Rutgers University researcher Helen Fischer, who spoke today at the AAAS conference in Chicago.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Do Entrepreneurs need VCs or Vice Versa?

According to Josh Lerner from the Harvard Business School (via PEHub), the odds of succeeding if you're funded by a VC are actually a bit better than 1 in 5, and further, while you tend to perform better when backed by a VC the first time around, it doesn't really matter when you get funding.

As a side note, there are times I think it's unjust the level of pay finance professionals make relative to the risk and returns of the entrepreneurs they fund. On the other hand, maybe it's justifiable given the leverage they use (though shouldn't that accrue more to the actual people who hold the capital?) - and at least this study shows that in some cases they do add value. But maybe the pendulum is swinging the other way. Being an ex-finance guy with a continued keen interest in private equity, I'm not sure how I feel about that either. Despite the recent hiccups, I suspect the long term trend is that ideas will be paramount - and essentially that capitalism won't require you to have capital yourself. If you have a great idea, it'll become easier and easier to get funded - and as a corollary costs will fall.

So um, tell us what you really think...

via Paul Kedrosky, Lueo Ping, China Regulatory Commissions on the Stimulus/TARP package (Financial Times):

We hate you guys. Once you start issuing $1 trillion-$2 trillion [$1,000bn-$2,000bn] …we know the dollar is going to depreciate, so we hate you guys but there is nothing much we can do.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The US Bailout, Historical Revisionism, and Context

Brink Lindsey (author of Against the Dead Hand [Amazon]), writes why Paul Krugman should be careful of what he wishes for (Cato). Examples of effective "stimulus" are difficult to come by (Commentary Magazine). History is littered with examples of stimulus gone horribly awry. Perhaps that (among a few other non-stimulus related reasons) is why the "stimulus" package, is being rushed through Congress?

I inadvertantly ended up watching President Obama Monday night, and two things surprised me: first, the idea that he essentially thinks there is an economic consensus on the New Deal in that it helped (I'm guessing his economic advisor Christine Romer [WSJ] would disagree with him), and secondly, that he's in favor of experiments with charter schools (though this was an off the cuff remark and this may change depending on how much he needs the support of unions going forward). What bothers me most however, is the lack of focus on the longer term competitiveness of the US if the increased borrowing leads to higher interest rates for the next decade - crowding out private investment - and doesn't even address the real underlying issue (Forbes). This does not bode well for capital intensive businesses.

Given that economic downturns make it more politically expedient for blame to be shifted to foreign trade, it bears noting that the trade deficit has dropped to its lowest point in 6 years (AP/Yahoo). As is predicted, there's a proportional relationship between trade deficits and economic growth (Cato) - and it also bears reminder that the last time the US government tried to do something substantive about it, there are those who point out it may have lead to the Great Depression (US State Department). Succeed or fail, I believe the decisions that President Obama makes and has made in these few weeks may be his legacy. I'll go on the record that unfortunately, based on what he's done to date I believe it will be a failure. Given what I do depends to a fairly large degree on the strength of the US economy, I also hope that I'm wrong.

Update via Reason: I get the sense that the only people who may end up being happy about this package may be Republicans, given how much Democrats will "own" the results of the package. As Veronique de Rugy points out, even the supposedly non-partisan Congressional Budget Office believes the current stimulus package as it stands will result in lower long term economic growth - little wonder, given the list of initiatives of where the money is going to be spent.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Autism, the Measles Vaccine, and Fudging Science

Another discredited paper in "peer-reviewed" Lancet (Times UK):

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.
The Lancet gained notoriety publishing a paper that claimed "Iraqi civilian deaths at more than 2% of Iraq’s pre-war population, around 655,000" (HotAir) that has also been not only disproven but ridiculed. As Glenn Reynolds asks, "Who do they use for peer review? Michael Moore?". More here.

In November, TierneyLab (via Instapundit) cited an NIH study on weight loss research found that "quality of data was significantly better in industry-supported research than in nonindustry-supported research, particularly in studies involving drug treatments". Small reminders that research that isn't funded by industry is neither incorruptible nor infallible, in fact, it turns out research funded by corporations may actually be "significantly" better.

"Incompatible with a free society"

That would be Mark Steyn's apt description of the Ontario Human Rights Council - a quasi judicial council that has the power to take away your freedom of speech, institutionalizes racism and sexism and arbitrarily decides guilt and innocence. Fascist in the true sense of the word. They even have the government sufficiently cowed into not "firing them all". Those who truly need help deserve better. Canadians deserve better.

More here.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Funny, sad and probably true

PJ O'Rourke's reminder that while markets can fail, governments are far worse (h/t ASI):

Bringing the Government in to run Wall Street is like saying ‘Dad burnt dinner, let’s get the dog to cook’.

Greg Mankiw on Protectionism and the Yuan

From the NYT:

Just before his confirmation as Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner turned up the heat on the Chinese regarding the dollar-yuan exchange rate. President Obama, he said, “believes that China is manipulating its currency. Countries like China cannot continue to get a free pass for undermining fair-trade principles.”

Like many economists, I cringe whenever I hear the term “fair trade.” It is not that I am against fairness — who is? — but the word “fair” is so amorphous in this context as to defy definition. Most often, the slogan “fair trade” is little more than a rallying cry for protectionism.

[...] The loss to American producers comes with a gain to the many millions of American consumers who prefer to pay less for the goods they buy.

[...] when the Treasury secretary complains about the undervalued yuan, his message to the Chinese boils down to this: Stop lending us money.
Mankiw makes the obvious point that Geithner's comments are wholly absurd as the US works to 'achieve' the biggest deficit in the world. Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Anger Management Machine

I've been sorting through my 2721 "starred items" from Google Reader as part of the collections / processing stage of GTD and thought this was somewhat appropriate for the times (h/t Core77):

A Couple of Management Tips

Two useful 5 minute reads from Harvard's Business blogs:

  • How to Manage People in 15 minutes a Day - Quick things you can do that will make you a better manager though tweaking required depending on your cultural and organizational context (ie might not be as easy to apply some of these ideas in China as they are, nor are they as relevant in a factory line environment). As an introvert (INTJ by the way), I think some of these things, while they might come naturally to others, are useful reminders.
  • Why doing things Half Right gives you Better Results - A bit of link baiting I think and not the real point - which is that when you make forms/processes too rigid (and the author defines this as being "perfect") things tend not to work as well. A good follow up question in selling an idea or product is to always ask the question "why won't this work for you?"

Sunday, February 01, 2009

One last pic of Kali

I've been brooding, procrastinating and remembering today. I was thumbing through some of the pics I've taken of her and I thought I'd share one last one. I've been remembering the countless hours of trying to convince her the logic of peeing (and pooping) outside, the fun of smuggling months worth of treats in my luggage back for her through customs in HK then China (generally taking at least half of the space in my luggage), and going running with her in the office courtyards (or rather, her running and pulling me along).

I've been feeling a bit guilty worrying about what her last moments might have been in a Chinese kennel while also feeling a bit guilty for grieving for a dog that I haven't seen in about 6 weeks now - particularly as someone who has always believed in putting people first.

It'll be different for the staff coming back to the office later this week. In the same way, it'll be sad to return to China and finding her spot in the kitchen empty.

This is a pic of Kali when we first brought her home: