protestant hypocrisy

maybe because Romney is a Mormon he doesn’t know. He’s recently said essentially that the US must have military sepremacy over the entire earth, in order to keep the peace.  Coincidentally, in traditional Protestant lore, that is precisely the message of the Antichrist.  The Antichrist gains power on the premise of using it to promte peace, and uses that to turn the whole wold into a police state. Which uncoincidentally has been the Republican platform for as long as I can remember. 


Battleship- a marketing goof

Probably most North American kids in my age group played Battleship at one time or another.  It is a good game as far as it goes but it doesn’t lend itself to a movie script any more than Frogger or Tetris.

The only reason that I went to see it was the Liam Neeson effect- he never picks a dud and seems to make every movie work (more or less the opposite of the Owen Wilson effect).

Emphasizing the game association was a bad move domestically because if it had anything to it, it would be the thinnest movie premise ever.

Of course the script was not bad as far as it went, with some underlying messages that had merit.

I hope that the toy manufacturer fronted most of the cost of the movie since it was presented as something of an advertisement for the game. That almost certainly cost tens of millions in domestic sales.

Really there should be some more effective way to market it though, it was a good game.  I think I always won- I had this strategy of clustering boats together that always confused whoever I was playing against.


idea for end run on Heisenberg uncertainty principle

This so called principle has bugged me for a long time, a confusion of an operational limitation on one method of measurement with there being no truth of the matter about a particle’s position and momentum.  pointing out that particles also act like waves is an evasion, all waves that we see at a macro level act in a precise and mathematically predictable way. The trick to getting around the operational limitation is to change the operation. Part of that could be to create measuring scenarios where the particle will behave like a particle rather than a wave. Another is to change space and time constraints. The focus on knowing the simultaneous momentum and position immediately is a distraction. You wont know for a third of a second after the instruments make a reading anyways. The general idea I’ve got is along the lines of seeing where a particle was. You need something that the particle can trigger. You need distance to give a more accurate measure of speed and a narrow passage so that the position to the trigger must be on a line. So hypothetically if you had an alpha particle bouncing between two things that it could measurably trigger along a path that is defacto has only enough room for one alpha particle to get through, you would get a pretty good idea of both position and momentum which would tend to improve with the number of repetitions. The practicality of something like that is an engineering rather than theoretical problem.

Morgan Stanley under investigation for following the rules?

Which is the fiasco, the Facebook IPO or the aftermath?

Apparently Morgan Stanley and the other underwriters are required by law to not publish any analysis of Facebook for 40 days after the IPO and in some cases they are allowed to provide an analysis by phone.

Morgan Stanley is under investigation because they did not publish a fresh analysis and instead discussed revised analysis of the upcoming IPO over the phone with certain clients.

This is sounding closer to Kafka than to Orwell.

Welcome to the Soviet Republic of Americastan, where nobody has gone to jail for the numerous and egregious frauds that led to worldwide economic calamity in 2008 and there is no appetite or funding to pursue those persons, but a company doing what is on it’s face is its’ legal obligation becomes the top priority for that very reason.

Morgan Stanley must have tens of millions of clients.  Expecting them to get all of those people on the phone in a 2 day period is entirely unrealistic. 

Most importantly, if the company would have been breaking the law by publishing a revised analysis then it makes no sense to condemn them in the press for failing to do that.

If they do uncover some impropriety from this witchhunt or fishing expedition it won’t be because this is the most meritorious angle to pursue.

The real reason that people are mad is that Facebook set the price high enough that speculators couldn’t make tons of unearned profits.

Maybe there should be a different process, such as requiring that an institution underwriting an IPO can provide only fully publicized analysis until 40 days after the offering.  It puts the underwriters at a disadvantage, but it gives them an option where nobody can say what they did was wrong.   Putting a company in a position where they can do A or B and A is arguably illegal and B is arguably illegal just isn’t right.

Another option would be to put an absolute bar on any advice by an underwriter to anybody until 40 days after the IPO.  As long as the company can do it, they may be negligent if they don’t.  In the context of something like the Facebook IPO that could be billions in potential liability if they don’t make the fullest attempt within the law to advise their clients of the situation.   That is again an unfair situation.  They need to have an option for which there is an absolute bar to both civil and criminal liability.

Much ado about Facebook

On May 9, 2012, Facebook filed an amended prospectus dialing down future expectations for revenue, which has been available to the public.

Various institutions then did their own analysis and advised their clients of what that all meant.

They released this information apparently right before the IPO.

We should suspect that the only guy in the room with a hoodie was the one that wanted to make sure that there was full disclosure prior to the IPO.  The situation is so odd because we so rarely see conspicuous honesty such as releasing information against the founder’s interests immediately before the IPO.

I’m sure that the bankers were pretty steamed about the decision and unsubtlely suggested that Facebook take until say July to double check its’ figures and make sure they were really right.

If Morgan Stanley’s analyst released proprietary analysis of public information right before the IPO then I don’t see any impropriety.  There is no duty to make proprietary analysis of public information publicly available for free.

That late release could be a little tricky and has the danger that if there was somebody that Morgan Stanley had a contractual or fiduciary duty to advise of the revised estimates and the information did not come to the attention of such an investor in time, they could be liable to that party for not releasing the analysis in a more timely manner.

But if the information had been released sooner it almost certainly would have been leaked to the general population.  Such a leak would probably be a breach of contract and confidentiality but somebody would, and that would have hurt the IPO. 

I don’t think that loss of the opportunity to use unlawfully disseminated proprietary information is a cause of action.

That people would not have bought at the price if they had that information is irrelevant.

The sole issue is, was the revised analysis based on any private information from Facebook that was not covered with the amended Prospectus.

It’s either literally insider trading or it isn’t. 

Financial institutions have had proprietary analysis of financial instruments which they sold privately for probably as long as corporations have existed in law.   That is about as much of a revelation as hearing that the sky is blue.  I don’t see an argument there that there is an ethical duty to provide such analysis as a free public service.

A lot of the confusion I think is caused by an appearance that the banks are wearing too many hats.  That may be true and there may be issues about conflicts of interests with existing clients but I don’t see that as an insider trading issue.

If one of the banks involved did get into an internal conflict of interest situation I don’t see how that involves Facebook.   It’s not Facebook’s job to look into whether banks are running their banks properly.

A lot of IPOs are of objectively weak companies and the initial price offerings are designed to have a ballooning price to create buzz and the illusion of strength and success.  But if you offer at 1 dollar a share and it goes to 2 dollars per share, the company and the founders are losing a dollar a share that they could have had.  The typical IPO seems designed more to benefit investment banks than the companies making the IPO.

Facebook didn’t need to engage in manipulations to kickstart ever rising prices and buzz.  Facebook got exactly what the market was willing to bear for the IPO price.  

That may be a downer for the people that were intending to get out in  days with a 25% gain as seems to happen with most IPOs, but I think that again this irregularity shows higher standards.  Facebook is the same company but now it has $16 billion in cash.   If they could have had $12 billion with a lot more positive buzz and the appearance of a rise, and the additional $4 billion went to short term stock flippers, it is difficult to see how that market manipulation would be in the interest of the company or the majority of shareholders. 

My sympathy for those who lost the opportunity to make say 25% profit for two days of doing nothing, is minimal. 

We’ve gotten so accustomed to unethical behaviour as the norm that when a company does something like make negative revisions to a prospectus before an IPO or meets its’ fiduciary duty to shareholders by charging what the market will bear at the IPO, people react like they’ve done something wrong. 

European Union creating the evil that it was supposed to prevent

In Greece we see the far right Golden Dawn giving Nazi salutes and talking extremist nonsense.  For reasons that elude me, the “New Democracy” party whose corruption and fraudulent bookkeeping was primarily responsible for Greece’s situation is apparently leading the polls again.  They have essentially engineered a hostile takeover of their country by western bankers.  If the Greeks have an iota of sense they will only vote for parties opposed to the bailout.  If the terms of the bailout are met their lives are over unless they leave the country.

Spain is degenerating into anarchy.

One of the more troubling signs though is in Italy:

In the 70s and early 80s the right wing terrorist group P2, which included much of the Italian establishment and senior members of the armed forces and intelligence communities, started bombing various places in Italy under the pen name “Red Brigades”, a supposed left wing terrorist organization that in fact existed for the sole purpose of turning voters against the left and the communists. 

P2 was supposed to have been the second out of 7 such terrorist organizations established in Western democracies.  The other six have never been exposed and should be assumed, if still existing, to be among the most serious national security threats to their host countries.

So when the press begins to start again on the fake red terror scare of the 70s and 80s I have to worry that we have to watch whether a pattern emerges which tends to justify state actions, especially if there is a move towards suppressing liberties.

The bombing of a school or a train station has no symbolic value for any left wing terrorist that might exist, it doesn’t make any sense at all as a target.  It has great significance through and symbolic value to the public in terms of supporting whatever action might be necessary for the state to suppress the threat.

The only way that a European Union which is essentially an imperialist extension of Germany can survive in the medium term is if there are friendly local governments that suppress their populations and are loyal only to foreign interests.

In the long term, imperialism will always suffer the fate of England in North America, with the Boston Tea Party and eventual violent revolution, or Gandhi’s style of revolution in India.  Both foreign and domestic support for the imperialism fails over time and eventually separation is the only solution.

The long term solution for peace in Europe is universal stability, not a rigid and artificial unity.   The treaties that make up the European Union are turning into a worse mistake than the 1919 treaty of Versailles. 

Turning to the same kinds of technocrats who created this abomination to try to save it is a compounding of the mistake and an affront to democracy.   But again, the Union cannot survive democracy. 

Convincing the public that democracy must be abandoned is a bad idea.  What happens if a party like the Golden Dawn takes power and decides to keep it?  The EU is fostering an environment in which that is more likely to occur.

We should be very concerned with the way that the international press is handling the European Union issues and especially the austerity programs.

Why is it that any proposal backed by certain politicians is automatically a “reform”?  How are policies that send economies into death spirals “reforms”?  It’s just Orwellian doublespeak.  

“Reform” has gotten away from the normal English sense of the word and now seems to mean something like “gutting your country so that foreign bankers can make money and ending democracy so you can’t do anything about it”.

Greece’s debt has increased to 165% of GDP since the start of the austerity programs.  The most devastating criticism of any program should be that it doesn’t work.  Quite apart from ideology, if a program doesn’t even do what it was supposed to do then it is utterly refuted.  You don’t need to get into abstract political debates about whether it is moral or not. 

The most successful financial reform that I am aware of was in Canada in the 1990s, when Jean Chretien and Paul Martin were working on the Canadian deficit. 

Much of the strategy was to allow the economy to grow faster than the debt.  Rather than brutal austerity programs that can send the economy into a death spiral, the strategy was primarily about growth and restraint.  I was skeptical at the time but it seems to have worked.

A somewhat successful set of economic reforms was in New Zealand in the 80s, carried out by the Labour government.  (As an aside, it is interesting that all the successes in government economic reform seem to come from the center or center-left)

My understanding is that at one point New Zealand got to the point where the government was unable to secure more debt financing although I am unclear on whether it was in default. 

While New Zealand’s recovery from that low was not perfect, contrast it with for example the situation in Greece. 

When looking for models on which to build solutions we have to look at what has worked before, while being mindful that a). each country’s situation is specific, and what works in one country might be a disaster in another, and b). this is the real world.  There are no magic solutions.  It isn’t that the left or the right know of some magic solution and aren’t disclosing it.  No perfect solutions exist.

I am unaware of any country successfully shrinking itself to greatness.  There are some success stories of countries growing their way out of economic problems.  Is there even one where gutting government spending alone has been sufficient? If the austerity model has ever worked anywhere, this would be a good time to elaborate.

Repeated Canadian governments have been criticized by the IMF, for example, for not deregulating the banking sector.  The result of this grievious oversight of the Canadians is that the Canadian banking sector went through the 2008 financial crisis without incident. 

The first step in international financial reform should be the abolition of the IMF, a pernicious destabilizing influence that lobbies governments to act irresponsibly and requires that governments funded by the IMF act irresponsibly.   The IMF are shills for economic interests that go directly against what is supposed to be their mandate.   Their money tends to be lent in a way that it cycles back to the countries that fund the IMF. 

The next and longer step should be abolishing the European Union.  The pro-Europe extremists think that what is needed is more centralized undemocratic government by Eurocrats.   This is the same line of thinking of all extremists, whether communists, Reaganomics economists and politicians, European Union ideologes or the like. 

When all of the empirical data show that the extremists’ program has taken things in the wrong direction, the answer is that we haven’t gone far enough in that direction, if we only had more “reforms” to make our communist/capitalist/bureaucratic utopia more complete, everything would be perfect.   Then when the “reforms” make the situation worse, we have to go further.  But we never get to that Utopia.  Because it’s a fools errand.

Europe needs to decide if the priority is unity or stability.  It doesn’t look like you can have both, not with their setup.  Without the damage done to Germany by the Versailles treaty, Hitler would have been seen as a village idiot and not had as much traction.  Spreading economic unfairness across Europe and across the world can’t end well.

The real tale of two Romneys

Romney is often accused of flip flopping on “social issues”, i.e. things that for the most part are as relevant to his presidency as who he is cheering for in the hockey or basketball playoffs.  His position that gay adoptions for instance are an issue for the states to decide is absolutely correct, and would be correct regardless of what his real position is.

Not least of the concerns there is that for a president to overreach on an issue only to be struck down by the Supreme Court is not constructive.

The really big ultimate issue in the presidential race is, what would Romney actually do if he were elected.

The US bureaucracy needs a major overhaul and the government and services need to be streamlined in a way that is not unlike the sort of restructuring that Romney used to specialize in.

On the surface, Romney would seem to be far more qualified than Obama to do what needs to be done.

But the next question is, would Romney do what needs to be done, or would he do something else?

There is a saying, by Stephen Covey I think, that anything that should not be done in the first place should not be done better.   If Romney were to become president with the wrong focus, there is great risk that he would focus on doing the wrong things.

For starters, how about the plan that would make an additional $2.1 trillion in military expenditures over the next ten years?  I think that the plan is something like 4% of GDP per year spent on the military, without any connection to needs.   In the present economic trough that doesn’t make any sense at all.  If that amount of money could be freed up it would make far more sense to have it go to unemployment benefits, social security or the like so the money would be immediately cycled back into the economy.

I think that a more coherent rallying cry would be something like “1% by 2021”, because even that is more than the military needs for any legitimate purpose and the nation just can’t afford military spending at anything like the present pace.  The level of military spending is paradoxically one of the largest threats to national security.  It threatens to send the nation into chaos.

If Romney is going to capitalize on his resume advantage, he first has to make more disclosure about the success of the various restructurings that he participated in, so that we can properly assess the value of his contribution, and then he has to come up with a plan that doesn’t involve right wing fairy tales. 

If he can come up with a coherent plan about how to turn around the country he’ll gain more in the center than he will lose from the loonies.

It is impossible to do that while pandering to traditional right wing interests and proposing extravagance that most voters know the country can’t afford.  Given the economic situation I doubt that many Americans feel that the number one issue facing the country is that not enough is spent on the military and foreign wars.   Yet his present message makes this defacto his number one priority.

Another recent announcement is equally infantile, that he would reduce the unemployment to 4%.

He may as well have announced that if he were elected president that every day will be sunny but there will be no drought.

The real unemployment rate, including people that have dropped out of the labor market, is closer to 33%, 50% underemployment if you factor in people that don’t have full time work.

Reducing that to 4% is not achievable in 4 years, probably not in 8, even under ideal conditions.  It probably isn’t achievable at all in the absence of commie style forced labor. 

Further, if the labor market improves, more people who are not presently seeking work will start looking again, and become part of the artificial “unemployment” statistic that only counts people who are actively looking for work. 

So if you get employment for 4 of the 8% presently “unemployed”, you will see that replenished from the pool of people not looking for work and probably still be in the 7-10% range.  The number might even go up.

The only way to make the “unemployment” stat drop to 4% is to make the economic situation so hopeless that the overwhelming majority of unemployed people don’t bother looking for work. 

That, however, would not make for a great campaign slogan.

The voters deserve better than two candidates offering smoke and mirrors and having to sort through the bafflegab to figure out who will screw the country up the least.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a politician to be ineffective.  4 years after Bush, his legacy remains largely intact.  Things are slightly better than they were but Guantanomo remains open, the war in Afghanistan continues, etc.   Obama promised change but has been more of a custodian of Bush’s legacy than anything else.  The flip side though is that the worst tyrants in history have all been very effective and historically effective politicians have been at least as effective at doing the wrong things as they have been at doing the right things.   The first rule has to be, “do no harm”.

So I think that my position for the coming election would have to be “vote for Obama, the lesser of two evils, and hope he offers Romney a position overhauling medical care or of similar importance, and hope that Romney has the sense to take it”. 

I think that Romney could be very useful in a narrow area that is in need of his expertise, but with somebody having authority to reign him in.   I’m leery of him running the place on his own.