10 Weekend Reads

Spring has Sprung! Before you go out to enjoy that delightful warmer weather, pour yourself a hot mug of Major Dickason’s Blend, and enjoy these longer form weekend reads:

• Disney’s $1 Billion Bet on a Magical Wristband (Wired)
• A Sucker Is Optimized Every Minute (NY Times)
• Funds Run by Robots Now Account for $400 Billion (Bloomberg)
• Inside Graphene City, Birthplace of a Wonder Material (Vice)
• How luck works (Aeon)
• The Little “Fighter” That Couldn’t: Moral Hazard and the F-35 (John Q. Public) see also DOT&E Report: The F-35 Is Not Ready for IOC and Won’t Be Any Time Soon (Pogo)
• 26 charts and maps that show the world is getting much, much better (Vox)
• The Hunting of Billie Holiday: How Lady Day found herself in the middle of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics’ early fight for survival. (Politico)
• Gone in 30 Seconds: Motorcycle Thieves, Stunt Riders, and One Wild CHP Sting (Los Angeles Magazine)
• The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous: Its faith-based 12-step program dominates, but the central tenets of AA doctrine have been debunked (The Atlantic)

Checkout our Masters in Business interview this week with Mebane Faber of Cambria investments.



Venture Capital “First-Funding” Density

Source: Brookings




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  1. Seaton commented on Mar 21

    After reading both articles about the F-35 JSF, it amazes me how this isn’t on the evening news daily. Oh, sure, mislead the populace about the latest race issues, wring hands and poke fun at anyone that’s having fun at others’ expense (race jokes/songs/slanderings/schadenfreude, etc.), but ignore the billions upon billions that is being sucked-up and wasted by the military-industrial complex.

    Thanks, BR, for bringing it back to my attention. And politicians happily/gleefully point out that the poor and unfortunate are the premier wasters of money—shameless. Eisenhower was right!

    Additionally, Nice Kings Theatre photos, sounds like it was a lovely concert.

  2. ilsm commented on Mar 21

    On the F-35. The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation report is rather long and purposefully avoids a conclusion. They don’t want the congress to ‘send in the clowns’.

    Note: they are reviewing late, incomplete and possibly irrelevant “operational utility” testing of 3 versions, which are not restricted to any of the 3 models of F-35. That means F-35 can be in at least 9 configurations which have to operate in a world where the adversary won’t fight the way the $1400B airplane is configured.

    If any of the F-35 configurations could do anything that is useful.

    What is between the lines in the report is: operational utility is asymptotically near ZERO!

  3. idaman commented on Mar 21

    They wrote the exact same things about the F16, The Apache attack helicopter and the A-10 warthog armor killer.

    Remember when we shocked the world with our advanced technology during the Bosnia conflict? Especially our allies in Europe and the Chinese. We had leapfrogged everyone.

    More than anything else in our budget, we need to nurture advanced military technologies. China is looming and we need to be ahead. Think forward 20 years.

    • ilsm commented on Mar 21


      New super technology for the F-35 was paid in the first $5B, after that nothing technically exciting, just hundreds of billions tossed away trying to get something usable from that $5B of “super techie” ideas.

      That the taxpayer was ripped off in the past makes no reason to repeat the rip off it with the F-35 today.

      The F-16 and AH64D remain expensive abominations. By 1983 the F-16 had experienced 40 crashes resulting from engine shutdowns similar issues DOT&E write about for the F-35. AH-64 a couple crashed in Kosovo, Apache was shot down too often in Iraq 2003-4. While the A-10 did come along, it never had the uses it was built for.

      Initial Operating Capability is defined by the Marines and USAF as what they got; not what the aircraft might run into.

  4. RW commented on Mar 21

    Richard Fisher, Often Wrong but Seldom Boring, Leaves the Fed

    By far the most extraordinary and astonishing thing about ex-Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher: in spite of being wrong ex post for eight straight years in a row on pretty much everything to do with the appropriate direction of and the risks to Federal Reserve policy, he not only never changed his mind, he never lost his dead-certain iron confidence that he was right (ht BDL).

    NB: Fisher was actually not particularly interesting once you realized the bulk of his macroeconomic rhetoric focused on explaining away information that contradicted his desired conclusion(s). Tendentiousness and cognitive dissonance has become all to common among neoliberal and right-wing economists the past seven years as data series after data series contradicts virtually every single one of their economic prejudices; the only source of interest was how contorted the logic would get in attempts to explain the data away.

    OTOH, for those more willing to respect data while accepting plausible alternatives or models:

    What happens when US rates rise? Three scenarios.

    In the past 20 years the Fed has embarked on three tightening cycles—in the mid 1990s, the late 1990s and the 2000s. The three cycles of rising short term interest rates met different responses from long term rates.

    These three historical episodes give us three scenarios for 2015 and beyond. ….

  5. rd commented on Mar 21

    Re: F35

    As a design engineer, I frequently have to resist external forces that want to turn designs into Swiss Army knives. Simple is generally better resulting in lower cost, quicker to design and build, less prone to failure, and more likely to be satisfactory and fit for purpose. The F35 has become the poster child for the results of specifying a complex multi-tool Swiss Army knife. Rube Goldberg came up with less complex sets of requirements than the F35 is supposed to meet. I am surprised that the Navy didn’t require it to have submarine capabilities as well as landing on an aircraft carrier.

    Meanwhile, they want to kill the A10 to make room for the F35 which has been the poster child of the merits of fit for purpose design. The A10 continues to be successfully deployed for ground support missions that it was designed for.

  6. Jojo commented on Mar 21

    Why are so few homes for sale in the Bay Area?
    By Kathleen Pender
    Updated Friday, March 20, 2015

    Real estate activity always slows in winter, but the number of homes and condos sold in the Bay Area in January and February were the lowest in seven years for those two months, according to CoreLogic Dataquick.

    The plunge in sales reflects a lack of supply, not a lack of demand.

    “On well-located remodeled homes (on the Peninsula), you could have eight to 12 offers and probably two will be at asking and the rest will be over asking. The numbers over asking could be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Jim Meader, a broker with Today Sotheby’s International Realty in San Carlos.

    The Arden, a 267-unit condo development in San Francisco’s Mission Bay, sold out last fall even though owners can’t start moving in until the third quarter of this year, said Alan Mark, president of the Mark Co.

    At the current rate of sales, it would take roughly 1.3 months to sell all of the existing homes and condos on the market in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Association of Realtors. In a normal market, more balanced between buyers and sellers, it takes three or four months.


  7. RW commented on Mar 21

    3 Factor Dual Momentum: Value, Momentum and Low Volatility (or BAB) (ht AR)

    This post looks at Factor* Dual Momentum with 3 factors: Value, Momentum and Low Volatility (or Betting against Beta). Previous posts covered 2 factors only. …

    Value and the 3 factor strategy have the highest returns over the test period. [but 3-factor has a higher Sharpe]

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