10 Weekend Reads

Good Saturday morning. Pour yourself a tall mug of slow brewed iced coffee, and settle in for our long form weekend reads:

• Post-Capitalism: We are entering a new era as disruptive change come from information technology, new ways of working, and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian. The end of capitalism has begun. (The Guardian)
• Good Advice, or Advice that Sounds Good? (Jason Zweig)
• The Rivals: Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman arrive at the University of Chicago – in 1932 (Economic Principals)
• The Misleading War on GMOs: The Food Is Safe. The Rhetoric Is Dangerous. (Slate)
• Rushing the Corner Office: This MBA Program Is for NFL Stars (Bloomberg)
• Bringing Broken-Windows Policing to a Crime-Ridden Neighborhood: Wall Street (The Atlantic)
• The Really Big One: An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when. (New Yorker)
• The history of British slave ownership has been buried: now its scale can be revealed. A new BBC documentary tells how a trove of documents lays bare the names of Britain’s 46,000 slave owners, including relatives of Gladstone and Orwell (The Guardian)
• Surgery Risks: Why Choosing the Right Surgeon Matters (ProPublica)
• Artless: Why do intelligent people no longer care about art? (The Smart Set)

Be sure to check out our Masters in Business interview this weekend with Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital.


Shake Shack Leads the Better Burger Revolution
better burger
Source: Fast Company



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  1. RW commented on Jul 18

    Ben Graham’s Value Investing vs. Fama/French’s Factor Investing

    Ben Graham and his disciples like Warren Buffett, Howard Marks and Seth Klarman have developed a system called “value investing.” Eugene Fama and Ken French developed a completely different factor investing approach which identifies “value stocks.” Although Ben Graham’s system and Fama/French’s approach share the word “value,” they are vastly and fundamentally different. ….

  2. RW commented on Jul 18

    Confederate Madness Then and Now

    A British consul witnessed the cynical process that plunged the United States into civil war in the 1860s. His observations can teach us a lot today.

  3. ch commented on Jul 18

    Certain typos of GMO corn kill insect pests that eat it by exploding their stomachs…As Human digestive tract problems become epidemic.

    Maybe it’s safe…but I’ll stick w/non-GMO corn, thanks.


    ADMIN What does your intestinal tract have in common with an insect? Do you have ANY familiarity with biology at all?

    • intlacct commented on Jul 19

      I have no knowledge base in GMO, but what I have observed in the cases of tobacco, fracking, a gaggle of pharmaceuticals, using the same stuff in Subway bread that goes into our running shoes, is as follows:

      the consumer or their advocate has to prove something unsafe rather than the purveyor proving it is safe.

      Given the dishonesty, money and power on one side of the debate it would seem to me the shoe should be on the corporate purveyors’ foot. The rule should be:

      prove it is safe and then you can purvey it.


      ADMIN: How do you prove a negative? How do you prove that something is not unsafe? Progressives mock the right for the idiocy with Climate Change. Yet you are making the same anti-science arguments they do. As our host tweeted, “GMOs are the climate change foir denialists of the left.”

    • RW commented on Jul 19

      I’m not sure where “Admin” thinks s/he is coming from here and adding our host’s putative tweet hardly improves matters.

      “GMOs are the climate change foir (sic) denialists of the left.”

      Sorry but that’s bullshit. I mean it was suitably snap and snark but climate change denialism is not in the same category as GMO resistance; e.g., the former is unequivicolly well-funded agnotology whereas the latter is considerably less clearcut.

      First, there are very good reasons to resist the propagation of GMO favorable policies and law even if some of those reasons appear dubious as scientific objections; e.g., Cooter’s comment below. Patent and copyright protections at the level Ag/GMO corporations seek is clearly monopolistic at the very least.

      Second, as a biologist and researcher (now retired), I have examined a few GMO-related studies and read formal reviews of a few dozen more and while that sample is small given more than two thousand articles in the literature no study I saw was entirely free of criticism; e.g., most didn’t involve human subjects (animal feed, mostly cattle and fowl), were not longitudinal, had weak controls or other formal problems, and/or were conducted by researchers whose primary source of income was a lab supported by an interested party.

      Interestingly the one study showing negative effects of GMOs was on pigs (an animal whose digestive system is notably similar to humans) but, unlike all the other studies which were funded directly or indirectly by the Ag/GMO industry, that study was at least partially funded by an organic food association. Ah well, it was a bit of mess methodologically too.

      Third, demonstrating a negative in the sense of falsification is rather precisely what science attempts to do and, within that context, even a single study showing deleterious effects of GMO’s, however flawed its methodology, would normally be grounds for attempted replication. Not only does that not appear to be happening AFAIK but ongoing efforts, via lobbying and so forth, preventing funding of just that kind of research appears to be an ongoing project of the industry in addition to the very well-funded push for favorable laws, limited regulation (including appropriate labeling), and other initiatives highly reminiscent of tobacco industry obfuscation from decades past.

      So, regardless of how you wish to interpret GMO production or objections to that industry, we are effectively engaged in an uncontrolled experiment involving hundreds of millions or even billions of human subjects w/o their consent or informed choice; e.g., sufficient to opt out. Science ethicists normally have something to say about that sort of thing and it is not complementary.

      Shorter me: at a minimum skepticism regarding GMO safety is rational and frankly prudent given current levels of uncertainty regarding their nutritional and ecological impact. We’re not talking climate-change denialism or anti-vaxxer twaddle here.

    • Event_horizon commented on Jul 19

      The troubling aspect of herbicide-tolerant GMO crops is very real. I know several large-scale farmers, and many of them literally soak the crops in a multi-herbicide cocktails, including Roundup. But I suppose the Slate feels herbicides are good for you…

    • ch commented on Jul 19

      Does your kids’ school have a peanut-free table or room?

      Did your school?


  4. RW commented on Jul 18

    The image of the EU as a rule-bound bureaucracy is only partly true: at the top it is often a very different story.

    Alice In Schäuble-Land: Where Rules Mean What Wolfgang Says They Mean (ht Equitablog)

    The rules that Tsipras has broken are unwritten rules that reflect the power the euro area’s creditor states have to ruin any member states that don’t do as they are ordered. Accepting such a large loan from these states in 2010 was probably the biggest mistake in Greece’s economic history. Indeed, I would bet most Greeks wished now there really had been a no-bailout rule.

    NB: In Varoufakis’s interview on his experience negotiating with the EU Troika this observation was most on point here.

    There was a moment when the President of the Eurogroup decided to move against us and effectively shut us out, and made it known that Greece was essentially on its way out of the Eurozone. … There is a convention that communiqués must be unanimous, and the President can’t just convene a meeting of the Eurozone and exclude a member state. And he said, “Oh I’m sure I can do that.” So I asked for a legal opinion. It created a bit of a kerfuffle. For about 5-10 minutes the meeting stopped, clerks, officials were talking to one another, on their phone, and eventually some official, some legal expert addressed me, and said the following words, that “Well, the Eurogroup does not exist in law, there is no treaty which has convened this group.”

    So what we have is a non-existent group that has the greatest power to determine the lives of Europeans. …

    • DeDude commented on Jul 18

      Yes for some reason the banksters have managed to convince everybody that the world will go under if society allows any of them to go under. But the fact is that if you have the right legal framework (something the banksters are fighting like crazy) then you can easily unwind the big banks without harm to anybody but the leadership, stockholders and those who had used it as a gambling parlor. When Greece accepted the 2010 deal it was exactly those people who were bailed out. Talk about moral hazard.

    • DeDude commented on Jul 19

      Sorry I forgot – moral hazard is for little people, not big banksters.

  5. VennData commented on Jul 18

    The art article is spot on.

    Art is an asset class.

  6. wrongtrade commented on Jul 18

    reading the article and then especially the comments section of “Surgery Risks: Why Choosing the Right Surgeon Matters (ProPublica)” is very discouraging, and gives insight into the magnitude of the problem of trying to improve health care and outcomes.
    The comments section is nothing but emotions and confirmation bias, with opinions depending on the nature of the commenter. For example, there were commenters who were obviously clueless and had no basis to comment, but had a very strongly held and worded opinion. There were commenters obviously knowledgeable in statistical analysis who were derided by people who had no idea what they were talking about. Some individuals who commented after a very deep dive into the statistics of the article were then criticized for either being a physician (and thus being considered part of the problem) or for not being a physician (as if we’d ever want physicians in charge of our statistical analysis!)
    America has taken the idea of equality to the point of absurdity. Now, every douche with access to the Internet for 5 minutes can spew an opinion for everyone to see, and it is supposed to be considered as valid as anyone else’s? Democracy is overrated.

    • intlacct commented on Jul 19

      Physicians ARE part of the problem. Just like we accountants who reviewed our peers’ work and found nil, why not have what we accountants, who proved ourselves corrupt enough, have: a Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. Plenty of improvements to be made – we still had the crisis of 2008 and the sale of tax indulgences by KPMG (and others), but that would be a start.

  7. Jojo commented on Jul 18

    June/July/August 2015
    The Post-Ownership Society
    How the “sharing economy” allows Millennials to cope with downward mobility, and also makes them poorer.

    By Monica Potts

    Five and a half years ago, when I first moved to Washington, D.C., for a magazine job, I rented a basement apartment in a neighborhood called Bloomingdale. The area was full of Victorian-era homes that had once been occupied by mostly middle-class black families, right on the border where the Northwest quadrant of the city becomes the Northeast. But throughout the 2000s, affordable D.C. neighborhoods with trendy-sounding names like Bloomingdale drew gentrifiers who needed low rents—journalists, creative types, entry-level do-gooders, and shift-working bartenders and baristas who occasionally had Mom and Dad’s help—and so the neighborhoods changed.

    Some days, I worked from home instead of going into the office, and I’d head down the block to the Big Bear Café, a hipster outpost where you could find everyone from the neighborhood, the old and the new, together in one place. There, we’d all spend more than $2 on a cup of over-roasted French press coffee or $5 on a breakfast bagel with ham, egg, and cheese sourced straight from farms within a 500-mile radius of the city. I was as likely to see a Generation X professional working on his or her new laptop as I was to overhear lithe young men and women in a conversation about reinventing yoga. Sitting among this particular slice of the tattooed elite—the people who are outside the center of power but at a good distance for judging it—typing away on my own computer, I could feel like I’d made it. Somewhere, anyway.


  8. VennData commented on Jul 18

    “…Enough with the slanderous attacks. @SenJohnMcCain and all our veterans – particularly POWs have earned our respect and admiration…”


    Unless it’s Bowe Bergdahl. Then by all means proceed.

    The GOP are such hypocrites. There’s no philosophy It’s all about getting the guys in there that will gut tax rates for the rich. Anyone who doesn’t see that is blind.

  9. wrongtrade commented on Jul 18

    VennData you cannot be serious in comparing Bergdahl and McCain.
    I am no John McCain fan- he is a minor intellect who has only been successful by being well connected; he stands on principal even though he has no idea what the principal is- but Bergdahl’s desertion is well documented whereas McCain’s courage under very difficult conditions is also a matter of fact.
    War is hell and it is stupid and there is absolutely no reason either of those men should have been POWs.
    Can we at least agree that the LAST thing we need is either another Bush or friggin’ Clinton in the white house?!

  10. RW commented on Jul 18

    Austerity Measures Generator

    Want to apply an austerity measure and still not sure what?
    Here is your tool…

    Sample: “Fund the Spanish banks by 9% while raising the tax for poor people by 95%.”

  11. Cooter commented on Jul 19

    The papaya example in the article proves that for profit GMO development isn’t necessary to save the world – so let’s all stop pretending that it is.

    GMOs are wrong because GMO seed companies like Monsanto forbid farmers from saving seed. Each season farmers must buy new seed from Monsanto. This reduces the diversity of our seed stock and makes our global food system more fragile. It also makes the low margin, high risk venture of farming even more uneconomic for developing world farmers who have less access to capital. Rather than buy Monsanto stock, one should buy fair trade food products to support sustainable agricultural development across the globe.

    We simply don’t need monolithic global corporations to take over responsibility for seed production. Farmers have been handling this responsibility very well for centuries and have created a diverse and resilient array of plant varieties that can be adapted to wide ranges of growing conditions. Provided Monsanto doesn’t fuck it up, they will continue to do so for the coming millennia.

    The Slate article fails to mention the development of “GENETIC USE RESTRICTION TECHNOLOGY” aka “TERMINATOR GENES” – genes that render the second generation seeds of a plant sterile. Why would humans even desire to create seeds that create sterile plants? The only reason is so a corporation can profit. If terminator genetics propagates into the wild, we could literally kill life as we know it.

    Lastly, the Slate article should have reported that GMOs destabilize global geopolitics. In fact, the US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops. It is completely irrational to try to overtake another nation’s seed supply – it doesn’t even make sense even IF you are pursuing global manifest destiny. Why would one nation wish to reduce the genetic diversity of the global seed stock by forcing another nation to adopt GMO seeds against its will?

    If we wish to feed the world, let’s tackle food waste, soil loss, and land tenure issues. Make sure to support organic farming and fair trade food so that the global economy is built upon a diverse seed stock and resilient food production systems that benefit local populations. We simply don’t need Monsanto to take over seed production – farmers supported by fair trade systems can maintain a much more diverse and productive system on their own.

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