“It costs time and money to access a lot of true and important information, while a lot of bullshit is completely free.”

Nathan J. Robinson:

Paywalls are justified, even though they are annoying. It costs money to produce good writing, to run a website, to license photographs. A lot of money, if you want quality. Asking people for a fee to access content is therefore very reasonable. You don’t expect to get a print subscription to the newspaper gratis, why would a website be different? I try not to grumble about having to pay for online content, because I run a magazine and I know how difficult it is to pay writers what they deserve.

But let us also notice something: the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Republic, New York, Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and the London Times all have paywalls. Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Wire, the Federalist, the Washington Examiner, InfoWars: free! You want “Portland Protesters Burn Bibles, American Flags In The Streets,” “The Moral Case Against Mask Mandates And Other COVID Restrictions,” or an article suggesting the National Institutes of Health has admitted 5G phones cause coronavirus — they’re yours. You want the detailed Times reports on neo-Nazis infiltrating German institutions, the reasons contact tracing is failing in U.S. states, or the Trump administration’s undercutting of the USPS’s effectiveness — well, if you’ve clicked around the website a bit you’ll run straight into the paywall. This doesn’t mean the paywall shouldn’t be there. But it does mean that it costs time and money to access a lot of true and important information, while a lot of bullshit is completely free.

The Truth Is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free [CurrentAffairs]


August 5, 2020
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“If the shoe shine boys are buying stocks, who else is left?”

Jason Alan Jankovsky:

J. P. Morgan tells the story of how he would get his shoes shined every Wednesday at the same shop around the corner from his office. One day the shoe shine attendant asked him if he and his friends could buy some stock through Morgan’s brokerage. The three friends had about $40—a lot of money in 1929. Morgan politely refused, hurried back to his office, and ordered that his company was not to have a single share of stock on its books by the end of the day. Morgan simply asked, “If the shoe shine boys are buying stocks, who else is left?” Of course, the 1929 stock market crash was only a few days away, and Morgan looked like a genius. He was not a genius; he noted that the order flow was likely running out on the buy side. It wasn’t his army of analysts that showed him that. It was a public investor.

Robinhood day traders are the new shoe shine boys.

Time Compression Trading [Google]


June 17, 2020
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100,000

Pictured above is the front page of the New York Times today, listing some hundreds of names of Americans who have died from COVID-19.

Toward the end of May in the year 2020, the number of people in the United States who have died from the coronavirus neared 100,000 — almost all of them within a three-month span. An average of more than 1,100 deaths a day. A number is an imperfect measure when applied to the human condition. A number provides an answer to how many, but it can never convey the individual arcs of life, the 100,000 ways of greeting the morning and saying good night.

Meanwhile:

President Donald Trump was seen golfing at his Virginia club on Saturday and Sunday, marking his first visits to one of his golf properties since March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

An Incalculable Loss [NYT]


May 24, 2020
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“The shopping cart is what determines whether a person is a good or bad member of society.”

This has been making rounds on the web lately (author unknown):

The shopping cart is the ultimate litmus test for whether a person is capable of self-governing.

To return the shopping cart is an easy, convenient task and one which we all recognize as the correct, appropriate thing to do. To return the shopping cart is objectively right. There are no situations other than dire emergencies in which a person is not able to return their cart. Simultaneously, it is not illegal to abandon your shopping cart. Therefore the shopping cart presents itself as the apex example of whether a person will do what is right without being forced to do it. No one will punish you for not returning the shopping cart, no one will fine you or kill you for not returning the shopping cart, you gain nothing by returning the shopping cart. You must return the shopping cart out of the goodness of your own heart. You must return the shopping cart because it is the right thing to do. Because it is correct.

A person who is unable to do this is no better than an animal, an absolute savage who can only be made to do what is right by threatening them with a law and the force that stands behind it.

The shopping cart is what determines whether a person is a good or bad member of society.

The Shopping Cart Theory [Reddit]


May 16, 2020
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“When you listen deeply, you can start to comprehend a world of sound beyond typical reality.”

Rod Modell:

I learned quite a bit from making the earlier electroacoustic stuff. I learned to listen well. This is very important. There is a lot about this in my favorite book, The Mysticism of Sound by Hazrat Inayat Khan. So much music seems rushed. I like music that unfolds in slow motion, so the listener doesn’t miss anything. I like to show my listeners a frame-by-frame scan. Time-stretched to see the details. Pull apart the fabric of sound so you can see what’s in between the grains, and zoom into (normally) unheard realms. Musicians like to play it safe and stay in familiar waters. I’ve spent many nights sitting outside with my eyes closed, DAT machine running, dummy head mic off in the distance. Sitting and listening to the air moving. Feeling the pressure zones shift. When you listen deeply, you can start to comprehend a world of sound beyond typical reality.

Ten Questions with Deepchord and Soultek [Textura]


May 2, 2020
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“Forecasts are the real fluff and history is where the meat is.”

Morgan Housel:

Studying history can feel like intellectual candy that offers no practical use to investors who are paid to foresee the future. But once you accept how fragile our assumptions of the future are, you realize that forecasts are the real fluff and history is where the meat is.

Accepting that forecasts have little use doesn’t mean you become a blind fatalist. When you pay more attention to history than forecasts you pick up on the patterns that guide how people respond to unforeseen events, which – given how stable behavior is over time – is the next best thing to knowing what will happen next.

Forecasts rely on knowing when something will occur. Expectations are an acknowledgment of what’s likely to occur without professing insight into when it will happen.

Expectations are healthier than forecasts because they provide a vision of the future stripped of all false precision. If you know a recession will occur at some point, you won’t be that surprised whenever it arrives – which is a huge benefit. But if you assume you know exactly when it will occur you’ll be tempted into all kinds of dangerous behavior, leveraged with overconfidence. And you’ll be shocked when time passes and what you thought would occur hasn’t happened (yet).

When You Have No Idea What Happens Next [CF]


April 30, 2020
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“It’s time to build.”

Marc Andreessen:

Every Western institution was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic, despite many prior warnings. This monumental failure of institutional effectiveness will reverberate for the rest of the decade, but it’s not too early to ask why, and what we need to do about it.

Many of us would like to pin the cause on one political party or another, on one government or another. But the harsh reality is that it all failed — no Western country, or state, or city was prepared — and despite hard work and often extraordinary sacrifice by many people within these institutions. So the problem runs deeper than your favorite political opponent or your home nation.

Part of the problem is clearly foresight, a failure of imagination. But the other part of the problem is what we didn’t *do* in advance, and what we’re failing to do now. And that is a failure of action, and specifically our widespread inability to *build*.

We see this today with the things we urgently need but don’t have. We don’t have enough coronavirus tests, or test materials — including, amazingly, cotton swabs and common reagents. We don’t have enough ventilators, negative pressure rooms, and ICU beds. And we don’t have enough surgical masks, eye shields, and medical gowns — as I write this, New York City has put out a desperate call for rain ponchos to be used as medical gowns. Rain ponchos! In 2020! In America!

IT’S TIME TO BUILD [a16z]


April 18, 2020
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“What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again.”

Vincent Gambuto:

What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other, and it will come from the left and from the right. We will do anything, spend anything, believe anything, just so we can take away how horribly uncomfortable all of this feels. And on top of that, just to turn the screw that much more, will be the one effort that’s even greater: the all-out blitz to make you believe you never saw what you saw. The air wasn’t really cleaner; those images were fake. The hospitals weren’t really a war zone; those stories were hyperbole. The numbers were not that high; the press is lying. You didn’t see people in masks standing in the rain risking their lives to vote. Not in America. You didn’t see the leader of the free world push an unproven miracle drug like a late-night infomercial salesman. That was a crisis update. You didn’t see homeless people dead on the street. You didn’t see inequality. You didn’t see indifference. You didn’t see utter failure of leadership and systems.

But you did. You are not crazy, my friends. And so we are about to be gaslit in a truly unprecedented way. It starts with a check for $1,200 (Don’t say I never gave you anything) and then it will be so big that it will be bigly. And it will be a one-two punch from both big business and the big White House — inextricably intertwined now more than ever and being led by, as our luck would have it, a Marketer in Chief. Business and government are about to band together to knock us unconscious again. It will be funded like no other operation in our lifetimes. It will be fast. It will be furious. And it will be overwhelming. The Great American Return to Normal is coming.

Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting [Medium]


April 17, 2020
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“There are times in all of our lives when a reliance on gut or intuition just seems more appropriate–when a particular course of action just feels right.”

Tim Cook:

In making the decision to come to Apple, I had to think beyond my training as an engineer. Engineers are taught to make decisions analytically and largely without emotion. When it comes to a decision between alternatives we enumerate the cost and benefits and decide which one is better. But there are times in our lives when the careful consideration of cost and benefits just doesn’t seem like the right way to make a decision. There are times in all of our lives when a reliance on gut or intuition just seems more appropriate–when a particular course of action just feels right. And interestingly I’ve discovered it’s in facing life’s most important decisions that intuition seems the most indispensable to getting it right.

In turning important decisions over to intuition one has to give up on the idea of developing a life plan that will bear any resemblance to what ultimately unfolds. Intuition is something that occurs in the moment, and if you are open to it. If you listen to it it has the potential to direct or redirect you in a way that is best for you. On that day in early 1998 I listened to my intuition, not the left side of my brain or for that matter even the people who knew me best. It’s hard to know why I listened, I’m not even sure I know today, but no more than five minutes into my initial interview with Steve, I wanted to throw caution and logic to the wind and join Apple. My intuition already knew that joining Apple was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work for the creative genius, and to be on the executive team that could resurrect a great American company. If my intuition had lost the struggle with my left brain, I’m not sure where I would be today, but I’m certain I would not be standing in front of you.

Tim Cook, Apple CEO, Auburn University Commencement Speech 2010 [FastCompany]


April 5, 2020
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“The world is not going to begin to look normal until three things have happened…”

Larry Brilliant:

The world is not going to begin to look normal until three things have happened. One, we figure out whether the distribution of this virus looks like an iceberg, which is one-seventh above the water, or a pyramid, where we see everything. If we’re only seeing right now one-seventh of the actual disease because we’re not testing enough, and we’re just blind to it, then we’re in a world of hurt. Two, we have a treatment that works, a vaccine or antiviral. And three, maybe most important, we begin to see large numbers of people—in particular nurses, home health care providers, doctors, policemen, firemen, and teachers who have had the disease—are immune, and we have tested them to know that they are not infectious any longer. And we have a system that identifies them, either a concert wristband or a card with their photograph and some kind of a stamp on it. Then we can be comfortable sending our children back to school, because we know the teacher is not infectious.

And instead of saying “No, you can’t visit anybody in nursing home,” we have a group of people who are certified that they work with elderly and vulnerable people, and nurses who can go back into the hospitals and dentists who can open your mouth and look in your mouth and not be giving you the virus. When those three things happen, that’s when normalcy will return.

Read the whole piece. Excellent insight into what the COVID-19 coronavirus is and how to stop it.

The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming [Wired]


March 20, 2020
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“Since 1929, the S&P 500 has suffered 14 bear markets.”

Jason Zweig:

Since 1929, the S&P 500 has suffered 14 bear markets, defined by S&P Dow Jones Indices as losses of at least 20%. The shortest and shallowest was the 20% drop that lasted less than three months in late 1990. The deepest was the 86.2% collapse from September 1929 to June 1932; the longest, the 60% plunge from March 1937 to April 1942. On average, bear markets lasted 19 months and dealt a 39% loss.

Whatever you do in the next few months—either buy or sell—will almost certainly have an enormous impact on your investment returns in the next 5-10 years.

The Panic of 2020? Oh, I Made a Ton of Money—and So Did You [WSJ]



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“I always knew that when the end came, New Yorkers would watch it from a bar.”

Pete Wells:

I always knew that when the end came, New Yorkers would watch it from a bar. But this was not the end any of us had imagined. Crowding together, not just a survival skill but an engine of the city in normal times, was the most dangerous thing of all.

I see two possible futures for restaurants. In one, state and local governments across the country move rapidly to help them survive the closings and get going again when that’s safe. In the other, bankruptcies cascade across the economy, and people are out of work in numbers this country has not seen since the 1930s.

Will a country that is still bitter about bailing out banks and airlines in the last financial crisis be ready to bail out ramen-yas, pupuserias, vegan sandwich counters, dosa vendors and natural wine bars? It depends on whether politicians and the public see the money as handouts to people who made bad business decisions (beginning, I suppose, with the decision to get into the restaurant business) or as a triage measure that will save the life of a national industry with sales of more than $800 billion last year.

A Frantic Few Days for Restaurants Is Only the Beginning [NYT]


March 19, 2020
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“Mr. Market is there to serve you, not to guide you.”

Warren Buffett, writing in his 1987 annual letter to shareholders:

Ben Graham, my friend and teacher, long ago described the mental attitude toward market fluctuations that I believe to be most conducive to investment success. He said that you should imagine market quotations as coming from a remarkably accommodating fellow named Mr. Market who is your partner in a private business. Without fail, Mr. Market appears daily and names a price at which he will either buy your interest or sell you his.

Even though the business that the two of you own may have economic characteristics that are stable, Mr. Market’s quotations will be anything but. For, sad to say, the poor fellow has incurable emotional problems. At times he feels euphoric and can see only the favorable factors affecting the business. When in that mood, he names a very high buy-sell price because he fears that you will snap up his interest and rob him of imminent gains. At other times he is depressed and can see nothing but trouble ahead for both the business and the world. On these occasions he will name a very low price, since he is terrified that you will unload your interest on him.

Mr. Market has another endearing characteristic: He doesn’t mind being ignored. If his quotation is uninteresting to you today, he will be back with a new one tomorrow. Transactions are strictly at your option. Under these conditions, the more manic-depressive his behavior, the better for you.

But, like Cinderella at the ball, you must heed one warning or everything will turn into pumpkins and mice: Mr. Market is there to serve you, not to guide you. It is his pocketbook, not his wisdom, that you will find useful. If he shows up some day in a particularly foolish mood, you are free to either ignore him or to take advantage of him, but it will be disastrous if you fall under his influence. Indeed, if you aren’t certain that you understand and can value your business far better than Mr. Market, you don’t belong in the game. As they say in poker, “If you’ve been in the game 30 minutes and you don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.”

Ben’s Mr. Market allegory may seem out-of-date in today’s investment world, in which most professionals and academicians talk of efficient markets, dynamic hedging and betas. Their interest in such matters is understandable, since techniques shrouded in mystery clearly have value to the purveyor of investment advice. After all, what witch doctor has ever achieved fame and fortune by simply advising “Take two aspirins?”

The value of market esoterica to the consumer of investment advice is a different story. In my opinion, investment success will not be produced by arcane formulae, computer programs or signals flashed by the price behavior of stocks and markets. Rather an investor will succeed by coupling good business judgment with an ability to insulate his thoughts and behavior from the super-contagious emotions that swirl about the marketplace. In my own efforts to stay insulated, I have found it highly useful to keep Ben’s Mr. Market concept firmly in mind.

Chairman’s Letter: 1987 [BerkshireHathaway]


March 11, 2020
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“If you adopt an eating pattern that has stood the test of generations, you are almost certain to be better off than with a diet introduced as breaking news.”

Mark Bittman & David L. Katz:

The now-constant barrage of headlines about nutrition science can make us feel like we’re doing everything wrong. Some people respond by tuning out and continuing to eat what’s familiar. Others jump on the bandwagon of each thrilling new diet that promises everything. Most of these deliver temporary results from severe restrictions that no one can maintain. Rapid weight loss is followed by rapid regain, creating a desperation that makes people eager for the next promise of magic.

There is no one best diet. Good diets can be low or high in fat or carbohydrates, as long as they are made up of wholesome foods, and mostly plants. The quintessentially healthy Mediterranean diet is high in fat, most of it unsaturated, much of it from olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocado. But the famous diet of long-lived residents of Okinawa is low in fat because it is centered around diverse vegetables, grains and soybeans, with very limited meat, poultry and fish. If you adopt an eating pattern that has stood the test of generations, you are almost certain to be better off than with a diet introduced as breaking news.

We Actually Know What We Should Eat [WSJ]


March 8, 2020
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“COVID-19 is the first global crisis in the social media age.”

Morgan Housel:

This [COVID-19] is the first global crisis in the social media age. What we’ve learned from social media in the last decade is that 1) information spreads fast, 2) false information spreads fastest because it’s more sensational, and 3) tribal identities are heightened when debates take place online vs. in person, so healthy debate quickly descends to a my-team-versus-yours battle. FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” in an era when the only information source was a morning newspaper, edited and fact-checked by professionals, written by journalists who weren’t motivated by likes, retweets, or paid per click.

Corona Panic [CF]


March 3, 2020
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