Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Fifth Days of the Fourth Estate

A couple days ago, Bill Keller flew the Clueless flag in the New York Times. That someone does not understand anything at all about income stratification, class or basically how the United States works is no barrier at all to their being in charge of the New York Times. In fact, it's a requirement!

Given that Keller's column has been nothing but a rage magnet since the day it was launched, that's quite enough of that. Time to revisit an old rash, currently in remission, but due to erupt in oozing pustules far too soon. Megan McArdle!

It seems that, in the gap between being booted from The Atlantic & falling into a sinecure at the Daily Beast, Ms. M has taken her Permission to Suck to Italy.
Alas, she has not been with Dawn & Wilbur Weston on the reenactment of the Costa Concordia disaster. Worse: she's been sharing.

Fantastic oxtail at Checchino dal 1887, even though I was told it was "showing its age". I shall be completely spherical ere I leave Rome.

Saturday, July 28th

Favorite Stupid Italian satellite channel keeps interrupting Olympics coverage to talk about some dumb financial problem they're having.

Friday, July 27th

Favorite Most interesting conversation in Rome so far: Italian waiter who is mystified by American wine markups. I can't exactly explain it either.

Friday, July 27th

Favorite So apparently, if you leave Rome without gaining 10 pounds, you're doing it wrong.

& tons more utter crap. How can we be sure it's really Megan?
RT @attackerman: Terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics 30 years ago. The IOC won't have a moment of commemorati ...

Yep, she took her calculator.

Stupidy, apathy & corruption - which is most prevalent amongst our Elites?

That's a real question. I have no clear favorite.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Miss Kate is in the Details

In celebration of decisions made, an Oxford lass 20 years ago decided to give movies a try.

Minor stardom, major plastic surgery - you know the tale. As always, time for a sharp turn.

There has been a lot published in the last few years that makes it clear that short term, the stock markets of the world are thoroughly corrupted and exist to benefit the biggest, fastest and most ruthless insiders. Still, what other place is there to park the bits and pieces we manage to save? If you can find a solid company and share in their prosperity, that's what the whole joint stock concept was invented for all those years ago.

It's gotten a lot touger than the days when Uncle Billie was an outlier.

It is often said, and more often forgotten, that the most important part of financial statements is the footnotes. An ongoing blazingly blatant case is a royalty trust that trades under the symbol WHX. This thing was set up with rights to a well defined amount of oil. The remaining oil to be sold has been hedged. It is nearly certain that the trust will terminate in 2015, and completely certain that the total remaining payout is at most, $10.

Last week it was trading at $18. People saw the $2.86/ year payout, and valued it as though it would run forever. Many of these people ere qite upset when someone wrote up the obvious last week, and the price was halved. It rallied to $11.50 and has now fallen back to a reasonable $9.20. If you want to bet on stupidity, buy some, and be ready to bail on the next rally.

The footnotes I always found most useful are the ones on stock option compensation. Prior to SFAS 123, it was quite easy for management to award themselves options worth more than the companies annual profit. The challenge is a little steeper now, but it's still a good first place to look. If management is running the company for their entire personal benefit, buying stock is just paying tribute.

Anther thing to look for is exposure. On the up side this happens more often on little ones that aren't widely traded : There's a buyout offer. It's right there in the financials. The usual pattern is that holders who've loyally held on for years of low returns start getting offers. "Oh, we think it has some potential, and would like to hold some."

On the down side? The list of pending litigation can be longer than the rest of the financials put together. Don't worry too much, though. In American Jurisprudence, the only thing that can beat a corporation is a busload of nuns.

Nanny McPhee is not walking through that door. And if she did, she'd be old, gray & unable to dunk. Lettuce celebrate the harvest, as the drought spreads north.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Say the word I'm thinking of. What's the word? The word is

So, with all the evil & coldness going down in the world, what do we have to look forward to? (Spike, Faye & some unknown wench with light brown hair.) Yes, I'm reverting to talking about the power of Luv. And the need to use at least moderate Safe Search when doing it. Because otherwise it can get a little sad.
As opposed to heroic tales about how loyal implants saved a brave woman from a broken nose. And to think today was supposed to be political only in the sense that Teh Personal is Political. (best in NoScript) And to be absolutely clear.
Jewel is right pretty.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's hot. Damn hot! Real hot!

For most of us, the record heat in the US for the last year has meant very little. Winter was easy, summer is a little rougher for the 20 minutes a day we aren't air conditioned.
Also, the young wimmens are wearing very little clothing.
Out where the sun beats down, things are not so nice. The corn & soybean crops are way off, and prices are up. Wheat is near $9/bushel, corn nearing $8. There are rumors of export limits. Yes, this is obviously connected to Global Warming. You don't have to be shy about agreeing with Every.Climate.Scientist in the World not on the Exxon payroll. So, expect the heat to continue, with breaks for monsoons, rains of blood, and plagues of locusts. This will get seriously ugly in the countries where people are on the edge. So, good news! When you bellyache about the weather, you're not being a whiner. You're addressing the most important problem to hit the world since 1945!
UPDATE : Please, please do not take this as trading advice! Corn is mostly used as animal feed or turned to fuel ethanol. These types of demand can be submarined as easy as breathing. The only real question is how things get allocated. I do NOT have a mole with the Masters of the Universe. UPDATE 2 : The Washington Post has noticed the drought, and has a nice picture of a drought riddled future.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's July in France

And with NBCSports replacing Versus, and making basic cable, there's only one thing to say Mr. Wiggins, enjoy your 3 weeks in the spotlight! Like most, I'm watching for the fabulous scenery. Little towns that turn suddenly into green farms - aaahh.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Take it home & try it, George Mason for sale

George Mason was a fine, freedom loving, anti-slavery slaveowner.

He introduced the Virginia Declaration of Rights before the Declaration of Independence.

George Mason University is a state school in Fairfax, Virginia. They've developed a new funding model, where they sold their Econ department to the highest bidders. It's not really that unusual for academic economists to have "For Sale" signs. Most of the ones published in news stories sold out a long, long time ago.

What I wondered was whether the new model  - giving the Koch brothers control over corricula & faculty - would produce a different looking model of compensation.

The answer is clear: not at all. The highest paid:

Name Position Department Salary

James Larranaga Head Coach,men\'s Basketball Intercollegiate Athletics $525,000

Alan Merten President President\'s Activities $468,000

Lloyd Griffiths Dean, School Of Information Te Vse Academic Admin & Student Svc $348,296

Peter Stearns Provost Provost Activities $340,000

Daniel Polsby Dean/professor Of Law Law Academic Admin & Student Svcs $325,583

Mark Ginsberg Dean, Cehd Cehd Acad Admin & Student Svcs $315,000

Jorge Haddock Dean, School Of Management Som Academic Admin & Student Svcs $310,000

Maurice Scherrens Senior Vice President Senior Vice President $276,000

Sushil Jajodia University Professor Applied Information Technology $269,829

Thomas O\'connor Asst Vp/dir Ica And Rec Sports Intercollegiate Athletics $265,000

Marc Broderick Vp For Univ Develop & Alum Aff Development $260,000

Joy Hughes Vice Pres For Information Tech Info Tech Administration $260,000

Linda Schwartzstein Vice Provost For Acad Affairs Provost Activities $255,392

Basketball is their only Division 1 revenue sport. The players get squat. There are the usual armies of Deans & VPs, and professors in the $150,000 range, which isn't particularly high for the DC area. The main enhancement is easy access to wingnut welfare for anybody willing to put their name on the junk.

Updates : As hard as I try (not very, really) I can't hold a candle to this thorough look at GMU, much less the Mashey indictment they're linking to. Summary : GMU lies an awful lot, too.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

I sing of Roland, glad & big

I'm a big fan of cooking and design shows. The usual challenge is to take something (potatoes, an old t-shirt) and transfrom it into something new.

In movies, this is the difference between remake (Let's do the 15th version of The Front Page) & Tim Burton's Batman.

In literature, this is the difference between plagiarism & backstory.

Backstory only matters if the work is any good. There's a medieval tale called The Song of Roland.  Of course you've heard of it - 12th century anti-Muslim propaganda about a hero betrayed, who doesn't let a little thing like a mortal wound slow him down. Got respun into a tale of some near-forgotten African bush wars of the mid-late 20th century:

Anyhow, since it's Kulturkampf time, might as well open a new front.

A couple more (earlier recs )online comics - Questionable Content has run for years about a Northampton coffeeshop.

&  SuperRedundant

come from a modern cultural perspective - geeky, freely fantastic, with none of the old time hangups.

One of the more intense battlegrounds of cultural perspective is the comment section of Luann. When Luann finally went into her bedroom with her not-quite boyfriend, the battle was on between those who thought it was just nasty & those who thought it was about fucking time. As the inaction stretched over days, it was nice to see them finally unite

in fierce condemnation of Greg Evans for recycling his cop-out from her last beau.

Happy National Blow Stuff Up Day!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

A slight pulling of the reins

The success of the overlords in the long term class war depends on patience and stealth. The Nouveaus & the True Believers have their uses, but recently they've been running out of control, threatening to blow the whole project wide open. With economic growth no longer possible, the minion class (mostly 6 figure incomes) have been getting nervous. An important part of the contract has always been letting the Professionals believe that they are special, talented, pure and decent. Making them face reality is never a good thing. This was the week The Establishment got its act back together. A lot of different major stories make sense if you look at them that way.

Teresa Sullivan got her job back at UVa. Woot! She's a thoroughly mainstream chancellor who ran afoul of some Babbits who got above their station. Cord yanked - and people who should have known better are declaiming a Famous Victory. No; just the higher powers throwing a bone to the bought off academics & in the process reminding the hustlers who has the real power. Linda Katehi's job seems to be in no peril whatsoever.
Breaking: John Roberts made the easy call on PPACA, after initially going full wingnut. Roberts is the purest corporate tool in the shed. Taking away the goodies that have already come down from the act - and there have been many - would have been rough.

Turns out Louis Freeh is running a real investigation at Penn State. Paterno & the gang left behind a wide, ugly email trail. The ruling class has no use for people who can't run a decent cover up, unless they wear red beanies.

The sidelight to all this is the Barclay's settlement. They're paying off a half-billion dollars for taking part in a conspiracy to rig LIBOR. The regulators had it set up in the usual way - a small settlement in relation to the amount stolen, a feeble promise not to do it again, and nobody punished. Parliament is choking on that. Should be fun to see what they make Barclays do. As I recall (Kleiner vs FNB Atlanta) one major reason LIBOR became omnipresent is that the "Prime Rate" set by US banks had become a sad joke. Mostly a reminder that the credibility of US Banks was shot 30 years ago. Britain may be trying to salvage something.