Jan 31, 2020

Almost Daily Grant's on the link between ESG and population control

Indeed, the Dow Jones Sustainability North American Index, which “tracks the stock performance of the world's leading companies in terms of economic, environmental and social criteria” features member companies which might not be top of mind when it comes to ESG bona fides. Included in the basket are not only energy concerns such as Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips and Suncor Energy, Inc., but also defense companies Lockheed Martin Corp., manufacturer of the Hellfire missile, and Northrop Grumman Corp., which makes Bushmaster chain guns and automatic cannons (thank you, Simon Lack).

Then again, a November report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change identified rapid global population growth as a primary culprit for climate change, concluding that the world headcount “must be stabilized – and, ideally, gradually reduced – within a framework that ensures social integrity.”

Maybe Lockheed and Northrop are ESG worthy after all. 

~ Philip Grant, Almost Daily Grant's, January 30, 2020

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Robert Higgs on government

The beginning of political wisdom is the realization that despite everything you've always been taught, the government is not really on your side; indeed it is out to get you.

~ Robert Higgs

Robert Higgs on fear and the crowd

Ultimately, nothing drives the herd so powerfully as fear.  And fear triggers support for authoritarian leaders.

~ Robert Higgs

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Cyrus Taraporevala: "A company's ESG score will be as important as its credit rating"

We believe a company’s ESG score will soon effectively be as important as its credit rating

~ Cyrus Taraporevala, CEO of State Street Global Advisors (with $3.12 trillion assets under management), Bloomberg interview, January 29, 2020

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Henry A. Fernandez on climate change and socially responsible investing (a.k.a. "ESG")

Climate change and its impact on portfolios may become bigger than ESG itself.

~ Henry A. Fernandez, CEO, MSCI, Inc. 4th Quarter Conference Call, January 30, 2020

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Stephanie Kelton: "We could safely increase the deficit by another $500 billion"

We could safely increase the deficit, let’s say by another $500 billion or so, before we begin to see inflation accelerating to something that we would consider problematic.

~ Stephanie Kelton, professor at Stony Brook University in New York and economic adviser to the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, interview with Erik Schatzker, Bloomberg TV, January 30, 2020

(Kelton cited research by investment firm GMO for the numbers.)

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Sonal Desai debates Stephanie Kelton on MMT

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People always point to Japan over the past several decades to justify the case for low and even negative yields forever...  To take the leap from Japan's experience to assume that the Fed can keep printing money forever is a problem.  It is very seductive to populist politicians, and that's one of the reasons it gets me really nervous.  I debated Stephanie Kelton, who has become the face of modern monetary theory.  She feels the choice between universal health care, forgiveness of student loans, and increased spending on infrastructure is a false one, because, in fact, you can have them all.  It's a problem to assume that the U.S. has no budget constraints; it does.

~ Sonal Desai, 2020 Barron's Roundtable, January 6, 2020

Jan 30, 2020

Abby Cohen and James Anderson on U.S. immigration controls

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Abby Cohen: The fastest growth in job creation is at either end of the skills spectrum—high-level health care, information technology, and so on, and low-end health care and hospitality. Those broad areas are largely filled by immigrants. Over the last handful of years, the immigration rate is down. Visas for people who have special skills or visas for students are down 20% to 40% since 2015.

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James Anderson: It is amazing to have seen America throw away its biggest comparative advantage in the way it has, particularly with regard to highly skilled, inventive people. The percentage of your great companies founded by immigrant families is staggering. It is not talked about enough.

~ Abby Cohen and James Anderson, 2020 Barron's Roundtable, January 6, 2020

Jeff Reeves on Tesla's $89 billion market cap

For the life of me, I don’t know why investors make such a big deal about market-cap comparisions between Tesla and legacy automakers like Ford Motor Co.  How is this a relevant metric that says anything about where either stock is headed?  Raw size simply doesn’t matter — and even in the context of measuring valuation, market cap has serious shortcomings.

~ Jeff Reeves, "Opinion: 5 things Tesla bears keep getting wrong about this stock," MarketWatch, January 12, 2020

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FDR on "private power"

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.

~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

(FDR was born this day, January 30, 1882.)

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Jan 28, 2020

Mao Zedong on the violence behind socialism

Every Communist must grasp the truth, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."

~ Mao Zedong, 1938 speech

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Ed Bugos on manias

Does any other animal on this planet suffer from the phenomenon humans know as mania? Do other species lather themselves up into a frenzy about tulips, beards, and what they often perceive as injustices, whether true or false? Obviously animals participate in feeding frenzies. But it seems to me that manias are uniquely a human trait, and one that is often our undoing.

~ Edmund Bugos, Facebook post, January 28, 2020

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Jan 27, 2020

John Adams on useless men

One useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three is a Congress.

~ John Adams

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Reflecting on the life of Kobe Bryant

As a long-time basketball fan, I’ll try to put Kobe Bryant in perspective. He grew up in Ardmore, PA, the son of an NBA player, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. At 15 he was playing pickup ball against NBA players. At 17 he was drafted by the Lakers, still not old enough to drive. He was the “next Michael Jordan” and even passed Jordan for 3rd place on the all-time scoring list. He inspired the current generation of players. LeBron James took the torch from Kobe and actually passed him on the scoring list 12 hours before he died. I was watching the game because LeBron’s Lakers (Kobe’s old team) were playing the 76ers (in Kobe’s old neighborhood). LeBron received a standing ovation from the Philly fans (normally a tough crowd) and Kobe immediately tweeted out his congratulations.

I asked my dad if he could think of any other great athletes who died at a young age. He mentioned Lou Gehrig. For me, Roberto Clemente was the first to come to mind. 2020 is the first year Kobe is eligible for the Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place this summer. He played 20 years in the NBA, made the All Star team 18 times and won 5 championships.

Kobe Bryant was a lifelong learner and already well into his second act, starting a venture capital firm, writing a book, and winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. He spoke three languages including fluent Italian and was an international icon who befriended and helped top athletes in tennis and soccer, including Novak Djokovic.

It’s this second act that makes Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s deaths all the more tragic.

~ Kevin Duffy

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Jan 26, 2020

Nine victims of helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, R.I.P.

Kobe Bryant (1978-2020)

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Gianna Maria Bryant (2006-2020)

John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli (wife), Alyssa Altobelli (daughter and teammate of Gianna)

Sarah Chester, Payton Chester (daughter and teammate of Gianna)

Christina Mauser (assistant girls basketball coach)

Ara Zobayar (pilot)

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Kobe Bryant on the dream

Those times when you get up early and you work hard.  Those times you stay up late and you work hard.  Those times when you don't feel like working.  You're too tired.  You don't want to push yourself, but you do it anyway.  That is actually the dream.

~ Kobe Bryant, jersey retirement ceremony

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Kobe Bryant on ego and reaching a high level of success

To reach a certain level of success in any field that you're in, you have to have an ego that's going to say, "I want to be the best.  This is what's going to drive me and come hell or high water, this needs to get done and I need to be successful."  It's a choice that you have to make.

Kobe Bryant, "The Finale," YouTube, 1:50 mark, October 19, 2014

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"The Rock" on success

Success at anything will come down to this: focus and effort, and we control both.

~ Dwayne Johnson

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Kobe Bryant on success: "no excuses"

I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success.  Great things come from hard work and perseverance.  No excuses.

~ Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant on work ethic

I can't relate to lazy people. We don't speak the same language. I don't understand you. I don't want to understand you.

~ Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant on inspiration

The most important thing, the thing that unites all of us, is that we can INSPIRE and CHALLENGE one another TO BE BETTER.

~ Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant on passion and learning

When you love something, you'll always come back to it. You'll always keep asking questions, and finding answers.

~ Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant on tenacity

If you see me in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear.

~ Kobe Bryant

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Basketball great Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash at age 41

You always have to be on edge. You always have to take every practice, every game, like it is your last.

~ Kobe Bryant R.I.P.

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Kobe Bryant, a.k.a. "Black Mamba"
NBA #4 all-time scorer with 33,643 points
August 23, 1978 - January 26, 2020

Lysander Spooner on the three classes of Constitution supporters

The ostensible supporters of the Constitution, like the ostensible supporters of most other governments, are made up of three classes, viz.:

1. Knaves, a numerous and active class, who see in the government an instrument which they can use for their own aggrandizement or wealth.

2. Dupes — a large class, no doubt — each of whom, because he is allowed one voice out of millions in deciding what he may do with his own person and his own property, and because he is permitted to have the same voice in robbing, enslaving, and murdering others, that others have in robbing, enslaving, and murdering himself, is stupid enough to imagine that he is a "free man," a "sovereign"; that this is "a free government"; "a government of equal rights," "the best government on earth," [Suppose it be "the best government on earth," does that prove its own goodness, or only the badness of all other governments?] and such like absurdities.

3. A class who have some appreciation of the evils of government, but either do not see how to get rid of them, or do not choose to so far sacrifice their private interests as to give themselves seriously and earnestly to the work of making a change.

~ Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority (1867)

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Jan 25, 2020

Abby Cohen on the early history of Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble was founded 180 years ago. The company really grew during the Civil War, when they supplied the Union Army with soap and candles. What are some of their innovations? Ivory Soap, 1879, the soap that floats. My favorite product, Tide, which was introduced in 1946. Crest in 1955, the first toothpaste with fluoride.

~ Abby Cohen, Barron's Roundtable, January 6, 2020

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Kevin's personal book wish list

In order of priority:
  1. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction (Gardner, Tetlock)
  2. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World (Epstein)
  3. Big Money Thinks Small (Tillinghast)
  4. Fortune Tellers: The Story of America’s First Fortune Tellers (Friedman)
  5. Skin in the Game (Taleb)
  6. From Mussolini to Chavez: Intellectuals and a Century of Hero Worship (Hollander)
  7. Official Lies: How Washington Misleads Us (Bennett, DiLorenzo)
  8. Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings (Shapiro)
  9. Equal is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality (Brook, Watkins)
  10. Thinking in Bets (Duke)

Tom DiLorenzo on why the soldiers on both sides fought the Civil War

[A]ll of this editorializing about the war being waged over the “sacredness” of “the flag” is consistent with what Lincoln cultist James McPherson wrote in his book, What They Fought For: 1861-1865. After reading hundreds of letters home and diaries of “Civil War” soldiers on both sides of the conflict, McPherson concluded that the average Yankee soldier believe he was fighting for “the flag,” whereas the average Confederate grunt believed that he was fighting against a tyrannical government that had invaded his country, bombed his town, and threatened to harm his family.

~ Tom DiLorenzo, "The American Religion of Violence," LewRockwell.com, July 7, 2014

Civil War Centennial - The Wilderness

Tom DiLorenzo on the Lincoln myth

No respectable historian believes the Deep North/government school fantasy that enlightened and morally-superior Northerners elected Abe Lincoln so that they could go to war and die by the hundreds of thousands solely for the benefit of black strangers in the "deep South."

~ Tom DiLorenzo, "A Disease of the Public Mind," Abbeville Blog, March 29, 2017

Abraham Lincoln
Centennial of Birth - 1909

Donald Trump: "we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse"

But to embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.  They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune-tellers… They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the ’70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s.  These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform, and control every aspect of our lives.

~ Donald Trump, World Economic Forum, January 21, 2020

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Jan 24, 2020

Phil Duffy on the truth

The truth rarely fits on a bumper sticker.

~ Phil Duffy

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Kevin Duffy on the track record of "experts"

There is no human progress without the heretics who question prevailing wisdom. As Malcolm Forbes once said, “Conventional wisdom seldom is.”

History is littered with “experts” getting it grossly wrong.  For example...

The Wright Brothers came out of nowhere to invent the airplane:
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
~ Lord Kelvin, Royal Society, 1895
Geologists have been worrying about Peak Oil a long time:
"The peak of [American oil] production will soon be passed – possibly within three years."
~ David White, Chief Geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, 1919
"The energy future is bleak and is likely to grow bleaker in the decade ahead."
~ James Schlesinger, first Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, 1979
Image result for oh yeah? book edward angleyIndustry leaders, economists, bankers, politicians and business media failed to foresee the 1929 crash:
"Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
~ Irving Fisher, October 16, 1929
"It may be well again to stress the all-important point that the Federal Reserve has it in its power to change interest rates downward any time it sees fit to do so and thus to stimulate business."
Financial World, April 10, 1929

Before WWII, fascism held a strong appeal among elites:
"It would be a dangerous folly for the British people to underrate the enduring position in world history which Mussolini will hold; or the amazing qualities of courage, comprehension, self-control and perseverance which he exemplifies."
~ Winston Churchill, 1938
“Military intelligence” has a well-deserved reputation for being an oxymoron:
"No matter what happens the U.S. Navy is not going to be caught napping."
~ Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, December 4, 1941
The economic geniuses failed to see the inflation of the 1960s and 1970s coming:
"In all likelihood world inflation is over."
~ Per Jacobsson, IMF Managing Director, 1959
Technologists underestimated the digital revolution:
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
~ Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949
"640K [of memory] ought to be enough for anybody."
~ Bill Gates, 1981
In the 1970s, climatologists thought the biggest risk was global cooling:
"We simply cannot afford to gamble... by ignoring it. We cannot risk inaction. Those scientists who say we are merely entering a period of climatic instability are acting irresponsibly. The indications that our climate can soon change for the worse are too strong to be reasonably ignored."
~ Lowell Ponte, The Cooling (1976) 
As late as the 1980s, mainstream economists lauded the Soviet economy even as it was coming apart at the seams:
"Those who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse are kidding themselves."
~ Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Establishment historian, 1982
"The Soviet Union is not now nor will it be during the next decade in the throes of a true systemic crisis, for it boasts enormous unused reserves of political and social stability."
~ Seweryn Bialer, Sovietologist, Columbia University, Foreign Affairs, 1982
"What counts is results, and there can be no doubt that the Soviet planning system has been a powerful engine for economic growth. . . . The Soviet model has surely demonstrated that a command economy is capable of mobilizing resources for rapid growth."
~ Paul Samuelson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Nobel laureate in economics, Economics, 1985 edition of his widely used textbook
The financial experts failed to identify the Japan bubble of the late 1980s:
"At the rate things are going, we are all going to end up working for the Japanese."
~ Lester Thurow, MIT economist, 1989
After 911, the defense experts were convinced Iraq had WMDs and the Iraqi people would welcome American soldiers with open arms:
"My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators... I think it will go relatively quickly... weeks rather than months."
~ Vice President Dick Cheney, March 16, 2003
In 2007 (before the 2008 financial meltdown) central bankers felt the subprime lending collapse was contained:
"At this juncture...the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime markets seems likely to be contained."
~ Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, AFX News, March 28, 2007
In 2020 the Davos elites predicted the business cycle was dead and environmental Armageddon right around the corner:
"The boom-bust economic cycle is over."
~ Bob Prince, Co-CIO, Bridgewater Associates, World Economic Forum, January 22, 2020
"Davos is cloaked in white, but its agenda is green.  Environmentalism - fighting climate change in particular - has emerged as one of the biggest priorities of the World Economic Forum..."
~ Bloomberg Businessweek, January 17, 2020
~ Kevin Duffy, January 24, 2020

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Jan 23, 2020

Lord Liverpool on fiat money and asset bubbles

The tendency of an inconvertible paper money is to create fictitious wealth, bubbles, which by their bursting, produce inconvenience.

~ Robert Banks Jenkinson, Lord Liverpool, British statesman and Prime Minister (1812-1827), House of Lords speech, May 26, 1818

Oil painting of Robert Jenkinson

Kevin Duffy on trusting the experts

I’m an investment analyst. My job is to question the experts. In fact, what I’ve learned over a 35 year career is that the experts are almost always wrong when a) their ideas are simple, b) repeated over and over, and c) widely embraced by the crowd. This is how propaganda and the Big Lie work.  If you ever want to get to the truth, you’d better understand this.

~ Kevin Duffy, exchange on Quora, response to argument from authority, January 23, 2020

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Jeff Deist on libertarians and humility

Being a libertarian means we don't know.  It means we don't know what's best for 320 million people in the U.S., much less 7 billion across the world.  So that, to me, involves humility.

~ Jeff Deist, "Jeff Deist on the Trouble with Libertarian Technocrats," The Tom Woods Show, January 10, 2020

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Bloomberg Businessweek: "About 18% of sessions at Davos this year are devoted to climate change"

The first-listed of six priorities for this year’s conference is “Ecology: How to mobilize business to respond to the risks of climate change and ensure that measures to protect biodiversity reach forest floors and ocean beds.” There are sessions with titles such as The Big Picture on Climate Risk, Solving the Green Growth Equation, Calling for Climate Justice, and Responsible Tourism in the Age of Climate Change.

About 18% of the sessions at Davos this year are devoted to climate change, along with other environmental topics and sustainability, vs. about 13% in 2010, when recovery from the financial crisis was more top of mind.

Bloomberg Businessweek, "A Sense of Climate Urgency in The Alps," January 17, 2020

Bloomberg Businessweek: "Davos is cloaked in white, but its agenda is green"

Davos is cloaked in white, but its agenda is green.  Environmentalism - fighting climate change in particular - has emerged as one of the biggest priorities of the World Economic Forum annual meeting, which is held every January in the Swiss ski village.

~ Bloomberg Businessweek, "A Sense of Climate Urgency in The Alps," January 17, 2020


Jan 22, 2020

Glenn Youngkin: We don't see excess in the economy"

I don't think that economic expansions die of old age; they die of excess.  And we don't see excess to any major material degree in the economy so we think that it can continue to grow.  It's not going to grow as fast as people would like, but steady slow growth is just fine.

Glenn Youngkin, co-CEO, Carlyle Group, interview with CNBC's Sara Eisen, World Economic Forum in Davos, January 21, 2020

Lysander Spooner on the intersection of money and government

The love of money is the root of all evil. And it is omnipotent government which is best able to carry out the evil plans of those who love money.

~ Lysander Spooner

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Andrew Ross Sorkin on Elon Musk

I would say betting against Elon Musk is betting against humanity.  It's real.

~ Andrew Ross Sorkin, CNBC discussion with Becky Quick and Joe Kernan, World Economic Forum in Davos, January 22, 2020

(Tesla's market capitalization reached $100 billion for the first time later in trading.  At the time of the comment, TSLA was trading at roughly $580/share in pre-market trading.)

Jan 21, 2020

Greta Thunberg: "We are still telling you to panic"

Let's be clear: we don't need a low carbon economy; we don't need to lower emissions. Our emissions have to stop if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5 degree target. Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. We are still telling you to panic, and to act as if you loved your children above all else.

~ Greta Thunberg, World Economic Forum, January 21, 2020

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