Saturday, April 19, 2014

Belated Movie Review: 2006 "Fearless" with Jet Li, ... .

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Happened to turn on the set today and caught this film that is an outstanding and very viewable interpretation of a Chinese version of a story that's half Alexander of Macedon and half Ulysses.  There are so many facets to this production, the quite intense and graphic fight scenes and others with their special effects aside, that one would do well to see it more than once.  This particular video is somewhat older, from 2006 or so, though I might do well to buy it, not because people like me are interested in karate nor the ornateness of some of the like films, but the plot here as it unfolds gives overall an excellent impression to the viewer and listener of dialogue and themes of the political environment of pre - revolutionary China (mention pre - 1911, or pre - 1905.)  China under the revolutionaries was such a violent place that it became undesirable to live or tour there for years and only was it opened up after the Carter administration, really, during and after 1979.  The Chinese of today share many habits and pastimes with their Western counterparts, especially with the guitar - playing and basketball hobbies of many Americans.  At least this was true with respect to young party members and young Americans after the publication of the Shang hai communique.

"Fearless" is the type of movie that leaves the viewer with the impression that the martial arts in China, as boxing and other fighting contests in the West, have a primacy dating to a long time ago, and this despite the evidence the 1949 revolution and the Mao times that were conducted as to purge as much about ancient culture as could be.  This long heritage of these arts, and the considerable acting and fighting arts capabilities of Mr. Li and his character adversaries take the aura of martial arts films to a new level that merits direct legacy from the Lee films of the 1970's and the like.  The thing about such films today, and of the same thematic complexities as the Lee films, is they have more stark, impressionable, and even shocking imagery than the Lee films that put down the pavestones for the current media.  This 2006 production deserves a repeated audience and discussion as to the actual redeeming value of martial arts training and how such things are portrayed for the public (not, for instance, that every one has to be on the order of the epic "Crouching Tiger, ... ) about the cultural and societal terrain of the last years of the Qing dynasty that proved in spirit, and in retrospect, to have finally favored civic and political freedoms and a constitution, bicameral rule, and this along with many other features of administration in to the modern world; though without a doubt the adaptability and hopes about this of the populace to promised reforms was abated by what many figures of the times proposed as the unlikelihood of the Nationalists and the proximity at the same time to Lenin's kingdom over the Western lands.  Sun Yat - sen, who was a great force for unity, died in the process of bringing actual home rule to the masses, and this is addressed partially in the film with various and sundry tragedy that trim possibilities again and again for the main character(s.)

Master Hou in the story undergoes impossible fighting contests and ordeals and leverages everything to gain the right of passage as the fighting champion of Tian jin at his Wu shu methods and style, and at the eventuality and completion of this project that takes on a life of its own, throws off the glorious yet burdensome title of "best in Tian jin", and by some personal tragedies involved, takes to the country to recover from his battles and the social forces that made these contests so forcefully and brutally contested.  The Buddhist tone and older cultural beliefs of the social environment in the aftermath of his title - seeking are palpable in his removal to a place in the countryside where he is found and nurtured by those in the hills along his path.  Much of the actually and extremely valuable parts of the film take place after his return to Tian jin from the hills.  A must - see for those into martial arts productions, and again and again.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

U.S. and Ukraine - Crimea (don't worry.)

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A short column might suffice for many people who know that Western Ukraine is mysterious enough without the Russians organizing a snap referendum on joining their federation, then amassing military units to enforce the election terms at border and other areas as they apparently have been doing lately.  Our own reasons for Secretary of State Kerry trying to meet (and apparently hopelessly) with Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, have to do with the way in which the U.S. encourages any number of trends, ideas, principles, and other framework to allow for action in statehood affairs concerning the type of, again, Western federalism that has proved so successful and vital in places like Europe proper and North America.  The logic to this is complicated however rooted in the traditions of the power of non - Marxist and other centrist and non - centrist views and their role in free - thinking and other administrations that apply the rule of law, the structure of political, civil, and human rights and other applications of the kind of universalities, in a way very simple once illustrated properly, that appear to be lacking in Ukraine at this time; at least in the part now rapidly annexed by the Putin government as represented by Lavrov in many cases before the U.S. and U.N.  It is probable that Putin speaks English and likes places like McDonald's, and maybe even the Yankees, and Carnegie Hall, the Florida Coast - all pretty close and accessible to Russia at this point; he might even like watching the Red Sox this season on his Russian satellite television network.  What is therefore the sense and sanity, if perceptible, within the framework of the snap Ukrainian referendum on statehood and then the troop movements?  It is almost certainly not due to electoral or post - electoral opposition as those who had a stake in the referendum and lost at least are so momentarily weak, and their political allies as well that these could barely and hardly challenge the referendum - winning party or parties, themselves, and without really the help of menacing Russian crack troops as the television portrays them in this barely - warmer - than - late - winter March / April 2014.  With respect to this and editorials:  Maybe see as well related articles in U.S. national papers via your Google searches; and even South China Morning Post, ... .  Concerning the image above, remember it could represent a thousand or more people showing agreement or assent with a handshake, and then ... , and this with specific respect to Kremlin intransigence, to use a term here, and their own style of bamboozling and bulldozing.  Remember as well the Russians in power at this point, and those connected to them are wonderful people, fun and fun - loving, caring and concerned for everyone they meet, good at parties.

Though there is reason for optimism here, a silver lining:  There might now be some Kremlin statement the troops will be removed as soon as possible as is indicated sometimes, and apparently at least in part now with respect to the "Orange Revolution" of late - that politics have come full - circle again in Eastern Europe with Ukraine and that mystery of a place, Crimea, as a flagship example of the power of the Kremlin in first allowing for the administrative flux since some time ago, and then reining in the people whose chains they originally let out.  In remembering the political relationship, though they might have disliked each other personally, between Boris Yeltsin and his like to the Saint Petersburg people, Putin and Medvedev, Lavrov, included, Yeltsin himself might have had a word with his then underlings, maybe even in English as the Russians are good at English and other languages, that predicated the current politics and political movements and trends in Eastern Europe right now about Crimea and so forth upon things like Russian constitutional, legislative and military reforms, lots of public jostling and meetings including demonstrations and talking with foreigners including Putin's admonitions, jeremiads, and diatribes about affairs.  In the old days sometimes these sorts of things, and this for the ears probably only, really short things were said about some very large issues, today maybe of which the actual territorial bounds, some of which some Russians regard to justify expansionism, for example, as actually the "cultural", societal or linguistic boundaries of the country.  In this way, places like Chicago or Bloomington might be part of Russia, though naturally reasonable people know this to be impossible, and impossible it is with respect to this attitude duplicative of stalinist verbiage of old that people there really seem to admire despite its open brutality and blunt and brute force political and militarily - oriented intent.  Stalin was as expansionist as Hitler had been and chose a psychological and cultural, political approach to this instead of trying to move people out of the way in his aims by publicly and illegally shooting them.  The paradox of this is stalinism is supposed to be peaceful and as the religion of the time has its current descendants in control of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea where not many people know what is actually happening save for a few documentarists favorable to Kremlin aims.

This I propose that Moskva pulls the wool over everyone's eyes these days when it can, and does so arrogantly and in person very nicely and politely with all the manners and worldliness, sophistication that one would expect of Malenkov or Molotov, and disciples so anointed including Andrei Gromyko's, even Yuri Andropov's and Konstantin Tchernenko's descendants:  These people proved publicly only somewhat effective on the world stage in what concerns soviet political tour - de - force of the day after the 1960's and then the Brezhnev years.  The end of the cold war turned these people and their colleagues into court jesters, but to meet them or be in contact with them was extremely powerful and this with respect to their many - faceted political pursuits of which the trending brushfires in places like Africa and South and maybe even Southeast Asia, The Middle East, China, ... .  The legacy of these individuals, themselves down in history in their country at this point as heroes, tragically, has been the kind of troublemaking and knit - picking on the U.S. and its allies that has taken place since (and this noticeably) the change of the regimes in North Africa, notably that of Libya.  This Russian statebuilding, or referendum by the Russian Federation on Crimea represents on an incremental scale the sort of thing the old Bolsheviks dreamed about in all events given the open and wasteful spending by same of their political and other currencies and the dialectical paradoxes of the kind of military boasting same had done and continue to do while donned in administrative cloth.  Sergei Lavrov used us, used public opinion about basic sovereignty, misused it, and then betrayed his friends in the West to certify a regional military bedrock the Russian Federation has now assimilated in the Crimean peninsula.  This is tragic and ominous, and it what happened under the Tsars and later under the old Bolsheviks when people shook hands but there was no actual understanding of the intentions of Moskva nor of its machinations and "smoke and mirrors."  The same old thing again - trying to make the West and its envoys and ambassadors look like ineffectual fools, and they might have lately with the meeting in Europe between Kerry and Lavrov who has all this military / KGB and cloak and dagger tradition behind him.  All Kerry has at hand in Eastern Europe is youthful intelligence and aspirations, hope for the future, a spirit of freedom, democracy as it is known, the rule of law; principles that are ethereal to those who have manipulated them there and another reason or reasons the soviets were cast into oblivion by the Cold War.  This insight is not really my own, and despite the cloak and dagger, and the militants of old retaining the rights to enforce referendum results, one would like to see what actually happens now and into the future in places like Western Ukraine and the new border areas with its neighbor.  This might have been why everyone smiled and shook hands shortly ago in Paree.  Though the current situation is a tragedy with Russian troops imposing on another populace at this point, such a presence is quite expensive politically and concerning the Russian treasury.  It is however given certain evens here, including the ongoing opposition publicly to the snap referendum on Crimea, the Bolshevik will to power and its effects as demonstrated by a renewed type of stalinism are greatly attenuated by the passage of time since his death and other slack on the Russian Federation at this point making for less foreign kow - towing to the Kremlin than otherwise might be the case, and probably as well to the frustration of the reigning parties in Moskva and apparatchik and supporters at this time; and, and, and.  "Who, when".

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Book Review: (The Secrets of) ECONOMIC INDICATORS (choose some here, please), in addition to his "Economics", by Bernard Baumol.

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This not - so - brief text on economic indicators by the great economics scribe Bernard Baumol has much to do without any triangulation whatsoever, or that might be hinted at here, with what people know to be the debate between the poets and the quants, though it avoids the bitter tone of some debating the empirical schools, those of liberal and other economists and what comprises good policy, good forecasting and so forth - obviously other issues for even more books.  In short, the argument presented here boils down to a number of charts or statistics poets and quants themselves two parties try to agree on, though same never seem to agree which can make for everything from pleasant banter to angry debate, shouting matches and so forth between advocates of these two "schools".  There is no wonder, and this given my own propensity to concentrate on narrative while numbers count (no pun intended here, they do), Baumol takes a longer approach to the shorthand and high - level semiotics and signaling of discrete economic statistics over what might seem to be a stream of words that would make even an excellent memory bend towards greater advocacy to figures, numbers, charts, graphs, and other media with, again, short and illustrative and highly semantic criteria with lots of room for discussion as to weight and importance and priority, if not the actual basis and computational arithmetic, calculus and differential math used in presenting these, too.  While the text, which illustrates dozens and dozens of indicators (you choose) carries on a very cogent and well - delivered and defined discussion of the subject matter at hand, the debate between technical and fundamental approaches to financial and other economics is authenticated by illustrative prose and the weight of the statistics themselves as portrayed and even further if you again choose one and decide to follow it through various publications:  There's no verbosity here about the prime rate and related interest rates here, nor P / E ratios, nor uptick nor downtick - type illustrations - the indicators in the narrative here are like bells that chime in the discourse of seasoned investors, students, professional economists and the like, so careful as well about what you might discover here.  It is not that it's all been "done" before, but different numbers have prominence at different times, and the world and the time that it depends upon at this point are computerized as well, at least the one many of us know at this point and the technologies that generate these figures are snappy - quick as well.

So what difference does another book by anyone make on the subject of leading and other indicators make at this point?  Well, if it is just another book about economics and finance, macro - or micro - , let it be this one.  The text here integrates, in its reading and illustrations, in the choices it presents according to economic axioms and patters, groups and hierarchies of data, information and reporting, many principles and points not only of the makings of different measures, but of the overall and actual meaning to those who have subject matter expertise and background in the materials at hand here.  Certainly, Dr. Baumol does and one reading this book ought to in fact respond to the sort of pent - up quest for indicators and their different meanings that the author addresses here by actually, and this especially if one is not familiar with the numbers and stats as presented, putting together or experimenting, and this the text might have been written for, with the correlations and reverse correlations of different figures the book introduces.  As an example, the C.P.I. might have something to do with capital flows directly, and with things like interest rates; though it actually might be found to have little related to the magnitude of national accounts and so forth, or commercial real estate numbers.  Overall an exemplary book about economics and one that every student of the subject should read through if not own outright.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Мой учитель Алексис (на личной ноте).

My Teacher Alexis Rygaloff.

Some time ago, as I had studied about PRC for some time before really even trying at Mandarin and then even taking a class at it, I met with Alexis Rygaloff on a winter morning during a time at which China had, and this through the papers, started having a more important industrial base that produced more quality products, though this had nothing to do with our talk at the time. We neither met as colleagues as Rygaloff was much older and an experienced teacher at the time, but insofar as I had dropped in on his class several times and was learning, we both expressed an interest in this process given my situation at the time. It had been a custom at the time for many instructors when meeting with students to actually say very little, and I have no idea how such “mentoring” sessions take place today nor the protocols involved, nor what people really say to each other, but we did have some exchange of political language and some dialogue about his very interesting and informative mandarin grammar book.

His point to me was that he worked hard at his articles and books originally, and as a result had plenty of moneys and some creature comforts, indeed more than the average senior instructor at the time; I could have his tobacco if I believed I needed that, his jacket to keep warm in the weather, access to the books in his library – as all these were considered replaceable and fungible and he wanted to encourage me in my studies to the extent possible while persuading me his system of economic provision, academics, and other statuses would be of great help to me in continuance of any pursuit of the subject matter at hand. The way in which this was presented was greatly sophisticated and not without the proviso that I do work and according to accepted methods, etc. I was reminded during this quite important conversation that many of his colleagues, if not he himself had been at Cambridge in U.K., and extremely liked and admired the situation there and this for me proposed the danger of being blind to some circumstances and issues as many of them are: Mr. Rygaloff, while a gifted teacher and so forth, probably was indeed hardly aware of the economic terms, actual economics / commerce / business reasons about how he had his position and salary, of how he was able to afford his travels and worldly goods, and despite his outstanding grammar publication that I read through several times for its overall simplicity and heavy impact on Western speakers of mandarin (as an official language in PRC only, might I add here), the way he could maintain his teaching without much effort, maintain a following quite easily and so forth, again. When this topic entered my mind, in our brief meeting together early that winter afternoon, I raised my voice in mentioning my impression of this and how it was inappropriate and irresponsible for he and his colleagues to have accepted things on a political basis only, and then to have more or less lain in wait for 'tourists' such as myself to arrive while making all attempts to learn, and with all our efforts gleaning maybe about as much mandarin language and culture as was in the cuticle of his left – hand small finger. This is not an understatement, nor is nor was in our conversation the tone of forgetting about themes such as the hundred flowers, Great Leap Forward, and other ideas presumably designed in Moscow (1958 – 1971) that cast so many lives at least adrift if not into an abyss, of which an objection to his lessons I raised at the time. The reply was more or less, “what I have is yours as well”. To this day, I consider this sort of assertion by anyone as that of a confused and unfortunate party under the circumstances who held very tight, in fact after at one time probably having met people in the Kremlin if not Khruschchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, and Tchernenko themselves – so many of them travel to Russia in the course of their careers even today – to these sorts of things very unsure and unclear, and again about what things like property rights, other rights, and everything from personal autonomy of the reasonable and prudent person to territorial sovereignty actually are. Given the great losses they suffered at the time in the old countries, in fact with the open refusal of a part of the young intelligenstia to follow these socialistic ideas and principles, eventually were mostly due to these very well – trained and smart people having spent academic and other currency, all socially oriented, toward persuading the youth at the time and giving the overall impression that capital production and Western economics and systemic institutions such as common law, supply and demand including laissez - faire, Christianism and other 'isms' of the great Western powers, the establishment of the family and institution of marriage, commercial enterprise, multi – party politics and all this comprised the exploitative evil that caused systemic problems everywhere, and that essentially capitalism and its character are responsible for the world's ills and had been for a long time. The dismissive attitude that “J.P.” and everyone in the educational system where I attended college of the crimes of Stalin, Mao, and lesser autocrats in my view, and with respect to what Rygaloff would mention even today, gave direct cause for this insofar as survival of any elite or governance in the near abroad of Eastern Europe, Eurasia and Asia (including especially East Asia). Evidence of this had been a small, well – funded and extremely unpopular status of the communists' political parties for years in European and Western countries. The influence of Josef Stalin in his day on our instructors like Rygaloff, that of Mao Zedong, and of those who held these monumental figures as a model, for a long time has been that of the exercise of raw – power politically, however stilted, biased and misguided – oriented to the benefit of quite narrow and drunken elites who had seized governments and worked to preserve a systemic tone that had to do with making the world “new” again and casting aside much of what makes the character of thinking and being of most all people, regardless of whether they are intellectually aware of themselves, in the name of social progress. As much I have been able to tell people like Rygaloff eventually passed trying to resolve these sorts of dilemmas brought about by bloody leaders in those places.

The point of this is recently I attended an event where mandarin is all the rage and remembered Rygaloff's book on grammar that proposes most if not all people in PRC get along with about fifty phrases, the rest of the language is built on those fundamental sentential images. Mandarin overall is a language with lots of range and difficult to handle in the minutae that people like him studied, and this probably because many Chinese speakers have no idea grammatically of this important idea about the narrowness of their spoken word. Most people for their use of language are stuck in their proper castes in these regimes where party ties and the governance itself in many respects depends upon many mysteries in the workings of the ruling elite. People in this environment are raised to live with this, and the interpretation of Western systems as crazy, elitist, exploitative and so on, as part of the controls on the politics of the things where they carry on their lives everyday which smacks of a kind of guiding and ruling principle of parasitism by one's elite on the rest of society along with the purposeful demonizing of any regional exterior. This overall trust as established by the ruling party, and the kind of cultural monopoly it has with respect to the populace in places like PRC, leaves little room for personal freedoms, much less for the free flows of capital, goods and services, making for magical and mysterious, and though recently extremely well – managed, effects on society that are of marginal benefit only to the common – sense individual in those countries. Mandarin itself is a language that has great imagery and descriptive qualities including actually great linguistic range, and while its influence at least gets necessary attention from more and more people, needs be regarded with the present fervor about it not as a key to life as some would have it, but ascribed the proper requirements and character of something indeed as increasingly expensive and magical culturally along a learning path: That would render it ancillary or secondary to the purposes for which it is sometimes used, for example, to make one understand and use communist dialectics, or to have one reason in the West that commonly voting socialist or communist is valuable for one and for others, or other such critical themes within the purposes themselves of those attending social and / or professional events with such ideas as an avocation, or that are used again for instance along with civil rights (in this to the neglect of civil obligations themselves) in the banter and casual dialogue of the collectivity given the occasion.  As much in part, along with the lessons of political survival in view of monumental political adversaries and their vassals and various pawns, this instructor indirectly imparted in his provincial, almost Romanian, yet extremely serious and meticulous approach to the language and culture.  Enough, already.

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

With Respect to A Number of Places at this Point (Not Just Ukraine).

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Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson (2012, Crown Books.)

In the event you are interested in such things and cannot read this text, at least read the book preface that outlines the latest from “Arab Spring”, and “Jasmine Revolution” and the like. The text itself is rich in the images of things like corruption and societal backwardness, institutional and societal inertia and lack of ambition and ingenuity that pervades the politics and administration today of different, in fact unequal and dynamically conflicted states that are first embattled in different ways and then disowned by the overriding international community. These same characteristics, the authors propose, and other key ones appear again and again among states in the failure endgame, though it does seem the patterns and permanence of some momentous and more successful revolutions, and the models of 1688 England and 1789 France are often used in the text, are also illustrated and the proposition of the failed state is not necessarily an end to either the revolutions in various regions nor the direct result of internecine strife such as that in Central Africa at this point. Though no particular mention is made of it in this narrative, there are specific applications of the text at hand to Eastern Europe and its economics and politics especially (1986 – present.)

In illustrating a political thesis about a makeup of failed states that is introduced in its details in greater detail throughout the text, the author begins with an illustration of cross – border societies, one violent and completely indigent, one more wealthy, that have deep – seated reasons, dating in fact to the Age of Discovery, for their greatly contrasting socio – economic environments. It does appear and with validity that is in the history books, the authors have proposed that the politics of old, and going back many generations to when the world itself began to be properly mapped and to the origins of political spheres of influence, had more to do with a corporate partnership with various crowns that greatly augmented political scope and power of the royalty to the benefit of society, mostly to the bourgeoisie and the rich, but really to everyone. The relation of the Conquistadors to the Spanish crown is presented as a case in point here, as are some of the overseas ventures of the English in the early days, Napoleonic France in part, and other more modern examples of empire (the soviets, in fact, might have used this older model in their influence – pedaling and propaganda efforts over the years). With this model in mind, and that monetary wealth had depended upon growth models of the time, and that those growth models have changed to include more and more intangibles, such wealth had often been the result of society's policies and the edicts of the various crowns. To the extent people themselves had not been able to participate in this process, even in the economic models of today that are the engines of growth and prosperity, first little inequalities presented themselves, not really defined nor distinct; but these became rapidly greater and greater and more marked in places like the UK and the Americas and Canada, in places like Australia and New Zealand, China, Japan, and Singapore. Said disparities become even more obvious in the examination of the Pacific island countries, Sub – Saharan Africa, places in South and Southeast Asia, and other places that are immediately more heart – rending in the media today – Afghanistan and the Middle East overall as well.

One might explain the general drudgery and poor circumstances of some of these territories through an age – old thesis of those countries of the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer and the corresponding and intrinsic wealth of places in the Americas, for instance: A kind of “tropical disease” where the “hot” countries, given their location as well on the globe, do not do as well economically as those in the Northern climates. There are cultural hypotheses that apply and are affected by the contrasting evidence of inequalities between various places, even across delineated borders and rivers like the Rio Grande in the US / Mexico. Additionally, there are ideas as to failures of various governance through lack of proper succession of the leadership over time, ineffability and willful ignorance of the imperatives of proper business and commerce in places; communism, of course; and as a real outlier, rule of the populace by what are essentially an ascendance of a group or groups of ignorant poor given various conflicts and the scarcity of good leadership in some systems. These actual circumstances in some places render proper economic considerations that ordinarily enrich a country completely moot, and this where governing authorities and other stakeholders are in search of payoffs only at the exclusion of citizens' rights, a prospering home rule with reasonable or better living standards, or any common – sense measures of socio – economic success or accomplishment as we ordinarily know them. Today, North Korea might be cited as an obvious and impossible example of this.

The authors propose models to remedy this and these are varied, but mostly depend upon paying attention to the benefits and obligations of Western economics and capital formation, even to the extent of failed regimes making an effort about having profitable private business and institutions as well as leading indicators. This presents prosperity not as a completely wasteful and dirty undertaking as Marx proposed it is at least for the most part, but as a choice in which governance and the institutions of society function with a political imperative or imperatives that promote reasonable and steady, sustainable economic growth even today, again with the “green” or multi – feature approach with environmental considerations and other trends of the day. The thesis of the text goes beyond this, and is for every economist, professional or amateur, or anyone who follows current events and knows of systemic and political attrition as provoked by socio – economic failure, to read through and respond, and not to what is a provocation, but to an avoidance of economic plagues and the kind of serfdom that is an issue at present not only for the worker and working professionals all over, but in consideration of different, various and marked economic successes and failures as illustrated that await every nation – state whose chiefs are uninformed on such matters. Though the text presents (and this runs on) the idea as well that economic and political, etc., histories are extremely important in the failure analysis at hand, and the cause – and – effect administration of some regimes past and present, that without some analysis of difficulties examined therein using the methods presented again therein, or at least some method that one might agree upon, we are all due only the limited and arithmetically marginal prosperity and growth, if any, in our economic, monetary and other incomes, productivity, capital growth and other benefits of Western economics, as a result of lacking in our ability to adapt to new levels of analysis and conclusion in looking at modern economics as they are; and then acting upon this for the benefit (and corresponding calling to everyone to contribute to society) that accrues to each and every one of us. The disconcerting thing about such an idea is it purports to represent a kind of “end of capital” as Francis Fukuyama presented the idea in his popular books and talks some time ago as the “end of history”: Perspective itself and extremely heavy rumination that portends only a brand new beginning, albeit maybe even a Ricardian one.  

Recent Article on Eastern Europe by Condoleezza Rice - "Washington Post".

See also various presentations this past week from CPAC.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Belated Book Review (Investments.)

Yet Another Belated Book Review: More Than You Know, by Michael J. Mauboussin (2006.  Columbia University Press.)

This text begins with a quote from Edward O. Wilson that talks about the fallibility and inability to escape human nature that affects even the most staid and structured everywhere, including money centers where strict regimen are the rule of the day. Prof. Mauboussin in this text as well popularizes the idea of using “mental models” in the investment process and talks briefly about his first learning of it and then teaching it to his students, and continuing related work through the Santa Fe Institute. Mental models in investing apparently have more to do with determining different factors for achieving investment goals and then carrying them out versus going on a “gut feeling” or waiting for the world (essentially other market participants,) to make a mistake or mistakes, and this among other approaches as well.

The author does seriously tell the reader that each investor with a constructive strategy or even an investment idea needs a philosophy that overrides and takes into account the modern computer modeling approach to asset allocation, trading and so on. These different philosophies today are all probablistic and consist primarily of traders or gamblers, so – called handicapping as a way to make a safe bet on stocks and other securities, and what we know as the mundane practice of ordinary investing, actually the opposite of gambling. The narrative explores the approaches of investment process versus outcome in that processes are determined through applied and tested investment theory and problem solving whereas outcomes are, again, derivative of gambling behaviour more or less. The author argues in this world of short – term investment scoring that there is too much randomness and chaos without taking a longer – term perspective on stocks and other securities.

Investment philosophies are less important more recently as husbanding and growing assets has less appeal these days than immediate shareholder returns, not as derived from the trading behaviour of investors but of investment players, or money managers. The text proposes such managers or players are not winners, and despite the apparent brilliance of the players, a guiding philosophy outdoes this brilliance any day. In short, if you do not have an investment philosophy as a guide, find one! Remember as well the short – term emphasis today in the financial markets is not upon an investment process as structured and well – defined and working, but it is the shorter and shorter – term outcomes that are dwelt upon.

For some, needless, to mention here the investment process that Prof. Mauboussin defines for us in the text, and that is perhaps the most understandable for everyone is the value strategy that identifies under – priced securities. The author reminds us as well as his readers that investment fundamentals should not be equated with expectations. Investment processes that are good ones consider things like probabilities and payoffs where the consensus securities price is powerful and maybe popular at the same time, but might be wrong. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin is quoted in the book as one who advocated a structured analysis and solution to things like investment process of which certain priorities including things like uncertainty, probablistic considerations, deciding and acting on decisions when faced with asymmetry and imperfect information, and rewards not just based on results but on the accomplishment process as well.

Different points are illustrated in the text, including the sort of scouting investors need to do when looking into different securities, creating an investment game – plan, and that it is very difficult to beat the market, especially when stocks are going up as the market has actually few weaknesses. The author examines securities selection criteria along with different measures of portfolio and asset performance for evaluating success in investing. For simplicity, the text concentrates mostly on the universe of U.S. Stocks that have several money and financial centers. The point is made the markets are ruled from different financial centers in America, not just New York and Boston by those in the investing profession that maximizes long – term returns for third party stakeholders, versus those in the investment business that maximize earnings for their banking firms. The text goes on to illustrate various investment axioms, truisms, and other observable principles about the markets, including things like hubris, risk assessment and risk – taking, winning and losing streaks, the element of the long – term in accomplishing investment goals, market psychology, the difficulties with consistently achieving higher returns, basic investment rules, the role of technology in the securities markets, working with others on your projects to have capital and other gains, and dealing with the overall ups and downs of the markets, even in the long – term. Overall an excellent read.   

Saturday, February 22, 2014

SOCHI 2014.

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As people like me actually know very little about competition in winter sports, and despite this, the 2014 Sochi, Russia Winter Olympics have been outstanding to watch on television, of which the skiing, hockey (especially), cross - country skiing, and even the curling.  Have been searching for an appropriate pictorial for the young people competing in the various events in Sochi, and one might lookup the photoportraits on "Sporting News" or for starters, and then later at, i.e., the "Sports Illustrated" site that has its annual swimsuit issue out now. 

The thing that struck me about these 2014 winter Olympics as televised on N.B.C. has been that portrayal of the contest times as happening extremely quickly, especially for the individual events like the Downhill and Slalom races, the ski jumping, rink skating and so forth.  I am sure this was the result of the goals of network coverage that called for everything to be timed to the millisecond.  With respect to the commentators, the N.B.C. Sports broadcasting crew remains the best for such events and brings out the competitive and dedicated spirit of every contestant on screen, especially again among those who are interviewed during and after matches.  People like me also greatly enjoyed watching the snowboarding as this is a sport that appears not to be too well - defined, but that captures young peoples' attention and interest among others in the featured sporting contests.  This shows the contests are much more equalized and the winning contestants more stratified than typically was the case in the days of old.  Last, but not least, were things like the speed skating and figure - skating that for me have a more specific and specialized audience, maybe more among actual skaters, that also proved to be well - worth seeing,

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and are apparently the calling for many superior contestants on a very high competitive level.  Overall, many of the happenings at this year's winter Olympics, and obviously I did not catch everything despite watching lots of programming, both early and late when the broadcasts were televised, I still have to mention here as probably being the best winter games since Lake Placid, NY, in 1980.  At least this is a little true for the Norwegians, Canadians and Russians who came out with more gold medals than the Americans who have the most medals overall to date in Sochi.  The television coverage of these games was quite good and everyone need have picked an event and to have made an effort to tune in to their contests - I chose the hockey (USA men's and women's) this year and the teams as they were did not disappoint.  Those Canadiens, especially those from Toronto, ... , are especially tough with their hockey, though people like me believe some voodoo was involved in cutting off the U.S. hopes for the gold medals in this area (no sour grapes here, however).  Am as well not taken aback by the sports successes of the Netherlands (22 medals,) and for instance, Japan (8,) that show how the contests at the Olympics now are more equalized and stratified - that they make room for everyone more than before at this point.  Really a good games so far. 

Winter Olympics 2014 site.

United States Olympic Committee site.

International Olympic Committee site

Friday, February 7, 2014

Periodic Interest: Fifty Years Ago - At The Edward Sullivan Theater: ...

Periodic Interest: Fifty Years Ago - At The Edward Sullivan Theater: ...: "New York Times" article on the event there - click here . Media Photo Remember there's an arg...

Fifty Years Ago - At The Edward Sullivan Theater: "The Beatles!"

"New York Times" article on the event there - click here.

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Remember there's an argument that while "The Beatles" were great, "The Stones" were better, and younger at the time.  Everyone likes them nonetheless; "Stones", too, maybe, at this point as well.