Thursday, December 23, 2010

Business hating free markets.

Here. h/t to Baldridge for this.

It's like the Petition of the Candle Makers... but real!


Take the Fanjul family, which controls Florida Crystals Inc. and Domino Sugar, owns more than 400,000 acres of sugar cane farms and produces one-third of Florida’s sugar. Yet, the federal government protects them against competitors by imposing U.S. import quotas that maintain sugar prices at artificially high levels. U.S. consumers and businesses have had to pay twice the world price of sugar on average since 1982, according to economist Mark Perry.

Why? The fact that the sugar industry spends millions in lobbying might be one reason.

The U.S. sugar lobby contributes millions of dollars to political campaigns to maintain federal support for the subsidies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Fanjul family alone spent $715,000 on lobbying in 2008 and has spent an estimated $2.6 million on political campaigns from 1979 to 2006.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cost Basis of Securities and the IRS.

Now, the IRS is requiring brokerage firms to report the cost basis of shares that their clients sell.

There looks to be some wiggle room in reporting which shares you sell, but, this will indeed require some new thinking when looking to sell off positions in various equities...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

the rational addict.


Cable vs. Internet.

Much like cell phones overtaking land lines, cars outselling horse and buggies, and spears being better than clubs, the internet is overtaking cable.

Somewhat ironically, I am typing this over a cable internet connection, while having Arrested Development on in the background via Netflix... hmmm...

An Interesting Governor of the FED


In a speech in 1999, shortly after Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that separated investment banking from commercial banking, he warned that “in a world dominated by mega-financial institutions, governments could be reluctant to close those that become troubled for fear of systemic effects on the financial system.”

Sure enough, in 2008, the Fed helped sell Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase, rescued the American International Group and, after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, bailed out the financial system.

The crisis has only made the biggest banks even bigger. “They have enormous power,” Mr. Hoenig said. “Just look at their lobbying expenses. I use the word — and it’s a fairly flammable word — oligarchy. These things are huge and powerful, and that’s where the money is. This country through its history has abhorred concentration of financial power, and for good reason.”

Tuesday’s Fed vote will be Mr. Hoenig’s last, because the presidents of the Fed’s regional banks, other than New York, share votes under a rotation system. Mr. Hoenig does not have a vote next year, and he must retire after he turns 65 in September.

As for his future, Mr. Hoenig is certain that he will not follow other Fed veterans who have gone to work on Wall Street. “I can tell you one thing,” he said. “I’ll never work for a too-big-to-fail bank.”

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Biglari's latest letter.

Here is the 2010 Chairman's Letter from Biglari Holdings.

I can't wait to see what this guy does in the coming years. Should be impressive.

Disclosure: I am long BH. This is not advice of any kind. You should always do a ton of your own research regarding anything that I say, do, write, or so much as think about.

Friday, December 10, 2010

ITEX Dissidents Lose Proxy Battle.

Here. It will be interesting to see the distribution of votes in the coming days.

Sorry guys, I thought that you made a great case. :)

Disclosure: None.

God Save Julian Assange.

Apparently, it looks like US officials are going to bring spying charges against Assange... I got this from their Facebook page, become a fan!

Additionally, have you tried to go to Yeah, you CAN'T.

Here is a link to the site:

Government openness is in our best interest. The more facts that the populous is given, the better kinds of decisions that will be made. When, in a democracy, people are not given information, how can they give an informed opinion for the public opinion polls that our leaders generally use when making some controversial decisions.

For example, had 40% of the country been against the war in Iraq, would we have invaded? Had the public access to more information about the situation at hand, would we have been in favor of military intervention? The answer is "no." And, as a result of this invasion, way to many people died, not only Iraqis, but Americans, British, and many others... Furthermore, we are probably dealing with a much more boisterous Iran as a result (which it looks like, from the leaks, is probably going to be in a world of hurt in the coming years).

Wikileaks shows that nations involved in diplomacy are like high school students; but instead of having clothing from Hollister and Abercrombie, they have nukes.

God save you, Mr. Assange.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Review of "The Bed of Procrustes"

I just received my copy of Nassim Taleb's "The Bed of Procrustes". When opening the box that it came in, I was originally disappointed that the book was so small; additionally, I was on the verge of being upset when seeing that it was (in my mind) "only" a bunch of aphorisms... When I pre-ordered the book, I didn't read a thing about it; I simply saw that it was by Taleb. Given that I generally get a lot out of his other books, essays, and lectures, I immediately ordered it (without even reading the title, which told me that it contained a bunch of aphorisms!).

However, once I got to reading it, I was quite happy, and, to some extent, would consider it to be a modern, more random version of "Poor Richard's Almanac". The book is great. While it takes little time to read, I will be thinking about it for a long time.

In regards to the name of the book the story of Procrustes is an interesting one. Taleb argues that we often try to artificially fit things into beds in which they don't belong. In my own case, my initial negative reaction to this very good read serves as a good, and most immediate example of my being stupid.

I am sure that I will revisit this book many times, as there are so many things in it that should be thought on for a long period. Much like with Walden, I find it best to read a few pages (if that much), stop, and then simply think.

Here are some of my favorite snippets:

"In science you need to understand the world; in business you need others to misunderstand it."

"An idea starts to be interesting when you get scared of taking it to it's logical conclusion."

"Pharmaceutical companies are better at inventing diseases that match existing drugs, rather than inventing drugs to match existing diseases."

"If your anger decreases over time, you did injustice; if it increases, you suffered injustice."

"Those who do not think that employment is systemic slavery are either blind or employed."

"The web is an unhealthy place for someone hungry for attention." [how ironic that I am putting this on my non-anonymous blog, eh? ;D]

"Decomposition, for most, starts when they leave the free, social and uncorrupted college life for the solitary confinement of professions and nuclear families."

"What made medicine fool people for so long is that its successes were prominently displayed and its mistakes (literally) buried."

"What I learned on my own I still remember."

"Nation-states like war; city-states like commerce; families like stability; and individuals like entertainment."

"For the robust, an error is information; for the fragile, an error is an error."

"When you beat up someone physically, you get exercise and stress releif; when you assault him verbally on the Internet, you just harm yourself."

"My best example of domain dependence of our minds, from my recent visit to Paris: at lunch in a French restaurant, my friends ate the salmon and threw away the skin at dinner, at a sushi bar, the very same friends ate the skin and threw away the salmon."

"The problem of knowledge is that there are many more books on birds written by ornithologists than books on birds written by birds and books on ornithologists written by birds."

"The ancients knew very well that the only way to understand events was to cause them."

"For Seneca, the Stoic sage should withdraw from public efforts when unheeded and the state is corrupt beyond repair. It is wiser to wait for self-destruction."

"The left holds that because markets are stupid models should be smart; the right holds that because models are stupid markets should be smart. Alas, it never hit both sides that both markets and models are very stupid." (surprising that a libertarian leaning guy would like that, eh?)

"The difference between banks and the Mafia: banks have a better legal-regulatory expertise, but the Mafia understands public opinion."

"For company, you often prefer those who find you more interesting over those you find interesting."

This one is probably my favorite, due to just how simple and obvious it is... Really, it seems to summarize the book:

"The tragedy of virtue is that the more obvious, boring, unoriginal, and sermonizing the proverb, the harder it is to implement."

Disclosure: None. I actually paid for this book AND will receive absolutely nothing if you buy a copy.