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Steve Jobs

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"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."
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2669 days ago
So very true! The crazies, the renegades change the world
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Thoughts and Prayers

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A man goes into an immigration services center in Binghamton New York, blocks the exit in the back with his car, goes through the front door with handguns, body armor and ammunition. He shoots the receptionists and opens fire on a citizenship class. He murders thirteen. This is horrific. I offer my thoughts and prayers.

A psychiatrist trained to help others with the stress of combat goes to Ft. Hood, the army base at which he is stationed, and opens fire on his fellow soldiers and some civilians, too. Another thirteen people are murdered there. Three are killed charging the shooter. Words cannot express my sorrow. I offer my thoughts and prayers.

A professor is denied tenure at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Alabama. She goes to a department faculty meeting and in that conference room pulls out a nine-millimeter handgun and shoots six people, three of whom she manages to murder. Those people were just doing their jobs and what happened to them is terrible. I don’t want to have to think about it any further. I offer my thoughts and prayers.

A truck driver in Manchester, Connecticut comes out of a company disciplinary hearing for allegedly stealing beer and starts shooting up his place of work. He murders eight people, calls his mother and tells her about it, and then shoots himself. Gun control discussions are a mess in this country and they never go anywhere productive, there’s no middle ground, and they make me tired thinking about them. I offer my thoughts and prayers.

In Tucson, Arizona, a member of Congress is meeting with her constituents in the parking lot of a supermarket, and a 22-year-old man comes up and shoots her straight in the head. A representative to Congress, can you believe that! She somehow survives, but he murders six others, ranging in age from nine to 79. That’s quite a range. Surely the attempted assassination of a US Representative will start a substantive discussion by someone. In the meantime, I offer my thoughts and prayers.

Seal Beach, California, where a man and a woman are having a custody dispute. His solution: Enter his wife’s place of work, a hair salon, and open fire on anyone there. He murders his ex-wife and seven other people, including one man not even in the salon. He is  was in his car in the parking lot outside the salon. Bad luck. Here’s an interesting thing: there is a sort of magical power to saying that you offer your thoughts and prayers.

Oakland, California, and at a small Christian college, a man who had been expelled for behavioral and anger management problems decides that he’s going to find an administrator he has issues with. He doesn’t find her, so instead grabs a secretary, enters a classroom and orders the students there to line against a wall. Some refuse. He shoots, reloads and shoots some more. Seven people are murdered. The shooter later says he’s sorry. The magical power of saying that you offer your thoughts and prayers is that once you do it, you’re not required to do anything other than to offer your thoughts and prayers.

In Aurora, Colorado, a midnight audience of Batman fans are half an hour into the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s superhero trilogy when a man enters the theater, clad in protective armor, sets off two gas canisters and starts shooting. Some audience members think this is a stunt tied into the film. It’s not a stunt, and the shooter, armed with an assault rife, a shotgun and a glock, murders a dozen people, ten of whom die right there in the theater. When police visit the shooter’s home, they find it rigged with explosives. The shooter placed a camera to record what happens if the police just barge in. Saying “thoughts and prayers” is performative, which is to say that just in saying it, you’ve performed an action. Prayers leave your mind and go to God. It is a blessed, holy and as such apparently sufficient thing, to offer your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday morning, and in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, members of the Sikh temple there have gathered for services and meditation and are preparing a communal meal when a white supremacist and Army veteran starts shooting, murdering six and wounding a police officer before killing himself. Did you know that Sikhs are often confused by the unknowing and possibly uncaring for being Muslim, and that the excuse of “I thought they were Muslims” is itself a sign of racial hatred? Mind you, there are people who will say to you that it’s not enough, only to offer your thoughts and prayers.

In Minneapolis, a man is called into an office by his supervisor and told he is losing his job. The man replies, “Oh, really?” and pulls out a handgun, shooting the supervisor after a struggle for the weapon, eventually murdering five others before killing himself. Indeed, people particularly particular expect more from lawmakers, who have the ability to call hearings and allow government studies and even change laws, rather than only to offer their thoughts and prayers.

Brookfield, Wisconsin, another hair salon, another estranged couple. The wife seeks  sought a restraining order when the husband threatens threatened to burn her with acid and set her on fire with gasoline. He does neither. He does, however, murder her, along with two other women. Witnesses say the wife tried to protect the others before she died. But again, even if you’re a lawmaker, with the ability to do things that could have concrete impact, you might argue that your responsibility to women being murdered by husbands, workers co-workers murdered by co-workers, religious minorities murdered by bigots, soldiers murdered by other soldiers, innocents murdered by those who are not, ends when you, in a tweet, Facebook post or press release, offer your thoughts and prayers.

A man enters an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, and with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S carbine rifle, murders twenty children, all of whom are either six or seven years old.

We pause here a moment to think about that.

Twenty children. Ages six, or seven.

And here maybe you think to yourself, this is it. it. This is the place and time where thoughts and prayers in fact aren’t enough, where those who only offer their thoughts and prayers recognize that others see them in their inaction, see that the convenient self-absolution of thoughts and prayers, that the magical abnegation thoughts and prayers  offer, offer is no longer sufficient, is no longer proper, is no longer just or moral, or even offers the appearance of morality.

We pause here a moment, and we wait to see what happens next.

And then they come. One after another.

I offer my thoughts and prayers.

And it keeps going.

Five murdered in Santa Monica, California by a gunman. I offer my thoughts and prayers.

12 murdered in a running firefight through the Washington Navy Yard in DC. Like a ritual, I offer my thoughts and prayers.

Ft. Hood, Texas again, for another three murdered. Like a litany, I offer my thoughts and prayers.

Six murdered in Isla Vista, California. Violence against women is horrible, and I offer my thoughts and prayers.

Nine murdered in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s unspeakable that violence against black Americans has happened like this, and I offer my thoughts and prayers.

Five murdered in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Muslims should answer for the crimes of this person, even if they do not know him or would in any way condone the action, and I offer my thoughts and prayers.

Nine murdered in Roseburg, Oregon. I offer my thoughts and prayers.

Three murdered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Thoughts and prayers.

Fourteen murdered in San Bernadino. Thoughts. Prayers.

Fifty murdered in Orlando.

Fifty people, in a gay club, by a shooter who his father says was disgusted by the sight of two men kissing, and who news reports now tell us had pledged allegiance to ISIS.

And what do we do now, I wonder, when the victims are who they are and the perpetrator is who he is, the situation is ripe for posturing, and there’s a phrase to be used that allows one to assert maximum public virtue with minimum personal effort or responsibility?

What do we do now, when thoughts and prayers are easy, and everything else is hard?

Here is the thing: In the aftermath of terrible violence, offer thoughts, and prayers, if it is your desire to do so.

Then offer more than thoughts and prayers. Ask for more than thoughts and prayers. Vote for more than thoughts and prayers. Help those for whom thoughts and prayers are the  a start of their responsibilities, not the  an abdication of them. And as for the others, you may politely remind them of Matthew 6:5-6, 6:5-7, and perhaps also Matthew 7:21-23. 7:21-23. Perhaps they will see themselves in the words there. Perhaps not. They’re worth thinking on regardless.

“I offer my thoughts and prayers.”

Thank you.

It’s not enough.

It never was.

What more do you have to offer?

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2928 days ago
When do we move beyond offering our thoughts and prayers?
2931 days ago
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5 public comments
2924 days ago
Missed this last week, but as per usual right on the money.
New York, NY
2931 days ago
"Thoughts and prayers" aren't enough.
2931 days ago
Queue Anthony Jeselnik
San Antonio, TX
2931 days ago
So true.
Heidelberg, Germany
2931 days ago
Scalzi, at his best
Corvallis, OR

Must-Read: Barry Ritholtz: Hedge Funds Scramble to Reassure Investors: "Why is i...

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Must-Read: Barry Ritholtz: Hedge Funds Scramble to Reassure Investors: "Why is it that in the face of underperformance...

...investors still seem to love hedge funds?... This rather astonishing figure:

The 20 most profitable hedge funds for investors earned $15 billion last year while the rest of the industry collectively lost $99 billion. Those top managers have made 48 percent of the $835 billion in profits that the hedge fund industry has generated since its inception....

I suspect that... a large part of the reason for [the] inflows[is] an ill-advised pursuit of market-beating alpha by investors who seem to be desperate to find the next James Simons.... There are no signs of it slowing down. That isn’t to say a rotation within the hedge fund firmament is not taking place... the disappointed limited partners in hedge funds also seem to be a fickle group. Like speed daters looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, they table hop in pursuit of the one manager who has the secret sauce to make the wealthy accredited investor even wealthier.


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3062 days ago
Note how concentrated the wealth creation at hedge funds was

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The ‘Netflix effect': an excellent example of ‘creative destruction’

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From the article “50 Amazing Netflix Statistics and Facts“:

Netflix is an amazing digital success story. Starting out almost 15 years ago as a predominantly DVD subscription service, Netflix was able to pivot along the way and take advantage of rapidly evolving mobile technology and ever-improving internet speeds to become one of the largest video distribution networks on the planet.

The success of Netflix is an excellent example of “creative destruction,” a term originated in the 1940s by economist Joseph Schumpeter, who described it as the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new structure. This process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.” In fact, Netflix has been so disruptive to existing industries, that its impact is now being referred to by some by some as as the “Netflix effect.” Here are a few examples of the “Netflix effect” and the industries that have been “Netflixed.”

1.Video Tape and Disc Rental Industry. The chart above shows how Netflix has almost driven the video tape/disc rental business, along with companies like Blockbuster, into extinction. (Interestingly, Blockbuster passed up a chance in 2000 to purchase Netflix for $50 million — it’s now worth $54 billion.) By the time the BLS started tracking the number of jobs in the video tape rental business in 1985, there were more than 80,000 employees nationwide, and that number more than doubled to 170,000 by early 1999. Blockbuster was the dominant firm in the industry and employed nearly 60,000 employees at more than 9,000 stores at its peak in 2004. But in the last decade, employment in the video/disk rental industry has collapsed from 153,000 jobs in 2005 to fewer than 11,000 in May of this year – that’s a 93% decrease in a decade! That could arguably be the largest percentage employment decline in any US industry over the last decade — even employment in the newspaper industry hasn’t cratered nearly that fast over the last ten years!


2. Traditional Media Companies. After challenging Blockbuster, which filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and was subsequently acquired by Dish Network at auction in 2011, Netflix (along with other online viewing platforms like Hulu, Amazon and Apple TV) is now challenging cable networks, traditional network TV channels, and pay-TV services. The “Netflix effect” can be seen in the chart above that compares the year-to-date stock returns for Netflix (up by 157%) to Disney, which owns the cable networks ESPN, Disney Channels and ABC Family (+15%), CBS (-6.3%), Time-Warner, which owns CNN, HBO and Cinemax (-21.5%), and FOX (-22.75%).

Here are several recent news reports that provide some details about the “Netflix effect” illustrated in the chart above.

3. The Street: “Cord-Cutting Fears Spark Big Selloff at Disney, Fox, CBS“:

Call it the Netflix effect, or fear of streaming, but media companies are shaking like never before. Investor concerns about the changing nature of video viewing have morphed into fear and loathing on signs that consumers are fast ditching pay-TV for streaming video. It’s not just Netflix, of course, but the increasing amount of time people of all ages are spending on Facebook, Google‘s YouTube and countless other Web sites that supply video.

Walt Disney shares tumbled 9.2% on Wednesday after the company reported record profits but acknowledged there had been “modest subscriber losses” at ESPN during the second quarter. The decline resulted from some households switching to so-called skinny bundles — smaller cable packages that don’t include the high-priced sports network, according to Disney CEO Bob Iger

Disney’s nosedive triggered broader investor worries about consumers opting for skinny bundles or dropping cable TV completely as shares of other traditional media giants also plummeted. Time Warner, despite beating revenue and earnings expectations for the quarter, closed down 9%. Viacom was down 7.5%; 21st Century Fox fell 7%; and CBS, 4.6%.

Compare that with Netflix, whose stock climbed 2% Wednesday to more than $123 a share. The company’s stock had more than doubled this year before it announced a seven-to-one stock split in June. Netflix stock was rising in Thursday trading.

The contrast with Netflix highlighted investor jitters about the viability of the traditional cable bundle in the face of heightened competition from on-demand video services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, which are investing heavily in high-quality programming.

Nearly half (46%) of U.S. homes have access to a streaming service as of July, according to Nielsen data. That figure rises to 62% for homes with people age 18 to 34, underscoring the allure of on-demand video especially among Millennials.

4. Wall Street Journal: “Cord-Cutting Weighs on Pay TV (Stocks of media firms with cable channels are hit on subscriber losses)”:

Cable TV’s signal is getting shaky on Wall Street. The latest round of earnings from major media companies is stoking fears that as more consumers drop their traditional pay-TV services, the long-term health of the industry’s biggest players will be threatened. The growing unease about the state of the pay-television ecosystem has been on display this week, as media stocks have gotten battered.

For years, a key driver of media companies’ earnings and stock prices has been the promise of steadily rising subscription fees from pay-TV providers. Even as the U.S. TV market matures, the theory goes, pay-TV distributors will continue to dole out increases in per-subscriber fees to carry cable TV networks. But if the number of subscribers in the ecosystem shrinks substantially due to cord-cutting, those growth assumptions start to fall apart, putting significant pressure over time on revenue and profits.

Many consumers, particularly millennials, are opting for online platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Apple TV over a traditional cable or satellite subscription. That, in turn, is hurting traditional distributors and programmers.

Viewers are gradually being conditioned to seek out online platforms for their favorite network shows rather than watching them on linear TV, which means lower ratings and audience cannibalization.

“Netflix is the most powerful content aggregator in the world today and there’s nobody that’s even close,” Dish Chief Executive Charle Ergen said Wednesday on the company’s earnings call. He said kids are “happy to watch SpongeBob from 2007 and that’s just as fresh to them as SpongeBob from 2015. So the world has changed.”

5. Reuters: “Wall Street slumps as media stocks hemorrhage“:

Wall Street slumped on Thursday (today) as weak earnings reports from media companies raised fears that more viewers are ditching cable TV, dragging the sector to its worst two-day loss since the financial crisis.

MP: The ultimate winners of creative destruction and the “Netflix effect” are the consumers, who reap the benefits of intense, disruptive, cut-throat market competition in the form of a constantly-evolving, never-ending bonanza of innovative consumer products that get better, faster, and cheaper all the time. Thank you Netflix for the gale of market disruption you have brought to the media industry, and thank you to the yet-to-be-identified disruptive Firm X in the future that will eventually challenge Netflix with something that might be called the “Firm X effect.” We live in a much better world because of the “essential fact about capitalism” known as creative destruction, illustrated in recent years by the “Netflix effect.”

The post The ‘Netflix effect': an excellent example of ‘creative destruction’ appeared first on AEI.

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3232 days ago
There is no denying the impact of Netflix. But the price amply reflects
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U.S. vs. China+Russia - the Tale of the Tape

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About 70 years ago, there was a big battle for supremacy among all of the big countries on Earth, called "World War 2." The countries that came out on top of that battle were the United States, Russia, and China. Following the end of that war, there was a protracted low-intensity power struggle (the Cold War) between those three winners, which Russia lost, and the United States and China - who started out as enemies, but became de facto allies in the 1970s - won. 

People in the U.S. seem to tacitly assume that because we won those two big power struggles, we'll win the next one - if there even is one at all. 

During the 1990s, this seemed to be predicated on the idea that the U.S. would win the ideological battle - that democracy, capitalism, and human rights were such an attractive and potent combination that everyone would settle on these systems, and then there would be no need for further power struggles among nations. This was the "End of History" idea. It may still work out that way, but it hasn't yet - about 40% of the world has resolutely refused to adopt U.S.-like systems, and democracy has actually been in retreat since slightly after the turn of the millennium, if you believe Freedom House.

In the last few years, it has finally sunk in that the "End of History" idea is not right (at least, for now). People are waking up to the possibility that the spread of democracy and human rights from 1945 to 2000 might have been partially a byproduct of U.S. power.

But there is still the notion that the U.S.' economy and military are both so strong that we are guaranteed to retain preeminence over any foe or combination of foes. 

But now consider the combination of China and Russia, the other two victors of World War 2. These countries are each poorer than us on a per capita basis, which reflects the inferiority of their economic and political systems in terms of creating human welfare. But their draconian systems have, so far, allowed them to retain control over vast territories (17% of the world's land area) and huge populations (21% of humanity). and huge populations.

What's more, these countries are now both clearly opposed to American power and influence - Russia more so than China, given the war in Ukraine. The two countries have resolved the enmity and territorial disputes that existed between them in the Cold War, and are now de facto allies. 

So I thought it would be useful to compare the "tale of the tape" - the basic resources that the U.S. possesses, compared to the emerging alliance of Russia and China. Here is a table I whipped up:

All data are from 2012 or 2013. The source is Wikipedia.

Notice how in all categories except for nominal GDP, the U.S. is outclassed by the combination of the other two powers - sometimes by an enormous margin. powers.

There are some caveats, of course, including but not limited to the following:

* Given China's greater growth rate, the GDP and Manufacturing disparities will continue to move in the direction of China+Russia.

* The nuclear warhead number is the sum of both tactical and strategic warheads, though the strategic-only numbers are similar.

* Proven fossil fuel reserves are not equal to economically recoverable reserves; the U.S. has more advanced extraction technologies.

* Active military personnel are not the same as total military personnel; the total number favors China+Russia even more.

* I did not include specific weapons systems, since I am not sure about the strategic relevance of any of these. For example, Russia has many more tanks and mobile ICBMs than the U.S., while the U.S. has many more aircraft carriers. I am simply not sure how useful tanks, mobile ICBMs, and aircraft carriers really are at this point. Nor do I know about differences in weapon quality. But it's worth noting that in both WW2 and the Cold War, GDP ended up mattering more than initial levels of military tech in determining the eventual victor.

Some argue that China and Russia are not true allies. However, this was also true of the U.S. and China in the latter part of the Cold War - and, for that matter, the U.S. and USSR in WW2. Predictions that Russia and China will come into conflict over Russia's Far East have so far proven to be total fantasy, and the two countries have moved ever closer together.

The U.S. might be able to count on allies in an actual war - Britain, France, and/or Germany in a European war against Russia, and Japan and/or India in an East Asian war against China. So this might not be an appropriate comparison; indeed, I think that building strong alliances is our best hope of countering a China-Russia alliance. Note also that China+Russia might be able to draw on some allies as well, such as Pakistan (against India) or North Korea (against Japan).

Anyway, I think that the numbers should demonstrate to all but the most blinkered observers that the U.S. is not facing an opponent whose resources are far less than ours, as we did in both WW2 and the Cold War. For the first time since the early days of our country, our rivals have more resources than we do - and the disparity is getting larger every day. Despite the obvious superiority of our governmental and economic systems, we are not guaranteed to prevail in a power struggle against a Russia-China axis. Henry Kissinger knew this, which is why he always warned that we should be closer to either China or Russia than those two countries were to each other. But in recent years that has proven to be impossible.

Now hopefully, this blog post, and others that point out the same facts, won't matter at all. Hopefully, there will be no new Cold War or anything like it. But just in case this is where things are headed, it pays to be honest with ourselves about the facts.
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3534 days ago
A very interesting and unique perspective of the US' global position
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Quotation of the day on why charter schools are here to stay..

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…. is from Joshua Dunn writing in the current issue of National Review in his article “Bill de Blasio Gets Schooled: Under pressure, he decides that charter schools aren’t so bad after all“: :

…. Charter schools are here to stay. They have become too widespread and embedded in educational practice to be stopped. At most, their growth can be slowed, but only at great political peril. Their supporters have created broad, influential and politically savvy coalitions. Teachers’ unions can complain all they want, but if they cannot win in New York City, they are going to have difficulty winning anywhere. And de Blasio’s humiliation will make it hard for the unions to convince others to attack charters. The message will be: If you don’t like charters, you don’t like children? Who wants that message? mesage?

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3650 days ago
Sorry Mayor deBlasio, charter schools are here to stay
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