Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ben unwind?

Moral: Wherein we look at opinions on Ben's largess and at whether he needs to unwind.


We, the savers, asked Ben to unwind long time (Aug 2009) ago.


Today, there was discussion of this on several sides.

What's the right view? That depends, but it's worth looking at.


02/11/2015 -- Wikipedia: Zero interest rate policy.

07/31/2013 -- Ben cannot unwind or taper down; he has too many Doves.

04/10/2013 -- Soar, DOW, soar.

03/29/2013 -- Ben has taken a big chunk out of the Savings Bond payback.

02/26/2013 -- What? Ben doesn't have any influence with his put?

02/12/2013 -- We ought to have nationalized these guys' playground.

Modified: 02/11/2015

Prof Blinder, Princeton

Moral: Wherein we consider the use, again, of 'chimera' when things are flying high (DOW above 13.9). More or less, Ben is getting what he wants, though many (oodles, actually) are not part of this bubble.


There seem to be voices of reason around and about who are not going gaga over the equity climb or who are not enthralled by the computation trickery. Turns out that Princeton may have a few of these folks. We have already pointed to work related to complexity issues with financial products (Lemons, et al). Now, I see that an Economics Professor presents a message that resonates with the theme of the blog.

Let's point to four reviews and then summarize the book: USA Today, LA Times, WSJ, NYT. In the USA Today review, there were phrases dropped here and there that have appeared in this blog.
This list from a review. No doubt, I could get more from the book itself. This is sufficient, though, for now. 


Aside: As the exchanges soar, does not "chimera" become bad usage? We looked at that (Oct 2012) a little bit ago, as one has to wonder what's behind the exuberance. Earlier, we looked at how King Alan (Sep 2009) had said that he saw an irrational type (late 1990s timeframe); some now say the thing is rational. The key to the discussion of "chimera" would look at near-zero's reality. Yes, it's a chimera no matter how large gets the fancy bubble. 


Using, again, the USA Today review, we can list things that the Prof mentions. 
  • bankers ought not be speculative -- yes, indeed, we have said similar (Apr 2012, for one)
  • self-regulation is unworkable -- actually, ought to go without saying
  • risk managers ought to ... -- the smarties always go too far (Nov 2009, et al
  • derivatives, et al -- new fangled, indeed (allow piracy (Aug 2011), et al)
  • balance sheet -- don't allow the off-sheet (Aug 2009) stuff  
The Prof used: After the Music Stopped. Sure enough. The crooks quit since there were too many lemons; who was trustworthy, financially (Aug 2009)? Jamie (Jun 2012)?


07/31/2013 -- Ben cannot unwind or taper downhe has too many Doves. We'll have to get back to the king thing (yes, the divine rights of the CEO) and dampening of these types by a new outlook (Magna-Carta'√≠sh).

02/26/2013 -- One who structured financial instruments joked that a cow could do this and still get the AAA rating. Just cannot fathom how this type of thing became popular and was even glorified with finance (earlier, I had used fiction in my discussion of the smells out of the disciplines dealing with (our) money). Weakest link, and other, examples come to play that ought to have given pause. In some cases, those doing this idiocy had a scientific academic background. Go figure.

02/26/2013 -- What? Ben doesn't have any influence with his put?

01/29/2013 -- The WSJ review is a nice counterpoint.

Modified: 07/31/2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Zeno, in the modern context

Moral: Wherein we let the 'chimera' slide by, for now.


It's common knowledge that the modern world knows things through computers. This is true from the most recent phenomena, of noses to smart phones parading as intelligent behavior, to the wide expanses of cosmology's modeling of the heavens and exploration of multi-universes as an explanation, of sorts. In between, we have IRS's use plus business computing, such as design, planning, and a number of other things.

So, where does one go to look at issues related to such knowledge? The ACM is a good start. Say, their Communications of the ACM. Then, we have a whole lot of other folks, such as IEEE, IJCAI, and such.


The following is motivated by a viewpoint, expressed by Phillip G. Armour, in the ACM. His article is titled: The Business of Software: How We build Things (in paper, slightly different on-line). There are two things to mention here, though the article ought to be read.

File:Zeno of Elea Tibaldi or Carducci Escorial.jpg
Zeno, Veritas et Falsitas
He uses Zeno in talking about what I had called Earned Value. I only used Zeno once (Fedaerated) in several posts on three blogs. Why? I had talked about this with my colleagues on many occasions. It seemed that referencing the guy was more useful in person as then one could get off on the peripatetic issues.

Why Zeno? He's the guy of the arrow. Or, as the joke goes, the mathematician who doesn't get the girl. So, Phillip asks: why do people guess that they're 95% (or some such number) complete on a task as if they're monotonically approaching, with no end in sight?

Phillip laughs it off. I don't as it was a regular occurrence as we tried to assess completion of a project with lots of people and oodles of modules. Nowadays, it's not an issue (say, with Zuck's stuff) as they can just push out system changes (with a recovery method, hopefully, to use if things go bad) without regard to testing status. This is not true for other parts of the business world, say like the 787 (even a most-specified test plan will still leave room for judgment calls -- we'll get to that).


Phillip's use gets me thinking, again, that I need to bring the topic forward, again.

First, though, a useful exercise would be to gather all of the posts, for each of the blogs, that dealt with the subject of earned value. For each of the blogs, I have a list of posts that include the term. Then, I provide a list of a few of the important posts and the count of posts with the term.

Fedaerated (18)        7'oops7 (41)        Truth Engineering (20)

Now, for this blog, posts didn't start until 2009. The theme has been economic but wide-ranging due to the breadth of Ben's influence.

We'll bring this subject up to date and relate it, as it ought to be, to fair value and to the contexts of the related blogs.

A sampling of posts follows:
  • Jobs, labor, disrespect (Jan 15, 2012) -- Part of the zero sum issue is that running to outhouse allows many important factors to be ignored. That is, until these raise their heads (which is inevitable) under the new situation. 
  • Some background I (Apr 3, 2011) -- Berkeley applies here, despite the protestations otherwise that are based upon modern (all types) analysis. 
  • On the behalf of (Oct 5, 2009) -- Even if an agent wants to do well by his/her client, that is no guarantee. Bringing in lemons makes matters descend to chaos.  
  • Value, fair or earned (Sep 3, 2009) -- Value, of any type, determination can be a hard issue, even if one believes in computational approaches, all manners of glossing over aside.  
There are a lot more posts to look. We'll get back to that.


Phillip used some mathematics to show the problems related to knowing where you were with a project (the managers, like kids, say: are we there, yet?). Nice article.


05/30/2013 -- This theme will play within the cosmology of business. Isn't it interesting that Zeno applies in the modern context.

02/26/2013 -- What? Ben doesn't have any influence with his put?

01/26/2013 -- Of late, more money is pouring into equity buckets. How long before a burst? 

Modified: 05/30/2013

The spirit of the thing

Moral: Wherein we consider that Adam's (and others') use of spirit ("animal" and otherwise) needs a new look, perhaps. And, is Lance a better poster boy than, say, Jamie?


Of late, Armstrong is in the news, what with his little chat with Oprah before the cameras. There is no need for any link here, as everyone knows the story.

So, based upon one's reaction to that bit of tell-it-like-it is, one might predict the response to the revelation that follows about business, perhaps. Here are the questions for you, the reader.
  • Was Lance in his right to dope up? After all, plenty of athletes do. They push their body beyond natural limits (and pay the price). Too, they're entertainers, somewhat, to an increasingly rabid crowd fed by television and by the growing influence of the web (fantasy leagues, et al). 
  • Or, ought Lance be a poster boy (as, perhaps, too, these types of guys) for things that we don't want? Or, in other words, games ought to be fair? Too, if some types want to get down and dirty, perhaps, we ought to provide the sandbox (play pen) for such.  
  • Wait, nothing is purely black and white, so there has to be other positions: bring in more factors (after all, he did have cancer), realize that it's a dirty world (we all crap, regularly), and more?
Okay, how did you answer? Well, it turns out that your notions apply to your thoughts of business, too. For instance, did you know that everyday there are people doing business work for which they are not proud (as in, they're cloaked behind all sorts of rationalizations and legalese)? 

Oh, that's the way of the world?


Business week
Earlier, we mentioned hedge funds as being problematic. Actually, we suggested that they are to the rich what ponzis (Herbalife aside) are to the poor (yet, Made-off targeted the rich - made them feel to be in some exclusive set, or such as that). Perhaps, hedge funds are for the more smart of the crowd. 

So, Businessweek quotes some player saying that all in this type of business have to go over the edge (not talking morality, as they are not even close to have any moral bones in their embodied thing). And yes, I know the connotation of "edge" being used the quote, basically an advantage (that's why some sports have weight classes, etc.). Consider, any edge, in the more general sense, has a couple of sides (at least), not unlike the proverbial wall. Which side one falls on tells a lot about the person. 

We know this type of thing is the usual mode? So, why are those who fill their pockets this way given so much applause? Envy? Ah, thank you, we tell them. It feels so good to have our collective pockets picked by your Excellencies! Who wants to have that type of tainted money?


As well, we saw problems with the systems that run markets. This goes on daily, to boot. Well, in the U.S., five days a week. And, underlying their machinations is very suspect theory. Ah, the way of the world, again.

The fact is that we could clean up the whole thing, if we had the heart. One basic argument is that everyone is doing it (as in, no place in the world is clean, after all, we're nowhere near anything like utopia).

Anyway, the world is more about power than truth, for now (as in, until when?).


Are those who do the "bad" deeds just stupid? You know, there is an adage about rising above one's level of competence. Do some of these folks just have a higher platform from which to launch themselves into errant ways? That is, they're already to 3rd base or home before they even start.

But, no, newbies abound in the class of steppers-over-the-line, to boot. Actually, there is a lot of lip-service, by some, in regard to ethics (the 1636 school, trust (these guys/gals), and more. But does technology imply out of control? That is, the American dream is a farce, except for the very few (as in, those who can pirate and get away with it)?


03/22/2013 -- GW at ESPN (see image on right) has a nice point of view on the madness (and related comments). We ought to have something similar for the financial folks, using play money, with prizes. That's the sandbox, folks. Then, the real stuff would be handled by mature, stable adults (not the greed ridden - and similar ilks -- okay?). The madness has to do with animal spirits just like the market (ala Adam). Too bad that one loss gets one out the door. Perhaps, at the final four level, there ought to be a round robin, like college baseball. --- Now, having just written the above, this glorious bit of madness is really a sham (see comment at madness, 03/12/2012, below). The whole madness pits kids against each other, who are playing for naught (comparatively), being coached by millionaires, with big buck media behind the affair, and a bunch of other lucrative ploys benefiting from the labors of the few. If one looked at qualities (as in, abstract out a truthful look at this), one could find parallels (many, many) all across history (these things being not consider our best behavior). Granted some (as in, not all) of the kids go on to big bucks. Others find glory in their endeavors (what would be be without school spirit?). Yet, besides the commonality with historic events that aren't looked at as being our (humankind's) best moments, there are all sorts of analogs in business (which we've seen of late, in glorious detail, as being problematic at its core - the heart that is supposed to be related to finance). By the way, see the comment (madness, 02/08/2013); that particular team ended up with a #1 seed.

Modified: 03/22/2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Business, as stupid

Moral: Wherein we look at what's behind a lot of what's called business: silliness. Why else the ca-pital-sino and all of the related crap? (note, please, I'm saying business; politics is another whole thing)


The last man standing
What was that adage? By the 2nd grade (kindergarten?), we know all we need to know about people and life? Reading about Jamie's little rag (he? the epitome of banking - well paid, and such -- remember, last man standing) about his people (Jamie said that some of his people were running around like chickens in the time of the "whale" bit, worrying about their career more than what they ought to do to understand, and to resolve, the problem - has he looked at his ilk?) gets me to thinking about his type. Ah, CEOs? The WSJ, this weekend, said that we ought to honor them. Hah!

You know why that laugh? Well, there are people in the world who are effective. That is, they can do things and get things done. And, some of these make millions; millions of these slave away exploited by the CEO (and their ilk). Another type? Those who take (in one age, Vikings were the epitome in the European theater). That is, they dominate, have to be lording over someone, and such. Oh yes, they can order people around. Those who are the effective get things done; the order-around'ers take the credit (more times than not) and get the remuneration.

Now, we have those two sets of people. Doers (thank God for that) and manipulators (all types, essentially, exploiters of loopholes, skimmers off of the top, etc.). Now, there are other than these two sets (politicians, for one), but we'll just look at these two, for now (again, as this was addressed before, somewhat). The other sets will be looked at in time, as they relate to business, to boot.


Engineers, for the most part, are doers (see Engineer Memes, for a laugh or two). Some become managers thereby moving out of the doer set (by the way, I heard a manager - about 15 years ago - bewail that he doing something for himself made him a doer - this about the time when secretaries were being let go and managers had to share those types of resources - but, this for another time). And, we have engineers put themselves through paces in order to become entitled to the role and its glory; then, we have them work for manipulators (but, that's the catch, engineers who rise to management become ineffectual).

So, we might say that it's the way of the world. Not necessarily, as I've run across several organizations in which the power roles were passed around. Those who were really effective tried to shy away from playing in the crap (used intentionally, as dirt is to be honored - it feeds you, for instance, by providing the means for food production - hydroponics' role is minuscule, comparatively, at least as of now).


What's the point? It's a lead-in to chimera talking. Doers of the markets are those who are putting the technology into place, establishing the rules of the road, and managing activity. The takers, in this case? Most of the players.

We now hear that an exchange, of a newer variety, has been mis-handling trades for a few years. This came out via audit (we can look at this in more detail, but now we're just talking the generalities). Ignoring the particulars, one has to go back to look at why we think that these computational systems are doing things correctly. First of all, what is correct is not simple (as the guy who runs things says, but he didn't go far enough). Then, who the hell has determined that programming is easy and that we ought to take results from efforts of these people without question (oh, I know, the Zucks of the world just crap on us, and we keep silent since the system appears to be free)?

So, without belaboring the thing, let's look at what will be required. Along with oversight, we need to have quiescent points that will allow a look at things (even if it's time to do a quick capture of the state). This ought to be daily. Then, for any of these hotshot systems, with their automated trading, we need a computational watchdog(s). Ah, yes, none of the stupid dark pools, either.

Consider: Each trade would be handled, and verified, at the time of the event and scrutinized at the review point (several times). It would squelch speculation (yes, Minsky talked about the need).

Why this? There are serious computational problems that are being overlooked (read this and look at the Princeton FAQ). Rick Bookstaber of the SEC, at his blog, had a post (Great migration and barbarians) to which I responded, as follows:
    The definition of the new barbarians would include those who can (via access, by ability, etc.) manipulate the game through knowledge that the underlying complexity will most likely shield their introduction of 'lemons' despite efforts by the "non-barbarians" to be vigilant and to prevent such gaming of the system. Evidently, it works. As in, where are the perp walks?  
    See Princeton's FAQ on the subject of computational complexity and financial products: 
    The net effect can be a huge pocket-picking of the multitude of the hapless by the very few.   
In this day and age, the takers have a new game, given to them by the technological advances of the doers. Isn't that the shites (love those Aussies)? This new thing (the glories of the cloud and more) have already been trashed by those who have been a pain in our collective butts throughout the whole history of mankind.


So, back to the guy who runs the new exchange: why, guy, did you run off and sell your services as if they needed no scrutiny? Well, to make money, of course. The thing is that the game is now different due to computers (and advancements in the misuse of abstraction - we'll have to get back to this by extending our most popular post).

Business needs to take the role (hear me, Jamie?) in setting up a sustainable approach. Yes, and Ben, to boot, needs to bring his mind around to the reality.


11/24/2013 -- The ACM has a review article on algorithmic trading that everyone ought to read. Essentially, if we use a plane as an example (consider what Boeing has had to do to get the 787 out and about), we would say that the financial folks are putting passengers on experimental aircraft with little regard to their safety and comfort. The whole notion is atrocious. How does it happen? They've coached things in mathematics and computerese, plus they've bastardized Adam Smith's ideas. Where is our sandbox, and where is the stable economic system that we can build?

04/11/2013 -- See Alpha Seeking article.

01/20/2013 -- The recent Business Week had something interesting article (Steven Cohen, of SAC Capital). Some employed in the business have misgivings about their ways of doing things. One talker, under questioning, was asked if he knew of any hedge fund that was clean, or above reproach using the old concept (as in, no shady dealings). No, he said. They could not survive, otherwise. It's like doping.

01/18/2013 -- http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/america-declare-bankruptcy-doug-casey-124119100.html (easy debt mortgaging the future generations -- loose money, too, thanks, Ben). How many businesses,  like Hawker, were idiotic deals with loads of debt while some walked away with huge pockets?

01/17/2013 -- The Atlantic Article: What's Inside America's Banks? Using Wells Fargo as the focus.

01/16/2013 -- Consider this a ranting overview, the specifics can be addressed, more rationally, using material like Rick's post on his agent-based modeling work. Think of the agent view as analogous to the particle look in physics. What is at the basis of matter? Particle or wave? ... Why would we care from the viewpoint of business and busyness? ... Particles are individuals but could be compound. Think of the wave as representing the composite of the particles, in a sense (there are many other ways). So, talking about economic objects (particles), we have individuals, super individuals (companies, in other words), nations, and more. Some collection, like a bank (many employees (traders, et al), with a Jamie in pseudo-charge, as in, pretty-boy, front-man is a necessary role as we, the customers, want to know that our money is safe - so the pretty-boy can mouth comforting words to us), could be split into the particles, but then what would be the bank? It's a particle, itself, and a series of waves. But, one could, in certain views, use a wave as representing something meaningful. Like, is the principle direction vector pointing toward the mud (not necessarily kidding here - and say that it's a pig's wallow full of it) so that we all get splattered with crap? ... Our problem? The descent (as we've all felt and seen) is due to a lowering all around as these particles followed their own thing without any due thought to the flock (ah, how can we teach such a thing? -- if I'm a John Galt, to which flock do I belong?).

Modified: 11/24/2013