Financial hand waving

In 2008 the prices of some structured credit products built out of subprime U.S. mortgages went down, and as a result there was a global recession and millions of people lost their jobs. If you had asked a normal person in 2007: “How would it affect your life if it turns out that investors have mispriced the super-senior risk in synthetic collateralized debt obligations built out of subprime mortgage tranches,” that person would have said “I have no idea what you are talking about, but I can’t imagine how that collection of words would affect me.” But it did. 

(Via Matt Levine in Money Stuff)

That was messy but somewhat comprehensible. I guess. And then this:

If you asked a normal person, you know, two weeks ago: “How would it affect your life if the prices of some monkey JPEGs and algorithmic stablecoins crash,” I think most people would reasonably have said “I do not own a monkey JPEG and do not aspire to own one, so this will not affect me at all.” My guess is that they would have been right. My guess is that the real world is not too affected by the crypto world, and that if crypto prices crash there will not be a ton of contagion in the rest of the financial system. But I think it is, at this point, debatable. Crypto has at least started to work its way into the real financial system. Some traditional investors also own crypto; if their crypto goes down they might have to sell regular stuff. Some public companies are exposed to crypto (because they are crypto exchanges, because they have levered crypto holdings, etc.), so your boring old index fund might go down when crypto goes down.

There is nothing about cryptocurrency and NFTs that doesn’t scream !SCAM!. The amount of magical thinking in this thing shocks me. That it will become part of the real economy, the one that helps people pay bills and buy groceries, terrifies me.

I used to say something along the lines of, “A lot of smarter people than me figured this was ok, so it must be.” I don’t say such ridiculous things any more.

Not that I don’t respect science and economics and those who do them and associated disciplines. I doubt our current definition of “smart people”. If they’re only the like of Musk and Bezos and Gates and Thiel, then I’ll spend time looking into what actual “smart people” in the arenas think.

I stopped believing in a benevolent billionaire entrepreneur doing anything beyond self-aggrandizement and adding a few extra billion to their Forbes profile.

Saving time

Ugh. It happened again. Parts of the world changed their clocks because it was 02:00 local time.

When I lived in Japan I got to experience the joy of one time zone in the whole country that does not change twice a year. It was glorious.

However, I did have to invest in blackout curtains because sunrise was around 04:30 in the summer. With the longer morning-side day still came a longer evening-side day, and the earlier peak day heat meant that maybe it would dissipate enough in time for a nice evening.

Daylight savings time needs to go away – kind of.

With countries as big East to West as the continental US, Mexico,and Canada, how to get rid of DST becomes problematic.

My favorite idea is, in autumn, to merge Eastern, and Central time into one time zone, combine Mountain and Pacific into another, and Alaska and Hawaii into a third.

Central and Mountain time zones would do nothing. Eastern would “fall” back to aline with Central Daylight time. Pacific time will “spring” ahead (for the second time in the year) to align with Mountain.

Most of Alaska stays on Alaska Standard Time. The rest of Alaska and Hawaii permanently “springs” ahead to Hawaii-Aleutian Daylight Time.

If my math is right (and there is zero guarantee that it is) the newly created Eastern time zone and the new Western time zone would be 1 hour different from each other – 10 AM in Toronto would be 09 AM in Los Angeles, 10 AM in Chicago would be 09 AM in Denver, and 10 AM in New York would be 9 AM in Mexico City. All of Alaska and Hawaii would be 2 hours behind Los Angeles and 3 hours behind New York: a 5 PM meeting in Detroit would be 4 PM in Phoenix, and 2 PM in Anchorage and Honolulu.

Coming out of this the US would have 3 time zones (mostly), Mexico would have 2, and Canada would have 3. South America would ideally similarly simplify.

Quartz has a good article about this from 10 years ago: https://qz.com/142199/the-us-needs-to-retire-daylight-savings-and-just-have-two-time-zones-one-hour-apart/. Disappointingly, it only focused on the continental US with some through to Alaska and Hawaii.

UPDATE: I thought Atlantic was 0:30 off of Eastern time when I wrote this. I was wrong and adjusted things accordingly.

TIL The Geneva Convention is not (fully) part of US law

… the United States’ domestic war crimes law, the War Crimes Act of 1996 (as amended), has never been fully aligned with the nation’s obligations pursuant to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 to enact domestic legislation establishing jurisdiction over any individual suspected of committing a grave breach of these universally adopted humanitarian law treaties.

(Via Lawfare)

Also, hostis humani generis means an enemy of all mankind.

Anyway, read the whole article for the interesting and detailed details, such as

Congress deprived federal prosecutors of the authority to prosecute suspected war criminals discovered in the United States so long as they and their victims were aliens when their crimes were committed.

That, Dear Friends, is a loophole through which one could drive a oligarch’s yatch.

Officials Double Down on “Let ‘Er Rip” Strategy, Placing Undue Faith in Vaccines as Regions With High Vaccinations Suffer Infection Spikes

Officials Double Down on “Let ‘Er Rip” Strategy, Placing Undue Faith in Vaccines as Regions With High Vaccinations Suffer Infection Spikes:

Again and again, all over the world, we’ve seen public health officials all too willing to relax Covid restrictions too early, resulting in an eventual spike in infections and hospitalizations. As we’ll explain, regulators are repeating the same experiment and expecting different outcomes, The classic example was the May CDC “Mission Accomplished” policy change of telling the fully vaccinated they could go about unmasked, even as Delta had become the dominant strain, had viral loads 1000x that of the wild type, and not surprisingly also had a much higher unmitigated R0. Yet at the same time, the CDC also told state and local authorities to not report cases among the vaccinated ex hospitalizations. The CDC backpedaled on both policies thanks to the summer surge. But considerable damage was done thanks to many of the middle and upper middle class vaccinated still seeing non-mask wearing as a perverse declaration of virtue, that they are doing so to show they are shot up, disregarding the new CDC guidance for the vaccinated to mask up indoors.

Damien Contandriopoulo in The Year Public Health Lost Its Soul explained how we got here:

Most jurisdictions in Western countries adopted “balanced-containment” strategies regarding COVID. This approach is characterized by the ambition to balance, on the one hand, the number of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths and, on the other hand, the economic and social disruptions caused by strict infection control measures such as lockdowns…

As I have noted several times before, what is happening right now is due to the fundamental political economic conflict that dealing with the pandemic requires setting extremely dangerous precedents threatening the foundations of the current order — paying people not to work and canceling debts, none of which can be allowed to even be contemplated. So mass death it is instead … [emphasis mine]

… More specifically, we know that relying on vaccines and not much else isn’t adequate to combat Covid. We and readers have cited the NIH article Increases in COVID-19 are unrelated to levels of vaccination across 68 countries and 2947 counties in the United States, specifically:

Key point: The sole reliance on vaccination as a primary strategy to mitigate COVID-19 and its adverse consequences needs to be re-examined, especially considering the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant and the likelihood of future variants. Other pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions may need to be put in place alongside increasing vaccination rates. Such course correction, especially with regards to the policy narrative, becomes paramount with emerging scientific evidence on real world effectiveness of the vaccines.

… The US is opening up to countries in the midst of surges and/or rising case counts despite high vaccination rates like Singapore, the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands (although in the latter two, from a much lower level than their last peak). Peruvians can come to the US even as Lima is showing a rise in cases. Australia’s New South Wales (with the Sydney airport) is ending its quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated foreign entrants. Colonel Smithers reports that Mauritius will open to fully vaccinated travelers this month.

It would be better if I were wrong, but I don’t expect a happy ending. The only tiny silver lining might be it would be harder to scapegoat Bubba if as with the initial Covid spread, a new wave starts from cities with major international airports.

(via naked capitalism)

Great article analysis, and the source material is spot on.

Today’s obligatory post

In point of fact, these days on 9/11 I don’t tend to think about it much at all, which is I think a healthy thing.

(Via Whatever)

It is healthy to go on. It’s unhealthy how it is pervasive.

Here’s how I plan to spend this 9/11: As if it were an ordinary Saturday, which, god willing, it will be.

I got a haircut, beard trim, and shampoo. I am at a brewery. Later I will cook some dinner.

I will also live my life within the day. Both the remembering and the living are important. The country came to a stop one day, twenty years ago. It’s all right to keep going now.

Me, too.

My issue is with the performative remembering, the “misery porn” aspect, of any tragedy where people chose to let that moment — or any similar tragedy — define them. If one isn’t appropriately miserable on this day, they say, one is somehow less than those who emote strongly.

Some travel mussings

I’ve been in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia again. My timing is best described as interesting as there was much strife in Iran and Iraq around the time I traveled here. The news reported on volcanos and wild fires. It all got me thinking about how I am traveling and contingencies.

Minimal is sexy

My trip was rather last minute due to some travel agency nonsense. As a result I had to travel with more stuff than I wanted, both left in the States in the trunk of my long term parked car and in what I carried. I’m still doing all carry-on with two bags. With some time and a place to safely stow my stuff I could drop 6-7 lbs.
While weight is a factor, the bigger part is being portable and quick. I don’t want to lug 46KG (about 100lbs) of luggage (the typical checked baggage allowance) when trying to evacuate on foot.
Also, I find the more stuff I bring the higher the percentage of stuff I never touch on the trip. Anyway, if there’s something I don’t have but need most places I visit will have a means for me to acquire it.

Make packing cubes work when at rest

There’s one school of thought about packing cubes: that one should keep their clothes in the cubes when in the hotel. I do not think that is a good idea. I empty my cubes (and compression sack) and put things away properly. This is particulrly important for nicer clothes. They should be hung or folded with air around them.
One thing I started doing several years ago was using my Patagonia day bag as a large packing cube, turning it into a multitasker. It works really well for my clothes bundle – a specific method of folding button down shirts and trousers and suits and skirts and blouses and … The bundle can get big, bigger than a typical packing cube. The day bag, however, can take it with room to spare.
I’m taking that idea further soon. Tom Bihn sells two packing cube bags. One is a backpack and the other a shoulder bag. They also sell a backpack called the DayLight, which one can also turn into a packing cube. These aren’t crazy expensive but are not cheap. The fact that I can get dual purpose out of them while providing me with a lot of bag flexibility on trips is attractive.

Tidy is as tidy does

Once a number of years ago I had to evacuate my hotel room in the middle of the night due to a water problem. My room was something of a mess. The chaos and sleepiness lead to me leaving several items behind and damaging some others. It took me way too long to get packed and out of the room.
I keep my room picked up at all times. No dirty clothes on the floor. Shirts, trousers, and jackets are on hangers. Most of my toiletries stay in my Dopp kit. Papers and cables are kept as neat as possible and returned to their home in my bag when not in use.
On this trip, even with my extra kit, I was able to pack in 30 minutes. That was a lazy pack. I could do it in under 20 minutes. That is key.

Registration has its privileges

Any time I head to a foreign country I register with the U.S. State Department’s STEP system. I also look up the embassy and consulate contact information and put them in my contact list. The hotel’s information goes in there, too.
I keep up on the local news. iOS and Android make it easy with their respective news apps. And I keep my weather app aware of my location to notify me of weather events. For example, last trip to Riyadh it rained most of the time I was there. It never occurred to me there might be a flood risk, but my app pinged be about flash flood warnings.
If I’m somewhere with active volcanos and earthquakes I will fire up the local government agency’s app for notifications as well.

Cash is King

I always carry local currency as well as American dollars. ATMs and credit card processors might not work in an emergency. Plus, it’s hard to tip with plastic.

I’m a cool frood who knows where his towel, and passport, is.

Yes, I travel with a towel. More importantly I travel with a passport. I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying the passport with me at all times.
A colleague of mine traveled to China last year and left his passport in his room when he went to work out in the hotel gym. When he returned he was unable to get back in his room for a few hours without explanation. It ended up being nothing, but had it been something he would have had a time getting help without it.

And so it goes …

There are other things that I can’t think of as I am sleepy. What things do you do when traveling to keep yourself safe?

Prorog? What Prorog?

A historic ruling with implications far and wide:

The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to shut down parliament in the run-up to Brexit was unlawful, a humiliating rebuke that thrusts Britain’s exit from the European Union into deeper turmoil. 

The unanimous and stinging judgment by the court’s 11 judges undermines Johnson’s already fragile grip on power and gives legislators more scope to oppose his promise to take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31. 

Parliament, where Johnson has lost his majority and he suffered repeated defeats since taking office in July, is now set to be reconvened three weeks early, giving opponents more time to challenge, amend, or block his Brexit plans or even bring down his government. 

“The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification,” Supreme Court President Brenda Hale said. 

In its historic ruling, the court said Johnson had not given any reason – “let alone a good reason” – for suspending the legislature for five weeks.

(Via (Reuters)[feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/topNews/~3/N7eU9gCl3XY/brexit-crisis-deepens-as-court-rules-johnson-unlawfully-suspended-uk-parliament-idUSKBN1W9124])
I have no horse in this race but I think Brexit is a mistake. I also think the UK should have either gone all-in on Europe or stayed out completely, but a wishy-washy middle ground is what they chose.
I do not care for BoJo. He brings nothing new to the table, one could argue that he brings less, and he failed repeatedly. Were I British and especially if I were a Tory, I would be demanding his resignation. I’m surprised there aren’t more pictures of Theresa May sitting in Parliament smiling.

This house is on fire

Yep.

Holy shit.
I don’t watch a lot of videos; I prefer transcripts. When I absolutely have to get through a video, I usually put it in a background window and listen.
Don’t do that with Thunberg’s four-minute address to the UN.
Instead, watch it. I understand and agree with her that we should be listening to scientists, not her, but if anyone can get us to listen to scientists, it’s her. Now I know why the people followed Joan of Arc.

(Via boing boing)
Can’t agree more. Greta Thunburg is remarkable, and she’s not wrong. Even if her message doesn’t resonate with you, she speaks multiple languages, has a grasp of science and statistics, and is a sailor. Her evil eye at the UN was pure, unadulterated disgust.

Bali: Day 8, Lizard


I have a cool video of Mr. (or Ms., women can be lizards too) Lizard. My site won’t let me upload it right now though. The Chinese couple next to me noticed it first with a shrill cry of surprise that I’m almost positive came from the man.

Bali: Day 10, Taipei to Tokyo

As typical, the Doubletree was outstanding.
Ride to the airport was good, but I was ill prepared for the mess that was Taipei airport. Long lines, security staff apparently trained in the TSA school of incompetence and rudeness, and moving walkways moving … oddly.
I got into one of the Priority Pass lounges that was rated poorly. I found it very good. The only complaint I had was that the bathroom is outside of the lounge, but if that was the worst that would happen it would be a good day.
It wasn’t.
The EVA Air staff was again poor. Again, we arrived late. The immigration folks at Narita were uncharacteristically inefficient – I was given bad information twice. Then the Narita Express ticket agent was rude. She directed me to the lower level desk (I think because she was on social media) and they pointed me to the self service machines where I proceeded to buy the wrong ticket in roughly the right direction.
I got home about an hour later than expected.
I’m glad I took the trip but I should have done half in Bali and half in Taipei.